Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Would You Uphold Us, Lord?

By S. Michael Durham

In less than three weeks Real Truth Matters will go full time as J.T. Crawford and Joseph Durham become its first two full-time staff members. This is a considerable step of faith for us. And we have not rushed into it. The process began last November and now, almost six months later, it’s about to happen.

We are depending on the Lord to uphold us and sustain us. We believe He has led us to this point, and our confidence is that He will protect us from final failure. No matter what God is directing you to do, you should believe that He will uphold you. Every call of God must have God’s equipment. David counted on being upheld by the strong hand of God. In Psalms you read several times of his faith in the Lord to uphold him.

Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip.” (Psalms 17:5)

David prays that God would keep him from devices of the wicked that would divert him from the ways of God. We too can believe that He will do the same for us. Pray for RTM that the Lord will uphold our steps and keep us in His path. Ask Him that we will not slip from His ways.

“As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And set me before Your face forever.” (Psalms 41:12)

In this verse David asks that his integrity be preserved, meaning that he would not be proven to be unrighteous. In the end, he did not want what he had done for God to be revealed to be his efforts to do what he thought best, but that all would know God had actually led him. This is RTM’s prayer as well. We have no desire to do what we deem as right. We are not making this major change to appear as a great ministry of faith. The truth is we prefer to have our financial needs already provided before launching full time. But this ministry believes that what we are embarking to do is God’s will. Thus, we too pray, “Uphold us in our integrity.”

“. . . uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Psalms 51:12)

David experienced his weakness to resist temptation. Mindful of his failures, he prays that a stronger power support him. All of us at RTM should be mindful of our failures and I believe we are. We must have a strength greater than own uphold us; otherwise, we will fail. Please pray that we will be empowered by the Holy Spirit as we work to fulfill His call.

“Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life.” (Psalms 54:4)

What a splendid and hopeful verse! God was David’s helper and was numbered among David’s valiant men. Of course the Lord was the champion of all champions, greater than David himself. But what comfort to know that God helps us as a friend and confidant. He upholds us even through the efforts of friends who support us. He helps those who lift us up. May the Lord uphold you who support RTM in your prayers and gifts.

The last verse that David pens that speaks of God upholding him is:

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” (Psalms 119:116)

Without God bearing David up, he knew life could not be lived. Without God upholding David, he knew that his hope would fail, and he would be ashamed.

RTM will die, and rightly so, if the Lord does not uphold us according to His word. If God does not bear us up, then in the end we will be ashamed. If God does not meet our needs, then we will be proven to have been presumptuous and foolhardy. And so in 19 days we launch out into the deep waters of God’s faithfulness. Would you join us as we pray to be upheld by divine omnipotence? “Uphold us according to Your word, that we may live; and do not let us be ashamed of our hope. You, O God, are our hope.”

RTM goes full time in less than three weeks!

As you have probably already heard, there are some exciting changes coming at Real Truth Matters. The ministry will officially be going full time on May 17, less than three weeks away. Details on how we reached this critical decision were outlined in our blog and a video now featured on our home page.

As the date rapidly approaches, we are excited about the work to come. Real Truth Matters exists to promote a return to New Testament Christianity by promoting the pursuit of Jesus Christ as the Gospel. So much of what we hear today is a man-centered theology based on what God can do for us. We believe that God is radically Christ-centered, and He points us to be as well. Yet in His amazing plan, when we are radically Christ-centered, we attain our greatest joy. This is what we pray Real Truth Matters will do: cause men and women to become so fascinated with all God is in Christ that they then live outside of themselves thus magnifying the worth of Christ by being completely satisfied in Him.

Some of our first tasks include producing a video series and teaching tools based on the core messages that came from our 2008 & 2009 conferences.

We are also continuing to improve and utilize the RTM website where we produce weekly teaching that cuts across many topics but always points listeners and viewers back to the pursuit of Christ.

We are also improving the magazine The Expositor while looking toward newer and broader venues in the world of magazine publishing.

In the ever growing area of online, social applications, we will be producing short films which can be easily shared that will drive home correct teaching in ways that will impact the viewer. We do this by utilizing sites such as Youtube and Facebook.

RTM also ministers directly to pastors and church leaders by providing them with networking and support, training, and ongoing encouragement and refreshing. In the future, we look forward to training men for new works in a more comprehensive, educational setting.

We will also work to support churches and other ministries in their endeavors to preach the gospel by assisting in audio/visual equipment set up/consultation/training, print design and layout for tracts and other printed materials, and website design.

Much of this work has already been taking place, but it has only trickled out due to our volunteer staff working only when time allows. With a full time staff, we will now have the time to dedicate to our full attention to our mission.

To accomplish this, we are relying on the same God who called us to this work to supply our needs. It takes money to support a staff, purchase and maintain equipment, and do the day to day work of RTM. We do not mention money and support of RTM ashamedly or with fear. Money is used by God to teach us many things as we see in the series Living Priorities – Living in Light of Eternity found under the Stewardship header on our topical index.

Both you and Real Truth Matters learn more about God and eternal values, and are brought closer to Him by learning what it truly means to be a steward. We do not take that lightly. God uses you and us together to accomplish this work. We do need your support as the Lord so leads.
We also want to hear from you! Let us know how RTM can serve you in your ministry. As believers, we are all ministers of Christ, and we want to serve you in the work in which He has called you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poem for Good Friday

A Poem for Good Friday -

Good Friday. The words etched in small black typeface on my calendar … Friday, April 2, 2010.

Good Friday. What makes Good Friday so good?

The single day of the year to have the distinction of being good. How can it be good? The commemoration of a man who claimed to be the Son of God, executed … capital punishment.

A man, brutally beaten, flesh nailed to wood, lifted up for a crowd to see. Good Friday? How can that be good? A people divided, occupied territory, a dissenter to rock the status quo.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

His followers would claim that He was God in the flesh, yet a humble servant to all, even stooping to wash their feet the night before His death. They claim that His death was the ultimate act of love … one who is taking upon himself the full wrath of God against all unrighteousness in our place. One who suffers under infinite justice as if he was the one looking at porn on a laptop … as if he was the one who was selling crack on a dark street corner … as if he was the one who constantly lied to maintain an image … as if he was the one who stole supplies from his boss when no one was looking … as if He was the one who lived a life of disregard for God. They claimed He became all of that and more to satisfy a debt we could never pay.

Perhaps He is what is good about Good Friday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sin and the False Convert

by S. Michael Durham

If it is true that many who call themselves Christians are merely professors and not possessors of eternal life, then one of the major causes must be a misunderstanding of sin. The enemy’s oldest trick is to minimize sin. He tries to reduce our sense of the severity of disobedience. He plays down the harm of rebellion by calling it anything but rebellion; he hides the reality of sin’s consequences and judgment.

Sadly, but interestingly, many modern preachers do the same. When preachers avoid the subject of sin altogether, as many do today, the result is a good many false Christians. In modern preaching, the word sin is taboo or redefined, and the act of sin is tolerated by both pulpit and pew. The wicked are soothed and made to feel no alarm. The moment someone is troubled about his soul’s jeopardy, he is consoled and told how wonderful he is and how much God loves him. Grief over sin is as unwanted as the plague in most church buildings.

The one thing that must precede true salvation is a biblical understanding of sin. We must see sin the way God sees it. It must reek with the foul odor it truly has and not be fumigated by a lying preacher’s lips. Until the sinner sees and feels the ownership of his sin he will not see the need for his conversion. Until the terribleness of sin grips his heart, any conversion he seeks will be the assurance of his eternal safety without deliverance from sin. The word salvation will only mean escape from judgment. It will never be equated with the saving from sin itself.

But when a sinner is made to realize his absolute unworthiness and reprehensibility, when he is made to know his utter wickedness, then he will see Jesus in an entirely different way. Christ will become more than attractive; He will become a necessary Savior without whom the sinner will perish, and perish deservedly. When sin becomes real to a man he finally understands his good works are a sham. To see sin as it really is motivates the convinced heart that there is no hope and smashes all places of refuge where the sinner might hide himself in self-righteousness.

Charles Spurgeon affirmed this principle when he said,

In the beginning, the preacher’s business is not to convert men, but the very reverse. It is idle to attempt to heal those who are not wounded, to attempt to clothe those who have never been stripped, and to make those rich who have never realized their poverty. As long as the world stands, we shall need the Holy Ghost, not only as the Comforter, but also as the Convincer, who will ‘reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.’

This goal is not accomplished by treating people like filth and nitpicking their faults, constantly telling them how wrong they are. But the subject of sin cannot be bypassed; for the sake of the sinner we must address it. Rather than trying to appease the non-believer let us hold before him the truth about the perfect righteousness of God. Let men see the infinite holiness of Christ and His sinless nature. Clearly declare the Lord’s royal robes of righteousness in order to expose their filthy and threadbare rags. Compare men to Him who knew no sin but became sin for us. Make men to know His beauty and purity, and surely they will know their ugliness and sin. And when they know and own their sin, they will make their way to the Savior and desire to know and own Him as their own righteousness.

The knowledge of the divine reveals the truth about sin and the sinner. If Satan’s work is the downplaying of sin, then surely it is the work of the preacher to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin by magnifying the exceeding greatness of God. This is the kind of preaching God owns. If we fail in this, then all we can expect are more false converts.

John Piper invites Rick Warren to speak at conference

John Piper has invited Purpose Driven pastor Rick Warren to speak at a 2010 Desirng God conference. Piper, a long time champion among "reformed" folks, is now disappointing many by inviting what seems to be a pastor who heralds the opposite of what Piper has preached throughout his ministry.

Piper explained himself yesterday through a video on his website. You can see the video here:

I admittedly don't know a great deal about Rick Warren. Upon first hearng his name I was told by some discerning brothers that it wasn't in my best interest to listen to what he had to say. I would like to have more time to flush out this blog entry, but at least for today, what I write here will have to do. I hope it starts some discussion, which would be my preferred method of exploring what is going on here.

For now, I really want to just focus on the video above and how John Piper went about "checking out" Rick Warren and seeing if he is ok or not.

First, Piper comes up with a list of beliefs, presents them to Warren, and because Warren agrees with all of them, he is deemed as OK. Here is a place where many in reformed camps are doing exactly what they preach against. Christianity becomes a list of beliefs, and as long as you agree with the list, you are OK. Is that not tantamount to easy-believism? I am not putting down correct doctrine and theology. It is very important. But when it just becomes a checklist that you give mental ascent to, and it does not affect your life and your relationship with God, it is nothting but empty words. Rick Warren may agree to what Piper read off to him over the phone in word, but is it affecting his life and relationship with God?

And how many people have seemingly correct doctrines that never see the light of day? Have you ever checked out a heretical ministry or church website and looked at their belief statements? You can often be shocked to find correct theological statements and then wonder why those things do not come out in the ministry or church. For you, it was relevant to look those things up. For that ministry or church, it is an irrelevant list that has no bearing on what they actually do.

This leads me to one final bit of information I have regarding the Piper/Warren debate. A radio show host contacted the Desiring God conference offices about this issue and was told by Jonathan Parnell that "Rick Warren is 'more doctrinal' than he appears." Back to the previous paragraph, how good is your doctrine if it never sees the light of day, and in practice, your doctrine is different?

Finally, Piper ends his video talking about agreeing to disagree on who we hang out with. I am not convinced that inviting a person to a conference and giving a person a national platform would be classified as "hanging out."

Not that Piper would ever read this, but I would challenge him to go past a list of theological statements to agree with and look at what Warren practices. I have seen many pastors who would agree to a list of theological rules, but when it comes to what they practice, they are a million miles away from their "list." There is a disconnect in the minds of many between what one puts on paper as guiding beliefs and what one actually does.