Friday, March 4, 2011

Fluff in the Church, Snuff in the World and One Brave Pakistani

Rev Michael Bresciani;

The Bible predicts a great apostasia (apostasy) will precede the coming of the world’s last dictator called the antichrist. Don’t look now but we are well underway into that dreaded prophecy.

Basic Bible doctrines are being abandoned at an alarming rate in mainline denominational and historic churches and “sound doctrine” (2 Tim 4: 3) is being replaced by what is today known as the social gospel. This is a substitute gospel that deals only with helping the poor or righting social ills. It looks good on the surface and appeals to the religious nature of almost everyone but it is miles from the true gospel.

In mainline protestant churches even the language of the entertainment industry and the new religious diversity is showing up. Recently a famous TV evangelist mentioned how he was “booked” rather than scheduled to speak in some of the nation’s biggest churches. Often preachers are found referring to their adherents as the “audience” instead of the congregation. Now the platform from which inspired music and messages are heard is commonly called the “stage.” The line between inspiration and entertainment is becoming obscured by cultural influences.

As the old preachers used to say the church is promising an experience but in the end only offers a performance. Is it becoming all just so much “sound and fury, signifying nothing?”

The fastest growing churches in the US are large non-denominational fellowships either evangelical or charismatic. In such churches growth is measured by head counts and the more people that show up the more assured they are that they are doing something right. Often these kinds of churches are event, conference and gathering centered with big name preachers and musical groups as the greatest draw.

They see their own success but never see that as the nation changes on the most fundamental level from societal norms to government, they are fast becoming ever larger groups of people who are in fact completely isolated. If you asked most of these people what FOCA, DOMA or the latest hate crimes legislation was you would most likely get a puzzled look and no more.

It is not a requirement for Christians to know all the subtleties of politics and social trends but there is a bit of hypocrisy if not outright stupidity in asking people to pray for government and political leaders (2 Tim 2: 1-3) as the Bible exhorts if we have no idea what is going on from the President down.

Running a Christian website requires that I stay abreast of all the latest news that affects the nation. I keep a list of the top news and current event sites both Christian and secular to draw from. I comb through the list daily looking for matters that relate to America’s condition and heart beat so to speak, but I am always amazed at the contrast between the secular and Christian sites and what they have to offer.

Christian sites often seem as if they are floating in the clouds far above the realities of everyday life. They miss critical stories and changes that will affect them or the nation and if they do have a message to offer it is usually nicely packaged up in a book or video and available to anyone with credit card ready to get in on the latest thing God is doing.

News is often what the latest praise bands or soloists have released and messages that are said to be, the most important you will hear in this decade, are for sale, at anything but a modest price. If the messages would lead anyone to their own salvation we can only surmise that if they are too poor to purchase the all important message they are bound to be headed to hell in a hand basket for the lack of a few bucks. Is any part of God’s word for sale; ever?

Apostasy is more than just allowing false doctrine to slip into the church it is offering what can only be called “fluff” as a very poor substitute for discipleship and adherence to the fundamental teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles.

In the more liturgically oriented churches such a Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian ceremony and liturgy is allowed to substitute. Until now that may have been enough but in our ever changing world it is like trying to feed a starving child by showing them pictures of food. It is what the Apostle Paul described as, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Tim 3: 5)

Mid week and evening services are being dropped and Saturday evening services are now offered so that personal pursuits, car washing, golf, sports events and just staying at home will not be interrupted on Sundays. This is fluff but more than that, it is part of the predicted apostasy so carefully outlined in Bible prophecy.

In the non-denominational churches the services may last for hours but they are often entertaining, experience centered offerings, noisy, polished and complete with everything but party favors and firecrackers.

To turn away from this picture and glance at what is going on in the rest of the world is to risk going into mental shock. The world is full of bad news, warfare, uprisings, endless murders and senseless crimes, unrest and political turmoil. The strongest element in all this secular smoldering and festering civil upheaval is death. The world is sprinkled with death from the streets to the TV and from global unrest to Somali pirates on the high seas. While the church is engaged in fluff the world is immersed in snuff. (Death)

In Pakistan on Wednesday March 2, 2011 Reuters reported that the Pakistani Minister of Minorities, Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti was brutally shot to death as he traveled. He was known for supporting Christians in their plight for religious freedom and was hated by the Muslims for his efforts.

One Christian site here in the US told the story of Mr. Bhatti’s cruel and untimely death but started their report with what might almost be considered a disclaimer. They said that they generally strive to focus and report on only good things and not these kinds of reports. They acknowledged Mr. Bhatti’s bravery.

My own objectivity was buried momentarily by a wave of emotion and a bit of anger so I waited until that all subsided before attempting to make a fair analysis. What anger you say? I did not know Mr. Bhatti personally but he is as much of a brother to me as any Christian person is because we share the same faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

What seemed so wrong was reporting the details of his death as if it were an interruption to the normal flow of good things that are happening in Christendom. On almost every level, theological, scriptural and socially there is much good to come from Mr. Bhatti’s very sad death.

Almost any cause is strengthened by those who are martyred for it and while it may be the worst possible way to advance the cause it is nevertheless a solid move ahead. Speaking of the deaths of many people in the last days the prophet Daniel said, “And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end.” (Daniel 11: 35) This not only speaks of their deaths but exclaims that the effect of their martyrdom has a very positive outcome.

It is always bad news to hear that anyone was murdered and we cringe at such news but lest we forget, God counts their deaths as much more than many other things we call “good.” God doesn’t care if you are a positive thinker or if you offer the best in Christian music in your gatherings if you choose to remain aloof about the demise of others in the faith.

The strength, the weight and the deep lessons that can be learned from the death of believers may be lost to a cheerfully singing modern church but it is never lost on the Lord and his angels. To wit: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116: 15)

In fact when believers are martyred it is the ultimate good for the kingdom of God wrapped in a package of the ultimate evil from the kingdom of men. This wisdom can only be extracted with great understanding and is not known to all but the most experienced and well counseled of the church body.

Because the Apostle Paul who was shipwrecked, beaten, jailed, stoned and ultimately be-headed by Nero said “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (Eph 6: 12) we can understand that, our faith is a battlefield and not a playground. Who will report on this battle for the sake of the rest of us in the faith?

The gospel and the simplest message of the Savior is to preach, live, manifest and teach others about life; in real time, not in isolated performances of Christianity even if there are 20,000 or more in attendance.

Jesus calls all men to salvation but that should never be reduced to a mere Christian principle, practice or liturgical presentation. In between getting saved and being called home forever there is only this.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10: 10) has since 2005 featured the articles of columnist Rev Michael Bresciani along with news and reviews that have earned this site the title of The Website for Insight  Millions have read his timely reports and articles in online journals and print publications across the nation and the globe.


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