Sunday, November 25, 2018

Why Kevin DeYoung is wrong about the family idol


Twitter is really a rough place to post any current issue mulling over in our minds.  With a short number of characters one cannot expect to present a full treatise on a position for all to gaze upon.  But this requires considerable oversight in discerning exactly what it is we wish to post.  With such a small space an ill-chosen word can be quickly misconstrued and the purpose for the post becomes a tangled mess we can only try to unwind.

Recently, Pastor Kevin DeYoung of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, NC tweeted "One of the acceptable idolatries among evangelical Christians is the idolatry of the family".  Anytime someone wants to flush out a known idol, the unified cry of the brethren should be a resounding "Amen"...so long as it is an actual idol.  Let me pause at this point and clarify an important point.  I am not asserting that people can’t or don’t make family an idol.  Whenever we look to something or someone other than Jesus to be what saves or justifies us then we are on danger ground for potential idolatry.  Are there some in churches that idolize families?  Yes!  But is it as common and acceptable as Pastor DeYoung emphasizes?  I believe the evidence will show this is not the case.  To clarify his statement, much in part to the backlash he received on Twitter, Pastor DeYoung wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition. 

In the article he appeals to the examples he claims of how "...virtually every pastor in America can tell you stories of churchgoers who have functionally displaced God in favor of the family."  He then proceeds to lay out a few real-life examples of how this idolatry plays out.

From a personal perspective, I pastored a church where I did see a few instances of families skipping services on the Lord's Day to meet the recreational desires of their kids.  I say this because I can sympathize with the intent behind identifying a perceived problem.  I am not saying there isn't a point to be made of placing things of lesser importance over Christ and His commands.  Pastor DeYoung is solid theologically and in most areas of orthopraxy, but the question still remains:  Is family one of the acceptable idols among evangelicals today?

Go where the evidence leads
How do we determine if this statement is true?  The answer is a rather simple one...we examine the evidence.  We take a look at the claim made and the facts that are used to support it then determine whether that claim is valid or a strawman.  Unfortunately, Pastor DeYoung does not provide tangible evidence in his short article.  But this is understandable since it was meant to clarify his tweet and not qualify it. 

The problem though is that this is not really something we can gather evidence from without a research survey of sorts.  The only survey of recent that might shed light on this is from The State of Theology.  Statement number 20 words it this way: "Worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church".  58% of respondents agreed with this statement while 30% disagreed.  Could this be the lone smoking gun to claim the family is an idol?  Not really!

First, the assumption of the question presupposes that a proper view of church membership is understood.  The phrase "attending church" comes with a lot of baggage that assumes simply being in the location where the local assembly meets to worship is actually worship itself.  Notice as well that worship is only referenced in regards to doing so with one's family and not with the local church.  A better way of stating this would have been to contend the two locations of worship (at home with your family v. the location where your local church meets) against one another.  While some may believe this is implied, as one who has taken countless workplace surveys in the military I can assure you that precise wording is key to precise results.

Are there stories of families that have weighed church "attendance" against their family events and fallen in favor of the latter?  Yes, just like there are some who have favored against attending church so they can....well...just fill in the blank.  Live in an earlier timezone and the game is one right when services are supposed to start?  Had a long workweek with more overtime than you can bear and Sunday is your only day off?  Lots of studying for those mid-terms that kick off on Monday?  You can literally come up with just about any reasoning that someone would use to excuse themselves from corporate worship on the Lord's Day corporate.

Of course, absenteeism on the Lord's Day for the sake of family isn't the only issue Pastor DeYoung highlights but none can be offered with tangible evidence as to their validity or substantiation as to why they qualify his tweet.  Perhaps what he tweeted was truly more out of frustration from what he has personally seen in recent times in his own pastoring but that alone is not enough.  In fact, I would propose that the evidence proves that the opposite is true of what Pastor DeYoung claims.  The family isn't an accepted idol because most just simply don't care about the family either way.

The facts
Walk into just about any church today and you will notice a plethora of age-graded groups for families to plug into.  Youth Groups, Children's Ministry, Children's Church, Nursery, College Ministry, Elderly Ministry, Singles Ministry, Couples Ministry, etc.  What do most of these have in common?  They are divided by age and separate the family.  The one day out of the week when we should see families gathered together is the one day out of the week that we can't seem to accomplish this.  Let's first look at a typical Lord's Day in most evangelical churches:

Little Susie goes to her Sunday School class down the hall from Johnny's youth room.  Mom and Dad head off to the adult class but not before dropping baby Bobby in the nursery.  45 minutes later they stop into the nursery to wave at Bobby just before saying goodbye again and then pick up Susie from her room.  Johnny's youth discussion is going a little long but they will meet up in the main worship auditorium.  Susie takes her seat and right at 11 Johnny comes walking in.  He sits with the other teens from the youth group but that's pretty normal...he is a teenager after all.  After a few minutes of announcements the Pastor calls the kids up front for a short 3 minute message before they are ushered out to children's church.  Mom and Dad sit together so they can focus on the message while keeping an eye on the door in case a nursery attendant signals for one of them to come change Bobby's diaper.  Bobby stays dry throughout the service.  The doxology ensues and shortly afterwards mom and dad pick up Susie from her children's church room just after grabbing Bobby from the nursery.  The attendant remarks about how sweet he was during his 2+ hour stay with them.  Johnny meets the rest of the family at the car and they are off to lunch only to head back again in 5 hours for evening services (only for mom and dad of course), youth group, children's ministry, and another solid hour for Bobby in the nursery.

So does the family seem the idol in this case?  Kind of hard to see that as a reality when they spend only a total of 5-10 minutes together where the local church meets.  But the evidence doesn't end at the church door, it goes far outside of it.

In 2016 an estimate 887,000 babies were murdered at the request of their parent(s).  The State of Theology survey indicates that 38% of evangelicals disagree that abortion is a sin.  While that number is still disturbing some would say that at least it isn't higher.  However, that does not factor in the 10% of respondents who said they were unsure.  That means that nearly half of professing evangelicals do not want to call abortion a sin.  Nearly half of them are either in favor of murdering babies or apathetic towards it leaving the decision up to the parents as to whether their child deserves to live. 

So does the family seem the idol in this case? But wait, it doesn't end with the slaughter of innocent children.  It goes into the marital relationship as well.

If we took the basic grouping of evangelicals proposed by Pew Research, 28% have been or are divorced/separated.  But the classification of mainline Protestants would add an additional 14% while historically black Protestants would bring in another 9%.  If taken together, the total would bring us to 51% of respondents.  While the specifics of each divorce/separation are unknown the number itself shows a disturbing reality.

So does the family seem the idol in this case?  In any of the three examples, does the family even appear to be the idol?

Deck-plate reality
In the military, particularly those of nautical tradition, the term "deck-plate level" is used to refer to the the practical day-to-day workers of the ship.  They are where the ideas of the command are actually implemented and where reality becomes tangible.  It is here that what is proposed is tested and found to either be feasible or just another idea without merit.  Let's look at the deck-plate reality of the most accepted idol today.

I've ministered outside abortion clinics in Alaska, Virginia, and Tennessee.  I've pastored in church in all three of those states as well.  I've seen countless vehicles with pregnant mothers pull into parking lots for appointment to have a paid assassin and his assistants tear a baby from the womb and place him/her in a disposal bag.  I've witnessed mothers and fathers laughing at the idea of murdering their child, flipping us off as we offer to help them in whatever way they need.  I've seen medical "professionals" escort mothers from their cars for fear that they might hear some grain of truth from us that would plant doubt in their hearts and remove the hitman's ransom that the mother carried in her purse for them.

I've seen these things and grieved.  Grieved so hard at times that all I could do was come home and crash because I was so exhausted.  Worse still, I've talked with people who profess to be Christians and came to these clinics to murder their babies who have no shred of remorse.  They pull into the parking lot with a fish symbol and/or some religious sticker on their car.  "God forgives me", they chant as they angrily assert their sin as though it were pleasing to God.  "My Pastor says abortion isn't a sin", they cry as I ask them the name of the church they attend.  This is the deck-plate reality.  For them, family is most certainly not an idol.

But they are merely a logical conclusion of the real idol that Pastor DeYoung bypasses to attack the strawman in the room.  With no evidence to support his claim, with a few stories from fellow Pastors that may or may not actually reveal an ongoing issue, he unfortunately ignores the fact that many of our churches are promoting the idea that the family is of little to no importance.

I wrote an article addressing a video of parents rejoicing that their kids were going back to school.  Some time before that, I attended a church service where the Pastor noted that school was coming back in session the following week and a few in the assembly replied with a hearty "AMEN" as though their children were a burden they couldn't wait to be free from.  For them, family is most certainly not an idol.

The evidence around us supports the idea that the family is just a weight that anyone burdened with should seek to offload.  It's the opposite of an idol because not only is family not placed above God, family is placed below everything else.

Family is not one of the most accepted idols.  SELF IS THE IDOL THAT IS MOST WIDELY ACCEPTED!!!  SELF drives our churches to create programs that attract parents and provide them an opportunity to drop their kids off for an hour or two to "enjoy" the worship service.  SELF drives families to seek out a local church with all the age-segrgated ministry opportunities you could ever want.  SELF drives us to focus on what makes our lives more pleasing both inside and outside the church gathering. 

SELF drives some professing Christians (a word I use lightly) to stand arm-in-arm with abortionists to murder their babies.  SELF has no qualms throwing in the proverbial towel on a marriage because they are not getting out of it what they want.

Maybe you are reading this and are simply still not convinced that my critique of Pastor DeYoung's assessment if correct.  In that case I would like to leave you with a few short questions to ponder which help to summarize the points made above:

1) What does a typical setting for most families look like in a local church these days? Is the family together in the corporate gathering of the saints?
2) What does that family look like outside of the Lord's Day? Are they functioning biblically with devotional or worship time regularly at the forefront of each day?
3) Where do most evangelicals send their kids during the school year? Public school? Private Christian school? Homeschool?
4) What does the culture reflect back to us regarding what we believe of the family?
5) What do our marriages say regarding our view of the family? Are we consistent in our application of the roles of husband and wife?
6) Is church discipline for neglectful, absent, or even slothful fathers or mothers even on the radar?
7) What does the family's relationship to their extended family look like?
8) What is the overarching understanding of the family's relationship to the local church?

Conclusion
Pastor DeYoung has some great material and is faithful to his calling to shepherd the flock which God has placed him over.  His sermons and other articles carry great weight with many in the Reformed camp and throughout evangelicalism.  In my mind, there is no doubt of his sincerity in what he tweeted and wrote.  But as I browse his own church's website I am met with the same problem I pointed out in one of the thes fact mentioned above.  His church provides numerous ministries that divide the family from one another during the corporate gathering of the saints.  Age-graded Sunday schools, alternative opportunities during the worship service for young children, youth groups, etc. all fit the description I have already mentioned to show us that family is not the idol that is most accepted.

This does not mean that his church is not faithful to the Word.  It does not mean they are not passionately pursuing Christ.  It certainly does not even mean that they are bent on intentionally dividing the family.  What it does mean is that they have bought into the same church model which, for over 50 years now, has undermined the relationship of the family to the local church and fueled the fire of the idol of SELF.

Pastor DeYoung's tweet swings and bats at the air with no evidence to support it in sight.  Can family become an idol?  Yes.  Can your wife/husband become and idol?  Yes.  Can your children become an idol?  Yes.  But again, that is not what he stated.  It is the difference between potential and practical.  What we see today is that family is not an accepted idol among evangelicals because all the evidence points to the contrary.  Perhaps a frustrated Pastor, having seen one too many families in his congregation skip the Lord's Day for other things motivated by their family, needed to vent a little.  Perhaps he was tired of having to find someone to fill in for Sunday School teaching because the usual teacher decided on an impromptu day at Six Flags instead.  Perhaps it was just a combination of years of personal perception and frustrating talks with fellow pastors that finally boiled to the surface.  But none of these actually prove the point asserted and only serve to cloud the issue as we are motivated to attack a dragon that in the end turns out to resemble more of a lethargic salamander.

Idols seek to draw our affection away from Christ.  They seek to replace the affection of our great salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4).  They shift our focus from the Savior to something temporal.  Idols are everywhere and can be constructed out of anything in our lives and hearts.  Warn against making ANYTHING an idol but ensure that if you are addressing an actual one it is based on evidence and not just frustration.  

What is the cure for idolatry?  Focus on Christ!  Focus on Him as Savior and Lord over all.  Turn our eyes upon the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ who sits even now at the right hand of the Father.  Let all idols be utterly destroyed in our minds and hearts that we may worship the Savior in spirit and in truth.

For His glory,
Adam 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

It will not return to Me empty

Have you ever had one of those encounters in evangelism where you just felt like you missed a
HUGE opportunity?  That happened to us 5 weeks ago on July 28...and it's something I will never forget.

We were at the Farmer's Market in downtown Tracy, CA to share the Gospel as we have been for about a year now.  While we have setup our Prayer Stand and had countless opportunities to share the Gospel 1-2-1, I haven't open-air preached since we moved here in June of 2017.  I wanted to gauge the waters and feel of our community to figure out what type of opposition (from locals or law enforcement) we might encounter.

I determined that July 28th would be the day we started preaching.  With the Prayer Stand setup and several of my other kids handing out tracts I setup the speaker and then put the wireless mic on my 3rd oldest son, Solomon.  He had been asking to read Scripture aloud for some time and I thought I would let him do so and I would preach from the passage he read.  He read through a portion of John 1 and several people stopped to listen.  Some of the locals took video and pictures as I watched like a hawk for any potential problems.  Once he was done reading I took the mic and preached through the passage briefly while presenting the Gospel and the call to repentance.  

We had a few good conversations that followed.  About an hour or so later Solomon wanted to read again.  He decided to pick up where he left off and read the rest of John 1.  Within a few seconds of him reading I saw a gentleman wearing a "Ya'll need Jesus" shirt coming towards us with several others.  He asked me if he could record Solomon reading and I agreed.

This man held up his phone and started live streaming to Facebook.  "You're about to be famous little man", was something he said that caught my attention.  Was this someone trying to shame open-air preaching?  Was he an atheist in disguise?  Neither!

He showed me his phone and there were over 300 people watching the video live.  People were commenting and praising God in the comments feed.  I stood astonished as the numbers continued to climb.  Another brother, Ryan, who I had recently connected with and was out there with us started watching on his phone and kept telling me how many people were viewing the livestream.  

"Who is this guy", I thought to myself.  Why were so many people suddenly viewing a livestream of my son reading Scripture?  We had streamed before and the number of watchers wasn't even a tenth of the ones who started watching his within the first few seconds.

As Solomon read the others who had accompanied this man were saying "Amen", "Praise God", etc.  There was no opposition from them or those viewing the livestream.  I didn't know what was happening but silently prayed.

When Solomon finished reading the man asked if he could interview him for a few moments.  "Uh oh", I thought.  "This is where the other shoes drops and we find out his real motives".

I agreed and Solomon proceeded to give him some great answers as to why we were out there and what we were doing.  Then this man asked if he could pray for Solomon.  After praying he told us that he also preached on the streets and was from Chicago.  He was invited by a local church to come out and speak.  They were walking around the farmer's market handing out flyers for their service that evening.  I was handed one and thanked them while placing it in my pocket.

Both he and his friends were very encouraging to Solomon telling him of how much his boldness was a blessing to them.  "If you want to look at that video", he said, "my name is Marcus Rogers.  Just type it into Facebook and you'll see it come up, man."

Wait?  That name sounded familiar.  Why does his name sounds familiar?

He thanked us for being out there and they walked away.  He continued the livestream on his page talking about how encouraging it was to see a young man doing what Solomon had done.

I immediately turned to Ryan and asked "Why do I know that name?"  He said he it was oddly familiar to him as well.  We both opened Google on our phones and started searching.  The very first thing that popped on my search was link to YouTube.  I opened it and scrolled to see a video on Alpha Omega's YouTube page Dr. James White was responding to this man was challenging him on the Trinity!!!!

Oh no!!!! Now I knew why I recognized his name.  He was a professing modalist who denies the Trinity and has challenged the teachings of James White and many other brethren for holding to this biblical doctrine.  Marcus was called out on Apologia Studios podcast and videos.  He was called out by James White himself and many others.  Dr. White and Jeff Durbin both asked him to come on their shows to discuss and debate the topic and he refused.

Here was a known heretic (and yes, modalism is HERESY) that others had tried to debate face-to-face but could not get him to do so and I didn't even know it.

Ryan and I both looked up from our phones but his group had already disappeared.  I couldn't believe the opportunity that was just placed before me and I completely missed it?  Or did I?

Since the live stream and up to the writing of this blog, the video has been shared 456 times and viewed over 30,000 times with 1,238 comments (not counting the replies to comments).  The video went viral on his page.  

If that were not enough, my wife even told me today that she was approached by a teenager in the store this past week when she was with my oldest son Elijah.  This teen apparently recognized Elijah from our outreaches at the Farmer's Market.  He attended a local church and said their Pastor showed the congregation the video one morning as part of his sermon on evangelism encouraging them to share the Gospel themselves.  "That video has gone viral", he told her.

Viral?  A heretic's video of my son reading Scripture went viral?  That's when it dawned on me...we didn't miss a chance at all.  I may not have refuted Marcus' heresy and called him to repentance individually but God was using the acts of a heretic to get the reading of His Word out to others.  Some of the people who were watching the video from where others had shared it may not have known Marcus from any other stranger on the street, just as we didn't.  The teen who spoke to my wife didn't even mention Marcus, only that Solomon was reading Scripture aloud in the open-air.

Did we miss an opportunity?  Maybe.  But one section of Scripture kept ringing in my ears:

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My Word that goes out from my mouth;
It will not return to Me empty, 
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11

That day God used someone who denies His triune nature and preaches false doctrine to bring His Word to the ears of tens of thousands of people.  I trust in God's sovereignty, as described in this verse, that His Word went forth that day and continues to even now to accomplish that for which it was ordained.

May God receive the glory,
Adam

Footnote:
Below is the video in its entirety.  Because I do not want to contribute internet traffic to Marcus' Facebook feed, I found a way to download it directly so I could share it with you here.  


Thursday, March 22, 2018

The real reason Geoffry lost his lob, part 2


In part 1, I noted the direct quotes from Toys R Us executives correlating their decline in sales to the decreased number of children in areas where their retail stores exist.  As stated, we often quickly jump to abortion as the source.  And while it is certainly a factor it in itself is not the source but rather a symptom.

It should come as no surprise that the attitude towards children in the U.S. is about as consistent Joel Olsteen's actual use of the Bible.  You know, he waives it around but could really just care less.  People give lip-service to the cuteness of babies and the adorable nature of children when they perform precious acts.  But when it comes to the general approach to children, at least in the western world, the attitude is found to be one of selfishness.

For those of us in America, we live in a culture of self.  Life revolves around what you can get out of it for the best of your benefit.  Helping others is usually only beneficial if it makes you feel good or you can pat yourself on the back.  I am reminded of how Christ addressed this in Luke 6:32-34.

"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount."

So how does this relate to children?  Most couples decide to have children based on how it will affect their personal goals.  Reasoning such as "We want to travel and see lots of different places and having kids right now just wouldn't fit in the plan" or "I really need to work on my career because I've already dedicated so much time and education toward it" are prime examples.  But let's not forget the psuedo-humble reasons that are just selfishness cloaked as humility:  "We need to get to know each other better first before we bring children into the world" or "We need to establish a strong marriage so we can be strong parents".

But how does this measure up to Scripture?  In Psalm 127:3-5 we see a glimpse of how children are to be viewed:

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

Children are a "reward" from God.  Imagine if God wanted to "reward" you with money, land, or health.  Would you still have the same response by replying to God that now is just not a good time?  Probably not!

Christian documentaries like "Birth Control" have helped to show the trend of apathy towards children and the incline of selfish living over the past century, particularly among Christians.  Should we then be so surprised because "as goes the church, so goes the culture"?  Looking even more practically at this on the local church level is more revealing.

How many churches have you visited where children are ushered off into nurseries and "children's church" shortly after the worship service begins (and in some cases, before it even starts)?  Sure, there are some who say that kids need to be taught on their own level of understanding and I definitely appreciate that sentiment.  But this simply doesn't pan out in Scripture.  Children are expected and assumed to be in the assembly of God's people (Ezra 8:1, 2; Ephesians 6:1).  But we are now more informed on the role of children in family and church by the world than we are Scripture.

As goes the church, so goes the culture!

Toys R Us didn't suddenly experience a massive loss of consumers (children).  It has been trending that way for a century now and only started tanking AFTER Roe v. Wade.  Abortion isn't the problem, it's only a result of the problem.  The problem is our attitude towards children and the selfish sinfulness that pervades the world around us which has also found its way in the lives of some Christians.

The following articles are further expansions of this topic:

A unified assembly

Are children a financial burden to great to bare

For His glory,
Adam

Friday, March 16, 2018

The real reason Geoffry lost his job, part 1

Most of us grew up on the joy of watching commercials like these:

Who didn't look forward to tearing through the Toys R Us catalogue (that was our version of Google for those who just scratched their head in wonder) and seeing the new, glistening toys just waiting for us?  Geoffrey the giraffe was their mascot and your best buddy.  This warm, loving character was ready to escort you down the aisles of toy wonderland.  I remember the few times I visited the store as a kid.  The sheer elation and amazement of seeing a store solely dedicated to toys and fun was beyond my wildest dreams.

But never in any of those dreams would I have imagined Geoffrey losing his job as Toys R Us was forced to start closing their doors.

What happened?
There are many factors that play into the reasons big box stores such as these close down.  The availability of products through online retailers such as Amazon and the ever-expanding stores of Target and Wal-Mart that increase their shelf sizes are both believed to be attributing factors.  But a recent article from the Washington Post revealed something even more devastating that Toys R Us admitted was a primary factor:

"The decrease of birthrates in countries where we operate could negatively affect our business. Most of our end-customers are newborns and children and, as a result, our revenue are dependent on the birthrates in countries where we operate. In recent years, many countries’ birthrates have dropped or stagnated as their population ages, and education and income levels increase. A continued and significant decline in the number of newborns and children in these countries could have a material adverse effect on our operating results."


Stop and think about that for a moment in regards to the U.S.  Their target audience (children) is shrinking so drastically that it has directly affected their business and forced them to shut their doors.

It comes as no surprise that birth rates in the U.S. have been on the steady decline for decades.  As noted in a LA Times article:

"The total number of babies born in the U.S. last year (2016) was 3,941,109. That’s 37,388 fewer babies than were born in the U.S. in 2015, which represents a 1% decline...the total fertility rate for American women was 1,818 births per 1,000 women. That’s the lowest it has been since 1984.  In order for a generation to exactly replace itself, the total fertility rate needs to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women. The U.S. has been missing that mark since 1971 (though the country’s population has grown due to immigration)." (emphasis added)

Look at the last sentence again:  "The U.S. has been missing that mark since 1971."  The rise of feminism leading up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (which was passed by a majority Republican vote I might add) is undeniably a factor.

Some would say that Toys R Us shot themselves in the proverbial foot when they started funding Planned Parenthood.  But others touted how Life Site News noted in a 2010 article that the company was among others who ceased their funding of the mass-abortion machine.

Lest we be too quick to praise, Toys R Us does continue to support the Susan G. Komen foundation which itself funnels money to Planned Parenthood.  Whether the executives realize this or not, they do continue to contribute to the slaughter of innocent children and therefore are still partly to blame for literally killing off their customers.

Every Christian just read the above portion and may have shouted "AMEN BROTHER...PREACH!"  But hold you horses for just a moment because it is going to get a little bumpy.  There is an underlying issue that we tend to overlook:  The overall attitude in our country towards children.
I'll continue with how we as Christians are also to blame in this regard as well in part 2 of "The real reason Geoffrey lost his job".

For Christ and His glory,
Adam

Friday, October 27, 2017

The pagan celebration of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving seems like a pretty normal holiday.  But did you know its actual origins and the symbolism of many of its elements?  What you are about to read will change your understanding of this day...forever.

The date
The date itself occurs not because of American tradition but because it aligns with many final harvest celebrations found throughout pagan religions.  The polytheistic Greeks and Romans celebrated similar feasts to their gods with their families and in their towns.  While an exact date cannot be identified it is clear that the parallel between the 4th Thursday of November and these pagan events are very closely aligned.

Turkey
Modern turkeys are believe to have originated in Mexico.  Archeologists have found bones dating back as far as 2000 years.  Some were clearly from meals but others have markings believe to have been associated with ceremonial sacrifices.  Wicaans believe the turkey represents charity and self-sacrifice and hold it up as one of the more prominent creatures of this time of year.

Cranberries
Whether in gelatinous form or freshly picked, cranberries are just as much a staple of every Thanksgiving meal as the turkey.  But their inclusion is not as innocent as you may think.  Cranberries are used by Wicaans because they believe they provide magical advantages.  Their consumption is thought to endow protection to the consumer.  Sharing this with one's family is a way of ensuring this protection covers the entire household.  Think about that next time your open a can or empty out a frozen bag for your meal.

Other food items can be linked to use in other pagan cultures.  It is irrefutably evident that we must cease in using them not just during this false holiday but in other areas of dining as well.

Decorations
Pumpkins and gourds have been shown to have their root in Druidic practices...hence the need to throw out the carved pumpkins of Halloween.  But what of the other decor?

The yellow and orange coloring is often believe to be copied from the changing leaves of the season. But what does this change represent?  The leaves, which were once a beautiful green, are now dying and falling from the trees.  Thus, the colors are symbols of death.  Using them only highlights the worship of death and dying celebrated by satanists and other pagans.

The innocent cornucopia is the most blatant offender of all.  From a reputable Christian website, the author states:

"Just like Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving has one major pagan symbol, the cornucopia.  But unlike the Christmas tree or Easter bunny, the cornucopia is linked directly to both Greek and Roman pagan gods.  Their is a plethora of evidence that supports the fact that the cornucopia was in frequent use and display during Christ's time on earth, and it's unlikely that the cornucopia would have been mistaken for anything but a pagan symbol."

I know many will read this and want to hold on to their pagan traditions of Thanksgiving while believing elements themselves are not sinful but have only been redefined by modern satanists and others for their own purposes.  They will say that Christians have allowed the lost world to define the use of these items because we are more comfortable giving ground to the world and letting them encroach on the dominion mandate.  These misguided brothers and sisters will propose that such articles rely more on the research of unregenerate people and quotes from satanists such as Anton Lavey about Halloween.  My response to such claims...they are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

The truth
Some of what you have just read was found on various websites, some Christian and some wicaan/pagan.  Most of their research is more in-line with X-File ideology and conspiracy theory propaganda than actual historical facts.  This is what happens when we let the world define the terms and stake their claims.  But even if any of these elements were used by ungodly societies, it does not make them inherently sinful.  Why?  Because it's not the item that is sinful but how it is used that can be.

Guns are a perfect modern example of this.  A gun will sit on a shelf forever without killing or even injuring a single person.  In the hands of a hunter it can righteously supply food to a family or be used to selfishly slaughter a massive buck and only remove its antlers for sport.  A gun can be used rightly by a husband and father to defend his family from people seeking to do them harm in their home or it can be used sinfully by an enraged father seeking vengeance for a sinful act against his daughter.  The gun is not sinful and neither are the elements of these holidays or celebrations.

As I've stated in my post refuting some of the myths of Halloween, the satirical approach of this article was to show how easy it is to use myths and false information to support one's position.  Conviction to do or not do something should always be fully informed by truth and Scripture.

As Christians we cannot claim to love truth and yet promote false information.  Christ didn't just say that He speaks truth but that He is truth (John 14:6).  The Ten Commandments are not just a set of "shall" and "shall not" instructions, but are also a reflection of the character and nature of God.  The 9th commandment, to not bear false witness (lying), reflects the truth quality of God.  God is truth and therefore, as those made in His image we are to reflect this character by being truthful.  Intentionally propagating lies and faulty conspiracies is something we as Christians should steer clear from.  This means we need to do better when researching these items.  It may take a little more time, but time is one thing you need when sorting through error to lift up truth.

Follow your biblically informed convictions and do not let this or any other article cause you to sin against your conscience.  My only request is that you ensure your conscience is properly informed by truth and not dissuaded by fear-mongering or conspiracy theorists.

For His glory,
Adam


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Do you love waterslides? Me too!

Something hit me today while we were at a local waterpark with the kids.  Our four year old daughter Elly was playing in the kiddie area when my wife pointed out how quickly she found a friend.  

It was as simple as "Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!”

And I mean it was literally that simple.  My daughter didn't care that this girl was a different skin tone or that her English was accompanied by a cute little accent a little different than her own (southern girls never lose that accent).  Within a few more minutes the two of them were joined by a diverse group of other girls.  

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"  

They didn't care about anything but playing together in the water.  They didn't look at each other any differently because they found the one thing they immediately had in common and that was all they were concerned for.  

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"

Hatred is a part of our sinful nature (Romans 3:23; Matthew 5:22).  But specific hatred towards others because they are of a different ethnicity, language, culture, socio-econimic group, etc. is something that is taught.  It's either taught by an immediate authority figure or by the environment into which we are raised.  At some point when we embrace that specific sinful teaching we disregard the fact that every human being has been created in the image of God.  We embrace superiority of self and elevate our supremacy above everyone else.

"Do you love water slides?  Me too!  Let's be friends!"

But this group of little girls had not experienced such hateful teaching.  They held hands, danced in circles, and waited for each other at the bottom of the slides.  They laughed and splashed without a second thought of how different each of them looked or spoke.  Could it really be that simple?  With the Gospel...yes...yes it can be.  

Do you love Christ?  Me too!  Let's be friends!

For His glory,

Adam

Saturday, May 27, 2017

When it's time to leave a good church

Many of us agree that it is very hard to find a "good" church.  It's even more difficult for a military family that moves every few years.  Sometimes though, you do find a good church without having to search around for months.  You settle in, participate in the ministries, sit under Christ-centered preaching, and look forward to regular worship with the saints.  But then time passes quickly, military orders are issued to move you and your family, and you find yourself having to leave a good church.

When we moved to Tennessee we initially planned to make this our home by retiring at the end of this tour of duty.  Plans change and God showed us that He providentially had a different direction for our family.  We sold our budding homestead, the chickens, goats, and finally the beehives we spent years building up.  The saddest point wasn't the letting go of that part of our plans but the realization that we would have to leave our current church family.

Cornerstone Community Church in Drummonds embraced us before we even moved to Tennessee.  I came here a second time before we officially moved, without my family, to look for a home and visited the church after finding them online and communicating with the Pastor through email.  Within the first few days of moving here, the church had already setup meals for us.  Mind you, they had never met my family and only spent a few hours with me on a single Sunday.  Not long after getting settled in, they even planned a surprise baby shower for my wife.  They wholeheartedly showed us what the "one another" principles of the New Testament church really looked like. 

But their devotion to being the local church did not stop there.  Pastor Jody was wrapping up a second evangelism training in the small groups of the church and was very receptive to ideas of evangelistic outreach.  We planned the church's first outreach at the local Munford Celebrate festival and continued to do so each year following.  We also planned for a float in the local Christmas parade where we handed out hundred of tracts along the parade route.  

When I wanted to setup an abortion clinic outreach Pastor Jody reviewed the material I used and my ideas.  After carefully considering what I had planned he not only supported and participated (when possible) but he weekly promoted it during the church announcements.  I found myself joined by several church members during these outreaches.

The following year I asked for assistance in setting up a community garden as a part of another church's outreach in Memphis.  Take note, it was another church's outreach and it was over an hour away from our church.  Several members of the church came out to help and were not concerned at all about whether anyone of those we reached would ever darken the doorways of our church gathering.  Their primary concern was that the Gospel was preached and that they were blessed enough to partner with another Christ-centered church to reach out to others.

As a family-integrated church Cornerstone welcomed children into the worship service.  No one batted an eye when a baby cried, kids shuffled in their seats, or when a parent had to take their child out for disciplining.  Some preachers have problems preaching over the sound of children, while others consider it a reminder of Psalm 127 and joyfully accept it as a blessing.

Pastor Jody dedicates himself to the Word.  Every Sunday the message he brought was evidence to to his sincere study and devotion to expository preaching.  He would spend time giving the full context of each passage and the importance of the original biblical languages.  I was blessed to have several conversations with him during afternoon small group studies over his messages.

I have personally known fellow Christians who hop around churches whenever the wind changes and for no biblical reasoning whatsoever.  Someone said something that hurt their feelings, someone didn't say hello to them one morning, the Pastor didn't preach a passage EXACTLY the way they wanted, and the nitpicking list goes on.  Excuses like these are all too common and evidence of a lack of devotion to the local church.

When it's time to leave a good church because you are being transferred out of the area by the military it is never easy.  I thank God that he brought us to Cornerstone Community Church in Drummonds, TN.  We are thankful that God gave us a devoted and loving Pastor like Jody Duncan with a supporting wife like Michelle and a family that models family devotions/worship daily.

If you are ever in the area, just drive past those larger churches and find yourself on a few backroads until you come to little church building on a corner lot.  When you step into its doors you'll know what I mean when I say it's hard to leave a good church.

Thank you Pastor Jody, Michelle, and everyone at Cornerstone for making us a part of your local family.  May God continue to use you for His glory.

Serving the Savior,
Adam