The Importance of Discernment - 3 Examples

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spiritual discernment. Do you have it? You say, "I'm not exactly sure what it is, so how do I know if I have it?" Fair enough. A quick google search reveals a plethora of definitions of the word discernment, but I'm especially interested in "spiritual discernment." Tim Challies offers two definitions. "Spiritual discernment is the ability to think Biblically about all areas of life," writes Challies. He expands on this thought with a more thorough definition, noting that spiritual discernment is the "God-given,Spirit-empowered ability to understand and interpret truth, so that we can apply truth to our lives, thus bringing glory to God and furthering our enjoyment of Him." To understand and interpret truth, it is also necessary to understand and interpret error. In other words, you must be able to distinguish truth from error. Are you able to recognize truth from error?

Paul told the Ephesian believers that pastors and teachers were given to the church "so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ," (Ephesians 4:14-15). In the first epistle to the Thessalonians Paul admonished, "Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22-23). Clearly then, if you and I are to avoid being "tossed to and fro by the waves of human cunning," and we are to "abstain from every form of evil," then we must ask God to give us spiritual discernment.

Let me give you just a few examples of why discernment is so important for followers of Jesus Christ.

Exhibit A:
If we aren't careful, error can actually creep into the church through the songs we sing as the people of God. One author suggests that a way to get heresy into the church is to put heresy into a song with a good beat or a song with a lot of sentimentality, and it will be sung in churches all over the world. I think there is a lot of truth in this, but I don't think heresy is found only in upbeat songs. The other day I came across this beautiful rendition of an old hymn that I just love: "Come Thou Fount." Give it a listen...

Sounds good, right? However, as I was listening to the beautiful harmonies of these four men who call themselves "Jericho Road" I was stopped dead in my tracks at the 1:18 mark in the video! In fact, I said to myself, "Did I just hear that right? Did they REALLY just sing 'and I hope by some good measure safely to arrive at home?'" Just so you know, the CORRECT wording of that hymn is "and I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home." Now, why would they change the wording of the song like that? Well, it turns out these four men are Mormons. Yep, that's right folks.They changed the lyrics of the song to reflect their works-based, anti-gospel theology. Mormons may be nice people, and apparently they can even sing four-part harmony really well. But they don't believe we "arrive home" by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, which is indicated in the song’s original lyrics "by Thy good pleasure." The original version emphasizes God's grace and God's sovereignty in salvation, while Jericho Road's version emphasizes good works and man's (futile) attempt to merit God's grace, forgiveness, and ultimately a place in heaven. Do you see how subtle that is? They sound so good and they seem so....well....nice, don't they?

Exhibit B:
If we aren’t careful, error can creep into the church through large, ostensibly spiritual events. Last weekend, Christians in Metro Detroit were invited to “The Call” at Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions). The Call is a prayer vigil patterned after the solemn assemblies of the Old Testament. Movement leader Lou Engle explained:
“We will gather to this city that has become a microcosm of our national crisis—economic collapse, racial tension, and the shedding of innocent blood of our children in the streets and of our unborn. But the place where they say there is no hope, God has chosen as His staging ground for a great communal healing and His house of prayer for all nations. Therefore, we are calling the nation to a 24-hour solemn assembly, daring to believe that Detroit’s desperation can produce a prayer that can change a nation. Come and take your place on the wall in Detroit, where we will ask God to send fire on our hearts, to forgive our national guilt and establish justice in our land.”

Sounds good, right? I mean, who doesn’t want a revival in America, starting in Detroit? However, if you dig beneath the surface you will find some disturbing presuppositions and omissions underlying this event. Reagan Rose helpfully explains some of these concerns: (1) the false assumption that OT Israel = America, (2) the emphasis on moralistic themes far more than themes of grace, (3) “Lou Engle and his ilk blaspheme the Holy Spirit of God by repeatedly giving false and self-fulfilling prophecies, claiming the Spirit is doing things which He is not, and performing blatantly false signs and wonders supposedly by the Spirit’s power.”

Exhibit C:
If we aren’t careful, error can creep into the church through dialogue with “Christian” leaders who deny essential doctrines of God’s Word. Much controversy has surrounded James MacDonald’s upcoming Elephant Room Conference #2, to which he has invited popular pastor T. D. Jakes. Bishop Jakes’ health and wealth teachings are troubling, but even more disturbing is his teaching on the Trinity. Jakes aligns himself with Oneness Pentecostalism, a modern-day form of the ancient heresy modalism. This view denies that Christ is a distinct personin the Trinity, reducing him to a “manifestation” of God. James MacDonald repeatedly refers to Jakes as a Christian brother, believing that Jakes will confess an orthodox understanding of the Trinity at ER2. MacDonald argues that his motive is love, explaining: “we are attempting to model an ethic of behavior and expression of love that adorns the gospel…. Before you lower your gun at a ‘wolf,’ don’t you want to get close enough to make sure you’re not shooting a brother?"

Sounds good, right? However, through the years T. D. Jakes has made it clear what he believes about the Trinity. If his views have changed, he is perfectly capable of making that clear on his own, without being given a microphone in the Elephant Room. If Jakes has recently adopted an orthodox view of the Trinity, why would he and MacDonald wait until January 25 to make this plainly known? Certainly the body of Christ deserves to be blessed with this knowledge sooner rather than later! Because for now, Jakes remains in the category of false teacher - one who denies the Biblical doctrine of Christ. And John, the Apostle of Love, told the church years ago how to respond to someone like this. "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works" (2 John 9-11). “Loving dialogue” is not to be sought with teachers who persist in error. Burk Parsons writes: “Jesus said ‘the world knows you're my disciples by your love for one another’ AFTER he dismissed the heretic from the room.”

Sadly, MacDonald has rejected the rebukes of several conservative evangelical leaders. He stereotypes them as “afraid…hiding…crouching behind walls of disagreement.” Yet these men are doing nothing but following the Holy Spirit’s instruction to us through the apostle John. It is not our job to model loving confrontation. The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ have sufficiently modeled for us when and how to unite, when and how to confront, and when and how to separate.

Yes, my friends. Discernment is still very much needed today. But be warned: if you discern, prepare to be called a "hater."

- Dan McGhee


An Elephant In The Room That We Need To Quit Feeding

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I want to personally thank the Lord for Pastor Kent Hughes. Years ago he and his wife Barbara wrote a book that has been an enormous blessing, encouragement, and personal challenge to me through the years. It is titled Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome. If you plan to go into ministry, this is a must-have book for your journey. If you are already serving the Lord in ministry you ought to read this book. In this little jewel you will be reminded of the things that really matter in your ministry: things like faithfulness, humbly serving, consistent prayer, living a holy life, as well as a number of other important, Biblical, core measurements for your ministry.

Why is this important? Because what I have found (and I'm not the only one) is that no matter the denomination or affiliation, no matter how noble the attempt to counter-act it, no matter how many times you tell yourself otherwise, you will feel the pressure to measure yourself and others based on NUMERICAL RESULTS in ministry. I've seen this in the fundamental Baptist circles I once inhabited and I'm seeing it again within the conservative evangelical circles. Why is this the case? Depravity. Ego. Pride. Pride is in the hearts of both those who brag on the numbers, and those who are jealous of the numbers. The Hughes' book is one of those works you need to go back to again and again to remind yourself of what is really important.

For example, you will want this book handy when you attend that next Pastor's conference where the website advertisement, printed literature, and public introduction of a speaker includes the fact that Dr. Big Britches' church currently has 25 million in attendance with satellite campuses on Mars, Jupiter, and Venus each having thousands of aliens coming to Christ each week. Once you arrive back home you can sit down again with this book and remind yourself that God doesn't judge your success or failure as a pastor based on the number of alien rear-ends sitting in the seats of a galactic super-campus in the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy. The Scriptures say, "Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). Faithfulness is your measuring stick. Are you being faithful?

Of course, this isn't an excuse for laziness and apathy on our part as pastors! We must work hard, pray often, study diligently, plan effectively, delegate wisely, implement strategically, and witness boldly. And when we have done these things, let's leave the results up to our Sovereign God who calls His elect to Himself according to His infinitely perfect will. And let's be thankful that He has counted us worthy to be a part - no matter how big or small - of this Gospel work.

- Dan McGhee


I Have Always Dreamed of a Church....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I have always dreamed of a church where love is boundless. I’m talking about the kind of love that is self-sacrificial and continues to give to others, though it is personally costly. A love that is motivated by the love Christ has for us.

I have always dreamed of a church where joy is always present. Not because we suddenly have all our problems, challenges, and difficulties disappear, but because we are continually finding in Christ and in each other a depth of relationship that overwhelms us and strengthens us to endure any hardship that might come our way. I dream of a church that continually experiences an overcoming joy, where laughter is heard often and the countenances of its people radiate the hope they have found in Christ!

I have always dreamed of a church which truly experiences the “peace that passes all understanding.” Where members are truly in harmony and at peace with one another in spite of racial differences, economic differences, and age differences.

I have always dreamed of a church where patience is a constant virtue expressed in the lives of its members. Anger is rarely present. And when anger is present, it would be a righteous anger that doesn’t seek personal vindication or satisfaction but would be directed toward seeing injustices corrected for the benefit of others.

I have always dreamed of a church where there is a supernatural kindness expressed through its members. Where all of its members' interactions with others are seasoned with the reality of Jesus Christ’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness in our own lives. Where gospel truth constantly inspires us to be exceedingly generous in spirit and action toward those around us.

I have always dreamed of a church where its members overcome, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our sinful tendency toward selfishness. Where members are marked instead by an amazing goodness toward those inside the church and those outside the church. Where the people of the church live in such a good fashion that it draws others who don’t know Jesus Christ to discover the source of this goodness in us.

I have always dreamed of a church where its members could always count on one another. A church where the people truly believe that “their word is their bond” because faithfulness is a core commitment rooted deeply within each heart.

I have always dreamed of a church where the members are strong: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yet these people are marked by an amazing gentleness with one another. Words are chosen carefully. Actions are always evaluated, and carried out only if they bring benefit and blessing to others.

I have always dreamed of a church where its members are continually growing in the area of personal self-control. Where each member, through the power of the Holy Spirit living within him, continually seeks to bring his flesh under the control of God. Where its members learn to be deeply satisfied with God and with each other.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

- Dan McGhee


Concerning Associations and Discernment (part two)

Friday, October 14, 2011

While we’re on the subject of ministry partnerships, consider this situation with me:

Westboro Baptist Church, located in Kansas, has become infamous for picketing the funerals of American soldiers. According to their website ( they have staged 46,684 pickets to date, proudly waving signs spouting: “God Hates America,” “Pray For More Dead Soldiers,” and “Thank God For IEDs.” Led by “Pastor” Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist has become a self-made caricature of conservative Christianity and is one of the most despised groups in America.

However, Westboro Baptist Church has an orthodox doctrinal statement.

And in John 17, Jesus prays for the unity of His church.

Therefore, if given the opportunity, would your church partner with Westboro Baptist?

Of course not. And the reason, of course, is that the people of Westboro flat-out deny the truth of the gospel by their behavior. There is no grace in their speech (Col. 4:5-6), no humility in their actions (1 Pet. 5:5), no peace in their intentions (Rom. 12:18).

I point out the (admittedly extreme) example of Westboro to demonstrate that the wisdom or appropriateness of ministry partnerships is not merely dependent on the mutual signing of an orthodox doctrinal statement. Further questions must necessarily be raised regarding the consistent practices of a ministry. Do the practices of the ministry “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10)? Is the ministry leader worth pointing to as someone who walks “according to the example” we have in the apostles (Phil. 3:17)? Some famous guy named Paul seemed to think that one’s practices lining up with the gospel is a big deal – see Galatians 2:11-14.

In discussions regarding ministry associations an appeal is often made to Jesus’ prayer for our unity in John 17. A corresponding appeal is made for the lowest common denominator—assent to “grace alone through faith alone”—to be the only criterion for partnership. However, if you want to apply this argument consistently, you must thereby partner with Westboro Baptist given the opportunity. If they are picketing a soldier’s funeral in your town, by all means pick up an inflammatory sign and join them!

My point is this: all evangelicals practice some form of separation based on ministry practice. No evangelical truly intends to apply the ideal of unity toward every professing Christian group. Potential ministry relationships are regularly turned down not only because of doctrinal differences but also because of significant differences in practice.

Picketing funerals is a pretty far-out aberration. But sadly there are countless other God-degrading, gospel-contradicting ministry practices taking place in our day. And we have no desire to align ourselves with men who subscribe to right doctrine but whose consistent ministry practices do not adorn the gospel. We have no desire to align ourselves with men who subscribe to right doctrine but who have not shown themselves to be leaders worthy of imitation. Now please understand—we are not at war with men like this. We don’t spend our time thinking of ways to oppose them, and we hope that God is mercifully saving souls through their ministries despite their errors (Phil. 1:18). Public confrontation (Gal. 2:11-14) and private correction (Acts 18:26) are appropriate when possible. However, we consider it unwise to point our flock toward these men as examples of faithful ministry.

I realize that some would use this line of thinking to isolate themselves for no good reason. I realize that some would even use this line of thinking to separate themselves from our church based on issues of preference. I am not arguing for complete uniformity of style from church to church. Unity in Christ despite minor differences is a beautiful thing, worthy of our pursuit (Phil. 2:2). I am not arguing that uncharacteristic mistakes should go unforgiven. In some instances love must cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). I am grateful for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness when I fall short of His glory in my own ministry.

But don’t overlook the fact that our Lord has unambiguous standards for those who aspire to the office of overseer. Don’t overlook the fact that ministry practices are clearly spelled out for us in the New Testament. And please don’t use John 17 to try to convince me that I must partner with men whose ministry practices consistently undermine the very gospel they preach.

- Mike Moses

*Read Part One 


Concerning Associations and Discernment (part one)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I am the Senior Pastor of a Harvest Bible Chapel in Detroit. Our church is a committed, “both feet in,” Harvest Bible Fellowship church. A portion of our budget is designated each year to the Fellowship so that more churches can be planted. It is a great joy for us to have sent out the former assistant pastor of our church to plant a new Harvest Bible Chapel in his homeland on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. God is using the Harvest Fellowship to make an amazing impact for Christ all over the globe right now, and we are thrilled to be a part of God’s gracious work.

However, as an independent, autonomous local assembly of believers we think it necessary at this time to clarify our perspective concerning the matter of ecclesiastical associations and discernment. Though James MacDonald is the founder of the Harvest Bible Fellowship of churches as well as the indisputable “voice” of the Fellowship, we do not want James’ position to be confused with the position of Harvest Bible Chapel in Detroit. I must address this concern since James has made his position a very public matter in recent days. Please know that this statement contains the full endorsement of our elder board here at Harvest Detroit.

I STRONGLY disagree with James’ position that having someone preach to your church isn’t an endorsement of that man’s ministry. I recognize that brothers can work together without agreeing on things 100%. But for years James’ ministry has been marked by drawing a line in the sand with regard to the worldly methodology used by those of the “seeker church” persuasion. For years James has railed against this type of pragmatic ministry, and most understood that much of what he was responding to was the pragmatism on display in his own backyard at Willow Creek. James' clear opposition to the "seeker" model was a key component that attracted us toward joining the Harvest Fellowship. However, James is now saying there needs to be a new middle: a “new tribe” where we sit around and have conversations about these things and challenge each other to think about them…but when all is said and done, even if nobody changes, that’s alright because at the end of the day we are simply disagreeing about “different methods.” I call this the “kumbaya effect."

In Elephant Room #1 NOBODY told Perry Noble that HE SINNED on a recent Easter Sunday by leading his church to play a Godless, worldly, anti-Christian song (Highway to Hell) in his worship service. Yes, most participants said, “Well, I wouldn’t do that in my church....” But nobody said, “Perry, you and your elders sinned against God. Repent.” And with that failure the door was left open for everyone to walk away and simply say, “We just use different methods.” At the end of that conversation someone actually said, “You can’t argue with Perry’s results and how many are saved through his ministry.” This is blatant pragmatism. I believe that what happened in Perry’s church was SIN that Easter Sunday morning, no matter the results. God tells us exactly what we ought to sing as the gathered people of God: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). I don’t see how Highway to Hell fits in that list, do you? Obviously our God can work and save souls in spite of our sin and depravity, but that is never an excuse to sin. I believe that this ought to have been clearly communicated to Perry, but it wasn’t. It was sidestepped (exactly what the Elephant Room event itself claims to despise) and left as a matter of “preference of methods.” To me, this was an enormous failure in the first Elephant Room discussion and subsequently left the door open for ecclesiastical partnerships with Perry Noble and Steven Furtick and who knows who else in the days ahead.

The one guy in the Elephant Room #1 who agreed that what Perry did was acceptable and would do it himself in his own church was Steven Furtick. (Furtick is also a man who fawns over Joel Osteen and other Word-Faith pastors.) And what does James do? Invites Furtick to preach at Harvest as a guest speaker. Now, I’ve heard James’ explanation of this invite. I watched the video, read the blog, and talked with James himself. He defended this invitation as a “gracious” move and claims that this is a part of his “mentoring” relationship with Furtick. However, as a shepherd of God’s sheep it is a pastor’s responsibility to place before his people men of God whose overall methodology, philosophy of ministry, theology, and direction we can trust and promote. Yes, I agree with James that we need not agree in every little area with a ministry partner, but we ought to be able to support his overall philosophy and direction. Harvest Bible Chapel in Detroit DOES NOT support the overall ministry philosophy and direction of Steven Furtick, just as we don’t support the overall ministry philosophy and direction of Perry Noble or Bill Hybels for that matter (the great Seeker Church godfather himself…although he might have to arm wrestle Rick Warren for that dubious title).

We are not saying that everything these men have ever said or done is wrong. But there are significant matters in which we disagree with them, methodologically and even theologically (because we believe that many of the differences are, in fact, driven by theology). We cannot in good conscience say to our flock, “We endorse these men and encourage you to learn from them.” We believe that God calls us to place before our people only those whom we can support as they say, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). To put someone before our people with whom we have strong disagreements would be foolish, would bring confusion to people both inside and outside our church, and would potentially cause great damage. James fails to make a distinction between having personal friendships with men with whom you may have severe differences both philosophically and methodologically, and ecclesiastical partnerships that draw in the entire church (and in James’ case the entire Harvest Bible Fellowship) and affect many more people. It is naive of James to think that his partnership with Furtick does not imply some level of endorsement of the man’s ministry - or at the very least, lends Furtick a credibility which he does not deserve.

In conclusion, we love the Harvest Bible Fellowship of churches and we greatly love and appreciate Pastor James MacDonald. But please know that Harvest Bible Chapel of Detroit has no desire to associate with the Perry Nobles, Steven Furticks, and T. D. Jakes of the world. We do not like the look of the “emerging middle” and have no desire to be a part of the “new tribe” being called for. Please do not mistake James MacDonald’s recent statements and associations as the standard of conduct for us at Harvest Bible Chapel of Detroit because they are not.

- Dan McGhee 

*Read Part Two

*Update: Concerning Our Disassociation with Harvest Bible Fellowship 


A Prayer of Thanks From Your Church

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jesus, we thank You.

With tenderness You sought lost sheep and made us Your flock.
With power You raised rotting corpses and made us Your body.
With compassion You courted prostitutes and betrothed us to be Your bride.
With mercy You collected worthless rubble and built us into a temple for Your Spirit.
With care You gathered lifeless branches and grafted us into the true Vine.
With grace You sacrificed Yourself for enemies and made us Your friends.
With kindness You forgave idolators and made us a kingdom of priests.
With love You welcomed orphans and adopted us into Your family.

Though wolves in sheep's clothing threaten from without,
Though sin's temptations threaten from within,
You are cleansing us by the washing of water with Your Word.

One day You will present us to Yourself in splendor
Spotless and wrinkle-free (not even one blemish!)
For Your glory
And for our eternal joy.

We praise you.
We thank you.


Unutterable Depths of Wondrous Woe

Friday, August 12, 2011

"One day, in my wanderings, I heard a cry, a groan; methought ‘twas not a cry such as came from mortal lip, it had in it such unutterable depths of wondrous woe. I turned aside, expecting to see some great sight; and it was indeed a great sight that I saw.

"Lo, there, upon a tree, all bleeding, hung a man. I marked the misery that made his flesh all quiver on his bones; I beheld the dark clouds come rolling down from heaven; I saw them clothe his brow with blackness, and I perceived that his heart was as full of the gloom and horror of grief as the sky was full of blackness. Then I seemed to look into his soul, and I saw there torrents of unutterable anguish, wells of torment of such an awful character that mortal lip dare not sip, lest it should be burned with scalding heat.

"I said, ‘Who is this mighty sufferer? Why doth he suffer thus? Hath he been the greatest of all sinners, the basest of all blasphemers?’

"But a voice came forth from the excellent glory, and it said, ‘This is my beloved Son; but he took the sinner’s sin upon himself, and he must bear its penalty.’

"O God! I thought, I never saw sin till that hour, when I saw it tear Christ’s glories from his head, when I saw him covered with his own blood, and plunged into the uttermost depths of oceans of grief."

- Charles Spurgeon

HT: Of First Importance


The Supremacy of Christ

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"The best gift of the gospel is seeing and savoring the supremacy of Jesus Himself. And we had no access to that joy until He took our place."
-John Piper


None Can Ever Ask Too Much

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's prayer week at Harvest! The Lord has given us big dreams for this summer. We want God to be glorified and people to be changed forever through our gospel efforts!

This morning I came across a hymn written by John Newton. It expresses some wonderful encouragement for the kind of big, bold requests we are praying this week for ourselves and for our community:

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin:
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to Thee for rest,
Take possession of my breast;
There Thy blood bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign.

As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder's face;
Thus unto my heart appear,
Print Thine own resemblance there.

While I am a pilgrim here,
Let Thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey's end.

Show me what I have to do,
Every hour my strength renew:
Let me live a life of faith,
Let me die Thy people's death.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:16-18)

HT: Desiring God Blog


What Made the Early Church So Effective?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Believers often speak wistfully of the early church, wishing we could recover the spirit of that day. Those early believers were indeed a remarkable group, spreading the gospel of Christ with remarkable effect. So what made the early church so incredible? John Piper makes 6 observations based on Stephen Neil's A History of Christian Missions:

1. First and foremost was the burning conviction which possessed a great number of the early Christians.

2. The solid historical message which Christians brought was indeed good news, and a welcome alternative to the mystery religions of the day.

3. The new Christian communities commended themselves by the purity of their lives.

4. The Christian communities were marked by mutual loyalty and an overcoming of antagonisms between alienated classes.

5. The Christians were known for an elaborate development of charitable service, especially to those within the fellowship.

6. The persecution of Christians and their readiness to suffer made a dramatic impact on unbelievers.

In other words, the early church truly believed the gospel! Consequently, Christ transformed every aspect of their lives and bore much fruit through them.

What makes a church effective? It's no great mystery: the life-transforming gospel of Jesus!


10 Things To Pray For Your Church

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Before the year 2010 began, the Lord laid on my heart to make a list of ten things our church should be praying for as the body of Christ. The original intention was to encourage our people to make an all out effort to pray faithfully for these ten things only in the year 2010.

Later, I realized that these ten requests needed to always be upheld before our Lord for the overall health of our church no matter the year (duh, sometimes I am a little bit slow). So up to this day, even though it is 2011, we continue to pray this way as a church family for God's help as we carry on the gospel ministry for His glory alone.

I know by no means is this is an exhaustive list, but I hope it will help guide and encourage you as you faithfully pray for your church as well.













The Greatest News in all the World

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Preaching on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, John Piper highlights "the greatest news in all the world:"

In raising him [Christ] from the dead:

(1) He gave us forgiveness and glorified Jesus as the all-sufficient forgiver;

(2) He gave us a friend to count on and glorified Jesus as utterly reliable;

(3) He gave us guidance and unchanging truth and glorified Jesus as the absolute foundation for truth and holiness;

(4) He gave us a life that is not pitiable but enviable, a ministry that is not in vain but fruitful, and glorified Jesus as the source and goal of all life and all ministry;

(5) He gave us everlasting joy that will not be ended by death, and glorified Jesus as the author of life, the victor over death, and the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.


Doctrinal Devotion

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I spent a few hours today reading through a Systematic Theology. As I closed the book tonight, I was reminded again of the need for my head and heart to meet in a kind of "doctrinal devotion." The Puritans were correct of course, that the Word must not only inform our heads but inflame our hearts.

When I put together my doctrinal statement, I included this quote from John Owen at the beginning of the statement. It speaks well to this issue:

"What am I the better

if I can dispute that Christ is God,

but have no sense of sweetness

in my heart from hence

that he is a God in covenant with my soul?

What will it avail me to evince,

by testimonies and arguments,

that he hath made satisfaction for sin,

if through my unbelief,

the wrath of God abideth in me,

and I have no experience of my own being made

the righteousness of God in him,—

if I find not, in my standing before God,

the excellency of having my sins imputed to him

and his righteousness imputed to me?

Will it be any advantage to me, in the issue,

to profess and dispute

that God works the conversion of a sinner

by the irresistible grace of his Spirit,

if I was never acquainted experimentally with

the deadness and utter impotency to good,

that opposition to the law of God,

which is in my own soul by nature,

with the efficacy of the exceeding greatness

of the power of God

in quickening, enlightening, and bringing forth

the fruits of obedience in me?

It is the power of truth in the heart alone

that will make us cleave unto it indeed

in an hour of temptation.

Let us, then, not think

that we are anything the better

for our conviction of the truths

of the great doctrines of the gospel,

for which we contend…

unless we find the power of the truths

abiding in our hearts,

and have a continual experience

of their necessity and excellency

in our standing before God

and our communion with him."

~John Owen (1616-1683)


Man's Great End

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I have found the little book, The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions to be a tremendous blessing in my walk with God. I believe it is a must for every believer's library. I would like to share one of those prayers with you and trust that it would encourage your heart and would daily be your prayer also.

There is one thing that deserves my greatest care,
that calls forth my ardent desires,
That is, that I may answer the great end for which
I am made-
to glorify thee who hast given me being,
and to do all the good I can for my fellow men;
Verily, life is not worth having
if it be not improved for this noble purpose.
Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of mankind!
Most men seem to live for themselves,
without much or any regard for thy glory,
or for the good of others;
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue
the riches, honours, pleasures of this life,
as if they supposed that wealth, greatness,
could make their immortal souls happy;
But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that
sleep in them,
for all our happiness consists in loving thee,
and being holy as thou art holy.

O may I never fall into tempers and vanities,
the sensuality and folly of the present world!
It is a place of inexpressible sorrow, a vast empty
Time is a moment, a vapour,
and all its enjoyments are empty bubbles,
fleeting blasts of wind,
from which nothing satisfactory can be derived;
Give me grace always to keep in covenant with thee,
and to reject as delusion a great name here
or hereafter,
together with all sinful pleasures or profits.
Help me to know continually
that there can be no true happiness,
no fulfilling of thy purpose for me,
apart from a life lived in and for
the Son of thy love.

The Valley of Vision, pp. 22-23


Battling the Unbelief of Anxiety

Thursday, March 31, 2011

John Piper, in Future Grace (p. 59-61):

We should battle the unbelief of anxiety with the promises of future grace.

When I am anxious about some risky new venture or meeting, I battle unbelief with one of my most often-used promises, Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you, with My victorious right hand."

When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise of Isaiah 55:11. “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us, who is against us!” (Romans 8:31).

When I am anxious about the welfare of those I love, I battle unbelief with the promise that if I, being evil, know how to give good things to my children, how much more will the “Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). And I fight to maintain my spiritual equilibrium with the reminder that everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for Christ’s sake “shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). And I take the promise with trembling: “Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

When I am anxious about getting old, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I shall bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you; and I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).

When I am anxious about dying, I battle unbelief with the promise that “not one of us lives for himself and not one of us dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 14:7-9).

When I am anxious that I may make shipwreck of faith and fall away from God, I battle unbelief with the promises, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6); and, “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Let us make war...with our own unbelief. It is the root of anxiety, which, in turn, is the root of so many other sins. So let us...keep our eyes fixed on the precious and very great promises of God.


Preach Christ, and You Will Have Morality

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"I believe that as people's confidence in Christ grows, they do, ordinarily and inevitably, bear fruit that accords with faith. Thus, there is no need for some trade-off here, or some alleged dichotomy suggesting that we need to preach morality if we are to have morality. No; preach Christ, and you will have morality. Fill the sails of your hearers' souls with the wind of confidence in the Redeemer, and they will trust him as their Sanctifier, and long to see his fruit in their lives. Fill their minds and imaginations with a vision of the loveliness and perfection of Christ in his person, and the flock will long to be like him. Impress upon their weak and wavering hearts the utter competence of the mediation of the One who ever lives to make intercession for them, and they will long to serve and comfort others, even as Christ has served and comforted them."

- T. David Gordon (Why Johnny Can't Preach [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009], p. 78)


A New Book From Rob Bell... Heresy On Display?

Friday, March 4, 2011

For those of you who follow these things within the Evangelical church, you know that for quite some time Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, has been a very controversial figure. He is a well-known and widely followed guru within the Emergent Church movement, which has from its inception denied cardinal doctrines of the faith. Well, it appears that Bell's latest book will be a complete repudiation of the historical and Biblical doctrine of Hell. I hope I'm wrong here, but there are plenty of reasons to have doubts.

I encourage you to read more about it here at Phil Johnson's blog Pyromanics, and be sure to watch Bell's video promotion of this latest offering from him. I have to admit, its slick. Very well done, compelling video... And this is why I think he's actually so dangerous. He knows how to communicate to a young, sensory and image-oriented generation.
Check it out here.

Love Wins has been released for review:
"Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial."


The Prosperity Gospel: "A Ponzi Scheme"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 3-minute audio below is a clip from a panel discussion during the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference. Mark Dever poses a question to John MacArthur regarding the prosperity gospel.

MacArthur compares the prosperity gospel to "a Ponzi scheme: the guys at the top get rich and everybody else is left in shredded rags, in the name of Jesus Christ."

MacArthur's comments also include an interesting comparison to Luke 21:1-6: "Any religious system that takes the last two pennies from a widow is coming down."

Metro Detroit does not need more gospel; Metro Detroit needs the right gospel.


All The Way My Savior Leads Me

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some encouragement for your week:


Six Observations of "Christianity" in America

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After conducting 5,000 interviews in 2010, the Barna Research Group has identified "Six Megathemes" indicating change in the religious environment of America:

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
"The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency."

2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
"Despite technological advances that make communications instant and far-reaching, Christians are becoming more spiritually isolated from non-Christians than was true a decade ago.... With atheists becoming more strategic in championing their godless worldview, as well as the increased religious plurality driven by education and immigration, the increasing reticence of Christians to engage in faith-oriented conversations assumes heightened significance."

3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
"The turbo-charged pace of society leaves people with little time for reflection.... Spiritual practices like contemplation, solitude, silence, and simplicity are rare. Practical to a fault, Americans consider survival in the present to be much more significant than eternal security and spiritual possibilities."

4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
"Despite the increased emphasis, churches run the risk of watching congregants’ engagement wane unless they embrace a strong spiritual basis for such service. Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power."

5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
"There are fewer and fewer issues that Christians believe churches should be dogmatic about. The idea of love has been redefined to mean the absence of conflict and confrontation, as if there are no moral absolutes that are worth fighting for. That may not be surprising in a Church in which a minority believes there are moral absolutes dictated by the scriptures."

6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
"The most influential aspect of Christianity in America is how believers do - or do not - implement their faith in public and private.... With little time or energy available for or devoted to research and reflection, it is people’s observations of the integration of a believer’s faith into how he/she responds to life’s opportunities and challenges that most substantially shape people’s impressions of and interest in Christianity."

Sobering observations.

Sheep tend to reflect their shepherds. Pastors, please heed these inspired words!
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Metro Detroit doesn't need more gospel; Metro Detroit needs the right gospel.


The Message of the Bible in 240 Words

Friday, February 4, 2011

D. A. Carson:

"God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

"But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

"In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

"The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17)."

"The Biblical Gospel" in For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (London: Evangelical Alliance, 1986), p. 80.

HT: Of First Importance


Distortions of the Gospel

Thursday, January 27, 2011

James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago has written a tremendous article exposing "Five Distortions of the Gospel in Our Day." Here's how it begins:

A.W. Tozer and James Kennedy (both wonderful Christian leaders in their day)...believed that many, if not most, professing believers they encountered around the country were not actually saved. They were deeply troubled by the distortions of the gospel that were the result of trying to get the gospel to more people. Well intentioned yes, but eternally dangerous for the souls of men and woman who had not heard the whole message.
Let me strongly encourage you to read the whole article. It is a word of exhortation sorely needed in our day, particularly right here in metro Detroit. Many prominent pastors in our area have sadly stooped to preaching what MacDonald calls the "Cake Mix Gospel," the "Cultural Gospel," the "Cool Gospel," the "Carnal Gospel," or the "Careful Gospel." No matter how well intentioned, a distortion of the gospel is as bad as no gospel at all (Gal. 1:8-9).

Metro Detroit doesn't need more gospel; Metro Detroit needs the right gospel. Check back for more on this topic soon...


Can You Hear the Cries of the Children?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 23 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

Justin Taylor links to a disturbing video produced by, which includes graphic images of "the modern-day holocaust."

You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb.... My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my embryo. (Psalm 139:13-16)


Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy

Friday, January 21, 2011

"In the late Seventeenth Century in...southern France, a girl named Marie Durant was brought before the authorities, charged with the Huguenot heresy. She was fourteen years old, bright, attractive, marriageable. She was asked to abjure the Huguenot faith. She was not asked to commit an immoral act, to become a criminal, or even to change the day-to-day quality of her behavior. She was only asked to say, "J'abjure." No more, no less. She did not comply. Together with thirty other Huguenot women she was put into a tower by the sea.... For thirty-eight years she continued.... And instead of the hated word J'abjure she, together with her fellow martyrs, scratched on the wall of the prison tower the single word Resistez, resist!

"The word is still seen and gaped at by tourists on the stone wall at Aigues-Mortes.... We do not understand the terrifying simplicity of a religious commitment which asks nothing of time and gets nothing from time. We can understand a religion which enhances time.... but we cannot understand a faith which is not nourished by the temporal hope that tomorrow things will be better. To sit in a prison room with thirty others and to see the day change into night and summer into autumn, to feel the slow systemic changes within one's flesh: the drying and wrinkling of the skin, the loss of muscle tone, the stiffening of the joints, the slow stupefaction of the senses—to feel all this and still to persevere seems almost idiotic to a generation which has no capacity to wait and to endure."

–Karl Olsson (Passion [New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963], 116-117)


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The Convergence is three guys from Metro Detroit who love discussing faith, life, and ministry.

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