In Jude 1:11, could you please clarify the 'error of Balaam' and rebellion of Korah' and why are they called that way?
What all three cases in Jude 1:11 have in common is a superimposition of one's own will over God's WILL by way of redefining what the truth is – a hallmark not only of disbelief but of active opposition to the Lord. Cain decided that he could determine what was and was not a proper sacrifice, and in so doing would have misrepresented Christ's Sacrifice, if possible (but Abel's true sacrifice "still speaks" of God's righteousness: Heb.11:4); Korah decided that he could determine who was truly God's representative (Num.16:1ff.), and in so doing would have undermined God's authority, if possible; but God demonstrated who His true spokesman was by doing a "new thing" which had never happened before when He caused the earth to open upon and swallow Korah and his followers alive (Num.16:29ff.); Balaam decided that he could determine whom God should curse, and in so doing would have destroyed God's people, if possible (Num.22-24), but in spite of himself he was forced to bless Israel, and was himself destroyed for attempting to aid God's enemies in his greed (Num.31:8).
All three of these individuals, Cain, Korah and Balaam, are mentioned by Jude as examples of false teachers and false teaching. The sacrifices of God which taught about the cross, the teaching authority of Moses, and the oracles given by God about His people Israel are all the truth, but Cain, Korah and Balaam all sought to alter this truth for their own benefit. Cain sought blessing the wrong way, Korah sought authority the wrong way, and Balaam sought money the wrong way . . . all through attempting to re-interpret God's truth for their own benefit. They all came to horrible ends, so they stand out as salient examples of what will happen to false teachers who likewise seek to advance themselves by corrupting the truth and leading vulnerable sheep astray.
See the links:
Satan's system of false teaching (in SR 4)
The Insidious Nature of False Teaching (in Peter #27)
False Teachers, False Doctrines, and False Christians
The Rise of False Teaching and the Great Apostasy (in CT 3A)
Selecting a Pastor-Teaching (in Peter #13)
Read Your Bible (essential protection against false teaching)
Why do people love traditions so much? And why are there so many different churches in our time? I.e., Baptist, Advent, 7 day Adventist, Catholic, Apostolic, Pentecostal, Presbyterian and so on and so on? Lastly, what type of church would you recommend and what type of church do you go to?
Good questions. As to the variety of traditions, it probably has something to do with the fact that these are comfortable ways of boxing up and boxing out truths some people have a hard time accepting. For this very reason, I cannot recommend any denomination. I also have to say that this question about "what church" to go to is one I get among the most of all the questions I receive. It is a difficult one to answer. I have not found any church that I would deem acceptable for my own spiritual growth (and as a teacher, I have other issues, not wanting to cause conflict over false teaching and not willing to endure it either). As I often say, a church where the Word of God is actually being taught in depth and in truth is a "pearl of great price", and should not be underestimated or undervalued. If you find such a place, prize it. In the meantime, Ichthys will be here as long as I am, God helping me, and you are certainly welcome to all of its materials and to ask questions or make comments whenever you like. One thing I have not said in the past and probably need to start saying more is that each of us has a gift from the Lord and each of us a special calling for ministry. It is certainly possible that for those who ask this question part of their purpose might be to start what they cannot otherwise find. I know that it is true that a handful of believers meeting in someone's basement and being taught by a prepared man whom they can only partially support (so that he has to work at least part-time) is of more value to the Lord than a thousand mega-churches where superficiality reigns supreme. Here is one thing I can recommend besides Ichthys, the online ministry (at YouTube), of my dear friend and former fellow seminarian pastor-teacher Curtis Omo: Bible Academy (see the link).
Hi Bob, Thanks for taking the time to answer my concerns. It is very strange how so many people can read the same Bible and yet come to entirely different conclusions about what it says. When I found your site last month, I was looking at most of the areas you were teaching about and I could not find a single area where I disagreed with, and I thought to myself "Wow, that has never happened before ... I normally find several areas I disagree with." And then I read about some topics that you were teaching about that I was not entirely sure what the answers were in those areas (such as specifics about angels, eschatology, war issues etc) and all those puzzle pieces quickly fell in place for me and made sense to me then ... Praise God!
My parents still occasionally ask me if I am going to find a church home to go to regularly (and they have suggested different area churches here and there), and I always tell them that none of them make true sense to me according to what I read in the bible. But if they ask me again, at least now I can tell them that I have found a pastor who makes sense to me. They still attend the same United Methodist church that they always have, and it always amazes me how they can sit and listen to the minister say that "is almost a full universalist", and ignore the vast majority of the bible's teachings and still feel comfortable sitting there. I totally do not understand that. The people at the Methodist church are very kind and friendly though and I think that may be what they find to be pleasing to them. If they had a computer, I could show them your site, but I doubt that they would be very interested and it would probably be too deep for them. They are such kind and caring people though, but they have such a desire to "be normal" as far as what the world sees as "normal" and I have a very hard time trying to get them to think outside that box. It's so sad and grieving to me that probably the vast majority of people out there have bought into one or more of the 3 horrible Satanic lies as you wrote about: ""I don't need God", "I am like God", and "God needs me." I am still praying and hoping though for the vast majority of my family etc to come to truth, since most of them are obsessed by football and obsessed with this life. I am still trying to seek ways to reach them in a way that is simple and clear. Do you have those same concerns about most of your loved ones? Have you been able to reach them with the truths you've shared on your site?
I remember as a kid hearing the minister say that "God has a sense of humor, and what a humorous thing that the Lord stated that it will be as difficult for a rich man to enter heaven as it is for a camel to go through they eye of a needle." And the minister tried to humor everyone as he said how humorous it is to imagine a camel trying to get through the eye of a needle. I could not see anything funny about that, and just felt so sad that he could apply humor to that and seek to deceive people in that way. And the strange thing is that he was such a sweet and friendly man, but I could not understand why he could not just share the simple truth.
Yes, you are right that individual whose postings I wrote you about does not believe in freewill and constantly tries to point to Roman's 9 to try and prove he's right about this. His heart is too hardened now to try and reach him and he perpetually denies hell now. I will send my gospel video to him when I get it done one day (it will have your site linked in it: "Dedicated to Truth"), as my last shot to try and help him. It is very sad since he was so much closer to the truth before he got caught up in the "Hope Beyond Hell" website and all the multitudes of websites that teach there is no free-will etc.
Amen to what you said about focusing on Christ's sacrifice. I think that is the one thing that made me happiest about your site the most which was the fact that you always go back to the cross. There are many churches that share about the cross but they do so in a liberal way in order to make "quick converts" (which are normally not true converts at all), because as soon as they share the "Roman's Road", or "sinners prayer", or "ABC gospel", "123 gospel", etc. which are popular quick methods man comes up with, then they can just hurry back to their "signs and wonders", entertainment, socializing, church committees, endless hobbies and interests etc. (These seem to have a Liberal idea of Grace), but then the other extreme is when so many tend to place Legalism OVER grace. Most of my friends have a legalist slant which was starting to feel uncomfortable and wrong to me. These are the people who almost never share or focus to any great extent about the wonders of God's grace and the cross and His awesome sacrifice, but instead tend to focus on the fact that "they never sin", "finger-pointing", many arguments, and condemnation, proud of self instead of being deeply humbled by all that the Lord Jesus did for us. But the rarest thing to find is when people have the correct view of the cross and a deep heartfelt appreciation about it which completely transforms their lives. These place the cross and their focus on the Lord Jesus top and center, they are not proud but are deeply humbled, they are very thankful for God's love, mercy, and grace; they lovingly and patiently strive to lead others to truth instead of using harsh methods, they offer wise warnings, they don't take advantage of the Lord's loving grace, but instead are deeply humbled by it, converted by it, transformed by it, and live by it.
Sorry to ramble on so much, but it is always a joy to chat with you about the things of God.
Have a good weekend and God bless you richly dear friend,
And thank you! As to your comments about "church", I couldn't have said it better, and really not nearly as well. Tradition has it that "church" is something "Christians do". For this reason, no doubt, I know many genuine believers who are interested in growing closer to Jesus through the Word of God on the one hand, and who are completely unwilling to engage in hypocrisy or compromise on the other, who still often feel "guilty" because they aren't involved in a "church" – or are easily made to feel guilty by others (to put it more accurately). We all want a "real church", namely, a place where the Word of God is taught in depth and in a sound and orthodox way. Ideally we would also wish such a place to be free of all of the compromise, legalism, promotionalism, and falsehoods – which it seems it would have to be if the former were true. Truth and nonsense do not easily coexist. Inevitably, one drives out the other. Growing up as a "p.k.", I have always been conflicted on this point, and as a Bible teacher to this day I am still made uncomfortable by the question "where do you go to church?" – As if (1) there were plenty of suitable places to go without compromising one's beliefs and principles. As if (2) all "real Christians" do so, and that is the litmus test of true Christianity. As if (3) it doesn't matter if contemporary churches aren't really teaching anything of substance or if they are engaged in questionable practices of if they believe many things which are not only untrue and actually antithetical to the truth – just "going to church" is the end all and be all, no matter what it does to one's spirituality and no matter that the compromise it entails is a trade-off by necessity of something else that might actually help a person grow in Christ, walk with Christ, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ the way He wants us to do:
". . . your meetings do more harm than good."
1st Corinthians 11:17 NIV (cf. Amos 5:21)
Your email is an encouragement to me (and will be to others too) to put the truth before all things. Because it really doesn't matter when or how or with what external trappings God's truth is taught, learned and believed – only that it is taught, learned and believed: for only then can it be acted upon and lived by. We would all like to do this in a regular fellowship where we can encourage one another, support one another, help one another, and share one another's enthusiasm for the Word of God face to face. But if the essence of the truth of the Word of God is in fact entirely absent, and if the whole godly purpose of the assembly is thus missing, then what is the point of assembling in the first place? And if truth been replaced by poor substitutes and, worse to tell, even false teaching, not only is there no point but only peril instead (no matter how "nice" the music, the fellowship, and the Danish).
Doing things out of misplaced guilt is always spiritually dangerous, and if the best fellowship we can find is disinterested in the Word of God and wrong in what few things they do believe and teach, how is our participation in such a group glorifying to God? Should we not rather put His WILL for us and the truth of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, before everything insubstantial, compromised, rotten and corrupted? Should we not rather trust Him to provide for all of our actual spiritual needs? Should we not, that is, refuse to settle for what is wrong and instead pay whatever price is required to find and cleave to what is right?
Doing things the Lord's way is often not easy and can be very uncomfortable. But if we are made to feel as if we are pariahs because we have chosen "the better part" (Lk.10:42), it is not as if those who have chosen Him before all else in the past have not likewise been ostracized. If we really want to follow Jesus Christ, we will find that this is the rule rather than the exception.
They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them.
So then let us go out to Him (i.e., our dear Lord Jesus), outside of the camp (i.e., likewise choosing God over the world and worldly assemblies), bearing His reproach.
Worse than the false guilt of not doing what everyone else seems to think we should do is the fundamental compromise of our principles that would come from doing what we know in our hearts is wrong. We who really do love Jesus, who have put our faith in Him and in His truth before all else, must continue to do so even when others do not seem to understand. It is better to share in the truth with a few far away than consort with the many close at hand where "more harm than good" is the inevitable result. This principle will be all the more vital once the Tribulation begins and antichrist begins to coopt organized Christianity (along with all other world religions; see the link). For those who have a hard time now being honest and standing up for the truth, when exclusion turns to persecution it will be all the harder not to be swallowed up by the vortex of fatal compromise leading to apostasy.
Your indomitable spirit of refusal to compromise is a reminder and an example to us all.
Keeping fighting the fight!
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Good Day Brother Luginbill. I pray that all is well you and yours. As you know, I have shared my journey with you in detail. I wanted to share with the opportunity that has come my way. I'm originally from a small city called ___. I'm sure you've heard about that city. It's a tough place to live to say the least. Some time ago I got into the ministry and later I started to pastor a church from scratch with just me and my family. I was still affiliated with the church I came from until I discovered that the things they taught on top of the foundation (which the basic teaching was correct and is what lead me to Christ) was incorrect and quite damaging. I did as the scripture said and came out from among them. Since then I had struggle with understanding the scripture as I should because I had to unlearn those things which were incorrect and learn those things that were correct. Which takes much time. I'd eventually moved my church back home. Then for a short time, I started fellow shipping with a church called the Church of Christ. What drew me to them was the fact that they taught on some things that God revealed in regards to speaking in tongue, tithes, etc. So I actually stopped the home ministry momentarily, and I started to attend their services. I felt that I had so much more to learn and that I needed time away to get understanding. Then when I discovered their doctrine of baptism, it completely confused me to no end. I even had myself get re-baptized. After that, my spirit could not rest. God begin to show me their errors. I studied and researched night and day for understanding and truth until it was finally clear. That's the time when I also discovered your website and I must say, you have help me out a great deal. After reading your teaching about baptism, it confirmed what God had revealed to me. It was the icing on cake. After that, I started back the ministry from my home and I been going ever since. I wanted to share with you about something. Every since I've been in the ministry, I've also wanted the opportunity to do it in my hometown. See, I know the struggle and the pain of many out there. They also know me and or of me, because I use to be out their in the world very tough back in the days. I had a strong reputation in the streets. So many people know what I use to be and now what I've become. I often had visions of me starting a ministry down but didn't have the clue how that would ever happen with me living here and also having a church down there. But now, an opportunity has come my way, a facility for a low amount monthly. I've spread the news around town and Facebook, and the response has been very pleasing. We will be opening soon and I will be commuting there every Sunday.
Now with all this being said, I understand first hand, that growing a ministry is very challenging and that many, many people don't desire the truth and will not continue to come and support the ministry. Even when I was somewhat unlearned about certain things, I've always preached the truth with sincerity and I never compromised. I preached against sin and exposed ungodly lively. Many or most people did not want to hear that at all. They would rather be entertained with praise dancing, or an exciting hooping and hollering preaching style, or listening to the choir sing songs all day. Believe me, I have seen it all, and I never accepted that. People want churches that have a lot of programs and things for their kids rather then to get fed with truth which will make and keep them free for themselves. I could go on and on about the challenges that I'm well familiarly with. So I understand why you personally would not get involved in pastoring a church. I read much about your take on that and also you friends' experience as well. And by reading that, I must say, that I did get a little discourage about what you had to say. Let me clarify. I was discouraged because what you said was absolutely 100% correct. And by knowing that I'm about to commit myself for at least as long as the lease (6 months at a time) to make the 2.5 hour drive there and back and also knowing that many people will reject the truth, it can definitely shake a persons motivation and confidence in being able to do it. But the good part about is having an opportunity. You see here, I don't really know to many people. The people I do know are so caught up in false doctrine and error, that it has been almost impossible to reach them and or have the opportunity to get them to join us for service, since I don't have the big beautified church and large congregation. But for the first couple of weeks, I will have an opportunity to minister to at least maybe 75-100 the first week and maybe the same the week after. If I have the opportunity to reach at least one soul and also encourage the very few who are saved and will be attending on the regular, it'll be worth it. If one soul comes to Christ the angels in heaven will rejoice.
I'm not depending on ministry to supply my needs. I trust and know that God will and shall supply my needs and I will also continue to labor with my own hands until a change comes; but if not, I will continue to labor with my own hands and do the work of my Father until the end. So as you can see, I'm well prepared for however this may turn out. But one thing I can't do is give up. I will say this, I'm going to give it the 6 months, and by then I will be able to determined if it's necessary to continue. If we can get a few member out of these, then I will continue on. As you said, your ministry is helping and teaching over the web and that you couldn't see yourself starting a church because of the various things you've mentioned. I completely understand. To me, you're a wise teacher, an Elder, who I look up to and respect. I also trust you, because so far, I haven't found anything taught by you to be contrary to the word of God.
I know you won't take my words as if I'm putting you on a pedestal. I'm just letting you now how much I appreciate you and respect you as man of God and a Teacher. You have contributed to my encouragement and my fight, by being there for me with encouragement and instructions when I had no answer and no one else to turn to. Thank you Sir for your commitment and your dedication to providing use strong material in spirit and in truth. I want you to be encourage and know that you are helping so many people understand the scripture as it suppose to be. I'm not ashamed to ask you for your advice in regards to anything biblical. Because I know you will tell me the truth to your best ability and back it up with scripture. Please, if you have any advice for me, please share it with me. Any material that will assist me would be greatly appreciated.
As always, I'm praying for you.
Your Brother in Christ,
Very good to hear from you as always, my friend! Thank you for sharing this very encouraging story with me. I agree with just about everything you say here (except for the part about you agreeing with me – I feel confident that there must be some things posted to the site with which you will disagree – maybe you just haven't found it yet). I used to live in Chicago. My dad had a Presbyterian church there on the north side, but we went through ___ often and stopped there occasionally. In fact, dad almost took on the pastorate of a Presbyterian church there when I was in junior high school. I still remember the manse we drove down to have a look at. I also know that the city has had its share of serious problems financial over the years.
The main thing I want to say in response to your stirring letter is that everyone of us has to take the path God is pointing out. If God is leading you to this place and a church ministry, then that is where you should go and that is what you should do. The fact that it will be hard, that it may be risky, and that people may very well not appreciate what you are trying to do for them are facts but not impediments to a man who is determined to do the ministry to which Jesus Christ is calling him. I certainly have my own feet of clay. I never experienced a particular "call" the way you seem to have done, but perhaps if I had put myself out there more aggressively things would have worked out differently. Please understand that I am very happy with this ministry and realize that if I had not pursued the advanced degrees I did it would not be what it is. My point is that we all have different gifts from the Spirit and are all called to different particular ministries by our Lord to which the Father grants different effects according to His plan (1Cor.12:4-6). None of us needs to apologize for doing what we have been gifted, called, and empowered to do (nor should we). So in short, you make me proud to be a Christian, and I will most certainly be keeping you in prayer for the success of this most noble effort! Good for you, my friend!
As to advice, I grew up a preacher's kid, but I have never even seen a church planted the way you are about to do. So beyond general principles – of which you are well aware and in which you are solidly grounded as evident from this email – I'm not sure what I might be able to add (although I am certainly available to you anytime you have a notion to write). I do have some contacts who have been involved in this sort of thing directly and/or in a support role. I would be happy to try to put you in touch with them (as I am sure they all have a short "make sure you do this / make sure you don't do that" list).
In any case, my friend, I wish you success in this venture and pray for God's great blessing upon it. The fact that few churches today are doing what you plan to do and that few Christians today are interested in receiving what you are planning to offer is no reason not to respond to what the Lord is moving in your heart – indeed, it is all the more reason to do so.
Thank you again for all your kind words and especially for your prayers. Know that you will be in mine as well for God's great blessing upon your work.
In Jesus Christ our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
Thank you so very much for those encouraging words. I'm that much more encourage. You may be right in regards to me finding something I may disagree with. But to this point, you've been right on the money. And believe me, I do my research as much as I'm able to do. And so far, anytime I've had a question about something, you've responded correctly, backing it up with scripture and a detailed informative explanation. Which I love. I also went to church in Chicago off 73rd Jeffrey Blvd. (Old Land Mark Church of God Holiness in Christ). I was raised up there. After I moved here, I went back there and gave my life to Christ. I remember when I first got saved, I commuted back and forth to Chicago every Sunday for almost 2 years. People thought I was insane. But at that time, I could not find the truth as I knew it to be, like I was getting in Chicago, so I traveled for it. And no doubt about it, God did what he said he would do. (Mat 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled). Even though I had left the church, if it wasn't for the hunger and thirst and sacrifice, I'd probably would still be there walking in error and confusing. Thank you for offering contacts if ever needed. I really appreciated. I also want to thank you as well for your prayers. If you don't mind, I would like to keep you posted with the ministry. And if any questions come up, I will surely bring them forth.
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow
Your brother in Christ
And thank you, not only for your good words (and especially for your prayers), but also for your inspiring Christian example.
Please do write any time and I will be happy to do whatever I can to help you in this noble endeavor.
You will most certainly be in my prayers day by day.
Yours in the service of our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hello my friend! I pray that all is well with you and yours. The Lord is truly blessing. On the first day, we had around 30 people show for service and the word went out sharp! Then the 2nd week we had a showing of 6 people with children. At that moment, Satan tried to attack and discourage even though I expected nothing less. But God is faithful and by praying and trusting my Lord, and also the prayers of the righteous going up on my behalf, I snap out of the discouragement and was I strengthen by the power of God. I prepared myself for the 3rd week and we had 12 people show. Then this last week we had the so far faithful 6 that came out every week so far. Brother Robert, God has been really using me to reach the lost. The messages have been going out strong without compromise. I explain to people that we teach that a man or women should give according to their ability and with a cheerful heart. Not by tithing or set amounts that the church demand from people. I understand some people will use that intentionally to give less but that's between them and God. My God shall supply my every need and will not bend the truth in anyway for financial gain or for any reason. I'm trusting God with all I have, and he has already provided for us this month. We had already received enough offerings to pay the next month rent, but God used one person to right us out a check for the whole next month. Praise God! I have not held back the word of God and I will continue to stay on the battlefield and cry LOUD! This no doubt has been challenging. I've been staying up into the morning on weekends studying the word of God. It caught up with me this Sunday and I was so fatigued. But God gave me strength to teach his word. I must do better with organizing my time and get proper rest. I know your praying for me and I'm also praying for you. I will be in touch my friend.
To God be the Glory and Praise!
This is wonderful news, ! I very much appreciate this update as I have been thinking about you and your situation a lot over the past few weeks.
Starting a church – especially one that focuses on teaching God's Word – is probably the most difficult thing in the world, but as you witness to so powerfully nothing is impossible for our God. I know that the Lord honors your service and your sacrifice, and that He will see to it that everything He has purposed through this ministry will come to pass. I will most certainly be keeping you in my prayers for blessed success in the this noble endeavor.
Thank you also so much for your prayers, my friend, especially given the heavy burden you have taken on!
In Jesus Christ who is sufficient to supply all of our needs and who is working everything out together for the good for those who love Him.
This question is with respect to Phil 2:3 and Gal 5:26.
In many churches in India now competitions are conducted among prayer groups with regard to singing skills, Bible reading skill, music skill etc. Many a time the preparations for these competitions last for months. Finally some get individual first second prizes etc. Also some groups get ranked in to first, second, etc. Some times there will be complaints about prizes etc.
To my little knowledge, Jesus never taught us competition rather he taught us co operation and sharing. Jesus' Law is Agape the obeying of which is by sharing the burden and not by competition. In a competition one gets joy and the defeated one get sorrow which may lead to jealousy, hatred, etc. which are works of Flesh where as the Fruit of Spirit is love .
Your thoughts on these competitions will be of great help
Good to make your acquaintance.
This is news to me – but then there are very many things which transpire in churches outside of this country of which I have no idea. American churches and Christianity in this country in general have many problems. However, the one you mention, namely, of formalized contests such as this, is not generally one of them as far as I am aware (however, for the idea please see the link: "Should Christians have a Competitive Attitude?").
It is a feature of our Church era, Laodicea (see the link), that many false things are taking place wherein Christians individually and collectively place the emphasis of their walk in entirely the wrong place, thinking they are spiritually rich, wise, and well-attired – when in reality they are poor, blind and naked.
This phenomenon you write about is a good example of the above. The first wonderful thing about genuine Christian "competition", the rules of the "race" as ordained by our Lord, is that the prizes are unlimited, and all are encouraged to win the top prizes of eternal reward offered to each and every Christian, everlasting crowns that will bless us and glorify our Savior forever. In this true Christian striving for the goal, no one is disadvantaged by another's success. And every Christian could, in theory, win the absolute greatest rewards without anyone else in the Church being deprived of a single thing. The only limitations on the eternal rewards we win are the limitations we place on ourselves, since the entire Church is set up and tasked with maximizing the growth, progress and production for which we are rewarded (see the link: The Judgment and Reward of the Church): it is by helping each other that the prizes are won! And that is the second wonderful thing about genuine Christian "competition", namely, that the way in which we excel is by helping others run this race, and often sacrificially so. We "compete" by "considering others better than ourselves" (Phil.2:3), and by serving rather than being served – in emulation of our Master Jesus Christ:
Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."
Luke 22:25-27 NIV
So in short I absolutely agree with the discomfort you feel about these practices: I could not endorse them and would feel very uncomfortable having anything to do with them. Given all of the other pointless and counter-productive practices American churches are involved in, in contemplating your report I find it a bit strange that we don't yet see this sort of thing infecting our churches over here as well. I would attribute that to the "competition" between more one of denominations and individual churches for more members and more money (which is arguably worse) leaving not much scope or opportunity for these other individualized competitions. I suppose there may be some incipient trend in this direction here, for we do see such things as sports competitions involving mega-churches – but may also speak to our relative spiritual anemia over here: our Christians are much more willing to play softball than memorize scripture, so no point in competing in the latter.
One practical word here. It is really not, in my experience and observation, a wise approach to try to change things from "the inside out". Groups involved in questionable practices have always undergone a previous, serious devolution of spirituality before coming to such practices, so that one righteous voice of opposition will usually only result in dissension and ill-will – without at the same time having any sort of positive effect:
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Matthew 7:6 NIV
"And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined."
Luke 5:37 NIV
My advice is to steer clear of all compromised groups and focus instead on the taking in of the Word of God, the application of that Word to one's daily walk with Jesus Christ, and the spreading and ministering of that Word through the individual gift(s) one has received from the Spirit. Trying to "fix" groups which are not doing this will inevitably result in the same treatment Nicodemus received.
Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?" "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law -- there is a curse on them." Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?" They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." Then each went to his own home.
John 7:43-53 NIV
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello again Dr Luginbill, once again after studying and reflecting I had a question I was wondering if you could help me with. What do you know about the book of common prayer and the apostles creed? I notice some churches use these books and creeds and it becomes difficult to know what should be apart of church services and what should not. To a certain degree I know man has dominion over the earth and that God blessed people with certain gifts to administer to his church such as the gift of teaching, prophecy and healing. Could you suggest a rule of thumb for red flags in a church and other things to look out for? It seems they all range from highly liberated to strictly conservative.
Good to hear from you again. The creed and the book of prayer are traditional evangelical documents (parts of which, of course, go back to the early church). As with all such instruments, they are not the Bible, and in my view they do more harm than good because they codify how we should think about the scriptures but 1) they are not scripture and so they cannot be anywhere near as good as scripture, 2) the way doctrinal matters are described and thought of over time changes with time, language, culture, etc., so that what the people who wrote these documents meant by them is often not at all the same as what we may think when reading such creeds today, and 3) ideally we should be getting closer to the entire truth of scripture every day, day by day. Casting "what we believe" in stone like this has the effect of making this godly attempt "wrong" to some degree in the eyes of those who value these traditions over the Bible – and that is wrong to a very great degree.
How are things going with you? Better I hope. I understand you guys have had some interesting weather lately, from tornados to snow. Such is life in Kentucky I guess, we always seem to get your weather first. The cold arrived here last night as the temperature sank to -15 with a -35 wind chill.
Do you think it would be reasonable to assume that Heaven is structured like the military? Obviously heaven was there first, so it would be better to say that our military is structured like Heaven in the sense that God is the Supreme Commander and the angels are his soldiers. I know you cover some of that in Satan's World System. If Heaven is structured like our military it would be interesting to know how that came to be. There's no question in my mind that it's God's will that we are able to defend ourselves and that our military serves a grand purpose but I've never really seen anyone cover this, with the exception of your section on angels and demons, their rank.
Lately I've been getting a lot of pressure to join my parents church, just not something I'm sure about. Most churches are watered-down these days and don't have any inclination to spread the truth. I have a friend who attends a church where the Bible is not used or even mentioned – horrific. What's horrific is, it claims to be a *Christian* church. Seems like the bottom line is more important than the truth. I've always been told that you need to attend church to be a Christian but I'm not sure that's true in today's world.
Good to hear from you.
On your first question, the angels are the "heavenly hosts" and do have a military-type of organization. So did ancient Israel. I think as far as structure is concerned it does seem that the same will eventually be true of the Church as well (if not already, just invisible to our eyes). After the resurrection, we will all be re-organized into the twelve tribes (see the link), and as explained in the Coming Tribulation series, our position therein will be a function of the level of our spiritual rewards (see the link: "The Gemstone Foundations and the Tribal Gates of New Jerusalem"). So it would be reasonable to suppose that there is a system of rank and hierarchical organization within these tribes as well. All the more reason to make the most of this life and to earn the best possible rewards (and commensurate rank)! Of course even the lowest "private" in the lowest tribe will not even be able to regret being part of the Body of Christ and living in New Jerusalem, lacking nothing and being deliriously happy for all eternity. There will be nothing "bad", or even only "good" or "better", only "best"; but there will be only "better than the best". That is encouraging for us all as Christians, whether we are already well along the path to maturity and production, or even if we are just getting around to scrambling up on that high road. But it is certainly right and proper for us all to strive for the three crowns, seeing as how (eternal) reward motivation is an important and a biblical principle.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
As to joining a church, I try not to give specific advice on that course of action, but I would have to say that if a person is only doing it because of being pressured into it, I cannot see how that would be a good thing or could possibly have a happy outcome. Membership in local churches is not a biblical thing. In scripture, a local church is merely a group of Christians who meet together because they are in the same area. I suppose for a variety of legal reasons membership may make sense today for many local churches if only to be able to say who has a legal vote in matters that may involve financial and legal commitments, but, honestly, if everything were being done the way it was in the early days of the New Testament, would those things even come up? The practice of purchasing and owning a dedicated building has caused more problems in the history of the church-visible than any benefit could justify in my view. It has led to bigger groups and more formalized organizations. Potentially these could be pluses, I suppose, but in practice these trends have always led to mere ritualization of approach and the eventual death of any real Bible teaching (the Roman Catholic church being the prime example but not the only one by far). The same could be said of the professional pastorate. This is not to denigrate the many fine people over the centuries who have done good work for Christ in these traditional forms, both "lay and clergy", but the observation is valid, and especially so as the time of the end draws near. We don't really have a lot of time left to mess about; and that goes for groups and individuals both. Personally, at this point in my life and spiritual growth, I would have a hard time even attending a church that was way off on important points of truth (let alone joining their fellowship in a formal way).
I keep you in prayer day by day and will say a prayer for your guidance on this issue.
As to things here, they remain troublesome – but we remain confident of the Lord's deliverance in His perfect time.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I have always grown up in a church where we don't believe in eternal salvation. My dad was pastor of that church and had to resign because his sinful past got brought to the surface things such as ___. Since then I don't think he is saved by his actions he portrays. After that I started going to a new church that believes in eternal salvation and started dating someone who believes in eternal salvation. We are discussing our beliefs and I'm trying to find help from other Internet sources supporting my belief but I haven't come a crossed any until I found you. Is there anyway you can help me?
Good to make your acquaintance. By "eternal salvation" I take you mean "once saved, always saved, no matter what". If so, I can certainly point you to a large amount of material here at Ichthys which approaches this false doctrine from a variety of points of view. The bottom line for me personally is that "believers" are people who have faith in and remain faithful to Jesus Christ. But how can those who stop believing in Him and consequently stop following Him be thought to be saved? This is not at all what scripture teaches – although it also does not teach that a person is lost automatically for committing one sin or another. It's not about sin; it is about faith. Believers sin (and are disciplined for it); unbelievers sin to (but they are not God's children). All who believe are saved (even if they are manifesting a bad witness for the Lord); all who do not believe are not saved (even if they are otherwise highly moral and upstanding individuals):
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
John 3:18 NIV
Here are some of the main links (and do feel free to write me back about any of this):
The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III
The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II
The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security
Peter #27: Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith
"Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?"
Apostasy and the Sin unto Death
Best wishes for your continued and continuing stand with the truth of the Word of God.
I really like what you have to say! Most of it really makes since all though some of the big words in there at your links I don't know what such as "apostasy" and "aorist" there was a few others but I don't remember them right now. What church do you go to now? I wanna be solid on why I believe that "eternal security- once saved always saved no matter what" is false and not just base it off of my dad or my old church.
You are very welcome. I appreciate your perseverance in these studies in spite of the fact that they contain some "new things" and some "things difficult to understand". I am happy to answer any particular questions you may have ("apostasy" is loss of faith or "falling away" from Christ when a person stops believing altogether; the "aorist" is a Greek tense stem, but what it "means" is something it takes about a year for my Greek students to fully absorb – and not of critical importance to the issues at hand).
I also very much appreciate your determination to know the truth for yourself from scripture. That is the only way to spiritual safety and the only way to true spiritual growth. This ministry is dedicated to helping believers do just that, so you are certainly welcome here any time. I think you will find the answers to the former question in the links given; do please feel free to write back if you have specific questions as I too want you to be "solid" based on scripture not opinion.
As to the "what church" question, I am often asked to recommend churches but unfortunately I am usually unable to do so. The "church" form as it has devolved over the last 2,000 years is at present not much more than a social club in most cases. The entertainment may differ with the type (for example, some prefer high-energy and emotion while some prefer comfortable and quiet ritual), but the one thing they almost all have in common is that teaching the Word of God is sadly not the reason for their existence (and often almost or even entirely lacking). But teaching and learning and rejoicing in the depths of the truth of the Bible is what Christian fellowships are for. The truth is the power; the truth is what the Spirit uses; the truth is what we "have in common" and "in what we rejoice". Everything else is mere form and tradition. This ministry is on the internet for two basic reasons: 1) given the state of the church-visible and the nature of our Laodicean age, there are very few Christian fellowships by any name that would abide a pastor who taught the Bible and little else (so there is a "demand problem"); 2) given the nature of the truth and its power, trying to insert teaching such as this into a pre-existing fellowship would be like pouring new wine into an old skin, and predictable disaster would result.
Here are some links which speak the above in case you want to pursue this a little further.
Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.
Christian Unity and Divisiveness.
Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"
Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity
Can you recommend a church? (FAQ #3)
The Assembly of the Local Church
Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.
The Local Church and Personal Ministry I
The Local Church and Personal Ministry II
The Local Church and Personal Ministry III
The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV
Thanks again for your good words and good attitude!
In Jesus Christ who is our all in all,
Good afternoon sir,
I was excited when part 7 of your tribulation series came out, and I remember finishing it in a couple of days. I have a question that has been nagging me for a while, and reading Francis Schaeffer made me realize that the question deserves a logical response, which I am confident you will have the answer to. I would say that Romans 10:9 is essentially the message of the gospel; "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." My problem is when people say things like, "we need to focus on the simplicity of the gospel, and then we don't need to worry about how the tribulation will happen." I know that who Jesus is, is tied with the story of human history, and with his being king. I wouldn't argue that the gospel is unimportant, and I know the reasons why how we understand how the end times will play out can have serious consequences. So is it that the gospel isn't as simple as we as Christians sometimes make it, or is it simply that we sometimes downplay the importance of understanding more than just the gospel? It blows my mind that someone who reads the Bible every day can come to the conclusion that understanding the end times is just not important, and when I try to explain that what we understand could effect who we believe during the tribulation most people seem content with the "simplicity of the gospel." Do I not value the gospel enough? I know that isn't the case, but I also don't know how to respond.
Good to hear from you as always – and thank you for your enthusiasm about CT 7! On your question, as I write in part 2A of the same series, knowing Jesus, honoring Jesus, living for Jesus, necessitates our dedication to the Word of God:
The only correct and proper standard of faith and practice for Christians is the Bible, the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the "Logos", the Word of God (Jn.1:1-2; 1:14; 5:39; 6:63; 8:47; 17:8; 18:37; 1Jn.1:1; Rev.19:13; cf. Is.55:11; Jn.17:17; Rom.10:17).
After all, it is not for no reason that our Lord has "magnified thy word above all thy name" (Ps.138:2 KJV): and this includes His entire Word, not just part of it.
The real issue of confusion here, I believe, is that contemporary Christians think of "the gospel" as limited to the "simple truth" about Jesus whereby a person who hears it may be saved. In fact, however, the "good news" comprises everything that may be known about the Lord and the entire realm of biblical truth this side of heaven. Here is what Paul says to those who are already believers at Rome:
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome (i.e., believers).
Romans 1:11-15 NIV
The "harvest", therefore, is not restricted to new believers but to the edification of those who are already believers. Paul certainly sees "the gospel" as the truth of the Bible generally, made even more "good news" by the reality of Jesus and His sacrifice, and all the wonderful truths associated with the lifting of the shadows of the Old Testament and the explosion of revelation in the New (see the link: "Christ's 'preaching' to the spirits"). To be fair, scripture often does use these terms in focusing upon new converts, but definitely not to the exclusion of the rest of the truth of scripture. The idea that "once you're saved, your done" is a very damaging modern notion. The biblical idea is that we are to grow in the truth after salvation, progress in our walk with the Lord, and, after being prepared for it through mastering the truth through and being tested on it by having our faith tested, enter into whatever ministry we have been assigned by the Lord according to the gift or gifts received. We are all called to 100-fold production, and it is a sad commentary on today's church-visible that many if not most are of the opinion that being saved is the beginning and the end of the matter (and even for those who wouldn't put it that way, this is usually the effect of their approach to things). I think this discussion you are having exemplifies the problem. It is sadly ironic too, since this very ignorance of the truth and necessarily correspondingly infantile relationship with the Lord will put the faith of many at risk once the Tribulation (which they have not bothered to learn about) does begin.
I thank God for your faith and dedication to the truth!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who is the very Word of Truth.
Amen Bob to those very wise words and I fully agree with that. I praise God that He has given you the gift to share His teachings in such a kind and gracious way.
I am going to continue to share your website with people who contact me from time to time and recommend it highly to any I might meet. Is it OK with you if I add your site to my youtube channel website area? Do you have a youtube channel? I will send you my youtube channel one day, but I still need to get rid of various playlists on there and recommended channels that I no longer fully agree with. I think I will narrow my youtube channel down to one good gospel sharing video and the advertising of your website on there. All of the gospel videos I've seen so far on youtube are mostly quite wrong and confusing. I am no longer even pleased with most of the videos I've made in the past concerning the gospel, and I want to now share in a more positive and hopeful way. I will probably just publicly display the one gospel video I am currently working at, but as I continue to read your site I'm inspired to make minor adjustments to it as the "still small voice" leads me. But I do want to share it with you first one day, so that you can recommend to me any corrections you feel that I should make perhaps if necessary.
I love and agree with everything you teach and I have learned so much from the "Satan's Revolt" series that I am currently reading! I was looking briefly at some other areas of your website which are equally wise, especially the way you answer people's questions in the "Topical Index" area. I looked briefly today for my first time at the "Bible Links" area. I think that is very good that you have the Hebrew and Greek reference areas available and other fact related areas. My only concern was that I noticed you had listed on there someplace John McArthur etc. I think that John does teach in a well spoken way as you do and that you both share the same thoughts in the area of miracles/signs/tongues etc, but I don't really see how you teach anything like John in any other respects than that. He firmly believes in the 5 'tulip' areas, in which I think those 5 areas really harm the true character of God, whereas how you teach clearly shares the true character of God and the true message of salvation. I'm almost certain he does not believe man truly has a free-will, and recommends the Westminster Confession, 'once saved always saved' etc. I do really enjoy John's teachings on miracles/tongues and those types of issues, but other than that, I cannot recommend Johns teachings to others with a clear clean conscience. Do you think that perhaps listing John as a link might create confusion to others as to where you really stand in some very key areas of truth? That is a concern I felt led to share with you and I hope I am being as kind as possible in sharing this concern. I also have similar concerns about Billy Graham, and perhaps some other areas but I cannot recall them off the top of my head. I do respect how Billy Graham has such a gentle spirit, but I think some of his teachings are not nearly on the level as how the Lord has blessed you in your understanding and I do feel uncomfortable about the 'altar calls' especially if he does have nuns there to council people who come forward. (I am not sure this is a fact, but I think I did read something about this at one time.) I do understand why you might like a little bit of what some of these links express, but they seem to also greatly contradict what you teach personally on your website which I fear might cause confusion to some babes in Christ. Your website is so thorough, correct, and taught in such a respectful, caring and biblically sound way that you really do not need to add other links that might have the possibility of being in strong contradiction to what you are teaching and possibly causing some confusion to new believers. Does this make sense to you too? But I think it is good that you do share the links that present factual type information such as the Hebrew and Greek references. Anyways, I felt strongly led to share this with you today. The Lord is leading me to either get rid of several of my articles too. I think the Lord is calling me to share the true gospel though as much as possible since this is the most important area of all, and there is so much confusion and false teachings out there in the world about this most important subject.
God bless you dear brother and I will continue to pray daily for you and am ever thankful to the Lord for the way He has blessed you to help so many people in this day of confusion and darkness,
I appreciate very much your "evangelizing" for Ichthys.
We haven't talked much about eschatology, but some of my good friends on this list are "pre-Trib" (meaning that they firmly believe in a "rapture" that will take the Church out of the world before the Tribulation begins – and that is definitely wrong and importantly so). So I guess it is a question of where to part fellowship when it comes to something as simple as a link. For this reason, that is, your concern about sending the wrong message, most Bible sites do not have any links at all, at least not to other ministries. That sends a message too, however, especially if there are other sorts of links. I have thus far let the individual Christian do the sorting out. Whenever asked, and some of these responses are posted, I have always advocated that the best way to grow up spiritually is to find the best single source available that one can have confidence in, and accept in faith what is taught (because only what is both true and believed to be true can be of any spiritual benefit). In that context, I am all for Christians seeking . . . until they find what they are looking for. For all such, I am confident that Ichthys will do well, and that other ministries of whatever stripe which are lacking by comparison will only reinforce the need to stick close to a safe source (for all who are seeking the truth in truth).
But I do hear what you are saying about the "other ministries" links page. Although all of the ministries listed are actual ministries and in my view are doing something positive for the Church of Jesus Christ (otherwise I would definitely not have put them up there), you are not the first person to point out that most if not all of these would not endorse the teachings at Ichthys 100% (or maybe at all), and it is certainly not my intention by including the links to give the impression that I endorse all that is taught by any of these other ministries (far from it, and, in some cases, very far from it). I will give the matter some thought.
I appreciate your honest and perspicuous perspective as always! And by all means feel free to link to it from wherever you have an internet presence.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hi Bob, Thank you for responding and sharing your thoughts. What you say above tends to confuse me a bit though. I am right now reading section 4 of the "Satanic Rebellion" series and I am about 3/4 of the way through the article and am in Satanic Lie #3 "God Needs Me." I absolutely love all that is written here and relate to it fully. It sadly seems like a contradiction though when you write such excellent and honest truths about the world being filled with religious movements that have really nothing to do with God (and I would have to think that Billy Graham, John McArthur to a certain extent etc. fit fairly well in this area), but yet you don't seem to be bothered in your conscience about having links to them. I'm completely confused by that.
God has blessed you with a very wise ministry .... in fact I can't think of any to compare. True seekers are at the end of their rope and are ready to give up the fight, (and maybe even become 'cold' toward God as I once did) because they won't compromise the truth (and thus be 'lukewarm') and yet they cannot find it (truth) out there in the world. Yours is a ministry that won't compromise, but when it appears you support ministries that --do-- compromise and ministries that have been quite significantly blinded, it really causes some serious confusion.
I really hate being overly honest at times, but I only do so because I just love the Lord so much, and I can't bear to see another true seeker get subjected to any type of confusion. I had a friend who was on fairly solid ground about a year ago and was a humble and wise teacher overall. (Not nearly at your level, but yet he was on pretty solid ground.) He is an intelligent man and was at one time a CEO for a major company before he decided to devote himself full time to seeking the Lord. And boy, this man is like you and Paul the apostle in his zealousness .... very strong and devoted. But I was noticing on his Youtube channel where he was starting to view more and more Calvinist videos like John McArthur and other strange videos which was starting to concern me. Next thing I know, he's deep deep deep into the site "Hope beyond Hell" which teaches universalism and that hell is just a temporary place for judgment and all will be saved eventually, for the devil will not 'win' but God will win. (It's sort of on the level of Rob Bell type material.)
So it's things like that that just wear me down and make me feel sick in my heart. He has made a 180 degree turn from where he once stood. Here is his site now which is almost awful beyond belief.
So I plead with you and pray about this, but I know only you can decide .... Please do pray earnestly about this.
God bless you dear friend and thanks for listening.
You make a persuasive case. As I mentioned before, you're not the first person to see a problem with this: one of my good friends from seminary also thought this was questionable. Since "the testimony of two witnesses is true" (Jn.8:17), I have decided after some considerable thought about the matter to pull down two of the links pages; I've now gotten rid of the "Bible teaching ministries" and "other ministries" pages, and have consolidated some of the links (ones which I can endorse) under the miscellaneous section of the "other resources" page (keeping mostly small, personal ministries of people I have had some contact with). I invite you to have a look.
Thanks for your honesty and dedication to the truth!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello again brother Bob, I have a question that just came to mind, and then I will try not to bother you with questions. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to my concerns. I am thinking about not using facebook except for using it to email some of my close friends here, but instead to just stick to your site. One thing that is bothering me about facebook is that I am seeing a large percent of the friends I've made here getting quite deep into open theism. When I read your site, I don't think that you believe in open theism. What are your thoughts on this exactly? One of my friends on facebook is from England and he has written some good books such as "So you think you're chosen?" I also have other open theists there. When I read your site, it makes sense to me, but when I read about open theism/open view it tends to confuse me. Is this a dangerous doctrine in your view? I was wondering if you could please listen to his following short video and let me know briefly what you think of this. Thank you so much and I do look forward to your thoughts.
I was reading some of your thoughts about the various churches out there this morning and how most of them are 95% about socializing and have very weak teachings and therefore true seekers are very disappointed in not being able to find places where they can grow together and truly encourage one another. I know you are very busy, but I was thinking that if you ever get the time that you might consider starting a facebook group and ask some of the people who regularly email you and ask you questions and are edified greatly by your ministry if they might like to join a facebook group where sound teaching could be shared, and encouragement would be given. Especially as the day draws nigh, this might be something important to consider. I have been searching for a wise teacher who was willing to teach the fullness of truth in a spirit of love for 45 years now, and you're the first person that I know of that I can honestly say does this and is a true pastor. I think there would definitely be some who would be very grateful for a group like that and is something we can pray about.
Also, I sent a friend the page you wrote about "Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing". The two main areas of questions would be the water baptism area and the military defense area, but other than that you would both see very eye to eye. I still have a long ways to go in reading the "Satanic Rebellion" parts first, before I read the eschatology material you have available. Also, anything you could provide on "original sin" would also be appreciated (this is also a hot button issue of late on facebook).
Good to hear from you. On the topic of a Facebook group, it's a good idea and I have had the suggestion before. The problem is that I am just barely treading water with the ministry as it is, given the exigencies of a full-time job and the other demands on my time as things now stand. I will keep an open mind to the idea, however. One never knows how God will work things out.
As to your question about "open theism", deism is a long-standing alternative to true Christianity, and theism can sometimes be considered a synonym to it: the idea that there is a God but then rejecting any particular worship of Him, the truths of scripture in particular. In my opinion, this is not much better than atheism. Both schools of thought are merely ways that adults accommodate to their decision to have nothing to do with God in this life. So whether a person rejects the truth that God has a plan of salvation for them or that there is a God at all, the end result is the same: a self-chosen eternity apart from Him. In my experience, when it comes to such titles and even more so when it comes to more particular and more esoteric labels (like "open theism"), it is best to avoid reading too much into these (more on this below). Take Calvinism, for example. If I use that label to describe someone's teachings, even if they use it too, those who listen to the discussion may be misled. That is because what I have in mind by the term may not be what either my disputant or my audience thinks when they use the term – and in most cases all three perspectives will diverge from what John Calvin actually meant (and that evolved over time, depending on the specific teaching). So I tend to shy away from such labels (after all, even "Christian" means different things to different people, and is really not a biblical title in the sense usually assumed; see the link). Christians who come to this ministry have specific questions, and I try to answer them in straightforward scriptural terms. Labels have a tendency to draw up battle lines (as with the term "original sin"; see below) – but this is a Bible teaching ministry, not an apologetic one.
So when I see something esoteric like "open theism" I am always reluctant to engage with a definition per se. If someone says they are S.A., or Mormon, or R.C., etc., well, there is specified body of official beliefs that may be considered (although even here just because someone is, say, Catholic, does not mean that they automatically believe everything that church says they should believe). Doctrinal (as opposed to denominational) labels admit of much more leeway since even more well-known schools of thought usually come in many "flavors". So I find it more productive to tackle specific doctrines. If, therefore, "open theism" means to someone that there is no Trinity, that is clearly incorrect. It is also incorrect to say that said doctrine is not taught in scripture (it most certainly is). One of the maddening things about the evil one's assaults on the truth are the vast numbers of cults and religious groups who want to go their own way and make up their own truth but who also want to claim that it's "biblical" even so. The reason for doing so is obvious enough: the Bible gives great cachet to all false teaching (if you can get people to believe your erroneous interpretation). Ultimately, however, that is, once the hook is set, all such groups tend to de-emphasize (or even forbid) Bible reading (see the link). Getting the convert to accept that "we are biblical" is all that is required. After that, too much independent accessing of scripture might show up the many flaws with which all such organizations are rife.
So when it comes to any teaching or system of teaching which refuses to accept that God is one in essence, three in person – the clear teaching of scripture and a universal tenet of all genuinely Christian groups – I personally see no need to go into any farther (and there are many such). I did have a brief look at the video. The person was claiming that there were things God does not know. This is another tell of false teaching, namely, any time a person or group diminishes who God is. We who have committed our lives to Jesus Christ know that He is limitless in every way, and thrill to His greatness. Trying to put Him "in a box" of whatever type is the refuge of those who, like Satan, wish God were less than He really is, because that would be the only way they could be more than they really are. Inhabiting a universe wherein God does not interfere – accepting the blessings of God without Him who is the source of all blessing – is really what is at the heart of all attempts to replace the truth which self-made substitutes.
One other aspect of all false teaching is that it appeals to some desire a person has (this is all discussed at the link: "Read your Bible"). Open theism's idea of a personal God who is malleable to an individual's requests can be very appealing. But while it is true that hyper-Calvinism's twisting of the doctrines of foreknowledge and the divine decrees to the point where our free will is essentially removed from the picture is false, that does not make the other extreme correct either. God has anticipated everything we actually have chosen: both parts of the equation are true and in fact essential one to the other, even if philosophy and logic see these two aspects of the proposition as contradictory (discussed at the link: BB 4B: Soteriology).
As to "original sin", this is not a term I generally use and I would be reluctant to describe the teachings of Ichthys that way (if only because of the misunderstandings that might result). I think anyone who fully accepts the Augustinian teaching on this score would find much to disagree with in my main study of sin, BB 3B: Hamartiology. To make a long story short, the idea of an imputation of Adam's sin to all at birth is based upon the Latin fathers' mistranslation of Romans 3:23 and 5:12-13 which more correctly rendered read as follows:
For all sin and fall short of God's glory, [but we are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
So just as through one man (i.e., Adam whose antitype is Christ) sin came into the world and, through sin, death, and thus (i.e., Adam physically passing on his sin nature resulting in universal spiritual death) death spread to all mankind – for [obviously] everyone sins (i.e., universal sinning proves the fact of universal spiritual death). For [even] before the Law [was handed down], there was [indeed] sin in the world, but, when there was no Law, sin was not being taken into account [by us as it was after the Law].
We see from the rendering of the first passage above that its main point is that all human beings commit sin (Jesus Christ being the sole exception), and thus all need God's help in Christ to be saved; we see from a correct rendering of the second passage that the sin nature is handed down (genetically) through the male line to everyone (again, with Christ the sole exception – explaining the importance of the virgin birth). However, we also see in this second passage that there is no such thing as "the imputation of Adam's sin" (see the link), that is, the false idea that we are somehow all "judicially" condemned for what Adam did. Rather, the fact that we all sin is the proof that we inherited a sinful nature. The commission of sin is a choice; it is, however, very clearly a choice every human being makes (to one degree or another), so insidious is the influence of the sin nature within us (no one is "innocent").
The Bible very clearly teaches the sinfulness of our flesh, that is, the universal physical corruption of all humanity as a result of the fall (see the link: the sin nature). However, since by the term "original sin" this idea of imputation is also falsely included in most iterations, I usually shy away from using that terminology. Obviously, as Paul says, we can all see that everyone sins. It is a choice, but it is a choice that, to some degree or another, every human being makes at one time or another. I would think this would be obvious to anyone with any experience in this world and doubly so to anyone who has read a good a deal of scripture. Perhaps these observations will be useful in explaining the difference between what this site teaches (which I would argue is the biblical position) and more "classical" formulations of "original sin". Again, we have the problem of labels and the assumptions they engender. So I guess I would ask those who have a problem with it, "what do you mean by 'original sin'?".
I do hope I have gotten around to all of your questions here, but feel free to write back about any of this.
Again, thanks so much for your good words and your enthusiasm for the truth of the Word of God!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, through whom alone we have eternal life.
Hello my good friend in Jesus Christ! I truly pray that all is well with you and yours. I pray and think about you often, praying that God continues to bless you to do his will, because truly the work that you're doing is a blessing to many. I know it has been for me. Which means the devil is angry and I know he wants to destroy this work by getting to you in way if he can. So I just want to encourage you to keep the faith my friend and know that you're not alone. I praying for you and I know like minded believers are praying for you as well.
With that being said, I find myself in a place of discouragement, even though I know God is able. As you already know from my story and my journey with traveling down to the church I'm planting every Sunday, it has not been easy. Partly because of my own personal struggles, disappointments, and failures. Brother Bob, some times I question if I'm truly qualified to lead a church or teach God's word. I'm not as intellectual as you are or others. I have no college background, I was brought up in a church that taught me the true basics on becoming a Christian (thank God for that) but several things they built on top of that foundation lead me to confusion. I had to unlearn and relearn all over again, and I'm still learning, which hopefully we all are.
But my point is, I've being preaching and teaching now for over many years and I feel that I should be further along than I'm currently am. The truth is (as I follow my conviction) I have given in to a life that is not a life of a Preachers life.
For years now, I've struggle with juggling Pastor, Father, Husband, Work. See the answer I know, but the moving forward I haven't been able. It's like I'm scared to adjust my lifestyle because it may take away from me in other areas in my life that are important to me. But I know I shouldn't put nothing before God, and the duty that's been assign to me. But it's easier said than done my friend.
I want to be more disciplined or organized, but it seems almost impossible to do. My lack of efforts has cause me weakness, and because weakness creeps in, it has lead me to place of repentance. See I know sin separates us from God, and I've allow some old habits to creep in and get the best of me from time to time.
And when that happens, it brings me to the state which I'm at now, the feeling of unworthiness, failure and letting God and others down. Brother Bob, this week I haven't studied anything for tomorrow service. I been promoted on my job (thank God for that) but it brings more responsibility, then I come home and spend time with the family and or go to gym to work out a little (doctor orders). By the time it's quiet, my eyes are heavy from looking at a computer all day. and I feel to tired to focus on the word, so I end up waiting until either Friday night to prepare and or Saturday to get ready for Sunday.
Truly I could go on, but I believe you get fully get my picture. The ministry I'm grateful for and it's been 6 months of labor and travel. No souls have been added as of yet, but at least I have their ears presence most of the Sundays. There are 7 adults that come every Sunday (for the most part) sometimes more, but not consistently, out of the seven theirs 2 of them that are saved. I've been pouring out my heart and soul to them to receive Jesus as the Lord and Savior, but many still reject the invitation for various reasons like believing their already saved when they're not. I personally know their lives and they bear no fruit of righteousness.
So on top of my discouragement, I wrestle with my own failures and weakness and when you mixed the two together, it's hard to deal with. I understand and it's understood that my journey would be a tough one. I still willing to go another 6 months as long as I have the people still coming because God is able to turn this around, this I know, even it's just one soul saved.
But I guess it's the combo combined together that's getting the best of me. I'm not sure if this will take you out of your comfort zone or not (I say that in a respectful way) because I know when it comes to certain things, like how would go about this or that, you might or might not feel as freely to answer in a way one might ask because your giving your opinion on something and not totally scriptural. I'm asking you for somewhat of a structured daily pattern that I could benefit from and lead me to growth. If you were in my shoes, young and learning, Pastor, Father, Husband, Work, how would you deal with this and prioritize your day Sunday-Sat?
Brother Bob, I'm not sure how much you truly know you're appreciated, but from my lips and heart, you're truly appreciated and needed.
May God continue to bless you, keep you and use you in mighty way.
Your Brother in Christ,
Thanks for the update, my friend. I am very happy to hear that you have been promoted, and that you are still hanging in there with the church. Things are much the same here, but your perseverance through such difficult head-winds is an encouragement to me to "practice what I preach" and trust the Lord, waiting on His deliverance.
From where I sit, you are doing wonderful things. Could we all do better? Indeed. But there are limits to what we can do, and there are also limits to the benefits of the pressure we put on ourselves to do better. It is true that when and if we are doing very little it is a good thing to shake ourselves up so as to get moving. But when we are pushing forward, especially when we are experiencing difficult sledding, the main thing is to continue. I am very far from the near-perfect person you make me out to be, so that I know this particular principle very well: it's better to do something than to do nothing; it's better to be consistent about doing something than doing everything today and nothing tomorrow; and when the going is rough, it's important to hang in there doing that something rather than being too hard on oneself to do more than one is practically able to do regularly and consistently – with the danger of cracking and beginning to do nothing as a result of despondency about not being better. Paul was, spiritually speaking, an Olympic athlete; most of the rest of us are not, and it is therefore prudent to pace ourselves. We are in grave spiritual combat, the gravest. When your country is being bombed, it's courageous and commendable to take off risking life and limb to defend it. Could you fly more missions? Perhaps. But the main thing is to keep taking off, every day, no matter what. And if we genuinely over-extend ourselves today, we may be unable to "go up" tomorrow. Every "ace" is different so that getting the mix right is all-important. Wise veterans understand that the "old hares" who are still around at the end knew they weren't supermen even as they refused to be cowards: everyone has a God-given "sweet-spot" between the two extremes, which, once discovered and embraced, will allow you to stay in the fight without getting shot down or burnt out.
I am certainly not saying that we should not want to and should not make it our business to do all we can to serve our Lord and His Church so as to earn the maximum possible eternal rewards. Indeed we should. But the countervailing principles mentioned above are also true. We will have good times and bad times; we will have times when we are "all in" and feeling good about things and well able to handle it; we will also have times when the pressure is on, when the energy is down, when the problems, troubles and distractions are multiplied. I have little doubt that Paul keep cranking at full tilt even so. The rest of us should start with making every effort not to stop doing what we know needs to be done day by day and doing so without fail. It may be that under these conditions we could, theoretically, "do more", and am I'm not saying we shouldn't be seeking for ways to do more and shouldn't also be critical of ourselves for not doing all we might do. What I am saying is that the worst thing is to put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything that we crack and start doing nothing. The latter is a very common thing in the human race, and not just in spiritual terms. It's better to jog a couple of miles a day than to decide that running full-out for a dozen is what's indicated, be unable to keep up with it, then stop running altogether after a week or two. This is how many people approach life, and it's not a very successful model.
We don't choose the particular "battlefield" on which the Lord places us here on this earth, nor do we choose the gifts the Spirit gives us, nor the ministry the Lord Jesus assigns, nor the effects with which the Father blesses it (1Cor.12:4-7). Our part is make ourselves available to God for the accomplishment of His plan. The more we get out of the way, the clearer God's part in what we are used to do will be.
I will certainly continue to pray for you about your church and for your guidance about how to handle it in every way, and also for the strength to keep doing what you discern the Lord wants you to be doing . . . at a reasonable and sustainable pace.
Proclaim the Word! Keep at it, whether circumstances are favorable or not! Reprove, rebuke, [and] encourage with all patience [in your] teaching!
2nd Timothy 4:2
Your fellow runner in this Marathon and fighter in this fight,
I am new Christian. I recently found out that my pastor gets 80% of our tithes weekly. We are a small church of 10. We meet at each others houses. My question is, is it right to pay our pastor 80% of tithes and only 20% goes to the church?
Good to make your acquaintance.
The Bible has very little to say about church polity. Many people are surprised when I say that, because, of course, how churches are organized and operate, their officers, orders of service, statements of faith, financial and organizational dicta, buildings and physical plant et al. are the sorts of things which have not only occupied much of the attention of the church-visible over the last two millennia but have also resulted in much animosity, division, and outright hostility. In the Bible, however, the rule is flexibility once the main principle is understood: local churches exist for the edification of the Body of Christ, and that edification results only from the teaching of the Word of God. For more on this first part see the links:
Some Questions on Church Polity.
Church Polity: Elders and three other passages.
The question of tithing is a very good example. Nowhere in scripture are churches or church "members" required to tithe (in fact the whole concept of "membership" is modern and also not biblical). Tithing was a sort of income tax which was prescribed in scripture for the ancient nation-state of Israel which was a theocracy. The best modern (though unbiblical) example of this sort of thing was during the 18th century in the colonies where some places like Virginia had a tax to support the official church (the C. of E. or nowadays Episcopal Church). Blessedly, we are no longer under that yoke. We are free to attend any church we wish, and we are free to give as much as we like or nothing at all. Clearly, a stingy attitude toward the organization which is feeding us spiritually (in those extremely rare cases where there is a teaching ministry which actually is feeding the congregation spiritually) would not be a godly one. But the idea that 10% is the magic number for us today is completely unjustified and not supportable through scripture. God loves a gracious giver (2Cor.9:7), and it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), but the idea that 10% is bless-ed and blessed while less is insufficient and unacceptable is absolutely wrong. And if that notion ever comes from someone in an official capacity it is hard to see how it would not be an example of evil greed. Christians should give if they are motivated to give, and 10% for someone who is only making ends meet is more than 10% for someone who is awash with resources (Lk.21:2-4). It would be wrong to make the hard-pressed person feel bad in the least for not being able to meet this false standard, and on the other side of the coin many are blessed with abundant wealth precisely so that they may exercise their gift of giving – and it would wrong to suggest to them that when they hit 10% they have done all they ought to do (1Tim.6:17-19; cf. Rom.12:8). Here are some links on this:
Tithing and the Book of Life
Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?
To come (finally) to the gist of your question, as a local church you are certainly within your rights to pay your pastor as much or as little as you agree on and as he is willing and able to accept. It is important to note, however, that being stingy with those who minister the Word of God is one of the few areas where scripture does make statements in regard to the management of the local church:
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Galatians 6:6-7 KJV
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
1st Timothy 5:17-18 NKJV
6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
1st Corinthians 9:6-14 NIV
The most important thing a church does is teach the Word of God. A pastor who is trained, experienced, gifted, and effective at doing so is a very rare commodity and an invaluable resource – worth more than mere money can value. But of course anyone can lead a song service, make announcements, tell funny stories, give sermons, etc. I wouldn't personally pay for the latter, but I would certainly place the highest value on the former, if and when I was blessed enough to find it. Here are a few last links on this part of your question:
Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly.
How much should we pay our pastor?
Pay the Pastor
Tent-making and Galatians 6:6.
Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Yours in Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of the sheep,
Is tithing biblical? And how much should we pay our pastor?
The system of tithing described in the Bible existed for the support of the priesthood in ancient Israel. There are no New Testament passages which suggest that such a system should be employed today. Not that giving a set amount of money in support of the work of the kingdom of God is a bad thing. "God loves a cheerful giver" (2Cor.9:7). But 10% may be well beyond some people's means. After all, we have another set of governments that exact a good deal of our income from us, whereas in ancient Israel the tithes were the only tax per se until the Davidic kingdom (and even then the level of taxation was far below what we experience today). So for believers to be setting a ten percent level for themselves if they've decided in their heart that such is a good thing to do, and if they are able to do so without seriously harming their families – and if they are doing so with the right "grace" motivations (as opposed to assuming that they will be "paid back" in material blessings from God) – then that would be fine. However, for a church to teach that its members need to give 10% or else they are not good Christians or, worse, that they are violating God's law, is a terrible twisting of scripture. There is no mandatory tithe today, anymore than there is an established Aaronic priesthood.
As to the other part of your question, namely, the level of support for the pastor in question, here is what I read in scripture:
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer [is] worthy of his reward.
1st Timothy 5:17-18 KJV
The purpose of the assembly of the local church is to "receive the Word" and "learn doctrine/truth" from those who "labor in the word and doctrine". Everything else is of secondary, or, really, tertiary importance. The only reason to have a "church" is to be able to be instructed in the truths of the scripture face to face by someone who is gifted and prepared and willing to do such teaching. In the church-visible today, of course, there are few pastors who have prepared to do so, fewer who are inclined to study the Word as they should and teach it deeply and substantively (as opposed to giving short inspirational pep-talks filled with jokes and anecdotes), and even fewer congregations inclined to sit still for orthodox in-depth Bible teaching. If you are blessed to be part of a fellowship where the teaching of the Word of God is at the core and center of what you do, then my advice would always be to put the support of the one doing the teaching in first place to the detriment of all other considerations. What good, for example, is a beautiful dedicated building where no teaching is going on? The Roman Catholics have some beautiful cathedrals. That means nothing to God. It also contributes nothing to the spiritual growth of those who frequent such places, because there is little to no truth to be heard within their walls.
Here are some other links where these topics are discussed:
Tithing and the Book of Life
Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?
Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly.
How much should we pay our pastor?
Pay the Pastor
Tent-making and Galatians 6:6.
The Assembly of the Local Church
Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
The more I think about it (especially after the attitude of Christians in this election), the more I think Christians should not vote and completely stay out of politics. Political success of Evangelical policies just feeds the myth of the secular left that we want to implement Christian Shahira, or are the Evangelical Taliban, or (most importantly) that we are the roadblock to the secular world's happiness. Let them make straight what is crooked. At least that way they get to hold full responsibility for their creation, which might be a bigger punishment than the most puritanical state Bob Jones could ever come up with.
This is what I have been "preaching" for a long time. I fully expect that antichrist will have as a large part of his initial support in this country those nominal and cultural Christians who have come to define their Christianity in terms of political causes and crusades. Only Jesus can "change the world". We Christians are still here after salvation to "change ourselves" into the image of Christ with the Spirit's aid, and to help others do the same through the proper function of our gifts. Anything else is of the devil – not to mention incredibly counter-productive. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil.3:20).
In Jesus our Lord,
At around 290, Roman author Porphyry praised Christ as a saintly individual, a "humble" man. Christ's followers, however, he damned as "arrogant."
At around 2010, atheist Phillip Pullman authors the book titled The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, which echos a similar theme as Porphyry.
There seems to be a 1,700 year old tradition of pagans (polytheistic or atheistic) announcing that they love Christ, but yet hate Christians. Any theories as to why this is? Is it related to the spirit of Antichrist in 1 John 2?
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for secular humanists and unbelievers generally to dislike self-righteous and hyper-political Christians. I certainly dislike their attitudes and actions, even if I continue to love them as my brothers and sisters. But as to what such secular humanists and unbelievers think about Jesus Christ, that is another matter. Jesus is God. He is also the perfect God-man (since the incarnation). Anytime anyone calls Him "a man", it is clear that they don't have the faintest clue who He is – the One who created the universe, the One who sustains it by His "word of power", the One who died for every single one of their sins, the One through faith in whom alone they may escape the grave and eternal condemnation. Calling Him "a nice man" is the height of arrogance and ignorance fed by arrogance. This is very clear to all such in their heart of hearts as will be seen at the last judgment (please see the link). So I would certainly agree that such thinking is essentially satanic (as in "the spirit of antichrist" you mention); after all, Satan is all for "good" – as long as he gets to define what "good" is and live without any accountability to God. That is what all unbelievers want, whether human or angel: eternal life on their own terms is a universe without God. They will get what they want in one respect: an eternity without God – in the lake of fire.
In Jesus Christ through whom we have been liberated from all such judgment by His blood,
Got this from an RC friend that I have written to you about. What I found interesting about this is the priest’s recognition of lukewarm faith being the problem.
I want to begin today by thanking those of you who went out on Tuesday and voted for the sacredness of human life. Just as the widow’s deed in our 1st reading will never be forgotten as long as the Scriptures are read, be assured that no righteous deed that we ever undertake will be forgotten by Almighty God. This past Wednesday, the day after the election, I received a message on my phone at the parish office, from a gentleman who didn’t identify himself by name but who said he was a parishioner. And in this message, this gentleman ranted for several minutes about Tuesday’s election results. And here were the first words out of his mouth, "You lost Father; you lost!" Well, the first thing I want to say about Tuesday night’s election results is that I didn’t lose. On Tuesday night our entire country lost! Now, having said that, I know that there are several of you who have just decided to tune me out, or you’re now burning up with anger at me because of what I just said and you can’t wait to give me a piece of your mind. But let me say two things in this regard. Number one, I am a priest of Jesus Christ, not because of any merit of my own, not because I’m any better than anyone else. God probably chose me because I am nothing and He wants to make something out of me. But I have been anointed and consecrated by God to preach His truth. And so, you can tune me out, but be warned, you do so at your eternal peril. Second, if you’re angry because you read into my words that this homily is going to be about one elected official that you probably voted for, you’re wrong. What I have to say today goes far beyond just one elected official. What I have to say is about the over all trend that was put on display in Tuesday’s election results. Did you know, for instance, that on Tuesday several states voted by popular majority to legalize the recreational use of marijuana? Did you know that a plan to legalize physician assisted suicide was barely rejected in Massachusetts? Did you now that for the first time in our country’s history several states, by popular vote, chose to legalize gay marriage? Did you know that two of these states are run by "Catholic" governors who actively encouraged their constituents to vote in favor of same sex unions? Did you know that in Florida, a ban on tax payers funding of abortion was rejected by the people? Add to all of this the fact that some who were elected in Tuesday’s elections are pathological liars, people who have been exposed in their lies numerous times. Apparently, a majority of Americans now condone lying, or perhaps worse, for them the lie has become the truth, evil has become good. Now can you begin to see the trend? In the days after the elections all the talking heads in the media have been trying to explain how this all happened. But not one person in the mainstream media has gotten it right. You see, these election results are not about one party’s marketing advantage over another. Ultimately, they’re not about the appeal of one person over another, nor are they about one party being more up-to-date while the other is behind times. What we saw on Tuesday night IS about the moral decline of our nation. Tuesday’s voting results are a mere confirmation of a choice that a majority in this country made, some as far back as 50 years ago, to reject God and to embrace evil in one form or another! And who’s to blame for this choice? Well, ultimately, each individual is responsible for his or her choices. Those who chose to vote with evil are to blame for their own choices, and they’ll have to answer to God for the way they voted. But the reality is I don’t think any of us can take ourselves completely off the hook on this one. Why? Because one of the worst contributing factors to the moral decline of our country has been the lukewarmness that has plagued the Catholic Church for years all the way from the Bishops down to the people in the pews. Pope St. Pius X once said that "All evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics." Think about that for a second, "All evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics." Well, I have to be honest with you. I’ve seen this lukewarmness in every church parish at which I’ve served. But you know where else I see this lukewarmness? I see it when I look in the mirror; I see it in myself. And if we’re honest with ourselves I think all of us would see one or more area of lukewarmness in our own spiritual lives. My brothers and sisters, each one of us has a moral obligation to do all that we can to try to reverse the moral decline of our nation. And the first place that we have to begin is within ourselves. We have to begin by responding to that vocation which is common to all of us, what the Church calls the universal call to holiness, the call from Jesus to each one of us to become a saint! In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." How many of us, each day, tremble as we strive for holiness?! How many of us live with a lively fear of hell, a place that is real and a place where souls go for all eternity?! Or have we instead accepted mediocrity in our spiritual lives? "Oh, I’m too busy to pray Lord; I just don’t have the time… I’m too tired to pray; I’ll get to it tomorrow... Oh, I don’t like that teaching of the Church, I am not going to do that, who do they think they are coming up with this stuff... Well, I think I’ve done enough for God; what more do I have to do for Him…" In one of His parables Jesus poses an important question that we would all do well to ask ourselves. "Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?" Well, what cost is Jesus talking about? He’s not giving construction advice to builders and contractors. The context of that Gospel is the cost of discipleship, what it costs to be a saint, ultimately what it costs us get to Heaven. But all too often we act as if that cost is cheap! "Well, I go to Mass on most Sundays. I’m a good person; I haven’t murdered anybody. Of course I’m going to Heaven!" Jesus dealt with this kind of cheap discipleship in the Gospels when He said, "Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven." On the day of judgment many will say to Jesus, "Well, didn’t we go to Mass fairly often on Sundays and didn’t we put some money in the collection basket? Didn’t we accept at least some of the Church’s teachings? Besides, as I said before, I’m a good person; I didn’t murder anybody." Then Jesus will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me you evildoers!" My brothers and sisters, in ordinary times lukewarmness in our approach to salvation is deadly. But we are not entering into ordinary times. We are not moving forward into ordinary times. There is a great battle brewing; in fact this battle is already upon us, a battle in our country between good and evil and I can feel this battle in the very marrow in my bones. If we are not striving for holiness with every fiber of our being we will not have what it takes to pay the cost of discipleship, we will not have what it takes to get to Heaven! As Jesus says near the end of Matthew’s Gospel, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved…no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." It’s clear from the trends that we see in Tuesday’s election results that people of faith in this country are going to be attacked relentlessly over and over again by one wave of evil after another. And so we must be sure that we have included these attacks in our calculations. A lukewarm faith will never survive the attacks of an army of evil that is Legion. We must become saints! And do not wait for tomorrow to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for tomorrow may be too late. Today let us resolve to root out all sin from our lives! Today let us resolves to remove all evil from our hearts! Today let us double our efforts at prayers! Today let us pray that Mary, the Mother of God, our Mother, will once again crush the head of Satan, and intercede for us the grace of perseverance! Today, let us resolve to take up our cross and be a disciple of Jesus Christ! Christ, who in the words of the Servant of God Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, "will restore within us moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water!" The final message that I received from that gentleman’s call on Wednesday was that I need to stop preaching the way I do. I need to stop telling people how they ought to live their lives, what teachings of the Church they need to follow. "If he wants to support gay marriage I just need to shut up and give him a choice." Well, sir, in answer to your request I give you a choice: You can either come here to this Catholic Church and listen to the Word of God and to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church or you can leave and go somewhere else!
I have a hard time warming up to any purportedly Christian message that starts by thanking people for being involved in politics. Not that this is an RC-centric thing (would that it were). The "senior living" place my mom is now in is run by the RC church (about a quarter or so Protestant), and she has met some good people there, including an RC chaplain whose messages she likes (he used to be a Presbyterian – sad commentary on the Presby. church as it now stands that the RC church is not as apostate, at least on social issues).
I am most definitely against lukewarmness, but crusading against social ills is a subtle form of just that: it is perhaps the ultimate distraction. It is a poor, satanic substitute for pursuing the truth of the Word whereby alone we are saved, grow spiritually, become mature, begin walking with Jesus, and begin to produce according to the gifts we have been given. We can do it the right way, the hard way, the biblical way, or we can go out and have our self-righteous fun by bashing this group of unbelievers or the other for being "wrong" about some application of truth or the other. And they are "wrong", of course. But what has always struck me is that on every one of these issues the people who oppose the "wrong" are (in some respects of the contrary positions they take) also inevitably "off" on their understanding of scripture – yet inevitably even so become fanatically convinced that they are correct in every respect. Whether it is becoming convinced that because abortion is wrong that therefore life begins at conception (and pillorying anyone who dares to speak the truth for the truth's sake), or that because homosexual marriage is absurd that therefore marriage is a "Christian institution" (and hyper-focusing on that as the end all and be all of the Christian life as a result), or that because any number of things are debilitating – alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc., etc., etc. – that the solution to all of them is social activism: believers should consider that one of the reasons we have such a massive and intrusive government is precisely because of such crusades. It doesn't matter that some of the present crusades are "better" than some of the previous ones, or that "anti-sin" crusades may seem "better" than "social justice" crusades. The results are similar in all cases: bigger and more intrusive government, distraction of the Christian individuals involved from the true purpose of their lives, and, most offensively, the diminution, dilution, and debasement of the truth.
I'm keeping you in my prayers, my friend.
May the Lord work things out in His perfect way.
My only point about the email is the lukewarmness reference, which is ironic and has more to do with their social gospel going in a decidedly unbiblical way unanticipated by them. When you create a Frankenstein you shouldn't be surprised when it acts evil. RC has always been social gospel activists and quick to tell politicians what to do and urge people to be involved in furthering their social gospel view. In a way the lukewarmness is the natural result of the social gospel emphasis over teaching scripture but since RC haven't done that it is no surprise. They are being hoisted by their own petard and don't realize they caused it.
Amen! I certainly do understand that you know how all of this fits – and the point is a good one.
You and yours are in my prayers for a blessed Thanksgiving in spite of the difficult circumstances.
Your pal in Jesus Christ,