Counting the cost…

Luke 14:25   Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

Every decision we make has consequences. Our Father Abraham was told to go, and he went, leaving behind everything he had known.

Chapter 14 of Luke pounds the point that discipleship with Christ is costly. He requires our willingness to go into any situation; He requires our willingness to give up anything; He requires us to break off anything that gets in the way of devotion to Himself. If we are unwilling, we are not worthy of being His disciples.

Following Jesus is costly… Continue reading

The end justifies the means (our "local" #giftedcommunicator, part 2)…

NewSpringBuildingThe numbers-obsessed evangelical church will do anything to produce results—and those results are understood to be only and always the blessing of God. Stephen Furtick, pastor of Charlotte’s Elevation Church, revealed the magic behind the massive number of “spontaneous” baptisms at his church: put 15 planted people in the audience who quickly rise up just after he gives a call for people to come forward during the service. Here’s the plan of attack, outlined in “Spontaneous Baptisms How-To Guide“:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 8.56.36 AMWhen this came to light was Furtick ashamed or repentant? Of course not. Out came the explanations (denials and indignation)…

When they started talking this week on the news about our baptisms, I got hot. Yes, sir. I got hot. They were saying that we manipulate our baptisms, that we have people planted in the audience who pretend to go get baptized. For the record, we have never planted anybody in our church to pretend to be baptized. I am too scared of God to do something like that. Please. Please. … And to take the fact that we have volunteers who get up and lead the way so that people know where to go and to act as if they were pretending to be baptized and to negate the sincere faith decision of precious people who had one of the most meaningful experiences of their life, that’s just sick.

Essentially what he is saying is that none of the 15 plants were actually baptized. They certainly did make people think they were going forward to get baptized. It’s manipulation and Elevation Church continues to practice and promote it. It results in people having “one of the most meaningful experiences of their life” and so a little dishonesty is not so bad. The end justifies the means.

Then there is this which is worse… Continue reading

Self-denial, which brings contentment…

It is a hard lesson. You know that when a child is first taught, he complains: This is hard; it is just like that. I remember Bradford the martyr said, ‘Whoever has not learned the lesson of the cross, has not learned his ABC in Christianity.’ This is where Christ begins with his scholars, and those in the lowest form must begin with this; if you mean to be Christians at all, you must buckle to this or you can never be Christian. Just as no-one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABC, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ’s school, and be learned in this mystery of contentment. That is the first lesson that Christ teaches any soul, self-denial, which brings contentment, which brings down and softens a man’s heart. You know how when you strike something soft it makes no noise, but if you strike a hard thing it makes a noise; so with the hearts of men who are full of themselves, and hardened with self-love, if they receive a stroke they make a noise, but a self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand, and makes no noise. When you strike a woolsack it makes no noise because it yields to the stroke; so a self-denying heart yields to the stroke and thereby comes to this contentment.

—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Dr. Brantly, Ann Coulter, and Christian narcissism…

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over… (Luke 6:38)

1378US-A008.web_Last week, Dr. Kent Brantly—the medical missionary who contracted Ebola virus in Liberia—was released from an Atlanta hospital with a clean bill of health. Here is a portion of his remarks at the press conference held just before his departure from the hospital:

I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for any attention my sickness has attracted for the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end.

A famous conservative pundit, Ann Coulter, called Dr. Brantly a Christian narcissist for going to Africa to serve in medical missions when there is so much work to be done at home here in America:

If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

First of all, I’m somewhat sympathetic to Coulter’s argument. There is a romanticism in missions that causes many people to be vigilant about the plight of African children in orphanages even while they remain willfully ignorant of the millions of children being slaughtered in America through abortion. And, also, there certainly is an increasing need for domestic courage in our missionary work as the nation declines into further God-hating secularism.

But, it is ridiculous to heap scorn on a man who risked his own life for the sake of the gospel… Continue reading

Another day of witness and an invitation…

I have very little doubt that my brothers in the Presbyterian Church in America would state privately that abortion is a modern genocide. Yet when it comes to prophetic ministry to state that truth publicly, there is more silence than talk. Will our Lord judge us well for such inconsistency?

Along with a number of people from Trinity, I drive for over thirty minutes to stand at the gates of hell, telling the residents of Greenville that children are being murdered within her gates, that she has a death-camp in her midst. I do so one day of the six days a week the abortuary is open. I invite my brothers and pastors from the PCA to put some flesh on those theological bones by practicing true religion outside the Greenville Women’s Clinic.

A map showing PCA churches near the place in Greenville where babies are murdered.

A map showing PCA churches near the place in Greenville where babies are murdered.

Would you consider being there one of those six days? Will you join us?

Let the contemplations of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (as told by Eric Metaxas) inspire you…

The Scriptures said that faith without works is dead, that faith “is the evidence of things not seen.” Bonhoeffer knew that one could see some things only with the eyes of faith, but they were no less real and true than the things one saw with one’s physical eyes. But the eyes of faith had a moral component. To see that it was against God’s will to persecute Jews, one must choose to open one’s eyes. And then one would face another uncomfortable choice: whether to act as God required.

Bonhoeffer strove to see what God wanted to show and then to do what God asked in response. That was the obedient Christian life, the call of the disciple. And it came with a cost, which explained why so many were afraid to open their eyes in the first place. It was the antithesis of the “cheap grace” that required nothing more than an easy mental assent, which he wrote about in Discipleship (Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, 278-279).

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Thomas Watson: "Obey all the persons in the blessed Trinity…"

Obey all the persons in the blessed Trinity; for all of them are God. Obey God the Father. Christ himself, as man, obeyed God the Father, John 4:44, much more must we. Deut 27:10.

Obey God the Son. ‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.’ Psa 2:12. Kiss him with a kiss of obedience. Christ’s commands are not grievous. I John 5:3. Whatever he commands is for our interest and benefit. Oh then kiss the Son! Why do the elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ, and fall down before the Lamb? Rev 4:10, 11. To testify their subjection, and to profess their readiness to serve and obey him.

Obey God the Holy Ghost. Our souls are breathed into us by the glorious Spirit. ‘The Spirit of God has made me.’ Job 33:4. Our souls are adorned by the blessed Spirit. Every grace is a divine spark lighted in the soul by the Holy Ghost. Nay, more, the Spirit of God sanctified Christ’s human nature; he united it with the divine, and fitted the man Christ to be our Mediator. Well then does this third person in the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, deserve to be obeyed; for he is God, and this tribute of homage and obedience is due to him from us.

-Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity

The contemplation of obedience is not obedience…

We love a practical sermon that causes us to consider obedience. Generally those sermons are quite a bit easier to pay attention to than dry theological lectures. The goal of practical preaching is to get us to consider Scripture’s commands so that we might obey those commands. After all, we want to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers, right?

Right?

Too often we are satisfied with the simple act of considering Christ’s commands. We oft consider being generous or being a good husband to a wife or guarding our eyes from lustful glances but we have no intention of doing the hard work of actually being those things. I mean, they’re hard, and I’m broken ;-(, and God is g-,g-, gracious :-). Continue reading