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?

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.

There is never a short supply of opinions. If the US Treasury could tax them, the country would be trillions in the black. These pesky little opinions are ever so frisky and they have a tendency to move about and change rapidly causing frustration, confusion, and sometimes anger. Theological discussions are not immune to such fodder and in fact, if anyone is ever in short supply of a sack of opinions, let them come down to the nearest social hangout, denominational office, men’s breakfast or their own household and it is assured they will find the plethora of mixed thoughts and logic drowning the passers-by. To the point: while there is always room for us all to have our feelings and thoughts about matters, we cannot think in contradiction to the sound truth taught in Scripture. There is no room for the thoughts, freedom, will and wisdom of human beings to stand in contradiction and question God or His actions.

While I’m not naming names or pointing out labels, consider the fact that each person in the realm of theology/biblical studies carries a label and each of those labels exists to define their position on some section or ‘point’ of doctrine. These labels can be helpful, for example, being a baptist identifies someone who holds to the belief that baptism is supposed to be for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as to the belief that the proper mode is to be submerged under the water. Now, Baptist doctrinal statements have changed through the years, but that particular matter has stayed unscathed. In contrast, Presbyterians consider baptism more a sign of a covenant than the outer sign of profession. Therefore, they baptize their children as a sign of covenant and those that hold to this position are well suited for the Presbyterian doctrine of baptism. Now back to opinions. When it comes to whether the mode or expression of baptism, people can hold differentiating opinions and in good conscience, still be considered brothers in the Lord through faith alone in Jesus Christ. However, when the opinion becomes a matter of biblical contradiction, there is a problem. Some people hold to the teaching that without water baptism, one will remain in a state of condemnation. We call that contradiction a matter of urgency because it directly relates to the biblical teaching of salvation or soteriology. When opinions become biblical contradictions they are called heresies and when heresies undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are damnable.

No matter how many people have held to such belief, it doesn’t change the error to truth. Paul teaches the Christians of Galatia that if they were to adopt the idea that circumcision would better secure their salvation they would forever be cut off from Christ. How? Because to believe in Jesus Christ Alone, plus something else is “no gospel” according to the Bible. In our example, if one believes baptism is a requirement in addition to grace and faith, then it is “no gospel”. This is problematic. Because the one trusting by faith in something that they do in order to secure or merit salvation is condemned like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. They are condemned because they are not believing in Jesus Christ and His work, but their own. Jesus called this type of thing, “darkness.” Now let’s move to the theological circles of other doctrines. Such as a works salvation.

Works, good works, obedience, sinless perfection, and all sorts of things related to humanity’s ability to cognitively decide and follow after Christ, are in the realm of being “another gospel” and as such, a damnable heresy. There are two matters though that need to be clarified. Some people are born of God and believe on Jesus Christ while later taught that they better work hard to persevere and then they get confused and disturbed, like the Galatians who were called “saints” and “brothers” by Paul. Other people just love the false gospel of working their salvation into existence. They love the ability to stand before God and declare, “I did it! I made the choice, I’ve followed the rules, I am obeying you!” While it may not seem strange, these words are demonic expressions akin to the words of Satan when he said, “I will, I will, I will…” and then God condemned him and threw him out of Heaven. In like manner, Jesus Christ will throw those who stand before Him and say, “Didn’t I do this and do that and say this?”, into the lake of fire. Make no mistake, those who trust in the freedom of their choice to choose and believe are dead in their sins. I pray that many who seem to fight for their ‘fair rights’ in the economy of grace DO NOT FIND them. Because the fair right of all people is to be damned by a loving and gracious and holy God.

God, being gracious and loving, has given life through Jesus Christ alone to be received by grace through faith. Let’s not continue to jump into labels that contradict this. Philosophy has no place in the study of God and when the mind of men get tangled into the ineffable glories of God, well, man just finds himself turned over to reprobation, confused, lost and alone. So what label do you like to wear? Is that label honoring to the Lord? Does it fit well with the sound synergistic and supernatural revelation of Scripture? If not, I would consider removing it you as quickly and as far as possible. Because in the end, we could all be wrong, but we cannot all be right and those who are wrong are condemned already and God’s justice and wrath remain. Let us see the light of the good news in the face of Jesus Christ and settle our opinions at the cross where Jesus took our sin after living our obedience so that we are now the righteousness of God! Amen.

Pastor James

Many believers have struggled with the decision to bury a body vs. cremation and burial of remains. Without getting into a whole schpeel of historical paganism or Old Testament practices let’s consider a few practical implications and a few theological consequences of the arguments.

There are some that believe burial more Christian because the body is resurrected. Well, what about the Martyrs or those who die because of fire or have been burned due to disease during the plagues? Have those bodies been disposed of sinfully? I think not. While the Old Testament does reveal a prescription for burial for the Israelites, hopefully, no Christian practices the precepts of Judaism. If you want to know why that would be an offensive option, just read Galatians and then the Book of Hebrews.

Practically, burial is a cultural phenomenon, and because of this, it carries with it religious implications. However, the practice of burial is different among Christians in almost every culture. As Americans, we have “westernized” every detail of our thinking about Biblical study and practice to the point that missionaries feel ‘westernizing’ evangelized people groups is Christ-like. I won’t get into that here, but I argue that it is an abomination to do so. Burial, while carrying religious significance, is a matter of preference, law, economics and culture. While I prefer burial of my body and the bodies of my loved ones, I would be hard pressed to suggest that it is a more Godly manner of disposing of a body. Know I know my use of words seems harsh, but when I die, I am just a body. And better yet, a body worthy of the fire! In other words, I pray that my family won’t worship my corpse but rather remember my legacy, and that, by the Lord’s grace, will be a gospel-centered legacy that points to the worship of Jesus Christ as God, not me as daddy, husband, friend, pastor or philanthropist.

In some places, the law requires bodies to be cremated before burial, and in all places, the laying to rest of human remains is a legal matter and requires a judicial approval as to where they will be kept. Thankfully this is the case lest we all buy a house and find grandpa’s body in the bbq pit. I know in my tenure in California, there was a time limit that a body could be kept for burial without extra storage fees and also that a full burial plot could cost upward of $15,000 for one placement. The additional funeral costs could soar over $45,000 making the death a complete bankruptcy for the widowed spouse or family. Here in our community, a full burial ranges from $15K to $30K while cremation services can be obtained for a mere $1000 or less. I have personally presided over the memorial service of several cremations who were later laid to rest in a cemetery and find the funerals no different than those who use a coffin.

Biblically speaking, the Scripture speaks nothing of how a body should be prepared for burial, disposal, etc. While some well-meaning people like to use the instructions given in Chronicles or Samuel and even Jeremiah (and other places) as proof texts that burning a body is sinful, I would argue that these individuals do not understand basic literary comprehension or they have not read the complete text of those books of the bible and thus are only repeating what they’ve been told over and over again. Some suppose that ‘glorifying’ the Lord Jesus in death means not to be burned, but that is a gross abuse of Scripture to promote one’s agenda. That type of Biblical abuse is a gross sin, and the Bible teaches that it brings with it grave judgment. (James 3:1, Revelation 22:18)

“Let the dead bury the dead.”  This direct quote of Jesus found in Luke chapter 9 is where Jesus uses a “pun” to show spiritual and physical death in the same breath. The man was grief-stricken over his father’s death, but in Jesus’ command to follow Him, this man was rebuked that he would desire to finish the burial preparations of his family first. While this is not a contextual conclusion, those who promote a dishonoring the Lord in improper burials, etc., then Jesus would be guilty of violating this kind of teaching. It is best when people use scripture they say what it intends to portray, not read into it. If I were to employ their line of biblical use I could say, “Here Jesus is saying we out not to bury people at all….” Which is nonsense!  What does the Scripture teach about burial?

It reveals the cultural NORM of the periods and the practices of the Lord’s people in comparison to the worldly practices of their neighbors. We know that Joshua was told by the Lord to burn the possessions and the members of the family of Achan, but this doesn’t give us a prescription for saying that those that are burned are cursed. It does show us though, that for the people of Israel, death was viewed as a temporary state and that preserving the body and laying in the ground was a normative way of showing such things. In the New Testament times, the Romans buried their dead. Burial is a sign of respect and memorializing. But the condition of the body at burial is not necessarily a mandate from God. What I think we all should see here is that it is a matter of conscience. That means that one is justified in his desire to cremate someone as long as his heart is right in the desire and that his convictions are not superstitious. This thinking goes both ways. To do a customary burial because one thing that it makes the Lord happy or makes them more righteous, this too is sin. If burial is a way of worshipping or idolizing a loved one, it too can be sin. Many people choose cremation for that purpose as well, so they can keep the remains close by.

In the end, some of what I’ve read recently closes with the same argument I do. That burial is a culturally honorable practice but that the Spirit of God must be our guide. It is not a sin to practice cremation and there is no need for repentance and forgiveness for the use of cremation. In some sense, I could argue that it is a poor use of resources to spend tens of thousands of dollars on burials, but I would never counsel anyone against the conviction of that unless they were going to be going into debt to do so.

I hope this short article will at least cause us to think about the differences between what Scripture teaches for us to do and what our culture and customs teach us. When those things collide, God’s word wins out, because He is the truth. When Scripture is silent, we must make our own prayerful decision on matters like these. It is much more realistic that in our day, cremation is not only a better option for space, money, and closure, but it eliminates us from having such an idolatrous relationship with a body instead we should use burial as an opportunity to proclaim the promise of the Resurrection of God’s people and to worship our living Lord Jesus.

Just a few thoughts… not a theological treatise.

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

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locked-church-doors

This question makes me cringe. Primarily because it says a good deal about the one who asks it and is difficult to answer without getting into the meat of who the Church is and what she is to be doing. The quick answer is, “You should “skip” (miss) gathering with the Saints as little as possible, but if necessary, only if you would also skip work, pleasure, family, vacation, etc. for the same reason.” When you are ill, contagious, etc. you should feel greived that you cannot make the assembly. The problem isn’t knowing when to miss gathering together, the problem is in the fact that so often professing believers seem to think that the local assembly (the church) is a social function.

The church is (are) the called of God who are redeemed in Christ Jesus for the sake of God’s glory and who are sealed with the Holy Spirit who LIVES within them. If that is you, then the rest of this article will surely apply; if not, then you’re under no obligation to your siblings in Christ, because you are not alive in Christ. To that end, please seek salvation through Jesus Christ Alone, by Faith Alone, not of your own doing but believing fully that God has come in the Flesh in the Son Jesus and has paid the ransom of your sins. Now back to a few questions that come to mind in response to this question by believers. Keep in mind that the church is THOSE GATHERED, not a place… so, on the onset, correct this in your mind.

Why would it cross your mind to “miss/skip” gathering WITH the rest of church?

The body of Christ is compelled to honor and glorify Him at all times and in all things by the NEW MIND and NEW HEART we have been given (which is your in Christ Jesus) through which we are enabled and find great affection for the LORD and the Lord’s PEOPLE – the church. So to have the Lord means to be driven by the Lord, who has us. Therefore, our desire to be in fellowship with other believers as a family is one of our TOP PRIORITIES in life.  This is above all things because the body and its gathering is eternally driven.  All other relationships in this life are temporal and fleeting.

What else would be more beneficial in life than being with the Lord’s people and under His word?

Seriously, where else do we want to be? What else do we want to be doing? Why are those things HIGHER in affection that Christ? Oh, you don’t see it that way, then beloved it’s time you understood the point. Christ saved a people in order that He might be glorified in them and that through His manifold wisdom He would put to shame and dumbfound the powers of darkness. This is seen fully in the love for the church. (the assembled) Anything else that pulls your heart strings away from God’s people is an idol or an excuse to live in unbelief and idolatry.

Where in the world will you find strength apart from God’s word and accountability and encouragement apart from God’s people?

You won’t. Plain and simple. There is no real wisdom, no real love, no real encouragement, no real worship, no real relationship with Christ apart from His bride. It is our continual striving together that makes Christ glorified. When you feel like you just can’t face another moment, when sin seems to have you by the throat, when you just don’t have enough strength to move another muscle, it is then you should be with God’s people the most. If your assembly doesn’t offer such a refuge, maybe it’s time you find a body that will honor Christ in your gathering… another point later in the year.

What reveals your true affections more than being assembled at the cost of unbelievers or young believers?

Skip church and show them that your relationship with the Christ is only a convenient thing OR tell them that nothing will interfere with the majesty of God and that they are welcome to join you in worship or sit at home and become second, as they should be. There is never a time to allow others to dictate our following of Christ and our joyful response to grace with God’s people. While some may read these words and disagree, I implore you to examine your heart. We are not bound to rules, we are bound to Christ and LOVE HIM with all the affection of God as we love each other with all the affection of Christ! If you have never looked at your Christian life in this way, I’m sorry that you have stayed so segmented and I pray that you would endeavor to quit placing Christ on aspects of your life but that He would be found in all corners, cracks and crevices of your soul.

Why should holidays put our faith on hold, especially those holidays that supposedly are about Jesus?

Oh my, haven’t we expressed this enough? I cringe again. As this year happens to see a holiday on the Lord’s day, it would be a tragic blasphemy of grand proportions to refuse to worship together in place of pagan traditions, family gatherings, and materialistic gain while saying that such holiday is about Jesus Christ.  Don’t get me started… I’ll write about Christmas later. I guess the point should be to ask, “What do I love most?” If you do not love the church, then you cannot love Christ. Something is greatly wrong in your heart if this is the case. And when I say the church, remember I am not talking about the things done, place attended, or programs employed; I am saying the PEOPLE OF GOD who are your eternal siblings.

Does it really matter?

As I have said before, it matters because it is reflective. Our love for God is directly relative for our love for the body. Jesus says it first and all the apostles concur. It matters that your heart is right because NOT being with the body regularly is the POINT of Hebrews 10:19-39. (take a look) – and it matters because so much is at stake, our joy, our hope, our prayers, the sharing of our faith etc. It matters because where there is no commitment, there is no transformed heart. The first century church saw explosive change in culture because when God saves His people, they leave the world’s ways and have no more affection for it. Imagine if every Christian daily laid their thoughts, lives, hearts, money and purpose captive to Christ. The world as we know it would be change.

What do you do if you don’t have this affection? Well, it may be because you’re with the body of Christ once a month or less. In 20 years I have been out of the pulpit once. We scheduled all trips and time off where I would only be gone no more than two Sundays in a row and then I was teaching elsewhere. Why? Because I cannot imagine not seeing my spiritual family for which I live, labor and thrive to see joyful in Christ. Sadly, most church goers would not tolerate an 80% commitment from their pastors but expect him to tolerate much less from them.  Brother Tom Ascol (Founders.org) made a comment recently on Facebook that “…what I have found even more egregious, to argue loudly for regenerate church membership and to remain undisturbed as a member or pastor for years in a church with 50-70% of its membership unwilling even to show up for worship on the Lord’s Day.”

The uncommitted mindset of Christians is ultimately a matter of discipline and in the same sense, should be corrected through discipline. Anyone who cries legalist should silent that ignorant claim and read the New Testament for a change where a life of transformation is evidence of a life redeemed and a loving brother is one who rightly opposes worldliness and friends, skipping the assembly on purpose is worldliness, just like drunkenness, adultery, malice and greed. Let’s be in fellowship tomorrow and every opportunity we have to the PRAISE of HIS glorious grace.

Pastor James

And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed

While the efforts surrounding this small quotation are honorable in relation to the empowerment of women’s rights, the context in which these words were spoken are dangerously wicked. In speaking about abortion rights, this line was enforced as one of the ways in which laws would be backed with “resources and political will”. While Christians should abhor what is evil and hold to what is Good, sometimes what is good is coupled with what is evil in an attempt to placate to the deception of Satan while feeding the desires of a depraved world and the flesh that is certain to find eternal judgment.  Only blind individuals or misogynistic patriarchs would deny that our sisters are surely “second class” in so many eyes, it does not allow for the reduction of truth and the banishment of divine decrees in order to do what is right.

When one desires to change the essence and explicit dogma of righteousness by what is pleasing or “culturally” acceptable it brings many consequences. Two of them are, a hatred for resistance by the contrary and persecution of the firm.  “Rights have to exist in practice” says this leader, who doesn’t understand that her very words will condemn her when she stands before the eternal judge who clearly shows that murder, of anyone, is murder and no matter how the plane lands, the heart of the murder, if not transformed by the grace of the Lord, will remain condemned. When “deep-seated” codes of cultural religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed by the leaders of a nation in order to exercise new rights that conflict with righteousness persecution and ultimately the death of true believers is inevitable.

Remember these words beloved. We are guaranteed to share in the suffering of Jesus Christ as a good soldier. Not by fighting to win but standing as though we have already won. When the attack comes, it will come from the locals, the churches, the neighbors, the spouse, the kids, and those who love you most. The body of Christ will have to endure the persecution that follows the world’s ways and we must do it with gentleness, humility and pity toward those who would rather see us burn on a pyre than to tell them the truth of the Gospel. Keep in step with what is taught us, keep in step with the Lord Jesus (in His grace), and keep in step with the future that we know is ours; not of this world, but gloriously awaiting us who are kept by the power of God!

Do not be deceived, the culture hates the Lord, the natural man wants to do what is contrary to the Lord’s will and design and all these things we see, all the bullying against holiness and the advocating for abortion, same-sex marriage, racism, greed, monarchy and the like are preparing to see the wrath of God poured out on all unrighteousness. May the Lord grant us a heart to pray that we send forth the gospel to a dead world; not a dying one.

Lord have mercy on the souls of men. Lord thank you for the cross – Jesus was killed for preaching the words of God!

Pastor 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.

ThePointSketchAs long as there has been sin in the world there have been people with problems. Adam’s first issue was the fact that he was naked and then ashamed; Eve likewise. Since then the problems of humanity have compounded to an immeasurable proportion and it is very likely that things are not going to get better for humanity any time soon. The Good News is that Jesus Christ has suffered temptation, suffered in the flesh and risen from death and ascended into Heaven to “prepare” us for the presence of God (Among Many Things found in redemption…). So, those who know the love of God IN and THROUGH Jesus Christ ALONE can have joy in the midst of the problems. As believers, we know that all things are for our good and in time we will see the outcome of such in all circumstances. We understand that God is sovereign and that nothing is out of His touch and decree and that even in the worst of times His love for us is visible, effectual and known.

To this point then let’s remind ourselves of the love of God.  First, God is love. So, He is known as love in His nature, love, holiness, character and actions. Second, if we love God it is only because God first loved us. Third, God’s love is only known through Jesus Christ the Son whom HE (God) put forth to satisfy His judgment against us and bring justice for our sin according to His holiness. We learn that there is no greater “love” than for a man to lay down his life for a brother, therefore, God loved the world in this way (so loved) that HE gave His Son.  So, we summarize the love of God in the following way:

  1. God is love.
  2. God’s love is only known through the GIVING (sending and killing) of Jesus His Son.
  3. God loves us in the giving of Jesus Christ to die for our sins in that we cannot pay for them ourselves.

So, if we understand God’s love this way according to scripture, then we can rightly assume that to DISAGREE with God’s love through the Son is to REJECT the love of God. Those who reject the love of God are condemned already (John 3:16-18) and are subject to the wrath of God’s hatred for sin and sinners. Hmmmm….. Let that soak a minute and now let’s move to the point of our conversation.

Ministry often times is man-centered. It can been seen in a selfish light of “I want a friend”, “I want a shoulder to cry on”, “I want someone to pity me.” Of course this is not exclusive nor is it the rule but everyone can resonate with such statements. Let’s consider true ministry as “An attempt or effort to love others as God has loved us.”  Thinking this way should have already opened your eyes. So, if God ONLY LOVES in the giving of His Son, then in the same manner (like in Ephesians 5:22-25) we should love each other as God loves us. We are unable to put Jesus the Son on the cross for He has already fulfilled His ministry as the Lamb but we are able to POINT TO THE LOVE of God for us and in doing so we are LOVING each other.

Ministry takes on a whole new light when we think biblically and especially when people come with their problems.1 Thessalonians 5:14 teaches that the church should be admonished when idle, encouraged when downhearted and strengthened when weak.

Everyone needs a good ear from time to time and it is always good when a believer seeks out counsel from a brother or sister in the local family of faith. In this seeking of counsel often times it comes to the point of just listening to someone whine about how bad things are rather than seeking good counsel. In the end it is always improper (according to our understanding of love) to allow someone to just fall into pity and self-centeredness for any reason. Our love for them should point them to the promises of God through His word and in the admonishing of the idle a stern warning comes first to BE IN THE WORD and BE IN THE BODY.

Without these two things no counsel will work, no hope will stick, no joy will arise. To give someone a shoulder to cry on while they live in continual disobedience and rejection of what the scripture teaches on how they are victors is “like” casting a diamond into the sea in hopes it would swim to a new family for their wealth or maybe like throwing a pearl in a pig sty. In other words, it does NO GOOD at all to just allow someone to ignore the power of God and His gospel just to have a pity party.

The answers to life come from God’s word, the power of victorious living come from the word, hope and courage come from God’s word… grace comes from God’s word. The letter of James tells us that those who see and do the word of God are victorious and rest on a solid foundation and just like Psalm 1, their feet will be planted and produce great growth. So, when someone needs wisdom, we go to scripture and show them to “ask and it will be given.” When someone needs comfort we exhort them to believe Jesus Christ when He says, “come to me all who are weary.” When one comes broken in their battle over sin we show them that Christ has suffered in every way and with every temptation but has sinned not. Others come with worry and in need of answers to their problems that they would find an escape and Godly council says, “stand fast in the fiery trials” and “do not be surprised” when they come.

Being out of the word of God and away from God’s people is like asking God to save you from burning as you set yourself on fire. Well maybe not quite as dramatic… but you get the point. At the cusp of this matter lies the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ, who are ambassadors of the living God through the redemption that is theirs in Christ. Sadly, many who want counsel want more than what the Word of God offers or want to be free from the pain of this life and sadly apart from the Word they will never find answers.

So what is the point of this rambling treatise? For all of those who diligently minister to those in need, please remember that the greatest ministry is the ministry of the word and the greatest friend is found in the body of Christ. So as we labor to answer the questions of life for others and we point them to the word of God we put our hope in Christ not ourselves. If we find some who refuse to hear and heed the word but they keep coming back for something else, it may be that we have to just clearly show them we have nothing more for them. Part of the pain of the Father’s discipline is being alone when we reject the Father’s instruction. Not to say we abandon others but we surely have to be clear that there is little we can do to help if they will not hear.

Warn the idle, encourage the downhearted and strengthen the weak through the word of God – if they do not listen, pray that God will cause them to listen and in their silent and lonely search for hope, God the Spirit will guide them back to His written word and back into the intimacy of His Holy People!

Lord Bless!