I Know a Man...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I know a baby boy who was born in the most incredible circumstances. His birthplace was an animal barn, but men bowed down before him as if he were royalty. Angels announced his birth. Scholars traveled thousands of miles to bring him gifts. The king of that land was so jealous he attempted to put this baby to death. It was said of this boy that he had no human father.

I know a child who grew up humbly, sweating away in a carpenter’s shop. Yet at the age of twelve he amazed some of the brightest scholars around with his intelligence.

I know a man who was introduced by a voice from the sky that said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am delighted.”

I know a man who could read people’s minds…see right into the depths of their soul…tell them all about their past as soon as he met them.

I know a man who turned water into wine. He healed a sick young boy from 18 miles away. He touched a man with a deadly skin disease, and the man was completely cleansed. He commanded a paralytic to get up and walk – and the man walked! He touched a coffin and a dead man immediately came to life. He scolded a storm and it stopped. He stood down a lunatic in a graveyard and cast out a multitude of demons. A woman touched the hem of his clothing and her 12-year sickness was healed. He took a twelve year old girl by the hand and raised her from the dead. He gave blind men sight and made a mute man speak and caused a deaf man to hear. He multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish so that they fed over 5,000 people. He walked on water. He shouted into a tomb and a dead man came to life and walked out.

I know a man who said the most amazing things:
“Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God”
“Everyone who drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
“Love your enemies”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”
“Do not be anxious for your life…but seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness”
“Do unto others and you would have them do unto you”
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest”
“Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother”
“Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
“The very hairs of your head are numbered, therefore do not fear”
“He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it”
 “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
“If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed”
“The last will be first, and the first will be last”
“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”
“There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”
“I am the light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved”
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
“I am the resurrection and the life”
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.”
“I am the true vine, and you are the branches”
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I know a man who reached out to the outcasts of society: fishermen, foreigners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and notorious sinners.

I know a man who told people the truth about our condition:
“Men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil”
 “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty… Everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her in his heart”
“Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”
 “Unless you repent, you will perish”

I know a man who wept with compassion for crowds of people, and spoke good news to them, and healed the sick.

I know a man who claimed to be the fulfillment of hundreds of centuries-old prophecies. Claimed to be the Son of God. Claimed to be the maker of the universe. Claimed to have authority to judge everyone. Claimed to be sent by God. Claimed to be one with God. Claimed to be the only way to God. Claimed that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

I know a man who was transfigured before three of his friends. His face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light. Again, a voice from the sky said, “This is my beloved Son, my chosen one – listen to him!”

I know a man who said he would be killed by government authorities, then rise from the dead after three days.

I know a man who rode into a city on a donkey and was hailed as king by crowds of people.

I know a man who talked down a mob of intellectuals looking to trap him in his words.

I know a man who got down on his knees and washed the dusty feet of his followers.

I know a man who claimed that he existed from eternity past.

I know a man who was forsaken by all. Rejected by his family. Feared by the government. Hated by religious leaders. Betrayed by a companion. Denied by his chief disciple. Abandoned by his closest friends in the hour of his greatest pain.

I know a man who sweated drops of blood out of agony for what awaited him.

I know a man who allowed himself to be arrested on false pretenses. He was tried by a biased court, testified against with lies. He was charged with blasphemy and troublemaking. He was found not guilty but sentenced to death anyway. The man who calmed wild storms allowed himself to be cruelly mocked. The man who healed the sick was viciously whipped. A large ring of long thorns was beaten into his skull. He was lifted up on a rough wooden frame. For hours he bled in plain view of the crowds. His power was questioned, his words were ridiculed, his claim to be God was scorned. Despite his agony, he offered forgiveness. Darkness fell over the land in the middle of the day, as this man endured the wrath of God. This sinless man took the punishment for my sins and your sins and the sins of men, women, and children from every age and every nation. Then this man shouted “It is finished” and gave up his life.

I know a man whose body lay in a common tomb for three days, but who could not be overcome by death. I know a man who was raised to life as proof that everything he said was true. He is God. He can forgive sins. He can grant eternal life.

I know a man who appeared to hundreds of people as proof of his resurrection.

I know a man who forgave those who abandoned him.

I know a man who promised his followers: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

I know a man who rose up into the clouds, but promised to return someday to rule over the earth and to be with his people. Today - this very moment - he is alive and well.

I don’t just know about this man… I know him. I’ve met him. He calls me his brother and his friend. He has forgiven my sins and given me life. And it’s my joy to announce that you can know him too! His name is Jesus.


HBC Statement on Homosexuality and "Gay Marriage"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The creator God, to whom all are accountable, has revealed Himself and His will in His perfect Word, the Bible.

The Bible confines sexual relationships to marriage. The Bible defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman. These limitations are for our good and for God's glory. Biblically (and historically), there is no such thing as “gay marriage.”
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb. 13:4)
[Jesus] answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? (Matt. 19:4-5)

Because of the fall of man into sin (Gen. 3), all men and women struggle with various forms of perverse sexual orientation. An inclination toward these perversions (temptation) is not sin. However, acting upon any of these orientations is sin and offends a holy God.
  • Sex before marriage
  • Adultery
  • Heterosexual relationships with multiple partners
  • Sex with children and/or forced sex with an unwilling partner (these perversions are particularly egregious)
  • Homosexual relationships
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Rom. 1:24-27)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)

The essence of sin is idolatry – the worship of a false god. When I set up anything as a priority above the God of the Bible, including my own desires, sin results. As complex as perverse sexual orientations can be, at the root of each perversion is a worship disorder (Rom. 1:21-25).
Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. (Rom. 1:21)

The gospel gives us hope. Jesus Christ offers Himself as the Savior for sinners, regardless of the nature and extent of our sin. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I can be forgiven of any and every sin (1 Jn. 1:9). As I begin to worship the true God, he gives me strength to overcome sin by His Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25). And in Christ I have the hope of future perfection: an eternity with God completely removed from sin (1 Jn. 3:2).
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

In a culture that increasingly affirms homosexual practice and advocates “gay marriage,” here are a few necessary Christian responses:
  1. A wholehearted love for God. This includes submission to his Word and a sincere renouncing and turning from our own sin.
  2. A humble love for our neighbors. This doesn’t always involve affirming and advocating what they want, but affirming and advocating what is best for them and best for society. (By the way, this doesn’t just apply to the issue of homosexuality.)
  3. A broken-hearted gospel invitation to all who will hear. Our God is still mighty to save!
 The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God…. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)


Mr. By-Ends and the American "Christian"

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's comforting to know that weaknesses currently plaguing American "Christianity" are not unique to our age. Over 300 years ago, in his classic tale The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan described a character eerily similar to many modern evangelicals. Note carefully the words of Mr. By-Ends, his interaction with the faithful men Christian and Hopeful, and the twisted reasoning of his friends Mr. Hold-the-World, Mr. Money-Love, and Mr. Save-All. I've italicized portions which seem to me most typical of American "Christianity."


So I saw that, quickly after they were got out of the fair, they overtook one that was going before them, whose name was BY-ENDS; So they said to him, "What countryman, sir? and how far go you this way?" He told them that he came from the town of Fairspeech; and he was going to the Celestial City (but told them not his name).

Chr. "From Fairspeech!" said CHRISTIAN; "is there any that be good live there?"

By-ends. "Yes," said BY-ENDS, "I hope."

Chr. "Pray, sir, what may I call you?" said CHRISTIAN.

By-ends. I am a stranger to you, and you to me: if you be going this way, I shall be glad of your company: if not, I must be content.

Chr. "This town of Fairspeech," said CHRISTIAN, "I have heard of; and, as I remember, they say it is a wealthy place."

By-ends. Yes, I will assure you that it is; and I have very many rich kindred there.

Chr. Pray who are your kindred there, if a man may be so bold?

By-ends. Almost the whole town: and in particular, my Lord TURN-ABOUT; my Lord TIME-SERVER; my Lord FAIRSPEECH (from whose ancestors that town first took its name); also Mr. SMOOTH-MAN; Mr. FACING-BOTH-WAYS; Mr. ANY-THING; and the parson of our parish, Mr. TWO-TONGUES, was my mother's own brother by father's side. And to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality; yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way and rowing another-- and I got most of my estate by the same occupation.

Chr. Are you a married man?

By-ends. Yes; and my wife is a very virtuous woman--the daughter of a virtuous woman. She is my Lady FEIGNING'S daughter; therefore she came of a very honourable family, and is arrived to such a pitch of breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to prince and peasant. 'Tis true, we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort; yet but in two small points: First, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers--we love much to walk with him in the street if the sun shines, and the people applaud it.

Then CHRISTIAN stepped a little aside to his fellow HOPEFUL, saying, "It runs in my mind that this is one BY-ENDS, of Fairspeech and if it be he, we have as very a knave in our company as dwells in all these parts." Then said HOPEFUL, "Ask him; methinks he should not be ashamed of his name." So CHRISTIAN came up with him again, and said, "Sir, you talk as if you knew something more than all the world doth; and if I take not my mark amiss, I deem I have half a guess of you: Is not your name Mr. BY-ENDS, of Fairspeech?"

By-ends. That is not my name: but indeed it is a nickname that is given me by some that cannot abide me: and I must be content to bear it as a reproach, as other good men have borne theirs before me.

Chr. But did you never give an occasion to men to call you by this name?

By-ends. Never, never! the worst that ever I did to give them an occasion to give me this name was, that I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the present way of the times, whatever it was, and my chance was to gain thereby; but if things are thus cast upon me, let me count them a blessing, but let not the malicious load me therefore with reproach.

Chr. I thought indeed that you were the man that I had heard of; and to tell you what I think, I fear this name belongs to you more properly than you are willing we should think it doth.

By-ends. Well, if you will thus imagine, I cannot help it. You shall find me a fair company-keeper, if you will still admit me your associate.

Chr. If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide, the which, I perceive, is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags as well as when in his silver slippers; and stand by him too when bound in irons, as well as when he walks the streets with applause.

By-ends. You must not impose nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you.

Chr. Not a step farther, unless you will do, in what I propound, as we.

By-ends. Then said BY-ENDS, "I shall never desert my old principles, since they are harmless and profitable. If I may not go with you, I must do as I did before you overtook me: even go by myself, until some overtake me that will be glad of my company."

Now I saw in my dream that CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL forsook him, and kept their distance before him; but one of them looking back, saw three men following Mr. BY-ENDS; and behold, as they came up with him, he made them a very low bow, and they also gave him a compliment. The men's names were, Mr. HOLD-THE-WORLD, Mr. MONEY-LOVE, and Mr. SAVE-ALL--men that Mr. BY-ENDS had formerly been acquainted with; for in their minority they were schoolfellows, and were taught by one Mr. GRIPEMAN, a schoolmaster in Love-gain, which is a market town in the county of Coveting, in the north. This schoolmaster taught them the art of getting, either by violence, fraud, flattery, lying, or by putting on a guise of religion; and these four gentlemen had attained much of the art of their master, so that they could each of them have kept such a school themselves.

Well, when they had, as I said, thus saluted each other, Mr. MONEY-LOVE said to Mr. BY-ENDS, "Who are they upon the road before us?" For CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL were yet within view.

By-ends. They are a couple of far countrymen, that, their mode, are going on pilgrimage.

Money-love. Alas! why did they not stay, that we might have had their good company; for they, and we, and you, sir, I hope, are all going on a pilgrimage?

By-ends. We are so, indeed; but the men before us are so rigid, and love so much their own notions, and do also so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that even if a man be never so godly, yet, if he jumps not with them in all things, they thrust him quite out of their company.

Mr. Save-all. That's bad; but we read of some that are righteous overmuch, and such men's rigidness prevails with them to judge and condemn all but themselves. But, I pray, what and how many were the things wherein you differed?

By-ends. Why, they, after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is their duty to rush on their journey all weathers; and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap; and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men be against them; but I am for religion in and so far as the times and my safety will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his golden slippers in the sunshine, and with applause.

Mr. Hold-the-World. Aye, and hold you there still, good Mr. BY-ENDS; for, for my part, I can count him but a fool, that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it. Let us be wise as serpents; 'tis best to make hay when the sun shines: you see how the bee lies still all winter, and bestirs her only when she can have profit with pleasure. God sends sometimes rain, and sometimes sunshine; if they be such fools to go through the first, yet let us be content to take fair weather along with us. For my part, I like that religion best that will stand with the security of God's good blessings unto us; for who can imagine, that is ruled by his reason, since God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life, but that he would have us keep them for his sake? Abraham and Solomon grew rich in religion. And Job says, "That a good man shall lay up gold as dust." But he must not be such as the men before us, if they be as you have described them.

Mr. Save-all. I think that we are all agreed in this matter; and therefore there need be no more words about it.

Mr. Money-love. No, there need be no more words about this matter indeed; for he that believes neither Scripture nor reason (and you see we have both on our side), neither knows his own liberty nor seeks his own safety.

Friends, don't be surprised or shaken by modern compromises; truly there is nothing new under the sun. Let us guard our hearts against anything that would steal our love for Christ. And let us hope anew in the gospel, which was the answer for 1678 England and is still the answer for 2012 America.


Life is Long, Life is Short

Friday, June 1, 2012

So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Encouragement for disciplers in God's church:

Life is long - so be patient as you minister to people. Don't put yourself under pressure to teach everything there is to know in a single sermon, or fix all of someone's problems overnight. You are likely just one factor among many in an individual's spiritual life and growth. In most cases God began His work in someone before bringing them your way, and in most cases God will continue His work in someone after moving them on from your influence. One plants, another waters, but God causes the growth. 

At the same time...

Life is short - so maintain a sense of urgency as you prepare people for eternity. You never know how long someone will be in your life. God in His grace can use your momentary influence to change an individual for eternity! Life is a vapor. Your speaking God's truth to someone today may be vital.

May the Lord give us wisdom and grace as we minister in light of these two realities.


A Few Sincere Questions

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

At last month's Harvest University conference, James MacDonald gave a message containing some practical admonitions to 2,000 Harvest Bible Fellowship pastors and ministry leaders. Portions of the message were good and helpful, but one rather disturbing portion revealed MacDonald's thinking on how he handles disagreement. Please note that these comments were not said accidentally or in obscurity. These statements have not been twisted or pulled out of context. On the contrary, MacDonald chose to highlight this portion of his message on his blog. Note carefully the section beginning at 14:43.

I sincerely urge ministry leaders, particularly in the Harvest Bible Fellowship, to carefully consider the following questions:

- Out of all the verses in Scripture, why would MacDonald want those two verses to be his elders' favorites? Would you really have these two verses be your elders' favorite? Should two verses about rejecting factious men be elevated over the many verses about the importance of sound doctrine? Or the many verses about gentleness and love?

- Do these verses really describe someone who simply disagrees with the pastor (as MacDonald implies)? Or do these verses actually describe a false teacher dividing the church with false doctrine? Do you think it's mere coincidence that this message was preached just days after Mike Bryant and HBC Grayslake were removed from HBF simply for disagreeing with James MacDonald?

- Should we really be so pessimistic about the Lord's ability to change someone? Should a man be a pastor of God's flock if he is resigned to people "being as they have been"?

- How do you feel about MacDonald "releasing you" to build a catapult in your church's parking lot and load it regularly? Does this strike you as a healthy pastoral admonition? Are these the words of a shepherd or of a CEO?

- Does James MacDonald have the right to "release you" to do anything? Do you consider him a fellow pastor, or is he above you - with the authority to tell you what to do as you lead your local assembly?

- If you are to take seriously MacDonald's admonition to catapult factious men into other churches, what implications does this have for the body of Christ as a whole? If a man is truly factious (as Scripture defines it), should we not warn other churches rather than catapulting factious men into them?

- Did MacDonald have the right to call for loyalty to himself by using the words of Jesus in John 6? What is more important, loyalty to a man or loyalty to the Lord? Do you have the courage to do the right thing when the two conflict?

Lastly, perhaps you would consider making this passage your elders' favorite:
Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
(1 Timothy 6:9-12)


Kevin DeYoung and Shane and Shane at Five Points Community Church

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm grateful for Five Points Community Church in Auburn Hills, MI. Their elders are examples of faithful ministry and their church is known in southeast Michigan for their clarity and passion in proclaiming Christ. Another reason I'm grateful for them is because they regularly serve area churches by making good resources available. For example, they recently hosted a conference on adoption that some members of our church really appreciated and benefited from. In about a month or so, Five Points is hosting a one day seminar on preaching entitled Preaching Christ: The Pastor as Herald of the Gospel. The speakers are Kevin DeYoung, Stephen Um, and Brent Nelson. If you're a pastor in the Metro-Detroit area, this is something to clear your schedule for. You can register here.

That same night, the church is hosting a Shane & Shane concert. While the cost of the seminar covers the price of admission to the concert, anyone can attend. You can purchase tickets here.

Here's a song of theirs I've listened to a number of times since my daughter was born, because it always feels like it was written with me specifically in mind. If you have a daughter, listen to this and be challenged and encouraged to draw your daughters attention to Jesus (watch the whole thing).

*Cross-posted from David Crabb


Don't Be Holier Than Jesus!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows." ~N.D. Wilson
I came across this quote last night and it really resonated with me. It encapsulated and said so well a few things I've been mulling over in my mind for the last several months. I recently preached a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16, which is the passage where Jesus tells his followers that they are salt and light in this world. What follows is a portion of that sermon talking about how, in light of this passage, we should view the world, the culture, and our pursuit of holiness.
"Jesus' teaching here should keep us from two common errors that Christians have made in regards to their relationship to the world: the first error is that the world is basically good and will gradually become better and (perhaps) even perfect through Christian social action. In opposition to this view, Christ says that the world is basically rotten. The second error is the view that because the world is basically rotten, the Christian should try to disassociate himself from the world as much as possible, staying away from 'bad influences.' So we guard, protect, and shelter and do everything with people in our church and perhaps other Christians. It's clear that as salt, the Christian is to be a preserving force in the world wherever God has placed him.
"James Montgomery Boice says, 'The salt never did any good when it was on one shelf and the meat on another. To be effective, the salt had to be rubbed into the meat. In a similar way, Christians must allow God to rub them into the world.' This means that we must be Christians at work, Christians in politics, Christians at home, Christians at the soccer games, Christians at the rec center, Christians everywhere.
"Boice continues, 'Oh, someone says, "that would mean that I would have to be taken out of the salt shaker and spread around, and I might get dirty and even seem to dissolve or disappear!" Yes, that is what it means. In fact, there is even a sense in which the salt must dissolve if the flavor is to be released.'
"Christian, beware of talk of 'holiness' that is holier than Jesus. Often, holiness (which means separateness) is taken to mean separateness from sinners rather than separateness from sin itself. Jesus didn't just take you straight to heaven when you were saved, he left you here for a purpose--a mission (Matt. 28:19-20). If your mentality is that the world is really awful and full of bad influences, so I'm just going to hunker down with my family and other like-minded Christians until Jesus comes, then you are sinning. You have lost your saltiness. Jesus is going to say later, 'Let your light shine!'
"Do you know non-Christians? Parents, do your children know non-Christians? Under the name of 'sheltering' are you keeping them from the mission Jesus gave them? Are you raising a house plant or an oak? By God's grace, let us be people who stand strong for Jesus, proclaiming His message with boldness, compassion, and clarity. Let us be ambassadors on mission for King Jesus. Let us be brilliant light that penetrates the deepest of darkness. Until Jesus comes, and for the praise of His glorious grace."

*Cross-posted from davecrabb.com.


Never Give Up!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our church is currently studying the book of Acts on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday we were blessed by Acts 9, the story of Saul's unexpected conversion. Jesus changed him overnight from a fierce persecutor of the church to a bold messenger of the gospel.

We also were blessed by this corresponding testimony by one of our members, who prayed for an antagonistic co-worker even when he seemed like a lost cause. I know you will be encouraged by her story. Never give up on your family or acquaintances who are far from the Lord! The God who spoke light out of darkness is still in the business of creating faith in the darkest of hearts.

Gospel Story: Michelle from Harvest Detroit West on Vimeo.


Judgmentalism and "Defending the Truth"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Our church is currently studying through the Gospel of Matthew, and this Sunday we are considering together Matthew 7:1-6 and Jesus' teaching on a critical spirit (or judgmentalism). I was reading through D.A. Carson's thoughts on this passage earlier today and was struck with the particular section focused on the manifestation of a critical spirit when it comes to doctrinal disagreement between Christian brothers. Carson notes:
Doctrinal critics can be among the most offensive in this regard. The doctrinal critic may agree that another person is a brother in Christ, has been significantly used of the Lord, is thoughtful and sincere in his submission to Scripture; but because the critic focuses on the one area of doctrine in which the two disagree, this other brother may be painted publicly in hues of gray and black. That Christians are to demonstrate observable love (John 13:34f; 17:20-23) is lost to while the critic "defends the truth."

I am not minimizing the significance of truth, nor denying that there are limits to fellowship. I am saying two things.

First, genuine believers have more in common than they recognize when, with a sectarian mentality, they focus attention and energy on points of difference, largely to reinforce what they construe as their own raison d'etre ["reason for existence"]. If I wholeheartedly embrace only those fellow Christians who see things exactly the way I do, I will never embrace anyone, except, perhaps, a handful of weak-minded followers.

Second, we must never lose sight of the stress in Matthew 7:1-5 on attitudes. Christians will honestly disagree on doctrinal points, but to become very heated helps no one. There ought to be clear-headed discussion of the differences, with honest submission to the Word of God and a repudiation of arguments which consistently and without cause ascribe unworthy motives to the opposing brothers.
A few thoughts:
(1) My prayer is for grace from God to cultivate a catholicity ("universality") of spirit in my life, family, and ministry. I want to be eager to think the best of other Christians, to glory in the big, important things that we hold in common, and to endeavor not to be cynical or suspicious.
(3) It is important to have a way to think through the weightiness of a particular doctrinal position. Am I really "defending the truth" or am I making a secondary issue a primary issue? Am I really "defending the truth" or just my application of the truth? Am I really "defending the truth" or just a sub-cultural norm? Any life or ministry that is going to actually defend the (real) truth in a way that is full of grace, seasoned with salt; must have a way of ordering doctrines.


Wisdom for the Modern Church from the Not-So-Distant Past

Friday, January 20, 2012

“I trust I am not given to finding fault where there is not fault. But I cannot open my eyes without seeing things done in our Churches which thirty years ago were not so much as dreamed of. In the matter of amusements, professors have gone far in the way of laxity. What is worse, the Churches have now conceived the idea that it is their duty to amuse the people…. What folly has been left untried? What absurdity has not been too great for the consciences of those who profess to be the children of God—who are not of the world but called to walk with God in a separated life?  The world regards the high pretensions of such men as hypocrisy. And truly I do not know another name for them….

Surely there is a sobriety of behavior which is consistent with a work of Divine Grace in the heart and there is a levity which betokens that the spirit of evil is supreme…. We have gone from liberty to libertinism. We have passed beyond the dubious into the dangerous and none can prophesy where we shall stop. Where is the holiness of the Church of God today? …Now she is dim as smoking flax and rather the object of ridicule than of reverence.
May not the measure of the influence of a Church be estimated by its holiness? If the great host of professing Christians were in domestic life and in business life sanctified by the Spirit, the Church would become a great power in the world. God’s saints may well mourn with Jerusalem when they see spirituality and holiness at so low an ebb! Others may regard this as a matter of no consequence. But we view it as the breaking forth of a leprosy.”

          - Charles Spurgeon, 1889 (“A Dirge for the Down-Grade, and A Song for Faith”)
“Pragmatic philosophy...asks no embarrassing questions about the wisdom of what we are doing or even about the morality of it. it accepts our chosen ends as right and good and casts about for efficient means and ways to get them accomplished.  When it discovers something that works it soon finds a text to justify it, "consecrates" it to the Lord and plunges ahead.  Next a magazine article is written about it, then a book, and finally the inventor is granted an honorary degree.  After that any question about the scripturalness of things or even the moral validity of them is completely swept away.  You cannot argue with success.  The method works; ergo, it must be good.
The weakness of all this is its tragic shortsightedness.  It never takes the long view of religious activity, indeed it dare not do so, but goes cheerfully on believing that because it works it is both good and true.  It is satisfied with present success and shakes off any suggestion that its works may go up in smoke in the day of Christ.
As one fairly familiar with the contemporary religious scene, I say without hesitation that a part, a very large part, of the activities carried on today in evangelical circles are not only influenced by pragmatism but almost completely controlled by it.  Religious methodology is geared to it; it appears large in our youth meetings; magazines and books constantly glorify it; conventions are dominated by it; and the whole religious atmosphere is alive with it.
What shall we do to break its power over us?  The answer is simple.  We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church.  The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it.  Any deviation from those instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.”

          - A. W. Tozer, 1970 (God Tells the Man Who Cares)
“According to God's grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one's work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one's work. If anyone's work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire....
If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, he must become foolish so that he can become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written: He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, The Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are meaningless....
A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God's mysteries. In this regard, it is expected of managers that each one of them be found faithful.”

          - The Apostle Paul, 55 (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 18-20; 4:1-2)


Concerning Our Disassociation With Harvest Bible Fellowship

Friday, January 13, 2012

Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

For five years our church has been privileged to be a part of the Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF). We appreciate the ministry of James MacDonald and the HBF leaders. We have been blessed to take part in the planting of Bible-preaching, Christ-exalting churches all over the world. Dozens of our church members have been equipped in ministry through Harvest’s annual conference. The Harvest Fellowship has had a significant role in the strengthening of our church.

However, it is with great sadness that our elders have unanimously decided to part ways with Harvest Bible Fellowship. This is not due to any change in our church’s position, but due to what we believe is a change in the Fellowship’s direction. James MacDonald seems insistent in pushing boundaries in the area of associations with men whose ministry philosophy, practice, and even theology we can’t endorse. As a member of HBF, our desire was for good, consistent, conservative leadership from HBF. When we became a member of HBF five years ago this is what we received and this is what we could wholeheartedly endorse; however, in our estimation that has changed. We have been surprised by significant decisions made by James MacDonald (and supported by HBF), resulting in our trust being shaken regarding their guidance as well as future direction as a movement of churches. Despite several personal conversations with HBF leadership, our concerns have not been assuaged.

This sort of “pushing of the boundaries” was not what we signed up for when we joined the Harvest Bible Fellowship of churches. We as elders have an obligation to guard our flock from false teaching (Acts 20:28-31). Our consciences have led us to this decision to disconnect from HBF. This has not been an easy decision at all and it is one with which we have wrestled, prayed, dialogued, studied the Scriptures, prayed some more, and wrestled over again and again throughout the last five to six months.

We love James MacDonald and the other Harvest churches, and we wish them well. We pray that God will continue to grant them fruitful ministry, and that He will spare them from error and false teaching. Please join us in prayer for God’s grace during this time of transition. We are grateful for the understanding and support that our members have shown.

- Pastor Dan and the Harvest Elders

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