Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

Should Christians Attend a So-Called Gay Wedding?

May 15, 2015

Title: Should Christians Attend a So-Called Gay Wedding?
Text: Matthew 19: 4-6, Genesis 18:20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Time: April 22nd, 2015

Last week Florida Senator Marco Rubio announced he’s running for President in the 2016 election. Shortly afterwards he was asked about so-called gay marriage and about whether he would attend a so-called same-sex wedding if invited. He replied he would, since if he cared about somebody close then he’d want to be there for them for the special moments in their life. He said he wouldn’t let a disagreement about the nature of marriage separate family or friends for such a special moment. And although Rubio is against the redefinition of marriage he seems to be perfectly willing to participate by attending a so-called gay wedding. He says he’s a Christian and feels that would be the loving thing to do. Is he correct? Can Christians attend so-called gay weddings of loved ones and friends? Is that perfectly consistent with a profession of faith in Christ? If not, what would be wrong with attending such weddings? When I first heard the question raised by news reporters I knew immediately they were trying to stir up controversy and trouble by asking the leading Republican candidates for president. Of course, reporters love to cause trouble because that causes controversy and therefore it draws people into the debate and increases television news ratings as more and more people tune in to hear the latest development. But I also knew that it would so seeds of division among Christians because generally speaking believers don’t think very deeply about such topics, nor do they work very hard trying to live consistent Christian lives in the midst of an increasingly secular and godless society. I knew that some Christians would think of the question as posing no real problem – “Of course I’d attend a gay wedding of a close friend or family member. It’s the loving thing to do,” they’d say. While others would instinctively react negatively and object, say, “Of course I wouldn’t attend a so-called gay wedding; that would be the same as endorsing what God calls sin. I wouldn’t do it, not for a friend, not even for a family member. I will not be a party to sin by attending.” And then of course there will be Christians who are caught in the middle who honestly don’t know what they’d do. That’s the position Senator Ted Cruz of Texas took when asked by trouble-making news reporters about the issue. He said, “I don’t know, I’ve never been asked to attend a gay wedding.” That’s the safe and easy response. And maybe he was wise in taking it, especially if he hasn’t really thought through the question. But someday, at some time, he’s going to have to answer the question. All Christians at some point will have to answer the question. We all will. What will you say? Let’s talk about it this morning. Let me present what I’m convinced is a consistent Christian answer to the question. (more…)

The Boy Who Didn’t Come Back From Heaven?

March 8, 2015

Title: The Boy Who Didn’t Come Back From Heaven?
Text: 1 John 4:1
Time: February 5th, 2015

 
A few years ago I read a Christian book about a surgeon who claims he died and went to heaven. He then wrote a book describing his experiences and explaining how his brain had zero brain wave activity yet he was perceiving objects and having mental experiences nonetheless. He argued for the survival of the soul after physical death. I was very impressed with the book. About the same time I was aware of some other books that were out in the Christian publishing world, books that also recounted experiences of heaven, in particularly a few books recounting the heavenly experiences of a number of different little boys. The one book, which I never read, came out as a full-length motion picture, and I was able to see the movie. It was interesting but not all that impressive as far as stories go. But, because it didn’t contradict anything I knew about heaven from the Bible, I categorized it as something that might have indeed happened. There was another book about another little boy who supposedly died and went to heaven and then returned. I was given this book to read, but I never got around to reading it. As it turns out, this little boy, whose story is recounted in the book I never got around to reading, as it turns out the story is false. The little boy admitted recently to making it all up. He also made the comment in the same statement that Christians shouldn’t look to anything or anyone except the Bible for information about heaven. That’s exactly true, and it’s just what I wrote a couple of years ago in a message about heaven concerning the topic of reported heavenly experiences by people who claim they’ve visited and returned from heaven. But I’m afraid Christians routinely fall into the trap of reading and believing too many supposed personal testimonies about heaven and other things, and they begin to put far too much weight in these stories rather than in God’s Word the Bible. I’ve seen it time and time again. Now I’m not against testimonies and recounting spiritual experiences. I find them interesting, inspiring and often helpful to my faith. But I’m always aware, nonetheless, that I don’t need any testimony to convince me of something the Bible already teaches me. I don’t need testimonies about heaven to convince me of heaven because I believe the Bible and it teaches me all I need to know about heaven – or any other subject. But the question is, “Why do Christian keep turning to these kinds of stories to strengthen their faith when they have their Bibles to do that?” Let me say a few things about this most recent disappointment about the little boy recanting his testimony about heaven and see what we can learn from this experience. (more…)

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. (more…)

Confusing God and Country

October 29, 2013

 

Title: Confusing God and Country

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Acts 6:3-5, 2 Kings 4:7

Time: October 16th, 2013

Way back in the day when I was a Boy Scout there was an award that I earned called the “God and Country” award. It was all about faith and patriotism, and the two were linked together in a seamless whole. I can’t remember exactly the requirements but if I recall it had something to do with service to both one’s church and the community, and also knowing the basic teachings of one’s faith – for me Christianity – and knowing the basic principles of democracy upon which the U.S. was founded.  At the time I couldn’t imagine there ever being a conflict between commitment to Christianity and commitment to the United States. Now that’s ok for a young boy growing up in America in the 70s, but it’s not acceptable to an adult Christian today. Anyone who knows anything about Christianity in America today knows that there are plenty of conflicts between where our U.S. government is headed and where our faith leads us. For example, there’s legal abortion since the 1973 Row v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court. That’s a direct conflict between Christian moral teachings and national social policy in the United States. More recently, there’s the whole so-called right to gay marriage, which is a direct conflict with Christian morality if there ever was one. The list could go on. There was a time when Christian teachings and U.S. government policy were almost identical, or at least highly compatible; but not today. It seems as if the official government position today is that Christianity shouldn’t influence public policy — that there’s something wrong with the values of the Bible influencing society, or that anything other than non-religious, secular legal reasoning is prohibited. That’s a lot different than when I was a small boy growing up in America, where God and government, church and state where a lot more compatible. But the reality is that today as Christians we have to be a lot more discerning and wise in how we view Christianity and culture. We can’t simply assume that our government or even our economic system is automatically compatible with our faith. So in an effort to bring clarity to this whole subject I’d like to take a few minutes and outline the differences between the three major traditional influences in society as far as philosophies and religion are concerned. They are, first, of course, Christianity; second, democracy; and third, capitalism. Now people routinely get these three influences confused or mixed up together. Christians often find themselves defending capitalism and democracy with the same zeal as they might defend their Christian faith. That’s wrong. Let me show why it’s wrong, and why we need to hold to our faith priority. (more…)