Blog Archive: 2014

Blog List: 2014
Note: Lower numbered blogs can be found in
the previous year’s archive.

18. 1/1/14: Christian Unity . . . I’m for it!
19. 1/15/14: A tiny galaxy in your future?
20. 2/1/14: The Secret to Maintaining Discipline
21. 2/15/14: The most brilliantly professional organization ever built!
22. 3/1/14: The Ken Ham / Bill Nye Debate
23. 3/15/14: Clouds of Devilish Delusion
24. 4/1/14: Darwin’s Doubt: The Cambrian Explosion
25. 4/15/14: The Board: a Biblical model of ‘you’
26. 5/1/14: Have you surrendered all? Don’t!
27. 5/15/14: I’ve figured out what my problem is
28. 6/1/14: Is your church guilty of Temple-ism?
29. 6/15/14: Lillian Trasher: Nile Mother
30. 6/20/14: Tracts: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
31. 7/1/14: What are revivals all about?
32. 7/15/14: CMBR and the Cult of the Big Bang
33. 8/1/14: Jonathan Edwards: Greatest American Theologian?
34. 8/15/14: Tracts to give to churchgoers
35. 9/1/14: Dismantling the Big Bang
36. 9/15/14: Relational Evangelism: The ultimate method?
37. 10/1/14: What do mousetraps, flagella, and blood clotting have in common?
38. 10/15/14: Giants of the Northern Pines
39. 11/1/14: What are the limits to evolution?
40: 11/15/14: Famous Philosophers: a new tract
41. 12/1/14: Free Markets and Peace
42. 12/15/14: New Testament Evangelism by James Stewart


18. Christian Unity . . . I’m for it!
January 1, 2014

The phenomenon of synchronicity pops up throughout creation. Thousands of fireflies flash on and off in sync along a river bank. The rings of Saturn dance in complex, yet stable patterns in sync with the planet’s moons. Pendulum clocks on a shop’s wall tick-tock in perfect sync without human intervention. And women living in the same dorm . . . when sync arises there, please keep your distance for several days each month.

Usually, it’s straightforward to puzzle out the physical laws that produce such events. I’ve enjoyed reading Steven Strogatz’s book Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, which explores these and many other fascinating phenomena. In the spiritual realm, sync is not subject to the basic laws of physics and chemistry, but rather depends on willful hearts and minds. It is clearly God’s will for Christians to be in sync. Observe how many times within the book of Acts that the believers are found to be in “one accord.” Before the Cross (in John ch. 17), we find in Jesus’ prayer His great desire for His disciples to be “one,” even as He and His Father are “one.” Of course, the overriding constraint is that truth be the foundation.

The Adversary also desires sync among his followers. He has his troubles, as demonstrated so horrifically in World War 2, when two demon-possessed tyrants, Stalin and Hitler, went to war against each other. In the prophetic future, however, we see Satan’s minion, the Antichrist, achieving global political unity, while the False Prophet enables religious unity . . . for a time.

Man’s quest for peace, whether through the United Nations or by any fantastical form of treaty, is doomed to failure. The only opportunity for peace on Earth is for men and women . . . individually . . . to find peace with God. Peace with God comes by justification and faith (Romans 5:1), and exclusively through the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ (Luke 2). As men continue to rebel and reject Christ, the world festers with conflict, nation against nation, neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, and even husband against wife. (What’s the divorce rate these days?) Peace and justice (!) across the Earth will not be achieved by man, but rather decreed by the Lord Jesus who will come with a sword to separate His followers from Satan’s (Revelation 19, Matthew 25, Isaiah 9:6-7)).

A. W. Tozer offers a compelling metaphor for Christian unity:

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.

So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.”

As a laser physicist by background, I’m struck by a similar metaphor. Any incoherent light source, like a tungsten filament in a light bulb, is characterized by many independent atomic sources shooting out photons in random directions at random times. It takes a lot of work, a lot of power, to light up a distant object that way. But laser light . . . coherent radiation . . . is different. A photon from one atom provokes a neighboring atom to produce its photon in precisely the same direction and in precisely the same phase. (Phase . . . peaks and valleys in the electromagnetic wave superpose in constructive interference.) More and more photons entice more and more atoms to produce an exponentially (actually, a double exponential) brighter and brighter beam. If you’re an electrical engineer you can visualize millions and millions of electric field vectors and phasors in perfect alignment, producing a brilliantly intense beam. A laser beam can reach out in the dark of space to light up corner-cube mirrors left on the moon by astronauts, which reflect a quite detectable beam all the way back to the Earth.

How do you get Christians to line up in one accord? With pianos you use a standard . . . a tuning fork. With lasers you establish a standard set of boundary conditions . . . the laser resonator. With Christians the Standard is God Himself, particularly as revealed in His word, the Bible. If I line up with God’s word and you line up with God’s word . . . Voila!! . . . we’re lined up together! How simple. Yet if you and I ignore Scripture and in our self-centered wills decide that we should line up, well, I kind of like north-northwest and you kind of like east-southeast. If I agree to shift a bit, you might shift too, but in a different direction.

It’s obvious that the Adversary’s ecumenical strategy, in preparation for the religious reign of the False Prophet, is to destroy the Biblical standard entirely. For example, let’s all just agree that “God is love” and “Jesus was all about tolerance.” Satan is smart. I never would have guessed such an empty-brained strategy would work. But people don’t read their Bibles, which get watered down anyway via the latest “contemporary” version. Also, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the megachurches design their “shows” so that the laity sits in a darkened auditorium, so you couldn’t read your Bible if you were silly enough to bring it along.

The Lord Jesus designed His local church with unity in mind. The “team concept” is vibrantly exhibited in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 wherein we learn that spiritual gifts are distributed throughout the team. The metaphor of a football team is relevant here. Everyone is in one accord regarding the mission: Win! Sub-missions include scoring touchdowns and preventing the enemy from doing the same. The quarterback is skilled quite differently from the center, yet they operate in one accord. The cornerback may find himself 50 yards away from his teammate, the defensive tackle, but he depends vitally on that tackle to clobber the opposing quarterback before he gets beaten on the deep ball.

A team that operates in sync is beautiful to watch. Such a team can enjoy huge rewards, in finance and fame and (temporal) joy, even in comparison with a team that has more talented individuals who don’t operate in sync.

Which is more descriptive of American Christendom today? Spiritual victories, in the form of converted sinners and maturing believers, are dependent on God’s enabling power. Scripture is clear that in order to produce victories – “fruit” – thirty-fold, sixty-fold, a hundred-fold, God’s word must be sown in good ground and received. The believers must line up with THE STANDARD. American churches are analogous to dimmed flashlights, batteries about dead, with light scattering weakly in enveloping darkness. The flashlights are big, though! And millions of dollars are raised to make them even bigger, prettier, with shiny cases and all kinds of features. But no beam.

Let’s get practical. How can you test whether you’re investing in a laser as opposed to a flashlight? Jesus is the Light that came into the world. We are to propagate that light. How? The Great Commission, which consists of two major tasks . . . (1) EVANGELISM – preach the Gospel to save sinners (and then baptizing them to show the world), and (2) DISCIPLESHIP – teach the new converts everything the Lord has taught your generation. In the midst of both endeavors, there will be much fellowship, much mutual encouragement, much prayer, much praise for the Lord, much learning, and much (lasting) joy.

The modern church program substitutes food and clothing drives for evangelism and a high-octane show for discipleship. But what about “life groups” in the evangelical churches? Well, they seem to have two major components. The first seems to be some form of book study or sermon-note-commentary-discussion or Bible study that is entirely reminiscent of the teenage Sunday School classes I attended when I first became a Christian. Frankly, it’s distressing to see 50-year-old men continue to suck on milk when they should be craving for meat. The second component seems to be therapy. Let’s all talk about the problems in our lives. So-and-so is treating me poorly and Aunt Alma’s back is aching. Yes, of course, we should share burdens, but aren’t there some interesting things to focus on? Isn’t there a lost world to reach and what are we doing about it?

You might suppose that I’m exaggerating. You would be wrong. Simple test: How many adult church members can . . . right now this moment . . . share the Gospel with a lost Catholic / Hindu / Muslim / atheist? Furthermore, how many adult church members actually did share the Gospel with a lost stranger in the last week / last month / last year?!!? Also, how many “mature” American Christians would pass my basic Bible quiz, which you can find in Blog #4 within the 2013 archive?

I conclude that American churches are not in sync with God. Despite the fact that every church you visit will publicly proclaim that they are filled with the Spirit and are doing a great work for God.

Ok, I agree that to be in sync with God, there is more than executing the G.C. But as I mentioned above, with evangelism and discipleship as a life pattern, you will be driven to all of the “Christian disciplines,” such as prayer, Bible study, and holiness in your daily walk. Holiness? Yeah, if you have any hope to have the Lord Jesus as a co-laborer (2 Cor 6:1), you’ve got to love righteousness and hate the works of the Devil.

Look, I agonize about this quite a bit. It is a tragedy to go through life, thinking that you’re in sync with God, when you’re not. It’s obviously easy to fool yourself . . . to get out of touch with reality. When two churches within a couple blocks of each other have dramatically divergent doctrine, even about the very basis of salvation, they can’t both be right. Yet there is no lack of self-esteem in either case. And why don’t they communicate with each other and try to resolve differences? They don’t seem to realize that they violate God’s plan for the local-area church simply by being in competition with each other. See my essay on this, Local Church vs. Universal Church.

So I agonize over whether I am in sync with the Lord. How? I’ve got to spend time in the Bible. I’ve got to read it, not by rote, but by begging God for understanding and by self-examination through the principles and examples revealed in black and white. It is so hard for any of us to admit that we are wrong, especially that we might have been wrong for many years on an important subject. But far better to admit error and repent, than to spend the rest of your life clueless and out of sync. I want to be in the laser beam, part of the bright light generated by the Lord Himself!

How can so many “mature” Christians and even “pastors” be in error about big things? Why doesn’t God straighten them out? The answer is that God expects us to take His word VERY SERIOUSLY!!! With all the “revelations” claimed by America’s pulpiteers . . . not just Pentecostals but evangelicals (gellies) and fundamentalists (fundies) of all varieties who ‘get a word from the Lord’ . . . you’d think that there would be some convergence. That the ones in error would gravitate toward the ones who get it right. No. Everyone has access to the same Bible. If you ignore God’s words, He’s not going to bail you out with a special revelation. The canon is closed, by the way.

Now, let me get personal. I really do want to find Christians who are lined up with me on such elementary issues as reaching out with the Gospel, engaging in weekly fellowship, studying the Bible and discussing it, and praying for and encouraging one another as we try to serve the Lord. Well, it’s very hard to find Christians interested in these things. They are out there, of course, but are scattered throughout the country. Many Christians that might be interested in Biblical evangelism and substantive discipleship have been “slurped up” by the gelly and fundie programs. (See Blog #3 of the 2013 archive.) Young believers with otherwise great potential are doomed to perpetual immaturity as laity in the pews, their ears tickled by salaried clergy who assure them that their weekly attendance and generous offering checks are in the sacrificial tradition of Abel, whereas their true heritage is that of Cain.

I’m not necessarily looking for people who have already traveled far along ‘Maturity Road,’ but just for some who at least want to travel it. How do I search? I visit all kinds of gelly and fundie churches, meeting people and asking who in the church reaches out with the Gospel, who has a passion for souls? It’s rare to find anyone. Of the few who have some passion, it’s even rarer to find anyone who shares the Gospel Scripturally, speaking to the lost frankly about sin, judgment, Hell, repentance, the Cross and Resurrection, the new birth, a transformed life, etc. (See my many articles on Evangelism.)

Can’t I make friends with Christians who are cold to evangelism? Are you kidding? If Steve is cold to evangelism, he can’t really be interested in the Bible, can he? So what are we going to talk about? Monday Night Football? If he’s determinedly disobedient to the G.C., then how can he pray for me? And how can I pray for God to bless Steve or his family when he’s in rebellion to the most basic of the Lord’s commands for believers in the New Testament age. (Note that the Lord Jesus’ prime message between His resurrection and His ascension was the G.C.) Hey, I’d like to make friends with Steve . . . maybe after a while he would get turned on to sharing the Gospel. Nope. Been there, done that. My passion just irritates him. The only way to get along with grumpy Steve is to pretend to be a spiritual popsicle myself. Never. Do you ever see such a sneaky approach in the Biblical record? You can’t fool someone into serving the Lord. Which is as foolish as so-called “relational evangelism,” in which you try to sneak up on the lost, win him to yourself, and then insipidly suggest that he should be Jesus’ friend, too . . . and join the church, sit in the theater seats, enjoy the rock band, and write weekly checks. Yuck.

In contrast, I’ve made a few friends in my lifetime who were already quite open to the G.C. and just needed some coaching and encouragement. I’ve also made friends with Christians who were already on track when I met them. Joy! But those who are content while immersed in the currently frigid American system will be antagonistic to sharing the Gospel. Which, of course, makes me wonder how they can be saved themselves. Statistically speaking, most aren’t.

Do I claim to be in perfect sync with the Lord? No. I do profess to work at aiming my vectors and phasors in the Biblical direction. And I’ve got to continually examine myself and re-examine my understanding of Scripture. As I get older, I understand context better and have a much better “feel” for nuance. But the basic issues . . . the big ones . . . are not difficult for anyone: anyone who faces up to truth, that is. Don’t you struggle to make sure that you get Biblical issues right? Look around. With so many disagreeing with one another, and so many who get big things wrong, it is clearly easy to make mistakes. Some of the most fervent Christians I’ve known . . . real Christians . . . get some things obviously wrong. I mean basic issues of evangelism and discipleship . . . how to share the Gospel and how to teach believers. Simple stuff. So no one is immune to error. My positions on such issues are clearly expressed in various essays on this site. I would be happy to correspond with anyone who thinks that I’ve missed something significant. Meanwhile, learn something of God this week from His word. Do something for God this week. Share the Gospel with a lost person. Encourage a Christian. Make your days count. At best, our days are few.



19. A tiny galaxy in your future?
January 15, 2014

Our ‘hometown’ Milky Way is typical of the many barred-spiral galaxies distributed by our Creator throughout His universe. Galaxies come in many shapes and sizes. Ours is quite respectable in size and stellar population. Perhaps 300 billion stars arranged spectacularly in a finely structured disk about 100,000 light years in diameter. (Look up just how great a distance is described by one light year, then pull out your calculator and see how long it would take to travel that at highway speeds.)

Hubble telescope photo of distant galaxies, many as large as our Milky Way

There are perhaps a trillion galaxies out there comparable in size to ours. Additionally however, there are many ‘dwarf’ galaxies amidst the large ones, like the two irregularly shaped “Large” and “Small” Magellanic Clouds, which orbit the Milky Way, and are visible on clear starry nights from the Southern hemisphere. These two starry metropolises contain about ten billion and a few hundred million suns, respectively.

In closer orbit around our galaxy are a host of star clusters and ‘tiny’ galaxies, including one recently discovered, called “Segue 2,” which weighs in at 150,000 solar masses. What strikes my imagination is the (reasonable) speculation that perhaps tens of thousands of such ‘tiny’ galaxies may orbit the Milky Way. Note that even if 20,000 such tiny galaxies are out there in our suburbs, then their total stellar population would still be only about one percent of the galactic ‘city’ we live in.

So think about that . . . one little ‘suburb’ with 150,000 stars. When I read this news blurb in the January 2014 issue of Discover magazine, my mind flashed back to the favorite sci-fi saga of my youth, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman Series. One of the major alien bad guys has his Prime Base concealed in a star cluster not far outside the galaxy. The mission of the heroic Lensman is to find that star cluster and the particular solar system that houses this nexus of evildoing. I recall thinking (back in my youth) that it shouldn’t be that hard. But ‘Doc’ Smith was more prescient than he realized, given the awesome geography of galactic space.

But . . . who cares? I mean, who cares in reality, as opposed to science fiction? Well, allow me (or don’t . . . I’m going to do it anyway) to speculate based on what God has revealed to us in Scripture. The Lord has told us, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16) For now, we have stewardship over the Earth, albeit a fallen Earth, and we’re not doing a good job at all. We fuss and fight over the bits of dirt and grime within our little single planet ecosystem. In fact our fallen race apparently likes to fuss and fight even when there is nothing at stake. We invent sports like boxing and football to glorify fighting when there is no reason to fight at all. And then reward the boxers and the linebackers with some of the highest incomes in society. What a mess.

I note that Psalm 115 is written from a perspective within fallen humanity. But I then observe that Psalm 8 is written from an entirely different perspective. Read carefully . . .

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

The viewpoint is from creation before the Fall, as evidenced by . . . “hast crowned him with glory and honour.” Both angels and man have been created. Man is to have dominion over the works of God’s hands . . . everything, including the stars of the Heavens.

The Fall changes things. Satan becomes the “god of this world.” Man is not glorified, but rather condemned, agonizing in wait for the Savior to redeem him and the entire creation. Once the Savior comes and purchases redemption, what is our hope? Note Paul’s words . . .

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Romans 8:16-22

The redeemed are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” What Christ inherits, we inherit. Sounds like a lot. Furthermore, we have the assured hope “that we may be also glorified together.” And not just us, but all of creation, when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat . . . all these things shall be dissolved” . . .and we will see . . . “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” (2 Peter 3:10-11, Rev 21:1)

In the new creation, the sun, moon, and stars are not going away. God has established them forever and ever. Open up your Bible. Read Psalm 148. Note the perspective . . . after the restoration of all things! We will praise the Lord “from the heavens” . . . we will “praise him in the heights.” How high are the heavens? How distant are the heights? We will praise him from throughout his extended universe!

It seems crystal clear, “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7) The ages to come . . . plural ages, beyond the Millennial Kingdom on Earth. Yes, we are going to inherit the entire creation, not just this little planet. One planet isn’t big enough to contain the works that the saints should do to glorify God. God always intended His children to have dominion over the works of His hands. We derailed that train by this age of willful, wicked, destructive sin and got stuck on a miserably decaying planet, stuck in the same jail with the Adversary and his man-hating cohorts . . . but only temporarily. When the god of this world, his demonic host, and all the rebels of the ages are cast into the Lake of Fire, the Lord will open up His creation to His co-laborers. The Master Carpenter is looking for trustworthy apprentices to help Him build and fashion a new creation for His glory, which He explicitly intends to share with His children, His brothers and sisters, His inheritors. Do you think God would turn His creation over to self-centered rebels? The rebels can’t even take good care of their own little neighborhoods. No, God’s apprentices will come only from “new creatures,” those passed from death to life, from darkness to light, and eager to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Remember God’s promises to Abraham? “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” (Gen 15:5) The promise is not just to Abraham, of course, but to all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, all who are grafted spiritually into the family of God. Why the focus on the stars of heaven? God made a big universe and He wants us to enjoy it. The explicit promises to Israel throughout the Old Testament assure believing Jews of their inheritance of the land of Israel . . . Greater Israel, not just the slender strip of land occupied now, but a Millennial inheritance stretching between the great rivers of the Nile and the Euphrates.

Yet the entire Earth will be under the rule of the Messiah for that thousand years, with cities and nations under His authority, evidently under the stewardship of faithful servants, rewarded according to their labors in the Gospel. What is the purpose of this global Millennial Kingdom, which culminates in yet another rebellion prior to the final Judgment and the re-fashioning of Heaven and Earth? Scripture is silent with regard to God’s explicit purposes connecting the Millennium with the ages to come thereafter. But I’ll speculate. I suggest that the Millennium is our training ground, a practice session for us . . . His children . . . to figure out how to get it right, how to make a planet livable, both physically and socially.

Once we get it right, and God and His creation are revealed in the glory of the ages to come, I believe that we will be promoted to opportunities to fashion other worlds. The astronomical discoveries of just the last few years, focused on stars within just a few hundred light years of ours, reveal solar systems and planets of amazing diversity. Even from what little we can see with our paltry little telescopes, it appears that God has prepared richly diverse raw materials for us to build with.

Would you like to terraform a planet about the size of Earth and in an Earth-like orbit around a distant star? But what about all those super-sized Jupiters out there? Perhaps they entail Earth-sized moons awaiting our architectural innovations. What could be done with a planet like Jupiter itself, considering that our resurrected and glorified bodies will not suffer their current frailties? Frankly, my imagination fails.

Got too many ideas to be constrained to just one planet or even one solar system? Well, there are all these ‘tiny’ galaxies out there. Perhaps your inheritance will include an entire suburb like Segue 2. Or with a team of like-minded terraformers, take a crack at an entire starry megalopolis like the Andromeda galaxy. There are plenty to choose from.

But maybe you’re not the planetary engineering type. You’re the artist. Have you looked at full-color photographs of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune? What tapestry and art forms could be made of a gaseous giant? I don’t know. But the artist-saint with her glorified-enhanced mind may well boggle the minds of God’s less artistic children with what could be done.

Do you like waterfalls? How about gardening? Perhaps recreate Babylon’s hanging gardens, and then multiply that a hundredfold in both size and beauty. Zoos? Perhaps with a tame community of sabertooth tigers? Or a herd of triceratops? How about lake-sized aquariums teeming with the incredible diversity of God’s watery wildlife, not just those alive today, but let’s regenerate the extinct species, too! Imagine what you might create, particularly in partnership with the Carpenter and His resources, plus a team of fellow enthusiasts. Right . . . big projects are fun when done with a motivated team. There is one Team Member who is likely to volunteer to help on everyone’s project . . . I certainly want to learn from and work with Him.

Oh Lord Jesus – Come quickly!!



20. The Secret to Maintaining Discipline
February 1, 2014

How are you doing with regard to the so-called ‘disciplines’ of the Christian life? Are you in your Bible every day? If so, is it with a desire to learn? To grow? To learn more of the marvelous character of our Savior? Or is it mostly drudgery . . . duty? Do you pray daily, and if so, with fervency . . . or by rote? Are you eager for weekly fellowship with other believers? Or is ‘going to church’ merely a scheduled activity? Worse, are you content with a passive pew-based church experience because your life is fairly detached from the daily passions and trials of other followers of Christ? How about your daily interactions with husband, wife, children, relatives, co-workers, store clerks, neighbors . . . ? Do you relate to others with deliberate grace or does it depend on your mood?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the disciplines of the Christian life were easy? Natural? Joyful? Isn’t that the type of Christian that you want to be? It’s easy to imagine that there are some Christians out there who love to read their Bibles, who pray because they must plead with God to bless those around them, and who consistently see others as eternal souls to bless. But it’s not so easy to find such Christians, at least in America. Have you noticed that most of the sermons from fundamentalist pulpits tend to beat up the listeners, using guilt trips to promote Bible reading, prayer, etc? The evangelical pulpiteers, on the other hand . . . well, they don’t even try. Most evangelical church members can’t spell the word ‘discipline.’ So the pastors don’t dare to offend with such exhortations . . . or suggest ACCOUNTABILITY . . . horrors!

Frankly, these disciplines are intended to be natural, intended to be the fruit of a Spirit-filled life available to every born again child of God. We shouldn’t have to ‘suck it up’ to live daily as a follower of Christ. Yes, there are times when, like the apostle Paul, we must determinedly fight to bring our bodies into subjection (1 Cor 9:24-27), and as Paul exhorted Timothy, we must endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, striving for spiritual victory (2 Tim 2:1-5). But the life template of a disciple of the Lord Jesus, walking with Him, loving Him, and agreeing with Him in what we do, say, and think, is such that ‘disciplines’ are transformed into basic character.

Sounds theoretical, right? How do you actually do that? I can’t just grimace and groan and will myself into becoming a prayer-lover and a Bible-addict. I got a call recently from a Christian fellow I last heard from several years ago. He has been struggling against the Devil . . . namely, fighting to resist sin. I advised him that there is one sure-fired method to use to consistently resist the Devil. Let me give you a hint . . .

George Whitefield, an 18th century evangelist, had no issues regarding prayer, Bible reading, and any other Christian discipline you can think of. For decades he traveled relentlessly by horseback to preach to the lost. He revealed the motivations of his heart as he wrote:

“The more we do, the more we may do for Jesus. I sleep and eat but little, and am constantly employed from morning to midnight; and yet my strength is daily renewed. Oh, free grace! It fires my soul and makes me long to do something for Jesus. I want more tongues, more bodies, more souls for the Lord Jesus. Had I ten thousand, He should have them all.”

Matthew Henry wrote perhaps history’s most poignant devotional Bible commentary at the turn of the 18th century. His deep practical insight into Christian living is exemplified by his famous quote:

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

How was he able to understand Scripture so thoroughly, and in such practical ways? He bared his soul when he wrote:

“I would think it a greater happiness to gain one soul to Christ than mountains of silver and gold to myself. If I do not gain souls, I shall enjoy all my other gains with very little satisfaction.”

Philip Doddridge was an early 18th century pastor, writer, and theologian, who also wrote over 400 hymns. One of his books was read by William Wilberforce, converting him and propelling him on his great life’s quest to abolish slavery throughout the British empire. What motivated Doddridge? In his own words:

“I long for the conversion of souls more sensibly than for anything besides. Methinks I could not only labor, but die for it with pleasure.”

What about the Lord Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) What joy? The joy of completed redemption, the finished work of the cross and the resurrection, purchasing salvation for multitudes of those who would become His children. Why did Jesus come to this Earth and go to the cross? “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

I’ve written much on this web site about Biblical evangelism, including both why and how every believer must preach the Gospel. Please face up to the primary reason you are here on this Earth once you have become a child of God. It is simply to follow Jesus in His great work to seek and to save the lost.

I advised my struggling friend that it is a losing game to sit still and struggle against sin. The only viable strategy to remove wickedness from your life is to fill up your days, your hours, and your minutes with righteousness. Then you will have no time to dabble with the Devil, no time for foolishness, no time to waste in this ever-so-short life. Specifically, focus on the Great Commission. Set out each week, indeed each day, to try to reach out to someone with the Gospel, including and especially people you don’t know at all. Share the Gospel 121. Pass out tracts to people you walk by in a parking lot. Hide tracts on benches and in restrooms and . . . use your creativity for good instead of evil! Every other aspect of your Christian life will be energized. Specifically . . .

1. You will want to learn from God’s word how the Lord Jesus and His prophets and apostles reached out to the lost world.

2. In your Bible study you will more deeply understand the heart of God and the methods that the Lord invented to provoke men to repentance.

3. You will far better learn and embrace Biblical doctrines such as . . .
a. the doctrine of creation, to help the evolutionist to repent from idiocy.
b. eternal security, to help the lost Pentecostal / Campbellite / JW / Mormon / Roman Catholic to repent from his works-based salvation heresies.
c. the pitfalls of Nicolaitinism, to help other believers separate from man-centered counterfeit churches.
d. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” to rebuke Calvinists for their blasphemous doctrine of unconditional damnation.
e. repentance as necessary for salvation, to challenge the religious lost who have once prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” yet live ungodly lives.
f. the inerrancy and preservation of Scripture, to help immature believers give up their corrupt modern versions, based on corrupt texts such as Aleph and B.
. . . and many others . . .

4. Your days will be suffused with prayer for the lost around you.

5. Your heart will cry out with prayers for other believers, begging for God’s blessings and strength in their lives as they work the harvest field with you.

6. You will abhor the sins of this world. Fleshly sins seem more and more vile and ridiculous as you walk with the Lord.

7. You begin to walk with the Lord daily, as He promised in His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), wherein He promised to be always with us in this work.

8. You naturally work to treat the lost graciously so that you do not hinder them from coming to Christ. (1 Peter 3:1)

9. You are motivated to treat other believers graciously so that your prayers are not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

10. You fervently desire fellowship with other believers, particularly those who share the same burden you have for the lost, exhorting one another, and provoking one another unto love and to good works. (Heb 10:23-25) Thus your ‘church life’ is prioritized on evangelism and discipleship instead of evangelical entertainment or fundamentalist sermonizing every week.

11. You raise your children to understand the vanity of the world’s philosophies as they learn to share the Gospel. You teach them to contend for the faith and reach out to the lost while still young. Thus, they avoid false conversion, and don’t get blown away by some academic con artist when they leave your nest.

12. Your daily walk is suffused with the blessed hope, the ever present expectation of the Lord’s imminent return, motivating you toward both personal holiness and love for others. (Titus 2:11-14)

Evangelism thus becomes an ‘integrating factor’, a ‘focus’, a ‘center of gravity’ around which the disciplines of the Christian life naturally revolve. If you start thinking of others instead of yourself, life changes dramatically. Homework: Read carefully chapter 2 of Philippians to see the ‘mind of Christ’, explicitly set forth as an example for every one of His followers. What is the shortest path to experiencing and even sharing God’s glory? It is to do the will of God, as God does His will through you (Phil 2:12-13). When the Lord Jesus returns to this Earth, He will bring His rewards for His servants. (Rev 22:12)

Rewards for what? The entire message of the Bible centers on redemption . . . on salvation. The responsibility of believers is to preach the Good News. In this generation it falls to you and to me to get the Gospel out. Matthew Henry’s time is over. John Wesley has gone home. Charles Finney has finished his course. D. L. Moody has retired to his home up above. Amy Carmichael has no more Indian children to rescue. Gladys Aylward can no longer walk the mountain trails of China. Florence Young has no more access to the Solomon Islands. Sundar Singh’s feet no longer bleed on the mountain trails of Tibet.

It’s our time now!

I marvel at the multitudes of churchgoers, many of which must certainly be born again, who can engage in Bible study and not see what it is all about. How can you read the Gospel accounts and not see the Lord’s evangelistic fervor burning in every page? How can you read the book of Acts and be oblivious to the pattern deliberately established to provoke us even two thousand years later? How can you read the Pauline epistles and not tremble before God’s aching desire to teach us everything we need to know about our salvation and the need to build up others for the same great work? And the book of Revelation!?! The time is short!

Don’t imagine that I speak from a position of ‘having arrived.’ Oh my. I do, however, speak from a spectrum of life experience . . . from ghastly at one extreme to glorious at the other . . . that affirms the truth of what I write. I’m telling you it works. Put the love for souls at the top of your priority list, and the burden of discipline dissolves.

A caveat . . . This isn’t a contract. There is no unconstrained guarantee. I know of some who have imagined that an abundance of personal (or public) evangelism can be used to excuse carnality. In other words, immorality can be ‘paid for’ by sharing the Gospel. God forbid. You may as well subscribe to Roman Catholic indulgences. No. The principle here is for the heart that wants to grow close to the Lord, who genuinely cares for others, and who is in agreement with the Lord about what is important, about what counts, and about what constitutes righteousness.

When my focus is right, my thoughts crystallize, my speech approaches coherence, and my feet tend to stay near the center of the road. When my focus slips, everything starts to wobble, stumble, slip, fall . . . it hurts!

Maybe you don’t have this problem? Hey, your conscience is clear, you’re doing just fine, thank you, and you just live the Christian life by being nice to everyone, confrontational evangelism is a cuss-phrase in your vocabulary, you’re just showing the love of God by ‘living the life’. Ok, I get it. I simply refer you to 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Final thoughts for those who do have a Spirit-constrained conscience . . . If this ‘center of gravity’ principle is new to you, don’t just consider it. Try it for one lousy week. Come on, surely my argument is reasonable enough for you – a genuine born again believer – to invest one miserable week to see if anything happens to make your heart thump a bit livelier.

A week is a good, albeit minimal investment. We live essentially one week at a time. We can’t do everything we need to do in life in any given day. But in the course of a week, you can design what’s important into your schedule.

Here’s how simple it is. As I write this draft on New Year’s Eve, I find myself in the middle of a collegiate Christmas break. I wait anxiously for the beginning of Spring semester on the local campuses so I can get back to my principal evangelistic efforts among college students. But I dare not drift for these several weeks. So today I went out for lunch to an outdoor mall. (Arizona doesn’t need indoor malls.) After eating at a fast food joint, I placed several card tracts on seats, gave Chick tracts to each of three ladies sitting together, placed two more in the restroom, and then walked around the mall. I placed tracts both outside and inside stores, deploying about 60 in total. (You’ll have to talk with me personally about my techniques. I won’t publish everything.) I also shared the Gospel with two different people today. One young man insisted he was a Christian already, but gave me evidence otherwise. So I challenged him. A young lady admitted readily that she had been raised in church, but is an agnostic now. We had a great discussion and she readily accepted several tracts, thanking me for taking the time to care for her soul.

It wasn’t difficult. I didn’t suffer persecution. Outside of eating lunch, I invested about 30 minutes to do a bit of personal evangelism. Looking back, I can see that I was in focus, walking with the Lord every moment. Which kick-started me into writing this blog today, listen to spiritual music, and get right back into my Bible.

A few years ago I put off writing on such subjects because I felt I was too weak a Christian to dare to speak authoritatively. I got over that, recognizing that I’ll never be righteous enough to deserve to teach on spiritual matters. So I write for you (if anyone is out there) and especially for me. Hey, learn from my mistakes. Don’t waste the short years of your life. If it works for me, as weak and pitiful as I am, it will work for you. Let me know if you give it a shot.



21. The most brilliantly professional organization ever built!
February 15, 2014

Over the last 40-some years I have worked in or worked with many institutions, including the military and its contractors, universities, high tech startup companies, corporations both huge and small, and a wide variety of churches. Additionally, along with the rest of you, I have necessarily had to deal with the infinite variety of government and commercial institutions that facilitate a typical life in modern America, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, life insurance companies, utility companies, Walmart, and Taco Bell. Some of these relationships are both voluntary and pleasurable; others are necessary but unpleasant.

What I have observed is that organizations within some institutions tend to be competent while others aren’t. You have, too, of course. What I offer here is a rank-ordering, from top to bottom, of the most professional, the most competent institutions in America over the last couple of generations. How do I define professional competence? My assessment is qualitative, but based on the following criteria:

a. How focused and how effective are they in accomplishing their mission, their stated purpose? How efficiently do they do their work? Is the organizational structure effective for accomplishing the mission?
b. How important is the organization’s work? How much does it really matter whether they do a good job? Is motivation commensurate with the gravity of the mission?
c. How does the organization treat outsiders, including customers, stakeholders, the adjacent community, and just anyone that crosses its path?
d. How high is morale? How strong is unit cohesion? How well and in what manner do members within a given organization engage with one another? How much “teamwork” is really there? How transient are the members?
e. How well trained / educated are the members? How dedicated are the leaders? How do leaders and followers interact? Under crisis, when performance above and beyond is demanded, how do people respond?
f. How does the work develop the personality, character, and integrity of the members? Is being part of the organization a ‘good thing’ for the individual and his family, or does it tend toward damage.

Clearly, such an analysis would properly require several large tomes. But this is just a blog, so we’ll cover the whole spectrum in just a few pages; hopefully, stimulating some thought on your part about how you invest your time, energy, and money, and what you can do to make your favorite organization(s) better.

I divide the professional landscape into 6 major sectors. These 6 are not exhaustive, but do account for most of the institutions out there. Whatever you think I’ve missed, I’m sure you can attach it to one of the 6 sectors. Also, please note that I’m speaking ‘trends’ here . . . statistics. Within any low-ranked institutional sector, you just might find some incredibly competent organization. Similarly, you can occasionally find a sickly organizational dog that somehow survives within a highly ranked sector.

The six sectors are easily divided into two main groups. The top three are “above the line” and the bottom three are below. The demarcation line is my overall assessment: competent or incompetent, professional vs. unprofessional. You’ll see why as we march downhill from Sector 1 to Sector 6.

So without further ado . . .

Sector 1: Combat Arms

The American military has had no peer, quite demonstrably, since about 1944. At the ‘tip of the speer’ are combat units, whether Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, or Special Forces. Think about a Special Forces unit (Seal, Delta Force, etc.) with respect to the competence criteria above. The mission is often vitally important, putting life and death in the balance for friend and enemy. The stakes can include the freedom and security of entire nations. Morale is high and members regularly put their own lives on the line for their teammates. Leaders and followers share risks and burdens. Training is extraordinarily demanding and not many qualify to be part of this team. Few want to step up to such standards. Internal communication is efficient. Good ideas are embraced, even when generated by the lowest ranks. Organizational structure is embodied by the slogan, “lean, mean, fighting machine.”

Weaknesses? Yes, with regard to several criteria above. Transience is an issue. Especially within Special Forces, members often opt out after a few years. It’s hard to maintain that intensity, even if one survives multiple missions. Further, excellence tempts to arrogance. If you’re the best, it’s hard not to look down on the not-so-hot. Additionally, advanced development of kill-skills may make it hard to develop compassion, sweetness, trust . . . virtues vital to making strong marriages and raising well-adjusted children. Deployments away from the family take a toll. It’s a tough life during times of conflict around the globe. A lot of marriages don’t survive. More could be done to mitigate such problems. Nevertheless, I award – without hesitation – the Sector 1 distinction to those who fight selflessly for security and freedom.

Nevertheless, Combat Arms is NOT the most brilliantly professional institution ever designed. Then what is? Keep reading.

Sector 2: Defense R&D

This is where I spent a large chunk of my career, both on the government and on the contractor side. I award Sector 2 especially to the contractor community within Defense Research and Development. The folks that make defense contractors excel are highly educated, well-managed, and motivated to create high tech systems that work. Their motivation often goes well beyond the desire for mere profit . . . although they are, indeed, well paid.

The mission is to put into the hands of the troops the world’s best weapons, communication systems, transport vehicles, and whatever it takes to protect friendly lives and to intimidate or decimate enemy forces. In air combat, for example, imagine that U.S. forces go to battle against a numerically comparable enemy. But if we have the best airborne radar systems, secure command and control, with fighters and missile systems a generation beyond the enemy’s . . . the fight isn’t even fair. The opposition’s entire Air Force may be destroyed with almost no friendly losses. Indeed, this scenario has played out on a number of occasions, including both Gulf Wars.

F-22 Raptor

Modern stealth fighters, surveillance satellites, attack submarines, tanks, and aircraft carriers are among the most complex designs spawned by human creativity. The engineers and scientists in this sector work brilliantly and efficiently, knowing the stakes. They work well with their military counterparts, but sometimes too well with other stakeholders . . . politicians, for example. Too much politics and fair competition suffers, along with cost-effectiveness at times.
But overall, no other group in any other nation can top these folks in producing the materiel of war.

Morale is high. Most people love to work in a successful R&D company. Competition is fierce between companies aiming for the same contract – the next generation fighter or cruise missile, etc. Yet companies tend to compete fairly, winning or losing on one bid, but then perhaps teaming up to compete for the next one. A career in this sector does not necessarily help or harm an individual’s character or his family. It’s up to the individual how to balance his life. Workaholism is not a given, but merely a temptation; however, a temptation often yielded to. Sector 2 doesn’t entail the levels of risk, intensity, or all-consuming dedication of Sector 1, yet stands significantly above Sector 3, where life is a bit easier, but still demands professional excellence.

Since Sector 1 does not represent the most brilliant institution in history, then clearly Sector 2 cannot. Please plod on and we will resolve this conundrum.

Sector 3: Commercial Enterprise

Still “above the line” are the multitudes of companies that make up our free market system. These include designers and manufacturers of PCs, laptops, autos, and cameras; publishers of books, magazines and newspapers; retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy; and service providers like auto repair shops, dentists, and carpet cleaners. To survive and to thrive in business requires a serious level of competence. We tend not to notice competence in the commercial sector, but we quickly recognize when someone screws up. If screw-ups are persistent, we merely find another restaurant or shop elsewhere. The incompetent go bankrupt. That’s motivation.

Innovation in the commercial sector tends to be far more incremental than in Sector 2. Furthermore, many of the technological marvels we can now buy online were once developed in Sector 2; for example, megapixel CCD arrays, ubiquitous in cameras and smart phones, were developed originally for military surveillance missions. In Sector 3, advanced degrees are often not required. Training for Target “associates” is several orders of magnitude less intensive than for Army Ranger units. Nevetheless, employees must operate well as a team. Big companies need to be well-organized in order to integrate skill sets within large employee rosters. Small companies must have highly motivated workers who can multitask and do whatever it takes to satisfy picky customers.

As customers, we’re quite sensitive to how well a company treats us. We tend to become repeat customers when employees are quick, efficient, and friendly. If we’re ignored . . . or worse . . . we vote with our feet immediately. We’re also very sensitive to price, which depends tightly on efficient management and streamlined company operations.

Nevertheless, with respect to Sectors 1 and 2, the commercial sector is intrinsically weaker in several respects. Both managers and employees have little loyalty. If not paid or treated well, they will find another job . . . similarly, if asked to go “above and beyond” too often. In Sector 1, “above and beyond” is simply part of the job. Sector 3 jobs have little impact on character development and family life. The individual has great liberty in America to find the job that fits his morals and lifestyle.


Sector 4: Civil Government

I’ll start with a very specific example, merely to illustrate the broader governmental institutional trend. Recent visits to a Department of Motor Vehicles provoke the following observations:

Office hours are 8-5, Monday to Friday . . . precisely the hours that most of their “customers” work. By 8 am the line outside the door has at least 30 people. If you show up as late as 8:30, you can expect a 2 to 3 hour wait. (Imagine getting treated like this at Kohl’s or Costco! (Don’t bring up Black Friday. That’s your fault, not theirs!)) How can they get away with mistreating their customers? Because they can. They are the feudal overlords. We are the serfs. We can’t avoid them. You dare not drive without a license or tags on your vehicle. They have no competitors. If they actually cared, they would run their office via two shifts, 7 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday. There certainly is enough cash flow to enable a more customer-friendly environment.

Although “below the line” that any “professional” institution should allow itself, government organizations still get the job done. The roads get repaired, the garbage gets collected, and taxes get allocated to police and fire departments. But not without much pain. Government entails considerable waste because they are going to get your money whether they are cost-effective or not. The employees have well-paid jobs whether they perform well or not. Now, I did note that in my two most recent adventures with the DMV, the two clerks I dealt with were extremely helpful and apparently quite competent. In fact, they seemed somewhat embarrassed by the pain inflicted by their organization. So individuals certainly can rise to high levels of professionalism within dysfunctional organizations. But the trend is quite the contrary.

How about “above and beyond” in Sector 4? Perhaps some clerks on a Friday afternoon might volunteer to stay until midnight – without extra pay! – to make sure all the customers get served. Hah! Yet in Sectors 1 and 2 such dedication is common; and occasionally pops up in Sector 3. Teamwork is accordingly weak. Organizational loyalty is low, yet many stay in their jobs for decades. Upgrading to a Sector 3 job is too scary!

How does Sector 4 affect personal development and family life? You might think there would not be much relevance. You would be wrong. Employees can’t help ingesting some of the values of the workplace. Mediocrity at work translates into mediocrity in personal development and tempts toward low expectations for your family. If you’re a minimally competent civil servant, you won’t as likely push your kids into a higher sector.

By the way, especially since the ridiculously named, “Affordable Care Act,” medical care – a seventh of the American economy – clearly fits within Sector 4. As the government takes more and more control, watch it slip to the very bottom of this sector. I have observed throughout my lifetime that the trend for doctors and hospitals is to be far more concerned with their own liabilities than with fixing my particular medical problem. Thus more expensive “tests” and less actual help. Also . . . have you noticed . . . there is no other sector in the economy where you can pay SO MUCH and get no money-back guarantee. Amazing when you think about it.

Sector 5: Education

Sector 5 employees suffer many of the problems of Sector 4, but sink lower in the ranking in significant ways. From pre-school through college, the mission should be clear: train students with skills necessary to make a living and make a life. Yet American students fall far below their international peers in math, reading, and science. In a Washington Post column, December 3, 2013, reporter Lyndsey Layton notes,

“The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to global competitors and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

‘While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.”

But it’s far worse than merely mediocre performance on the basics. For generations, secular humanists and New Agers have infested school curricula with evolution, atheism, pantheism, globalism, and Marxism; all the while working hard to promote both hetero- and homosexual promiscuity. The educators that control the K-to-College establishment, including the teacher unions (like the AFT and the NEA), are far more interested in developing unisex socialist drones than they are in imparting skills. And the teachers, administrators, and staff in every school march lock step in this damnable system, whether or not they – individually – are supposedly sweet or moral individuals.

Additionally, education comes at a high price economically. Look at your property taxes, especially the amount apportioned to the local schools. And take a gander at your local high school’s facilities, including the football stadium. You’re paying for all that.

Yet Sector 5 is not the bottom of the barrel. Why not? Multitudes of students still learn to read and write. Many go on to excel in mathematics, science and engineering . . . a fraction of which become the innovators that lead Sectors 2 and 3. Some educators excuse incompetence by proclaiming how innovative and productive the American economy is. All the while they are indoctrinating students in socialist principles that hinder and threaten to destroy the economy. And deliberately lying, because they know that it only takes a small minority to innovate, who will do so despite how poorly they were raised.

I note that at the university level, Americans tolerate gross inefficiency and waste. It has been no secret for several decades that the most prestigious universities in America are run by faculty who prioritize their well-funded research far above the quality of undergraduate education. Exceptions abound, of course. There are many hard-working, exceptionally talented educators who devote their lives to teaching undergraduates. But the overwhelming statistical trend is to hire highly paid researchers, who may occasionally teach ONE undergraduate course per semester, so they can spend most of their time managing graduate students and publishing papers, building the prestige of their university. If the students are lucky, that is. In science and engineering too much of the face-time that students have with instructors is with TAs – foreign grad students who are not entirely articulate in English. In fact, our major universities are run by the faculty and for the faculty. The quality of undergraduate education is truly a low priority.

Much of undergraduate education is destructive. Psychology majors spend four years learning wrong things about what people are like, since their philosophical foundation is atheism and evolution. Courses in the social sciences and humanities work to indoctrinate, not educate. Elementary and high school teacher candidates are taught the latest in how to efficiently turn children into New Age serfs.

Yet our universities pump out engineers, scientists, and many other professionals. So the job does get done to some degree, despite the corruption and inefficiencies. So what’s at the bottom of the barrel?

Sector 6: American evangelical and fundamentalist churches

“Come on,” you say. “You can’t be serious!” Oh, but I am. Having worked within or closely with all six sectors, I stand by this sad conclusion after decades of study. Consider the two intertwined missions of the institution of the local church: evangelism and discipleship. Let’s talk evangelism first. The most vital mission ever conceived in world history – far above any mission relevant to Sector 1 – is to inform men and women, boys and girls, that they are accountable to their Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ; that everyone will be judged, that Heaven and Hell are in the balance, and that repentance and faith are the simple, yet essential acts of heart and mind to pass from lost to saved, from darkness to light, to obtain a resurrected body and to become a citizen of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

So how are we doing? I have written much on this subject throughout this web site, so I will be as brief as I can stand to be. Most churches don’t even try. Deceitfully, they redefine evangelism to mean food baskets at Thanksgiving, toys for tots at Christmas, shoes for orphans, and cast-off clothes for the homeless. Claiming that these intrinsically generous activities open the door to share the Gospel, they then fail to present a Biblical Gospel. Some church members who volunteer for these activities simply hope that someone else will have the guts to speak spiritual truth. The few who do speak up consistently water down the message. Rather than preaching God’s law, sin, judgment, Hell, Heaven, repentance, the Cross, the Resurrection, the new birth, and a transformed life, they sweet-talk about a ‘relationship with Jesus’, how much God loves them no matter what they do, and how great the rock band is at their church. The lost sinner would be better off hearing nothing rather than hearing a false gospel.

By the way, if you really think that ‘social welfare’ activities are the best way to serve God, please answer a few questions for me. Why not sell your multi-million dollar facilities and give the money to the poor? Why put 100 people on your salaried church staff instead of letting them ‘make tents’ (like the apostle Paul), and giving to the poor? If serving God is about giving away money, then is it true that only the very rich can serve God significantly? If a Christian is poor, can’t he get a reward, too? Furthermore, if you could actually give enough to bring the poorest 1% up to middle class living standards, are you done? Mission accomplished? When you look around your local middle class neighborhoods, are you confident that God is happy because all of those people are comfortable? How come all of the evangelical ‘outreach’ programs are aimed at the lowest 1%? Don’t you care about the souls of the top 99%?

One local megachurch actually volunteers manpower to regularly clean up local school grounds, saving them money to invest in more evolutionism and sex education. If that’s “outreach,” namely “evangelism,” then it’s not for God’s team. In talking with a senior pastor in this church, he made it clear that he despises the idea of “confrontational evangelism” – you know, that means actually walking up to someone, giving them a tract, and sharing the Gospel with them. No, it’s all about relationship building. Make friends. Bring your friends to church. Let them rock with the worship team. See how much fun Christians have? Don’t you want God to bless you, work changes in your life, enhance your marital sex life, raise sweet kids? Ok, so let’s baptize you and get you involved in our next clothing drive.

The most conservative fundie churches do get a fraction of their people out into what is better termed “121 evangelism.” But most of them preach a Gospel that avoids the testy issue of repentance, even if they believe – theologically – that repentance from the specific sins in your life is essential to salvation. And so they preach a false Gospel, offering salvation to those who merely affirm some general facts about the Gospel and dutifully recite a so-called “sinner’s prayer” – an unbiblical concept attached to an unbiblical method. (See my many articles on Evangelism.)

And so I conclude that American churches are almost a total loss in evangelism, the Great Commission that the Lord Jesus delivered to His apostles on five separate occasions during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension.

What about discipleship? I’ve also written much on this. The primary church experience of American Christians is to sit passively and watch a show each week. Whether evangelical or fundamental Baptist, the show’s centerpiece is a sermon, which is intended to serve as the principal means of training and discipleship for the believers. Wow. That’s not how we train engineers in Sector 4. Engineering students actually have exams, build projects, present papers, make things work, break things and learn from the experience. By the time they graduate, despite the university’s misplaced priorities, engineers can design computers or build bridges. But Christians . . . charged with a mission that goes beyond merely life and death . . . let’s just lecture at them week after week, year after year, decade after decade . . . and congratulate ourselves (the ‘clergy’) on how great our pulpit-centered discipleship program is.

In Sectors 1, 2, and 3 we see competent organizations making good use of the creativity of the ‘troops’, involving them in many decisions and rewarding ideas that help the team accomplish its mission. To a lesser degree, we observe this even in Sectors 4 and 5. But Sector 6 is dominated by a culture that tells its members, “Show up. Shut up. Write checks.” The paid clergy prescribe the program and typically aren’t interested in ideas from the laity. Please don’t plead an oddball exception here or there. Do an honest analysis yourself. Consider the wealth of talents and God-given gifts within any sizable congregation and how LITTLE such talents are engaged.

In addition to being Biblically illiterate (no accountability in the pulpit-pew system), and as cold as ice in evangelistic zeal, American Christians defy the Lord’s commands by not loving one another. Hey, how can you love other believers when your primary interaction with them is mere geographical proximity in a darkened auditorium, watching the show? How can you pray for your brother when you don’t know anything about him? And how can you exhort or encourage him when only the paid seminary-trained clergy do all the talking? (I won’t get into the dysfunctionality of typical ‘small groups’ or ‘life groups’ here. I’ve commented elsewhere.)

What are the consequences of the organizational dysfunctionality of American churches? Multitudes go to Hell, never hearing a Biblical Gospel. Few Christians grow spiritually and, if they do at all, it is despite the design of the church. Many new Christians are “slurped up” into these anti-New Testament churches, without even realizing there is a better way, a way designed by the Lord Jesus Himself. Multitudes of false converts fill the churches and are henceforth inoculated against the Gospel – “Hey, I’m already a Christian. Jesus is my buddy!” Children of Christian parents grow up without the knowledge and wisdom to refute the Devil’s ridiculous lies regarding evolution and consequence-free immorality, and so are slurped up as soon as they leave the nest . . . often by a weaselly college professor who is eager to destroy the shallow faith of new students.

In short, American fundie and gelly churches work grossly contrary to their mission and THE JOB DOES NOT GET DONE. In each of the other sectors, the mission does get accomplished to at least some degree. Not in Sector 6.

Brannon Howse (, recently conducted his 3-day ‘Contend 2014’ conference for high school and college students. A variety of speakers were brought in for the 300 young people in attendance, focusing on basic Christian worldview topics, including the reliability of Scripture, same-sex marriage, abortion, feminism, mysticism, creation vs. evolution, and God’s purpose for a Christian’s life. Several youth pastors admitted to Brannon that they were skeptical about the conference, because teens won’t be interested without a high energy Christian rock concert, and would only tolerate short, light-content, humorous speakers. However, according to reports, the teens were locked onto the presentations, even hanging around afterwards to pepper the speakers with serious questions. One professed his gratitude that he was treated like an adult, and the presentations were not dumbed down. Many professed that they had never heard such solid, Biblical explanations about important topics.

Here is my takeaway . . . This audience would have consisted primarily of teens from conservative gelly churches. From the many testimonies, it is clear that their home churches do not train their young people on even the essential basics of what to believe, why to believe it, and how to live the Christian life in America today. Why aren’t the churches providing content and stimulating questions and discussion? Where is the training so that these young adults can even hope to evangelize their peers in our mystical, post-modern society?

But wait . . . recall the title of this blog: “The most brilliantly professional organization ever built.” So what is it?

A true New Testament local church is the champ by far. No contest. A true NT church would be alone in Sector 1, bouncing every other sector down a level. Throughout history, from the book of Acts, down through the Middle Ages and every other era of the last 2,000 years, there have been – and are today – brilliantly designed and operating New Testament churches.

What were the characteristics intended, when the Lord Jesus declared, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Here is a short list of what the Lord designed into the local church, and what has been practiced through the ages, often under severe persecution . . . and even today in countries like China, Vietnam, Sudan, Iran, and Russia:

a. Believers meet in small enough groups, typically within houses, to enable them to get to know each other, pray for one another, love one another, and encourage one another.
b. House churches in a city-wide area (like Antioch, Ephesus, Smyrna, etc.) were networked together, in fellowship, with unpaid elders distributed throughout the network to share leadership.
c. This local area network provides a strong support structure, especially under persecution. In fact, NT churches often grow under severe persecution! Also, you don’t have separate, competing churches on opposite street corners. Distributed leadership inhibits corruption, requiring consensus on difficult decisions, facilitated by Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, therefore actually allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Head of the local church. In Sector 6, a single super-pastor prevents Christ’s headship, resulting in a man-focused, personality-driven ministry . . . Nicolaitinism.
d. As the eleven disciples were ordained to go and bring forth fruit in John 15:16, every believer in succeeding generations is ordained to preach the Gospel. Church meetings stimulate discussion about everyone’s weekly efforts to reach out with the Gospel.

e. New converts are brought into the church, instantly becoming brothers and sisters in an extended family. Mutual love and loyalty grow rapidly. Thus “morale” is superb, teamwork is exceptional, and “members” are not transient at all! Who leaves a loving family?
f. Weekly Bible study is interactive. Members bring content and hold each other accountable by joint study and discussion. Training is lifelong and never grows wearisome. The most talented in certain areas (creation science vs. evolutionism, child-rearing, personal finance, medical / health, etc.) share expertise and everyone grows. Under crisis, ‘family members’ are willing to lay down their lives for each other. Unlike Sector 1, team membership is for life, not just for a tour of duty. Members are always growing, always learning, and new leaders for an expanding network are developed continually.
g. Personal development is optimized. Character is built, marriages grow stronger, and children are raised to Biblical maturity.
h. Economic efficiency is exceptional. Money is not invested in facilities and salaries, as in Sector 6, but directly into evangelism (tracts, road trips, dinner invitations) and discipleship (Bibles, books, church-generated study guides, practical (not fluffy) educational materials). Additionally, money, personal help, and resources are available for members who are in trouble (lost job, bad health, persecution – dad is jailed for his faith and mom and the kids need support).

If the above sketch sounds idealized, you need to read more of church history and accounts of what believers are doing in other parts of the world. The Lord Jesus designed His church – brilliantly – and it works everywhere it is tried. And when it is tried, simply by following the pattern of the New Testament, you’ll see the most vibrant, professional, efficient, high-morale, thriving organization in the history of the world.

Exceptional churches have no need for 21st century technology, including multi-media sensurround theaters. They don’t need a superstar preacher / entertainer, who may be fun to listen to, but has no clue about how to actually train new believers toward holiness, sanctification, evangelistic zeal, love for the brethren, and opportunities for leadership. In American churches, only the clergy get to do the ‘serious’ part of their ministry. If you are merely laity, you might get to be an usher, or lead an ultra-light-content therapy group, or box up the lunches for the Christmas homeless event. But teaching, counseling, evangelism, and training? Only the clergy qualify . . . and then fail to do it right themselves.

Bottom line: What kind of organizations are you in? If you make a living within Sectors 3, 4, or 5, you won’t likely have the power to lift your entire organization to excellence. Yet you can excel . . . “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31) Make each day count. Be a blessing to your boss, your co-workers, and your customers.

If you’re in Sectors 1 or 2, you already understand the need for exceptional performance. Or you won’t be there long. But by the grace of God, you can still grow and learn to give God the glory for it, all the while looking for opportunities to reach out to those around you.

If you’re in Sector 6 . . . GET OUT!! You’re wasting the gifts that God has given to you. Don’t throw your life away, supporting some other rebel’s idea of what a church should be like. If you’re a married man, start a church in your living room with your wife. Got kids? Now they’ve got a chance to know the Lord, too. Know any Christians who might be in sync? Grab them and grow together. Start reaching out weekly with tracts and 121 evangelism. Even in America it’s possible to make a new convert occasionally.

All alone? Work hard in personal evangelism and trust God to give you someone: either a new convert or a Christian you meet while about your Great Commission business. God won’t let you down. He knows you need some fellowship.

Finally, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the several articles I’ve posted on various ‘church’ issues in the Discipleship section of this site. And drop me a line. We can encourage each other.



22. The Ken Ham / Bill Nye Debate
March 1, 2014

This blog has been posted at
Educational Note 9: Debating Creation vs. Evolution


23. Clouds of Devilish Delusion
March 15, 2014

This blog should never have happened. Really, I didn’t intend to get so stirred up. We recently visited an IFB church (Independent Fundamental Baptist) with a couple of goals in mind. First, I was hoping to find a man, perhaps retired like me, who might be interested in teaming up occasionally to do 121 evangelism on local campuses. Second, we were hopeful that we might meet a mature Christian couple to have occasional fellowship with. Now, there is no way that we would become members of such a pulpit- and facility-driven church. We are entirely committed to the New Testament pattern of house church discipleship, as described in my many essays and blogs on the subject. But isn’t it theoretically possible, at least, that Christians in the same community, although part of different churches, could engage in some level of friendship?

Yeah, I know that’s a long shot. But in failing once again in my quest to find Christians serious about Biblical evangelism and discipleship / fellowship, I learned some interesting things. And so this blog.

The first Sunday we visited XYZ Baptist Church (name altered here to protect the guilty) featured a sermon on the necessity of repentance in order for a man to be saved. The preacher – the “senior pastor” – laid the case out quite thoroughly, using many Scriptures to prove that a lost sinner must turn from his transgressions AND trust in Christ as Saviour, or else stay lost. He used scores of verses, including Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, and Ezekiel 18:30-31, for example. He also affirmed the idea of false converts, multitudes who profess Christ, but never truly repented. I was greatly encouraged that this church seemed to have their theology intact and so it might be possible to find an evangelistic co-worker who wouldn’t merely be generating false converts with an incomplete or heretical message.

Now, most IFB churches take a heretical view, namely that a man’s part in salvation is to believe the facts of the Gospel and to simply trust Jesus to save him. The issue of repentance is deferred until later, allegedly after salvation, and delegated to the Holy Spirit to work in the heart. In other words, repentance is relegated strictly to the realm of sanctification, and has no part in conversion. The “Romans Road” selection of verses is used by fundies and gellies alike to instruct the lost on the generic nature of their “sin,” neglecting discussion of actual and specific sins. In fact “sin” is often defined as the “Inherited Sin Nature” derived from Adam. (See my essay on Inherited Sin Nature and prepare to be shocked and outraged.) The method goes on to explain how the Cross is the solution to sin and the way to obtain salvation is to sincerely pray a so-called “Sinner’s Prayer.” Once this magic prayer has been uttered sincerely(!), the “soul winner” (a bad term) assures the fellow that he has been born again.

But this church seemed to get it right! XYZ Baptist has about 400 members, and launches about 30 of them into the community each week to knock doors, pass out tracts, and try to share the Gospel. The first sign of trouble came at the end of the service, at “invitation time.” After nearly an hour of using strictly Biblical language and hammering home the doctrine of repentance, the preacher implored any lost sinners in the audience to come forward to “accept Jesus,” or to “receive Christ.” Suddenly he sounded just like “those other guys.” Salvation is not about us accepting Jesus. It’s about whether He accepts us, contingent on repentance and faith. The accept-or has the power. The accept-ee must meet the conditions. The Lord Jesus Christ is clearly the One with the power in this transaction! The term “receive Christ” is lifted from John 1:12 and often used by the heretical camp in the sense of, “Just receive Christ right now by sincerely praying this prayer.” Please read the context of John 1:12. The term “received Him” refers to those Jews who fully embraced the entire message and person of the Messiah, in repentance and faith. It has nothing to do with the Romans Road and Sinner’s Prayer methodology.

I was anxious to get to the bottom of the issue. Just where does this church stand? After several requests (it shouldn’t be so hard to get someone from a church to pay a house call to a visitor), we were visited by the “#2 man” and his wife. (Hey, he used the terms “#2” to describe himself and #1” to describe the senior pastor, so don’t accuse me of being disrespectful!) We talked for three hours about evangelism and discipleship. It was very gracious of them to give us this amount of time, but I’ve learned that it takes a good while to get clarity on these issues.

Here is some of that clarity . . . Pastor #2 had been on the mission field for 40 years before accepting the “2 man” position at XYZ. He affirmed his stance on repentance, as preached by #1. So I challenged him on the upcoming visit by an evangelist on the faculty of West Coast Baptist College. Researching this fellow, it is clear that he stands in the “repentance-less” camp. His invitations are classic Jack Hyles, Shelton Smith, and Paul Chappell . . . Chappell is this evangelist’s boss, head of WCBC, and pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in California. By the way, “repentance-less” invitations are also embraced by such luminaries as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and most evangelical preachers out there.

Interestingly, #2 admitted that he was distressed about the pending visit and said that he had argued against it. But, of course, he had to defer to #1, no matter what damnable heresies might be preached by the evangelist during the coming “revival campaign.” Damnable? Can you think of any heresy more damnable than one that leads a lost sinner directly astray from his only hope for salvation, and then assures him that he’s now secure?

I then handed #2 one of the church’s self-published Gospel tracts, that avoids the subject of Hell, and describes a repentance-less Gospel. He was startled in examining the tract, and said that he would look into the matter. Also, he encouraged me to ask #1 directly about these things, perhaps during a “new people” class to be held in the Sunday School hour in a couple of weeks.

While pressing #2 on his personal methodology, he related an occasion in which he visited the home of a young couple living in fornication. Amazingly, he admitted that he walked through a Romans Road plan and never brought up the fornication issue. I asked how he could avoid the one big glaring sin that he knew about, especially since that would serve so well as an example of a sin that they should repent from. He insisted that it was the Holy Spirit’s job to convict them of that. They needed to “get saved” first. Hmm.

I moved on to inquire how I could find a potential partner for campus evangelism. It was clear that XYZ has no interest in this campus of 50,000 students because it is 15 miles away and unlikely to provide church-attending members. (In fact I recently talked to an IFB pastor who is trying to plant a church in a storefront just 1 mile from the campus! He was knocking thousands of doors in the adjoining city, but had no interest in reaching out to the students. Wow. Money for offerings is apparently the overwhelming priority, and college students simply don’t qualify.)

But could #2 recommend a partner?!? He said I wouldn’t like the answer. We should join the church and gradually get to know the folks and maybe I might find one. He doesn’t know his people well enough to suggest a particular candidate. I pointed out that since weekly services were so passive and so scripted, there are only a few minutes before and after services to say Hi to anyone. Oh, but there is a monthly “fellowship” for senior adults. Ok, so we’re already at the end of January, leaving two possible “fellowship” meetings in February and March, before the semester ends at the end of April, and the campus is effectively vacant until September.

What I marvel at in this situation is how most Christians have no interest in real fellowship, no care that there are no weekly opportunities to discuss spiritual issues, exhort one another, teach one another, and exercise the many spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has promised New Testament disciples. It essentially was not possible for me to find a like-minded believer at XYZ, even if he existed. How about making a “public appeal” during a morning service? No, that would not be permitted.

We were there for the first two sermons from the visiting evangelist. His purposes were two-fold: first, to “revive” believers toward greater service; and second, to invite unbelievers in the audience to “get saved.” His invitation was classically horrific, as expected. Repentance was never mentioned and he assured anyone that was interested that they could come forward, meet with someone and get saved in less than five minutes. After all, that’s all the time it takes to get to and through the Sinner’s Prayer. He repeatedly urged anyone to come forward who was “not sure” of salvation. Apparently, you can be 98% sure, and then come forward to get that last 2%. Nope. To be saved you must be 100% lost in your own mind. (See Luke 5:32 in context.)

The following week we visited #1’s “new people” class. There were about a dozen adults there. I’d been assured by several others that there would be opportunities for questions. At the beginning of the class, #1 said that we would “have fun” in the next hour. Apparently, that means him talking non-stop for 60 minutes. At what I thought was a relevant point, I raised my hand and stated that I understood that we could ask questions. He was clearly reluctant, expressing reservations about whether my questions would be genuine. Mind you, he didn’t know me at all. His basic presumption was that questions are trouble!

I complimented him on his “repentance sermon,” but wanted clarity because of the evangelist’s message the previous Sunday. I expressed concern because of the connection to Paul Chappell, who has written a book on “soul winning,” To Seek and to Save, a book I noticed was in XYZ’s bookstore. Years ago, I carefully marked up Chappell’s book and found it to be a horrid stereotype of “easy believism,” “quick prayerism,” and “repentance-less” conversion. I also reported that I had talked to three different adults regarding XYZ’s door-to-door work, and each was committed to the Romans Road / Sinner’s Prayer. After a bit of back and forth, I also slipped in that XYZ’s tracts were wholly in the “other camp.” #1 got defensive immediately. What shocked me, however, and I don’t get shocked easily, was the prevarication (lies) that followed. I was too polite to call him out on the lies . . . also, I was a bit dumbfounded that he would so resort. I’ll enumerate:

1. He insisted that the evangelist was there strictly to stir up the believers, not to do evangelistic invitations. Not true. We had been there.
2. He said he knew Paul Chappell very well, having been to almost all of PC’s leadership conferences. And Paul Chappell is sound on the doctrine of repentance! Besides, and I’ll quote him, “You can’t judge a man just by his book!” Really? You can’t judge someone by the very book he writes on the very subject, which he still prints and that you sell in your own bookstore?!? Besides, if PC and his evangelist were so sound, why were you so careful to claim that the evangelist was not there to preach to the lost?
3. He claimed that Gospel tracts are too short to include everything (like repentance), and that XYZ’s tracts are designed separately to cover different parts of the message, especially so that on subsequent visits to a lost sinner’s door, different tracts can be used. Wow. Just making it up on the spot. Their tracts are virtually identical in their Gospel presentation and have no hint of leaving out part of the message. Namely, each one drives to a Sinner’s Prayer conclusion. Ergo, the tract claims to be complete enough to tell a man how to be saved. Also, different tracts with different messages for different visits? I got no sense of that whatsoever from the three men I talked to.

#1 went on to filibuster the issue and transition smoothly into his next topic, working to make sure that the rest of the adults present would conclude that the issue was bogus, no problems, we’re covered, you can see why questions are undesirable, etc. He also affirmed his belief at one point that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to provoke repentance AFTER salvation. Hmm. Didn’t hear that in his sermon on the subject.

The prevaricating filibuster by #1 is a good example of the fruits of the unbiblical one-man pastorate. He simply did not want to be challenged. And rather than examine the challenge honestly, he was tempted to dismiss the issue by fabrication. Having been a professional scientist, engineer, and Air Force officer during my career, I am quite sensitive to someone “blowing smoke.” In the military and in Defense R&D, the culture involves fierce competition for resources. Meetings can be contentious and woe to the fellow who tries to win an argument with no supporting evidence. Such a culture is very healthy for deterring the fabricator and the con artist. In fundie culture, a “man of God” feels the same temptation to lie in order to win a dispute, but is not accountable. If his character is weak, he succumbs and everyone suffers.

I looked up XYZ’s “plan of salvation” posted on their web site. I point out that on a web site you are not limited by real estate, so you need not leave any important issues out, like that pesky issue of repentance. Below, in the appendix to this blog, I copy the relevant page in its entirety. Please analyze it for yourself. I’ll mention just a few things here:

1. The word “repent” is never mentioned, nor is the concept.
2. Sin is kept general. Don’t want to offend anyone with specifics. Apparently, John the Baptist was a fool to call Herod out on adultery. It cost him his head. Too bad that he didn’t have the wisdom of modern “soul winners.”
3. The only mention of Hell is that it’s a place apart from God and that’s “not a good thing.” Wow.
4. Romans 3:23 apparently teaches that nobody is perfect. What about the wickedness of sin? What about God’s holy laws? What about the judgment we deserve, thousands of times over?
5. “Jesus Christ wants to be your Saviour!” The impression I get here is Jesus begging, “Please let me save you.” Rather than the Biblical command to repent.
6. Observe how little emphasis is placed on the “bad news,” and how much on the “good news.”
7. “He says it’s as simple as believing and receiving! It’s as simple as asking!” Just believe and receive. Forget conviction. Forget repentance. Forget a broken heart and a broken spirit. Forget the entire pattern of Scripture!
8. Quickly on to a Sinner’s Prayer and then a pronouncement of salvation.

So what’s going on here? This church is about as “conservative” as you will find in the IFB community. They are in the distinct minority who profess to believe that repentance is essential to salvation. And yet they are entirely corrupt in their Gospel presentation, certain to generate false converts by the bucket-full.

This isn’t just about one church. This plague of corrupt evangelism is pervasive throughout fundamentalism and evangelicalism. It’s as if a cloud of Satanic delusion hangs over church after church. If the Devil cannot corrupt a church’s basic theology, then he will corrupt its practice.

XYZ Baptist Church, along with most IFB churches, professes to despise Calvinistic doctrine, yet they have been polluted by it themselves. First, their embrace of the false doctrine of Inherited Sin Nature provokes them to tell the lost that he “sins because he has been born a sinner.” As opposed to the straightforward Biblical teaching that sin is the transgression of the law, and therefore you are a sinner because you sin! This isn’t complicated! The Calvinist magnifies the idea of sin nature into “Total Depravity,” concluding that no man is even ABLE to repent or believe. Despite the Lord’s repeated pleas to men from Genesis to Revelation to choose to repent. (See my Tract for the Committed Calvinist, Section #3 of The 10 Most Deadly Heresies, and Blog #12 in my 2013 archive for an extensive discussion.)

Second, the methodology calls for mere fact-assenting faith and then, as in Calvinism, entrusts the Holy Spirit to GIVE repentance, albeit after conversion. This is clearly semi-Calvinist. The Calvinist believes that God does everything, including GIVING repentance and faith to the Totally Depraved. The fundie pleads with the lost to assent to Gospel facts, pray a prayer, and then trusts God to GIVE repentance. Additionally, the “born a sinner” idea leads the lost man AWAY from his personal responsibility for his own willful sins. If he properly understands what you’re telling him, then Hey, it’s Adam’s fault!

I believe what really drives this idea that repentance is the job of the Holy Spirit is cowardice. The “soul winner” chickens out, not wanting to bring up specific sins. That’s confrontational! That’s uncomfortable! Let the Holy Spirit do that work! Ignore the pattern of Scripture as demonstrated by all of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist (who wouldn’t baptize unless he saw evidence of repentance), the Lord Jesus, and the apostles, who all preached against specific sins, pleading with the lost to repent. Yes, for THEM to repent, and not wait for the Holy Spirit to zap them.

It’s ironic that fundies profess that they are the only branch of American Christendom that preaches hard, that preaches against sin, that preaches the “whole counsel of God.” The “hard preaching” is only from pulpit to pew. Yet Biblical “preaching” is for the lost! Out on the street! That’s where it counts. Within the church believers are to be “taught” the word of God. Fundies are apparently too cowardly to preach against sin when eyeball to eyeball with lost sinners. Besides, even within the church, fundies neglect the “whole counsel of God.” If they were faithful to Scripture, they would fire their paid clergy, establish oversight by elders within the church, get rid of the pulpit and pews, and embrace the New Testament pattern for churches established by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is it so tempting to neglect repentance when sharing the Gospel? Think about it. You’re preaching a hard thing. Repentance is HARD! To examine your life and see your beliefs and actions as WRONG and EVIL, deserving of JUDGMENT and HELL. When the evangelist describes repentance, he is not going to see many converts. Recall Ezekiel’s plea:

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. Ezekiel 18:30-32

Note who has the responsibility. Hey you . . . you turn, you repent, you make you a new heart and a new spirit. Can’t you hear God pleading with the lost to repent?!? But modern soul winners are much more sophisticated, apparently.

Some years ago I challenged a Senior Pastor of an IFB church I happened to run into outside a county courthouse. I told him that I had met many false converts who had professed Christ in his church, but were living in flagrant sin, not members of any church, but still claiming that they had eternal life because they “went forward and prayed the prayer.” When I told him that his repentance-less Romans Road method was the cause, he demanded that I tell him how I shared the Gospel. I did. He said, “Well, you’re never going to get many converts that way!” I agree. What he didn’t understand was that he wasn’t getting many converts either, but was producing many false converts – worse off than they were before, because they were now immune to the Gospel.

A couple of summers ago I visited a small IFB church in a small town. The one fellow I met who was serious about getting the Gospel out was about my age, and was solid in his belief that repentance is essential for salvation. When I asked him about his method, he described Romans Road / Sinner’s Prayer. I carefully explained the disconnect. He quickly understood and expressed chagrin and humility. He’d never been taught any other way to reach the lost, and had never thought about the contradictions. What a tragedy. Satan deludes church after church.

Why aren’t these issues examined? Why aren’t errors exposed and challenged? Satan has another cloud of delusion over ecclesiology – the study of how a church should be organized and how it should operate. The XYZ pastor is typical of fundies. He is the “man of God.” Even his #2 defers . . . even when the error is damnable heresy! The culture of pulpit to pew emasculates men in a church, who are expected, three times per week, to show up, shut up, and pay up. Meetings are scripted. Q and A is neither scheduled nor desired. If you have a doctrinal issue, ask the “man of God” – your own little pope. And when he gets it wrong, all 400 in the church get it wrong. That is precisely why the NT pattern for a church is to enjoy distributed leadership, a culture where members exhort and encourage one another, with everyone using their spiritual gifts, and if someone aspires to papal status, like Diotrephes (John’s 3rd epistle), the believers will put a stop to it.

How does this apply to you? Preach the word carefully, fervently, and Scripturally. Call out those who preach a false Gospel. Don’t support the Pope or any small-scale imitator. Have the guts to explain God’s law, sin, judgment, Hell, repentance, the Cross, the Resurrection, believing faith, the new birth, and a transformed life. Make it clear to the lost what he must do to be saved. Be alert if any respond. Befriend them, teach them, and love them. Let them show evidence to prove conversion. Test them to see if they will profess Christ. Don’t give them assurance of salvation. Assurance IS THE JOB of the Holy Spirit. It’s not yours.


Appendix: The online Gospel presentation of XYZ Baptist Church

There are questions in life that trouble all of us. What happens when I die? Where will I spend eternity? The single most important question that you will ever answer is this – “If I were to die today, would I spend eternity in Heaven with God?” Your relationship to Jesus Christ is central to the answer to that question.

The Bible tells us in I John 5:12, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life…” The simple truth is that God wants you to know where you’re going! So, here it is in a nutshell:

* First, you must understand your need for a personal Saviour. The Bible is very clear that we all have a huge problem called sin. Romans 3:23 says it this way, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This verse simply means that none of us are perfect. Are you willing to admit that?

* The problem is this – sin has a high price tag. Romans 6:23a says, “For the wages of sin is death…” In other words, the price for sin is eternal death apart from God in a place called Hell – not a good thing! Because of our sin, none of us can make it into Heaven alone.

* Here’s the good news – God sent help! The rest of Romans 6:23 says, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Again in Romans 5:8 God says, “But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!” This leads us to the second step.

* You must believe that Jesus Christ wants to be your Saviour! Jesus Christ came to earth as God in the flesh, lived a perfect life, and then voluntarily died on a cross because He loves you. On that cross, He literally paid for all of your sins. He took your blame! He punished Himself for your wrong-doings. What a great gift!

* John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God, in His awesome love, came to earth to make a way for you to be forgiven of your sins and given eternal life!

* Finally, you must place your full trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In verse ten of that same chapter, God says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” He says it’s as simple as believing and receiving! It’s as simple as asking!

If you’ve never asked Jesus Christ to be your personal Saviour, you could do that right now! With Him in your heart, life will make a lot more sense. You could stop right now and sincerely pray something like this:

Lord Jesus, I believe that You are God, that You died for my sin, and that You rose again from the dead. I know that I am a sinner, and I ask You now to be my personal Saviour. I’m placing my full trust in You alone, and I now accept Your gift of eternal life. Thank you for keeping Your promise! Amen.

You’ll never regret that decision! If you have just trusted Christ, we would love to know about your decision and give you a Bible and some other materials to help you learn more about that new relationship! Give us a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx and let us know today!

– end appendix


24. Darwin’s Doubt: The Cambrian Explosion
April 1, 2014

Posted as Educational Note EN10


25. The Board: a Biblical model of ‘you’
April 15, 2014

“The Board” is a brilliant little movie, just 32 minutes long, produced in 2008 by Bethesda Baptist Church of Brownsburg, Indiana, along with Uptone Pictures. The setting is a conference room, specifically a “Board Room.” The six board members are Mr. Mind, Mr. Conscience, Mr. Memory, Mr. Heart, Mr. Will, and Mr. Emotion. The meeting is called to discuss and vote on both “new” and “old business.” The most contentious piece of “old business” is to decide what to do about Mr. Mind’s friend, Ray, who has been challenging them with the Gospel.

“The Board” is a Biblical model of any human being, anyone made in the image of God . . . like you or me. In fact, since I don’t believe our main character’s name is ever actually mentioned, let’s call him “Dave.” In the film, Dave’s Board members interact in ways that I think are quite representative of the way you and I struggle over tough issues, particularly over the life-changing decision to repent and follow Jesus Christ.

Why do I call this a “model”? Models are incredibly useful, as long as they correlate reasonably well with reality, in terms of explanation and prediction. We all use models. For example, I have a model in my mind that I use to go to the grocery store. I visualize a turn here, a turn there, then go straight until I see a stop light, turn at the first entrance, and voila, I’m there. It’s a simple model that neglects thousands of details about the actual journey, for example, the many houses, businesses, and open fields I pass by, bumps on the road, whether the temperature is in the 70s or the 90s, and the infinite variety of typical traffic conditions. What I keep in my head is a simple representation of how to get there. And it works, so the model is useful.

All of science and engineering is based on modeling. If I design a simple low frequency electronic circuit, I model the design mathematically, doing calculations about how the resistors, capacitors, inductors, and transistors will interact. I don’t care about the color of the transistor packages or the weight of the resistors. More significantly, I don’t care about the capacitance of the resistors or the inductance of the capacitors. But if I try to operate this design at very high frequencies, my neglect of spurious capacitance and inductance will certainly produce unexpected behaviors – perhaps even failure. So in a “good model,” I need to take into account what’s important and understand what I can happily leave out for simplicity’s sake.

In my career, I did a fair amount of computational modeling, particularly in the area of laser physics. When I built a good math model, it produced outputs that matched experimental data. A good model allows the scientist to get a “feel” for what’s going on, to understand the “physics” of the situation. The model can then be trusted to predict new situations and even to allow investing in a physical prototype. An optimum model is one which uses as few variables and equations as practical, and yet represents physical reality “well enough.” All significant modern engineering projects are modeled thoroughly before they are built, including electronics, bridges, skyscrapers, fighter aircraft, or a deep space probe headed toward the outer solar system.

The most complex system known to man is himself, not just the nano-technology of cellular life, but the human mind / brain. To help us understand ourselves and to make useful predictions of how we behave in various circumstances, requires some kind of model. Secular psychology offers bogus models that assume an evolutionary / animal past, overly simplistic mechanistic constraints from brain chemistry, and a rejection of the ideas of soul / mind / spirit. Additionally, they abhor and scoff at any idea of a personal God who makes us morally accountable for our thoughts, words, and deeds.

“The Board” offers a simple, yet effective and, more importantly, Biblical model for what goes on inside. I won’t make the effort here to proof-text the validity of “The Board’s” model. If you’re a student of the Bible, you’ll recognize it. I do note that the Bible is filled with metaphors . . . simple models . . . to help us understand much about the very character of God Himself. Jesus is described at times as “the door,” “the light,” “the life,” “the way,” “the Son of Man” . . . among many other descriptors. Jesus is not literally “a door.” Yet the metaphor helps us to understand something vital about our opportunity to find God.

A metaphor is an extremely simple model. A model is a very complex metaphor.

I won’t give away key plot elements, but I will make some analytical points about what impresses me both in the film and in the Biblical model. Mr. Mind, for example, is the member who insists that Ray’s evangelistic challenge be dealt with. Mr. Emotion is horrified. The prospect of becoming a “Jesus freak” would derail his desires for pleasure and fun in life. “You’re asking us to give up everything that makes us happy!” Mr. Heart and Mr. Will want the issue tabled yet again . . . far better to ignore the issue than face up to making a yea / nay decision. Mr. Heart rationalizes, suggesting that Ray has ulterior motives. Heart doesn’t address Mind’s logical points, but resorts to insults, impugning Ray’s character.

But Mind makes a compelling case based on Ray’s arguments from history, prophecy, and morality, using God’s law and the reasonableness of Judgment. Conscience chimes in with support. You see, Conscience has “seen the light,” which has re-calibrated and re-sensitized his recognition of good vs. evil, particularly in view of Memory’s report of many of Dave’s specific sinful activities.

It becomes clear that Heart is the de-facto Chairman of this Board. He’s the one that must be swayed. If he converts, Emotion and Will will certainly follow. One thing the film gets spectacularly right is that the Board must be unanimous. Mind and Conscience may be utterly convinced of the truth of the Gospel, but a stubborn Heart will leave Dave lost and on his way to Hell. I have had this experience many times when sharing the Gospel with the lost. I call it “traction” when I can see that the individual “gets it.” He understands that he has sinned against God and will face Judgment. He understands that his only recourse is Jesus Christ. He understands what repentance means and how his life will certainly change with the new birth. Yet nothing happens. Even though he understands everything he needs to understand, his Heart and Will, fueled by his ranting Emotion, DON’T WANT TO CHANGE.

In Matthew 13, His disciples ask Jesus why He speaks to the crowds in parables at times. He explains, “Because they seeing, see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” He goes on to quote Isaiah, specifically, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; Lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” The Lord is pointing out the willful corruption of the heart of the determinedly lost. The key word is “lest.” It’s not the parables that prevent conversion, and it’s certainly not the Lord! God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. So whose fault? It’s the gross corruption of the individual’s heart, who DOES NOT WANT TO UNDERSTAND, “lest” repentance follow and sins be forsaken.

In Dave’s case, Mr. Will is offended at the accusations by Conscience, as if Will has to share any blame. After all, Will asserts, “My job is to do what this Board gives me the authority to do!” This is not strictly true in real life, of course. (I think the film missed this point by just a tad.) A weak Will may fail to move even if Heart has the right inclination. A strong Will, on the other hand, can help Heart and the rest of the Board embrace repentance and faith.

As the case gets more contentious and the arguments swing in Mind’s favor, Heart appears to capitulate, but reluctantly. Conscience doesn’t buy it. If Heart really believes, “Things are going to have to change around here!” Heart cries out, “I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE!” Aye, there’s the rub! The Heart rules, whether for good or evil.

The arguments get more personal from this point, penetrating the walls, the fierce defense mechanisms that Heart has constructed over the years of Dave’s life. Finally, Heart yields . . . IN AGREEMENT. He sees reality, he sees himself, he sees who Jesus Christ is. The walls are down. Emotion comes to himself. Will is ready to move as soon as Heart casts aside his . . . (I won’t give this one away. It’s quite clever!)

The Board is unanimous. It turns out that there is a large, regal chair at the head of the table, which we haven’t seen before. This chair has been empty. But no more. The Board has a new member . . . a new Chairman.

Regarding “The Board” as a model . . . I find it useful to explain the types of reactions I get to the Gospel message when I engage in 121 evangelism. It is often easy to get someone’s Mind engaged. The challenge is to get all six members of the Board to confront reality. Biblical evangelism (as discussed much on this site) employs God’s laws, confronting specific sins to challenge Memory and Conscience. God’s certain Judgment to come provokes Emotion to a quite rational fear. Now fear cannot save, but fear can provoke the Board to seek a solution, an escape. The Gospel itself, with a clear exposition of the Cross and the substitutionary atonement, is reasonable to a rational Mind, a Mind not perverted and closed by a warped Conscience and a determinedly rebellious Heart.

The glorious Biblical truth of the meeting of love and justice at the Cross satisfies a Mind who is looking for a solution; in fact, it satisfies such a Mind that this can be the ONLY solution. Realization of God’s love moves Emotion and opens the Heart. Will is eager to act on truth that leads toward freedom from addictive sins and a new life . . . indeed, eternal life. The Heart sees that fulfillment is only possible by uniting the Board with a new Chairman, a Chairman who knows the future, whose very character defines love, who is completely in touch with reality because He invented reality, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s the case when the new birth occurs. Usually, it doesn’t. One or more Board members, usually the Heart, remain stubborn. As a lost sinner ages, the Heart’s stubbornness only grows and the rest of the Board’s members grow more and more surly. Precisely the same types of individuals who will give me a good hearing while in college will, a few years later, walk by me with a sneer, having rejected the Gospel with prejudice, and will despise it all the more as each year goes by. Lost sinners don’t get sweeter with age. If you do 121 work, you know what I’m talking about.

When sharing the Gospel, it’s useful to have a Biblical model in mind. Christians who don’t will mistakenly interpret mental assent as an indication of conversion. The poorly discerning evangelist observes a pattern of sinful acts from a professing Christian and excuses it, not understanding that Mind, Heart, Will, Conscience, Emotion, and even Memory must be converted. Memory, too? The members of a lost man’s Board are corrupt, including Memory. Memory gets increasingly selective, often re-inventing personal history to allow self-justification.

I could multiply examples, but you get the idea. Multitudes of professing Christians have contentious, conflicted . . . unconverted Boards. When you see evidence of that, tell the guy what the problem is: He is lost, unsaved, unconverted, unrepentant. It’s up to him to make a new Heart and a new spirit, as in God’s plea to lost Israelites in Ezekiel 18:30-31. Our “Board” model refutes Calvinism, by the way. There is nothing “irresistible” about God’s grace. The Lord does not take the “Chairmanship” until the Board is unanimous.

With regard to your responsibility in the Great Commission . . . You’ve got to help, being sensitive to the internal struggle of the lost sinner. The religious lost will not figure it out for himself. If you don’t tell him, who will?



26. Have you surrendered all? Don’t!
May 1, 2014

I’m thinking about the song, of course . . . “I surrender all.” But more importantly, the terminology and the sentiment expressed. It is no coincidence that in fundie culture (Independent Fundamental Baptist) this song is used for altar calls. A passionate, pulpit-thumping sermon is followed by repeated pleas to come forward and surrender – for the lost to surrender to Christ for salvation, for young men to surrender to ‘full-time ministry’ (a salaried career in the clergy), and for the church members to surrender to get off their rear ends and help out with usher-ing or choir-ing or visit-ing or tithe-ing, or attend-ing 3 services per week, etc.

I object to the word surrender. Why? Because it is not a Biblical word! God’s words are carefully chosen. Words are important items for Bible-believers, are they not? Consider Psalm 12:6-7 and Matthew 4:4, for example. Also the very identification of the Lord Jesus as the WORD OF GOD in John 1:1 – the incarnately expressed message of almighty God to mankind.

So, how many times does the word surrender show up in the King James Bible? (I don’t care how many times it may show up in a corrupt version – I won’t even lift a finger to check that out.) The answer? You can calculate it mathematically. If you integrate the function xe-x2 from zero to infinity, then subtract half of the number of combinations of twelve objects taken a dozen at a time . . . yes, really. That gives you the exact number!

The Bible uses carefully chosen words to specify the attitude and understanding required to transition from lost to saved. Repent. Believe. Trust. These words provoke a radical change of mind and heart that leads to a radical change of life. From unrighteousness to righteousness. From rebellion to devotion. From the Devil’s team to becoming an enthusiastic child of God . . . born again, a joint heir with Jesus Christ.

Surrender evokes yielding without agreement. A conquered nation may surrender, but insurrection often follows. Parent: When you discipline your young child, you may certainly get him to surrender. But what you want is agreement. A child may surrender and simply wait for the next opportunity to succeed in his rebellion. What you want is to turn your self-centered, rebellious, unthinking child into a mature adult. Your mission, to be accomplished in roughly 18 years, is to produce a born again, Christ following mature young man or woman, in sync with your own Biblical worldview and dedicated to making his days count in God’s service. You had better start working on this by the time the infant is six months old. The first few years are the most important of all.

God is looking for the sinner to repent from his willful wickedness, to believe on and trust the Lord Jesus for salvation, to follow Christ as a born again, new creature, and to grow in grace, wisdom, love, and zeal. The more the believer grows, the more “in sync” he is with the Lord Jesus.

The idea of surrendering is entirely different from repentance. ”Surrender” means “you lose.” C. S. Lewis is a classic case. His “personal testimony” includes a protestation that he “came kicking and screaming” into the Christian faith. God will not regenerate such a heart. Lewis’ false conversion is revealed many times over in his disbelief of a literal Genesis (he was a theistic evolutionist), his insistence that the Roman Catholic Church and various apostate Protestant denominations are equally “Christian,” and moral dubiousness in his personal life. A clever author? Yes. Perhaps the most popular “Christian author” of the 20th century? Yes. A saved man? No.

Salvation is not “you lose.” Salvation starts with recognition that you are already lost and it has always been your fault. Yet Jesus “won” for you via the Cross and the Resurrection. Salvation is offered as a gift, contingent on a change in attitude. You can win joyously by calling out to God for mercy, recognizing that now everything in life changes. Rebellion is stupid! Righteousness is smart!

Repentance is a “turn around,” a thoughtful admission and rejection of error, and establishing a determination to set out on a “new road” – the road to life. Altar calls employ manipulative tactics, including verbal devices from the preacher, mood-altering music from singers and instrumentalists, and peer pressure from the crowd. The guy who surrenders on Sunday night is likely to wake up on Monday morning and find himself to be exactly the same guy he has been for many years. Yet he has been assured that he now has eternal life. Another false convert is born. Even if he becomes a church member, his rebellious heart is untouched, because he has never come into agreement with righteousness.

In Scripture we see a hierarchy of levels in the transition from lost Hell-bound sinner, to the mature disciple. Here is my “model” of what the Bible shows us, from the lowest level (#4) to the highest (#1):

4. Fear: Scripture teaches much more about Judgment and Hell than about rewards and Heaven. This weighted balance reflects our stubbornness as rebels. God knows our willful hearts. He has to get our attention! Now, fear cannot save. But fear can provoke the lost to think. That is why it is absolutely essential to start with law, sin, and judgment before sharing the good news of the Gospel.

3. Duty: Once a believer, we find the Bible filled with commands that we should obey, whether we feel like it or not. I should love my wife even if she tempts my patience. I must raise my children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord . . . even if my life is filled with other duties and distractions. My speech must be gracious even when I feel like I ought to unload on someone. My wife should obey me even if she’s smarter than me. I must shun bitterness even when I feel like I have good cause. The point is that Duty is good. It works. The Christian should do his Duty diligently! Yet show I unto you a more excellent way . . .

2. Love: As a parent desires for her child, so God desires us to obey and follow Him because we love Him. As Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This thought is repeated several times in the Gospel of John and John’s 1st epistle. Love is connected to trust. The mature Christian wants to please his heavenly Father. I know that God is smarter than me, so even if I don’t understand a particular command or principle, I’ll do it out of love and trust. As a wife should follow her husband and a child should obey her mother. Such love begets love in return: “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him.” Yet show I unto you a more excellent way . . .

1. Sync: Each level certainly encompasses the levels below. Conversely, it is possible to love and not be in sync – in agreement. I choose the term sync because the thought goes beyond simple agreement, which can be a bit sterile. “Sync” entails a yearning, an anticipation, a full sense of partnership. We are “joint heirs.” We are co-laborers . . . “workers together with Him.” We have the “mind of Christ.” Sync is full Christian maturity. That’s what the parent wants. That’s what God wants.

Surrender can be a normal human response to a message of the Judgment to come. A sinner’s surrender may even provoke baptism, church membership, and dutiful service within the “program” of the church. Have you noticed that there are billions of dutifully religious people in this world? Dutiful, but lost. Godly repentance, on the other hand, leads to Love and Sync. Do you want discernment, to help you understand whether your religious relative or friend is lost or saved? Look for Love and Sync in her life.

Is your friend born again? Does he love God enough to obey the Great Commission and love others enough to share the message of repentance and faith? Or is his “Christian life” defined mostly by his dutiful weekly attendance at scripted “services”?

How about your life as God’s child? How much Love? How much Sync? Don’t tell me. Just be honest with yourself. God already knows. Since you can’t fool Him, there is no point in deceiving yourself!

Get to know your Bible. Notice the language. God actually knows how to turn His thoughts into His words so that we can get the point. Then use Biblical language yourself. We’re not going to do better than the One who created language.



27. I’ve figured out what my problem is
May 15, 2014

You shouldn’t read this essay. You’re not going to like it. I don’t even like it. I’m not writing it for you, anyway, but rather to analyze my own failures and my own quite unfavorable prognosis. I’ve written a good bit on the tragic condition of American Christendom, focusing neither on the cults (JWs, Mormons, Roman Catholics), nor the flakes, like the “Word-Faith” Pentecostals, but rather analyzing the horrific state of the most conservative of the fundamentalists (fundies) and evangelicals (gellies). But this essay is about my own tragic state. I’m 62 years old now and I don’t see a favorable trend . . . for me!

You’re still reading? That’s foolish. You’re going to be part of the collateral damage. Instead, read one of my educational, lighter-hearted essays, like “DNA and Information,” or “Human Consciousness – Mind and/or Brain.”

This essay is a lament. However . . . if you like Jeremiah, maybe you should read it after all. Jeremiah was in touch with reality, especially where he and others around him stood with God.

Be warned that this is an ADVANCED TOPIC. If you’re not SERIOUS about growing in grace and wisdom and SERIOUS about serving God, this essay has nothing to do with you . . . and you won’t even ‘get it.’ If you are SERIOUS, then you won’t agree with it. So stop reading before you get angry . . . anger is a sin, you know.

Oh, you think that you are SERIOUS? And that you know quite a number of SERIOUS Christians? Ok, here’s a little test. You (or your friends) fail if just one of these items is true about you:

1. You’re not in your Bible every day with a desire to get something from God to know Him and serve Him.
2. You have been a Christian for 10 years or more and have less then, let’s say . . . 1,000 verses memorized, not caring that the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God, simply MUST be hidden in your heart, ready to assist you in the spiritual battle.
3. A week goes by and you haven’t made multiple, significant efforts to share the Gospel with lost people, verbally, eyeball-to-eyeball, with a sound Scriptural presentation, plus . . . you’re not getting out as many of the most outstanding tracts that you can find – daily, as you go from errand to errand.
4. You don’t yearn for substantive discipleship opportunities, but are content listening to a hireling preacher tell you what he learned in his seminary (it’s not likely he learned it this week!). You don’t care that you don’t have or don’t take the opportunity to share with other believers what you have learned, and you don’t hunger to hear from other believers what they have learned – every week!. You apparently don’t have enough discernment to know that the conventional, facility-based, pulpit-pew or ‘Sunday School’ system is hopelessly deficient to help prepare you for the Bema.
5. You don’t yearn for the kind of fellowship that enables John 13:35 and Hebrews 10:23-25 and Colossians 3:16, and don’t have the wisdom to realize that the conventional church system is DESIGNED to prevent it. You’re content with your church program, which doesn’t interfere much with your life at all!
6. . . . I could add more, of course, about how little you work to love your spouse, to raise your children, to do business in the world with integrity, etc., but you’ve already flunked the test, so why should I beat you up anymore?

Still reading? OK, then let’s travel this journey together, if you dare. This essay derives from struggling the last 30 years of my life to figure out what the problem is with me, and everyone else in America who wants to serve God, what it really means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and how to reconcile Biblical passages that seem to promise spiritual fruit, especially the continual production of new converts to love and disciple. (Real converts, that is, not just churchgoers.)

If you don’t think this is an advanced topic, you don’t get it. If you think that it’s just me that’s immature, weak, and you are past all this, you’re wrong and I can’t help you. If you are a gracious and kind fellow who would reassure me that I’m actually doing pretty well and shouldn’t beat myself up, then you’re certainly trying to justify your own condition.

I’ll start with what I call the “open loop problem.” In my professional career, particularly when I was an Air Force officer, I received an annual “Officer Effectiveness Report,” a painstakingly written review of my job performance. The OER was a key tool in determining whether and when I might get promoted to the next rank. It was VERY IMPORTANT. But I never had to wait for a year to find out how I was doing. My boss would tell me quite often whether he liked what I was doing, or didn’t. In fact, I had the liberty at any time to walk into his office and ask him to tell me! Namely, I enjoyed a “closed loop system,” with regular feedback so that I could easily make adjustments to get ready for the next OER. (In electronics and control circuitry, closed loop systems are routinely designed to make sure a system doesn’t go haywire. Open loop systems can be dangerous!)

I find my Christian life to be an extremely frustrating “open loop system.” There is only one “official OER,” the Bema – the Judgment Seat of Christ for the believer. I have often marveled at how some wonderfully devoted Christians can get some fundamental issues SO WRONG and never acquire the wisdom to get on track. Many spend their entire lives trying to serve the Lord and yet will be severely disappointed at the Bema.

Examples? Sure, I’ll be bold to give you some, since you aren’t supposed to be reading this anyway . . .

1. There are many “pastors” and “evangelists” who are convinced that they have led multitudes to Christ, yet will find out that many of their “converts” are false. Why? Because their Gospel presentation avoided repentance, and / or manipulated the sinner into a “sinner’s prayer,” and / or downplayed issues of sin and judgment in favor of pleas to “have a relationship with Jesus,” or “come forward and pray to receive Christ now!”
2. There are multitudes of paid clergy, both fundie and gelly, who have studied hard and spent countless hours in sermon preparation, 1-2-1 counseling, Christian school management, and facility development . . . and are therefore convinced that they have served God faithfully. Yet they have missed the whole point of Biblical discipleship, which is to help believers to grow spiritually, to exercise their gifts, to exhort one another, to pray for and love one another, and for EVERYONE to be an evangelist to the lost. The pulpit / facility / clergy based program has PREVENTED Biblical discipleship. Woe to such PREVENTERS at the Bema.
3. Regarding you “laity” out there . . . Expecting rewards for being faithful to the “Senior Pastor” and the “Program,” you might rather be rebuked for not joining or starting a simple house church in which you would have grown and served the Lord.
4. How many Christians go through life, faithful to “attend church,” but rarely share the Gospel with the lost? How can you read the Bible and take part in so many “Bible studies” and not obey the commands of the Lord Jesus to preach the Gospel? You don’t really believe the Bible much at all, do you?

I’ll resist going on, which I could do for quite a while. The “open loop problem” is that quite sincere Christians . . . yes, really born again Christians . . . can spend a lifetime in coldness and disobedience and yet be smug about their supposed faithfulness, expecting to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Well, here’s the answer to the “open loop problem.” God’s will is for the loop to be closed, with feedback! Here’s how it’s supposed to work, in two parts:

Part 1. God expects us to take His Bible seriously. No, I mean really seriously! I don’t know anyone in America who actually does. (If you think you do even at the “knowledge level,” take my basic Bible quiz in Blog #4 of my 2013 archive.) Some of the most respected Bible expositors are Calvinists, for example . . . and therefore must be false converts themselves. How can anyone who actually repents and trusts Christ get the message of salvation so wrong!?! Yes, I know that genuine Christians can get fooled after conversion by false teachers. Which will severely hinder spiritual growth and service. But the teachers? No, God promises chastisement on those who sin so severely that it harms the work of the Gospel. And the most famous false teachers, whether Calvinist or Pentecostal or fundie, can be quite prosperous for many years; ergo, no chastisement; ergo, “bastards, and not sons.” (That’s God’s terminology, not mine – Hebrews 12:8.)

I did say that “quite sincere Christians” fool themselves. Well, perhaps sincere, but not so “good.” I’ve met sincere Muslims, Hindus, JWs, etc. Sincerity on the broad road to destruction is not a virtue, but rather reflects corruption of the heart and mind. One of the most apparently sincere, dedicated, and holy (in his personal life) evangelists I have ever met . . . a far “better Christian” than I have ever been or ever expect to be . . . became corrupt in his Gospel presentation (repentance-less) and hopelessly enamored with the cult of the “man of God” clergy system in fundie churches.

This is all quite scary to me. I promise you that I do not exult in any way, as if I have “got it together.” Rather, I can see how easy it is to fool oneself. I must understand my Bible better. I must examine my own doctrine, my own practice, and my own heart (2 Cor 13:5). I’ve got to stay in touch with reality. We lie to ourselves more than to anyone else.

The rest of the answer to the “open loop problem” is . . . Part 2 – feedback. The believer is to be led by the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have the mind of Christ. Now, everyone out there, especially in American pulpits, claims to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Baloney. Within just a few miles of where I live, I have visited many conventional churches and heard such claims from “Got-a-new-revelation!” Pentecostals, from “Have-we-got-a-great-show-for-you-today!” mega-church CEOs, from “We’re-so-lucky-to-be-elect!” Calvinists, and from “Quick!-Pray-a-sinner’s-prayer!” fundies. Hey, they can’t all be filled with and led by the same Spirit, can they?

If you get ecclesiology wrong, it’s not a small thing. If you’re clergy you are crippling the saints you claim to “shepherd.” Or “under-shepherd.” Such terminology is blasphemous all by itself. There is only one Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23 and John 10:11), not a seminary trained hireling, who often leaps into a “pastorate” or an “assistant pastorate” fresh out of “Bible College.” Not a seasoned elder at all. Yet the Bible is explicit about elders (plural) who are to lead by Scriptural experience and by example. If you’re not clergy, but rather a “layman,” then you have wickedly outsourced your own God-given responsibility for spiritual growth to someone who claims to be a “man of God,” interposed between you and God . . . in other words, a priest. I got saved out of Roman Catholicism. Are you still in some form of it?

So the problem with the churches is the problem with the Christians, individually. I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t run into any American Christian who is filled with the Spirit. Including myself, of course.

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” the “filling of the Holy Spirit,” the “power of the Holy Spirit” . . . there are many examples in the Bible, notably the events at Pentecost and in the weeks to follow. I’m not going to do an exhaustive study for you. Please do so on your own. But note, for example, Acts 4:31-33. We see the power of the Holy Spirit manifested specifically for the preaching of the Gospel . . . they gave witness with “great power.” Concurrently, we see unity and sacrificial love among the brethren, with intimate fellowship – something foreign to the modern church “program.”

The rest of the book of Acts and countless examples from history over the last 2,000 years give evidence of believers led by and filled with the Holy Spirit as lost sinners are converted, lives are transformed, evangelism multiplies, and churches grow . . . even and especially under persecution. We don’t see that in America today. In China, in Vietnam, in Iran? Yes, the Gospel is multiplying by the power of the Holy Spirit in the darkest places in this world. But here? No. Megachurches do grow, fundie pulpits do get thumped, Bible conferences do abound, and “Christian media” do generate billions of dollars every year. But real converts? Real power? No.

For many years I’ve tried to sort out just what the conditions are that correlate with the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism and whether it gets sustained in discipleship over the long term. I’ll summarize briefly what I’ve learned through a few examples.

America experienced a tremendous revival in the late 18th century. Converts multiplied and thousands of Baptist churches were established in the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and beyond. It is obvious that countless Spirit-filled Christians were key to this work. Some of the historically preserved names include Shubal Stearns, Samuel Harriss, James Ireland, Daniel Marshall, and John Taylor. Not familiar names? Oh, but EVERYONE has heard about the arch-Calvinist Jonathan Edwards and the tiny little revival ostentatiously called “The Great Awakening,” earlier in the century.

What seems to have characterized the Baptist revival was the utterly selfless dedication of those that preached the Gospel, not caring for their own comforts or safety or even their very lives. Additionally, their whole-hearted care for souls produced a simple personal holiness that never scandalized God’s work. What is interesting to me is that God worked with these men (and their women) DESPITE various doctrinal defects. For example, many of those Baptist preachers were infected by Calvinist doctrines to some degree. But it seems that they were “schizoid Calvinists.” Namely, they buried that false theology learned in their youth when it came to reaching out for souls.

A century later, Spurgeon’s Spirit-filled ministry bore fruit despite the Calvinist theology he learned from his father’s library, and despite his errors in ecclesiology. Read Spurgeon’s sermons as he pleads with men to repent and trust Christ. His doctrine of election has been safely hidden in a closet. A similar split in doctrinal personality is seen in Isaac McCoy, who reached out to the American Indians in the 19th century. His message and his dedication and his sufferings – which included seeing the deaths of many of his children – were wholly divorced from his “official theology.”

Peter Cartwright and many other circuit-riding Methodist preachers saw God’s work multiply in the early 19th century, despite doctrinal errors involving infant baptism, eternal insecurity, and sinless perfectionism. In practice, though, they preached against sin, demanded repentance, and begged sinners to trust Christ and be born again. God blessed. The Gospel was preached and the seminary training often and fortunately neglected.

The “staying power” in revival is intimately connected with the purity of Biblical discipleship. A prime reason that there have been many historic revivals, but they have not endured beyond a fraction of a generation, is that Biblical discipleship was neglected. The Baptist revivals, in particular, ultimately produced buildings, pulpits, and a seminary-trained “man of God” to lord it over each flock. This is death. Believers fail to develop their God-given spiritual gifts, and unity and love among the brethren are shoe-horned unsuccessfully into regularly scheduled “services.”

The Methodist revivals seemed to do better. The circuit-riding system depended on believers in each locale to encourage each other and grow together. Eventually, though, the Methodists went “up-town” and built steepled church buildings to compete with other denominations.

Charles Finney was an interesting case. There is no historic figure more vilified – unjustly – by Calvinist preachers, even today. Finney is held up as the “poster boy” for manipulative altar calls that produce false converts. There is no basis for this accusation! The reason that Calvinists despise Finney so much is that his evangelistic work was done primarily among Calvinist congregations, including Presbyterians and Congregationalists, although Reformed Baptists weren’t immune.

Finney was hyper-sensitive on the issue of false conversion. He abhorred manipulation. Yes, he did have public invitations, but they often involved hours of counseling and prayer . . . sometimes even days. As he grew older, Finney was almost obsessed as he checked back to see whether the converts of his early revivals were still “going on.” He discovered that most were, indeed, going on. Where Finney erred doctrinally was not his anti-Calvinism. He was right about that, of course. His concern for false conversion was so intense that he came close to sinless perfectionism as a test for true conversion. He didn’t quite get there, but he did go in that direction to a degree. Nevertheless, God blessed.

John Sornberger had “the baptism” in the Minnesota logging revivals of the late 19th century. John was a professional boxer, a brawler, a feared criminal . . . before his conversion. God providentially kept him away from seminary training, and so he was able to maintain his testosterone level as he reached out to the roughest segment of American society. Yes, he still knocked a few heads around during his evangelistic campaigns. (I’d like to write about this fellow in a blog within the next few months.) His “inner experience” wasn’t the same as many others in the evangelistic Hall of Fame, but his fruit abounded. His message was pure and his heart totally captured by the Holy Spirit.

The common positive elements in these and many other historic cases are men and women with holiness, selflessness, and a consuming passion for souls. I’m tempted to go on to discuss Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, Adoniram and Nancy Judson, and even the Welsh revival of the early 1900s and the many Spirit-filled Christians who were used in that. I would love to recount some of the relatively few stories that have come out of the most awesome evangelistic movement of the last thousand years – the house church movement in Communist China – which does exhibit staying power because they get ecclesiology right!

Ironically, the Communist takeover of China was a huge blessing. When the Commies kicked out the Western church-building-planters, persecution necessitated networks of secret house churches, which persist and multiply to this day. Just like the New Testament prescribes. Missionaries sent by Chinese house churches now work to spread the Gospel into Muslim countries, ostensibly closed to missionaries . . . but not closed to missionaries who are willing to die for the Gospel’s sake. Would that we in the West were so blessed by purifying persecution.

But I’m mostly interested in the often misunderstood scarlet thread of evangelistic power common to both Scripture and history. What I conclude is that the Lord will put up with quite a bit of error and frailty in order to propagate the Gospel. Not too much error, of course. Miss the deity of Jesus Christ and you get a cult with zero true converts. Preach unconditional election or sinless perfection up front, or neglect repentance, or add works to faith . . . and you may build a megachurch, but it will be filled with the lost.

But preach the Gospel Biblically, calling men and women to repentance and faith, extolling the new birth and a transformed life, and God will connect a Spirit-filled evangelist with lost hearts and minds who are open to hear the truth.

So why do I feel like I’m target shooting with a blindfold on? And not just me, but everyone I know who actually preaches a Biblical Gospel? The simple reason is that I’m not filled with the Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells me. Yes, I do get answers to prayer . . . what I call “easy prayers.” But the hard prayers are of a different order. A “hard prayer” involves the change of a heart and a mind. The Lord draws “all men” toward repentance (John 12:32, 2 Peter 3:9). What I want to do is to go and preach to the guy who is responding to the Lord’s work on his heart. I want the Holy Spirit to cross my path with that fellow.

Have I seen some real converts over the years? Yes, a few. Too few. I do hope that there are others out there who have gotten saved, or will get saved, where I was helpful along their path, but I just never heard about it. I have a bit of evidence that this indeed has happened, because of a few who did eventually get back to me. I also hope that we’re close to the Rapture, followed by the Tribulation, wherein multitudes will be saved. Perhaps some of those will have been helped by my witness and / or by a tract I gave them.

But an actual revival, like right here, right now?!? I’m not seeing it and at this point in my life, I have no expectation to see it. I consider that to be a personal tragedy. I can’t think of anything in this world over my entire lifetime that I would rather experience.

The Bible is clear that the Lord expects His disciples to bear fruit . . . the fruit of born again converts. I won’t prove that to you. Read your Bible and you’ll see it again and again. But the Bible also teaches proportionality in faithfulness and rewards. More faithful, more reward. More seed sown faithfully, more evangelistic fruit. More power of the Holy Spirit, much more fruit. Just consider a couple of examples: Jeremiah 17:5-10. We all see ourselves as the “good guy” in this passage, don’t we? But we’re not. We’re not the fellow in verse 8. We’re in verse 9. Look up Matthew 5:6. That’s a promise for every believer. And Matthew 13:23 and the associated parable. The typical believer is to bear fruit 30-fold, 60-fold, or 100-fold. The other 3 guys in the story are not weak Christians. They are LOST!

We love Psalm 1, don’t we? Of course, the Psalmist is contrasting lost vs. saved. But the believer in this picture delights in the law of the Lord, in which he meditates day and night. Is that you? Is that me? If so, the promise is clear: spiritual fruit and spiritual prosperity. How about Psalm 19? Do we exhibit wisdom, joy, purity, enlightenment, cleanliness? Do we truly desire God’s word more than gold? Do we find Him sweeter than honey? Daily? Do we, like the Psalmist beg God to cleanse us from our sins that we keep secret even from ourselves? Or are we such skilled rationalizers that verse 12 is for the “other guy,” who also ought to watch out for presumption, as in verse 13? And so, the “great reward” of verse 11 escapes us.

Me? I’m too weak. Not serious enough. Not caring enough. Not prayerful enough. Not sacrificial enough. Not holy enough . . . in thoughts, words, and deeds. In short, too pitiful to be entrusted with power. If I got some converts I might do a pitiful job in discipleship. We all love to quote Romans 12:1-2. When preached from a pulpit on Sunday morning, the entire congregation feels warm and fuzzy because that’s our testimony, right? Apparently not. Just watch how you work it out from Monday through Saturday.

Consider Matthew 5:3-12. That’s what we should be, today, tomorrow, and every day. But we’re the bad guy in Matthew 7:1-5. Like the Pharisees, we ‘know’ such teachings and disdain others who sin. We can see sin in others, but oh so poorly in ourselves. Every time I get aggravated at another, including my wife, I cover my own sins and self-righteously clobber hers. And if I speak my frustration, to vent, to do harm, I’ve just added ANOTHER BEAM to my eye. I’m not talking about compassionate correction: there is a Biblical way to see a problem and address it. Consider the little comment in John 20:9. They knew the Scripture, having been told many times, but they didn’t KNOW IT!

Mind you, I want to fix me! Really, I do! But as I get more in touch with reality, examining myself from a Biblical perspective, as opposed to comparing myself with my woeful neighbors and peers, I find myself far short of the qualifying standard for power.

My wife offered a vehement objection to these thoughts. (Bless her for thinking that she married a “good” Christian. Well, sometimes she thinks so . . . I think.) “You’re making God too tough, too demanding!”

“No,” I responded. “God is long-suffering, gracious, kind, we can’t get kicked out of the family, BUT HE’S NOT AN EASY ‘A’!!” And we’re in an easy ‘A’ culture. The worldly “easy ‘A’” culture tempts each of us, including us Christians, toward high self-esteem. In the world, that’s good. In reality, that’s pride and self-righteousness.

My evangelistic efforts are Biblical in content and fervent in delivery. Sincerely fervent! However, if I were Spirit-filled, I believe that the Holy Spirit would quite frequently lead me from one divine appointment to another. Instead, I thrash about randomly . . . like you do, too . . . unless you’re such a spiritual slug that you don’t even try! (Remember, I told you not to read this.)

I know you disagree. You’re in denial. I know, because I’ve been there. In John chapter 20, we look down, disdainfully, at Thomas’ skepticism. To the world, he had a reasonable excuse for his skepticism. The Lord concluded otherwise. Thomas already had a huge foundation on which to exercise faith in the reported Resurrection. God expects us to recognize truth when it is revealed, because the Biblical worldview should make perfect sense to the believer in every detail. Thomas knew the Lord. He knew his fellow disciples. He knew the promise. Yet he said, “I will not believe.” Will not. A stubborn will in league with corruption in the heart. Now, the Lord was gracious to Thomas, wasn’t He? But Jesus did say that those who believe without seeing will be particularly blessed.

We see Thomas as “the other guy,” don’t we? Thomas is me. Thomas is you.

Virtually all modern fundie and gelly preachers speak glowingly of having a “relationship with Jesus.” When they do, the pew-sitters nod and say, “Amen!” The unbeliever is expected to feel left out from whatever mystical thing is going on. Now, there is a Biblical precedent for the “relationship thing.” John 17:3 and John 15:14, for example. Yet the prerequisite condition for friendship with the Lord of Hosts in John 15:14 is obedience. Most grievously, lost sinners are encouraged to leap into a relationship with Jesus without any concern for sin, judgment, and repentance.

I talked at length with a Pentecostal preacher who, in my opinion, was certainly born again, having a testimony of repentance, faith, and fruits of conversion in his youth. He yearned for sinners who visited his church to come into a relationship with Jesus. Yet he wanted to skip over the bad news, somehow deceiving himself that others could get the “relationship” without coming the same way he had come . . . the Biblical way.

Most Christians in most churches delude themselves that they are “friends with Jesus,” while demonstrably in disobedience to the Great Commission, and showing no real holiness in their lives. It seems there is hardly anyone in America who is in touch with reality. We’re not in good shape, people!

Specifically on being “filled,” Pentecostals are so deluded that they insist that they continually get extra-Biblical revelations. They are sure that they are filled because they can pray in nonsensical gibberish – not the Biblical tongues . . . languages . . . used to preach the Gospel to lost foreigners. Emergents and mega-church “worship leaders” work themselves into an altered state of consciousness which they define as being filled. Fundies like evangelists John Rice and Shelton Smith fool themselves by producing false converts through manipulative methods.

There are some fundies . . . I have one author / missionary in mind in particular . . . who take a ‘nuts and bolts’ approach, insisting that if you read your Bible, go to church, avoid grievous sins, pray diligently, do some evangelism, etc., namely, do your duty diligently . . . then by definition! . . . you are filled with the Spirit. This position also tends to opine, “It’s not how much of the Holy Spirit you have. It’s how much He has of you!” This implies a linearity, a simple proportionality. No, clearly the filling of the Holy Spirit is a non-linearity, an exponential game-changing experience. Ok, you ask, where are the Scriptural examples? Look ‘em up. Find them in the lives of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Josiah, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, the apostle John, and the Lord Jesus Himself!

So it’s not nuts and bolts. It’s not linear. No, it’s more than that. It’s not mysticism, either, but there is an experiential side to this. The outward evidence is clear, as we have discussed. But there’s an inner thing going on, too. And it is obvious that it is SO EASY to fool yourself on this! Almost every week I meet a professing Christian (almost always a Pentecostal) who responds to my evangelistic inquiry with, “Yes, I’m a Christian, filled with the Holy Ghost!” Right. Almost every pulpiteer has a “word from the Lord,” whether gelly or fundie. And faithful tithers / attenders are reassured weekly that they are among the “in crowd.”

But with some it is demonstrably REAL. D. L. Moody had “the baptism,” with both inward and outward evidence. A number of workers in the Welsh revival had it, but with different experiences. Many revivals burned out or got corrupted because “the baptism” was claimed, but corrupted by Satan into weird emotional or physical demonstrations, like the modern “slaying in the Spirit” rampant in Pentecostalism. I’m confident some in China have it, but it’s hard for me to figure out what’s going on over there on the ground because accounts get filtered through Westerners.

I have some personal experience with the “inner thing,” but I won’t speak of it in detail, other than to say that what I’ve had has been rare and correlated perfectly with particular evangelistic experiences. Too rare. But enough to give me a taste when I really crave a steak dinner.

So what’s the solution??!!!??

I’m not going to leave you hanging. The Biblical solutions are clear. They are not even complicated. But simple doesn’t mean easy, especially if the heart, mind, and will have been bent by carrying baggage through most of a lifetime. Baggage . . . the scars of sins . . . sins of the flesh, sins of neglect, sins of complacency, sins of self-righteousness, sins of willful ignorance, sins of love-lessness.

Just because I want to have maturity, joy, evangelistic fruit, and blessed fellowship with the Lord and with other believers does not get me there. The goal is not the process. Praying for the goal while despising the process is futile.

Here’s a summary of the process: DO – BE – DO – BE – DO – BE . . .
Here’s what I mean: Read the Bible and learn something about what God wants you to do. Then DO it. The Holy Spirit will affirm this in your conscience and you will BE a little more mature. Which motivates you to learn something else to DO. DO that and you will BE a little stronger. Your fellowship with the Lord Jesus grows. You’ll want to DO more. And BE more.
Don’t quit. Along that path is maturity and eventually, the power of the Holy Spirit to be His fruitful instrument and worthy co-laborer. Your conscience gets more sensitive along the way so that you can leave rationalization behind, your spiritual heart gets healthier, and your will grows in strength to follow a more Christ-like heart.

By the way, a strong will is a liability unless your heart is pure. A corrupt conscience, a wicked heart, and a strong will is the worst possible combination. Far better for the wicked to have a weak will.

Scripture: Look at 2 Peter 1:5-10, for example. Add those elements by DO-ing and you will BE fruitful as promised in verse 8. As you DO and BE, grab the many relevant promises as in Matthew 7:7-12. Ask, seek, knock. Tightly bound to this promise is that of Luke 11:13. God wants to fill you with the Holy Spirit.

You will find these simple patterns throughout Scripture, in the experiences of the prophets and apostles, and in their teachings. Like I said, it’s not complicated: DO – BE – DO – BE . . .

What makes it difficult? Sin. Weak heart. Weak will. I double-dog-dare you to try this. Here’s what will happen, even if you make the greatest effort of your life: Some local devil in your community will quickly take notice and start throwing bricks at you. Circumstances, health, finances, a grumpy spouse, a snarky boss, meddling relatives . . . hey, watch out! They’re gonna come after you, buddy. Expect it. And it is Scriptural that the Lord will allow you to be tested, tried. To see if you really want it. To see if you care.

Now, here’s the temptation that will arise. You start to rationalize, wondering just how “good” you have to be in order to be blessed with fruitfulness. As if you can qualify by reaching some minimum standard, negotiating with the Lord so you don’t have to truly subscribe to Romans 12:1-2. Nope. There is no negotiation here. You actually have to AGREE with the Lord about holiness, love, righteousness, and compassion for the souls of men. You have to want to “BE GOOD” whether or not anything ever happens to produce fruit in your life. You must be truly conformed to Jesus Christ, dying to this life (Phil 3:10) and constrained by His love (2 Cor 5:14-15).

If you get into the DO – BE loop and stay there, the Holy Spirit will join you, illuminate you, grow you, empower you. He enables us to DO more, which makes us to BE more like Him, which provokes Him to lead more, etc.

Oh, how many times, countless times, I have jumped into the loop with all sincerity. Oh, how many times I’ve stumbled out, sometimes by the Enemy’s provocation, sometimes just because I’m such a mess.

It’s not like I’ve ever quit altogether. And “degrees” do count. Even if you’re in despair, it’s far better to hand a tract to that lost fellow outside the grocery store than to wallow in self and let him go to Hell without a warning. At least DO something today and give God a chance to help you BE a little better. Even if you’re discouraged, it’s far better to pray for others, even if you don’t “feel” that your prayers are heard.

With some trepidation I’ll give you a little perspective on my tiny efforts. I read my Bible every day and every year, on schedule this year to read the OT once and the NT twice. I continue to work on Scripture memory, which I started about 36 years ago. I won’t tell you how much Scripture I have memorized. But I haven’t missed a day of review in about 13 years. I’ve shared the Gospel verbally with multitudes (and that’s the right word). And I’ve given out many multitudes of tracts, the best ones I can possibly find, including many I’ve designed myself. I keep adding to this web site, praying and trusting the Lord to connect someone occasionally to a helpful item.

Also, I have worked so very hard to love my wife and to lead her spiritually, I have agonized often in prayer for my children and love them more than my life (especially when they don’t think so), and I have exercised high standards of integrity and self-sacrifice throughout my professional career, often making decisions that serve the mission and my co-workers far more than what would have served me.

But I know I’m short in everything and have been for a long time. I’m 62. The trend is not good. When I get in touch with reality, I am far short of loving my Bible enough, I am short on evangelistic passion, and there is far too much self in my relationships. I want more but I don’t want to do more. My will is weak. And that’s no excuse because my will is as strong as I want it to be.

A metaphor . . . If you stay in the loop and don’t quit, God promises to put a fusion power core in the center of your being, to fuel the will, to work the cycle. You’ve got to want it. For oh so many years, I have yearned for an internal nuclear power plant, so to speak, but I haven’t worked the cycle to completion. I need the power plant, but I also need the transformers, the transmission lines, and the power tools to turn that core energy into useful work. If God gives me a fusion core while I have built some crude construct of plastic and glass piping around me, I will melt down. My “whole man” must be equipped for the work. Evangelism is intertwined with discipleship and fellowship and church growth and the very work of God Almighty in this present generation. My “whole man” must be designed to employ Spirit power, and that design is my responsibility, based on the clear teachings of God’s word. God won’t equip me with the power plant if I simply can’t use it safely. So, work the cycle to build the plant, while the Holy Spirit gives the core appropriate to your plant design.

As I do the self-eval, I detect some finite power energizing the modest little work I do. Yet I have tasted of a “fission core,” if not a “fusion core,” on several occasions, so I know experientially whereof I speak. Tragically, I don’t sustain it. And I’ve tasted of joy unspeakable . . . rarely . . . associated with those parts of the DO – BE cycle I have inconsistently explored.

Supposedly successful pastors and media ministers and fundie evangelists don’t get it. They don’t even get church right and willfully so. A successful missionary / evangelist admitted to me personally that he agrees with me on the New Testament pattern for a local house church network, but will not say so or write so publicly because he will lose the ‘friends’ he has, his peers in ‘ministry.’ Nicolaitin ministry, that is.

If I’m in sync with the Holy Spirit, then I can be led by Him. He knows how to reach the lost in the optimal way and with optimal timing. I don’t. I recall meeting a new convert on the street, saved several months previously, in an area that I was hitting heavily. The fellow had joined a goofy Pentecostal church – he didn’t know any better. I complained to the Lord, “Why didn’t I cross that fellow’s path a few months ago?” My fault. I was out doing the work. That’s a good thing, but I wasn’t in sync enough to be led by the Holy Spirit to that particular fellow at the particular time when he was open to Gospel truth.

Yet on occasion I have experienced divine appointments that bore fruit. But why so rarely? Well, now that I’m (almost) completely honest with myself, I understand. Some make the excuse, “Oh, but this is a wicked and Gospel-hating generation.” Please. Which generation wasn’t?

Final, practical recommendations: Don’t seek experience or happiness or success or even spiritual fruit. Seek righteousness (Matt 5:6). Seek holiness (Heb 12:14). Know and love God’s word (Psalm 119). Seek wisdom (Proverbs chapters 1-31). Seek souls and walk with Jesus in His work (Matt 28:18-20).

Go DO it poorly and hope to BE a little stronger. DO – BE – DO – BE . . . Don’t quit! Your heart is so deceitful, so tempted to self-righteousness and self-delusion, that you can easily think you’re completely in the will of God, but you’re out of touch with reality and going your own way. Should you “go and preach the Gospel” even if you’re an out-of-sync klutz? Yes, God can and does use His word, even when employing such poor instruments as you and me. In fact, if you aspire to “work the cycle,” you must be obedient and go. You can’t sit around waiting for the rushing wind and tongues of fire. That happened once. And the disciples weren’t just “waiting” either, like we would. They had been praying for 10 days already, obedient to the Lord’s command to do just that.

It is no coincidence, I believe, that the Lord Jesus led off His first publicly recorded sermon with BE-attitudes . . . We’ve got to BE while we go and DO.



28. Is your church guilty of Temple-ism?
June 1, 2014.

Some of the most compelling works in Christian literature were written in the 19th century. has just republished a couple of short booklets that I heartily recommend to you:

1. Templeism, by James Gall (JG)
2. Two Tracts: The Clergy System, (by W. Carl Ketcherside – WCK), and The Overseers (by Thomas Hughes Milner – THM)

Since the themes are closely related, and since I hope that you do read both booklets yourself, I’ll use this blog to describe some of the salient points, while interleaving my own perspective.

The early Jewish Christians had a very difficult time in walking away from their sacrificial system, from their rabbinical laws and traditions, and from the carnal glory of the physical temple system. We note the trouble generated by “Judaizers” during the events recounted in the book of Acts and referenced in the epistles, especially the letter to the Galatian churches.

“Man is naturally a religious being, and even the carnal heart must have a religion of some kind . . . The guilty soul feels that it must have something to come between itself and God, and, like Adam and Eve in Paradise, seeks to manufacture for itself a covering or screen, behind which it may hide itself.” (JG)

The Levitical system and its priests served the carnal heart accordingly. I note that on Mount Sinai, confronted with the literal thunder and lightning that punctuated the 10 Commandments, the Israelites were frightened nigh unto death, wanting neither to hear God’s voice nor to see the fire that warned of judgment. And so (Deut 18:15-18), God promised them a Prophet, like unto Moses, to stand between the people and God. This Prophet, of course, was to be the Messiah, the God-Man, the only possible Intercessor.

Yet since the early history of Christendom – after the coming of the Messiah and after the destruction of the Jewish temple – and right through to this present age, professing believers must build new temples, cathedrals, church buildings, and even campuses, with a clergy-like priesthood to stand between man and God.

“Christianity thus became sheathed in an outer crust of gaudy ceremonials and ritualistic performances, which took the place of loving service and a holy life. It was exactly the kind of religion that worldly and ungodly men wanted, because it enabled them to be very religious and very wicked at the same time.” (JG)

This is not just about Rome, of course. Protestantism embraced much of Rome’s corrupt baggage as it flourished. Even more compelling is the history of evangelicalism and fundamentalism until today. The show changes. The music changes. The culture changes. But we still see gaudy temples, scripted “worship services,” and ordained clergy. All the while the most “conservative” of the gellies and fundies deny emphatically that they are kin to Rome.

“But there was another reason why the carnal mind preferred the temple service to the worship of the synagogue or home. A priest was needed. It was not only necessary that there should be an outward and bodily performance of some religious ritual, it was also necessary that they should have a professionally religious man to do it for them . . . Christ was too holy . . . they must have men more like themselves.” (JG)

“ . . . by showing a becoming reverence for the clergy, they satisfied their consciences, while they devoted themselves without stint or scruple to worldly pleasures and sensual gratifications.” (JG)

Examples abound. Here’s one that comes to mind. Some years ago I joined an on-line forum associated with John MacArthur’s annual Shepherd’s Conference. I corresponded with others on this forum for about a year, curious how this committed Calvinistic group would explain and defend their blasphemous doctrines. One of the minor issues that came up was social drinking. I was surprised to see so many rationalize their so-called “liberty” to privately or even publicly imbibe. I took a firm stance against strong drink on Biblical grounds, which is easy to do. I also affirmed how alcohol so easily destroys a Christian’s testimony and evangelistic witness. Finally, I pointed out how wicked it is to consort with the Enemy, since it is oh-so-obvious that Satan uses alcohol to destroy multitudes of lives and families, to wreck businesses, to poison local economies, and to facilitate all manner of crime. How can a Christian possibly contribute to this evil?!?

What amazed me was the length to which others rationalized, insisting on their “liberty,” and quite willing to throw the “self-righteous” cudgel at me. A couple of fellows wrote to me privately, saying they agreed with me, but they were too cowardly – even on-line – to call it “sin.” But here’s the key point: It was clear that since these fellows were upstanding members of MacArthur-like churches, and held to MacArthur-like Calvinistic doctrine, therefore they had accrued enough “spiritual points” to get a little tipsy if they felt like it.

And so it is across evangelicalism . . . and much of fundamentalism (although carnality is more secretive in some fundie churches). Hey, if we go to church and we believe the right stuff and we give our offerings, then our Senior Pastor, our Man of God, our Ordained Clergyman has pronounced us righteous enough.

As much as the people as a whole want this, there are always those who desire to be that priest, that mediator, that Man of God. The clergy / laity distinction grows stronger over time, especially because it is in the interest of the clergy to teach that loyalty to them is loyalty to Christ. This is evident, as indicated before, not just in Rome’s system, but across evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

Regarding the possible motivation of would-be clergy . . . “Others ascribe it to the overweening ambition of aspiring men to stand between their fellows and God, and exercise a mediatorial office because of a fancied superior knowledge or life.” (WCK)

I recall a fundie church we attended for a few months some years ago which could have been the “poster boy” for this disease. Almost every other sermon included some Scriptural application – usually stretched beyond credulity – to emphasize the authority the Senior Pastor had over the church and how vital it was in God’s eyes for members to submit to that authority. Fund raising for building programs and special projects was relentless and shameless. I knew of several cases where members might discuss some doctrinal issue, but avoided resolution – by studying, for example – when one fellow would insist that they should seek out the Pastor to get “the answer.”

In an all-too-typical case, one young man was told that he should seek out the Pastor’s counsel before getting to know a young lady in the church, even though the Pastor knew neither of them personally. Of course he didn’t. There were 1,000 members. Now, seeking counsel from Biblical “elders” is appropriate in such matters. But there was only one Super-Elder who had all the spiritual wisdom in that church. Apparently, no other elders were qualified to counsel a young man and a young lady on courtship.

“The fact is that all of God’s clergy are laity, and all of God’s laity are clergy. Every child of God is a minister. Every disciple of Jesus has entered the ministry. The word of God knows nothing of a disciple who is not a minister. So long as we pay empty lipservice to this concept while practicing something which is exactly the opposite, we are hypocritical and acting out a sham.” (WCK)

Think about it. Every gelly church and every fundie church would affirm the first four sentences of the paragraph above. And every one is guilty of the last sentence.

In the God-ordained Levitical priesthood . . . “The priest was entitled to demand the part coming to him before the contributor could use anything for himself.” (WCK)

Modern clergy, both fundie and gelly, similarly demand an un-Scriptural tithe – off the top of the paycheck – to support the system. Some of you may also have taken part in “Faith Promise Giving” to support missionaries. The idea here is that above your tithe, you are to promise God a certain percentage of your income for a year, pay it off the top to the church’s missions program, and then have the faith for the money to come in so you can feed and clothe your family, pay the mortgage, buy gasoline, etc. The New Testament knows nothing of this. This is a big subject, though . . . I would encourage you to check out the essays on

“But the cross of Christ forever wiped out all such distinctions . . . (but) we were afraid to be sons. We rebelled at the idea of a Father. We wanted a God afar off, a remote Deity to be worshipped in an institution and by a prescribed ritual. One can be a member of an organization, pay his dues, and attend his meetings, without ever really becoming involved. His contribution pays for the benefits which the institution is created to provide.

“So we wanted worship to be something done for us, a performance prepared in advance and carried out by trained actors whom we could watch and applaud and appreciate for their skills. We did not want worship to be the crying out of our own hearts for help or the sobbing on the shoulder of our Elder Brother, who endured all things as we do and was yet without sin . . . And the flesh triumphed over the Spirit. We got what we wanted and we can go through it for an hour once per week wholly detached in life and concern.” (WCK)

What was true when WCK wrote this in the 19th century has not changed an iota. Multitudes of gellies and fundies show up, shut up, and pay up. And have no concern for the lost souls of men and women, boys and girls they walk by every day in their community. Even more startling is that few really care at all about the believers around them in their own church. Hey . . . your little weekly “group meeting,” which you attend occasionally, which is led by a “facilitator” who uses a “study guide,” and which doesn’t meet all summer long . . . that doesn’t count. Be honest.

“We have refused to learn that Jesus did away with holy places and holy days. We are the temple of God. We are the house of God.” (WCK)

It’s too simple, isn’t it? But only in that simplicity, in which you and I are responsible for genuine spiritual growth, responsible to love and care for other believers in an unscripted substantial way, and directly responsible for the souls of the lost around us . . . can we truly be followers of Jesus Christ.

“No one has an exclusive right to engage in teaching, exhorting, or admonishing the saints. Why should the talents of scores of brethren be stifled and sublimated so that one can grow by exercise? Shall we bind all of the members of the body but one, and let them become paralyzed through disuse? Are not all of the bodily members expected to perform the work for which they are gifted by the Lord? Are any gifts of God useless and worthless?” (WCK)

How can a modern fundie or gelly church be re-organized or adapted or adjusted or tweaked to get closer to the New Testament pattern? They can’t. Break them up. Start over. You may as well encourage the downtrodden masses of a Marxist nation to become entrepreneurs and joyfully launch startup companies.

“But ‘The System’ operates to produce professionals, and a lethargic and indolent people, good-hearted though they may be, would rather hire someone whom they can own to ‘conduct worship,’ whatever that may mean, than to worship in Spirit and in truth. And ‘The System’ operates only to perpetuate itself just as does the political system or the economic system. And it makes no difference who is elected or selected. The System does not change.

“’The System’ uses men so long as they follow its unwritten creed and conform to its traditional method. But men are expendable. They are good only so long as they produce. Once they rebel at being owned and made flunkies they will be sent packing and reduced to a pulp, made to feel that they are deserters, renegades and apostates. And all of this will be done by good people who think they are following the will of Jesus. So it becomes easier just to play ball than to fight the team, the umpires and the fans in the stands. I say it is easier, but deep inside it corrodes the soul.” (WCK)

This describes perfectly the present day order of Western Christendom. I take exception, however, to the term ‘good-hearted’ above. To ignore the clear teaching of Scripture and to outsource your God-given responsibilities to ‘The System’ does not qualify.

The second paragraph quoted above is part of the “official playbook” for building megachurches, as taught by Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. Anyone that doesn’t get with the church building program, even if a life-long senior saint, is coerced out the door. Over recent years I have visited many gelly and fundie churches, looking for opportunities for evangelistic partners and potential fellowship. My wife and I have explained carefully to pastors who we are and what we stand for, particularly the following points:

1. We have a burden for the lost and frequently engage in 121 evangelism. Is there anyone in the church who would be interested in teaming up with us? If they need some coaching, we will be pleased to help.
2. We are interested in serious Bible study and love to have discussions with others who want to get into the Scripture. Can we do that in this church?
3. We yearn for substantive weekly fellowship, unscripted, whereby we can get to know others and for them to know us, to share burdens, to pray for one another, and to encourage one another. Can we do that here?

Guess what the answer is . . . every time. “No.” Now, the “No” comes with a lot of flowery language draped around it. But it’s still, “No.” And at the end of the conversation, it is clear that people like us simply don’t fit into ‘The System.’

Now, you might suggest that the real problem is that I’m abrasive in my approach, or quick to cite doctrinal disagreements, or perhaps I fail to take a shower before the visit. You would be wrong. I am as sweet as can be! Yes, really! I really want to see if there is a chance to find a church that gets something right! I’ll even suppress the inclination to blurt out my positions on versions, Calvinism, manipulative evangelism, and – most significantly – my abhorrence of clergy / laity distinctions.

The second essay in the Two Tracts booklet, by Milner, is an exposition on how Biblical elders are chosen and how they lead within a local church. The Biblical system is entirely different from what goes on in Western churches today, of course. But I won’t expand on the subject in this blog, since I hope for you to read it for yourself.



29. Lillian Trasher: Nile Mother
June 15, 2014

This week’s blog is written by Bonnie.

Once in a great while you stumble across a story – a true story – that just amazes and encourages and even brings tears to your eyes as you explore that person’s life. Lillian Trasher is such a woman and her story is as incredible as any hero in Scripture. My primary reference for this blog is the book by Janet and Geoff Benge, Lillian Trasher: The Greatest Wonder in Egypt.

As I began to write, I realized that this could not be a short article and do her justice. There were so many amazing provisions in her life from the Lord. Each instance shows a remarkable life of faith in God and a desire to do His work at any cost. Lillian did so many things right in her walk with the Lord. We can all benefit from her example. Read on and be astonished at what God can do with one life totally devoted to Him and His work.

Lillian was born on September 27, 1887 in Jacksonville, Florida and spent much of her childhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Her neighbors awakened in her a desire for the Lord as a 9 year old child. When she knew she needed to repent and put her faith in Christ, she did so at a prayer meeting at the neighbor’s house. One day walking home from school she knelt at a big old log and cried out loud, “I want to be your little girl.” Later, she prayed alone in the woods for some time and said out loud, “Lord, if ever I can do anything for You, just let me know and – and – I’ll do it!”

As she grew, she developed a good bit of artistic talent. On her way to seek a job as a sketch artist for an Atlanta newspaper, she sat on a train by a woman named Mattie Perry. This was a providential meeting designed to change Lillian’s life. Mattie managed a faith orphanage in North Carolina. This concept of trusting the Lord to provide all the resources was a startling idea to Lillian. During the course of the conversation Mattie invited Miss Trasher to come and work with her at the orphanage.

As the Lord would have it, the job didn’t work out at the newspaper (actually she got the job, but management mistakenly gave it to someone else.) Lillian, believing that this was from the Lord, spent the next five years working with Mattie, taking some Bible college classes, and accompanying the Perrys on preaching tours through the South. Lillian found she loved to share the Gospel with people. During this time she also met Tom Goodson who soon asked her to marry him. Lillian said yes, but it was not to be. At a church service with Mattie, Lillian listened to a missionary from India. She realized that she was being called to be a missionary to Africa. Knowing that Tom did not feel called to the mission field, she cancelled the engagement just ten days before the ceremony was to take place.

Getting to the mission field was an adventure in itself. Lillian heard about a missionary conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She prayed and the money came in, but an employee, seeing the money on the desk in the orphanage, thought it was orphanage money. She paid a food bill with it . What was left was not enough for Lillian’s ticket to the conference. We probably would have stopped there, but not Lillian. She bought a train ticket to Washington D.C. which is how far her money would take her. There, Mattie’s friend Miss Olivier had a missionary from Egypt, Robert Brelsford, staying in her home. While staying at the house, Lillian was invited by them to come help in their mission home in Assiout, Egypt if she could find her way there. No salary was included, but Lillian was overjoyed and took them up on their offer.

With reimbursement from Mattie for the food bill money, Lillian went on to the conference in Pittsburgh. A friend paid her fare to New York City. There she spoke at churches about her missionary calling and as money came in she put it toward the ship fare to go to Egypt. Through a number of generous people, the fare was paid and she was on her way accompanied by her sister Jennie. Here is the distinctive characteristic of Lillian Trasher. She was committed to the Lord, didn’t know how she was going to do His work, but trusted in Him to provide. It was a lifelong pattern that always worked, although sometimes in very strange ways.

I spend this time in describing her journey to get to Africa because it is so clear an example of how Lillian would live her entire life trusting the Lord to take care of her. [As near as I can tell, the way to pronounce the city in Egypt (Assiout) is “Ah syoot”.] That winter, about three months after her arrival (1910) at the Brelsford’s mission house, a desperate looking man asked for some missionaries to come to a house where a young mother was dying. Lillian and two others went with him. The dying mother wanted them to take her baby and care for her. The infant was half starved, just a skeleton, stinky, and filthy, but when the young mother died, Lillian just had to take her and see if she could care for the little girl. I ask you, reader, what would you have done? What could anyone with a conscience and a heart tender toward the Lord, do?

At the mission house, the baby cried almost constantly. Lillian fed her with an eye dropper of milk at a time. For the next ten days, Lillian and Jennie’s lives revolved around this little baby. Every mouthful of milk little Fareida could swallow and every minute of sleep she managed to get was a blessing. However, after a week of this, the other missionaries were exhausted and Mr. Brelsford said the baby would have to be returned. “Where?” Lillian asked, “Is there an orphanage that she could go to?” Mr. Brelsford told her there was no such place in Egypt. The short version is that Lillian found a house to rent and with her sister Jennie, they set up housekeeping, having no more than one month’s rent, trusting God to provide the money they needed. Thus the orphanage was begun.

From this humble beginning, the Assiout Orphanage, situated on the east side of the Nile river, eventually grew into a village that had at its peak 1,400 residents as well as its own schools, dormitories, clinic, bakery, dairy, church, and swimming pool. During its first fifty years, roughly 10,000 orphans passed through its doors. It is still in operation today and run by men who were some of Mama Lillian’s children.

But back to my narrative: just a couple of weeks into the rental house, the cupboard was bare. The only thing left on the shelf was a can of milk for the baby. Lillian said to herself, “Now I will see God in action.” Her attitude is the perfect example of the dedicated Christian who when faced with such a dilemma cries, “Abba, Father!” and waits for His answer. A young boy came to the house to ask for aspirin for his aching head. After they chatted and Lillian gave him the aspirin, he gave her two coins. It was enough to buy two days of food. Lillian felt she was holding a miracle in her hands! The word spread around the neighborhood and soon food and bits of money appeared on her porch. Then a baby came that had bubonic plague. Lillian also contracted the disease but weathered the storm and continued on.

Though the local people and authorities were skeptical of her motives at first, they soon learned she was doing much good. Many local people helped her support the endeavor. One wonderful source of food and supplies turned out to be the poor subsistence farmers in the countryside around the city. Lillian would hire a donkey and ride out to their homes receiving whatever they could give. For several years the house served their purposes. A government clerk who was a friend of theirs heard about a half-acre for sale across the Nile. Lillian prayed for the money and was able to purchase the property. I won’t give you the details on how this was arranged, but it is amazing.

By August 1914, World War I had begun. This would eventually have an impact, but for now Lillian and her children needed to put up a dormitory on the new land. She had just enough money to buy six wooden brick forms. Each form made twenty bricks made from dirt on the property and water from the Nile. After drying for a couple of weeks, they were ready to come out of the forms and they could make more. As money came in, more forms were purchased and more and more bricks could be made. A local bricklayer was hired. As each stage required either money or supplies, Lillian was always ready to ask God to provide and He honored every request. The hurdles that came up and how God provided the answers are the most exciting aspects of Lillian’s story. By Christmas of 1916 they moved into their new facility.

During the war, the British controlled the country looking everywhere for recruits and setting quotas for local communities. Many were “forced” to serve in the Army and this left many women and children without caretakers. The numbers of orphans began to climb. Even in dire circumstances, God can work for good. Lillian learned something that would transform her entire operation. She took in a widow who said she would help with the work if only Lillian would take her in, in addition to her two children. As time passed and the work grew, these widows became a very important source of workers. They could still be near their children and could relieve much of the burden of cooking, cleaning, and laundering. They were ministered to, taught the Bible, and most became converts. Many foreign missionaries were required to leave the country during the war, but not Lillian. One of her great strengths was to befriend the local people and the government. When they understood that she was no threat, many were willing to help her.

All of the children helped out with the work around the orphanage. Older girls helped with cooking, dishes, mending, and caring for the babies. The boys worked outside tending the yard, and making wooden chairs and leather goods that were sold in the market to raise money. As more and more children came and time passed, the older girls became adept at helping with the little ones. Each teen girl was in charge of six smaller children — “little mothers” so that each child had someone who knew her likes and dislikes and personality. This was a person to bond with so that the facility felt like a home and not an institution.

Finally the Great War was over, but the British did not wish to relinquish their hold on Egypt because of the Suez Canal. A couple of incidents caused rebellion. Rioting and looting broke out. Lillian and her children were protected by the Lord in two incidents with only minor damage to the building. An English general ordered the evacuation of all foreigners and Lillian was told to leave. Using this opportunity for good, she decided to make a trip to the United States to raise money and prayer support for the work. Seeing “modern” America made her realize that she was not a young person anymore, but a 31 year old missionary with over 100 people in her care!

In the United States, Lillian was able to raise money for the orphanage, receive ministerial credentials, and a missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God, a church which had not existed when she left for Assiout in 1910. To Lillian, the prayer support and little things they could do for her work were very important. This became a lifelong association that is still functioning today, although in modern times 85% of the funding for the orphanage comes from Egypt.

Upon returning to Egypt in 1920, she found the orphanage more crowded than ever with some children sleeping four to a bed! Another dormitory was planned with the help of the older boys making bricks. As soon as it was finished, it was filled and another building was planned. Tourists began to trickle into Egypt again and many were interested to see the orphanage. It continued to grow until in 1924, Lillian had 300 children in residence, and the property was filled up. Lillian’s prayer was answered in an unusual way. A number of wealthy Egyptian families collected twenty-six hundred pounds between them. They bought two and a half acres of land and presented the deed to Lillian. As the orphanage grew, so did the need and Lillian used many techniques to raise revenue.

God kept answering her prayers in unique ways and the work continued. One day she needed seventy five pounds for expenses so she traveled to the home of a wealthy Egyptian. There she waited all day to see the man, but to no avail. Finally, realizing that he did not want to see her, she returned home, crying out to the Lord on the way, having nowhere else to turn. At home, she was handed a note from friends saying their daughter was engaged and they wanted to share some of their good fortune with Lillian. Inside were some crumpled pound notes — not seventy five but two hundred! The need was wonderfully answered. Lillian prayed, “Thank you, Lord. I will not go out on my donkey begging for money again. Indeed, I will spend my time caring for the children and trust You to send the money to feed, clothe, and educate them.”

There were times when Lillian would share a little soap, rice, or money with a needy person and then the Lord would give her 10 times as much of the same items as she went about her business. Sometimes tourists, Egyptian rulers, or foreign royals, would stop by and some of these became very important in the support of the work in later years. They could hardly believe that Lillian could live in what looked to them like poverty. Teens would tell them that Mama never worried about food or supplies and didn’t lose sleep over it. Then Lillian would explain how God had wonderfully supplied every need and never had they missed a meal. An Egyptian Sultan, who later became king, gave her a gift of $1,500 which helped her to enlarge the facility.

In 1926, Lillian went to court and made a wise move to ensure the ongoing status of the orphanage even after her death. Lillian made many savvy decisions that helped her win the support of the local people and this was one. Most mission works and property would be funded and owned by the mission board that the missionary belonged to, but Lillian made a trust for the orphanage such that she could never sell the land as long as she lived. She appointed a committee of Egyptian supporters plus her sister Jennie to administer the trust after her death. Many wealthy or elite Copts that gave to the mission knew that they were giving to an institution that would serve upper Egypt for a long time.

The local wealthy families interested in her work took out subscriptions, started sewing circles, gave gifts of food and supplies, and helped celebrate births, weddings, and major life events with the children. They adopted Lillian as their own, bringing her to their homes for visits, taking her on outings, and giving her dresses.

Not only the wealthy helped the work. This is one of the important successes of the orphanage in that Lillian welcomed all help and especially that of the local shopkeepers and farmers. The community valued her help in caring for so many needy children and were happy to support her endeavor.

A very special time came on April 7, 1927. Lillian had called the widows and children together for the usual devotional time. She would read the Bible and teach them the meaning and they would pray. This particular time as she was teaching, she heard sniffles and sobs around the room. Suddenly children began to get down on their knees and confess their sins aloud to God and ask Him to forgive them and make them new people inside. The sound of prayer and confession drowned out Lillian’s voice. The meeting went long into the night. Groups of children prayed even after they were sent to bed and many prayed alone on their beds. This pattern went on for five days. Many lives were transformed. Wanting to share their joy, the children asked to be allowed to go into Assiout and the surrounding area to share with others what had taken place at their home. Many Egyptians in small villages heard the Gospel message preached by these children. As a result, many other local people became Christians.

In a letter to home, Lillian wrote, “I have wonderful news to tell you. God has given us one of the most wonderful revivals, I have ever seen in my life. The power of God is sweeping the orphanage like a mighty flood, like a terrific fire, or like I imagine it will be at the great Judgment Day. Hundreds of children are on their faces screaming out to God for mercy, some shouting for joy and rejoicing in the marvelous newfound blessing.”

Somehow the things the orphanage needed the most showed up in the nick of time. Reader, we know how this happened because the Lord knows our needs even before we do. Lillian always gave the credit to the Lord. One day the widows came saying many bed mattresses were so worn the children were almost sleeping on the springs. That very day a truck came with huge sacks of cotton as a gift to the orphanage. Some girls came to the woman in charge of the soap asking for their allowance of it, and she told them she had none to give them. That evening a car drove up with all kinds of gifts piled in it. There were six five-gallon tins of butter, six tins of cheese, a large sack of soap, a sack of rice, two and ah half boxes of sugar, and many smaller things worth over $100.00 in all. A woman had died four months ago, and before her death, she had asked her relatives to send the things in her storeroom to the orphanage.

As the world sank into economic depression, supplies from the U.S. dwindled so the support of the local people became even more important. Even Lillian was surprised how the orphanage survived. In 1927, the annual income at the home was nearly $25,000. By 1933, it had plunged to less that $15,000. At this time another incident turned into a difficult situation. A Swedish missionary in the area had spanked a child for disobedience. The eight year old girl ran away and told the police that she had been beaten for not becoming a Christian. The Egyptian people got wind of it and began to ask, “How could Christians be trusted to raise Muslim children? Don’t Muslim children deserve to be in orphanages where they are taught their own faith?”

The Swedish missionary was expelled from the country, but many Muslim Egyptians demanded that all Muslim children be removed from Christian care and put into Muslim orphanages. Some leaders were stirring up feelings against the missionaries who were working among the Egyptians that were from the Coptic Christian tradition as well. They hoped to drive them all out of the country.

Lillian was investigated. She prayed that the Lord would protect the 70 children in her orphanage that would be affected.

During this time, Muslims collected much money to build their own facilities. Some churches were broken into and preachers were beaten. Lillian’s books were inspected and children interviewed. Widows and teaching staff were questioned and they took copies of the booklets Lillian had made for the school.

Finally, on July 5, the governor sent for Lillian. He thanked her for her work, but he had decided that all Muslim children in her orphanage were to be removed in 10 days’ time. Seventy of her children were being taken away at once. It was almost more than she could bear. Her only consolation was that they had been taught well in the home and it would help them.

At the same time, many of the older boys, now young men, were going out into the surrounding countryside to preach. One of boys wanted her to help him open a school and a mission. Another was doing the same in a small village nearby.

Now came a low point. Lillian was unwell, the support had seriously declined. She needed rest. She told the children they would have to go away until she could gather them again. As the children realized what she said, they burst into tears and then prayer. As all wept and prayed together, a feeling of calm came over Lillian and she said they would do without together if need be and they would live by faith. That night they added more water to the rice and gave each child a fourth of a slice of bread. The babies got milk from the cow. Lillian ate nothing.

The next morning, Lillian awoke with a feeling of dread. All went about their work. By lunchtime no food had arrived, so Lillian sent one of her boys to the post office. All the children gathered at the gate to wait for his return. He handed her the mail. Lillian sifted through it and saw a personal letter from the U.S. She opened it. “Thank God!” she exclaimed, “Children, your prayers have been answered.” It was a check for $1,000! However, the letter had been addressed to Assiout, India. The letter had been sent directly to Egypt, though, so someone in the post office in Kansas where the letter was mailed, knew that Lillian actually lived in Egypt and had rerouted the letter to her! “How astonishing! God is faithful, especially since we needed the check now and not a day later,” she told herself.

Things took a turn for the better. Other donors helped improve the facility. There was some publicity at this time that helped a great deal. Some journalists wrote articles and people Lillian had never heard of started to send money. At the same time, the mood in Egypt began to turn against Christian missionaries. The government imposed high taxes on all churches and charitable work. They wanted the recipient of goods to pay taxes equal to the entire value of a package. She had to tell many to stop sending clothes and supplies.

Next to come was WWII. The Germans were anxious to get their hands on the Suez Canal. In September 1940, the Italians invaded Egypt with 200,000 troops. American and British citizens were ordered to leave, but this time Lillian refused to go. No one forced her, but the road ahead was still difficult.

As a result of the war, many items were three times as expensive as they had been before. The orphanage was now home to 900 children, and there was a constant need for food and clothing. By September 1941, the children’s clothes were in tatters and they had only a half cup of lentils for each dinner. Everyone in the country was suffering.

One evening, Lillian said they would suspend all schoolwork and chores for 24 hours, so that everyone could pray for the situation. The children prayed until 2:30 a.m. and Lillian and the staff continued longer. In the morning a telegram arrived. It read, “Miss Trasher, please visit me tomorrow for lunch. U.S. Ambassador Kirk.”

She took the midnight train to Cairo and arrived just before noon. It turned out that a Red Cross ship carrying relief supplies nearing Greece had been ordered back to Alexandria to await further orders. It was feared the ships in harbor there could be attacked, so the ship was ordered to head out to sea, dump its cargo overboard, and flee the region. A young Scottish sailor begged the captain to unload rather than dump the cargo. He had known about Lillian’s work. Finally, the captain agreed and the cargo was unloaded into a warehouse. “Tell me, Miss Trasher, do you have a need for food and clothing at this time?” Reader, I was ready to get up and shout “Hallelujah” when I read this part!

“What did you say?” asked Lillian. Two hours later, she and the ambassador and a Red Cross representative were looking at crate after crate of supplies. The boxes stretched on as far as Lillian could see. “How much is here?” she asked. The Red Cross representative pulled out a paper and began reading: “Two thousand six hundred dresses. Nineteen hundred handmade sweaters. One thousand nine hundred pairs of boys’ pants. Three thousand eight hundred blankets, Eleven hundred towels. Seven hundred kegs of powdered milk, One thousand two hundred sacks of rice . . .” etc. etc.

Lillian felt grateful, but was already wondering how she would get it home. The ambassador said, “Miss Trasher, it would be my privilege to pay all of the delivery costs. We will send the supplies you need immediately by truck, and the rest can go by train. How would that be?” Are there tears in your eyes, yet? I’m sure Lillian’s eyes were watery.

Of course there was loud cheering when Lillian told the news to the children. And then came the trucks. Everyone was eager to help unpack the supplies. How wonderful the children looked in their new outfits.

This was the high point of the war years, never to be forgotten. In 1945 when the war ended, most of the children were still wearing clothes from the Kassandra Louloudis.

An epidemic of cholera hit and how Lillian weathered this one is amazing, too. A boy was brought in with the disease, but the Lord protected and not one orphan came down with the illness.

The next years brought more expansion and recognition, but Lillian never lost sight of her goal. She wanted to give the poorest children the opportunity to grow and flourish in a Christian family environment. She loved spending time with her grown children. When she would visit, word would get around and the house would fill with young couples and their children, many named Trasher and Lillian in her honor. There were college graduates, preachers, missionaries, teachers, an airplane designer, and many others.

A biography was published, a short movie made, and another trip to the United States. This trip was cut short because of health problems. She had always had trouble with high blood pressure and a weak heart. Finally, she returned home. In early October 1961, she was hospitalized. On December 17, two new babies were taken in at the home just as Lillian, with her sister Jennie at her side, passed on to her heavenly reward. At 74 years of age, her body had just worn out.

A biographer asked her, “Tell me, what is the thing, greater than any other, you are trying to do in Egypt?”

Lillian thought for a moment and said, “For these forty years I have been trying to live in such a way as to pass something tangible to a new generation. I would like to pass on a disposition of Christian character. I live before these orphans every day the way I want them to live in their home in the land of Egypt. I try to show them how to smile, even in the shadows. Every hour of the day and night I do my best to live before them the life I want them to live before their fellow men. I try to transmit to them a life, to know that if they can trust God, everything will be all right. I do my best to teach them to have faith in God so that they will be able to face life with a heart of trust. I try to pass on to them a power, a power of prayer, a power with fellow men that they may teach others how to find the true way.”

Lillian did a lot of things well. She worked at including the local people in her work for the children. She took in disabled and disfigured children that no one wanted. Her constant method of providing for the work was a relentless trust in God to provide and sustain her. She passed that on to the residents. Her desire to see a great spiritual revival was realized. Many of her boys went on to evangelistic and church planting work. Not only were orphans loved and cared for, they were educated, taught skills, and learned how to work and love others.

Lillian related about the revival in 1926, “After crying and praying like the sound of many waters, they began to testify. One little Mohammedan boy got up on top of the bench and testified saying, ‘In my village I was a sinner but now God has saved me and if I was cut in little pieces I would not serve idols’ . . . Souls are being saved.”

By the 1930’s other Protestant groups were retrenching, but Lillian gained even more support from the churches in the states and the locals. She was able to train several generations of locals to lead and minister in the work of the Lord in Egypt. A large part of her success was because she earned the trust and understanding of locals and officials at the highest levels. Her life was a great example of serving the Lord and others and not even concerned about herself.

Her funeral was the largest ever seen in Assiout. Many of her children came home to honor her. The Lillian Trasher Orphanage, run by her former orphans, is still in operation today and recently celebrated it’s 100th birthday. Egypt has a Lillian Trasher day to honor her. Her legacy is large. She was once asked about the secret of her success. She said, “There isn’t any secret, I just stayed! I did not quit. I stayed with the work God gave me to do.”

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? If Lillian Trasher had only saved one little girl from a painful death and she had become a child of God in every true sense of the word, she would have done enough. But why stop there? Trusting her heavenly Father each step of the way, Lillian Trasher worked to her dying day to love the unloved and introduce their hearts and souls to the Lord. He blessed her in ways that we can only dream of!



30. Tracts: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
June 20, 2014

I have just added substantial content to the essay in the “Evangelism” section entitled, Tracts – Choosing and Using. The additions include some “real life street stories,” additional rationale for distributing tracts and how to do so wisely, and most notably . . . the last section entitled Tracts I designed especially for college students. This includes click-on files for the six tracts I have designed and am using on college campuses, plus a bit of explanation behind the design of each tract.

Please click on the link above and let me know what you think. If you have any good tracting stories from your own experience I would love to hear them. And . . . if exceptional (and believable!) . . . I might just put one into the essay, with your permission, of course.



31. What are revivals all about?
July 1, 2014

“Revivals” are a significant part of the culture of both evangelicals (gellies) and Independent Fundamental Baptists (fundies). Some of the most famous heroes of the modern Christian faith (since about 1700 A.D.) have been evangelists whose ministries were punctuated by revivals. Success in mass evangelism is a sure ticket to getting your biography written. Some of the “greatest” evangelists in the Western world . . . in the opinion of many students of Christian history . . . have included John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, John R. Rice, and Billy Graham. (I’m sure you have your own favorites.)

Billy Sunday

I put “greatest” in quotation marks because we cannot be sure that what is great in the eyes of man is also great in the eyes of God. I also put “revivals” in quotes because in many cases we cannot be sure that new spiritual life was both widespread and long lasting. Furthermore, the New Testament pattern for the propagation of the Gospel and the establishment of local area churches is not in sync with revivalism and / or mass evangelism.

Just what is a revival? Whether on a small or a large scale, if complacent Christians get stirred up and if lost people in the community repent and get saved, that would qualify. Mass evangelistic campaigns may or may not be associated with revivals. The real marks of revival are demonstrated in (1) Christian lives that exhibit holiness, love for the Lord and His work, and love among the brethren, and (2) the Gospel is spread by the now fervent Christians and lost sinners are converted.

Walk through the book of Acts. Pentecost was a spectacular event, unique in many ways, but more importantly served to scatter Gospel seed and personal evangelists throughout much of the world. In the decades to follow we see many evidences of 1-2-1 evangelism and the establishment of local area churches. Each of these took the form of a unified network of house churches, led by a collaborative group of elders. For example, we get the impression of one local area church network at Ephesus led by many elders. We never see clergy / laity distinctions and we see no reference to any single “Senior Pastor” in any of the epistles, except possibly for the despicable example of Diotrephes in John’s 3rd letter. Note especially the commendations from Paul to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thess Ch. 1. This was a vibrantly evangelistic church, and the sense is that the entire body of believers was committed to evangelistic outreach.

And so it is throughout church history. The Gospel spreads despite persecution, individual to individual (121), hamlet by hamlet, and nation by nation. In fact, persecution purifies the churches and fuels their motivation to reach out to the next village over the hill. For centuries during the Middle Ages, we see the Waldenses under severe persecution, yet holding steadfast to the Faith, and sending peddler-evangelists throughout Europe. We see this today, particularly in China, as tens of millions of believers multiply and spread the word even to the “closed” mission fields under despotic Muslim rule.

So what about revivals and mass evangelism? There is much foolishness in the fundie culture, wherein churches actually schedule revivals annually! What they call a “revival meeting” is typically a week-long event in which a traveling professional “evangelist” preaches a series of sermons to stir up the complacent church membership and to provoke lost sinners to come to the “altar” to pray a sinner’s prayer and “get saved.” The pattern is entrenched due to a habitually complacent membership since, as laity, their “church life” is experienced primarily in the pew, passively enduring the sermons of their clergy.

A few years ago I visited a small Baptist church during one of their twice annual revival meetings. I asked one of the senior members, “Why do you have two per year? Didn’t the last one work?” He had no response, never considering that before. I also asked him how active his church was in reaching out to the lost in the community via personal evangelism. They weren’t. I asked if this was likely to change after the current week of revival. It wasn’t. In a lengthy, private discussion with the “senior pastor,” I asked him why he spends his life in this manner. He responded with frankness, confessing that he was always hopeful that one or two might get stirred up and make their lives count for the Lord. So he went through the motions of the mind-numbing fundie program, month by month and year by year, for the sake of the one or two. Hmm. Why not give up on the 100+ walking dead and just devote your life to the two? Answer. There is no paycheck in that.

Such “revivals” are also intended to convert the not-yet-saved in the congregation and to provoke the membership to bring lost friends to the meeting so that the heavy-hitting evangelist can bring them to their knees. These intentions are faulty. If you know a church member who acts unconverted, then what could be better than a personal appeal from those around her? Also, many who respond to “altar calls” have been there / done that before, giving evidence that Gospel teaching / preaching in that church is unclear or in error. (p.s. Just how un – New testament is an “altar,” anyway?) Finally, dependence on a paid professional “heavy hitter” violates the purpose of discipleship, which is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, especially the ministry of reconciliation (evangelism).

Billy Graham in Yankee Stadium - 1957

The worst modern abuses are in “city-wide campaigns,” most famously by Billy Graham from the 1940s through the 1990s. In BG’s early years, his Gospel message was often Scriptural, even featuring the necessity for repentance from sins. (Most modern “Gospel” messages neglect repentance and judgment and rather extol the advantages of entering into a “relationship with Jesus,” simply by believing a few facts.) Yet despite a sound message, multitudes responded as stony-ground hearers, with no root . . . false converts, but now walking through life with a false hope for Heaven. The frightening statistics on false conversion from such campaigns have been well-documented, notably by David Cloud and Ray Comfort.

One simple explanation: even if the Gospel message was sound, a sensitive first-time hearer is likely to respond with some interest, but with his heart and will unconverted. Then a counselor is assigned to him, helping him through a “sinner’s prayer” and referring him to a generic church. Many of the churches that teamed up with Billy Graham were apostate. His campaign’s participating churches included both liberal Protestant and even Roman Catholic churches. And so a “new convert” gets reassured and slurped up by a church culture which never challenges the validity of his conversion. On the other hand, if the Gospel message is unsound, as is the case currently with Franklin Graham (BG’s son) and many other gelly and fundie evangelists, then the lost have no chance at all.

Are there some real converts from Billy Graham crusades? Of course. I’ve met some and they are genuine born again believers. God is gracious. But there is no excuse for the multitudes deceived, two-fold more the children of Hell than they were before. I’ve met them, too.

Men going to a meeting during the Welsh revival

What about some of the old-time revivals, particularly the famous ones like the Welsh revival of the early 1900s? I’m glad you asked, because that’s where I really want to camp. Namely, what about the real revivals, in which many got saved and there was no question but that the power of the Holy Spirit was manifest?

We recently read a terrific book, Grace, Grit & Gumption – Spiritual Revival in South Wales, by Geraint Fielder, Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, 2004. The book features the evangelistic work of John Pugh and the brothers, Seth and Frank Joshua, men who were clearly filled with the Holy Spirit. They preached in the streets and under tents, and eventually built meeting halls just to hold the crowds that responded to the Gospel. It was the work of these men and others who laid the groundwork for the more famous and spectacular revival of 1905 associated with the name of Evan Roberts. But 1905 was merely the top story of a spiritual edifice who foundations were laid in the 1880s.

Seth Joshua

What qualified Seth Joshua, for example, to be an instrument for revival? He was holy in his personal life and fearless in challenging the most wicked and dangerous elements of his society. His Gospel message was pure, despite his church culture’s Calvinistic theology . . . namely, he “forgot” his Calvinism when he pled passionately for men and women to repent and trust Christ. He cared for souls. And he never quit. He was the real deal. The Holy Spirit could trust him with power.

The revivals of this era were real, but did not have staying power. Why not? This is one of the historic mysteries associated with genuine revivals. Why do they start? Why in a particular place? How is it that some individuals seem to be key players? Why do the revivals fade? Must they fade?

The traditional Calvinist view on revivals is that they occur when God sovereignly ordains that they occur. Period. And that revivals therefore are the principal means for bringing the lost to the Savior. The traditional fundie view is that revivals can happen anywhere at any time. All we have to do is pray hard enough or give enough or try enough . . . or simply schedule them!

I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is a bit more complicated. First of all, the NT pattern is clear. The Great Commission and local area house church planting is God’s plan. Yet people can be reached in diverse ways, but there is a price to be paid when God’s plan is neglected. Here’s a hint from the book:

”Pugh’s plan was to awaken all the churches to their duties to evangelize their own areas. He never intended to found and perpetuate a separate organization within the church, but to infuse a spirit of life into the churches and rekindle evangelizing passion for the salvation of those outside. To do this he saw straight away that he must enlist the interest of ministerial students at Trevecka and Bala Colleges.”

In the long term, however, that couldn’t – and didn’t – work. It wasn’t just that the traditional churches at that time and place, Presbyterian and Anglican and Methodist, were cold and dead. It was the very pulpit / pew, clergy / laity system that insured death over the long term. Like so many other evangelistic campaigns that grew cold over time, this one was doomed, too. Sustained evangelism can only occur with sustained discipleship, whereby all believers are disciples of Christ who minister to each other and reach out to the lost. All disciples preach. All preachers are disciples – brothers and sisters to each other, not clergy to lord it over a passive flock.

Welsh revival tent meeting -- 1905

The “Forward Movement” founded by these men had the good sense to avoid reverence for buildings, understanding that buildings are mere meeting places to facilitate ministry. Yet they retained the mindset that “men of God” were necessary to sustain the work. The Biblical strategy would have been to grow all men and women under their ministry to engage in ministry. One of the tragedies of an anti-Biblical approach is burnout . . .

”Pugh, ever more busy, began to show increasing signs of exhaustion. ‘Even ministers of good things,’ says Richard Hooker, ‘are like torches, a light to others, waste and destruction to themselves.’ ‘Preaching,’ said Joseph Parker, ‘is self murder.’”

Just this week I listened to a couple of pastors on the radio complain about the burdens of the ministry, the long hours, the late night calls requesting a hospital visit, etc. It’s their own fault! Quit defying God and train others to minister. Don’t rob the saints of their God-given privileges to grow as they minister to others!

As an aside, I just finished a book revealing a similar pattern in the 1750s revival in Cornwall, the southwesternmost county of England. The driving force was an Anglican minister, Samuel Walker, the “curate” of the parish in the town of Truro. Over the course of about 10 years, hundreds were genuinely converted, evidenced by much spiritual fruit, and a dramatic shift from worldliness to holiness in the local culture. Walker was contemporary with John Wesley, and the two enjoyed considerable fellowship and correspondence, despite dramatic differences in theology (Walker was a Calvinist and Wesley was not!) and polity (Walker worked hard to entice Wesley to give up the idea of “lay preachers,” insisting that ordination by “mother Church” was essential.)

Yet Walker had a great passion for souls, preaching against sin and exhorting the lost to repent and trust Christ. But Walker, as a typical establishment clergyman, took on too much. Rather than effectively disciple his new converts to share fully in ministry, he worked himself literally to death, his health breaking completely at age 46. What a waste . . . due to disobedience to Scripture. After his death, his church split, with some becoming separatists . . . but no one had the idea to embrace New Testament polity on the local church. So more clergy were hired and the fires burned out.

Back to Wales . . . The most historically noted events in Wales occurred in 1904-1905. A young coal miner, Evan Roberts, became the focus of powerful prayer, powerful 121 witnessing, and the conversion of thousands. Taverns were closed down for lack of business and the police had little to do as righteousness overwhelmed wickedness on a scale rarely seen in world history. Yet Evan Roberts burned out in about 18 months and became a recluse for the rest of his life. “The Revival” became “the thing” instead of a carefully sustained program of discipleship based on New Testament principles.

Evan Roberts

Seth Joshua and others came to see a distinction between mass evangelism and revival. Their evangelistic campaigns bore fruit consistently. Seth concluded that in evangelism, man was the subject and the doer, dependent of course on God to give the increase. But revival was manifested when the saints became focused on God and yearned for fellowship with Him. I see this distinction as unimportant in comparison with the necessity to sustain both evangelism and discipleship. If you see evangelism as an EVENT and revival fervor as an EVENT, then it is natural to expect the EVENT to end.

The New Testament pattern is designed for continual growth and sustained fervor . . . not ecstatic fervor, which is characteristic of so many phony revivals, but fervor embedded in a growing maturity. It is noteworthy that many of the genuine revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries began with all sincerity, but became corrupted by emotionalism and strange behavior. This occurred during the New England “Great Awakening” and occasionally in the camp meeting revivals of Baptists and Methodists in the century to follow. In the last century, such phony revivals have been rampant, especially within Pentecostalism, featuring many faked or Satanic “signs and wonders.” Such events start and end in corruption.

In D. L. Moody’s campaigns he was careful to use the churches to enlist many “lay members” to engage in personal evangelism, not just bringing the lost to the meetings, but exhorting the lost in personal (121) work before, during, and after the meetings. Charles Spurgeon insured that many of his church members were alert to deal 121 with the lost who visited his church services. Billy Sunday worked to establish “clubs” in the churches to meet regularly in the months after a city-wide campaign to sustain evangelistic fervor and enlist new converts in the work. But all of these efforts ultimately enjoyed short life spans because they were tied to pulpit / pew, clergy / laity systems.

If you haven’t already read it, please look up my 11/1/2013 blog, “T4T: An Explosion of House Churches,” in the 2013 Blog Archive. The Chinese experience provides a good (and rare) example of the NT pattern actually attempted in this present age.

D. L. Moody

Grace, Grit & Gumption recounts a revival at a Bible college that was so powerful that the administration decided to suspend classes and exams, to allow students to devote themselves to prayer and ministry. While some within the college hoped for long-lasting spiritual benefits, others outside the college noted that some students did not return to their studies, perhaps due to a sudden realization that seminary training was disconnected from God’s true work. It was also thought that the revival brought some to realize that theological modernism was infiltrating the seminaries. Modernism . . . skepticism . . . unbelief . . . have always been lethal to spiritual growth for the Christian and even more deadly to those who have not been born again. At any rate, the collegiate revival was short-lived.

I recall reading about student-led revivals at Oberlin College, cited in the memoirs of Charles Finney. Those revivals lasted for months and were repeated over the course of some years. A personal friend told me about a student revival at Wheaton College in the later 1940s. The pattern is always the same. The Holy Spirit stirs many up, some or many lost are converted, but without a growing local church network – with shared discipleship responsibilities – the embers burn out.

A commentator on the Welsh revival wrote in 1906 . . .

”For eighteen months, chapel life all over Wales was galvanised by spontaneous Bible reading and prayer meetings and revivalist passion. Evan Roberts . . . had become a major national influence, one to whom even Lloyd-George had to pay obeisance . . . What the revival had done was to provide countless men and women with a new hope and comfort in the face of brutalising conditions. The cause of temperance in particular made immense advances . . . Social life became that much gentler and more civilized. Debts were paid; family feuds were healed overnight.”

But by 1914 all the main denominations were recording decreases. The impact was unique in the Western world, but temporary. It didn’t last even a generation. If the first century Christians had practiced modern methods, there wouldn’t be many believers in this present world.

When Frank Joshua died in 1920, his brother Seth despaired to find anyone suitable to step into Frank’s pastoral and evangelistic responsibilities. Frank had one thing very right: “I am not a theologian, never having been to college, but I preach Christ crucified.” Yes. Just right. But the brothers, along with their contemporaries, were irrationally wedded to the “Roman Catholic” system of seminaries, clergy / laity, salaries, and facilities. They missed the simple NT pattern of discipleship for all.

By 1924 Seth railed against the destructive impact of modernism on the spiritual life of Wales.

”Can you blame the people for shrinking from the cold, bloodless touch of other substitutes? The people are sick and tired of the present day attempts to dress up the gospel in new clothes. A new tribe of theological tailors have wearied the people by forcing the gospel to be a quick change artist. Who would think of dressing the lily? Its naked beauty is its divine glory. It is those who lose faith in the gospel as the power of God who fly to new experiments. ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel’ is still the standing orders for the church.”

How prescient, even unto the present day, with entertainment-mad megachurches and “ministries” reduced to supplying merely physical needs . . . shoes for the orphans, turkey dinners for the homeless, etc. The modern social gospel is nothing new. It’s always Satan’s substitute for the new birth. It’s far better from Hell’s point of view to give someone a turkey sandwich than to introduce him to the Son of God. The Welsh revival was spiritually destitute in less than a generation as the churches sought to “do good” in man’s eyes rather than to be obedient to the Great Commission . . . as we see today throughout evangelicalism. And please recall that the Great Commission includes “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Yes, The Great Commission includes discipleship. But modern evangelists neither understand nor obey that command!

The following generation of leaders thought they had learned a valuable lesson, but they got it wrong. Seth Joshua preached it: “The world owes everything to the church and the church owes everything to revival.” Martin Lloyd-Jones embraced this idea as he became one of the leaders of evangelicalism in the decades ahead. He believed that revival was prerequisite to church vitality and this necessarily required Spirit-filled preaching. But this idea led to a focus on ordained professional evangelists and mass evangelism, once again at the expense of Biblical discipleship.

In America today, fundie churches tend to exceed gelly churches in evangelistic fervor. But fundies are in decline. One reason, of course, is their commitment to “man-of-God-in-the-pulpit” worship, which prevents Biblical discipleship. A spectacular example of decay occurred within the last generation in Tennessee. Over the 40-year course of his “Senior Pastoral” leadership, Lee Roberson built Highland Park Baptist into a fundie megachurch, and established Tennessee Temple University as a thriving institution. Roberson’s emphasis was personal evangelism, launching a huge bus ministry and legions of door-to-door “soul-winners” into the community. Yes, there were false converts, but many souls were converted as the Gospel was spread in diligent 121 work.

But when Roberson retired in the 1980s, his successors held neither to fundie convictions nor to evangelistic fervor. The church and the college now are mere shadows of their former selves. Why? Everything depended on the “man of God.” There wasn’t enough spiritual maturity among the “laity” to insure continuity. After all, the new “man of God” is to be obeyed without question. If he’s a problem . . . you’ve got a problem! Any grumpy layman can just go find another church . . . in the same town. This is not God’s plan! Now please understand that I have no sympathy with the travails of fundies. But I do find it ironic that they have sown the seeds of their own destruction, by failing in discipleship.

How Satan so easily deceives generation after generation! Men love to organize schools, award credentials, anoint clergy, and preach to large crowds. Of course. But mass evangelism is persistently more dangerous than 121 work. Why? In 121 work you can probe, ask questions, read body language, overcome stumbling blocks, and get eyeball-to-eyeball attention. You simply can’t do that with a crowd. You can’t preach as effectively and they can’t hear as effectively.

The Great Commission inexorably starts with the individual. Humble yourself. Learn your Bible. Live a holy life. Love and encourage those around you. Pray for wisdom. Pray for God’s help. Pray for power. Preach the Gospel to that fellow over there. Pray that God stays on his trail. Find a like-minded Christian for fellowship. Encourage each other.

What if that lost fellow won’t listen to you? Then give him a Gospel tract. What if he won’t accept it? Then look for another fellow. You’ll find one. Just find a sidewalk and go for a walk. What if it’s hard to find like-minded Christians? Well, it will be hard! If a believer is content in any American gelly or fundie church, then he’s not looking for New Testament discipleship or fellowship, is he? It’s very likely that his church is also cold to 121 evangelism. And most of the 121 work that does occur is not Biblical.

Will God find someone in this generation . . . in the West . . . qualified to be an instrument for revival? I doubt it. How about you? Do right and don’t quit and wait on the Lord . . . perhaps He will do a work in you and around you. But if not . . . do you have a better plan?

If God puts you in the middle of a revival, don’t forget His views on discipleship. And please let me know about it. I promise not to get in the way. I just want to come and watch.


32. CMBR and the Cult of the Big Bang
July 15, 2014

This blog is now posted as
Educational Note #11.


33. Jonathan Edwards: Greatest American Theologian?
August 1, 2014

I have intended for some time to try to get a handle on Jonathan Edwards, although many would liken such an effort to that of a flea trying to consume an elephant. Well, one bite at a time. Edwards, an 18th century New England pastor, was an extraordinarily prolific writer. He was gifted to the point of obsession with a passion to study. He articulated philosophical and theological arguments as well or better than anyone of his generation. The question is whether he was both right and helpful in his work.

Calvinists revere Edwards. Many of his arguments and much of his phraseology is evident in Calvinist preaching today. Some consider JE to be the greatest American theologian in history, if not the greatest theologian ever. But those would be diehard Calvinists. It doesn’t matter how well spoken you are if your doctrine is heretical, of course.

I will not be doing an exhaustive study of JE in this blog. JE’s work and its consequences are indeed “elephantine.” What I have done is to read carefully a fairly comprehensive biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life”, by George Marsden, 2003. In 505 (fine print) pages, Marsden works hard to provide an empathetic analysis of JE’s life in the American context of the first half of the 18th century. Marsden’s bio is careful and thoughtful. For my purposes in this blog, I’ll trust Marsden that he got the facts right. I assure you that the biographer is not an Edwards critic. I am, however.

On many subjects, Edwards was clearly a deep thinker. Much of his preaching and writing was aimed at encouraging people to step back and to see the big picture . . . lift the eyes up from the drudgery of everyday life and glory in who God is and what He has done. The very last paragraph of the bio is a decent summary by Marsden of JE’s overarching philosophy:

”Yet Edwards’ solution – a post-Newtonian statement of classic Augustinian themes – can be breathtaking. God’s trinitarian essence is love. God’s purpose in creating a universe in which sin is permitted must be to communicate that love to creatures. The highest or most beautiful love is sacrificial love for the undeserving. Those – ultimately the vast majority of humans – who are given eyes to see that ineffable beauty will be enthralled by it. They will see the beauty of a universe in which unsentimental love triumphs over real evil. They will not be able to view Christ’s love dispassionately but rather will respond to it with their deepest affections. Truly seeing such good, they will have no choice but to love it. Glimpsing such love, they will be drawn away from their preoccupations with the gratifications of their most immediate sensations. They will be drawn from their self-centered universes. Seeing the beauty of the redemptive love of Christ as the true center of reality, they will love God and all that he has created.”

There is much to appreciate in the philosophy above. Tragically, it was embedded within a strictly Calvinist framework. And so we see unavoidable contradictions. JE believed that logic, reason, and experience would compel the worldly man to respond to God’s love, but TULIP says otherwise. JE extolled the love and grace of Christ’s redemptive work and pled with people to reciprocate their affections, but in Calvinism only election and irresistible grace are effectual. In short, many of JE’s sentiments fit beautifully within a Biblical worldview, but in Calvinism they can only produce confusion and frustration, as multitudes have experienced over the last few centuries . . . since the Protestant pope reigned in 16th century Geneva.

Jonathan Edwards was immersed in a Calvinist family and a Calvinist culture from his youth. His father and grandfather, both influential Puritan preachers, were powerful and often controlling influences in his life. Edwards identified with the aristocracy and the clergy, the movers and shakers of British life in colonial America. He was ambitious to publish internationally, believing that his perspective ought to have a wide audience.

Jonathan Edwards

JE’s life, his personality, and his relationships were complex and have been the study of much research since his time. Nevertheless, I will be bold to draw some conclusions. First, that he was not the brilliantly independent thinker that many hold him to be. His writing was wordy, although not atypical for his period and for the theological discourse of his time. He loved to spin similes and metaphors and literary devices which would be impressive to those not so skilled in writing. But his rabidly Calvinist worldview does not result in the transmission of much value to our generation.

Second, that he was not balanced . . . not mature . . . as a Christian who devoted his life to ministry. His austere life style left him in weak health on many occasions, and his addiction to scholarship produced insensitivity to others. This cost him dearly, including the loss of his pastorate just a few years after leading his church in “revival” as part of the “Great Awakening.”

Third, that his devotion to traditional Roman Catholic / Protestant forms, such as a clear distinction between clergy and laity, the primacy of the pulpit, and a gross misunderstanding of Biblical discipleship, resulted in a severe “cooling down” from whatever spiritual fire was generated in the local revivals.

Fourth, that despite JE’s great concern about false conversion, and doing much thinking and writing to evaluate just what constitutes evidence for regeneration, he was guilty of producing false converts and hindering others from seeking true Scriptural salvation.

But let’s get into some specifics in his life to support the “fighting words” above . . .

In his youth (about age 18) as he put it, he was “full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he please; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine.” I have met a number of Calvinists over the years whose conscience once recoiled at Unconditional Election, but “got over it” after years and years of Reformed preaching and studying the works of legendary theologians. One fellow told me it took him 20 years to “get comfortable” with Election.

Such experiences indicate how much work is required to overturn such sensible and Biblical doctrines as espoused in John 3:16, John 6:37b, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9 . . . and many others, that “whosoever” may choose to repent and to trust Christ. But the adult JE viewed his youthful views as those of a rebellious spirit, perhaps due to resistance to parental authority. He had wanted to trust God, but could not bring himself to submit to such a tyrant. But then he had a breakthrough. “Suddenly” he was convinced that God was just in “eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure.” In later years he remembered when the breakthrough occurred, but never could explain how he had convinced himself. Yet this is consistent with the experiences of many modern Calvinists who, I believe, eventually become so familiar with TULIP that they get comfortable with it. Oh, that we would come to Christ as children, as the Lord Himself instructed in Matthew 18:3-4 . . . and then stay humble, seeking illumination from God’s word rather than from Reformed theologians. You could never convince a child that Calvinist election is consistent with a loving God.

What helped Jonathan validate his breakthrough was a deeply rapturous experience shortly thereafter. Although he had doubts whether he could trust such experiences, because he knew that he had been fooled before, such emotional outpourings would play a significant role in the key events of later years.

For a time the young JE revelled in a new sensitivity to God’s created beauty, His love, His sweetness, and His glory. These new exhilarations came and went, but became the object of his desires throughout his life. Yes, in some ways Edwards was a mystic, albeit an unusual mystic also devoted to logic and Biblical scholarship. Also unusual in that his personal narratives revealed desperate struggles to abhor sins and live a holy life in thought, word, and deed.

But where is the simplicity of the Gospel in all this? Edwards’ early struggle against the doctrines of his youth, his desperation to find and trust God, his (modern) Pentecostal-like experiences, and his revels in those experiences comprise a picture very different from that of the Biblical Gospel. A lost sinner must recognize that he is guilty under the law, humble himself, repent, trust Christ and what He did on the Cross, and be born again (that’s God’s part – regeneration). As a new creature, the born again believer is to humbly grow and serve, encourage other believers, and preach the Gospel to the lost. JE’s experiences and mindset do not conform to the Biblical model.

Edwards lived as an ascetic, resolved “to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking,” producing an emaciated appearance and health issues. He literally kept score of what he thought were evidences of God’s grace in his life, literally counting the good and the bad and evaluating month by month trends. He worked at “forcing upon myself religious thoughts.” He debated with himself about whether he ought to ever delight in anything that fell short of a religious purpose. He regularly oscillated from spiritual peaks to dark valleys based on his self-evaluations. Such a mindset of religious works doubtless contributed to his strict standards for evaluating the validity of conversion in others and whether some were worthy to be part of his church in later years. I note here that when someone is out of balance in his personal life, his philosophies may be dubious.

Like many other Calvinists, JE worried about whether he was truly regenerate, whether he was truly “trusting and relying on Jesus Christ, so distinctly and plainly, as has been described by the divines.” And so he would resolve “to observe rather more of meekness, moderation and temper, in disputes.” Yet no amount of fervor or discipline could give assurance of salvation without the “true marks of conversion.” Jonathan was worried that his own experiences did not measure up to the standards expressed by the Reformed lights of the past.

In this we see how Calvinism leads the thoughtful individual into continual doubts about his own salvation. Has the Devil fooled me? Am I truly regenerate? But there are still sins in my life! Is there sufficient evidence of the new birth? I should work harder to demonstrate fruits of conversion! And so we have a works-based salvation. Once again, where is the simplicity of the Gospel? If I were to doubt my salvation, my solution is not to determine to work harder. It would be to cling to the Cross, humbling myself and trusting Christ! Yes, we should examine ourselves regarding the fruits of a born again life. But as in Ephesians 2:8-10 and Titus 2:11-14 and Titus 3:5-8, those fruits are yielded after salvation. To have eternal life I don’t seek fruits. I seek Christ!

What did JE’s typical day look like, once established in a pastorate, married and with children? He would rise at 4 or 5 am to allow 13 hours in study, interspersed with prayers, family prayers, and meals. He saw his devotion to study and writing as his principal service to God, employing his best gifts. Therefore, he declined to make pastoral calls on his parishioners, as New England clergy normally did. He wasn’t good at small talk, but welcomed the opportunity to counsel anyone on spiritual needs in his study.

But where is discipleship in all this? Equipping the saints for Biblical ministry does not come from passive pulpit / pew lectures. In this traditional yet anti-Biblical church culture there is clearly only one “man of God.” And where is the evangelism? Yes, JE did have a heart to get the Gospel out, as he supported efforts to reach the Indians, but there is no evidence of personal evangelism in his usual daily life.

JE joined the Calvinist fight against “Arminians,” which are defined then as now by those in Christendom who disagree with Calvinists. (In contrast, for example, I’m not an Arminian, even though I abhor Calvinism.) In his first Boston sermon (age 27), the week of the Harvard commencement, JE attacked “Arminianism” in his discourse entitled, “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence.” He argued that no one should have a glimmer of a thought that salvation could be partly of his own doing. His sermon was published and helped to establish JE as part of the New England Calvinistic establishment. It was a good career move.

Northampton today

In his Northampton, (western) Massachusetts congregation, he often preached against the sin of envy. No one could miss the implications. Politics and religion were completely intertwined in the New England culture. The appointed rulers and the wealthy and the clergy intended to stay on top of the economic and cultural pyramid. Agitators who sought more rights or freedom or political power for the poor farmers and small scale tradesmen had better worry about their salvation. In all this I see Edwards as a very ordinary fellow who sides with the powerful who grant the privileges. Nothing unusual, but also nothing heroic . . . no principled Biblical stand against corruption and injustice.

Edwards’ pulpit work for several years at Northampton produced significant results in 1734. Single young men and women in their teens and early twenties gradually became less rebellious, less “frolicsome,” and more attentive in services. Edwards enlisted men from several neighborhoods to have regular “meetings with heads of households” to establish moral authority over the town. JE was in the place of Moses, delegating responsibilities to “clan” leaders. The effort worked, as many embraced their moral and spiritual responsibilities more seriously. A turning point occurred when one young man died suddenly. Edwards used this event to press upon the young people the fragility of the “bloom of youth.” He argued, “How unreasonable is it for one who is so much like the grass and flowers of the field . . . to spend away the prime of his opportunity in levity and vain mirth in inconsideration and pursuit of carnal and sensual delights and pleasures.”

The lethal impact of Calvinist theology was revealed, I believe, in the account of the death of a young married woman. As her illness developed she was distressed over the state of her soul. But by the time she died she “seemed to have satisfying evidences of God’s saving mercy . . . so that she died very full of comfort, in a most earnest and moving manner warning and counseling others.” So Calvinistic. Where is the Gospel in this? Rather than examine herself, confess her sins, repent, and trust Christ, she looked for evidences of perseverance. But that’s all the Calvinist can do is to hope for evidence and comfort, since in that empty theology there is nothing an individual can DO to be saved. In TULIP a lost sinner cannot choose to repent and trust, but can only hope that she has been given grace.

The small neighborhood meetings instituted by Edwards were an occasional Puritan tradition, meant to foster prayer and the development of the “laity.” This would have been a good step toward a truly Biblical church structure, if not short-lived. And if not under the perpetual control of the ordained clergy.

JE’s sermon, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” is a reflection of his understanding of a genuine Christian experience. The indwelling Holy Spirit enables the believer to appreciate spiritual light from God, to experience the communication of God’s love, like the “difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.” Or, like “the difference between believing a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty.” Such experience produces holiness and confirms true conversion . . . This is the “intuitive and immediate evidence” that one has encountered the divine.

JE believed that in the “revival” of 1734 many in his congregation “clearly exemplified” the spiritual traits described in his sermon. He believed that the fires of the Holy Spirit were sweeping through the hearts of many of the people. But odd manifestations began to pop up, and would multiply as the “revival” spread through parts of New England. For example, a son refused his father’s command to cut some wood. The son went into the barn and made such a “hideous mourning and noise” that it alarmed the neighbors. Edwards was called to come over and calm the boy, but rather proceeded to ask the father to forgo his request because the son was under an extraordinary influence of the Spirit and “was getting through,” a phrase typically used for those experiencing conversion. Baloney.

Trouble arose in 1735 with the suicide of a respected citizen. Edwards tried to find spiritual explanations and applications, but struggled with melancholy himself. A wave of suicide fears swept the area, but there is no record as to whether any more people actually took their own lives. The rate of “conversions” fell to zero in the immediate vicinity, although there were still signs of life in other areas.

By 1736 the “revival” had clearly come to an end. Despite the evidence of his own eyes, JE wrote that the “awakening” was perhaps the foremost act of God since the Reformation. He admitted that there were doubtless wolves among the sheep, but insisted that “God has evidently made us a new people.” Frankly, I’m not impressed by his discernment. If men and women have been born again, and if they have been discipled properly, why not continued spiritual growth? Why not a growing evangelistic fervor to reach the lost everywhere? Were some people truly born again? Could be. But true spiritual fruit remains. The truly regenerate grow in wisdom and zeal. Short-lived emotional manifestations are not effective measures.

Edwards’ prose about the revival thrilled British readers. For example, “No town is America is so like a city set on a hill,” in reference to Augustine’s utopian vision. But the town had just built a new meetinghouse and tensions roiled over seating arrangements. Status ruled. The congregation decided to make wealth the number one criterion for choice seats, secondarily age, and then “men’s usefulness” in public service. Previously, age had ruled over wealth. Wow. Did they not ever read the book of James? And what of Matthew 23:6 . . . who is it that loves the chief seats in the synagogues? This is a town in revival?!?

By the late 1730s old patterns of greed, infighting, and youthful immorality had returned and Edwards knew it. He addressed the issues from the pulpit, challenging the hearers to examine their supposed salvations. Life went on.

Edwards got involved in a number of political disputes. He teamed up with “the establishment,” which included a number of powerful relatives in the clergy and in colonial government, to block the appointment of Robert Breck to a pastorate in western Massachusetts. Breck, you see, had revealed Arminian tendencies. Marsden asserts that all of JE’s instincts were hierarchical and that “he had no hesitation about wielding oligarchical power. The old familial Stoddard-Williams system for attempting to ensure orthodoxy, promote piety, and enforce social discipline was still in place. His place was as a bright up-and-coming junior member of that family oligarchy.” I bring this issue up merely to point out how ordinary was the character of Jonathan Edwards. Such ordinariness is no evidence for brilliant discernment.

In eschatology, JE took a fairly allegorical view. For example, he connected Constantine’s rule to the opening of the 6th seal in the book of Revelation. He believed that the recent “awakenings” were harbingers of the defeat of the antichrist (Rome’s pope) and the establisment of Christ’s kingdom on Earth. He thought that the discovery of America was providential and aimed at the undoing of Satan’s work in that “all the inhabitants of this new discovered world shall be brought over into the kingdom of Christ, as well as all the other ends of the earth.” JE believed that the slaying of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 referred to Reformation martyrs. He didn’t “get” the Tribulation, although many other scholars of his time did believe that such Scriptures referred to a great persecution yet to come. Not surprisingly, he affirmed infant baptism for children of regenerate members, which would be consistent with JE’s replacement theology, in which he viewed the “church” as taking over the covenants given to Israel. In short, Edwards was a Bible scholar who got much wrong.

JE had a Catholic / Protestant view of history. He saw great political events as keys to God’s plan. Correctly, he cited the Reformation as useful in diminishing the Pope’s power. I agree. As I see it, that’s the MAIN THING about the Reformation. Protestantism was and still is an illegitimate child of Rome. God’s main work has always been through small independent groups of humble Bible believers . . . who rarely produce the biographies and histories that fill the shelves of Christian libraries. In summary, JE missed the simplicity of pre-trib, pre-Millennial eschatology. His theology was dictated by his Calvinist upbringing, and not primarily by Scripture.

The other famous “awakening” grew from 1739 to 1742, and spread far along America’s coast. Rather than being instigated by local pastors, it was the preaching of George Whitefield (and others to follow) that produced fervor from the ground up. Edwards and Whitefield became friends, despite significant differences in personality and background. Edwards was the “establishment guy.” Whitefield had broken out of his Anglican establishment and was very much a rebel, even to challenging clergy whether they had been converted and therefore qualified for the pastorate.

George Whitefield preaching open air

In 1742 Jonathan’s wife, Sarah, began to experience weeks of “spiritual ecstasy,” sometimes leaping involuntarily in praise, sometimes collapsing through sheer joy. JE was elated. It fit his own views on the high spiritual standards to which mature Christians should aspire. Quite a number of people during this “awakening” had similar experiences, although some were bizarre and brought embarrassment to Edwards and other leaders. JE tried to distinguish between the godly and the devilish or the merely emotional, but this was difficult. Many insisted that such manifestations were a proper test for a true divine encounter. Much like Pentecostals today. Many, however, scoffed and demanded Biblical justification, much like Pentecostal critics today.

A young preacher, Samuel Hopkins, confided in Sarah that he feared that he was in a “Christless, graceless state.” Sarah told him that she had been praying for him, believing that he would “receive light and comfort” and “that God intended yet to do great things” by him. Once again, so Calvinistic. If a Calvinist doubts his salvation, he can only wait and hope for God to fix him. According to Marsden, Hopkins went on to become Edwards’ best-known successor and the leading theologian of the next generation.

Many New England households owned African slaves . . . including the Edwards family, who usually had one or two. No excuse. I repeat: No excuse. I don’t even want to expand on this. The author does, citing culture, history, blah, blah. All I can say regarding Edwards in this matter is . . . Pitiful. Edwards himself rationalized that African slavery produced goods and services that permeated the economy so that no one could completely avoid the benefits of slave labor. So owning a slave was just a matter of a degree slightly different from buying something tainted by association with the slave trade. Yep. That’s the argument that Edwards, the brilliant logician, used to justify himself.

The “revival” was done by about 1742. Edwards desperately tried to lock in the benefits by insititutionalizing moral reform, trying to get his people to sign pledges to seal their commitment to live right. That’s not Biblical discipleship and it didn’t work. JE didn’t understand discipleship as evidenced by his opposition to “lay” preachers. He insisted that lay preachers should never deliver spiritual speeches to a “room full of people, unless it be children, or those that are much your inferior.”

But this goes on today. In doing street evangelism, I’ve been challenged by a fundie pastor who insisted that I had no authority to do such work unless it was under the direction of an ordained “man of God.” Sigh.

1743 saw major schisms among the New England congregationalists. This was disturbing to them, but it did produce a new flock of separatists – Baptists – a handful heading toward North Carolina and provoking the biggest and most sustained revival ever seen in America. See America in Crimson Red by James Beller for the wonderful history.

Edwards then tried to derive lessons from seeing two revivals come and go. He wrote that merely intense spiritual experiences were not a good measure of saintliness: “Experience plainly shows, that it is not the degree of rapture and ecstasy (although it should be to the third heavens), but the nature and kind that must determine us in their favor.” Genuine raptures would not exhibit “noisy showy humility,” but rather “deep humiliation, brokenness of heart, poverty of spirit, . . . trembling reverence toward God . . . holiness of life . . .” etc. He made such points to his congregation and in his writings, trying to find the balance between the excesses that brought shame to the revivals and the coldness that characterized the life of many un-revived pastors and congregations. But it never seems to have occurred to him that any true revival should just be the beginning of a continually growing spiritual strength . . . the kind that spread the Gospel around the world in the book of Acts and seen today in the exploding house church movement of China.

By 1744 the old patterns of immorality were rampant in the youth of the town. As Edwards tried vainly to consolidate the revival’s gains, tensions and jealousies rose, including a salary dispute between JE and the town. Skipping over much detail, I’ll note that conflicts between pastor and people over personality, style, polity, and other issues resulted in his dismissal from the Northampton pastorate in 1750. The “city on a hill” had kicked out its prophet. Whose fault? Everyone’s. Pettiness abounded on both sides.

Marsden’s analysis of JE’s departure includes the following points: Edwards attempted to continue in the role of his forebears as the community’s authoritarian father and moral arbiter, especially as he tried to keep the lid on sexual immorality among the young. The kickback was severe. Interestingly, Marsden recognizes that JE’s perfectionist tendencies worked against him as he sought to build long term spiritual strength “on the inherently unstable sands of revival.” Indeed. The Biblical foundations must be true conversion based on a Biblical Gospel – which never seemed to be clear in the midst of mystical experiences and works-analysis – and long term discipleship.

Perhaps the most contentious events surrounded qualifications for the sacraments. JE went against the traditions of the previous generation in trying to tighten up the qualifications. Sadly, the battle was over the wrong issue. Infant baptism is unbiblical to start with.

JE’s next adventure was as a missionary to the Indians in a border community. Ironically, as with many Calvinists with a heart for evangelism, he earnestly pled for his hearers to come to Christ, while at the same time teaching TULIP. But his pleas were confused. In a letter to his son on his tenth birthday, shortly after the boy saw a close playmate die (an Indian lad), JE exhorted, “This is a loud call of God to you to prepare for death.” “Never give yourself any rest, unless you have good evidence that you are converted and become a new creature.” Once again, salvation by examination of works. Where is the plea to repent and believe?

Edwards wrote often to defend Calvinism and berate Arminians. On Calvinist sovereignty he offered the “greatest good” argument, which goes like this . . . Yes, there is much evil in the world. Yes, God is completely sovereign in the sense that he plans for and controls everything. But the end result is the best of all possible worlds. Opponents criticized this as “making men mere machines.” I would go further than that. It’s the atheist / materialist who makes men machines. In materialism there is therefore no morality, neither good nor evil. But in Calvinist sovereignty evil abounds and God is the author, no matter how you finesse and spin. This is far worse than materialistic determinism. The doctrine is simply blasphemous.

JE engages in much double-talk as the Calvinist must who faces up to the issues. Like modern Calvinists, he claimed that men’s evil choices were fully their own and they were morally responsible for their own natures and inclinations. But this is nonsense in light of their doctrine of sovereignty and God’s supposed plan to create a system with Total Depravity (Total Inability) in the heart of every human being. With Total Depravity and Unconditional Damnation (the flip side of the same coin as Unconditional Election), choice and responsibility are nonexistent. The Calvinist asserts that Irresistible Grace awakens a man and that repentance and faith are GIVEN TO HIM! No choice, ergo no responsibility. Any child knows that! But if you’re a Calvinist for many years, you’ve gotten accustomed to holding several mutually contradictory convictions at the same time. Edwards was adamant that he wasn’t denying free will, but rather defending it! While at the same time preaching TULIP(S) – the “S” is for sovereignty. He worked hard at trying to make the impossible somewhat reasonable, or at least not necessarily unreasonable. The magnitude of his efforts belied his objective. As with many Calvinists today, he ultimately pled “mystery” in the face of the unreasonable. No, it’s not a “mystery” when it’s simply wrong.

When Edwards died at the modest age of 54, his wife Sarah lamented that she would gladly follow him into “the valley of death . . . had I the evidence I want of a title to glory.” We see lack of assurance in even the one who had those spectacular raptures.

I’ll close this overly long essay with a comment about JE’s most famous sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” I would recommend that you at least skim this historic sermon. JE is a master of metaphorical exhortation, delivering much warning about death, judgment, and Hell. During the sermon’s delivery, many in the congregation groaned and cried out, “What shall I do to be saved?” That’s a good question, asked notably of Paul and Silas by the Philippian jailer. But Edwards had only metaphors for an answer, despite the clear Biblical record in Acts 16, not to mention Acts 2, John 3, and many other places. Here is the concluding paragraph of his sermon:

“Therefore let every one that is out of Christ now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom. Haste and escape for your lives; look not behind you. Escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

Awake? Fly? Escape to the mountain? Even knowing that I had serious disagreements with Edwards, I am disappointed that confused metaphors are his best shot at the conclusion of an evangelistic sermon, in which he is BEGGED for explicit answers. I note that “hellfire and brimstone” preaching can be effective in getting the attention of some. But fear of Hell does not save. The lost sinner must come into agreement with God about righteousness and unrighteousness, see his own sins as wickedness, see himself as lost and deservedly bound for Judgment, and then repent, trust Christ, and set out to follow the Lord. Such explanations I simply don’t see in Edwards. Reader, if I missed it because Marsden was deficient in his coverage, please show me a suitable reference and I will correct my assessment.

Speculating further, I observe no “conversion experience” in JE’s life. Perhaps Marsden missed this, too. What I see is a youth – a “good boy” – brought up in a Calvinist culture, who doubtless saw himself as one of the “elect.” As a thoughtful young man, he rebelled against TULIP(S), rejecting the only version of “Christianity” that he had known. Perhaps as a youth he had humbled himself, repented, and trusted Christ. Or, perhaps his lost condition manifested in his doctrinal rebellion. Ironically, his rebellion was “right.” But he didn’t land in the Promised Land. “Somehow” he suddenly got comfortable with TULIP(S) and went on to be the champion of Reformed theology. Just when was he born again?

From that point his pleas to sinners were “off the mark,” examining works as evidence of a work of regeneration, rather than exhortations to repent and trust Christ for an assured salvation. So . . . was Jonathan Edwards himself a born again Christian? I don’t know and can’t know this side of the veil, but the pattern is disturbing. Especially because his work has been so widely used to sow doctrinal poison. Can such powerfully false teachers be saved? Scripture would indicate a resolute no. Can individuals be saved and then get trapped by false teachers into unfruitful beliefs? Yes, it happens all the time. But the teachers? Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and the Lord Jesus have much to say about this, carefully recorded in the New Testament.

Well, if you’ve read this far, thanks for hanging around. You can reach me as always at . . .


34. Tracts to give to churchgoers
August 15, 2014

When I’m engaged in 121 evangelism on the street, or on the campus, or knocking doors, I regularly run into folks who give me a good profession of salvation. I occasionally probe a bit, but it’s usually not hard to discern if someone has repented, been born again, and his life’s path has turned from darkness and wickedness to light and righteousness. In that case I typically ask the believer whether he is engaged in 121 work himself and press on him the vital importance of walking with the Lord Jesus in the greatest work of all.

Usually, the believer I meet is part of an evangelical or a Pentecostal church. I would like to encourage him to examine whether his church’s doctrines and practices are Biblical, but in a short conversation . . . with me, a stranger to him . . . there is not much that can be done profitably.

So I have designed several tracts to provoke the believers I meet to step back and think about both evangelism and discipleship and whether their “local church” is doing right by them. Three of the tracts below meet that purpose directly. Additionally, I have designed a tract for the generic, religious lost individual. Many tracts already exist for the religious lost, but not exactly with the argument I chose to use here. And finally, a tract for individuals who have been infected by Calvinist doctrine . . . whether they are lost and part of a “Reformed church” or have been born again, but subsequently got “slurped up” by these devilish doctrines.

In each case, I have not tried to construct an argument for the hopelessly committed, but rather for the individual who still has an open heart and mind, and perhaps a bit worried about the inconsistencies in his doctrine. I believe that is the point of Paul’s admonition in Titus 3:10-11. Don’t keep arguing when you find out that someone is a determined heretic. Look for someone who will hear.

These 5 tracts are designed with a “hook” – “Can you name these famous evangelicals?”, etc. In each case I’ve included some easy-to-identify photos and a couple of more challenging ones. The puzzle is made a bit more interesting by partially obscuring the faces with the text. Hopefully, the recipient will read the text in addition to guessing the celebrities’ names.

By the way . . . if you are in one of the “camps” addressed by the tracts below, I anticipate a bit of defensiveness, aggravation, etc., on your part. But since you are convinced that you’re right and I’m wrong about the points made, please take up the challenge to construct a Biblical counter-argument. And send it to me. After all, you should have the Christian character to correct someone in error, like me, especially since I’m asking you! If you find that you cannot make a Biblical argument for your position, then repent and write to me. I’ll rejoice with you!

Tract #1: Can You Name These Famous Evangelicals?

Click on . . . Tract – Famous Evangelicals

Tract #2: Can You Name These Famous Pentecostals?

Click on . . . Tract – Famous Pentecostals

Tract #3: Can You Name These Famous IFB Preachers?

Click on . . . Tract – Famous IFB preachers

Tract #4: Can You Name These Famous “Spiritual Leaders”?

Click on . . . Tract – Spiritual Leaders

Tract #5: Can You Name These Famous Calvinists?

Click on . . . Tract – Famous Calvinists – front

and . . . Tract – Famous Calvinists – back



35. Dismantling the Big Bang
September 1, 2014

This blog is now posted in the Short Course on Creation / Evolution. Click on
Educational Note #12.


36. Relational Evangelism: The ultimate method?
September 15, 2014

This blog is now posted in the Evangelism section.
Click on Relational Evangelism.


37. What do mousetraps, flagella, and blood clotting have in common?
October 1, 2014

This blog is now posted as Educational Note #13 in the Short Course on Creation / Evolution.
Click on What do mousetraps, etc.


38. Giants of the Northern Pines
October 15, 2014

The Last of the Giants, by Harry Rimmer, is the story of three evangelists who reached out to the roughest, toughest, and meanest men of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frank Higgins, John Sornberger, and Al Channer, each succeeded by the next, roamed the north woods, preaching the Gospel to lumberjacks. I have written occasionally on the subject of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism, something so rare that I believe it presently does not exist in America today. But these men were so filled.

In this blog I’ll give you some highlights from the life of John Sornberger (JS). If the film industry were invested in Biblical themes, certainly this life story would be brought to the silver screen. Sornberger’s ministry is explained in part by the principle espoused by Paul, when he wrote, “To the weak, became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” In the life of JS, the application would simply be . . . “To the strong, became I as strong, that I might gain the strong.” The typically wicked and vile manhood of the lumberjack culture was certainly “weak” in its degradation and addiction to sin. Yet the culture’s surface exuded “strength” – physical strength and courage to do dangerous and exhausting work, and a worldly “macho” strength manifested (sadly) in drunkenness, brawls, crime, and immorality.

John Sornberger was born in 1869 and died just shy of his 70th birthday. Those 70 years were packed with adventure, first in Satan’s service, and then in the Lord’s. His mother died when he was just seven, and his father – a serious, devout Christian – moved to northern Minnesota and staked a timber claim. The lad grew up in a man-centered culture . . . “The sports were all virile, and in place of baseball, basketball, and football, the practice of hunting, fishing, fighting, and ‘Hell-raising in general,’ lightened the leisure hours.”

John entered a new school when he was 12. At the end of the first day, he was confronted by a group of young toughs. John wasn’t surprised, knowing the customs and the code. The leader said, “If you’re gonna live around here you gotta fight ergityer pants kicked off!” They let him have his pick of the three largest boys to fight. John pointed at the largest, whom he had already identified earlier in the day as the school’s “official bully.” John quietly said, “I’ll fight him first. And when I get him licked, then I’ll take that feller and then him on the end last.” John’s life pattern would be to take on the toughest challenge first.

The gang howled in disbelief and derision, while John prepared quietly, piling up a mound of rocks and adding a stout club to the pile.
“What’s the idea of the rocks and the club?”
“That’s in case more’n two of you jump me at the same time.”

This gave the bully second thoughts, especially because John was so calm about all of this. The brute suggested, “Well, look, kid, maybe we can just let you go this time without no fight.” John replied, “But I wanna fight!” And slugged him immediately in the solar plexus. The bully crumpled, probably already finished, but John followed with a roundhouse right. Planting a foot on the face of the vanquished, John looked at the second fellow and said, “All right, you’re next.” That boy declined, as did everyone else, even when John suggested that he’d fight two at a time.

By the time he was 16 years old, he was a crack shot with any firearm, knew the woods and every curve of the wild Mississippi, and could outpaddle any Indian in a canoe race. He hated bullies and never acted the part himself. Men he whipped in fights often became good friends and admirers. By 18 he was fully grown at five feet, ten inches, but still slender, although wiry strong. He would eventually fill out a 200-pound frame. His fame as a barroom brawler spread. John defeated tough guys who would travel 100 miles to take him on.

He was never a habitual drunkard, but would go on a spree when flush with money, until broke again. John started law school at 18, not touching liquor while he was there. But his finances were slim, so he dropped out and took a job in a lumber company. Other jobs followed, including bartending. John was expected to cheat drunks out of their cash as quickly as possible and wield a blackjack to take care of the too-rowdy. John had a talent for camp-style cooking, and got hired into one of the largest lumber camps. He would join his buddies for drunken sprees every payday, drinking up his wages.

One jack defeated by John sought revenge, and hired a prizefighter to pick a bar fight with John. This “pug” outweighed John by 30 pounds, and figured it would take him a few minutes to provoke John into a fight. But John figured out what was going on as soon as the fellow walked in, and said, “All right, here I am. Let’s see what you have besides a busted beak and a twisted ear.” The fighter charged in, launching a haymaker that would have felled an ox. But John wasn’t there as the fist flew by, and landed three punches before the big fellow recovered. The pattern continued until John hit the pug with every ounce of strength he had. They had to carry the guy out.

Three days later the fighter returned, looking for a job in the camp, and offered to coach John on some of the tricks of the trade of professional fighting. This led to a contract with a fight promoter. As his life spiraled down into fighting and immorality, his dad disowned him, believing that his family name was dishonored. So John decided to take an alias. The professional boxer, “Jack McWilliams,” began his career.

For eight years, John was “on top of the world,” champion in two weight divisions, winning 127 times in the ring . . . undefeated. He was idolized, rolling in money, and immensely popular with the press, with his lumberjack peers, and with women – usually the worst kind.

The end came when his manager set up a fight with the undefeated Australian champion. It was booze and arrogance, though, that beat John. He had gotten out of shape and gotten drunk too many times. His own manager bet a bundle on the Australian to win. John got his nose broken, his arm broken, and was knocked out in the fifth round. Three months of recuperation in a hospital left him flat broke, so he drifted back into the woods.

Debauchery turned to crime as John saw easy pickings in robbing bootleggers and saloons. Warrants were eventually issued in four states for the arrest of Jack McWilliams. He made sheriffs look foolish as he evaded capture. Some lawmen actively avoided confrontation, because they feared to go up against him, even with guns. One lawman sent word to John, offering a truce. That town could be a “City of Refuge” if John simply committed no crimes there.

In later years, John said, “The way of the transgressor is hard, and the last stages of the sinner’s journey are the hardest and most degraded, because he is then on the bottom levels of vice and shame.”

His “luck” ran out when a sheriff’s rifle ball broke John’s leg during a long chase through the woods at night, and then along a river. John found himself close to his father’s house, and dragged himself to the door, weak with pain, exposure, and loss of blood. He asked his father if he could wait there while a buddy sought out a doctor. Dad yelled, “Get out! This is my home, and I’ll harbor no outlaws in it!” Grabbing his son by the coat collar, he heaved him out into the night. The pain caused John to pass out for a while, but then he dragged himself to an abandoned root cellar, where his friend found him with a doctor in tow. Sheriff’s posses managed to miss his hiding place for the next three weeks while John regained some strength.

John next went far into the north woods and got a job at a remote camp. Life was about to change. Frank Higgins showed up to preach to the jacks. John had heard of him, but always insisted that “all preachers are just windbags.” When Frank preached, John sat by the door, sneering all the while. Frank sensed the opposition, thinking . . . “That’s one of the toughest looking birds I ever laid eyes on.” Frank didn’t know just who the tough guy was, though.

Frank preached on the prodigal son. The men responded, many with heartfelt conviction and some with soul-saving repentance. But with the recount of the prodigal’s homecoming, John stormed out. Later, Frank tracked him down.

“Don’t you believe,” asked Frank, “that the prodigal came to a bad end?”
“Oh, that part’s all right,”said John, “as far as that goes. I’ve slept with pigs myself and et plenty of husks in my day. He got just what was coming to him. So did I, and I ain’t whining. But that soft slop about his old man taking him in is a lot of hogwash. I know better, Mister! I went home when even the pigs wouldn’t have me. I was sick, helpless, all in. I lay on the floor of my father’s house and asked for help. You know what my old man did? He took me by the neck, drug me to the door, and throwed me out into the night like a dog!”

Frank explained to John how he had gone to the wrong Father. Frank went on to ask about the character of John’s earthly father, and John’s character, and whether dad could be blamed for kicking him out. Finally, with great conviction, John said, “My old man done just right!”

As Frank explained the Gospel to John, compassionately preaching sin, judgment, righteousness, the Cross, repentance, and the new birth, John broke down — all his arrogance and rebellion and hatred vanished like smoke in the wind. John was saved, his spirit broken and then revived by the Holy Spirit – instantly and completely. Frank finally asked his name.

“Did you ever hear of Jack McWilliams?”
Stunned, Frank Higgins cried out, “Are you Jack McWilliams?”
John nodded and said, “Does that make any difference?”
Frank just shouted, “Hallelujah! Praise God!” When the crew finally came running to see what was happening, Frank said, “Boys, this is the greatest conversion since Paul the Apostle!” John just wondered whether Paul was some other lumberjack who worked in the area.

John Sornberger’s immediate inclination was to go turn himself into the law. Frank had a different plan, and asked John to trust him – to lay low until Frank got back to him. For four months John laid low at the remotest camps in the north, until Frank sent him word that he needed his help to rescue a friend. So John went to St. Paul to meet Frank, who brought him right into the Capitol building. Nervous, but trusting his new mentor, John was shocked to be led right into the governor’s office. The governor, a serious Christian, grilled John about his testimony. Finally satisfied, he decided to put his own political career on the line and gave John a full pardon. In the years to come, the governor was convinced it was the smartest decision he had ever made.

Storms of protest erupted across the state, but Governor Johnson stuck by John. Life changed quickly. He sought out his dad, who quickly, albeit quietly, accepted his son back. John took a job as a traveling cook and problem solver for a group of camps. His first job was to fire a lazy, incompetent cook at a camp where morale suffered. Hard working lumberjacks needed good food and lots of it.

When Jack arrived, he told the mean-spirited cook to pack up and clear out. The cook defied him and charged John with a knife. John sidestepped, disarmed the fellow, and laid him flat with one punch. Over the next few days morale was restored. The men loved their new cook. But Sunday morning John announced that he had to leave. He said he couldn’t be happy just cooking, so he was going back to where he could preach. The men insisted that he preach to them as much as he wanted! Over the next three weeks a revival broke out. Many were born again. When John’s boss reassigned him to another camp, fifty men walked with him the first few miles, weeping as they walked.

From camp to camp John went, cooking and troubleshooting, preaching and blessed with seeing many conversions. Many a drunk were saved, sobered up, and restored to abandoned wives and families. John’s fame as a preacher began to rival his old fame as a boxer. John’s boss bought him a cabin to serve as his “headquarters” in Lake Crystal. There he met a young lady who married him, giving him a stable and happy home, plus three sons and five daughters.

Eventually, Frank Higgins raised a bit of money to enable John to give up the day job and go “full time” in preaching to the camps and, also, to try to establish churches in the wild towns of the north country. Bigfork was the lewdest, most notorious, and lawless town in the region. Five out of every seven buildings were devoted to one vice or another. There was no Christian work of any kind. John rented a storeroom and got word out that the notorious Jack McWilliams was going to preach. There were souls saved every night.

An old acquaintance approached John and begged him for help. Sam hadn’t been home to see his wife and kids for three years. He planned to go home after every payday, but each time he got drunk, passed out, and lost his money. So back he went into the woods for another 6 months before the pattern repeated. John promised to get him on the train the next day.

The fellow disappeared, though, after the evening meeting. John searched the bars until he found him. Sure enough, Sam was getting drunk and rebuffed John’s efforts to drag him out. The bouncer saw it Sam’s way and stepped in to launch a roundhouse at John. As of old, John stepped inside the punch and decked the bouncer, laying him out for ten minutes. When the bartender grabbed a club to join in, others warned him off, yelling that he was Jack McWilliams! Sam still refused to budge, though, so John laid him out with a single punch and carried him home. (In that culture, that was definitely an act of brotherly love!)

Sam got on his train the next morning, deeply grateful. A family was restored. Such restorations were a common part of John’s ministry through the years. Too rough and tumble, you say? Not meek and mild enough? I’d say he found just the right level. John was simply following the apostle Paul, showing himself strong to the strong. Wisdom and meekness in lumberjack country didn’t have the same “face” as it would have had in the more civilized parts of the country.

The saloon crowd was losing business by this time. They didn’t dare to simply murder John. Everyone knew that Governor Johnson would respond with all the power of his office. So they hatched a plan to humiliate John in the eyes of the lumberjacks, hoping to “run him out of town.” John didn’t anticipate the trap at all.

The saloon owners imported a notorious rough and tumble fighter from Michigan, paying him $500 – a lot of money in those days – and gathered a crowd inside one of the saloons. Tables and chairs were cleared in anticipation, knowing that John and his wife, May, would walk by in the afternoon. When they approached, the bully stepped out in front of May and said, “Where did you pick up that slut?” Then he stepped back into the saloon, quickly donning brass knuckles. John went berserk and plunged in after him, not knowing that the door swung out, not in. The door wound up around John’s shoulders and the brass knuckles couldn’t reach him.

John ripped the door frame off his body and finished the fight with one punch. When the pug fell John, as befitted the custom of barroom brawls, kicked him in the head to make sure he didn’t get up anytime soon. Fight over. A bartender grabbed a bottle of whiskey, attempting to conk John from behind. Sensing this new attack, John whirled, caught the man’s wrist, and broke his ambusher’s arm on the bar. Leaping over the bar, John grabbed two bottles of whiskey and swept a thousand dollars of liquor onto the floor. Leaping onto the bar with his two broken bottles, he challenged, “All right. I’ll clean up the whole lousy crew of you!” One fellow laughed, and said, “Not me, Jack! I’m only a spectator, and I’ve sure had my money’s worth!” The decision was unanimous. The fighting was over.

The sheriff was corrupt, a full partner in the local vice establishment, but John was able to get Governor Johnson to appoint a special prosecutor to clean up the local government. When John got word that the saloon owners were hiring a gang to break up the furniture in John’s “meeting room,” John sent word back that he knew 500 lumberjacks who would bust up their saloons and destroy their entire inventories.

As sinners were converted and the Sornbergers refused to be intimidated, the saloons could see the handwriting on the wall, and left the area. A thriving church was established and the local town eventually voted to go “dry.”

John had some adventures with the regional and national Presbyterian “establishment” over qualifications for ordination and sponsorship. I won’t describe the silliness he had to put up with. Suffice it to say that nobody in the denominational hierarchy ever added value to his ministry, but only served to distract him at times. Yet he was wise enough to avoid getting “slurped up” by “the system.” He knew his ministry was sanctioned by the Holy Spirit . . . not by any mystical experiences or special revelation, but rather by the soul-saving fruit of his straightforward preaching and uncompromising convictions.

John moved on to do works in many other communities, focusing especially on those where he had been most notorious during his “old life.” Newsmen of his time compared John’s preaching talents favorably in comparison with such notables as Billy Sunday, Wilbur Chapman, Sam Jones, and D. L. Moody. He preached repentance, never sugar-coating sin or its consequences.

As I read the bio of John Sornberger, I watched carefully for any hint of heresy, especially the Calvinism that has infected Presbyterianism throughout its history. I noted nothing of the sort. In fact, I don’t think that John Sornberger knew anything of Presbyterianism until his ministry was well underway and Frank Higgins sought out the “establishment” to enlist their “support.” The one sermon outline that has been preserved and included in the bio directly refutes any ideas of limited atonement or irrestible grace. No, John Sornberger preached a pure Gospel.

I encourage you to read the book. The details behind the simple summary above are heart-warming and spirit-stirring. I hope to have the Sornbergers over for dinner in the New Jerusalem some day. I’d love to hear more about the grace of God in his life. I also hope I have a little to share with him about how God has blessed me to be of at least a little service during my own lifetime. But I plan mostly to listen.



39. What are the limits to evolution?
November 1, 2014

This blog is now posted as Educational Note #14 in the Short Course on Creation / Evolution.

Click on EN14: What are the limits to evolution?


40. Famous Philosophers: a new tract
November 15, 2014

Earlier this Fall I did a road trip – a “desert campus tour” – visiting 4 major university campuses in 4 days. It was exhausting, but also exhilarating to give out a total of 3400 tracts and get the opportunity to share the Gospel verbally with a good number of students in 3 different states.

On campuses I primarily use the tracts I’ve designed specifically to challenge the atheistic religion of secular universities, which is based on blind faith in evolution. “Blind faith?!?” you may squeal. Yes. Read the tracts and you’ll see what I mean. You can download pdfs of the tracts I use from links in my essay Tracts – Choosing and Using.

Doing personal evangelism on campus is like taking a trip around the world. You’ll meet students from scores of countries. In addition to American or European atheists, you’ll talk to Muslims (you can’t witness to them on the streets of Mecca or Teheran, can you?), Hindus, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and quite a variety of lost evangelicals. Yes, occasionally an actually born again evangelical. What about (so-called) Jehovah’s Witnesses? I’ve never met a JW college student, which may be due to the anti-education JW culture. Although I have had 121s with elderly JWs who hand out Watchtower propaganda at the campus I most frequently visit. I note that I cannot remember the last time, if ever, I’ve met a student from an IFB church (Independent Fundamental Baptist). I suspect that this rarity is due to the immense pressure in the IFB culture to send their youngsters off to various IFB-sanctioned Bible colleges, which results in under-employed IFB college graduates.

While at the University of New Mexico on my road trip, I engaged a couple of students (see photo) who had just exited their philosophy class. As our conversation developed, they seemed quite energized and yet disturbed by the course, especially by the obvious conflict with their weak-church religious upbringing – which neither saved them nor equipped them, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with “Professor Ad Hominem.” So we had a great time discussing the issues, focusing on the utter hopelessness of the world’s atheistic philosophies and the brilliant consistency of a Biblical approach to life . . . and the judgment to come.

Over the years I’ve discovered that a lot of students take at least a survey course in philosophy. Occasionally, I run into an actual philosophy major! What I find is that the mind of a junior or a senior who has majored in philosophy is dysfunctional, rich in arrogance while bankrupt in wisdom. He knows less and has less ability to perceive truth than when he entered college. The non-major, who has had only a survey course, has suffered much less damage and is usually able to approach the subject with some skepticism. As opposed to the philosophy major who has been trained like an attack dog to be skeptical of anyone or anything that isn’t immersed in existentialism or post-modernism or whatever mind-crumbling cesspool he loves to wallow in.

Stimulated by my encounter with the two UNM students, I’ve designed a tract (the file size is a bit large at 27 Mb, so it might take a while to load) . . .

Tract – famous philosophers

This tract is aimed at the “educated” lad or lass who has forfeited tuition money to be infected with Kant, or Marx, or Hegel, or Rorty, etc. As with all of my “campus tracts,” I take a shot at the relevant false worldview before transitioning to the Gospel. Although the number of hard-core atheists among students is relatively small, it’s the phony ideas of philosophy, evolution, and secular psychology (a tract will be coming in that area, too) that work to deaden the conscience and destroy the spirit of young people who might otherwise respond to the Gospel message. I am also content to give such tracts to the religious lost, including Muslims and Catholics. They should recognize that the Biblical Gospel contradicts their own worldview. Also, my hope is that some will go to this web site and be challenged further.

You may ask, “Who took the photo?” About a minute after our conversation ended I was approached by a young man who identified himself as the campus outreach pastor for a local evangelical church. He had recognized what I was doing and snapped the photo, which he graciously emailed to me. I offered him a stack of tracts for his own use with students, but he declined, saying that he wasn’t into “confrontational evangelism,” but preferred to develop relationships with students.

I am, of course, all for building relationships to facilitate personal evangelism. You might check out my blog, Relational Evangelism: the ultimate method?. But most of the students that I engage with would never come to the evangelical “rock and roll parties” organized as outreach events. And those that might come will not likely hear a clear message of sin, judgment, repentance, and the new birth through Jesus Christ – not in today’s evangelical “be sweet / feel good” culture. I think of the Middle Eastern Muslim students, and American atheists, and Chinese graduate students and many others I’ve encountered in just the last few weeks. They are simply not going to attend your thinly-veiled pizza party. But you could just walk up to them and strike up a conversation. Yes, really, you could! And give them a Gospel tract to take home . . . which also points to a web site with more extensive arguments. Nah! That would be too confrontational!

Don’t worry. I was nice to that young fellow. At least he was trying to do something! Perhaps he took the photo to show his friends what “old school evangelism” used to look like. What I’ve discovered is that I am so “old school” that it’s all new again. Hardly anyone does this anymore! And young people are so used to getting everything on their smart phone or laptop that a physically tangible glossy tract is a bit special. I have evidence that nicer-looking tracts are less likely to get discarded quickly. For example, I talked to an atheist last week who had gotten several of my tracts over the course of the semester and still had them at home. But this was the first time he paused to chat. Diligence is a virtue!

What have you been doing lately? I mean what have you been doing that has a chance to count for eternity? That could make the difference between Heaven and Hell for someone? Get some tracts and walk onto a campus nearby. Or at least walk down the sidewalk and hand out a tract today. Come on . . . JUST ONE TRACT? Just before I sat down to post this blog I went for a short walk and saw four guys unloading a moving truck. They each got a Chick tract (comic book) from me. How simple.

Build up the courage and go the next step, too. Actually open your mouth and talk to somebody. In the Evangelism section of this web site I have lots of tips to help you out. Just get started. If you have to do it awkwardly, then do it awkwardly. Embarrassed? Afraid you’ll stumble over your words? Afraid someone might sneer at you? Get over it. Read about what Christians are doing inside Communist and Muslim countries. We’ve got it soft in America. Besides, over time you’ll get better at it and, in the meantime, at least you’ve pointed someone toward the Savior and away from judgment. Isn’t that worth a little effort?



41. Free Markets and Peace
December 1, 2014

I was on the ASU campus recently, doing 121 evangelism, which consists simply of passing out tracts and chatting with individual students who are willing to engage for a few minutes. One of the outdoor tables set up on the main square featured the campus libertarian club, that goes by the name “Students for Liberty.” A polite young lady offered me a free book: Peace, Love, & Liberty, edited by Tom Palmer, published in 2014. The book consists of a series of 15 contemporary essays on the subject of how free markets and free trade work vigorously to promote international peace.

The book is resonant with my basic conservative political philosophy, which is derived from my Biblical worldview. I have noted over the years that a truly converted political left-winger will quickly change his views on many subjects . . . particularly, those involving morality, integrity, and self / others, but also in the areas of economic freedom, big vs. small government, and even such apparently mundane matters as tax policy.

A “libertarian” view is fairly consistent with the Bible’s teachings on property ownership, fair wages negotiated between employer and employee, limited boundaries on government power, and the privilege of enjoying the fruits of one’s own labor. Of course libertarianism, which gets many of these things right because “they work,” keeps God out of the picture, imagining that peace, love, and prosperity are attainable through the efforts of man’s ostensibly autonomous and perfectible heart, mind, and good will. Nope. There is no man-centered utopia on the horizon, whether libertarian, or Marxist, or Muslim or Pentecostal. What lies in Earth’s future is a despotic global government, world war, God-sent Tribulation, Judgment of the nations, and then a global peace for 1000 years, under the rule of Earth’s Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t believe me? Just hang around long enough. The key events may well come within a decade or two.

The first essay is from the editor, entitled “Peace is a Choice.” He relates a cautionary anecdote from the Clinton administration, when Madeleine Albright was UN Ambassador and Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Madeleine asked Colin, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Powell later wrote in his memoirs, “I thought I would have an aneurysm.” Albright viewed the military as a mere tool to advance her agenda. Powell explained to her that “American GIs were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board,” and that “we should not commit military forces until we had a clear political objective.” Powell understood at a visceral level, bloodied in the jungles of Vietnam, that when military force is used, real people are going to get killed.

The author relates a conversation he had with Rear Admiral Gene LaRoque (USN, Ret.), who explained, “The purpose of the armed forces is to kill the enemy and to destroy his ability to harm us. We don’t build bridges well, unless your goal is to drive tanks across them. We don’t know how to teach 8-year-olds to read and write. We don’t know how to educate people about law or democracy. We kill the enemy and we destroy his ability to harm us. And when you really have to kill people and destroy things, call on us, but otherwise, don’t.”

As a retired USAF Lt. Colonel, and a long time student of military force as an instrument of national policy, I heartily agree with the Admiral’s position. I note that the U.S. in both Iraq and Afghanistan has imagined that “nation building” is not only possible in the aftermath of armed conflict, but somehow desirable and that the U.S. military and other government agencies can “make it so.” How is that going?

I’m not going to debate here about whether and / or how we should have employed military force in the two Iraq wars or in Afghanistan. That’s an interesting debate and a good case can be made in at least two of the three cases for military action. But nation building? Rebuilding Germany and much of Europe in the aftermath of WW2, in the face of a serious Soviet threat, was not only necessary, but practical. Europeans and Americans share many values in common, not the least of which are rationality and self-preservation. But the Muslim tribes and nations have zealously perpetrated internecine warfare for over a thousand years. Building grade schools and teaching 8 year olds about “democracy” in the midst of such mutual hatred falls short of wisdom. Building up the strength of any Muslim power which would eagerly impose Sharia law on its neighbors . . . and the rest of the world . . . is foolhardy and futile.

But above all that, I take greatest offense from a Biblical, a Christian position. If there is a primary core value derived from American history, it is religious freedom . . . particularly, the freedom of Christians to practice a Biblical faith free from government oppression, or persecution from the surrounding community. In Iraq and Afghanistan, persecution of Christians (whether true born again believers or simply professing Christians) has increased dramatically since the US engaged in “nation building.” Christians by the multitudes are now refugees or worse, many slaughtered, many raped.

If we, as Americans, are going to shed our young men’s blood in a foreign land and, against all odds, try to help that nation build a more just society, how can we despise the persecution of Christians? Should not religious freedom, especially for Christians, be a foundation stone for American assistance? Yet American leaders continue to call Islam a “religion of peace,” and ignore the continual harassment, torture, rape, and murder of Christians . . . an everyday occurrence in those lands. This is the politically correct approach? So that Muslims in the Middle East will become so fond of the “American way of life,” that they will establish constitutional republics? Yet the American Constitution is rooted in Biblical values. Islam knows nothing but despotism – just read a little bit of history. I’m not insulting them by writing this. Hierarchical authority intruding into the minutiae of everyday lives . . . that’s a core value in Sharia. Male Muslims want it that way. Also note the defacto enslavement of women by their husbands and families . . . why doesn’t the “liberal” element in the West pay any attention to that? Aren’t there any honest feminists out there? But I digress . . .

Back to the book . . . Palmer appropriately asserts that in attempting to resolve international disputes, there should be an overriding presumption against war. “The burden of proof is on the one who would initiate or engage in war.” The issue is what constitutes sufficient proof, of course. Reasonable people can disagree. Palmer’s criterion is that “the initiation of hostilities requires overwhelming proof and, moreover, war may be used only to defend, never to take or acquire or merely to defend “honor” or “credibility.”

Scripture speaks to an effective process:

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war. Proverbs 20:18.

For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 24:6

Distributed power with open debate increases the likelihood of a good decision, not driven by personal agenda. Our founders embodied this principle in the Constitutional requirement that war be declared only by Congress – the people’s representatives. They explicitly attempted to prevent what we see in modern times: adventurism driven by one man, an imperial President. The Constitution does us no good when defied by one Party’s President and ignored by the opposition Party. Take a look at Isaiah 33:22 for the cornerstone principle for the U.S. Constitution and our tripartite government. Our system of government derives from the very nature of God Himself.

Palmer points out that “war paves the way for forced labor (in the form of conscription), for taxation, for confiscation and requisitioning of goods, for rationing, for socialism,” all “justified” by the need to “win the war.” History has demonstrated that “the most acceptable justification for taxation is war.” Internal criticism of the government during war is then characterized as treasonous and civil liberties are often curtailed. In short, war changes a nation, even when perpetrated by the more powerful one.

In the next essay, Steven Pinker, a Harvard prof, waxes optimistic. He cites many studies that show war is in decline. For example, “after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945. Nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.”

Pinker’s explanation is rooted in secular humanism philosophy, and evolution in particular. He asserts that violence is tied to our species’ evolution, which has predisposed our genes and the wiring of our brains toward aggressiveness. Yet over the last few centuries, he notes that many modes of violence have declined including, for example, chattel slavery, which has been abolished from the most prosperous nations for some time.

Pinker sees four kinds of motives that foster human violence:

1. Exploitation – including plunder, rape, conquest, and the murder or imprisonment of political rivals. All are explained by seeing violence as a useful means to an end, regardless of the harm done to someone in the way.
2. Dominance – the alpha male syndrome, the lust to ascend the pecking order.
3. Revenge – the internal ‘moral’ conviction to mete out personal justice for a perceived offense.
4. Ideology – stemming from nationalism, Nazism, communism, and religion. (Islam, anyone? Yet Christians throughout history have also been violently persecuted by Roman Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and pagans of all varieties, whenever the anti-Christian group has the power to do so.)

Steven Pinker notes that the nasty impulses above can be overcome by such gentler faculties as:

1. Self control – derived from “circuitry in the frontal lobes of the brain.” Really? The evolutionist, even a ‘rational libertarian’ like Pinker, has no basis for human morality other than brain chemistry. Biblically, of course, self control (temperance) is manifested most beautifully as fruit of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.
2. Empathy – “the ability to feel someone else’s pain.” Far better to invoke the ‘Golden Rule’ of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:12, which goes beyond feeling and involves the entire mind, conscience, and heart.
3. The moral sense – “a system of norms and taboos . . .” etc. Not impressed. Ultimately, in evolutionary humanism, society degenerates to “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) There are no standards if violence derives from brain chemistry conditioned merely by social taboos. Blah!! Libertarianism has no foundation!
4. Reason – “cognitive processes . . .” . . . see #3 above. There is no “reason,” in addition to no love, hope, meaning, purpose, morality, and integrity in ensembles of quarks and electrons. The most important aspects of life are rooted in the God-given soul and spirit invested in created human beings.

Pinker more wisely notes specific structures that reduce the probability of going to war, including:

1. A commercial infrastructure, which makes it cheaper for everyone to buy things from free and creative people, rather than plunder them from fearful, desperate populations.
2. International organizations fostering a sense of community, which can promote attitudes of non-violent cooperation. I agree, but also note that we are well on the way to a global government, which will concentrate despotic power. To illustrate on a smaller scale, I observe that differences among U. S. states in taxes and business regulations produce a “market” for companies and individuals who feel “oppressed” in their own state. When states’ rights disappear entirely as the federal government grows more powerful, there will be nowhere to move.

The main point in the two ideas above is to keep power distributed and invest more and more people with real influence in economic and political decision making. Unfortunately, in a world that rejects God, friction will still lead to conflict.

I’ll conclude with a few comments about the third essay, by Emmanuel Martin, a European economist. He begins with a synopsis of socialism, which supposes that if one person profits, another loses . . . zero sum. In this view, war is inevitable.

Now, zero sum does occur. A thief gains strictly at his victim’s expense. But the burgeoning modern economies of the world, with assets that far exceed the sum of resources of decades ago, entail new products, new services, and new industries created by innovation, discovery, hard work, investment, and exchange.

Martin writes that if people can trade freely, the increasing wealth of one party is not harmful, but actually beneficial to the prosperity of their trading partners, who now experience more demand for their own goods and services. Everybody wins. When your customers get rich, it’s good news for you! Trade, therefore, is a “positive sum” game! And everyone has strong motivation to foster freedom – hurting a neighbor or a neighboring country is simply self-destructive. Treat foreign nations as neighbors and friends. This idea is, to greater or lesser extent, recognized widely in the relatively free market West. The principle is irrelevant to Communism, Marxism, and paganism, however.

Wars do not even measure up to “zero sum,” but are invariably “negative-sum” games in which the sum of the losses is typically far greater than any gains and, generally, produce huge net losses for all sides. I note the wisdom expressed in the parable of Luke 14:28-33 . . . count the cost.

Free markets facilitate entrepreneurship and motivate production at the least cost, which frees up scarce resources for other uses. Farmers, engineers, techinicians, physicians, and others specialize more and more, producing services that simply would not exist otherwise. Free trade makes products and even services, especially in an internet age, available to the far corners of the Earth. Larger markets allow for even more specialization, more innovation, and more prosperity. As Adam Smith observed, “The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.”

Property rights and the freedom for the individual to buy and sell according to his own criteria are crucial. I note the Biblical injunction against taking advantage of workers in Jeremiah 22:13 and the pronouncement in Ecclesiastes 5:18 that the producer has the God-given right to enjoy “the good of all his labor.” A minor nugget of wisdom (it’s not the main theme) of the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20 is that the land owner has the right to set wages and the workers have the right to accept or reject the offer. We also see the repeated principle of expecting rewards for constructive service in God’s economy in such passages as Proverbs 24:12, Luke 19:12-27, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, and Revelation 22:12. Note the spectacular return on investment in the parable in Luke . . . really, it’s more than a parable, it’s a preview of reward ceremonies in the future of faithful believers.

Of course, Scripture has much to say about economic sluggards, as in Proverbs 20:4 and 20:13, and God’s view of unethical business practices, as in Proverbs 20:10. In libertarianism, as in any world system, injustices in this present world are rarely exposed and more rarely generate judgmental consequences. In God’s economy, everything will be exposed to light. Both the wicked and the just will receive full and proportionate rewards.

One area where humanism falls short is in the “balance.” Free market capitalism certainly provides temptations toward greed, dishonesty, and workaholism. Ultimately, I am more likely to trust a business partner if I know that his worldview makes him accountable to God when no one is looking. He is “tempted” to make the right decision, regardless of whether man catches him at it. Proverbs 28:20 speaks to the virtue of faithfulness, especially to God-given values, and to the destructiveness of greed. Proverbs 30:8-9 speaks directly to the virtue of “balance.” God actually knows what “makes people tick.” As I have walked the downtown city streets of America, I observe many who miss the mark on either extreme. (See my book, Christian Manhood . . . on the free e-book store on this site.)

God will ultimately judge those who oppress the poor (Proverbs 22:16), especially lying politicians who feign compassion, promising help but delivering dependency, in order to acquire political power.

The Lord has specific advice for a nation that faces war, regardless of its best efforts to avoid it:

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord. Proverbs 21:31

It is Scriptural to prepare for war. Clearly, war is horrific and fearsome and should be engaged under only the most dire circumstances. When engaged, however, if the nation’s leaders, its people, and its soldiers, are not humbly in prayer to Almighty God, Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, for wisdom and protection, then its fate is simply happenstance. This is how America wages war today – ignoring, even defying God, making decisions for political or economic advantage, and caring little for the limbs and lives of its young men. I’m glad I am out of the military in this present age.



42. New Testament Evangelism by James Stewart
December 15, 2014

Posted in the Evangelism section as “New Testament Evangelism.”


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