Ten Gracious Steps for the Sexually Immoral

Sexual immorality is rampant all over the world. Our African village is no different. When those inside our church fall to this sin, we counsel them with a spirit of love by urging them to follow these ten “R’s”.

This always takes time and patience. Teaching through a list like this may take hours or even days. But the repentance of a sinning brother is worth this kind of investment.

  1. Remember. God’s will is that you stay far away from sexual immorality (1Th. 4:3). Don’t forget that God has created you for the purpose of imitating the holy life of Christ (Mt. 5:48).
  2. Request. Ask God to forgive your sin (1Jn. 1:9), to give you a pure heart (Ps. 51:10), to protect you from the sin of fornication (Gn. 20:6; 1Chr. 4:10; Ps. 141:9) and to help you persevere (1Jn. 2:19).
  3. Responsibility. Place the blame on yourself for your sin (Ps. 51:1-4). Do not fault the world or church for suspecting the genuineness of your Christian profession while you are living in immorality (Eph. 5:3; 1Co. 6:9-10).
  4. Run. Stay far away from the temptation, not just the sin (Ex. 13:17-18). The best way to avoid fornication is to avoid tempting situations (Dt. 25:13-15; Pr. 5:8; 7:8). Flee fornication! (Gn. 39:12; 1Co. 6:18).
  5. Read. Diligently study and meditate upon God’s Word. It is powerful enough to keep His people from sin (Ps. 119-11; Pr. 7:2-3).
  6. Reflect. Guard your thought life by thinking upon pure things (Phil. 4:8). Rid yourself of any objects that hinders this (Dt. 25:13). Meditate upon what Jesus did on the cross to forgive you of such sins (Rm. 5:8).
  7. Relate. Be around believers as often as you possibly can (Hb. 10:25).
  8. Respect. Treat younger women as sisters and older women as mothers (1Tm. 5:2). Avoid doing things with a person of the opposite sex that you would not do with your sister or brother.
  9. Resolve. Get married when you are young (Pr. 5:18) to avoid youthful sins (1Co. 7:2), provided are emotionally and financially prepared (1Tm. 5:8) and the person is a Christian (2Co. 6:14; 1Co. 7:31). If not, break off the relationship.
  10. Repent. Mourn over your fornication (2Co. 12:21). Recognize that this sin breaks God’s law (Gn. 39:9; Ex. 20:14), the church covenant and is worthy of church expulsion should you not repent in word and action (1Co. 5).
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Review: The Heart of the Bible

John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2005, 143 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Summary: a list and explanation of fifty-two key passages every Christian should memorize

John MacArthur wanted to encourage his congregation to memorize more Scripture. He chose 52 passages that reflected ten main themes–the heart of the Bible. The 2-3 page explanations on each passage are theologically rich and easy to understand.

Pros: (1) This is a great book to give new Christians at their baptism. As they begin their Christian walk, these pages will encourage them to memorize and understand the Bible’s foundational passages.

(2) The book fits well into a one-year course. Our little African church is memorizing one passage for each week of the year.

Review: Blessed

Kate Bowler, Oxford, 2013, 337 pages, 5 of 5 stars

Summary: a lucid, concise and superbly researched historical account of the prosperity gospel—the best in print.

Bowler took years visiting health and wealth churches around the US in research for this book. Ironically, incurable colon cancer struck this young Duke professor as the book was going to print.

She argues the prosperity gospel (PG) centers on four themes: faith (a power turning words into reality), wealth (faith in the pocketbook), health (faith in the body), and victory (faith’s final goal). These topics became four of the five chapters.

The book’s subtitle (‘a history of the American prosperity gospel’) could just as well remove the word “American” since much of the PG round the world pulls from the US anyway.

Pros: (1) She names name by the hundreds. In this regard, she’s Paul-like (1Tm. 1:20). They called Puritan Richard Sibbes the sweet-dropper. Bowler is the name-dropper. She’s coming after you if you’ve influenced American prosperity over the past 100 years (e.g. Jakes, Cho, Lake, Bakker, Roberts, Meyer, Peale). Her favorite target is Joel Osteen. (2) Her tone isn’t polemical. She writes as an objective researcher. I consider this a plus because good arguments don’t need white knuckles and red faces to terrify the reader. (3) The lengthy bibliography on PG/Word of Faith works is invaluable.

(4) She must have researched a million pages of PG literature (cruel and unusual punishment) and then gives the reader the choicest dreck. For example, “Plant the seed of faith and put away the Washington’s” or this gem from Creflo: Dollar “I own two Rolls-Royces and didn’t pay a dime for them. Why? Because while I’m pursuing the Lord those cars are pursuing me” (p. 134). (5) Bowler excels at showing how earlier metaphysical mind-power repackaged itself into positive thinking (‘picturize, prayerize, actualize’) which repackaged itself into the modern prosperity message.

Cons: Besides the occasional Scripture reference, Bowler rarely interacts with the Bible. True, this is a history, but I expected more from a professor of religion.

Conclusion: Most missionaries and pastors should read this because most missionaries and pastors do battle royal against the PG in their ministry. This book gives the historical underpinnings of the deadliest poison within Protestant churches. The daily Christian should consider this hardback as well since “soft prosperity” (think Osteen) is more pervasive in the church and home than they know.

Quotes:

“[Speaking in tongues] became the gateway drug for other gifts of the spirit” (70).

“At Paula White’s Without Walls church, a feminine aesthetic pervaded the sanctuary and encouraged giving through the provision of floppy pink envelopes which tithers were encouraged to wave during the service” (129).

“John G. Lake and his ‘God-men’ theology pumped confidence into the veins of faith believers who called each other ‘overcomers,’ ‘dominators,’ and ‘little gods’” (179).

Review: What’s Your Worldview?

James Anderson, Crossway, 2014, 112 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Summary: an interactive storyline designed to help the reader identify and clarify their worldview and its implications.

Don’t read this little paperback from cover to cover. Follow the “Choose Your Own Adventure” plot to help you discover the consequences to your worldview (e.g. atheism, polytheism, pantheism, etc.) and other big questions (“Does God exist?” “Is there more than one true religion?”).

Pros: (1) Creative. The book is short. But it must have taken considerable thought to piece it together. (2) This is a nice, little title to give the unbeliever in the cubicle next to you. The size won’t intimidate him and it will make him think. (3) This is a good refresher on apologetic terms like Nihilism (what does that word mean again?) and Deism (“a halfway house on the road from Theism to Atheism”). (4) This is a good refresher on apologetic arguments, like why the problem of evil is harder for the atheist than the Christian. (5) His six-page intro on worldviews was excellent.

Cons: (1) Anderson tries to be unbiased but is sometimes timid (“some worldviews…walk with a pronounced limp”) or feeble (“the Christian worldview has a lot going for it”). Actually, all other worldviews are dead wrong! (2) The “end of the trail” on the Christian worldview was weak. If I traveled this far, at least give me a taste of Whitefield.

Quotables: “Worldviews are like [brains]: everyone has one and we can’t live without them, but not everyone knows that he has one.” (12)

The Dangers of Western Churches Supporting Foreign Pastors

Why should a church support an American missionary family at forty, sixty, eighty or even a hundred thousand dollars per year when a national pastor–who already knows the culture and language–can live on just a small fraction of that?

Among the chief proponents of foreign support for national pastors is KP Yohannan and his ministry Gospel for Asia (GFA). In his best-selling book Revolution in World Missions Yohannan writes: “The primary role for Westerners now should be to support efforts of indigenous missions works through financial aid…” (147). He bemoans the untold millions of dollars being wasted on Western missionaries and structures.

On the surface, supporting foreign nationals appears to be the cheapest, most efficient way for the West to use their missionary funds. Beneath the veneer of this plea, however, are a number of dangers that may make this method more destructive in the long run.

1. It discourages personal responsibility.

When a Chinese cow plows a Chinese field, it is not the responsibility of the French to give it the feed bag (1Tm. 5:18). When a Zambian pastor shepherds a Zambian congregation, it is not the duty of Brazilians to support him (5:17). Except for extreme circumstances (like funds for famine relief, Ac. 11:27-30), it is a sign of an unhealthy church that expects others to support the pastor that labors for them in preaching and teaching. Continue reading

Review: Boyhood and Beyond

Bob Schultz, Great Expectations Book Co., 2004, 217 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Jane Austin wrote that surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.

Even more surprising than quoting Emma in a review on masculinity is the shock I received after reading Bob Schultz’s book on raising boys. He’s a carpenter by trade, so that’s promising. But he’s also the father of three girls and no boys. Still, Boyhood and Beyond is superb. I’ve reviewed books on father’s bringing up daughters as well as raising sons. Schultz is the best I’ve read on the latter.

In past mornings I’ve read this paperback (or the sequel) at family worship to my wife and six children. It’s good for my daughters too because it teaches them traits to look for in a husband. The whole family loves it. Here are three reasons why.

First, the book is manly. You picture Schultz sitting down in his shed with rolled up flannel sleeves, writing with pencil and paper. There’s not a Macbook Air in his zip code. He’s old school. He quotes from the KJV and bolsters his points with masculine illustrations you want your sons to hear: shooting turkeys, chopping firewood, tending the orchard and fixing the chicken coop.

Second, the book is well-rounded. There are thirty-one chapters covering topics like hard work, the value of an old man, perseverance, initiative, overcoming temptation, and personal responsibility. But it’s not just a book on standard character traits. Where will you find a man encouraging your sons to make inventions, think in analogies, write thank-you letters or have a pilgrim mindset? You will here.

Finally, the book is biblical. Though I must say the illustrations and stories were the delicious appetizer and dessert of every chapter, the main course is always rooted in Scripture. On each page he teaches in a way young and old can understand. I’ve even used it as a discipleship tool with the male teens and twenty-somethings in our African village.

“Developing in manhood is a process,” Schultz writes. In a world that has lost its way regarding gender roles, Boyhood and Beyond is a great tool in helping boys become men.

Why is South Africa so Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (4) Limited Good

Fun Lover Coaches for Fun Loving Theology

The concept of “limited good” denies that wealth can be created. It supposes that since there are not enough good things for everyone to enjoy, a person can only increase his or her wealth/blessings/good at the expense of others.

Notice this kind of limited good thinking in Pumla Gqola’s book Rape: A South African Nightmare:

“[The desire for wealth] seduces the poor into working harder, in search of the elusive ease, but no matter how hard they work, there are finite resources in the world. Therefore wealth requires the hoarding of resources, which means taking away resources that would allow the poor to live decently in an equitable world” (38).

 

“Limited Good” in Africa

Prof. Koos Van Rooy, an anthropologist and linguist for decades among the Vendas in rural South Africa, defines the African idea of limited good this way:

“There is only a limited amount of good (that is: life force, good luck, prestige, influence, children, possessions) in the cosmos. Each person is allotted a fixed quantity of this good. It can only be increased at the expense of someone else, by way of black magic, ritual murder or theft.”

Think of a pie. Limited good thinks that by cutting out a piece for oneself, the person is taking from others. Wealth, as the thinking goes, can only be transferred from one person to another. If I become rich, someone else must become poor. Continue reading