A Sinful Heart is No Surprise

June 5, 2015

Title: A Sinful Heart is No Surprise
Text: Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10, 23, Numbers 32:23
Time: June 3rd, 2015

Last week I read that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was charged with violating banking regulations in connection with his attempted cover-up of a sex scandal of thirty years ago. Now what’s sad about the whole situation is that Hastert has lived his entire public life as an honorable man, in fact, that’s why he was chosen as Speaker of the House by his colleagues, because the previous Speaker was involved in scandal and Republicans needed someone with an impeccable record. Hastert went on to be the longest serving House Speaker and then later sponsored a new center for economics and politics at my old alma mater Wheaton College. I’ve not seen the Hastert Center there but I’ve heard it’s impressive. So from the Wheaton connection and because I’ve heard Chuck Colson talk about him, I assume that he’s an evangelical Christian who cares about preserving biblical values and perspectives. But now he’s involved in this federal investigation with charges against him that might possibly lead to fines and/or jail time. Now first of all we need to make the fair presumption of innocence until proven guilty. So maybe, after all is said and done, he’ll be found innocent of all charges, including the sexual misconduct charges. According to the indictment Hastert was withdrawing money from his bank account in large amounts in a way to avoid federal law, and the reason he was doing so was in order to pay off someone in Illinois for some alleged misconduct offense. In other words, he was paying “hush money” to someone to keep them from telling the newspapers what they knew about Hastert from thirty years ago when he was a wrestling coach and teacher at a high school. The facts aren’t all known, so it might be someone wants to spread rumors falsely and Hastert agreed to pay them to not do so. More likely though is that Hastert is paying them to keep quiet about something real that happened thirty years ago, otherwise, why pay the money? Why not report it to the police as extortion? Unless, maybe, it involves something more sinister or dangerous like a murder threat or some potential hostage or kidnapping situation or a scandal involving a family member other than Dennis Hastert himself that he wants to keep quiet. We just don’t know. But when I heard the news and how people reacted to it I thought immediately of a couple of biblical passages that talk about the sinful human heart. Why are we shocked when sinners sin? Do we really think there are any real saints, in the strict sense of the word “saint?” Apart from Christ, we are sinners at heart. So this morning I wanted to spend some time talking about the human condition and the sinfulness of the human heart. We should be sad, but not shocked when we hear that sinners, all of us, have sinned. It only confirms the very reason Christ came and died on the cross – to save sinners like you and me. Let’s examine a few Bible passages that explain this. Read the rest of this entry »


Beware of the New Occultism: Charlie, Charlie Challenge

June 5, 2015

Title: Beware of the New Occultism: Charlie, Charlie Challenge
Text: 1 Samuel 28, Philippians 4:8-9, James
Time: June 2nd, 2015

During the past week I learned of an Internet craze sweeping the nation that teaches young people to try speaking to a supposed spirit of the dead in order to ask it questions and get answers. It’s called “The Charlie, Charlie Challenge” and it consists of taking two regular, ordinary pencils and stacking one upon the other in the form of a cross over a piece of paper with the words “Yes, No, Yes, No” written on it. Then the young people ask the so-called spirit a question and wait for the top pencil to rotate and point to either Yes or No. When I first heard about this I immediately, I mean immediately, recognized it as an instrument of the occult world. No question. It’s nothing but a modern day Ojai board stripped of all the additional add-on extras. But an even closer parallel is the old folk practice of using a whiskbroom straw piece for picking a watermelon at the fruit market. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this, but in older days some people would pluck a straw strand from a whiskbroom and place it on top of a watermelon. If it moved, then it was thought the mellow was a good one. Now I never understood the principle behind the practice but I’ve seen it done a few times in my lifetime, although I’ve never done it myself. Now why are these examples of the occult? Because they purportedly work by means of an unknown power. It’s the same with the so-called water-witching practitioners who use a stick that’s supposed to lead them to water in order to show you where to dig a well. There are people who make a living finding a suitable place to dig a well using the water witch – they’re that good at it. So far, there is no known scientific reason why some kind of a stick should be able to point out a source of water. So then what force or power is behind it? It sounds like occultism to me, having researched the matter for a number of years now. What is occultism? It’s contacting or tapping into a secret, hidden spiritual reality that doesn’t originate from God through prayer or divine miracles, but instead comes from fallen spirits or otherwise known as demons. The Internet craze called “Charlie, Charlie Challenge” fits into the same pattern. It’s so blatantly and obviously occultic. For example, the Charlie Challenge plan says to speak to the so-called spirit – who by the way, as the story goes, is the departed soul of a little Mexican boy named Charlie, and ask questions. That’s clearly of the occult – asking questions of a “spirit.” But let me explain in a little more detail why playing the “Charlie Challenge” is a bad idea and what possibly could be going on with it by examining an Old Testament Bible passage, 1 Samuel 28. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Low-Priority Causes Christians Should Avoid

May 21, 2015

Title: Three Low-Priority Causes Christians Should Avoid
Text: Malachi 2:16, Micah 6:8, Revelation 7:9
Time: May 17th, 2015

I’m amazed at how evangelical Christians these days seem incapable of thinking biblical and Christianly about how determine what is and what isn’t important today. Are there no priorities anymore in the Christian church? Is every cause of equal importance? From the looks of things that appears to be the case. If you look, for example, on the campus of the typical Christian college, you’ll find all kinds of causes and movements that seemingly have no relationship to any hierarchy of priorities based on biblical teachings. It’s the same in evangelical churches too. Look inside the typical church and you’ll find a hodge-podge of causes and movements that vary from church to church in seemingly no discernable pattern. I’ve been arguing for years and years that the cause against abortion must rank if not at the top, somewhere near the top in priority. Yet in many churches abortion isn’t even mentioned, ever, from the pulpit or in announcements or Christian education classes or small groups. It’s as if it didn’t exist. But in many of these same churches you’ll hear all kinds of messages about the environment, recycling, and other secular causes, as if these were most important. We live in a nation where the blood of millions of unborn babies cry out from the grave and in many evangelical churches you’ll never hear anything about it. It’s as if the pro-life cause wasn’t very important, or that millions of babies killed though abortion each year, as far as the church is concerned, is a non-issue. Yet, like I said before, other, lesser, causes are promoted with great zeal, giving the impression that these are “do or die” issues, when a real “do or die” issue is neglected or ignored. What’s the problem? There’s a massive lack of discernment involved as Christians and church neglect the true priority causes while at the same time investing large quantities of time, money and energy in essentially false or marginal causes. Many of these lesser causes are to a degree perhaps important, but compared to the really important causes, as biblically determined, they hardly bear mention. So this morning I’d like to talk about a few causes that seem to be taking the evangelical world by storm, but when looked upon in light of the really priority causes that exist – for example, opposition to the attempted redefinition of marriage by the secular world and the need to defend biblical marriage – they are trivial and petty. As Christians we need to let God set our agenda through his Word, not the world set our agenda. I’m afraid too often we are letting the sinful world set our agenda, and we need to repent of it. So here are a few causes that need to be seen for what they are – low priority. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of the Some of the Dangers of Social Media

May 21, 2015

Title: Beware of Some of the Dangers of Social Media
Text: Numbers 30:3-5, Ephesians 4:14-15, Matthew 10:32-33
Time: May 16th, 2015

Here’s a headline I read a few months ago in the newspapers that caught my attention –

“Study: Social Media Users Shy Away From Opinions. People who use Facebook and Twitter are less likely than others to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center. The study, done in conjunction with Rutgers University in New Jersey, challenges the view of social media as a vehicle for debate by suggesting that sites like Facebook and Twitter might actually encourage self-censorship. Researchers said they detect what they call the ‘Spiral of silence’ phenomenon – unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from discussing anything controversial. In other words, most of us are more comfortable with ice-bucket challenges than political banter. ‘People do not tend to be using social media for this type of important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere,’ said Keith Hampton, a communications professor at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study.’”

This study confirms what I’ve been observing over the last few years, especially among Christians, that controversial subject shouldn’t be talked about because they might cause hard feelings, alienate people and divide the body of Christ. So consequently, important and needed conversations that should be taking place, don’t happen due to an overemphasis on peace, love and harmony within the church. The irony is, in the absence of serious Christian conversations about important social and moral issues, the secular, pagan, worldly position is largely unopposed in the public square. Take for instance the strange, bizarre and kooky two hour interview given by ex-Olympian Bruce Jenner to Diane Sawyer of ABC’s 20/20 where the ex-athlete told seventeen million viewers worldwide, “Yes,” to the question put to him, “Are you a woman?” Social media lit up with positive endorsements to this ridiculous assertion by Jenner. Where were any negative or critical comments? Virtually none to be found, anywhere. Did that really mean everyone was on board with Jenner’s transgenderism? No. It rather meant that nobody was comfortable in sharing their opposing views on the subject out of fear of giving offense. What good is freedom of speech if everyone is too afraid to use it? Evidently social media work against freedom of speech on many issues today. I’m concerned about how Christians are remaining silent on issues when they should be speaking. I’m concerned about how the Christian church is failing to teach God’s truth out of fear of offense – or worse, fear of possible negative consequences, like punishment visited upon Christians by opponents. But now is the time for courage, not cowardice. Now is the time, a teachable moment, to explain God’s truth, even if it might be controversial or offensive to some. Now is the time for Christians to speak boldly, not remain silent or avoid commenting. If social media encourages Christians to remain silent when they should speak, then this temptation must be resisted and overcome. When must look to God for our agenda, not the secular world. Let me explain a few important points related to this problem. Read the rest of this entry »

What is Biblical Counseling?

May 21, 2015

Title: What is Biblical Counseling?
Text: Matthew 4:4, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 1:1-3
Time: May 14th, 2015

A few weeks ago I criticized state laws that exist in such states as California, New Jersey, and so forth, that ban so-called repairative therapy for persons with homosexual tendencies. I said it’s no business of the state what a person or a minor’s parents in conjunction with their child want to do as far as counseling is concerned. From a Christian perspective homosexuality is a disorder that needs to be treated, not accepted as morally acceptable. I’m against all laws that would ban Christian counseling for homosexuals seeking corrective help. A little while later I criticized transsexual Bruce Jenner for promoting so-called “gender reassignment surgery” – that is the mutilating or mutating of the body in order to conform it to the mental disorder of transgenderism that convinces someone they are a “man trapped in a women’s body” or a “woman trapped in a man’s body” and therefore need to rearrange themselves to “transition” from one sex to another. Instead, I advocated Christian counseling in order to get their thinking in line with the body God Almighty gave them at birth. I would suggest that Bruce Jenner concentrate on bringing his mind in line with God’s assigned sex, the sex given to him at birth, rather than attempt to rebel against God’s created order and transmutate himself into something else through cut and paste surgery and altering his body chemistry. It’s obviously more rational to work on the mind than the body, since it’s the mind that is disordered not the body. If Bruce Jenner were to take my pastoral advice and seek Christian counseling to correct his conflicted and divided mind, what would that actually mean? How would such counseling take place? Well to be honest, it would involve nothing different, in essence, than working on any other counseling situation – only it might involve more time and effort. But isn’t that part of the Christian life anyway? “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home,” Amazing Great, classic Christian hymn. It would involve a simple process of examining God’s Word, divine revelation from heaven to mankind, and finding out what it says about any particular problem. Then it would involve seriously reflecting upon the truths found in God’s Word in relation to the particular human problem. Finally, it involves applying God’s Word, after having integrated it with a particular life problem, into an action plan that would involve time and effort, but would yield progress and ultimately success or improvement in the person’s specific condition or problem. In respect to Bruce Jenner, it would mean his thinking and feelings would begin to reflect the sex and gender that he is, male, and his mind would begin to come into align with his body, thus bringing health and healing. Let me explain further. Read the rest of this entry »

Should Personal Experience Trump Divine Revelation in Morality?

May 21, 2015

Title: Should Personal Experience Trump Divine Revelation in Morality?
Text: 2 Timothy 3:16, Proverbs 14:12, Matthew 22:36-40, Luke 14:26-27
Time: May 13th, 2015

A conservative Christian senator from Ohio opposes gay marriage until his son comes out as gay, then flip-flops and advocates it. A conservative Christian theologian for decades defends the biblical and traditional Christian teaching that homosexuality is a sin, then suddenly changes because someone in his family comes out as gay; now he’s in favor of gay marriage and teaches the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. Gay activists playbook strategy explains the importance of getting American citizens acquainted with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in order to demonstrate to them that they are normal persons just like everyone else. The thinking is that if everyone can get to know members of the LGBT community, they’ll be more accepting and affirming of their lifestyles. The strategy appears to be working. But is this methodology legit? Does the experience of meeting and liking someone from the LGBT community make their sinful practices okay? Is homosexuality justified morally because homosexuals seem to be okay? Should we change basic and essential moral categories of right and wrong because someone in our family or someone in our friendship circle comes out as gay? Should this have any ethical or moral relevance? For a growing number of people, including many Christians, apparently discovering that some very nice well-known people, or even members of their own family, a relative or a friend are gay inclines them to change their moral understanding of homosexuality. But does this make any sense? Or is this allowing personal biases and emotionalism to overwhelm clear, sane moral reasoning? I’d like to deal with this subject today because I believe it’s going to become more and more important in the days and years ahead, especially in the Christian church community. What is the basis for morality? What determines an ethical right or wrong? Is it intuition, emotion or feelings? Is it reason and logic? Or is it divine revelation as expressed in the Bible? As a Christian I would assume that all Christians would be on the same page ethically and morally on these questions, but sadly today, due to a vast ignorance of even basic biblical teachings, many Christians and those who attend churches don’t know what they believe as Christians, and of those who do know what they believe, many of these don’t know why they believe what they believe. This contributes to the confusion. So in order to address this moral confusion I’d like to talk about why morality should not be based on human experience but instead of divine revelation. If we try to ground our moral understanding of right and wrong on changing human experience we’ll be confused, we’ll fall into error. Only by basing our moral values on what God has revealed will we have a sure foundation for knowing what’s right and wrong. Let me explain further. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Sexual Self-Identification Enough?

May 21, 2015

Title: Is Sexual Self-Identification Enough?
Text: Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, James 3:1, Matthew 18:5-6
Time: May 11th, 2015

I recently heard on the news that presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently stated, “If Bruce Jenner says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman,” in response to a question posed to him. I did a double-take when I heard it because Santorum is usually a solid conservative Christian voice in the midst of a secular and morally relativistic culture, so I was shocked and a little disappointed when I heard his reply. He went on to say in the same comment that we should learn to love and respect people, and that there’s a difference between judging a person’s actions and judging a person for who they are. We can judge a person’s behavior right or wrong, but not the person. Like I said, Santorum is usually counted on to speak moral clarity in a chaotic world of immoral confusion, but in this instance he’s got it totally wrong. I guess if you are running for president you have to be careful how you answer and lean on the side of cultural acceptability – and there’s no question that our culture is rapidly accepting of homosexuality and now apparently transgenderism too. So we can understand why any presidential candidate would answer in such a tolerance-based way in light of the growing acceptance to all kinds of deviant sexuality in society. But I thought Santorum was running for president as an alternative Christian voice in opposition to the mainstream conservative compromising on social issues such as gay marriage, and so forth? But his reply is anything like an alternative Christian voice, but instead it sounds pretty mainstream from where I’m standing. Now some secular news commentators explain Santorum’s flip-flop or waffle on this question on the basis of money, pure and simple. They claim that he has some wealthy donors that care a lot more about economic issues than social issues, and even some who might be gay or transgendered, so he’s trying hard not to totally offend those who are sympathetic to Bruce Jenner and the likes. For all we know, as a former world-class athlete to another athlete, Santorum might even know Bruce Jenner and doesn’t want to alienate himself from him. It’s hard to say what the motivation is for candidate Santorum for answering in such a compromising way. Maybe he just hadn’t enough time to think it through enough, like in the case of another conservative presidential candidate Marco Rubio who recently stated that he’d have no problem attending a gay wedding of a friend or family member. These two men are wrong in their response because they aren’t answering from a consistent Christian perspective. And if they were to think through the issues they’d realize they are wrong. But why are they wrong? That’s what I’d like to explain this morning. As Christians we need to know why we believe what we believe. We need to know how to think through in a consistent Christian way answers to these issues that we’re confronted with on a daily basis. How would or how should a mature Christian think about such issues? Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

Beware of Subtle Forms of Denying Christ

May 21, 2015

Title: Beware of Subtle Forms of Denying Christ
Text: Acts 17:16, Matthew 10:32-33, Matthew 5:10-12, 14-16
Time: May 11th, 2015

Natalie Grant is a Christian contemporary singer who has sung many top praise and worship hits over the course of her career. A couple of years ago she was nominated by the Grammy Awards and so she was invited to attend the annual ceremony and celebration that is televised nationally and internationally by network television. During the course of the Grammy Awards ceremony at a certain point Natalie left early and sent out a tweet (a brief message on Twitter) stating she left early but didn’t say exactly why. Immediately fans started guessing that it was because she was offended as a Christian because of Katy Perry’s satanic witch performance. Or maybe it was because of the pro-homosexual song by a popular rap artist during a mock gay wedding ceremony led by actress Queen Latifa. In other words, there were a number of highly offensive segments of the 2014 Grammy Awards that could have provoked her to walk out. Who could blame her for leaving early under such circumstances? Who could simply sit there and watch as Katy Perry, a former contemporary Christian music artist, performs a satanic ritual on stage in front of millions worldwide. Who could blame her for walking out of a highly offensive live gay marriage that promoted sodomy before millions and millions of people? These are all anti-Christian themes and we totally understand why Natalie Grant might up and leave instead of sitting there and watching such garbage. Ok, so far so good. But then things get a little strange, even weird. After the controversy that starts to brew because of criticism for her leaving early by non-Christians and gay activists such as Perez Hilton, Natalie then back tracks and states, “I never said why I left or singled out any one thing that caused me to leave. At the time I had thoughts in my head that are better left unsaid then and now. I’m just happy to be singing for Jesus.” What’s strange is that she seems to have been provoked enough to up and leave the Grammy’s because of offensive content, yet she doesn’t seem to have enough courage of her convictions to actually explain why she left. Or maybe she thought about the consequences for her musical career in the recording industry or feared she might get blacklisted if she said anything negative against the “powers-that-be.” We don’t really know why she wouldn’t explain why she left early, although it does clearly appear that she was afraid to say what she really thought, saying, “There are thoughts inside my head that had better stay there.” Now my question, our question, is, “Is this the right approach we as Christians should take in respect to sin and culture?” Should we “keep our thoughts to ourselves” out of fear we might get into trouble? Or should we be bold and speak the truth in love without fear of the consequences, trusting God to be our guide and protector? Let’s look at this issue closer, because we may not find ourselves in exactly the same spot as Natalie Grant, but we’ll probably find ourselves in something similar in some way at some time. How will we respond? Let’s think it through now so we’ll respond correctly. Read the rest of this entry »

Financial Survival For Christians: “Go In The Strength You Have”

May 21, 2015

Title: Financial Survival For Christians: Go In The Strength You Have
Text: Judges 6:14
Time: May 10th, 2015

A few years back I started a sermon series called “Financial Survival for Christians” which has proven to be extremely popular; if fact, it’s the most popular sermon series I’ve ever produced based on views and feedback. Now I’m not exactly excited about the fact that a sermon series on money is my most famous series but be that as it may I’m happy that people are finding it helpful. Obviously people are looking for answers in the area finances, so I’m glad they are looking to God’s Word for help. Today I’d like to talk about how to pay your bills when you don’t see how you have enough money to pay them. In other words, you look at all the bills that are coming due, then you look at the available money to pay those bills, or even look ahead to the income you expect to receive, and the sinking feeling hits you that even then there still won’t be enough to pay them all. What do you do when you simply don’t have enough money to pay all your bills for the month? – I’m assuming you tackle your bills on a monthly basis because that’s usually when bills are due, each month. What do you do when you don’t have enough to pay them all? You have to do something. You can’t just pay them when you don’t have the money. Of course, you could try to pay them by writing out checks and sending them in, but that will only compound the problems when the checks bounce! I only recommend writing a check when the funds aren’t there presently only, and I do mean only, when you are absolutely, totally, 100% certain that the funds will be there by the time the check clears. Otherwise, you will create, like I said, a bigger mess for yourself when the checks bounce. Not a good idea. So what do you do when you don’t have enough money to pay your bills that are due? I was facing this situation one day when I happened to be reading my daily reading of the One Year Bible – which I highly recommend, by the way, to anyone looking for a way to read the Bible on a daily basis because it organizes the readings in manageable portions each day so that you can read the Bible in one year. I came across the passage in Judges 6:14 where the angel of the Lord is talking to Gideon and telling him to attack the Midianites. Gideon objects because he can’t see how he can lead the Jews to victory against the enemy, and here’s what the angel of the Lord says, “The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” How is this related to paying bills? Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

The Creator Made Them Male and Female

May 15, 2015

Title: The Creator Made Them Male and Female
Text: Matthew 19:4-6, Deuteronomy 22:5, Romans 1:28, 32
Time: April 23rd, 2015

I just finished watching a television video clip of an interview between journalist Diane Sawyer and gold medal Olympian Bruce Jenner – and I have to say I’m shocked by what I saw and heard. Evidently former decathlon athlete Jenner, formerly known as the greatest male athlete in the world after his Olympic victory, is “transitioning” from male to female through drugs and surgical sex-change operations. And from all indication Sawyer thought this was something to encourage, affirm and celebrate! During the whole interview there was not even a hint that it indeed might be wrong. Although the Bible was discussed and its prohibition against a male wearing female clothes and vice versa, these teachings were casually dismissed and ignored. Diane Sawyer actually quoted from Deuteronomy 22:5, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” And Jenner himself was familiar with the passage, since as he claims, he is a religious person. But nothing more is said to affirm or deny the passage; it’s just passed over. He talked about God perhaps giving him a beautiful life but then also throwing him a twist by giving him the mind of a woman in the body of a man. Now it’s really difficult to sit and watch such nonsense because here is a man who once embodied the greatest symbol of masculinity – winning the Olympic decathlon event, which is widely seen as the determining standard for the world’s greatest athlete – and now we hear he’s really “a woman trapped in a man’s body.” His solution, and the subject of the interview, is he’s gradually transitioning into a woman so that eventually at some point he’ll actually look more like a woman and then supposedly he’ll feel for the first time like a whole person. And this prime time television interview was aired and watched by millions and millions of people all around the world. It saddens me to think of how many young, impressionable minds will hear this foolishness and start to think maybe they too need to “transition” from male to female or female to male. So what are we to think about such things as Christians? It appears that the culture at large is accepting and even approving of such transitioning. The media seems to be totally on board with the idea of “a woman trapped in a man’s body” and desiring to “transition” into a different body. President Obama and many or most politicians today seem to be okay with the idea. Academia and education are going along with it. And it seems to be gaining wide acceptance in more and more areas of society. But as Christians we need to ask, “What does God think?” Or more importantly, “What does God command in his Word?” To help sort all this out, let’s review a number of biblical passages that help us response to what strange things we’re witnessing today. Read the rest of this entry »