Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Delighting in Dogma

The word dogma has gotten a bad rap over the last few years. It has come to mean something that is cold, dead and dull. Dogmatic has come to mean someone who will not change or accept others or in some cases to describe someone who is unreasonable in their beliefs. This is unfortunate. Dogma simply means religious beliefs. Basically, it means the same thing as doctrine or teaching. Christian dogma or doctrine is nothing more than the beliefs that make up the Christian faith. Christianity is a doctrinal or a dogmatic faith.

This means that simply claiming to be Christian does not make one a Christian. Feeling like one is a Christian is not enough. Dogma is the objective truth that defines what a Christian is. Simply using Christian terminology does not make one a Christian. If Dogma defines Christianity, than where do we get it from? What is the source of doctrine or belief for the Christian? Certainly not my feelings or personal impression of how I think things are. The Bible tells us that the heart is wicked and will decieve us.

All dogma (Christian dogma) has Scripture for it's source. Not one of its sources, not even the primary source, but THE source. For instance, many people claim to believe in Jesus Christ. For some He is a great prophet who taught timeless life lessons concerning this great spiritual journey of life. Others claim that he was the greatest of all God's creations. Some even claim that he is one of many, many gods who populate the cosmos. Recently I read an article that claimed that Christ is within each of us. He is love and love is eternal. The problem is that none of these views of Christ are Christian.

The Bible paints an awe inspiring picture of Christ. He is eternal, without beginning or end. He is the second person of the Trinity. He has always existed in perfect fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He died on the cross for our sins. He arose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. He rules and reigns over the universe and will one day set all of his enemies under his feet and we will reign with Him. To present Christ as anything less than the everlasting God is to present a false Christ. To claim that he is one of many gods is idolatry. Dogma guards the purity of the Christian faith.

Here is another example. I read an article recently that claimed that God the Father exists in a flesh and blood body. When I read this, I have to admit I laughed out loud. John 4 is pretty clear. "God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship him in Spirit and truth." To claim that the Father is confined by a flesh and blood body is contrary to Scripture and unchristian.

As believers Dogma must be our delight. it is life and health. Read what Dorothy Sayers writes.
"We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist on too much upon doctrine - dull dogma they call it. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that staggered the imagination of man - and the dogma is the drama.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Sustaining Faith

Most of us in ministry fight with bouts of discouragement and depression now and again. Ministry never has been and never will be easy. Yet, in the midst of the worst that life can throw our way, there is always a deep reservoir of hope and life. When I am tempted to throw in the towel, men like Adoniram Judson encourage me, and put steel in my backbone. Here is an excerpt from a sermon I preached last year. Actually, this is about his first wife, Anne. It was a blessing to me. I hope it will be to you also.

Adoniram Judson was a missionary who served in Burma. He was arrested and falsely accused of being an enemy agent. Imprisoned in a tiny cell, hew was forced to stand so others could lie down and sleep. The heat was unbearable; no one was allowed to bathe, so the stench was unreal. One day the officials decided to hoist Judson into the air by his thumbs- pain filled every fiber of his body. When he returned to his cell, his precious wife, Anne would creep into after dark and whisper to him, “Hang on, Adoniram, God will give us the victory. Week after week, Anne would come by every night to encourage him with the same words. “Hang on, Adoniram, God will give us the victory.” One night she didn’t come, then another and another, weeks passed and Adoniram’s loneliness was unbearable. No one told him she was dying.

Months later, he was released. A man so broken it was a miracle he could walk. He began to search for his beloved wife. He went to the place where they used to live. He saw a child sitting in the dirt, a little girl so covered with filth that he failed to recognize her as his own daughter. As he staggered into the tent, he saw Anne. She was only a bundle of bones and rags on a cot, so weak and frail she looked like a skeleton. Her beautiful hair had fallen out and her bright blue eyes stared blankly out at nothing. Hugging his daughter to his chest, he knelt down and wept, “Anne, Anne, O my darling Anne.” His hot tears fell on her face and slowly her eyes began to move with recognition. She struggled to speak and her last words were, “Hang on, Adoniram, God will give us the victory.”

He lost his sweetheart, but not his faith, his loved one, but not his courage. He began to preach again, and when he died he left behind scores of churches and hundreds of Christian converts. In the midst of the worse life could throw his way, he never lost his faith, Anne never lost sight of the fact that God is the King! He is in control. He will be victorious. O Worship the King!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

This next post was stolen, plagerized and outright copied from FIDE-O:

Disclaimer: The opinions stated in this article represent the views of this blog well enough that we felt justified in stealing this material!

The following was published on the front page of Press Enterprise newspaper in Riverside County, California.Local Southern Baptists cool the fire and brimstone. It was written by David Olson who can be reached at at 951-368-9462 or dolson@PE.comLet me give my thoughts about this article. The article begins with a "hook":

The Rev. Matt Brown surfs, has long blond hair and has used curse words in sermons to make a point. Some members of his Sandals Church come to worship services with full-arm tattoos, nose-piercings and punk-rock T-shirts.

May I ask: "Long blond hair" and "curse words", is that what is the secret to church growth now? Rich Warren believes that we cannot grow our churches through preaching and praying, so is this what replaces exposition and intercession?

The article continues
Brown is part of a new wave of Southern Baptists who are redefining what it means to be a part of America's largest Protestant denomination... Brown and other Southern Baptist ministers follow the denomination's conservative theology, which views the Bible as the literal word of God... Yet pastors like Brown freely admit their faults, including sexual temptations. "We're reaching people who were just not being reached," said Brown, 36, whose services attract about 2,600 worshippers a week, most in their 20s and 30s. "We're biblically conservative, but we're not culturally conservative."

This "new wave" that is "redefining" Southern Baptist are writing a definition that does not define me. I have no desire to be defined as the pierced-tattooed-cursing-punk who uses a soft tone when talking about sin so that I may not offend anyone. You know what, I actually like hanging around a few real rockers. You know why? Because they are not some soft spoken mamby-pambsy sissy boys who like to get tats and piercings so they can look cool or hip or metro. They actually are men who talk with conviction and call it like they see it. And they don't give a rip who gets offended. They don't park their Harley in their 3 car garage next to their mini-van and tennis rackets. And when they have come to faith in Christ is was not because some backstreet-boy-wanna-be with a cross tattooed on his left shoulder, long blond locks and designer sandals shared about the time he nearly committed adultery on his wife saying, "Dude, I was like, this sucks."Come on. This stuff is a mockery of all that defines real biblical ministry.

The article continues:
Jonathan Walton, an assistant professor of religious studies at UC Riverside, said evangelical churches, such as the Southern Baptist, are more likely to be open to downplaying their denominational ties than mainline Protestant denominations. They tend to be less bound to tradition and more focused on bringing new people into the church, he said. "What's going to work in the Mississippi delta or rural Alabama is not going to work in Southern California, and the denominational leaders are aware of that," Walton said. That includes the message of sermons, he said. In much of the South, it is taboo to bring up topics such as adultery, Internet pornography and drug addiction in church -- and if the subjects are discussed, it is typically in a harsh, judgmental manner, Walton said.In California, many people are turned off by such a tone, he said.

Really? They love that tone from comedians. They love that tone from radio jocks. They love that tone as long as that tone is not directed at them and their sinfulness. With sadness and disgust, I have noticed that one hand these "new wave" pastors are getting tattoos and trying to look tough and on the other hand they are too scared to confront sin with some courage and tenacity. They are more like puppets not prophets. They are dressed up by their wives and dangled by the culture. BTW, I am glad Walton didn't mention Louisiana or I might have to open a can on him.Maybe help is on the way.

The PE article says:
More than 90 percent of Southern Baptists are white but that is changing. Black membership has more than doubled in the past decade, and Latino and Asian-American membership also rose sharply...Yes, maybe help is on the way: maybe the Black, Latino, and Asian-American pastors will not capitulate to the demands of culture these days.

Mike McKinley asks a relevant question over at 9Marks: "How much of a pastor’s desire to be perceived as cool or connected to the culture is motivated by vanity or pride?

Knowing the depth of our depravity and self-deception and pride, we must examine ourselves. In fact, I fear (and here I am speaking from what I see in my own heart) that oftentimes we are at least partially motivated to reach people by pride. How much of our desire to be cool is a desire to reach people, not only for the gospel, but also for our own glory? Here’s a diagnostic question for everyone who is a pastor: if the Lord called you to shepherd sixty uncool saints until they were safely home, with no spectacular revival or ministry explosion, would you consider that beneath you? Would it seem unworthy of your gifts and a waste of your life? If so, you are being motivated by pride."We must remember that preaching the Cross is foolishness to this culture no matter how long your hair is. The gospel is a stumbling block to this poorly-educated, over-stimulated generation. And the cross does not call us to conform to the world, to be hip, or to be accepted. Thus trying to be like the culture can often cause people to misunderstand what the gospel is all about.I say, be yourself. Don't try to be Rick Warren or Ryan Seacrest or Billie Joe Armstrong. Stop trying to impress unbelievers. It may grow for you a crowd of attenders of which to be proud and get your name in the paper, but it is not growing a counter-culture kingdom that gives God glory by living the Sermon on the Mount. Besides, such futile efforts in the past have given us the agony of some really really bad contemporary Christian music and a slew of feminized preachers and endless church chaos.David Wells says in his book God in the Wasteland: "By this late date, evangelicals should be hungering for a genuine revival of the church, aching to see it once again become a place of seriousness where a vivid otherworldliness is cultivated because the world is understood in deeper and truer ways, where worship is stripped of everything extraneous, where God's Word is heard afresh, where the desolate and broken can find sanctuary."Yeah, who's brave enough to build some churches that are otherworldly!