I was recently given an article that appeared in a local newspaper in area in which I live. The article reports on the fact that many people are turning away from traditional churches and turning to other avenues in a quest for spirituality and a so-called “deeper meaning in life”. The article quotes a number of people who taken this step and who are convinced that what they have done is right and richly rewarding. The opening lines of the article set forth the sort of foolishness that is to follow:
Jane Doe [I have changed the name of this person in order to protect the guilty] made the decision to stop attending services at her church. “They don’t encourage independent thinking at all,” she said. “Things just don’t make sense.”
The decision to leave church and remove her children from youth services is not an easy one. At 49, Ms. Doe has spent her life respecting her faith and church. But after much soul searching, she knew she had to leave and search for a deeper meaning in her life and the universe in a different way.
The old way of seeking answers to the deeper meaning of her life just wasn’t working anymore.
Ms. Doe is not alone in her quest to find way that fit better in the quest for spiritual fulfillment and connection to a higher power.
According to research surveys, historians and clergy themselves, the current trend is for people to migrate from more traditional faith-based religion to less structured ways of interpreting God and finding personal meaning in life.
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At the outset of this article, let me say that I realize fully that what I am writing is going to be viewed by some as controversial and will be greeted by others with strong disagreement and disdain. I can accept that and I am willing to take that chance because I believe that what I have to say is an important message to parents who profess to be Christians.
There is nothing easy about being a parent and those who think so are very much mistaken. Our children come into this world as sinners in need of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in a state of innocence as some maintain. As parents who profess to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, one of our responsibilities is to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6.4]. If we parents are truly Christians, we want to see our children converted. That is ultimate desire for them. To that end then, many Christian parents seek to shelter and protect their young charges from the impact and influence of this world which is under the sway of the evil one [Ephesians 6.12]. These parents choose to homeschool their children rather than send them to public school. Some parents refuse to allow their children to receive certain immunizations in the belief that the immunization is more harmful than the disease it is intended to avoid. These loving parents are very careful about the foods that they feed their children, hoping to keep them healthy and to avoid bad eating habits. These parents monitor what their children watch on television or forbid it altogether in order to keep the world from wreaking havoc upon their children. They do the same with other forms of entertainment, such as music and movies also. Christian parents make these decisions, not in the name of oppression, but in order to protect their children from the evil influences of a world that is literally drowning in all manner of evil. These parents take their God-ordained responsibilities very seriously, or so it seems, for there is an area of life where most Christian parents fail to exercise the same levels of discernment and care.
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It is a bit difficult for me to believe that six months have passed since my cancer surgery. It is equally difficult for me to believe that I have been so negligent as not to post any updates since my surgery. As it presently stands, I am cancer-free. The surgery successfully removed all of the cancer and it was completely contained within the prostate. I continue to have follow-up blood tests to make sure that the cancer is gone and so far they have shown no traces of the cancer.
I am so very thankful that the Lord chose to deal with my cancer in this way. It is so much more than what I truly deserve. His grace is so very precious. I give Him all of the glory and honor.
In my last post I shared that I was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. I would like to let my readers know that I met with a surgeon last week and am now scheduled for surgery on November 13, 2012. Thank you in advance for your prayers as I face this surgery and the recovery process to follow.
I continue to marvel at the mercy and grace of our Lord as He carries me through all of this.
When my urologist called me early in the evening of Friday, September 28, 2012 I was not really expecting to hear that I have cancer. My family doctor ordered a PSA test for me back in July because I turned 50 in April. My PSA level was 8.7 so he had the test repeated in September. It was still 8.7. So off to the urologist I went. He did a biopsy of my prostate on the 26th of September. Of the 12 samples that he took, 4 came back showing cancer. I will readily admit that the news came as quite a shock. I thought that there had to some other, less serious reason for my high PSA. But such was not the case. The news led to a few tears and a bit of a fallen countenance as I let the news slowly sink in. As a Christian, I knew that I could neither wallow in self-pity nor lash out in anger at the Sovereign Lord who redeemed my soul from the pit. So I cried out to the Lord for mercy, grace, and the strength of the Holy Spirit.
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I read with great interest, as well as understanding, the relatively recent announcement by Phil Johnson, the Executive-Director of Grace To You, that he will no longer be blogging. He stated that his decision was basically due to two factors: the time required to keep up a blog and the fact that he had already written about all of the issues that he intended to write about when he first began to blog. I like Phil and his style of writing and I will miss his timely and direct blog posts. At the same time, I fully understand his rationale. In order to maintain a blog and keep it up to date, one must invest a significant amount of time. That time may well be better spent in other pursuits. When I began my blog I had every intention of posting something worthwhile every day. That has not happened, not even by a long shot. In fact, I have posted very little over the past two years. I have a tendency to be quite polemical in what I post and that often leads others to attack me or what I have posted. The older I have become the less I really want to fan the flames of unnecessary controversy. So, I have backed off and posted very little.
At the same time, I have been pondering the whole purpose of having a blog at all. Is it for the dissemination of information? Is it for the purpose of teaching and edification? Is it apologetic and polemic? Is it the sharing of personal thoughts in a public forum?
If I continue to blog, and, quite frankly, I am not sure that I will or not, I think I would like to focus more on teaching and edification. I know that there is a time and place for both apologetics and polemics and I am not afraid to venture into that territory, but I do not think that I want my blog to primarily deal with those sorts of issues. I think that I would much rather set forth what the Word of God teaches on various matters with the hope that my readers will be edified. It is to that end that I will set my mind and heart in the days ahead if I do so choose to continue to blog.
Soli Deo Gloria
On Monday the NCAA handed down some very severe penalties to the Penn State football program in the light of the recent conviction of former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky on multiple child molestation charges as well as the deliberate cover-up of his crimes for a number of years. A fine of 60 million dollars was levied; the school is prohibited from playing in a bowl game for the next 4 years and they lose ten scholarships a year for the next 4 years. The NCAA felt as though the magnitude of the crimes at Penn State warranted the very stiff penalties. To me there is a great deal of hypocrisy in the actions of the NCAA and I would like to explain why I feel that way.
The NCAA is an entity that exists to oversee college-level athletic programs. It is not a law enforcement agency; it is not a legislative body; it is not a judiciary. It has no power beyond the world of college athletics. American culture is a sports obsessed culture. In fact, sports at all levels are a a blatant form of idolatry in America. Countless billions of dollars are spent on sports every year. The NCAA spends millions of dollars each year to promote sports college sports. The two biggest money making college sports are football and men’s basketball. The NCAA goes to great lengths to promote those sports. What the NCAA does, in effect, is to promote and foster the idolatrous nature of college sports. The NCAA wants more and more fans to see more and more games in order to generate more and more revenue. For the NCAA to now react to Penn State in this way is nothing but sheer hypocrisy. The environment that existed at Penn State that would lead people to cover-up horrible crimes in order to protect the money making machine that is [or was] Penn State football is an environment that was created, at least in part, by the NCAA itself. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that those who committed crimes at Penn State or that those who looked the other way while those crimes were being committed or those who sought to cover-up those crimes should not be punished. On the contrary, I believe that they ought to prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. Sandusky should spend the rest of his life in prison. Other Penn State football coaches who knew of his crimes but who did nothing should be arrested and prosecuted. The same goes for Penn State administrators or anyone else who contributed to allowing Sandusky to commit the horrible and unspeakable crimes he committed. There should be severe consequences to these inexcusable actions. But those should take place within the parameters of the legal system. All I am saying is that the involvement of the NCAA smack of hypocrisy in my mind. It is truly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
By this time you have, no doubt, heard of the tragic movie theater shooting that took place in Aurora, Colorado early Friday morning at a showing of the latest Batman movie. A lone gunman entered the theater and shot 7o people and so far 12 have died as a result. This is a terrible tragedy by any definition. It is a senseless and wanton act of violence. It is a very clear illustration of the depravity of the human heart.
As I watched the television news accounts of this tragic event I was not at all surprised to see various psychiatrists and psychologists interviewed and asked for their insights into what could have caused the 24 year old man now in police custody to do such a thing as this. These so-called and self-styled experts were quick to give their takes on the situation and most of what they had to say was utter nonsense. They were fairly consistent in saying that there must be some sort of deep rooted and traumatic event locked away in the mind of the shooter that led him to do such a thing. One of these talking heads went so far as to declare that people are not born evil, so the evil that came out in the movie theater was some sort of alien evilness that was placed in the young man years ago by some event or series of events that took place in his childhood. The remedy offered was therapy.
I confess that it is a bit difficult for me not to spend the rest of this post sarcastically ridiculing those assessments, but I will refrain from doing so and rather, point to the real issue. James Holmes is a depraved human being. What came out in that movie theater was the depth and degree to which he is depraved. It was an outpouring of the sinful condition of his heart. Paul writes in Ephesians 2.1 that those who are outside of Christ are dead in their trespasses and sins. They are not morally neutral; they are not innocent; they are spiritually dead, totally depraved sinners. The remedy for that condition is not therapy; the remedy is the Gospel.
At the same time, I must ask, is it really all that surprising that we continue to see individuals committing such heinous acts? Is it really that surprising to see sinners acting like sinners? Is it really surprising to see people fill their minds with many thousands of hours of violent images via games, movies, television, and so forth, and then go and act out what they have seen in the name of entertainment? The Bible says that a man cannot take fire into his bosom and not be burned. One way in which we see that Biblical truth played out in our society is how violent video games, movies, television, and so forth desensitize people and sow seeds that sprout into horrible acts of violence. At the very least, this ought to convict every Christian of the lack of discernment that we often demonstrate in this area.
My heart goes out to every victim of this crime. I pray that the injured will fully recover from their wounds. I pray for the families of the dead. I pray that the Lord will bring great glory to Himself out of the midst of this tragedy. I pray that the Gospel of Christ will go forth with crystal clarity and people will hear it and repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that for James Holmes for what he needs more than anything else is Christ. Make no mistake, he is not beyond the reach of Christ; he is not unsavable.
In all honesty this is a post I would prefer not to write, but I feel that it is necessary. Over the course of the past few years my family and I have been greatly blessed by the wonderful church family of Cornerstone Baptist Church in the Orlando area. Although I never like to be away on a Lord’s Day from the church I serve as Pastor, it has been a great blessing to worship with the Cornerstone several times in the past. We have always found them to be a friendly and loving body. They have always made us feel right at home. We have developed a genuine appreciation for that church family. It is with background that I ask prayer for Cornerstone. Last Friday their former Pastor [who had recently resigned] was arrested and charged with some very serious crimes. It is my understanding that his resignation and subsequent arrest are a serious trial for the church. That, of course, is understandable. Without getting into the details of the allegations against the former Pastor, I ask you to please pray for the Cornerstone Baptist Church family. I also ask you to pray for the former Pastor and his family. My own prayer is that the Lord would shower Cornerstone with His grace and mercy and bring healing to that body. I pray that He would exalt Himself in the midst of this terrible situation. I pray that the judicial process involving the former Pastor would result in the truth being made clear and that justice would be served as necessary. If he is guilty [I am NOT saying that he is or that he is not, I simply do not know] I pray that the Lord would humble him and bring him to genuine repentance and use him even in his incarceration. I pray for his wife and children.
I am always grieved whenever I hear of a Pastor being arrested or for doing something that disqualifies him from the ministry.
[A note of clarification: the Pastor had already been deemed to have disqualified himself from the ministry and had resigned from the church prior to his arrest. I suppose it would be correct to say that his arrest adds support to the earlier Biblical action taken by the church to remove him from his position and call him to repentance.]
That sort of thing always gives Christianity a bit of a black eye. The world tends to lump us all together and rejoices over public sin and hypocrisy. I suppose, however, that the world’s reaction is to be expected. The god of this world loves to throw mud all over the Name and Cause of Christ. I do rejoice in knowing that the Lord is infinitely greater than our sin and that He is able to bring great good out of our foolishness. I pray this will be the case at Cornerstone.
Finally, because of what has transpired with the former Pastor, I have removed an earlier post commending him and his ministry at Cornerstone. I do not want to give anyone the impression that I approve of what he has done. I am also immediately ceasing to use the gospel tract that he wrote as it bears his name and could be a stumbling block to anyone with knowledge of the current situation.
Please pray for the Cornerstone Baptist Church family. They are hurting and the enemy is no doubt drunk with glee. But we know that God is sufficient that He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or can think to ask. To Him be all the glory both now and for all eternity.
In the course of preaching through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians at Sovereign Grace Bible Chapel I have come to chapter 6 where Paul sets forth the reality of the spiritual conflict in which every Christian is engaged every day. Paul was never one to leave his readers with an improper conception of what it really means to be a Christian. Never once did he set out to mislead his readers by telling them that the Christian life is a easy, trouble-free life. In 2 Corinthians 11 he gave out a catalog of his sufferings as a result of his conversion. His words in Ephesians 6 to his readers were intended to cause them to see what is really involved in being a Christian and an exhortation to constant readiness and preparation.
Because we are in Christ we are hated by the devil and the whole of demons allied with him. They hate us because they hate God and the Christ who saved us. They cannot harm God but they certainly turn their attention to us to seek to do us harm. Their assaults and attacks come in many ways and fashions. There are even times when, by virtue of our own carelessness in spiritual matters, we invite their attacks. Peter tells us that our enemy is relentless like a lion on the prowl for prey. His attacks come from every angle imaginable and are always meant to do us harm.
In Ephesians 6 Paul wants to make sure that we understand all of this. He wants us to see that we have a powerful, restless, relentless enemy who want to do us great harm. He wants us to see that the enemy is always scheming against the people of God. He wants us to understand that in the face of every attack we must stand strong in the Lord. More than anything else, though, I think Paul wants us to see that in Christ there is victory over any and all schemes of the enemy. In other words, as Christians we are fighting from the vantage point of certain victory. The enemy has been defeated by Christ and He will not suffer even one who belongs to Him to go down to everlasting defeat to the enemy. We will suffer setbacks from time to time as we give into the flesh rather than appropriate the provisions God has given to us, but ultimately we overwhelmingly conquer through Christ Jesus. What a thought!
May we who truly know Christ and who really belong to Him be found faithful to abide in Him and appropriate every resource He has placed at our disposal to walk in victory over the enemy and his evil schemes. As we do so we shine the light of the Gospel to a very dark and very dead world.
Because the last few days of our vacation were spent in locations where internet connections were spotty at best, I will sum up those days with this one post.
After we left Colorado we returned to the Grand Canyon where we were able to spend the last three days, exclusive of driving time, of our vacation. Upon our return, we found the Canyon to be every bit as spectacular as when we first saw it the previous week. It is truly a breathtaking sight to behold! What an incredible and awesome Creator God we serve!
The highlight of our return to the Grand Canyon was our short hike down the Bright Angel trail. While it is possible to take this trail all the way to the bottom of the Canyon, we were not that adventurous and only went down about two miles. I say “only two miles” but it felt like many more. The trip down was fairly easy but the trip back to the rim was a reminder that I was treading the hiking path on 50 year old out of shape legs. Kristy had some difficulty with shortness of breath, but we finally made it back to the rim, after which we returned to our room and collapsed for a while. I do hope that the Lord will allow us to return to the Grand Canyon one day and if He does I would love to be in good enough shape physically to tackle an overnight trek to the Canyon floor and back.
As write these words, we have returned to our home in Florida safely. It was such a joy to be greeted at the airport by our daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughter. We missed them all very much while we were away. It is good to be back home even though a part of me longs for the sights we encountered over the last 12 days.
All that we saw during our trip will be long remembered. This was the most incredible trip I have ever taken. It was such a blessing to share this time with my wonderful bride of almost 26 years now. We are both so very thankful to our daughters and our loving church family to have made this trip possible. We are simply overwhelmed.
May God be praised. Soli Deo Gloria!