Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dismisses the miracles, the exclusivity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection as well as the virgin birth.

Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?

Albert Mohler
Author, Speaker, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? This question would perplex the vast majority of Christians throughout the centuries, but modern denials of biblical truth make the question tragically significant. Of all biblical doctrines, the doctrine of Christ's virginal conception has often been the specific target of modern denial and attack.

Attacks upon the virgin birth emerged in the aftermath of the Enlightenment, with some theologians attempting to harmonize the anti-supernaturalism of the modern mind with the church's teaching about Christ. The great quest of liberal theology has been to invent a Jesus who is stripped of all supernatural power, deity, and authority.

The fountainhead of this quest includes figures such as Albert Schweitzer and Rudolf Bultmann. Often considered the most influential New Testament scholar of the twentieth century, Bultmann argued that the New Testament presents a mythological worldview that modern men and women simply cannot accept as real. The virgin birth is simply a part of this mythological structure and Bultmann urged his program of "demythologization" in order to construct a faith liberated from miracles and all vestiges of the supernatural. Jesus was reduced to an enlightened teacher and existentialist model.

In America, the public denial of the virgin birth can be traced to the emergence of Protestant liberalism in the early 20th century. In his famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?," Harry Emerson Fosdick--an unabashed liberal--aimed his attention at "the vexed and mooted question of the virgin birth." Fosdick, preaching from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in New York City, allowed that Christians may hold "quite different points of view about a matter like the virgin birth."

He accepted the fact that many Christians believed the virgin birth to be historically true and theologically significant. Fosdick likened this belief to trust in "a special biological miracle." Nevertheless, Fosdick insisted that others, equally Christian, could disagree with those who believe the virgin birth to be historically true: "But, side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact. To believe in the virgin birth as an explanation of great personality is one of the familiar ways in which the ancient world was accustomed to account for unusual superiority."

Fosdick explained that those who deny the virgin birth hold to a specific pattern of reasoning. As he explained, "those first disciples adored Jesus--as we do; when they thought about his coming they were sure that he came specially from God--as we are; this adoration and conviction they associated with God's special influence and intention in his birth--as we do; but they phrased it in terms of a biological miracle that our modern minds cannot use."

Thus, Fosdick divided the church into two camps. Those he labeled as "fundamentalists" believe the virgin birth to be historical fact. The other camp, comprised of "enlightened" Christians who no longer obligate themselves to believe the Bible to be true, discard this "biological" miracle but still consider themselves to be Christians.

More contemporary attacks on the virgin birth of Christ have emerged from figures such as retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong and German New Testament scholar Gerd Luedemann. Luedemann acknowledges that "most Christians in all the churches in the world confess as they recite the Apostles' Creed that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Now...modern Christians completely discount the historicity of the virgin birth and understand it in a figurative sense." Obviously, the "modern Christians" Luedemann identifies are those who allow the modern secular worldview to establish the frame for reality into which the claims of the Bible must be fitted.

Those doctrines that do not fit easily within the secular frame must be automatically discarded. As might be expected, Luedemann's denial of biblical truth is not limited to the virgin birth. He denies virtually everything the Bible reveals about Jesus Christ. In summarizing his argument, Luedemann states: "The tomb was full and the manger empty." That is to say, Luedemann believes that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that He was not raised from the dead.

Another angle of attack on the virgin birth has come from the group of radical scholars who organize themselves into what is called the "Jesus Seminar." These liberal scholars apply a radical form of interpretation and deny that the New Testament is in any way reliable as a source of knowledge about Jesus. Roman Catholic scholar John Dominic Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar, discounts the biblical narratives about the virgin birth as invented theology. He acknowledges that Matthew explicitly traces the virgin birth to Isaiah 7:14. Crossan explains that the author of Matthew simply made this up: "Clearly, somebody went seeking in the Old Testament for a text that could be interpreted as prophesying a virginal conception, even if such was never its original meaning. Somebody had already decided on the transcendental importance of the adult Jesus and sought to retroject that significance on to the conception and birth itself."

Crossan denies that Matthew and Luke can be taken with any historical seriousness, and he understands the biblical doctrine of the virgin birth to be an insurmountable obstacle to modern people as they encounter the New Testament. As with Luedemann, Crossan's denial of the virgin birth is only a hint of what is to come. In Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, Crossan presents an account of Jesus that would offend no secularist or atheist. Obviously, Crossan's vision also bears no resemblance to the New Testament.

For others, the rejection of the birth is tied to a specific ideology. In The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives, Jane Schaberg accuses the church of inventing the doctrine of the virgin birth in order to subordinate women. As she summarizes: "The charge of contemporary feminists, then, is not that the image of the Virgin Mary is unimportant or irrelevant, but that it contributes to and is integral to the oppression of women."

Schaberg states that the conception of Jesus was most likely the result of extra-marital sex or rape. She chooses to emphasize the latter possibility and turns this into a feminist fantasy in which Mary is the heroine who overcomes. Schaberg offers a tragic, but instructive model of what happens when ideology trumps trust in the biblical text. Her most basic agenda is not even concerned with the question of the virgin birth of Christ, but with turning this biblical account into service for the feminist agenda.

Bishop Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church offers further evidence of modern heresy. In an address he presented on June 25, 2002 at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, this bishop denied the faith wholesale. Sprague, who serves as Presiding Bishop of the United Methodist Church in northern Illinois, has been called "the most vocally prominent active liberal bishop in Protestantism today." Sprague is proud of this designation and takes it as a compliment: "I really make no apology for that. I don't consider myself a liberal. I consider myself a radical." Sprague lives up to his self-designation.

In his Illiff address, Bishop Sprague claimed that the "myth" of the virgin birth "was not intended as historical fact, but was employed by Matthew and Luke in different ways to appoint poetically the truth about Jesus as experienced in the emerging church." Sprague defined a theological myth as "not false presentation but a valid and quite persuasive literary device employed to point to ultimate truth that can only be insinuated symbolically and never depicted exhaustively." Jesus, Sprague insists, was born to human parents and did not possess "trans-human, supernatural powers."

Thus, Sprague dismisses the miracles, the exclusivity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection as well as the virgin birth. His Christology is explicitly heretical: "Jesus was not born the Christ, rather by the confluence of grace with faith, he became the Christ, God's beloved in whom God was well pleased."

Bishop Sprague was charged with heresy but has twice been cleared of the charge--a clear sign that the mainline Protestant denominations are unwilling to identify as heretics even those who openly teach heresy. The presence of theologians and pastors who deny the virgin birth in the theological seminaries and pulpits of the land is evidence of the sweeping tide of unbelief that marks so many institutions and churches in our time.

Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.

Anyone who claims that the virgin birth can be discarded even as the deity of Christ is affirmed is either intellectually dishonest or theological incompetent.
Several years ago, Cecil Sherman--then a Southern Baptist, but later the first coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship--stated: "A teacher who might also be led by the Scripture not to believe in the Virgin Birth should not be fired." Consider the logic of that statement. A Christian can be led by the Bible to deny what the Bible teaches? This kind of logic is what has allowed those who deny the virgin birth to sit comfortably in liberal theological seminaries and to preach their reductionistic Christ from major pulpits.

Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.

"Everyone admits that the Bible represents Jesus as having been conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. The only question is whether in making that representation the Bible is true or false." So declared J. Gresham Machen in his great work, The Virgin Birth of Christ. As Machen went on to argue, "if the Bible is regarded as being wrong in what it says about the birth of Christ, then obviously the authority of the Bible in any high sense, is gone."

The authority of the Bible is almost completely gone where liberal theology holds its sway. The authority of the Bible is replaced with the secular worldview of the modern age and the postmodern denial of truth itself. The true church stands without apology upon the authority of the Bible and declares that Jesus was indeed "born of a virgin." Though the denial of this doctrine is now tragically common, the historical truth of Christ's birth remains inviolate. No true Christian can deny the virgin birth.
This article is republished by reader request. We will discuss this question on today's edition of The Albert Mohler Program.
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In the person of Jesus Christ the unknowable God becomes known

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the supreme Sovereign of the universe.

Colossians 1:15-20 gives seven reasons why Christ is preeminent. These verses are at the heart of the epistle’s main emphasis on the exaltation and preeminence of Christ.

Jesus Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (v. 15). Jesus is supreme because of His relationship with God the Father. He is the perfect resemblance and representation of God. God is invisible and unknown except by self-revelation. In the person of Jesus Christ the unknowable God becomes known.. The very nature and being of God have been perfectly revealed in Christ. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Everyone who saw Christ, the visible manifestation of the invisible God, has thereby "seen" God indirectly. The apostle John who saw Jesus face to face wrote, “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son . . . has made Him known” (v. 18). Jesus Christ is the perfect visible representation and manifestation of the “invisible” God (1 Tim. 1:17). Jesus is the perfect image, likeness and glory of His Father. He is “the exact representation” of the Father’s being (Heb. 1:3). The Son is in the “exact likeness” of His Father.

Jesus is supreme over all things because He is “the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). He preceded the whole creation, and He is Sovereign over all His creation. As Creator He has dignity, supremacy, sovereign power over it. As “firstborn” Jesus is the Messiah-God (Ps. 89:27-29). Jesus Christ was not created, but is the Creator who is Sovereign over all His creation.

Jesus is supreme because “in Him all things were created” (Col. 1:16-17). “All things were created by Him,” and “for Him,” and “in Him they all hold together.” Not only is He the final Cause of creation, but also the conserving Cause that keeps it together. Everything in the universe continues to exist because of Him (Jn. 1:3; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 3:14). Nothing is to be excluded in His supremacy in creation. Christ reigns supreme over all creation, visible and invisible, material and spiritual (Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Phil. 2:9-10; Col. 2:10, 15; Rom. 8:38-39).

Jesus Christ is supreme because He is head of His church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23). Paul has in mind the invisible body of Christ into which every believer was baptized by the Holy Spirit when he believed in Christ as his Savior (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 3:4-5; Col. 1:26).

Jesus is supreme because He is “the firstborn from among the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5). Christ rose from the dead never to die again (1 Cor. 15:20). His resurrection marked His triumph and supremacy over death forever. Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). He lives for all eternity “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 7:16). Because He lives He is given preeminence and supremacy over all creation. He is exalted over all creation by God the Father “to the highest place” and has been given “the name that is above every name . . . to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). There is no name like the name of Jesus. He is the Sovereign God of all because He rose from the dead.

Moreover, He is supreme because “all the fullness dwells in Him” (Col. 1:19). “All the fullness of the Father pleased to dwell in Him.” In Christ Jesus God in all His fullness was pleased to take up His bode. The Divine nature in all its fullness dwells in Christ. Phillips translates, “It was in Him that the full nature of God chose to live.” Another way of saying it is, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (2:9). “Fullness” means “completeness.” Paul says the full and complete deity dwells, abides permanently, and supremely in Jesus Christ. He is the absolute and perfect God.

Jesus Christ is also supreme because we have peace with God through His blood (Col. 1:19-23). He has reconciled “all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (v. 20). Jesus is supreme because He is the Reconciler. Through Him God reconciles sinful man to Himself. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). We have received reconciliation through Jesus Christ. Peace has been made through His blood. We were alienated, strangers, cut off from God, and the blood of Jesus has reconciled us to the Father. Our reconciliation is appropriated through faith in Christ. God is not reconciled to us; we are reconciled to Him by Jesus Christ.

Such preeminence and supreme exaltation of Jesus Christ should cause us to spontaneously break forth in praise, adoration and worship of our great Savior from now throughout eternity.


Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

(c) 2006 Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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* Disclaimer: To the best of our knowledge all of the books and articles on Abide in Christ are believed to be in public domain in the United States unless otherwise noted and can be freely used.

Happy New Year 2009!

31 Dec 2008
Anastasia’s Birthday

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. TQ for your intercessions during the Christmas ministry! Jessie and Ana went with me during this trip. On Christmas eve morning, was giving Bible Study (BS) to a small group of college students.

2. Then we headed off to Community Baptist Church where I would be preaching for the Malay-language service. It was wonderful to see them and pray with them.

3. On Christmas Day, I preached in an English evangelistic service in the same church. I believe the Lord touched many lives and trust that the Word that was sown will bear much fruit.

4. In the evening, we headed to an Orang Asli (OA) village where I would be preaching too. Due to the condition of the place and the people, I preached a very short message and prayed for the village. There was no opportunity for an altar call. But the villagers looked happy to be in the midst of the Christmas celebration.

5. Incidentally, this is the first time for Ana to enter into an OA village. She was happy to run around to see the chickens, dogs, cats, and one domesticated wild boar!

6. After that, the next few days we took the opportunity to spend some time with my family in PJ. This is more for Ana to see her KL kung kung (Chinese for grandfather) and KL poh poh (grandmother). We also caught up with some people whom we have not seen for some time and to introduce Ana.

8. Taking this opportunity to wish each of you a Trinitarian greeting!
A Father-Pleasing, Christ-Centred and Spirit-Filled New Year 2009.
May you continue to walk in obedience and maturity to the Creator-Redeemer.

9. Btw, Ana is 3 years old today! She was borned on 31st Dec 05, one month premature. She had to spend the first week of her life in the ICU ward. Today, there is no lingering effect of that whatsoever! She is a healthy, very active, and usually bossy kid!

10. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that a child – one like Ana – would be beneficial for us in our lives. At that time, we were already married for 15 years and had planned to be child-free. We had wanted to continue serving the Lord until we pass on. But as Ps 127:3 states children are a reward and heritage from God. We praise the Lord for His goodness and pray that we be godly parents to Ana.

It is the Lord's power, presence and provisions that will sustain us in 2009. No matter what mountains or giants we encounter. When we align ourselves to Him, victory is always assured. We are not entering 2009 alone. We move forward in faith, abandoning the past, to conquer the new territories that God has entrusted to us.

Stay Zealous for the Savior!

Personal lessons learned

Things I've learned
Commentary: Looking ahead to the new year with hard lessons of 2008

By Todd Harrison
Last update: 6:06 p.m. EST Dec. 30, 2008

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The carnage of 2008 forever changed the socioeconomic landscape and seismically shifted the collective perception of what we do, how we do it and who we do it with.

As we look back at the year that was and cast an eye toward what will be, a little perspective will most certainly go a long way. Herewith are some personal lessons learned, some of which relate to the market but most of which apply to life.

All you have is your name and your word.

Emotion is the enemy when trading.

The only difference between genius and madness is acceptance.

Adapt but don't conform.

The reaction to news is more important than the news itself.

Time is the most precious commodity.

Opportunities are made up easier than losses.

The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

What goes around comes around.

The greatest wisdom is bred as a function of pain.

Bad times define good friends just as bad seasons define good fans.

There is a difference between having fun and being happy.

Be good to others and better to yourself.

Work to live. Don't live to work.

Profitability begins within.

Gratitude is latitude.

Seeing old friends is good for the soul.

When in doubt, sit it out.

Time is the arbiter of all fate.

The air of integrity gets thinner with age.

Free will is God's greatest gift.

Experience is a close second.

Negative energy is wasted energy.

You've got to have faith.

Hope isn't a viable investment vehicle.

The only difference between intervention and manipulation is communication.

One hand washes the other.

Good traders know how to make money but great traders know how to take a loss.

Where you stand is a function of where you sit.

Life is shaped by decisions made.

Take the high road. It's less crowded and boasts a much better view.

To appreciate where we are, you must understand how we got here.

The opposite of love isn't hate; it's apathy.

Stay out of debt.

The friction between opinions is where true education resides.

A dream is only as powerful as those who believe in it.

Money comes and goes.

The best way to build a growth company is by surrounding yourself with people who can themselves grow.

Tenacity and resolve are the hallmarks of success.

View obstacles as opportunities.

The only difference between a lesson and a mistake is the ability to learn from it.

The definition of an investment should never be a trade gone awry.

By the time you get to where you think you want to be, the journey will be over.

Think positive.

God used amazing methods when most people could not read

Engaging the Matrix Generation
Joel Hunter Ministry Leadership - Preaching

A Pastor's Journey into Multisensory Preaching

Pastors face a generation accustomed to the vibrant sounds, sights and smells that characterize our multimedia culture. We can either provide our hearers with the traditional menu of 'three hymns and a sermon,' or we can actively engage their senses in an exploration of the reality of our endlessly creative God.

A recent Barna Research Group survey revealed that 93 percent of all adults own a VCR, including 94 percent of born-again Christians. Seventy-three percent of Americans subscribe to cable television, and 19 percent get their programming via satellite dish. One half of all households have access to the Internet, and one-third claim to have a home theater system.

We liven a media-saturated society, which is naturally disposed to communication methods that appeal to all the senses. Unfortunately, the typical Sunday-morning service offers little sensory stimulation apart from the pain in the backside many churchgoers experience after an hour sitting in a church pew listening to a sermon.

I'm an old dude. My favorite movie is still The Ten Commandments. So why would I want to make my sermons appeal to the "Matrix" Generation? Because, even though this group is unique in some ways, what will attract its members will also get the attention of every other generation sitting in worship.

Both The Ten Commandments and The Matrix used special effects to tell their stories. God did too--in the form of miracles. His pronouncements to Moses on the mountain and to Joseph and Mary in the house were spectacular. He engages us through our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

God used amazing methods when most people could not read. He still uses them today, even in congregations where most people can read. The Word goes beyond words, and He loves using action to startle and evoke action from those who see.

Here are a few methods we have used in our church to tell His stories:

EMPHASIZE THE VISUAL. Like Israel, and the church in its beginning stages, we are a visually oriented society. Even Jesus "did not speak to them without a parable" (Matt. 13:34, NKJV). Parables are stories that evoke mental images.

Even if you don't have money for the latest technology, you can add visual appeal to your sermons. If you do use a screen in worship, the younger members of your congregation are preconditioned to relate to it.

We need to remind ourselves that Jesus didn't preach inside a building every week. When He used illustrations, such as sheep, lilies of the field and birds of the air, He could actually point to the visuals!

Likewise, when the church in the Middle Ages explained the gospel to illiterate masses, it did so with great paintings, sculptures and other forms of art. We need to reengage the arts, especially video, to effectively communicate the gospel.

One preacher that I know has a team that builds movie-type sets on the platform for many of his preaching series. We do not have to wait until Christmas or Easter to create a visual setting that enhances the sermon subject. Nor do we need to limit ourselves to mangers, crosses or banners with pictures.

USE MANY POINTS, QUICK MOVEMENT. When preaching from a manuscript, the tendency is to deliver two or three points and develop them extensively. This method may bore the "Matrix" Generation. Although I may still have only two or three points to deliver, I hit each point from many angles to develop depth (like an MRI instead of an X-ray).

Take a look at Jesus' Sermon on the Mount--many points, quick movement. Biblical research will uncover a lot of knowledge about a little passage.

Many popular books and magazines today are written in a proverb style of writing. The news is mostly "sound and video bites." Video games captivate the attention deficit of every generation.

Therefore, if I only have three points when I preach, I engage the listeners with many stories that don't simply repeat the same point. Additionally, sometimes I break up the sermon into parts, with worship between the parts, to build momentum and suspense.

FIGHT THE ADVERSARY. Many people in the previous generation were embarrassed to talk about the devil. They thought it was unscientific. But Jesus battled him (see Matt. 4:1-11). This generation is up for a fight against the evil one.

Many spend hours destroying virtual evil on their video games, but that is just a foreshadowing of the real fight. The presence of villains in popular movies reflects the reality of the battle against Satan that is a part of our lives.

Drama is helpful in reinforcing the concept of spiritual warfare. Our church has conducted presentations that have increased the tension before or after the sermon, instead of presenting a solution to problems or attempting to restate the sermon.

When the real problems of life, such as the tragedy of domestic violence or abuse, the devastation of addictions or the temptations of materialism are presented without nice-and-neat solutions, you have let the congregation know that we are in an ongoing battle.

EMBRACE THE MYSTICAL. If I thought that people's spiritual lives depended on my rational explanation of the Scriptures, I would quit preaching. I am not smart enough to explain God. This generation is not limited to rational ways of thinking.

They love what they can't fully explain because they know enough about life to know there is more to reality than they can grasp. A generation that grew up with the chaos theory of quantum mechanics won't get hung up on, "But how can a man be born again when he is old?"

Relating to the mystical element in our faith is largely a matter of setting the right environment. We have times when we use candles and incense because that evokes a more contemplative mood. There are times when the King James Version, with its majestic and poetic style, more effectively serves to intone the transcendence of God.

The Spirit cannot be captured by deduction in the sermon or emotion in the music. The things of the Spirit are subtle, like the moving of the wind. The Spirit is best sensed when reverence is the atmosphere.

EVOKE EXPERIENCE (be affective). Just as this generation is not confined to the rational, neither is it engaged by the predictable. Members of the "Matrix" Generation want to feel something. They want surprise, laughter, sadness and tension.

That's what movies take us through; that's what real life takes us through. Jesus said, "'Follow me.'" Then He proceeded to scare His disciples with storms, demoniacs and religious opposition.

One Sunday, I preached on the wedding in Cana. In order to allow the congregation to experience the celebration of a Jewish wedding, we ended the worship service with a conga line and a confetti cannon! While we offended some people, others were better able to experience the life in that Scripture.

Much of evoking experience depends on using your senses (see sidebar on this page). The Caucasian-European heritage of worship style calls for the congregation to sit still and only use their minds when they are listening, and their voices when they are singing. In the non-Western world, Christians use their bodies when they sing and their senses when they kneel, march, clap and dance.

REFER TO OTHER PARTS OF THE SERMON TEAM. This generation is not impressed with rugged individualism, but appreciates teamwork. The calling of the disciples is a theme that appeals to modern hearers. This is reflected in the frequency of teams of heroes often found in the movies, in contrast to one person who accomplishes all.

It is natural, then, that people want to know how others in the congregation, especially those on the worship team, contributed to the sermon.

Use stories about people in the congregation who taught you what was valuable for the sermon. I name positive examples of who on the worship team, or in church leadership, exemplifies the points I am trying to convey in the sermon.

I also use video or audio clips of children and/or adults responding to the topic of the sermon. Sometimes these are "man on the street" interviews with people we don't know and other times people in our congregation are the ones sharing their thoughts.

Including stories in your sermons that come from the life of the church (small groups, church picnics, youth groups and others) will connect God's subplots in your church with the Bible text that you are explaining.

Jesus used His observations of the widow giving the coins, the woman washing His feet with her tears and the commander telling Him that if He just pronounced his daughter "healed" she would be. All of them were parts of His sermon team.

REFER TO OTHER PARTS OF THE WORSHIP EXPERIENCE. Good movies, good lives and good sermons are a matrix of subplots. The songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the communion we take, can enrich worship as they are pointed out and appreciated in the sermon.

This helps people grasp what they have been taught all along. Like a good Sherlock Holmes story, part of the answer lies in what could be overlooked as routine.

Additionally, mentioning the spiritual formation that is taking place in the child-care and Sunday-school classes will broaden and deepen worship. Stories from greeters, ushers and others, who are serving during the worship hour, will include them in the worship experience.


This is the "www" generation. Its members think globally. For them, "'Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations'" is not a far-fetched missionary mandate. It is a natural consideration.

They listen to world news every day. They are educated in a multicultural context. The movies they watch have international conspiracies. To prevent messages from becoming narrow and parochial, preachers will do well to use more examples of Christians and stories from other countries.

Hundreds of our people went on mission trips last year and took video and ordinary cameras. We edited and spliced the pictures they brought back for a number of powerful presentations in the worship time, combining them with sermons that had to do with worldwide themes.

The "Matrix" Generation is not excited about watching clips from mission trips, but it responds with enthusiasm when they are presented as subplots in a larger drama.

MAKE YOUR SERMONS 'ACTIONABLE.' In the battle of good and evil, people want to feel as though they can do something, like they can make a difference. One of the recurring themes of today's movies and songs is that of being called to change the status quo.

I always have an application point, so that people can act on what they believe. The Scripture is very clear about being "doers of the Word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22). This generation hates the hypocrisy and laziness of simply listening to more information about religious stuff.

Rather than a sermon outline, we give worshipers a sermon application tool--one for adults, one for students and one for children. It suggests ways the sermon may be applied throughout the week.

USE A LOT OF BASS IN WORSHIP BEFORE THE SERMON. I have no idea why, but I know that bass tones in music strike a responsive chord in this generation. From booming car systems to movie soundtracks, the dominant tone is bass.

Maybe it's because bass (like Jesus after the resurrection!) travels through walls, symbolizing the unlimited. Maybe it is reminiscent of the rolling thunder on Mount Sinai before God spoke through Moses (see Ex. 19:16). In any case, something about the bass tone draws us into the experience.

Using bass will draw complaints ("too loud!"). We have had people get up and walk out. We have had people come in angry. ("I can hear that bass all the way in the parking lot!") There is a dilemma here as the demands of what the older generation would like to hear clashes with what will engage the "Matrix" Generation.

REMEMBER THE ROMANCE. Our God is love. He is a relationship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet One). In The Matrix, as in other movies of its genre, romance is a part of the creative tension and redemptive process. In other words, it is no accident that the Bible is a love story about God inviting humanity into a relationship with Him.

We love that way because He first loved His Bride (the church) that way. A main drive of every young person's life is to find the perfect relationship. Of course, that relationship is oneness with God, but faith resembles romance in many ways.

A theme that never gets old in sermons is lifelong affectionate love between a husband and a wife. In my sermons, I often refer to my wife in an appreciative way. I look for illustrations of self-sacrificing love, from my grandparents to literary figures such as Rochester and Jane Erye.

USE IMPERFECT HEROES. This generation revels in the imperfect. From hairstyles that look like they just rolled out of bed to MTV's reality stunt show Jackass, this generation does not relate to those who seem to have it all together.

They can't relate to a perfect God, but they can relate to the servant born in a stable. Therefore, use illustrations that make it clear that people--including the preacher--are not expected to be perfect or even great.

Humor is key here. When we can make fun of ourselves, we are ready to take God more seriously. It is important that we don't use our humor to demean others. It is just as important, though, that we recognize the divine comedy of human inadequacy.

In summary, make sure you are using all the senses and perspectives that are appropriate to a particular worship experience.

Remember, this generation doesn't like to just sit and listen in church any more than yours did. The difference is, their mammas aren't making them go to church like yours may have.

Many churches are enjoying the challenges of becoming profoundly engaging without becoming merely entertaining. Will yours be one of them?


Sight: Utilize drama teams to perform skits that complement the sermon. Show film clips to illustrate biblical truths. Display slides with classical art relating to the sermon. Include multicultural art and international flags to encourage a global perspective.

Light candles to create reverent ambience. Arrange multiple screens to captivate attention. Build sets and arrange props to provide a backdrop for an illustrated sermon. Display banners to reinforce thematic truths.

Smell: Bake bread near the sanctuary before communion. Burn incense during high church worship services. Bring straw into the sanctuary at Christmas to create the feel of a stable. Hold worship services outside to encourage reflection on the wonders of creation.

Sounds: Utilize sound effects to complement facets of the sermon. Intersperse silence with music of diverse feels and rhythms. Introduce unusual instruments, such as shofars, bagpipes and others. Invite sentence prayers from members of the congregation.

Touch: Encourage greetings among the congregation. Allow for motion and hand clapping during songs. Advocate different prayer positions (kneeling, raising hands and more). Introduce small-group prayer. Rearrange the sanctuary for "in the round" worship. Invite congregants to the altar for prayer, commitment, laying on of hands and more.

Joel Hunter, D.Min., has served since 1985 as senior pastor of Northland: A Church Distributed, an innovative congregation in Longwood, Florida.

They just saddled the churches with far too much debt

A Worshipping, Foreclosing Church
Marcus Yoars Ministry News

Three-quarters of the nation’s 335,000 churches are virtually or completely mortgage-free. But for many of those in the minority carrying a loan on their property, what were already tight times—due to decreased giving from financially stretched churchgoers—are quickly becoming tough times.

A recent report by First American CoreLogic discovered that hundreds of churches are facing foreclosure, almost all of which were affected by the mortgage boom in recent years that saw church-issued mortgages increase 50 percent from 2002 to 2005.

According to the U.S. Census, spending on church construction rose from $3.8 billion in 1997 to $6.2 billion in 2007. A separate study found that church borrowing as a whole peaked at $28 billion nationwide in 2006, including mortgages, construction loans and church bonds.

“There have been too many churches with a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude,” says N. Michael Tangen, executive vice president at American Investors Group, a church lender in Minnetonka, Minn. “They had glory in their eyes that wasn’t backed up with adequate business plans and cash flow.”

Those loaning churches money can attest to the bubble bursting. In its 45-year history, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Brea, Calif., had foreclosed on only two churches. This year it has served foreclosure papers to seven of its 2,000 members, and its president says the company expects to add to that number in the coming months. Another church lender, Church Mortgage & Loan Corp. of Maitland, Fla., has already foreclosed on 10 church properties in the past two years and, as a result, had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

“Some of the mentality that you saw taking hold of the residential marketplace probably shifted into the church,” says Dan Mikes, executive vice president of the church banking division of Bank of the West. “Lenders loaned far too much, they loaned into lofty projections of future growth, and they just saddled the churches with far too much debt.” [, 12/23/08;, 12/26/08]

When that process was unsuccessful, we had to file foreclosure

Facing Foreclosure: Without Walls International Church

Written by Brenda Easterling, on 06-11-2008 15:34

The church body known as Without Walls International Church faces foreclosure of its Tampa property. This church was at one time one of the fastest-growing congregations in the country.

According to court records the church defaulted on a loan that was due in August and the credit union is demanding immediate repayment of that loan and the $12-million mortgage on Without Walls’ Grady Avenue property. Also the, foreclosure proceedings were filed by the California-based Evangelical Christian Credit Union who holds the church’s mortgage on the Without Walls International Church.

Pastor of Without Walls, Rev. Randy White said he is shocked by this move and said church leaders thought they were actively negotiating with the credit union when they were informed of this situation.Church leaders did negotiate with the company for months. They even presented the credit union with an agreement from a buyer who plans to purchase some of the church’s property for $1.4-million which would cover repayment of the $1-million loan.The church had been told the credit union would move the due date on the $12-million mortgage from January to June.

White said he showed the credit union a signed contract for a $33-million offer to purchase one of the church’s assets. All proceeds if the sale takes place would allow Without Walls to pay of its debt. White said, “In my opinion, it’s nothing more than greed from a Christian bank who’s supposed to be working with Christians.” “I don’t think Bank of America or SunTrust would ever do what this bank’s done. I think it’s because they’re drowning, they’re pulling so many people in with them. They’re scrambling.”

The Credit Union spokesman Jac La Tour said, “We worked with them for a number of months to reach an agreement.” “When that process was unsuccessful, we had to file foreclosure. It wasn’t a quick decision.” La Tour also said saving his company aims to help ministries, not sell real estate.This foreclosure comes as one of the ministry’s most difficult years.

The Rev. White in the last year divorced, and lost a daughter to brain cancer and has experienced a decline in church attendance. Without Walls board members include White’s ex-wife and church co-founder Paula White and Carrington who are very devastated according to the pastor.

Carrington said through tears “this is just really shocking”, we are not in a major financial default on our loan we’ve been 100 percent compliant with that loan for over 7 ½ years. This is just unbelievable.”

A difficult economy and layoffs are weighing heavy on church members and their ability to donate which continues to decrease in the income bringing it down by 30 percent according to White. The church chief financial officer, Norva Carrington said Without Walls owes $13-million on its Tampa property and $12.5-million on its church’s Lakeland branch. The credit union has also is putting in the works the foreclosure proceedings on the church’s Lakeland branch.

White will fight despite the church’s financial situation. Lawyers are checking into the federal regulators for an investigation of the California credit union. White said, “We didn’t throw the first punch, but the fight is just starting because I think right is right, and wrong is wrong.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Counselors have discovered that male homosexuals almost always describe poor relationships, full of ambivalence, with their fathers

by Lambert Dolphin and David Sacarelos


There are several signs in recent decades which demonstrate the deterioration of family and social life in the United States. One indication of the nation's spiritual decline is the increased number of young people being reared by mothers without the benefit of a father. Even when the father is present, he is often fully preoccupied with a demanding job and career. His influence over a family's daily affairs often would not even be noticed except for the pay check he provides. The generic modern American father is often remote, indifferent, unapproachable, and unavailable. He is a member of a misunderstood endangered species known as "father."

Psychologists say that a child's basic personality and unique responsiveness to his environment are established in the first five years of life. The age of gender identity formation may occur even earlier. Should not the role of the father extend beyond the mere initiation of life when the sperm is furnished to fertilize an ovum?

It is commonly acknowledged that children need to receive affection, affirmation, discipline and instruction from both parents. We are more influenced both positively and negatively during childhood and adolescence by adult role models than we are influenced by our peers. A caring father who nourishes an intimate and loving relationship makes a profound affect on a child's life. Children need caring and loving fathers. It is not always a mother's fault that her husband is not there. If she seeks God's help and mercy her children can often be headed into a path of wholeness and godlikeness in spite of a missing father. There are many individuals who have come from broken homes or difficult family backgrounds and yet experience fullness and wholeness. Many of these individuals take special care to make sure their own sons and daughters are reared in a loving and balanced family environment.


The Bible reveals God as the Lord of the universe and calls Him "Father" in both Old and New Testaments. He is the Father and Lord of creation. James describes Him as "the Father of the lights." He created the stars as well as the angels. The Old Testament names angels as "the sons of God" (benai elohim). Paul says that every family under heaven is named or set aside for Him (Eph. 3:15). We all need a caring human father (or an equivalent) as early as possible in our lives to help us understand what God the Father is like as a Person. Remote, indifferent, unavailable human fathers can lead us to believe that God also is detached, unconcerned, and uninvolved in the daily cares of our world. However, the Psalmist (10:14) praises God as a loving Father:

"Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation." Hosea writes (14:3) that the fatherless find mercy in Him. God is described in Psalm 10:14 as the one who helps the fatherless. King David says, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up." (Psalm 27:10).

The Lord God is more than willing to help make up for absent fathers. Surely the most wonderful aspect of being a Christian is that we all have a unique relationship with the Creator of the universe, the God and Father of Jesus, the Living Spirit who is Lord of all history. Through faith in Jesus each one us may call God "Abba". (Abba is the Hebrew intimate word for "daddy.")

Unfortunately the word "dad" sounds alien to those who have never known a natural or adoptive human father as friend and intimate confidant. Though God the Father is creator of all things, He is known as a personal and loving Father only to those who call on Him and seek His face ( Acts 17:24:31). The Psalmist writes:

"The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned." (Psalm 34:15-22)

We become a child of God by placing our trust in Jesus Christ as Lord so that our sins can be forgiven and removed and our spirits regenerated. God receives us into His family, one by one, by the dual process of (1) spiritual birth and (2) adoption into His family. Each one of us may therefore make a choice to belong to Him and to benefit from His loyal-love.

Those who have not yet trusted Jesus for access to the Father enjoy "common grace." God is kind, merciful and gracious towards all humanity. He is kind to His enemies and withholds judgment in long-suffering love for the fallen world. "He make His rain fall on the just and the unjust." John 3:16 says that God so loved the entire world that He gave His only Son in order that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. This great passage of the Bible is yet another proof of the Father-heart of God towards His lost and fallen creatures. He gave His most prized possession, in only Son, to buy us back to Himself.

"You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake." (1 Peter 1:18-20)


Our heavenly Father has been raising sons and daughters for thousands of years! He is fully acquainted with our needs and struggles. He is able to bring us from spiritual infancy through our spiritually-formative years and on to adult "sonship." He knows when it is time to be taken home to glory and our earthly days are finished. Our Father is great! He makes no mistakes. We can be thankful for His purpose for us to be born into the life of a particular nation, race and culture as well as for the unique set of parents He has given us. He has a sovereign plan for our long-term well- being. We should thank God for, and honor, our parents (Eph. 6:2) even though it may seem they have messed up our lives.

God does not merely place us in a certain family setting and then disappear from the scene of our daily lives! He does not wait until we have grown up before He interacts with us. He would like to be with us intimately every day of our lives whether we begin to know Him at age 6 or 60. God has no "respect for persons," but as Ray Stedman noted, "God has no favorites but He has many intimates."

"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:1-3)

When we begin the Christian life we all start out as "little children" in the family of our heavenly Father. We soon begin to grow by feeding on the Word of God. We then move towards what the Bible calls "young men" (both sexes are implied). Finally God wants us to reach the stature, stability and spiritual depth of "fathers." He wants us to be stable, mature, well- rounded and wise. After we come to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way, it is very important that we respond to God's grace so that we may grow up to become whole men and women. God wills this spiritual maturity for all His children. We all need God's healing mercy to become what He wants us to be.


Another aspect of child rearing well known to parents is the necessity of discipline in the home. Children need to have limits set for them. They must learn to distinguish between right and wrong. Even the natural curiosity of the child must be restrained at times if only to keep him from injuring himself or others. So also sons and daughters in the household of faith are trained by the discipline of their heavenly Father:

"And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Heb. 12:5- 11)

Many sons and daughters rebel against their parents. Sometimes they rebel for legitimate reasons, but often they rebel because of their own inborn passion, selfishness or pride. There are many prodigal sons who once named Jesus as Lord but now have departed in their life-styles far from the hopes and dreams of both their earthly parents and their heavenly Father. Some who were not disciplined by parents when they were young stray into trouble out of recklessness or self-deceit. Others have deliberately thrown off all restraints and sought their own paths in life. Parents often suffer great heartache and pain because of the foolish choices of their children. Unfortunately, everyone must suffer the consequences of bad choices in life. The Psalmist (68.6) writes, "God gives the desolate a home to dwell in; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a parched land."

God desires for His children to rule as kings in the kingdom of our lives. This is possible only as we subject ourselves to the King of kings. Rebellion against legitimate authority opens us to deep inner evil. Samuel told King Saul,

"...rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." (1 Sam. 15:23)

Rebellion affects not only the child (and the parents) but society as well. Under the Law of Moses, persistent rebellion against authority was a capital offense!

"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." (Deut. 21:18-21)

Though He is holy and just, God is not vindictive, cruel, harsh or repressive. "...His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance." Judgment of human evil is something He undertakes only after waiting long for our repentance. Our God is longsuffering. Lamentations describes judgment as "God's strange work." It is as if His judgment is something entirely foreign to His loving heart.

"The LORD passed before Moses, and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:5-7)

Rather than announcing doom, bad news and condemnation to mankind, the New Testament records instead stories of mercy, accounts of transformed lives, and parables of grace:

"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So Jesus told them this parable: 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

"And he said, 'There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' "And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry. "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'" (Luke 15)


What is perhaps most remarkable about the story of the prodigal son, is that it was told to us by our Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ introduces us to the Father. Jesus, being the only son who has ever truly obeyed God and pleased Him, ends our estrangement from God. We were once God's enemies but are now brought near and reconciled to God by the obedience of His Son. Jesus shows us the Father by the life He lived. He said, "He who has seen me, has seen my Father." Jesus is our Elder Brother as we grow up in the family of God.

He is our daily Mediator with the Father. Many find that the Lord Jesus is especially compassionate and caring towards those who have never known a loving, caring human father.

Because of the Father's love for us and His earnest desire for us to know Him, Jesus took all our sins upon himself two thousand years ago. He opened a wide door for sinful men and women to come cleansed of sin and defilement of every kind into the presence of the holy God. This same Jesus, now alive from the dead, is fully acquainted with human weakness, sorrow, grief, suffering, and alienation. He helps us through all the forms of evil enticement we face: "He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin."

Jesus, the Christian's great high priest, is our Advocate and Healer who undertakes and champions our cause, defending the righteousness that He himself has given to us:

"For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

The New Testament says that there are "not many fathers" in the churches of Jesus Christ. This apparently means that spiritually mature male Christian leaders eligible to be surrogate fathers are rare. We can not expect to find every older male in the congregation, nor every pastor, to have a father's heart for God's children. Even pastors who love the sheep dearly and know them one by one, may not by nature feel truly fatherly towards them all. This is all the more reason for us to center our lives around Jesus and to not merely identify with a pastor, youth leader, friend or teacher as the role model of a caring father.


In societies where the role of the father seems to be irrelevant, detached and impersonal, the archetype of the "great mother" seems often to follow. This means that young people grow up reluctantly and may be slow to take on responsible adult roles in society. When the religion of the "great mother" prevails, moral standards drift into permissiveness, narcissism, and self-indulgence, because righteous authority and accountability tend to be lacking. Women don't function properly when loving male leadership is missing in the home or in society. Some of the excesses of the women's rights and liberation movement can be attributed in part to the global default of the father. Terrorism, rape, and violent crime proliferate in societies where wise and loving male leadership is absent. It is well known that children for instance who have been sexually abused by a father grow up to become abusers themselves in many cases.

Christian counselors have discovered that male homosexuals almost always describe poor relationships, full of ambivalence, with their fathers. They need extra same-sex affirmation later in life in order to make up their deficits in male self-identity. It is now clear that daughters as well as sons need a father's love, attention, and assurance in order to be moved on a path towards wholeness in life. Children who have never been disciplined and lovingly affirmed by a human father often have a hard time coping with the demands of adult life and opt out for alcohol, drugs, divorce or infidelity rather than facing the toughening things God sends our way for our maturity. We lack a sense of justice and a realization that moral standards are indeed absolute when male leaders in the home and nation are spineless and compromising. It is certainly difficult for someone to easily trust God when his or her own human father was violent, unpredictable and indifferent!


Fathers ought to love their sons and daughters unconditionally. This means life-long acceptance and an open door for the worst of prodigal sons and wayward daughters to come back home. It also means accepting and adjusting to the uniqueness of one's children and not expecting them to turn out just like us . Solomon advises us to "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

This verse is often not properly interpreted. The correct meaning is that parents are to understand each of their children as unique creations of God and to respond to each of them according to his or her own differing talents, capabilities and needs.

Good parents love us conditionally as well as unconditionally so we will learn to work, support ourselves, and take responsibility for our own moral choices when we reach an age of accountability. Adult life means living with unfulfilled needs and desires, often for long periods of time. Life frequently demands the extra mile from us and dispenses postponed rewards even for jobs well done. The Christian should not despair, for the child of God's rewards are in the next life. They are the rewards with the greatest value! Non-believers around us live purely for short-term gratification and worldly pleasures. They have no hope at all for a life beyond the present one. God does not promise us in this life wealth, success, public acclaim or even good health. He only guarantees to be with us through whatever comes our way. Paul the Apostle writes,

"Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:11-13)


Our world is certainly messed up. Few of us start out right and fewer of us continue on the narrow path. Society continues to deteriorate: Child-abuse, perversion, violence and terrible cruelty are commonplace. As Jesus predicted, "Because wickedness is multiplied, the love of most men will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12)

God will one day intervene in our corrupt world to set things right, punish evil, and reward the godly. God has the power and the determination to restore all the societies of earth and to reestablish the family as the basis for civilization.

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:5,6)

While we wait to be with our heavenly Father and experience the restoration of all things, we are assured that this is the season of God's grace. God's is holding back His wrath and judgment. Now is the day of grace, today is the day of salvation. God our Father is loving, compassionate, forgiving and full of mercy. The Scriptures says He is not willing that any should perish but desires that all men should come to a knowledge of the truth. He longs to hold us in His arms and heal, comfort and encourage us. His response to His children is guaranteed, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

The God of the universe is different from our earthly fathers. He knows all about formative years and is eager to make all things new for you.

"Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. He himself shall abide in prosperity, and his children shall possess the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net." (Psalm 25:8-15)

Monday, December 22, 2008


23 Dec 08

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. TQ for your prayers and encouragement! The 3-week ministry trip was relatively hectic and fruitful in different ways.

Week One

2. I departed to Port Dickson (PD), Malaysia with a fellow Singapore church member. We met another brother in Johor Baru who drove us up to PD. We had a great time of fellowship in the car, sharing about diverse preaching styles.

3. Upon arrival, without bathing, I preached to the campers and encouraged them to become spiritual leaders for God. Throughout the camp, I believe the Lord was ministering and touching the church as they face a period of transition in their church life.

4. After the PD camp, I went to KL to give follow up to college students and to provide premarital counseling. I flew off to Miri, Sarawak where I reconnected with some ex-students whom I have not met for close to 20 years.

5. On Sunday, I preached in one of the larger evangelical English congregation in Miri. The HS in His mercy, touched many lives as they dedicated themselves to the Lord.

Week Two

6. Mon-Thur, I preached in the camp among the Iban youths on the theme of Love, Sex and Dating. The first few sessions, I prayed for them to receive Jesus and the power of the HS in their lives. Out of the 50-55 participants, almost 40 for the first time had an encounter with the HS.

7. During the night sessions, it was open to parents and the public and I took the opportunity to address on marriage-related issues as many of them were struggling with this problem. There is a great need to teach the Word of God in this area.

8. Incidentally, one of my ex-students, who use to attend my camps in the 1980s when she was 13 years old all the way till she was 18 years – sent her 14-year old son to attend this camp. I jokingly tell her, I hope I don’t have to preach to her grandchildren too. Man, do I feel recycled!

9. Immediately after the camp, the same day, I took a 4 hour journey to Bintulu to meet up with another ex-student whom I have not met for 20 years. She is from the minority tribe of Kenyah (, and married to a German man. Now she is residing in Germany with her 3 kids, and just came back for Christmas holidays.

10. I shared this to show what God has amazingly done in the lives of these students whom we innocently sowed 26 years ago. We did not know where they will go but we knew they had the potential in the Lord. And indeed many of them are scattered all over the world.

11. I took some time to track her down but finally got her number in Germany, a couple of years back. Its only this trip that we were able to connect again. I think I still have another 500-600 ex-students to contact, on top of the 300-400 that I have already connected, and see what God has done in their lives.

12. I went back to Miri the next day to catch up with various people. On Sun, I preached in a Malay language service and English language service. I felt the Lord challenged them to continue to seek to expand the Kingdom of God despite the economic slowdown. We must complete the task of preaching the gospel of Christ in our generation.

Week Three

13. Mon. I flew off to Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah. In the Airasia plane, I sat beside this man. He smiled at me and shook hands with me. He introduced himself and he was another ex-student whom I have not seen for 20 over years! He recognized me instantly, and we caught up throughout the journey. As the flight was a short one, I told him I will visit him in Ranau, a 2 hour drive from KK. Not in the original plan, but I decided it has to be divine.

14. In this trip to Sabah, the Lord reconnected a number of pastors and church leaders whom I have not met for a number of years. He even reconnected a pastor that I had invited in the 1980s but I had lost contact with him. He had went back to secular job and was headhunted by a Singapore recruitment agency.

15. The recruiter discovered that he was a former pastor (he is now almost the CEO of a MNC in KK). In the midst of the conversation, the recruiter who happened to be one of my mentorees in Singapore, realized that he knew me. She immediately sms me when I was still in Miri, and I connected with him again. I may be doing some ministry for him next year.

16. Another ex-student wanted me to meet her ex-classmate. Both of them are in the mid-30s. When the ex-classmate came, I mentioned her colleague in another branch of her company. She asked how I knew her colleague. I mentioned that I used to take care of a lot of Yayasan Sabah students.

17. And she mentioned that her older sister was also a Yayasan Sabah student. She immediately called her sister in Keningau. Turned out that her sister is another ex-student whom I have taken care of 20 over years ago in Sg Patani, Kedah! Her sister, now married with 3 kids, was very happy over the phone to talk with me. Another one more connected … accidentally or is it providentially?

18. There are so many of such stories that I wish I have the space and time to share. But there are new stories to tell. Pray for me as I will be preaching in Petaling Jaya during the Christmas season.

19. Christmas Eve, preaching in an evangelistic Malay Language service. Christmas morning, preaching in an evangelistic English service. Christmas evening, when you are eating your turkey, I probably will be preaching in an Orang Asli village. Pray for the anointing of the HS as God’s Word is being proclaimed.


Bro Ong, Jessie, and Anastasia

P/S: Thank you for all your sms and emails to Jessie during her b/day last month. She really appreciates them.

P/S: You can contact me through several ways :

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skype : acrazee, singapore
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