Archives For Evangelicalism

bibleI have never been persecuted. Not really. Sure I’ve been called names, but my bank account and my health have not been affected in any way for being a Christian.

I recently did an informal (and most definitely unscientific) survey, asking people who they thought was the most mature Christian. Although I got many different answers, there was a trend. Most people pointed to someone who had suffered severe trials or even died for their faith.

It does seem that those who have been persecuted are more mature. They seem to evangelize more, to say no to sin more often and to be an encouragement to those around them.

Perhaps persecution is coming for all of us, but as of right now we just don’t know too many Christians who are facing persecution. We hear of the bakers, florists and millionaires on TV losing businesses and TV shows, but we have a long way to go to experience what the “others” in Hebrews 11:36-38 who were even sawn in two for their faith and whom the world was not worthy of.

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’Tis the season to be controversial. Regrettably, Christians can be vulnerable to a form of orthorexia when it comes to celebrating or conscientiously objecting to the celebration of Christmastime.

Let’s first take a step back.

Orthorexia is when people try to eat so perfectly that they end up obsessing about their health to the detriment of their health.orthorexia

In the vegetarian—excuse me, “plant-based”—community there is wide consensus that humans should not be consuming cow-flesh. Motivation for this commitment is rooted in one of three factors, but often results in an equal-part blend of the following reasons:

  1. The undeniable health concerns (immediate improvement: watch Forks Over Knives, and/or longevity: read The China Study).
  2. The alarming environmental threats caused by cow flatulence and overgrazing (watched Cowspiracy yet?).
  3. The ethical convictions (Sir Paul McCartney’s Glass Walls stomach churning expose). Usually the motivation to go plant-based or at least plant-strong is firmly rooted in one of these factors and then blends in parts of the other two. But from that irreducible common ground the denominationalism begins its interminable divergence into branches and sub-branches of vegetarianism.

Some vegetarians who would never consume beef, pork, mutton, or poultry (notice how labels for meat distance the product from its source?) have no issue with scarfing down some shrimp and calamari with their gluten infused veggie cheese and egg burgers. Purist herbivores would label those dilettanti as pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian—the lowest rung of plant-strong compromisers. The class structure among eaters reflects their commitment to the cause. Orwell might say: “All animal products are equal, but some are more equal than others,” right?

If you really want to repent of your unorthodox omnivore ways you need to eschew all animal products and thus achieve the enlightened state of veganism. Eco-ethical vegans (as opposed to dietary vegans) will not even wear leather Birkenstocks, nor read from a calf-skin Bible. But vegans still gobble up grain and bread, with all its sticky gluten-rich glory. Gluten is a dietary gremlin that allegedly wreaks havoc with your gut flora, causing symptoms like bloating in an increasingly swelling segment of the population.

As you narrow the filter and strain out those pesky paleo-types you get the “glugan,” or gluten-free vegan. From there it goes down to fruitarians, raw whole food only (meaning no cooked veggies or supplements either), raw whole food juice only, and eventually to a diet plan that looks harrowingly similar to Gandhi’s guide to a successful hunger strike.

At this point of deprivation you are orthorexic. Your weekly meal plan looks as empty as a prisoner’s day planner. You might call it your John the Baptist Diet (not to be confused with its diametric opposite: the Typical Baptist Pastor’s Diet).

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Not too long ago I talked about the verses in Scripture that God used to get me to start sharing the Gospel. I was reading through the entire Bible at a Bible school in central Italy and I ran across a passage that changed my life. Ezekiel 3:17-21 proved to be some of the toughest and most convicting verses in all of Scripture for me. As I read those verses over and over again I thought of the people over the years who I had had the opportunity but failed to share the Gospel with.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I wept as I thought about how unfaithful I had been for so many years and for some reason my mind kept going to my junior high friends in Italy. I had been unfaithful to share the Gospel in general and yet it was those friends that kept coming to mind the most.

Junior high in Italy works a little differently than America. For three years from 6th-8th grade you stay in the same classroom, and it is the teachers who move from room to room. So for three years, each day you spend time with the same 20-25 students. Over our three years we became like a family. And I could only think of two people in the entire class that I had shared the Gospel with.

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notmypresidentWe were warned. I feel like it was over and over again. Pastor after pastor told us that if politics becomes an idol in our heart that those who don’t agree with us will slowly become the enemy. We were told that when we put our hopes and trust in the one who sits in the Oval Office and into avoiding persecution and holding on to religious freedom then when people speak out with opposing views from us we will despise them and treat them like an enemy.

And yet despite the warning, many of us in the church have raised the idol. Many in the church have worshipped at the feet of this idol and are simply overjoyed that this idol seems to have produced results. And the mocking has begun. My Facebook is filled with comments about snowflakes, hypocrites and lefties who supposedly are so evil and so despicable that they need to be ridiculed for their tears. The problem is that these snowflakes we’re mocking are my mission field. I talk to so many of them on a weekly basis. Despite Scripture’s warnings about letting no unwholesome words out of our mouths, and only using words that are able to build others up (Eph. 4:29), we think that because some wanted to push abortion and gay marriage that we’re allowed to speak of them any way we choose.

Far too many people have lost their eternal perspective. Although being thankful for religious freedom and lower taxes is not wrong, when we mock those in opposition we show that we have exchanged treasure in heaven for some chump change on earth. (Matt. 6:19)

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Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:16–17 –

2-cor-517Paul speaks about regeneration in this passage. If anyone is in Christ—if anyone has become united to Jesus Christ by saving faith in the Gospel, if anyone has died to sin and self in union with the One who died to sin once for all—he is a new creation. Working backwards, from cause to effect, the second half of verse 16 notes that the very first result of regeneration is a new view of Christ. As unbelievers, we all once regarded Christ from a fleshly point of view, according to worldly standards, paying special attention to the way things looked outwardly and externally rather than internally and spiritually. But the regenerate regard Him in this way no longer. When Almighty God issues His sovereign decree for light to shine forth in the heart that is dead in sin, when the eyes are opened and the ears unstopped, when the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, the first thing that changes is the sinner’s view of Christ. We see Him for who He is, in all His beauty, glory, and suitableness to our need.

Working backwards even further to the first half of verse 16, Paul speaks of a second result of regeneration. Not only does the regenerate sinner have a new view of Christ, but he also has a new view of everyone else. When we’re transformed from the inside out in regeneration, and our assessment of Jesus changes, so does our assessment of everyone else in the world.

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Over the years I have noticed a trend that when a pastor says the words, “if you don’t know Christ and you are here this morning…” most of the congregation present starts closing their Bibles, may even talk to one another and perhaps even get up and start walking out. I’ve even noticed sometimes when the preacher puts the Gospel in the middle of the sermon that some people, used to shutting off when they hear those magic words, started shutting their Bibles thinking the sermon was over despite the fact that the preacher was only halfway done.

bored-in-churchNow I completely understand the sentiment. Usually, when the pastor shares the Gospel it is at the end of the sermon and people are just getting their things together in order to be able to leave quickly after the service. Also, many mothers are simply being kind and want to be able to relieve the nursery workers from their children. Perhaps many people are absolutely secure in their salvation and simply shut off whenever they hear something that doesn’t apply to them.

I would like to encourage you to rethink this attitude.

Over the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about evangelism, how to teach it and how to motivate people to do it. I’ve written quite a bit on it on this blog and sadly the evangelism posts are the ones that seem to get the least attention. Many people say it is because it is a topic that convicts people a lot and that they would rather not feel condemned over it. Others may not share a post because they don’t want to seem like a hypocrite.

I’ve had many people ask me to help them in their evangelism, but perhaps I have neglected one of the most important places where people can learn to do so: the part of the sermon where the Pastor addresses the unbeliever.

There are three reasons that come to mind as to why we must fight the temptation and focus on the preacher as he shares the gospel with us.

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what-is-loveOver the past week evangelicalism has witnessed an intriguing exchange surrounding the LGBTQ issue. Briefly, it began when RNS posted an interview with Jen Hatmaker in which she affirmed the holiness of LGBT relationships, to which Rosaria Butterfield responded, to which RNS responded.

In reading these articles, and others like it, there seems to be a common confusion lining the discussion: What is love? What is unloving? What criteria determines if something is loving or not? Often the unloving penalty flag is (unlovingly) thrown into the mix of these conversations. It’s not possible to dissect all the issues. But briefly, it’s worth pushing pause and examining what we often label “loving” and “unloving.”

Individuals are correct when they insist on the priority of love. “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). All that God commands is summed up in love. But this demands a question: why should the God of the Bible serve as the standard for love, or anything for that matter? After all, while my unregenerate friend agrees that love is priority, he would take issue with the proposition that the God of the Bible is the standard and definer of love. On one hand, the answer involves a study of Bibliology; matters pertaining to the revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, and canonicity of the Bible. This article assumes these things. If needed, one might begin familiarizing themselves on those topics here and here.

With that premise, we can move forward. Consider for a moment what happens if I do not have an objective standard on what is and is not love. Love will be interpreted as whatever feels loving to me or a particular subculture. The problem is that without an objective definition external to myself, I really have no absolute framework for love.bible-06 Love becomes a matter of my perception. Which means love is determined by me, whose feet are planted in mid-air. In using my perceptions as love’s adjudicator, I am, in effect, saying, “I am the standard of love. In my being, I am the standard of love. In my thinking, feeling, and practice, I am absolute, pure love.” Thus, I have placed myself as the determiner and judge of what is and is not loving. In so doing, I assume the place of Absolute, which is to say, I am functionally operating as a self-appointed god. In that moment, I have nominated myself as the universe’s Sovereign and ascended to the throne for absolute adjudication. But, we, who are imperfect in love by nature and deed, dare not place ourselves in such a place.

I need to step off the throne. Practically, that will look like letting go of my perceptions, my feelings, and my opinions as the absolute determiner of what is loving. I need an objective standard. Even more, I need the standard from a source who has shown flawless love in word and deed. The only such source is the God of the Bible. “God is love…In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 John 4:8, 10). The One who created knows more about love than the one created. Further, the One abused by his enemies in order to redeem and reconcile his enemies; that One is love. So, when this God speaks, as he has in the 66 books of Scripture, his definition of love is love. It is objective; absolute; pure. Thus, it alone is the standard against which ideas of love must be compared.

With that, it’s worth taking a look at some common myths pertaining to love and the lack thereof in evangelicalism (errors which I have committed).  Continue Reading…

As I saw her sitting there on her wheelchair sobbing…both our hearts were breaking.

people-holy-stepsHers because she was unable to walk up the Holy Steps to have her sins forgiven. She so desperately wanted to be able to spend less time in purgatory and she couldn’t bear the thought of being so close to the steps where Jesus had walked and unable to go up them like everybody else.

Mine because she had been duped into believing that this ritual of walking up the steps, and saying a few hundred hail Mary’s, would save her from her sin. Her tears were yet another example of the evil that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course, a sign not too far from her stated that those who could not crawl up the steps could stay right where they were and still receive pardon for their sin, but she wasn’t buying it.  She knew that she was missing out on something, and it was all because of her inability to perform works.

As I gazed around the room, I was overwhelmed by the dozens of people who were partaking in this practice of walking up these “holy steps”. According to Roman Catholic tradition, these were the steps that Jesus walked on in order to go up to Pilate. They even have spots on them which they claim is where Jesus’ blood dropped. Supposedly, Helena the mother of Constantine had them brought from Jerusalem to Rome in the fourth century.

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reformation-wall-in-genevaHave you ever wondered why people call themselves “Reformed”? The word “reformed” generally means “improved”—as in, desperate parents may send an incorrigible adolescent to a reformatory school to get them back in line; politicians promise economic reforms to undo the damage of their predecessors. In theological circles, the word is written with a capital, and acts as a self-designation for those who consider themselves to be direct doctrinal descendants of the progenitors of the Reformation, namely Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, et al.

For example, plain vanilla Baptists get upgraded to “Reformed Baptists” if they embrace not only the tenets of Baptists, but also the doctrines for which the Reformers risked life and limb.

Exactly 499 years to the day (October 31, 1517) the Catholic priest, Martin Luther, nailed, to the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church, his list of 95 things the Catholic Church needed to reform/improve in order to be faithful to what the Bible teaches.

Reformed folk today come in various subspecies: some don’t hold to all five tenets of the Calvinist TULIP* scheme, others have shed the Reformers’ eschatology and ecclesiology, such as infant baptism. But all who brandish the prefix “Reformed” will share a profound commitment to the five slogans of the Reformation that functioned as the five-fold battle cry of essentials around which all Reformers united.

Ironically, these five mottos are commonly referred to by their Latin monikers. I say it’s ironic because the Reformers were committed to translating the Scriptures and theological writings out of the elitist Latin language and into any and every vernacular tongue imaginable. But the description of this commitment has come to us in Latin: Post tenebras lux,(after darkness light).

post-tenebras-lux

Any visitor to South Africa’s Kruger National Park wants to see the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. Though there are countless species to keep career game wardens busy for a lifetime, nothing trumps the satisfaction of spotting the Big Five.

Here is a quick primer on the doctrinal biggies of the Reformation, the so-called “Five Solas.”

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the-atheist-delusion-dvd_3d-1Ray Comfort recently released a new movie, “The Atheist Delusion” which is free on YouTube. The movie is an hour long and is a response to Richard Dawkins’ famous book The God Delusion.”

The movie’s description states:

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

The Atheist Delusion is a mix of interviews on college campuses, television clips, beautiful sceneries and more.  There is a great structure to the movie and it progresses nicely to a final goal. It is tremendously interesting and it really does a good job of keeping interest throughout. It would be a fantastic movie to watch with the family, the youth group, Bible study or even the entire church. There are several reasons why watching movies like these are great for believers, here are some that come to mind.

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