Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just Added - Because The Time Is Near

John Macarthur's exposition of the book of Revelation has just been added to my resource directory! Ok, ok, a lot of my friends in the reformed camp are Amillenial (with a few Postmillenialists thrown in) and differ strongly on Macarthur's Premillenial eschatology. Please check out Macarthur's book anyway - and feel free to put forward suggestions for my next eschatological book to read . . .

John Macarthur

Category: Eschatology
Click Here To Order
The end of the world is coming. From roadside signs to science fiction films, this slogan underscores our society’s nervous fascination with the future. God has told us how the world will end. And He has assured us that the end of this age will mark the beginning of a new, glorious one in which we will serve and worship Him in sinless perfection. All of this is laid out in the book of Revelation. Not only is Revelation the inspired Word of God, it is also the only New Testament book that includes a promised spiritual blessing for those who study and apply its message. Those who ignore Revelation deprive themselves of a rich treasure of divine truth, and the promised blessings that come from understanding that truth. Join John MacArthur as he explains the book of Revelation in a way that is both doctrinally precise (though Amillenialists and Postmillenialists may beg to differ) and intensely practical.

Friday, October 29, 2010

When You Prepare For The Worst And It's Worse - My Life In Denmark (Part 4)

I honestly don't think I was overly naive when I first arrived in Denmark. I had visited in the past and also read about the catastrophic decline of Christianity in western Europe. But I never entertained the possibility that in a nation once shaken by the Reformation, a nation of 5 million people, that I would be unable to find a local church that preached the Gospel.

The local Pentecostal pastor detested my evangelism labor because I talked about sin! Though he professed to hold to the authority of Scripture he refused to even discuss his sin free theology with me over an open Bible. If I were to put my best construction on the local Baptist pastor I would say that he was far more honest than the Pentecostal pastor - he readily admitted to his low view of Scripture! I tried the Apostolic church and found that to be a wonderful haven for postmodern emergent thinkers who had "moved on" from the archaic idea of propositional truth. The Lutheran priests I spoke with ranged from liberal to very liberal - when I could find one that wasn't a woman (and that could be difficult to figure out). I also learned that the word "Methodist" is actually Danish for "universalist". I even stumbled upon a conservative evangelical church which would have been great if not for the 3 words the pastor didn't understand - penal substitutionary atonement.

Then there was the organization called "Evangelist" which sounded interesting enough - except for the fact that I couldn't find any explanation of the Gospel anywhere on their website. In all due fairness to their leader Christian Hedegaard, though I never heard him preach the Gospel, he did compensate for this by talking a lot about himself . . . when he wasn't asking people for money.

This is not to say that there are/were no legitimate Gospel preaching churches out there in Denmark. I just couldn't find any. I am also hopeful that my provocative comments might aggravate a faithful shepherd to the point that he would contact me and enlighten my ignorance. My tale of woe is really only a snapshot of what has been a grievous journey for me. I struggle with the fact that I spent more than a year without being a part of a local church. My conscience is plagued with the possibility that I failed as the head of my family to take more decisive action when it was needed to rectify their lack of spiritual food and fellowship. Did I dishonor God by heeding my wife's desire to continue living in Denmark when we should have relocated somewhere that had a healthy biblical church? It was certainly understandable that my selfless, darling wife would long for a season in her homeland after 6 years in Australia. But I am also called as the head of my family to act decisively on behalf of the biblical command not to forsake the assembly of believers. I still wrestle with this and may well deserve rebuke for my actions, or rather inaction.

As can be read, my grievances were certainly not matters of secondary importance, which was why I launched into my lengthy tirade at the start of this post. If I were to identify God's providence in all of this then I believe it would point to the fact that my situation forced my to really zero in on the question of what is, and what isn't, a true church. It also forced me to sharpen my understanding of the Gospel to the point that I actually started to take some action on the status quo in Denmark, which I will talk about on Monday . . .

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Arrival – My Life In Denmark (Part 3)

After six years of married life in Australia, my lovely Danish bride was pregnant with our second child which only served to magnify her longings for her Danish homeland. I now had the chance to make good on my promise to try and live there someday. After about a year of paperwork and red tape my probationary visa finally arrived, so in the March of 2007 we packed up, sold off, and flew out.

The timing seemed good in some ways as my growing love for Reformed theology and overt evangelism was beginning to cause some friction among leaders in my local Australian church. These passions and labors also served in unwittingly equipping me as a missionary for a difficult mission field.

My native Brisbane in Australia (though I was born and raised in the small remote township of Chinchilla) is a sub-tropical city blessed with year round t-shirt weather. My Aussie friends would often ask me about the weather in Denmark, to which I would reply, "the summers are beautiful . . . it's just the other 11 months I have a problem with"! I braced myself for the Scandinavian cold and put up a brave face but I must confess that the relentlessness of winter does wear me down. In the middle of winter the days are so short that you arrive at work and leave it in the cloak of darkness. And the brief interlude of daylight is usually shielded by a thick layer of cloud. Going outside to play with the children is like planning the invasion of a small country and the many layers of clothing leave me feeling like a Michelin man. Though these grievances are petty in the light of eternity, nothing prepared me for the dramatic change in spiritual climate.

Australia is hardly a bastion of Christianity, but it starts to look like a safe haven when compared to the devastating spiritual decline that has happened in Europe. And Denmark may well be at the bottom of that pile. Denmark is a land full of well maintained church buildings surrounded by manicured landscaped cemeteries. They are stunningly beautiful and yet served as a tremendous barometer for the type of "Christianity" that exists in Denmark. Standing in their serene beauty I can hear Jesus' words:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

It is interesting to note that the Danish word for cemetery is "Kirkegaard". If that word sounds familiar it is because it is also the name of Denmark's most famous theologian Søren Kirkegaard. Kirkegaard (1813-1855) rightly diagnosed the Danish disaster of cultural, state sponsored "Christianity" more than 150 years ago. Tragically, like the emergents of today, he correctly diagnosed the problem but administered a poisonous "cure". Instead of returning to biblical authority and faithful Gospel preaching, Kirkegaard became the "father of existentialism". This has only served to accelerate the downward spiral into the missionary wasteland I now found myself in.

To be continued . . .

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spying Out The Land – My Life In Denmark (Part 2)

In the Danish summer of 2006 my family and I travelled to Denmark for a four week holiday in anticipation of our upcoming transplantation from Australia. After years of groping around in the theological dark I was now starting to get a decent grip on the fundamentals of the Christian faith that I had only previously known in a superficial way.

Reading the Bible had set off the alarm bells that something was wrong in my local church context. Hearing Ray Comfort's sermon Hell's Best Kept Secret had helped me to join the dots on the large chunks of missing information in the "gospel preaching" I had been hearing. Paris Reidhead's old sermon Ten Shekels And A Shirt literally revolutionized my understanding and practice of mission and evangelism. Paul Washer's teaching on The Meaning of The Cross had finally helped me to grasp the essential doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I was finally learning how to find the best waterholes and drink deeply in those places.

Armed with this new knowledge and zeal I placed great importance on interviewing (interrogating) potential pastors from local churches in the area we were going to live. I was about to find out that zeal and knowledge were great, but I hadn't considered the wisdom needed to deal with CEO style church leaders where pragmatism is their modus operandi. I asked great doctrinal questions about his view of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture, being seeker sensitive, evangelism, and biblical preaching. Unfortunately I framed all my questions in a way that required a yes or no answer. How do pragmatists with a decent smartitude deal with these situations? That's right - the pastor I interviewed was a lousy preacher who happened to be expert in the art of discerning the answers I wanted to hear. And the way I framed my questions only made his task easier.

If there is a major lesson I learned out of all this it is this - ask prospective church leaders open ended questions. Ask them to explain the Gospel to you as if you were a lost sinner. Ask them for the major reason that someone should become a Christian. Ask them about how they prepare sermons, practice church discipline, and select elders (if at all). Many of us find ourselves between a rock and a hard place when trying to locate a healthy local church. Something that I found very helpful (and a frightening reality check) was Todd Friel's document How To Find A Good Church. I heartily recommend that you print that document and use it to save you a lot of time and heartache in your search for a local church. 9 Marks and The Masters Seminary also have useful church directories.

I left my interview/interrrogation with a false sense of security. As we will learn in my next posts, when I returned to Denmark permanently (six months later) I would learn my lesson and the harsh reality of living in an apostate land. Save yourself the pain of this by learning from my experience. And if you can watch this without crying - you can also learn from the "snow job" Rick Warren (who is the Yoda of pragmatism) did on John Piper:

Go On To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just Added - With Reverence And Awe

This deep excavation of the theology of worship has just been added to my resource directory!

D G Hart, John R Muether

Category: Theology
Click Here To Order
“Reformed Christians,” write D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, “are increasingly divided over how they ought to worship their God.” Considering it an urgent matter “to recover a biblical view of worship,” the authors have written With Reverence and Awe. Drawing on Scripture and Reformed confessions and catechisms, the authors answer such questions as: When are we to worship? How do we worship with reverence and joy? How does the regulative principle guide our worship? What is the place of the means of grace? How do the elements of worship differ from its circumstances? Finally the authors tackle "the most divisive issue" - music! This book is both thorough and compelling.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Reformation Awakening – My Life In Denmark (Part 1)

Ruins are sad, yet fascinating remnants of life that has long since departed. They also serve as a reminder of my own finiteness and desperate need of the infinite, eternal, unchanging God of the universe. Much like trying to identify someone by looking at their shadow, ruins give us clues without a clear picture of what once was. And an outsider who visits ruins gets a far clearer picture of the devastation than those who spend their lives dwelling amongst these ruins in their continual decline.

When Paul Washer visited Denmark in 2009, he said “I knew the state of Christianity in Western Europe was bad but I could not believe that the land of the reformation could possibly decline as much as my friends warned me. My friends were wrong – it's even worse than they say it is!” Brother Washer was shocked at the dilapidated ruins of the Reformation as evidenced by the rampant widespread apostacy among "Danish churches".

It was while living in Australia in 2005 that I believe God ignited a hunger in me to learn more about the great Reformation that took place in sixteenth century Europe (whilst acknowledging the earlier pioneers such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus). One pastor in Denmark asked me recently “Cameron, it is great that you have such passion for the Gospel, but why do we have to keep hearing you always talking relentlessly about that one thing?” I responded, “because if you get that one thing wrong then everything else is a waste of time.” We must keep the main thing the main thing. A good soldier knows that his first priority is his commanders last instruction. And Jesus, the Commander in Chief of the universe, gave His final orders when He told His soldiers (and 2 Timothy chapter 2 describes the Christian as His soldier) to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.

Denmark is full of beautiful church buildings with empty pews and an abandoned Gospel. It is the Danes who live day by day among these ruins and few of them can even remotely grasp the catastrophe before their eyes. Some professing believers draw some perverse comfort with the thought that their local “church” is not as heretical as the one down the road . . . as if that is something worth clinging to! The reformers all believed that any “church” that abandons the Gospel gets abandoned by God. That a “church” without the Gospel is not a church - as is clearly laid out in the Article 29 of the 1561 Belgic Confession:

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church - for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of "the church."

We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves "the church."

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church - and no one ought to be separated from it.

As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.

The reformers spoke with authority on this subject because it was men like Luther, Tyndale, and Calvin who recovered the Gospel from the ruins of the perverse works righteous Roman Catholic religious system. Preaching of the Gospel is the means God has chosen by which to perform His miraculous act of salvation – of a sinner who is dead in sin being born again (John 3:3-5). This is why a church is wasting it's time with a myriad of programs while the Gospel is abandoned. Because without the Gospel, without genuine conversion, a pastor becomes a motivational speaker to a room full of skeletons:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD." So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

Ruins can make me despair. But it is those ruins of the Reformation that bring home the reality that the Gospel is all about faithfully proclaiming the message God delivered, to a civilization of dead corpses, in order that God may be glorified by raising them from the dead. It reminds me that I am incapable of prompting or persuading a valley of dry bones. That I need the God of the resurrection to bring these dry bones to life. And that true biblical churches are inhabited by prophets like Ezekiel who understand this reality.

This is my story of moving to Denmark from Australia. A story of despair at the ruins of a once great revival, and a story of awakening to what a local church really is – a prophetic voice, obedient to a resurrecting God, speaking to the ruins of evil men who are nothing more than a valley dry bones dead in sin. Can these bones live? Oh Lord God you know!

My story isn't finished . . . more to come

Go On To Part 2

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Become A Fellow Wretch

Are you tired of lame sanitized Christian media that refuses to be combative about anything going on in the world around them? Are you frustrated at the tough questions that your pastor refuses to answer as well as his unwillingness to sit down and reason from Scripture? Do you have theological alarm bells going off every time you attend your local "church". Can you tolerate media personalities that are theologically sound, with a strong satirical bent, politically incorrect, overtly provocative, and with a very short attention span? Then Wretched Radio/TV is the outlet you've been looking for.

I make no secret of my affection for the Wretched gang and the programs they transmit. It has actually been the biggest part of my Christian education since I awoke from my seeker-sensitive slumber and started asking the right questions about the Christian Gospel. I am not suggesting it as a substitute for seminary level education (unless you attend a seminary like the one Rob Bell went to) but the breadth of subject matter and theological insight serves as a wonderful stepping off point into the amazing world of sound Christian teaching. Most of the preachers I download, books I read, and sources I tap into stem from Wretched's broad sweep of the evangelical landscape where they are so great at harvesting the gems and pouring mockery on the psychobabble trying to masquerade as Christianity. It is your one stop discernment shop. I love this program so much that Todd Friel isn't even paying me very much to say these superlatives.

Todd Friel, the host, is a shock to the system for the average church goer. Todd is what you get when you have solid theological knowledge, excellent apologetics, weird humor, and attention deficit disorder, and then throw it all in the blender! You can read my profile of Todd here.

In a "Christian media industry" plagued with over sensitivity and an unwillingness to talk about many of the hot button issues that persist unresolved, Todd charges at them like a bull at a gate. But he is no theological slouch and Wretched is an arena for all those who love to reason from Scripture. Does he always get it right? Will you agree with everything? Will you always love Todd? The answer to all these questions is no - but that is not the point!!! You will engage your mind and the biblical text and get pointers to help you find countless wonderful Christian resources that your local sissy boy seeker sensitive dude will never tell you about. To their immense credit, the gang at Wretched have been at the forefront of speaking out over the current big issues on the conservative evangelical landscape - like the willingness of many Christians to partner with Glenn Beck, Rick Warren's message at this years Desiring God Conference, and people who are politically conservative but not Gospel-centered. Todd has spoken on these issues with much needed clarity and insight. Thank you Todd for bringing some perspective to the table and keeping it always about the Gospel.

This willingness to speak out comes at a cost and let's just say that Todd and the gang (Lutheran Boy, Brainiac, Hip Hop, The Adult etc) are not on everyone's Christmas card list. With this in mind Todd Friel wrote recently:

Through a series of not so coincidental coincidences, it seems best to us to begin a new Wretched chapter. We are no longer going to be under the protection of a major ministry, but as of (gulp) Nov.1, Wretched is going to be standing alone, alone, all, all alone.

While this is scary (there are a lot of bills), we trust that God will provide through His people. We have decided to not ask for gifts (i.e. money). Instead, we have determined to create products and ministry opportunities that we hope will benefit you. It is our hope that you will consider these IF they will help you grow…and IF you have the funds.

I want to ask all my readers today to consider supporting Wretched by subscribing to their club for about $6 (USD) a month and/or checking out the unique products in their store. The thing I really like about their store is that many of their products are unique and fascinating and teach on topics that few are willing to address whether it be how to practice good hermeneutics when reading the Bible, a spicy atheist debate, full on witnessing encounters, drive by systematic theology, amazing evangelism tools, or retracing the steps of the reformers - there is something there for the serious Christian (and unbeliever). It is not a regular thing I do to give a big plug to support a ministry but because of Wretched's unique and distinctive voice in the overly sanitized world of Christian media, and their willingness to sacrifice popularity for the sake of the truth, I ask you to consider becoming a "fellow wretch"!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Angry Atheist Christopher Hitchens And His Mortality Memo (Part 2)

In Friday's post we listened to Todd Friel interview angry atheist Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens exhibited enormous liberty in his desire to blaspheme and mock the God he doesn't believe in. But since that interview, Hitchens received something my old Bible college lecturer called a "mortality memo" in the form of a cancer diagnosis. Based on Hitchens' recent article in Vanity Fair magazine it would seem that his tone has lost much of the earlier hostility . . .

(Excerpt from Vanity Fair September 2010) The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read—if not indeed write—the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? But I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. Of course my book hit the best-seller list on the day that I received the grimmest of news bulletins, and for that matter the last flight I took as a healthy-feeling person (to a fine, big audience at the Chicago Book Fair) was the one that made me a million-miler on United Airlines, with a lifetime of free upgrades to look forward to. But irony is my business and I just can’t see any ironies here: would it be less poignant to get cancer on the day that my memoirs were remaindered as a box-office turkey, or that I was bounced from a coach-class flight and left on the tarmac? To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?

The bargaining stage, though. Maybe there’s a loophole here. The oncology bargain is that, in return for at least the chance of a few more useful years, you agree to submit to chemotherapy and then, if you are lucky with that, to radiation or even surgery. So here’s the wager: you stick around for a bit, but in return we are going to need some things from you. These things may include your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest, and the hair on your head. This certainly appears to be a reasonable trade. Unfortunately, it also involves confronting one of the most appealing clichés in our language. You’ve heard it all right. People don’t have cancer: they are reported to be battling cancer. No well-wisher omits the combative image: You can beat this. It’s even in obituaries for cancer losers, as if one might reasonably say of someone that they died after a long and brave struggle with mortality. You don’t hear it about long-term sufferers from heart disease or kidney failure.

Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.

It’s quite something, this chemo-poison. It has caused me to lose about 14 pounds, though without making me feel any lighter. It has cleared up a vicious rash on my shins that no doctor could ever name, let alone cure. (Some venom, to get rid of those furious red dots without a struggle.) Let it please be this mean and ruthless with the alien and its spreading dead-zone colonies. But as against that, the death-dealing stuff and life-preserving stuff have also made me strangely neuter. I was fairly reconciled to the loss of my hair, which began to come out in the shower in the first two weeks of treatment, and which I saved in a plastic bag so that it could help fill a floating dam in the Gulf of Mexico. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the way that my razorblade would suddenly go slipping pointlessly down my face, meeting no stubble. Or for the way that my newly smooth upper lip would begin to look as if it had undergone electrolysis, causing me to look a bit too much like somebody’s maiden auntie. (The chest hair that was once the toast of two continents hasn’t yet wilted, but so much of it was shaved off for various hospital incisions that it’s a rather patchy affair.) I feel upsettingly de-natured. If Penélope Cruz were one of my nurses, I wouldn’t even notice. In the war against Thanatos, if we must term it a war, the immediate loss of Eros is a huge initial sacrifice.

These are my first raw reactions to being stricken. I am quietly resolved to resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice. My heart and blood pressure and many other registers are now strong again: indeed, it occurs to me that if I didn’t have such a stout constitution I might have led a much healthier life thus far. Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if — as my father invariably said — I am spared - Christopher Hitchens

What a great testimony to the grace of God that the subjects of Hitchens' years of scorn are the ones upholding his name in prayer to the Great Physician!

Hitchens hates God . . . but so did I!

Hitchens deserves God's wrath . . . but so did I!

God delights in gaining glory by saving the worst of sinners - I know this is true because he saved me. Please Christopher, God is rich in mercy, humble yourself before the One Who has numbered your days.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Just Added - This Little Church Had None

Gary Gilley's insightful diagnosis on the evangelical landscape has just been added to my resource directory!

Gary Gilley

Category: Church
Click Here To Order
This is Gary Gilley's latest addition in a trilogy of books he has written (following on from This Little Church Went To Market and This Little Church Stayed Home) that address the contemporary evangelical movements and discerning their affects on the church and the individual Christian. Gilley has written extensively on the culture's affect on the Church. The content of this book is broken up into 3 parts: 1. Obstacles to Truth, 2. The way back, and 3. Evangelism. Gilley makes another plea in this book for a return to biblical preaching and a renewed confidence in the word of God. In the final chapters dealing with evangelism, co-author Jay Wegter outlines a series of questions and discussions that are designed to simplify worldviews, and then gives practical, biblical ways to practice sound evangelism with our surrounding culture.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Angry Atheist Christopher Hitchens And His Mortality Memo (Part 1)

I can remember attending a Bible college in the late 90's that, in hindsight, was rather lacking in biblical teaching. There was, however, one elderly lecturer who was a product of far more puritanical times. He was a true Christian statesman and someone who taught me many things that I'll never forget. One thing he always reminded the young men was to always be mindful of the mortality memos that God sends. What he meant by this was that life always, eventually, dishes up circumstances and experiences that remind us of our terminal condition as sons of Adam and the fate that awaits us. These experiences can serve as precious sobering fuel in our eternal perspective tanks. I find nothing more frightening than listening to delusional people who gleefully defy God's law and mockingly shake their fist at Him. Christopher Hitchens is one such man from the ever increasing, ever brazen, band of angry atheists. Like all atheists the real issue is never a lack of evidence for God's existence, it is always that they love sin and hate God. When Hitchens was interviewed by Todd Friel I think you can hear this truth come to the surface:

Not long after that interview Christopher Hitchens received a very loud "mortality memo" - he was diagnosed with cancer. His tone has changed and I am left wondering if God has caught Hitchens' attention. On Monday you will get to read Hitchens - post cancer diagnosis - and hear this change in tone. It makes for interesting reading . . .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coming Soon - Rick Warren And John Piper

Well now it's happened. Desiring God 2010 has recently finished. John Piper's controversial invitation to Rick Warren shocked a lot of people including myself. While I am not surprised at the debate it has ignited, I am surprised at the silence (or lukewarm support) from others who could have benefited us with solid biblical critique . . . perhaps it is on the way.

There are certain observations that I was able to make that I am not hearing much talk about and it is for this reason that I will be discussing them in more detail in the coming weeks - so stay tuned. Rick Warren has exerted massive influence on the evangelical landscape over the last decade - probably even longer! This is a very big deal and I am deeply saddened over the fact that certain people have not taken the opportunity to take Rick Warren to task for some of his practices - not least of which his "version of the gospel", his handling of Scripture at times, and his chameleon like behavior when he finds himself in different camps and contexts.

There is some criticism/conspiracy theories concerning Warren's physical absence (he preached via video) from the conference. To those people I would say take the man at his word. We have no reason to doubt the serious health issues in his family that prevented him from coming. Let's put the best construction on what we can so that we can sound more like Bereans than bashers.

Secondly I want to point out that I love John Piper. His exposition of First John has been tremendously helpful in my grasp of the nature of true conversion. His book the Pleasures Of God is worth buying for the appendix alone. It is Piper who has helped me to fathom God's sovereignty and the operation of His two wills. His preaching has exhilarated me when it wasn't convicting me. It is John Piper's teaching that has played a major role in lifting me out of the mire of so much modern man centered preaching and elevated me to the lofty heights of viewing all things through a God centered lens fueled by the sufficiency of Christ's "propitiation". But when Piper indulges Warren's philosophy and pragmatism I feel like he is dragging me back to the vomit I so gratefully abandoned. The fact is I think Piper completely dropped the ball when he invited Warren. Reason with him yes, but don't invite the great modern purveyor of pragmatism as a keynote speaker to Desiring God. One of the great things many are losing sight of in this debate is that not only are many reformed thinkers in disagreement with Piper over this, much of Piper's own teaching is in disagreement with his (perhaps unwitting) endorsement of Warren and I will explain this in greater detail in the coming weeks.

But for now, if you are willing to give up the time, put your discernment cap on and chew over the message Warren presented at Desiring God and we'll come back and talk about it soon. I think this really needs to be discussed . . .

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Online "Discussion" With Hillsong's Executive Pastor (Part 7)

Continuing from my earlier post where I closed with this comment to Joel A'Bell who is the executive pastor of Hillsong:

Joel, all I asked you for last time was to bring forward one audio file of a sound biblical presentation of the gospel that has been preached at Hillsong. It is a sincere question and I will be sincerely happy if you can show one to me. It shouldn't be difficult considering the many thousands of souls that get saved at Hillsong church.

Joel responded with these words:

Cameron, the offer still stands to meet with me over any of the gospel presentations I have delivered. And to all of you, as I have previously offered, I would be happy to sit with you over coffee.

For someone who lives in Denmark, Sydney would be a long commute so I asked Joel if we could speak over Skype. Joel then informed me that it was coffee or nothing. I don't know what this thing is about coffee?? Does he want to put something in my coffee? Anyway, I would like to extend the offer to my Aussie friends to take up Joel's offer to meet over coffee. He is not entirely unreasonable even if he has an unnatural aversion to Skype. Maybe you can plead with him over the Gospel preached at Hillsong. Wouldn't it be awesome if a preacher stood up in Hillsong and preached the biblical Gospel - now that would be a landmark day!

Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Just Added - The Ten Commandments

This in depth unpacking and application of God's Holy Law has just been added to my resource directory.

Peter Hammond

Category: Apologetics
Click Here To Order
This work by Dr. Peter Hammond is an invaluable resource for Discipleship and Reformation. Dr. Martin Luther declared: “the first duty of the Gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and to show the nature of sin.” The Puritan author of Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan, said: “A man who does not know the nature of the Law cannot know the nature of sin.” Charles Spurgeon declared: “They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and Holy Law.” “Therefore the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The Ten Commandments – God’s Perfect Law of Liberty identifies the contemporary idols for destruction and clearly shows, step by step, how we can seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, applying the Lordship of Jesus Christ to all areas of life. “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7).

Here is what Ray Comfort had to say about this book:

Never before in Church history has there been such a need to return to the basics of Biblical evangelism. Our churches are filled with false converts, simply because we have abandoned doing what Jesus did when it comes to reaching out to the lost. The disease must be diagnosed before the cure is offered to the patient, or it will, understandably, never be appreciated or appropriated. I thank God for my friend Peter Hammond, and pray that God’s blessing will be on his book, The Ten Commandments - God’s Perfect Law of Liberty.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Finally Got Sent A Hillsong Video That Proves They Preach The Gospel . . . NOT!!

To his credit Troy did take up my challenge that no one else has responded to. He went looking for a solid example of someone from Hillsong church preaching the Gospel. I had burdened Troy with the responsibility of substantiating his claim that:

I can assure you that I've been to Hillsong quite a few times and have heard the gospel accurately preached. Yes, including the mention of sin and the cross.

Most readers will be aware that I have a long list of grievances with Hillsong Church in Australia. Unlike the many grievances based on their financial practices, I have focussed on their understanding and proclamation of the Christian Gospel. Among my many grievances has been one that I didn't think even Hillsong defenders would argue with - the necessity to preach repentance (you know, turning away from sin). In fairness to Hillsong it is difficult to preach repentance when you never talk about sin. Why do I think that even Hillsong defenders would not argue against this particular grievance? Because they affirm the necessity of repentance on Hillsong's own doctrine statement which says:

We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the 'new birth' we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives.

So let's take a look at the video Troy chose to support his claims and alleviate my fears. Pay close attention to Joel A'Bell's focus on repentance in this video:

The Journey [Discovering Christianity] from Hillsong Church on Vimeo.

Troy, I have to ask why you would use that video to argue against what I have been saying? It actually affirms almost everything I've said. So much missing information I don't know where to begin. Who is this God? Why do I need His forgiveness? What cross? Why did Jesus need to die that I can get this gift? Why do I need this gift? Why don't I deserve it? What is this gift? etc etc

On a purely logical level it creates many more questions than it answers. But once again I'll zero in on one point because it is a part of Hillsong's own doctrine statement. The necessity of repentance from sin in order to receive salvation. Where in this video did Joel speak of our need to repent or turn away from our sinful life. Of course it is difficult for Joel to do this when he never even defines sin.

Come on Troy, I am not being a nit picking monster, this is basic Christianity! Instead of arguing with me over this why don't you challenge the Hillsong leadership over this. The more this gets voiced the better the chance that they might repent and start preaching Christianity - which would be a wonderful blessing to their vast audience.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Traveling To Texas This Month

Jason from Texas recently posted on my blog telling me to let him know if I ever visit his neck of the woods. Well Jason, I'll be in Texas (Houston and Dallas) from the 22nd to the 26th of this month (October that is) and I want you (and any other readers from Texas for that matter) to get in touch with me.

I will be attending the Semper Reformanda Conference in Houston with keynote speakers Voddie Baucham and Paul Washer. I also plan to visit my good friends at Sovereign Joy Community Church in Fort Worth on the evening of the 24th of October.

Please e-mail me at

Thanks . . .

Message For Troy - Hillsong And The Gospel They Preach

Troy, who has commented previously on this blog, insists that Hillsong do faithfully preach the true biblical Gospel. When pressed to provide some evidence (in response to the mountains of evidence to the contrary) nothing has been forthcoming. Instead Troy asked for some clarification. He wrote:

Hi Cameron,

Would like you to clarify a few things. You said:

"I have heard many sermons by Brian Houston and Hillsong conference guests over the years and I am yet to hear a Gospel presentation that is faithful to what I outlined..."

This is the outline you're referring to:

"At the fundamental level, any Gospel presentation should include these five elements:
1. An explanation of The Holiness of God - His character and nature.
2. An explanation of man's depravity - define and explain sin.
3. The necessity of judgment - heaven and hell are real places where real people go - that God is bound by His character and nature to punish sin.
4. Christ's atoning work and resurrection - that Christ fulfilled the law that sinners break, and took God's wrath on the cross in the place of sinners and that the resurrection verifies God's satisfaction with Christ's payment.
5. The call on all men everywhere to repent of their sin and believe the Gospel."

Do you believe that unless someone is taken through all five of your points they are/will not be saved?

So for example simply saying "Jesus I need you, forgive me for my sin, I give you my life, you are my saviour."

Would someone "be saved" after saying that prayer? Or would God say "pretty close, but not quite..."

What about Romans 10:9:

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Does simply believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord and confessing that God raised Him from the dead, make you saved? That's what it seems to say here.

What if a person is alone and does not have someone to take them through the "five points", but in a moment of desperation cries out to God, and their life is forever changed? I've heard many stories of this type of encounter where someone meets Christ.

What are your thoughts? Is it the "five points" or you're not in, or can you be saved with out being so specific?

Dear Troy, I have never said that it is the Gospel presentation that saves people. It is God Who saves - not a salvation prayer (which is something Pastor Joel doesn't seem to understand). My point to you and Joel has never been that we can get a right formula that will save people. Salvation is a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit where He regenerates an "enemy of God" who is "dead in sin" (Ephesians 2:1) into a "new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Ezekiel 37:1-10)) who loves Him and trusts in Him for forgiveness of sin and His righteousness. Please read my series called Anatomy of the Gospel.

But God chose the foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21) as the means of proclaiming the Gospel and we are responsible to get it right. I never said that people could not get saved at Hillsong nor that there aren't Christians attending (though genuine conversion is never cultivated in a place where the Gospel is never preached). Read Galatians 1:8-9 tells us that it is a damnable offense to preach any other gospel than the one he preached. Leaving my five points aside for a moment Hillsong's preachers violate their own doctrine statement when "presenting the gospel" in their failure to preach repentance (their faith statement says that you must repent of your sin in order to be saved). And when is repentance from sin preached at Hillsong??? It is a disgrace that they have such disregard not only for the clear teaching of Scripture, but also for their own doctrine statement (which is correct on this point). Furthermore, since the cross is about Christ taking the wrath that we deserve in the place of sinners - how can you explain the cross without preaching about God's wrath - when is God's wrath ever preached at Hillsong? How can you preach forgiveness without what you are forgiven of (sin). How can you preach salvation without preaching what you are saved from (damnation). I will stop there but I hope you get the point.

As for Romans 10:9, the belief described there is a repentant belief or faith. Scripture is clear that turning to Christ in faith involves turning away from sin.

When God graciously saved me as a biblically illiterate 20 year old I was certainly incapable of theologically formulating the doctrine of justification. But I clearly understood that I was a sinner with nothing to offer God. I knew that my salvation depended solely on the completed work of Jesus Christ. I clearly understood that my human works played absolutely no part in my redemption. I also clearly understood that my human works (or wickedness) were the main reason that I needed a Savior to rescue me from the damnation that I deserved. The issue is not our ability to formulate the doctrine of justification, it is whether we are trusting Christ's completed work alone, by faith, or trusting any other system that involves even the smallest level of works righteousness. And to consciously teach any view of justification that involves any degree of human achievement is a damnable offense - including the idea that our salvation hinges on a human decision/salvation prayer rather than a miraculous work of God. It is the reason Paul wrote to the church in Galatia.

Likewise, we might not understand all the inner workings of the doctrine of the atonement. But we do need to understand that the cross Jesus died on is what we all deserve. Remember these words:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

Here we have a criminal who is most likely uneducated and lacking a deep working knowledge of the theology being played out on the cross beside him. But he does know that he is evil and deserves wrath. He does know that Christ is fully righteous. He does know that he has nothing to offer the Lamb of God. He does know that his only hope is to completely humble himself as a wretched sinner and beg the Savior for mercy. And it is to these that God grants pardon!

Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

It is here we get to ground zero. In order to be saved we must respond in repentance and faith. And different models of atonement elicit different responses to the Gospel. We don't hear the thief thanking Jesus for identifying with the pain of his human experience. We don't hear the thief calling out as a poor victim of Satan awaiting his rescue. We hear a thief who sees his own enormous guilt. We hear a thief who sees the righteousness of the Son of God. And we hear a thief crying out in genuine repentance, trusting in the One Who was heading for His throne. Jesus did not come to provide therapy for victimized people. He did not come to feel the pain of hurting people. He did not come to coach untrained people. He came to save sinners - even really bad ones like me!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Online "Discussion" With Hillsong's Executive Pastor (Part 6)

OK, time for more dialogue today from my online discussion with Joel A'Bell who is the executive pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney. But before I do I should tie up one lose end left over from an earlier post in this series. In Part 4 of this series I asked a question that I failed to answer in Part 5. I apologize for this oversight although I think the answer was pretty obvious from just a casual glance at the text from John 4. It would seem that playing fast and loose with the Word of God is becoming a very disturbing trend and theme in the Hillsong culture. The video excerpt used as a companion to Joel A'Bell's message is taken from a Jesus film which recounts Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well as found in John chapter 4. If you watch the video it is pretty much a word for word re-enactment of the Biblical text . . . except that they spliced out a part! Which part? You guessed it - the part where Jesus exposes the woman's adulterous practices. I will not point the finger directly at Joel A'Bell in this instance as he may well be unaware of the final video product (as it was done at a church that he was visiting). But this disturbing trend serves as a timely reminder that we are called to submit to the Scripture. The Scripture is never to be subservient to the agenda of the guy in the sheep-suit.

Anyway, let's pick up my conversation from where Joel responded to my comments regarding his request for a salvation prayer formula (read here if you want your memory refreshed). Before I post Joel's comments I would also like to give Pastor Joel A'Bell the credit for his willingness to respond to me - thank you very much Pastor Joel for extending me this courtesy. This is what Joel had to say:

Cameron, I agree with your list so I don't understand what the problem is. It should be noted that you couldn't merely say it was the next verse in Gal 1 which was my whole point. You had to study many Scripture to come up with your summary. I proclaim the same gospel you speak of but you say I don't. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all it's truth. Sometimes you have an hour to explain the gospel, other times, only minutes. What matters most is not specific words but people being saved by God's amazing grace.

If there is one thing that drives me nuts it is postmodernism. When you express something that is the polar opposite of what you are trying to refute and the postmodernist seems to think that the two opposing factions are saying the same thing "in different ways". The difficulty here is that instead of contending for his view Joel seems to be trying to blur the lines of distinction by assering that he agrees with me and preaches the same message. I wrote again:

Joel, if you agree with me on the Gospel then please bring me an audio file of a faithful Gospel presentation coming out of Hillsong. I have heard many sermons by Brian Houston and Hillsong conference guests over the years and I am yet to hear a Gospel presentation that is faithful to what I outlined (which you say you agree with). So send me the link or audio file and I will gladly stand corrected. But even if someone gets it right sometimes, that still does not excuse perverting the gospel on other occasions. For example, a failure to talk about sin and repentance is perverting the Gospel.

Joseph De Araujo (who appeared earlier in this series) chimed back into the conversation and said:

Cameron, I'm not sure what your expectation of the 'text book' altar call is. My view is that if someone is convicted by the spirit, comes forward and 'chooses Jesus' then he/she is then closer to salvation and is then also open to all education about the gospel in full. They can accept Jesus and assure their salvation and then choose to be baptised in water. I don't see how it's preaching a different gospel. Printing & publishing the gospel is one thing, that must be correct in full, but giving an altar call for people who want to have a relationship with Christ without giving the full salvation message?

Back to the altar call/salvation prayer formula again. It would seem that is the key they see in regenerating a lost individual who is "dead in sin" (Ephesians 2:1). Joel then got back into the ring to further defend himself:

I agree with gospel points (even though it was missing some) above and yet you continue to accuse. Just listen to any appeal for salvation that I give, which is most weekends. The gospel is preached in Hillsong Church and the thousands of new and longstanding Christians are testimony to that. If you are daring to question the validity of the salvation of thousands of people who came to Christ through the ministry of Hillsong then it is very clear what your intensions are.

Could someone please explain to me why it is that so many Hillsong defenders (as well as Rick Warren defenders and Rob Bell defenders etc. etc.) seem to think that they can prove that they preach the Gospel rightly by saying that they do. I thought we substantiate claims in the real world. I wrote again to Joel:

Joel, all I asked you for last time was to bring forward one audio file of a sound biblical presentation of the gospel that has been preached at Hillsong. It is a sincere question and I will be sincerely happy if you can show one to me. It shouldn't be difficult considering the many thousands of souls that get saved at Hillsong church.

More to come . . .

Go On To Part 7
Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Just Added - World Religions In A Nutshell

Ray Comfort's overview of various world religions and how to evangelize them has just been added to my resource directory.

Ray Comfort

Category: Apologetics, Evangelism
Click Here To Order
In our pluralistic society, few people have to travel to a foreign mission field to find those of other faiths. Our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces are filled with people of different religions — and no religion — who need to hear about the Savior. Yet most Christians feel ill-equipped to speak to them. Ray Comfort gives you all the information you need to reach people in false religious systems effectively (including conversion testimonies and witnessing encounters). This concise guide not only clearly explains the difference between Christianity and the other major religions, but will arm you with all the ammunition you need to go out into the battle with confidence.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Online "Discussion" With Hillsong's Executive Pastor (Part 5)

There is more dialogue to come from my "online conversation" with Joel A'Bell who is the Executive Pastor at Hillsong church in Sydney. But while we have been pursuing the subject of Scripture's sacredness and the abominable practice of deleting parts of Bible verses, I had to post the observations of a sister from Canada concerning the Brian Houston "money" video that I posted last Monday. Whilst being dazzled by Brian Houston's vast arsenal of marketing techniques I failed to pay attention to his quotation of Scripture. Watch the following video again and pay particular attention to Brian Houston's Scripture quotation. Is there a problem with it????

Here are the observations that our Canadian friend made about the above video:

As the subtitles pointed out in the video of Brian Houston promoting his book “Money,” it is a major error when he says that the Bible says, “Let the poor say, ‘I am rich.’” Those words felt familiar so I went searching and found two choruses that say exactly that.

What the Lord Has Done in Me by Reuben Morgan / Hillsong Music Australia

Let the weak say, “I am strong.”
Let the poor say, “I am rich.”
Let the blind say, “I can see.”
It’s what the Lord has done for me.

Give Thanks by Henry Smith

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son
And now let the weak say, “I am strong,”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us.”

Brian Houston says, “The Scriptures say, ‘Let the poor say “I am rich.”’” He is quoting an uninspired line from a chorus, saying it comes from the Bible, and using it to support his wealth and prosperity theology. He is building a house of straw on sand and unfortunately misleading many who assume he knows what the Bible says.

So it would seem that the only problem with Brian Houston's Bible verse is that it isn't in the Bible . . . . oh details, details. So deleting "unHillsong" parts of Scripture is not the only hermeneutical skill on display in the Hillsong empire. Perhaps adding new verses to Scripture is another part of the package. I wonder if Pastor Houston holds to inerrancy with regard to Hillsong choruses?

Am I being sarcastic - yes! Is this mock worthy - yes when it is a world renowned "Bible teacher"! Is there something constructive we can glean from this - yes, go to a church pastored by a man who labors in the text instead of inventing new text. And if you have a pastor who is a 2 Timothy 2:15 man, then thank him passionately for his faithful shepherding and the care of your soul.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1