A Burger King god

This post was originally posted by the author on his Old Blog and represents one of his favorite (and oldest) posts.

There is a “new” and destructive trend blowing through Christianity.  But in reality, this trend is nothing new.  The Apostle Paul wrote stern warnings, and Jesus Himself warned of this trend.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.(Galatians 1:8-9)

From the earliest days of Christianity – even when Jesus still walked the earth – there were already twisted “alternative” views of the gospel developing, even in the hearts of Christ’s own inner circle.  This trend really began to take off once the Gospel began to spread soon after the day of Pentecost.

I have said from the pulpit that the root of all of this is Satan and his use of the natural human nature towards pride and selfishness.  After all, Satan is described as being like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Which brings us to a quote I heard (and read) several years ago:

  Satan couldn’t beat the church, so he joined it.

The first time I heard that, I was speechless.  And then I began to open my eyes.  If God’s Word is unchanging.  If God HIMSELF is unchanging, then there can be only one correct understanding of scripture – thus only one true Gospel.

So how do we get to where we are today?  Simply by people, under the leadership of Satan (and I believe oftentimes these people are not even aware of it – they have also been deceived, to a point), have “joined” churches, have worked/manipulated themselves into positions to teach and eventually preach another gospel – all with the intent of helping themselves (fleshly/selfish desires), and Satan in “devouring” those they can deceive.

Somehow today, we have, just in the mainstream “versions” of Christianity (denominations).  This chart is in no particular order, except the first column being the biblical statement:

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All claim to be “right” in regards to who Jesus is – who God is – and what the gospel is.  But can these be all correct?
Let us return to Paul’s warning in Galatians – if ANYONE – angel or human- preaches to you a gospel different from the one Paul and his ministry companions did – let them be “accursed” – run from them, do not tolerate them.
Jesus dictated a series of 7 letters in Revelation 2 & 3.  Five were subjected to serious condemnation and warnings – and the primary reason – false teachers.  Those who were teaching and preaching another gospel.  Whether it be “Judaizers” or “Jezebels”, they were leading people down the path of destruction – and those churches were to deal strongly with them – and not tolerate it one bit.
And this all comes from the selfish “belly” of people and Satan.
So where does the title of this post, “Burger King god” come from?  In each case – when the image or character of God is changed to the preferences of mankind, that is no longer God.  He becomes nothing more than a Whopper ordered “your way” at Burger King.
Just this morning, I saw a reply to a post regarding the young girl, Jahi McMath, who has been declared brain dead after an apparent serious reaction to anesthesia having a tonsillectomy.  This post reminded me of just how much of a “custom-made-to-order” god that is being preached in churches.
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Where in scripture are we, as believers, given the authority to command God perform a miracle and raise someone from the dead (or to demand He do anything else?).  Nowhere.  Pray- yes.  Plead with God on behalf of others (intercessory prayer)?  Yes.  But the only god that is subject to human commands is a Burger King god – done YOUR way.

And we wonder why there are so many disillusioned professed “Christians” floating around in this world.  It’s because they were sold a bill of goods by those “enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ” who told them that they could just “ask Jesus into their hearts” and he would make life easy, bless them financially, and they would be “heaven-bound” no matter what happened.

  • No repentance (a change of mind and heart regarding sin – an intentional TURNING FROM sin).
  • No God-transplanted heart of righteousness
  • No sincere sustaining faith
  • No real conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Just have an experience and/or see “signs and wonders”
  • And god becomes your servant…
  • It is time for churches who have allowed false teachers to hijack them to repent!  It is time for Christians to repent!  It is time to get back to God’s Holy Word. It is time to stand up and call sin what it is – sin.  No situational ethics.  No ever-changing and “living” God’s Word that conforms to the times.
  • It is time to stand against those who proclaim a prosperity gospel.
  • It is time to stand against those who preach a gospel of liberation theology.
  • It is time to stand against those who would create their own Burger King god.

It is time to get back to the Word of God.  The same Word of God that says clearly that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  The same Word of God that clearly states that the wages of sin – is death.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you have decided you were “made that way” – sin, is sin.

It is time to get back to who God (in Jesus) really is – the perfect Lamb of God who came, not “to be a good teacher”, not even to heal and preach (though in His grace, He did).  Jesus came with one and only one purpose – to die in our place, pouring out His precious blood on the cross, that sinners might be saved from the wrath of God.  Yes – the very wrath that so many want to ignore or forget about.  Jesus died that we might live – eternally.  But that will never happen with a Burger King god.

Jesus didn’t die (and rise from the dead) so you can command Him to raise your loved one or friend from death.  Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead so that you could have a fat bank account, a fine home, and all the luxuries this world has to offer.  Jesus died that sinners might stand before a Holy and Righteous God and be viewed in the righteousness of Christ, not our own unrighteousness.

And for those who are truly saved, born-again, in Christ Jesus, are made new creatures.  Put off the old self, for in Christ we are made new.  Read Colossians 3.

God is not who you, in the flesh, want Him to be.  God is God.

Who Is Jesus? (Deity of Christ) Part 5: Who Can Forgive but God?

Luke 5:20-21 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus clearly made many claims of His own Deity – see the previous installments of this series of posts. But we finally see an acknowledgement from even His opponents in the above passage. The Scribes and the Pharisees themselves knew that ONLY God had the authority of forgive sin. Yet here was Jesus, the lowly Carpenter from Galilee, son of Mary and Joseph – a man who was forgiving sins.

Under what authority did anyone have to forgive sins?  None – because sin, ultimately, is an offense to God almighty – the Sovereign of the Universe who is “Holy Holy Holy”. and here Jesus either is usurping the title and works of God (an act of blasphemy), or He was simply doing the very work of His Father which he repeatedly said He was doing (See John 6, for example).

And indeed, Christ’s one and only mission in His incarnation as God in the flesh – and that was to march head-long to the cross – to offer Himself as the only, perfect, and complete sacrifice for the payment in full of the sin debt of all who would believe.

At the most fundamental level – and the most important theological reality of all: God Himself paid the price for the very sins that separate mankind from Him.  A price that we could never pay ourselves. The price that the blood of millions of goats, rams, bulls, pigeons, doves, and so much more could never reconcile. It required the perfect, sinless blood of the Spotless Lamb of God – and He paid it all that we might live. No angel, no created being could ever be enough to settle the debt, but God Himself.

Part 4: Who Alone Is to be Worshipped?

Matthew 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

While being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan’s calling for Jesus to worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus said that only the Lord and God is to be worshipped and served. This is an obvious reference back to the commandments given to the Hebrew people in the wilderness so long before, and the command to have no other God before Him.
Yet in John 9:35-38, we read of a man born blind, but given sight by Jesus. The man has been cast out by the Jews for his testimony of what happened – and when Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Time an again throughout Scripture, when someone bowed down and began to worship any other than God, they were quickly chastised for their mistake. Yet Jesus has no chastisement for this healed man. The man was simply allowed to worship Jesus.
Hebrews 1:6  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
The writer of Hebrews laid out a picture of Jesus as one to be worshipped, and to boot – to be worshipped by all of God’s angels! In fact, if we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 1, we see it is all about laying out Christ’s superiority, and then the writer clearly differentiates Jesus from any created being, even angels.
Then we have Paul writing to the church at Corinth, and he identifies Jesus Christ as “their Lord and ours”:

1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

The term translated as “Lord” here is κύριος, literally meaning supreme, controller, master, or God.
And let us compare that to: 1 Kings 18:24 and Elijah’s challenge: And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD ,(יְהֹוָה – Jehovah) and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 
 
Zechariah 13:9  And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name,and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
God’s resend always refer to God as “Lord” – they are terms of worship and adoration of God. So when we see Jesus referred to as Lord, and more directly  – “my God” as Thomas stated, we can understand that Jesus is the only God worthy of worship.
And this brings us to yet another reality – because who else an forgive sins? Stay tuned for the next Episode (Episode 5: Who Can Forgive Sin?)

I Can Only Imagine – a Review

I just returned from an advanced screening of the new movie the latest film from the Erwin Brothers, also known for the movies Woodlawn and October Baby (the latter of which I truly enjoyed). I went as much curious about the movie’s billing as basically the back-story that led to the writing of the group Mercy Me’s breakout hit and now top-selling Christian single of all-time by the same name, as I went to attempt to discern if it was a movie I could recommend in good conscience. This is the review that resulted.

I Can Only Imagine begins in a studio with an interview of some sort of Bart Millard

jmichael

(played by J. Michael Finley in his screen debut)who is asked about the song I Can Only Imagine. He responds that it took all of about 10 minutes to write the lyrics and about the same to write the music. The interviewer then says that no – the song took a lifetime to write…

Finley does a really good job, not demonstrating the typical over-acting of an actor with a Broadway background – but actually giving a believable and heartfelt performance. Of special note – he really did sing in the film!

The interview mentioned above opens a scene in rural Texas and launches our storyline. One filled with drama, pain, and broken dreams, but also a story of redemption and forgiveness.

Normally, I am not terribly impressed when a movie presses the emotion side – and this gets particularly frustrating with many films marketed to evangelicals and billed as “Christian” – as these often drum up truckloads of emotion with a terribly formulaic “ask Jesus into your heart” easy-believism that actually cheapens what Christ accomplished on the cross.

Thankfully, the emotion in this film does not lead to a call to such a “prayer”, but instead is totally appropriate as it helps to tell the story. The gospel is implied, though not glaringly thrown into the mix.  The film doesn’t have a “Courageous“-like bold challenge to a decision, yet at the same time is quite challenging – and does convict, resulting in some deep thoughts of our own relationships that need forgiveness and restoration.

There is a secondary storyline of a long-time (from childhood) love, yet even this is only a decoration on the bigger picture, that only serves to reinforce the underlying themes of the film

Of particular pleasure is learning the back-story of this song.  It is a pleasure, yet simultaneously is the main need for a box of tissue!

I was a bit concerned when I saw Priscilla Shirer’s name in the opening credits, as she always sends up red caution flags for me – I’m not sure if it is her popular efforts to be a “pastor” to the masses, or her dangerous mystic/borderline heretical beliefs she sells to sold-out audiences (contemplative prayer being one of the most obvious, but also the related belief that God is still audibly, verbally, giving new revelation today), or maybe it is her proclivity to twist Scripture way out of shape to make it fit her own dangerous theology. But whatever the reason, my “shields” were up, but I took them down somewhat when I realized that her role in the move was a rather minor role, and not one that contributes any real theological material. She is simply a music teacher in a high school, and appears all of a couple of minutes.

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One surprise for me, cast wise, was Dennis Quaid who plays Bart’s father.
Quaid actually nearly steals the show with what is probably one of his best acting performances of his lifetime.

 

If I did have to pick something out to complain about, it would be the tidal wave of materials for sale based on or tied to this film. It always concerns me when there is a ton of merchandise (and profit being sought by it) along with a movie that otherwise has positional to be a real life-changer for many. Some will complain that the gospel is not presented boldly enough, or clearly enough. If someone (or a church) thinks that using any film alone as an evangelism tool is sufficient, they are already approaching the call to make disciples the wrong way!  Look at this movie first as an encouraging film, good entertainment, and a message of the need for restoration and forgiveness – and as a solid film that many outside of evangelical christianity likely would be interested in. Go to enjoy knowing the back-story to this popular song. Take a friend because they need to heard the same message – and maybe it will open the door to you filling in the rest of the details of the Gospel.

“The redemption story is great-if the Gospel could change that dude, the Gospel can change anybody!”

~Bart Millard, Mercy Me

If you are looking for a story of redemption and forgiveness – and already love the song I Can Only Imagine, then this movie would be one to add to your schedule. I am seriously thinking about organizing a group from church to go see it.

Here is a link to the trailer for the film: I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine opens March 16, 2018

The Blame Game, Agendas, and Reality

After a troubled night of sleep, much prayer, and time in God’s Word, I am still struggling with the events yesterday Sutherland Springs, Texas. I’m struggling with what could drive a person to commit such a horrific act. I struggle with my own family and their safety – especially after the news that the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (who was out of town) lost his daughter in this mass murder.

And then I turned on the news this morning. Sadly, after recent programming change in our service, the only news network we have right now is CNN – so that definitely slants the reports coming out. And not surprisingly, the talking heads are already speculating and laying blame in every direction except on the real root issue in this case.  Indeed, it doesn’t take a degree in psychology, law enforcement, or in criminal investigation to know the real cause, but I will address that later in this post.

Of course, the first blame is being “aimed” at guns. Those evil guns, along with the wild and clueless rush to identify specific kinds of guns.  CNN’s anchor used the identification “AR556” – later to discover it was apparently the Ruger version of the popular AR-15 sporting rifle. Later reports say that he had a Glock handgun and some other .22 caliber handgun in the vehicle he was in.

Within hours of the shooting, the former President tweeted a mostly good tweet, but had to insert his own political agenda into the atmosphereobamatweet.png

I’m all about reducing violence, but not by capitalizing on the grieving hearts of people who have lost entire families. But the very last part is rather ironic in this snappy attempt to use this tragedy for political gain is the bit about wisdom to reduce “weaponry in our midst”.   Why do I call this ironic? It now appears that this shooting was stopped by the neighbor who lives across the street from this church – who pulled his own AR-15 firearm to engage the church shooter. It was the very kind of firearm so hated by the political Left that was used to STOP this attack.

Guns are not the problem.  Research, documentation, and statistics all verify that. Indeed, additional laws do nothing but take away firearms from the very kind of guy who stopped this mass murderer.  And I’m going to really stir the pot: no-one has ever been killed BY a gun of any kind!  Many people over the history of firearms have been killed WITH a firearm. Guns are tools – tools for sporting purposes, tools for recreation, tools for hunting, and tools for self-defense (as well as defense of our nation from tyranny – as our Founding Fathers indicated – the primary background to the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution).  Mankind has always had the proclivity to kill, using whatever tool or method is available. It is a problem that has existed nearly as long as mankind has walked the earth (see Cain slaying his brother Abel). But again – this is a hint to the real cause…

Gun laws? The shooter in Texas purchased several firearms, despite a military criminal history and apparent dishonorable discharge that SHOULD have prevented him purchasing said firearms. The Pentagon/Air Force apparently hasn’t or doesn’t reported military crimes and convictions to the NCIS system. Laws not followed don’t help.

But some of the laws being proposed – would have disarmed the guy who is now being hailed as a hero for confronting the shooter with his own weapon.

Do we blame beer for drunk drivers? There were drunk drivers when the USA had prohibition. Indeed, it is speculated that alcohol abuse actually increased under prohibition! No – drunk drivers kill – because they made a series of bad decisions that included the alcohol.

There are many now pointing to mental health failures and the possibility of anti-psychotic drugs that have become so prevalent, though there are no indications of a diagnosed mental disorder in this case. Indeed, even if there was a diagnosis for the shooter, contrary to popular opinion, mental disorders still do not address the actual cause.  Mental disorders don’t kill people, people kill people. Anti-psychotic drugs do indeed play “Russian Roulette” with brain chemistry – and are also probably over-used. Has anyone really taken an honest look at the INCREASE in violent crime, including these mass casualty attacks and the vast expansion of the use of these drugs to “treat” the perpetrators? A quick scan of previous cases show a terrifying number of shooters who used or had used these chemicals. But again – drugs don’t kill, but they might open the channels for what is inside to emerge and carry out what one might not normally do.

No – laws, and rules will not make us safer. Additional restrictions to Constitutional rights for law-abiding citizens is counter-productive. All the pontificating on mental health seems to only lead to more excuses for tragic behavior. We must address the core issue at hand.  These acts are carried out by people who have a heart of sin. A heart that is evil. A heart that is not filled by the Holy Spirit. Humanity stands condemned because we all are sinners. But when one still has their heart of stone that comes with the natural man, you tend to do what the natural, unregenerate do – and that is sin, including beating your wife and child (as the shooter in this case was convicted of while in the Air Force). An unregenerate heart  leaves open the door to seeking out others to commit harm to other people.  A sin-filled, evil heart, refuses to see the value in human lives. A broken, twisted, unregenerate heart isn’t changed by anti-depressants or anti-psychotic drugs.  The only cure for the kind of heart that we all begin life with – is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will not deny that there are cases where some people have chemical disorders in the brain that CAN be aided by some medications – but without the Gospel, they still have the sin-filled, violence-prone heart.  Why is it that the most successful drug treatment programs and criminal rehabilitation efforts all are founded on faith-based, Christ-centered efforts that begin with the Gospel, then deal with the other issues.

And the ultimate “fix” for all the evil that is so pervasive in our world is the same: Jesus.  The Gospel is God’s answer. I pray daily for a great spiritual awakening to seep our nation – beginning with hearts being regenerated and drawn to Christ. But if that isn’t to be, then I pray for the return of Christ as was promised. when Jesus comes, guns, drugs, and other things will no longer even figure in to the situation. All things will be made new –

But as a side-note.  I have heard several things that have been encouraging in this otherwise horrific and dark event. First is the neighbor of the church who picked up his AR-15 and engaged the shooter at the church, apparently wounding him and causing him to drop his rifle and flee. Add to that, another driver picked up this neighbor to give chase and keep law enforcement eyes until they could arrive.

I was also encouraged by the family members of victims in the church who spoke boldly of faith, of turning it all over to Christ -and the need to cling to Jesus in all of this.

 

Who Is Jesus (Deity of Christ) Part 3: Seeking the the Real Jesus – My Lord, My God!

 I cannot help but be blown away by the words of “doubting” Thomas in his confession of faith found in John 20:28 – “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas didn’t just express Jesus’ position above him (“Lord” – κύριος – literally “supreme authority”), but he also called Jesus God (θεός – Deity/Supreme Divinity).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church a description of Jesus that doesn’t mince words: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”Colossians 2:9. Paul made qualms that he saw Jesus as, quite literally – God.
 
Further, in answering questions about Jesus – and the highly irregular claims that Jesus was God – Paul wrote to the Philippians:
 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Equality with God? But there is only one God, correct?
The writer of Hebrews recorded something extremely interesting:
Hebrews 1:8  But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” (A direct quote from Psalm 45:6)
If we were to ignore the first phrase, this verse would not be controversial – yet the writer specifically wrote “But of the Son (that’s Jesus), he says…” OF Jesus. The writer directly calls the Son… God.
To label anyone, other than God Almighty, as “God” would be blasphemy. So our conclusion must bend to what the inspired biblical writers penned.
Installment #4 will come next week – “Who is to be worshiped but God alone?”

Glorious Day, Yet Grieving…

Today will go down in history, at least in my own little world, as a radical rollercoaster. We had an incredible day at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs today, including the addition of a new church member and a discussion with another couple who expressed their intent to join next week.

We had a fabulous lunch fellowship and then the crowning time of the day – the ordination of my brother in Christ, friend, and servant-minded man Roger Meredith to the deacon ministry (my first such service to lead). It all was quite wonderful!  Yet while all of this was unfolding in our little neck of the woods, in Sutherland Springs, Texas – a young man, Devin Kelley carried out a horrific and apparently planned attack on the First Baptist Church in that small community.  A church with just over 100 members, and an average Sunday attendance around 50…  Reports so far are that at least 27 are dead and possibly 20 others wounded/injured.  The victims at this point range as young as 5 years old.  And particularly heartbreaking for me – the pastor’s daughter, Annabelle, only 14 years old, was among those murdered. In fact, this particular detail is the one that kicked me in the stomach the hardest – bringing this story FAR too close to home…

At the same time – while I grieve for Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife as they have to struggle to come to grips with the loss of their youngest daughter – maybe this extremely ugly, evil, and sad event serves as a bit of an illustration. You see – this morning, preached a message from Luke 9:57-62 titled “No Excuse Faith” (should be posted on the church Facebook page in the next 24 hours or so). The basic message in a nutshell – Jesus wants followers who have a a No Excuse Faith – who step up and follow Him TODAY- because we really don’t know what tomorrow may hold – or even if we will HAVE a tomorrow.  It shadows Paul’s statement to the Corinthians that “TODAY is the day of salvation!”

How many who were gathered together for worship with FBC Sutherland Springs had a clue that today would be their last? How many put off decisions the Lord had been leading them towards? How many went to their grave having shrugged off the conviction of the Spirit?  How many had a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ – that they carried to the grave because they thought they would deal with reconciliation “tomorrow”?

How many of the young victims among them didn’t hear their mom or day tell them they loved them this morning? How many forgot to tell their spouses how much they loved them? Who among them possibly put off turning to Jesus until a “tomorrow” that, for them, won’t come?

The reality is – today is the day to take a step of faith to follow Christ with everything you have in you – to trust in Him, because you may never find  another opportunity.

The same goes for our loved ones – have you hugged your wife/husband’s neck and simply told them “I love you”? Do you sometimes skip telling your kids the same? Take the opportunity you have right now to tell those you love just how much you do!

Stop making excuses – make the most of today, because we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. It’s a shame we sometimes have to be reminded by such shocking events.

Make a difference today!