“Does God Exist?” Debate Review. Sin Boldly Episode 96

PrintThe congregation I serve, First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston, TX, hosted a debate on God’s existence a few Saturdays ago. This episode is dedicated to reviewing that debate. What arguments were made? What concessions were granted? Who was the most consistent? Who focused on the topic? How did each participant answer the question? We look at the highlights…and lowlights, and try to figure out who was successful in the debate after we offer our criteria for such an event.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below. 

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

Sin Boldly BONUS, with Eric Hernandez: Does God Exist? (And lots of callers.)

dbeee6317e1280bd61d27b628ef8ca2fI was delighted to be on KPFT’s “Voices” again and to have the offer to present the Christian worldview on secular radio. KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston is community-supported radio and has a large audience of folks from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. It will be a while before I’m able to do this again (thanks a lot, vacation!) but it sure is fun to get this kind of audience feedback. Today I was joined by Christian apologist and friend Eric Hernandez. We looked at only one argument for God’s existence before the calls came rolling in. Friend me on Facebook to get notification of these shows in the future if you’d like to call in. And thanks Eric for your time!

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release. Otherwise, it may take a few hours from the time of publication until it shows up on the feed. To listen immediately, see below. 

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

Self-Feeders and Watered-Down Messages. Sin Boldly Episode 95.

1715_thumbnailBack in January, Dr. Gary McIntosh, Dr. Eugene Wilson and Karl Vaters and I gathered to talk about the Church Growth Movement at large. There was so much to talk about, we did it again, only this time without Dr. McIntosh (who is a very busy man and we hope to catch up with later!). We look at the need for small groups and the need for Christians to be “self-feeders”, as well as whether or not churches can grow if they preach the “hard sayings of Jesus.” Also, how do pastors of small churches deal with the frustration of churches that aren’t growing and what do they do in the wake of that reality?

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

One Post. Two Sin BoldlyEpisodes: A Joel Osteen Review Live on Houston Radio and a Kooky episode on All Manner of Cultural Changes

17817449_1835101686757073_1162669315137208320_n-300x300For the first time in Sin Boldly’s history, I moved from the HD channel of KPFT to the flagship FM band. My goal for this show has always been to offer a defense of the Christian faith on secular radio. There are already more than enough incredible Christian podcasts. This is a radio show first and a podcast second. So it was fun to get the opportunity. I believe it may become somewhat regular, but we will see.

The content is probably already familiar to regular Sin Boldly listeners as I did a review of a portion of a Joel Osteen sermon and a quick discussion on the relationship of Christianity and capitalism. I got several calls during this episode which looked at other questions as well. My goal was to introduce the broader KPFT audience to the kind of show I do and given that Pr. Osteen pastors about a mile from KPFT studios, I thought an evaluation of his preaching would be worthwhile. Some of the callers seemed to agree.

At my normal time slot, I looked at a handful of topics: the contraction of the Church due to perpetual adolescence; a parent’s rights in a transgender case; a 1952 Planned Parenthood pamphlet that calls abortion the killing of a baby; and the Kooks Burrito company being forced to close because of “cultural appropriation.”

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

Joel Osteen Review and Capitalism:

All Manner of Kooks:

Two Reasons that Account for 90%* of Church Contraction

image1A lot of ink has been spilled and church members lost because of the contracting of the American Christian church and the various blame games and strategies proposed to deal with it. The Church Growth Movement has alienated many Christians (and attracted some too, I’m sure) as attempts have been made to “reignite” the Church. Liberal theology is often embraced to woo those left-of-center who otherwise might not darken the door of a church. Leadership summits are hosted to encourage leaders to use better techniques to attract and lead churches.

But is it wrong to ask, without trying to sound or actually to be apathetic, if some things are just beyond our control? What if it is possible that the challenges the Church faces are so profound that no conferences or contemporary music will be a savior in their wake? I sometimes think that is the case. Which doesn’t mean we stop doing all we can. (I host a radio show and debates to try to make the case to as many people as possible, for example. I’m not quitting.) But are we aware of why the next generation is staying away from the church? And do we really think pop music will reverse the trends?

In thinking about the same issues that every other pastor has considered, I think the Church is up against two powerful forces that can be overcome, but not without great difficulty. The first is the single most obvious and easily abused vice that is more accessible now than at any other time known to man: pornography. The second is a way of life that has recently gotten a word: “adulting.”

The first problem is so obvious, it hardly needs commentary. Christianity and pornography are basically incompatible. I say “basically” because like all sins, the sin of pornography can be forgiven. But no confessing Christian can engage in pornography and feel good about it. Something will have to give: either the porn or the faith. Given the incredible numbers of people who are viewing porn, and given that they cannot keep up that habit and be adult members of a Christian congregation, it should be no surprise that the church is shrinking. The choice is before men: Jesus or porn. Jesus loses a whole lot of the time.

Now, Christians are going to struggle with porn like anyone else because Christians are human beings, too, with the same impulses and temptations. The difference is that, over time, a serious Christian can and will defeat the porn habit or addiction. It is possible. It isn’t easy, but men and women do it all the time. And it must be defeated, because so long as porn is a part of the Christian’s habits, the unease with all things faith-related will only grow. The guilt and the shame will become an every day barrier to faith and trust in Christ. And then, when the porn user is tired of the guilt and the shame, they will grow numb to the voice that is yelling “Stop!”

Our society has gone from accepting porn, to tolerating porn, to celebrating porn. It was once the case that engaging with porn was aberrant. Not to abstain from porn is aberrant. It seems obvious to me – blindingly so – that this single change in our society has effectively removed millions from the pews because the power of porn is so strong. And when something has to give in the lives of millions of Americans, it isn’t the porn. It is the commitment to Christ and the seeking of holiness that he demands.

To those who struggle with porn, you know the guilt and the shame that is weighing you down. There is a better way. Porn does not have to define you. Speak with a pastor or a professional. Take measures to remove it from your computer or TV or phone. Confess it to someone in confidence. Because in the long run and even in the short run, porn and Christianity cannot and do not co-exist.

The second reason the church is shrinking (and in a way that has nothing with all of our lame attempts to be relevant) is that an entire generation or two of young adults are still functionally children. But in case you think I’m being judgmental or patronizing, “Adulting” is a term that the Millennials came up with, not me. Just Google “Adulting memes” sometime. These did not exist 50 years ago or even 5. Apparently, paying bills, saving money, making hard choices, keeping a job, etc., are the hard things of life that a whole lot of people just want to avoid.

Well, nothing about church life is easy for those who wish to remain children. You will be held accountable in a good church or small group. You will have to meet and get to know new people. You will hear hard things about yourself. You will be asked to be financially generous on occasion and forsake some of the goodies of the world. You will be asked to sacrifice some of your time on the weekend and even during the week. You will be asked to place your ego at the door so Christ can reign supreme in your life.

If the memes reflect an actual and lasting reality in the younger generations, it should come as no surprise that those who do not want to be adults also do not want to be in church. After all, hardly anything is more description of an adult than voluntary dedication to a church. Perhaps these memes are just good for a laugh. But I think they have tapped into the perpetual adolescence of our younger generations.

So there you have it: the two reasons the church is shrinking. And if you are thinking of an awesome sermon series that addresses these problems, good luck. The ones who need to hear it already aren’t in the pew. The pulpit is a great place to start. But Christians must extend the message of repentance beyond church walls. And I believe we must name these two issues. And as always, in love, but firmly. A lot depends on the reversal of these two trends.

*This number is totally made up. And probably pretty accurate.

A Debate: Did Christ Die For All? With Jordan Cooper and Dr. Theodore Zachariades. Sin Boldly Episode 93

cross_the_passionWell, I have been looking forward to this episode for a while. I was honored to be joined by Dr. Theodore Zachariades of Reforming America Ministries and Jordan Cooper of the Just and Sinner Podcast and Blog to discuss the Limited Atonement. Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world, or only for his elect people? What is the extent of the work of the cross? Jordan comes from a Reformed background but is now a Lutheran pastor and theologian. Theodore came to the Reformed Baptist tradition after growing up Eastern Orthodox. This debate features conversation around many of the relevant Biblical passages and demonstrates the different ways that these two traditions come to see the way God has worked in the world to save sinners. Thanks again to both of my guests for their time and expertise!

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

5 Signs of a Progressive Church. Sin Boldly Episode 92.

progressive churchThis solo episode looks at some signs that your church is becoming more progressive, i.e. less orthodox. We also look at some celebrities and their relationship to faith, including Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

Should We Retain Our Old Customers (Church Members) or Try to Find New Ones (Church Members)?

 

CRM1.2Once upon a time, my cell phone carrier would provide me, a loyal 14-plus year customer, a new phone every two years. This was a nice perk and an encouragement to re-up my 2-year contract with them. Sure, I pay a lot for a cell phone every month, but at least I didn’t have to pay the full retail price for these lovely phones I’m now addicted to! Well, now that deal has gone the way of the Dodo bird.

“Even me?” I asked the undeserving customer service representative during an intense period of haggling. “I’ve been with you guys for 14 years and I have to buy a new phone?” Sure enough, this seems to be a new policy for all of the carriers. Alas.

I was reminded during this “negotiation” process (during which I gained nothing and lost everything) that one of the persistent issues that every business faces is balancing the need to satisfy existing customers while attracting new customers. It is a delicate dance. If new customers get all of the perks, the loyal customers will wonder why they are being so loyal. The grass becomes greener. If loyal, older customers get all the perks, no one will want to leave their current company.

Might this same dynamic exist in the Church? Of course, the Church is not a gathering of customers, but brothers and sisters in the Lord, the blood-bought Body of Christ. Those who profess Christ as their Lord – and actually pay attention to the consequences of that profession – know that they should not approach church participation or membership as if they were consumers of religious offerings. Given the amount of “church shopping” and turnover that exists, I’m afraid that’s exactly how many Christians do think about church membership.

Congregations are gatherings of human beings, so there is a social reality to the life of each and every congregation. And while the congregation is a holy people who gather together to participate in holy things, the people themselves are still sinners and pastors would be foolish not to consider the social dynamics of a gathered people.

So, to borrow the example from business, are congregations to be loyal to their existing customers or attract new ones? Just as in business, it can be easy to fall off the horse in either side of the ditch. We can get rid of certain traditions to appeal to “new” Christians but end up not teaching the whole faith. Maybe some uncomfortable doctrines get ignored to avoid scaring off the new Christians not ready for inevitable conflicts with the world. Maybe the worship is jazzed up a bit and the old-timers miss those “old” (i.e. “timeless”) hymns. Maybe the scripture becomes a mere backdrop for a nifty sermon series. But in that effort to appeal, if real Christianity is not defined and defended, it really doesn’t do any good to offer a false veneer of religiosity.

On the other hand, we can confuse our congregational or denominational traditions with core doctrines. They are not always the same. Then, we preserve a “way of life” that we are not actually supposed to defend. Everyone who doesn’t share in that way of life becomes our opponent and isn’t welcomed into the group. Christian community is reduced to a very narrow way of being a congregation, and good luck getting any new church members with that attitude. This is commonly seen when congregations are not welcoming to those from a different ethnic background or when a small number of people “run” the church and are not exactly welcoming of new opinions.

So given that there are easy extremes to fall into, I’d like to propose a deal. As a pastor, I will do everything I can do maintain the critical traditions, teachings, and liturgy (or liturgical components) that should never change. Churches ought not do anything new when it comes to our understanding of scripture and, for the most part, worship. It is not our role to be original or even creative. And if some are turned off by our commitment to traditions, well, they probably wouldn’t tolerate the Jesus of the Bible much longer, anyway.

But our evangelism efforts and our community life need not be limited by the way things have always been done…or not done. While our teaching and worship should feed, encourage and edify the “loyal customers” (i.e. those who have been Christians for many years), our evangelism efforts ought to appeal to new Christians. We should try new things, be unafraid in talking to others about our church and our ministries. We should be inviting others to attend our events. The bottom line is that when it comes to worship and teaching, we should stay true to our “loyal customers.” And when it comes to reaching new members, almost nothing should be off the table.

The Kinship of Jesus: Christian Community Amid the Roman Empire. Sin Boldly Episode 91.

51UAJtkIEYL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Dr. Kathleen Mills joined me today to talk about her book The Kinship of Jesus. What was different about Christian community in the context of the Roman empire? And what should Christian community look like today? Thanks to Kathleen for stopping in!

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

Selling Heroin as Religious Charity. Sin Boldly Episode 90.

This solo episode explores whether a heroin dealer deserves religious protection. After all, he is providing comfort to the poor, lame, blind and apparently, even dead! I also look at Trump’s new executive order which offers protection for pastors endors525e549027f3389f23aaf9eebe4be751ing political candidates from the pulpit and the fallacies of the Prosperity Gospel.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.