SALVATION BROUGHT AN ALIEN APPETITE

bible read“When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” (Prov. 6:22).

It was the spring of the year 1979 which would be end up being my first year of High School. Mike and I were still altar boys and we had grown a few inches so we looked like the priest’s bodyguards. I will never forget when the priest gave us the sacramental wine to sip from during Mass. I do not know why he did it and did not realize the significance of it at that time, but it was a great honor, since they only give you the bread in the Roman Church. I believe it was truly a sign of change and God’s providence. Eventually due to our new-found faith we were not allowed to serve the altar.

That year during Easter we watched movies about God. There was one movie about the crucifixion of Christ. Something strange happened. My mother, brother and I started weeping like our hearts were broken. My father was shocked and felt terrible and kept asking, “What happened? What’s the matter?” We did not know. We just could not stop crying. This again was I believe the Spirit of God working repentance in our hearts.

On Richmond Avenue there was a church, Calvary Assembly of God. My brother in passing saw the words evangelistic service. He went that church because unbeknownst to me he was watching evangelists on television. He connected the word evangelist to evangelistic. How God uses such simple things to draw people to his Son Jesus! He was responsible for winning my whole family to Christ by that simple act. My brother told the Sunday School superintendent at that time something to the effect, “I have got to get my brother to come, he will be a great preacher.” He must have remembered me yelling out the words of that Bible on that hill so many years ago.

Through a succession of events over years God was patiently orchestrating everything that would lead to the salvation of my entire family. We were baptized in water that year. While I was in the water, although I was quiet most of the time, I started preaching to everyone. It just would bubble in me. My conversion to Christ was not full of fireworks but the results would be lasting.

The thing that had the most effective impact on me is when we started attending Sunday School and began learning about the Bible. I loved it. I would borrow my brother’s King James Bible (the only one we had besides a huge Catholic family Bible) and I got the idea that I should memorize scripture. When I did not have that one I would carry around that big one and read it too.

I thought, “If I am going to know the Bible I should know it by heart.”

What should I memorize?

I turned through the Bible pages and my eyes fell on these large print words for the first time, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). I figured I was part Italian and it was written to the Romans so that was a good place to start-right? So I memorized that chapter.

Afterwards, I memorized Psalm 139. “Oh Lord you have searched me and known me!” I loved saying the verses.

The verses of scripture were like food to my soul. I could not get enough. I loved going to church and hearing preaching. I would listen to the Word on TV and the radio and I would read books and listened to music that taught the Bible. I had a voracious, heaven birthed, alien appetite for the Word of the living God.

But now I would be introduced to something, someone unexpected, someone I overlooked. The Holy Ghost.

This is the fifth installment of my testimony.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

You are Being Sentenced to Church!

A Judge in Oklahoma is facing some criticism after passing a sentence on a convicted killer to 10 years of church. The seventeen year old Tyler Alred pleaded guilty to manslaughter for a car accident that killed his friend last December. Alred had a blood alcohol level of .07 when he drove his car into a tree.

The Muskogee County district court judge ordered Alred to spend the next decade going to church. The judge has handed out similar sentences in the past – but mostly to parents who fail to pay child support or felons who don’t pay their court costs.

This is not the first time for something like this. In Bay Minette, Alabama it lets convicted offenders to choose either jail time or church. The program will allow a city judge to sentence misdemeanor offenders to work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine, or go to church every Sunday for a year.

Oh yeah the ACLU doesn’t like this idea of church. Let me show you my surprised face!

Now the whole philosophy, “You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I’ll show you a person who won’t be a problem to society.”

So, I do not want to be over critical of this idea, it has some merit and I am sure some good results, I hope. Yet, we can only hope that Jesus, not religious morality will be preached in that church or churches in such way to help those people to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. But imagine being sent to church as part of a sentence for a crime! I do not know whether to laugh or cry at the idea.

But most think they have a choice (my free will friends should like that) and thinking hmm, well, church or jail.  At this point, to the writer, jail sounds more like a ministry than church. In fact, for me, going to many churches has been like going to jail on Sunday. It has been brutal. What is worse is that you do not have to deal with convicts but Christians and they are a rough crowd.

A felon going to church? Wow what an experiment for those pesky church people. Imagine people knowing that you are coming to church because of a crime you committed. It is almost like, well…penance. And since much of what is preached today as repentance is actually protestant penance, I think many pastors would like the idea of being someones priest and able to mete out a few acts of contrition.

Church should be all about the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 2:1-2). I have heard and believed that the pulse, the very life blood of the church hinges on two main understandings: regeneration (how we are spiritually brought back from  death to new life) and justification (how we become spiritually righteous before God).  When I talk of the concept of church I do not want to hear about churches without walls, lectures on the pagan idea of the word “church.” I do not want to listen to somebody sell me on small groups, cell groups or home groups.  Hey there is nothing wrong with these things but they are NOT the answer CHRIST IS. Look, anything that sounds like an experiment is probably heresy. I don’t want to hear, “Oh if we gather over coffee that is the church.” I do not want to hear about apostolic models, episcopal organizations, ecumenical unity or evangelical marketing to solve the church growth problem. It all gives me motion sickness because it is like an out of control car. I decided to get out of the car and see who was driving.  I dared to examine church and preaching from a distance. How dare I? It always seems like we are trying to correct or remake “church” and now someone finally compares it in the same breath with jail. That hurts.

For a while, church seemed like jail to me. After pastoring for years and then to sit in church for a while, I realized my own errors and the misguided foolishness of those I listened to. It was hard to sit there. Preachers seemed to include Christ as a footnote or endnote in their messages instead of Jesus being their message.  Our first love is Christ. Our second love is his people. Being near him as we gather in whatever form, liturgical, formal or spontaneous is freedom for our hearts. Being near others that love him is fellowship.

I am sure of two things, Jesus said he will build his church and it was to be a house of prayer. Church is a place and a people. It is a place where the gifts of the spirit are seen to build up not tear down people. It is a place where we treat all people with honor, empathy and humility. We make no distinctions and resist division. It is one body, and where the true gospel is proclaimed the very body of Christ, many parts, not one part where we need everyone (see 1 Cor 12). The church is made up of God’s sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18) not inmates, paying off their spiritual debt to a God who is their warden.  Christ took our judgement, he went to prison (Isa 53:8) for us.  It is a place where we are family, a place where Jesus is preached (Acts 8:35), not a punishment where you serve out a sentence. Jesus paid for all of our crimes against him. He says to us, “You are forgiven and all your rebellion, lawless deeds and sins are gone.” (Heb. 8:12). That is the gospel.

© 2018 Stephen S. Gibney. If you use this article tell people about us and where you found it. Don’t plagiarize.

God Made the Call Right The First Time

Both baseball and football have more rules in regard to reviewing plays to make sure the right call on a play is being made. There has already been many controversies to the chagrin of fans and players. Football has the red flag and baseball has instant replay.

This past summer (2012), Washington Nationals baseball team’s Michael Morse was asked to mime a grand slam in the first inning of the Nationals-Cardinals game after a call was overturned, leading to an odd, albeit hilarious, situation at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Morse hit a fly ball to right field with the bases loaded in the first inning off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse. The ball bounced off the second wall in right field and back onto the field, so right fielder Carlos Beltran played it like a live ball. Beltran threw the ball into the infield, and second baseman Skip Schumaker chased down Morse and tagged him out. At that point, Morse would have been credited with an RBI single to put the Nationals up 1-0.

The umpires decided to review the call and, after looking at replays, they determined that the ball bounced into play after hitting the second wall, which is considered a home run. They reset the runners on the bases, and they asked Morse to return to home plate (after touching first base on his way back) to mime a grand slam.

Morse happily obliged, and he was credited with his fourth career grand slam to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead. Even though it was odd seeing the umpires recreate the situation, the important thing is that they got the call right.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

God does not need to review the call he has made, he made the call right the first time. For context sake, we need to remember the way God does things. The scriptures says that God “left not himself without witness…for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Acts 14:17; Jude 1:3).  What the Bible teaches, the truth that he has made known in his Word does not need a do- over. It was then complete, and that nothing was to be added to it.  It was done once and completed once and is not subject to review. Anything that is new as far as adding to what God has already revealed is a review. It is not of God. It is unnecessary and unacceptable. God made the call right the first time.

God has also called you to come to Jesus and be saved! What a play God made! It was awesome as he caught your falling soul.  Watch it in slow motion sometime! The crowd of witnesses went wild! What an awesome hit Jesus made when he knocked sin, death and hell out of the park!!! But some always question and think it was an incomplete catch or it was not a real home run and claim it was only a ground rule double or had fan interference. they cannot possibly be children of God now they question and want them to review in in the booth. But God made the call right the first time.

When you heard the gospel by preaching, the Holy Spirit joined himself in power to those words and created the miracle of salvation in your heart. You were an unworthy, undeserving law breaker both unwilling and unable to love and serve God. All of that is true!  Some would question and throw out the red flag questioning why God would save ungodly people like you and I. They look at our lives even now and we are far from perfect, and we still do do dumb things.  People look on it cynically, like some look on people who convert to Christ in prison and call for an instant replay of your sins and actions with a smirk.  But God refuses to be questioned about this decision. God made the call right the first time. There is no need for review.

Paul says, “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess. 2:14). The gospel of grace is a divine power that brings salvation (Rom 1:16). We are not to be ashamed of it, it needs no review. God has called you by His grace through the precious blood of Jesus poured out on the Cross and  that will never be rethought, amended or rescinded. “The God of all grace, who called you”  is never going to change his mind about saving you (1 Peter 5:10; Rom 11:29).

It was his call.

It was his decision.

Our conscience may fight against this because it has an instant replay and reviews our bad decisions-our sins. The rules and laws of Moses sometimes are seen more clearly in their review of our lives rather than the solution that God gave for the sin problem, Jesus.

It is Christ alone who saves and delights to save. Your call to salvation and salvation itself will it never be subject to review.  The Bible says, “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom 8:30).

God made the call right the first time.  Be at peace.

APOSTASY GONE PANDEMIC 4: THE DISEASED GOSPEL

God was still at odds with his Old Covenant people. God seems to show his displeasure with those who claim to love him but despise others.

When the ark was returned to the city of Bethshemesh, they all rejoiced to see it (1 Sam 6:13).

It is possible many people from the towns came to see it like a tourist attraction.

God obviously hated that.

The men of Bethshemesh foolishly looked into the ark and God destroyed fifty thousand and seventy men (1 Sam. 6:19).

Yahweh shows no favoritism and the ark was not their property just because they said they were religious and it was rightful furniture of where they worshiped.

They were just well informed religious people who had chosen the pagan idols of the Baals and the Ashtoreths of their day alongside of the true God and God was going to shut down their religious show.

If they were going to be like this, He did not want to be among them and he was for the time content to be in an open field rather than in Shiloh Worship Center. It makes one weep to think he found no place among men.

Today, many contemporary worship centers refuse to preach the scripture replacing it with a water downed version of pop theology that appeals to everyone that was ignorant of the word.

Is it possible that today, that as we see God’s sentences of justice against wickedness among the sin benighted nations-we feel justified.

You see, those who believe they can be saved by their religious practices have a low view of sin and a high view of self. Like Cain, they offer what they do to God like corrupt vegetables and toxic salad and want God to accept what they think should please him rather than what actually pleases him. They do not see how God demands perfection and that perfection is found in Christ alone.

Yet, they can never accept salvation by grace alone but they fight it  they think it is never enough. Fake Churchianity and the institutional churches of today that do not align themselves with the word of the Lord will face his justice as well because they are not protected by the blood of the Cross.

Many institutional worship centers and their life coaches are coy when it comes to releasing the full force of Scripture on the consciences of their hearers. So in the name of being practical they engage people on the basis of quality of life and success rathere than on the terms of the gospel and the new covenant.

Christ warns, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38).

We are used to hearing that verse in terms of being a witness of the gospel message to those who are lost. But again that is not completely the case. Backslidden men and churches that are uncomfortable with preaching undiluted scripture, nervous about disclosing what the Bible teaches about Christ are an embarrassment to God and his angels.

About a year ago, we heard of a church with 7, 500 members in Long Island NY that someone who was serving communion to packed house and several services on Christmas day had Hepatitis A.[i]

But imagine something worse happening to people in the worship centers of our day.

Mulder and Scully show up and see an embarrassed pastor at his wits end because his congregation has rats scampering in the fellowship hall during Sunday school (for the churches who still have it) and unable to sit in their pews due to tumors (for the churches who still have them) during service because it hurts to do so.

After a while the pastor and his staff are being confronted by the congregation needless to say, their neighbors and businesses about the rats and the public health concern about the hemorrhoids.

They even wear masks and gloves to prevent the R5-H5 virus (taken from the five golden rats and five golden hemorrhoids analogy) to solve their problem.

Imagine that in church buildings all over the country-the same problem was spreading even to their missionaries overseas.

The story goes on that people do not want to come to church. The only thing the pastors, deacons and elders can do is tell their congregation to just wash their hands until they come up with an inoculation of some sort. It is not that they do not want to sit in church but they want to be able to sit period! So the church leadership must offer some other solution. It would be hard to attract people in our churches in such a condition, no matter the latest program because we would be infested with rats and disease. All our programs no matter how seeker sensitive would go right out the window.

The diseased message of American Churchianity has brought a pandemic global spiritual plague because what is being preached across pulpits and endorsed by churches and denominations is not the message of the Bible.

Imagine if we had a symbol of God’s presence like Israel did in the ark?

We do.

It is the Cross.

Unlike the ark that was stolen in battle, we just put it outside in the church shed. For those of you unfamiliar with biblical types and symbols the ark is referred to as the mercy-seat. It is a type of when Jesus died on the cross.  It is the message of Christ Crucified, Buried and Raised Again has been neglected.

There is a movement that is out to take all classical Christianity out of the church (except of course some of the religious biblical nomenclature that we can market) and any symbols, the cross, Bibles, hymn books out of the church and set the church up with a stage and video screens.

These people use the Bible and the holy things of God for their own motives and they dress up in religiosity and spiritual infomercials. Their goal is to make God and church more palatable to those who still hate God and the gospel.

You have to eventually change the message because of the methodology.  The message of the cross is too powerful, too untamed for people to handle.

The message of grace is too radical, even destructive to people’s lives. The exclusive claims of Christ create such a large gap between other religions and philosophies that it leaves true Christianity diametrically opposed to everything that claims to be truth around it.

The message of the Cross refuses to cohabitate  nor takes second place to man centered fleshy ideas of church growth and salvation.

It is so radical it will leave many worship centers only with a stump left of their fishy, rat infested, diseased message.

The Cross is the great leveler of human pride and idolatry. It is too heavy for many!  But the cure, the only healer is Christ and his presence among his people.  It is the reclamation of the truth of the gospel that is the vital and necessary element for the church today.

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries. If you use this article tell people about us and where you found it. Don’t plagiarize.

APOSTASY GONE PANDEMIC 2: MAYBE DAGON HELP YOUR CHURCH GROW?

This “Ark of God” was quite a spoil of war for the enemies of Israel and they put it in the temple of Philistine chief deity Dagon who was supposedly the father of Baal.

This image of Dagon I am sure was bigger and better than the one that Samson destroyed (Judges 16).

I am sure this one was harder to knock down as well.

It was a half man-half fish idol that was, “a personification of the generative and vivifying principle of nature, for which the fish with its innumerable multiplication was specially adapted.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Vol. 2, pg. 58).

He was apparently a god of multiplication and growth.

Like many pastors and churches today they worship the idol of church growth and multiplication selling religion to people with Christian language but at the cost of his glory and his presence.

For years, “praying a salvation/sinner’s prayer” was the quick way to get a soul saved but now we are back to the old Babylonian idea of just get’em in “church” by appeals in entertainment, magic shows and relative, up to date motivational speaking.

God does NOT add to the church through sociological studies or psychophysics -he grows his church through his word.

The book of Acts is not a just historical narrative, it is an example set up as a pattern giving us paradigms for us to follow.

It teaches that growth was due to God’s Word, “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied… But the word of God grew and multiplied…So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20). 

The apostles knew that it was not their efforts nor their exertion- it was God who gives the increase and it grows as God increases its number and strength (1 Cor. 3:6-7; Col. 2:19).

In fact, Paul knew his motivation to toil and even agonize in preaching and teaching was from the dynamite like energy the Holy Spirit gave him, “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col. 1:29). 

We as ministers water and plant the Word like precious seed in the human heart, and God brings the harvest-real church growth, without changing the message of the gospel or its ageless method- preaching.

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries. If you use this article tell people about us and where you found it. Don’t plagiarize.

Clinically Proven

I have to rant and rave every once in a while; it is quite therapeutic for me.

There is no doubt that you have seen infomercials advertising products as “clinically proven.”   Clinically proven may mean any number of things and on the other hand, it can mean absolutely nothing.  You see, when you really want to sell something  just throw in that “clinically proven” statement  which is usually a vague claim that requires no hard evidence and isn’t easy to disprove. Most people do not realize that as long as the product has, “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA” disclaimer on the label, it’s not necessary to have evidence to back it up.

Scary.

My concern is for the “clinically proven” claims made by so called mega-churches, celebrity pastors and ministries.  These guys and gals are some of the best salespeople I have ever seen.  They advertise health, wealth and blessing through religious products. The anointing oil from Gethsemane, water from the Holy Land, a mustard seed in a necklace, at home communion sets, books, CD’s and DVD’s with the promise of blessing-all of this with a very generous love offering. Not convinced? You can watch the what testimonies of people who say they got it and it does everything from fixing their flat tire to paying off their mortgage.

Then there are the commercials. I have found it interesting that preaching has segments now. You even see it in church. Preaching is not enough so we throw a video in the mix.  Then the new breed of televangelists have interview formats, in the name of making Christianity more interesting and conversational.  The interviews even include celebrities who do not claim to be Christians but have tips on being successful. After a few minutes of preaching you have snippets of religious commericals advertising the message you are watching or future conferences and we even have pay-per-view preaching.

The emphasis of much Christianity today is all about results or being practical. Pastors and leaders are not immune from buying into the “clinically proven” church growth strategies from men who went from 40 to 4000 in a year or two. That is all that is pumped into the minds, conferences and groups of any denomination in the name of evangelism.

But who defines this?

You got it-the times and culture of the day redefine faith and religion in a whole new way.  Scripture is reinterpreted in line with the zeitgeist (a word meaning the “spirit of the age”).  The only problem is that such concepts of sin and atonement may become out of sync with the culture and so we have seen even Christianity  redefines God, sin and forgiveness and church in light of the world around them. They will spend time on issues such as practical living, family, marriage and health rather than on “doctrinal” issues in order to really “help people.”  That is their selling point and they say, “it works and you get results with our new religious product.”

It is all boulderdash!

Here is what matters to Christ-doing the will of God from your heart (Eph. 6:6).  It is God’s desire that we, “may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Col. 4:12).  That understanding of will of God is found in the clear teaching of the scriptures by gospel ministers in the meeting of the people called the church (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 14:26). No sales, no cheesy punch lines, no dramatics, just a determination to do the will of God. It is after we have been persistent in doing God’s will that we will receive the promise of heaven and eternal life (Heb 10:36). All of this worldly flim- flam religion cannot last under the times of molten trials and fiery testing that will come (1 Cor 3:10-15). John makes it clear: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17).

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.