Bad Leadership Lead to Judgment

February 10, 2015

Title: Bad Leadership Leads to Judgment
Text: Lamentations 2:14
Time: October 29th, 2014

 
As we look upon the landscape of our country and culture today with its sharp moral and spiritual decline we ask ourselves the question – how could this happen? How could our people fall so sharply morally and spiritually when there are churches that line the streets of our large cities, that dot the landscape in small towns and villages, and are even found often far out in the countryside. According to national polls nearly one-third of the population of the United States, or one hundred millions persons, claim to be born-again Christians; and an even larger amount claim Christianity in general. Yet at the same time when there are millions and millions of Christians and thousands and thousands of churches – some that have thousands or even tens of thousands of members – how can at the same time our nation decline so sharply morally and spiritually in the last decade or so? You’d think that with all the Christian churches and ministries and publishing houses and educational institutions and so-called para-church organizations, and so forth, you’d think that Christian moral and spiritual values would be flourishing. But it isn’t so. What can explain this lack of influence of Christianity? The best explanation is that the problem is due to lack of Christian leadership, or to put it more strongly, the problem is due to bad Christian leadership. We see the same problem in the Old Testament of the Bible among the ancient Jews during the time of the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the people into Babylon. Jeremiah the prophet warned the Jews again and again to repent, to turn from their sins, to avoid the coming judgment of God. But they wouldn’t. Now after the fall of Jerusalem happened we read in Lamentations one of the main reasons why the nation fell and the people were exiled – because the prophets, the leaders, the teachers failed to warn the people of the coming judgment and failed to turn the people from their sins. Lamentations 2:14 says, “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.” Now by analyzing this verse we can learn something today for ourselves. We can learn from the ancient Jewish mistake. We don’t have to face God’s wrath and judgment for our national sins. We still have time to turn away from sin and turn back to God in order to avoid destruction. Our nation is definitely headed towards some kind of destruction because of our grave sins – to mention only two obvious sins – the murder of legalized abortion that’s been around for decades and the new sin of so-called gay marriage that’s sweeping the nation. I could list others, but these two qualify us for God’s judgment in and of themselves. We could avoid that judgment if we would but turn away from these sins, and in order to do that we need Christian leaders to start warning the people, because as of right now not many of them are warning people. If we can learn from the Old Testament example, if we can begin to do our duty, we just might be able to avoid God’s judgment upon the United States. Let’s look further at Lamentations 2:14 for answers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Genesis of Christmas

February 10, 2015

Title: The Genesis of Christmas
Text: Genesis 1:1, Matthew 1:18, John 1:1, 1 John 1:1
Time: December 15th, 2014

 
During the Christmas season this year I was snooping around in my Greek New Testament and rereading the Christmas Nativity accounts found in Matthew and Luke. Greek is the original language of the New Testament and I feel grateful that I was able to learn it during my college and seminary days in preparation for the ministry. I’ve tried to keep up with the language ever since the days when I first learned it; I try to read a little bit every day from the Greek – I also do that too with the Old Testament Hebrew, I try to keep up with that as well, so that I don’t lose it. But this past month I was reading along in the Greek about the birth of Jesus and stumbled upon an interesting observation that I decided to turn into a sermon message. What I found was that in the first part of Matthew 1:18, which is normally translated in English as “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” Pretty straightforward. But what I found in the original Greek language of the New Testament is this, “The Genesis of Jesus Christ was thusly.” The very Greek word used in the title of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, is used here in Matthew to describe the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. I found that very interesting. Now the word genesis in Greek can definitely mean birth or beginning or start and so forth, but it’s usually translated birth here in Matthew in connection with the Nativity Christmas account. But I began to realize that while it’s easier to translate the Greek word genesis as birth, it misses some of the richness of the word, especially its history in the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament and used throughout the New Testament. So I decided I’d put together a short teaching on why I think it’s significant that Matthew used the Greek word genesis in this place to describe the birth of Jesus. One of the great benefits of reading the Bible in the original language is that you can do a little more digging around and poking around with the words – you aren’t locked into the English words the translators give you. So I found something interesting here poking around the Greek. I’d like to share it with you today and hopefully it will build up you faith this Christmas as we think about God and the birth of Jesus. What I’m saying is there is a connection with the birth of Jesus and the Old Testament book of Genesis. I’m saying that when we celebrate Christmas we aren’t just celebrating the birth of a baby but really we should be celebrating a new beginning, a genesis. God, through the birth of Jesus, was initiating a new beginning on earth, and we need to be aware of it and walk in that newness. Let me explain further. Read the rest of this entry »

Contemporary Challenges to Christmas

February 10, 2015

Title: Contemporary Challenges to Christmas
Text: Matthew 1:21
Time: November 17th, 2014

 
There’s a new movie out called “Saving Christmas” put out by Christian actor and TV personality Kirk Cameron. I haven’t seen it yet but it’s one of those movies I have on my “to see’ list this year. It deals with the whole topic of how Christmas has been hi-jacked by secular culture and the message of Christ has all but been extinguished in popular culture. I can’t go into much more about the movie because, like I said, I’ve not seen it. But the topic of Christmas and its relation to culture has been a growing concern for many Christians for at least a few decades now here in the United States. Just in my short lifetime I’ve seen how the secular forces of society have slowly but surely taken more and more away from the spiritual aspects of Christmas. Today, we’ll be looking at different aspects of the diminishment of the true spiritual meaning of Christmas and what forces are involved in stealing away the biblical understanding of this most important holiday. But before I talk about how the true meaning of Christmas is being hi-jacked by hostile secular forces, let me first quickly summarize what is the true meaning of Christmas. Matthew 1:21 sums it up quite nicely, “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you (Joseph) are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” These are the words spoken by the angel of God during the first Christmas season back in the first century. The reason for the season is Jesus Christ. His birth began the way of salvation for all who believe the gospel. This is the essence of Christmas, and this is what is being lost in all the other things us moderns put in its place. Before our world found clever ways of hi-jacking the Christmas season it used to be that every December 25th was one big evangelistic sermon proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. But now it’s possible to go through the entire season without really encountering the true meaning of Christmas. Shall we allow this trend to continue? Will we simply let culture rob us of the reason for the season? No, we should definitely push back against the destructive forces of secularism. And a key beginning in doing so is understanding the chief challenges to Christmas today. I’d like to offer three main forces that are slowly but surely hi-jacking the true meaning of Christmas and turning the holiday into something far less. First, there is the force of commercialism that threatens to swallow everything in its massive presence. Second, there’s the sentimentalism of family, friends and the social aspects of the holiday. This isn’t bad in itself, but it’s a case of something good replacing the best. And third, there’s the secularizing force of the general “holiday season” that is attempting to relativize and water-down the distinctively Christian truths of Christmas into a general religious holiday. There are other threats to the real celebration of Christmas but these are the three main challenges as I see it. Let me explain further. Read the rest of this entry »

Demonic Activity In The World Today

February 10, 2015

Title: Demonic Activity in the World Today
Text: Luke 11:24, Matthew 4:1-3, 10-11, Luke 5:1
Time: October 28th, 2014

 
We’re in the Halloween season this year and unfortunately we have to be reminded again and again about the demonic world. It’s particularly bad this year because retail stores have figured out that they could turn a somewhat amusing holiday, Halloween, into a full-blown season through the use of pumping up the sale of products, costumes, candy and decorations. I’ve noticed over the last few years that more and more Halloween decorations are appearing in the stores and also consequently in the neighborhood, in yards and on houses. Halloween used to be a kind of fun day, but today it’s an entire season of occult symbols all over the place in public. We shouldn’t be happy to see this development because whether people know it or not, it introduces them to the world of the occult, which is the realm of Satan. Now most people don’t take the devil so serious today but that’s because they are truly ignorant of his reality. If people really understood the dangers of the occult and the demonic spiritual world, they wouldn’t decorate their homes or decorate themselves with occult symbols. There is also the question of mental health. What are the effects of promoting the scary, the frightening, and nightmare-like images among children? I don’t hear much discussion or talk about this concern. If we can believe the mental health statistics, we’ve never had so many people on psychiatric drugs as today. People suffer from depression in record numbers. Anxiety is a major mental health problem. And on and on the list could go. All the while, we give the Halloween season a free pass in culture, with its awful dreadful images, outright gruesome figures, and demonic inspired sights and sounds. It isn’t any wonder that mental health problems are multiplying. As they say in the computer field, GIGI – garbage in, garbage out. If we pump devilish images into our minds, we’ll get devilish results in our lives. To be honest, if I were a parent, I wouldn’t allow my child to participate in devilish activities and decorate the yard or house with the symbols of the devil. As Christians we know from the Bible that demons are real, and we also know that they can cause great harm to individuals. The reality of Satan and his demons is nothing to play with, even during Halloween. So while we’re on the subject, I’d like to go over again just a few areas that demons are active in the world today; or you might say, the major ways they show themselves to be active. First, there is demonic activity in the form of infestation. They can dwell in certain places or specific locations, such as a house or area. Second, there is demonic oppression, which is where a demon or demons attack an individual or individuals. People can come under mild to severe demonic attack, which is called oppression. And finally, third, there is the reality of demon possession where a demon or demons actually take over control of a person’s mind and body. Thankfully, this last case is not common, but it’s always a danger that must be recognized. So let me review these three basic forms of demonic activity. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Christian Leadership Failures

September 22, 2014

Title: Three Christian Leadership Failures
Text: 1 Peter 3:15
Time: September 20th, 2014

 
We’ve seen an unprecedented decline in Christian values in our American culture over the last few years, and this is best illustrated in the rapid acceptance of the idea of “gay” marriage by the citizens of the U.S. In the midst of this moral freefall we might ask the question, “Where have the Christian leaders been during this unheard of moral drop?” Sadly, we must answer that they’ve been largely silent, sometimes purposefully so. For example, a few years ago after President Barack Obama – a leading advocate for cultural moral decline with his full support of so-called same-sex marriage – after he won re-election, he called upon an evangelical minister, one Louie Giglio, to pray the inaugural prayer; Giglio agreed to do it. But before the event, reporters learned that Giglio, being an evangelical preacher, had spoken against homosexuality in a sermon once that was recorded on audiotape. It became somewhat of a controversy, since Obama is in favor of gay rights and gay marriage and everything gay. It finally reached the point where Giglio decided to decline the invitation to pray at the President’s event after all, and therefore forfeited an opportunity to bear witness to the truth of God in the public square. Another example of Christian leadership failure over the last couple of years was World Vision president Richard Stearns, who led his Christian charitable organization to change its corporate policy to allow for employees in so-called same-sex relationships. This caused such an outcry within the evangelical Christian community that World Vision soon reversed the policy decision, reinstating its usual ban on immoral sexual relationships. And finally, there’s the example of evangelical Christian athlete Tim Tebow, who was scheduled to speak at a Baptist church in Texas, but who quickly declined and back out of the speaking engagement after news reports classified the church as “anti-gay” because the pastor had preached against the sin of homosexuality. All three of these men are leaders in the sense that other Christians look up to them, yet all three failed to bear witness to the truth of God as taught in the Bible as part of the Christian faith, because of pressure brought against them by the secular world. All three Christian leaders capitulated to the spirit of the age and cowardly backed away from fighting the good fight of faith. No wonder the Christian community is confused on how to deal with the rapidly declining general culture. No wonder that Christians everywhere are divided on basic moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality. If leaders can’t even find the courage to stand for the truth of God in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, how can the average Christian be expected to stand? No. We need godly Christian leaders who know the truth and are willing to stand for it no matter what. Then, other Christians will stand strong as well when they see the example of the leaders. Let’s look at how not to lead, how not to be a Christian leader, in the hope that by seeing examples of failures we might strive for success. Read the rest of this entry »

Is It Ok To Spank A Child?

September 22, 2014

Title: Is It Ok To Spank A Child?
Text: Proverbs 22:15, 13:24, 29:15
Time: September 19, 2014

 
The subject of disciplining a child through the use of corporal punishment has come up in the news recently due to a professional football players use of it in spanking his child. Adrian Peterson was suspended from football over an instance where he spanked his child that left marks on the boy. It’s not known what kind of marks where left on his son, if they were superficial or deeper, but no matter what, the topic of child disciplining has become a topic of conversation around the nation as a result of the news reports. When I first heard the news I was surprised that it even was news, but then I realized that we live in a time where more and more people, led by academics, professionals and so-called experts, are telling us that all forms of physical punishment are inappropriate. I’ve seen the trend against spanking growing over the years, but now it’s so strong that professional athletes are getting suspended from playing for spanking their child. That’s incredible. But it’s not just experts, professionals and academics that are leading the way against spanking as a form of child discipline, there are even today entire nations that have outlawed it entirely – for example, in Europe in Sweden, it’s against the law for parents to spank their kid. It’s moving in that direction here in the United States as well. I’ve even heard Christians say that it’s not good to spank your child. What I’m seeing is a lot of confusion on the subject, when really there need not be. The Bible is very clear on the subject of spanking, for example in the Proverbs, the wisdom literature of the Bible, that appropriate spanking of a child is not harmful, but in fact helpful in teaching them right from wrong. Proverb 23:13-14says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” The reference to “the rod” is simply a phrase for “switch” or “paddle” or some other harmless instrument of punishment. It isn’t a reference to anything that would actually harm or injure the child. Yet people today seek to ban all use of physical force in disciplining a child. The may think of something akin to the adult punishment practiced in such countries as Singapore, where “caning” is used as a form of punishment to deter crime. An adult is strapped to a post and a bamboo can is used to swat them across the backside. But this is entirely different from loving parents disciplining their children through the use of corporal punishment – or spanking. There needs some intelligent teaching on the subject of spanking, so I intend to do so with this message. I don’t have time to cover all the verses in the Bible about spanking and disciplining children, but I’ll review a few. Hopefully, by the end, we’ll come to see that there is a legitimate place for spanking in raising children. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 3

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 3
Text: Matthew 22:37-38, John 17:15-18, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Time: July 7th, 2014

 
In the last two messages I shared my experiences with pasturing a small, protestant evangelical Baptist church near a large independent fundamentalist mega-church. I mentioned that my brush with fundamentalism was highly educational and opened my eyes to a different form of Christianity than I had been accustomed. I grew up in a protestant main-line denominational church, converted to evangelical Christianity in my late teens, and went on to attend a Christian college and seminary in preparation for pastoral ministry. In the denominational church of my childhood, I experienced an emphasis on friendly tolerance and diversity of belief and behavior (a bit too much latitude I’d say, especially for behaviors and beliefs outside of biblical boundaries). In my experience with independent fundamentalism I encountered the very opposite – strict intolerance of any beliefs and behaviors that didn’t conform to the leader’s narrow vision of Christianity. Now to be fair, the fundamentalist mega-church in my area, the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana was more or less biblically Christian, except that it felt especially called to define and determine every detail of Christian belief and behavior. And it separated itself from every other type of Christian that didn’t believe and behave the same thing. For example, First Baptist church leaders taught separation – not separation from the sinful world, but separation from other Christians who didn’t believe and behave like they taught. And not only that, they separated even from Christians who did believe and behave like they taught, except who didn’t separate from other Christians the way they thought they should separate. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t, don’t worry, because it doesn’t make sense anyway. I’ve already listed a number of things to beware of when dealing with some of these types of independent fundamentalist churches, so I won’t go back over that ground. But today I’d like to mention three more broad, general themes that I find in a number of independent fundamentalist churches that we need to be aware of and avoid. They is, one, anti-intellectualism, or in other words, opposition to the mind, to thinking deeply about things, and a mistrust of learning and education. Two, there is an anti-culture attitude that shows itself in the tendency to be excessively counter-cultural. And third, there is an anti-charismatic attitude towards Christians who believe in the continued gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the church today. I believe all three of these general tendencies are wrong and I want to point out why in this message today. Hopefully, we can equip ourselves to think biblically in these areas, and believe and act as authentic Christians. Let me explain further. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 2

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 2
Text: Acts 15:28-29, 1 Samuel 14:24, Mark 7:13
Time: July 6th, 2014

 
Last time I talked about my experience as a young pastor in South Chicago, Illinois living and ministering near the large First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. For the two years I pastored the church in South Chicago I informally interacted with the Hammond church – I rubbed shoulders with its members, I attended a couple Pastor’s School conferences there, I attended a few Sunday night church services, I read a few of Pastor Jack Hyles’ books, and generally tried to learn as much as I could about anything that could help me in my church ministry. After I moved on from the small Chicago church after a couple of years I lost track of the First Baptist Church of Hammond as I focused on other things in my ministry. But during the two or three year period I was pastoring in Chicago I became somewhat familiar with this large fundamentalist mega-church, and even though I ultimately didn’t adopt its ministry style, I did appreciate a few things I saw there. I think the thing I liked most about First Baptist was its unashamed conviction for the fundamentals of the Christian faith. When Jack Hyles preached you knew he believed what he taught and it caused you to firm up your own convictions toward the faith. So the biggest thing I walked away from in connection with First Baptist Church was its strong conviction that stirred strong conviction in me towards Christian truth. The world constantly tears down Christianity, but it’s nice to go some place, or hear someone, with strong Christian convictions that isn’t afraid to say so! I appreciated that. Yes, this can lead to being overly dogmatic, but a lack of it can also lead to being wishy-washy also. Another thing I took away from my contact with First Baptist Church was the seriousness of church ministry. Hyles and the church leaders and volunteer workers were very dedicated and serious about evangelism and discipleship. This wasn’t fun and games; this was hard work, and they were willing to put in long hours and wear themselves out for the Lord’s work. That inspired me to do the same in my ministry. Yes, this can lead to excessive physical, mental and spiritual burnout, and that’s always a temptation. In fact, Jack Schaap, who followed Hyles as Pastor of First Baptist Church, who ran into legal trouble for having sexual contact with a minor, in his court case sited burnout as a contributing factor for his poor judgment in involving himself in sexual immorality. So for every positive characteristic I saw at First Baptist Church I could think of a negative opposite characteristic that could cause trouble. But I don’t want to give the impression that there aren’t positives to my experience with independent fundamentalist churches, there are. There are just negatives that people need to be warned about, to beware. Here are three more warnings. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Some Fundamdentalist Churches 1

July 7, 2014

Title: Beware of Some Fundamentalist Churches 1
Text: John 7:50-52, Acts 12:21-23, Romans 12:18
Time: July 5th, 2014

 
I happened to be surfing the Internet the other day and I stumbled upon an article about a fundamentalist Christian pastor who was tried, convicted and sentenced to twelve years in prison for sexual immorality. His name was Jack Schaap and he used to be a pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. How do I know about Jack Schaap? Because as a young pastor in South Chicago, Illinois during the late 80’s I became aware of First Baptist Church of Hammond through their evangelism outreach program in South Chicago. Every Saturday the area would be saturated with First Baptist Church buses recruiting kids for Sunday school in Hammond, Indiana. Eventually I thought I’d better check out this church that was covering so much territory, even reaching up to Chicago and beyond. So I attended what is called Pastor’s School for three days at the church in Hammond. It was there I saw and heard the main pastor Jack Hyles and his assistant pastor Jack Schaap. As I watched and listened as they explained their ministry methods I was impressed with some of the things they were doing, but also bothered by some other things they were doing. I walked away with mixed feelings about First Baptist Church of Hammond. On the one hand there’s no question they were reaching a lot of people, especially children, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And not only that, they were discipling these converts every week in Sunday. So it wasn’t they just prayed a prayer, baptized them and then left the converts alone. They followed up and really tried to train them in Christian living. On the other hand, the church came across as overly dogmatic on doctrine, excessively authoritarian in leadership, and unnecessarily divisive towards other Christians and churches in attitude. I concluded that Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap and the other leaders at the church were definitely doing many good things – things that I’d like to incorporate into my Christian ministry. But the way they were going about doing many of these good things wasn’t good – and I concluded that I definitely didn’t want to follow them in their methods. So as a young minister I didn’t go in the direction of independent fundamentalism, but rather moved in the direction of biblical evangelicalism. Looking back, I believe I made the right decision because as it turns out, both the main pastor Jack Hyles (he’s since died) and his assistant Jack Schaap were found guilty of sexual immorality (Schaap became the main pastor after Hyles death, but was removed and sent to jail for his sins). But it wasn’t just these pastors problems that led to their downfall, it was the whole church culture they built that really caused the problems. That’s why I offer a few warnings to people about independent fundamentalist churches. Not all or even most fundamentalist churches are dangerous, but some are, so that is why I’m warning people based on my observations and experience with First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. Hopefully, my words can spare others the same problems some independent fundamentalist churches produce. Read the rest of this entry »

God’s Not Dead (Or Else We Wouldn’t Be Here Talking About Him)

April 30, 2014

Title: God’s Not Dead (Or Else We Wouldn’t Be Here Talking About Him)
Text: Genesis 1:1, Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 1:7
Time: March 28th, 2014

A movie was recently released called “God’s Not Dead,” which is based on the story of a young college student who was challenged by his atheist professor to prove God’s existence. The movie (I haven’t seen it yet) is about how this student responded to the atheist’s challenge. Now the statement “God is not dead” might also be a response to the famous Time magazine cover in the 60s that proclaimed the death of God. An article written inside covered the so-called “Death of God” theologians like William Hamilton, Thomas Altizer and other, who wrote that in the new secular world God has been put to death through modern science and the modern worldview. Nietzsche, the famous German atheist philosopher, wrote extensively on how the western world had put God to death through its rationalism. Obviously, what these philosophers and theologians are talking about isn’t that God has literally been put to death, but rather that the idea of God has been gradually dying in the consciousness of men and women for a long time. While belief in God remains fairly high, the reality of God’s actual presence in the lives of men and women today is indeed low. It seems that more and more people today are willing to live their lives as if God were dead, as if God were unnecessary, as if atheism were true. Now few people would actually profess atheism – that takes a certain type of person with a lot of fight in them, and also, I might add, a pretty big ego, seeing that an atheist must believe that while the vast majority of people in the world, 90 plus percent, is wrong about the question of God, he alone is right. However, most people, it seems today, are perfectly willing to live almost as if God didn’t exist. And that is becoming more common with every passing year. Now in tackling the question of whether God exists or not there are different ways to come at the question. Some people approach the question of God from the standpoint of assumptions and presuppositions. In other words, whether for theism (the belief in one God) or atheism (the disbelieve in God), we must all either assume that God is or that God isn’t just to even begin a conversation on the subject. Yes, there are those called agnostics who claim they can’t tell whether there is a God or not, so they supposedly sit on the philosophical and theological fence waiting for more evidence either way. But I’ve found that agnostics are usually atheists who don’t know they are atheists, or don’t want to admit it. Now atheists usually assert that believers in God must assume that God exists, but they, atheists, come to their position by reason and reflection. Therefore, they claim, it’s more reasonable to not believe in God than to believe in him. What I’d like to do today is show that we all have to assume that God exists, either consciously or subconsciously, in order to simply function in life. In other words, we’re all believers in God in one way or another, and that’s a pretty strong clue that God’s not dead. Read the rest of this entry »


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