Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Rod Sterling

I ALWAYS READ these kinds of news stories with a certain incredulity.

It’s kind of like watching old re-runs of The Twilight Zone.

All of those low-budget, black and white episodes make for interesting, even provocative, fiction, but they’re obviously neither true nor believable.

Well, the story which currently haunts my thinking isn’t fiction, but reality.

It seems the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is on the verge of altering its stance on how it defines marriage.

Less than a year ago, the group voted in its General Assembly meeting in Detroit to officially embrace gay unions.

In order for the vote to become formally accepted, a majority of the denomination’s 172 presbyteries have to now vote in favor of this new provision.

Incredible as it may seem, Amendment 14-F has been thus far embraced by 79 of 116 regional assemblies.

That means that at the Presbyterians are just mere 7 votes away from adopting homosexual “marriage” and amending its Book of Order from being uniquely between a man and a woman to any two people—male or female.1

It is as if I am back in the 60’s watching late night, three channel, Twilight Zone stuff.

“This just can’t be true.

How can any church endorse blatant immorality?”

Back in my grammar school days, Rob and Laura Petrie (e.g., The Dick Van Dyke Show) couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on TV.

And now, only a generation or two later, one faction of the Presbyterian Church is working hard to accept and promote rank perversion.

When is Rod Sterling finally going to step out in front of the TV screen and tell me that this is just an elaborate, satirical hoax?

Dear readers, as we ponder the ramifications of what is happening within one religious group today, permit me to stimulate our hearts and minds even further:

By what AUTHORITY does any group get to vote on whether or not to accept what the Bible teaches on ANY issue, including and especially marriage?

There is not a single passage or principle in Scripture that delegates that right to any collective. Jesus has ALL authority, not man (Mat. 28:18; Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 3:17). We are to preach and carry out His will exclusively—and no religious group (including the church of our Lord) has the right to alter, amend, or legislate in the realm of doctrine or living (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; 1 Pet. 4:11).

The Lord Himself cast the deciding vote on marriage “at the beginning” (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:4-5). His will is not, nor will it ever be, subject to change or man-made modification (Psm. 119:89; Isa. 40:6-8;1 Pet. 1:25).

The apostle Paul said “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead more people into more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:16 ESV). Watch it—false teaching (babble) inevitably results in false practice (ungodliness). Friends, it is simply not possible to believe wrong and then live right before God. Doctrine and living are bound together (Phil. 1:9-11)! It is not “either or”, but “both and”.

Paul also spoke of some who “strayed” from the faith (2 Tim. 2:18). How does a group get from “one man and one woman” to either two men or two women? And the obvious answer is—because they stray, incrementally, piecemeal, a little bit at a time—and no one steps up to censure these obvious deviations from the revealed will of God.

But an even more difficult question also ought to prick our conscience, brethren. Many Presbyterians have remained deathly silent for far too long and now the denomination is about to rush headlong over the precipice of moral integrity and into the abyss of hedonistic relativism. How do we prevent the Lord’s church from doing the very same thing today? I increasingly hear of “gospel” preachers, who in their quest for numerical growth, say that they will not preach on subjects like marriage, divorce, and remarriage because doing so may “divide families.”2 Forgive me, but that kind of thinking smacks of cowardice at the least, and pragmatism (Col. 2:8) at the worst. Our liberal Presbyterian friends would be proud. Decades of silence from their pulpits have brought the denomination to where they may soon, in all good conscience, worship with and fellowship those who openly and unabashedly practice what God calls abomination (Eph. 5:11-13; Isa. 5:20).

I am of the conviction that if we are not extremely careful, we are not far behind the denominationalists. Think about it. How can we consistently condemn the open practice of homosexuality within the Presbyterian Church, but not also condemn the open practice of adultery within the Lord’s church? Think about it:

If we tried to convert a couple from San Francisco who practiced homosexuality, wouldn’t we insist that they repent of their sin first? If they legally kept an adopted child, would we say we can’t preach on homosexuality because a child is involved?

If we tried to convert a Tanzanian Maasai who practiced polygamy and had multiple children by two or more wives, would we not insist that he repent of his sin first? Would we baptize and then fellowship a man who openly practiced polygamy and refuse to teach him the biblical elements true repentance (Ezek. 18:2-23; Mat. 3:8; Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9) because he had kids (cf. Ezra 10:10-11)? The “God would never split a family” doctrine is patently false.

Now if we won’t fellowship homosexuals who might have an adopted child, and we won’t fellowship the polygamist who has many children, how can we consistently fellowship the adulterer who also has children…?

We simply can’t excise passages such as Matthew 19 from our Bibles like King Jehoiakim who cut out the Word with a scribe’s knife (Jer. 36:23). We can’t teach that repentance is necessary for sins like stealing, but not for sins like living in adultery (2 Cor. 7:10; Col. 3:7).3 On the contrary, we have a divine mandate, because we love souls, to warn others of the perils associated with all sexual sin—and judge those who are doing so (John 7:24; cf. 1 Cor. 5; Rom. 16:17).

Here’s my point. Once we begin to compromise the truth in one realm, we inexorably compromise it in another and yet another—just like the Presbyterians—until we’re not only accepting sin, but endorsing it ourselves.

Let’s stand together, and let’s stand up for what the Bible teaches about sin and repentance—however difficult it may be. This is not The Twilight Zone.

1 http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/03/10/major-christian-denomination-is-just-seven-votes-away-from-making-a-monumental-decision-that-some-say-willcause-its-demise/

2 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1120-does-ezra-deserve-criticism

3 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1015-what-is-the-fruit-of-repentance

Treating Combat Fatigue

CHRISTIANS ARE SOLDIERS (2 Tim. 2:4).

They fight ongoing battles (Eph. 6:121 Tim. 1:19; 6:11,122 Tim. 4:72 Cor. 10:4) in a spiritual war (Rev. 12:17).

Battles inevitably produce casualties — lots of them, and casualties require medical (Mat. 9:12) attention.

The church — not the building, is a sort of front line M.A.S.H. unit — a divine trauma center.

Padded pews serve as medical stretchers for the injured.

Services house the wounded and hurting.

Assemblies offer temporary shelter and protection to traumatized infantrymen.

They suffer from the effects of divorce, sexual promiscuity, envy, addiction, hostility, stress, conflict, abandonment, lost love, guilt, hopelessness, infidelity, jealousy, selfishness, etc.

Their hearts have been scarred from injuries received while engaged in fierce warfare with the enemy — Satan (Rev. 12:101 Pet. 5:8John 12:312 Cor. 4:4Eph. 2:2).

Wounded souls are usually not too difficult to spot in the ranks of the congregation.

You can often see hurt in the eyes.

You can hear it in broken voices.

Pale expressions.

Fallen spirits.

Blank stares.

Furrowed brows.

Tears.

Internal battle scars tend to surface in the countenance.

While these soldier’s bodies still function, their minds have ceased to do so.

Thinking is much too painful.

Memory is a plague.

Sleep is restless and fitful.

Blow after blow have taken their terrible toll.

Emotional stress-fractures are the tell-tale symptoms of the cumulative assaults on the spirit.

GIs called it “combat fatigue” or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

The biblical term is “weariness” (Gal. 6:9 NKJV).

Author and military historian John C. McManus wrote:

“Sometimes the wounds a man received were not physical but mental. For some the stress of combat became too much and they could no longer function. This condition, called shell shock in World War I, and combat fatigue or exhaustion in World War II, was fairly common among U.S. combat soldiers. Although there were those who thought of battle fatigue as cowardice, Gen. George Patton being the most notable of this group, it became obvious during the war that this was patently false. According to one study, it could safely be expected that close to 10 percent of the men in an infantry outfit would eventually become combat fatigue casualties…”1

“He is not a coward. The last thing in the world he wants hung on him is cowardice. He starts a personal war within himself, his conscience on one side and his instinct for self preservation on the other. His physical fatigue carries a lot of weight in the argument. The tug-of-war in his mind gets worse and worse. He starts trembling so bad [sic] he can’t hold his rifle. He doesn’t want to shake but he does, and that solves his problem. Involuntarily he becomes physically incapable. Properly treated he’ll be okay in a few days-when he’s had SOME HOT CHOW, A FEW NIGHTS OF SLEEP and A CHANCE TO GET HIS TROUBLE OFF HIS CHEST.”2

“This disabling condition usually strikes after a soldier has been subjected to long and severe shelling or enemy small arms fire. A soldier reaches the point of ‘I can’t take it anymore…’…This condition is just as much a combat wound as a piece of shell piercing the body…”3

From a spiritual perspective, when our comrades-in-arms suffer from combat fatigue, we need to be ready to administer aid.

We need to be spiritual medics (Luke 10:33-35Gal. 6:2).

But how can we help those who are experiencing such intense heartache and difficulty…?

1. See that they get plenty of hot chow. While a covered dish is always appreciated, the kind of food wounded Christian soldiers need most of all is that which endures. “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psa. 107:9, cf.5). The eternal teachings of Jesus provide needed sustenance (John 6:27Psa. 103:52 Pet. 2:2) to the war-weary.

2. Encourage them to get sufficient rest and sleep. Time away from the battle front is imperative if soldiers are ever to recover and fight again. Even The Commander-In-Chief (of the spiritual army) Himself took an occasional “furlough” (Mark 6:31) from His engagements — “He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself…” (Mat. 14:13).

3. Urge them to get their troubles off their chest. Soldiers who have endured severe shelling need a sympathetic, listening ear. Fellow soldiers can listen and appreciate their comrades’ perspective (Pro. 17:17; 18:24Jas. 5:16), and The Commander will also be attentive. “The Lord will hear when I call to Him…” (Psa. 4:3; 27:2; 130:2).

1 John C. McManus, “The World of the Combat Soldier,” The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in WWII, 162

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

Take Heed to WHOM?

There are several reasons for elders taking heed to themselves.  One reason is because elders have a soul to save, viz., their own…

reflection

PAUL’S ADMONITION TO the elders of the church of Christ at Ephesus is a pertinent challenge to all elders. An analysis of this inspired advice to the Ephesian bishops shows the importance of elders taking heed to themselves…

Paul urged, “Take heed to thyself…”  The word translated “heed” literally means: “to hold to, . . .turn one’s attention to . . .”  There are several reasons for elders taking heed to themselves.  One reason is because elders have a soul to save, viz., their own (Mat. 16:26).  Elders, like preachers, may become preoccupied with the spiritual needs of others to the degree that they lose sight of their own spiritual liabilities and personal needs.

As surely as elders must be men of great spiritual stature they must “take time to be holy.”  Spiritual development and maturity is a process which involves prayer, devotional Bible reading, and meditation on things of God (Psa. 1; 119; 2 Tim. 2:15; Phil. 4:8).

Elders are not immune to temptation.  They may give in to sin, succumb to subtle solicitations to violate or neglect the will of God, and they may become discouraged with their own efforts to live the Christian life and/or the efforts of others.

There is another reason elders must “turn attention” to themselves: elders lead in spiritual matters by example.  They must be diligent in developing and maintaining a godly character.  Can a spiritual pygmy successfully lead the saints of God?  Elders must spiritually “stand head and shoulders” over the crowd.  The concept of church edification means that God’s people grow and develop spiritually.  They develop Christlike characters.  But Christlike leaders must show the spirituality and demonstrate the possibility of accomplishment in this vital area of Christian living.  (Tom Holland, “ELDERS – THEIR DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION,” The Spiritual Sword, Vol. 9, Ap., 1978, Num. 3, 8).

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

 

How Does A Congregation Pick Its Preacher?

crop_02

Calvin Miller’s book, “The Empowered Leader” addresses ten keys to what he calls “servant leadership.”  In chapter one (pp. 11-12), he addresses our general propensity to select men (i.e., preachers) based upon faulty, yes – even worldly, structures.

I’ve taken the liberty of amending a few paragraphs in his book to help us see how many times congregations in the Lord’s church tend to pick their preacher(s) by superficial first impressions and appearances.

You might not agree with everything he says, but there are a few helpful mustard seeds to be gleaned here.  Give Miller’s work a few minutes of your prayerful thought and consideration:

“WE OFTEN ARRIVE at preacher selection by imitating the actions of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 16).

Samuel went to Bethlehem to look for an evangelist.  Jesse of Bethlehem presented Samuel an all-star line up of preacher candidates.  His applicants appeared to be rugged, minister types.

But in the process of sorting though their appearances, Samuel saw a need to read their resumes more closely.

How unlike Samuel we are when we choose.  All too often we “line up” our potential perspective preachers, eyeball their credentials, and vote them in or out on their appearance after a Bible class and a couple of sermons.

The mistake of Jesse is a universal fault.  He called Samuel in to begin his search with Abinadab.  Jesse’s most impressive preacher candidate seemed the place to begin.

But the Bible holds a vital lesson on preacher selection.

Each time a congregation plays this image roulette, they opt for leadership by relativismRelativism is the way a congregation and eldership compares resumes to arrive at the most ideal.

Every congregation has its pecking order.  But selecting a preacher of God’s Word is not simply a matter of comparing the best virtues of all the assembled contenders.

The old prophet discovered a faulty system.  The right candidate was not even present – the contest was not inclusive enough.

God’s chosen man is sometimes not even in the line-up.  In this case, David was out tending sheep and serving in another capacity in another location.

It’s often that way.

We’re not altogether sure when leadership is present, but we are always sure when it is absent.

When England needed a king, there was a sword in a stone.  Excalibur was the magic sword that belonged to the leader in that day.

We often ballot our choices for preachers, picking and choosing in our relativistic way.  But history repeatedly teaches us that running through stack of resumes is often a faulty way to look for a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Only the real king can wrest the sword from the stone.

The holder of the title preacher sometimes comes from the shadows of obscurity.

On such unsuspected persons the mantle falls.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

WHERE is Salvation? #4

sky-church

THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT the following question please.

Is there ever a time—in all of the Bible—when God confined salvation—to just one location?

Let’s explore this together with an open mind and open Bible (cf. Acts 17:11).

Please read the following passage and then answer the questions listed below—1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NKJV):

  • WAS Paul concerned about possibly being delayed in his trip to see Timothy in Ephesus? 14-15; cf. Jas. 4:15
  • WHAT three designations did Paul employ for the church? v. 15
  • WHAT kind of instructions did Paul give Timothy pertaining to the “house of God?” v. 15
  • IS the word “behave” a synonym for the word “conduct”?
  • WHAT do we mean when we say, “We OUGHT to do something?” WHAT does the word “ought” suggest?
  • IS the house of God an actual physical structure (i.e., a building), or is it people?  Acts 2:47; 5:11; 8:1, 3; 11:22; 13:1; 14:27
  • WHO is the head of the house/church of God?  Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18
  • DOES the word “house” or “household” of God equal “church” of the living God?
  • According to v. 15, WHAT is one of the primary purposes of the church?
  • HOW MANY churches did Jesus promise to build?  Mat. 16:18
  • Since Paul said the “HOUSE of God” is the same thing as the “CHURCH of the living God,” and since Jesus promised to build HIS (singular) church, HOW is it today that we have thousands of different churches/houses:
    • which wear different names,
    • which practice different (even opposing) forms of worship,
    • and which teach contradictory doctrines?
      • Is this what Jesus prayed and died for?  John 17:20-21
      • Is God the author of religious confusion?  1 Cor. 14:33