Tuesday, March 3, 2015

End time encouragement from a long-past prophet: Habakkuk

My friend, Pastor Phil Andrukaitis of the First Baptist Church of South Portland Maine, preached on Habakkuk 3 recently. I am on the email list for the sermon notes, and I was struck by how encouraging the notes were. Because:

  • it is always good to be energized by the profound truths of God's word
  • it is always wonderful to remember that prophecy points to the sovereignty of God
  • it is comforting to see there are faithful pastors laboring in all parts of this country and the world, serving and ministering to our Lord

I asked Pastor Phil to reprint the notes. They include a thoughtful and discerning introduction. Please be encouraged with either or both, the introduction or the sermon notes themselves. I added the photos and artwork. They are not original to the sermon.

Please continue to pray for pastors all over the world who preach the Gospel faithfully and discerningly. There are 4,500 pastors meeting in Sun Valley CA right now at the annual Grace Community Church/Masters College Shepherds' Conference. There are thousands of other pastors right now working out sermon notes, praying in tears for their sheep, visiting the sick, building a new church, or doing any of the myriad and seemingly impossible things God calls His under-shepherds to do.

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis
It is only by the Holy Spirit that these men are able to lift themselves up each day under the workload, to have the word of God illuminated to them, to have kindness and comfort to offer the grieving or sin-stricken, to have strength to have the difficult conservations and uncomfortable confrontations.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Good pastors are a gift from God.

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

The introduction and sermon are long. Print it out, mull it over, return to it when you have time. These are God's words, delivered through a pastor's heart, and offered in love and truth to comfort you.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

Phil Andrukaitis
Good afternoon my family and friends,

As a pastor, I have a divine responsibility to shepherd my flock [and to encourage other Christians] by strengthening their faith with the Bible and by preparing them for future trials and tribulations, which lie ahead for all of us. Knowing my own weaknesses and failings, I still press on to model my faith with my life, as this is part of the process of making disciples.

Question: My family and friends, are we ready to experience the difficult times that are coming to our country? As I read the Book of Habakkuk, this prophet of God was told what was in store for his nation. This news was so disturbing for Habakkuk, it caused him to tremble. I believe God is allowing discerning Christians, along with many American citizens, to see ominous signs for our nation. And some folks are trembling.

The concept of the Rapture is embraced as an escape plan among many Christians. While I believe Scripture promises the church to escape the "Great Tribulation," the church may very well experience smaller tribulations [e.g., the collapse of our economic system, martial law, restricted freedoms, fear in the streets, etc.] before the actual rapture of the church.

My brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of the Lord not to dismiss current events or to become discouraged by them. Rather, we are to embrace God and His Word, as did Habakkuk. Therefore, let each Christian embrace his God-given assignment and enable the church to fulfill the Great Commission, making disciples of Jesus Christ.

I pray that Habakkuk's message will strengthen your faith and prepare you to stand firm on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Phil


SERMON TRANSCRIPT

This morning, I begin this sermon not with a story to illustrate the passage; rather, with the text itself. It is one of the most magnificent pieces of Hebrew poetry [comparable to Psalm 23]; the closing verses in the Book of Habakkuk (3:17-19 – NASB):

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines; though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls; yet, I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.

Gustav Dore: Habakkuk crying out in prayer
Did you hear Habakkuk’s words with your soul? But wait: Unless we understand these words in the context of the chapter, in the context of the book, and in the context of its setting, Habakkuk’s words of praise would be wrongly interpreted and misapplied to our lives. Therefore, let us begin with the fact that Habakkuk is a devout servant of God who...
  • grieved over his nation’s wickedness,
  • wrestled with theological perplexities,
  • and shook with fear when God told him what was coming to the nation.
God was bringing judgment to His people. Yet, Habakkuk declared his faith and expressed praise to the Lord GOD, in spite of the news he learned (Habakkuk 3). How is that possible?

So as not to get ahead of myself, permit me to ask you two questions: First, what was the most gut-wrenching, painful experience you have ever had? Second, how long did it last and what were the consequences? Perhaps some of you have experienced one or more of the following:

• The death of a parent, spouse, child, or friend
• An act of violence committed against you [rape, beaten, robbed, etc.]
• News that your health is failing – you have only three months to live
• The rejection of your spouse [divorce]; the betrayal of a friend; the discipline of a church
• The consequences of a sinful decision that brought overwhelming guilt and shame

Okay, now that you are in the moment for just a moment, what were your thoughts towards God when you were in that time of trouble? Were you praying? Were you crying? Were you afraid? Were you angry? Did you doubt God’s love? Were you filled with despair? How did you get through this painful experience?

Transitional Sentences

Having jolted your memory, you are now ready to connect with the prophet’s words and emotions; but just for a little bit. I do not want to offend anyone by minimizing your gut-wrenching painful experience, but when God told Habakkuk what was coming to the nation, within the prophet’s lifetime, Habakkuk wrote,

I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound, my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us (Habakkuk 3:16 – NASB).

Yet, immediately following these words,

• Habakkuk did not stare at the horrific news he just received.
• Habakkuk did not become paralyzed in his walk with God.
• Habakkuk did not run away from God; rather,
• Habakkuk grounded himself in what he knew to be true about God and praised the Lord.

Historical Setting

Okay, before we proceed further, you might be asking, who is Habakkuk? There is nothing known about the prophet’s personal life. While students of Scripture have speculated that Habakkuk was of a priestly family, the Scripture is silent on this issue.

Habakkuk’s name means, “to embrace.” Based on the prophet’s words, it appears that Habakkuk embraced God [God’s glory, will, purity, heart, people, and suffering]. While all the other prophets spoke for God to the people, Habakkuk speaks openly to God about people.

Habakkuk wrote this book approximately 2 years before the first of three deportations to Babylon [B.C. 605, 597, 586]; 20 years before king Nebuchadnezzar eventually destroyed Jerusalem with a great slaughter. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Moreover, there is a sense in the text that Habakkuk is also living in Jerusalem.

• We know that Jeremiah lived through the two-year siege of Jerusalem. Jeremiah describes God’s wrath against Jerusalem (Lamentations 2), whereby the Babylonian military forces first starved the people into submission and then broke through Jerusalem’s wall, slaughtering, plundering, and destroying the people and the city.

• However, as for Habakkuk, we do not know if he perished in the two-year siege or died by the sword when the Babylonian forces ransacked the city. However, when the prophet heard the news from God, what was to come, it is no wonder the prophet shook with fear.

I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound, my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us (Habakkuk 3:16 – NASB).

In order to understand more fully Habakkuk’s prayer of praise in Chapter 3, let us review quickly a summary of the Chapters 1 and 2.

Summary Points in Chapter 1

Habakkuk’s 1st Complaint (1:2-4)

• God, why do You seem so indifferent to my prayers?
• God, why did You allow Israel to go so far with their sins?
• God, why do You not bring justice to the land?

Evidently, the time for divine judgment was now. From the Book of 2nd Chronicles, the godly reforms King Josiah instituted were reversed by his wicked sons, especially by king Jehoiakim. Consequently, Israel was rife with the following sins:

The people were idolatrous, especially as they sacrificed children upon the altars of demons, for financial and agricultural prosperity.
  • Corruption in the highest political and religious offices were the norm [Observation: perhaps that is why the nobility were first to be carried off in the first of three deportations to Babylon].
  • Jerusalem’s officials abused their authority and power, bringing injustice to the widows and the poor.
  • Bloodshed and crime were rampant throughout the land.
  • The Word of God was rejected; so were the prophets, as they were persecuted.
  • Consequently, the people of the land refused to repent of their sins.
God’s Reply to Habakkuk’s 1st Complaint (1:5-11)

God said, I am bringing the Chaldeans [Babylonians] to judge My people [Israel].

Habakkuk’s 2nd Complaint (1:12-2:1)

• But God, the sinfulness of the Chaldeans is worse than the sinfulness of the Jews!
• God, how can You endorse evil people to do Your divine work?
• God, You are too holy to look upon sin.
• God, the cruelty of the Chaldeans is known worldwide! They will destroy us!

To feel the horror that filled Habakkuk’s soul, imagine ISIS forces overwhelming this nation, as they are overwhelming the nations of Iraq and Syria.

Summary Points in Chapter 2

God’s Reply to Habakkuk’s 2nd Complaint (2:2-20)

• God declares: The just shall live by faith [present the gospel]
• God declares: I will judge the Chaldeans for their sins [5 woes]

--greed and aggression (5-8)
--exploitation and extortion (9-11)
--violence (12-14)
--immorality (15-17)
--idolatry (18-20)

Summary Points in Chapter 3

Even though Habakkuk did not understand everything about God and the course of action He was taking against Israel, the prophet offers a powerful prayer of praise.

First, Habakkuk makes a request of God (2).

--Revive Your work.
--Make Your work known.
--Be merciful when You express Your wrath.

Observations about Habakkuk’s request

1. Habakkuk knows what is coming and expressed his fear, along with his faith in God.

2. Understanding that God is holy, Habakkuk knew that God must judge sin. Habakkuk does not ask for personal deliverance, ease of suffering, defeat over the Chaldeans, or for Israel’s deliverance.

3. Rather, Habakkuk asked for God’s will to be done. Hmmm, this is reminiscent of the Lord’s Prayer. Consider the following questions: Are we more concerned about...

...our personal welfare or God’s will in our lives?
...which political party will win next year’s election or purity of the church?
...becoming more like Christ or securing material possessions?
...our comforts in this life or the kingdom of God?

Do you seek the shadow of the Jesus’ cross looming over this passage? Habakkuk asks, “in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk knew that God could no longer tolerate Israel’s sin. God’s righteous character demands that He judge sin.

God is still the same God today. He does not change. He cannot look upon our sin without judging us. That is why God sacrificed His Son on the cross for our sins. When Jesus hung on the cross, He alone bore the wrath of God so that you and me could escape God’s wrath. Indeed, God did remember His mercy while pouring out His wrath on His Son. We do not deserve to be saved. God held back the judgment we deserve [mercy] and gave to every sinner who has believes, eternal life [grace].

Listen, my friends, there is no sin in your life beyond the cross. Even though no one else knows about your sin, God knows. Come to Him in faith, believing that the blood of Jesus cleanses you from all your unrighteousness.

And to my brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to bestow mercy and grace on our lives. Forsake the sin that so easily cripples your walk with God by calling out to Him to revive your heart for Him.

Second, Habakkuk remembers the deeds of God (3:3-15).

God displayed His majesty to the world.
God displayed His power over the nations [the Exodus and the plagues].
God displayed His presence among His people [Mount Sinai].
God displayed His glory, causing the nations to fear Him [Joshua 10].

What was God’s purpose in all of His deeds? The answer is clear: To demonstrate to His salvation for a people He loved.

Applications from Habakkuk’s remembrance

1. Read Scripture and understand how God has demonstrated His faithfulness in the past. A good place to begin would be at the cross. Think through how God took steps to bring Jesus into this sin-cursed world. In your mind, imagine yourself among the fickle crowds that called for the death of Jesus. See with your mind’s eye how Jesus carried His cross for you; the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross. Listen to His last words from the cross. These actions on our part have a way of strengthening our faith and making more intimate our personal relationship with Jesus.

2. Think back how God has delivered you in the distant and recent past. Be sure to tell others about His faithfulness.

3. Parents and grandparents, how are we demonstrating our faith and what values are we setting before our children? It is true that many young people are leaving the church. Might the problem lie in our homes and the manner in which we live out our faith?

Third, Habakkuk confesses his fear because he knows what lies ahead of him (16).

Habakkuk knew what was coming. If the Spirit of God told us of our future, I do not think we would be able to handle it, as God permits a measure of intense suffering for many of us. Read Peter’s first letter as suffering is a major theme he addresses (1st Peter 2:20-25; 3:13-17; 4:12-19).

Is it any wonder then, that we often times design our lives to avoid future suffering? God’s Word says, “Many are the plans in the heart of man, but the answer comes from the Lord.” God desires that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight or to solely lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Therefore, as Habakkuk’s heart melted in fear, his faith did not paralyze his walk with God.

Applications from Habakkuk’s confession

I do not read tea-leaves. I do not listen to Glenn Beck. I am not a pessimist. However, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that difficult days lie ahead for this nation.

God has not spoken to me, as He did to the prophet Habakkuk; however, His Word speaks to all of us. And our country, like ancient Israel, is rife with the same sins. God is going to judge America for her many sins. The question is, when will this judgment fall?

As your pastor, I have a divine responsibility to strengthen your faith with the Word of God and by modeling my life before you; making disciples of Christ.

My brothers and sisters, are our souls ready to experience what is coming to our country? God told Habakkuk what was coming and the news caused him to tremble. God is allowing us to see the signs in our country and across the world and I sense that people are beginning to tremble.

I believe many of us think that the Rapture is the church’s escape plan. Yes, I believe Scripture promises the church to escape the Great Tribulation; however, there will be many smaller tribulations, [like the collapse of our economic system, martial law, restricted freedoms, fear in the streets, etc.] that impact the church.

My brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of the Lord not to dismiss current events or to become discouraged. Rather, we are to embrace God, as did Habakkuk, seek to fulfill our mission as a church, bringing Jesus into the lives of others.

With that being said, let us look at the final portion of Habakkuk’s prayer of praise.

Fourth, Habakkuk praises God because... (17-20)

--God’s sovereignty never changes (17).
--God’s salvation is sure (18).
--God’s strength will help us walk with Him (19)

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines;
though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food;
though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls;
yet, I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
and makes me walk on my high places.

Applications from Habakkuk’s praise

When the Chaldeans ransack the nations, they wiped out the permanent crops [figs, grapes, olives], the basic food and the flocks. In other words, God oversaw the destruction of Israel’s economy. What did that mean for the people of Israel? There was no food in the land. The absence of social services, like those of today, guaranteed that the young, the old, and the sick would most likely die of starvation.

What do we say today, when any of us lose our job and become unemployed; when the insurance runs out; when social security check is denied? Even worse, what might be our reaction should Wall Street collapse, wiping out all of our savings?

A word to the wise and prudent: Our country is on the verge of economic collapse. Even now, America is financially bankrupt, not to mention morally and spiritually bankrupt. Even though many people may lose everything, God remains in control. After all, He is responsible for removing those things in our lives.

Conclusion

This is Communion Sunday. Someone has said that God tries our faith so that we may try God. When God gives His people unwanted burdens, God also provides His undeserved blessings. Therefore, thankfulness comes from what is in our hearts, not what is in our hands.

Even though I have lost everything [consider Job], I will rejoice in the Lord for He has guided my steps into this experience. May each of us cultivate a heart like that of Habakkuk, of Job, and of Jesus. Amen.

----------------------------------------------------------------

First Baptist Church 879 Sawyer Street ~ South Portland, Maine 04106
Office: (207) 799-4565 Fax: (207) 799-5922
Website: www.spfbc.com Email: southportland.fbc@gmail.com


Monday, March 2, 2015

Unusual quakes in CT, TX, Smoky Mountains

We haven't had a good old earthquake update for a while. I think that nothing expresses His sovereignty over the earth as much as when He shakes it.

who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; (Job 9:6).

People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth
. (Isaiah 2:19)

There was a small quake in the Smoky Mountains. What is notable is that it is only the third earthquake in that region, ever.

Earthquake strikes the Smoky Mountains
Early in the morning on Wednesday, February 26, 2015, a minor earthquake shook up the Smoky Mountains. For a little over a week, the Smoky Mountains have been covered in snow and ice, but that didn’t stop the earthquake that rumbled in the mountains sometime between 4-4:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The earthquake registered at a 2.1 magnitude about 7 miles south of Gatlinburg, closer to Clingmans Dome. According to local news station WATE, this is only the third earthquake that has been recorded within national park boundaries. The first was in 1979 and the second in 2011. Thankfully, no earthquake in the Smoky Mountains has been powerful enough to cause any damage.
Another location has been experiencing quakes: Connecticut

Connecticut's quakes unusual
Geologists are trying to make sense of about a dozen small to moderate earthquakes that have peppered eastern Connecticut in and around Plainfield, a sleepy town that hasn't seen much excitement since its textile industry moved out in the 1920s. The largest of these was a magnitude 3.3 quake that was felt at 6:36 a.m. on Jan. 12. "We're getting a swarm of earthquakes, which is a little unusual for Connecticut," said Susan Long, professor of geology at Yale University who specializes in earthquakes.

2.2 Magnitude Quake Is the 12th in a Week
The ground shook again in Eastern Connecticut on Thursday morning as the area experienced its 12th earthquake in a week. On Friday local and state officials will be holding meetings to inform residents and discuss how prepared the state is should a damaging earthquake strike here.

Plainfield gets another quake
PLAINFIELD- Earthquakes, no matter how minor, can rattle one’s nerves, not to mention pictures and plates. Still, the people of Plainfield appear to be settling into their new existence. The Quiet Corner has morphed into the Quake Corner. Tuesday morning, at approximately 9:30, the Plainfield Police Department fielded roughly a dozen phone calls, most from Green Hollow Road, reporting yet another earthquake. This one was a 2.1 magnitude. “And, that’s nothing like the hundreds (of calls) that we were dealing with earlier when this was all occurring,” said Plainfield Police Capt. Mario Arriaga. ... Dr. Long says seismologists worldwide remain interested in the state’s recent rumbles.
Jeepers! New Look at 'Creeping' San Andreas Fault

A small part of the San Andreas Fault that was thought to quietly slide without shaking its neighbors may actually be capable of strong earthquakes, including magnitude-6 shakers, a new study finds. The San Andreas Fault is divided into three legs. The middle leg has long been treated as a benign barrier between the more seismically active northern and southern segments. That's because the central section "creeps" — rocks on either side of the fault slip past each other without snagging. On the other two legs, rocks lock together, building up strain that is unleashed as powerful earthquakes. ... Scientists had thought that San Andreas Fault earthquakes primarily struck in the locked zones, so it was a surprise finding locked patches big enough to trigger sizable earthquakes in the creeping zones, said lead study author Romain Jolivet, a geophysicist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech in Pasadena, California. ... Scientists have recently raised the possibility that an earthquake could rupture the entire length of the San Andreas. The biggest recorded earthquakes on the fault either started or stopped in the transition zones.
Earthquakes in Texas...Again
In the relative calm of an early morning where North Texas was bracing for a rare snow storm, the Dallas suburb of Irving got a wake-up call, literally, on Friday, February 27, when a small 3.1 magnitude earthquake struck at 6:18 AM, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). This was the first temblor felt in a month. The City of Irving has been the site of “roughly two dozen quakes to hit since the beginning of 2015, and more than 40 earthquakes have hit since April of last year,” CBS DFW reported. They stated that the USGS located the epicenter as just east of the former site of the Texas Stadium off of State Highway 193. ... Although the team has not yet been able to provide an answer as to what has been causing all the seismic activity, it does indicate “there is a narrow two-mile fault extending from Irving into Dallas, running 3 to 5 miles deep,” also according to CBS DFW. ... Dallas residents are not used to having earthquakes and their nerves have been frayed by the constant seismic activity of late.
You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters. (Psalm 60:2)


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Girls, stop cutting, Jesus loves you

By HIS stripes you were healed!

What is cutting?
Self-harm can be a way of coping with problems. It may help you express feelings you can’t put into words, distract you from your life, or release emotional pain. Afterwards, you probably feel better—at least for a little while. But then the painful feelings return, and you feel the urge to hurt yourself again. If you want to stop but don’t know how, remember this: you deserve to feel better, and you can get there without hurting yourself.
The self-injury epidemic we're seeing is not restricted to secular girls and boys. Christian teens do it too. This article from Today's Christian Woman titled "The Razor's Edge: Why even Christian teens aren't immune from the epidemic of self-mutilation and what you can do" was written in 2004, so imagine how prevalent the self-injury epidemic is now over ten years later, with the world having gotten even more difficult, confusing, and evil for these impressionable teens.
It's more prevalent among Christian teens than people like to think," she says. "Self-injury is just beginning to be recognized and treated in Christian circles. If you do it, you feel like a freak. You feel unlovable, as if you were beyond God's grace. But a cutter needs to realize Jesus loves her as she is and that his atonement is sufficient for her sins."





 If you took the time to watch the above video, I'll make two comments. Chris explained in an interview that he purposely adorned the gal with a yellow smiley tee shirt yet has a razor in her hand ready to cut herself. He did this to reflect the reality that so many youth today are depressed, confused, but don't show it on the outside yet feel intense despair in the inside. By God's grace, he received an email after publishing this particular video from a girl who simply said "I stopped cutting myself because of this video." Praise the Lord for that!

Not that one would expect this video to have the exact same effect on all persons who view it, but the idea is they were bathed in prayer, created and animated by a dedicated man of God, and the content points to Christ. The Holy Spirit WILL use them for Jesus' glory. (John 16:14-15.)

Christopher Powers is a talented animator who makes Christ-honoring and exalting videos and other visual resources for the edification of the members of the global church. He is immersed in making study guides to go along with each new video, perfect for small group study. Full of Eyes is a ministry that exists to provide these and other visual resources to people who want to spread the Gospel of the Glory of Jesus Christ. The images and videos can be useful to pastors, missionaries, and every Christian who wants to communicate with others about Christ.

Christopher’s theology is solid. He has recently finished seminary and is married with no children (yet). His aim is to work-full time on these resources and produce them in quality fashion, but quickly. You can support him with a one-time donation or each month through Patreon or Gaius. I support him through Patreon. You can give for as little as $1 per month.

Chris's website is www.fullofeyes.com. On that page you will find his Resources, all of which are free. The only item to pay for is the postal cost for mailing of the tract cards. All videos, study guides, artwork etc are free to use in the hopes that Christ is exalted and the Gospel is preached.

I bring this up for two reasons. Chris is a young man who is solidly Christ-centered. I personally believe when we find a young person willing to give all and risk all for the glory of Christ, and is as solid as he is, they should be promoted and supported and prayed for. Secondly, on the practical side, his work is spiritually moving and will definitely appeal to the young people he seeks to reach. Please consider sharing his work with the youth in your circle. Powers’ work is so much better than the watered down, meaningless, seeker-sensitive hogwash we are subjected to on a daily basis.

My favorites are the video animations “Dead Come Alive”, “All I Have is Christ,” and the tract cards.

Blessings, and thanks.



Further Reading:

Kids' Health: What is Cutting?

Teens Talk About Cutting

GotQuestions: What does the bible say about self-mutilation/cutting?

412 Teens: What Does the bible say about Self-Harm/Cutting?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Matt Redman to headline Catholic youth event"

Andrew McDonald posted the following at his UK blog The Protestant Standard. He gave permission to re-blog it here. My own comments are below his re-post.

Matt Redman to headline Catholic youth event
On 7th March the largest event in the United Kingdom for young Roman Catholics will be held at Wembley Arena in London. 'Flame 2' is organised by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation and is anticipated to attract up to 10, 000 young Roman Catholics. Throughout the day Roman Catholics speakers will bring messages to the young people gathered there, and at the conclusion of the day Cardinal Vincent Nichols will lead everyone in a time of Adoration i.e. the Mass. None of this is unusual, or worthy of special comment for it what we would expect at a Roman Catholic event. This issue which attracts our attention on this occasion is the presence of a leading Contemporary Christian Music artist, Matt Redman.
Redman is currently one of the most popular and influential artists among Christian young people therefore his attendance at this event is concerning. The Catholic Youth Ministry Federation have described it as a 'wonderful blessing for Flame II that Matt is able to lead the music' and that they 'are certain that this encounter will enrich school and parish Masses and liturgies in the months after Flame II.' Such a recommendation is hardly one which we would desire! As well as being the lead musical act, Redman is also listed as one of the speakers for this event, and has personally promoted it on his own Twitter account (see here).

Sadly this is not a first for Redman as in 2014 he held a joint concert in Belfast with Matt Maher; someone who would be described as a Contemporary Christian musician, yet who in truth is a devout Roman Catholic. A quick glance at Matt Redman's previous and upcoming events a similar lack of discernment in relation to biblical separation, with Hillsong, Passion Conference and Joyce Meyer's conference being three of the most glaring examples.

So what does this mean? It means that young (and older) Christians should take great care in which artists they listen to, and how devoted they become to these people. Many Christian artists today have a following among young Christians which is on a par with secular pop artists, and there is nothing more certain to cause a row than to criticise someones favourite Christian singer. Yet there are occasions where concerns arise which need to be highlighted, and we believe that this is one such occasion. The important question to ask might well be whether we are more annoyed at the actions of our favourite Christian singers, or more annoyed that their actions have been highlighted?
Just so, and well said Mr McDonald.

Reported on the Flame2 page is the following:
The SSE Wembley Arena will be filled with 10,000 young people from across the country, receiving faith-filled inspiration from world class speakers. Confirmed speakers include Cardinal Luis Tagle from Manila, Philippines; Baroness Sheila Hollins; Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP; and David Wells. Music will be provided by double grammy award winning Matt Redman and his band. The day ends with a time of Adoration led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
I have another question that the article raised in my mind. We know that Catholic doctrines are anti-biblical, while the true faith is biblical. We know that Catholics have the spirit of antichrist and Christians have the Spirit of Christ. It's a darkness v. light situation, evil v. good, crooked v. narrow.

We also know that Catholics have music particular to their false faith. Ave Maria is Latin for Hail Mary, a traditional Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox prayer calling for the intercession of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Gregorian chants are particularly Catholic. "Saint" Ambrose and "Saint" Hildegarde created bodies of work in music specifically for the Catholic Church and it is particular in sound and doctrine. Before I was saved I used to LOVE listening to Ambrose's Gregorian Chants, and my husband constantly played Jean Redpath's versions of Hildegarde's music.

However post-salvation, I stopped. It is a wonderful blessing for Flame II that Matt is able to lead the music, and for our young people to hear him first hand. We are certain that this encounter will enrich school and parish Masses and liturgies in the months after Flame II.
Source


Protestant music is also particular to Protestants. During the Reformation, reclaiming the high Latin chants and songs the priests sang from the choir stalls and giving congregational singing back to the congregation, "Luther wanted the service to be centred on Christ, and thus had new hymns composed that preached the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection. They were named Lutheran Chorales." (source)

Why on earth would Catholics enjoy Protestant songs? IF the songs that Redman composes are about the true faith, then Catholics would not want to listen. UNLESS, Redman's songs are so watered down that the lyrics could mean anything to anyone.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further Reading

Why Should Churches draw doctrinal boundaries?

5 Wrong Questions to Ask when Drawing Doctrinal Boundaries

Friday, February 27, 2015

The vine, the abiding, and the dead branch

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

We've been having many storms the last two weeks. Ice, sleet, freezing fog, snow, and wind. Three winter storms in the last two weeks, a lot for us. The first storm was the worst. Many thousands of people were without power. Many tree limbs came down.

There was a branch in my yard that came down yesterday. It was a biggish limb, torn right off from a large tree in the back yard. I'd planned to take a photo of it to illustrate the verse, but the yard got cleaned up before I came home from work. So I found this branch in the sheep pasture instead.

Look at it. The limb is dead, that kind of dead, rusty brown that pine trees turn when they are good and dead. It is no longer connected to the tree. That limb can stay on the ground there as long as it wants but it will never do anything except lay there and get dead-er. It will not grow longer. It will not spring pine needles, It will not bear pine cones. It will not house birds. It will not shade worms. It will only lie there, dead.

It is apart from the tree.

Do not be apart from the vine. Jesus is the vine, providing life-flowing sustenance, strength, power. Abide in Him.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Excerpts from Ligonier's 'After Darkness, Light 2015 National Conference

Sermon Highlights from After Darkness, Light: 2015 National Conference

Sinclair Ferguson's sermon "Christ’s Message to the Church"

The Reformers warned us that darkness will once again overcome large portions of the church if the gospel is not proclaimed and defended in every generation. Through the Apostle John, our Savior issued a similar warning to the seven churches of Asia Minor, calling them to return to Him lest they fall into darkness and their lampstands be removed. In this message, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson considers what Christ might have said if one of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2:3 had been specifically addressed to the church in the modern West in this message.
Biblical Christianity is not going to an assembly where the word of God is preached biblically. Biblical Christianity is being in an assembly where the word of God jumps out of the pulpit and starts running around the church and transforms people's lives.
~Sinclair Ferguson
Steven J. Lawson's message, A Puny God-

If the church has a low view of God, its light will be dim, and the darkness will not be pushed back. ... In this message, Dr. Steven J. Lawson proclaims the centrality of a high, biblical view of the Lord, calling upon God to restore the truth about His transcendent majesty and holiness in His church.
In every generation when the church stands strong, it is in those hours in which the church has the highest view of God in those hours in which the church has languished in its impotence and it's had so little effect upon the world around it, is when the church has had such base and low views of God. If we are to have a reformation, if we are to have a revival in this hour, in this day, it will be a reformation and a revival that begins in the knowledge of God. ~Steven J. Lawson
Better to have small faith in a great God, than great faith in a small god. Your faith is only as good as the object upon which it is cast. ~Steven J. Lawson

Conference Organizers write:

2015 National Conference: Audio and Video Now Available
from Nathan W. Bingham Feb 25, 2015 Category: Events

“God’s people must cry out for His revival and a restoration of the light.” —R.C. Sproul

Last week we held our 2015 National Conference on the theme, After Darkness, Light. We explored our need to be revived and restored to a high view of God, His law, His people, and His plan for the world.

We are now pleased to announce that the conference messages are available to stream for free on Ligonier.org or YouTube, purchase as a digital download, or pre-order on DVD and CD.

Purity in a Digital Age by Tim Challies
Repentance & Renewal by Rosaria Butterfield
Paganism in Today’s Culture by Peter Jones
Pre-Conference Panel Discussion
Christ’s Message to the Church by Sinclair Ferguson
A Puny God by Steven Lawson
Questions & Answers #1
No Place for Truth by Alistair Begg
Jesus Made in America by Stephen Nichols
Whatever Happened to Sin? by Russell Moore
It’s All about Me by R.C. Sproul Jr.
Questions & Answers #2
I Will Build My Church by W. Robert Godfrey
Do Not Love the World by Kevin DeYoung
The Least of These by Sinclair Ferguson
It’s Just a Book by W. Robert Godfrey
Holy, Holy, Holy by R.C. Sproul

Optional Sessions:

Lessons From the Upper Room by Sinclair Ferguson
The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steven Lawson
Abortion Front Lines with John Barros and R.C. Sproul Jr.

Be encouraged: the Lord's word can break the stoniest of hearts!

Keep praying for your friends and family. The LORD and His Word is stronger than all circumstances, bigger than any sin, the healer of hearts, and the slayer of fortresses.