The Gospel

The Gospel

Friday, December 17, 2010

Does Santa Preach A Different Gospel

If you want to ruffle some feathers in the church as a pastor, don't promote Santa.  I am not sure why, but this always generates an anger that seems greatly displaced.  I don't hate Santa.  In my house we rarely talk about him positively or negatively.  The first two years of my oldest daughters life we referred to him as "the man".   We have told our children that Santa is a game people play about a real man who died many years ago.  I still remember, with fear and trembling, when my daughter was going around church telling all her friends that Santa was dead.  You would have thought I had taught my children a cuss word.  Parents were a little bothered.  I am not sure why.  Last time I checked Santa is dead...but never mind.

One individual said to me that I was stripping my children of "joy at Christmas" by not promoting and encouraging a belief in Santa.  Am I really doing them a disservice?  The real "Santa", was a just a man, St. Nicholas by historical accounts, who was a prominent church leader in the early church.  In fact he might roll over in his grave if he saw what people had turned him into (is there any body that wants to be portrayed as an overweight man with an uncontrolled beard who walks around in Pajamas all the time).  If parents simply talked about his little known history or the gospel that he believed in that would be one thing.  Most parents don't; the Santa they do celebrate preaches a very different gospel than what St. Nicholas believed in.

The mythical Santa has developed over the years into a grumpy old policeman, who tracks down all the bad kids to knock them off his list, who now lives eternally at the north poll and blesses only those kids that are good.  The holiday song "Santa Claus is coming to town" says Santa knows if you have been good or bad so be good for goodness sake.  Who determines who is good?  This way of thinking, while common in our world, is very different from how God responds to us.

The Bible says that none of us are good, except for Jesus.  We are all marred by a sinful nature and we deserve nothing.  God doesn't save us because we are good or withhold gifts because we are bad.  He blesses us in Christ because he first loved us and chose to save us through faith in the Gospel.  Santa died, just like the rest of us will one day, baring the return of Christ.  God is the only eternally existing one.  I think Santa just teaches children, and apparently some adults, basic Pharisaical self righteousness. 

Parents spend so much time telling a little white lie to their kids about the presence of Santa and about pleasing the big guy by being good.  Trust me, you will have to unpack that one day when you start teaching them about total depravity and the gospel of Jesus.  Why not teach our children about the true gift giver and how he lavishes on us gifts that we don't deserve all because of his gracious love for us.   Tell your kids that you (as parents) are giving your children gifts, not because they have been good, but because you love them and that is what parents do; and you are simply mirroring our Heavenly Father who gave us salvation, the spirit, fruit in our lives and so much more.  Share with your kids real heroes of the faith.  We are reading our children this Christmas "Peril and Peace", a church history book for children that teaches them of the many men (and women) who died for the sake of the gospel in the early church .  There are no elves in it but it will keep their attention.     

I could be wrong, but I don't think I am stripping my children of joy by celebrating the birth of Jesus without the presence of an obese elf.  I hope I am directing their attention to the real joy of the season - The Lord Has come, let earth (and us) receive her King.  Why not leave Santa out of our Christian celebration of Christ all together.  He is dead - Jesus is alive...and Jesus is coming again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Christ Centered Music

I love great music. I especially love music that elevates and exalts the person and work of Jesus Christ in new and refreshing ways. The album highlights the work of the all three persons of the Trinity, which is something that is often missing from much modern "Christian" music. The variety of styles is refreshing. There is something on there for any music love. And if you love Jesus Christ your heart will be enriched as you listen to this CD. You can find the album here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Dating Children?

I was directed to the video below by a church friend.  The question that is asked is an important one and Pastor Mark's answer is sure to generate some discussion.  This, however, is an important issue.  For Christians, when do we allow our children to date.  What is proper dating?  Much of the dating that goes on by Christian teens does little to prepare them for a healthy, committed marriage relationship.  Are we doing our children a disservice by telling them when they are young to act like the world in dating and then changing course and telling them not to marry like the world.

The Bible tells us to train up a child in the way he should go.  Notice it doesn't say let them experience everything and learn from failing.  There is a time to learn through failure.  But seeing the problem with marriage and divorce in the culture and in the church I think we should finally recognize that the date/break up philosophy of the world is failing the church and it is time for a change.

What kind we do?  We need to be like the Boy Scouts and Be prepared.  Good dating practices don't just happen, they are learned.  1) encourage your children at an early age to develop friendships with all kinds of people.  Isolation with one relationship is not always healthy.  2) Teach them to focus on their school work, family and friends instead of pushing them to dating relationships.  3) Dads, take out your nearly ready to date daughter and show her what a date should look like.  Treat her well, open her door, do more than just sit mindlessly in front of a movie screen in the dark.  Help her to have high expectations for both the date and the datee.  If you have a son, let him see you on a date with your spouse or maybe even double date.  4) Dads, insist that you get to meet the dates.  My father in-law insisted that I call him and ask for permission to take his daughter out.  Wise practice in deed.  I would imagine a low character boy would run from that.  Make the first date a family experience.  You learn what your boy/girl friend will be like in the future by seeing how they interact with mom and dad and siblings.  4)  Prayer NOW - don't wait till you kids are 15 and hormones are raging. Pray and ask God to bring into their life godly relationships.  Pray for their future spouse.  Pray for wisdom when they are older.  5)  Establish Clear boundaries and hold to them.  Dating is not a right.  It comes with maturity and wisdom.  Some of your kids will mature faster than others.  If your teen can't handle the freedom or make wise choices you may have to make some adjustments.  Curfews are not meant to be broken.  6) Trust God - God is sovereign even over your child's dating practices.  If you have been wise and you taught them well, don't fear. 

I am not looking forward to those days of dating.  But they are coming.  Are you prepared.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning of the Koran?

Rev. Terry Jones has boldly proclaimed that he will be burn the Koran on September 11. You can read his full story here.

In recent days politicians, generals and various religious leaders have all come out against this action. The Vatican has announced its displeasure towards this action and many churches in the United States have decided to hold joint-religious services on that day in protest of Rev. Jones actions.

There are two errors I see here.

First, those trying to counteract this action in the church by reading from the Koran in their services or having joint services across religious lines are acting foolishly. The Koran has nothing to offer followers of Jesus Christ. John, in his letter to the churches, reminds us not to participate with those who promote false teaching. Reading the Koran, in a church service, is unwise and un-biblical. Holding services with other groups further confuses the gospel. Islam (or other groups) are not one bad theology from being orthodox. They are not worshipping the same God - Allah is not YHWH.

But second, Rev. Jones actions are foolish and un-Christlike. He is not loving his neighbor as himself. He is not showing compassion to the un-learned. He is simply being provocative, perhaps trying to advance his own ministry.

Should we respond to Islam the way they have treated others, specifically the Christian church? No. We should not return evil for evil.

Should we become provocative by burning their "holy" book? This would be foolish and un-loving.

What should we do? We should show our Muslim neighbors what the gospel is and how it has changed us. How we no longer respond in our flesh through anger and petty political moves, but in love, compassion and grace to those who are lost. We should pray for them and share with them the gospel. No the gospel of the American dream. The gospel of salvation from sins through faith in Jesus Christ. That is what they need. That is what we should offer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making Known the Manifold Wisdom of God

The church is given the humbling and privileged task of making known the manifold wisdom of God to the world. This wisdom is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ as both savior and King. He took upon himself our judgment on the cross and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility; first between each of us and God and second between each other.

The wall of hostility is broken between you and God when your sins are atoned for. This happens as a repentant sinner is identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through faith. God now longer sees us as we were, but now sees us as his son - perfect. It is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Christ that God is pleased with.

When our relationship with God is made right, he then begins to restore and make new our relationships with others. In Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek; slave or free. We are either in Christ or we are not.

The church makes this wisdom known by proclaiming in worship the name Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We continue to make it known by sharing the good news of the gospel through evangelism. We show the outworking of the gospel in our churches by equipping and edifying other believers in the gospel that they might grow in their walk with Christ. We further show the love of Christ by encouraging one another to pursue righteousness and to confront sin that is present in our lives. Lastly, we encounter God in prayer, asking him to continue to bring about the unfolding of his plan and the glorification of Jesus Christ through the church.

May this be our goal as believers and as a church!

Monday, August 9, 2010


In our regular preaching ministry at Bethel we have been studying through Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus. The first three chapters are rich and full of many, wonderful theological truths. There is one common thread that flows through those many verses: Jesus Christ, in his death, burial and resurrection, brings a people that are separated and at enmity with God and each other together. He tears down the walls. He opens the means of relationship, both vertically and horizontally. Ephesians 2 says that we are built up, Jews and Gentiles, into the dwelling place for God.

This has great implications for each of us as followers of Jesus. We don't unity for unity's sake. We do not pursue uniformity ignoring diversity. We pursue unity because of a common confession - Jesus is Lord. We celebrate diversity within our unity because God is the Father of us all. In Christ we are now one - brothers and sisters. Unity is essential for those who know Christ. He prayed for our unity in the gospels. He died for our unity on the cross. His Spirit is empowering us for unity right now. Why - to bring him glory.

This week, as you think about the relationships you have with those in your church, try and identify areas that you have broken down unity and built up walls with others. Have you not extended forgiveness to someone who has wronged you? Have you refused to repent when it was your mistake? Have you allowed a careless word of gossip, falsehood or slander to tear down others? Unity and intimate relationships can take a life time to build and it only takes one moment to tear it all down.

Jesus is intent on making peace and unity; tearing down walls; and building relationships. The devil is focused on creating hostility, putting up walls, tearing down relationships and bringing disunity and chaos to our relationships.

Are you in the habit of building...or destroying?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homosexuality and the Bible

Recently, Jennifer Knapp, one time Christian singer, came out as a lesbian. I watched her interview on Larry King live and was deeply saddened by not only her decision but more importantly by the carelessness with which she handles the "sacred text" as she calls it, ignoring clear words that are inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This week I watched a series of videos by Matt Chandler as he address this subject to the church. Each of the clips were Biblical, clear, and helpful.

I would encourage you to listen to them as well. You can find the videos here:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are you prepared for T(t)ribulation?

I remember growing up in a traditional church and hearing constantly that tribulation was coming to the world but that Christians would not experience it, because we would be raptured out of the world.

This was an encouraging thought. Who "likes" to under go tribulation and difficulty. The thought of avoiding it all together made practical sense to me. Unfortunately, many have become ill prepared to deal with tribulation and persecution for our association with the gospel in the here and now.

Even today, I wonder how many teens or young adults would be able to stand in the face of a Taliban soldier or a governmental authority and say with confidence, "I will not deny the gospel of Jesus; He is the Christ, the son of the living God", when faced with a sword or an AK-47. We need to be prepared for the worst, even if we are hoping for the best.

This article illustrates some of my concern (Here). It is becoming apparent that soon freedom of speech and religious liberty will be rained by limiting what we can say about common hot button issues, like homosexuality. This pastor was arrested for a conviction of the words of God. Are we willing to risk being arrested for standing with God's will and word? What if becomes illegal to even suggest that Jesus is the only way of salvation? Are you ready for that? Are your children?

Whether you believe that you will be present for the Great, bit T Tribulation is not worth arguing about. However, scripture does teach us that we WILL face tribulation as we stand for Christ and His Gospel. The early church was dragged into coliseums for entertainment as lions mauled them to death. Others were crucified like our Lord. Others were burned at the stake or thrown into rivers with weights tied to their bodies. Men and women through out history have suffered great tribulation and persecution for one thing: Standing for Jesus Christ and His Gospel of Salvation.

Are you the exception or the rule?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Twilight - A Movie Worth Watching?

Recently, I unintentionally started a debate by observing that I thought wise Christians should avoid this series. I was surprised when few agreed with my concerns and thought I was being judgmental and hypocritical. This was not my hearts intent and I pray that God will reveal to me when I am acting in this way.

Twilight is a series of books and movies written by Stephenie Meyer. She is a gifted author, which is obvious simply by the demand for her books. If they were written poorly I doubt any one would be drawn to a story about vampires.

What concerns me is how this story has resonated in the church. And not just among adults. Many of those that watch this story are far younger (8, 9 and 10) than the PG-13 rating suggests should see it. Parents are already showing a lack of discernment that even the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) understands - these movies are not for children.

Beyond that though, parents are constant teachers. Everything we do teaches our children. We have a responsibility to them and more importantly to God to raise our children in their fear and submission of our Lord; by God's grace seeing them trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Even after they have confessed Jesus as Lord, we have a responsibility to help them to mature in Christ, knowing how to make wise and godly decisions. I am not convinced that Meyer's story does anything to promote this kind of spiritual maturity and, worse yet, it may actually be counterproductive to the things that we are teaching our children about who God is, His love and the gospel.

Understand, in Christ we are indeed. But just because something is permissible does not mean that it is good - “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything." (see The Apostle Paul 1 Corinthians 6:12)

There are many troubling things in the series. Let me list three for you. 1) Paints an un-biblical view of love. John Lewinski makes several observations in an article (here). A love that leads to lying, disobedience, manipulation and more. Certainly not the kind of Biblical love that we find in 1 Corinthians 13 or commanded in Ephesians 5 (Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church; wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord).

2) Deep mormon world view. The author is a mormon. And her writing is no doubt supported by her theological beliefs. A Touchstone Article (here) says this: "Edward..., though described many times as an “angel” and though he has many of the characteristics of Joseph Smith, Jr., is also, as the First Son of the Cullen Father and Bella’s means to joining this Holy Family, the Christ figure of the story. His signature ability to enter into all minds (even Bella’s in the end) indicates his identity as the Logos that is the pre-existent “cohesion of all things” (Col. 1:17)." For a biblically astute adult this kind of allegory may not be problematic but for a child or teen who is often thrown by the wind of various doctrines and beliefs, something even this subtle could do great harm to their own understanding and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He goes on to say further "In some streams of Mormon tradition, Adam is, in fact, the finite God of earth (or the Archangel Michael), and Eve is his celestial wife from another planet. The Fall and expulsion from Paradise, according to this view, were necessary in order for Adam and Eve to marry and reproduce. “Celestial marriage” is a core ordinance for Mormon exaltation (salvation), and without the “Fall,” man could not take this important step in his progression from mortality to post-mortal life as a god in the Celestial Kingdom. This is a remarkable departure from orthodox, creedal Christianity with respect to sexuality and understanding how human beings relate to God." Meyer has no desire to promote the biblical account of creation, fall, redemption and Christ. The series says undercuts what our children have been learning in Sunday school.

3) The Bible says this: 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 1 Corinthians 15:33 adds "Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Or Colossians 3 says "5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming." 1 Thessalonians 5:22 - 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 3 John - 11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. AND 2 John - 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting" That is challenging - Don't bring it into your house - what is it - False teaching.

I believe that God is sovereign and that God will protect my daughters. But I can't help but wonder what I might be doing to undermine what God wants for them. Even something as subtle as what movies they watch or what books they read can be devastating to their understanding of the gospel. We have a responsibility as parents to direct our children to fear the Lord.

I love my daughters and their growing faith enough to say to them "O be careful little eyes what you see, o be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love, O be careful little eyes what you see."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Respect the Office and Not the Man?

David Barton made this comment recently. "Respect the Office...Yes. Respect the man in the office...No I am sorry to say."

I was pondering this today, as I prepare to preach on Hebrews 13:7 - 17. Is this really what God wants us to do when it comes to our elected officials - respect the office not the man. Why don't we also apply that to the church - respect the office of elder but the man. Respect the office of deacon but not the man. What is the determining factor in who we respect and don't? If we simply don't like their decision, don't like their personality, don't like their hair? Do we stand in opposition to governmental authorities because they are antagonistic to God or simply because they are sinners? Obama is a sinner...but so I am I.

Romans 13 says that the authorities have been placed their by God. Not just the office but the man. God knows what He is doing (even though at times I think I know better...I don't). Did Paul respect the office or the man when we went before Agrippa or the leaders of Rome. Titus 3:1 Remind us to be submissive to rulers and authorities and to speak evil of no one (including Obama right?). He then gives us our motivation...because we were once like them...LOST.

I understand the frustration directed at our government. I am not pleased with the policies, decisions and directions of our president. But I have been convicted today as I read a statement that I probably used to say. A statement that made me feel (self) righteous. A statement that many Christians today are saying AMEN to. I am just not sure that it measures up to scripture.

Remember, our conflict is not against flesh and blood but against principalities of darkness. Respecting the man (and the office) does not mean we agree with everything the man does. It does not mean that we set aside our convictions. It does not mean that we are sellouts. What does it mean - that as I we respect and submit to him, we are demonstrating our submission to a much higher authority. A higher authority that one day even a president of the United States will bow to in honor. Only then, we won't be up in arms at the homage paid to a world leader. We will rejoice that every knee (including Obama) is bowing to the feet of King Jesus.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Perseverence of the Saints: A Test Case

One of my favorite writers is Dr. Russell Moore. I enjoy his books and his articles are thought provoking and convicting. On his blog, Moore to the Point, he tells the story Jihadist who didn't grow up in a mosque, but in an Alabama Baptist Church. But more importantly he shows us that you and I are not that different from Omar. And perhaps there might just be an Omar in our churches right now.

You can find Dr. Moore's article here:

What Is Worth Celebrating?

Fellow Missouri pastor Micah Fries thought this article about Tim Tebow was a must read. I would agree. I have often wondered why the NOW never found commercials that flaunt women around in bikinis as sexual objects to be found offensive. Maybe they don't really speak for women. Maybe we shouldn't listen.

Family and life...that is something worse celebrating.

Article Here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do You Believe In Jesus?

Justin Taylor, who writes frequently for the Gospel Coalition, posted an astounding quote. What is so interesting about this quote is not necessarily who said it but what it says about those who claim to be Christians. I will leave you the quote below.

“I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”

Who said this? It wasn't a pastor. It wasn't a leader in the church. In fact, it wasn't even a Christian. The quote is by Christopher Hitchens in response to a Unitarian Minister. You can read the entire quote here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facebook Confrontation

The Bible commands us to lovingly and graciously confront those who have sinned or sinned against us with the purpose of forgiveness and restoration. Yet recently, I have seen a trend of many people, and an alarming number of Christians, using facebook and other internet forums to confront, attack, and hurt members of the body of Christ.

I am not sure if followers of Christ think that status reports meet the limited criteria of such a mandate in Matthew 18, but let me challenge you that it does not. Confronting, or worse still attacking, people through online mediums is not only foolish and counterproductive but it is a serious sin that needs confronting itself.

I have tried to encourage others to follow the Biblical pattern even online. What is the Biblical pattern? For starters, gossip is wrong. Gossip can be both false information that spread from person to person but also it can be true information that does not promote the best in a person's character. So I tend to remind people, that if you are saying anything about anyone else that does not make that person appear BETTER than you, don't say it. No little jabs, no tongue and cheek comments, nada...

That is hard. But in addition to that, most of use facebook to say things to people that we would NEVER say to them in person. Perhaps that is because we are too cowardly or we simply know what we are saying is not right, noble or completely true. What ever the case, face to face confrontation is the scriptural pattern and Face to Facebook simply falls short. I have tried no longer to have "conversations" with people on facebook about any matter, but especially those things that are sensitive or serious. Conversion is verbal, but it is even more so non-verbal. Facial expressions, tone, and even emotion can not be heard through emails and face book and therefore your conversation will only be partially heard.

Last, we must recognize that some of the things we post on a wall is read by a vast number of people. Some flippant word about a fellow student or friend could be ready by thousands and could greatly hurt their character, even if the statement has a context that other readers simply don't know.

In a world where we are becoming increasingly isolated and alone, let's spend more of our time talking in person. Understand, I don't think that facebook is evil. I think it is very helpful to reconnect with people and stay connected on some levels; and I am on quite frequently. But just like any other technology we have at our disposal, Facebook can be used for evil and we must guard ourselves (and each other) from such sin.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reformation Starts At Home

Revival was a popular word in the church a few years ago. Even today many people are very interested in revival in their churches. Richard Baxter, a pastor many years ago, sought significant change in his church as well. He called it "reformation" but I think it is basically the same.

Baxter wanted his church to grasp the gospel in a more significant way and to pursue the kind of holiness that the scriptures demand from those who know Christ. Baxter, however, did not pursue revival or reformation by bringing in some passionate preacher and his traveling band of followers. No, Baxter was much more simple than that. He believed the reformation in a church started in two places.

First it began with the pastor. The pastor must not only be serious about the word of God but consistent in his own life, pursuing holiness in all matters. Baxter had seen his share of poor excuse for pastors and he challenged those around him not to fall into similar traps.

But the most important place that reformation can be found is in the home. A passion for the things of Christ begins not from the pulpit but from the couch. As Godly fathers and mothers teach their children about the gospel, live out the implications and changes that the gospel brings, and share the gospel with those around them the church will change.

In our culture I think Baxter is especially poignant. We live in a time in which the family is being destroyed and the home is being redefined. It is vital for the sake of our churches that fathers, the spiritual leaders of the home, begin to take seriously their roles and to show our sons what Biblical manhood is really all about. It is crucial for mothers to start teaching their daughters what it is to be a modest, Christ like woman, rather than letting their influence be Miley and Paris.

If you want to see reformation in your church don't just tell the pastor to invite a guest speaker. Tell you family that things are changing in your home. Christ will no longer be an un-invited guest but the center of our homes.

The Outpost - Bible Preaching (Brooke Taylor)