Friday, June 30, 2006

The whole "pearl of great price" or just some of it?

"(45) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
(46) who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Matthew 13:45-46 ESV

I was listening to The Listener's Bible (ESV) on my way to work this morning. The reading was a very familiar part of the Bible. John 3!

It struck me how many people who read this chapter or preach on it switch off after verse 17.

"(16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
John 3:16-17 ESV

Very few actually read on in this chapter with any real grasp of the magnitude of all this chapter has to say. On the one hand, there is a declaration of the mercy of God in Christ, in that God sent His Son to die on the cross for an uncompromising sinful people. On the other hand, the side of the coin that is all too often ignored, God's wrath is proclaimed to all unbelievers.

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
John 3:36 ESV

This type of preaching (or believing) is all too reminiscent of an age of self-pleasing and easy believism. With everybody having rights of all kinds, the church no longer preaches the gospel in its entirety unless someone is offended and we lose them. Preaching the complete gospel will undoubtedly offend people. When last did your gospel offend people?

"as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
Romans 9:33 ESV

I was thinking of the merchant in search of the pearl of great value. He found that pearl and gave up all for it. However, would he have found that great pearl if not all of it were there? Let me explain!

Pearls are made of layers of two materials: a mineral called aragonite and a protein called conchiolin. Let's say that the merchant found these two materials in great abundance. Would he have bought it by selling all he has? I greatly doubt that. You see, he would not have seen any pearl of great price! Only when a mollusk coats each successive layer of aragonite with the membrane-forming conchiolin will a pearl emerge! So, the merchant will not sell all he has for anything but a pearl. Just the aragonite or just the conchiolin alone does not make up a pearl. In order for these two materials to become a pearl, we need the one who makes these pearls (the mollusk) to do what it does best, make pearls. Only the mollusk can make these two materials become a beautiful pearl. A pearl, therefore, is more than just the sum of its parts!

Many preachers and believers try to give people just one of these materials. The gospel becomes subdivided into its parts and then they try to dish out only some of these parts. The wrath of God is never preached on. At my own church, I cannot remember when last I heard a sermon that covers the wrath of God in sending people to hell for the sin that so greatly offends Him in the last 5 years!

The wrath of God is just as much a part of the gospel as is God's mercy. It is justice AND mercy. By preaching only mercy, the whole gospel is NOT preached. Just like one individual mineral cannot make up a pearl, so one element of the gospel alone cannot make up the gospel, no matter how faithful and truthful that element is preached! It still is not the whole gospel!

Just like witnesses are sworn in when testifying in court to "speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," so preachers, when ordained should be sworn in to "preach the gospel, the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel!"

It simply is not good enough to preach on one of these elements without showing the other one. These two elements--justice and mercy--are intricately woven into one message. One cannot preach on the mercy of God without giving the reason for that mercy. Mercy is absolutely meaningless if there exists no reason for it. So, even preaching about the wrath of God without showing God's mercy in Christ is not good either!

Just like the mollusk makes the pearl into what it is, so the Creator of the universe is the One who set forth the gospel and made it what it is. Who are we to start subdividing it like it belongs to us and to preach parts of it as if they are the whole? The gospel is way more than just the sum of its parts.

The gospel is not a pat on the back for the sorry state that man finds himself in. The gospel does not say that we are victims of sin. It doesn't say, "You're Ok, I'm OK!"

The gospel points a finger at every man, woman and child. We are not the victims of sin, but rather we are the perpetrators of this heinous evil called sin against an infinitely Holy God, and each of us deserves an eternity in hell! Apart from telling us about the mercy and grace of God, the gospel also tells us that if we do not believe in Jesus Christ we will experience the wrath of a Holy God in an eternity of hell!

Let's face it, mankind is evil and if it weren't for the grace of God He would have annihilated mankind long ago!

Do not think that you can mess around with God's grace never expecting to experience His justice! Unless you have seen and believed the justice of God on a dying (and now resurrected) Christ in your stead, you will never get to experience the grace of God!

It is now the time for every Christian, especially preachers and teachers to spread "the gospel, the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel!"

Just thinking ...

"My 'top notch' school education was not good enough"

This is what a valedictorian, Kareem Elnahal, told his teachers and administrators in his valedictory speech on June 20 at one of America's top 1,200 schools, Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, N.J.

He said he felt that his education was hollow and that most important questions were not even asked!

On the other hand, Daniel Loggi, superintendent of the Atlantic County, N.J., School District, said he felt that Elnahal went about saying what he did in the wrong way. According to him, the administration never had a chance to look at Elnahal's speech beforehand, to either approve or disapprove. That is the whole crux of the matter! This speech would not have been approved. THAT is why the administration was upset with Elnahal. He did not tow the line!

I wish more people would stand up to all this low grade education like Kareem Elnahal did.

Read more here.

Just thinking...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dobson writes traditional marriage commentary for CNN

Dr. James Dobson has written a commentary for CNN on the assault on traditional marriage. In it he writes:

Rarely has there been a greater disconnect between members of the Senate and the American people who put them in power. With the help of the media, which laid down "cover" by claiming voters didn't care about marriage, 40 Democrats, one Independent and seven Republicans turned their backs on this most basic social institution.

Let's examine the claim that traditional marriage lacks support in the court of public opinion. As it always does when conservative issues are being debated, the liberal press produced a series of trumped-up polls indicating the issue was of no interest nationally. However, there was another "poll" that the media completely ignored. In fact, there were 19 of them. They represented the 19 states in which voters overwhelmingly defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Not one state has chosen by popular vote to permit marriages between homosexuals. Support for the family has been affirmed in every instance.

In Mississippi, traditional marriage was approved by a whopping 86 percent majority. Other state votes registered similar wide margins: Nevada (70 percent), Arkansas (75 percent), Georgia (77 percent), Kentucky (75 percent), Louisiana (78 percent), Nebraska (70 percent), Missouri (71 percent), Montana (66 percent), North Dakota (73 percent), Ohio (62 percent), Michigan (59 percent), Oklahoma (76 percent), Utah (66 percent), Kansas (70 percent) and Texas (75 percent). Even states considered to be more liberal voted for traditional marriage, including Hawaii (69 percent), Alaska (68 percent) and Oregon (57 percent).

Read the rest here.

Just thinking...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Keeping pastors accountable

It always amazes me that in the church, where people are to be the safest possible, one can find some of the most horrendous abuses of the very people that the church is to keep safe!

Just look at the sexual abuse cases in the church, from Roman Catholic to Independent Baptist. It makes me sick to the stomach that men who were trusted by the church, family, friends and little children could sink so law as to molest little children.

While Jesus said to bring the little ones to Him in order to bless them, these men want the little chidren to come to them to see what these little ones have to offer!

On top of this, it is always kept quiet for years, even decades! Associates of these men just keep it quiet and try to manage the "problem!"

Why do these poor victims keep quiet for so long?

I believe that one of the problems for this silence is that pastors have become little despots, making sure that dissenting voices are dealt with speedily and unceremoniously. How many churches do you know where the pastor is humble enough to accept rebuke for false teaching or other indiscretions from a normal member of the church? I bet you can count that on one finger!

Pastors have put themselves on pedestals. They have become the rulers of their own "kingdoms" demanding obeisance and payment instead of being humble servants. In most cases pastors will dismiss Berean members of their churches because they simply didn't study at seminary like their pastors did! I wonder if the Bereans went to seminary? "Complainants" will simply be dismissed as ignorant sheep.

When will these so-called "men of God" realise that they are not to lord it over the sheep but rather to serve the sheep in all humility. These men think that they alone are a " chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession." (Pet 2:9)

Isn't it amazing that many pastors think that they are the only ones who hear from God and that their sheep need their input before making any decisions? Isn't that how the OT priesthood worked? However, that priesthood no longer exists! We are all part of the "royal priesthood."

"[1] So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: [2] shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; [3] not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." (Pet 5:1-3)

Pastors need to shepherd the flock. Shepherding is very different to ruling. We have only one King, and He is Jesus Christ. Pastors, you are shepherds! Perform your duties with all the humility and earnestness that pertains to being a shepherd. And, by the way, the word "pastor" is not a title making you more important than others! It is a job description. Do it!

Pastors also need to exercise oversight over the flock, not under compulsion but willingly. It is amazing how pastors are not willing to pastor! They are under compulsion of some kind: money, honour, power trips. How many pastors will continue shepherding the flock if they no longer get salaries and can no longer control the sheep by misquoting some scripture text to bolster their own "authority?"

Pastors need to be accountable to their sheep and not become so important in their own estimation that they can simply dismiss the issues brought forward by members.

Pastors do not stand in the place of God, being able to do to the flock whatever they desire. They are stewards of the people of God. These people need to be treated as if they "really" belong to God, "
a people for his own possession." Once pastors realise in their hearts and grasp the importance of the fact that the flock are God's own people, then perhaps they will become men that are interested in shepherding once again and to feed the flock with "true" truth and not just psychedelic pop-theology!

But, then again, we all have dreams of perfect universes!

Just thinking...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A bit of inactivity

I have been very inactive here at Just thinking... in the last couple of weeks. Of course there are reasons for everything and I would like to explain.

Due to work commitments I have had to be out of the country often in the last 7 weeks. In these 7 weeks I have been to 5 different countries (Senegal, Guinea, Denmark, Botswana, Tanzania) and today I am leaving for one of them (Tanzania) for the second time in that period. It really keeps me busy and unfortunately I use a lot of spare time to prepare for these trips. I was in Tanzania last week for three days (Wednesday-Friday) and now I am leaving today (Tuesday) again for Tanzania and will only return on Friday. So, whenever I am home I tend to spend all my time with my wife and children. On top of all this I will be going to Malawi next week Wednesday-Friday. I am hoping that this travelling spurt will come to an end for some time after the Malawi trip.

Anyhow, so if it seems like nothing is happening this side, you are close to the truth. I am hoping that my evenings will be a bit more free than usual this trip so that I could perhaps write some more for my blog( s).

So, while I am not very active on my blog, I would like to recommend some other blogs for you to visit:
Al Mohler
Tim Challies
Solo Femininity
Between Two Worlds

Just thinking...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Paul hater alert!

It seems like there is yet another Paul hater that joined the world wide web. I thought we had enough of those, but noooo, another one HAD to jump on that runaway train!

A comment was left at my post called Women as pastors? I followed the trail and ended up here! Beware! I suppose the blogosphere is made up of all kinds.

Just thinking...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Which Jesus do you serve?

I was on my way to work the other day and heard a song by Todd Agnew called My Jesus. I don't know his theology, but this song struck a cord with me. I can see it in the church to a very large degree.
Some of his words go like this:
Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?
Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand
Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?
Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on
the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet
Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair
and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we'd recognize Him
 Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?
Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know He can hear me if I cry out loud
I want to be like my Jesus
Not a posterchild for American prosperity
but like my Jesus
You see I'm tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus
Some would be highly offended by this song, but if we are honest about the state of the church today, then we would recognise the modern church for what it is: another change agent for the world's great machinery.
Man has gone so far down the slippery slopes of recreating God in the image of man, that in the secular humanism of the day, they have ended up with man as god. The pity of this all is that the church is not that far behind.
In all of the theology preached from church pulpits today--even by those claiming to be evangelical (whatever that means today, who knows)--Jesus has been recreated in the image of its own peculiar interpretive devices. How many in the church would recognise Jesus if He stepped into our churches today? I would rather not guess at that percentage. It might just be too scary.

Many churches simply do not preach the whole counsel of God when it comes to the nature of God Himself. Rather, they are preaching only the parts they like and avoiding the "unlikeable" parts like the plague!

Many of these preachers claim to believe that the Bible is inerrant and that it is wholly the word of God to us; however, their actions speak louder than words!

If the church no longer preaches on the "undesireable" attributes of God's nature, but rather preaches the usual modern relativistic god of their own making, then they are no longer preaching the full gospel of God! Does a person that preaches a god like this indeed deserve to be called a Christian? If we do not believe in the full revelation of God as it is given in the Bible, can we rightly claim to believe in and worship the One true God?

If we only preach on the love of God (no matter how the concept of the love of God has been deformed by the modern humanistic mind) and do not include God's wrath, or the fact that He has destroyed civilisations, we end up with a god that is quite impotent, more akin to baal than the God of the Bible! We end up treating this god like we treat Santa Claus and not a Holy God that we should fear and love at the same time.

If we want real vitality as Christians (not the hyped up variety that comes from worshitainment style churches), we need to believe all that the Bible says about God, and to live as if we believe it!

Just thinking...

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