Are Amish Christian?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a gathering in Columbus where I was able to view some plans for the new ark being built in Kentucky. Answers In Genesis, the good folks who brought us the Creation Museum put on the presentation. It was inspiring in several ways. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of why they believe this ark will be ‘successful,’ and I got to meet the makers of the VBS my church uses every year from Answers In Genesis.

One part of the presentation concerned me. The speaker told us that the ark will be built by Amish. At least in Ohio, Amish are known for their work ethic and craftsmanship; but what concerned me was when they (the Amish) were categorically described as “faithful.” Faithful to what I wondered? My understanding from a former Amish man who became born-again and had to leave the Amish community is that Amish do not believe in justification by grace through faith alone. I approached the speaker and asked the questions. He assured me these Amish people were saved, and that the Amish were like any protestant denomination. It ended friendly, which was good, but I left feeling like there was more to say. Here is the letter I wrote him today via email:

While we were together, I brought up a concern that I had concerning the description of the Amish as faithful. I believe the implication of the statement would lead a listener to believe that Amish is a valid part of the Christian church. I know at the time you understood my concern in general, but I wanted to follow up with some more information for you to digest. I am bringing you this information as an evangelist who loves the lost, and a brother who believes we may have a disagreement (however slight). I trust the Spirit of God will lead us to Truth.

Here is a link to the missionary I mentioned which can provide much more information to you about the Amish than I can. I encourage you to take time to peruse their site.

I think I can sum up what I want to say quickly. (oops, I should’ve removed that sentence!) Amish is not a denomination of Christianity which holds to some different beliefs about non-essentials. I would maintain that what is clearly known of the Amish religious practices is nothing less than another gospel, that is, a gospel of works-righteousness. Amish can be better compared to Roman Catholicism than to any mainstream protestant denomination like Baptist or Presbyterian.

Now does that mean the people who you have building the Ark are not born-again? I don’t know. I have confidence that the people at AIG are capable of listening to someone’s testimony and asking them probing questions which reveal what the person truly believes. It is the loving thing we can all do. We certainly wouldn’t want the Ark builders to miss the “boat.” 🙂 But sometimes it can be hard and offensive to question people about their faith. And the Amish are notoriously reserved about it. That’s a really bad sign…how can we keep from singing His praises if we know we’ve been saved from His wrath by Him?

I would seriously wonder why a saved person would want to be identified with a religious organization which is so clearly understood to be outside of “justification by faith alone” Christianity. I would question any Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness or Catholic who claims to have been born-again, yet cling to the religion of their youth. We would certainly do it with any Muslim or Hindu! So please, do not stamp Amish people as saved, any more than you should stamp Baptists, Methodists or Presbyterians!

I can certainly imagine that run of the mill unregenerate folks would have very little problem “faking it” for the sake of a multi-million dollar business project. I’m not saying that is what is happening, but it refutes the idea that the only reason they would want to be a part of this endeavor is because of shared faith. Catholics everywhere will advance pro-life material with Jesus’ name in it, regardless of whether it is protestant or evangelical in nature due to a general lack of discernment.

Brother, please take this seriously and trust that I love you and want only the best for you, Ken Ham and AIG. I do, in fact, have confidence that the Lord is the focus of AIG and the ARK. I do believe this is a worthwhile project, and I look forward to using it in my evangelism. Once I get an Ark replica, maybe I’ll take it downtown with me when I street preach and see if it sparks any conversations.

Thanks, brother. I hate to be long-winded, but I hate to be unclear more. Have a great day.

Michael Coughlin

Please let me know what you think. Do you know anything about the Amish religion? Was I too harsh or unclear? Thanks.

7 Reasons Christian men should not get married!

As my good friend and brother Fred approaches his wedding day, I thought I’d publish this word of warning to him, or any man who is considering this endeavor. Please read it carefully and let me know what you think.

  1. Food will never taste the same. What I mean by this is that there will still be times in most men’s lives when they will have to make their own meal. These meals will always be lacking something. The dissatisfaction partially ruins eating; the worst part is you will never be able to really pinpoint why you didn’t like a particular meal. There will just be general disappointment. Going out to eat is no longer very enjoyable either. Your wife’s home cooking will ruin going out for you.
  2. Say bye-bye to that fat savings account. Your desires for earthly things will diminish as you try to lead another person, and hopefully children, into a sanctified life absent of coveting. The realization that you must lead from the front in this area will result in less technology and sports apparel purchases and more giving, both to your family and to God and His church. Soon, what little you thought you had will be gone, replaced with a smile and a cheerful, giving heart.
  3. There will be a lack of joy in your life. All your blind, self-love will diminish. You will hate yourself more all the time. I’m not talking about pop-psychology self-loathing, but rather a sort of godly type of self-abasement whereby you will see all of your sin and shortcomings in light of how much they hurt her. Every time you are rude or insensitive or prideful or lack compassion, it will be magnified. But for the first time, you’ll really care. That lack of joy? That’s a lack of the ignorant bliss you once felt while deceived about your own sin.
  4. Your life will become even busier! You’ll spend more time praying. Remember when you were too busy to pray? Forget that! Now you will find yourself praying at strange times. Your love and concern for your wife will bring you to your knees in a way like never before. Sure, we’ve all hit our knees, but when praying for ourselves, some part of us always (I think) “knows” that somehow we’ll get through stuff by our own power, at least a little bit. Wives have a way of helping a man truly submit to God with his requests and admit his own helplessness.
  5. You will find out how little you know about God and His Word. As you “establish” rules (sometimes called putting your foot down) as the head of the household, you will be challenged to defend them by providing scripture. Your own traditions and presuppositions will become painfully obvious to you. Other random questions from the wife and the kids will magnify your ignorance. This will thrust you into deeper study. See #4
  6. You will lose confidence. Your self-reliance: gone. Not only will you become more dependent upon God to meet your needs, but your entire life will become quite dependent upon her. Like #1 one, you may even forget how to do certain simple tasks like wash clothes or put dishes away. Note: It is not that these things are no longer necessary, you just don’t do them because someone is helping you. A quick warning, you might be reminded periodically if you fail to “notice.”
  7. Your job will start to be unsatisfying. When you go to work, you will really miss your wife. You will wonder how you ever lived before knowing her. You know there was a time ‘before her,’ but you won’t be able to recall much about that life, or at least anything thatis worthy of comparison to even the hardest times you face now.

In conclusion, if constantly enjoying food, becoming more dependent upon God and finding love greater than any love but Christ’s sounds good to you, please do find a Christian woman and marry her.

Iran is making a HUGE mistake with Youcef Nadarkhani!

Maybe I thought I had too many friends, because this is certain to lose a few. Please read this with a desire to seek truth.

Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is not only receiving a death sentence from Iran, but he’s already received a death sentence from God. Yeah, yeah, you are thinking. “We already know! All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and the wages of sin in death, and so death passed upon all men through Adam’s sin.”

But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ! Yes! So there is hope! Jesus is the only hope, and all those who repent of sin and place their trust in Christ (and Christ only) for forgiveness of sins will be called the sons (and daughters) of God. This is truly good news. The gates of Heaven are open and there is hope for the Christian.

Now here is where I will lose some of you. For a few of you, this might be a good section to pull things I say out of context, in case you weren’t already deft at that. But let’s begin with, “What do we know about Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani?”

If we start from scratch, we know a few things. 1. He’s a human. AND 2. He had human parents. ERGO (therefore) He was born a sinner and has certainly at some point in his life sinned. This means that there is an INFINITE separation between Youcef and God. God is Holy. There is no level of Holiness “about him” that makes sense biblically. We are so used to using comparatives and superlatives in our language, but let’s face it, God simply is “the superlative.” He isn’t “holier” than anything – He is the very essence of HOLY. But I’ve digressed. The point is that Youcef Nadarkhani (and you, and me) was and is completely incapable of pleasing a Holy God due to the stain of sin in his life. Because God is perfectly loving and just, He will protect everything that is Holy from men like me and Youcef (and you, dear reader) by casting sinners into an eternal torment, and keeping them (filthy sinners) away from Himself and all that He has declared to be Holy.

What else do I know about Youcef?

I know very little. He is reported to be under persecution for his Christianity, but is he really a Christian? Consider this – how tragic would it be for Youcef to die for believing a FALSE religion? He wouldn’t be the first though, would he? My understanding and my best research of the situation has revealed that he is a member of a cult that claims the name of Christ. His persecution and potential death sentence – while horrifying and unjust – may actually be what one might consider a creative form of God’s judgment on his unbelief! It sounds so terrible, I know. But if he is not a believer, why should we be any more horrified about God exacting His own revenge on this soul than any other? At the end of it all, I don’t know this guy. I just know what little I’ve been able to gather from the internet. Here is a quote I found on the sermonaudio website from a person who claims to be a pastor in Iran.

I know that most believers depend upon the news that is received by the various organizations to inform them about persecutions. In these circumstances it is very difficult to discern what is true and genuine, or incorrect information. In your newsletter you mentioned about an Iranian pastor who has been in the news in the recent weeks. As an Evangelical Iranian pastor, I wanted to say a few things about Youcef Nadarkhani, which is not reported by most news organisations.
Yousef Nadarkhani has been given death sentence, and it is something that is being broadcasted all over the world. However, one thing that most media do not say is that he has been one of the chief leaders of a growing cult in Iran, which is known as, the Jesus Only (Oneness Pentecostal) cult. They totally deny the doctrine of the Trinity and teach the Sebalian (Modalism) heresy. They believe in Baptismal regeneration and many other man made heresies (works salvation). Youcef Nadarkhani and other leaders in that cult have been rejected by the evangelical churches and pastors in Iran. I have spoken to friends of Yousef Nadarkhani, and also an evangelical pastor in the city of Rasht. They all confirm the same things. We must pray for his genuine conversion in the person and finished work of Christ.

This gives me great pause. (This isn’t the only information I found, for more let me know, but I don’t wish to link to the false religious websites I did find). Imagine this – a member of an American false religion is being persecuted. His religion, although it is a religion of works and a false christ, claims to be Christian. He refuses to recant his religious beliefs, so the entire world claims a Christian is being persecuted and everyone everywhere calls him brother. Then you find out he is Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or Roman Catholic? What do you say? Do you stand up and make sure that people know these are false religious systems and this person, as well as all other members need the gospel? What if you found out the man was Muslim or Jew and was persecuted? You would be certain he was hellbound – don’t let false religions that Satan has created which use the same types of elements and names as biblical Christianity be treated any different from false religions which do not. Atheism, Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witness all have one thing in common – a need to repent and trust by faith that Christ alone is sufficient for salvation and that He is the Son of God and was sent to be the Savior of the world. Just like the pharisees of Christ’s earthly days, many people claim to believe in the One True God, many people even claim to follow His statutes, but very few actually know Him in their hearts.

Pray for this man, Youcef. Pray that justice will be done and that Christ will be glorified. It would be nice to be wrong about this,

Now, look at the following scenario:

There is a man in the USA being held in prison for his beliefs! Why isn’t Voice of the Martyrs or ACLJ in an outrage over this story? Here is a man sitting in prison for exercising his deeply held religious convictions, a religion which includes the name “Jesus Christ!” Why isn’t there an international outrage?

Click this link to read about it.

This man is not a true follower of Jesus Christ. Not only do his works prove this, but his own professed faith denies salvation by Christ alone through faith alone by grace.

The fact is that we do not want this man to be free to exercise his deeply held religious convictions because not all religious beliefs are equal. Not all moral standards are absolute, nor true. We must be very careful how we argue about freedoms we believe we deserve. Often, we want certain religious freedoms that we as Christians want to deny others. The fact is that only when you start with the Bible as your authority for morality will you achieve godly laws, and ultimately, allowing people to live lives without regard to these types of laws is hateful to them and to the society. Don’t take the liberal rhetoric that says, “Don’t push your morality on me.” That very statement is pushing their version of morality on you! We must push for godly living and godly laws to protect our society, our children and ourselves. We must do it for the glory of God and because we trust Him.

So dear Christian, understand the results of your thinking. Make sure you think through all the things you do and say concerning religious freedoms and who and why you support the persecuted church. Sadly, they are not all “of us.”

Courageous Preaching?

Many people seem to want to know the Bible verse from the movie Courageous. It is Joshua 24:15, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Alright, I’ll admit, the title to this post is a slight play on words. I simply want to share this video with you from September 30, 2011.

My local church invited hundreds of people, (specifically targeting law enforcement, emt, fire and military), to see the new movie Courageous on opening night. The generous God-loving folks of Berean Baptist Church completed funded the showing for about 188 people who came that evening as our guests.

Our goal was to share this inspiring movie with them, a small bag of “goodies,” and the message of hope that lies only through faith in Christ.

You can see the video below. The preaching was anything but Courageous. In fact, (I’ll chalk it up to nervousness), I failed to mention THE RESURRECTION – an essential component of the gospel. But we trust that God will provide a harvest for our labor of love.

Steve Jobs’ Final Wish

I don’t know a lot about Steve Jobs. I watched Pirates of Silicon Valley and have bought a few iPods. I had never met the man: so how do I propose to know his last wish?

First we must review Luke 16:27-28.

27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

I believe that Steve Jobs’ final wish is that God’s law and gospel be proclaimed to those he loved the most in this world. Whether Steve Jobs is currently suffering the condemnation of God or worshiping the Creator now because he is in Christ Jesus – I trust his hope is that others will know who the One True God is. So where is Steve now?

I don’t know for sure. God knows each man’s heart; I do not. But what I do know is that if he was never born-again, if he never repented of his sin against God and trusted Jesus Christ as the only provision for the basis of forgiveness of those sins, then he is suffering the just punishment for his life of enmity with God – and so will you, without Christ. It is also possible that due to the mercy and grace of Christ, that Steve was covered by His sacrifice and is currently enjoying communion with his Savior. Enemies of the gospel of grace will call me callous for even using a recently deceased person as an example; and I am sure some Christians will find my take on the eternity of Jobs too weak, since he never publicly professed Christ and, in fact, professed a false religion (Buddhism, if my research is correct).

I cannot help Steve Jobs anymore. I cannot pray him into Heaven (a false doctrine of Catholicism called purgatory), and I cannot preach to him or plead with him to repent and believe the gospel. Josh Harris sent him the gospel a while back. I suppose Steve died with knowledge of how to be saved and we can all live with the hope that God had mercy on him late in life. What we cannot say is that anything we know about him indicated regeneration. We cannot just arbitrarily assume that Steve was “probably a Christian” because it makes us feel better, or because we lack the courage to allow people to believe that we think Jobs’ hellbound life remained uninterrupted by God’s grace. For we know the truth is that EVERY man and woman is hellbound. Every man and woman has fallen short of God’s standard and is accountable to God for their own sin. The question is not “Where is Steve Jobs?” The question is – “Have you been born again?” John 3:3-7.

I am sure many will think it is wrong to even refer to Jobs so soon after his death, especially concerning eternal matters. I, of course, would disagree. Assuming this dissension would come from people outside Christiany, the criticism is unwarranted, irrelevant and inarguable. There will be no convincing non-Christians of Christian things with clever arguments or sound logic. These folks simply deny the foundation of Christian beliefs (God’s Word), and, thus, can prove or disprove anything they want, arbitrarily. But let’s look at the Christian response: Are you a Christian who thinks there should be some waiting period before we discuss the gospel after someone dies? Or maybe you think the person’s name should never be used? I’d ask you this: how many people are you ok with perishing to eternal torment while you wait for the right time to begin discussing spiritual matters? Because you do not know, (as Jobs did not), who will be next, or when? What arrogance you have to believe that your non-believing family and friends and coworkers have even another breath in them.

So please, share the gospel NOW. Be gentle and meek, patient and humble – yet bold and confident in the power (Romans 1:16). Refer to the gospel not as your message to humanity, but rather the message of the Bible. Make sure your hearers understand that if they disagree with you, they are actually disagreeing with the Bible. And don’t take it too personally when they reject you and sling accusations at you, for if you properly share it – if you accurately express the message of condemnation of sins and hope in Christ’s righteousness instead of self-righteousness – your earthly existence ought not be too much better than the life of Jesus and John the Baptist.

Dear brothers and sisters, I beg you and command you in the name of Christ: “Go ye therefore.” You may impact someone for Christ who impacts someone for Christ who Steve Jobs desperately wants saved. You will certainly be showing your gratitude for what Christ did for you.

Avoid ORA-00054: resource busy and acquire with NOWAIT specified on Truncate

If you are on an 11g database, you can ignore this post and just use the new ddl_lock_timeout parameter to accomplish what this post explains.

“alter session set ddl_lock_timeout=60” – will effectively allow ddl statements to all wait 60 seconds before encountering the error.

If you are on 10g or lower, here is an option:

If you are an Oracle programmer, then you’ve probably encountered the ORA-00054: resource busy and acquire with NOWAIT specified exception when attempting to truncate a table. When this happens during the day, you can usually just wait a few minutes (or go and commit your other open sessions…), but what about when you are truncating tables as part of a script which runs overnight? Are you tired of being woken up so you can simply rerun the script?

Well check out this script, then! It is a very simple PL/SQL procedure which accepts 1 or 2 arguments.

TABLE_NAME: string containing the table to truncate (include the schema prefix as well).
MAX_WAIT: number which is the maximum amount of minutes you would want to wait (you can ignore this parm and it will default to 10)

The script does the following:

1. Check if it has been running for more than the max wait time – if so, exit with a custom exception.
2. Truncate the table sent as a parameter
2a. If successful – EXIT.
2b. If truncate fails due to ORA-00054 exception, repeat steps 1 & 2 (this is a good place to put dbms_lock.sleep if you desire).
2b. If truncate fails for any other reason, simply pass the exception onto the calling program.

So instead of getting an error when a resource is busy – your code will wait for it to become available, then truncate it as soon as possible. And since you are executing procedures, you can easily use dbms_scheduler to allow your truncates to run concurrently. If you have enough of them, this will be a real time saver. But be careful because if you are doing a truncate and load you will want to have something that checks that the jobs are completed before beginning your load.

Please see the code below:

CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE truncate_tbl(table_name IN VARCHAR2, max_wait IN NUMBER DEFAULT 10)
AS
   ld_start_time   DATE;
BEGIN
   ld_start_time   := SYSDATE;

  <>
   LOOP
      IF (SYSDATE - ld_start_time) < (max_wait/60/24) THEN
         BEGIN
           <>
            EXECUTE IMMEDIATE('TRUNCATE TABLE ' || table_name);

            EXIT truncate_loop;
         EXCEPTION
            WHEN OTHERS THEN
               IF SQLCODE = -54 THEN
                  NULL;
               ELSE
                  RAISE;
               END IF;
         END actual_code;
      ELSE
         RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR(-20101, max_wait||' Minutes waited for table to be available from NOWAIT status.');
      END IF;
   END LOOP truncate_loop;
END truncate_tbl;

Then you can call it simple with

declare
begin
  truncate_tbl('SCHEMA.TABLE_NAME');
end;
/

If this article doesn’t help you, consider dropping me a note with your concern. I have thousands of lines of code for hundreds of Oracle problems I’ve faced and would publish ones that people told me would be helpful.

From the heart…

I haven’t ‘blogged’ for a long time. At least not regularly. But tonight my wife actually suggested it. This is a strange occurrence because we get so little time together anyway. I used to write my blogs on a laptop while riding a bus to work, but my new job is only good for listening to Todd Friel (which isn’t bad); the point is, no typing while driving.

It has been pointed out to me that I can sound ‘academic’ in some of my posts. That is meant in a critical way. I guess when I write posts about theology, I always feel like I need to somehow make it perfect. As if I can counter every potential argument, or lay out every possible cross reference.

It reminds me of Jerry Rediger’s voicemail greeting: “Please leave a brief and detailed message after the tone.”

What? Inconceivable!

But what may be lost in the array of amateur theology articles with a Jesuit educated vocabulary (I’ve repented of that if you are wondering), is the state of my heart. It may be clear that I intellectually assent to a lot of good doctrine. It wouldn’t take a CSI to detect that I probably have TULIPs growing in my front yard, or that I can read a page of ‘you might be a Calvinist if…’ quotes and wonder why its so funny. I don’t vote Democrat and I don’t watch TV (except football games) and my favorite book actually is, the Bible. Yep, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t really have a favorite verse, because, of course, all scripture…is profitable.

And can you tell I’m an evangelist? I would post more on the topic but I’m afraid of it coming across like boasting instead of sharing. Am I trying to please men? I don’t know. I think it’s wise to be concerned with others and how I’ll be perceived. But why do I evangelize? It is solely for the glory of God? Is that the be-all and end-all of my faith? Do I rejoice in the salvation of a lost sinner only because of the glory it exhibits of Christ? There have been times I have coldly preached or shared the gospel, without a shred of concern about the hearer. I have preached or spoken with ONLY Jesus as the audience. For that, I must, and have, repented.

Thankfully, that is few and far between. Because the fact is this, I truly love the lost. I was granted, by the grace of God, at a very early time in my walk with Christ, a deep love for people who do not know Him. In fact, I went to such an Arminian, seeker-sensitive, antinomian megachurch when I was saved, that I fit right into the groove. For those of you who don’t know, antinomianism can be loosely defined as ‘grace-abuse.’ These are the people who violate the spirit of grace by presuming it and becoming lawless. They cite the various glorious verses in the bible which speak of God’s grace and how good works cannot save, and they ignore the verses like Jesus telling a number of people, “depart from me, you workers of iniquity. (lawlessness)” The point being, I was really good at going out and inviting people to church and telling them the gospel. I wasn’t shy about it, (or if I was, I hid it well). I was the perfect new convert. I was so excited about what my eyes had just been opened to, I couldn’t imagine keeping it to myself.

I also found that I loved God…A LOT. I, like most Americans, had assumed I had always loved God. I didn’t understand my new affections. I assumed this was how ALL CHRISTIANS must feel about the Lord. So I unknowingly went out and simply offended others. I mean AT CHURCH. I was reading my bible regularly and the Holy Spirit was growing me, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that other people at my church didn’t want to have sin removed like I did! They didn’t even want to call the same things sin. I heard a lot of talk about liberty and grace. Both wonderful, biblical doctrines. But I heard nothing of holiness or righteousness or transformation.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about how much I love the lost. What I want to share is that I love Jesus Christ more than anything. And yes, bringing him glory through biblical evangelism is one of my goals. Evangelistic success isn’t measured simply by the number of disciples made. But to approach a living, breathing soul with the most important news ever and to have no real concern for that person’s eternity? That’s cold-hearted and not God glorifying, in my opinion. Oh Christ sees your efforts, your creativity and your words, but He is a discerner of your heart as well. He knows if you are truly interested in the people with whom you are witnessing. He knows if you are using the occasion to indulge your flesh, or if you actually despise the lost soul with whom you are professing to be sharing Christ.

I have been there. I’ve talked to people and realized I didn’t care if they got saved. One time, I began to witness to a guy because he kept trying to talk to me on the bus and was annoying me. So I figured, well, I’ll tell him the gospel and then he’ll certainly leave me alone. What a jerk. So of course, God humbled me quickly and allowed me to present the gospel to the man, but also worked on my heart right then and there. By the end I was truly expressing care to the man.

So dear brother or sister, please know that I do what I do out of a great love for a great God. But that isn’t all; part of the outpouring…part of the application of that love for God is a love for His creation. If God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked, why should I? Please do not make the mistake I did and forget your own utter helplessness. Your own utter sinfulness. Your own desperate need for a savior.

Now I’m rambling. I actually had intended to write about how wonderful it is to me that my local church leadership wanted to support an idea I brought to them about sending police and firefighters and other service men and women to a movie for free. I am so grateful…people are so good to me. And I deserve none of it.