Pass Me Not

Pass me not, O gentle Savior
Hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling
Do not pass me by

As I sing this song this evening, I have a picture of Bartimaeus sitting by the side of the road crying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!” It is so rare that I hear that kind of desperation in people’s prayers today. Especially when praying for others, I tend to hear monotone prayers, with words such as “Lord, be with _____ as he (or she) goes through surgery,” “Save _____,” “Be with us this coming week,” etc. Rarely do I hear people literally crying out to God, “Please save my loved ones. Don’t let them perish. Show me if there is anything I can do or say to help them find you.” Prayer should be more than a daily or weekly ritual; it should be a time when we enter God’s presence and present our petitions, knowing that He hears and expecting that He will answer as we pray in accordance with His will.

There are times I pray for a loved one, and I am not sure what God’s will is. This is especially true when a friend has a terminal sickness. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God can heal, even from Stage 4 cancer, but I also know He often doesn’t. During these times, I will still pray for healing until I am convinced that that is not His will. Then I pray for strength for the family to walk through the difficult time ahead.

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God is not obligated to answer every prayer. I know that. But He has told me to ask, so ask I do. And I ask in faith, knowing that He hears me and that He will do what’s best for me and my loved ones.

Right now, I have a friend who deals with a lot of pain and sleepless nights. I am praying for His healing but I also know that God’s strength is made perfect through weakness. If God chooses not to heal my friend, He will use the pain to make my friend stronger and draw my friend closer to Him. Although we often refuse to look at it this way, pain with God close by is far better than a youthful body that lives apart from God.

In closing tonight, I just want to remind you that Jesus is very near. Present your needs to Him as if He is sitting or standing beside you, because He is. Then, when you’ve presented your requests, take some time to listen. At the very least, you may feel His peace and His presence, but you might even hear His voice as He speaks comfort or gives you direction. Then be sure to thank Him for not passing you by. He is such a good God. I’m so thankful to know Him.

Draw Me Nearer

I am Thine, O Lord
I have heard Thy voice
And it told Thy love to me
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee

You have not experienced love until you’ve known the love of Jesus. Human love pales in comparison to the One who never sleeps nor slumbers. He is not moody but is available to listen any time, day or night. If you can even grasp a little of just how much Yahweh loves you, it should make you want to please Him in everything you do.

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I was born in the 1970s, and some of the songs of that era have been running through my head lately. Songs of love for God and for each other. But I also think of songs like:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free

When I think about the deep love of Jesus, I am ready to run into His arms, but then I remember that sin cannot dwell in His presence. What to do! My pride could keep me from Him as I determine to do better so that He will accept me but, alas, no matter what I do, I will never be good enough. The solution then is to humble myself, fall at His feet, confess my sins and my struggles, and turn them over to Him to get rid of for me and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

Oh, the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole

What a relief! I never knew I could experience such joy! Why didn’t I surrender sooner? I can’t think of one good reason.

You see, sometimes life is hard because we make it that way. We “look for love in all the wrong places” as the old song says, when we should be looking to God to fill the voids in our lives. Every once in a while, life gets hectic, and I neglect to spend much time with Him, and I feel the difference. Not always right away but there comes a point when everything is “off,” and I realize I have not stayed as close to the Shepherd as I should have. Thankfully, He is always there to welcome me back. He just wants me to understand that, without Him, my life would be empty. I remember life before really knowing God, and there is no way I desire to return. That’s why I sing:

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord to the cross where Thou hast died
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to Thy precious bleeding side

Are You Really Living?

The sermon this morning was on Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” As I listened to the message, I wondered how many Christians truly think about that. So many go through life just existing, getting through life because they have to, so they miss the eternal purpose that God created them for. The fact is that God allowed everyone on earth to be born for a purpose. Sadly, few really fulfill that purpose.

Although it’s necessary to work to pay our bills, there is a reason God has you at your job. Your family may be hard to get along with but there is a purpose for you being a part of that family. Nothing happens by accident. Maybe the purpose is simply so that God can draw you closer to Himself. Maybe it is so that you can be a Light to people who need some hope. Whatever the reason, it is not a small thing.

If you’ve read my writings for any length of time, you know that I struggle … more than I should really. God has been so good to me and has made it very clear that He plans to use me, but it’s easy to lose sight of that. How it must grieve Him, though. It is such an honor to be called by the Almighty God, who can change a life or a situation with just a word and yet, often, He chooses to use an imperfect human and entrust us with tasks that He could better do Himself.

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Maybe you are struggling to figure out what your purpose is. Let me just encourage you that you have one. I can’t tell you why God hasn’t revealed it to you but I will tell you that, if you stay close to Him, willing to surrender everything that He asks of you, He will direct you if you listen. The second step to that is being willing to obey. Sometimes I think we are convinced God isn’t speaking when the truth is that we don’t like what He is saying and so we stop our ears and convince ourselves that the voice we’re hearing can’t be God. I agree that it’s important to know that you are hearing God’s voice before you step out to do the impossible but, if you aren’t willing to step out in faith when He asks you to, you will miss so much that God has for you.

I hope you will take some time today to examine your life and ask yourself: Are you living or just existing? Are you walking through life full of joy, knowing that your Father walks with you, or are you barely getting through each day, living for the weekend when you can unplug from your daily tasks?

Ask God to fill your heart with more of Him so that it is no longer you that lives but Christ who lives in you. As you open your heart to Him, you will begin to see through His eyes and will find that satisfaction that your heart longs for.

I Do Not Allow a Woman

John MacArthur is spot-on with his gracious approach to the godly role and high-calling of women within the church. Far too many women are violating the Scriptures because of either a misunderstanding of the Word of God, or because of a deliberate rebellion against God’s sovereign purposes for the Bride of Jesus Christ. When you start violating God’s clear commands, it is so easy to then start diverting down other paths to the point where you will hold to and even teach heresy like Joyce Meyers and Beth Moore have done.

Ortho-what?

Orthodoxy is defined “in the Christian sense” to mean “conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church.” This word comes from the Greek orthos meaning correct and the Greek doxy meaning opinion.

Orthopraxy is defined as “correctness or orthodoxy of action or practice.” The word comes from the Greek orthos meaning correct and the Greek praxis meaning deed or action.

It is often stated in many circles that doctrine divides. Doctrine does certainly divide but the belief or conformity to the Christian faith is a lofty ideal that many hold to unswervingly. The average person may not fully understand all the words or theological terms, but they have no issue repeating the creeds or stating that they believe just like their church believes.

The problem is NOT with too much orthodoxy in the church. Orthodoxy is easy to fine in most evangelical churches. Creeds grace the walls of many sanctuaries. Hymnbooks contain creeds or doctrinal statements that encourage the reader to understand what his or her chosen congregation believes. Bulletins include calls to recitation of orthodox doctrine. Books line the walls of the libraries found in the pastor’s study or the church lending room. Many of these books are a basis or a foundation of what can be expected in regards to doctrine. Pastors and teachers speak each week and many messages are based on a particular aspect of Christian doctrine. In essence, they are standing to share the “correct opinion” of what the Word of God has to say to the hearer.

The problem in much of what passes for American Christianity is that the orthodoxy rarely translates into orthopraxy. “Correct opinion” of the Word of God is not being seen as “correct deeds or actions” either within the church or outside of the church.

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Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy means:

  1. We believe God’s Word is sufficient for all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), AND we practice this in each aspect of our daily walk.
  1. We believe the law of Christ (Luke 10:27), AND we show that we love God and our neighbor through daily interaction.
  1. We believe we are to have godly families (Ephesians 5 & 6), AND we show to those closest to us that our correct opinion translates into correct actions.
  1. We believe we are to be lights to a dark, sin-sick world (Matthew 5:16), AND we strive to share the truth of the Gospel by reaching out to those around us.
  1. We believe church is to be a fellowship of true blood-bought believers (1 Peter 1 & 2), AND we practice fellowship by desiring to spend MORE time than just 1 hour and 20 minutes on a Sunday morning each week.
  1. We believe church should be a representation of the fellowship we will enjoy together for all of eternity, AND we work diligently not to let minor things separate us.
  1. We believe covenanting together in Christian unity (Acts 2), AND we stop shopping for the next big fad on the Christian church horizon.
  1. We believe pastor-teachers are called to edify and exhort and encourage the local body of Christ (Ephesians 4), AND we refuse to compare them with the latest and greatest speakers on TV, radio, or internet.
  1. We believe pastor-teachers are to protect the flock (1 Peter 5), AND we take comfort as they lead us in straight paths instead of looking for reasons to leave.
  1. We believe we are to bear one another’s burden (Galatians 6), AND we take an active interest in the lives of those we have covenanted together with to ensure that needs are being met (including emotional and spiritual needs).
  1. We believe Christ died for His Bride (Ephesians 5), AND we take delight in loving and forgiving those for whom He died.
  1. We believe Christ forgives us of our sins (1 John 1), AND we do not hold unforgiveness or bitterness in our hearts toward those who can NEVER wrong us to the degree that we did to Christ before He saved us.
  1. We believe strife and contention are not part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), AND we refuse to take needless offense when others don’t respond JUST like we do or JUST like we expect them to do.
  1. We believe prayer is vital in the life of every true believer (James 5:16), AND we learn to discipline our lives and the life of the church to pray without ceasing.
  1. We believe only Christ is Perfect (1 Peter 1), AND we encourage each other to become more like Christ daily instead of demanding perfection from imperfect sinners saved by grace.
  1. We believe the Scriptures are infallible and inspired by God (2 Peter 1:21), AND we stop running to the local so-called Christian bookstore for the latest drivel that makes vain attempts to make us feel better about ourselves.
  1. We believe we are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12), AND this means we will stop liking and loving what God hates. Wizardry, witches, demonology, vampires, titillating reality shows, etc. are NOT what God likes. In fact, if you can love these things of the world, 1 John makes it clear that the love of God is not in you and you are NOT a true believer.
  1. We believe we are but sojourners in this world (Hebrews 11), AND we strive to keep our focus on things of heaven and to have a continual perspective of eternity.

These are just a few ways in which we must grow in our spiritual walk if we are to make a difference in the world. All of the orthodoxy (or correct opinion) of God’s Word will never change you or those who know you unless it can be seen that such orthodoxy transforms you into having a biblical orthopraxy (or correct deeds).

The church has no business even claiming they believe correct orthodoxy if they do not also believe and strive to practice correct orthopraxy.

So, the question is this for each of us to consider today and every day – does your orthopraxy proclaim your orthodoxy or does your orthodoxy get in the way of your orthodoxy?

Why You MUST Leave the Roman Catholic Church

I ran across this article a few days ago and think it sums up very concisely several arguments as pope_benedict_to why a child of God cannot peacefully remain in the Roman Catholic Church. It is simply not a Christian religion.

Posted here.

While I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response about last week’s article, “Why Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Cannot Be Together,” some seem to not quite grasp the reason for it. After all, they say that they have neighbors or family members who really love Jesus, who attend a Roman Catholic Church. While I have spoken to many Catholics and have yet to meet one who can explain the Gospel, I am sure that at least in America there has to be some believers who Sunday after Sunday are attending RCC’s. If you are one of these people, here are four reasons you need to leave today. Or if you know someone whom you believe to be born again, here are four reasons you need to encourage them to leave.

You are severed from the Church body

The weekly Church gathering is not about evangelism. It’s about worship, fellowship and equipping (Eph 4:11-15). We love for unbelievers to come to Church and see the radical difference between how Christians love one another and how the world loves one another. We love for unbelievers to come to our services and be exposed to the preaching of the Word. But ultimately the Church is literally made up only of the saints. It is foolish to go to a place on Sunday morning, instead of Church, for the purpose of “evangelism”. Sundays are not for evangelism. Let me clarify because many Sundays I do evangelize someone, but ultimately the gathering of the believers has been instituted by Christ for mutual encouragement and serving each other, not to evangelize each other. If you go to a “church” where the majority of the people around you are unsaved then you are disobeying Hebrews 10:24-25. If you are a believer attending a RCC, then Christ wants you to leave and join a church where HE is the head. You have gifts the Holy Spirit has given to you that you need to be using to serve your fellow Christians. The one-another’s are for believers not unbelievers.

You are missing out on expository preaching 

I contend that the main avenue Christ uses to sanctify his bride as a whole is through the weekly exposition of the Scripture. God has gifted certain men with the ability and time to study His Word in depth, and has blessed the Church with the Sunday morning gathering of the saints. It is crucial that we are part of a church that preaches through the Bible. It is imperative that we sit under solid teaching. I have never met a priest who preaches through the Bible verse by verse. Paul’s charge to Timothy was to preach the word (2 Tim 4:2) and to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). This simply does not happen in the RCC and any believer who subjects himself to false teaching will be affected by it more than they can affect those around them.

You can’t reform an apostate religion

I sometimes hear that there are genuine believers attending RCC’s, and they are there for the purpose of being a light in a dark place. They agree that Catholicism is a dead religion without the true Gospel, but that they are so concerned for their friends and families that they choose to stay and reform from the inside. I understand this attitude and I truly appreciate the intent and the desire to reach people for Christ, but we have a misunderstanding of what the Church is meant to be when we do this. We also have a inflated view of our ability to do what the apostle Peter and James couldn’t do with Judaism, though it seemed that they tried, and what Luther and Calvin couldn’t do in the Roman Catholic Church and ultimately had to branch off and start new churches.

You are blaspheming God

I pray that this statement will come across with love and with a concerned heart attitude. But if you are attending a mass then you are blaspheming God. As we saw in last week’s post, each time you eat the bread and drink the wine you are saying that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross two-thousand years ago was not sufficient and that Christ must continue to die each and every week. While you may be taking it as a symbol and in thankfulness to your Savior, the RCC is saying that Jesus is still on the cross and must continue dying for last week’s sins. Jesus is not still on the cross. His death was effectual in what was intended. He died Once and for all for sin (I beg you to read carefully Hebrews 10:10-18), and shouted “It Is Finished!” He does not need to continue dying, and the blood he shed that day was sufficient to cover all our sin, past, present and future. When we partake in the RCC communion we are blaspheming Christ by telling Him that His death and resurrection was unsuccessful.

So many people are bothered with posts like these. They feel like it’s unloving and unaccepting to tell someone they are wrong or doing the wrong thing. I beg you to reconsider. I believe it’s unloving to allow your friends and neighbors to continue going to a “church” Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, that is not going to provide for them spiritually and where they will be forced to insult Jesus.

If you wish to learn more about evangelizing Catholics consider these tools.

A Harsh Gospel?

There is a troubling trend found more and more within the ranks of Christendom, particularly within the American version. I already know that there are those on both sides of these issues that will disagree with me, some may even do some vehemently. This post is not really an attempt to change everybody’s mind but written with the prayer that the rhetoric will be toned down and that more will realize that while true biblical doctrine divides, principles and practices should not.

There is a huge difference between the ministry of the Old Testament prophets and the work of the early New Testament Church. First and foremost, there should be a clear understanding that the Old Testament national Israel was not, is not, and never will be the same as the New Testament Church. They are two distinct entities and each of them have a special part in the sovereign purposes of God, but they are not the same.

Second, the Old Testament prophets were with very few exceptions sent to proclaim a specific message of judgment to the tribes of Israel. Those messages of judgment were not given to the New Testament Church. So, whether we are looking at Elijah, or Jonah, or Zephaniah, we must be careful that we look at each prophet in the context of their message and the people to who they were called.

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Strangely, when we arrive at the New Testament era, we find a unique message and ministry started by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. While He called out the religious rabble with firm words and righteous anger, His approach to unbelievers brought a message of hope, faith, and love.  The hope was found in following the truth that Jesus Christ is God. The faith was that which the Holy Spirit gave ears to hear and that faith was subsequently placed solely on Jesus Christ for salvation. The love was shown ultimately in the way that Christ died on the Cross because God so loved the world. Yes, the sacrifice was given to appease the wrath of God the Father, but there was still love from Christ towards mankind. Even in one of His final sayings on the Cross, we hear Him saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Zacchaeus found himself in a tree straining to hear Jesus Christ. He was approached by the Messiah with a message of hope that saw the salvation of a hated tax collector.

On several occasions, even the Gentiles came to hear Jesus Christ. Some of them believed the words and placed their faith in the Messiah for their salvation.

While on a walk through the country of the hated Samaritans, Jesus Christ sat beside a well waiting for a woman to approach. In the conversation, there was conviction of sin, hope of being able to worship something that she did not presently have, and ultimately faith was placed in the Savior. This woman then left her pots and went to the city to share the truth that there was a Messiah who could save them.

We could give many more examples, but I use these few to point out a vast difference between the love, gentleness, and compassion found in the New Testament with what I am seeing transpire today.

This post is not written with the intention of trying to stop any ministries from taking place. If you are under the authority of a local church and believe that God has placed a particular burden on your heart, then by all means, fulfill that to the best of your ability. Being part of the local church should help each person to be accountable to the means whereby God has given gifts. Today, there are far too many Lone Rangers who refuse accountability. Their best answer to troubles or questions about their style is normally best answered by simply unfriending the offending individual on Facebook or writing comments in a vitriolic manner all the while spinning strawmen to cover their lack of Biblical principles and Scriptures in defense of what they are doing.

So, what am I referring to? Let me give a few examples.

First, I firmly believe that the Great Commission is the responsibility of every blood-bought child of God to share with others the wonder of who Jesus Christ is and the message of hope that brings no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. However, I do NOT believe that each person is given the same task of how they go about doing that. Some may knock on doors, while others will pass out tracts at every opportunity they are given. Still others will stand on street corners and proclaim the wonders of the Savior.

None of these are wrong in and of themselves, but it is wrong for me or anybody else to declare that EVERY believer must do it JUST like me. There is NOT one example of the entire early New Testament Church all striving to exhibit their gifts in identical fashion on a Tuesday afternoon in the cities of Ephesus, Rome, or in the churches of Asia Minor. Paul makes it clear that we all have gifts differing one from another.

Second, in our messages, we are not the ones who are called to produce the judgment of God upon sinful creatures. We must be mindful that if it were not for the grace of God that we would each still be trapped in our sins. Ultimately, the only judgment that can be handed out will be from God. However, this does NOT mean we are to refrain from pointing out the COMING judgment to a lost and dying world.

Third, we are in error if we forget that the world is going to act exactly what it is – LOST. This means they will be willing to do, to live, to act, and to speak in every way that alienates them further from a holy and righteous God. Lost people do NOT act like believers. Lost people do NOT believe like Christians. Lost people do NOT care about God. Lost people do NOT care about the law of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, we must remember that our message must be one of compassion. I have seen many ministries through my own years of ministry that have stood on corners, pounded on doors, and screamed at places like abortion clinics for the wickedness that is found within. Sadly, all the yelling and lack of love will only make us look like nutjobs from Westboro Baptist Church holding their picket signs. The world mixes us together when our lives and our words do NOT reflect Jesus Christ.

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The unregenerate person will NEVER like the message we proclaim, but it should be the message they hate and hear that brings them to conviction through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Now with these few thoughts in mind, let me be a little more pointed.

Jesus Christ did NOT stand at the bottom of the tree and scream at Zacchaeus, “You filthy tax collector! You collaborator with those nasty Romans!”

Jesus Christ did NOT sit at the well in Samaria and scream names and nastiness at the woman who came for water and left with living water. He never yelled, “Hey, you adulterer, you two-bit low life!”

Jesus Christ did NOT hang on the Cross and belittle either of the two thieves and murderers who hung on either side of Him with words like, “You two thieves are just the scum of the earth! You deserve to hang there and pay the penalty for your crimes.”

The apostle Paul did not launch a campaign to go and picket Mars Hill. He was invited by divine appointment to stand and share the truth of the gospel. When he was done, some wanted to hear him further, while others left mocking the message. Not once do we find Paul blogging on the Jerusalem net about all the ones who rejected the call to salvation. Paul did not picket the coliseum in any city, and neither are we given any record of anybody else in the early Church doing that. Paul did not offer to take Onesimus back to Colosse and stand on the street corner outside of Philemon’s house railing about the evils of slavery and how Philemon MUST repent or they would never be able to fellowship together.

No, no, and a further resounding NO!

As believers, we are called to share the message of salvation. We are called to love the Lord Jesus with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Further, we are then called to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES. There is no third law to love ourselves. We do a great job of doing that already because of our sinful nature.

However, the message we share must be given with love and compassion. If the best we can do is shout and call names at those who pass us by, we will never accomplish what we have been called to do. We are NOT Lone Rangers, but we are Ambassadors of the Most High. Therefore, we MUST conduct our business for the Master in a way that reflects such love and grace as has been shown to us.

In conclusion, I do not wish for anybody to misunderstand my words today. I am NOT calling on anybody to stop standing outside of abortion clinics. I am NOT calling on street preachers to desist. I am NOT calling on individuals to stop passing out gospel tracts. I am NOT calling on anybody to stop warning about the judgment to come.

What I am calling for is more grace, love, and compassion in the way we minister. You will never be able to witness to the Mormon or the JW or the liar or the adulterer or the woman who had her baby murdered or the drug addict or the drunkard or anybody else when you are not willing to love them for who they are right now. It is not up to us to change them in order for them to become a new believer in Christ. That job belongs to God ALONE.

PS — Remember that we each will give account to God for what we do for Him, not to each other, and certainly not to the faceless comments on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media. We can each fulfill our ministry by being the part of the body He has called us to be, but that does NOT mean we cannot still fellowship with others who are a different part and who have a different role.

1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

The Only Biblical Gospel

We have shared this video before but it is a message that needs to be heard by millions, including many who are sitting in churches thinking they are in a right standing before God. If you do not understand this message and do not believe this message, you are without Christ! Come to Him and plead for mercy today while there is yet time.

Victory Is Ahead

Most of those who know me will be surprised to know that I have dealt with periods of depression the last five years or so like I’ve never felt before. It is a struggle to get out of bed some days and yet I have a work to do which requires me to keep fighting.

The Christian life is not always easy. I’ve seen people who “try Jesus” walk away, never to return. The writer of Hebrews explains why when he says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Brothers and Sisters, if you name the name of Christ, quitting is not an option. Many quit every day. Hopelessness takes over until some end up taking their own lives. Where is the victory that comes to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior?

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I think many try Jesus like they try on clothes. If He doesn’t fit their lifestyle, He gets put on the shelf until a crisis occurs. Then He gets blamed for not caring when He doesn’t answer. God does care, but He is not obligated to answer the prayers of those who just want to use Him. James 5:16 says, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much.” Are you righteous, or is there a hidden sin that you’re hoping God will overlook and answer your prayer anyway? Maybe that sin is simply living for self but wanting God on the side. You cannot serve two masters.

I’ve derailed slightly, as I want this to be encouraging to those who are discouraged but, before you can be encouraged, you need to examine your heart as to whether or not you are truly in the faith. Is there any area of your life that you have not surrendered to God? If not, then I want to encourage you to keep pressing on and don’t give up. Your answer will come. If life were too easy, we would not need God. Our depression, discouragement, etc. reminds us of what life is like without Him: hopeless. Don’t give in to those feelings. Praise Him when you don’t feel like it. Intercede for others. Get your mind off of yourself and your problems. Learn to be content wherever God has you. Don’t envy others. God’s plan for you is good and not evil, and He will complete His good work in you if you are diligent to fight the good fight. Be encouraged today, dear friends. There is victory ahead!

A Catholic Fable

A Catholic Fable   Francis

A review by Stuart Brogden

I tried to give this book, My God and My All – The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, an honest opportunity to impress me. Elizabeth Goudge was a 20th century novelist and it is most appropriate that a fiction author wrote about this topic. The cover art gives us a peak into the perspective the reader will face: it’s a well-known (in Roman Catholic circles) painting of Francis in prayer. His hands are crossed over his chest and there is a nail hole visible in his left hand. Several segments within the Roman Catholic Church believe they are obedient to Scripture when they punish their bodies in imitation of the physical punishment our Lord took upon Himself in obedience to His call as being born under the Law, cursed for the sake of those He was sent to save. This may also be a twisted view of Colossians 1:24. Sam Storms has a very good analysis of this verse (posted here: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/filling-up-the-afflictions-of-christ–1:24-) that, may it please the Lord, will help some Roman Catholics see the truth of Scripture on this topic.

It is fitting that a novelist wrote this book for two reasons. First, the book is a fictionalized account of Francis’ life. Secondly, it presents a thoroughly Roman Catholic view of Francis’ life, which is as much a work of fiction as is every distinctive of that religion. I’ll focus on this second aspect, as fiction presented as truth is a danger that we cannot blithely ignore. And we see this false religion on pages 1 and 2:

In the case of those whom we call the saints, this power is immeasurable. They are the true makers of men. Other great men may alter the material aspect of life for millions, but the saints make us for eternity. By emptying themselves, by getting rid of self altogether, they become the channels of God’s creative power and by him, through them, we are made. … And so his (Francis’) power lives on and we cannot measure it because it is nowhere near its end.

The Bible calls all of His redeemed people, saints. There is no determination by any man-made religion as to whom is worthy of being identified as such. The one who plants and the one who waters are nothing – the growth comes from God and He, alone, is everything (1 Cor 3:7). The “saints” of Rome do not “make us for eternity,” they were in every bit the same need of God’s grace to be saved as any other men. There are no “great men” in the world or in the body of Christ; all men are weak and sinful and the only good we have claim to is the good He (not any religious pretender) works in and through us.

Another short insight into the dual nature of this being a novel: on page 6 the author shows us her method of weaving this story together, speaking of Francis’ birth:

Tradition says it was long and hard and that as the hours passed and her child was not born she asked to be taken to the stable that adjoined the house, that she might feel a little nearer to Mary, the Mother of God, and that in the stable her child was born. Today the little place is a chapel, the Chapel of the Infant Francis.

Many Roman Catholics deify Mary, who was a sinner used by God, not a sinless woman God was fortunate to have on His team. She was the mother of Jesus, the man, not God. Jesus, being eternally existent as the second member of the Trinity, was not born of a women in the sense that would validate this phrase beloved by Rome – Mary, mother of God. That is a blasphemous statement, but not seen as such by those who worship Mary. We also see here the practice of building a shrine at “sacred places,” as if Jesus did not have the conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Places are not sacred in the Christian world, only in the pagan world. God’s people (individually and corporately) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Eph 2:17 – 22). He does not require nor even want temples made by human hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24) and when men make ornate buildings as places of worship, the tendency is to take pleasure in the grand architecture and the images normally found therein – forgetting the God Who made all things and is Lord of all things.

Francis was, as many Roman Catholics are, a mystic who imagined he heard direct from God apart from His Word (page 22). In one such moment he dreamed YHWH revealed the perfect bride for him, “Lady Poverty” (page 21). And by so determining he must deny self by becoming temporally poor, “Francis entered upon this battle of winning himself for God.” (page 22) This reveals one danger of the mystical life: a person can be misled by various voices which lead away from God’s Word. This shows up again on page 28 as Francis “heard the Lord speaking with the voice of a friend, and saying, ‘Francis, go and repair my church, which as thou seest is wholly in ruin.” In focusing on the crucifix, Francis “realized that though the sufferings of Christ in his human body were ended yet the At-one-ment was always going on. Christ still reigned from the cross, looking out over the suffering world, drawing all men to himself on his cross that might unite them to God in himself.” When Jesus finished His work of redemption, He sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 1:3). He is not still hanging on the cross!

Francis is recorded in this novel as working on the rebuilding of three buildings, which are called churches. This is a vital error, putting places in the place of the body of Christ, as noted earlier. Of His church, the Lord said He would build her (Matt 16:18), this spiritual building that is the work of God alone. He does not need the help of men, although He does command us to be obedient in proclaiming the gospel to men everywhere and to disciple the saints within the local church.

Chapter 5 carries the book’s title and describes the Roman Catholic mass as the center of worship. “Nothing could be greater than the coming of Christ the King in the sacrament of the altar. Soon the little church would be as holy as the courts of heaven” (page 50). So much of the Roman religion is taken from the Jewish religion without any discernment. The New Covenant church has no altar, and Christ the King is not offered up on any altar! His empty cross serves as a spiritual altar (Heb 13:10). Note how this is explained by the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

Christianity and Judaism are so totally distinct, that “they who serve the (Jewish) tabernacle,” have no right to eat our spiritual Gospel meat, namely, the Jewish priests, and those who follow their guidance in serving the ceremonial ordinance. He says, “serve the tabernacle,” not “serve in the tabernacle.” Contrast with this servile worship ours.

an altar—the cross of Christ, whereon His body was offered. The Lord’s table represents this altar, the cross; as the bread and wine represent the sacrifice offered on it. Our meat, which we by faith spiritually eat, is the flesh of Christ, in contrast to the typical ceremonial meats. The two cannot be combined (Gal 5:2). That not a literal eating of the sacrifice of Christ is meant in the Lord’s Supper, but a spiritual is meant, appears from comparing Heb 13:9 with Heb 13:10, “with grace, not with meats.”

The last thing I will briefly cover comes from chapter 6 – The Rule. We have a snippet written by Francis wherein he reveals his authority: the pope. “And when the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I ought to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I should according to the form of the holy gospel. And I cause it to be written in a few words and simply, and the pope confirmed it for me.” Also on page 73 the author says “Francis was a devoted and loyal son of the Church.” When Francis and his brothers formed their group, “Francis promised obedience and reverence to both Innocent and his successors after him. All the brothers were to take the three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and they were to live without any property whatever” (pages 74 & 75). These “evangelical vows” are not found in Scripture. We find in God’s Word that His children are to be poor in spirit, not proud; sexually pure, in marriage unless gifted with singleness; and obedient to Christ as revealed in Scripture, not to traditions and words of men.

The god of Francis appears, from this book, not to be the God of the Bible. If that god was his all, his end was worse than his beginning. I pray all who claim to be in Christ examine themselves to see if they be in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). The Christian religion is not the product of men. It is the work of God in the people He called to new life in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) from their natural condition of spiritual death (Eph 2:1 – 10). To Him alone be all honor and glory and dominion, and none of that to any man.

Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is?

A good friend shared a Southern Gospel song with me this past week. It is one that I cannot ever remember hearing, although the group that sings this song is one I listened to for many years. The Southern Gospel group is called Greater Vision. For your reference, I have included the lyrics below before I share some additional thoughts.

1) Preacher I’d say it’s been a while since you heard this request,
but my spirit is tired and I need rest.
I want to hear from Heaven a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.

2) I’ve been hearing other preachers say I don’t have to change.
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I’m okay.
But it hasn’t eased my conscience and I know it’s not the truth.
So when you stand before us, can I count on you?

(Chorus) Oh Preacher, you say you want to be my friend,
don’t be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And Preacher, tell me I can overcome,
but it’s only by the blood of the Lamb.
Don’t tell me like I wish it was, Preacher tell me like it is.

3) So open up the Word and let the Spirit lead,
Preach until I’ve heard God speak to me.
Don’t worry about my feelings, don’t worry about my shame,
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I’m to blame!

(bridge)
Life is quickly passing, the world is fading fast
and the foolishness of preaching is the only hope we have.

Regardless of whether you like Southern Gospel Music or not, there are still pastor-teachers who get up every Sunday or throughout the week and pray that today would be the day they heard such a song from those in their congregations.

Preaching

Sadly, this is far from truth. Many of you, who are regulars here at DefCon, know some of our story. In early 2013, I was called to pastor what I thought was a conservative, evangelical Bible-believing church in north-central California.  It took less than 2 months to ascertain that several of the “elders” were not even true believers. One was living in open sin, and they took great offense at my preaching that salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

In one leaders’ meeting, one “elder” stated this while pointing at my Bible, “I don’t really know much about that book, but if you are telling me that my friends and family who do not believe in Jesus Christ are going to die and go to hell…well, I would rather die and go to hell with them than to believe what you are telling me!”

Can you imagine such a response by one who is supposedly “called” to be a shepherd? Why would a church even ask a person to be a shepherd when they don’t know The Book?

A few months later, just shy of 70% of the congregation voted against taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Obviously, this was not a congregation that was interested in singing the lyrics of this song. They did not want sin called what it was. The men who claimed to be elders and who were supposed to be leading spiritually and watching over the flock had little to no interest in the truth of God’s Word.

Sundays come and Sundays go, and far too many faithful ministers prepare messages wondering who will show up and whether they are even upset from the Word that was ministered the week before. On the other hand, there are hirelings posing as shepherds who refrain from speaking boldly because they are afraid of losing a paycheck. Such individuals have NO BUSINESS being in the pulpit.

While there are many other things that are on my heart, I want to use this post to address those who normally sit in congregations each week. Let me tell you what a true pastor looks like.

  1. A true pastor will be faithful to the Word before he is faithful to your pet peeves.
  2. A true pastor will be obedient to the Word before he will be obedient to what you THINK you want to hear.
  3. A true pastor will honor God first and foremost before he will honor requests to dumb down the Scriptures.
  4. A true pastor will normally be found in a small gathering long before he will be found preaching to large crowds who come for everything BUT exposition of the Scriptures.
  5. A true pastor may not show up for every party you have at your house but he will keep you before the Lord each time you are brought to his remembrance.
  6. A true pastor has a family that he has been called to take care of but they will often wait long hours for him to come home because he is “needed” in another part of the harvest field for a few more hours.
  7. A true pastor may have to work long hours outside of ministry-related duties and still have to find time to juggle family, ministry, preparation, and maybe squeeze in some rest. He may do this because it is better than taking a paycheck from a congregation who thinks they can hire and fire him if he doesn’t tickle their ears.
  8. A true pastor will struggle with his own sin and concerns while preaching to himself each time he opens the Scriptures. He will strive to be faithful while at the same time endeavoring to be more like Jesus Christ knowing that he fails miserably.
  9. A true pastor weeps when he sees entire families walk away because they didn’t like the music or lack thereof, or because they chose to walk in the paths of heretics they read after or watch on TBN. He knows that what they are following after does not change their lives. He knows their struggles are real and hopping from church to church is not going to change them to be more like Christ.
  10. A true pastor is concerned when telling it like it is about sin and shame produces little response in the lives of the hearers,, and he wonders whether it is worth all the effort.
  11. A true pastor may often take the blame for much that has nothing to do with his own life, his family, or his ministry. However, he will also know that the blameshifting is merely a cry for help from those who do not want to be helped.
  12. A true pastor may often wonder if there is “anybody else in Israel that has not bowed the knee to the gods of this world” but will rejoice when he finds even one or two of the 7,000 who have not bowed.
  13. A true pastor knows the world is dying and on their way to hell apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but will normally minister to people, some who think they are “good enough” to get there on their own merits.
  14. A true pastor knows that the foolishness of preaching is the ONLY hope we have to offer to the world.
  15. A true pastor will know that to strive to be most eloquent in the eyes of the world will only bring further heartache.
  16. A true pastor knows that this world cannot be his home, that he is only a stranger on a journey to a better land, and that the rewards this world has to offer are corrupt at best and will rot away.
  17. A true pastor may at times be captured in moments of weakness by thoughts of wanting to hear compliments, but in the end remembers that the only true accomplishment will be to hear, “Well done, you were a good and faithful servant.”

For those true pastors who have refused to bow the knee to the gods of this world and the sinful desires of congregations, you are loved with an everlasting love. Your rewards will be few down here. Your body may be worn down as you strive to juggle all of your efforts to show Christ to others, but strive to remain faithful as we look toward a land whose builder and maker is God. True pastors, you have a high calling.

True believers, you have a responsibility to pray for your pastor, to support him, to love him, and to realize that he is only human. Every message will NOT be easy to hear. He is tasked with the incredible and heart-breakingly overwhelming responsibility of protecting you from the dangers of all the heresy and false teaching that is spreading like wildfire throughout evangelicalism.

True believers, it is easy to sing songs like this when they have catchy tunes or lyrics, but how often have you actually walked up to your pastor and told him such words? How often have you said, “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is!” and then instead of getting offended and looking for a new church next week prayed and asked the Lord to help you be a faithful Berean Christian who will stand for truth even when it is not popular?