Archive for May, 2010

Beware of the Liberal Church II

May 26, 2010

Title: Beware of the Liberal Church II

Text: Acts 20:28-31, 1 Corinthians 5:1-12

Time: May 21st, 2010

Acts 20:28-31, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”  The Apostle Paul warns the early Christian church to beware of “savage wolves” that will tear the church apart after he leaves. He’s talking about corrupt church leaders who from within the church will threaten to ruin it through heresy (false teachings) and apostasy (false practices). Last time I talked about the dangers of the liberal church from recent events such as the ordination of an openly, active lesbian bishop in California. This time I’d like to talk more about the problem in the liberal church with heretical false teachings in addition to the ethical and moral corruption taking place. There is a bishop in the U.S. Episcopal church named John Shelby Spong who basically denies every single important and essential historic Christian doctrine as found in the Creeds and Confessions of Faith of the church – and the Episcopal church did nothing to stop him! For years, for decades, this leader in the Episcopal church, this pastor-of-pastors, this bishop, was permitted to spread his false doctrines and destructive heresies in an established, historic Christian denomination and nobody from within the church stopped him; nobody outside of the church could stop him. Through countless books, interviews and presentations Bishop Spong promoted every kind of apostasy imaginable from within the Christian church. The Apostle Paul warned, “Savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw way disciples after them,” Acts 20:29-30.  He couldn’t have described John Shelby Spong any better. This bishop-heretic denied the existence of God; he wrote a book that explained why the theistic God of Christianity must be abandoned in favor of worshiping the “Ground of All Being.” He also denies the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; he doesn’t believe in immortality of the soul, but sees the resurrection as only a symbol of hope in this life. He denies the Virgin Birth; he claims it’s biologically impossible. He doesn’t believe in supernatural miracles because they contradict the laws of nature. He denies the Bible is God’s Word; he sees it as merely the product of human religious inspiration; he claims it’s full of myths and legends, although he admits some parts are inspiring yet not inspired by God. I could go on describing this man’s heresy. My point in bringing this up is to do what the Apostle Paul did in ancient times – warn us of the dangers of the liberal church. Let me try to put this in perspective by pointing out three things. (more…)

Beware of the Liberal Church

May 24, 2010

Title: Beware of the Liberal Church

Text: Acts 20:28-31

Time: May 20th, 2010

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears,” Acts 20:28-31.  The Apostle Paul warns the early Christian church to beware of “savage wolves” that will tear the church apart after he leaves. He’s talking about corrupt church leaders who from within the church will threaten to ruin it through heresy (false teachings) and apostasy (false practices). That classic warning is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago, because Christianity is facing the same threat from corrupt leaders within the church today as it did long ago. On May 15th, 2010 the Episcopal dioceses of Los Angeles ordained an openly lesbian bishop, Mary Douglas Glasspool. The U.S. Episcopal Church had already ordained its first practicing homosexual bishop in 2003 with V. Gene Robinson. This is a perfect example of what has become known as in the United States as the liberal church – or liberal Christianity, using the word “Christianity” very loose and generally. The liberal church is a form of Christianity that follows neither the main teachings of the historic Christian faith nor the main practices of the classic church either. This movement arose during the early part of the 20th century in response to the rise of modernism or modern intellectual thinking. In an effort to remain relevant in the modern culture this movement within the Christian church sought to make peace with the contemporary world by essentially reinterpreting the biblical faith to fit with modern times. The Bible was reinterpreted to either deny or downplay all miracles. Historic church doctrines such as the Trinity and the virgin birth of Christ were also questioned because they contradicted modern scholarship and science. While liberal churches still used the signs and symbols of historic Christianity, more and more these were also reinterpreted to represent spiritual truths rather than literal truths. For example, it’s very common for liberal church pastors to either question or doubt outright such key doctrines as the resurrection of Christ, creation of the world by God’s direction intervention, the inspiration of the Bible, Christ’s literal second coming – to name just a few. So in the context of liberalism and its historical development within Christianity, it really isn’t surprising that we see a large, main-line denomination ordain openly gay pastors and bishops. The process has been leading up to it. The real question is, “Where will this corruption of Christianity end?” Let’s look at how the liberal church got to the point of ordaining openly gay pastors and church leaders. Then, I’ll offer some guesses as to where all of this will end up. (more…)

Men and Women in God’s Plan

May 23, 2010

Title: Men and Women in God’s Plan

Text: Genesis 2:15-17, 2:20-22

Time: May 19th, 2010

Last message I talked about how there is so much gender confusion today in society and even in the church – I mean there is so much confusion as to what is a man and what is a woman, and how should men and women act. I stated that part of the problem, part of the confusion is that people are not reading the Bible, and particularly, they are not reading Genesis in the Old Testament. God spells out basic elements, the foundational parts, for a proper understanding of men and women, as individuals and as they relate to one another. Of course, the Bible goes on to outline in much more detail the plan and purpose of both men and women in the rest of the Old Testament and also in the New Testament, but for starters, Genesis lays the foundation. But human society today doesn’t read much of the Bible, and when people do read the Bible they have the bad habit of “reading into it” what they want to get out of it. So consequently not much is gained from this faulty approach. As I prepare this message there is news that the Episcopal Church has just ordained its first openly lesbian bishop in California. Here is an historical Protestant main-line denomination that traces its roots from the time of the Reformation, but today it has strayed so far from the spirit of the Reformation that it now ordains practicing homosexuals, not only to the priesthood but also to leadership above that – to the level of bishop or overseer of pastors. The gender confusion has now risen to the highest ranks of this historic church denomination. Don’t these leaders read the Bible? If they do read the Bible, don’t they believe it? Apparently not, because if one honestly reads and believes the Bible, one won’t place a practicing homosexual in church leadership. The Bible is very clear in its prohibition of all homosexual activity; it’s clearly a grave sin according to God’s Word. But the gender confusion isn’t limited to clear-cut cases of homosexuality, it’s also a problem in the average person’s understanding today of the purpose and plan of men and women, individually, relating to one another, and in society at large. How is a man to be? How is a woman to be? How is a man to act? How is a woman to act? The Bible outlines the answers to all of these questions, not necessarily in every detail, but the general outline. Our society desperately needs to hear God’s Word on this important subject. For far too long the church has been silent or confused itself on the issue. It’s time we opened up the Bible and taught from it on this subject instead of hiding our light under a bushel basket. The teachings of the Bible on the roles of men and women may not be popular today, but because of the terrible confusion and awful results that have come out of the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 60s, there might be more people today willing to listen. But whether they listen or not we must teach what God teaches us from his Word. Let me ask and answer three questions from God’s Word. (more…)

Some More Important Observations from Genesis 1

May 19, 2010

Title: Some More Important Observations from Genesis 1

Text: Genesis 1:27, 28, 31

Time: May 18th, 2010

Genesis is such a treasure trove of important and essential nuggets of truth that one could almost forever spend time discussing vital doctrines we find here that will come up over and over again throughout the whole Bible. In an earlier message I covered three important observations from Genesis 1 – the plural name of God, elohim, that reveals the Trinity, the word for “create,” bara,” that supports the doctrine of creation ex nihilo or “out of nothing,” and the Spirit, or ruah, mentioned in connection with creation that reveals the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit. All of these important doctrines will prove essential in later Christian orthodox teaching; but here they appear early in the Genesis account. Today, I’d like to look at another three important and essential teachings from Genesis 1 – God creating mankind male and female, God giving mankind authority and responsibility for the whole earth, and God originally creating all things good. There is great confusion today over simple and basic issues. We hear in the news great debates and divisions over sexual identity among teenagers and young people today. There is an alarming trend among high school and college students of questioning and even changing one’s own sexual identity – boys questioning there masculinity, girls questioning their femininity. We see a growing number of young women turning to lesbian relationships, while both men and women are moving into lifestyles of bi-sexuality – switching back and forth between sexual relationships with both men and women. There is a lot of confusion in society over gender issues today, there can be no doubt. To make things worse, society’s leaders in government, businesses and private organizations, even in churches, send mixed signals to citizens about sexual identity. Some state governments sanction same-sex unions and marriages, making it legitimate in a number of states. The nation as a whole seems to moving towards the total normalization of homosexuality. School children are taught that marriage and family can be defined as whatever people want them to be because they were formed by mankind, they can be reformed by mankind. Leading Hollywood celebrities form all types of alternative sexual lifestyles and their odd practices are front-page headlines all over the world. No wonder there is great confusion today over sexuality and identity. But all of this is because people are not reading their Bibles – or not believing their Bibles – about such issues. The Bible is clear, especially in Genesis 1, that God created mankind male and female, only two categories of sexuality. This is just one example of essential truth we’ll cover today as we review three more important teachings from Genesis 1. Hopefully, by message end, we’ll have a greater knowledge of foundational biblical teachings and be more motivated to commit to these truths in life. So let’s turn to the three important truths. (more…)

God-of-the-Gaps or Darwin-of-the-Gaps?

May 13, 2010

Title: God of the Gaps or Darwin of the Gaps?

Text: Genesis 1:1

Time: May 10th, 2010

It’s a common accusation leveled against Bible-believing Christians – as distinguished from people who call themselves Christians but don’t believe the Bible – that they rely on a god-of-the-gaps theology. What is this kind of theology? It’s the kind, so say the critics, that depends on the reality of God intervening into the natural world – such as in creation or miracles – but then backtracks when science is able to explain the same thing naturally. For example, an example of god-of-the-gaps theology might be belief in the supernatural miracles of Moses during the time of the Exodus. Today, a lot of people feel that the biblical miracles as recorded in the Bible can be explained naturally. There are probably two or three television documentaries that attempt to explain the miracles of Moses without the need for any divine intervention; in other words, without the need for supernatural miracles. In retelling the crossing of the Red Sea, one scientist at Oxford University in England believes he’s figured out the parting of the waters naturally. To demonstrate his theory he recreates the Exodus scenario using a tiny kids pool lined with pebbles that in the middle rise to a point just believe the surface of the water. He then uses a common variety leaf-blower to recreate a strong wind blowing upon the water. He aims the leaf-blower at the middle section of the water, thus blowing the water away from the middle ridge of pebbles enough to expose them. This, he claims, demonstrates that a strong wind came up and blew the water in one direction enough for the children of Israel to walk across the water on the exposed ridge. After the Jews had all crossed and during the time Pharaoh and his army attempted to cross the same way, the wind died down, the ridge submerged back under the surface of the water, and Pharaoh’s army was trapped in the water and drowned. So goes the Oxford professor’s theory. I’m not sure if that explanation convinced anyone, but whether it’s by this theory or another, today, many or most people now think that the miracles of the Bible can be explained in one way or another – therefore, there’s no need to resort to the supernatural. So the god-of-the-gaps theology retreats from the parting of the Red Sea miracle to the firmer ground of some other biblical miracle that hasn’t yet been explained by science. But the feeling is that as time goes by more and more miracles will be explained by science, so the biblical miracles shrink further and further until at some future time all supernatural miracles will be explainable naturally. Bible-believing Christians are accused of believing in miracles of the Bible until science explains them, then of retreating to other miracles science hasn’t explained yet – so, in other words, perpetually in retreat. Now this accusation isn’t exactly fair, because it’s partly based on what we define as an “explanation.” If one accepts the Oxford professor’s “explanation” of the Red Sea crossing, then they have us Christians. But we’ve good reason to doubt even the learned professor’s recreation – it doesn’t really fully fit as an explanation! But I’d like to turn the whole god-of-the-gaps accusation around and say that there’s also a “science-of-the-gaps” too. Or to put it in more personal terms, a “Darwin-of-the-gaps” – meaning, there are plenty of cases where Darwinian science fills in gaps in theories by faith just as Bible-believers do. I’d like to point out just three areas that could be labeled either god-of-the-gaps or Darwin-of-the-gaps, depending on which side or perspective you happen to be on. (more…)

Men and Women Created in God’s Image

May 11, 2010

Title: Men and Women Created in God’s Image

Text: Genesis 1:26-27

Time: May 7th, 2010

Some of the most important lessons from the Book of Genesis, we take for granted as simply “self-evident.” For example, The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Now when Thomas Jefferson wrote these words, which were approved by the Founding Fathers, mention of the Creator and the concept of equality could be traced directly to the Bible. But today, while we still hold to the concept that all men and women are equal, the link to the Creator and the concept of created by God is slowly fading. But that raises the question, “Without a foundation for human equality grounded in the Genesis creation account, without an acknowledgment of a Creator who created all men and women equal, how long can the concept of unalienable rights hold up?” It’s an important question. Today, men and women seem to feel that we can have human rights without any transcendent moral values, or any grounding from a Higher Power to guarantee them. But even Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Father didn’t try to claim human rights without also appealing to the Creator and Supreme Law Giver – God. It isn’t stated directly, but everyone knew then and everyone knows now (everyone who thinks about it long enough), that the source of Jefferson’s “unalienable rights” is found in the creation account in Genesis 1 where God the Creator creates men and women in his own image and likeness. But in our secular society today all we hear about is raw “human rights” or “equality” without any moral or ethical foundations. We seem to take it for granted that “rights” and “laws” just come out of thin air. We don’t stop to realize that we are living largely on the moral and spiritual capital of the past. If we don’t renew and revive that spiritual and moral capital, if we don’t rebuild the ethical foundation that once was the general consensus in the United States, our precious rights will be swept away in a flood of moral relativism. Just as in the days of Noah before the flood, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time,” Genesis 6:5.  There needs to be a renewal of appreciation for the Bible’s teaching that all mankind is made in the image of God. Here is the foundational passage that has so shaped the progress of human rights throughout the world: “Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” Genesis 1:26-27. I’d like to point out a few profound implications for being made in the image of God. But first let’s try to better understand what the “image of God” or imago dei means. (more…)

Important Observations from Genesis 1

May 10, 2010

Title: Important Observations from Genesis 1

Text: Genesis 1:1-2, 26

Time: May 6th, 2010

For the Jews, the first five books of the Bible have always been most important of all the Hebrew writings. The so-called Torah or Law is actually the five books Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Now the Jews have always recognized these books as most important, but why is that the case? Why not the Books of Psalms or Proverbs or one of the prophets such as Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel? Why is priority given to the Torah – and why is the Book of Genesis first in the Bible? It’s easy to see why Genesis is first because it describes first things or origins; that’s a logical place to begin. But outside of the description of creation there are many other good reasons why Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Probably the most important reason is because Genesis addresses many or most of the really important issues of existence. It talks about the really big questions of life, issues that everyone, everywhere, at all times has asked about life. It doesn’t just deal with issues that pertain only to the Jews, but it covers topics that are relevant to everyone. That’s why Genesis, especially the early chapters, is so important for faith and life. Without Genesis we wouldn’t know very much about where we came from or the purpose for which we are here. In fact, without the early chapters of Genesis both Judaism and Christianity make little sense because the solutions they give to the most important human problems wouldn’t be known without the Genesis account. The solutions Judaism and later Christianity give make little sense without the problems described in Genesis. For example, without the description of the Fall – the original man and woman and their disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden – without this account, the problem of sin makes little sense. And of course without an understanding of human sin, the solution of the Savior Jesus Christ to die for our sins makes little sense. In the early church there was considerable debate over the relevance and importance of the Old Testament writings to the new Christian faith. One leader, Marcion, argued that the Old Testament had little relevance to Christianity; he argued we didn’t even need to read the books of the Old Testament any more because of the new Christian writings, the New Testament. But Marcion was rightly condemned as a heretic by the church fathers and the Old Testament was officially seen as part of the Christian Bible along with the New Testament. The importance of the Old Testament and the Book of Genesis in particular is hard to overstate. For example, today, I’d like to point out simply three very important observations we can make about the early chapters of Genesis. These are important but easy-to-miss points we should consider because they determine how we view not only the Bible but our own faith as well. (more…)

Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?

May 5, 2010

Title: Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?

Text: Genesis 2:4

Time: May 3rd, 2010

The other day I watched a documentary produced in High Definition by the BBC entitled, “Who Wrote the Bible?” But instead of an interesting survey of the Old and New Testaments I encountered a sustained attack on the Bible from a modern academic perspective. The narrator seemed friendly enough in his introductory remarks, but only a couple of minutes into the documentary the truth of his agenda was fully presented – and that was to totally overthrow the traditionally accepted view of the Bible. The Bible presents itself and believers have always assumed also that the Bible was written and recorded by the actual names on the individual books. For example, in the Old Testament, the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible called the Torah or Law, were really written by Moses. That the Book of Isaiah was really written by the prophet Isaiah – and so on. In the New Testament, the assumption has always been similarly that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John actually wrote the books that bear their names. Paul, it is believed, also wrote his Epistles or letters, such as the Epistle to the Romans. But more and more as I listen, watch and observe in today’s contemporary world, I run into people who try to debunk the Bible and argue that hardly anybody whose name appears on a biblical book actually wrote the book itself; instead, other unknown authors and editors wrote nearly all the books of the Bible. Now I’ve been to seminary, both at the master’s degree level and also at the doctorate level, so I’ve heard all the arguments before – they are the so-called higher critical theories of biblical authorship. But I’ve never heard or seen these academic theories pushed on the general public as much as I’ve experienced lately. In addition to the BBC documentary I’ve already mentioned, I was reading along in a book I picked up at a used book sale called “The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels” by Thomas Cahill. I expected to read about how the Jews influenced Western culture, but what I encountered was a full-scale assault on the Old Testament of the Bible. Listen to what the author says, for example: “It is no longer possible to believe that every word of the Bible was inspired by God. Fundamentalists still do, but they can keep up such self-delusion only by scrupulously avoiding all forms of scientific inquiry.” He goes on and teaches us that not only are the books of the Bible not written by the designated authors, even much of what the unknown authors and editors recorded isn’t true. But the attack on the Bible doesn’t stop with television and books, the Bible is also assaulted in college and university classrooms – sometimes even as early as high school in classes taught under the label “The Bible as Literature.” Send a child to the Encyclopedia Britannica and he’ll likely find information explaining how Moses did not write Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy. So what should be our response to all of this? We need to be fully informed about the arguments against the Bible and be ready to present the best arguments in defense of the Bible to counter the attacks. “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created,” Genesis 2:4. Who wrote this account, Moses or some unknown person? Let’s explore. (more…)

Bible X-Files

May 3, 2010

Title: Bible X-Files

Text: Ezekiel 1:4, 17, Timothy 2:15, Corinthians 10:19-20

Time: May 1st, 2010

I was recently watching the History Channel and noticed they were running a series of documentaries on space aliens called “Ancient Aliens.” I was a little surprised that the History Channel would give any credibility to alien theories, since most scholars consider it total nonsense, but I decided to try to watch a few of the episodes anyway. I figured there would be attempts to trace evidence for aliens from different ancient cultures; and they did that. I also thought they’d probably try to argue that advanced engineering was needed to construct ancient structures such as the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge, for example; and they did use these as proof of aliens. So nothing here surprised me. But what did shock me was they tried to use the Bible as proof that ancient aliens had visited the earth long ago. Now that got my attention. The source for most of the evidences of ancient aliens was a man named Eric Van Donikan, an author who has written a number of best selling books over the last 40 years, the most popular of these entitled, “Chariots of the Gods.” His basic thesis is that the origin of the major religions of the world isn’t a supernatural deity but actually space aliens visiting the planet earth in ancient times. Supposedly these space aliens so impressed the primitive people of the world that they formed religions around these encounters. I had heard of this writer many years before because my Uncle Don died in the 70s and when they were cleaning out his old truck my relatives found a paperback copy of Van Donikan’s “Chariots of the Gods” in the glove box. Nobody ever knew he had any interests in God or aliens, but he must have because he’d been reading the book. So that was 30 to 40 years ago. I’d heard of Von Donikan’s theory about ancient space aliens, but I was unaware that he tried to tie the Bible into it. Now I’m watching this series on the History Channel and they are trying to argue that ancient aliens are found in the Bible in a number of places. Does anybody believe this stuff? Somebody must believe it – or at least be interested in it – because according to some reports Van Donikan’s books have sold between 50 to 100 million copies in the last few decades. And if he’s trying to point to the Bible in support of his alien theory I can imagine there are lots of people who are confused and even misled into thinking that maybe the Bible really does support the alien theory. I would normally pass up the opportunity to comment on this kind of topic because after all I’m called to teach God’s Word, the Bible, not answer every bizarre theory that is circulating in our culture. But because this alien theory uses the Bible to support its claim I though I’d better address the issue and show that it’s nothing more than one author’s creative writing project. We’ll look at the Bible, at one of the primary passages he says proves the Bible is describing space aliens, and we’ll see what it really means. Also, I’ll try to explain how Van Donikan reads the Bible wrong, why he’s misinterpreting it and how we can avoid making similar mistakes when we read the Bible. Finally, I’ll try to give a biblical explanation for the whole cultural phenomenon of aliens. I read recently that nearly one-half of all people on the planet earth – not just in the United States or in Europe or in Western nations, but in the whole world – believe that we’ve been visited by creatures from another world. How can we explain this belief and what are we to think of all the evidence of UFO sightings? I’ll try to offer an explanation that is consistent with God’s biblical revelation. (more…)