Friday, October 19, 2012

Feelings or Truth?

by Ron Livesay
Humans are most certainly emotional beings. This is part of being created in the image of God. However, our emotions must not be allowed to control what we do, because emotions are unreliable. How we feel must be controlled by truth, not the other way around.
I once was involved in a church situation where a major decision was made on the basis of how a church leader felt about it. I cannot think of one biblical example of a good and right decision being made on such a basis. Instead, the Bible makes it very clear that good and right decisions must be made on the basis of good and right doctrine. For example, I do not believe that Gideon felt very comfortable with the idea that God instructed him to cut his army to 300 men, but regardless of what his feelings may have been, he simply obeyed the Lord, and a great victory followed. Many more examples could be cited. On the other hand, decisions made on the basis of feelings tend to have disastrous results. I think of the case of Cain. He was upset because God did not respect his offering. Nevertheless, in his anger at God for not respecting his unbelief and disobedience, he killed his brother. Again, many such examples are found in Scripture.
I recall a church business meeting from many years ago when I was a teenager. A topic was being discussed and there was no clear agreement on what should be done. A man stood up and said, "I feel this is right." My dad, who was never at a loss for words and was never afraid to speak up, stood up and asked, "What does feeling have to do with it?" He then quoted a Scripture that was most pertinent to the debate. Someone else stood up and asked, "Who does he think he is,  quoting Scripture in a business meeting?" Really... someone would actually quote the Bible in a church business meeting? What is the world coming to? But then in reality, what is more appropriate in any church meeting than the Scriptures?
This is very much like the deacon board chairman who told the pastor, "We don't care what the Bible says, we don't believe that, and we don't want you to preach from that passage." That is a major "oops," to put it mildly. "We don't care what the Bible says" is extremely dangerous ground.
"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1, NKJV). Sound doctrine leads to sound living. Loose doctrine leads to loose living. Far too many churches today emphasize teaching of feel-good "pop psychology" instead of sound doctrine. This certainly can lead to ignorance of biblical principles and the resultant natural disobedience to those principles.
There is also the idea that we must make visitors feel comfortable in order to attract them to the church and ultimately to salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could be more absurd. If unbelievers feel comfortable in the church, there is something wrong with the church. The gospel message is offensive to unbelievers because of the sin nature. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, the natural man is repelled by the truth. "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).
If we think we can draw them in by entertaining them and making them feel comfortable, it necessarily follows that we must either hide or water down the gospel. Concerning hiding the gospel, the Scripture says, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord..." (2 Corinthians 4:3-5, NKJV). The gospel must be made clear and must not be veiled behind "feel good" teaching.
The reality of sin is an important teaching, yet many are afraid to mention it in this day for fear of offending people and driving them away. However, a person needs to be aware of his lost condition before he can get saved. It is a great disservice to hide the truth for fear of being offensive and causing someone to feel uncomfortable.
Not only are we to avoid hiding the gospel, we must also avoid watering it down. Watering down the truth in order to make it more palatable to unbelievers and to make them feel comfortable is to pervert the Gospel of Christ.
"But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3, NKJV).
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6-9, NKJV).
I once had a young pastor tell me the advice he had been given by an older, more experienced pastor. It was quite simple and was stated something like the following:  "Don't put your confidence in methods or new ideas. Just faithfully preach and teach the Word. Let the Lord bring the results."
Other posts related to this topic are found here and here.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Math That Doesn't Add Up

If a baseball player hits .250 all season and goes 1 for 4 in the last game, it is highly suspect if the league announces his average as .300. That is a fact.

But then, maybe some of his outs could be disregarded in order tho help him look better. If he finished the season 150 for 600 (.250) and the league took away 100 of his outs, he would be 150 for 500 (.300) and would be among the top hitters in the league and perhaps able to negotiate a nice raise on his next contract.

Now for the unemployment numbers...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

No Stinking Gimmicks, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled "No Stinking Gimmicks," which referenced a sermon by our pastor. He recently hit some of the very same points as he has continued through the book of Acts. Even though he did not use the words "stinking gimmicks" in this sermon, he nevertheless very strongly reinforced what he said in the previous one. He emphasized repeatedly the tremendous truth that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not our human efforts and cleverness that brings sinners to salvation.

Following are a number of direct quotes:

... Jesus is the one who who was raised up from the dead and is now ascended ... Jesus died, He was buried, and He rose again, and this is the simplicity of the Gospel message. He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again, and all of that is according to the Scriptures ... it is that simple message.

Now friends, there's nothing innovative, there's nothing new, there's nothing fresh, there's nothing hip, there's no better way we can proclaim it. We simply proclaim this message. Now God has given to us a message that transcends culture, transcends time, transcends language. This is the message of Jesus:  His death, His burial, His resurrection. It is not an American message that we take to the ends of the earth. It is God's message that we simply proclaim.

...I get so tired of all these new-fangled theologians, new-fangled seminaries, new-fangled missiologists, who think that they have figured out how we're going to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and come up with some new, innovative, fresh ideas ... Baloney! Jesus Christ dead, buried, and risen again is the only hope for people to come to salvation and eternal life, and it's this message that saves people from their sins. This helps and encourages me, because it's not my innovation, my fresh ideas, my creativity. It's not even by my power or by my passion. It's by the message of Jesus Christ that people get saved.

... We don't have to come up with some new way to do church so that we can have young people and the next generation ... All around me I have people who are saying, "If we don't change the way we're doing things, we're going to lose the coming generation." BALONEY! You reach that generation by preaching Jesus dead, buried and risen again. He is the message of our hope!

...It doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are, what culture you are from. It doesn't matter what language you speak. It's not about our innovation and creativity. It's about the message of Jesus who died, was buried, and He rose again. Jesus is the one who saves people from their sin.

Based on this wonderful, glorious message, the message that we go and proclaim ... Forgiveness has always been by grace ... Justification has always been by faith ... None of the law can justify you ...

... There is no way we can innovate, create, improve. There is nothing we can do to enhance and make the message better ... it is a sufficient message right now just the way it is.

... I have been direct and honest with you, and I have told you that Grace Bible Church is not ever going to be the hippest, coolest place in town. Matter of fact, we are so unhip and uncool that I am doing everything I can to hide any kind of technology ... If you can come into this sanctuary and not find a big screen ... if you have to look around and ask yourself, "Where is that projection coming from?" then I've accomplished my purpose, because I don't want to be the hippest, coolest place in town with all the new-fangled things and contraptions ... I'm not trying to be hip and cool, and I'm not trying to be innovative, and I'm not trying to think, "Hey, if we want to reach the college students, we've got to do something cool. Let's draw them in. Take off my tie." NO!...

This place is about one thing - faithfulness to the message God has granted to us, because this message is the only message that can turn people from darkness to light ... As boring as we are, we simply want to be faithful ... We just proclaim Jesus dead, buried, risen.

I praise the Lord for giving our church a pastor who is true to the Word of God and who gives God all the glory. If you are ever in Colorado Springs, come and visit Grace Bible Church. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 1, 2012


By My Anonymous Friend
One of the values that describe much of today's western culture is embodied in the word entitlement. It involves the notion that one has a right to a benefit or a certain reward. More and more legislation establishes these rights and citizens expect or assume they deserve them. It can be debated whether such a thing as government provided health insurance for example, is indeed a right. I find that Canadians who for years have lived with government controlled health care, generally regard it as a right. Many Americans who have a stronger tradition of free enterprise, do not. I am not writing today to advance that argument one way or the other. Instead I wish to share with you how I observed this kind of thinking at an entirely different level.
We have a family member who is a college football coach. This past week he made a very difficult decision in the middle of a game to replace the starting quarterback. The replacement quarterback came into the game at half time and in the end helped his team to a victory. Not too long after the game, emails and text messages began to come to several members of the coaching staff. Both parents of the quarterback who was benched chimed in, understandably not happy at all. The mother of this young man even emailed the wife of the head coach and complained bitterly about what she perceived as gross injustice. Fortunately before the day was over some apologies were extended.
I was very surprised to learn of this. It is not uncommon for parents of high school athletes to give unwanted advice to a coaching staff but this matter involves college students. It seemed very inappropriate for the parents to complain, especially to the wife of the head coach. But I believe this is part of entitlement thinking. Of course, some of the anxiety came because any parent thinks his or her child is the greatest and most capable athlete, scholar, citizen, worker, potential world leader, etc. But part of what happened here is that the parents believed their son was entitled to be quarterback because of certain alleged promises made when he was recruited and simply because he had been in this position for the first several games of the season.
This kind of thinking is why many excellent teachers leave the profession. Teachers do not get support from the parents of students. Instead the parents if they care at all, tend to take the side of the students and defend or excuse their lack of performance, etc. It is very discouraging to a teacher. Parental biases and misguided or inflated assumptions about their genius or super gifted children, make it very difficult for a teacher to find cooperation between school and home.
It is no wonder that students grow up with the idea that things should be handed to them. Our daughter who works in student life at a private university observes the same phenomenon. In her ten years of work she believes this entitlement kind of thinking has risen sharply.
Entitlement thinking then logically extends to society too. Once a person begins to benefit from the government "trough" of provisions and handouts, he begins to expect it. Politicians know how to offer anything and everything to citizens in order to get their votes. More than ever before this is the issue in the upcoming American election. One side believes that government provides jobs, financial success and prosperity, while the other side advocates the more traditional theory of hard work, enterprise and risk.
My own view is that when entitlement mentality really takes root, the result is what we see today in various European countries. Early retirement is seen as a right. The very mention of bumping up the retirement age even slightly, results in mass rioting. People do not realize the truth of Margaret Thatcher's statement that the problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money! When entitlement minded people are asked where the money handed to them is to come from, they really do not know, and apparently do not seem to care either. Such thinking is absurd and cannot be sustained.
But, there is a legitimate place for social concern and support for those who are in need. How can this be addressed? My own conviction is that the role of government should be diminished and the role of the family, the church, and local communities needs to be expanded. Historically this is how western society functioned. How many hospitals even to this day have biblical names? It is because Roman Catholics or Protestants helped them to get started. Many universities began as church sponsored institutions. Relief and social concerns were addressed by churches, not governments. Slowly this has changed. As homes and families become increasingly fractured and dysfunctional, government has stepped in. I believe in part it is because more effective local controls have passed the buck so to speak, and we have become all too willing to let government programs take over. The more centralized any program becomes, the likelihood of inefficiency, abuse and fraud rises. We have ample evidence of this everywhere today. I sometimes ask people who advocate for more government control to show where a government program has performed with efficiency, financial responsibility, and timeliness. Examples of this are hard to come by.
So what is a person of faith to do? This is not an easy question. It is surely not entirely an either/or matter. My sense is that the pendulum is swinging far too much in the direction of entitlement thinking brought about by government programs that are easy to access and abuse. But how can families take on more responsibility for needy kin? How can the church do a better job of caring for the needy in its community? What should you or I do individually to address the needs of the homeless, the unemployed, or the addicted? What do you think?