Burning Man Reminds Us to Preach the Gospel

This week marks the pagan festival held in northern Nevada known as “Burning Man.” For those who may not be familiar with this local event, literally thousands of people from all around the country will descend upon the Black Rock Desert a couple hours north of Reno. They will camp out in RV’s and tents, they will bring assorted foods, music and the like. But this is no ordinary camp out. It is a festival in which every individual’s personal belief system is put on full display. Literally, from the most basic camp out to full on pagan worship, a small society of ultra post-modernity sets itself up for a full week of personal celebration and worship of whatever you choose. The event culminates in the burning of a wooden statue where everybody congregates and celebrates this most sacred event.

However, it is not the debauched, pagan style celebratory worship that drives me to write this article, well, not entirely anyway. As I said, the Burning Man festival is literally the hallmark event of post modernism. Virtually every lifestyle choice and belief system is represented at this gathering. And were you to ask those attending how they felt about the competing beliefs being in all in the same place, they would tell you how wonderful it is to have such a non-judgmental environment where everyone could live as they chose without fear of being told they were wrong. In other words, Burning Man is the utopia of post-modernism. And post-modernism IS the religion of the United States. Those who promote this religion would be overjoyed to see the Burning Man mentality exist in every corner of our society.

My motivation here is not to bemoan the leftist, elitist mindset that drives post-modernism. Rather it is to challenge every single Christian with this thought: how did Burning Man become the Mecca of American “religion” while the Church is viewed as its “anti-christ?” The answer is, I believe, is this, we have faltered in Christ’s command to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature. Remember when we first understood that we were vile wretches that were at war with God through our wicked works. How we realized that in His just punishment, God would rightly send us to Hell. Yet God, in His mercy, pulled us from the fire and punished His Son Jesus Christ at the cross in our place! His shed blood covered our sins and His resurrection paved the path to Heaven for us. Through repentance and faith alone, both merciful gifts from our gracious Father, we received the amazing salvation that promises us eternity with Him! And then Christ commanded us to take the story of that salvation and to preach it to everyone we came in contact with. And what a blessing it would be to share it! To lead the lost, blind and dying to the very salvation they didn’t even know they needed!

Somewhere along the way, we stopped obeying that command. Where we once would not have thought twice about sharing this glorious message with anyone, we reigned back, we slowed down and we gave in. We stopped preaching the hard truth that the law brings condemnation, that it reveals we are not good people and that we deserve Hell. We started saying “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” or we decided we would just allow people to “see Jesus in us.” In doing so, we have exchanged the amazing gospel of Christ, a gospel that should cost us everything to follow, for cheap grace and easy believism! We have become content that evangelism is a spiritual gift for only some and not a command for all. As a result, the culture has plunged head long into the morass of sin and debauchery, into false “religiosity” and personal fulfillment. All the while, we have stood by with the very words of life that can rescue these perishing masses, yet failed to heed the call of our Captain into action.

It is altogether possible that, as you are reading this, you have dismissed my conclusion. If so, consider this, statistics tell us that merely 1% to 2% of professing Christians go out of their way to deliberately share the gospel with someone. That is a very telling number, even if one were to believe the polls which report the high percentages of “Christians” in the United States. In truth, it is likely many of those polled are more cultural Christians than truly bathed in the blood of Christ, born again of the Spirit believers. So that 1% to 2% gets even smaller, which means that a very scant number of truly born again Christian are out there carrying the weight of the command that the entire church is responsible to obey. With these small numbers acting as the evangelistic force for the church, is it that hard to imagine why the church holds so little influence in our culture today?

Yet, there are Christians who would insist that they are very evangelistic. They would point the numbers of people they have invited to church regularly to hear the preaching of the gospel by their pastor. While it is good to bring unsaved friends and loved ones to church, we must understand, this is not evangelism. It is the abdicating of one’s personal responsibility to seek out the lost and share the life giving elixir that is the gospel. Local churches are the place where the saved come together in corporate worship. They are led by the pastor in prayer and praise. They are edified and equipped under his teaching so that they may go out and do spiritual warfare in the world. To leave our responsibility to be proclaimers of the gospel solely to the pastor changes the very nature of the church gathering from corporate worship and edification to seeker friendlyism which sacrifices the content of the word for entertainment to keep the unsaved coming.

But one may point to something that is overtly evangelistic, such as their involvement in the large christian outreaches that gather untold thousands of lost and unregenerate people in one place to hear the gospel. While it is wonderful to see the efforts of so many people to brig the gospel to the world, in many cases, it is simply a repeat of bringing someone to church. Rather than going out into the world preaching the gospel, Christians invite the lost into one place where they will hear preaching by a few, or maybe even just one preacher. The energy and effort put into this gathering is all about getting the people there to hear someone else preach the message. I’m not discounting the genuine desire, and even countless hours of prayer, that Christians pour into this. But in the end, we abdicate the responsibility to someone else. And in truth, many of these events become big seeker friendly attractions where big bands, light shows and celebrity Christians attempt to woo the unsaved to making a “decision for Christ.” But when we look at the statistics, most of those people who make professions of faith never get plugged into a local church. They run around with a “Christian-buzz” for a while, but before long, they prove themselves to be rocky ground with no depth, or a plant choked out by the weeds. In other words, a false convert. One who left us, because he or she never really was of us.

Or maybe those in the church really do desire to get out on the streets to interact with people. So they set up food drives, or head out to feed and clothe the homeless. They hope to show those who are in desperate situations that they are loved by the Church. A noble effort to be sure, but more often than not, it is devoid of the preaching of the gospel. Those they help may be aware of a physical, temporal love in the here and now, but they are rarely, if ever, told that they more desperately need peace with God through Jesus Christ, because their sinful deeds are causing them to be at war with Him.

That’s how post modernism and events like Burning Man are the hallmark of excellence in our society, because Christians have faltered in preaching that amazing grace that saved us from the depths of Hell. I say this because if we remembered that beautiful gospel daily, how could we not go running into the streets to preach it to everyone? How could we ever claim evangelism is not our “gift” when it is a command from our Savior? How could abdicate our responsibility to preach the entirety of the gospel and give a wishy-washy “God has a wonderful plan for your life” message? I can say we have faltered because the fruit of it is as apparent as the false worshippers running to the desert grounds of northern Nevada to worship as they please with no fear of ever being told they are wrong!

I am not saying that the efforts I described above should never, ever happen. If even one soul is saved because they were invited to church or an evangelistic out reach, praise God. If one person comes to Christ because he or she understood that the love of Christ compelled a Christian to reach out and help them, His name is glorified! What I am saying is that by and large, most Christians are either not engaging in the command to evangelize, or are trusting in efforts solely like these to abdicate their responsibility to do so. And because of this, more and more souls are being lost to the culture’s tolerant, post-modern ideas.

Christians, we need to wake up and realize our Captain is commanding us to action! We need to repent of our sin of failing to preach the gospel and seek His forgiveness. We must equip ourselves with the word of God and bend our knees in prayer. We must go out into the highways and byways preaching the truth that salvation is in Christ alone, through repentance and faith alone! We must do so at all costs, even if it means losing relationships, positions at work, or even one day, our freedom. For lives are lost everyday to the pits of Hell! Let us be about our Father’s business, let us preach the truth and let us point people not to a “Burning Man” made of wood, but to the God Man who was and is and is to come! Let us call them to Christ alone!

Science & Faith: Friends or Foes?

I received an advertisement for a conference where the question “Science & Faith: Friends or Foes?” will be answered—or at least discussed. I don’t know what the speakers will say about it, but I thought it was an interesting question.

The answer is that anyone who puts any stock in science has faith that the future will behave as the past. This is one of the fundamental assumptions on which science is built. When you do an experiment on Tuesday, under the same conditions, you expect the same results on Thursday.

If you try to start your car, and it doesn’t turn over, you wouldn’t assume the laws of physics had changed. You would assume the laws of physics were the same, and that the battery was dead.

Atheists have no good reason for this fundamental assumption. They don’t believe there is someone or something that ensures the laws of the universe will remain constant. Essentially, their faith in science is blind.

Many atheists I’ve spoken with mock Christians for being unscientific. The irony is that they cannot account for why science works.

If you ask an atheist why he or she assumes the future will behave as the past, you won’t get a good answer. Usually, the individual will offer a fallacious answer: The future always has been like the past so it always will look like the past. That is begging the question. If you get him or her to understand this answer is flawed, the atheist will usually say that he or she will continue to trust in science as long as it continues to work. By saying this, he or she admits to being irrational and having no reason for his or her beliefs—taking a blind leap of faith.

Why, then, does science work? What makes the future behave as the past? Christians have an omniscient Being who has revealed to us that He upholds the universe (see Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3). He maintains order in the world. He is the reason science works.

The ultimate authority for Christians is the God of the Bible; He provides reasonable answers for why the world works. Atheism is bankrupt, because its ultimate authority and assumptions are fallacious. Atheists who love science are being inconsistent with their own worldview, and borrowing from the Christian worldview. Science and the Christian faith are indeed friends.

An Open Letter to Praise Bands

Dear Praise Band,

I so appreciate your willingness and desire to offer up your gifts to God in worship. I appreciate your devotion and celebrate your faithfulness–schlepping to church early, Sunday after Sunday, making time for practice mid-week, learning and writing new songs, and so much more. Like those skilled artists and artisans that God used to create the tabernacle (Exodus 36), you are willing to put your artistic gifts in service to the Triune God.
So please receive this little missive in the spirit it is meant: as an encouragement to reflect on the practice of “leading worship.” It seems to me that you are often simply co-opted into a practice without being encouraged to reflect on its rationale, its “reason why.” In other words, it seems to me that you are often recruited to “lead worship” without much opportunity to pause and reflect on the nature of “worship” and what it would mean to “lead.”
In particular, my concern is that we, the church, have unwittingly encouraged you to simply import musical practices into Christian worship that–while they might be appropriate elsewhere–are detrimental to congregational worship. More pointedly, using language I first employed in Desiring the Kingdom, I sometimes worry that we’ve unwittingly encouraged you to import certain forms of performancethat are, in effect, “secular liturgies” and not just neutral “methods.” Without us realizing it, the dominant practices of performance train us to relate to music (and musicians) in a certain way: as something for our pleasure, as entertainment, as a largely passive experience. The function and goal of music in these “secular liturgies” is quite different from the function and goal of music in Christian worship.
So let me offer just a few brief axioms with the hope of encouraging new reflection on the practice of “leading worship”:
1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship. Christian worship is not a concert. In a concert (a particular “form of performance”), we often expect to be overwhelmed by sound, particularly in certain styles of music. In a concert, we come to expect that weird sort of sensory deprivation that happens from sensory overload, when the pounding of the bass on our chest and the wash of music over the crowd leaves us with the rush of a certain aural vertigo. And there’s nothing wrong with concerts! It’s just that Christian worship is not a concert. Christian worship is a collective, communal, congregational practice–and the gathered sound and harmony of a congregation singing as one is integral to the practice of worship. It is a way of “performing” the reality that, in Christ, we are one body. But that requires that we actually be able to hear ourselves, and hear our sisters and brothers singing alongside us. When the amped sound of the praise band overwhelms congregational voices, we can’t hear ourselves sing–so we lose that communal aspect of the congregation and are encouraged to effectively become “private,” passive worshipers.
2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship. In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and “be creative,” offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can’t sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.
3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship. I know it’s generally not your fault that we’ve put you at the front of the church. And I know you want to model worship for us to imitate. But because we’ve encouraged you to basically import forms of performance from the concert venue into the sanctuary, we might not realize that we’ve also unwittingly encouraged a sense that you are the center of attention. And when your performance becomes a display of your virtuosity–even with the best of intentions–it’s difficult to counter the temptation to make the praise band the focus of our attention. When the praise band goes into long riffs that you might intend as “offerings to God,” we the congregation become utterly passive, and because we’ve adopted habits of relating to music from the Grammys and the concert venue, we unwittingly make you the center of attention. I wonder if there might be some intentional reflection on placement (to the side? leading from behind?) and performance that might help us counter these habits we bring with us to worship.
Please consider these points carefully and recognize what I am not saying. This isn’t just some plea for “traditional” worship and a critique of “contemporary” worship. Don’t mistake this as a defense of pipe organs and a critique of guitars and drums (or banjos and mandolins). My concern isn’t with style, but with form: What are we trying to do when we “lead worship?” If we are intentional about worship as a communal, congregational practice that brings us into a dialogical encounter with the living God–that worship is not merely expressive but also formative–then we can do that with cellos or steel guitars, pipe organs or African drums.
Much, much more could be said. But let me stop here, and please receive this as the encouragement it’s meant to be. I would love to see you continue to offer your artistic gifts in worship to the Triune God who is teaching us a new song.
Most sincerely,

Jamie

Postscript to “An Open Letter to Praise Bands”

So, I guess my little “Open Letter to Praise Bands” generated some interest. I’m glad that it could be a catalyst or foil for some intentional reflection on the howof Christian worship. I won’t even attempt to address the array of responses it has generated. I’m content to let some misreadings spin themselves out. So I’m not out to police the ways I’ve been misunderstood.
However, I do think it’s important to name an issue in the background that affects how we can have this conversation: not all Christians share the same theology of worship. Indeed, my concern is that some sectors of North American Christianity don’t have much of a theology of worship at all. Many of us–including many congregations–have only an implicit understanding of what worship is, and we have not always made that explicit, nor have we subjected our assumptions to rigorous biblical and theological evaluation.
It is my passion for theological intentionality about worship that generated my book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. It’s not fair to ask those who read a blog post to read an entire book, but I would invite those who both agreed and those who disagreed with my “Open Letter” to consider Desiring the Kingdom as a fuller articulation of the theology of worship behind my criticisms.
Many of the negative reactions to my missive stem from a fundamentally different understanding of what worship is. That means we are working from fundamentally different starting points. So when someone thinks that I “misunderstand” what’s happening in worship, actually I just disagree with the assumptions behind such worship.
I think this is why some have missed two crucial points in my “Open Letter”–points that were admittedly touched on just briefly. Let me reiterate them here:
1. Worship is not only expressive, it is also formative. It is not only how we express our devotion to God, it is also how the Spirit shapes and forms us to bear God’s image to the world. This is why the form of worship needs to be intentional: worship isn’t just something that we do; it does something to us. And this is why worship in a congregational setting is a communal practice of a congregation by which the Spirit grabs hold of us. How we worship shapes us, and how we worship collectively is an important way of learning to be the body of Christ. (For a helpful account of how our congregational practice of singing embodies the oneness of the body of Christ, see Steve Guthrie’s marvelous chapter, “The Wisdom of Song.”)
2. Because worship is formative, and not merely expressive, that means other cultural practices actually function as “competing” liturgies, rivals to Christian worship. In Desiring the Kingdom, I analyze examples of such “secular liturgies,” including the mall, the stadium, and the university. The point is that such loaded cultural practices are actually shaping our loves and desires by the very form of the practice, not merely by the “content” they offer. If we aren’t aware of this, we can unwittingly adopt what seem to be “neutral” or benign practices without recognizing that they are liturgies that come loaded with a rival vision of “the good life.” If we adopt such practices uncritically, it won’t matter what “content” we convey by them, the practices themselves are ordered to another kingdom. And insofar as we are immersed in them, we are unwittingly mis-shaped by the practices.
Again, there’s much more to be said about this, and a blog isn’t the venue. I do invite those who have been prompted to think about these matters to consider Desiring the Kingdom as a way to continue the conversation.

Passing the Baton – The Jungle Missionary

Dear DefCon Friends,

First, thank you ever so much for your prayers and all the letters of encouragement we have received in light of our revised plans due to my on-going health issues. This has been a very hard trial, and although it is not yet over, we continue to trust our Sovereign Lord that His purposes are always right for His children.

Second, I would like the majority of this email update to focus on what has transpired recently in the two villages where we have been able to start two new mission works a few months ago.

The three main men I have been training came to visit me this last week. It was a wonderful time focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and our hope for the future being in the One Who holds tomorrow in His hands. While they are all sorely disappointed that we have to leave already, they have risen well to the challenges of moving forward.

I shared with them about the Olympic Games and one of the races that always amazes me – the men’s 4×100 relay race, where they have to pass the baton from one to the next. The first man, the lead, starts and runs his hardest, at a certain point, the second man begins his run and without looking back has to trust that the man behind him will accurately place the baton in his hands and continue running to where the third man waits, then to the 4th man, who takes the baton and runs for all he is worth to reach the finish line. The question I posed to them was this, “Who won the race?” They thought about this for a few moments and then Augustus replied, “ALL of them won for they could not have completed the race if each had not done their part!”

This is the way I feel. While I have not been able to be a marathon runner here, I believe I have been faithful to run my part so far of the 4×100 race. I have had to pass the baton to these men who are continuing to run the race, even though they will not see me for awhile, if ever again. In the end though, the race and the subsequent victory is not really ours, but the Lord’s. These men may not even see the finish line, but may have to pass the baton to another to keep running with patience.

In light of these and other comments, they came to me after a time of prayer and shared with me plans they have been making. It is so encouraging to know that the training continues and they are willing to take baby steps. You want to be there, to hold their hands, and to continue picking them up, but sometimes you just have to let go and watch God do His perfect work in their hearts and minds. Their plan, unbeknownst to me til this last week is for Cyrus (the 3rd man I have been training) to move to another nearby village that needs its very first Bible-believing work called Beletana. He has a sister who owns a home there that he and his family are going to be able to live in and he is going to start in September the process of evangelizing in this village and another called Danda. As things progress, he will begin a Bible study which will essentially be a mission work out of the works in Foloblai and Tamayta!!

Regarding the works in Foloblai and Tamayta, the two leaders, Augustus and George indicated that as they are so close (about 30-35 minutes walking time), they are going to pose to the people that they join forces in the work until they are large enough to have a separate work in both villages! I encouraged them in this decision and we spent time in prayer that the Lord would continue to grant them wisdom. This will allow them to work more closely together and will be able to serve all the people hand-in-hand. It will provide some stability, they can encourage each other, help to hold each other accountable, etc. Next month by the end of September, they will be moving their families out of their home village into these new ones. Please pray with us that they will be able to work through the transition smoothly. The works are moving steadily along but not without difficulties. These two village works are not liked by the liberal establishment there and those who think they can call themselves Christian yet live a debauched and debased life the rest of the week. Drunkenness and sexual activities are very much commonplace. Pray that these new Christians will have courage to stay away from the things which strive daily to capture their attention.

Just as with the 4×100 relay race, the first man in line cannot worry about doing the job of the next men in line, but can only focus on his own part. The reality is that I am not really the lead man though, for before I came, there were others who paved the way. You have each held the ropes and have been running your part of the relay. Long after we are gone, there will be others who will be called to run the race that is set before us. May we each though keep looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.

Thank you again. It seems like a small thing to say, but we could not have made it without your prayers, and these men will not be able to make it without more prayer. We will be continuing to provide some financial support for them to help with certain aspects of living expenses as the Lord provides, until the works are able to sustain themselves.

My wife and I have spent the last 1 1/2 years including our pre-field ministry learning to live by faith and trusting the Lord will provide without posting our actual financial needs. We believe the Lord has honored our commitment to Him through this and has helped us to show by example to these pastors-in-training that God can, does, and will provide. As David said, he has never seen the righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread. Truly, the Lord is sovereign even when His ways and purposes are unknown. He makes no mistakes.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We will be departing from Liberia on Sunday, September 9, back to the USA where we will be spending the next 2-3 months just trying to recuperate and allow my body to heal. I am still fighting the effects of having had two very serious cases of typhoid and malaria (two times each) that have hit me over the last two months. Unfortunately, the typhoid is not responding well to the heavy antibiotics that I have been on for the entire two months. We appreciate your continued prayers for the work here as well as whatever direction the Lord has for us.

Reluctantly Passing the Baton,

Mark – The Jungle Missionary

Under New Management?

Have you ever had a favorite restaurant? One that just seemed to get everything right? The right menu, the right mix of flavors, the attitude of the employees, even the ambiance. When you walked in, you just felt right at home. Then one day, you drive up and you see the dreaded sign, the one that says “Under New Management.” You might approach with a bit of apprehension, but you figure, “Hey, it can’t be that bad right? I doubt they changed everything…did they?” But when you get inside, everything was different! The decor was different, the employees were different, even the menu was completely changed! It may have had the same name on the outside, but it wasn’t the same restaurant anymore. I have to imagine that the readers of this blog might be feeling that apprehension right now, so let me try to relieve some of that concern.

When Pilgrim brought me on about a year ago, I was truly humbled and blessed to be a part of this blog. I was a part time blogger who managed to eek out a couple dozen hits a month with articles about the gospel and about evangelism. Pilgrim took the time to read what I had written and offered me a spot with the Defending Contending crew. Since that time, I have been greatly encouraged and blessed by the those who have read my articles. And while I could never hope to match the quantity and quality of some of our writers, I was thrilled to be a part of something that brought glory to God.

Earlier this month, Pilgrim advised me of his intent to step down from running this blog. Like many of you, I’m sure, I was stunned. But what shocked me even more was his request that I take the reigns of the blog! Me, a contributor with only one year under his belt, and only a fraction of the articles posted that others had done! I was humbled beyond words. After much prayerful consideration, I accepted Pilgrim’s gracious offer to helm the site and prayed that in doing so it would bring glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So that is how we got from there to here. What happens next? Does the menu get changed, the decor thrown out, a total and complete overhaul? No, not exactly. I have no intention of doing any kind of dramatic change over in the flow and content of Defending Contending. Readers of this blog appreciate the biblical, gospel centeredness that the contributors of this blog have brought to a wide variety of topics. Additionally, this blog’s willingness to openly address false teachers and teachings in a time where everyone wants to “play nice” has been a staple that I believe has always been appreciated. I intend to see that these things continue as they always have done.

But there is one thing that I simply must admit. I am not Pilgrim, nor can I ever hope to replace him. He has been a tireless servant of the Lord, bringing numerous articles to the site. While his articles will always remain on this site, his presence will greatly be missed. Anyone who has ever read my articles knows that my writing style and my content is different from Pilgrim’s. He has often spent much time digging into the false teachers and the cults, much to all of our benefit. However, my passion has been in the realm of evangelizing the lost and edifying the church so that they may fulfill the Great Commission. That being said, I intend to keep writing as I have been, albeit more consistently than I did before. Simply by the absence of Pilgrim’s writings and a more consistent effort of my own, some noticeable change in the flow and content will be noticed. Additionally, I may try to recruit new writers to help this site continue to grow and reach as many people with the gospel as possible. If the Lord allows this, each writer will bring his or her unique gifts to this blog and, over time, there may be noticeable changes. But as I said before, I have no intention of overhauling what we have already established here. I desire for Defending Contending to remain a light shining in the darkness of this world. I pray God continues to use us to point everyone to Jesus Christ and Him alone.

I thank Pilgrim for bringing me on with this team. I am grateful to my fellow contributors who have graciously allowed me to add my meager two cents here. I am blessed that you readers have read, commented on and even shared my articles. And most of all, I am grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, twelve years ago, opened my eyes to the depth and depravity of my sin. Who condescended to save me from the judgment to come. And who today has opened the door to an undeserving wretch to be a light in this world, to be used on this blog and in other venues to preach His glorious gospel of grace.

If you all will have me, I look forward to serving you and our common Savior in the days to come. Thank you.

Hanging up my hat.

After five years, one week, four days, and 2,567 posts, I have decided that it’s time to finally hang up my blogging hat.

Each of our lives are filled with chapters, and this chapter in my life is coming to a close.

Blogging has taken far too much of my time away from my family and has been the source of countless contentious disagreements in the blogosphere; many unnecessarily so. (Also, the two separate stalkers and the occasional threats of lawsuits by professing Christians didn’t exactly make blogging life a walk in the park either.)

There were several occasions over the years where I considered throwing in the towel but every time I pondered doing so I would receive a timely e-mail of thanks and encouragement from a reader for the work being done on DefCon, and that would always be enough to persuade me to remain on the front lines.

I am now, however, beyond weary with battle fatigue and in need of a hiatus (even while on vacation from work for the past half decade I was never on vacation from the blog).

The amount of time needed daily to approve or reject incoming comments, to answer questions, to reply to comments, to respond to complaints, to find and post important articles, to write and publish new material, and the overall maintenance of the blog itself, has taken its toll.

Although arduous and laborious, it certainly hasn’t been all bad. Many great things have come from this labor of love including the friends that have been made and even support for missions work in Liberia, West Africa which has come from faithful readers like you.

I even grew a lot over the years; learning that not every hill was worth dying on and that there’s much value in being gracious and kind to everyone, even those who disagree with me.

I will surely miss blogging, but I am certain that one day–if the Lord affords me time on a deathbed–I will experience greater regret having missed precious time with my family and raising my children in the Lord, than the fact that I missed out on one more debate on the Internet.

So, at this point,  you’re probably asking yourself what will become of DefCon. Have no fear, it will still be here, but with a new captain at the helm. It is with great honor that I announce that the new pilot of DefCon will be my dear friend, faithful brother, and fellow writer, Chris Hohnholz.

I am certain that he will do a great job with the blog (in whatever direction it goes) and all for the glory of God.

Saying goodbye is not easy. The idea of walking away from what I’ve poured so much time, energy, and effort into for half a decade is very bittersweet, but I take comfort in knowing that the torch will be passed into good hands.

I’d like to conclude by saying thank you to all DefCon’s faithful readers and commenters who have been an encouragement to me in this endeavor, as well as to all DefCon’s writers who–like me–have sacrificed their time over the years contributing to this work. I have learned a lot from all of you and I hope that you have learned a few things from me as well.

Please continue to keep me and the writers of this blog in your prayers. You will all be greatly missed.

Stay the course and never compromise.

Sincerely,
– Pilgrim

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”   Jude 24-25

Old Mormon vs New Mormon.

I created these videos and posted them on DefCon back in September of 2010. Since then, we’ve received many new readers to the blog that may have missed them. So I’ve decided to dust them off and re-post them here so that our new readers can see what happens when a 19th century Mormon meets a 21st century Mormon.

Enjoy!

Celestial Marriage

The Missouri Prophecies

Free cult flyer and gospel tract download.

Back in 2008, I made a cult flyer/gospel tract combo available to the readers of this blog to download for free. Since then, this flyer/tract combo has undergone refinement and is now in its fifth printing.

This flyer/tract combo was drafted as a way to inform the public about the truths of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and to provide them with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It was originally designed to hang on doorknobs in the area where I live and was in response to the constant canvasing of neighborhoods by these two cults. But since its inception, this flyer/tract combo has also found its way into the hands of numerous people throughout America and has even found its way to the shores of Africa (with another box full currently en route to Liberia as I write this).

The cult flyer is a single tri-fold (printed on the front and back). The tract comes three to a page (printed on the front and back). Each tract fits nicely inside the cult flyer as an insert.

Please feel free to download, print, and make as many copies of each of these items as you wish to distribute as you see fit. You can even put your church name, website, or other personal information on them to help in your evangelistic contacts if you so desire.

The Great Exchange

Who’s Really Knocking at Your Door?

Sermon of the Week: “Talking About Tithing” by Jim McClarty

How many times have we heard the arguments from those who teach that we, as Christians, are not under the Law, but we are still under the tithe? “You know, if don’t tithe you’re robbing God!” And we’ve heard the usual proof-texts. Have you ever wanted to know how to answer those folks? Well, Jim McClarty has gone through and answered these taken-out-of-context passages and put them in their proper context and has given us this response.

Should we be giving to the church? Of course! Is it a compulsory “Give your 10% or God will curse you” tithe (and is it even 10%? Hmmm…) No. Pastor McClarty explains why.

Talking About Tithing

Things I have learned: The Total Depravity of Man

Over Memorial Day weekend of this year, my wife and I became emergency foster parents. I won’t divulge any details about them or the situation. Suffice it to say, since taking them into our custody, we have had to move to a larger home, and incur much financial difficulty. But that isn’t the point of this post. There are some things I have seen in these children (and the entire situation) that make very vivid illustrations of things we have been saying here on this blog (and elsewhere).  I will begin with the total depravity of man.

One of the children is a little girl who has (quite literally) never been told “No.” Everything she has ever wanted has simply been given to her. And she has never had to go through anything that was the least stressful or inconvenient. So she has never had to face disappointment, and she has never had to endure loss. All she ever had to do was cry and throw a tantrum, and she got whatever it was she wanted. So when a situation arises and she must go through something like separation from her siblings, she would cry and drool and throw herself on the floor and lose her mind—all because she never had to endure hardship.

What does this have to do with man’s depravity? Only everything. You see, this child was born with the same problem you and I were born with: she was born with a spirit that was only concerned with one thing, and that is pleasing itself. Think back to the 1980’s, the hit song from the British rock group Queen—“I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it”—when?—“I want it now.” We want it all. Everything we see, we want. And we don’t ever want to do anything we don’t want to do. And when we don’t get what we want, or we have to do something we don’t want to do, we throw a spiritual hissy fit. We may not cry and throw ourselves on the ground like this little girl, but we, in our spirit, buck up against God because we didn’t get our way. We are the king of our domain, and we’re gonna do and get what we want. Wasn’t that the desire of Lucifer, the brightest of all the angels? Isaiah 14:13-14“13 I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” Boy is that us or what? “I will do whatever I want to do, and I don’t care who gets in my way, I’ll run them over if I have to.”

Why? Because we think we deserve everything we want. And it is precisely that desire that brings forth sin. James 1:14-1514 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. It is only our desire that is to blame for sin and death. When we want something, we will do whatever we have to do in order to get it. And if that desire is not turned toward God, and if that heart remains separated from Christ, then the end of that man is death, what John calls the “second death” (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8). James says, in another section, James 4:1Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? Again, we see the reason for any sin, no matter how grievous—up to and including beginning a war—is our desire for what we want. We want it, and we will kill anyone we have to in order to obtain it. Instead of asking God. If we seek the Lord, He will give us the desire for the things of God. But we don’t. we don’t want to. So we go about seeking the things that please us in ways that leave God out of the picture. “I want what I want, and I don’t want no God telling me I can’t have it! If He won’t let me have it, then…well…I’ll do it my way!” Does that last part sound familiar?

And it is these desires that rule in our hearts from the time we are born. Listen, no one has to teach a child how to disobey mom and dad. Did you ever have to sit your 6-month old down and say, “Now son, here is how you disobey me”? Of course that’s silly, but that is how silly it sounds when people say that man is not totally depraved from birth! Put two infants in the same room together, put ONE toy in between them and stand back and watch what happens. They don’t race to see who can share that toy with the other first. They’ll fight and tug over that toy, and 9 times out of 10 the one who gets the toy makes sure the other one gets the toy—right upside their head! This is nothing new; this goes all the way back to the earliest times in man’s history. After the flood waters resided, we read in Genesis 8:21Then the LORD said in His heart, “…the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” And if that heart is not guided toward thinking of others—and especially toward God—then that heart will simply grow colder to others and more distant to God. It takes discipline to change a child’s heart. If that child is not corrected, that child will grow up thinking the world owes him everything he wants, and if the world doesn’t give it to him, he’ll take it any way he can get it. Solomon said in Proverbs 22:15Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. Matthew Henry said this—

“We have here two very sad considerations: – 1. That corruption is woven into our nature. Sin is foolishness; it is contrary both to our right reason and to our true interest. It is in the heart; there is an inward inclination to sin, to speak and act foolishly. It is in the heart of children; they bring it into the world with them; it is what they were shapen and conceived in. It is not only found there, but it is bound there; it is annexed to the heart (so some); vicious dispositions cleave closely to the soul, are bound to it as the cion to the stock into which it is grafted, which quite alters the property. There is a knot tied between the soul and sin, a true lover’s knot; they two became one flesh. It is true of ourselves, it is true of our children, whom we have begotten in our own likeness. O God! thou knowest this foolishness. 2. That correction is necessary to the cure of it. It will not be got out by fair means and gentle methods; there must be strictness and severity, and that which will cause grief. Children need to be corrected, and kept under discipline, by their parents; and we all need to be corrected by our heavenly Father (Heb_12:6, Heb_12:7), and under the correction we must stroke down folly and kiss the rod.”

Man is depraved from birth. The Bible is very explicitly clear on this. And if that foolishness that is bound up in your child’s heart isn’t driven out, then you will wind up with a delinquent and a criminal headed for prison at best, or a lost sinner headed for Hell at worst.

Losing a child (at any age) is never easy.

The following excerpt is from a blog called 1st Timothy 4:12.

I sincerely hope it is a help and an encouragement to those who have gone (or are currently going) through such a loss.

“No matter whether you have known about the baby only for a day, or if he or she has been born and is a beautiful, mischievous toddler or even older, losing a child is one of the hardest and most heartbreaking experiences for someone to go through. It is one of the experiences that feels most fundamentally unfair in this world. It is like having a piece of your heart ripped out, leaving a hole that will never be filled. For a woman to find out she is pregnant, whether the baby is “wanted” or not, is a huge emotional roller coaster. To suddenly have that taken away, to have only that emptiness where a child once lived, is something no woman can ever forget. You might say ‘who are you to say what it feels like to lose a child? What could you possibly know?’ I don’t pretend to know what it feels like to lose a newborn, a toddler or a teen. I don’t even say I know what it feels like to lose a baby later on in pregnancy. But I do know what it feels like to see those two little pink lines on a pregnancy test, then to see them disappear and soon later to know without a shadow of a doubt that the baby no longer lives.”

You can read the entire article here here.

Tony Miano’s “Cross Encounters” is now on Blog Talk Radio

The confused looking man in the picture is your’s truly as I maintained the call screen switchboard for Tony Miano’s new Internet radio program, “Cross Encounters.” We have written about Mr. Miano, who authors a blog by the same “Cross Encounters” name, previously on this site, and I must say it is an honor and a privilege to work with him on this new endeavor.

I met Tony three years ago via Living Waters evangelism training program. We had previously talked online due to my seeking him out because of our mutual backgrounds and my desire to learn a truly biblical presentation of the gospel. Tony was instrumental in bringing me to the Ambassadors’ Academy, a three day intensive training program for street evangelists. And while that program is no longer in operation, many street evangelists can thank Tony Miano directly for his passion, his determination and his devotion to biblical evangelism which he has passed on to them. I count myself blessed to consider him a mentor and friend.

Recently, due to the poor economic times, Living Waters had to lay off several employees and Tony was one of those among them. While this was truly sad for all involved, Tony has not ceased his efforts to continue preaching the gospel and encouraging others to do the same. By God’s grace, Tony was able to be part of an evangelism effort in London during the Olympic Games, from which he just recently returned. Additionally, he has started an internet radio program called “Cross Encounters,” of which he says, “Cross Encounters Radio will air every Sunday evening, 6-8 PM (PST). The show will focus on the glorification of Christ and the proclamation of His gospel. We will tackle current events and ongoing social issues through the lens of a Christian worldview. We will have guests on the program: authors, bloggers, apologists, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and whoever else we think would help Christians to grow in their love for Christ and the knowledge of His Word. We won’t shy away from hot-button topics, whether they are social or theological. And false teachers will not find our program a safe place to hide. We won’t allow any elephants in the room.”

I was humbled and blessed, and a bit shocked, when Tony extended an invite (more like a very less than subtle hint) for me to join him as the official “sidekick” on this program. After about 5 seconds of thought (can you tell this was a difficult decision) I enthusiastically accepted. As I was not near my house when this happened, there was a bit of logistics involved (part of which involved borrowing my dad’s office for two hours). Additionally, I had to learn the switchboard so I could screen calls and monitor the chat room. Thankfully, Blog Talk Radio makes these fairly user friendly!

During our first program, Tony and fellow evangelist, Bobby McCreery, discussed the recent Olympics outreach, they played audio clips in which they talked with YWAM members in London who were not preaching a true gospel message, as well as one of Tony’s open air messages, and took calls from listeners. We had over two hundred listeners for our first program and are thrilled at some of the responses. I encourage you to listen in live, or even download the weekly podcasts to listen to and share. Please help us to make this program a blessing to the Lord and to reach people with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How to stagnate the church: A dictator’s manual.

Dear atheistic, communistic dictator: Having trouble with that dastardly underground church spreading like wild fire?

No matter how much you seize, imprison, torture, and execute those Christians, the church still keeps flourishing?

Christians getting in the way of your nation’s “progressive” progress?

Looking for a way to stamp out the spread of Christianity in your Orwellian utopia?

Well look no further than this blog post. That’s right. In this post I will show you in just two easy steps how to limit the spread of the church in your country in one generation so you can continue to build your effervescent dystopian society unhindered.

But, dear dictator, it is essential that you first understand two things before we proceed: 

Firstly, up to this point you’ve been doing it all wrong.  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church and history has proven that persecution only grows the church. 

Secondly, God’s ultimate sovereign will and His predetermined plans will never be thwarted by any man, including you . . . with all due respect of course, dearest comrade.

If you can resign yourself to the fact that your current approach has been ineffective, and that you will never completely stamp out Christianity, then you’re ready to follow the two easy steps outlined below to begin stagnating the spread of the church in your country.

Let’s begin.

STEP ONE:

You must legalize freedom of religion. I know, I know, this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me on this.

Combined with step two, legalizing freedom of religion will ensure that the tares will greatly increase among the wheat since there’s no longer a sacrifice associated with “becoming a Christian.” Once the tares begin to outnumber the wheat, you will know that success (achieved without a single shot fired) is just around the corner.

STEP TWO:

In conjunction with step one, open up Christian bookstores in every city and flood the market with two waves of books. In the first wave push books by the likes of Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Beth Moore to skew their concept of what Christianity is. Simultaneously make available to them such television channels as TBN to tell them that God’s greatest desire for them is to be healthy and wealthy and that anything less means they are lacking in faith.

After the masses have consumed and adapted to a positive, self-help version of the gospel, then hit them with the second wave of book by the likes of Rob Bell, Dallas Willard, Doug Pagitt, Jay Bakker, and similar Emergents to encourage them to doubt everything the Bible says (or at least doubt what the Bible says about the sins they like to continue engaging in).

Allow Christian radio stations to function uninhibited. Encourage stations to fill the airwaves with their sugary, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend, contemporary, Christian pop music along with all the “positive and encouraging” Bible verses to boot (avoiding verses like Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Matthew 7:21-23, and Hebrews 10:31), offering contests to win theme park tickets, movie theater tickets, concert tickets, backstage passes, autographed CDs, day spa visits, and cruises, cruises, cruises.

All of this will drive these Christians to seek after increased comfort and greater self-preservation over and above everything else. This “laying down of one’s cross” to seek after comfort, security, and prosperity, of course, is the very opposite of what the Christian should be doing and is the antithesis of a “revolutionary.” A revolutionary, need I remind you, is one who would be willing to sacrifice everything to overthrow an oppressive government such as yours. The less revolutionaries there are, the greater your chance of retaining your power becomes.

Remember, your goal is not to make these people irreligious, because that simply doesn’t work (which is, after all, why you’re reading this). No, your goal is to inoculate them to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the only religious faith that truly poses an ideological threat to your fragile utopia.

If you properly followed the above steps, then your subjects will not only have moved from the true gospel to a false one, but they’ll even reject the true gospel and not even be able to recognize it when it’s presented to them. This biblical ignorance will certainly spread like a cancer and be passed on to the next generation, ensuring your safety and security from an uprising or revolution for many years to come. 

Left to human nature, men will inevitably take the path of least resistance. No dying to self and carrying a cross for them, only happiness, security, prosperity, and ease. And once on the hook, they will then follow whoever promises to continue to provide those comforts, even if they follow that leader to the gallows he has prepared for them.

Do you still doubt that my two-step plan will work? Do you still desire proof of its effectiveness? Then I need only to direct you to where this two-step process has been implemented already as proof that this works every time it’s tried: Look no further than the churches in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Help and encouragement for those with critical spirits.

Below are links to parts one and two of Teri Maxwell’s article on how we can so easily become negative and critical, the ramifications of being negative and critical, and how we can overcome being negative and critical.

I highly recommend these two articles, and especially part two for parents.

Part One: Are you normally a positive or negative person?

Part Two: How to overcome a critical spirit.

Quotes (944)

http://allenmickle.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/packer.jpg

There is, then, available in this world a sure message from God, tried and true, unfailing and unchanging, and it needs to be proclaimed so that all may know it. The messenger who delivers it will have the dignity of being God’s spokesman and ambassador. Nor self-aggrandizement or self-advertisement is involved, for the messenger neither invents his message nor asks for attention in his own name. He is a minister – that is, a servant – of God, of Christ, and of the Word. He is a steward of God’s revealed mysteries, called not to be brilliant and original but diligent and faithful (1 Cor 4:1-2). Yet to be God’s messenger – to run His errands, act as His courier, and spend one’s strength making Him known – is the highest honor that any human being ever enjoys. The servant’s dignity derives fro the dignity of his employer, and the work he is set to do.

– James Inell Packer

Gay Is Not the New Black

Voddie Baucham has written a though provoking article (just read some of the more than 300 comments that follow it!) about the current cultural battle over the covenant of marriage. Here is a small excerpt, here is a link to the entire article.

It’s hard to deny that homosexual marriage appears to be a foregone conclusion in America. This is a frightening prospect not only for those of us who understand marriage to be a testimony of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church, but also for all who value the family and its contribution to the well-being of society and human thriving. And while it’s difficult to watch a coordinated, well-funded, well-connected propaganda strategy undermine thousands of years of human history, it’s especially disconcerting to witness the use of the civil rights struggle as the vehicle for the strategy.

The idea that same-sex “marriage” is the next leg in the civil rights race is ubiquitous. One of the clearest examples of the conflation of homosexual “marriage” and civil rights is Michael Gross’s article in The Advocate, in which he coins the now-popular phrase “Gay is the new black.”1 Gross is not alone in his conflation of the two issues, however. At a 2005 banquet, Julian Bond, former head of the NAACP, said, “Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable.”2

Sermon of the Week: Retracted

In the desire to keep Christ the center of what we do here at DefCon, the Sermon of the week has been retracted by the Author due to concerns regarding the character of the man who preached it.

James Boice on Election.

So many people think that election is useless and perhaps even pernicious. It is nothing of the sort. It is part of the Bible’s inspired teaching and is therefore “useful,” as Paul insisted all Scripture is (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Here’s a look at ways election impacts things like evangelism and worship:

1. Election is humbling. Those who do not understand election often suppose the opposite, and it is true that those who believe in election sometimes appear prideful or smug. But this is an aberration. God tells us that he has chosen some by grace entirely apart from merit or even an ability to receive grace, precisely so that pride will be eliminated: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast”(Eph. 2:8-9).

2. Election encourages our love for God. If we have a part in salvation, however small, then our love for God is diminished by just that amount. If it is all of God, then our love for him must be boundless. Sadly, today’s church frequently takes the love of God for granted. “Of course, God loves me,” we say. “I love myself; why shouldn’t God love me too?” Consider the little girl who loved the Barney theme song from television (“I love you, you love me; we’re a happy family”). But she sang it this way: “I love me, you love me; we’re a happy family.” That is how we tend to think of God’s love. We think we deserve it. Understanding that we are elected by grace alone undermines our self-centered, self-satisfied way of thinking.

3. Election will enrich our worship. Who can admire a God who is frustrated by the rebellious will of human beings? Martin Luther wrote, “It is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether or not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation…. For if I am ignorant of the nature, extent and limits of what I can and must do with reference to God, I shall be equally ignorant and uncertain of the nature, extent and limits of what God can and will do in me–though God, in fact, works all in all. Now, if I am ignorant of God’s works and power, I am ignorant of God himself; and if I do not know God, I cannot worship, praise, give thanks, or serve Him, for I do not know how much I should attribute to myself and how much to Him. We need, therefore, to have in mind a clear-cut distinction between God’s power and ours, and God’s work and ours, if we would live a godly life.”

4. Election encourages us in our evangelism. People suppose that if God is going to save certain individuals, then he will save them, and there is no point in our having anything to do with it. But it does not work that way. Election does not exclude the use of the means by which God works, and the proclamation of the gospel is one of those means (1 Cor. 1:21).

Moreover, it is only the truth of election that gives us any hope of success as we proclaim the gospel to unsaved men and women. If the heart of a sinner is as opposed to God as the Bible declares it to be, and if God does not elect people to salvation, then what hope of success could we possibly have in witnessing? If God does not call sinners to Christ effectively, it is certain that we cannot do so either. Even more, if the effective agent in salvation is not God’s choice and call–if the choice is up to the individual or to us, because of our powers to persuade others to accept Christ–how could we even dare to witness? For what if we make a mistake? What if we give a wrong answer? What if we are insensitive to the person’s real questions? In that case, people will fail to believe. They may eventually go to hell, and their eternal destiny will be partly our fault, and how could any thinking, feeling Christian live with that?

But on the other hand, if God has elected some to salvation and if he is calling those elected individuals to Christ, then we can go forth boldly, knowing that our witness does not have to be perfect, that God uses even weak and stuttering testimonies to his grace and, best of all, that all whom God has chosen for salvation will be saved. We can be fearless, knowing that all who are called by God will come to him.

HT: Old Truth