Is the church alive?

Well over a hundred years ago the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared, “God is dead.” He suffered a mental collapse in January of 1989, and spent the remaining ten years of his life mentally ill dying on August 25, 1900. Philosophers have debated what Nietzsche meant when he said, “God is dead,” but no one is debating whether Nietzsche is dead.

The cover story of the April 8, 1966, edition of Time magazine asked, “Is God dead?” The cover provoked popular criticism drawing attention away from the actual content of the article. The article addressed the theological problem of making God relevant in an increasingly secular and scientific society.

Of course, Time magazine was merely following Nietzsche’s lead, and the Church would have done well to contemplate why the question was being asked?

The Church of England recently relaxed its requirement that the faithful attend weekly services. Poor attendance, a symptom of disinterest, was blamed. The waning of Christian influence in Great Britain is currently highlighted here in the policies and character of our two candidates for the Presidency and the lessening of evangelical influence not only in the electoral process but also in our culture.

The question is not, is God dead, but is the church alive to God?

Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me,” Matthew 15:7-8.

Biblical faith has always been intended to restore and foster a relationship with our Father. Our first parents forfeited their relationship with God when they decided to disobey. We inherited the inclination to sin from them, and in doing as they did, we surrender our hope of a relationship with the Father.

Jesus came to satisfy our sin debt so that we could be restored to right standing and a relationship with Father God. By repenting of our sins and turning in faith to Christ for forgiveness that relationship is restored. But when Christianity devolves into meaningless routine and religious practice it sucks the life out of the relationship.

In Isaiah’s day the people of God had lapsed into idolatry and the true worship of God was just traditional formality; their heart was far from God. Praise was mere lipservice and rituals were empty routine. In Jesus’ day idolatry was supplanted by self-righteousness, much like today.

The church is no longer hallowed by this generation, but seen as hollow, empty of life. I believe there are people in America who hunger for a real relationship with the Father, and they will only find it in those who are alive to God.

John wrote of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men,” John 1:4. That is the life we have to share with others, and we cannot wait for them to stumble into our world, we need to step into theirs.

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Perry Noble’s Return

There is a well-known saying circulated among believers about the nature of sin. “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.”

I thought about those words as I read an interview with Perry Noble who resigned his pastorate of the church that he founded sixteen years ago, NewSpring Church in South Carolina, because of a drinking problem. Perry speaks openly about how his growing dependence on alcohol to help cope with the pressures of pastoring cost him that very pastorate, and strained his relationship with his family. His counselor advised him to share some “extremely unwise decisions” he had made.

“I chose isolation over community,” Perry said. Shame and the fear of discovery caused him to withdraw within himself and from the life of the church, the very people whose help he so desperately needed. “I was a hypocrite” he said, “I preached, ‘you can’t do life alone’ and then went out and lived the opposite.”

The most hurtful decision Perry said was “choosing alcohol over his wife…and daughter.” Retreating into himself he deprived them of a needed husband and father. This almost cost him his family.

Another bad decision was not asking for help. Perry admitted, “I chose to remain silent.” Of course this goes hand-in-hand with isolation; whom can you speak with if you withdraw from their company?

I have already addressed whether drinking alcohol is a sin back when the news of Perry’s resignation became known and will not readdress it here. But drinking had become a sin for Perry when it became a substitute for his dependence on God. He knows “I’ve been forgiven for the sin, but I must now deal with the consequences.”

This is the heartbreak of sin, the consequences. A pastorate lost, a family almost destroyed, and a tarnished testimony seen by all. I think Perry would admit sin took him father than he wanted to go, made him stay longer than he wanted to stay, and cost him more than he wanted to pay.

Perry’s story is painful to write about. He had critics in the church and enemies without, but this is not the time for those who were jealous of him for building a home Bible study into a megachurch to gloat, or for his critics to kick him while he is down.

Paul enjoins us when he writes, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted,” Galatians 6:1.

I think Perry has learned his lesson and been forgiven, and I pray his return to the Gospel ministry will be attended by even greater success than before.

In His Image

About ten years ago the Ohio State School Board voted eleven to four to remove language in the state’s science standards that encourages students to “investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” One of the board members who voted to delete the language remarked, “it is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about science,” too late.

The heart and soul of science is to investigate and critically analyze everything in the physical realm including evolution. I cannot fathom how it is misleading to teach children to do this very thing. Anything less is not science it is shamanism.

If evolution is more fact than theory, if it is so unquestionably true, if its underlying premises are so faultless, why should we fear its examination? If all roads of life’s origin and continued existence lead to Evolution why stop children from reading the map?

Evolutionists claim the beginning of life was unplanned and therefore an accident. They say the fossil record shows periods of rapid evolution interrupted by long periods of no evolution making the process of evolution inexplicable, and man’s rise to the apex of the animal kingdom was mere happenstance.

The whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observable fact about the origin of life. But based on scientists’ best guess, that is what theories without proof are, man is the random product of a mindless process that began by accident. And in the same breath, with the same certitude, and lack of direct evidence, they say we descended from the apes.

Our modern method of scientific investigation was developed over several hundred years in countries whose societies held a Christian worldview. In fact, our modern method of scientific inquiry was predicated on the following syllogism: God created the heavens and the earth (id est, the universe); God is a reasonable Creator; therefore, the world and those things in it can be understood on the basis of reason.

This view of a created universe operating by divine order was the foundation for scientific study by such men as Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Faraday and others. Since Christian thought played a prominent role in the development of modern science, Christians have no quarrel with its discoveries. Differences between believers and scientists are over theories not facts.

Since the beginning of life will remain perpetually unobserved, we are left with only two possible theories. Either God created life, or life began on its own. The Scriptures declare, “God created man in His own image…” Genesis 1:27, and evolutionists theorize we descended from the apes.

As we see the civil unrest, loss of civility in public dialogue, and the brokenness in society, we are seeing the results of a generation of people who have been taught they are little more than animals, so they act like animals.

I think our nation would be better served if we all realized we have an image to live up to, not a lineage to live down.

Was Cambridge Christian denied their right to pray?

In 2015 Cambridge Christian School of Tampa, Florida, met University Christian School of Jacksonville, Florida, in Camping World Stadium for a championship football game. When Cambridge Christian wanted to offer a pregame prayer over the loudspeaker they were denied by the Florida High School Athletic Association citing Abington v. Schempp.

Nevertheless, when the two teams met on the field before the kick off, they prayed without the benefit of it being broadcast.

In a federal lawsuit Cambridge Christian alleges the football players’ religious freedoms were violated when the FHSAA denied them the right to “broadcast a pregame prayer over the loudspeaker.” They further claim by doing so the FHSAA denied spectators the opportunity to participate.

But the players did pray, and any spectator was at liberty when they saw those young men in prayer on that field to join in a silent prayer, that in the heat and very physical competition to come, that a Christ-like spirit prevail and each player be protected from serious harm.

Cambridge Christian cannot claim any right was denied; they can merely say access to the loudspeaker was denied. Jesus Himself decried the sort of ostentatious spectator-focused prayer in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-6) that Cambridge Christian is claiming a right to.

I would cry foul if one of our religious freedoms are challenged. We are enjoined in the Scriptures (Proverbs 25:26) not to retreat before the advance of evil, whatever form it may take, lest we by our inaction contribute to its corrupting influence. But religious freedom is not the issue here. Denying the use of a microphone is not the denial to pray.

Those young men on the football field that day did the best thing they could to protect their freedom of religion; they simply exercised their right to pray. I have not heard that any of them were arrested for doing so. And the ACLU to my knowledge has not dispatched one of their lackeys to file a lawsuit because the players merely exercised their constitutional right.

Cambridge Christian I think was ill advised to force this issue into overtime by filing a federal lawsuit, because if it is eventually heard in court they probably will not enjoy a home field advantage. Cambridge Christian and University Christian should be thankful and proud of the way their respective players responded that day. I do not even know who won the game, but they are all champions for Christ in my estimation.

We certainly live in a time when religious freedoms are challenged and should be ready to defend them, but the cause of Christ is not well served if we pettily sue at the slightest provocation. I think the best thing Cambridge Christian could have done considering the outcome, is to have simply put this issue to rest in the win column.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.

Why is this election so important?

Christian author Philip Yancey is the most recent believer to question the evangelical support of Donald Trump. Thrice-married, avowed adulterer, and an ego big enough to claim he has never needed to ask God for forgiveness, Trump does not fit nicely into the evangelical mold.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., lead the charge by giving Trump his endorsement early in the campaign after having Trump speak at Liberty University, and has faithfully supported Trump since. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, has resorted to calling fellow Christians names if they don’t jump on the Donald Trump bandwagon, and staunch Christian conservative James Dobson has excused Trump’s more insensitive remarks claiming he is a “baby Christian.”

While each of these men hold a place of respect in my mind, their support of Trump sounds more like shrill desperation and political expediency than the truth. To what can we attribute this kind of support for a man who doesn’t appear to have a clue about what it means to be a Christian?

It is the fear of a Hillary Clinton Administration and her stated support of two issues of deep concern to evangelical voters, abortion and same-sex marriage. The first is killing off the next generation and the second cannot produce the next generation, and both undermine the future welfare and security of our nation.

Jeffress has characterized this election as a choice between “good and evil,” and Dobson said his fear of a Clinton administration “haunts my nights and days.” But a Trump Administration may not be as good as Jeffress is hoping and may haunt Dobson if he is elected. The one bright spot in Trump’s campaign is his choice of Mike Pence as a running mate.

I am still praying about the election in November. Many are saying this election is important; I believe they are all important. I have conflicts within and concerns without, and one of those concerns is the extreme emphasis by Christians on the importance of this election.

Long ago the prophet Isaiah declared, “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales…All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless,” Isaiah 40:15, 17.

Come November I will step into the ballot box and cast my vote. That is my right and responsibility as a citizen of this country, but my hope for the future welfare of this nation is not in the political process of America that in comparison to the purposes of God “is less than nothing and meaningless.”

My concern this election year is for those who are willing to sell their birthright of faith for a mess of political pottage; who are willing to compromise their character and actions to advance either political cause. If the Church had been more intent on winning souls, it might not be so intent on winning elections.