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Idol Worship or Patriotism?

Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, all the glory of God being pushed to the right…

A fitting parody most likely to be found this coming Lord’s Day. While I am not “unpatriotic” I find it less than distasteful to impute patriotism or nationalism in place of the worship of the Most High God and the hearing of His word. Sadly, many people have never considered it, but this year especially, it seems fitting to make a note that most of the world’s so-called christians are more concerned with the perpetuity of the United States than the eternal Kingdom of Christ. A patriotic service is when a congregation has a Lord’s day celebration that centers on America and is devoid the word of God or worse, uses the bible in a twisted application as if it were taking about America.

I could speak for days on this issue as a biblical error and show that scripture actually prohibits such idolatry, but for today I will give a few reasons I believe patriotic services happen in the name of “worship” and the theological consequences of it.

Each statement can be precluded with, “When worship of country happens in the place of biblical worship…”

  1. It puts a government (creation) above God (creator) in worship. Paul is careful to show that part of God’s judgment is to give people what they love as an idol over Himself thus revealing His judgement and wrath against them. (Romans 1)  There is no place for patriotism among the people of God during a time of corporate worship. It is idolatry and there is no other argument to be made. Stop putting temporal things in place of Jesus Christ and His eternal glory.
  2. It is boring beyond all measure. The difference in seeing water flow down the drain of a tub in comparison to the majesty of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. There is no comparison and why would one want to trade the visible majesty of the most glorious Crown of the cosmos for the young and fading glory of a man-made democracy?
  3. It may lead people to thinking that God cares anything about countries. He doesn’t. God cares about people, not non-personal governments.  As a matter of biblical truth, God established governments in the same manner He established the ceremonial laws: to show something larger and to show their non-permanence in order to reveal HIS sufficiency.
  4. It will create division among the body which is satanic. Some people don’t feel the same about America. Maybe a governmental agency has hurt them or done them wrong. Maybe some people have a sense of pride that God has rid them of that will be rekindled. Maybe there are Christians who are not Americans so that it has absolutely no relevance at all to them. Period. Division among the body of Christ is evil, and making much of something not Christ is evil.
  5. It divides the eternal unity of the church by proclaiming a nation against all other nations (makes the book of Ephesians obsolete). Paul argues that ALL nations have ceased at the cross of Christ and he teaches that the wisdom of God is that HE (God) has created ONE people out of many.
  6. It fails to understand proper end-times where AMERICA has no place except where Babylon is resting; the lake of fire. See, governments of men are over in eternity. There is no purpose for them because Christ has finished the battle, there is no reason for governance, no need for punishment, no need for boundaries because all are holy.
  7. It may be a sign of a lazy shepherd who would rather do something “themed” than expositional. How easy it is to rant and rave about the problems, even moral ones, that plague the country and that the “country” must be in prayer in order to be healed by God. Well, God will never heal lands, He will heal HIS people from sin, others He will justly destroy in just anger.
  8. It may be opportunity to please man. Yep, believe it or not, many red blooded American patriots would rather don a flag than carry a cross and many pastors know this and love to get the support of the tear-stained hard nose who loves his country. I pray it isn’t you, if so, take this Sunday to resign your ministry. It would do the gospel well.
  9. It is guaranteed to get response. If your preaching the scriptures doesn’t get an AMEN, then celebrating America will. How amazing it is that people will amen what they love, except Christ, when presented with the opportunity.
  10. It brings people to worship other gods. Yep. In some sense, rights, liberties, power, etc. are other gods. I can honestly say that sometimes it seems that Christians are not willing to give up their freedom for the sake of the gospel. We should take more time to read Philippians.
  11. It belittles the mission of the church. Thankfully the church has not been set to the task of a fool and isn’t called to make morality the central theme of its mission. Biblically speaking it isn’t even in the top ten. Yes we are to affirm what is good and holy and speak out against that which is not, but in reality, there is so much blindness and wicked affection for dying things among the church that many are unable to see the log in their own eyes.
  12. It argues that MEMORIALS are important when they are supposed to REMIND of God and POINT us to Christ. As a historical scholar of the American church, I cannot find one legitimate example of such that could be used in place of Christ. Memorials are to bring glory to God, like the stones in the Jordan, it wasn’t for the Jews to celebrate their journey, but God’s doing. It was to point to Christ.  Where is patriotism pointing to Christ when all the New Testament details people losing ALL THEY HAD in following Christ.
  13. It establishes a superiority over other nations when MANY other nations are much more GOSPEL CENTERED than America. America is not greater than other nations and from a biblical worldview, this is a slap in the face of Christ.
  14. It creates barriers to the true gospel power in the life of a community by putting the emphasis on something that is temporal, endangered (by God), polarizing, and patriotism NEEDS no voice OVER CHRIST.
  15. It may wrongly make parallels that are unbiblical. For instance, some people invoke scriptural promises made to Israel and apply them to the USA. This is a grave error and more so that people forget that in all nations there are only TWO peoples: those who are the church in Christ and everyone else. Nations cannot be saved, governments cannot find salvation, only the church finds salvation, so let’s stop confusing the matter.
  16. It displaces the object of true joy with a fading one. Many people find their hope and joy in America and her future and in turn, some of them find themselves disgruntled at the pace of where things are with the government. This isn’t worship and actually is the result of idolatry. Christ is sufficient and is cause for eternal joy.
  17. It aspires glory to a “past” instead of learning to glory in Christ at the present time and forever more. Much of what is experienced in these types of services is about what America “used” to be or “should” be or really “stands for.” Well, stand for Christ and lose your life or lose eternal life.
  18. It sometimes assumes that certain political leanings are more Godly than another and supposes that different view points on matters of civil or economic issues are not “Christian” at the cost of concerning the church with what is actually taught in scripture, thus making everyone disobedient.
  19. It produces fellowship around the wrong motive and dream. And at times it produces “enemies” between brethren because of dissenting views about country and politics.
  20. It assumes that the darkness of the world is a threat to the American Way and not Eternal Life. It thwarts by action and affection, the sovereignty of God over all men.
  21. It distorts the prayers of the Saints who pray for a way of life rather than eternal life for others. This mistakenly puts the church in torment as they linger over a desire for God to “do something” and for people in government to “repent” when they do not belong to Christ in the first place.
  22. It will prove, if all some of the above take place, that those who are born again are convicted of idolatry while those that stand their ground on their “right” and “duty” to worship in this manner are proven to be NOT IN THE FAITH of Christ because they divide over worldly affections. (See 1 John 2:15-17)

So there. Now you have a taste of what a very polarizing opinion on a matter of little importance actually looks like. Sadly something like this could cause more harm than good, but I pray it will be received the way it sounds, concerned and greatly grieved over the loss of sublime interest in the church.

What should the body of Christ do in America on Independence Day?  The same thing the church in China would do or in Uganda: hear the word, pray, worship in song and prayer, celebrate Christ, engage in life together intimacy, care for the needs of each other and long for the day when they see their Savior. (among other things.) Just as all Christians are to VALUE governments (countries), they are also to PRAY for governments but never celebrate them over Christ.

As Americans we have a duty to live as citizens of HEAVEN as we traverse this temporary existence in the US. And in doing so we are to stand out from the world in which we live and VOTE as though we are not voting, engage in politics as though they are NOT VITAL and make sure our legacies are eternal in nature. We should be THANKFUL that God has used good and evil to create a very awesome nation with laws the provide us the opportunity to worship freely and EXERCISE those rights as we are able. WE are to exercise our rights in order to express our disdain against injustice, prejudice, evil, immorality and all things that are sanctioned by our government but all the while realize that these things are not ETERNAL and so we rest in peace and hope, not in this nation, but in Kingdom of Christ in which we stand, forever.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

What should we do if our fellowship is planning such things? Pray and stay away. I am not saying that a mention of patriotism is prohibited, I am saying that when it replaces Christ it is wicked and evil and may be evidence that the leadership of the church should strongly consider what is vital to the life of the church before God removes what little light there is to shine in darkness.

How do I know? I’ve done it myself.

Pastor James

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Season of Death Reveals Life

legacy

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? (Proverbs 27:23-24 ESV)

I have been resting in the waiting room of a hospital for the last few hours awaiting my bride who is undergoing some tests. Two of the most common things found in a waiting room at a hospital are people who are waiting and people who are suffering. I have encountered a suffering soul this morning whose children are here along with her husband. By all appearances, she could be in her 80’s but her age isn’t what has prompted this journal, it is the wave of considerations that have flooded my soul as I witness her suffering. She has moaned in pain for the lat hour while her family has been unable to help her, give her rest or remove her pain. They have continued to be there with every groan or breath of pain assuring her that “soon they will come get you to help with your pain.” This is a sad experience knowing that there are millions in pain all over this world today of ALL age groups. But it isn’t the pain that prompts me either. Looking at this family center on their beloved I realize that all of us sitting in this large waiting area will one day experience both sides of such reality. We will be sitting as a sufferer with those in pain and we too will be the one suffering in pain.

There are many thoughts running through my heart and understand that I am no rookie when it comes to pain and suffering. This time however, I am being prompted to consider that at this point in this poor woman’s life she has not given any thought to anything but her pain. She isn’t worried about how she raised her children (who are seated next to her with smiles). She isn’t worried about her place in this community and whether or not she made a difference. She isn’t concerned with her looks, hair, shoes, or her etiquette.  She isn’t concerned with her social and spiritual spheres and whether or not her book club or Sunday School class is prepared for the week. She exists, in all likelihood, at the end of her life and this season of death will reveal what her life really meant.

Her daughter jokes with her and says to her, “It won’t be long before they take you for surgery and you’ll be able to dream without pain and you can dream about all the things we used to do.” Whether this woman lives another 10 years or returns to the Lord in the next few minutes, her life is a measure of many things, but in reality, all of our lives are only a measure of what is eternal. Otherwise, all we have accomplished will die with us. To that end, here is a brief summary of statements that reflect a deeper involvement with my own mortality.

  1. We are temporal in this Earth so all that we do, if not of the Gospel, will eventually turn to dust.
  2. Nothing we do will live in perpetuity if it is not the fruit of the gospel.
  3. Our social and political platforms and efforts will eventually die as God will destroy all crowns and nations. (No King but Christ)
  4. Our financial prizes and glory will take us to the grave and even those God gives and He can take away.
  5. Education apart from teaching others the glory of Christ will account for nothing.
  6. Satisfaction from anything that was not Christ will fade away in time.
  7. Future hope is vain if not in the cross.
  8. Our friendships outside the body of Christ are vain if they do not point to the cross.
  9. Defending anything in this life that doesn’t point to the ultimate glory of God in Christ is a fool’s errand.
  10. If we are not growing relationships with God’s people for the sake of the gospel then when we rest at the end all we will have is either a small group of mourners or a large group of hopeless secular pals.
  11. Our lives in the end should reflect a Gospel Powered fruitfulness:
    1. Joy in us and others through Christ alone.
    2. Diversity in thoughts and interests while being one mind and one Spirit.
    3. A circle of brothers and sisters from all tribes reflecting the TRUE gospel of Christ.
    4. A testimony of others that our lives mattered because we lived as aliens in a foreign land pursuing the glory of God at the cost of ALL that we were.
    5. Memories that would transcend anyone in any place in the world for the sake of the name of God almighty!

What else could be said? While these quick and fleeting thoughts are written, they too will be just a whisper one day. What are we really doing?  What are we really causing? Who are we really reaching and with what? What will we do today to transform our mind? What will we do today to repent of our idols? What will we do right now to reflect the power of Christ? Huh?  What are we still sitting here reading these words?  Be ready. Sober. Active for the sake of Christ, who is concerned with the Glory due His name. Amen.

Pastor James

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Evangelical Death or Delusion?

david f. wells

Dr. David F. Wells (PhD, University of Manchester) is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In addition to serving as academic dean at Gordon-Conwell’s Charlotte campus, Wells has been a member of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, a distinguished lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and the recipient of a major grant from the Pew Charitable Trust. The author of numerous articles and books, he has written extensively on postmodernism, open theism, and the history of Christianity in America.  Over a decade ago he penned a small article entitled, “The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church” that broke some surface thought on at that time, a major problem among Evangelical churches in America. Some of the foundations of his concerns have yet to be seen or even addressed and I fear that today’s church is more than dead, she has become apostate. That article is copied here in its entirety from Monergism.com.  I would love to hear your thoughts as we process such things together, for the good of our hope in Christ Jesus.

 

The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church

by David F. Wells

Article by Dr. David Wells, from a booklet of the same name, copyrighted by The Banner of Truth Trust.

I came to America twenty-five years ago, a newly minted doctor and ready to begin a teaching ministry. Today I look back on this quarter of a century with immense gratitude for the opportunity to serve Christ during these years and for the nourishment which I have received from the Church during this time.

This quarter of a century has been a time of many bright highlights, but if I am not mistaken it is also a time of lengthening shadows in our evangelical world. We have been transformed from being an inconsequential religious player to one of some consequence during this time, but the costs are now becoming plain.

Twenty-five years ago, evangelicals were outside the religious establishment. That establishment was made up principally of the mainline denominations. But today evangelicals have become the religious establishments, however informally. But despite this, I believe that today we are in some peril. We have a fight on our hands and what we’re fighting for is our evangelical soul, for it is possible for us to gain the whole religious world while losing our own souls. I do not say this because I am one of those who thinks that the best is always what is in the past, that we are always in a state of decline, and that if we want to think of a golden age we have to think of something that is behind us. I do not think that way at all. In some ways we, today, are better off than we were twenty-five years ago. Perhaps a lot better off. And yet in spite of that, I believe there are matters within the evangelical world today which are seriously amiss. [click to continue…]

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Hearing Jesus Christ Our God in the Darkness of ISIS

isis

While there are many political, religious, ethical and moral thoughts and points of view on the matter of ISIS, we all know that murder is evil. I do believe though that for Christians, that is all who are Born of God in Christ Jesus, we have a bigger hope than stopping the killing of Christians. It is a good hope to want this to stop, but it is also contradictory to the promise of God for His people. Scripture is replete with examples and certainty of suffering and martyrdom, especially for those true Christians who stand in opposition by their lives and worship against a way of life that is wicked.

So, let’s hear God’s voice on some areas that we need to be careful not to forget:

  1. That this is not new. Christians have been slaughtered for millennia and it should be expected. (2 Tim3; 1 Peter 4)
  2. There is no power under the sun that can stop it. Only the preaching of the gospel can change the heart of man. There is no possible remedy apart from God recreating a murderer into a new life. So we must pray, not “politic.”
  3. Let’s not forget that the evil or martyrdom is not greater than the evil of murder. This includes the killing of the unborn, the ignoring of the ill, mentally ill, or elderly and also the gossip from the mouths of many as they slander their neighbors and their enemies.
  4. Recognize that even in the darkest hour, martyrs of Christ are “like” their Savior as Paul proclaims that he desires to “fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.”
  5. Those who are dying by the sword are not begging for their lives but just as it began with Stephen in Acts 7, it continues today as those who are preparing to die are really preparing to live as they pray for their oppressor’s souls. After all, Paul did the same thing when God saved him.
  6. It is an honor to be killed for the faith, even though it is evil. Acts 5:41 shows that the disciples rejoiced that they were worthy of being beaten for the sake of Christ. This is surely crazy! Yes.
  7. Praying not just for the Christians, but for the gospel to go out. God uses martyrdom to SHAKE the trees of harvest as He did in Jerusalem in order to bring the gospel to us…
  8. Praying and loving our enemies is one of the KEY evidences of regeneration. If we hate ISIS, we do not have the love of God in us. Period.
  9. Let us not think for a moment that this will not happen to true Christians in our nation. It will if time tarries. The question is will it be our ISIS persecutors or our so-called Baptist brothers who take off our heads? The true church does what is necessary to continue to preach the gospel in obedience to Christ, even at the cost of death.

Much more is in my heart to share, but time has put an end to my pen.  Let’s leave with God’s sovereign word to guide our thoughts on the above list.

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:16-19 ESV)

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:1-13 ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14 ESV)

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:41-42 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James Tippins

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Oh Spurgeon, Where is Thy Voice? Romans 8:34

Scriptural Authority

What a delight I have in my soul this evening while trolling through some of the sermons of our beloved brother CH Spurgeon.  In defense of the call to the question, “Who is it that condemns?” Paul expressly answers, “IT is Christ that died.”  How amazing, how divine, that our hope rests in NOTHING except the Gospel of God through Jesus Christ. While I have much to say, it is well fitting to allow a few excerpts to the introduction of the matter by Spurgeon.

Praise our Lord!

I want you to notice that Paul does not even rest his confidence as to the believers’ safety upon the fact that they are able to say, “We have trusted in Christ; we have loved Christ; we have served Christ.” He allows nothing to mar the glory of this one blessed fact, “It is Christ that died.” If he adds anything at all, it is still something about that same Christ—”yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
    This is a subject upon which I delight to speak; for here is all my hope and confidence. In these words I see first, a challenge to all comers: “Who is he that condemneth?” Secondly, I see here, a remedy for all sin. If any take up the gage of battle, and say, “We condemn you,” we shall have this for our complete answer to every one, “It is Christ that died.” And lastly, I see here, an answer to every accusation arising from sin. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.”

Enough said for sure, Amen. I pray all our voices would ring true to the word of God and that the mundane vomit of parenthetical waste would be stricken from our tongues. Let God’s men breathe God’s word!

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

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Why Many Don’t Share the Faith

squiggle cross

In my entire life I have been inundated with ideals, philosophies, strategies, theories, plans, events, and efforts to engage the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I were to frame and paste every “certification” in evangelism techniques I have it would cover a good 1000 square feet of wall for sure.  While I don’t want to sound crass or ungrateful for many who serve the Lord in an effort to reach people with the gospel, I have to maintain a strict understanding of what scripture teaches and how God alone gives life to unbelievers in spite of the style and engagement of human beings. In my brief two decades in ministry I have discerned several reasons why people do not share their faith.

They are not in the faith

According to scripture, MOST people among the fellowship of local congregations are NOT in Christ. They enjoy the life of church, but not the giver of life. Jesus says that many are going through the broad way and few will find and enter the narrow gate. He says that He is the door to Heaven, not the ways or words of man. So, for a large majority of people, they don’t share the faith because they don’t have it to share. No one can give what they do not possess.

They are ill equipped by methods and memorization

Being ill equipped is either one of two things: First, it is not being taught anything about sharing the faith, living the faith or the like and second, it is being taught that sharing the faith is a method, system, strategy etc. that completely disregards the commands and practice of God’s word. When people learn to throw a ball, they don’t need lessons and strategies dealing with their finger placement, rotation of spin, muscle retention in the fingertips, or the methods of measuring the arch, friction, or force of the ball moving through the air.  They just need to pick it up and throw it to someone. Scripture teaches that sharing the faith is done in only TWO ways. Through the teaching of God’s Word either through preaching or daily living. Matthew 28:19-21 teaches that all Christians are to just simply teach others to obey Christ through the Scriptures. There is nothing more to it. I guess the question should then look to the first point, do those who profess Christ even know what He has certainly said they will be and do in the first place?

They are fearful due to a lack of power from God’s word

Fear intimidates many in the faith because they see all the magnificent oration and presentation skills of so many and their ability reason and engage in dialog and debate. They feel as if they would never be able to do these things and in a biblical sense, they should not do them. Paul says to the Corinthian church that he did not come in “eloquence of speech” or in wisdom but in “fear and much trembling” being nearly “unable to speak.” He says this because that was his ability, not what we think when we consider successful evangelism. When we put ANY ANY ANY ANY ANY ANY ANY stock in one’s ability to share the gospel, we have dismissed the cross of ALL ALL ALL ALL ALL ALL ALL ALL power. Read 1 Corinthians 1 for the proof.

They don’t have the word of God in their fellowship 

I won’t claim that many people sit in ignorance of their own doing on this matter but I will say that for the most part they sit under talking but not teaching. Teaching requires something being learned and when all one gets from a so-called preacher is stories, examples, personal reflection, commentary or worse, life lessons, they are NOT getting any teaching from Scripture because it doesn’t teach these things. It doesn’t need these things. It doesn’t requires these things. If God’s word is preached as it is written, the the wisdom of man moves into the garbage and God’s wisdom who is Christ Jesus Shines clearly to empower HIS true church to teach others the same.

They think it requires a response by all who hear

Sadly, the efforts of sharing the faith in the last 100 or so years has been compacted to a few verses, a technique or two and then a request for a response to which men, beginning with Satan in the garden then to Charles Finney during the SGA, has gladly put their seal upon as the “right” response for the gospel “plan” or “presentation.”  I will remain focused on this point but if you read more and listen more you will see I have very little tolerance for this “bewitched” practice of damnation that plagues the world today settling the hearts of many who believe they are born again when they are not.  God’s word demands a response and the effect of teaching people to obey Christ and to believe in Christ and to repent of their desires to find JOY in Christ is either God saving them through the hearing of the gospel (Christ died for the ungodly for the judgement of sins) or hardening them through the idea of legalism or rejection of the truth. (Rom 1)  We should not lead people through a process of saying or doing anything but rather engagement to be continually committed to the joy of Christ through the fellowship of the saints around the word and worship. (See Matthew 28 again if you need to.)

Share the faith, share the gospel, live the life of a child of God and stick to the word of God and watch God make disciples!   μαθητεύω (For my Greek Loving Peeps… take a gander at that verb found in Matt 28:19)

In the end, many practices or lack there of regarding evangelism are a direct result of either not knowing or not trusting in the promises of God. Scripture teaches that all who see the Kingdom of Heaven and Enter it are “born of God” (John 3) and that only through hearing of the words of Christ will God create life in that hearing unto faith. (Rom 10:17)  So, when the church begins to reduce God’s saving grace little more than being sincere like when you get married, make a new year’s resolution or commit to a job, then we have failed the cross most certainly and it’s no wonder why so many Christians just are not willing to engage in a losing, false converting game of cat and mouse.

Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

See this text. It brings with it decades if not near centuries of man-made manure of purveying a godless hope for the gain of self glory and head counting producing false celebration, false worship and false churches for the world to love and enjoy. Jesus says simply that sharing the faith in obedience to Him is on two things:

  1. As you “GO” – so we have to be in the world doing our daily things.
  2. “Make disciples” – this is what we think we’re doing by “committing” people to Christ or sharing the “process” of salvation when Jesus clearly explains it.
    • Making disciples is bringing them into the flock of Christ evidenced by Baptism or inclusion into the local church. This would be those who desire to “know” and “learn” Christ who profess in their own understanding that they are born again by Him. (A whole new discussion)
    • Making disciples is teaching them to observe (0bey) ALL His commands.

The result of real evangelism is that CHRIST IS WITH US ALL until the end of age. Amen.

Pastor James

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Abuse of Power in America’s Law Enforcement!?

The Things That Matter

 

There is no lack of evidence and media coverage in the last few years of law enforcement taking wrong actions and causing deaths because of abuse of power, fear, overreach of authority and most likely, bigotry.  I have remained silent on these issues recently in an attempt to look through the lens of objectivity and scripture so that my responses and thoughts are not emotional salt in readily forced open wounds.  That being said, I have come to conclude a few things that may be of interest for the body of Christ to consider and understand that we have a platform not so much for change, but for grace and power.

Here are seventeen thoughts on the recent issues related to police violence and death.  If you are not privy to what I am referring, then just turn on a news broadcast, you will quickly be informed.

  1. Christians should not be surprised by the fact that people are wicked, hateful, racist, power hungry and murderous.  It’s the nature of the human condition that we are at inception fully focused on self and self feelings and self power.  So do not think it strange… that racism and power have not subsided.
  2. Christians should know that while these happenings are not new and while they are extremely wicked and evil, things could be and have been worse.  This is not to down play anything but to remind us of history and that if things do not change, they will become very very worse.
  3. Christians should always remember that even in the worst of American history, many in other countries are suffering to a greater degree at the present time.  So many people in other lands are even suffering because of their faith in Jesus Christ, and they are being tortured and burned for it.
  4. Christians should be aware that there is a proven fear of “black” men in America even among the “black” culture according to recent research done at Stanford University but even so, these recent happenings are not bad because they are targeted, they are result of bigoted fear and hunger for control and power. At the core of it stands power and pride.  It is wicked because it is an attack against people, those who bear the image of God, not because of skin color or economy.
  5. Christians should remember that even though our laws and constitution protects against such actions, the erosion of truth among the “church” and the failure of focus has aided in making the law of America less necessary.
  6. Christians should realize that because of this “lawless” mentality that the culture has established entitlement over justice whereby those who are not “in power” are abused by the entitlement of power. Staying alive is not entitlement, it is a natural right for all people, especially when the constitution grants it.
  7. Christians should know that ALL authority is placed in power by God and is known as those who govern or rule.  Scripture also teaches that those who do “good” or live “rightly” should have no fear of the sword.
  8. Then why is there a need to fear law enforcement?  Even when doing right after doing wrong is doing right (ie. submitting to discussion or arrest.)  Even then, the police are NOT government.
  9. Christians should realize that according to our own laws and government, that law enforcement is NOT authoritative but “enforcing” the laws of those who govern. They are to abide by the law, not violate the law because they are slaves to the public who pay their salaries in taxes, both property and sales.  Slaves have no authority over their masters, such as the police, if not abiding by the law, are unable to enforce correction or subjection of another to their desires. Police do not have any authority over the law nor over those who are not in violation thereof.
  10. Christians, never forget that all governments are established by God for good.  The USA is for the good of righteousness and justice and the laws that God has established in this country allow for resistance against tyranny by public servants who do not care about the preservation of life and a violation of liberties.
  11. Many citizens of this country are unaware of the severity of this issue while others are deeply aware and grieved and would be willing to die for the sake of the liberties of future generations.
  12. Justice sits at the center of God’s essence as His holiness is an outward display of his intrinsic worthiness.
  13. Therefore, while social justice is NOT the main issue among believers, and while it is not the call and purpose of the church, it is something that should be top of mind for the church because the gospel itself is a direct image of God’s justice toward evil so that the church should have a heart and voice for the oppressed.
  14. In our culture it isn’t just violence, murder, and police brutality but also corporate greed and power that have overstepped the righteousness of God and His establishment of justice.  This greed has created a slavery of poverty and a powerful control over enterprise that keeps many under its thumb.
  15. Christians, remember that the message of the cross subjects ALL people to the justice of God who will rightly bring recompense on all who do not believe and for all who are in Christ, he has placed His wrath apportioned for them on Jesus Christ His Son.
  16. Christians should remember that no real justice will be found in this world and that which is seen does not suffice in the light of God’s holiness. So all the greatest judgment seen in this Earth pales in comparison with the justice of the face of God as He parts to each one that which is deserved.
  17. Christians should respond as she is created to respond.  Here are a few closing thoughts on what that looks like:
    1. She cannot lose her mission.
    2. She needs to remember that God may NOT grant change in these areas.
    3. She holds fast to the truth that on the Gospel preached will change anything that is changed.
    4. She should WEEP, not nash her teeth over this evil.
    5. She should remain humble and grateful for God’s sovereignty in all things.
    6. She should remain peaceful, even when in battle, so that Christ’s holiness is seen in her.
    7. She should rejoice when one wicked one comes to faith and rejoice in the forgiveness of murder.
    8. She should make her mind settle on the truth of scripture, not the error of man’s understanding and media.

In the end, whether these things stop or not, the church has an obligation to the lost and the hurting.  PRAY beloved and proclaim the True Gospel (Good News), not the “NOT GOSPEL” ways of this world.

 

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Brief Biblical Standards of Rebuke and Correction

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Taking a poll would likely reveal that most everyone who has ever been around church folks has seen nasty, negative, nit-picking abrasiveness that has caused relational strive and separation among the brethren.  Well, that’s not what we should see in any form among the people of God as the scripture says:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

So, a treatise on the above mentioned attitudes and actions would be as necessary as writing a song about gossip, which is murder.  The point is that there is a time, place and practice for a rebuke and the scripture not only reveals in narrative, but commands it in doctrine.  A quick look at Titus and Timothy (both) would suffice along with a jog through Galatians.  To stick on a particular wave on this subject, I propose looking first at the occasion of rebuke and correction and then the tools of correction closing with the practice of correction.

The Occassion

Anytime any sin or weakness is revealed affords a good opportunity for correction among the fellowship of faith. However, the attitude on every matter is to be done in humility, knowing that except by God’s grace, each would be in the same station of error and may very will be there in the future.  Later on this.  For now, let’s quickly examine a “few” but not “all” thoughts:

  • Sinful Actions
  • Sinful Affections
  • Sinful Attitudes
  • Wrongful Doctrine, False Teaching, Poor Preaching
  • Rebellion of God’s Commands
  • Evidence of Unbelief, Lack of Trust in Scripture
  • Doubt, Fear and Anxiety
  • Divisiveness, Cliques, Favortism
  • Unforgiveness, Resentment, Bitterness
  • Gossip, Slander and Giving Ear to either
  • Anything that is unbecoming of the Lord’s Name or the Holiness of Christ’s Body
  • Anything that puts a stumbling block
  • Legalism, Self Righteousness, Moralism
  • Lack of Joy
  • Hatred
  • “Your List Here”

You see, there is a never ending list of reasons for correction and training and rebuke.  And never forget that correction is part of the purpose of the church, not to modify behavior, but to make much of Christ who has given His life for the holiness of His people.  True love is love that says hard things and does hard things, it isn’t “utopia” la, la, la happy-town, but sometimes tearful quests of challenging relationships for the good of everyone.

As each Christian looks deeply into their own lives to remove the log from their eye, they are also helping their Christian siblings get the specks from theirs.

The Tools

Well, this portion could be done in one phrase: The tools of correction and rebuke are the words of God.  The Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

See, there is no need for “counseling” or “programs” or the like in order to work through sinful issues among God’s people.  His word is enough.  Take this to the bank of Truth, that if God’s Word is not enough, then those who consider it in need are not in the faith at all for only through God’s word can one even be given the grace to believe. (Ro 10:17, John 3) Nuff Said.

The Practice

The meat and potatoes of Christianity are found in the application of theology and doctrine of scripture. So, here we’ll take a quick succession of snapshots on several places in order to get a “feel” for what the bible teaches.  One of the most beloved places in scripture for the purity of the church is Matthew 18 where Jesus strictly resolves conflict between “TWO PEOPLE” in the fellowship by telling them to work it out together.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

If they don’t listen, get some help.  If they still don’t listen, let the whole church help. If then they don’t listen, kick them out until they come to faith and repentance through God’s grace.  We don’t have time to pull out the full theological implications here, but simply that this text is written to people who have been SINNED against by another. It doesn’t include aggravation (sin) or “feeling” slighted, but obvious sin.  So in the first matter of practice, individuals should KEEP SILENT and work it out with no one else finding out in an attempt to keep things between them.

This text does NOT however have anything to do with PUBLIC sin or PUBLIC error in doctrine.  Public sins, divisive teaching that is public, bearing false witness in gossip, community known actions and behaviors and the like are not counted as personal offenses and are immediately and publicly rebuked before the church. While wisdom and affection are paramount to these matters, the protection and unity of the flock is severe and must be upheld at all cost.

Scripture commands such things as revealed through the example of Peter with Ananias and Sapphira even though their sin was “hidden, God the Spirit revealed it to him. Paul did not require a meeting with the brother engaged in incest in 1 Corinthians 5 neither did he meet with Peter privately in Galatians when he rebuked him in front of everyone. Paul openly expresses rebuke toward Euodias and Syntyche in Philippi and warns Timothy about Alexander due to doctrinal errors. He tells Titus to reject any erring individual in matters of doctrine. Many other places such as 3 John and Jude do not follow Matthew 18 in regards to private rebuke.

In the end, the purpose of correction and rebuke is that this is nearly half of all true discipleship and if the church is to bring life into its heart as a people, then the word of God must be true in its full counsel among them.  Church discipline then is the training of God’s people by God’s people through His word for the sake of their holy and healthy pursuit of life together for His glory.  When people continually rebuke the gospel message and evade detection while leading others astray, they are to be publicly outed until they publicly repent and correct their error.  After all, isn’t love for the good of others?  Corinthians 12:7 through 15 teaches that it is.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

A few thoughts on the point of the shepherd’s job and calling can be read here.

RELATED: In an recent visit to Rome, Dr. Rick Warren made some very grievous statements about the gospel as it relates to Romanism. Many prominent leaders have given public rebuke to these statements.

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Galatians 3:28 & 1 Timothy 2:12

How should one respond to the statement, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”?

“What Good is a Woman Anyway?” is one of my first writing projects that I completed in 2009 while pastoring in the East Bay of California.  Having at the time three daughters and the bride of all brides, I felt a deep concern for the way many in the church just rested in a “misogyny” toward the idea of women in leadership of any kind.  It was a nasty reality that after 10 years of pastoral ministry, my wife finally admitted that she didn’t know how men could be so called of God and be so hateful toward women in the church.  I agreed, so the book was mostly an effort to understand myself what God needed, wanted and required of me so that I could teach my daughters, (now have four), what God desired of them.  The text in Galatians 3:28 is a strong contradiction to what many men do in practice in the local church.

Galatians 3:28 (ESV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

To begin, it must be understood that all syntax prepares one to invest in the meaning of text received from the context.  Therefore, in the case of Paul’s letter to Galatia, his purpose in writing 3:28 is to inform his readers of their stature in the presence of God as their Father rather than their social stature in contrast to the Jews.  For Jewish social order, anyone who was a gentile was considered a “dog”, unclean and unworthy of respect. (If you see Greek syntax and context in John 3, it is very evident in the rebuttal of Jesus toward Nicodemus’ worldview.)  Therefore, Paul’s intent was to challenge the believers of all races, cultures, economical status, gender and the like to submit to the equality that comes in Christ.  This doesn’t mean that roles and gender differences are eradicated and that now slaves are free or free men are slaves or men are really women and women are men etc.  What it does communicate is that just as these Gentiles are no longer “dogs” but “heirs” in Christ just as any believing Jew, but so are the walls of separation in inequality or superiority removed because of the cross.  It’s very akin to the prayer of the Jew in Luke’s gospel who thanked God he wasn’t a publican.  Because of the gospel, there is no more superiority in gender, freedom, ownership or culture. 

The occasion of Paul’s writing was to answer the heretical bend of the Jewish-Christian community who were requiring the Gentile believers to exercise the Jewish rites of circumcision as a means to full acceptance before God and man.  So, Paul argues against it in every social sphere, in as much that he places the subordinate woman by class in equality with her male counterpart.  If the context were not available, then the imprint of the purpose would not be reachable.  So, a woman, though she is to submit to her husband in “all things” (Eph 5) is equal to her husband before God.  In the same manner, the life of the church is fully available to all Christians, not just Jewish ones, or male ones or freed ones.  One must note here though that our cultural blindness in present day lays over a latent smearing on the church of the first century. In other words, what is seen “among” the church today is often thought of when considering the first church when that is the furthest from the truth.

F. Bruce says it this way: “No more restriction is implied in Paul’s equalizing of the status of male and female in Christ than in his equalizing of the status of Jew and Gentile, or of slave and free person. If in ordinary life existence in Christ is manifested openly in church fellowship, then, if a Gentile may exercise spiritual leadership in church as freely as a Jew, or a slave as freely as a citizen, why not a woman as freely as a man?” (Bruce 1982:190).

So, the gender, race or freedom of a Christian does not give credence to their standing among the body or within it.  More to the question then would be “then why does scripture teach that overseer is for men?” Because in Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul makes clear that the essence of the nuptial relationship between husband (head/Andros) and wife (gune, bride) is to portray the Gospel picture of Christ (the head of all things) laying down His life for the sake of His bride (the church He redeemed.)  So then, marriage is not about man and woman but about Christ and the church.  In this, the relationship between husband and wife does not become void in the context of roles in the home due to the equality of Christ. 

I personally like to share it this way with my five children, four of whom are girls, “I am a shadow of a husband but am really a bride, I am a shadow of a shepherd (I am a pastor), but am really a sheep.  So my “image” bearing in my role only points to the one who is the true in those roles.”  I further explain this to them, “Your mother and I will be husband and wife until one of us dies, but we will always be brother and sister in Christ, eternally.”  Therefore, just as men are to shepherd at home as “Andros”, head, they are given the same grave responsibility among the temporal season of the church in order that the role of Christ continues in the picture of the gospel.  In eternity there will be one shepherd/teacher, Jesus, and one body, all who are in Christ.  To flip this picture based on precepts of culture or “pretexts” is a very grave error.  To consider a man more qualified for the role of overseer/pastor because he is male is a misnomer, it is because of the picture of the gospel.

So, coming to this:

1 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet.”

Sounds harsh because that’s how we want to hear it.  However, when one looks again at the context of Paul’s writing to his protégé they will see the creation order in a manner expounding on the marriage creation. There is a direct order of the picture of the gospel in all of this and one must be very careful to understand it in that context.  Let’s peel through it briefly.  Ish (Adam) was created by God and it “was not good” that he was alone, so out of Adam came Eve (Ish-sha) for she was made from Adam.  God put the two together and together they are good, apart they are not good.  So, in the context of understanding the purpose of marriage when God gave the first bride to the first man, believers need to understand that the role and picture of creation was to establish God’s rule and wisdom over the wisdom of what He has made. (See Romans 1 and 1 Cor 1 for more details).  God paints a glorious picture of teaching Adam (a created being) to obey who then was to teach Eve (a created being who completed Adam as ONE FLESH and made him whole) to obey God.  Then Eve listened to the serpent instead of her husband who then allowed it without rebuke and all of humanity fell.  So, the very first place in scripture when humanity failed to live as God intended them caused the fall of all humanity.  It wasn’t because of their gender or their ability or worth (they are one flesh), but because of God’s wisdom and purpose in redemption and the picture of Christ.

The church is to always tenderly be the hopeful submissive wife to the Lord Jesus and in the same way; the marriage relationship depicts this, not with ruling authority, but with Christ like surrender and submission toward each other.  So, in the church, Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 2:12 that he expects the roles of God’s creative wisdom to continue within the confines of the body of Christ in practice.  That if each part does its part, then the body “Grows itself up in love” (Eph 4).  Without it, the body becomes proud, disfigured and most importantly, unholy and non-glorifying to Her Husband.

A parting shot to the plow of this race should be to remember Christ’s words: The first shall be last and the last shall be first and that anyone who seeks to save his life will lose it but all who loses for the sake of the gospel will find it.  Just as everyone among the body has different gifts, callings and offerings, there is equality all for the good of the church.  When man begins to consider how best to manage God’s commands we miss out of the joy of knowing God’s wisdom who is Jesus Christ.

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Russell Moore’s comments to the Vatican Assembly

In the late hours of yesterday I anxiously anticipated what may come of a gathering of leaders at the Vatican in order to discuss how marriage may be “examined” and “proposed” changes be implemented in order to strengthen and make beautiful its reality.  My thoughts on the matter are still mixed with grief and some confusion for various reasons I stated yesterday.

Today, Dr. Moore provided his words to the witnesses of the gathering.  I have placed them below for you to read.  More thoughts to come as I meet with fellow elders on the matter.  I will say that I appreciate Moore’s pointed expression of the gospel.

[click to continue…]

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