Tyndale Pulls Book, But Should Repent Along With the Church

I don’t know if you heard of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. It is the book about a boy who died and went to heaven. Only he didn’t really die, and he didn’t really go to heaven. He made the story up and then someone published it and it sold millions like every other worthless book of its type.

What makes this one interesting is that the boy, Alex Malarkey, came out recently after actually reading the Bible and recanted the entire story. He said it was a hoax. Really? You see, that is the real rub. Alex, a boy, actually had to come out and tell us the story was a hoax before we (the wider church audience) could actually discern that the story was a hoax. Every single story like this is a hoax. In fact, let me try to be clear as possible: if someone has a story of dying and going to heaven, and they have published a book about it, then they didn’t die and go to heaven. It is a hoax.

The reason I say this is that we have a standard that we can use to test such stories. It’s called… (and I wish the people at Tyndale Publishing would actually get one of these books and read it), it’s called the Bible. By reading it with eyes of faith, we can actually discern between what is real and what is a hoax, like the book written by Malarkey and the other popular book Heaven is For Real.

Back to the standard. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that it is impossible for someone to die, while on the operating table for example, and be with the LORD provided they are actually Christians. What I’m saying is that the standard for discerning is given by Paul when he had such an experience. He writes: And I know such a man–whether  in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows– how he was caught up into the Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:3).

The key for knowing whether something is a hoax or not is whether or not the person actually talks about it, and tells us wild things like Jesus has a pet unicorn that is colored like the rainbow. The true believer, whom God might give the experience of being caught up to heaven, would not talk about it because he or she would know it was unlawful. I actually heard of such a man who was a dear brother in the LORD who died on the operating table. But when it came to talking about it, he couldn’t. He was too overwhelmed like Paul to say anything.

The problem with these Charlatans is that they don’t hesitate to say anything, or write anything or make a movie out of it, deceiving the undiscerning. And for this they need to repent.

According to the latest reports on this book, Tyndale Publishing has decided to pull all the books and paraphernalia. Gee, that is wonderful. But what they should do is repent of such greed and stupidity. Call it ignorance if you like, but they are in the business of publishing Christian books and this book is undecidedly not Christian. There is no standard by which to hold them accountable for doing what they have done. Are they going to give the money back to the people who were fooled by these lies? Are they going to actually hire some Christian theologians to help set a standard so they won’t publish such tripe in the future? Will they actually use the Bible as their standard for truth, instead of the bottom line?

I doubt it. I doubt they will actually even apologize. Again, their goal is the bottom line so pedaling spiritual lies is no sweat off their backs. The only remorse they will feel is the remorse of actually getting caught.

This is where the church needs to repent. The leaders need to repent for not protecting our flock from such false teachers. The leadership is actually charged with doing so, see 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus and every passage where Jesus speaks about sheep in wolves clothing, false teachers and Pharisees. The leadership of the church is far to timid in doing such things. Pastors will preach week after week and never address the spiritual lies that are floating about. The problem is that there are those in their flocks who are succumbing to such lies. It is not enough to preach the truth, we must also warn the flock about the lies that are present. It is our duty.

Again, Paul’s words: For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain (Titus 1:10-11).

I wonder if that might apply here.

But back to the main point as well. Not only should Tyndale Publishing repent of their … dishonest gain, but so should those in Christian leadership for not warning our congregations about such bilge. Not all in leadership are afraid to say such things, and many do, but in general, it’s just not “nice” to say something about a Beth Moore, or Rob Bell, or other such deceiver.

I know it’s difficult to warn people against such books with horrendous theology. They don’t like it. To try and warn someone against something like Jesus Calling insults the ones who read it because they have deemed it right in their own eyes. But we still must try. The general population of the church is not discerning. It’s a sad reality and lands back on leadership’s lap. They don’t know that such books are not worth the paper they are printed upon, theologically and spiritually speaking. They don’t know, because again, leadership has not spoken of such.

But the larger congregation is at fault too. They are too prideful to listen to those of us who are trying to warn others. They believe that since they have some degree from Big U., that they have enough education to know what is right and what is not right. This is why so many of them heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (1 Timothy 4:3-4).

The larger congregation in general loves fables more than they love spiritual truth found in Scripture. That is the reason why these books sell. They would rather listen to speculation about truth than actual truth itself. For this, the larger congregation needs to repent. Just because someone is talking about Jesus, heaven, hell, etc., doesn’t mean that what they are saying is true or has any real bearing to Biblical truth.

But I’m not sure any of these things will happen. For the most part, Tyndale Publishing will continue to print tripe for the Christian bookstores who are guilty of being undiscerning as well. People will continue to flock to those things that are but a shadow of truth. And we will see more books on people who go to, and come back from heaven.

I guess we should rejoice that one little boy, was used by God to do what the pastors and teachers should have been doing all along. Maybe a few will become a bit more discerning in the process.

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Is Joe Carter Selling Snake Oil?

I saw the post from Joe Carter and the Gospel Coalition floating around Facebook and finally took a gander at it. The title was: How to Change Your Mind, and Mr. Carter opened with these words:

The beginning of a New Year is an an excellent time to try something new. As you make your list of resolutions and goals I want to recommend adding a simple four step process that could transform your life by, quite literally, changing your mind.

Sorry, but that put me off from the get go. It’s not the making of resolutions, or reading the Bible, as he is advocating. It’s his sales pitch. Whenever I hear of programs, or ministries, or other things put forth that can transform your life, and change your mind, I get very skeptical about those putting them forth because they are promising us what only the gospel can do.

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Can God Prevent Evil?

I found this little ditty in the comments section of a theological liberal:

Old Epicurean trilemma (although also attributed to Carneades the Skeptic):

If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?

It sounds profound and deep, but the Bible has answered this question over and over again in its denunciation of our own goodness. When the man said to Jesus, “good teacher…” Jesus replied that only God was good. He was not speaking in hyperbole. He was making a statement about the goodness of man. We don’t have any inherent goodness in us. We are conceived in iniquity and without God’s grace in our lives, we continue on in iniquity until we receive our just rewards in the after life, a punishment that no man wants, but fully deserves.

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In Ephesus

Taken from a sermon that I preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lufkin, TX on November 30, 2014.

When people find out that I’m a Presbyterian pastor, I get asked if I believe in predestination. On one such incident, I told the man that asked me the question that I did believe in predestination and election. He then asked me for my support of such a belief.

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Against Holiness

This is probably one of the most disappointing posts I’ve written in a while. I started to call it “Against Tattoos” because the subject of tattoos among Christians on Facebook is what got me started. But after the exchange, I really wanted to just crawl in a hole and pray the Lord return, quickly.

What got me into trouble was the suggestion that because of the Law of God, we might not want, as Christians to actually get… uhm… well, tattoos. For the first 2,000 years of the church, tattoos were never debated. There were no great councils that battled over this issue. It was just understood: tattoos represented pagan worship and pagan gods. This didn’t mean those who had them could not come to Christ and be redeemed from the lawless lives. But no one started advocating getting tattoos so that they could fit in with the culture. (Seems like there has been a lot of ink, pardon the pun, spilt over changing the culture for Jesus over the last 25 years or so… how is getting tattoos changing the culture I wonder?)

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Muckraking to the Glory of God

On days like today, I had to go through my check list. It’s not a complicated list. It’s just something I do when I feel immensely insignificant and almost forgotten by God. I know that I’m not forgotten by our Loving Triune God, but those damnable feelings…

What is my check list? It’s easy. It starts like this:

  1. You have been blessed with another day to live. This is supported by the verse somewhere that this is the day that the LORD has made… and I will rejoice and be glad in it.
  2. You woke up in your own bed. Well, not really my own bed. It belongs to my father, but he is letting me use it until I can some how get to a place where I can afford my own place and use my own bed.
  3. You ate breakfast! This one is important, given that there are those who are starving around the world and would just love to sit down with me and eat some fried bacon and eggs with two pieces of toast and Smucker’s Blackberry Jam. We need to rejoice that He is taken care of us. Simply eating is a part of that reality.
  4. I have a job. Actually, I have three jobs. One is working at Texas A&M in their turf field lab, doing all manner of things including muckraking (see below). Another is at the country club, which doesn’t pay much, but allows me to play golf for free. The third is substitute teaching. I only do that so I will have access to insurance. God has and is providing for me through all three jobs.
  5. No one tried to kill me today because I’m a Christian. This one fact has ended more pity parties than you will ever know. We see weekly how our dear brothers and sisters in the LORD are being martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. The day may come when I too will be martyred, but it’s not this day. For that, I rejoice.

I have to go through this quick checklist quite often. This morning I did so because I had to clean out the water-meter boxes again so I could take meter readings. The boxes are filled with the most vile mud and goop known to man. The water that sits there, until I pump it out, is rancid as well. It’s muck, the worst kind, and I have to clean it out so that hopefully the water will quit filling up in the boxes and drain as they were designed to do. I think the design worked for the first 10 years of the project. But the boxes are not draining now and that leads me to raking the muck up, putting it in a 2 gallon bucket and hauling it off to an empty field. It stinks, and no matter how careful I am, I get the stuff on me. Even as I write this, the horrible smell is still embedded in my nasal membranes. That won’t change for a while.

But I don’t complain. Raking up that muck is part of God’s provision for my life right now. While most people would head for a McDonald’s for gainful employment, I press on for God’s glory. I also realize that in a metaphorical sense, raking up muck like I do on a weekly basis is very similar to full-time ministry. There are always situations where the metaphor works. And just as I get the real muck on me from time to time, in full-time ministry, the muck is always flying. So maybe God is preparing me for ministry again. For Moses, he had to take care of smelly sheep. For me, my task is cleaning out the meter boxes and raking up the muck. To God be the glory.

God Hates & Loves Sinners

David Platt covers a really difficult concept found in Scripture: the fact that God hates sinners, but loves them as well. Let’s face it, this is not an easy topic. On the one hand, you have Psalm 5:4-6 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. 

Now watch the video.

“This is the work of God…”

Church 001

When the people ask Jesus what they may do to do the works of God, I bet they never imagined that the focus of God’s work in us is belief in Him. Jesus responded to their question by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

This verse is full of truth in that it reveals that even our faith is a work of God’s grace in us. We like to think that our faith is something that we conjure up when were driven by our fickle emotions in hearing about Jesus. But true faith never comes about by emotions. It comes by the power and the hand of God. This is what He does in saving us. He tells us we are to believe in His Son, then works the faith in our hearts, so that we can believe.

I know many reject this truth because they want to cling onto their ability to believe in Christ for salvation. This is where we differ when it comes to the gospel. Those with Calvinist leanings, like myself, understand that even our faith is a gift of God’s grace toward us so that He gets all the glory for our salvation. If we accept this truth, then we can also take great comfort in the passage found in Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

He is the author of our faith, in that His Spirit worked in us so that we would have eyes to see and ears to hear. He worked in us, giving us a heart to believe. He worked in us, so that when we heard the gospel, we would actually hear from Him (Romans 10:14). This is the work of God, that we believe in Him whom the Father has sent. All of our salvation is the work of God in our lives. He is the One who began a good work, and will see it to the day of salvation.

When we accept the premise above that even our faith is from Him, then we can find the assurance of salvation that so many of us struggle with because we also see that the One who began it, will see it to its completion. If our faith is dependent upon something that we have done, then we know rightly that we can lose our faith and our salvation is only as certain as our fickle emotions. Yet, if our faith is something He produced in us, then we can rest assured that He is the finisher of that faith as well.

Let’s not make the mistake of the people who asked God what they could do. When it comes to saving faith, nothing but believing in Him is the only answer. We cannot walk an aisle, say a prayer, give $10,000 to Joel Osteen, go to a Bible conference, or even be baptized. All we can do is believe, and then we must trust in the Spirit to work faith in us.

In other words, if we are truly saved, then we know it is because of God’s rich mercy toward us. Many, like the people in Christ’s time, want nothing to do with God’s mercy. They want more Law, even though the Law condemns us all the more, even though we are unable of keeping the Law, even though it signs our death warrants. This is one reason the people in Christ’s day were so furious with Him. They liked the Law, and their false-belief that they were actually keeping the Law. But the gospel stands to show us otherwise. The gospel stands to show us… we are in need of God’s mercy and His hand working in us.

Taking Up Our Crosses

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeveral times in the Gospels, Jesus says “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).”

This passage is rich with spiritual truth and truly eye-opening for those of us who are following Christ because it is not a passage of comfort and ease. The very image He is giving is one of death and self denial. Just think of what we know about those who were crucified. They had to bear their own cross to the hill where they were put to death after being flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails. It was a gruesome way to die.

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In the Beginning, God!

I really do like the way that the Bible starts out in Genesis 1:1. Moses writes the first few words of the Bible as a stated fact. He doesn’t ask if we think there was a god, or there might have been a god, but “In the beginning God…” He writes as if he were telling a story about something that happened just that morning.

“This morning, I got up out of bed…” A simple statement about my day and when I make it, no one assumes it’s not true. In fact, if we were to ask the same questions of the atheist when they make an obvious statement like the one found in Genesis 1:1, we might just frustrate them a bit. “Really, how do we know you even exist to get up out of bed?” “What scientific evidence do you have for your rising up out of bed, and for your existence at all?” “How can you prove you got up out of bed this morning, and how do we know you won’t skew the results of this proof?” Or worse, “Sorry, but you don’t exist, therefore you did not get out of bed at all.”

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“But The Bible Was Written By Men!”

Often times we hear objections from non-believers that we cannot trust the Bible because it was written by men. The implication is that the Bible is fallible because men wrote it, men who were simply giving their opinion, or worse, conspiring to say something that God never said. It is the quickest way to stifle conversation or thought among non-believers. Never mind the fact that men are making this judgment that we cannot trust the Bible. Which means if men are so fallible that we cannot trust the Bible, then how can we trust their opinion that we cannot trust the Bible because men made it, and they are men, and men are making opinion statements… wow, that was confusing. But you get the idea.

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Moses in the Desert

We have a tendency to just read over that section in Acts 7, where Stephen is recounting the ministry of Moses and shows that he went to live in the land of Midian, where is says: And when forty years passed…

Forty years is a long time to be put on the shelf. Forty years is a long time to spend in the desert. Forty years is plenty of time to utter those famous words of the psalmist, “How long O Lord, how long?” I’m quite certain that the LORD never answered Moses when he uttered such words. It would have sent him into despair to know that he would be a shepherd for the next 40 years. If He had answered Moses, I’m sure Moses would have asked why 40 years? The LORD might have said: “Because you are not qualified nor ready and it will take ME 40 years to get you to that point. Plus, your kinfolk are not ready either and it will take 40 years for Me to get them there. I do things in My own time Moses, not yours.” But that is mere speculation and I’m in no way, shape or sense channeling the LORD.

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Top 3 Reasons Cults of Christianity Thrive

There have always been cults of Christianity, from the early days of the Gnostics, to the early Middle Ages with Islam, to our current days with Mormonism, Christian Scientist and Jehovah Witnesses. These religions take portions of true Christianity, and craft their own brand of religion. The Apostles warned us of such, as well as Jesus when they spoke of savage wolves (Acts 20:28-31), and wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23). Since my conversion back in 1990, part of my focus as a Christian has been to expose them for what they are. Given that I was raised in a cult, you can understand why.

The question that I have asked myself and I’m trying to answer today is, “Why do the cults surviveWhat is it about them that keeps them going and causes them to thrive?”

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Greater and Lessor Sins

I was reading in John the other day about the trial of Jesus. During one of His exchanges with Pontius Pilate, He declares, “You could have no power at all against Me unless is had been given to you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

The obvious truth from this statement is Jesus telling Pilate that nothing happens outside the will of God. God is sovereign and nothing comes about that He has not decreed.

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The Arrogance of Normal Christianity

In my earlier post, The Arrogance of the Radical Christian, I pointed out the problem of those who call for “radical” and “sold out” Christianity. Under their presuppositions, all those great men of the past who have stood for the faith, subscribed to their views on what it means to be “radical.” In other words, they view men like John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon from their lens of self-centered Christianity thinking that John and Charles just decided one day to stand up and become radical for Jesus, and this is what made them great. Never mind the fact that it is God who calls men to positions that we would label as “great.” Never mind that God equips such men for greatness through the sufferings of the cross. Never mind that it is God’s Spirit working in a person that allows them to do great things for God. This movement is just another manifestation of Arminianism that so plagues the church. If we are small or great for Jesus, it is by His Spirit and grace that we are so, not our own fleshly desires.

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The Arrogance of Radical Christianity

I really appreciate Pastor Peter Jones entitled How Ephesians Killed My “Radical” Christianity. He is showing through the book of Ephesians all that has taken place in our lives in becoming Christians, therefore we don’t need calls to become radical in our Christianity or ministries to others. Jones starts by giving a definition for “radical.”

Definitions matter. So before proceeding I wanted to define the term “radical.” By “radical,” I mean that strain of Christian thinking that says living a normal Christian life, getting married, having children, raising them in Christ, loving your spouse, being faithful at your job, attending worship, reading your Bible, praying, loving the saints, and then dying is not enough. It is that strain of Christianity that says, “There must be something more that I must do to be a good Christian.” The radical thinks and preaches that, “Good Christians do amazing things for Jesus.” This type of thinking is found in all branches of Christianity. There are mission weeks, revival meetings, monks who abandon all, elusive second blessings, pilgrimages to Rome, women who leave marriage and children far behind, men who leave jobs to enter the ministry, young men who believe that memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism is a means of grace, preachers who imply that Word and Sacraments are not enough, and conference speakers who demand that we pray more and more. The halls of faith echo with phrases like: Be radical. Give it all up for Jesus. Sacrifice everything.

In my 25 years as a believer, I’ve seen many manifestations of these radical Christians. They fall into every camp of Christianity that there is and spread the idea that we all need to be doing “great” things for Jesus.

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Matthew 7:21-23

I think there is a better verse than John 3:16 to use in our current culture to show the lost person their need for salvation in Christ. In fact, I think we should quit using John 3:16 all together. Far too many take it to mean, “of course God loves me, I’m just so darn special, how could He not love me?”

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Heaven Is For Real — NOT!

I was driving home today listening to Sean Hannity and his coworkers go on and on about this new movie coming out, based on the book of the same title, Heaven Is For Real. Given that Hannity was giving a complete endorsement for it, I thought I might bring some discernment to the discussion. I know many, and I mean many, are going to eat up whatever the book or movie says because these books always make heaven more palatable for those who are lost. I know, some of those who read this will think I’m just raining on the 4-year-olds parade because I don’t believe his story. Please hear me out.

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