On Halloween night the MGA is hosting a Halloween alternative. It is advertised as
“Come dressed as your favorite celebrity & walk down the ‘Red Carpet’ to Hollywood! Prizes for best dressed celeb, best chili &/or pie at the Top Chef Chili & Pie Challenge. Bring 2 homemade pies, one for judging &/or one for eating! There will also be a candy land and a slime making station, and surprise celebrities! Donations of nut free candy are welcome!”
I’ve been to several Halloween alternatives in my life, primary as a volunteer for the Churches that were putting them on but also as an attendee I was never part of a Church that would do a Tract and Treat [ Christian children dressing up as Bible characters or saints, knocking on doors, and passing out tracts in exchange for candy] but I have attended “Hell Houses” that were put on by local Churches. While the former two are not as common, Halloween alternatives are.
Believing that Halloween as it’s celebrated by our culture is less than ideal, the Church has created an alternative where Children, so as not to feel left out or that they are missing something, can go to experience a similar celebration without the negative and dark elements. Its sort of like a sanitized Halloween, with all major components there and sharing all similarities. Fun time with others? Check. Getting free candy for minimal effort? Check. Elements of the harvest, such as pumpkins and scarecrows? Check. Other themed decorations? Check. Scary/Evil elements? Not so much at harvest festivals, but if they put on an evangelistic hell house, check! Kids in costumes? Check/ Adults in costume? Check. “Noticeable” teen or adult females wearing costumes highly noticed by teen and adult males? Oh the stories…….
Amorphously tied in to Autumn and Thanksgiving motifs, these events are usually how we were to be thankful for the bounty God gave us. Parents would bring their kids dressed up as frogs, farm animals, pirates or Disney princesses and they would go to different stations manned by the youth group volunteers to collect treats, oftentimes of a homemade nature, but more often than not consisting of pure sugar and high fructose corn syrup. After the harvest festival was over, the teens would vacate and go home to get dressed up and hit the local neighbourhoods and businesses. They rarely worse costumes, opting instead to go in their regular street clothes, though there was the occasional sketchy nurse and bloodthirsty murderer.
Bringing it back to the MGA, I have to confess that I really don’t get the idea and purpose as coming dressed up as Hollywood actors and starlets. I understand the Halloween alternative, but I cannot think of a concept that is more foreign to me and strikes me to be as poorly conceived than having Christian boys and girls dress up as their favourite secular movie stars. Hollywood seems to be the epicentre of a worldview that is squarely at odds with a biblical one. The whole thing more often than not seems like a celebration of money, sex, power, drugs, violence, vanity and materialism. The lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life... In very real ways they have contributed to the sexualization of our culture and normalization of every kind of aberrant and perverse behaviour. Furthermore, there are very few actors and actresses whose movies are wholesome and pure, and who would be Godly and righteous role models that we ought to look up to, much less dress up like.
I’m trying to think of who I would come dressed up as, and I can’t even think of a person. Who out there is worth emulating and dressing up as, and what does it say about us and our Christian identity that we want our kids to dress up as Hollywood stars? What does it say about our idolatry? I suppose its a given that some of our girls will come dressed up as Miley Cyrus and other young actresses who regularly exhibit in their private and public life what can only be described as “whoremonging skills.” Dressing up as Hollywood movie stars attending the Oscars to celebrate movies which often showcase their sin and depravity, in the name of entertainment.
The only thing I can compare it to would be if Timothy or Titus instructed their congregation members that instead of celebrating some pagan festival, that they should have their kids and congregation members dress up as gladiators. They could decorate the houses and catacombs with sand on the ground and weapons in little piles. They could be dressed up as the slaves, criminals and prisoners of war that found themselves entertaining the masses as they cut bone and shed blood in the Flavian amphitheaters. If the women think they would be left out, no worries- there were female gladiators too, and from all accounts they were just as fierce and like a lot of women celebrating Halloween wore just as little clothes.
Clearly I don’t get it, and I wonder if I’m part of some misguided minority. What do you all think? Do you like the idea of a Halloween alternative, and secondly- what do you think of the theme? Is it harmless fun to dress up as Hollywood movie stars, or does it betray some troubling reality? Discuss!
I had the oppertunity to head down to Interplay for the Kaos World Stage this weekend. I had gone to the interdenominational service last year, which was pretty hit or miss for me, and so I was pretty much expecting more or the same. To that end, I found myself pleasently surprised at the time I had.
I’m of the mind that interdenominational/ecumenical services can be either wonderful or wretched. Wonderful because I love when the visible church gathers and can glorify God across denominational lines and despite important [or unimportant] doctrinal distinctives. Wretched because oftentimes it forces you to gear your message to the lowest common denominator- and Christ invariably gets lost in that.
I didn’t get that sense from this one though. As far as I can tell there was no real “message”. Last year Rick Kirchner gave an 8 minute talk geared towards evangelism, which had its strenghts and weaknesses. This year it was primarily a two hour long mixed worship session, showcasing talents from multiple churches and from multiple people. And I really, really enjoyed it.
I’m of the mind that not only was this thing not about me, but it also wasn’t for me. It was about worshipping God. To that end I think they were very successful.
*note, the video screen drops because i was momentarily distracted talking to someone.
The Experiene [MGA Ministry] is having/ or has just done a Gray Matter discussion on Sexual Purity. I’ve been wanting to go to one of these shindigs forever, but I haven’t had the day off in months. I don’t know much about them, but I hope to be able to get out there this Friday, if they are still on for the sumer] According to their website, part of the purpose of this series is to discuss human sexuality in a helpful way so that you can get God’s perspective on it. The event in particular which caught my attention surrounded the questions “How far is too far” sexually? and “Where do you draw the line?” I thought it would be worthwhile to respond to it.
As far as “How far is too far?” this seems to be the question that many teens are asking as they fumble and flit around the edges of sexual purity, wondering what sorts of things are acceptable and what sort of things aren’t. There are different answers, of course. Some people in return ask the rhetorical question “Instead of asking how far you can get to the edge of the cliff, why not just stay as far away from it as possible?” Or they might say “You shouldn’t do anything that you would be ashamed of doing if Jesus was in the room” or “If you have to ask if you’ve gone too far, you probably have.” Good advice all. For most Christians, the answer to the question of “how far is too far” is..well….not very far at all.
My take? If you’re asking the question, you can’t go far enough. Chances are you’re some kids engaging in a lustful, disjointed and disconnected make-out session with your boyfriend or girlfirend, fumbling around with physical theology and sacred sexuality. When all is said and done you’re left feeling guilty and ashamed and you think you’ve gone too far? Listen- you’ve taken one shuffle-step in a journey of a thousand miles, the end result of which is that warm, familiar, satisfying, one flesh sexual union between a man and a wife in a marriage covenant. And you think you might have gone too far? You’re not even in the running, because you don’t know what “far” truly means.
“Far” is an old married couple who after a lifetime of sex are dealing with the scourges of physical impotency. “Far” is a husband and wife consoling each other after another negative pregnancy test, bearing each other’s burdens in tears. “Far” is a young married couple who are delighting in each others bodies. “Far” is the encapsulation, iteration, and culmination of a biblical view of sexuality, incorporating the body, soul and spirit. The heart of “far” is theological- ultimately being covenental Christ-exalting worship and a picture of union between Christ and his Church. Marriage and sexuality were designed by God for mankind so that through it mankind might glorify God.
And so here you stand, two kids toying with a spiritual mystery, and you think you’ve gone too far?
And not only have you not gone too far, but at this rate- using these means, you will never get there.
This sermon seems to be the first in a series which will be preached by Pastor Clay Bergen, the national director of Freedom in Chris Ministries, Canada. I know a bit about the ministry, being fairly familiar with the teaching and practices of Neil T Anderson and some of the books he has released [such as Bondage Breakers] and due to my thoughts on that book I have been eager to review these sermons.
As it were, he begins the sermon using a dental analogy, saying that over the course of the weekend, some people will see that need to have a check-up, and others will need to have a root canal. That is, some people will find the sessions useful to deal with a few small issues, while others will come to understand that they have much that they must deal with and work through. The thrust of the sermon is that after we become saved, we carry with us baggage that must be dealt with in order for us to thrive as believers.
Pastor Bergen tells the story of Nahum in 2 Kings 5, about how like Nahum we must be desperate to get cleaned and cleansed of our proverbial leprosy, and that it is a simple thing to do. He plays a video by The Skit Guys called God’s Chisel, Which is about 10 minutes of witty banter between God and Man, which states that we are God’s masterpiece, and seeks to show that God is serious about going after our hearts and healing us.
He then winds it down with an exhortation that we are important to God, and that God wants to say that he still loves us, its not our fault [sometimes] and there is still hope. God wants to give us promises, but Satan wants to keep them from us. We need to allow God to do a work in us through 7 simple steps, and that’s what the weekend will be about.
It is unfortunate that the MGA has not made the rest of the sermons/sessions available yet, as this one seems like a primer and introduction to the rest of them. If not sure if they were even recorded, but I think that they might have been really edifying for the community to have access to them in a more public way.
As for the sermon, there were a few things that stood out to me though, and which bear commenting on.
1. He spends a fair amount of time talking about the importance of sanctification [though I'm not sure he used or would use that word] He spends a small chunk of time saying that since we have salvation, we ought to grow and let the word of God be deeply rooted within us. That God needs to go after our heart and remove and cull our sinful thoughts and replace them with his righteousness. I liked that a lot, and I thought that salient point came across loud and clear in the message.
2. At one point he quotes Colossians 2:6 and says “Paul writes ‘You received Christ Jesus, You have salvation, you have him at work in your life. Praise God! But. Continue to live in him. Rooted in him. Built up in him. Strengthened in the faith you were taught, with overflowing with thanksgiveness. Thankfulness’.” That’s not really accurate. It seems to be a personalized paraphrase, when in reality it says “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” The point is that he attributes words to Paul that he does not say. Its not really a big deal, and not really wrong, as he conveyed the gist of it, but it was enough that it caught my attention and pulled me out of the sermon a bit because I was thinking that it did not sound like Paul. I think it was the word “Thanksgiveness”.
3. I think though that the chief thing he did that struck me as actually egregious is that he messed around with Colossians 2:8-10 in ways that he shouldn’t have. I don’t think he properly handled the biblical text in this case. What he did was he quoted the reference for the verse, then gave us the message paraphrase, and then he went on to exegete and speculate regarding the paraphrase that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual translations, thus lending his ideas a false credence and authority and granting them a biblical veneer. Its subtle or sneaky, and it’s endemic in modern evangelical preaching.
For example, he gives us the Message Bible paraphrase of Colossians 2:8-10 which says “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”
This is in contradistinction to the actual words of God which say “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power”
So he quotes from a paraphrase that has almost exactly double the words from the original scriptures [110 words vs 56] and says verbatim “You don’t need telescopes, microscopes, horoscopes. Many times in our lives we want to know what’s out there, what’s there for our future, and so we want to see the big picture, and we have that telescope picture of where we’re going or what we need to do, and we want all the answers before we make a decision, and so we’re waiting upon God and he’s not answering, and we’re struggling in our journey. Or sometimes as a microscope we want to see every little detail in place, have every thing in order so, have every decision made so as we take the next step we know what we’re doing. Or in some cases we want that supernatural power, and we’re looking to every source, and finding that through horoscopes and others that might speak into our lives, and trying to figure out what we need to do and where we need to go and how we need to deal with issues in our life. But folks the word of God says you do not need telescopes, microscopes or horoscopes to know the fullness of God. To know his fullness, what we need to do is to take the time to seek after him, to allow him to speak to us. That’s what tonight is all about.”
See, that is not a proper handling of the scriptures. That is not, as 2 Timothy 5 says, “rightly diving the word of truth” I hate to say it, but that’s just playing games. That’s some bizarre eisegesis that has no place being preached from the pulpit if the goal of the preaching is to unpack and make clear those verses that you gave us. The fact is that the Message paraphrase shouldn’t be preached from the pulpit as authoritative in any way, and its mangling abilities are on display as we try to discern some semblance of similarity between what Paul wrote, and what Eugene Peterson wrote. I can hardly find any, and I especially can’t see the connection between what Paul wrote and what Clay is preaching at this point. Very disappointing
4. I kinda liked the video clip. It was entertaining and witty, and it made several good points, such as control vs chiselling, about how we want to control which areas of our heart that Christ goes after, or about when we look in the mirror, we shouldn’t see us but instead see Christ. About the lie that says everything was going to be easy when you followed me. All those things and more are quite good. I think it was very successful and powerful in conveying the ferociousness that Christ will pursue our hearts.
And yet two things bothered me. The clip is about Ephesians 2:10, where in that section, the scriptures say that we are God’s workmanship. The Greek word is poiema, literally- that which has been made. And yet the whole time the video replaces workmanship with masterpiece. And so what I thought was conveyed was that we are God’s original masterpiece and not his workmanship. Again, that’s not what is being said. I could be overly paranoid, but when we replace workmanship and emphasize the masterpiece-ness of it, that elevates man instead of God. It does not point attention to the mastery of God’s power or his goodness or his benevolence in creating something, but rather it seems to give glory to that which has been made, honouring the creature instead of the creator. In my head I was like “nooooo, God is the Master, I’m just the piece.” You guys can judge if I’m being overly sensitive or not.
What did drive me to distraction, is the point in the clip where God is chipping away at the man, and the man says that “it hurts” and God replies “it hurts me more than it hurts you.” Aaaaaaah no. God is NOT hurt when he sanctifies us. That is patently false at best and blasphemous at worst. I think it was done to make God relateable, like a how a father will tell that to his son that he’s about to chastise, or something like that. But that really is a bad call and I can’t let that go without pointing it out. It absolutely in no way shape or form hurts God more than it hurts us. I did send off an email to Pastor Glen and asked him about that, and I will update this post when/if I hear back from him. I don’t know- call me crazy, but I am of the opinion that you can’t just say things like that and let them go uncorrected. In fact, I would urge the pastors and leadership team to offer a public correction on that point. Is it a huge, gigantic deal? Not really. But I think it would go far in showing the congregation that the church leadership is serious about the purity and the centrality of the Word of God, as well as guarding them from any errors, small and unassuming as they might be.
In any case, other than that Message Bible confusion and the jab about it hurting God, I thought it was pretty good, and would have liked to hear the rest of the messages.
Pastor Glen starts off the sermon talking about all the misconceptions we have of heaven, about how a lot of people grew up with this idyllic picture of us sitting in heaven and strumming a harp for a million years. Or perhaps we envisioned being a disembodied spirit wandering about a eerily mystical and shadowy existence. These are, of course, far removed from reality and if anything come across as either boring or undesirable.
He offers a quote from the always magnificent Spurgeon who was once asked about heaven and had replied “Heaven is home from exile, to come to the goal of my desires and to the summit of my wishes.” Glenn states that God has placed a desire in every person’s heart [for heaven] that is real and intended to be rewarded.
He then talks about how people have this idea that this world is evil and miserable, and they can’t wait to leave it and get to heaven which they believe to be the antithesis of heaven. And yet the earth is not evil. Evil stuff happens on earth, but the earth itself is good and beautiful. We are told that God is a redeemer and not a trasher. Part of the reason for these misconception about heaven is that there is a tremendous neglect on the teaching of heaven, and that many great theologians have dedicated hundreds of pages to our faith and life and yet there tends to be only a fraction of space dedicated to this important topic. [I definitely agree with this] Pastor Glen states that most people have very messed up ideas of heaven because these are gotten from movies and friends, and not on the Bible. As far as biblical references go, he points them out. Genesis 1:1, 14:19. Mark 1:10. Luke 3:21. Luke 10:18. Luke 10:20. Acts 1;11. 2 Corinthians 5:1. Philippians 3:20. Revelation 5:13. Revelation 11:15. Revelation 11:19. Revelation 19:1. Revelation 19:11. Revelation 20:1-3. Revelation 21:15-18. Revelation 21:23-25.
He makes the case that it’s true that we don’t know a lot about heaven, but we should not be like the people who refuse to talk about it. There are people who don’t believe we should even speculate on such a thing, and these people tend to quote the following verses as their prooftexts-1 Corinthians 2:9. Deuteronomy 29:29. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. He then rightly reads those verses in context and skilfully breaks down all misuses of these verses to show that they don’t say what people claim they are saying. He also comments on how some people accuse others of being “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” , and how while there may be a degree of truth in that. he says these comments tend to come from people who don’t understand that everything is spiritual; that it’s spiritual to bake bread and that more often than not the people who are the most heavenly minded become the most earthly good. [Great point!]
Turning the corner a bit he talks about hell, and how humanity’s default position is set for hell. He states that hell is a real place and that you don’t need to make a decision to go to hell. It’s a broad road that leads to destruction….“But if you want to go to heaven you gotta make a decision. You gotta make a decision about the one who died on the cross. You gotta make a decision about a direction you’re going to take in life. Your default button is set for hell, but…you can rechange that. amen, By saying “I have made a decision”. The bible tells us “choose you now this day whom you will serve. Make a choice, amen” He states that a lot of people think if they don’t do the big bad sins like murder and adultery that they`ll be ok, but Jesus warns against the people who say “Lord lord” but haven’t acknowledged him as Lord and Savior [referencing Matthew 25. ] We are told that we need to choose today to follow Christ and enjoy heaven, and that once you have decided to follow Christ and serve him you are destined for heaven.
For the second act he talks about how God is going to recreate earth and recreate heaven, and that the reason that God is going to recreate the “current heaven” is because sin was hatched in the heart of Lucifer in heaven. Because of this, heaven will be recreated and restored. [2 Peter 3;13. Isaiah 45:18.] He refutes the idea that we are invaders of the earth and that human were somehow created for the earth [verse the biblical understanding that earth created for humans] Why is he going to recreate an earth? So that heaven could be on this renewed earth. Heaven and earth will be joined together and we can travel back and forth between them, and this will be the most wonderful place with no more tears or sorrow or sin. [I believe this is an accurate summary of what he said] When Adam sinned in the garden, God didn’t give up on us and say that this human project was a flop and close shop, but rather he redeemed mankind to get humanity back in a relationship with him, through the cross. God had a plan to redeem mankind before Adam even sinned and he has a plan to redeem the earth. [Right!] When this happens, we will have a new physical body that is free of pain and sin.
We are told that the majority of people in the world believe there is a heaven and that the best hope for death and loss is heaven. [1 Thessalonians 4. We don’t mourn like those who have no hope.] If you don’t set your eyes on heaven, you will live as a temporary being who is obsessed with your needs and wants in the here and now. He asks the question, What can I do to get to heaven? And states that the unbelieving will not be in heaven, but rather only the believing will. He then proceeds to give a gospel message and closes out the sermon with an invitation to accept Christ.
Overall, this was one of the better sermons that I have heard preached from the MGA in the last year or so. To start off, the topic of heaven is a pretty daunting subject but he does a great little primer on the topic. One area I really liked was how he spent time addressing all the false beliefs and weird preconceptions that people have about heaven, and thought he did a masterful job addressing the biblical objections that people have to even discussing heaven. He rightly interpreted those verses in context and he convincingly showed that we can talk about this, and that we can believe in the promises of heaven that the bible gives us, even if they are a little scant. I also liked that this sermon was full of scripture and that he read out the verses instead of just quoting the references off-handledly.As well, his thoughts on how the ones who are the most heavenly minded are the most earthly good has been in my mind all day, and I’ve really been meditating them and examining my own life. Because I am definitely not as “heavenly minded” as I would like to be, and at times I can feel the temptation of wanting to be a permanent resident in this world, instead of the alien I ought to be.
Another good thing was that through his talk of heaven and our default position of hell we find a breakdown of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is startling in that we rarely get so clear a picture from this pulpit. This is a big deal, as more often than not it’s muddled and assumed. I am working on a separate post about this, but in this sermon he offers up a true picture of salvation, of repentance for our sins and faith in Christ. I will say though that I wish he spoke of penal substitutionary atonement, and told us WHY Christ had to die for our sins, and WHY our default position is hell, and WHAT HAPPENED on that cross in the great exchange. I think that would have been useful, but Pastor Glen gets kudos nontheless because that presentation is heads above what we normally get and the clarity he brought was very fine.
One thing I will say though is that I don’t necessarily agree with him when it comes to the nature of the new heaven and earth, and to what degree it will be created or recreated or what it will look like when it is destroyed or restored. The talk about the new city of Jerusalem being on earth and what that will look like and some of the details he spoke of, I think, went a bit too far into the realm of speculation. I believe it is a valid interpretation- just not one that I would hold to.
Another issue that concerned me was his usage of Joshua 24:15. Pastor Glen made the statement that ““But if you want to go to heaven you gotta make a decision. You gotta make a decision about the one who died on the cross. You gotta make a decision about a direction you’re going to take in life. Your default button is set for hell, but…you can rechange that. amen, By saying “I have made a decision”. The bible tells us “choose you now this day whom you will serve. Make a choice, amen” In context, we read Joshua 24:12-17.
[Joshua said "thus says the Lord"] “And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.”
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed.”
In context, we see that Joshua had urged them to the Lord alone and to put away the false gods that they were clinging to and believed in. He said that if they preferred to be idolatrous and disloyal to Jehovah alone then they had to choose between two different categories of false gods, which were their ancestral gods from Mesopotamia or the gods worshiped by the peoples they had conquered in Canaan. Joshua was resolute in that regardless of which god they would serve, he and his household would be serving the Lord. Thankfully the people’s response was to decisively reject false gods and to serve the one true living God, which they did for a long time after that. And so what bothers me is that pastor Glen took other people to task earlier in the sermon for taking a bible verse out of context by not reading the rest of the verse, and he did the exact same thing here. Furthermore, those words “choose today whom you will serve” are not choices to choose Christ verses the devil, or God versess the world, or salvation verses damnation, but rather were the choice between two false gods.
I understand though what he was getting at, that we need to make a choice, but using those verse the way he did was wrong. I think there is a way to rightfully incorporate those verses into his sermon in order to make his point, and it only would have taken an extra minute to put it in context and derive the principle from it. You might say something like ” All of us need to make the choice of who will be our God, either the false gods of the world or the one true Lord. Long ago in Israel’s history, Joshua posed them a similar question . He stood before them and he powerfully and forcefully made them choose. He asked the question in such a way that left no ambiguity or ability to claim ignorance after the fact. The had two inescapable options. The were presented with the faithful one true God who had delivered them out of Egypt, wrought many miracles, sustained them in battles and who had personally and practically displayed his might and presence to them to believe in and put their faith in. But if they could not handle that or accept that; if that seemed evil to them and they could not give themselves over to that reality, then they were given a second choice. They could choose to suppress the truth and deny that and choose another thing to make their God. If they wouldn’t bow to the Father Almighty, Joshua gave them the option “choose this day whom you will serve. You can either serve this false god, or this false god, but you will never be serving the one true God.” Likewise if you will not bow the knee and repent and put your faith in the one true God Jesus Christ, then go ahead and pick your poison. You can make money,sex, ego or even yourself and your own abilities your own personal god. You can choose which of those you will serve and they will invariably lead you down the road to destruction and hell. A or B. Black or white. No middle ground. But as for us, as for my own family and household and all us believers, we have made our choice, and we WILL serve the Lord who is the Redeemer and Savior of the whole world. “
That’s an example of how one might use that verse in context. The way pastor Glen used it, however, is not in context. As well, I don’t agree with all the emphasis on man and his own decision to make a choice to save himself [being of a reformed background as well as holding to the Westminster Confession] but that is another matter, and this post is much too long already to get into that. In any case, as I said, this is a good sermon, and worth a listen to, even if I don’t agree with everything he said.
Pastor Phil Hovid. What’s new with you? December 27, 2009
The sermon starts off talking about the nature of exciting news, and how the nature of exciting news is that it changes us and offers a new perspective. We are told that the most exciting, most miraculous moment in life is when a new baby enters the world, as when it happens it changes a life. Pastor Phil contrasts that new birth with death, and how whereas a birth is a time of joy, death is a time of hurt and sorrow and inconvenience. New life breeds excitement and along with it comes inconvenience.
And so the question is asked, “What is your vision for the new year?” He mentions a conversation he had with his father, about life and vision and goals and dreams, and reiterates the question with a longer timeframe “What is your vision for the next 20 years” and “What is going to breathe new life into this next year? What’s going to get you excited about god and his kingdom? What can you practically participate in?”
At the 15 minute mark he introduces the first bit of Scripture. Genesis 1:26-28. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
He contrasts that to Matthew 28:16-20, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And he makes the point that initially we we had the commission, which is be fruitful and multiply and now we have the recommission, which is to make disciples of all nations. What is the takeaway from this? That “God’s plan is new life”. He then asks “Have you participated this last year in something of new life?…What changes can you do to make this happen?… What practically can you do?” He reiterates the fact that God says that we are to be fruitful and multiply, and the way we can encourage and facilitate and support that is by praying for marriages and families. He points out that marriages and families are under attack by spiritual forces, and that the enemy of our lives wants to destroy marriage, which is truly a diabolic scheme that we need to be watchful of and to be vigilant and continuous with our prayers over.
That’s the first thing we can do- pray for families. The second thing we can do is bless what God blesses. Children are a blessing, and if people have blessings we have to bless them. Turning the corner a bit, he delves into his own personal life and talks about his vasectomy that he had back in the day when he bought into the idea that small families were the most convenient and made the most sense. He shares about how after a time he had that surgery reversed because he felt like he may have made a mistake, and then had several more children after that which have blessed him greatly and have been the most wonderful joy to him.
He asks the question; So what can you do to bless or support large families? He offers some suggestions- You can give financially to them. You can support them with babysitting. Or you can have more children yourself, by having more babies or being a foster parent or adopting. Pastor Phil then spends some time talking about the decline of family size in the world, and how in the European nation they have such low birth rates that it’s almost impossible to reverse. He says “Now, we can get all freaked out about that, or we can say “Hey God, you’re fixing to do something. In spite of our ignorance. In spite of our own ways. The bible says that ‘If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ and so, I see God fixing to have a revival, is what I see.”
So why not get involved in the two most exciting thing we can do on earth? Have or support children and have or support spiritual children. All of us should be reproducing in some way, and it’s not just the evangelists job to make spiritual children, but rather it’s our job to find people and bring them to Christ. That’s what the recomisison is about. He then poses the rhetorical question; “How do you live a fruit bearing life?” John 15:5-8, which talks about how if we abide in Christ we will naturally bear much fruit. He spends some time talking about how God prunes us and cuts off the bad branches so that we will bloom and be able to concentrate on bearing much fruit, and that our responsibility is to abide in him. What kind of fruit will we bear? The fruits of the spirit as well as the fruits of making disciples. God wants us to be known for our love for others, and if we take an attitude of life by supporting what God supports we will change the world. “What’s new with you? What attitudes can you change? What strategies can you adopt? How can you adjust your thinking towards fruitfulness in this coming year? You and I are going to have to work anyway, why not make it pay huge dividends of satisfaction?” He ends the sermon with this quote “Life is not measured by how many breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”
This was an interesting sermon. I know I’m starting off so many of my sermon reviews this way, but that is exactly how I feel. Because first of all, the sermon was pretty good. I think that because of the nature of the sermon, and about the subject matter and the possibility of offence that it might cause, that this took a bit of courage to say. Which is not to say that the subject is inherently offensive, but when you start talking about issues of family planning which are deeply personal to people, there exists the definite possibility of being misunderstood, especially when you may not have time to cover all your bases. You can say all you want that there’s nothing wrong with small families, but when you extol the blessing of large families it’s bound to be taken the wrong way by someone. In any cases, I’m not a fan of pastors introducing Scriptures when they are a third of the way through their sermon. I like when it’s mentioned a lot earlier, because then you have something to ground your words in, and you have fewer cases where the Pastor spends half the time talking about himself or about jokes and stories, and more time expounding on the Word of God. And so only introducing at the scriptures at the 15 minute mark is, imho, not the sort of homiletical manoeuvre that I like to see happen.
But what I found especially good was his thoughts on the commission and recommission. I don’t think that we are commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply as a one-size fits all decree. I believe that it was a commandment spoken specifically to to Adam and Eve, for that time, and as a means of filling the earth and populating it with people. But that is precisely where the recommission comes in, where we make disciples and where we help create and build up and support and teach people to be children of God and then men and women of God. Its a really nice contradistinction he drew, in order to participate in the creation of new life one way or another, which is something that is for us. And so fantastic point.
As well, way to point out the creeping fog of demonic forces that wish to see families destroyed. I could not agree more, especially because I believe marriages and families are so theological and are so representative of Christ and his Church. And so our families need all the prayer and protection that we can get, and people need to be aware of this, because with the destruction of the family comes great sins and lost souls, and the Church needs to be a bulwark of stability and support for marriages and families.
That having been said, at one point he quoted a verse in 2 Chronicles, and I don’t believe he is using it right at all. It’s being taken way out of context, and I feel it devalues the credibility of his sermon. In the context of talking about low birth rates he advances the idea that we need to repent of this sin of low birthrates, and that if we do God will bring a revival and heal the land, ostensibly by having more children so that our birth rates increase, or some variation thereof. But let me put the verse he’s quoting in context. 2 Chronicles 7;11-18. Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’
I know evangelicals like to quote this verse and put it on coffee mugs and belt it out in teary-eyed during worship services, but it is not about you or your situation, and it definitely is not applicable in the context of low birth rates and any revival associated with that. You can usually tell that a verse is being taken out of context when it’s excised midway through a sentence, which is what we see when it is quoted. What is actually happening, in context, is that the temple has just been dedicated and God appears to the king of the covenant people Israel in a dream several thousand years ago. God then tells Solomon this clip in question as an assurance that when He [God] directly and purposefully sends down his terrible judgments and and drought and plagues upon them, due to their idolatry, that the way they can assuage his anger is to turn from their sins and humble themselves, then God will relent with his punishment and will heal their land. Ergo, there is no reason that you should feel the need to insert yourself into this story and try to make this verse about you. It’s not. In fact, it’s actually a riff and reference to the previous chapter.
Now, that having been said, I have emailed my concerns to Pastor Phil and he was gracious enough to respond. I’ve included his response to the pertinent issue;
1. I am continually amazed that the work of Christ is so thorough, complete and finished. I believe that it is through Christ that we access all the promises that God has made to mankind including repentance and forgiveness, healing and wholeness, restoration and righteousness. (2Cor. 1:18-22). Also 1 Cor. 10:1-13 with and emphasis on verse 11 teaches us that the dealing with Israel in the Old Covenant was there for our example and warning. As a promise and as an example I believe that if people today repent for their erroneous ways they will be made right with God and he will begin the process of restoration. I think this principle can be supported all throughout the scriptures.
While this is very helpful in understanding where he’s coming from, I still find myself unsatisfied. I don’t believe that we have access to all the promises that God has made to mankind. Some promises are for us and others aren’t, and we need to know which ones these are. We don’t get to insert ourselves into the personal lives of the saints and find ourselves the recipients of personalized and specific promises. We are not Israelites, and we are not free to latch unto old covenant promises. That having been said, I do agree with him that we can all access repentance, forgiveness, healing, wholeness and righteousness, but this is made clear in enough places throughout scriptures that we don’t need to take from instances such as the one already quoted. That is not for us. Besides, more often than not the scriptures being quoted are the good ones which sit well with us. If that verse is for us, then what would stop me from saying that Jeremiah 29:1-18 is for us as well, where God says “Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them”
I don’t quote that verse and say that it is applicable to us, and that it is a promise for us, and likewise I don’t use this verse to Solomon in the same way. What I think the verse does is display to us God’s Holy character and gives us insight into it so that we might understand him better. This is the same issue I raised with Jeremiah 29:11. There is a way to communicate the wonderful truths and promises and intentions of God towards us, including his healing, grace, restoration, reconciliation and righteousness without quoting verbatim from the private dreams of ancient kings and applying that directly to our forehead. In any case, another issue was his quote about moments that take your breath away being the measure of life, as that is not a Christian concept at all. In fact, it strikes me as a rather poor and tragic way to measure life. I won’t say more about that, because I really don’t get such a comment in the context of a Christian sermon.
I know I devoted an inordinate amount of time to a glancing biblical reference, but that sort of thing matters to me and is one of the main reasons this site exists. I want to see scripture used correctly and in context at all times, and so that’s why it got so much time spent on it. I appreciate the clarification and the elaboration that he provided, but it raises another issue; why not make that elaboration a part of the sermon? Why not state clearly that it’s being used as an example so that you don’t give the impression that this is a literal promise for the congregates. Why not take two seconds to lay out the verse in context, and then you can do some exegetical work on it and tie it all in? There’s far too many people who think every old testament promise to the Israelites is for them and is still in effect today and that they can jump on that waggon and get the seven- fold blessings or a double portion or whatever it is they’re itching for. But they’re wrong. That’s not how it works. And using this in the context of God healing our land from the sin of small families and sinful attitudes towards children perpetrates that, and I just can’t get behind that.
All in all it was a pretty good sermon, and the points about the commission and recommission were worthy of some deep thought and consideration. It just derailed for me near the end, and I wish that hadn’t happened.
MGA. Joseph; Spirit Empowered Leadership. Pastor Glen Forsberg. October 25, 2009
The sermon starts off with asking the question whether we as believers want to be settlers or arrivers. The illustration he’s utilizing is from the journeys of Terah, and how Terah planned on going to from Ur Canaan but settled in Haran when instead. In this case Terah settled, but Abram was called by God to arrive in the land of Canaan. As it were, we’re exhorted that God wants us to arrive in the promise land as well.
He then quotes from Romans 8:28 and 29. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified”. [Romans 8:28-30 ] surmising that “Everything that happens to you in life will work together for your good and fulfilling that purpose that God has called you for.”
He quotes John 20:21-22 “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” and makes the case that we are called with the same mission that Christ had. That you can’t fulfill the plan of God with programs and policies and procedures. Rather we need the Holy Spirit, which is what gives us the power to fulfill the commission. It is essential.
As it were, the crux of the sermon comes down to the example set by Joseph. He begins by laying down some genealogy to provide us with some history and says at one point that God’s call began with Terah. I’m not sure how this is, as Terah was a pagan and there is no evidence to suggest that God was or directing him towards Canaan. And so to say that he was heading God’s call is somewhat specious and unverifiable. In any case, he takes some time and gives a very nice and thorough and succinct overview of the story, from about Genesis 37-50. I really mean that. He touched on all the major themes and events with adroitness, and I can certainly admire that. The meat of the sermon though is about the qualities of character that Joseph possessed.
1. Joseph was a Spirit led man. Joseph had security in who he was and in his father’s love, and was fearless. Insecurity is one of the most damaging ills in today’s society and nothing will kill a man quicker. The effects of insecurity are wide ranging, and only in Christ can we become truly secure.
2. Joseph was sincere. He shared what was on his mind with his family and was authentic in everything he did.
3. Joseph was trusting. He trusted the ones he loved and in turn later on earned the trust of others
4. Joseph was a serving person. He served his father, served Potiphar, served in jail, and later on served his brothers, despite all what had happened to him.
5. Joseph was saving. Through him others were saved, and he had a huge influence on people.
The sermon ends with fleshing out the idea that Joseph was the precursor to the promise land, and the question is asked; how many people can we take with us to the promise land while exhibiting the characteristic and qualities of Joseph.
This was an interesting sermon for me to listen to and think about and spend some time meditating on. It should be first said that there was nothing wrong with the sermon as it pertains to bible usage and the context of scripture, nor was it irrelevant for the audience. But the thing is that this is not my kind of sermon at all. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to craft a sermon the way this one has, using the man Joseph as our model for evangelism and for a moral compass. Because it seems that there wasn’t a lot of depth to the points he picked out, saving, secure, trusting, etc. There is a lot I could say about the character of Jesus, and I guess I expect a bit more depth than just that “Joseph was trusting.” It almost seemed as if the story of Joseph was being yanked from it’s historical context and being applied in an anachronistic way to today. In a way it almost felt like a Sunday school lesson, only updated for adults. I just think it could have been more. But again, this is not a bad sermon, it’s just not for me.
As well, as usual the oblique references to salvation and the gospel drive me up the wall, especially when doing the altar call. I’ve said this before; more often than not what is being presented is a vague, esoteric, are gospel-less gospel for mass consumption, and I can’t understand why they just can’t be clear and open about this. It doesn’t make sense to me that they offer such a vague pronouncement. It’s not even good news really, more like veiled double-speak for all intents and purposes.
That having been said, if I can hijack a bible verse he quoted, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified”. [Romans 8:28-30 ]
I would like to really focus upon the often memorized and quoted verse 28. The verse begins with “and we know.” This isn’t merely an assumption that Paul is making, nor is he engaging in profound philosophical speculation. Rather, he is presenting inspired truth in accordance with the revelation given to him. He knew and therefore we now know what proceeds to be true. There is no doubt as to its truthfulness or validity. The next phrase is “that God causes.” This expression asserts that God is the effective agent in the equation. Whether or not you view Him as the beginning, middle, end, or some combination thereof, actor in salvation, this verse confirms that He is active as the cause behind the argument which will be presented.
Before we look at what He causes, let’s look at whom it is that this verse is referencing. The promise is confirmed to “those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Surely this is to be interpreted to include any and every believer. Throughout Scripture, we recognize that a love toward God is foundational and however you interpret the element of His calling, it surely includes salvation. Therefore, whatever is being promised is being promised to all who believe. So, what is being promised? What is God causing? “All things to work together for good.” This is huge and we must focus ourselves upon this truth. What God has just revealed in His Word is that He will cause everything, every single thing or multiple things, indeed all things, to work together under His direction for our greatest good.
Now, a fundamental problem with saying that a Christian can lose his or her salvation is that we would have to say that God will not fulfill His promises, and this one in particular. To claim that a Christian at one time believed in the gospel is to say that this promise was, at least at that time, addressed to him as a recipient of its truth. Therefore, this Christian at one time loved God and God promised to work all things together for his good. And yet, that person somehow rebelled in such a way as to nullify God’s promise and fall from grace. How is it good [“all things work together for good”] to lose salvation and spend eternity in hell, separated from God? We have a flawed understanding of what constitutes good if it is not anchored to the promises of Christ’s presence. To be separated from Him is the very antithesis of good.
For those who would claim that it is possible to truly be converted and savingly believe in the gospel and then to commit apostasy and fall away from salvation, it is impossible to confidently say that God really causes “all things” to work together for good. They instead imply that “God causes all things to work in accordance with each man’s personal will.” What a far cry from the truth of Ephesians 1:11 which asserts that He “works all things after the counsel of His will.” His will, not ours.
Another aspect of this is the chain of events that God plays out. “These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. To say that you can lose your salvation, is to substitute SOME in place of THOSE, leaving you with “some who God foreknew He also predestined, some He predestined he also called; some he called, he also justified; some he justified, he also glorified” But that is not what it says, and is not biblical at all. If God predestined and called you to be saved [justified], then God says that those he justified he WILL glorify. Glorification does not happen in this life, but in the next, and that necessitates that those he called and justified will all find their way to glory.