Are You Plugged In?

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

I’m asking because this last weekend I spent some time thinking about the years spent as a Christian serving on active duty in the Army’s Special Forces. How that scenario developed is another story for another time. Suffice it to say that when the Shepherd found the lost sheep and brought him back into the fold, the scenario was already in place, and I knew keeping my faith personal was not an option. But that’s not today’s story either.

This is about the question “Are you plugged in?” I ask you that because not being plugged in to Christian fellowship and Bible study can really stunt spiritual growth. We live in a fallen world surrounded by all sorts of influences detrimental to growing in our shared faith. We are also saddled with what some call a ‘sin hangover’, to use a somewhat crude analogy. It would be great if God just eradicated all of the sinful tendencies we have when we come to believe in Christ, but he doesn’t.

It goes without saying that if we are plugged into ‘power sources’ that can sustain us, we’ll not only be strong, we can be used of God in the furtherance of his Kingdom on earth. It’s the ‘plugging in’ part that I want to talk about. I don’t know about you, but I learned some things that were true when I was on active duty and are true now. They were true when I was single (living in the barracks or separated from my family because of travel), and true when our family was together. They are true now, for a couple of grandparents and empty nesters. Here are a few good principles, or rules to live by, or something in between.

  • Plug in! Connect to 1) on-base Chapel, local church, 2) Bible study or fellowship group, 3) one other believer, or 4) just a good individual Bible study. I would suggest all four, if possible.
  • Don’t wait to get invited to something, take the initiative, whether you are changing duty stations, on temporary duty or on a deployment. It says a lot about you and your desire to keep growing in faith.
  • When introducing yourself to a congregation or small group you visit, keep it simple and offer to serve. Don’t talk a lot about you have served in other places, or you might be considered a divine answer to prayer. Trust me. Be willing to serve, but take it slow.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this church or small group more about serving God, or getting stuff from God.
  • Listen more than you speak. You can learn volumes.
  • Keep a Bible handy and don’t leave home without it!

Just some tips from an old soldier. Experience is a great teacher. I assure you, NOT plugging in is always hazardous to your spiritual health. I also know that there are some of you that might be a bit apprehensive about getting connected when you find yourself in new or unfamiliar territory. CMF can help with that. We maintain a worldwide directory of CMF members, military friendly churches and other military ministries on or near military bases all over the world. There are also Bible study resources available online. Visit our Web page and look around!.

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

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Online Source

Hillsong Worship Leader Leaves the Faith

By Pastor Gabe Hughes, The Midwestern Baptist

Recently, author and former megachurch pastor Joshua Harris announced that he had left his wife and the Christian faith. The announcement came in a most 2019 way: via Instagram with a picture of himself brooding over a scenic lake (your typical Pondering Pond photo). Most known for his breakout book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, it was all too easy for a plethora of articles to emerge under the heading “Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye.”

Mere days later, Harris was posting pictures of himself at a gay pride event. Some have dared to speculate that Harris’s next big announcement will be to come out of the closet. Gossip aside, it’s clear that Harris does not intend his departure from the faith to be a quiet, contemplative step back. He will capitalize on his own name and the bankability of a star-pastor going rogue, having said he plans to start a podcast about his “journey.” Harris is not a Christian, and he’s proud of it.

Regarding Harris’s apostasy, Toby Logsdon, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Lynnwood, WA, said the following: “Amazing, isn’t it? That anyone could walk away from the Christian faith and feel liberated rather than absolutely terrified. But were it not for God’s grace sustaining our faith and preserving our place in Christ, we would deny Christ as surely and as readily as Peter did.”

With any story of apostasy, we would do well to remember the Spirit’s instruction in Philippians 2:12-13, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Harris is not the first high-profile name to leave the faith, and he won’t be the last—as we are being reminded even today. Yet another megachurch star has taken to Instagram to announce he’s no longer a Christian. You may not know the name Marty Sampson, but you know his songs. Marty has been a worship leader with Hillsong and has written or co-written dozens of hits. His praise albums have sold millions of copies, and his worship choruses have tens of millions of views on YouTube.

In a single paragraph on his Instagram (martysamps), Marty said the following:

Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith.. and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.. it’s crazy / this is a soapbox moment so here I go xx how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgemental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others. All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point… I could go on, but I won’t. Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe. Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.

It looks like it was written with the grammar and reason of an adolescent who begrudgingly went to youth group because his parents made him. But Marty Sampson is 40 years old, a husband, a father, and a church leader. As with Harris, Marty is “so at peace” with his decision. I would be, too, if the Christianity I had was the flimsy cardboard box Marty had been living in at Hillsong.

Marty says, “How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.” Um, where has he been all summer? For the last two weeks, news of Joshua Harris has consumed evangelical social media. A couple weeks before that, narcissist Mark Driscoll came in on the raft he’s reassembled from the shipwreck of his ministry to make fun of his former beliefs. A month before that, word had spread that Harvest Bible Chapel founder James MacDonald allegedly sought a hitman to murder someone. Shall I go on?

Marty says, “How many miracles happen? Not many. No one talks about it.” Consider where this is coming from—Hillsong is a charismatic megachurch that started in the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. They believe tongue-spieling, prophecy-revealing, spirit-feeling, body-reeling, super-healing miracles are going on all the time. Marty has seen through the ruse of charismaticism and recognized this stuff is totally fake. But instead of questioning the Hillsong bubble he was living in, he’s blaming all of Christendom.

Marty says, “Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.” How much has Marty actually tried to find answers for these things? The Bible has not a single contradiction. If at any point we think the Bible contradicts itself, that’s our problem, not God’s. For two thousand years, the church has not lacked teachers able to respond to such criticisms. One of my first WWUTT videos was dispelling the myth that there are contradictions between the four gospels. To say “No one talks about it” is absurdly ignorant.

Marty says, “How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to [hell], all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.” Hell is what everyone deserves because all have sinned against God. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There are many teachers who talk about the stuff Marty says no one talks about. Now, it may be true that “no one talks about” hell at Hillsong because it’s an uncomfortable doctrine that will keep people from buying CD’s. Sales will truly drop if they go from singing about happy-go-lucky Jesus to the Jesus who will strike down the nations (see Revelation 19:11-16).

Marty says, “I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth.” That may be a picture of what Marty encountered at Hillsong. Maybe he tried to ask questions about these things, but the depth of the answers he got was “I just believe it.” We as Christians are instructed to grow in the knowledge of God through the Bible. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians to be “bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). In Christ we find “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and we are to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10).

Hillsong is not the place to find knowledge. One of their own pastors, Carl Lentz, was asked by Oprah, “Do you believe that only Christians can be in relationship with God?” Lentz replied, “No. I believe that when Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ the way I read that, he’s the road-marker.” What on earth does that mean? No wonder Marty has had trouble finding “genuine truth.” Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). If genuine truth is what Marty wants, he must turn to Jesus and away from Hillsong.

Marty says, “Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion,” which is just his way of saying, “I’m a natural-minded man who can’t discern spiritual things” (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). Marty says, “Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God.” This is the fruit of Lentz’s reply to Oprah. Jesus is not a life-improvement plan. He’s the only way to God, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection from the dead!

If this is Marty Sampson’s farewell letter to Christianity, then all he reveals here is that he was never a Christian in the first place. We read in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

There are many who scoff at the idea that a former believer didn’t really believe in the first place. But just take Marty at his own words. In his song Elohim, he wrote, “I stand upon the solid rock of faith in Christ,” and “I know my hope shall last.” Apparently that was a lie. In the song One Thing, Marty wrote, “One thing I desire, one thing I seek, to gaze upon your beauty.” The bridge goes, “I will seek your face, call upon your name, Jesus, all I want is you.” But Marty is no longer seeking Christ and is not calling on His name. It cannot be that Jesus was all he wanted.

The chorus of the song goes, “Lord your name is higher than the heavens, Lord your name is higher than all created things.” That’s certainly true, but it wasn’t for Marty. How could a person believe with all his heart in the greatest truth that could ever be known, and then turn around and call it a lie? Such a thing would be impossible. The truth of God cannot be denied by those who have truly beheld its power. Marty did not have faith—he had a passing opinion. He never truly believed the name of Jesus is the name above all names. If he did, he’d be falling on his face in fear of his unbelief, not comfortably musing, “I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.”

Marty says, “I’ve never been about living my life for others.” Now, Marty what means is that the opinions of others regarding his newly minted apostasy are not going to change his mind. But unfortunately, this is, like Joshua Harris’s confession, an unapologetic statement of pride. That’s exactly who Marty is living for—he is living for himself.

His closing words are equally sad and ironic: “Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.” When the Apostle Paul rebuked some of the Corinthians for not believing in the resurrection of Jesus, he said, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Without hope in the resurrection of Christ, we have no hope at all. Marty is conceding to the purposeless of life apart from Jesus, whether or not Marty is aware that’s what he just confessed.

Our hearts should break when we hear of stories like Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson. They no doubt have family members whose hearts are also breaking. The day of judgment will be most dreadful for the one who heard the truth, even shared the truth, and yet did not believe it themselves. That is a frightening thing to consider. May none of us ever be too proud, but may we submit to our Father in heaven with fear and trembling. Pray for one another, that we may stand strong in a time of trial. “Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

We worship a good God, and without His grace none of us would be saved. Draw near to Him, cling all the more to Christ, who has sealed us with His Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

“God wants to choose YOU!”

The above statement is from a recent Facebook post with a link to a message presented at one of a mega-church’s many campuses by a young enthusiastic pastor. The FB post included a short excerpt from the actual message and invited the reader to listen to it in its entirety.

When I first read “God wants to choose YOU!” my immediate thought was:

“God WANTS to choose you?”

I didn’t remember anything in scripture that says, or implies, that  God ‘wants/wanted’ to choose anything or anyone. My second thought was this:

“God wants to choose YOU, but . . . . .”

But ‘what’? How many times has any one of us had an experience something like “I wanted to buy such and such, but. . . .” There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? I wanted to hear the young preacher’s ‘but’, although I suspected an end of sermon invitation of some sort. So I listened to the entire sermon. I also had a pleasant FB conversation with the gentleman who posted the invitation.

On to the message. It was based primarily on a single passage, 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (NKJV)

The pastor then presented a lot of truth from scripture concerning salvation, grace, and the fact that the only thing we bring to our own salvation is SIN. It was really good!

At the same time, he suggested that Peter’s theme in the letter was to persuade/convince the elect exiles of their identity as believers, as if maybe they weren’t sure, or had doubts. I would disagree with that. Peter was reminding them of who they were and proceeded to encourage them to persevere through suffering. I base my disagreement on having studied both of Peter’s letters recently in an adult Bible Study using John MacArthur’s study guide, and multiple commentaries I consulted as the leader of our small group.

Back to my immediate thoughts concerning the thought “God wants to choose YOU, but. . .”

But what? God can’t just choose for himself whomever he wants and make it happen? He is God, after all. Well, he could, but before he chooses, something else has to happen? What might that be?

While the young pastor didn’t specifically include a “but” at the end of his key assertion, the clear implication is that he meant “but YOU need to do something”. That would be perfectly consistent with the thought by many, if not most evangelicals, that God ‘elects/chooses’ those who he knows will choose him. That’s called the ‘prescient’ view of God’s foreknowledge – that God looked down the corridors of time and chose those who would choose him. Is that scriptural? I’ll leave that there for you to ponder.

As for this young pastor, I pray that he would listen to his own sermon, the glorious portrait of the total sovereignty of God in salvation he painted for his audience, and then realize the invitation he gave left the determining factor in salvation up to human decision.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, ESV)

Book Review–“Why I Am Not an Arminian”

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“Why I Am Not an Arminian”, by Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams was written as a response to “Why I Am Not a Calvinist, by Jerry Walls. My understanding is that the authors would really have liked to call it “Why I am a Calvinist”, but went with the above title at the request of those who wanted to highlight the contrast with the previously written Jerry Walls book.

Nevertheless, I now have the book and have finished reading it. It might be the best and most gracious explanation of the differences between both theological systems. I’ve read and collected a lot of material discussing both systems and this might be the most thoughtful and easy to understand source I have come across to date!

Here is the Amazon summary and a short review:

From Amazon.com:

“Arminian theology is sweeping through the evangelical churches of North America. While most Arminians are good, sincere, orthodox Christians, authors Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams contend that aspects of Arminian thought are troubling both biblically and theologically. In particular, they argue, Arminians have too lofty a view of human nature and an inadequate understanding of God’s sovereign love in Christ.

‘Why I Am Not an Arminian’ explores the biblical, theological and historical background to the Calvinist-Arminian debate. The irenic nature and keen insight of this book will be appreciated by lay people, pastors and scholars alike.”

Another review offered:

“Peterson and Williams write with a grace which goes far deeper than their commendable style. The authors’ Arminian conversants are fairly represented from their best literature and answered with impeccable arguments which are scripturally compelling, philosophically and historically exacting, and gracefully irenic. ‘Why I Am Not an Arminian’ is a book that you can get your head and your heart around–and be graced!”

The authors, Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams are both on the faculty at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO.

The Power of God in Salvation

15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:15-16, ESV)

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul expressed his eagerness to personally visit Roman believers and preach to them the gospel face-to-face. He then explains why he so eager, because (for) the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

The above passage poses to us two questions, 1) What is the gospel?, and 2) What is this “power of God” of which Paul speaks?

The answer to the first question, ‘What is the gospel?’ is really simple, since Paul defined it, and very specifically, in his first letter to the Corinthian church;

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

As to the second question, What is the power of God for salvation?

First of all it is for, or unto salvation, meaning that it’s a power that unfailingly moves an unbeliever to repent of sin and believe in Christ, and then carries the new believer all the way to ultimate glorification and eternity in the presence of God, and his Son. Why do I say this? Because of what Paul tells us later on in the same letter to the Roman church:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.(Romans 8:28-30, ESV)

Note that in the above passage Paul first tells us that everything works together for the ultimate good of the those who love God and have been called according to his (God’s) purpose. Most of are familiar with, and love that verse. We also tend to separate it from what follows – the WHY of Paul’s argument. With the use of the preposition ‘for’, Paul tells us how all the ‘stuff of life’ works for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Secondly, this salvation pertains to a group of people he calls ‘foreknown’ ones. God foreknew them, not what they might do at some point in their lives. The text is unmistakably clear. It’s the same ‘knowing’ expressed concerning the prophet Jeremiah, of whom God said “before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you”. And on behalf of all those whom God foreknew, he demonstrated his mighty power in

It’s predestining, or predetermining power. We are told that God determined beforehand that a certain group of people would be conformed to the image of his Son, not that he would create the possibility to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you are thinking that salvation is not in view here, think again. Does being conformed to the image of Christ require salvation, or not? if the former is predestined, so must be the latter.

It’s calling power. It’s a call that produces the desired results, each and every time it goes forth. Jesus didn’t ask dead, stinking Lazarus if he would consider coming out of the grave, He commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” If God’s call of the guilty sinner is ‘for salvation’, guess what is going to happen?

It’s justifying power. When God justifies, he declares the sinner perfectly righteous IN Christ, although not a one of us will die completely free of sin in our mortal selves. Who is IN Christ? All those who have been predestined to be conformed to Christ and called by God to repent of sin and believe in Christ.

And finally, it’s glorifying power. Just as Christ was resurrected and glorified in the presence of God, at whose right hand he now sits, all who were foreknown, predestined, called, and justified, were also glorified. Note the past tense used on our Romans passage. It’s important. It’s a done deal in the mind of God! We have yet to see it, but God has decreed it!

You might have noticed that sanctifying power is not mentioned in our Romans passage. I would like to suggest that sanctification is undeniably implicit in God’s having predestined those he foreknew to be conformed to the image of his Son,  We would all agree (Reformed and non-Reformed) that being conformed to the image of our Savior is the very definition of progressive sanctification,

In concluding this article, I ask you one thing. Do you think, even for a moment, that the power of God for salvation that is described herein could be thwarted by any other power?

Dear Lord, we pray that those who are already yours will be greatly humbled in the face of your power to save. We pray also that wherever there are those in need of salvation power, you would open hearts to hear the gospel, and send messengers to share that gospel.