"The key to understanding the Bible is to look for Jesus in the Bible. Jesus is the hero of the Bible. If you read the Bible and don't find Jesus, re-read it! The Bible has one hero, His name is Jesus; one villain, that is Satan; one problem, that is sin; one solution, that is salvation. That is what the Bible is all about." -Dr. Adrian Rogers

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Miss Stacie

My second year of college, my friend and I carpooled together just about every day. Our classes got out at the same time, so she would ride with me and we would usually meet her father somewhere in town for lunch. One of our favorite places to go back then was Wendy’s. And at the particular Wendy’s we went to, there was one particular cashier that you couldn’t help but love. She was an older black lady with short gray hair. She was short in stature, but had a rather large personality. It didn’t take me long to realize that most people, at least her regular customers, called her by her first name, and she seemed to know most of theirs, as well. My friend always went to Wendy’s because she liked the food, but Miss Stacie quickly became my reason.

We hadn’t been going there long when I began to notice that Miss Stacie had memorized my order. I am a rather boring person who tends to order the same thing every time, so it didn’t take her long to start greeting me with, “You want your nuggets and a potato”? But a year later, I transferred to a different school and I wasn’t able to go to Miss Stacie’s Wendy’s near as often. However, the next time I went in about six months later, I discovered that it didn’t matter how long it had been since the last time I was there. Miss Stacie still remembered anyway. When I walked through that door and up to her counter, she said, “Where you been? You want your nuggets and a potato…and…sweet tea”? And to this day, she still remembers, no matter how long it’s been.

One time, while I was eating my lunch, a customer walked in that Miss Stacie had not seen in years. The second she saw him, she began to scream as though the building were on fire and then proceeded to jump up and down as though she herself were on fire. She then flung open the door, run around the corner, and gave him the kind of hug you might give someone if you knew that that was going to be their last day on planet earth. She then just kept repeating, “I can’t believe it’s you. I can’t believe it’s you. I can’t believe it’s you. I haven’t seen you in years. I can’t believe it’s you.” When is the last time a cashier has greeted you that way?

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen Miss Stacie, and I hope to be able to make it back sometime soon. Miss Stacie is the kind of person that makes the world go ‘round. She takes pride in what she does, and it isn’t hard to notice. But most of all she finds joy in putting a smile on customers’ faces. She seems to forget that she’s a cashier in a popular fast-food restaurant chain, and it’s almost like you’re a guest in her own kitchen. If only more people took on her attitude, this world would be a much better place.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Foolishness of the Message

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God,
it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1 Corinthians 1:21

Last week, Perry Noble issued an apology on his blog for the message that he so tragically botched during his Christmas Eve service a few weeks ago. Sadly, in his apology, he did yet again what he does so well, which is to twist Scripture to no end. In an attempt to justify his errors, he used 1 Corinthians 1:21 to point out that, though his message was flawed, over 200 people still made professions of faith that night. However, in order for that verse to mean what Perry Noble so badly wants it to mean, he would have had to have taken it out of context. Therefore let’s take the time to look at the entire passage to see what Paul really meant by what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:21.

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Sometimes, the best way to interpret Scripture is with Scripture. If Perry Noble had done that, he would have needed to look no further than a few verses up at 1 Corinthians 1:18 to see that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” This is what Paul was referring to in verse 21. He was by no means implying that, though his own message was flawed, many were still saved as a result. No. He was simply referring to the fact that the message of the cross is oftentimes perceived as foolishness to those who do not know God.

As the song says, God picked such a strange way to save the world. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). It makes no sense that the King of the universe would become flesh and take on the form of a helpless little baby in a manger. It makes no sense that Almighty God would leave His throne above to live poor as a Job’s turkey on earth. It makes no sense that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It makes no sense that Jesus Christ would exchange His righteousness for my sin. It makes no sense. The Gospel makes no sense, and it wasn’t meant to.

Much of what we read in the Bible does not make sense, folks. However, that being true, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He knew joy, and He knew pain. He knew laughter, and He knew sorrow. He knew what it was to rejoice, and He knew what it was to weep. He was rejected and despised by the very ones He came to save. Yet He endured all of this that we might know Him. This is the true miracle of the Gospel. Jesus performed many wonderful miracles, but the greatest of all is the saving of those who will turn from their sin and trust in Christ alone to save them.

It makes no sense for God to go to such a great length to save those who rejected and despised Him, but that’s exactly what He did. It may be a foolish message, but it is a saving message for those who will believe. If you do not know Jesus Christ as Lord of your life today, it is my prayer that you would come to do so before it is eternally too late for you. If you will turn from all sin and trust Jesus alone to save you, He will save you today and keep you saved forever.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

False Conversion: Learning from the Queen of the West (Repost from 8/2/11)

Unfortunately, I am afraid that most people my age do not even know who Dale Evans was. However, she was one of my childhood heroes, and I still consider her to be one of my heroes today. I did not know much about Dale when I was growing up. However, I was reintroduced to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans about four months ago, and that is when I read Dale’s salvation story for the first time.

I like Dale’s salvation story because it is very similar to my own. Dale accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior when she was only ten years old. However, she would be the first to tell you that she did not make Him Lord of her life. And as she would say, “There is a big fat difference there.”

Shortly after Dale married Roy when she was thirty-five, she attended a church service with her son, Tom. That was when Tom told her that Roy’s children deserved to grow up in a Christian home and she needed to give her life to Christ. It was upon her son’s plea that Dale did indeed give her life completely over to Christ that day. And as she would have said, her life was “radically changed” and “the burden of sin was rolled away.”

Many of you reading this today may think that you will go to Heaven when you die just because you say that you believe in Jesus Christ. But as Adrian Rogers used to say, “If He is not your Lord, He is not your Savior.” Luke 13:5 says, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Oftentimes I will ask the readers of this blog to “acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.” What do I mean by that? By acknowledging Jesus as Lord of your life, you are giving Him complete control over every aspect of your life. By acknowledging Jesus as Lord, you are saying, “What You say do, I will do. What You say say, I will say. Where You say go, I will go.”

If you have not yet acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, I am asking you to please do so today. Turn completely from all sin and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. If you do that, He will save you today and keep you saved forever.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pass the Salt

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour,
wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing,
but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Matthew 5:13

John R. W. Stott once said, “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world,’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light.’” This is a question I have been asking myself for years. The Bible commands us as children of the King to be salt and light to a lost and dying world. But is that what we’re doing? Are we living lives that convict? Are we living lives that preserve? Are we living lives that expose that which has been hidden in darkness? Or has our salt lost its savor and our light lost its brightness?

If you live in upstate SC, you are no doubt aware of the current controversy surrounding local megachurch NewSpring and its pastor, Perry Noble. For years, I have had my reservations about the so-called “church” for one reason. I haven’t heard very many messages preached by Perry Noble, so that couldn’t be it. I have only observed its rock concert-like worship style once, so that really couldn’t be it, either. No. My main concern with NewSpring has always been a lack of evidence of true change in the lives of its members. Jesus said in Matthew 7:16-18, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

What the Lord was saying in that particular passage of Scripture is that we can make educated observations about someone’s salvation by the way they choose to live their lives. If they are clearly walking in the truth, growing in the Word, loving what He loves and hating what He hates, we can safely say that they most likely are in a right relationship with the Lord. However, if they clearly are not regularly feeding on the Word of God and if they aren’t living their lives according to the plan He has laid out for them in His Word, we have serious reason to doubt their salvation. This is exactly why I have serious doubts about the legitimacy of the thousands of conversions that have supposedly taken place at NewSpring over the past fifteen years.

You may say, “Well, how can you say these things”? When you sit in a restaurant and hear the lady behind you tell her friend that she attends NewSpring because she can be open about the fact that she and her boyfriend are living together before marriage and not have people judge her, you wise up. It doesn’t take too many times of hearing the people in front of you in class who you know attend NewSpring discussing the raunchiest shows on television for you to know that something just isn’t right. And when someone else you know attends NewSpring comes in on Monday and brags about how she got drunk with her friends over the weekend, you tend to question things.

On James Duncan’s blog, Pajama Pages, one commenter wrote, “This is really the crux of the issue with NewSpring. There is a lot of good marketing that gets people there, but there is not a lot [of] sound teaching that gets believers to ‘grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ I’ve come across many who have been baptized by NewSpring and regularly [attend]: open lesbian couples, cohabitating couples, and the like. They go there because they know they won’t be ‘judged’ there.” But if Perry Noble is really preaching the life-changing, earth-shattering truth of God’s Word, how can this be?

John 3:19 tells us, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Darkness dwells with darkness, and light with light. The two simply do not mix. When light enters a room full of darkness, all darkness leaves immediately; however, when darkness enters a room full of darkness, there is simply more darkness. The fact is there are only two possible things that can happen when someone who does not know the Lord listens to the preaching of His Word: either they will be convicted, embrace the conviction and seek to learn more about the Lord Jesus, eventually giving their heart and life to him, or they will be convicted and run from the conviction. Those living in disobedience to the Word of God don’t usually attend Bible believing churches for very long. The fact that NewSpring is filled with members who live in blatant disobedience to God’s Word suggests that the entire truth of the Bible may indeed not be being preached there, for darkness doesn’t dwell with light.

The title of this blog post is “Pass the Salt.” The Bible commands us to be the salt of the earth. Have you ever gotten salt in an open wound? It didn’t feel too good, did it? In fact, it burns something awful. Salt is a good healer, but in fighting the infection it brings serious pain. That is the effect the Word of God ought to have on a person who is living outside of God’s will for their life. People will either embrace the conviction and get right with God, or they will turn and run as fast they can in the opposite direction. Not too many will sit and listen week after week, year after year with no change of heart. If they do, it’s because the salt has lost its power.

May we all live salty lives, encouraging others to get right with the Lord, and may “your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This is what Adrian Rogers meant when he used to say, “Witness always, using words when necessary.”

Do you know the Lord today? Have you embraced His calling to surrender your entire life to Him? If not, it is my prayer that you would come to do so before it is eternally too late for you. If you will turn from all sin and trust Christ alone to save you, He will save you today and keep you saved forever.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Warning to My Generation

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Matthew 7:15

A couple days ago, Tony Miano shared an article on facebook written by a local college professor about a particular sermon recently delivered by the pastor of a local megachurch. The article is entitled “NobleRescinds the Ten Commandments for 2015.” Perhaps you have already read it yourself or have at least heard of it. If you have not yet read it, I suggest you do so before continuing with the rest of this blog post. After reading this gentlemen’s article, I immediately wanted to write a blog post of my own warning other people of my generation to stay away from such teaching while throwing in my own personal touch. So here goes.

I don’t know if the writer of the aforementioned article has ever personally attended Perry Noble’s so-called “church,” but I unfortunately can tell you that I have. It was exactly one week before I would start my freshman year of college, and since my home church had cancelled services for that night a couple of my friends suggested that I join them at NewSpring. I had always been cautious of this local fast-growing megachurch that was notorious for loud music and casual dress; however, since my church wasn’t having services that particular night, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to satisfy my curiosity just that one time. Big mistake, or so I felt at the time.

Once I had arrived at the church and parked my car in the already overflowing parking lot, it didn’t take me long to realize that something was terribly wrong. As I was waiting on my friends to arrive, I stood by my car and keenly observed the people passing by on their way into the building, trying not to be too obvious, of course. As I was doing so, I noticed something that was missing. That something was Bibles. I must have seen dozens of people walk through that parking lot before my friends got there, yet I didn’t see one person carrying a Bible. When I questioned my friend about it later, he said something to the effect of, “Oh, it’s okay. We don’t need them. He always puts it up on the screen anyway.” Screen or no screen, I had always been taught that you never attend church without your Bible in tow. In fact, I don’t remember many services growing up in my small Southern Baptist church that the preacher didn’t start his message by saying, “Now turn in your Bibles to…,” and the congregation would then stand as the preacher read the passage aloud. I was taught to treasure the Bible because it is God’s holy, infallible word, and treasuring the Bible meant taking it to church with me. It just didn’t make sense to do otherwise.

As if the missing Bibles wasn’t enough, I noticed something else alarming when I finally made it inside the building. I could hear music playing from what sounded like overhead speakers, but I didn’t recognize the words. After listening carefully for a while, I turned to my friend and said, “Is that a secular song they’re playing”? He nodded that it was, but then added that they only played it before the actual service began, as if that somehow made it alright. At that point, something told me that I should turn around and walk right back out the door from which I had just came; however, I very politely told the little voice to “shut up” and continued to find a place to sit (another huge mistake!).

Upon finally finding three empty seats all together, my friends and I sat down to find what seemed to be some sort of blow-up device placed at each seat. As we explored further, we realized that they were neon orange blow-up sticks, and each person had been given two to bang together during the rock concert-like “worship” service. How such behavior could ever be considered worship, I will probably never know.

I was really too distracted by what I had already witnessed before the so-called pastor started to preach to pay too much attention to what he was saying, but what I can remember is him using three or four curse words along with taking the name of the Lord in vain at least once (no wonder he felt the need to change that commandment around).It seems like he may have also thrown in a story at some point about scaring an office worker with a plastic bag. What I’m sure he didn’t do is preach the Word of God.

At the end of the service, Perry Noble did give an alter call, leading his audience in what is commonly known as “the sinner’s prayer.” However, like my fellow blogger mentioned, he never gave a biblical explanation as to why they needed to be saved or what they were being saved from. He simply asked for a show of hands as to how many had prayed the prayer and asked that all who did come to the front at close of service. Funny, we never read in the Bible where Jesus took for granted that His listeners knew what it meant to be a sinner in need of a Savior. That is why He always was careful to explain it in a way which those He was speaking to could thoroughly understand, just like he did with the rich young ruler.

Coming from a traditional Southern Baptist church, it is oftentimes hard to get people to understand that my problem with NewSpring goes much deeper than it simply not being my style. No. My problem with NewSpring has always been with the fruit produced, or the lack thereof. Matthew 7:16-17 says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” If the life-changing truth of God’s Word were indeed being preached at NewSpring, would it not make sense for the majority of the congregation to bear good fruit, to be walking in the truth, to love what God loves and hate what God hates? You would think.

I remember a couple years ago I was sitting in a college biology class when I overheard the conversation of a group of people who I had just heard mention a Bible study that they had attended at NewSpring. The conversation to which I am referring, however, was not about the Bible study. Instead, they were talking about the popular vulgar, animated television sitcom Family Guy. I remember sitting there thinking to myself, “Who engages in discussion of God’s Word one minute and watches a show that curses Him the next”? If you are a child of God, the very things that break His heart ought to break yours, as well.

Perhaps the one instance that stands out to me the most is a conversation that I once overheard while sitting alone in a local Japanese restaurant. Sitting in the booth behind me was two ladies who I could not help but hear discussing NewSpring. From what I heard, it sounded like the two may not have known each other for very long. The one was telling the other about the man whom she was currently living with although they were not married. She then proceeded to explain that that was the precise reason they attended NewSpring. She said, “We can tell people without having them judge us.” Of course, I’m not surprised, being that according to Perry Noble, God’s command to “flee fornication” in 1 Corinthians 6:18 is more of a suggestion than anything. I can’t imagine what “promise” Perry Noble could possibly twist out of that, since God already promises us that “every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). How much plainer could you get than that?

To tell you the truth, NewSpring scares me because of one verse. That verse is Proverbs 14:12 which says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” I fear because Perry Noble teaches that it is possible to follow God without adhering to His teachings. But if that were so, why then did Jesus say in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (see also Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, 7:9, 11:1, 11:22, 19:9, 30:16, Joshua 22:5, Nehemiah 1:5, Daniel 9:4, John 14:21, 15:10, and 1 John 5:2-3; all seem to show the concept of loving God and keeping His commandments going hand-in-hand—to separate the two is impossible)?

Hebrews 9:27 does indeed say, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” And I am here to tell you today that God is not going to let you into Heaven simply because you said yes to His existence, but He is going to judge you based on whether or not you said yes to His teachings and loved Him enough to take Him at His Word. Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Some translations have that word “iniquity” as “lawlessness.” In other words, those who profess to know the Lord yet fail to keep His commandments.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you that you can go to Heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments. Well, you could, but you can’t keep them—nobody can. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” and Romans 3:12 says, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The fact that you can’t keep them is proof that you need God’s saving grace. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross. He knew that we could never be good enough on our own, so He traded His life for ours. Then He rose triumphantly from the grave on the third day, defeating sin and death once for all. First Thessalonians 1:10 calls Him “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

I’ve never been one to ask people to believe in Jesus. No. I simply ask that you believe Him, that you take Him at His word, that you believe with every fiber of your being that every word He says is true. Adrian Rogers once said, “The biggest fool is not the one who says there is no God. The biggest fool is the one who says there is a God and then doesn’t live like it.” That is exactly what Perry Noble wants you to do. He wants you to say that you believe in God, but then to live as if He doesn’t even exist. He’s asking you to be what some may call the “Christian atheist.” However, if you ever meet Him and realize the significance of what Jesus did for you on the cross, to do what Perry Noble is suggesting will be impossible for you; because once you give your life to Him, you’ll never be the same. He’ll give you a new heart with new desires and enable you to do His will for your life which He has laid out so beautifully for you in His Word. And I promise you upon the authority of God’s Word that you will never be sorry that you trusted Him.

Maybe you are here today and you are realizing for the first time that you need Him in your life. If you have never acknowledged Jesus as Lord of your life, it is my prayer that you would come to do so today before it is eternally too late for you. There’s only one way to Heaven, and that’s the blood of Jesus. Claim it today. Turn from all sin and trust Jesus alone to save you. If you do that, He will save you today and keep you saved forever.