Should We Sing Worship Songs by Bethel?

Over the last months we have received more than a few questions asking how we are thinking about the use of Bethel songs in our worship services in light of increasing and appropriate concern over Bethel’s theology, practices, leadership, and teachings.

These questions are deeply encouraging. It’s signal that many in our body are living out the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to“examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”

To begin the conversation, let’s acknowledge that for generations, Christ-followers have sung hymns that are grounded in solid, biblical truth, yet have been composed by authors who have held errant views in other writings and/or have fallen away from the faith. Some famous examples include:

  • A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, penned by reformer Martin Luther, who not only wrote Ninety-Five Theses, which rightly protested corruption in the Catholic Church and set off the Protestant Reformation, but also troublesomely wrote The Jews and Their Lies and On the Ineffable Name– works that are rooted in hostility and unsupportable viewpoints toward God’s chosen people. 
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, written in 1757 by Methodist preacher Robert Robinson, who later fulfilled the “prone to wander” lyric by drifting away from the faith. 
  • It Is Well With My Soul, by Horatio Gates Spafford, who wrote the lyrics after losing his four children in the sinking of the SS Ville du Havre in November 1873. While his most famous work is an anthem to the truth of God’s sovereignty, his teachings on eternal punishment and the Holy Spirit were at best ill-informed, and at worst clearly heretical.

Should songs strongly proclaiming the truth of God’s Word no longer be used by churches in light of other errant beliefs or practices by the authors or their associated churches?

Here are four questions to ask when assessing whether a song, book, or any form of communication is biblical. 

4 Questions We Use When Evaluating Media:

  • Are you examining everything you consume (sermons, books, music, movies) through the lens of God’s Word? It is important that all believers are equipped with Scripture so that they may accurately discern (1 John 4:1-3) whether a sermon, song, book, website, or other media is in alignment with Scripture and of the Spirit. Every believer should be equipped individually to discern truth from error and live in fellowship with mature believers who hold them accountable in their discerning (Proverbs 15:22). Bring your community, along with your Bible, into your listening and reading habits in your efforts toward “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and guarding your heart from error. Just because something feels right doesn’t mean it stands the test of the light of God’s Word.
  • Does the song stand on its own, proclaiming the truth of God’s Word without explanation? Every song the Church sings should be grounded in Scripture and sound doctrine and be helpful for the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:29). If it doesn’t make much of Jesus, it’s not worth making much of in His Church. Right worship is a form of equipping, and if the song is leading the saints to ideas that are unbiblical, then those songs are not to be welcomed in the assembly of God’s people. Every song that is sung is the responsibility of the shepherds, and shepherds are to be on guard so that “savage wolves” (Acts 20:28) with snappy melodies don’t come in among the flock. 

Over the years at Watermark, we have examined many songs for clarity – from Away in a Manger to Reckless Love. We constantly ask ourselves questions like, “is it accurate to describe God’s love as ‘overwhelming, never-ending, and reckless,”’ as Reckless Love says in its chorus?[1]It is the responsibility of the spiritual leaders in every local church to make these calls. It is not an overstatement to say that the protection of their people (Acts 20:28-30) and their own future judgment (Hebrews 13:17) depend on it.

  • Is it possible to separate the truth being sung from the error of its associations? The Church is never in more danger than when a false teacher (any evil-doer disguised as an “angel of light,” 2 Corinthians 11:14) is proclaiming the truth. (See also Paul and Silas’ response to the slave girl who had a spirit of divination in Acts 16:16-18.) In addition to false teachers, we must also be aware of the danger of directing others toward ministries of even well-meaning individuals who are consistently associated with false or errant theology and practices. The leadership of Bethel and the teachings and practices embraced by its members, students, and ministry partners would, at a minimum, fall into this category. It must be acknowledged that singing and advancing songs, even though they are theologically accurate, could make others open to additional messages and ideas that are errant in practice and theology. Historically, there is at least one significant example of music and lyrics being a means through which heresy was propagated in the life and practice of Arius.[2]Arius was a third- and fourth-century “church leader” who also happened to be a capable songwriter who happened to also deny Christ’s deity and wrongly assert that Jesus was not eternal, but rather a finite, created being with “some” divine attributes. The popularity of his melodies and songs led to the rapid spread of his heretical ideas. We would do well to acknowledge that a well-written song can quickly lead others to a truth-forsaken place. While it is unlikely that many people will dig up Horatio Spafford sermons if you sing It Is Well today, there undoubtedly will be many people who want to know more of Bethel’s “supernatural school of ministry” because of the excellence around their music. 
  • Would using the song cause us to actively support an errant ministry? Finally, and in my opinion the one that is the most unavoidable in its implication, it has to be acknowledged that using songs from these ministries and artists creates funding which flows to and helps support and sustain them. So, even if we protect our flock from future influence, at some level we unavoidably are strengthening a troublesome one. Weighing the cost-benefit of this truth is a daily conversation. 

Our team examines the content and implications of every song we sing – whether those songs come from our own artists at Watermark, Bethel Music, Hillsong, Passion, or any other collective community or individual artist. While there have been many songs that we have chosen not to sing because we did not believe the content to be theologically accurate or glorifying to God, we have not as of today chosen to commit to never sing songs written or produced by churches we would not want to see others discipled by. We daily stay vigilant so that everything we put before Jesus’ Church will ensure that “we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14) while constantly reminding ourselves and others that catchy tunes can cause a lot of trouble. We continue to listen with care and lead with humble, godly conviction. We don’t ever sing a song just because people love it; we sing it because it is true and we believe it will grow you in your faith and love of God and the truth that will set you free.  


[1]Many have asked if it is appropriate to call God’s love reckless while He is also sovereign. While it is right to praise God’s power and sovereignty, it is also right that when a believer considers God giving His only Son so that sinful people could be reconciled with Him, the response might be: “What kind of reckless love is that?” Well, it’s the kind of reckless love that ought to wreck our hearts and make us want more of Jesus.

[2]This gave birth to the term “snarianism.”

Diving In: Books of the Bible

Friends,

I got this question earlier this week, and thought it would be helpful to share my response with you. No matter where in Scripture you choose to dive in deeply, may God use that to inform your life in a way that transforms it!

 

From: Xxxx Xxxx

Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 7:43 AM

To: pastoraloffice

Subject: need some wisdom…

Todd,

I am planning out my 2013 goals and one of those is to slow down and dive deeply into 3-4 books of the bible.

I was hoping I could lean on your wisdom and see if you had any recommendations of books for me, knowing my life stage and spiritual maturity (lack there of).

Any insight into books that helped take you from baby believer to the man of God you are today would be much appreciated.

I am discussing with a friend next Tuesday.

Thanks,

Xxxx

 

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2012 1:31 PM
To: Xxxx Xxxx
Subject: RE: need some wisdom…

Wow…hard to narrow that down but here goes.

Genesis…the book of foundations.  Everything starts here and builds from here.  You have to know Genesis to know your Bible.

Proverbs….daily, practical, straightforward and brilliant.  Endless conversations and help for every area of life.  Perfect book for the way you describe yourself.

John…see all I have been saying lately about why.  Written by John for us to see Christ in all his clarity and fullness.

Romans….see my intro to this last year’s Summit on why this book is essential.  http://www.watermark.org/media/romans-syrians-america-men-what-they-all-need-to-have-in-common/2234/ 

Since you are in John and in Romans…think about Acts (progress of Holy Spirit in accomplishing God’s will through church) and Revelation (culmination of history and God’s sovereignty and purposes.  The letters to the churches at the beginning are a study in church history in and of themselves).

If you are looking another book from OT I might recommend one of the prophets…and either Daniel (how to live in a Godless age and how God is working throughout the ages) or Isaiah (the first of the great prophets the one with the most clarity about the coming Messiah and his Kingdom).

If you want an historical book learn about the all the Kings: 1-2 Kings or Israel’s greatest King (David) in 2 Samuel.

There you go…you have heard me say many times that my favorite book of the bible is the one I am studying..and that is a FACT.  Love you passion and intentionality.  Stay at it and let me know what you decide, and I will give you a few more tips/resources that may be helpful to you.

Todd

214-239-8809

www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags

pastoraloffice@watermark.org

www.watermark.org

Expositional or Topical?

Friends,

Since we do get this question/comment a lot at Watermark, I thought I’d go ahead and post this email exchange from a question we received on our website out on the blog for more to see.  May we all be faithful vessels of God’s truth and communicate it clearly, boldly, and without hesitation!

Question: I came to your service Sunday November 4th and enjoyed it, but (Don’t you hate But) – I also looked on your web site nd noticed that you have no Verse by verse teaching through books of the Bible. I was hoping to find verse by verse teaching. Since Todd went to DTS – I assume he studies lead him to the Original Greek and Hebrew and would teach verse by verse from the original languages. If I am wrong please let me know. Thank you.

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:32 PM
To: Xxxxx Xxx
Cc: Scott Michael
Subject: RE: WATERMARK CHURCH :: Contact Form Response

Xxxxx…thanks for your question. At Watermark, we don’t consider teaching verse-by-verse any more instructional than topically, or vice versa.  As I know you know…we are to “preach the word in season and out of season”, not verse by verse.  We are to teach “the whole counsel of God” and teach others “to obey all that our Lord has commanded” but that doesn’t have to come verse by verse.  We are to “work hard so we can present ourselves to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth”…not being consumed with it being necessarily “verse by verse”.

As I have said many times,  I consistently get two main complaints on Sunday…1.)  we do too much expositional “verse by verse” teaching and 2.) we don’t teach “verse by verse” enough.  Amazing how people form perceptions/opinions!

Currently we are in the middle of tackling John “verse by verse”, finishing my 44th message on John a few Sundays ago as I wrapped up John 12.   You can find past messages  at watermark.org/media. The John series is titled “The Visible Image”.  Hope you get a chance to go back and listen!  We are starting John 13 on Sunday, and I hope you get the chance to visit with us again.  You will also find numerous other books of the bible that I have taught through from beginning to end. Mark, Obadiah, Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, Malachi just to name a few.  Dig in!

If you are interested in my take on seminary/DTS, you can check out: http://watermarkblogs.org/wordsfromwags/category/should-i-go-to-seminary-and-what-about-dts/  .

Thanks for the comment Xxx…would love to help get you further connected here at Watermark as well, or at least introduce to some other friends who can help you feel welcome here with us.  I’ve CC’d Scott Michael here so that he can follow-up with you/get you information on upcoming connecting opportunities.

However you study and teach God’s word this week…I pray it makes an indelible mark on your heart, head, and hands.

Todd

www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags

pastoraloffice@watermark.org

www.watermark.org

214-239-8809

 

Who was the woman in Luke 7:37ff and what does that have to do with John 12 AND you.

In the message we used (on line and watemark media http://www.watermark.org/media/the-pivot-point-that-is-personal-belief-and-the-rightness-of-radical-response/2174/#.T_spoq0cA34.mailto) I was not as explicit in my qualification in my speculation that the woman in Luke 7:37-39 was another Mary, specifically Mary Magdalene.  While that remains a possibility, it is at the end of the day at best an argument from silence.  Mary Magdalene is mentioned for the first time immediately following in Luke 8:1-2 as a woman who had seven demons cast out of her by the Lord and thus her devotion and inclusion among the disciples and women who followed Him.  What IS clear is that whoever the woman is in Luke 7, it is not Mary of Bethany and THIS IS a different act of devotion than the one we focused on today in John 12.  So while it makes great fun talking about 2 different Mary’s that fell at his feet…I wouldn’t want to start a new church (or even try to spend any time defending the idea!) over the actual identity of the woman in Luke 7.  What IS clear is that we are dealing with 2 different locations (Galilean region v. Bethany), two different Simons (one the ex-leper and one the Pharisee) and with almost complete certainty two different woman.  Whether the Luke 7 passage was Mary Magdalene is speculative and in them message posted on line I was not as clear on this point.

What is not speculative, and what was obviously my point in mentioning both women, is ALL of our need for Jesus.  Whether we are a prostitute or a “prominent person of distinction and morality”, we should fall at the feet in worship of the One Who ALONE can deliver us from our bodies of sin and death.  If you want to read more about one person’s take on Mary Magdalene (some strong comments/ideas here from Spurgeon on Mary Magdalene and her demonic afflictions and their relevance to potential Luke 7 associations as well as some applications for us today toward those suffering with similar afflictions see http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/0792.htm )  Read his ideas and enjoy…but as always Acts 17:11 is a great passage for all of us every time we hear someone teach from the Scripture.

Meanwhile may you be a RADICAL servant, lover and steward who derives all your glory only from your association with Jesus.  Here once more is the link to my message on John 12:1-11 for your encouragement. http://www.watermark.org/media/the-pivot-point-that-is-personal-belief-and-the-rightness-of-radical-response/2174/#.T_spoq0cA34.mailto

Wagner Email Bag: Homosexuality Debate

Friends,

Many of you heard our president’s recent remarks on homosexuality, and some of you may have been at Watermark yesterday when I shared how we should respond as believers.  You can also check out my comments here.

In addition, I received an email this week with some very helpful resources.  Give this a read and be equipped!

 

From: Xxxxx Xxxxxx

Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 8:32 PM

To: pastoraloffice
Subject: Fw: TGC: How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go

Todd,

I’ve debated for several weeks whether or not to seek your guidance on a matter that is creating  a lot of division in my family.  I was raised in what I considered to be a strong Christian family.  Approximately 15 years ago my little brother shocked the whole family when he revealed that he was gay.  He had kept the secret for several years and had sought “Christian” counseling for a few years prior to his declaration.  At the time, he told us all that he was ashamed of his sin and had done everything possible to try to fight it.  He recognized homosexuality as a sin and told us that he was trying to figure out a way to abstain from ever acting on these feelings (we later found out that he had already been in previous hidden relationships).

Sadly, after many years of counseling and soul searching, he has reconciled his sin as acceptable to God has recently joined a church (one of the growing many) that has twisted the Gospel into convincing homosexuals that God has somehow “changed” and believes they can continue in their lifestyles as long as they are married or in “committed” relationships in states where gay marriage is banned.  Sadly, two of my three siblings have also Biblically reconciled this lifestyle as acceptable to God and are now encouraging him to pursue this lifestyle in an effort to find a partner he can spend his life with.

We have been exchanging emails back and forth for several weeks, but the conversations always end in the same result below.  I believe that the commentary that my little brother’s best friend (a strong believer) posted below was perfectly stated.  I’m convinced that the rebuttal from my brother is coming from his pastor and other gay Christian friends.

I would love to get your thoughts on the statement below where he makes the assumption that God has “evolved”, as evidence of his grieving over creating mankind in Genesis.  My other brother has echoed this same sentiment and questions Xxxxx’s multiple references to sexual deviance as being out of touch with today’s homosexuals.  Most of my siblings believe that I am not sensitive to my brother’s natural, “God given” tendencies and just want him to be lonely his whole life.  This couldn’t be further from the truth as I deeply love my brother and just want God’s best for his life.

Thank you for your prayers and your wisdom!

Xxxxx

 

Email chain between Xxxxx, his brother, and another friend.

 From: Friend of Xxxxx and Xxxxx’s brother

Subject: TGC: How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go

This is a great article on how the writer wishes a conversation would go between a talk show host and evangelical pastor on gay marriage.

By the way, I highly recommend www.thegospelcoalition.org — tons of consistently great content there, articles, short blog posts, video and audio.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2011/10/18/how-i-wish-the-homosexuality-debate-would-go/

From: Xxxxx’s Brother
Subject: Re: TGC: How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go

There’s another aspect of this argument that goes undiscussed…  Actions are not sins merely for the sake of being sins… When we sin, we hurt ourselves and those around us.. They are self-destructive and lead to estrangement between God and the sinner…  We can see explicitly what it does to the adulterer, to the thief, to the murderer, to the liar, to the prostitute.. To a lesser degree, we see what it does to those who fornicate… Obviously, there are many who have had sex before marriage, whose marriages have ended up working out and being “fruitful.”

For the homosexual, however, there has never been an opportunity to marry, so they are always trapped in a perpetual state of sin, only when they “act out” of course.  Because of this, they wrap their identities around their sexuality which leads to all sorts of debauchery and wickedness— the worst of which is a complete abandonment of spirituality-  belief in or closeness with God.  

 This brings us to the question as to whether homosexuality is innate or developmental.  Everyone knows my struggle in this regard.  My views have changed.  Some might say my views  evolved.  Some might say they’ve devolved.  Honestly though, I really don’t care anymore what people think.  I know where I stand at this moment in my life, and I feel closer to God then ever before.  I may have a completely different view 10 years from now, I may not.  I just ask God to guide me however He can 

I believe God changes in relationship to us.  The core of God never changes— pure and unconditional love.  We see proof of this when God grieved that he had made man in the Old Testament.  I’m being borderline heretical right now, and digging into this question is for another time… But… 

I believe gay people, particularly Christian gay people, have matured— and I believe God’s relationship toward the homosexual condition has perhaps changed.   

I have a friend named Xxxx— he happens to be engaged to a man.  I know that sounds strange and probably very uncomfortable to hear, but he is one of the most loving, well rounded individuals I’ve ever met.  Unlike most gays, he never grew up with this stigma that homosexuality is wrong or unnatural.  In fact, his parents told him he was gay before he told them.  And they made it very clear that they had no problem with it and they loved him as much as their other children.  As a result, he never went through a period of self hatred… Unlike the vast majority of gays I know.

He can’t relate to his partner’s or my struggle with being gay.  It’s completely foreign to him…  

People like to believe that all of the debauchery and sadness and hyper-sexuality and promiscuity is a result of being gay.  But I believe it’s a result of self-hatred.  I’ve seen it in too many people.  

I know most Christians will never believe that sexual union between two people of the same gender is condoned by God — married or unmarried.  The scriptures are clear that the homosexual behavior at the time of Paul was deviant and evil.  But homosexuality at that time  was often combined in Pagan ritual.  It was often an older man and a submissive boy.  It was prostitutes… And so on…

 But homosexual people today are much different then they were back then.  

God is complex— we will never understand His mind while we are here on this earth.  Only He can see what lies at the core of all human behavior.  

What I’m trying to get across is…

Why not grant homosexuals the right to marry so that they don’t have to live in sin?  Homosexuality will never go away.  More and more people know someone or have a family member who is gay.  Don’t you want them to have the same rights to be as happy as you are?  

 Don’t you believe God is loving and that perhaps He approves of certain homosexual relationships?

The friends referenced above are two of the most wonderful people I know.  And their relationship is pure.  One of them became a Christian recently.   

Instead of intellectualizing everything and making Biblical views black or white, let’s take a look at the face of these relationships that are so condemned.  God might bring ease to your minds.

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 8:33 AM
To: Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Cc: Johnny Hawkins
Subject: RE: TGC: How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go

Xxxxx…glad you are asking and thanks for reaching out.  Though I understand that your question is primarily about the innate nature of God and how He or His character doesn’t change, I’d also love to offer you a resource that I think would be most helpful to you.  Below is the link to a message I did on homosexuality in 2004.  If you’ve never listened, this may be helpful to you as you continue to speak truth to your family.

http://www.watermark.org/media/homosexuality-and-same-sex-marriage-an-apology-an-answer-an-assignment/457/

I would agree with you that God’s convictions don’t change…in fact, Numbers 23:19 is clear in saying this.  Look it up and be encouraged! I am as saddened as you are by man’s attempts to define God based on their own finite understanding.  Does God deeply love your brother and others in his lifestyle?  Absolutely.  Is He surprised by his choices? No, and He is absolutely grieved by the self-inflicting pain that can be caused.

Also…to continue to dive into whether these tendencies are “God-given”, I’d encourage you to check out Ricky Chellette’s ministry at livehope.org.  You can also see some of what he has taught at Watermark here:

http://www.watermark.org/media/homosexuality-why-isnt-this-taught-warning-explicit-content/1027/

One last suggestion, and that is to continue to bring these sorts of issues to your consistent community around you so that they can be a source of encouragement for you, help you research these questions, and pray for your family.  I’m looping in Johnny Hawkins here, who is the director over your community group, as I know he would love to jump into the conversation.

For the record, I thought the hypothetical interview in the link was great.  Praying for you and your family, and grateful with you for Hebrews 13:8!

Todd

214-239-8809

www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags

pastoraloffice@watermark.org

www.watermark.org

Wagner Email Bag: What Is Belief?

Friends,

I came across an interesting email interaction I had with a Watermark member that I thought might be instructive/informative to more folks.  Take a look at this question, see how you would reply, and then search Scripture with me to see what a biblical response would be.  Would love to see your thoughts/comments!

From: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 1:43 PM
To: pastoraloffice
Subject: Question for Todd

Todd,

I called to see if I could talk to you a little about this, but discovered that you were in a meeting that goes for a long time; so I’m sending my question via email……..

A good question has come up that we are discussing in Community, and I’d really like to get your input. The question is whether or not it’s good enough to confess that Christ is the son of God, that He died for our sins, and the confession of our sins for us to get to heaven……..going to John 5:24 and many many other verses where hearing the word, and believing gives eternal life. We also have several places like Matt 7:21-23 which says that it just isn’t that simple. John 3:18-21 seems to take that middle ground of describing what “belief” is by telling us that whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…….therefore adding that its more than just confession, but living by the truth…………..so I think that it all falls on the definition of “belief”, and what that means………so if you don’t mind imparting your thoughts on this subject, many of us would appreciate your insight.

Thanks again.

 

From: pastoraloffice [mailto:pastoraloffice@watermark.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 9:40 AM
To: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx
Cc: Jeff Kramer
Subject: RE: Question for Todd

Clay…great question, and I’m glad this is something you are discussing in the context of community/searching Scripture on with others.  That is typically the best way that I learn, and I’m encouraged that your group is challenging each other in this way.

To answer your question, I do think it comes down to how you define the word “believe”. Romans 10:9-10 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses,resulting in salvation.”  I think we can go through life with an intellectual understanding of the Gospel, but not allowing it to transfer to heart knowledge/infuse the core of our being.  That kind of belief changes you and re-centers your life.

Faith in something isn’t a feeling, but something to be put into action.  I often like to say that we are “saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone”, something I think I ripped off Martin Luther’s friend friend Melanchthon that he surmised from the Pastoral Epistles. You can check out this video that I helped our friends at Igniter Media put together…it more addresses the question of being saved by grace or works, but it is still applicable to your question of what qualifies that belief:

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=J200BCNU 

Below are also some links to messages where I’ve taught on this before.  It would be great if you could go back and listen to these as well:

http://www.watermark.org/media/salvation-two-equal-and-opposite-errors-and-why-getting-them-straight-matters/1105/

http://www.watermark.org/media/sons-slaves-and-freedom-indeed/2007/

Hope that helps.  Keep throwing those thoughts around in your group…I’ve CC’d Jeff Kramer here, who is the point person on staff for your community group so he can throw in and be of any help that he needs to…I know he’d love to join the discussion!

Todd Wagner| pastoraloffice@watermark.org

www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags

www.watermark.org

214.239.8809

Wagner Email Bag: How Should We Vote?

More to come on this later, but for now I wanted to post a question I got from a Watermark member asking about voting for candidates with a different worldview/faith system than evangelicals.  Check out the following exchange and the links that accompany it.  Hope you get to listen to them with my friend…and remember, our hope is never in who we vote for but ONLY in WHO we follow.  That being said…I not only HOPE you vote, but would commend you to Scripture that commands us to actively participate in our society as salt and light.  Salt and light ought to show up everywhere it can, and that includes the voting booth where we get to speak into the kind of leaders we want to set the course, or correct the course of our land.

Jump in.

From: Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2012 7:46 PM
To: pastoraloffice
Subject: Question

Todd,

Sorry to bug you with a random question about politics. Our community group was having a discussion about whether or not it was ok to throw your support behind a candidate, running for office, whom is not a believer. The focus was on Mitt Romney who I believe is Mormon?

Every year since I have turned eighteen I have voted, and have even convinced others to vote. I am convinced that not voting is a vote. As Christ followers would it be wrong for us to vote for a candidate who does not believe in our God?

Thank you so much for your time,

Xxxxx Xxxxxx

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2012 10:14 AM
To: Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Subject: RE: Question

Xxxxx…love your passion to elect Godly men and women into our country’s leadership positions.  I have actually spoken about this topic several times at Watermark, and I think you would love going back and listening to those messages…they should answer your question and continually be informative on what Scripture has to say about these issues.

I’ve included some links below…I would listen in the order I have linked them.  Hope these are helpful!

http://www.watermark.org/media/believers-and-their-government-what-governs-our-usefulness-in-it/816/

http://www.watermark.org/media/the-wolf-at-the-door-and-whose-job-it-is-to-take-him-on/1725/

http://www.watermark.org/media/the-wall-of-bronze-and-whose-job-it-is-to-be-it/1729/

http://www.watermark.org/media/breaking-down-the-wall-of-our-ineffectiveness-in-serving-the-state/1274/

 

Todd Wagner| pastoraloffice@watermark.org

www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags

www.watermark.org

214.239.8809

Wagner Email Bag: Faith and Prayer

Friends,

I had another great email exchange recently that I wanted to share with you all. Hope this is a source of encouragement and training for us all as we seek to commune with God as we “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16)!

From: Xxxx Xxxxxx
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 11:53 AM
To: pastoraloffice
Subject: faith and prayer

Today’s Journey wrapped around “And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” ” (Mark 11:22-23)

Matthew 18:18, 19 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, IT SHALL BE DONE for them by My Father who is in heaven.

So my question is this…I have NO problem whatsoever believing that God CAN do anything! Anything. What I struggle with is can we believe He WILL do anything? I mean, according to scripture, it seems that we can believe that He will. But, what about the person for whom we stood in faith that God would heal their cancer this side of heaven and died anyway. Was that because I doubted? Or was it just part of God’s plan? I trust Him for His plan. I may not like. I may pitch a fit at first, but my heart comes around to knowing how great His love is. He is sovereign. I trust Him wholeheartedly, even though I may be caught off guard at first and lose my balance.

Do these verses literally mean that I can pray and believe that another’s heart WILL be changed to line up with God’s Word? Proverbs 21:1 says, ‘The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord. He turns it wherever He will.”

If I’m not seeing results, is it because of doubt? God says He is not a liar and that His Word will not return void. I don’t believe that it is idealistic to think that it is that simple. Its either Truth or its not. I have to remind myself that what I see with my mortal eye isn’t always as it appears. Maybe, the other factor is that it isn’t His timing. Truth be told, I may never see the answer to my prayer this side of heaven. But that doesn’t mean the ‘WILL” didn’t happen. Then my mind goes back to the example ‘what about the person for whom we prayed healing this side of heaven and it didn’t happen? Is it because I doubted? Then, the big question becomes how do I change the doubt?

What is your input?

 

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 5:02 PM
To: Xxxx Xxxxxx
Subject: RE: faith and prayer

Xxxx…great questions about prayer.  For starters, I’d love for you to check out a series I did several years ago here called Vacate…the link is below, and I think it will be helpful.  Also linked below is a message in an apologetics series I did, responding to critics who ask the question, “Why should I waste my time praying when God knows what He’s going to do already?”

http://www.watermark.org/media/the-foundation-for-prayer-the-real-thee-talking-with-the-real-thou/859/

http://www.watermark.org/media/if-god-already-knows-what-hes-going-to-do-why-should-i-waste-my-time-trying-to-talk-to-him/295/

You are correct in saying that God CAN do anything.  And He loves His people enough to listen to our hearts/requests/want to spend time with us in prayer.  But His sovereign plan to glorify Himself is of His utmost concern as that is in everyone’s best interest…to know and understand who this God is that we are praying to.

If you feel that you aren’t seeing “results”, I would challenge you with two things: 1) to change your focus of prayer from results to communion with God; 2) remember that, as you have referenced, God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8) and there are always multiple reasons that He may not choose to honor requests that we present to Him.  Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) but it is not a force which obligates Him.  He is sovereign, good and wise.  I love this statement by Spurgeon: “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”

Keep at it…would love to see you processing my response/the messages & Scripture above with your community group and see what they think/how they can continue to encourage you as well in this area.

I look forward to hearing how the messages and the conversation with your community helped you!

 

Psalm 46:10,

Todd Wagner| pastoraloffice@watermark.org
www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags
www.watermark.org
214.239.8809

Wagner Email Bag: Stem Cell Research

Folks,

As you know, from time to time I get questions via email, and in answering them, want to share those responses with a broader audience in an effort to further instruct/encourage. Recently I was forwarded a request to read through the story of a woman who is precious to the Lord and suffering with Type 1 diabetes. As much as I sympathize with her plight and want to see the Lord heal her, I cannot Biblically justify some of her reasoning behind wanting to have research done for her disease in the manner she is pleading. Read below and think through how you would respond!

From: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxx
Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011 11:33 AM
Subject: Pass this on!

Hey Peeps,

This is not my story. This is someone else’s, but she makes awesome points. She makes the same points that I try to make, but can’t always get across in a fluid fashion. I copied and pasted her story from the JDRF website so you might see the impact this stupid disease has on people who “follow the rules”. I realize that I have broken a few here and there, and so my credibility may be lacking. I urge you to think about this young lady and what she is saying. Furthermore, I don’t personally condone stem cell research on aborted fetuses, but there are tons in storage right now just sitting there. Use your judgement on that point. The rest of this stuff is dead on! So, please read it, think about it, and do something about it. Write somebody a letter. Donate a dollar the next time a Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund sneaker campaign comes around. Talk to your pharmacy reps and ask them why. Please, do something! My days are numbered folks. I have a beautiful little girl to raise and I cannot explain these things to her. So, please, do something. Thanks for reading my impassioned email for the day.;)

“I’ve had Type 1 diabetes for 40 years. I’m almost 42, so diabetes has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was diagnosed in 1969, medicines & care protocols were primitive by today’s standards – but they were affordable. Today, the insulin I use, available only with a prescription, is over $100 per bottle without insurance coverage. A bottle might last a month, but often doesn’t for most diabetics. Insulin is not a luxury; it is critical for surviving with Type 1 diabetes. Without insulin, we WILL die.

The test strips we use to check our blood glucose levels can cost nearly $125 for a box of 100, without insurance. Type 1s should test at least 4 times a day for adequate disease management. A box lasts less than a month at that rate of testing. I use an insulin pump, which is a much more powerful tool for disease management than multiple daily injections. The pump itself is a one-time cost ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. Yet I must meet a high deductible before insurance will cover even part of the cost of the supplies for the pump. The pump I use has disposable pods-which I fill with insulin-that must be changed every 3 days. A recent order of 3 boxes of pods cost $735. Based on that bill, a box of 10, which lasts a month, costs about $250. So every month I spend $250 on a box of pods, $100 for a bottle of insulin & $125 for a box of test strips. So diabetes costs me roughly $475 EACH month, not counting the cost of other meds I take.

And God help me if I lose my job & can’t get another one before my “prior credible coverage” period (usually 12 months) runs out. I’ll be unable to get health insurance on my own. Period. Once I find a job, I’ll be subject to a pre-existing condition waiting period, lasting anywhere from 6 months to a year or more. So insurance wouldn’t pay for the prescriptions & doctor visits I need in order to stay healthy, but they’d pay for the dialysis after my kidneys have failed because I couldn’t afford the insulin I need to survive. Illogical.

Something must be done to rein in the skyrocketing cost of the healthcare & meds we need just to survive. Insurance companies must be taken to task for their callous disregard for the health of their clients, & must reform their standards for coverage & care. Right now in America, insurance isn’t for healthcare; it’s for profit. That is greedy, shortsighted, & downright immoral.

Funding for research to cure Type 1 diabetes is just as important. So many huge advances have been made in the last few years in stem cell research that a cure may actually be found in my lifetime. People against embryonic stem cell research argue about the “rights of the unborn”, but my response is that I am already here & I am suffering. Am I less deserving of rights than a clump of cells in a petri dish? If so, why? Elected officials spend a lot of time worrying about the “unborn” while their living constituents suffer physically.”

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 10:17 AM
To: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxx
Subject: RE: Pass this on!

Xxxxxxx,

With great compassion for this woman (it is easy to empathize with her), she is sadly participating in furthering a very dangerous idea about the dignity of life and so I could not support forwarding her email as it is currently composed. Her points are strong enough without having to make the case that the unborn should be compromised. As sad as it is (her thinking is the same thinking of those who follow her same line of reasoning that only the strongest and healthiest forms of life should survive) that others would argue toward the elimination of the weak amongst us who have diabetes (those whose clumps of cells are predisposed to need insulin and expensive care to survive). I am sure she would not like hearing this, but that untenable and offensive thinking is rooted in the same argument she makes about compromising the unborn for her good. They are already here as well…only not in as strong a position to defend themselves. As people who know that the value of all human life is rooted in the image of the One who created us and not in our utility or strength, we cannot be casual about our stance on this subject.

Bless you and may the Lord allow us to find relief for diabetics in the form of better more affordable treatments soon.

Todd Wagner | pastoraloffice@watermark.org
www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags
www.watermark.org
214.239.8809

The Jews Missed Jesus When He Came…Might We?

Friends,

I received an excellent question yesterday via email that I’d love to share with you. Check out the question, think through how you would answer, and see my response. Chime in/comment here if you have anything to add/further thoughts!

From: Xxxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2011 08:37:44 -0500
Cc: pastoraloffice
Subject: I’m curious…

Good morning! I was pondering this last night, and wanted to get your thoughts on it… The Jewish leadership’s primary problem when Christ came was a fundamental misunderstanding of scripture regarding the Messiah. They were looking for a conquering King and were, thus, blind to His true identity. Similarly, many people now are on the lookout for Christ’s return, also in the form of a conquering King.

Is it possible that we may also have a fundamental misunderstanding of scripture, and be on the lookout for Christ’s return in a form altogether different than the reality? I know we think we read and interpret scripture correctly, but dogma sometimes seeps in undetected. I just wanted to see what your perspective on that would be… Have a great day!

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2011 8:49 AM
To: Xxxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: I’m curious…

Xxxxxx….that is a brilliant question and great observation. Here is my response:

Father…help me to walk every day and read Your Scriptures in humility and truth. Don’t let me miss Your will and way in anything. Protect me from my biases, even MY hopes. Fill me with YOUR hope and let me be one that sees with YOUR eyes. Come quickly Lord Jesus, and don’t let me miss You when You do. Until then, let me be Your hands and feet. Fill my mouth with truth and make my life an expression of YOUR love. By Your grace may others see Your Son in me….His grace, His goodness, His courage and His love. I long for the day when You will return as King. As evidence that You are a King may everyone see You reign now in and over me and Your people. Come quickly Lord Jesus, and don’t let me miss You when You do.

Here is my other response:

Matthew 24:4-31. By His grace we have a bit more specific revelation than our friends in Israel did. Even so, I love the question!

Todd Wagner | pastoraloffice@watermark.org
www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags
www.watermark.org
214.239.8809