Scripture speaks of the power of Christ. The power of the cross, the authority of Jesus, the power of the gospel etc. all speaks to the power of Christ. While you may consider the power of Christ the manifestation of miracles, supernatural knowledge or signs, the reality is that the apostles make the claim that the power of Christ most glorious is the transformed heart of the believer toward truth and love for the brethren. Teaching through John’s writings gives us a constant reminder of this fact. That there are many who “live” in a manner they feel is worthy of Jesus Christ in their own eyes, but when they refuse fellowship with others, they, in turn, are displaying “unregenerate” powerlessness. 

Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about the power of Christ. He says that he will know if Christ is in them if they heed the authority of his writing and instruction. Mainly, that they forsake themselves and “COMPLETE” all the restoration between them. This means that they will be intimate, together, free, and in fellowship. 

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Several hours, if not days can be expended on this holistic reality. But for now, let’s say this. One of the primary expressions of regeneration is that we are sealed by the same Spirit. God the Holy Spirit in us brings our unity and because of this, there is NOTHING that can separate us from the Lord and from each other. When factions come between the church and cause people to scatter, it is always wicked. Sometimes it is due to ignorance but most of the time these things happen because of an active and living flesh. IF we have the same Spirit within us there is nothing that would cause divorce amongst the brethren.

In the end, this teaching is extrapolated continually throughout the New Testament through the instruction and commandments for every Christian to be subject to the Word, the Elders of the church, the Assembly (that is the church, only when it gathers) and exercising the gifts God has given them for the benefit of the assembly. We can feel justified in doing “home” studies and “online” sermons, but in reality, that type of existence as a believer is a continual rebellion against the teaching of God. So, in the sense of the text, true regeneration produces a complete unity that nothing will stop and to say otherwise is to refuse to love the brethren, thus, according to John, the Love of God is not in us. 

We may see that all the works of the law, all the dressing of worldly “righteousness” and all the prayers, pleadings, purity and the like are not the measure of the Power of Christ in us. But it is the evidence of TRUTH by the LOVE we have for each other. Love well beloved by the grace that is YOURS in Jesus Christ!  Amen.  While this is not exhaustive, it is truth. Are you listening?

In a men’s gathering this past Saturday, one of our elders taught from the Scriptures on God’s provision for His people. The truth of God’s provision and its certainty is irrespective of the people’s obedience, heart, or faith. God provided for Adam and Eve in their wickedness and provided for Cain in his murderous exile. God provided for the Israelites even when they grumbled and provided for the Apostles, even in death. Today, God provides for us all that we need for life, most certainly on the Earth, but most gloriously, He provides eternal life in Jesus Christ. The truth taught opened the floor for the brethren to discuss and share their thoughts and quickly the ‘provision’ of God went to the matter of need vs. want. After about 30 minutes there had been great dialog ranging from those in history who had nothing but were able to be used by God to those who had everything and provided for many through the resources God provided. The discussion also sparked an interesting array of other “provisions” given by the Lord when a young brother read out of the book of James on how those who teach are the Lord’s provision for the sake of the church and how the Lord provides an understanding of the Word by the Spirit. All in all the time was a rich blessing.

While the conversation was broad and the testimonies were plenty, the matter of financial gain and the love of money had deep and dogmatic thoughts associated with it. We were all reminded of the lures of such things and were exhorted and admonished to know how quickly idols come into our lives. We remembered the men of history such as George Mueller who had such a grace from the Lord, he was able to trust that the Lord would send financial assistance through the mail as it was needed. As a result, he operated his orphanage in extreme peace. By the end of a couple of hours, we all departed, and some of us talked further in the foyer and later through lunch. I was amazed at all the different takeaways from the meeting. Some brothers felt conviction for having a weak faith, others were encouraged by the Word of God, while others seemed to be concerned they weren’t doing enough for the sake of Christ. Afterward, I prayed and contemplated the morning and thought about the greatness of God’s plan for His church, and marvel how He is in growing and providing for us in all ways. Here are a few thoughts.

God is Mighty in Provision

There is no doubt about it that I was encouraged to remember that God is the ONE who makes all things work. He is the giver of life, the giver of faith, the creator and lover of my soul. God is always working for my good, my sanctification and has sealed my redemption. Therefore I am pleased, at ease and my soul rests. There is nothing in my life that God has not sovereignly decreed. This is a place of rest.  NO matter how difficult things may be. No matter the worry or doubt, God is the provider. He provides when it seems as if there is no hope for tomorrow. He is always ready and always prepared and for that, we are always thankful. God provides for the birds of the air and the grass of the fields, He will surely give us our daily bread. God is most glorious in the provision of Jesus Christ, His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Amen.

God is Marvelous in Production

It amazes me just how God produces all things in this world. He causes all things to hold together. He makes the seasons change, the crops grown, the livestock to flourish and the wind to blow for the sake of the rain and harvest. God is a producing God who produces much for His purpose and glory through all He has created. Think about the reality of having no milk. There would be many good and pleasant things that would not exist. What about if there were no eggs or wheat or fruit? How many necessary pieces of this world exist dependent of each other without us ever even considering that reality? Not only is everything good a gift from God, but all that exists is from His hand. Even the local church. He made her, he bought her, he created her through the blood of His Son. This is a marvelous production of God’s Mighty Provision.

God is Manifold in Purpose

Sometimes people seem to esteem their position and calling more than others. This is a mark of immaturity. At the same time, immaturity reveals itself through others feeling less important than others. Think about this for a minute. God has completely and divinely orchestrated the local body of believers and each person is absolutely necessary for the benefit of the whole church. I’m going to spend a few more minutes on this thought in relation to our men’s gathering. Some people in the local church often have these mixed feelings of grandeur and grand-dooo. It is rare that everyone at all times sees the amazing and manifold purpose of God at work in each person. Sadly, though, when we talk about provisions, and then money, the church could even be divided on the purposes of God related to the haves and the have-nots.

God’s purpose in the church is glorious and there are weak and strong people in many facets. For instance, at all times there will be people with great faith and weak faith. Great understanding and no understanding. Visible gifts and invisible gifts. In the end, the body works to function together. If we were all fingernails, that would just be gross and useless. If we were all heads, then we’d be going nowhere, doing nothing and quite honestly, it would be annoying. God has put the church together and inside the church God’s manifold purposes in each individual are seen to fulfill His overarching purpose of the church: It’s perpeturity and praise! (among other things)

Think about how God provides for the church. Now I am not talking about what most congregants would consider “for the church” in that I am not talking about tons of money and professionals who support and engage with great skill magnificent programs and productions that awe the world. We don’t have need of such things and that is not even on my radar with this article. God provides for the church through His power and for His purposes to the praise of His glory. He provides all the necessary parts in order that all parts may be unified, fulfilled, provided for and producing all that He has decreed.

1 Corinthians 12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (ESV)

Look at this! God has placed everyone together as He wills. He has done so in order that the body would function properly, take care of itself and display His wisdom before each other, the world, and the Heavens. So, back to the matter of provision. As a pastor, God has called me to lay aside my life, body, mind and talents and in turn, I am to take the life that would have been spent on those things and give it to serve His redeemed. So, for the last 20 years I have not been able to be gainfully paid for anything. (We’ll talk about the idea of “paying” vs. “supporting” a pastor in a later writing). There has been very little opportunity and now, very little usefulness for a man like me in the work force, business world, or anything else. My skill set and education is now permanently limited to the work of the church, the work of the word, the work of depending upon others.

With this in mind, why would it be wrong or worse, less Godly for another man to work hard and earn a living? Not all men are called to be pastors. Not all men are called to forsake the work of their hands for wages. If they were, then who would support those who cannot support themselves? Who would God use to provide for those in need? It’s often easy to see our value when we’re always teaching and working with others, but sometimes we and others look at the teaching/preaching role in the church as the greatest role. In the context of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for their continued egotistical and prideful desires. In conversations with the brethren all the time I get two sides of this coin: “I wish I could get a better job so I could give more to help the body.”  Others then say, “I wish I could just quit my job so I could serve more in the body.”

The problem here is not station, it’s persepective. If everyone was a teacher and had no job, then there would be no church. If everyone worked full time and had no time for teaching, praying and shepherding, then there would be no church. It takes all places and stations and God has purposed all of them. Whatever gift we have been given, whether it be money, talent, skill, etc. we are to use it for the benefit of the church. We are to utilized the grace of God in our lives for the sake of others. And while the crux of this conversation is on provision, let’s think about how God’s provision for the church to function is given. It’s not all about finances. It’s not all about service. It’s not all about missionaries or preaching/teaching, prayer or function. It’s about the glory of God. God in His power purposes, provides and produces the work of His plans in and through us! Be at rest in the place God has you, server well and rejoice!

God is Magnificent in Power

This powerful display of God’s wisdom in the local church is a grand gesture of divine glory. Only God could produce such a spectacle! To see people from all walks of life, all maturity levels, all stations, all abilities, all passions etc.; to see them live together in unity, love each other, forgive and forbear, provide and protect each other is completely a work of God. This is a powerful display for sure and one of the greatest displays God’s power is how He utilizes small and weak things to do great things. There are some poeple who exist in the local church who have no money to help support the work of the church. They have no strength to build and carry heavy items. They have no expertise to lend a helping hand on many matters. They have no real call or aptitude for teaching the congregation. They may be too young, or in their mind they may be too old to feel useful. They may not see any good at all in their connection with the family of God. I suggest that in all the church, these may be the most powerful people in the world. Let me bullet a few thoughts relating to this:

  • Those who are weak reveal the grace of God as their strength and encourage others to walk in faith.
  • Those who have nothing can patiently and joyfully resolve to be content and call others to a place of worship as an example of God’s provision.
  • Those who are too old have an obligation to prepare the younger generations and teach them from the wisdom that God has granted.
  • Those who cannot do, or be with the body, are most certainly the pinnacle of the glue that holds all things together, as they are able to pray and intercede more than all of us.
  • Those that are broken and unable to see any good are objects of ministry and service and prayer; enabling God to be glorified in the acts of kindness and love given.
  • Those who can’t give money like they want can give of their time and help those in need as God allows.
  • Those who are not teachers still have great opportunity to teach at every turn, encouraging each other in the faith and instructing each other with the word.

1 Corinthians 12:22-26

[22] On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, [23] and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, [24] which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, [25] that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. [26] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (ESV)

Look at the wonderful POWER of God!

God is Motherly in Practice

WE learn and He is patient with us. We fall and He is there to carry us. We sin and He reminds us of Christ, our propitiation. When we fail to see the glorious place God has provided for us in HIs church, He is patient. In the same manner, we are to be patient with others. We are to be willing to correct and recive correction. It is a glorious and blessed reality when we learn to live together in true unity. Scripture teaches that God is like a mother who cares for her children. We too should be caring in all our ways. When some of us stuble, when we fail to rejoice, when we think too much or too little of our gifts, we have to remember that we are all in place, providing what God has purposed for us to provide. And let us all remember that ALL that we are and ALL that we do are HIS works in us in the first place.

Rest well beloved.

Pastor James

 

Those for whom Christ died are precious to Him. He has offered His own life for their redemption and has given them the promise of sharing in His glorious resurrection on the Day of His coming. So when division and strife are found unchecked in the local church, it not just a sad day in the life of a people, it is an occasion that Christ hates. Thankfully, He has given His people all they need to be free of divided hearts and the grace to be reconciled if they ever find themselves in such a place.

Of all the sins that could plague the local assembly, none are more heinous than gossip. Gossip means ‘whisper’, in the Greek the word ψιθυρισμός, [Gal 2:20] even sounds sinister. Pronounced “psithurismos”, it is also used to describe the subtle murmuring and chants of a snake charmer. It denotes silent slander or private accusation toward someone and it is found in scripture to be listed among some of the vilest sins, even to the point that those who practice such have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. While lying is certainly a form of gossip, what about speaking what is true? What happens if we “think” something is going on with someone else, is it gossip when we get counsel? What other instances are considered gossip in the church? Let’s consider a few of them.

Quiet Murmurs 

These are the small and subtle thoughts that plague the mind and end up on the tongue, text, private meeting, phone call etc. Even when prayer is the central motivation, the details and names of people are off the table. Yes, prayer meetings are often the largest gossip sessions in the church. There are the discussions about someone else without them being present. When the subject of any sin, rebuke or testimony is not the first to be informed, the one speaking on the matter is doing the work of Satan. Talking ‘around’ the subject of a conversation, concern or critique is one of the largest attacks that the enemy uses to destroy the intimacy of the church. If the local body would adhere to the word of God, they would find that anyone who participates in such practices in either the capacity of the voice or the ear, should be brought publicly to the church immediately. Public warning of division, which includes quiet murmurs, is found in many New Testament epistles. The general prescription is that if they do it after the second warning, they should be excommunicated from the church. Bear in mind that often times, this type of gossip is first done in ignorance with good intentions, but it needs to be corrected so that the church is protected from the deceit of the enemy.

Secret Attacks

These could look much like the above practices but with the intention of making problems or sin known to others. Secret attacks against another sibling in Christ is actually an attack on Jesus directly. It is birthed from a desire to make sure everyone “knows” about the sinner among us, or worse, that there is someone that is not living as they “say” they are living. It only takes a few days for this type of thing to get out of control and cause serious damage to the unity of the church. Not only is it demonic, it is intended to do damage. This is often seen in the local church when someone doesn’t feel right about something and begins to keep tabs, make judgments, and then spread such things. For example, they see a sister always coming in late to service, leaving quickly afterward and not engaging. They will begin to watch this person intently, each week, and make notes of her actions. Then they will assume that the sister is in sin because she is not setting the example of timeliness and in their judgment have decided that such should be dealt with, after all, this person teaches a bible study on Thursdays. So they begin to call, talk, pray for and make it known that this teacher should be called out for her lack of holiness. What the person doesn’t know, is that the devil has snared them. How? First, the devil has made them notice this, not God the Spirit. Second, their judgment is evidence of their heart: they have a problem, not a solution. Third, they intention is not even for the joy of their sister, but for her pain and correction. Fourth, they fail to know that their judgment is bearing false witness because they don’t even know the truth of this person’s medical condition, schedule, or the fact that she prays with the leaders before and after church. And quite frankly, it is none of their business. Busybodies are also murderers in the church. That’s another post.

Self-Righteous Comparisons

The causes of these offenses in the heart of a believer are difficult to discern but there are some things that actually are the seed of the sin of gossip. An immature believer who isn’t living in subjection to the word of God is typically very conflicted and often times tossed around like a leaf in the wind, not knowing what to do or how to do it. They usually pray for God to give them hope and guidance, but they rarely obey the basics of the new life: such as being committed to the body in gathering, prayer and the learning of the Word. This type of Christian easily finds fault with others. They misunderstand that love covers a multitude of sin and they feel slighted if they find sin in the lives of others. By harping on such things, they become snared as stated above, and it becomes one of their greatest hangups. In reality, they forget the forest of logs in their own eyes and succumb to being spiritual police rather that spiritual siblings in need of Grace. This type of person doesn’t always gossip, but if they are left in this state, they will tell someone why they feel burdened: this is gossip. They forget that they don’t have the role or authority to deal with the sin in other’s lives because they have plenty of their own. This is the prescription, sin must be dealt in one’s own life before he or she can move on to someone else. Even then, there is a clear prescription to only deal with sin that is directed toward them. Jesus says, “When someone sins AGAINST YOU.”  Observing failings and sins that do not lead to death are to be prayed about, quietly and with all fear lest the temptation grab the observer. (1 John 5) The full reality of such things is a self-righteous heart. Let’s be reminded of the fact that this is a sign of spiritual ignorance. But it cannot remain.

Pastoral Accusations

Generally, these types of matters go unnoticed among the congregants of the church for decades. And while it causes division in small pockets and between families, an unbiblical church doesn’t deal with it and in a matter of time, the subject of such evil will be the pastors of the church. Satan has a wide chest of tools. Some of the most deadly are those who discuss the pastor in secret. 1 Timothy 5:19 says that accusations against a pastor should be done only with two or three witnesses. It may also be wise to yield to the structure of the letter in that it was written to an elder, thus any accusations brought public for an elder should really be through the plurality of elders. This is to guard the church against continued attempts of the devil to destroy the life and ministry of the pastor. It is good to remember also that general life matters and personal offenses fall under the mandate of Matthew 18:15-20, and a pastor is treated as a brother. Anyone who speaks of a problem with the pastor and anyone who receives a complaint before the pastor is aware of it has fallen into the sin of gossip and should be brought under correction. When a pastor is confronted and does not repent, the church should be told and just like any other member, if he repents, everyone rejoices, if he doesn’t, then he is removed from the church through excommunication. A pastor should not be confronted about every little thing unless it is absolutely obvious that he is living in continued, unrepentant sin.

Log Blocked Pet Peeves

In life, there are many things that bother us. There is certainly a list of things that cause grief, anger, frustration etc. but these things are not necessarily sinful. For instance, we can get annoyed at the someone’s personality, but it doesn’t make that person guilty of sin. When gossip is dissected, often it can be found to be over a pet peeve, not a sin. That makes it all the more egregious, that one would spread whispers and discord on something that is not even worth discussing. We have to take a very close look at what we see (and remember that we are not to peer into each other’s lives to find problems) and discern if that person is committing sin generally or sinning against us. If others are sinning generally, it is a wise and loving thing to inquire and be an encourager with hopes to bring joy into their lives, not hurt them and make them act the way we feel they should. What would it feel like if every time we missed church we were called and rebuke because it is a sin? What if every time we asked for prayer because we were fearful, those around us rebuked us and called out our unbelief? What if every time our children didn’t pay attention in church the elders brought us in to discuss our failed parenting? What about being asked daily if we prayed? What about service to others? What about submission to our husbands, loving our wives, laboring for our neighbors, keeping our minds and lives pure? What would happen if with every soda we drank someone reminded us of the body being the temple? What about our love for pagan holidays, or nice clothes, etc. that continually brought spiritual FBI enforcement to our door? Who is the measure of modesty? After all, the word means to draw attention. Sometimes the greatest of jewelry is immodest. Get the point?  One’s own view of holiness that is not prescribed in scripture is never to be pushed on someone else. And the failure of others to live the way we feel we should in our convictions is not sinful before the Lord. These are personal preferences and pet peeves that have no place in the gracious economy of the church. Love does not keep a record of wrong, it forgives and when it sees the same thing a little later, it calls it the first offense. There are many people looking for a body that looks just like they do, and in the end, they are miserable because, in their attempt to make everyone righteous in their own eyes, they have become alone and isolated.  So when small annoyances are there, even small failings and sins, we are to leave them be, not always be on the prowl to make sure everyone gets the specks from their eyes. It should also be said that someone “stumbling” has nothing to do with their views on things, but rather the fact that it causes sinful lusts or desires against a conviction. We give up liberties for the sake of our weaker siblings, but at the same time, we teach them to grow up and mature in Christ, because there is always a long line of devilish carrots hanging before the lives of men.

Gossips breed the fruit of all things unholy and suffers the church greatly. Here are just a few things that gossip causes.

Demonic Suspicion

When the church hears what they’ve never heard relating to someone else, the devil uses this information to cause distress and suspicion against people. It causes fear that something must be done and causes animosity with those who don’t see things in the same light. Suspicion multiplies like cancer among the whole of the church and then people are pitted against each other and families against themselves. Truth should be open, kind, humble and often. Not hidden behind assumptions and whispers until the “time is right.”

Satanic Division

Proverbs 6:9 reveals that a false witness is one who lies and also one who sows discord. The spirit of even calling out true sin as found in Matthew 18, is never to do harm or to expel one’s self from the ‘wickedness’ but to bring encouragement, lif,e and liberty from the offense. The motives are usually fleshly when things do not go as prescribed in scripture.

Pastoral Grief

Hebrews 13:17 says,  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (ESV)  A pastor that is continually trying to live up to a life that even the greatest of Christians cannot obtain is a pastor that is dead in his spirit and grieved, unable to have joy. It is also not profitable for a church member who gossips or receives gossip because they heart is bent against obeying what is taught, thus they live in dishonorable rebellion against God because they feel they cannot sit under a man’s teaching who isn’t perfect.

Dead Church

Long after the gossips have gone and resolved their problems, they leave a scarred remnant who has never gotten through it. They leave the dried seeds of Satan to be watered down the line to give birth to more dissension, bitterness, suspicion and harm. This church is all but dead and nothing will revive it again except discipline through the word of God. Often times a congregation has to just flush all members and start the process over so that only those willing to yield to Christ with evidence of humility and submission are allowed to stay. Let’s leave gossip at home, let’s not be spiritual police and let’s realize what is a sin and what is a life of sin.

Rest well beloved,

Pastor James

Social change is everyone’s dream. Well, most people desire to see a better community, fairness, affection and unity in all areas of life. OK, let’s be honest, ‘some’ people do. The question then is how can social change be found? A dear brother in the faith has been tasked with the burden to have this conversation specifically on racial tensions, racially divided fairness etc. Gladly, he is a marvelous man of God and has the heart to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and for that I am thankful. The conversation is also necessary, but what is the actual change agent? I pray this little-bulleted article will help keep all who desire such a dialog on task without creative polarizing generalizations that sweep vital parts under the rug, or worse, out of the door.

The Body is Manifold

God has built His church and has placed the parts of the body as He sees fit. (1 Cor 12:18)  All parts of the body are important for the building up of the body, so, there is no one person in the church of Jesus Christ who is not there by the will of God for the purpose of each other. This is vital in order to have a right understanding of the matter of racism. The body of Christ is not comprised of white Christians and black Christians etc., it is made up of believers only, whose identity is not in culture or color, but Christ.  While some Christians are blind to the problems of hate, racism isn’t like all other sins in that when it is allowed to breed among the people of God, it voids the power of Christ and His cross.

Change Happens Only in Christ

Throughout the ages of our country (the United States) civil liberty and equality as been on the lips of men. Even during the expansion of colonies, white men stood side by side with black men to cry out about the injustice of slavery. The reason God does this is because when someone is birthed by God into the Kingdom, they are wide awake and no longer slumber on issues of hatred, especially among the church. Jesus says that all the laws of the prophets are hinged on two: the love of God with all of one’s heart, mind and soul and the love of each other in like manner, as one loves himself. Therefore, to turn a blind eye to blatant sin in the church is an egregious sin. So how does the church affect change? By preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ who saves through the hearing of His word (Romans 10:17) and then by making sure people are held accountable to living out the gospel. (1 John 3) Only then we will see actual change in the community of faith. Whether we see change in the world will be determined by the overarching reach of the gospel within the hearts of men.

The Issue isn’t the Issue

Racism is not the issue. Sin is the issue. Bishop Clark in Oakland said very plainly during our talks on this matter in 2009, “Racism isn’t a skin issue, it’s a sin issue.” That resonated greatly. But the question then is what is the issue? Well, the church has failed. It has failed in many ways, let’s name a few:

  1. Failed to uphold Scripture as the final authority over the church.
  2. Failed to exercise church discipline when sin is found within the church.
  3. Failed to keep to the task of submitting all things related to the new life to God but relegating such efforts to the human will, and by doing so, puts the burden back on men to do what they cannot do apart from God.
  4. Failed by turning a blind eye to racism as if it doesn’t exist.
  5. Failed by having a quick answer instead of actually listening to others who are the body (remember point one)
  6. Failed by being segregated in the first place due to cultural distinctions. (This breeds racial division).
  7. Failed to honor the Lord with their hearts by loving their neighbor.
  8. Failed to make disciples and teach the nations to obey Christ.
  9. ….. this list could keep going.
  10. Failed to preach the power of God unto salvation!

The issue with sin is that all men are slaves to sin. Even those well-meaning pious groups of pale folks back in early history who preached a gospel while living a lie and owning slaves. But God was eventually gracious to “some” of them, who renounced such things and came to know and to believe that all men in Christ Jesus are one body.

Saying, ________ isn’t the Answer

There are many things that are said that are not “the” answer. Sadly, our emotions and hearts are destined to become fleshly when we are passionate about being heard. Here are a few things that need to just disappear from our language because they don’t even work to open the issue to the eyes of people, they just place the Church in more division:

  • White men are ignorant and shallow.
  • Black men are ignorant and shallow.
  • White men have greater access to Christ.
  • Just preach the gospel.
  • If you don’t believe what I’m saying, you’re racist.
  • You can’t see my pain because you’re privileged.
  • You can’t understand my argument because you’re uneducated.

These statements have been said in the last month in my presence and in my inbox. They are not working toward a solution but rather create more division. The quickest way to make someone ignore what is said is to create a strawman that they are not willing to try and put back together. Those who are in Christ must be willing to have engaging conversations that are not fixed to 140 characters or quick statements. Food for thought must be given in such a way that it is actually engaging within the reality of empiricism, not ambiguity. To say (or think) that any person is grounded in a certain set of beliefs because of their experiences is bearing false witness about their heart and defaming the grace of God. Stating what scripture says is good, but making a dogma out of one’s own experiences is wicked. The example is this. If I want you to know my heart, it is best I say to you, “I feel like there are many that just don’t see the wickedness of hatred and racism. For instance _____, _____, _____.” Because if I say, “Anyone who doesn’t see my hurt or this sin is an idiot”, well, I’ve just sinned against you, violated scripture, exposed my heart as fleshly and spoken not out of the Spirit.

The difference comes when there are actual statements by actual people who need to be corrected and called out. For instance, if I say, “just preach the gospel” and it isn’t actually a thought out, faith-based response, then someone should call me out for clarity. If I stand on the fact that it means a dialog on racism shouldn’t happen or doesn’t matter, then I must be brought to the table of correction. If I say such things because I hate people without my skin tone, then I must be removed from the life of all those who claim Christ. But if I mean it to say what Paul meant it to say in 1 Corinthians 1, that there was no other purpose in life than to preach the Gospel of Jesus and to do something else would cause the cross to lose its power, then I am right. The implications of the Gospel of God are far and deep. So let’s stop just using simple cliches and start teaching, learning and living as Christ enables us to live.

Living the Gospel Mission

Living in the light includes not only loving each other, our brothers and our enemies of all skin tones. It also includes the continued discipleship of those who profess to be in Christ and those who don’t. Making disciples of those who are not yet walking in Christ is called Evangelism. It is long overdue for the Christians of the land to be known for their supernatural affection and obedience to Christ. It is time for believers to speak out against sin at all costs. Not so that people will change, we’ll cover that later, but so that it will be clearly seen what is tolerable and what is not.  December 19, 2016 I spoke at a Unity Conference hosted by the MLK Observance Committee in Evans County. During this message I gave several applications that must take place if the church is to see hearts change in our culture:

  1. WE must be in unity. Same faith, same Christ, same message, same mission.
  2. We must be intimate. I can love you, but if I continually am divided in my life, I am not a true friend.
  3. We must be prayerful. We know that there is no way anything will happen for good if God does not do it, so we pray for that to happen WHILE we work and labor toward it.
  4. We must be missional. In doing so, we need to recognize that unity is not the point, it’s the glory of God.
  5. We must be real. This means that we must be willing to accept the fact that those who hate Jesus Christ will hate each other. Back to #1
  6. We must be accountable. If we are to be the LIGHT in darkness, then we have to be accountable as commanded in scripture. First in our own hearts, second in our homes, then with our congregation and finally with each other. This applies that when someone promotes racism and hate, I am supposed to rebuke and correct it; every time!
  7. We must continue the conversation. WE can’t just meet four times a year and say, “Look, we love each other.” No, are we serving our fellow siblings? Are we being served by them?
  8. WE must stop calling those who look like us, “our people.” This is not true. Only those who are born of God are my people, everyone else is unified as objects of wrath.

When we live, it is not us who lives but Christ who lives within us. (Galatians 2:20-21) So we hold fast to Him because He has held fast to us!

The Church is the Agent

The Civil Rights movement did little to blend racial harmony, but it did a great thing to open the eyes of the country to the truth of the matter.  Those living in the MidWest had little experience with the bigotry that plagued the SouthEast, and the movement made it all clearer. But now 53 years later, the unity and love for humanity are still absent. While laws have protected basic civility, the overarching bigotry is still perpetuated by the very people who are supposed to stand against it. No matter how much work is done in the culture, without the church being a LIVING LIGHT and LASTING SALT, there is no hope.

Considering some of the application previously mentioned. We must hold a light to darkness and we must hold it accountable while remembering that it is all for God’s glory! I am often disturbed by the vast number of agencies and groups, including Christian conferences that operate outside the local church. It’s like a rally, everyone agrees, but there is no lasting intimacy. We have intimacy with our churches (I pray) and we have the opportunity for intimacy in our communities. So, the local bodies all over the nation are the central connection points for such a task.  This little article will in no way even rightly touch on everything, but it is a reminder of things we should not forget.  Most importantly, let’s stop looking at other Christians as our enemies and rejoice that God has put some of us together for this grand task of giving Him glory through His gospel that transforms the lives of some people.

Church Discipline is the Key

That transformation is indeed supernatural and it is accountable to the local assembly. When there is racism found in the church it should be approached and corrected just as any sin would. If someone cheats on their spouse, the church responds with warnings, rebuke, encouragement, and discipline. If the sin continues, the entire body, widely in an area are to be warned of the sins of such a person so they do not contaminate other congregations. The same is true with racism. The problem though is its sometimes hard to see it.  Maybe we could consider the following:

  1. Are people often offended by the discussion of racial tension and the call to unity?
  2. Does their social media presence appear to be in favor of racially divisive and hateful things?
  3. Does their speech exude bigotry?
  4. Does their life exemplify segregation?
  5. Is it you?

What if we find it? What if we find it, call it out, and the person wasn’t even aware? This could be the case. But, if we have approached them sinfully like I mentioned before, then we have lost the opportunity to be a change agent and a disciple maker. But repentance brings forgiveness and God is honored in restored relationships. Let’s rejoice in the Lord when someone sees and let’s rejoice in the Lord when we see what He has shown us in our own hearts.

Division will Birth from Righteousness

One final application I left until now is that when God’s people stand united and intimate in Christ against any darkness, it will cause great division. Some who were thought to be brethren will depart. Others who we thought to be bigots will join the praise. In the end, standing for righteousness has always created division with the world. Be forewarned.

A Final Thought About “My People”

We were not a people but now we are a people because God has chosen to call us His own and has made us alive in Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice in that and endure until the end. As we part the sea of iniquity in our own hearts by the Grace of God, be ever mindful that even those who seem to be in this conversation may not like it when “others” who are not “their people” begin to talk. This is a sad reality and reveals an even bigger bigotry than is usually displayed. It says, “Our people want to stay our people and have nothing of ‘you people’ involved in it…” Sometimes it is because we cannot fathom that anyone could understand our position. But God gave Paul, from the tribe of Benjamin, the heart to understand a pagan life that he had never even witnessed. Beloved, we are the people of God and in Him, we are able to move mountains!

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James


Pastor Tippins serves as Pastor of GraceTruth Baptist Church. More information about GraceTruth and more teaching can be found at GraceTruth.org

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. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)

Let’s begin with this scripture. It’s a good reminder of our OBLIGATION toward each other in the power of Christ.

Conflict is unavoidable, it will always be before us and only death will bring an end to our relational conflict in this life. The good news is that we who are in Christ Jesus are no longer bound to the ways of the world. We are no longer unable to deal with the feelings that go along with our desire to avoid problems. We understand that one evidence of the gospel is that we work out our differences for the glory of God, and most assuredly, by His power. The time involved to exegete every passage relating to conflict and resolution between individuals would take a lifetime to complete. So, we’ll just look at a few basics that will get us thinking in the right direction.

CONFLICT LIVES

I’ve already said this, but it’s worth repeating. It is going to happen. And if we are involved in each other’s life, we will surely find the opportunity for hurt, confusion, poor words, misunderstandings, blatant sin, fights, malice, and strife. The Gospel reveals that these matters provide an occasion for the reconciliation, which is our duty and our empowered existence. Any conflict that goes unhealed is one of the common division among the church. Greater than grievous acts of sin and even greater than false doctrine. As a matter of face, the lack of reconciliation is proof of a lack of genuine, Christ-empowered love. So in the living element of conflict, let’s embrace its reality but more so, let’s embrace the glory of reconciliation.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

I’ll put this here and then move on to the actions of properly dealing with conflict. Scripture speaks to how to handle when someone sins against you in Matthew 18. Jesus says that our first response is never to avoid, run or dismiss sin, but to confront it with hopes that the offender will be restored to intimacy. The major dilemma with this section of scripture is that it is often difficult to determine what the “sin” of offense actually is. If one has sinned against us, it is an action of word or deed that is a personal affront toward us, not a pet peeve from which we hope to escape. And it is surely not a heart of, “I wish they would be holy like me.” If this is an offense, then YOU are the offender, not the other person.

DAMNABLE ACTIONS

Why use such a harsh wording? Because that is what poor response to disunity actually is; a reflection of the old man, which is condemned or either dead in Christ. When the church doesn’t work to make things right, it proves that God is not among them, much less in them. It is vitally necessary for us to bear with other’s failings and not to hold anyone to a standard that is not prescribed in scripture. There is no place for the lack of teaching each other in the church. If we are obedient and mature, we know that God shows us other’s weakness and in doing so He has: given us pause to see if it is in our own lives, and has given us the opportunity to inquire and offer help to the weak.

DELIGHTFUL RESPONSE

Consider these.

  • Instead of hiding from the conversation, prayerfully ask God for help and make yourself available to be a catalyst for maturity. (1 John 5:16)
  • Stop looking at the weaknesses and ‘off’ areas of each other’s lives and start waiting to see how they handle them. Maturity is never gained in perfection, but in doing what is necessary, even if it seems to be a repeatable matter.
  • If you are in a church, you cannot just leave, expecting to honor the Lord. You must confront the problem and be reconciled. In a true church, one who abandons the flock is brought under discipline. Let’s not find ourselves in the Hebrews 6 camp.
  • Do not speak about the matter to anyone else. Even your pastor in detail. By speaking ill of someone before confronting them you’ve become a murderer at heart through gossip. There is no such thing as non-gossip counsel except when you seek counsel on the response without giving details, names or offenses. This is one of the most heinous areas of division in the church in my lifetime and I have seen good reconciliation come between people only to have others left in the wings to be bitter and suspicious toward the offender.
  • If you are the listener and do not stop and rebuke the aforementioned murder, you are also guilty of such sin. It takes about 10 minutes to correct this problem and another 5 minutes for that person to get in touch with the offender and start reconciliation. Recognize that when we sin against the church and the word, it is not a personal offense, but a matter that can be directly taken to the church.
  • Delight in the beauty of God’s power in bringing divided people together. Because out of reconciliation comes a strong intimacy and a stronger worship toward the Lord. After all, it is HE who brings people back together.

A few final thoughts. When we fret, we sin. When we live in anxiety, we sin. When we are burdened beyond prayer, we sin. So, our only hope is the beautiful grace of God through Jesus Christ who is our righteousness!  Hold on to Him who is granting you to live in harmony with His people!  Lord have mercy, the Lord be praised!

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)

I remember the early days of ministry in 1996 when great men of God were surrounding me and advising me on matters of church life, scripture, and ministry. At the time, those days seemed long and tedious, they were exciting yet unable to produce a quick enough reward. Out of most that I have been taught in the years following, one of the most misguided and erroneous teachings is that of assimilation as a ministry plan or effort. For those who don’t know, assimilation is the process whereby one is plugged into and take ownership of something, or some plan of the local church. It’s the word used to fully integrate the ‘observer’ or ‘attender’ into a committed position or role among the local body. For nearly a decade I developed most everyone around me with this end in mind and after 2005 I came to see that not only it as a waste of time, but it is a grand demonic scheme much like the garden temptation through which the gospel of Jesus Christ is shelved in all areas of church life to the point where there eventually is no church.

PHILOSOPHY AND CORPORATISM

From the onset, without giving a treatise on what scripture teaches about the assembled and called ones, let’s just state that these practices are nowhere to be found in history except in recent years. After the general bloom of corporate expansion in the 1950’s, congregations begin to adopt corporate policies and procedures and appoint leaders based on business acuity instead of biblical qualifications. This led to boards, trustees, programs, and all sorts of things being birthed. Now, while there can be some good to gathering people in a plan and process, doing so is a man-centered desire that is based on a neo-ministerial ecclesiology. It eventually trickled down, and as a company would vet in their employees and fill voids within a company, the church began to do the same.

NO BIBLICAL  PRESCRIPTION

What’s wrong with that? Well, there is no Biblical prescription for such actions. Church offices, leadership roles, teams etc. have taken over the Christ declared (decreed) offices of the church and the church now in America cares more about what they can provide for the community instead of how they will grow and glorify God in living together as a people. Paul says that anything not done from faith is sin, so as the church has gone these ways, assimilating people into the church through worldly means and secular example is certainly not a matter of faith. Sin is too strong of a word for most professing Christians these days, and sadly many church growth lovers will defend their methods to the death and divorce of their fellow siblings, thus proving their continued wickedness. Bottom line, people are the church, and the prescription for what she is to be is found clearly in the words of Christ who is her head.

PROGRAMS OVER PEOPLE

I remember several times in my life when the practices and programs of so-called ministry had taken precedence over people’s lives. When disaster struck, there was no occasion to meet needs and preach the gospel, because the work had to go on; as a matter of stewardship, the conference had to continue. I find it very interesting that so often congregations build everything but people. They amass grand schemes, answer great needs, provide superb answers, but fail to see the simplistic power of Christ and the Spirit of God through the bible. Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians that the building of “the church” with anything but the foundation material is wasted and that which is not eternal will fail and be burned. Sadly, the church has forgotten that ALL MINISTRY is to, and for the sake of people. Each individual life is vital to the whole and none is more important than the other. So, to spread wide the means through which people may feel at home in the church while ignoring the ONE who said He would grow His church is mere stupidity. We are not to build people by plugging them into anything but our LIVES with the WORD at heart and in hand. Organizing these opportunities is a must, but in reality, each believer should be investing in the lives of others, not working to assimilate his or her neighbor into a ministry program. After all, anyone who is built apart from Christ is burned up and dies.

PLACATING TO THE MASSES

There will come a time — a scary reality of the future that has surely been apparent in my entire lifetime.  A time when people will NOT ENDURE (that means they will not stand for it) sound doctrine (teaching). There has never been such a time in history where people hate sound teaching so passionately. The idols of men have no boundaries and now ministry is more popular than worldliness. Sadly, there is little distinction. I remember a dear friend and fellow pastor saying to me once, “You seem like you would be more at home in a smaller church.” At the time I resented that statement, now I wholeheartedly agree. But it wasn’t the size of the congregation that bothered me, it was the fact that the bigger we became, the less holy we were. Fewer and fewer did we see gospel-powered lovers of the word. It was more that people loved the ‘idea’ of the fellowship than actually loving each other. Bible study was less and less influential, and more and more people began to feel burdened to leave just to find rest in their consciences. It was a troubling but sanctifying time and I am blessed to have been through it. When the body of Christ begins to feed the masses, the masses will constitute its DNA. This means that the more of the world that comes to enjoy the products of the body of Christ, the less of the body of Christ is there. In short time, the church is now no longer the church of Christ, but a gathered club with bible trivia instead of a bridge game.

FEEDING THE FELT NEED

The more the world that is in the church the more it needs to feed. When someone can come into a fellowship of Christ followers and find solace in anything but Christ, they have missed the point of the gospel. The joy and affection of Jesus Christ is indeed one outcome of true rebirth. When we consider what the culture needs instead of what Christ says they need, then we have fed them to their flesh. The assimilation into programs and opportunities that take them away from prayer, fellowship, and scripture, feeds the sinful lusts of the mind and body. Some say that is harsh, but beloved, when the church gives a feast that is not the Bread of Life, it feeds death into the lives of those who partake.

SECURING THE UNREGENERATE

When someone fills up on things that are not Christ, they seem to be full. They plug in and play away at the game of ministry to the point that they feel secure. After all, are they not serving the Lord?  Well, the Pharisees served the Lord with gladness and holiness but Jesus told them they would never see the Kingdom of God if they were not born again. When people are OK with just being a part of some activity, but not part of each other’s lives, something is gravely wrong. Many unregenerate people can live good and moral lives while serving the ministries of others just like them. They can even teach some life’s lessons and call it scripture and have prayer meetings, that are nothing more than gossip sessions. If one isn’t careful, the entire church, including the pastor, could be completely unregenerate. Where is the power of God? Where is the awe in view of His ineffable glory? Where is the dynamic and glorious miracle of the new birth? Where are lives being transformed in broken sorrow over sin and at the same time worshipping the Lord Jesus for His glorious grace? When people can so easily be put to the “lord’s” (ahem) work without being confronted with the gravity of His righteousness, something is dead. And in horror, it may stay dead.

STARVING THE SHEEP

All congregations do not start out this way. Let’s face it, monkey see, monkey do- this works for the church as well as for our toddlers. When the ‘church’ down the street is growing in numbers and money and activities, it’s natural to figure out a way to compete or at least have a Jesus that is just as cool as the rest. In this battle to find the answer to why the narrow way is so less crowded the sheep of Christ are starved. And you might know what happens then: They either leave to find the pastures of their Shepherd or they get sucked into the assimilation game. (Sounds like a horrible movie). When Pastor’s do what they should be doing, the sheep are protected. To starve them brings some very harsh consequences according to James 3 and other places in scripture.

MOCKING THE POWER OF GOD

The most egregious matter is that God is mocked by man’s attempt to supposedly draw and keep people in a manner that scripture directly forbids. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul teaches that there is no tampering with God’s word or using cunning to reach the lost. The bold statement of the word of God is all that is needed to secure the people of God in salvation, unity, faith and life. God is not mocked and His wrath is not cooled by such things. What would God say about those who argue that it is better to have people ‘at church’ through any means, rather than teach the truth? I know what Jesus will say to those who are not His, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  May the Lord grant us all the grace to see when we approach such vain ideas. There is nothing wrong with having a plan or hosting an event, but make no mistake, these are not the prescribed actions of the church, and they should not be the mainstay. They surely should not comprise the ministry of the body. When assimilation is the means through which people are secure in the church, know that the word of God has been relegated to the status of a tool, not the Word of Christ. It has lost its power and such is the cross of Christ; powerless.

The purpose of this rant is in some way to remind me of what I left behind. I did so because God’s word opened my eyes to a busy and hurting people who would never have the fullness of joy because the rest of their body was too busy for them. It doesn’t take steps of commitment and investment for a believer to be united with a people, it just takes God bringing a dead man to life. He will then love his brothers and sisters as they live life together for the glory of God.

Desperately seeking to rid my life of idols,

James

tears of separationIt saddens me to consider the reality of how many times I have had conversations with church members through the years who swear upon their very lives that they love the church more than anything. But yet, they seem to not love the people of the church, and even worse, they have little desire to be patient and kind and giving of their lives for the sake of another. Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ came in the flesh in order to put sin away, and for those who trust fully in him, they become like him in his affections. This marvelous miracle of a transformed heart, is one of the grand evidences of the rebirth. John, in his first epistle, actually uses the love for the brethren as the litmus test of true saving faith. Or at least he uses it as the litmus test of the certainty of one not being in the faith-that is if they lack brotherly affection.

Ironically many people adhere to becoming part of a local fellowship without ever understanding what they should believe and what’s required of them as Christians to live in community. That being said, I cannot imagine that the first church concerned themselves with the great detail of so-called “ministry” because they were too busy learning and living together for the cause of Christ as well as loving each other with the love of Christ that they could not imagine  anything else. What caused this? Why are today’s Christians not intimate, engaged and focused on glorifying Christ accurately and in sync with the scriptures?

  1. What we do has replaced who we are. – the church are those for whom Christ died, who believe in Him, who live together for the sake of each other to His glory etc. The church has never been nor will it ever be a place or any program. A body cannot be defined by its plans but its people.
  2. Spiritual growth now means ministry involvement. Loosely, “ministry involvement” is seen through assimilation and “ownership”.  These things do not make growth.
  3. Taking care of people has been relegated to programs.  Long gone are the days (as the norm) where the whole church cared for itself, taught each other and were concerned greatly for maturity, holiness, benevolence etc. Now people with problems and needs are turned over to a system, not a sister.  They are pushed off on a benevolence council instead of a brother.
  4. Church is now a place rather than a people. We don’t go to church. WE don’t ‘have’ church… we are the church. Sad that we’ve lost that focus as a whole.
  5. Pastors feel the need to make leaders rather than disciples. Leadership development is SO FAR DOWN the list of priorities of a pastor that he should never use the term. Pastors should replicate themselves in other men who will teach the church and teach others to do the same. We don’t need professionals, we need idiots for Jesus.
  6. Business has taken over necessities. There is always some “business” when dealing with a large family, but it is the major matter in most congregations. People are just a vote or a small part of something GRAND and that grand thing is not even glorious or eternal, it’s just a worldly thing with Jesus stickers on it.  There is nothing more grand and glorious than Jesus Christ revealed in the lives of those who love Him: TOGETHER!
  7. Working in ministry has become “doing church”. Laboring in prayer, study, teaching, love, rebuke, discipline, etc. is no longer the norm. Rather, people say they work in ministry and haven’t done anything with anyone for their good. Planning and vision-casting is not ministry. Promotion is not ministry. Having 1000 people at an event is not ministry. Having more baptisms is not ministry… anyone can do these things; only God the Holy Spirit can bring real ministry into the lives of real people.
  8. Appealing to the masses and drawing to the “stuff we do” has pushed out preaching. Bring em and keep em… with what will bring em. Nuff said. Reaching people now means getting them to come rather than going out to them with the gospel. As long as people are “in the pews” they seem to be OK “in the Lord.”

How many more could we imagine? SO, how do things like these damage intimacy? Well, where does the “one” get solace in them?  Where does the hurt, depressed, injured, angry and maligned find hope in this type of work? What are so often people who need life shuffled around while those who live a false life given bread to eat? The church has lost its bearing and the only correction is to FLUSH it all and get back to the task given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ:  TO TEACH everyone to obey what He has commanded….. by His authority and power!

It’s time for a fresh look at our ecclesiology and for the people of God to either reform their families or find actual families that will live and learn and love with them. Because the ERROR has become the NORM, when a church desires to live like they should, it scares many people away. Why are you afraid of intimacy when it is the place you find peace and hope and life; first with Jesus and then with His people.

Something to consider.

Pastor James

Over a decade ago we painfully transitioned to integrated family worship. This means that all people who are part of the family of faith, all ages, sit together under the preaching of the word of God. The first year or two it was difficult for many reasons: we couldn’t handle our children, other people didn’t know what to do about a kid who may make a noise, it was different, visitors were caught off guard…. the list could go on. But ten years later, while there are always matters to deal with along with 30 children sitting in the services at any given time and three infants on the way in the fall, we have seen so much more blessings from this decision than any of these pains would discourage us. And every now and then we see a little light and encouragement on how God teaches children in the midst of the church.

This past Lord’s day one such example was given and in my experience, it was the youngest example of “listening” I have ever seen.  My two year old daughter was doing her usual: sitting with grandparents and back and two between folks in the church trying to “talk quietly” and “listen.” Usually this is cemented with a well-placed snack. (meh).  The text for the day was 1 Thessalonians 4:15 – “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” For the introduction and then as a reminder halfway through the message (63 minutes this day), I was making the case that our natural instinct when hurt is to hurt back. I used the illustration of how our children, even at a young age reveal depravity and sinfulness even though they do not know or recognize it as rebellion. I was discussing how we are patient with them as they progress and grow and in the same manner God has been patient with us and even patient with “vessels of destruction.”  Either way, God is patient and we are patient.

I alluded to a basic expression of rebellion that most children do, the crying for no reason, the testing, looking, whining etc. and in the midst of this example my two year old looks at those around her and says, “My daddy’s talking about me.”  A low chuckle birthed from that area of the congregation and an epiphany was born. We know that God is sovereign to teach through the word and no matter what “educators” teach, God is greater than our ability to teach. The New Testament shows us that children flocked to Jesus as He taught ALL PEOPLE; and they understood Him. We learned by statements like this that children hear, listen and by the grace of God, understand. Not only was Abby listening (even though it appeared she wasn’t), she resonated with the experience of her sinful actions as they were illustrated, without the use of her name.

Remember beloved, our God is gracious and can pierce the hearts and minds of the infantile, the ignorant, the young, the old, the stubborn and the incapable. He is mighty to save and reveal even those things that are impossible to see. Scripture teaches through the mouth of Jesus that unless our faith be like the little children we cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven. This shows us that ALL OF THE WORK of salvation is God’s doing, not man’s. Glory be to God for His faithfulness. I have hundreds of examples like this of children hearing and understanding deep things, but this is by far the youngest and I thought I would share.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor James

Worship by definition is to acclaim and make much of one or thing that is worthy of praise, honor, glory, attention or focus. Worship sits deep within the heart and when given opportunity, explodes with expression, not just about that which is worthy, but in honor of and toward such worth. Think about this, do you worship Christ or something/someone else? Are you invested with every fiber of your being in the glory of Jesus Christ? When you gather with the Saints of Christ each week, do  you come to make much of and hear Christ?

Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart that one speaks from the mouth. So, when preachers preach, that which come from their mouths is what they worship. It is becoming more difficult to hear Christ and His truth and see His face in preaching. When Christ is absent from the text which reveals Him, the one proclaiming such fails to herald the One of true worth and instead places his own treasure at the heart of all things. Paul says in Romans 1 that people suppress the truth by unrighteousness and worship created things. I believe that many Christians love themselves and “church work” over Christ, thus, they keep sitting and maintaining worldliness as religion instead of true worship. So often one can hear sermons centered on man’s work, man’s worth and man’s well-being which are guilty of promoting idolatry. Beloved, learn to hear truth and lies and know the difference. Sinner, come to the One who alone is worthy of all praise.

An old hymn rings true to my ears each day I ponder the glory of Jesus Christ… “And the things of Earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and and grace.”  So how do you know? Well, when you stand in awe of God, nothing else is in focus. Not even you! Praise not the content, pastor, service, music, feeling, friends, or anything else. Praise the ONE who is HOLY and who is Worthy of Praise. Run from anything else, it is a terrible thing to worship idols.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)

For His Glory by His Grace,

James

…………………… these are the thoughts of Easter as I ponder the history of my own life, mediate on the practices, consider the purpose…..  I am without any coherent thought on these things.

Easter, as it is, seems to confuse me. It doesn’t fall into any form of the biblical practice of the church and over the last twenty years, I have had a difficult time finding the place for it among the community of faith. While many congregations make much of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on this day, I am still unable to discern why it is tied to a date, day, season, festival, or tradition. A brother recently asked what we were doing on Easter Sunday to which I pondered puzzled. “We are in 1 Thessalonians, and whatever the Lord has for us there is what we’ll do.”  Thinking about breaking out of the glorious heart of voice of Christ (Rom 10:17; John 1) for the sake of the church troubles me and I find no prescription for it. In all reality, I think that if ONE day out of the many days that are the Lord’s is set apart and esteemed, it is probably out of the heart of idolatry, not worship.

Why do we take a worldly practice and turn it into opportunity for that one day to preach the truth? The better question is why do pastors and congregants subject boring and ill-effective half-truths as normative the rest of the year.  Oh yeah, there is the Mass of Christ… my point made.

The church should be about living and glorying in the risen Lord each day, each gathering, each moment and at every opportunity. Instead, she seems to be drawn in by social justice, politics, public service, philanthropy, humanistic self-help, fragmented doctrine and socialization in the name of peace. The reason that the church is so apt to adopt the human invention of Easter and make it as if it were a celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ, is due to the failing of the shepherds of Christ’s people to make much of Jesus in this way each day. We cater as previously listed, to the human nature instead of giving the power of God through Jesus Christ who IS the living word.

So, the reason Easter holds no love in my heart is that it seems to detract from the normal, passionate, continual celebration of Christ and His living reign that should be just as grand every other day of this life. Spurgeon remarks,

“There is no ordinance in Scripture of any one Lord’s-day in the year being set apart to commemorate the rising of Christ from the dead, for this reason, that every Lord’s-day is the memorial of our Lord’s resurrection. Wake up any Lord’s-day you please, whether in the depth of winter, or in the warmth of summer, and you may sing:
“To day he rose and left the dead, And Satan’s empire fell; To day the saints his triumph spread, And all his wonders tell.”
To set apart an Easter Sunday for special memory of the resurrection is a human device, for which there is no Scriptural command, but to make every Lord’s-day an Easter Sunday is due to him who rose early on the first day of the week.

And it so happens that our text this week in 1 Thessalonians, as the last three weeks, reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord!

[8] For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. [9] For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 ESV)