Three years ago today.

It was three years ago today that I sat through my last Sunday at a seeker-sensitive, man-centered social club operating under the guise of a church. Prior to that liberating Sunday I had begun reading the Bible through; not just selected parts here and there, but book by book, chapter by chapter, line by line, verse by verse.

As I was doing this, God began working on my heart and I began to notice a striking disconnect between the Church in the New Testament and the church I was sitting in (and the various others I had gravitated to in my life). I began to slowly see that something was terribly wrong.

I arranged to meet with the pastor to discuss some of the many issues that I simply couldn’t ignore. One of these issues happened to be the pastor’s proclivity to treat the pulpit as a venue to tell jokes and quaint little stories. When I urged him to stop telling so many jokes and instead preach the Word, his response was that God made him funny and that’s how he was going to be.

Our two-hour conversation ended on a promising note, but that quickly vaporized and it was apparent that it was time for me and my family to separate from that church amidst the scowling gossip that I was a “judgmental Pharisee” (not a surprising ad hominem attack—without any foundation in truth—from a congregation woefully ignorant of Scripture as they nursed on watered down milk year after year from the “funny” pastor).

After we left we began participating in a home church with a few other couples who had also left since there were no other churches in the area that we knew of where we could go to hear the preaching of the Word without compromise.

Shortly after we began our home church a couple that were friends with another couple already in our home church joined. This new couple had not been attending any church for quite some time as they were disenchanted with things that were happening in the local churches, yet they were fans of Joel Osteen.

We were meeting regularly for almost a year, during which time we also fed on sermons downloaded from the internet from great Bible teachers and we regularly went street witnessing. Everything was going good and during that time there was an incredible amount of growth among all of us, unlike anything we ever experienced in the lukewarm churches we had been attending. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the last couple to join us (the Osteen fans) were actually there to infiltrate the group to report back to the pastor what it was that we were doing and what I was “teaching.” The reason for this was that the pastor’s own son had defected from his father’s teachings and church and was meeting with us. After seeing that I was not a “Pharisee” as initially alleged, the couple sent in as spies remained with us . . . for a while.

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Quotes (735)

Brian Borgman I honestly, for the life of me, do not understand how somebody who professes to be in Christ can still continue to take God’s name in vain. And I will tell you I hear it all the time. Not in the profane ways of the world but in using the word God as an expletive. If you’re in Christ and Christ dwells in your heart then what comes out of your mouth should be words of praise and thanksgiving to God, not using God’s name in vain. The same filth that used to come out of your mouth is now cleaned up; why? because Christ lives in you. . . . I was an alter boy, and I went to Holy Family Catholic School, and I was surrounded by all this religious atmosphere, but you know what, I was excellent at was cussing. Most alter boys do cuss by the way. . . . I was a prolific swearer at twelve years old. When God saved me there was an immediate sense that those words no longer fit inside of this mouth. To be in union with Christ affects the way that you think, it affects the way that you speak, it affects the way that you use your body.

- Brian Borgman

Sermon of the week: “The Coming Final Persecution” by Steve Lawson.

As a follow-up to last week’s post on the coming persecution (found here), we bring you DefCon’s sermon of the week.

Steve Lawson discusses the uncomfortable subject of Christian persecution in the message  The Coming Final Persecution. This message is not just about persecution in general, but is more specifically about the coming final persecution that Jesus warned us about.


Scam Into Blessing – Part 7

Ruined vehicles, burned out buildings pockmarked with bullet and rocket holes, and destroyed bridges marked the highway as long-lasting evidences of the recent war. However, what kept the images alive were the road blocks every so often manned by UN troops sitting in their sandbagged positions carefully watching every person going by and maintaining a presence that was deemed necessary for the fragile peace.

Pastor Togba shared that much of the fighting was the result of Muslim incursions seeking to take more control for the sake of Islam. Ironically, while the Muslims did not win, Liberia is today surrounded by countries that are predominantly of the Islamic faith. With the advent of the UN troops though, Islam has gained an addition through attrition as the vast majority of the troops allocated to Liberia (supposedly for its protection) are from Muslim countries.

Having never seen UN troops previous to my trip to Liberia, I was appalled at what I saw. While there is much that could be debated in regards to their roles, one thing was clear – the UN was a synonymous term with greed. Everywhere I went during my trip, the troops always held themselves aloof from the local population as a whole while driving around in their very expensive vehicles. I learned from the pastors that the UN came into the country with a blank check and 15,000 troops making it the largest peacekeeping force anywhere in the world at that time.

As we passed through another of the endless parade of roadblocks, I was reminded again that only when the Prince of Peace returns will peace ever be able to reign. Men, kings, and governments can plan and scheme, but they would do well to hearken to the words of a wise pagan king found in Daniel 4:34-35, “And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”

Shortly before arriving in Gbarnga, I was trying to stay cool with a fan in the back seat when my thoughts were interrupted by Pastor Togba swerving near a huge black branch in the middle of the road. I was surprised as it looked to me like he had deliberately tried to hit it – until I saw the branch move! It was a huge snake that had been sunning itself in a most convenient spot and almost paid for its poor choice of location. Outside the safety of thick glass in a zoo, I had never seen such a large snake. Fortunately, Pastor Togba decided not to stop so we could make its acquaintance! LOL

Moving through thick forests and patches of rice paddies, we entered Gbarnga and drove directly to the AFBM mission clinic. AFBM stands for African Fundamental Baptist Mission and is a group of about 20-30 churches scattered throughout Liberia. They operate a medical clinic in conjunction with medical missionaries who are serving with ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelization). Coming up the driveway, a hand painted sign on the side of the green building greets each visitor with, “We treat patients, but only God heals.”

It was a privilege to meet the staff of this clinic as they struggled to daily meet the needs of dozens of patients every day. Their goal was not just to meet the medical need, but also to provide spiritual guidance and assistance. These individuals fully understood the need of not providing just a social gospel for a person who goes to bed with a full stomach and a healthy body will still die and go straight to hell if he or she does not place their faith in Christ alone for their salvation.

Liberia is an interesting study in syncretism, which is the mixing of religions with the end result being that which only serves to satisfy the worshipper that he is doing what is necessary to protect himself from the evil spirits. Roman Catholicism allowed this to be perfected (and still does today) in many countries where natives were permitted to worship their own gods of wood and stone provided they showed lip allegiance to the religion of Rome. Liberia is no different in that many of the tribes still practice secret rituals mired in paganism while statistics claim that over 50% of the population are “Christian.”

Before retiring for the evening, we were invited over to visit one of the ABWE missionaries and were treated to a real American style meal: real mashed potatoes, Swedish meatballs, and a host of other foods that was a welcome treat. While they have since moved to serve the Lord in another very needy part of West Africa, I still remember the Lippys with fondness for their hospitality. Her parents were visiting from the USA, and it was a wonderful time of fellowship as we spoke about the need for more missionaries and the joys that came in serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pondering what we had seen, we stayed the night in the clinic. Gbarnga is in a more hilly region and quite some distance from the Atlantic Ocean than Monrovia and it made the nights quite a bit cooler which was nice. However, it had to be one of the most uncomfortable nights I had as my bed was similar to a hospital gurney. The mattress was less than one inch of foam on top of the metal tray. While I might have slept better on the floor, I was happier with my uncomfortable bed than I was in getting acquainted with the critters that came out at night looking for fresh victims!

The next morning was an early rise as we spent more time visiting with Stefan, who is a missionary pilot seconded to ABWE. He oversees the helicopter flights throughout the region making life so much easier for other missionaries in the area. At that time I visited, he was building a house at the edge of the AFBM medical clinic and it was a privilege to see the quick progress aided by so many of the local believers. Some were cutting mud into brick form and laying them out to bake in the sun. Some were clearing more of the land from the huge trees and shrubs. Others were laying bricks that had long been curing, while others were being an encouragement to the others.

‘ABC’ was one of those who provided encouragement along with doing smaller odd jobs. ‘ABC’ rode a special tricycle that he was able to pedal with his powerful arms. His legs did not function and his head barely made it to my waist. He was smiling from ear to ear as he shared with me how much the Lord had blessed him through his life. Shuffling around the work site, he shared with me how one prayer is that the Lord would allow him to eventually get a small motor to help him get up the hills around Gbarnga as it would enable him to get more things done.

My curiosity eventually got the better of me when some of his friends egged me on to ask him about his name. Although not wanting to break any cultural taboos about such an odd name, I must admit that I was curious. Another huge grin accompanied the response. “My friends see me pedaling all around and everywhere I go, from the time I was little, they would always say, ‘Always Be Careful!’ After awhile, it just got shortened to ‘ABC’ and that has been my name ever since.

Leaving ‘ABC’ behind, I could not help but be keenly aware that the West has been blessed with abundant mercies when it comes to wealth. In fact, the majority of the world’s wealth is controlled by the West. Yet when it comes to sharing with other countries, it normally finds its way over in the form of loans or as a means to gain something from the exchange.

Sadly, the Church at large is rarely the exception to this rule. The Church in the West controls vast amounts of finances and yet seems more interested in bigger and better building programs instead of laying up treasures in heaven. Churches spend millions every year for the next fad while congregations in 3rd world countries struggle to even offer a teaching pastor/elder a living wage of $100 per month.

The humility I found throughout Liberia was embarrassing to me as I was reminded of times that I had been less than generous with what God had given so freely to me. These people gave out of the abundance of their poverty. It was not done with the intention of earning any extra credit or kudos with the American/British missionary, but was simply loving a foreigner the way Christ loves us. They gave above and beyond and I am certain that at times it was at the expense of things they could use or need.

Willingly sharing of what they owned was another reminder of what true Christianity is all about. Loving others more than you love yourself is supposed to be a characteristic of a servant of Christ. I would be seeing more examples of love in action over the next few days that would remain with me for a long time.

Driving back down towards Monrovia, we saw an accident which is a common occurrence in Liberia. The roads are terrible and many drivers have little to no regard for the rules governing automobile usage. The accident we saw involved one of the conspicuous yellow taxis that had been traveling at a high rate of speed and hit a bridge. Sadly, there was nothing to be done for several of the passengers who had entered into eternity.

It was certainly a sobering sight and one that reminded each of us of our roles as ministers of the gospel. We never know who will be listening and it is vital that we approach each message as though it were either our last or the last for the hearer. I could not help but wonder whether the people who had been crowded into the car on their way up to Gbarnga had ever heard the missionaries speak or whether they had heard and remained in the depravity of their lost condition while loving all that was diametrically opposed to the holiness of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived safely back at Pastor Togba’s home. Walking outside of the home, I saw Pastor Femi who served at Maranatha Baptist speaking with a friend. I sat down with them and learned that the friend had been a rebel soldier during the civil war. This young man struggled with many concerns in his heart and life, especially the things he had been involved in for about 14 years. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. He had too many questions that he was demanding an answer of God and felt that God owed something to him before he could place his faith in Christ alone. We spoke for about 3 hours eventually continuing on conversation in the darkness of the African night.

I called my wife that night and shared with her the conversation concerning the young man. I relayed to her how this former child soldier told me he had not even been to a church service since he had first been coerced to become a soldier. Our prayer began that night for P__________, but little did we realize that the Lord was going to perform another miracle in very short order.

(…to be continued…)

Scam Into Blessing – Part 6

The trip had already been planned and Bro. Trexler asked if I would like to go with him and Pastor Togba up to Gbarnga. This town is located in Bong County and was the main headquarters for the rebel groups during the long civil war. To get there, you travel through the town of Kakata and then on up close to the border of Guinea. Being the adventurous type (LOL), I decided that I would tag along for what was to be a 2-3 day trip into the interior where the US State Department and the British Foreign Affairs Office had highly recommended white guys like me not travel!

So with a straw hat on my head, no machete or gun for the wild animals we might encounter, a Bible in one hand and a “fa-tow” (face towel for perspiration) in the other, off we went on our African safari! The first place we came to was a suburb of Monrovia called Red Light District, so called not for any nefarious or immoral reasons but because this was the first district to get a stoplight – thus Red Light.

At an already crowded intersection, we saw a large part of the crowd circled around somebody shouting at the group. Pulling over to the side of the road, we were finally able to discern what was transpiring. The gist of the street preacher along with his thugs was this, “How many of you want a $100 US dollars only blessing? If so, then come up here and give us $100 US dollars! If you want a $50 US dollars only blessing, then come up and give us $50! God will only give you a blessing based on the amount of money you give to us!”

Listening to this health, wealth, and prosperity huckster, I was ashamed that fellow British and American preachers had done a great done exporting the false religion of charismatic phenomenon. The shameless badgering of the people for their money was nothing more than a way for the false preachers to earn a very nice living off the backs of their own people.

Moving back into the flow of traffic, I listened to Pastor Togba share that what we had just heard is about all many Liberians know of Christianity. They have been duped into believing that some deity called “God” will give them all they could ever ask for simply by scrimping their hard earned cash and giving it to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The desire of these people is to simply provide for their families and to strike it rich. Those who claim religion as their employment are doing well in Liberia. In the meantime, countless thousands were passing off into eternity because they had never heard that “Jesus paid it all, all to whom I owe, sin had left its crimson stain, He washed me white as snow!”

Continuing north, Bro. Trexler made a stop at the village of Cooper’s Farm. It was something right out of National Geographic. A small grouping of mud huts covered with thatch roofs stood in a line overlooking a valley just off the main road. Bro. Trexler informed me that two weeks earlier he had stopped by at this location and had the opportunity to provide medical assistance to the assistant chief of the village. Afterwards, he was granted the privilege of sharing the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the villages expressed further interest in knowing more about the Bible talks (as they could not read) and some of these people testified that their faith was in the One Whom they had heard about for the first time.

Exiting the vehicle, Bro. Trexler (who is a Physician’s Assistant by training as well as a missionary) enquired about the health of the man he had helped two weeks prior. Some of the men pointed towards one of the larger huts and we headed in that direction. Brother Trexler whispered that it would be fine if I did not want to go in to the hut or feel that I could. I whispered back that I would follow him wherever he went that day. Stooping low we entered the entrance to the hut and found it was divided into four living areas. One of them was where the assistant chief and his family lived. It consisted of one room and with the exception of one very old rickety looking wooden chair had no furniture. The floor was dirt, flies were everywhere, and the smell of sickness permeated the air.

I watched as Bro. Trexler got on his knees beside the asst. chief as he lay on his filthy blanket and gave him a medical checkup. There was nothing pretentious with this brother in Christ as he sought first to minister to the health of the man and then reiterated the words of life shared two weeks prior. The man lying on the ground was not doing well, but indicated that he would ponder what Bro. Trexler had shared.

We went back outside and a couple of men were working building what looked like crude benches. Considering there were no other pieces of furniture to be seen in the village, we asked what this was for. One of the men spoke up, “We were told about Jesus two weeks ago and placed our faith in Him. We have told everybody in the valley that they need to hear about Him as well. Therefore, we are building these benches so they will come and sit down with us and listen when Dr. Steve (what they call Bro. Trexler) comes back!”

Bro. Trexler and I looked at each with amazement and no words were possible as we considered what we had just been told. They had heard once and knew what the life-changing news meant to them and they wanted their friends and family to hear before it was too late for them. This was especially poignant considering the average life expectancy for a Liberian is around 42-44 years old.

The missionary humbled even more by the events informed the villagers that he would be back to their village in another week or so to teach them more of the Bible. Many might have just continued down the road and overlooked this small, seemingly insignificant village. However, just as the good Samaritan saw the need of the one who was bruised, bleeding and beaten, Bro. Trexler was willing to stop and render assistance and when he did, the Lord provided a sovereignly appointed opportunity to bring the message of light into another very dark corner of West Africa.

Our next stop would be Gbarnga.

(…to be continued…)

Quotes (734)

Those who think that unsound ministers ought never to be exposed and held up to notice, and men ought never to be warned against them, would do well to study this passage. No class of character throughout our Lord’s ministry seems to call forth such severe denunciation as that of false pastors. The reason is obvious. Other men ruin themselves alone: false pastors ruin their flocks as well as themselves. To flatter all ordained men, and say they never should be called unsound and dangerous guides, is the surest way to injure the Church and offend Christ.

- J. C. Ryle

1816 – 1900

HT: CrossTalk Blog

What is man?

What is man that You are mindful of him? (Psalm 8:4)

Here’s the information behind this spectacular photograph of a “three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust from the Hubble space telescope.

NASA is releasing today a brand new Hubble photo of a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble’s classic “Pillars of Creation” photo from 1995, but is even more striking in appearance. The image captures the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air.