Monday, May 30, 2011


Proverbs 22:3 (NLT) “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.  The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

In light of Pastor Warner’s message on Surviving Sexual Sin I thought it might be helpful to people and parents to have the following information that will help with the traps on the on-line world. 

Here are a few tools and resources to protect yourself and your family online.


Open DNS Family shield
Choose FamilyShield if you're looking for a quick, no-fuss way to protect your children from adult content online for free. No software to install. http://www.opendns.com/familyshield/

Open DNS for Households
OpenDNS Basic is a more customizable alternative and offers everything FamilyShield does, and it's also free, but it requires a few extra setup and customization steps. http://www.opendns.com/solutions/household/

Dynamic DNS Internet Guide
Take complete control of your Internet experience by blocking unsafe or unwanted content based on categories, or custom white/black lists.

View The Door CFC complete list of “Internet Safety” software and resources at http://www.thedoorcfc.com/resources-for-you/links/68-internet-safety.html

Written by David Fish

SURVIVING SEXUAL SIN
Memorial Day Weekend

I think that it’s because Memorial Day is looked at as the “unofficial” start of summer that this article caught my attention.  The headline read, “Duluth church with cabin habit scraps Sunday service, tries worship Wednesdays.”  I don’t live in a place (thank God) where there is long, cold, hard winters, so I get it that when the weather turns nice people want to get outside and enjoy themselves.  However, the message here is that God takes a backseat to our pleasures, and our conveniences instead of God being the center and source of our greatest pleasures.  So, my point is that even though it was Memorial Day weekend, we still had church!

I’m not sure if it is the best segue, but Memorial Day honors our nation’s war dead.  Well, yesterday, I spoke on another kind of “death” - the death of sexual sin, or, more specifically, on “Surviving Sexual Sin.”  The fact that we live in a sex-saturated society is almost clich√©, but the reality is that “porneia” (Bible’s all-inclusive word for any kind of sexual immorality) is everywhere.  By everywhere, I don’t mean “out there” but “in here” as well.  “American Idols” is not just the name of a popular TV reality show and musical competition; it is a fact of American life as well.  The “Idol of Sex” is not an exaggeration, but it part of a culture that is selling sex and rebellion not just to our children, but to adults as well.  All idolatry is taking something that is good, in this case our sexuality, and redefining it or experiencing it outside of God’s design and parameters.  God made us sexual beings as a good thing, but He also restricted it to the context of lifelong marriage and sexuality...also for our good!  The truth is we all feel the pull towards immorality, to satisfy legitimate desires in an illegitimate or sinful way.

You might say, why single this out?  You Christians are always doing that.  After all, isn’t all sin, sin?  Yes, theologically that is true, all sin is sin against God; but, the Bible singles out immorality in its warnings to us.  (1Cor.6:18)NLT “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”  The Message paraphrase puts it this way, “There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another.”  Sexual sin is not worse than other sins because it is more difficult for God to forgive.  No, it is worse, because it profoundly affect us, not just in some of its consequences, but in our ability to recover from it.  There have been some pretty high profile examples recently of people and sexual failure, and while the jury is still out, these people are not the same.  This was the real focus of my message: that the real tragedy of sexual sin is in its dream-destroying quality.  The tragedy is not just the sexual sin, but the tragic number of young people (older too) who at one point in their lives dreamed of radical obedience to Jesus Christ, were joyfully willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel, but now have all but faded away into uselessness.  Sexual sin is perhaps the #1 reason why young people are not passionately involved in reaching the world for Jesus.

This is always the devil’s double whammy: he tempts us into sin and various traps, then he follows it with guilt, condemnation and hopelessness.  It’s kind of like the lyrics to one of my all-time most hated songs, Kenny Rogers’s “We’ve Got Tonight.”  It drives me nuts, not because of the tune or melody, but because of the lyrics and message in it.  “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?  We’ve got tonight babe.  Why don’t you stay?”  That’s brilliant, let’s not think about tomorrow or the consequences because...we’ve got tonight.  The problem is that there is a tomorrow, and decisions tonight will affect that.  It’s the morning after when Satan unloads on you, “You’re a loser...you may as well not even go to church....and there’s no way you’re going to make a serious commitment of your life to Jesus Christ...it’s over for you.”   The tragedy of sexual sin is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of your vision and passion for Christ to the point that you give up and become content to settle for substitutes

George Verwer is the founder of Operation Mobilization, and he said and preached these words:

A major besetting sin in the youth of America is sexual immorality.  Now, the tragedy isn’t that young people are giving their bodies to lust and sensual pleasure before marriage.  Don’t be mistaken–this is tragic, indeed–but the real tragedy is what happens to the person’s life after that, the lies that young Christians believe about themselves and their destiny.” ------ “I shudder to think about how many once-radical Jesus-followers have succumbed to an ‘ordinary’ Christian lifestyle due to guilt or shame that came from some kind of sexual mistake, making them think that they could never live the radical life for God.  So, let’s pray for this generation to believe the truth about their identity in Christ and to walk boldly in it.  And let’s tell the devil to go to hell with his lies.

OK, I’ve got to stop, I’m getting carried away, and wanting to preach the whole message again!  The whole aim of the message was to take out of the devil’s hand that weapon he uses to exploit the sin in your life, so you end up wasting your life or, succumbing to hopelessness.  This is not done by stricter rules or stronger willpower Yes, wise boundaries and protective measures help, especially in our cyber-world.  But freedom, hope and deliverance comes by giving Christ his rightful place on the throne of your heart!  None of this is a license to go on sinning, but the distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection, the mark is I fight.  Not with fists or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ!  An amazing promise in this context is (Micah 7:8, 9) and it is one I intend to use in talking to people who have fallen, as well as to myself:

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.  I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.  He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.

These are words that you should meditate on long and hard and repeatedly, because “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 

Note: Thanks to John Piper and some of his messages and references to this fact and passages.
Monday, May 23, 2011

Communication, Confusion and Clarity

What turned out to be the biggest non-story of the weekend, was the prediction by Harold Camping and his followers, that Saturday, May 21, 2011 would be the “end of the world.”  The interesting thing to me was that after the coverage and attention all week long, on Sunday morning there were NO news stories about it at all!  This tells me that a lot of it was more of a “media-apocalypse” than anything.  The good news was that myself, and thousands of other faithful pastors, took this occasion to preach sound doctrine about a very important subject: the coming of the Lord, the signs of the times and the closing of the age.  Before I get into this, let me back up to Saturday.

Saturday was a “first” for me: I performed my first deaf wedding, and was blessed to officiate at the marriage of Shawn Smith and Ashley Pinnick.  I was extremely grateful to Aaron Hinds who translated, and did a phenomenal job.  He truly loves the Lord and carries a burden for the deaf community.  I encourage you to lift him up in prayer.  The reports that I received were that many in the deaf community were commenting, “This is how a deaf wedding should be done!”  If that’s true, I am very grateful.  One of the things that I took away with me was how powerful and wonderful is the God-given instinct and ability to COMMUNICATE!  This originates in creation, but also in the amazing truth that God is a speaking God - He is the Word, and desires to communicate His truth and ways.  The Book of Hebrews begins with the declaration, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.  And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.” (Heb.1:1,2) This capacity or instinct is seen in that even though there are those who are hearing-impaired, they still are able to communicate.  Sign language (ASL) has the tremendous capacity to communicate, and some of the words or signs/gestures are incredibly insightful.  The word and sign for “marriage covenant” shows the mind or forehead (the person or being) looking at two hands joined together, or the “two becoming one.”  My only regret is that I just married Kara Pinnick, and now Ashley, and in July, Wesley Pinnick is getting married to Hannah McClardy from Cape Cod.  Since the wedding ceremony will be in Cape Cod (reception later in Tucson), I won’t be able to get a “hat trick” in the Pinnick family, instead I will pass the puck to Pastor Paul Campo and be left with two goals and one “assist!”

Sunday’s message, “The Day After...The End of the World” was to confront any CONFUSIOIN relating to the newest episode of apocalyptic fever, which was Harold Camping’s prediction of 5-21-11 as the day of judgment.  (2Pet.3:1-4) spells out the importance of this truth, and how it is a strategic target in the last days. “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation."  The truth about the second coming of Jesus Christ is basic Christian doctrine, and Peter says that it is especially singled out in an attempt to discredit it.  Scoffers will mock the idea saying, “where is the promise of His coming....all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”  In other words, there is no such thing as any kind of divine intervention, especially related to judgment.  So, anyone who holds to this precious truth has to be marginalized, and portrayed as some kind of religious kook.   The problem with “date-setters” or misguided Christians like Harold Camping, is while they are as old as time, they simply give “ammunition” for mockers, scoffers and cynics.

In the process of trying to bring CLARITY there are a number of things that stand out in my mind, and not the more obvious ones like ignoring Jesus’s direct command, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,  but the Father only.”  (Matt.24:36) What are some of the life lessons we can take from all of this?
  1. In spite of the inaccuracy of Harold Camping’s prediction, there is still something that resonates in people’s hearts that the world is headed somewhere towards some kind of conclusion.  This is not becoming a “doom and gloomer,” but the things Jesus said would be “signs” of His coming are happening all around us with increasing frequency and intensity.  People all around us have a “sense” that this is true.  Camping was way off on his date, but the fact remains that judgment is still real!

  2. How do people get caught up in things like this?  Jesus’s first warning about the last days was “take heed that no man deceive you.”  All of the earmarks of error and false doctrine were present in this latest incident.  One is the element of pride.  On his website, Camping posted “It was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to the true believers by God from the Bible.”  Ahh, yes, the true believers, which embrace his teaching, and this ends up leaving out most people, including you and I.  Pride and false doctrine always go together.  When we genuinely embrace the the truth it doesn’t make us proud, instead, it deeply humbles us. The other element was the undercurrent of disdain for the traditional church.  Of course, the church needs an awakening, but beware of those who always feel that the “real thing” lies somewhere outside of the church in some special group.  Simply living out your faith daily, being planted in a local church, and doing your best to reach others with the Gospel is not enough for some.  They are looking for the “deeper things,” which in turn makes them vulnerable to error.  I’m not suggesting that God or the Bible is shallow, but He has made His truth plain for all to see and not putting it in some “hidden code” that only a few can decipher.  The plain, straight-forward message of the Gospel is what still sets people free.

  3. Our calling is to live prepared all the time.  Jesus concluded by saying, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Mt.24:44)

  4. Like a lot of things, let’s try to take advantage of them to advance the Kingdom of God!  In 1981, there was a guy from Tucson, Bill Maupin, who predicted the date of the Rapture for June 28, 1981 (like the rest, he had to revise his predictions) which also became national news.  It just so happened that at the same time we were showing what we affectionately referred to as “The Big 3" series of prophecy films.  As a result of the interest generated, and the fact that people were talking about it, we used it to invite people to church to hear the Gospel and saw numbers of people saved!  I thought you might like to see the picture of that time when we were meeting in the Circle Ballroom of the then Marriott Hotel.  Brett Buss re-dedicated his life to Jesus right at that time and he wrote me, “God can use anything, even a group of mixed-up Christians who are off-base on their Scripture interpretation to draw us to Saving Grace!”  May 21, 2011 may have come and gone, but the urgency still remains!


Remember the angel’s directive to the disciples after Jesus was taken up into heaven. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) They were not trying to dismiss or dampen their enthusiasm or expectancy in the Lord’s return, they were trying to direct it profitably into loving God with all your heart, living fruitfully, pursuing holiness, and reaching souls with the Gospel.  I think that’s still pretty good advice to all of us today. 

Let me close by shaking you up a bit!  In spite of all the nuttiness of Harold Camping and his followers, HE DID GET SOMETHING RIGHT, and that was their attempts to get the message out there!  Phil Cooke wrote these words that offer this unique twist on things:

“Over the last few months, a remarkably tiny group of people have done a brilliant job sharing their message with the world.  Inaccurate, wrong, or wacky – they have told their story far better than major Christian denominations, mega-churches, and supposed ‘media’ ministries have done.....All from a fringe radio preacher that 99% of Americans have never heard of six months ago. In the meantime, what has the rest of the Christian world been doing to get THEIR message out?....The bottom line is that most of these anemic efforts are so focused on trying to convince us that Christians are ‘just like you’ that they’ve completely lost any unique, compelling, or provocative message about the life-changing experience of following Jesus Christ......Why?  Because Harold Camping and his followers really believe their message.  When that happens, you’re not afraid to spend money, creativity, passion, and energy to make sure your story impacts people’s lives.  It’s just a shame that it’s the wrong message.  And even more of a shame the rest of us have done such a poor job of getting the right one out.”
Monday, May 16, 2011

I am always grateful for God’s grace and faithfulness that we experience in the “house of the Lord” on the Lord’s Day.  Even though we know that God inhabits the praises of His people, and Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, I am still amazed and blessed by His ministering presence!  His strength that is demonstrated in our weakness.  While I don’t want to feel shackled (and won’t be) to have to write a
“Monday Morning Musings” every week, there were still some highlights (at least in my mind) of yesterday’s time of ministry that I thought would be helpful and a blessing to you.

Frank King accompanied me to my trip to Gabon, and gave a report that included many of the pictures that he took of that time.  It was a great testimony for many reasons.  Obviously, he is personally invested in that work since, Garett, his son, and Sara his daughter-in-law, along with his three grandsons are all living in Libreville, Gabon.  What he was the most emotional about though was the church there and the people in it, even though there was the language barrier (French).  I was very touched that here is a man who has been investing in world evangelism for nearly three decades, and who has a personal connection with Gabon because of his son but.....he is deeply moved by just seeing firsthand what God is doing in the lives of people.  Beloved, this is why we do what we do!  That God can touch a mature man of many years with a new and fresh sense of vision is a powerful thing.

I preached in the morning about life’s sometimes unwelcome reality: pressure.  Specifically, learning to perform under pressure and discover God’s mercies that are new every morning.  Jesus told us that this would be a sure thing.  He said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."  He didn’t say you might have, or there’s an outside chance or slight possibility, no.  He said “in the world you will have tribulation.  Tribulation is the Greek word, “thilpsis” which was a recurring focus of my message.  It might not rank up there with “splancthna” for you who were in Conference in 2007 (another message/story), but it is still an important and frequent Bible word.  It is translated by different words (trouble; affliction; hardship) but the simplest meaning is pressure, literally or figuratively.  To be alive is to experience pressure, even though we’ve all fantasized what it would be like to escape to a place where there is no pressure!  I had someone suggest maybe Maui, but I’m partial to the Big Island.  I digress.  The outstanding truth and promise is God’s faithful promise to help us and be with us in times of pressure, even times of enormous pressure which we feel are beyond our breaking point. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation [our thilpsis]...” (2Cor.1:3,4)   Like you, I may not be particularly fond of this reality of pressure, but I crave the grace and the fact that God can use pressure times or stress to help us grow.

The highlight of the day had to have been the evening service.  It was a kind of “anniversary service” commemorating our Spanish-speaking ministry which has been functioning for over thirty years: preaching the Gospel and making disciples.  Also, the music group La Luz del Mundo, that has been ministering effectively for 26 years! 


Different men have served as overseers and pastors of that ministry, but one thing stands out in my mind: THE INCREDIBLE BLESSING OF LONG TERM LABORERS!  In our transient society, and celebrity culture (the proverbial 15-minutes of fame), to have people who faithfully labor for Christ year after year, and now decade after decade, is beyond words.  Pastor German Gastelum who was one of the original members of that music group preached and gave the altar call in an anointed fashion.  All I can say to all of these people is THANK YOU, and that it is a true privilege to serve the Lord together in a real Gospel partnership! 

I’ve got to move on to other things.  After all, the “end of the world” has been predicted for Saturday, May 21, 2011!  So, I will be studying for next Sunday’s message: “The Day After...The End of the World.”  I don’t say this facetiously, but to combat the prevalent error of date-setting, while at the same time fanning the flame of hope in the Lord’s return so that it continues to burn brightly in all of our lives.
Saturday, May 14, 2011

I just returned from Libreville, Gabon where I preached a revival for Garett King at La Porte, Eglise Chretienne du Gabon.  In my jet-lagged condition I wanted to bring not only a report, but a word on my heart as well.  I traveled all that way not just to preach, but also TAKE THIS PICTURE!.  


Now, before you keep reading I want you to just stop and look at this a bit.

Frank King, Garett King and Sons

This picture is powerful because it represents 3 generations of the life of our congregation!  Maybe I should interject at this point that our church council’s recent recommendation was that I bring someone with me on these international trips (are they lovingly suggesting that “Mr. Independent” could be a bit reckless?!)  Because one of my scheduled trips was to Gabon, and because Frank King had served on our church council for years, and because his son and daughter-in-law (and grandsons) was pastoring the church...well, you get my drift.  It was a bit of no-brainer that Frank would be one of the obvious choice!  OK, back to the picture.    Frank and his wife, Susan, were wonderfully saved in our church in 1975 (incredible story all by itself).  Next to him is his youngest child, Garett, who surrendered his life to Jesus in 1984 at the age of 13.  Then, are his grandsons Zachary (11), Nehemiah (8) and Geoffery (6).  Geoffery, by the way, has now officially spent half his life living in Africa.  Along with Sara, his wife, they are doing a wonderful work in Libreville, and Jesus is building His church, and raising up disciples.

Garett and Sara King


SPIRITUAL LAW

All of this reminded me that there is no escaping a spiritual law.  (1Jn.4:10)NLT “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  We don’t often think of the particular cost here: that in order to bring salvation to the world, Jesus had to leave his home in heaven.  There was not going to be a possibility of “long distance salvation” for humanity.  We won’t escape this either since “the disciple is not above his Teacher.”  The call to increase and kingdom expansion carries with it the reality of God’s personal call and the separation that this entails.  (Acts 13:2) “The Holy Spirit said, ‘separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  The early church cooperated with God by first, seeing that it was the Holy Spirit who was behind this venture, and then, sending them forth, even if it cost them relationally.

MY HEROES

This is what really is on my heart, that one of the overlooked costs of world evangelism is not just the huge amounts of money it calls for, but...the cost of the currency of relatioinship!  (Mk.10:29) “There is no man who has left house, or brothers or sisters or father or mother, or wife, or children or land for my sake and the Gospel’s.”  Clearly, Jesus talks about the sacrifice that is felt at the deepest levels of some of the deepest relationships of our lives.  This is no light mater since we were created for relationships.  One of the greatest blessings of salvation, next to our saving relationship with Jesus Christ, are those kingdom bonds that He ordains and fashions.  This is not a program, but it is a work of God.  Some of these relationships turn out to be deeper than even the natural relationships of family.  This is why some of my “heroes” over the years, are not just those who released themselves to God, those that the Holy Spirit is saying to “separate to me _____ for my work”.  No, the heroes I have in mind are those people and friends and family who have been willing to say, to send, and to sacrifice some of these relationships “for My sake and the Gospel’s.”         

I can think of just a few.  What about Mr. (before he died) & Mrs. Rubi?  They have watched as 4 sons (I think the tally is 12 grandchildren and ?? great grandchildren) have responded to the call of God to preach the Gospel and released them.  Frank & Susan King have released their son and grandsons to go overseas, to Africa, to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Plus, they have a daughter and son-inlaw (2 grandchildren) who are serving God on the East Coast.  What about Shirley Reblin?  Her oldest son, Stuart, his wife and their children left here years ago to pioneer a church in northern CA.  Have these people paid a price for the Gospel?  You better believe it!  These and many more like them, are my heroes.  They have not done this for a religious program, but for their Lord Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, and the expansion of God’s kingdom.

I don’t think trauma is too strong a word here, or out of place in this setting. The dictionary defines it as a physical or emotional injury or shock.  Paul wrote to the Philippians (Phil.1:8) and said “I long for you in the affection of Jesus Christ.”  He was writing (from prison) and felt deeply the separation from people he loved for the sake of the Gospel.  Isn’t this the experience to some degree with the people we send out for the Gospel?  I remember my wife saying to me tongue-in-cheek (but she still felt it) “You better not send out ___.” Is this because she doesn’t have a heart for the Gospel? Sister Mona?  You’ve got to be kidding!  She lives with me for the advancement of the Gospel; but, however you cut it, it’s still traumatic.  We’re sending out some of our best people.  These are people who have been a tremendous asset, many who are multi-talented and gifted, extremely faithful.   In short, they are loved!  They have made invaluable contributions in the lives of many people, seeing them come to Christ and nurturing them, helping them come to a place of maturity in Christ.  We are going to be making a sacrifice in sending them out, and responding to the Holy Spirit’s call.  They will be leaving a “gap” that will have to be filled by others.  That is why my hat is off to our congregation for their vision. They are making a real sacrifice of the lives of individuals, loved ones, dear friends all for the sake of the Gospel.  You make me proud, and bless me over and over again!

This is why sometimes Conference announcements can have a bittersweet element to them.  While there’s rejoicing at the news of a church plant, there’s also an element of trauma as well.  This is why you’ll find many celebrating, while others are weeping.  This is their dear friend, their son or daughter, their beloved brother that is going to be sent out.  One sister was honest enough to tell me, “Pastor, I was mad at you for days for sending out Garett & Sara King.”  She didn’t lack a commitment to God, just the opposite.  You see, Garett and Sara had discipled her, and more, they had been like adopted parents to her!  There was going to be a cost, and it was going to be paid in the precious currency of relationship.

THE DIVINE COMPENSATION

All of this brings us face to face with the truth that for the Gospel to expand in the earth, WE are going to have to be stretched.  (2Co.10:15,16) We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you.”  The will of God cannot be held hostage or limited by our personal relational preferences.  We must remind ourselves about our children and the precious people in our churches, that they ultimately BELONG TO HIM!  The Holy Spirit said to the church, “set apart to Me Barnabas and Saul.”



Dear saints, I believe that God will honor our sacrifice here!  Listen again to all of (Mk.10:29,30) because it contains a wonderful promise.  Mark 10:29-30 “Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left..... who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”  This is not talking about your “100-fold financial blessing,” no!  This is talking about spiritual fruitfulness, the harvest, the increase of souls who will be brought to Jesus and the eternal family of God.  God knows what you’ve given up, the people you’ve released to see this precious Gospel preached in the nations of the world.  He says to you, “Loved ones, I too know the separation you’re feeling; but, in the end, by My grace, it will enlarge not only you, but my family immeasurably.”  You see, there are people all over the world, most who we will never see, that hold you and the Tucson congregation in the highest esteem.  They realize the investment you have made not just of your money, but of the people you love!  In Gabon, to have not only Pastor Warner (our pastor’s pastor), but Pastor Garett’s father come at the same time, is a really big deal!  That, dear ones, does not go unrecognized, and will not go unrewarded.   (Use here the series of pictures of the church, people in it I sent)

There is another element at work here that is very encouraging and is undoubtedly supernatural.  Garett and I were talking about this just this past week.  He said when it came to certain relationships, certainly there is a separation that is felt.  But, it is like the Holy Spirit simply hit the “Pause” button on things.  When they were back at Conference last year it was like they hadn’t been gone for two and a half years, because God hit “Unpause” and we picked up where we left off, and the “gap” was not felt the way you would think.  I like that.  I believe it is part of God’s compensation when we will obey Him in the Gospel!                       

HEAVEN IS THE ONLY ANSWER

All of this is one of the reasons that heaven and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is so necessary!  First and foremost, because as the song goes, “When I look upon His face, the one who saved me by His grace, what a day, a glorious day that will be.”  Also, because heaven will be a place of reunion and unbroken fellowship!  It’s not like seeing people once a year, or once every two years at Conference, which goes by so fast.  No, it is never ending!  THE PLACE WHERE THERE WILL BE NO MORE GOODBYES!
Monday, May 2, 2011

 “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps.122:1) I have been going to church for more than forty years since I gave my heart to Jesus Christ, and I still feel this way about the house of God.  I long for the verse that says, “the power of the Lord was present to _____.”  The text says “to heal,” but I have left it blank because of the potential for God to move supernaturally in all types of ways, in the lives of those who have an open heart towards Him.  It is also why I have chosen from time to time to write about “Monday Morning Musings” - thoughts related to the worship services on the Lord’s Day just ended.

Christ on display!  Marriage is designed by God to be a living illustration of the relationship that Jesus Christ has with His church (Eph.5:22-27).  So, yesterday morning as part of our worship service, we were delighted to unite in marriage Jaime Bourquez and Kara Pinnick.  By marrying people during a public worship service our desire is to glorify God and give Him the place of honor that belongs to Him.  In the wake of 2 billion people who watched the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on Friday, I was reminded that every marriage has a “royal” element to it since God is invested in the success or failure of every marriage

There is always a danger in sequels.....but I preached on “The Wedding Planner II.”  This was based on the original sermon in 2008 on what and why we do what we do in our weddings, and the “blend” that we are contending for.  The title is intended to ask the question: are we going to God and His Word for direction and guidelines not just in preparing for a wedding, but in preparing for a life!  I preached from (1Tim.2:9-15) primarily from the woman’s perspective of what gifts and plans she brings to her wedding day.  There are three powerful gifts highlighted in that passage of Scripture.  The first is the gift of modesty.  This is an across-the-board concern in our culture today.  An article appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which is a must read for every parent with daughters called, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”  This was not written by a fundamentalist preacher, but by a wife and mother lamenting the sexualizing of young girls today who are bombarded with images and products that tout the benefits of sexual attraction.  This is happening at a younger and younger age.  There was a time when you could say to people, “Just keep things modest” and everything would be fine.  The problem today is people hardly know what the word means, and you find yourself in the awkward position of having to “explain” in detail what modesty means.  One pastor remarked:

In recent years, I have become increasingly grieved by the immodest dress of both brides and bridesmaids at the weddings I officiate.  I have observed a number of young ladies in our fellowship who have dressed modestly all their lives appearing on their wedding day in extremely provocative dresses, exposing more of themselves than on any other day of their lives.

Modesty is not exulting in some kind of old-fashioned, homely, unstylish frumpiness; but true modesty is the Holy Spirit-empowered guardian of virtue and testimony.  Verse 9, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote, “Modesty means avoiding exposing intimate parts of the body, and avoiding emphasizing private or alluring parts of the body in your dress.  They’re yours; keep them to yourself!”  I have to say that the new Duchess of Cambridge was able to be stylish and elegant without being immodest!  The second gift is the power of words!  Verse 11, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness” is not demeaning of women, but it is clearly emphasizing the place and power of her words.  Marriage is built on WORDS!  This is the importance of the wedding vows, for they represent the sealing of the covenant.  A woman’s words also have incredible power to either build up or to tear down (Prov.14:1).  If marriages are held together by the glue of commitment, then they run smoothly by the oil of communication.  In particular, words that communicate to your spouse: YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN MY LIFE!  The final gift in planning for our wedding day is the value of virtue.  The verse is a bit cryptic, I know, but vs.15 says, she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”  Salvation is the key in any marriage because it is “reversing Eve.”  It is God’s grace and power reversing the consequences of the Fall, or the effects that sin has had on the human race.  When a woman’s supreme relationship is with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then it undergirds everything about her and her marriage.  This is why the value and testimony of a godly wife is precious “above rubies.”

Now, this is priceless.  I closed the message with a quote from an early opponent of the Gospel, a skeptic named Libanus.  He said, “What women these Christians have!”  When women gain their sense of femininity and dignity not from the prevailing culture, but from a vital relationship with the true and living God, there is an unmistakable “something” they possess.  At the end of the service, I had a brother who just recently has been saved come to me saying how he really saw this truth!  It was hard to put into words, but he said, having come from a life without Christ, and his knowledge of and relationship with various women, that there really WAS something different about Christian women!   Ah, yes, God is so good!

Sunday night I moved into the realm of apologetics in a message “Air Conditioning Hell.”  One of the things that plays a large role in leading people is sound doctrine.  (1Tim.4:16) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  The message was a response to a new book by Pastor Rob Bell, “Love Wins” - A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived.  The book is essentially an attack on the traditional Bible doctrine of Hell and everlasting punishment.  There is nothing new here, but the (re) emergence of liberal theology, error coming in a new suit or with different packaging.  The title of “Air Conditioning Hell” was not an attempt to be flippant about an eternally serious subject, but it came from a remark about all the attempts to modify Biblical theology concerning the subject of Hell.  Dr. Paige Patterson wrote, “Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in the doctrine of Hell, or they no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and saying anything about it.”  There’s always a danger when we shape theology to suit our culture, and not merely adapt methods to reach our culture

Rob Bell doesn’t believe people will experience the Hell the BIBLE talks about, a place of eternal punishment (Mt.25:46).  He writes, “I’ve written this book for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter these resolute words, ‘I would never be part of that.’” Not surprisingly, TIME magazine picked up on this as its cover story for Easter week, “What If There’s No HELL?”  Rob Bell feels that this doctrine is keeping people from coming to Jesus, which is a bit strange, since the Lord himself used very explicit language when talking about Hell and eternal judgment.  The problem with his logic and presentation is that he moves from one inaccurate caricature (of God) to another, by using a series of straw men and knocking them down.  Another problem with his approach, is that he’s not really grappling with the holiness of God, the justice of God, or the wrath of God in a meaningful way.  On page 107, he writes, “At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.  The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God.” 

There is a name for this false Gospel, and it is universalism.  Universalism is the doctrine that teaches all humanity will eventually be saved.  Ultimately, it says that all people will end up in heaven, and none in Hell.  Rob Bell denies he’s a universalist, but his book affirms all the core beliefs of universalism.  So it’s like the expression, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”  In my preparation, one of the most revealing things was the response by an Anglican pastor who already bears the scars of battling with Universalism within the Episcopal Church.  He’s also had to deal with the likes of a heretic, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and when he sees Rob Bell’s book it’s a “deja vu” experience with one major exception: they call themselves evangelicals!  The reason that this should concern us is that a false gospel misleads sinners and fails to save.  Universalism’s attempt to write off God’s wrath ends up diminishing God’s holiness, cheapening the Cross, dismantles the urgency of evangelism, and distorting Biblical truths.   H. Richard Niebuhur famously distilled liberal theology into this sentence: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

What is our response to all of this supposed to be?  First and foremost, it emphasizes our need for a deeper understanding of the Gospel!  (Jude 3) wrote, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  The battle is always over “the Faith” and especially our understanding of the Gospel.  This is where (Romans 1:16-18) is invaluable, because it presents a complete and concise picture of the eternal truths of the Gospel.  “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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,  as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  In the end, this produces a potent incentive for trusting in Christ as well as a compelling motivation for telling others.  I am told that when the FBI trains its agents over counterfeit money, their strategy is not to show them all of the fakes and forgeries produced around the world.  Instead, they only allow their agents to see, to touch, and to handle the real thing.  They know when someone is thoroughly acquainted with the real thing, there is no problem in identifying the counterfeit when it comes along.

 I’m sure Rob Bell is convinced that his approach will somehow result in sinners thinking better of God in the long run (I didn’t know the Lord needed a public relations makeover).   Plus, I’m not saying that I have all the answers down pat in a nice, clean, antiseptic way.  The tragedy with Rob Bell and others like him, is that while he is a bit of a “media darling” right now (everyone wants to interview him),  when all is said and done, he’ll be nothing more than a “cheap date” in their eyes.  This is why he needs our prayers and those who would come under that harmful influence as well.  Until then, (1Cor.15:1,2) “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.”

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