For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Your Greatest Need

Just a short excerpt from a recent sermon reminding you of your greatest need.  All you need to know in less than one minute.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Watching “The Shack” and Eating Doggie Doo

Sorry for the strong language there.  Doggie doo isn't something I normally talk about in public.  But I can't help but think of the analogy when I hear so many well meaning Christians talk about wanting to see The Shack movie, recommending it to friends, etc.  They say it's a “beautiful story of forgiveness”, and we can overlook any shortcomings it may have when it comes to what it says about God, because it is after all, just fiction.   Well...

I'm not going to give a lengthy critique of the book/movie and what it teaches.  For a lengthy treatment on that, I recommend Tim Challies wonderful review of the book (here as a pdf file).  I think most folks have heard the debate.  Most are aware of the issues involving the author's portrayal of the Trinity, the nature of God's Sovereignty, the nature of salvation, etc.  All of those are presented in non-biblical, and even anti-biblical ways.  

My point here is to simply address the argument that we can overlook these things in light of what a “good story” this is.  The emotional part, the feel good part, outweighs the poor theological part, right?  Well, that's where the doggie doo comes in.

There's a great old sermon illustration about a father trying to teach his children about what should be acceptable for them in terms of entertainment.  Games, books, movies, etc.  His kids had been trying to convince him of why they should be able to see one movie in particular.   It had their favorite actors.  Everyone said it was great, even some Christian friends.  It only had minor sexually suggestive material, only some profane language, and only three times where the Lord's name was taken in vain.  Otherwise, it was a fantastic movie with great effects, etc. But the father wouldn't give in. 

Later that evening, the dad asked his kids if they'd like to have some brownies he just baked.  He said he used the families favorite recipe, used all the best ingredients, gourmet quality in fact.  He baked it at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time.  However, he added one little special ingredient...that's right...the doggie doo. 

Of course, the kids were horrified and disgusted. No way were they eating that.  Dad tried to remind them of how good all the rest of the ingredients were, and told them that it was only a little bit of doggie doo.  They would hardly even notice it.  But as you can imagine, the kids still refused to eat the special brownies.

Now, I'm sure you can see the application of that story for what we read and watch and entertain ourselves with on a regular basis.  And I admit that when it comes to my favorite action films, I may have choked down a bit of doggie doo on occasion and tried to justify it.  Judge me if you will.  But here's where The Shack, for me, is a bit different.

In the case of this book, this movie, the doggie doo is about God!  The story may be great.  The lessons on forgiveness may be great.  The emotional appeal may hit all the right buttons.  But the one doggie doo element, the objectionable part, is about our God.  Do you see the problem here?  What we're saying in defending this movie is that it's ok to teach people doggie doo about God as long as the story is good, the emotions get tugged, etc.

But, again, people will say: It's only fiction.  Well, two responses to that; maybe three. 
1) The author never intended it to be “just” fiction.  He intends to teach spiritual truth, which is why the book is more dialogue than action.  It's didactic; intended to teach.  For him the theology is central. 
2) Non-Christians will come to see this film, and since Christians are talking it up as a wonderful “Christian” film, they will walk out assuming that what it teaches about God, His nature, salvation, etc. is all true.  Is this what we want to teach them?  And..
3) Fiction is no excuse for heresy.  It's still doggie doo.  Regardless of the “vehicle”, books or movies or whatever, to present God in any way other than how He has revealed Himself in Scripture is dangerous and unwise.

So, I probably won't change anyone's mind about going to see this movie.  And in the end, a Christian won't lose their salvation if they do, unwise though it may be.  I'll just lift my glass in a toast to you and hope you enjoy eating your doggie doo. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Turning 50...

When my biggest spiritual hero, Charles Spurgeon, turned 50, there was a great celebration.  The church he had pastored since he was 19 held special services.  Friends and dignitaries alike spoke, wrote letters of congratulations, etc.  As part of the service a listing was read of the many ministries Pastor Spurgeon was instrumental in starting.  All in all it was a fantastic tribute to this man whom God had used in mighty ways, a reflection on the thousands and thousands he had preached to and touched in his ministry.

Turning 50 today, I'm not looking at that kind of fanfare.  We did have a little cake and ice cream at church last Sunday night.  But rather than thousands, we're blessed to have 100 on any given Sunday morning.  I appreciate each person in our fellowship, and feel blessed to serve them.  Yet, over the years I've buried more people than I've baptized.  As for a listing of accomplishments, all I can claim is an unfinished doctoral degree and this blog I can't seem to keep alive. 

On the personal side, I have been extraordinarily blessed with my family.  I have an amazing wife of 28+ years, whom I grow to love more each day.  She has been a faithful partner in ministry and an incredible encouragement to me.  We are blessed with four fantastic children, the older three who have grown into outstanding, godly adults of whom I couldn't be more proud.  I'm truly a blessed man.

But as I look back on a half century, I'm not sure I've made the best use of those years.  I'd like to say I've always given my best effort, but quite frankly, I'm not sure I have.  Not because I can't compare to Spurgeon; not many can.  But there are too many failings, one of which is apparently self-pity.  And yet, I also know that God's grace is greater than my shortcomings.

My ministry is never meant to be compared to Spurgeon or anyone else.  God calls and gifts each of us in various ways, according to His plans and purposes, for His glory.  And while I haven't always given my best efforts, I hope that I'm giving more and more each day as I grow in His grace, seeking that purpose and glory.

I could go on introspecting all day, but I'll stop.  And I'll just say this.  While I may never live up to the Spurgeon's of the world, I hope that in the end I can at least say I emulated him in this.  As he addressed his congregation on that “jubilee” celebration, he began with words that reminded his people of two major things.  Their indebtedness to the work of God's Spirit and to the power and centrality of the Gospel.  I pray that if anything, I can say that I've tried to focus on these two things as well.  We are totally dependent on His grace and His power, and the Gospel is at the center of that.  Every time I preach, I want to focus on His grace, His saving power, and His glory.  If nothing else can ever be said of me or my ministry, I pray this is it: I pointed people to Jesus.  That would be a fine legacy indeed.

Just for fun, and in case anyone is interested, here are some of Spurgeon's opening remarks as he celebrated that 50th birthday with his church, words I wholeheartedly agree with: 

“The blessing which I have had here, for many years, must be entirely attributed to the grace of God, and to the working of God’s Holy Spirit among us. Let that stand as a matter, not only taken for granted, but as, a fact distinctly recognized among us. I hope, brethren, that none of you will say that I have kept back the glorious work of the Holy Spirit. I have tried to remind you of it, whenever I have read a chapter, by praying’ that God the Holy Spirit would open that chapter to our minds. I hope I have never preached without an entire dependence on the Holy Ghost. Our reliance upon prayer has been very conspicuous; at least, I think so. We have not begun, we have not continued, we have not ended anything’ without prayer. We have been plunged into it up to the hilt. We have not prayed as we should; but, still, we have so prayed as to prevail; and we wish it to be on record that we owe our success, as a, church, to the work of the Holy Spirit, principally through its leading us to pray. Neither, as a church, have we been without a full conviction that, if we are honest in our asking, we must be earnest in acting. It is no use asking God to give us a blessing if we do not mean it; and if we mean it, we shall use all the means appointed for’ the gaining of that boon; and that we have done.

“Next to that, it behooves me to say that I owe the prosperity I have had in preaching the gospel to the gospel which I have preached... I have tried, and I think successfully, to saturate our dear friends with the doctrines of grace. I defy the devil himself ever to get that truth out of you if God the Holy Spirit once puts it into you. That grand doctrine of substitution, which is at the root of every other, — you have heard it over and over and over and over again, and you have taken a sure grip of it. Never let it go. And I say to all preachers who fail in this matter, that I wish they would preach more of Christ, and try to preach more plainly. Death to fine preaching’ There is no good in it. All the glory of words and the wisdom of men will certainly come to naught; but the simple testimony of the goodwill of God to men, and of His sovereign choice of His own people, will stand the test, not only of the few years during which I have preached it, but of all the ages of this world till Christ shall come. I thank you, dear friends, for all your love and your kindness to me, but I do attribute even that, in great measure, to the fact that you have been fed with the pure gospel of the grace of God. I do not believe that the dry, dead doctrine of some men could ever have evoked such sympathy in people’s hearts as my gospel has aroused in yours. I cannot see any reason in myself why you should love me. I confess that I would not go across the street to hear myself preach; but I dare not say more upon that matter, because my wife is here. It is the only point upon which we decidedly differ; I differ in toto from her estimate of me, and from your estimate of me, too; but yet I do not wish you to alter it.”