Sometimes I wonder why I ever ended up in the pastorate. From the early days of childhood into high school I desired to be a surgeon, then along came chemistry and I was satisfied in music. Along the way, I’ve become an expert in many subjects and hobbies from illusions/sleight of hand to martial arts. I’ve spent countless hours studying the human mind, quantum physics, defensive logistics, combat theory, chess, and tonal dissonance. Years have taught my body to dance, climb mountains, swim, trackstand on a switchback, and devour ten thousand calories in 24 hours. My mind has learned to foster thought, engage the critics, leave the fight, stay the course, feel the pressure and rest in grace. Skills have prepared me to fix dryers, motherboards, vehicles, bones, restore homes, landscape, hang drywall, frame houses, dig footers, and put in the pipes. I can even sew, hem pants, taper a shirt, prepare a marketing analysis, produce video, graphic design, program websites, and set the clock on the microwave. The point, I’ve done a lot of stuff in my short life and none of it has ever been half-hearted. I don’t understand the purpose of being so-so at anything. Those things that my body did so well have fallen away to a thing called arthritis. What my brain used to manage abruptly wrecked through another harsh and painful experience known as depression. In all of it, I have never found an identity. None.

A common thread has always been stitched into every part of my life. The Word of God, from the earliest of days, has been a source of joy and power for me. It’s a grand example of the grace and mercy of the Lord to work in His children a love for Him through Scripture. For most of my life, I could engage in any forum, any hobby, any point in culture and do well. I’ve learned to shoot, sing, fight, play seven instruments and have done well at a few business ventures but in all of them, I have always found myself in the word, ministering to others, listening and teaching them the truth of Christ. As a matter of honesty, I never really wanted to be a pastor and was content with the idea of being used by the Lord in everything. But God in all His purpose will do with us as He chooses, not how we choose. In the Lord’s “putting” me into the ministry as a vocation I brought a lot of my personality and ‘skills’ to the table. I was taught early on that my ‘tool belt’ was vital to the success of the ministry of the church. Looking to be the best and giving myself the OK to be “all in”, I quickly began to surround myself with successful people who were accomplishing what I felt to be the right fruit.

Historically I have served in many areas of church life having worked with youth, children, music, teaching, seminaries, evangelism, missions, and everything in between. I have witnessed 300 enter the baptismal waters in a year’s time, seen thousands “come to faith” at “services”, and been on staff with church plants and mega-churches, some of the prior becoming the latter. In the end, even “ministry” never became my identity. There is a lot of heartache and pain under my belt for which I am eternally grateful because without it, I would have never truly seen the substance of Christ’s suffering and how we identify with Him. Having written several unpublished works on my journey, I’ve learned it doesn’t really matter at the end of all the suffering if we don’t finish well. I’ve also learned that pain is part of progress and thinking that utopic days are our goal is childish and foolish surrealism. There are a few pain points of ministry though that I’ve learned sting much harder than normal. In all the calamities of sorts, nothing has been more hurtful than when friends and loved ones reject the Lord Jesus and love the world more than ever.

  1. When Family Members Claim Christ but Hate Truth
  2. When the Fan Base Becomes the Mob
  3. When the Brother is replaced with Beligerance 

Suppose that a life without Christ was blissful with no pain. No poetry in the heart from the labor of pestilence and persecution. A life with no rejection, separation, angst, or problems appears on the surface to be ideal, but my experience as well as the experience of the record of history, including Scripture, is that pain becomes part of the joy. It is the darkness in our lives that makes the light so glorious. To leave suffering in life would be to leave the fellowship of Christ, and in turn, bring suffering all the more as it became an eternal certainty rather than a light and momentary teacher. When bridled with agony, I have learned to lean into Scripture and thus into Jesus. Nothing can take the burden like Christ and His gospel of peace. Rest well in the power of Christ through His Word. 

I was always taught that these things were God’s gift for me to use for His glory. Now of course if they are enjoyed they are for His glory, but they are not what is needed by the church. While I have fixed a few computers, renovated a few buildings, and played a few funerals on the saxophone, the purpose of my life is to be a voice that points to the One that matters. Jesus Christ. I had to come to the end of my worth and usefulness and recognize that I was not the powerhouse I was always praised for being. This kind of death is hard on the esteem, but the grace of God, it’s powerful and useful. This means that all those years of training, leadership development, persuasion, influence etc. was all for nothing. Looking back I am thankful for having come through it, but at the time I counted my life as a large failure and a waste of God’s time as far as the ministry was concerned. This type of death makes your ministry history moot. As it should be. After all, didn’t John the Baptist even proclaim that Christ must increase therefore he would decrease? God took his life because the bridegroom gets the bride. So often, the current “church” gets the bride, the groom, the glory and the whole nine yards. They share their programs and people. The music and their measurements as if they are running for Ms. America. After all, isn’t ministry about attracting people to look at us? No. That’s the devil’s job.

Success can be confusing. No matter the field or context of life, measuring success is a dominant desire. This measuring becomes problematic when the matrix is misunderstood. Ignorance of what constitutes success can bring a plethora of issues both externally and internally in the life of an individual or organization. Considering successful ministry can be daunting and I know in my tenure as a pastor I’ve been taught conflicting thoughts on how to know if I am successful. For over 20 years the idea of ‘counting’ heads and money has been the measure of success but if we peer into the pages of scripture, there would be no example of a successful church, pastor, apostle or Savior if that were the case. Others have concluded that success should be based on the experience of the individual or the congregation. They would posit that true success isn’t how many, but rather, how powerful the experience. Again, if this is measured in comparison to the New Testament, there would be no historic picture of success found in these measurements.

There is the room of course, for many conversations of practical wisdom as it relates to dealing with people, communicating, caring and doing life together, but any human being can pull off successful ventures of gathering up people with a common goal or vision. It only takes a brain and a voice. The problem comes when all this discombobulated instruction on success invades the mind of a pastor or congregation and they begin to make strides to ‘measure up’ according to man’s wisdom. While I’ve spoken to these things before, I want to know just put the authority where it should be; the Word of God.

When we want to see an amazing feat we can go to either a magic show, and be deceived and enjoy it, or we can go to a sporting event or daredevil exhibition. Either way, there are many amazing things to behold in the world of daring humanity. If we want our breath to be taken we can listen to a chorale of voices singing the classics of old, a symphony bringing the trills and tonal harmonies to life in our ears, or we can view the grandeur of the sea, the mountains or the beyond! Sadly, all of these things, while awe-inspiring, are not majestic or awesome in comparison to the glory of God. So, in man’s feeble mind, he has tried to find other ways to behold the power of God and then painted the canvas of “worship” and “church” with these silly and boring tactics.

How amazing would it be if I were preaching this Sunday and out of the blue I began to float in the air and fire came from my hands as I read the words of Jesus? People would think they had witnessed a miracle and their hearts and minds would be overpowered by that experience. Likewise, if I walked out into the congregation and touched the ailing and their bodies were actually healed, legs grew back, eyesight restored; people would lose their mind in amazement. What if I were able to know things that were not mine to know or had the ability to provide music that would shudder the soul and cause others to feel, what they thought, the very presence of God? I would submit that all of this, even if it happened in greater detail, would be boring and nothing in comparison to seeing the glory of God face-to-face!

So, if we want to SEE a miracle, it is better to stop looking for the next great “work” of God and realize that there is already a perfect miracle for us to behold every moment of our lives! Jesus in John 6 says, “This is the work of God that you believe in the Son that He has sent.” See, the people of John 6 wanted more miracle food. When Jesus refused to feed them in their hunger and commanded them to be satisfied in Him, they wanted a sign for Jesus to prove Himself as worthy. In the same manner, many professing believers seem to believe in anything they can feel, create, and experience that satisfies their flesh instead of actually believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption. The point is that success in ministry is not measured by the number of people in the pews, money in the bank, missionaries in the field, miracles on the stage, healings in the clinics, or tongues in the air like cymbals. It is measured by the majesty and glory of God in the face of the people of God, who believe, worship and love each other with all authority. So how then are we to measure this? How is this experienced and evident in the life of the church? Through the Word of God Alone!

God’s word faithfully proclaimed is the only measure of successful ministry.

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

ὠφέλιμος – means valuable, profitable, having worth and bringing a yield. So, the word of God, which is God speaking, is profitable for all things that the church needs. It teaches (doctrine), reproofs (disapproves), corrects (sets right), and trains in righteousness (teaches Christ). The successful pastor is equipped for every good work through the Scripture. That is the miracle of God and a display of His creative power at work. His word being taught, His sheep hearing and heeding, and His people being governed by the Miracle of New Life by His everlasting Grace. Anything else is just boring and of lesser awe than this!  Stop seeking out the devil’s measure of majesty and rest in the revelation of God to you.

Rest in Christ!

With today’s culture of constant interaction, information, and interruption, getting ‘away’ from it all has taken many forms. It appears as if instead of scheduling time away through short trips or vacations periodically, most people feel the need to ‘vacate’ every day. With every week containing 168 hours, most people spend 40 laboring to live. That leaves 128 hours of time that has to encompass sleep, eating, restroom breaks, bathing, preparation, and relationships. Let’s take 56 out for sleeping 8 hours per day leaving 72 hours every single week for necessities and obligations. For the Christian, there should be a minimum of 3 to 4 hours a week in fellowship, if we never make excuses to miss work, we should not make excuses to miss fellowship with the saints, it’s actually stupid to do so.

So now we’re down to 68 hours.  That’s time enough to take on another FULL-TIME job still leaving 28 hours to spare.  Where does the time go? Well, I could write for ages on the wasters of time in the name of profitable things. How many of us have one full book of the bible memorized? OK, how about one chapter? Maybe one portion, let’s say the introduction to the Gospel of John? That’s 18 verses… I know for a fact there are several people recently who know each lyric of each song on their iPhone. That equates to five verses of music times 400 to 600.  Why?  I know many people who know the lines out of movies verbatim. But can’t tell a clear story of Jesus life and ministry.  A movie that takes two hours vs. a story that takes 25 minutes? The problem here is not time, it’s idolatry. But that’s not the point of my writing.

Out of all this waste of time, it seems that people want to meddle in worthless areas of life while professing that Christ is enough. See, the scripture shows us what to do when we feel overwhelmed, broken, fearful, worried, angry, forgotten, martyred, etc.  We are to “think on the things that are eternal….”  The matter is simple. When we want to “escape” we often pray that God would help us get out of the matter at hand or change our circumstances, our hearts, or our minds. The conflict arises out of a misunderstanding of how to pray and how to listen to the scripture. See, getting away from everything can be found in books, media, movies, sports, vacations, games, etc., but those things are just temporary deflections. They do not actually set us in any real place or give us any real benefit at all. Without quoting myriads of research on the matter, psychologists have long known the effects of constant avoidance of life through natural or ‘artificial’ means. They have a word for it, addiction.

Addiction to stuff, feelings, thoughts, stories, interaction, social media, phones, games, sports, solitude, or whatever robs us as believers of the core of God’s presence which is found in the Bible. Some argue, “well, I read other books and the bible, can’t I just enjoy escape in reading, after-all, the bible is a book right?” No, is my answer. NO! The Bible, while a book in its form, is not a book. It is God’s word, thus it is the utterance of God speaking to us. Scripture teaches that the basics of salvation come through hearing the Bible (Rom 10:17) and that comfort comes from putting our minds on the scriptures. The error rests in the attitude of approach. That is that so many times we just peek into the bible for answers rather than digest the scripture in order to be intimate with Jesus Christ. Scripture reading is intimacy. So putting our minds on eternity is to literally put our minds on the teaching of the truth of Jesus. Who He is and what He’s done. We don’t run after Jesus in the biblical texts to find His “message” about our problems, we run into Jesus through the Holy Writ because while we read God the Spirit interacts with us. So, reading Scripture puts our mind on the very thing that we will ETERNALLY be focused on: Jesus Christ and HIS GLORY!

So here’s the point: Read Scripture for your escape. It will not rob you of glory and power but will put you in an intimate place with God. Through scripture, God will speak, settle us, and give us the ability to rest in His promises as He comforts us. Our relationship with God is only found in His word. And for those who are constantly reading, listening, gleaning, and hounding after other “theological” arguments, stop that also. Find more time in the word so that your joy will be full.  “These things are written…”  This is found many times in Scripture to the following end: that you may BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and so have ETERNAL LIFE. This life beloved is NOT eternal and I think it’s time that we as the church spend out time thinking on better things.

Exodus 20:4-6

[4] “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, [6] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

YOU SHALL NOT

The language in the Hebrew, lo, prescribes an ABSOLUTE prohibition of any image of God set before men. The commandment here is TWO-FOLD:

  1. You SHALL ABSOLUTELY NOT make an image of GOD for any purpose.
  2. You SHALL ABSOLUTELY NOT worship any image.
    • This means that an image that reflects the nature of the Lord in one’s mind would invade their worship.(fondness, remembrance etc).

For the sake of understanding, the Lord prohibits any use or existence of Him as an image. In Deuteronomy 4:15-16 Moses instructs God’s people to have a fondness of the Lord in the heart and to never paint Him with the eye. God is Spirit and has no form, thus He must be worshiped in Spirit. His self-revelation can be understood through Jesus, who has a body and a form. Jesus’ body though, is no longer in the world, but in the abode of God as Jesus has ascended into Heaven. Paul says that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. So, as God desires to be known, Christ makes Him known. The fulness of God’s glory is revealed in Jesus (John 1:14, Col 1, Heb 1, 2 Cor 4:6) and NO OTHER means of identifying God’s likeness is allowed, period, in any manner. Scripture, the Logos, or word, reveals Jesus perfectly to us. A picture of Jesus on film or canvas can teach something about Jesus contrary to the Scripture, and worse, cause us to consider what we know and love about Jesus to be aroused by what we see, rather than the Truth of Christ’s word.

UNCLE BILLY

The blond blue-eyed man seen adorning the relics of history has no resemblance to the historical Jesus. Or course, Jesus was not caucasian nor was he was not European. These images were birthed in the mid-third century when depictions of the ‘roles’ of Jesus began to arise. (ie. the good shepherd) Once Constantine embraced Christianity, pictures of Jesus became common and were central to worship and adoration. Historians reveal narratives of parishioners bowing down to these images symbolically as a representative of Jesus Christ. Depictions of Jesus originally were clean-shaven and youthful but by the fifth century, these depictions began to portray long hair in relation to the pagan gods of Greece, namely, the sun god Apollo, as a symbol of rule. As time progressed, artists wanted to “capture” and portray the different roles and attributes of Jesus. In doing so, His image changed and continually molded until the embodiment and knowledge of Jesus came from these pictorial attributes. A beard was added later in history to reveal strength like Jupiter and Neptune, eventually, the progressive combination of a slender, effeminate, bearded man with long hair took root. Once European influence captured much of the world’s art, the result is the man most people show today as Jesus. He looks just like a man I once knew who was a hippie named Billy, so that’s what a few us call that picture, “Uncle Billy”.  It is not, in any form, a depiction of Jesus but it is in every form, a direct violation of God’s word to call it Jesus. By the fact that the depiction is recognized by so many as Jesus reveals the idolatry of the image.

SPIRIT & TRUTH

Jesus teaches in John 4 that true worshipers worship in Spirit and Truth. Jesus reduces the precepts of any religious experience as the potential for being idolatrous-such as the temple and speaks strongly that those who worship God will only do so through the Son. God chooses to reveal Himself fully through His Son and because the Son has ascended, the only means of seeing and knowing Jesus is through the Scriptures. To invade the glorious view of what Scripture reveals with a man-made fondness is to rob God of His intended glory. Ultimately people are unable to avoid associating what they see with their eyes as a representation of what they hold fondly in their hearts. For example, when we read a book, we envision the characters in the book, we involve our minds into the fantasy as we read. Then if a movie is released, it never ‘seems’ right…. If we see the movie first, the book reveals itself in relation to the images that we have in our mind’s eye. In a very similar way, but more tragic way, depictions of Jesus can reversely be idolatrous unaware. If you love the Lord Jesus and you’re walking along in town and observe a painting of Jesus through a gallery window, you may feel joyful or emotional. At that moment you have worshiped a graven image and that is why depictions not derived from God’s prescribed revelation are forbidden.

SEEING WHAT IS NOT SEEN

The scripture says that God has shown us the fulness of His glory in the Face of Jesus Christ. Paul says that we hope in what we CANNOT now see but we love Jesus anyway as we peer into the Word of God. One day we will see face to face, until then, we do ourselves a great injustice to recognize Jesus from any portion of man’s caricature, whether in words or depictions. The Apostles teach continually about the hope of what is ‘unseen’ in contrast to that which is seen. John expounds on the reality that they have seen Christ, touched Him, and heard Him in the flesh, but that they now manifest Him to “you” through the writing of Scripture. This writing, proclamation of the eternal life is what brings communion with God, not the description or paintings of their memories. Peter explains to his readers that they do not believe in clever myths when discussing the truth of the resurrected Lord. He continues to say that their eyewitness accounts are not valid proof of their claims, but that the Scriptures stand as the better and sure evidence of the Lord’s coming and return to which his readers would “do well to pay attention.”

Seeing pictures representing Jesus is damaging to the body of Christ because it belittles the glorious and makes it an image of man. I won’t go into how this sits squarely in Romans chapter one, but it would be wise to admonish us from that text. The flesh resolves to find hope, warmth, and adoration in what can be seen but as I’ve already stated, this contradicts what God has established through His commands for our good, and when so often we find ourselves fighting for the rights against the Lord’s commands, it is proof positive that we love our flesh, revealing that we have no hope for eternal life apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The images of Jesus are so affirmed as such that when people cross our paths with beards and long hair the first thing that pops into our minds is, “they look like Jesus.” We are far better served with the words of God from Scripture working through our minds instead of the emotional attachment to the experiences of the sensory. Images of Jesus offer a fleshly assistance to our devotion which is idolatry.

EVEN IF

Even if we are not captured by the aforementioned fodder, we do well by our brethren to be careful of their stumbling. In California, a dear brother brought some pictures of “Jesus” to hang around the property. These images were installed without the knowledge of the elders before service presenting a large picture of “Uncle Billy” at the entrance of the main doors. Just seconds before the service began, a dear sister, who was raised Catholic, ran in exclaiming of her horror to see such a demonic relic hanging near where we would worship the True God of Scripture, not the one made by the hands of men.

Let us keep ourselves from idols. Including our weak understanding of the severity of those who used to worship them. Images of Jesus lie to us. They teach us to know Christ in a way that we should not know Him, in error and caricature. God understands our need to see and has given us His Spirit that we might see what we cannot see through the pages of Scripture. This isn’t only talking about pictures, but movies, images, caricatures, statues, or books that teach something about Jesus that is not found in Scripture. Be discerning beloved.

LOSING SIGHT BY SEEING

I added this note as I sat in my truck this morning (3/2) while considering the implications of adoring visual representations of a so-called Jesus. Paul teaches that through all the affliction of his ministry he is able to stand firm and see what is unseen. Therefore he doesn’t lose heart. So, the alternative to looking to the unseen is to look at what is seen, even those relics and images that offer help in our time of need are of no help and ultimately cause us to be shaken. We cannot look to the God of scripture by looking at His picture or even a symbol of His work or history. We must be able to see and savor the living God who lives within us through the word He’s left for us. Otherwise, we not only lose heart, we lose hope.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Rest well beloved.

Pastor James

 

People are always in need of help. It’s a fact of life. Finding the right type of help can be difficult for most. It’s difficult to choose from all the noise offering to change lives for the better. What form of ‘help’ is the right form? Should one seek some counseling? If so, then what type? Even counseling is vast in its practice. There is biblical counseling, therapeutic, psychological, psychiatric, self-motivating and there are a million divisions of these types of help. For many Christians, they look to the church hoping to find help through their pastor or a small group or even a friend. The trend in preaching has taken this approach as well and is viewed by many as just another arm of help in a time of need. If people in large number are seeking to be helped by preaching, then what constitutes a sermon that helps? How should pastors focus their teaching for the sake of their congregation?

A Helpful Sermon Carries Great Assumptions

Visions of grandeur often accompany many well-meaning pastors. They think that if they don’t say the right thing or if they are not creative enough, then church members are going to be lacking. It should be understood that God is supreme over all circumstances and when it comes to His own, He uses all things, good and bad, for their good. So, there is nothing that takes place in this life that is outside the eternal decrees of God. Preaching then must assume this reality, speak from this authority and provide exactly what God has chosen as an answer. Preaching that changes in content depending on the seasons or culture is not preaching. The preacher has become the pundit and no longer has any power to offer help. God alone helps. His word alone is all counsel for good and profit.  (2 Timothy 3:16) Another assumption that the scripture offers is its audience. Not one point of the Holy Writ was composed or sent to unbelieving people. The Scripture is for the church and it only useful for the people of God, those who are in Jesus Christ.

A Helpful Sermon is Contextual

If the above assumptions are cemented helpful preaching should flow naturally from the text of Scripture. Often pastors feel the need to ‘invent’ something that is not seen in the text or even ‘expound’ philosophically on items related to the text. While this is good practice as needed (if the text speaks to the matter), it should be very minimal. What God’s word says has the power to change, not what we are thinking about what God’s word says. Contextual preaching then is the means through which the pastor will most benefit the church. A helpful sermon is one that stands within the text of Scripture and never pulls away from the original meaning. God alone shows what He is saying, He doesn’t need us to break into His mind and offer assistance to Him. Using a sentence out of context is not only ‘unhelpful’ but it is a very prideful engagement. It often shows either a lack of maturity on the part of a pastor, a lack of esteem for the Word of God, or a lack of discernment. Either way, it should be corrected and God’s word should be allowed to do what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12)

A Helpful Sermon Brings Maturity

Most circumstances in life are out of the control of the ones experiencing them. So, to teach people to do something that is out of their control is a waste of time. It also brings the hearer to a place of despair or worse, a place of false hope. Paul teaches the Ephesian church to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and the church will mature. What is the truth? The truth is spoken when each believer teaches the word of God to each other. It is spoken when it is ‘out of season’ and not received very well for the benefit and joy of another. It is spoken when preaching centers on the purpose of growing the church, which is inclusive of being able to ‘endure’ problems and ‘overcome’ circumstances that are out of their control. It often appears that pastors want to change people’s lives by changing the way they act or think. Scripture changes people’s lives, actions, and thoughts by showing them the power of God and His purposes in all things, even bad ones. True help is growth in grace, growth in Christ, growth in joy and all of these come through God’s word being taught as it is written. A helpful sermon can never point to what man can do or change in order to create the environment or circumstances for help. It must always point to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His power, purpose, and provision in all things.

A Helpful sermon continually focuses on the person of Christ and His work of atonement. God alone purposes the assembly and preaching for one reason, that He is glorified in His people. While the Scripture is used to preach Christ unto Salvation, that is done through right teaching of Christ, not through placating to felt-needs and ‘helps’ that have no eternal interests or glory in them. God’s word is the ONLY authority on all matters related to the church. God can do more in one second than all the helpful quippy and creative pep-talks combined in the world over a million years. Teaching God’s word not only helps, it teaches the church to hear the Lord, eat on their own, and to also help others with Scripture. Preaching out of context robs the body of Christ of all the blessings that Scripture brings.

Colossians 3:16-17

[16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

God alone speaks with authority. He is the Helper. He uses finite men to open their mouths and proclaim His word through which He brings the message of hope and life!

Preach hard, pray with peace, and exalt the Christ brethren.

Pastor James

The weekend of New Years 2017 I posted this article on the church website as many desire to ‘check out’ a church at the beginning of the new year. I have written many things through the years that go unnoticed. This article, in contrast, got a great deal of attention, both good and bad. Having received several phone calls and even emails from around the country about its content, I thought I would share it here for posterity and engagement. May the Lord honor our conversations and grow us in our understanding of what the church should be doing.

Why Worshipping with GraceTruth May NOT be for you…. 21 Reasons

I’m not kidding by writing this article. It’s not a ploy or a play on words that will be tongue-in-cheek and cause you to want to join us for worship. It is a serious reflection over the last four years and why so many people just cannot get to the point where they want to be a part of our fellowship.

  1. We are NOT creative. Well, we have many creative people, but when it comes to what the church should be doing, how she should be doing things, and why; the bible is clear. God hates when man brings traditions and selfish desires to the table of His gathering. We are not going to be swayed by the next new idea and frankly, make no apologies for it. If you are interested in seeing what the church should be doing from a God-commanded point of view, then check us out.
  2. We are NOT seeker sensitive. Scripture teaches that the church (called out, gathered) are those who are alive in Christ Jesus. The world has no place in the church because it really hates the Lord and His word. (Evidenced by all the traditions and creative efforts to make worship services “better” than how they are prescribed in Scripture.) People are not really seeking God in the first place according to Romans 3. We are not going to revamp, retell, rework, or retool anything we do in hopes that droves of people come running through the doors. We want to be a people for the glory of God and as we reach out to the lost and the missing, God will bring us together for His glory by His grace.
  3. We are NOT assimilators. There is really NOTHING to do at GraceTruth Church except learn together, pray together, live together, worship together and give our lives for each other’s growth and joy in Christ. We don’t have anything else to do. No programs for the kids, no children’s church, no manifold praise bands and no ministry of the arts. We do simply what we are told to do in scripture and have unlimited space in our lives for anyone who wants to be a part of our family. As a family, we will do things together, but we aren’t going to find your area of “fit” and stick you there.
  4. We are NOT easy on Sunday. I mean, there are easy parts of life, but worship, prayer, the Lord’s table, fellowship, hearing the word and discipline is not easy all the time. Sometimes we have to get real and sometimes scripture puts us in a place of discomfort. The good thing is, every time God’s word gives us a good rebuke, it gives us the glorious grace of God to grow from it; so our Joy is full!
  5. We ARE full of kids. All ages!  Birth to college, there are kids galore. BUT, they are always with us at all times. This is the way the church is supposed to be; worshipping as a family and learning together. The traditions of man are damned by Jesus in the gospels, and the ripping apart of the family has devastated the glory of God in saving families. So, we don’t divide our families and it is tough some days when kids are crying or going to the bathroom every 10 seconds or dropping crayons or staring at you while you try to listen. It can be tough, but it’s worth it, even though we know it costs us some very good people through the years; we will not budge on this grand conviction.
  6. We DO take the Bible seriously. No, we are not the silly millies that pluck out our eyes, the Spirit gives us sense to know how to read literature, but we do take seriously the word of God. So, everything we do and everything we believe is regulated by the bible. There are no philosophical invasions in our teaching. There is no room for cultural segways or external ‘supports’ to scripture. We preach through letters, talk about teaching that is needed, and really put ALL OF OUR HOPE in the scripture to bring about ALL life change, all salvation, all worship and all unity.
  7. We will love you too much. Back to my original statement, this isn’t a ploy. You’d be surprised at the people who come and go because they want to just hide in crowd. Now, there is always space and margin, but if you join us, people are going to introduce themselves and ask who you are, it’s just common courtesy. And if you come twice, you may get taken out to lunch or invited over for dinner! If this sounds horrid, better stay away.
  8. You will NOT be asked to work. After 15 plus years in the mega-church market, Pastor James knows what burn-out looks like. Well, I do. 🙂  And I know that life is tough enough without having mundane and constant requirements to be at “the church” all the time. Now, for folks who want to convene and fellowship, sweet! But we are not going to be so busy that when you need us we cannot come. We are all suffering saints, living in this life sometimes hanging on by a thread. We want you to feel the peace of knowing that you can be available to minister to others when the time is right.
  9. We do NOT mandate the KJV. (King James Version) There is great value to this version of Scripture (which is derived from Erasmus’ greek) but we have people who utilize this version as well as four others: The ESV, the NASB, and two versions of the Greek NT. When preaching we will read out of the ESV and commonly utilize both majority and non-majority Greek texts for clarification. The church is allowed to consider their own versions, but we do steer away from modern variations and paraphrases.
  10. We do NOT dress up. Well most of us don’t. We may not come in our flippy floppies… (some may), but we don’t wear suits, hats, canes, and high gloss shoes. But, if you must, then please do, just do not impose the idea that we are supposed to wear such lest we bring on men something God has not commanded. Many people throughout my life have never owned “dressy” clothes and God forbid it that one must have a new suit to attend the worship of Christ. Please don’t be offended, but I do not wear a suit, tie or slacks very often. When I do, people ask where the funeral is located.
  11. We believe people who are WITH US should JOIN US. This means that if you stick around, you need to publicly align with us for growth, accountability, discipline, prayer, ministry etc. It is a burden on a church who loves a family who has a hangup on being an official part of the family. Everyone always wants to be a part, then say they are not a part when things don’t go their way. Well, we love each other and being committed is a big part of that.
  12. We do NOT mandate tithing. If we did, we’d have nearly 30% of everyone’s gross weekly. But, since we don’t, we teach that everyone should give according to the prayerful consideration and be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Now we do believe that giving is an OBVIOUS example of God’s spirit in a believer and that scripture teaches clearly that each member of the church is responsible to financially support the work of the church and its pastors. We are just not going to mandate an amount. Many members just follow a simple 10%, some more and some less. It’s up to you and Jesus.
  13. We ARE creedo. Uh oh. It just means that we have a statement of faith that we hold to and everyone who becomes a part of our fellowship is required to read it, ask questions about it and take the truth contained within as truth. This confession of faith is what we see the bible says about certain things that are vital to the local church. We believe doctrine matters greatly, because without it, we really are not the church.
  14. We don’t have drums. I know this seems silly, especially toward the end, but while we have a piano/keyboard, and some guitars, we feel that drums are out of place in the music we prefer in service, and drums are also very likely to offend some, so we don’t have drums. We are supposed to bear with others and while Jesus probably isn’t going to scourge us if we had drums, He would surely want us to give up our right to play drums for the unity of the church. That being said, our decision to not have drums is a direct result of our love for each other and our desire to never offend a brother.
  15. We sing THEOLOGICALLY rich songs. We do sing new songs, but not contemporary “adult christian” type songs that have no bearing in Scripture. If we sing a song, it must teach us something true about Jesus, reflect on those things, or reflect on the work of God, His attributes etc. For example, we love “It is well” and we also love, “In Christ Alone.”
  16. We do not ENDORSE false teachers but rather call them out. I have had numerous times through the years a visitor state, “I wish you hadn’t said _____ taught error, it’s unbecoming.”  I understand beloved that many people do not like the tension of hearing false teaching being called out. But, when I am teaching in John 3 and the same week on TV/Radio a preacher was teaching that Jesus was not God, we have a problem and it must be corrected because Jesus commands it in Titus, Timothy, Galatians, etc. We are not on the witch hunt, but from time to time we have to address error in a biblical way.
  17. We are NOT perfect. Sorry. We are not going to fulfill your fantasy of a perfect church with no sin, no problems, no pain, no suffering and no long sermons. All of these will be a part of who we are. The difference is that we will submit to the Lord Jesus through His word in dealing with them. (maybe not the long sermons).
  18. Speaking of sermons. We DO preach for an hour each week. I do confess that I am trying to truncate my messages to 45 – 50 minutes, but often they are 65. There is little time to introduce, exegete, apply and close an argument from scripture in 20-30 minutes and I would suggest that most sermons in that length are probably not contextual. We stand to make sure it is thorough. Maybe too much at times.
  19. We do NOT preach politics or life’s lessons or cultural events. While there ‘may’ (once in 10 years) be an issue that needs to be addressed, it can be done briefly in the beginning or at the end of a service. We will not rob the feeding of the flock for the fodder of pop culture. We aim to live life by faith and doing so, we will all have ample opportunity to engage on these matters.
  20. We DO have planned Q&A times. Often we have these times where the church can ask questions of me, the other elders and each other relating to life and scripture. It’s a good time and we think it is very helpful, especially when someone is dealing with a serious issue, it can bring the church together. We also value constant learning and provide opportunities for the church to grow and learn weekly.
  21. We do NOT think we are professionals. Sometimes we have no music, sometimes we have no lights, sometimes we have no sound, etc. These things happen and we go on as usual. We are not going to change the mood to manipulate your feelings. We are not going to stand at the end of the service and work your emotions to make some decisions. We are not going to pass a plate to get your money. We are not going to miss out on ministry. We are not going to be afraid to weep, pray, laugh, hug, get firm, or whatever else the Lord would have us do in our intimate time of worshipping Him together.

It is surely best you stay home unless you think this list sounds a little inviting. Who knows, I may write an article on why you may want to join us… 

Never has there been a short supply of error regarding the understanding and teaching of Holy Writ, but error in ignorance and the guile of wolves are distinct. False preachers, pastors, teachers or whatever they may be named, are seemingly more populous as they are popular. Sadly, many people have been snared by the force of such enemies of the cross, while they sit as prisoners of lies rather than victorious saints of Christ through His true word.

So, what makes a false teacher? How can one identify a false teacher and what should one do if they recognize a false teacher? Some clear indicators can set the truth sayers from the truth slayers.

  1. False teachers have a low view of Scripture.  Those who never expose the text of the Bible, never appeal to its argument, never hold a continued filter through it are most certainly going to fall into wild and wicked error. Scripture must be settled as the highest authority over the church and must be the final court on all matters doctrinal. False teachers play the game of pleading to logic and appealing to social norms rather than to the actual written words of God. Any person who claims to teach truth but rarely contextually reveals an argument of scripture should be warned, then avoided. These liars are also very politically minded and find solid time for naturalistic and humanistic sermons while overlooking the entire counsel of the word.
  2. False teachers ignore conversations related to their views of scripture. For believers and lovers of Christ, the bible and its conversation are continued joy. Those who lack the desire to invest in a continued learning and dialog over biblical things are not only void of the Spirit, but also typically those who do not feel they are accountable to discuss such things with “lower level” individuals such as a mealy congregant.
  3. False teachers are quick to jump on the slam wagon without argument. This means that those who continually fail to be faithful to the truth of scripture are more often able to deflect the spotlight by creating a strawman out of those who would oppose them. It is very common for a false teacher to even pray or publicly curse others who would oppose them which is a clear and certain reality they are not in Christ.
  4. False teachers are lovers of pride and people pleasers. They will say anything to make a friend and they will turn any truth to door to get the right response and affection from someone. They preach for power and profit, even if both of these are ego-driven, they gloriously feed the false teacher who is always on the prowl for the next magnificent compliment. They are often quick to narrate their own lives and compose the grandeur of their ministry before men who applaud them and stroke their fur for attention.
  5. False teachers pick their own sermon topics. What is meant by this is that they choose what is low, easy, usable, and self-serving as preaching instruments rather than to secure the glorious doctrines found in the text of Scripture. Avoiding difficult doctrines and ignoring the depths of God’s grace is their practice. They refuse to preach what is good for they desire the praise of men and the mathematics of personal growth over the grand reality that Christ will grow His church in-depth and desire.
  6. False teachers speak from their minds, hearts, wisdom and visions. Prophets are those who speak the words of Christ eternally secured by the written Word. Those who preach what they know and have been told are the devil’s bawds providing demonic insight in order to twist the lives of men around their power while claiming it as God’s. These demonic practices are born of the serpent who questioned and revised the tongue of God to fit his passions. Such practices are never done in ignorance but always by the power of the dark one, the enemy, the devil who has devoured the souls of such men that they would purvey the woes of judgment disguised as light.
  7. False teachers prey on poverty and pain. These courtesans of death promise a better living and a faithful treasure on Earth while the Apostles and the Christ heralded a death sentence for those who are found in Christ as they will be hated by the world. Many would offer the justice of reciprocation and devour impoverished people who plant seeds of faith while eating the shells of the false teacher’s glory. These teachings undermine the satisfaction of the Cross and make manure of the good news of Jesus as a living hope by causing delight in covetousness rather than Christ. Those who are ill and poor are the faithless they say, while they feed on their positions by demanding a proof of faith in monetary offerings. There shall be an eternal weight of damnation on those who teach such things and the crushing of their skulls forever under the winepress of the fury of the judgment of God by the feet of Jesus.
  8. False teachers make much of the ability, will, freedom and honor of men and preach a man-centered gospel which is NO GOSPEL. While sometimes there are well-meaning people who have been taught wrong in practice, the devil has his shepherds and they know his anti-gospel. With golden tongue they spew falsehood like morays slither in the deep teaching people that their works, their efforts, their faithfulness and even their tithes would bring them to security. Easily they forget the transcription of Jesus Christ who said it was the broken and powerless publican who was justified, not the Pharisee. This false gospel is easily adopted and agreed upon because it affords the flesh a sense of completeness that stays the conscience from digging and dreading the possibility of guilt. The true Gospel of Jesus is a hope-filled promise while this man-centered trash is nothing more than a fake ticket to a false ball that leads to death.

Many more attributes and realities could be said of the false teacher. What say yee?  See the depth of their deceit?  See the continual replication of the deadness of man’s soul who hangs on every word? Is your pastor a false teacher? Well, are YOU a false listener?  What do you do? Try it out and see, note the patterns and sit down to bring to light what is bad so that Christ would be glorified. If it wins him over, then praise the Lord together. If not, then run for your lives.

Also though let each of us ask ourselves? Are we proclaimers of truth or error? Do we recapitulate the traditions of men through false teachers while saying it is good?  May the Lord keep us all in check by His word and through His Spirit lest we also find ourselves apostate.  Trust in Jesus Christ Alone brethren, He is our guide, our God, our hope, our life, our truth, our peace and all that is in us that is Good!

Some thoughts to ponder,

Pastor James

It often perplexes my mind when I hear people discuss their decision to “not” teach spiritual things to their children. For the staunch atheist or pagan I could understand, but this mind I hear from many professing believers. Some of their excuses include, “I want my children to make their own choices,” or “I just don’t think it is right to force Christian teaching on my kids.”  If this logic was equivocal on the plain I would accept it, but it isn’t. People make their children learn certain academic subjects that are truly just for the sake of being “well-rounded.” They encourage and reward their children to exercise discipline to learn mathematics, history, sociology etc. with the idea that these things are to be known for their good but yet they feel that spiritual teaching of God’s word is less than important.

Another reason that some believers don’t teach their children scripture is that they feel inadequate to do so but feel as though the “local” program for children can fill the gap in their ignorance. The truth is that children are more influenced by parental teaching than any other. SO, someone else can instruct children in spiritual things but if parents do not reinforce and at the minimum, show an interest in this learning, the child will soon depart from the heart of it. Keep in mind that I am not speaking of salvation, the new birth, justification, or anything else that comes by the work of God alone, but speaking of the foundations of such things: hearing the word of God.

Here are a few things in my mind, and in my experience, that should be considered regarding the teaching of children:

  1. Children must be TAUGHT EVERYTHING they are to learn. If we think they’ll get their “own” way soon enough, they most certainly will. Whatever we teach them they will learn. Learning is not belief or obedience, but learning brings the power of LIFE as the Spirit brings life through hearing by giving hearing. (Rom 10:17)
  2. Parental figures are the PRIMARY TEACHERS. Nothing will ever replace the direct and indirect teaching of parental influence. As an adult, I have many habits and practices that I realize I mimic from my father. These are learned behaviors and ideas that were not directly taught. Parents that do not love the word of God will have children that will NOT LOVE the word of God.
  3. Entertainment is the opposite of learning. So often people think that kids need to incorporate FUN FUN FUN with the learning of God’s word. When is the last time you ever saw a 1st grade teacher play dodgeball while teaching addition? How about a high school calculus class using drama to enforce a mathematical truth? All learning can be enjoyable, but it is a lie that it has to be a certain “level” of attraction for children: They learn more than adults anyway these days.
  4. Churches are often ill-prepared: Some well-meaning people pull kids out of worship and preaching to accommodate  their little weak minds while the scripture teaches that more children flocked around Jesus to listen than did adults at times. Jesus even said, “do not hinder…”.  When we separate the children from the teaching of the word, we hinder them against the command of Christ.  While children’s programming can be useful, in the long-haul, it divides the body of Christ and destroys the essence of future generations who feel like the church should “give me what I want…”
  5. Teaching and Living go hand-in-hand. The word of God is replete with examples of teaching and then exhortation to live out a teaching. Surely, as believers, we know that all good works are fulfilled by God, but we know the warning that if God is not transforming His people, then they are not His people because HE DOES and never leaves a child to rot. So, children need to hear and see the word lived out in adults. They need to see forgiveness and repentance. They need to see worship and affection for God’s people.
  6. Zeal and Love are different beasts. Loving the teaching of God without doing the teaching of God in loving His people at the cost of us is a lie according to John. We lie when we say we love orthodoxy but don’t LIVE according to orthodoxy. My hyper-grace friends can just click off of this now, as some of them may have cut much of the NT from their bibles. Having zeal for teaching our kids the right theology will never save them; living without love is condemnation, because Christ alone through Faith alone by Grace alone produces zealous love for God and His people.
  7. Love vs. Obey.  “If you love me you will obey my commands.” This is a very difficult pill to swallow from the mouth of Jesus. When we teach children we need to teach them that love is obedience.  Jesus loves the Father so He went to the cross in obedience. We love Jesus (because we have been born of God), so we follow after Him. Teaching children that one can love with a “feeling” while hating with “actions” is deplorable. Do children see US loving in this way?
  8. Teaching TRUTH is not revealing ERROR. So many polemics think they are making disciples by showing all the bad stuff. NEWS FLASH: you will never find time for truth and worship if your life is lived for the pointing out of the world’s error.  We know error because WE KNOW THE TRUTH; not the other way around. I know so many people who were taught by their parents of all the “bad”  things out there.  They know everything wrong in the world and yet they still know nothing right – ergo, they do not know Jesus Christ because they have been denied discipleship: teaching them to obey all I have commanded you!!!!!!!

Much more could be said and may well be said in the future. Add your voice and add to these points. My mind leaves me this moment so as for my children I want to show them, teach them, pray for them and trust in the Lord even when I royally destroy everything I employ!  So point 9 – The Lord is faithful, even when we are NOT!

Trust in the Lord and His word. Even when we as parents do it all wrong, if we invest in prayer and scripture with our kids, we can trust the Lord to bring the fruit!  Glad aren’t you!  Because otherwise, we are all miserable failures…. but alas, Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Pastor James

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Seldom do I EVER respond to polarizing arguments online, but there are a few forums that I frequent and have good, sometimes tense, but healthy conversations. This evening was one of those evenings. I was floating in the bliss of this coming Lord’s day and basking in the aroma of a week of study and hope-filled expectation of the work of God through His word. To say I was glad is understated. In the midst of my bliss, an unsuspecting troll moved along and unbeknown to me, I accidentally posted in a forum that I “observe” thinking it was a good-soiled tilling. For a moment think of someone who claims to be holy, a lover of truth, and a lover of the brethren by their self-confession. Now consider these following statements:

Pinhead, I despise your iniquity. Get your heart right and get honor, I eschew evil – YOUR theology. YOU are one of the morons.

This is not a joke. For about four seconds I was totally taken back, asked the brother to message me and he adamantly noted that all of his points and thoughts would “remain public”.  In just a few minutes though I realized I had posted in the wrong place my exegesis of the love of God in answering a metaphor listed by a participant. To that then I graciously just bowed out. Had I had an EKG at the moment it would have read a near heart failure! It’s amazing what the flesh will do when provoked unwarranted. By the grace of the Lord I was able to settle down, remove my anger, pray for this man, “Jeff” and then engage in another fruitful conversation before retiring for bed.

Just so we don’t get assumptive on the context, I was sharing previous theological writing from me and my colleagues on the matter of universalism, which is a very bad heretical view of salvation that teaches all people are forgiven and propitiated at the cross of Christ.  We know that the scripture teaches that only those who believe will be saved and no one can believe apart from God’s word. So, I shared the resources and was slapped ferociously as stated. But in the end, I am glad and here’s why:

  1. I am a pinhead. I mean, I have believed some very pinheaded stuff through the last four decades, so, comment taken. However, while so, I am not being foolish or stupid on this matter and by leaving the argument to the Lord, I have proven so – staying in would have proven me a pinhead.
  2. I too despise my iniquity and I am glad this hateful person has so much in common with me. Gladly my iniquity has been nailed to the cross and I am no longer bound to the death that belongs to my sinful guilt because Jesus Christ has taken on Himself and made me His righteousness. Amen. (BTW, it is by grace alone through faith alone, not of works of any kind.)
  3. Getting my heart right and getting honor is hard to comprehend. His statement to get my heart right was to repent of number 2 and go with universalism, but for that I am not going to shake. And also, my heart cannot be right before God through any work of my own, but only through the finished work of Jesus Christ. The honor he was speaking of was me asking him to please not call me and my brothers “morons”.
  4. Another point of unity with Jeff is that I also “eschew” evil, that is I avoid and shun it by the grace of God. Sadly, he was calling me evil because of my theology right after he argued that ALL people are saved automatically because of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. I’m confused by this because if we are indeed brothers, according to John, he cannot avoid me but rather, should be patient with me while training me in righteousness. After all the litmus test of redemption is love for God and love for the saints.
  5. OK, while I hate to admit it, I am a moron. Got me. I am a fool that is sustained by the invisible and sovereign grace of God that was manifest through the person of Jesus. I am a fool for Him and His gospel and preaching it is foolish in the eyes of all the world.
  6. As this was unfolding, the resources I shared sparked a conversation off forum with a few folks and one in particular wanted to learn more, so we spoke and will, by the Lord’s grace, talk again tomorrow evening. Happily I have brothers near him who can surround him and provide answers if needed.

So, remember church, the world will hate you because it hates the Lord of the Bible, the Son of God and His good news. Stay close to the vine, don’t wobble down the line and stand firm in Christ!

For His Glory,

James

As I chime in here I actually shudder at the necessity of such writing and smirk at the lack of interest it will garner pressing against all the other noise related to the fodder of this election year. My heart though is very burdened for the sake of the Glory of the Name of Jesus Christ our God and so I write, for those small few who will read and engage the scripture on this matter so that their joy would be full, their minds at ease and their affection for the saints will be pure.

Looking at any election is like peering into the ocular tube for Anton van Leeuwenhoek at his first peek at a eukaryote. He didn’t know what he was going to see nor did he understand what he saw as he gazed. This year’s election possibilities are foreign in history, foreign in my life-time and foreign for the Church. So what does the church need to know about voting, candidates, values, morals, etc. “How would Jesus Vote?” is usually on the tip of everyone’s tongue, while not in that same query, the outcome of investigation is always the same, “what should I do as a believer this election year?”

To date, actually just this week, I have read over 30 articles, responses, rebukes, theological positions, white papers, red letters, vlogs, blogs, comments, posts and even napkin scribbles related to how a Christian SHOULD view and RESPOND to the question at hand concerning this electoral challenge.  Quite honestly I am disgusted with it all. I am tired of the undue burden placed by well-meaning people on the body of Christ. I am tired of pulpits being hijacked by lesser mundane inanity in place of sublime glory. I am labored over the souls of so many sheep who are stepping over each other in an attempt to be “right” in the eyes of God while murdering their fellow man. (1 John should come to mind here) I am overwhelmed as a pastor of the local church when I have to continually be on guard that such ready division could implode at any moment and usher a barrage of discipline and unnecessary harm. I am weary of so-called defenders of truth who in their polemics violate the basics of the faith through harassment, evil speech and hatred. As you can see I am tired of things as they are and the only reason is that it is dividing the body of Christ over matters to which the Scripture DOES NOT SPEAK.

Let the exegete stand up and use the context of divine utterance in truth instead of conveying a converted and untruthful boast while calling it God’s. Speak the truth in love for the sake of the glory of Heaven wherein lies no victory in government, national, creed or liberty. Be true to the truth of the Word of God lest God be a liar; let Christians repent of such low hearted and contrived silliness as their flesh shakes with desire to burst their opinions against the decrees of the living God. In summary, let the word of God be true and let those who handle it not twist it lest they face the judgment. God needs no help and God’s word speaks not the matter of national interests for any nation, race or ethnos. Get that and be quiet otherwise.

Therefore, for the sake of the redeemed of the Lord and our unity which is not just commanded of us but GIVEN to us through the SPIRIT, let’s look at Romans Chapter 14 and 15 and what it says about matters of conscience and let’s quit listening to each others commentary, but rather hear the exposition of God’s word so that our souls will be one.

For the sake of argument, let’s say ALL of us are right in our own eyes. That’s right, every contrary statement is true and in an absurd reality, it was permited for insanity to reign righteously. (Not going to happen but I am not here to argue your point of view as many would think.)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1 ESV)

Look at that! I can stop now. Do not quarrel over opinions.  “It’s not my opinion!” some would say… yes it is. God’s word does not anywhere give us directives or moral commands on voting, elections, policies, social matters and the like. But the contrary, we must discern individually on these matters that are of no consequence. And yes, let the Lord send America to destruction, it’s destined to be there one day anyway, why not now? Maybe then Christians will share the faith instead of nationalism. So in Romans 14:1, if “THEY” are wrong, we are to just be welcoming. If one thinks they should vote for Snoopy, then let them. If one is convinced they should “nevertrump” so be it. If someone else is writing their own names in; great! Quarreling is SIN SIN SIN SIN SIN and is WICKED! So…. let’s look at 15:1

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:1-2 ESV)

No only are we to welcome others and their different opinions, we are to BEAR with them and build them up. This is not in correction to our way of thinking. Disagree?

The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. (Romans 14:22 ESV)

So now what? This text speaks of what one may eat or drink, wear, think, decide on matters of choice. Regulate their entertainment. We know what sin is and we know what liberty is and we are NOT free to sin but are free to be at peace with God through Jesus Christ in our convictions on matters like these. For example, I think it is a very poor expression for people to dialog and put their personal information on social networks, so I don’t do it. Often times I engage in encouraging others to be careful, but I cannot say, “God prohibits the use of Facebook!” It just isn’t so. Just like I cannot say, Godly people vote for CANDIDATE X or would never vote for CANDIDATE Y. We are NOT supposed to gain others to our opinion at the cost of intimacy and unity.

Keep in mind right now that I am not speaking TO or ABOUT anyone. So if any of you reading this desire to converse, please do so. If you desire to rebuke, please do so. But be biblical about it, because I will follow the scriptures. I will talk with you about sin and I will call your pastor if it doesn’t resolve. So, OPEN RESPONSES to me should be private if they are directly respondent to this article.

Remember, there are always weak and strong arguments that come from weak and strong positions. There are differences of opinions but we are to bear with each and go along without confusion and argument. Dogma at the cost of love is worthless dogma when it isn’t dogma. Look at the next few verses in 14.

One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. (Romans 14:2-3 ESV)

Wow, we are not to be concerned with converting out brothers to carnivores or to the GOP or the SBC or to the WWJD! We are not only supposed to bear with others in affection, but we are to serve them out of affection and never hold with contempt those who seem to oppose our views. Why? Because we are accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ on these matters and will answer for them one day. We best be sure we are right while we are also not violating the commands that are clear; you know, like loving your brother, bearing with his weakness, not being divisive, not quarreling, not repaying evil, not breaking the unity of the faith… and stuff like that.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4 ESV)

 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12 ESV)

We best be willing to stand before God and say, “I am right and spoke on your behalf… ” with these matters, because we will be called to account on how we speak, act and interact, especially with the use of God’s word. (James 3:1) So, let’s be sure in our minds that what we desire to say and hold to is RIGHT before the Lord. Otherwise, we could be in for a grand surprise. Either way, it is our choice on the matter, not our job to change the minds of others. Remember we are talking about moral peripherals, not absolutes.. voting, not worship.  If I chose to vote one way, my wife another and my daughter to abstain, we are ALL RIGHT before the Lord if we are prayerfully acting in response to the Lord and His bearing upon our consciences. In doing so, we live AS THE LORD’S and we live TO the LORD and if we die we die TO the LORD.  The ultimate purpose in all our actions is ascribe glory to the one for whom it is due, Jesus Christ. See verses 5-9 below. These temporal things have NOTHING to do with the Kingdom of Christ. After all, man casts the lots but the Lord decides the vote. (Proverbs 16:33)

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:5-9 ESV)

When we make division over these types of things we cause sin in the lives of each other. Resentment, doubt, anger, fear, frustration and many other grievances. This cannot be, it is not our lot. We should be willing to lose our rights and lives for the sake of each other, not remove each other from our lives for the sake of the temporal. (v13) The things that are clean are not forbidden. Is voting clean? Is patriotism clean? Is debating these things clean? If it is for you, then good. If it isn’t then good. (v14) We are not to exercise our conciseness and our liberties to the detriment of our affection. (v15) We are not to be KNOWN for our politics but rather the law of love in Christ Jesus Alone! Let us care more for our brother than our rights and liberties. [20] Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. (Romans 14:20 ESV)

[13] Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. [14] I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. [15] For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. [16] So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. [17] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [18] Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. [19] So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:13-19 ESV)

See how this portion of text closes? Serving Christ, not the nation is our priority. All the lands of this world are temporal and ONLY those things which are ETERNAL remain and our siblings in Christ and His glory are eternal. We may be political “enemies” but we are one in Christ Jesus. (Sarcasm intended). Our convictions are personal, private and for dialog only when called upon. When it comes to political issues I rarely, if every, give my thoughts. But when privately asked I labor over the word of God and my prayers and express my fear in sharing them and warn the hearer to not adopt my position but rather pray and seek the Lord and whatever they decide will be pleasing to Him. Our desires should be to edify each other (v19) and to be at peace at all times and to violate our conscience, we sin; so to violate another’s, we cause them to sin.  But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23 ESV)

What I Don’t Care About

I don’t care who you vote for and why or why not you vote. God doesn’t either except that you listen to Him and His word. Neither candidate of any party is right, just look at their policies. Every candidate is right on something. There is no such thing as a lesser evil or a greater good; that’s a very childish and ignorant petition. The conscience of a man is ignored with much gravity, God speaks through His spirit (through His word) to our consciences and we best not ignore Him.

What I Do Care About

I do care about the joy of the saints, the glory of God, the name of Jesus Christ, the mission of the church (which is not to change America, but to see it die for Christ!). I do care about meanness in the name of Jesus. I do care about the love of God that is given to us so that we can love each other. I do care about the unity of the faith and the intimacy of the body. I do care about the testimony of the local church. And so should you.

Care beloved. Love as Christ has called us to love. Turn off the tele, stop the likes and frowns, tweet no more to the harm of each other. Let the world do what the world does and pray the Lord gives each of us wisdom and the next time someone comes up to sway you to their idol, just smile and thank them, encourage them, and be at peace.

Be in CHRIST beloved, trash the rest.

Pastor  James

PS. Did you catch the matter of discipline. Just to emphasize, the body of Christ should bring any who cause division in this manner under public discipline according to the word of God. That is clear… even if they are a national treasure, small country pastor, pew sitter or praise recording artist. Think a minute on that. It’s what’s at stake.

PSS. And yes, there are many opportunities for debate here, the spirit of the matter is that we must not continue in this division and we must stop allowing others to twist the use of God’s word to validate their personal convictions. Straw men do not work, they just sit and burn… that’s the point.