We Are Family

Last night, I was thinking about my family. I have five younger siblings. As I’ve watched them grow into adulthood, it’s been interesting how different we all are. We have different music interests, movie likes, convictions, etc. And yet we also share memories, stories, private jokes. I think deep down we also have a commitment to not allow things to become so mountainous that it negatively affects our relationship. Sure, we might strongly disagree with each other but most of our disagreements are not worth losing the friendship we have.

bodyofchrist

This is how the Body of Christ should be as well. If we really understood that “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5), maybe we would cherish each other more. If you were in an accident and lost your hand, you would no doubt try to find it and take it to the doctor to see if he could sew it back on. Yet, when a Brother or Sister cuts himself or herself off from the Body, we hardly notice. We may even think “good riddance.” I wonder if we would see more people come to know the Lord if they saw genuine love and care from God’s people.

This coming year, let’s ask God to give us greater hearts of love. Ask Him to give you His heart for those around you. I believe you would begin to look at people differently than you ever have before. God doesn’t look on a person’s outward appearance. He looks at the heart. We must learn to do that as well. As we draw near to Him, I believe He will help us to do so.

Thoughts on Suicide

*** Note from Mark – knowing how much this has affected Sony, this is not an invitation to debate on this one, nor will derogatory comments be permitted. It is simply meant to be an encouragement to people to reach out if they are struggling with the thought of suicide. We are not all going to agree on every aspect of doctrine, but these words are helpful. ***

*******

Last week, I found out that an acquaintance committed suicide. This was not a close friend but it affected me as I’ve pondered why people take such extreme measures when, more often than not, the trials of life are only temporary afflictions.

This is only the second time I can remember someone I know dying by his own hand. In the other case, the motive seemed to be selfishness: getting back at someone else.

In many cases, the motive is extreme hopelessness, and this makes me sad. Where there is life, there is always hope. It is only after death that nothing can be changed. At that point, not only your past, but your present and future are determined forever.

I wonder, though, if sometimes people commit suicide due to guilt. Could people honestly have done something “so bad” that they don’t think even God would forgive them, so they take the “easy way out” instead of humbling themselves in repentance and trusting God’s saving grace?

This last thought concerns me even more than the others. There is no sin that God won’t forgive IF a person is willing to repent and turn from that sin. The problem is that many don’t want to do that and so they live with the guilt of the life they are living until tragedy claims that life.

psalm55v22

I understand discouragement, and I have been down to the point of wanting to die. But I remind myself that there is a reason that I am still alive, and it has nothing to do with me. The God who placed me on this earth still has a plan for my life and, until that plan is finished, I must be faithful. There is no “easy out” for a Christian. We are called to take up our cross daily and follow Him.

The thoughts going through my mind right now are many. First of all, my heart goes out to those who think the only way out of their problem is to end their life. But I also wonder how many people I know are struggling more deeply than I would ever imagine. We live in a world of “happy” faces, where people don’t want to be burdened with others. Therefore, there are a lot of lonely people in this world. As Christians, we should never be so busy or unconcerned that we don’t take time to listen to someone who is struggling. If someone is willing to open up and talk to you, it may be because they are hoping you will show them the Hope they need.

If you are one who is down and suicide has even crossed your mind, please find someone to talk to. I realize that you can’t trust just anybody but ask God to show you someone who would be willing to pray with you and check on you periodically to make sure you are okay. Although there will always be trials in this life, they truly are temporary, and God can give you the strength to walk through them if you allow Him to.

Don’t become another statistic. Be a victor! And help others to be victorious as well.

trustinggod

Tattoos of Faith?

And you thought the last one was bad? Laodicea would be a strong, vibrant, Christ-honoring body of believers today compared to what we are seeing taking place throughout so-called evangelicalism.

While this short post is not about whether it is sinful for a Christian to get a tattoo, there is certainly some consideration that must be given to when and why this is done. Take for example the link below that shows a church social club that decided to incorporate the stunt of getting a tattoo into the Sunday morning series of sermons entertainment modules.

http://www.kmbc.com/news/Church-offers-tattoos-during-Sunday-services/20035454

tattoo

The standout quotes by the professional tattoo artist who set up shop right on the platform, and the pastor, shows the results of what happens when you divorce the truth of the gospel from your messages.

MANY PEOPLE WANT TO USE A FORM A FORM OF FAITH THEY CAN ONLY USE SUNDAY..AND NOT USE MONDAY THROUGH SATURDAY. WHERE AS YOU GET INKED BY GOD ITS PERMANENT IT AIN’T COMING OFF…[TATTOOS ARE] FAITH IN THE FORM OF AN UNWASHABLE DEDICATION AND COMMITMENT TO JESUS.

What’s coming.

“Maybe at the present the authorities smile on the church of God; but within a while it may frown, and the storm of persecution arise. There was a time when the churches had ‘rest throughout all Judea’ (Acts 9:31). It was a blessed time. But how long did it last? Alas! not long.”

– William Gurnall
1617 – 1679

Who (or What) Are You Serving?

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. … But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Years ago, Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Everyone on earth is either serving God, flesh, or the devil. My question today is: Who (or what) are you serving?

My brother quotes Larry Burkett as saying one can tell what a person’s priorities are by looking at his Daytimer and his checkbook. We usually find time and money for the things that are important to us. Sadly, God is not often the one who gets the majority of those things. Maybe we’re too tired to read our Bible or too busy to take a few minutes to worship Him. Brothers and Sisters, if that is the case, you are way too busy. Jesus was not too busy to come to earth and suffer horrendous things for you. Can’t you give Him even a little of your time?! Even that would be a start.

time-for-God

I would like to think that this post would be unnecessary for those of you who read this blog but I am not naive enough to believe that. If this does not apply to you, praise the Lord! Pray with me that God will strengthen His Church and continue to draw others to Himself. However, if God uses this article to convict you of something that you’ve become lax in lately, don’t hesitate to respond. Begin today to get on track to a closer walk with God than you’ve ever had before.

Our pastor reminded us today that it takes 30 days to form a habit. If you are not used to praying 5 minutes a day, I don’t expect you to take an hour tomorrow, but I would encourage you to start somewhere. If your typical prayer time is 5 minutes, stretch it into 10. If 10 minutes, try 15. Once you develop that daily discipline, it will eventually get to that place that you won’t want to leave His presence, and the good news is that you don’t have to! He will continue to walk beside you, and you will discover a joy and peace that has mostly alluded you before now.

If your life is busy to where you are running ragged and are too tired to have daily quiet time, pray about things you can eliminate from your life. Or maybe a simple change of schedule is all that is required. There is a way. In Jeremiah, God told His people, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek for Me with ALL your heart” (29:13). He will not ask you to do something that He will not equip you to do.

Time is too short to serve the flesh or the devil. Although there may be some immediate gratification, the end leads in spiritual death. That is not something I want, and I doubt you want that either. So I ask again: Who are you serving? I hope you can adamantly say the Almighty God who created Heaven and earth and sent His Son to die for you. If not, I hope you will change Masters today.

Christians Don’t Lie … Or Do They?

Christians don’t tell lies; they just go to church and sing them.
~A. W. Tozer

This quote came to mind a couple weeks ago as the congregation sang, “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” As I looked around, I wondered how many were thinking about the words that were coming out of their mouths: “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word.” My own thoughts were full of how sweet that truly is and yet how much I need to grow in the area of trust.

For many who have grown up in church, it is easy to sing songs because we have memorized them and yet the words elude us. How many times have you sung “Here I raise my Ebenezer” and had no idea what an “Ebenezer” is. (A name for a goblet perhaps?) I know there are exceptions to the rule, but I see way too many people singing lifelessly, and I expect that it is because the words are lifeless to them.

Our songs should be sung from the heart. Our worship must be honest. If you cannot sing honestly, don’t be afraid to stop and ponder the words or pray that God will help you to grow in an area.

There may be times you should sing in faith, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” but if you have not surrendered and are not willing to surrender all to Jesus, don’t sing, “I Surrender All.” God inhabits the praise of His people but, if that “praise” is done simply for show or merely out of rote, He will not bless it.

I do not want to discourage you from singing but I do want to inspire you to sing with your whole heart. Know what you are singing and let Him know that you mean it. You are not singing those words because you have to; you are singing because you want to, and you intend to live them. It’s possible that this simple act could be what it takes for revival to begin in our churches.

OMG – Please, not again!

“OMG” — and Other Ways Christians Take God’s Name in Vain

Exodus 20:7

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

I briefly mentioned, in yesterday’s post, one way in which Christians take the Lord’s name in vain.  Unfortunately, too many of us have become very casual about this commandment, and I thought I’d take the time to mention some things we should consider.

Taking God’s Name in Vain

“Vain” means useless, or empty.  This verse, one of the Ten Commandments, tells us to not use God’s name in an empty or useless way.  God is to be respected as high and holy.  This isn’t optional.

 “OMG”

I read an article a couple of weeks ago (unfortunately, I forgot to note who gave me the link) which I thought was excellent.  I know nothing about the author, but her article (What does the Bible say about OMG?) is excellent.  Too many Christians, in moments of excitement, dismay, etc., say, “Oh my God,” — and it isn’t a prayer.  Others, more “refined,” say, “Oh my gosh,” which is effectively the same watered down a little bit.  When we do this, we are saying God’s name without any real meaning to it — using it vainly.

Text-speak and Internet usage have made this far worse.  Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter too often encourage people to speak quickly and mindlessly, and it is so very easy to type in “OMG” without even thinking about it.  Is that consistent with reverence for our God?  If you see a Christian doing this, perhaps you could send a private note asking him to stop.  He’s probably not even thought about it.

No one ever says, “Oh my Satan,” or a watered-down “Oh my Santa.”  Or, for that matter, “Oh my spaghetti” or “Oh my desk.”  Why do unbelievers always use “Oh my God”?  We know why — the god of this world is influencing them to use words that diminish reverence for the Almighty God.  Why should Christians even mimic that with a watered-down “Oh my gosh”?

“In Jesus’ Name, Amen”

I am NOT saying people should not pray in Jesus’ name.  He told us to.  I wrote about this briefly yesterday (Proverbs 10:24).  The point of praying in Jesus’ name is to pray as Jesus’ representative, and that means praying as He would have us pray.  It is not a magic spell to make our wish list come true, or vain repetition stuck at the end of our prayers.

It is intended to cause us to think about whether we are praying for things that we can and should appropriately ask in His name.  It is to remind us of the glorious privilege given to us as His servants.

“I’ll Pray For You”

If you say you are going to pray for someone, you speak as a Christian who can speak directly to God.  You are promising to speak to Him.  If you don’t do it when you said you would, you took God’s name in vain.  You talked about communication with Him in an empty and meaningless way.

It is not wrong to tell people we will pray for them.  But if we say it, we must mean it and do it.  I have a friend who is careful about this.  I don’t think I have ever heard him say, “I’ll pray for you.”  He does say, “I just prayed for you,” or, “Let’s pray about this right now.”  Something to consider….

Un-Christian Behaviour

About a week ago, News for Christians linked to Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain.  It is worth reading.  The writer appropriately refers to Romans 2:24:

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.

If you are called a “Christian”, you are called a follower of Christ.  You carry His name.  If your behaviour gives sinners excuses to blaspheme, you are taking His name in vain.  Those who bear His name must live by it.

T-Shirts, Bumper Stickers, Cute Sayings

I’m not going to get specific here, because those who want to nitpick can nitpick.  Rather, a suggestion:  read Isaiah 6, and see how Isaiah responded to his vision of the Almighty.  Look at Revelation 1, and see John’s response when he saw the Lord of glory.  Remember that even in these visions, not all of God’s glory and majesty was fully revealed, or these men would have died.  And ask yourself, does my bumper sticker, my t-shirt, my cute expression that I like to use, all these ways in which I speak of the Lord, do they really fit with who He is?

When I stand before Him (or rather, when I fall on my face before Him) will I be glad I used that bumper sticker and wore that t-shirt, or will I be horribly ashamed?  Am I altogether too casual and cutesy in how I speak of Him?

“God Told Me”

Many times, we hear Christians say that “God told me” to do something.  Unless it is written in God’s Word, God doesn’t tell me to believe your statement (even if you do believe it).  If there is no reason I should believe that God told you, there is no reason to say it.  The Bible doesn’t tell us to go around saying “God told me.”

If you make a statement the Bible didn’t tell you to make, and I should examine what you say (rather than take your word for it), then to claim God’s authority is to claim it vainly.  “God told me” in any context other than what the Scriptures have said is taking God’s name in vain — even if you personally believe He did tell you.  God doesn’t tell others to believe you when you say it, so it is an empty claim.  You shouldn’t say it.

“God Gave me Peace”

It’s amazing how many times God “gives peace” to people who are doing the exact opposite of what He said in Scripture.  Just because you feel comfortable about your decision doesn’t mean God has given you peace.  Perhaps all it means is that you’ve started to have better sleeping and eating habits so you physically feel better.  Perhaps it means you’ve seared your conscience so badly that it isn’t functioning anymore.

God does give peace, the Scriptures say so.  But the Scriptures never say we should make decisions by checking our “peace-meter” to see if it is measuring high enough.  “Peace-meters” are often inaccurate — God’s Word is not.  Many times, when people say “God gave me peace,” they are merely taking God’s name in vain, speaking it meaninglessly, claiming some kind of God-authority for decisions that He manifestly does not approve.

I am sure there are other ways in which we do not honour our Lord’s name as we should.  We, as Christians, need to take God’s holiness seriously, and give Him due reverence.  We should encourage and help one another to be alert to failings in this area, so that we can speak as He would have us speak.

Somewhat related later post:  Why is “Jesus Christ” used as “Blasphemous Profanity”?

And:  “God Told Me to Preach This”???

Can We Call Them Brothers in Christ?

John-Piper-Rick-Warren3Recently, we received an email here at DefCon that I believe addressed a very valid and important question.  The reader asked our opinion on a discussion he was having with someone regarding Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll and John Piper. The question asked during his discussion was how can a Christian call any of these men a “true brother in Christ,” especially given the various concerns raised about them, even here on this blog. As the head administrator of this site, the task was mine to attempt to answer this particular question. After thinking the matter through, I responded to our reader with what I believe is a balanced and biblical stance on the matter. My desire is to share that response here on DefCon so that others who have a similar question may benefit from it. My response was a follows:

“Hello there. This is the Chris Hohnholz, the head administrator of DefCon. Thanks much for writing to us. I have given your email a lot of thought and will do my best to give you a decent answer. Before I do though, I want to make it clear that I am speaking only for myself. Even though I run this blog, I do not claim to speak for all the writers, not even the author of the article you linked. I say that as a means of ensuring that anything that I might blow it on is not conveyed to my writers.

mark-driscollMy thought on this is that there is a difference between not supporting or endorsing a pastor and declaring that said pastor is not a brother in Christ. To give a separate example, I’m sure you are aware of the chaos James MacDonald has caused with his Elephant Room nonsense. In years past, he has been considered a respected pastor. Even folks of a reformed theology have at least considered him within orthodoxy. Yet with his endorsing pastors who are questionable, and now declaring T.D. Jakes (who is a heretic) to be within the camp, he is NOT someone we would support or endorse. However, does his current sinful behavior mean he is not saved. I do not believe we can declare that at this time. If he truly is saved, I believe the Holy Spirit will bring him into repentance. If he is not, I think we will see him walk further and further from the truth. But until one or the other happens, I will not declare he is not a brother, but I will warn folks against what he is doing.

I think much can be said of the three pastors you have written Todd about. With Warren, I really worry about him because everything he is about is antithetical to the Bible. I think his smiling and charismatic personality carries with it a dangerous man-centered message that will definitely lead people and ministries astray. That alone makes me wonder about his salvation, but I would stop short of that because I simply haven’t seen him teach anything that is directly heretical. Much the same with Driscoll. He teaches orthodox messages, but his willingness to taint that message with foul language, to give graphic sexual messages and his unbiblical “visions” from God make him someone I wouldn’t endorse at all. But I really don’t know about him not being a brother. Is he simply just ignorant on these things or is he deliberately teaching things that will one day bear out as heretical. I can only say that we should be warning folks against him. Piper is the one who really perplexes me. He has preached so many great and godly messages that still continue to edify the saints. Yet, he is willing to lock arms with folks like Warren, he is willing to appear in conferences where contemplative prayer is going on without so much as a peep in refutation. He is giving those folks a platform that they never should have. I do believe Piper is a brother, but he is flat out wrong in what he is doing. As such, I don’t support what he is doing.

I do not know if this answer helps you in any way, but I believe that until these men either establish themselves as heretical or they repent and prove themselves as faithful brethren, our best bet is to warn against what they have said or done, but to reserve judgment of their state of salvation.

Again, I am thankful for your writing to us and am equally grateful for your support of our blog. May God bless you.

Chris Hohnholz
DefCon Administrator”

Is it Time for Christians to Abandon the Republican Party?

Following the re-election of Barack Obama, many people have speculated as to what the Republican Party did wrong and what needs to change for them to win in the next election. While many people, including those of us who are Christians, would point to the fact that nominating a moderate candidate, one who did not hold to consitutional and yes, even biblical principles, when it comes to issues of life and marraige, would account for the loss, many are arguing just the opposite. In the last few weeks, some startling claims have been made by those with whom we Christians have been enamored. In fact, those claims are leveled specifically at those of us who hold to a truly biblical mindset, and they are holding us at fault. As those of the “conservative” political movement seek to distance themselves from biblical Christianity, the question becomes, should Christians continue to blindly support the Republican Party, or is it time to abandon this sinking ship altogether?

If you think I am being a bit melodramatic, let me cite a few examples. On November 21, 2012, Ann Coulter wrote an opininion piece in the Daily Caller in which she blasted those of a conservative mindset for blaming the loss of the election on Mitt Romney not being conservative enough. Among the comments she made, she took the stance that those who hold to the “insane postition” of rape not being an exception for abortion were “moron showoffs.” Likewise, everyone’s favorite liberal media personality turned “conservative,” Bernie Goldberg made similar statements in his November 18, 2012 article. He makes the statement that Republicans “…need to make clear that they are not the party of religious zealots who take their marching orders from the Bible.” Additionally, on a recent appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s program, he said that Republicans need to “stop this Bible-based gay bashing.”

These two political spokepersons hold the attention of quite a few people. They did not get to their current state of popularity simply by chance. They have found that there are many folks who are willing to listen to their political advise and have used that voice to influence many a mind. So much so that Arizona Senator John McCain openly stated on Fox News that Republicans need to have a “bigger tent” regarding various political views and should “leave the issue alone,” when it comes to abortion. Now, it is well known that Senator McCain is a moderate politician, but his willingness to make these statements openly is indicative of the change we are seeing within the Republican party.

The reason I am writing this article is to once again challenge our readers, as we have done on more than one occasion here, to stop viewing the political process as the means by which we are to “save” this country. There have been many Christians who have sounded the trumpet warning the church that an alliance to a specific political party was unwise, especially as more and more compromises were made. Yet, those of us who have made such proclamations have been met with intense opposition, insisting that such alliance were absolutely necessary. We have heard such claims as “You might as well vote for the other guy,” “You’re throwing your vote away,” “If you don’t vote for ‘our guy’ you are paving the way for evil to flourish,” “Don’t you want to guarantee you religious liberties?” and so forth. Each argument was designed to justify the continued support of the Republican party in what is believed to be the only “valid option” in a two party system.

Yet, the sampling of articles listed above indicates that such loyalty is not reciprocative. In fact, the Republican party is little more than a political entity looking to obtain, and maintain, power. If the party heads sense that the political winds have changed in our country, and that holding to conservative (and especially biblical) principles will prevent them from getting power, they will change their stance post haste. We are seeing that effect now, and Christians are squarely in the crosshairs of those who are faulting Republican failures on holding to these moral issues. They are demonstrating that if Christians are seen as a liability, then the Church’s vote will no longer be courted.

This should be a wake up call to the Church. It should cause us to realize that this nation cannot, and will not be won through politics. As I have argued before, I am not saying that Christians should not vote. I believe we have the unique opportunity to be a part of the governmental process in our country. As such, Christians should vote responsibly and be well informed on the issues. That being said, we should no longer align ourselves with a specific party, especially one that has demonstrated it sees us as the problem. We have given ourselves to this political machine for years, yet precious little has been accomplished. And along the way, we stopped being about the work of the kingdom of God and became serfs in the kingdom of politics.

Christians need to re-evaluate their stance in politics and this recent election is the proof we never should have needed. I pray that Christians wake up to this now and start changing their attitude about who their allegiance belongs to.