“Know that the Lord is God”- Be contagious this Thanksgiving

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭100:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Here we are just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving 2018. If you are like me and my family, it seemed kind of fast and filled with lots of change along the way. It is inevitable you know? Change. Whether we like it, invite it, or even see it coming, change will happen. I mean for example, just the other day I was talking with a young teenager and referred to him as “sonny” and no one looked at me funny!

As you may already know, I am currently preaching a series of sermons on being thankful and living a life of gratitude. While preparing those messages, I often think about the various gospel songs and hymns which sing about being thankful and how much there is to be thankful for.

Often times, the preacher gets to a point where he and maybe even his family just need to sit back and go to church. I mean, it is nice once in a while for the preacher just to hear the sermon with the rest of the church.  As much as I love to preach, this past October I was blessed to sit back and listen for a few days.

Our church held revival for two nights and a Sunday morning in the middle of October 2018. Mr. Aaron Davis of Eastern Pines Church of Christ in Pikeville,Ky delivered the preaching. We also had some great worship with great prayer and music each service time!

I have always been one who believes and peach that God will give me what I need when I need it. Brother Aaron brought powerful preaching with excitement and challenges! As he preached, he continuously referred to Psalm 100:1. “Shout for Joy to the Lord, all the earth.” Each time he referred to that part of scripture, he would let out a loud “WOOOOO!” Eventually, others would catch on.

Yes, that is correct. This preacher had our Conservative Independent Christian Church congregation getting loud during church! Even though the messages stayed close to the basics of the gospel message, they were powerful and exciting. Just what our congregation needed.

Also, just what this preacher needed! Sometimes we all can get to the point where we are living life and working so hard for the Lord that we can forget that there are some absolutes that are never going to change. That is not to say that people generally forget about Christ on the cross or His power and grace, but that we can get distracted from it.

I personally believe that emotions and attitudes are contagious. All it takes is one or two excited people, genuinely excited, to enter a room full of people and energize the room. Anyone who has been with other people who simply cannot stop laughing will understand what I mean.

There are two people especially that I know that come to mind when it comes to contageous joy and laughter.  One being a super awesome and Godly Lady who worked as the secretary of a church which I was part of years ago.

All it took was to get her tickled and laughing and before you know it, everyone around also began to laugh. Another is a great man with a strong and joyful spirit who I admire greatly.

Each time I see him, no matter what is going on in my world, it is not long before I am feeling joy and laughter. He is one who is not afraid to laugh hard and loud! I would say that he is not ashamed of his joy, so much so that it fills whatever room that he occupies!

The point is this. It is easier to get up every day and look around and find everything which is wrong and hurtful. It seems a bit more difficult to start each day with gratitude and joy in our hearts and minds. For the Christian, it should be that we are the most thankful, joyful, pleasant people in the world! Easier said than done right!

Right! Unless, we are surrendered to the Spirit of God which we should have already submitted to when we confessed Christ and repented! Let me point out that I am the chief sinner when it comes to this struggle. Every day is a day of choices!

You and I, we all get to choose what kind of day we are gong to have. We all get to choose how we react to the world and what happens each day. Yes, even those who struggle with depression and similar struggles.

No one ever said that life would be easy. But we all have the choice to press on toward the goal or quit. Some days less joyful than others but there is always something to find to be thankful about, if we really want to see it!

I would encourage everyone this Thanksgiving to be that person who brings joy and laughter into the room, wherever you are. You never know who else in the room may need a boost from your joy!

Change is Not Always Better

Today being Tuesday Nov. 06, 2018, it was yesterday that I spent with my wife riding through the dirt roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains in our Jeep. We have two Jeeps at this time. One is fairly newer, 2014 Wrangler, and the other is a bit older, 25 years old to be exact. It is a 1993 model Wrangler. My wife and I both had always dreamed of owning a Jeep wrangle since we both could remember. Now here we are in our mid- 40’s and we have not one but two!

5CA445A4-0112-4069-B980-9544B691868CWhy do any of you care about what my wife and I drive? You probably could not care less. I bring it up because as my wife and I spent the day riding around in our 25-year-old Jeep, we talked about how great it was to ride in the old Jeep. You know, keeping it simple. We love driving around in that Jeep because it is basic, no computers, no special engineering or parts that we could not fix ourselves if needed. Just a Jeep.

I think we like it because it takes us back to a simpler time. When we were growing up, there were no cell phones and computers only existed in the schools and then only in certain class rooms or the library. Cars were bigger and made of metal. Bicycles and big wheels were the big thing. And people actually paid money for the NewsPaper and read it every day. Thank God for that because my Dad being a news paper man, that is how we had food on the table and bills paid.

2F7048CF-32CE-46A1-B4B0-AF45761F413FMake no mistake! My wife and I love our newer Jeep just as much as the older one. I mean, it has air-conditioning, cruise control, cloth seats with carpeted floors. It has a computerized radio system which is Bluetooth capable along with hands fee cell connectivity! Oh yes, it is nice! We sometimes refer to it as our “Sunday go to meetin” Jeep!

What I am getting at is this. Even though they are both Jeeps, they are apples and oranges. The differences between the two after 21 years makes them two different vehicles. One is not better than the other. They are simply different. Both very useful and reliable.

I believe that society has a way of being very innovative over the years. What a blessing that is for everyone. People have been able to live better, work smarter and faster, and not to mention the ability to fight sickness and disease. Each generation has been able to take what the previous generation has done and continue to build on it. I think that is proper and should be expected.

I am not sure if it is my generation, the generation before, or the generation after mine, but it seems that society has been moving past building on what our fathers and grandfathers spent their lives building, to having the mindset that everything needs to be torn down and everything needs to be new.

Please do not miss-understand, I do not mean that I am against new ideas. I am simply saying that there seems to be a growing mindset that “older” folks messed everything up and the “younger” crowd now has this burden to knock it all down and fix it, because they know better or are more right.

I can remember back when I was in my late teens and most of my twenties, how I thought that most of the adults in my life did not understand and that their ways and advise just would not work or apply anymore.

And then one day I turned around and noticed that there was a young man in his teens who looked and acted a lot like me and living in my house. He looked at me and talking to me as if my ways and advise just would not work and that I could not possibly understand the problems of the world.

I suspect that it is nothing new. It is probably a blessing and a curse that follows each generation throughout time. I do get a bit frustrated at the younger generation and how they, not all but some, seem to think that all the old people are fools and have screwed everything up. It seems to me a very arrogant and disrespectful attitude. The problem is that each generation is a product of the generation before it.

As usual, the Christian cannot and should not expect a person who is not a Christian to act a certain way just because the Bible says something about it. However, it is proper to expect the believer to live lives in agreement with the truth in God’s word. Having that said, I want to share a couple of scriptures with you:

“…you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
‭‭1Peter‬ ‭
5:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
‭‭1Timothy‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The bottom line for me is that I am part of society. I too am guilty along with the younger crowd as well as being guilty along with the older crowd. This is why we all need Jesus! The real issue for the church is to find ways to love everyone! Older people loving younger people, and younger people loving older people.

If we cannot get this figured out within the church, then we will never be able to go into the world and make disciples. We will simply be participating in and maybe even contribute to the generational division that sometimes seems to stand in the way of being united as people, a nation, families, co-workers, and even the church!

Not too many days ago, I met with some of the people in our church. During that meeting a point was made that when people are looking for a church, most times their decision to stay with a church comes down to children, and music. I suspect that the two are most likely woven together many times. I cannot disagree with that assessment. People do look for churches that have something for children and also look at what kind of music is presented.

Since that meeting, I have pondered that fact. Since then, and while driving my 25-year-old Jeep through the mountains, I have been reminded that every person has a use in the church. It is not something that I had forgotten, I think that I am only making sure that I do not allow myself or others to get so caught up in the “changes” that we may make in the church, that we forsake the elders.

After all, if it were not for the generations of faithful believers that served before me, I would never have heard the gospel and would never have been able to make the decision to submit myself to my Savior! I believe those thoughts are what is important as each church seeks the Lord in making “changes” for the sake of making disciples.

Yes, my wife and I have two Jeeps. Each has it’s own purpose and usefulness in our family dynamics. Both are just as valuable as the other and we would not “change” a thing.

Two pieces of advice that stand out from the “older” generations; first, “do not try to re-invent the wheel”, and second, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

 

Who Told You That You Were Different? – God

I  have just started preaching a Thanksgiving sermon series. Yes, it will be a longer series but that is OK. I started off in chapter 3 of Colossians. All of this book of the Bible is about how Jesus is the center of everything and holds everything together. A regular visitor to my mind appeared as I studied.

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”   Colossians 3:9-11 NASB

blog pic 110218

This regular visitor being the thoughts surrounding the differences people have and show that seems to be a great source of conflict and sin, instead of being a great source of strength and glory. Why is it? Will there be no end? Where do we start?

The fact is, people are different. Men are different than Women, Adults differ from youth and children. People are different by race, culture, religion, personality, mentally, physically, and on and on. There is nothing wrong with being different! So why is it such a problem? Why is it such a powerful tool for hate and division?

Although I do not presume to have the answers to those questions, however I may have a good place to begin, I do have some thoughts which hopefully will be of some use to others. My thoughts about this great and vast topic, which has many avenues of discussion available, ultimately lead back to what we read in Colossians 3:9-11. These verses use the words, “no distinction between”, when pointing out the differences in people.

Lately, I have had numerous conversations with others about some aspects of this topic. It is not new to me that this problem of division over people and their differences is not exclusive to the world, the church is just as guilty maybe even more so. After all, the church has no excuse. The church has the truth, in scripture, as well as the Holy Spirit. There is no excuse!

I sometimes think back to Adam and Eve. After they had disobeyed God and then realized that they were naked, they then tried to cover themselves up. For the first time, they had a real knowledge of their differences as well as a knowledge of how different they were from God Himself. It is only when God shows up and asked the question,

“Who told you that you were naked?”    Gen.3:11 NASB

What a powerful and deep question! I suspect that Adam and Eve did not even comprehend the depth of the question. Really it was a rhetorical question. God was revealing to them just how he knew that they had eaten of the forbidden tree. They should not have know that they were naked. They should not have known so deeply of their differences.

Sometimes I wonder if God does not ask His Church the same question when it comes to the divisions over race, gender, age, music, non-essential doctrine, and so on. Sometimes I wonder if God is not asking the Church and the world, “Who told you that you were different?”

According to the scripture that the church believes to be absolute truth and God breathed, it says that there is to be “no distinction” between any people. You see, it is sin that causes us to see our differences as a problem!

Too many times I myself have been involved with, worked with, or heard about churches that are filled with on type of person. Some are larger churches and still only are only filled with people of “their kind”.

Some are smaller churches who do not reach out. Many churches that are located in the middle of ripe fields of harvest, refused to grow and be used for the kingdom of God because the people who live around the church are not like them.

I have seen to many “White” churches not reaching out to other races. “Black” churches only reaching out to other people like them. Financially well off church members giving off a subtle vibe of judgement to those who might dare come and visit their church who are different. One denomination shunning others who do not like the same style of music or are not as liberal or legalistic.

I have had conversations with many people of all backgrounds and ages about how the bible says that it is a sin for a man and a women of different races or cultures to marry. Let me just say that I do not find that anywhere in the Bible.

First, I will point out that Timothy was a product of interracial marriage. Acts 16:1. Oh, and Moses married a Cushite woman. Numb. 12:1. And if anyone is going to quote old testament scripture about it, their interpretation or application is wrong, or even both.

Oh, it’s true, if someone visits the church, most will put on the church face and welcome and love them while they are there. Yet, what would happen if many people who are different come, and actually stay? The church is guilty, more times than not, of self segregation. The fact is that if the Church is going to be like Christ, than there can be “no distinction” between any person. We must reach out to all with “no distinction” without compromise or sin!

I am not saying that we should not embrace our differences. I would even go so far as to say that we should celebrate our differences in a way that brings honor and glory to God, the one who created us and allowed those differences to be!

So the next time a brother or sister in Christ makes the mistake of separating another from the fellowship due to the fact that they are not the same, be the one that is willing to help that brother or sister have a different understanding. Let’s be The Church! The Church, like Christ, makes “no distinction” between male/female, Old/young, Asian/Hispanic/Black/White/Etc…., US Citizen/visitor.

In the eyes of our Lord, there is no difference. Jesus died for all! We must ask God to help us see others the way He does!

 

Faith Beyond the USA

Each time I write about topics involving the United States of America, I feel it necessary to begin with sort of a disclaimer about myself as a citizen United States of America. I will say that I am a citizen because I happened to be born in Lamar County Alabama.

49C6A344-E574-4A09-8B4C-CF96122B1515Having grown up in the USA, I am proud to be a part of this great nation. Since 1971, I have experienced many freedoms and been allowed many rights that many others do not receive around the world. I love my country and believe I would die for it if need be.

When I write thoughts for this blog, they are intended to be those that offer words from a Christian worldview. Realizing that not all of my fellow citizens hold to the same faith or values, I do not hold anything against those who disagree with me. There are many issues in our world today as well as right here in the USA.

Times, from my perspective, are sometimes scary or concerning in terms of the future. I wonder about my son and his future or his children, should he have any. What will these United States be for them. I am certain that things will not be the way they were for me. Time has a way of changing everything.

Sure, there have always been battles, political, moral, religious, and social. In the middle of it all, I cannot help but think about the fact that their has never been a nation, kingdom which has lasted. What I mean is that all great nations and kingdoms eventually met their end over time. Will that be true for the United States of America?

Not too long ago, I would have adamantly said, NO, it’s not possible! It would never have been possible, in my mind, that the USA would not exist with all it’s greatness and freedoms it affords it’s citizens. And then, 09/11.

It seems that everything changed after the attack on that date, 09/11. Suddenly, there was a glimpse of vulnerability here. Don’t get me wrong, I still think we are a powerful nation and it would take a great force or forces to change that, if even possible without ending the world all together. No, I am much more concerned about “self destruction”.

Many things have happened over the years since the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The latest world event that causes these concerns is the thousands of people who are walking toward the southern border of the United States with the intent to simply walk into this country without regard to any laws or respect for our fellow citizens. All the while waving flags representing their native country.

Whether or not this news event is really happening the way it is being reported or even happening at all, it still causes me to ponder. Without getting into the details about that situation, I will point out that it does create quite a moral dilemma for some. Sparking debates across the nation and even the world.

0DBC5786-9B1B-4F7D-8E0A-F8B96E1A4E50
Photo: Fox News

A person in our church asked me what my thoughts were about what should be done about the matter.

Should the USA protect our border from invasion? Should we consider the people who are in the group which is coming? What is right and what is wrong? The truth is, being an American and a Christian comes with great challenges. Not that Christians from other parts of the world do not have their own challenges.

For the American Christian, it would seem that there is a real moral dilemma at hand. But when pondered on and prayed about, it really is not that difficult to sort through. The USA is my home. What would most people do if people came into their home uninvited? My answer to what I believe is the right thing to do for the American, as well as the Christian can be found in a prior blog post, “Violence and the Kingdom of God”. 

I brought all of this up because I really think it is important for every Christian who is a citizen of the United States of America to think about the possibility that the nation could one day be no more.

God forbid this should ever happen, but the question should be, what does it mean fo the Christian if it does? Will it change your faith? Would your relationship with God be any different? Does your Christianity depend on your citizenship in the USA? Will God be you God with or without these “United” States of America?

The fact is that most people do not think about how the world changes and how it might affect who we are in Christ. Most people go about their day expecting that their world will be the same as it was yesterday, after all, it is what we believe that we “deserve” right?

All the while, there are those in the world that would just as soon destroy this nation along with those who are standing guard against our enemies, here and around the world that keep our freedoms intact.

The reality is this. There are many great people who are what we call decent. Not all are Chrisians by the way. There are also many people who are not nice, rather wicked and evil in fact. People will not be forced into peace! The very thought of that is absurd.

No, if there is to be peace, it must be chosen by all. This is why God does not force anyone to accept His love. Forced love is not love.

”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 NASB

That scripture reference in Colossians is mainly speaking to the believers and how they are to live at peace with one another. However, Paul gave instruction to those in Rome;

”If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18 NASB

The point being with this entire post is that being a Christian ought to be the first priority. Yes, being a citizen of the United States of America has it’s responsibilities, but the Kingdom of God is greater!

Yet at times, we seem more concerned with protecting this great United States of America than protecting and standing firm in the Kingdom of God. Can we do both? Yes.

Are we doing both? I’ll let you answer that.

“COEXIST” – My Two Cents for What It’s Worth

We do not have to travel far down the road to find the familiar bumper sticker which would seem to encourage people of all religions to “COEXIST”. For the record, I do not own nor display one of these bumper stickers or signs anywhere. However, I am in favor of getting along with all people, as far as it is up to me.

Now, having pointed that out, I will say that there seems to be some confusion about this “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Not only on the part of those who do not display it, but for those who do as well.

Where to start? Let me start with my own basic understanding of what this statement is about. I am sure that someone will correct me if I am in error. Nevertheless, my understanding is that the idea is that if people of all religions would simply get along, there would be world peace. I know it is much deeper than that, but that is the general idea.

The real thought behind the statement to “Coexist” is that no one religion has exclusive rights to “truth”. This comes from the worldview rooted in “relativism”. What is true for you may not be true for me, is how that looks. This idea seems to be an effort to create a world where everything is happy, fair, and all-inclusive for the sake of world peace.

There are two main points I would like to address, my two cents. First, I would like to submit to the world that we already coexist. If we look at the definition of the word;

1 : to exist together or at the same time
2 : to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coexist

The fact is that we do exist together at the same time, all of us, whether we like it or not! However, I will admit that the second offered definition, “live in peace with each other”, we have yet to master. But in a general sense, I say we already coexist.

As for my second point, I will submit that it really is not possible to “live in peace with each other”. The fact is that each person is only able to control or manage her/himself. No one can force any other person to live at peace with any other person or people! The very idea of that I would liken to North and South Korea hugging it out and then acting like nothing ever happened! I mean to force another to do something that they are not willing to do seems to be the opposite of living in peace with each other.

The idea that people of different belief systems, which many times stand in contrast with each other, submitting to the idea that every religion or belief system can be right would require everyone to compromise their belief system. I will be the first to say, as a Christian, I will not compromise what I believe to be the truth nor do I expect anyone else to. Yes, I will share my beliefs with others for the purpose of allowing them to decide for themselves if they agree or disagree.

I do however, believe that it is always an option for an individual to offer respect and kindness, even love, to their neighbor. I for one do not demand that anyone believe what I believe about truth, God, or any other worldview or idea that I hold. I do my best to treat everyone that I meet with respect, like a person who has ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is ok, it is ok to disagree! It does not always mean hate or dislike.

The real problem with the “COEXIST” bumper stickers is that there is an insinuation, intended or not, that those who display it are the ones who are “right” and anyone who disagrees or does not function within their idea of “COEXISTING” is “wrong”. This my friends, is the epitome of hypocrisy and flies in the face of everything that it says it stand for! No one can stand and say that they are “right” without saying that someone else is “wrong”.

“”But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:27-28‬ ‭NASB‬‬

 

 

Can you love your church too much?

Most, when asked about the church that they attend, would say great things about their church. I would hope anyway. Well, there is always those who are never happy with anything. However, most might even say that they love their church! Sometimes people feel this way because it is the only church they have ever attended, and some may be fairly new to their church. Regardless, everyone who says that they love their church also has their personal reasons for loving their church.

Not long ago, I preached a sermon series about getting excited about church and helping others do the same. Now, as a Preacher, I think that it is vital that the Preachers and church leaders lead by example here. But first, they and the members must all answer one question, and answer it honestly.

The question is not, “do you love your church?” That question is simply a part of the real question by which an honest answer has the potential to set the church on fire for doing the work of the Kingdom. The real question, the full question is; “Do you love YOUR church, or do you love THE church?”

The truth is that some love their church too much. That’s right, too much! You may think that it is not possible to do that. I will submit that it is very possible and in fact has happened and is happening way too often. Even to the point of contributing to the demise of many congregations around the world! Sadly.

What does it mean to love your church too much? First, the question itself gives away the answer if we are paying attention. Some do not realize that the church belongs to God. The church is not mine, nor is it yours or anyone else’s! Far too many people have staked some kind of claim to ownership in “their” church building presume to have control over the what, when, where, why, and how much of what goes on at the building that facilitates church.

Second, because some love “their” church too much, evangelism turns into an effort to get others to join them at “their” church for the purpose of encouraging the visitor to become more like them as well as loving the church for the same reasons that they do. The sad part about people loving “their” church too much is that the result is missing out on what God is doing in the world through His Kingdom work!

As we read instructions given to husbands in Ephesians;

”Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”     Ephesians 5:25-27 NASB

Although, this teaching is speaking about the relationship that a husband should have with his wife, there is more to see here. If the instruction is for the husband to love the wife as Christ loved the church, then there should be and is explanation about how Christ loved the church.

Let us notice that it shows there in Ephesians chapter 5 that Christ “gave Himself up for her,”. It continues by using words like sanctity, wash, and that she, “THE Church”, would be made Holy and blameless. The fact that Christ Himself willingly gave Himself up for the church should give all believers a clue as to what it means to “love THE church”!

If the believers, those who surrender by faith to the gospel of Jesus as the Christ, are the body of Christ, and they are, then they/we ARE the Church! Furthermore, if we who are being made blameless by Jesus offering Himself up for us, and we would call ourselves “Christian”, “like Christ”, then how can we not give ourselves up for “THE Church”?

You see, it is very possible to love “YOUR” church too much! Yet know this, it is impossible or anyone or group of people to love “THE” Church too much! It all comes down to one thing. How do you view church? Have I/you somehow confused the church with other organizations which allow members to take ownership and positions of control? Or have I/you been able to see “The” Church and grow into loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls as well as loving first “THE” Church as we love ourselves and then even others in the world?

We must realize and continue to be reminded that buildings, furniture, money, and any other thing in existence is NOT “THE” Church! It is those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and by faith, repentance, and baptism for the forgiveness of sin, anyone can become part of “THE” Church! It is “THE” Church that IS the Kingdom of God!

So, I ask. “Do you love your church too much? Are you slowly choking the life out of the congregation of believers which God has included you to be a part of? If so, I pray that God will help you to repent, and begin to see “THE” Church, His Church. And when you do, I pray that you fall madly in love with “THE” Church!

To God Be the Glory!

Progressive Christianity- It Cannot Be!

Every now and then, more often than not, something that someone says or writes grabs my attention. Sometimes in a great way and other times in a disturbing way. This past week, a blog was shared on social media that did just that. This particular blog post was written by Alisa Childers. Although I do not know her and have never met her, I found her blog post about what is called “Progressive Christianity” very interesting.

As I mentioned, I do not know her except what I read on her blog page. On this particular topic, I find myself in agreement with her. She wrote about how some churches have headed toward or are in danger of heading toward “Progressive Christianity”. I find myself wanting to not only suggest that everyone read her blog post, but I wish to bounce my thoughts off of her statements.

First, I will quickly summarize the points that she makes in her blog post. She offers a warning or at least a notice to the churches about what it means to be “Progressive Christians”. I will only give you the 5 points that she talks about, you should go read her post if you want to know what she says about them.

Childers points out that there are 5 things to look out for in a church to protect against falling into “Progressive Christianity”. Unless that is your desire, then it is probably already too late.

  1. A Lowered View of the Bible.
  2. Feelings are emphasized over facts.
  3. Essential Christian doctrines are open for re-interpretation.
  4. Historic terms are re-defined.
  5. The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice.

After explaining each of these points, Childers goes on to explain a little about each of them. Read her blog post! All to conclude that there are some churches out there who are leaning toward this, have given over to it, or at least are in danger of it.

I point out all of this so that I can say this;

Christianity according to what I read in the Scripture, the absolute truth, can only be one thing. That one thing is what God says it is! No man has the authority to change even one word of God’s truth. Many in this world, over the history of man, have tried and delivered a message that is inconsistent with the truth of the Bible. This is nothing new.

The idea of something called “Progressive Christianity” is a contradiction in and of itself! The fact that God is Holy and has never changed should give the clue that His Truth would be the same way.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”   

2Timothy 3:16-17

So, to use the word “progressive” with the word “Christianity” would be likened to using the phrase “NO LORD”.  If God is to be our Lord, we would not ever say “NO” to Him. If we did, then he would not be our Lord.

The word “progressive” means “happening or developing gradually or in stages;” it is also defined as “(of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” (MW Dictionary)

I will submit that what God has put in place is a finished product and is a perfect product! There is no need to add to, take away, or change any part of it. God is a Holy and perfect being who is the creator of all.

He has put in place a master plan of reconciliation of Himself to His creation. The only thing that changes, develops, or progresses along the way is man! You and me! We are the ones who will be changed.

For anyone to presume that the gospel is something that is an evolving or changing thing is one who is still living in the darkness, trapped in the snare of the lies of Satan.

The truth is simply this:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  

Galatians 4:4-6

 

There is only one Christianity. There cannot be various kinds of Christianity. The only one and true Christianity in existence is one that consists of Jesus as Lord and Savior, as well as an acknowledgement of sin and the consequences that come with it.

To Alisa Childers, I say thank you and God bless you for sending out yet another warning to us all! To those of us who are living the Christian life, I say God help us to cling to the truth in the Bible and stand firm in what God has put in place!

I have always believed that the ones who are in the most danger of being separated from God for eternity are those who believe that they are saved, yet for what ever reason do not truly know God!

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”   

Matthew 7:21-23

Violence and the Kingdom of God: What would you do?

An ethical and moral situation was presented in a college course as follows;

You wake in the night to hearing the loud crack of splintering wood. Thieves are breaking into your home. Your children are sleeping right down the hall and you can tell that the thieves will gain entry at any moment. You have a shotgun in your bedroom that is there for hunting and killing snakes. What would you do?
More information: A rebel group has become active in your area that is resorting to terror tactics in expanding their influence. They have begun the practice of attacking small villages. Raping women and children and randomly cutting off the arms and legs of their victims. They have even been known to force children to cut off the hands of their parents. Now, what would you do when you hear the people breaking in? Would you do something different?
What are some biblical passages that address the issue of the people of God resorting to violence when confronted with violence? Is there any situation where Christians would be justified in using force? Do you have any biblical support for your position?

The following was my response:

First things first, what is at the core of this ethical dilemma? The bottom line for all in this issue is how God sees the act of one person taking the life of another person. A secondary issue may be that some people demand a cut and dry ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

As with every ethical or moral issue, we must find the core of the issue. I have come to stand, and now submit, that at the core of the issue is the difference between the meaning of the word ‘kill’ and the meaning of the word ‘murder’. If we do the work, we can find that the majority of Bible translations show the word ‘murder’ in Exodus 20:13.

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“You shall not murder” Ex. 20:13 NIV

You shall not murder”(NIV)Thou shalt not kill.” (KJV). Most other translations agree with the NIV and a few agree with KJV. The point is that there is a difference in meaning between these two English words. I once heard a professor inform his students, me being one of them, that we do not get to define nor re-define words.

The meaning of the word is crucial. The following definitions are found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Kill- “to deprive of life: cause death of”
Murder- “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought”

If we remain in research mode and open to the details of the facts, we can see the difference plainly. Both words mean to deprive of life, but they both do not mean the same thing. Most people, if not all people, have killed. All of us have deprived something of life at some point or another.

Even to eat vegetables is depriving something of life. Killing spider or a bee, or even taking cold medication to kill a virus has to be included. However, plenty of people yet not many have deprived of live in the form of murder. The difference is the word malice.

The dictionary defines malice as “the intention or desire to do evil; ill will”. Now we are getting to the heart of the issue. God is and always has been one who looks at the heart of man. That is why there will be plenty of ‘good’ people who end up separated from God for eternity. When God looks, He will see what is in the heart of every person who ‘kills’.

What He will notice is whether or not there is or was malice in the heart. This is why the translations use the word malice, because it is the more appropriate word of what was written. Moving forward, I will be assuming that it will be understood that I understand the scripture to say “ You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13 NIV.

January 2014, I had been 4 years into my first preaching ministry. I found myself presented with an opportunity to become the Chaplain at the local Police Department. It is not a requirement for a Chaplain to go through police training. However, after much prayer and thought over this very subject. I elected to go through the same training that the officers had gone through.

I felt that if I were to be riding with these officers, I wanted to know first hand what they do and why they do it so that if needed, I could better understand our conversations and hopefully offer the best help. Also, I felt that if I were to be with them on duty, I did not want them to be distracted by having to watch out for my safety, as well as having a desire to want to assist them should situations become life threatening. So I became a law enforcement officer.

Why am I bringing all of this up? Because many people did not understand what I was doing and questioned whether or not the preacher could be a cop. The simple answer and most direct is to point out that if a cop can be Christian, then a Christian can be a cop, even the preacher. The debate includes everything from physically fighting criminals to lethal force. It is true, any cop at any moment could have to use deadly force.

Many people refer to Romans 13:1-14 as it refers to the relationship between the believer and the governing authority and how that authority represents what God has put in place. Verse 4 particularly talks about this relationship as it applies to our debate.

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4 NIV.

For the record, yes there are some “bad” cops out there. Also, this same application applies to military personnel as well. Oh, and for those who may disagree, just know that if we read all of Romans chapter 13, we find that the scripture instructs the believer to pay taxes that are due. Keep in mind, it is taxes that pay these men and women to do what they do so that the public will be able to live with less of a chance of facing the answer to our debate on a daily basis.

Having put all of that on the table, let me point out that about 97% of the time, when a threat is present, the police are not there. After all, they do not live in our homes or follow us around. Usually what happens is that people do bad things to other people and then the police are called. Sometimes they get there in the middle of it but usually the wrong doing is already done.

Therefore, each person should be responsible for defending themselves. Keeping in mind the core of the issue, the heart of men and women, we can come to a conclusion that the same would apply to the individual as it pertains to how God views it. It still comes down to the difference between killing and murdering. Since, as we concluded, the proper translation is “you shall not murder” Exod. 20:13, we can say that if one finds themselves in a threatening situation he or she could defend themselves against the threat.

The fact is, the Bible does not prohibit a person from acting in self-defense against any and all physical threat. In fact, I have spent much time in thought and prayer over this matter. I have concluded that what ever happens to those in my household, spiritually, mentally, or physically, I will stand before God about it.

I can say with confidence that should anything such as anyone breaking into our home to do us harm or a group of terrorists destroying communities, I will respond in whatever way necessary to be able to stand before God about how I protected my wife and child. I, my wife, and every other believer has been bought with the price of the blood of Christ.

Therefore, there is a responsibility to stand against this type of threat, the threat that is presented by the professor, or any like it. We can see in Luke’s gospel chapter 22 that Jesus sent out the disciples out and instructed them to obtain a sword before they went. It was not just for looks, it was because they were about to go into a place which exposed them to threats.

However, after saying all of that, I will present what may in fact be the exception to where I generally stand. As I read about Jesus and His arrest, trial, and brutal beating, it is impossible not to notice that as He was being physically assaulted, to say the least, He did not even say a word. Although He had all the power of the Kingdom of God at His disposal, nothing, even unto death.

So if we are to be like Christ, that must mean that there are times when physical, or even verbal defense of self is indeed not the way to go. What is the difference? The difference seems to be found in the motive of the aggressor from which the threat is coming.

These questions come to mind; Am I being attacked because of my faith in Christ? Or, Am I being attacked because I live in a world that has people who do wicked things and has nothing to do with me being a Christian?

Generally, people do not experience the threat of persecution unless they are presenting the Kingdom of God to the world. In other words, I would like to believe that I am willing to die without a fight for the sake of the gospel, yet I am not willing to die without a fight so that someone can just invade my home and rape my wife and murder my child.

To conclude, I think it is obvious where I stand in this ethical and moral dilemma, yet I will say in answer to the question, it depends. What I mean is that since the Bible does not forbid the act of self-defense, we then must conclude that every situation is different and there is not one answer that can be applied to all situations.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit to provide wisdom and knowledge as we live our lives. Ultimately, God knows the hearts of people. None of us really know what we would actually do until the moment presents itself. I think it unwise to wait until that moment to seek the Lord about how to react.

Oh, and by the way, I do not believe that there is a right and wrong answer here, except for the interpretation of scripture. What ever the Lord leads each of us to do, that would be best.

Same World, Same Conflicts, Same God!

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ” Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again. All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:1-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Never forget who you are. Wise advice given by many who have been around the block more times than others. Over the years, or generations, cultures change as well as political and social atmosphere. Yet as was found stated in the 1st chapter of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Indeed, life may not be the same as it was yesterday, last year, or in our early days, but this is the way the sand flows through the hour glass. I too have found myself looking at the world and the events in it with great concern,sorrow and even anger at times. Regardless of my own personal worldview, beliefs, and political stance which all contribute to my own reaction. Which by the way is true for everyone.

The core of the problem is that people, all created equally by God, simply cannot find peace among ourselves. It seems that every people group, nationality, religion, political party, and even individual have some feeling of oppression, or persecution from most of the rest of the world. We scream out our complaints throughout social media until they pour out into our homes, workplaces and community streets. This goes on and on until we get distracted by the next offense or wrong doing against us.

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In the middle of it all, we all are fighting for the freedom to be who we are. Sometimes the problem is that most of us have forgotten, or at least from time to time forget, who we really are. For example, I just read an article titled: “Even ‘Sons of Belial’ Can be Saved” written by Christian Post Columnist Rev. Mark H. Creech. I will quote this article as follows;

Antifa (Anti-fascist) are the very opposite of what they claim. They are the fascists – radical authoritarians characterized by despotism. These groups are like the “sons of Belial” described in the Old Testament, a phrase used for characterizing worthless, wicked, lawless, godless, idolatrous persons. They speak out against hate but personify it in their words and actions. They argue for equality, but marginalize, silence, and persecute anyone who differs with them. They are “scoffers,” hardened and at ease with their sin. God is not a part of their thinking. They believe his sovereignty is a kind of slavery from which to be freed.”

The statements made by Creech in this article some will agree with and others will not. I share this article to show that people often begin with a passion for what they believe and associate themselves with a mission accordingly, only to become something different.

I am using Rev. Creech’s comments to point out Antifa as one example out of all the many. The entire article is about that group and how they are not presenting themselves according to who they say they are. This is the point of my quoting him in this blog post.

No one, or group of people, have ever been able to truly stick to who they present themselves to be, not 100% of the time. No, not even the church! From Adam and Eve to Abraham and all throughout the New Testament accounts of the church there have been failure after failure when it comes to presenting who we are in Christ.

That is not to say that the Body of Christ has failed, I am simply pointing out that people fail from time to time. Every kind of people in every generation, nothing is new under the sun!

All of this to bring me to this point. The question must be for all of us is how do we do a better job at being faithful to who we are? Christian or not, this is the question we should all ask. However, since I am a Christian, I can only answer for myself and offer advise to other Christians who may believe the way I do.

I have recently started teaching through the book of Acts at the church. Although we are only in the 4th chapter at the moment, one major theme has demanded the attention of my mind and heart. As I study these people, who filled with the Holy Spirit, begin to function in their world in a way that they never had before, I am convicted as always.

These people, Peter and John as well as others, actually lived what they believed. Not because they tried real hard, but because they believed and submitted themselves to the Holy Spirit, they were able to BE the Kingdom of God in their world which was not unlike the wold we live in today.

Chapter 4 of Acts stands out at this moment due to the reaction of Peter and John as they are confronted by the powers that could have them thrown in jail and possibly killed. Yet they were bold as lions and wise as serpents when preaching Christ even to those who hated them the most! They did not stand firm in who they were, they stood firm in who Christ was and still is!

Sometimes, those of us who believe what Peter and John believed forget what they preached. Many times we find ourselves engaged with the rest of the world in an effort to prove that what we believe about Jesus is true and that what we believe is right. When  that is not at all who we are in Christ! When this happens, we surely have forgotten where we started.

We find ourselves in the same shoes as the likes of, to use Rev. Creech’s example, “Antifa”. What we present to the world is not at all who we believe we are, or are supposed to be! The sad part of it all is that who ever is guilty of this, usually cannot or will not see it as truth about themselves.

Rev. Creech’s article is simply making the point that was made by Peter and John in chapter 4 of Acts. Jesus died for all. Every person we come in contact with is who we are to somehow “preach” to. Even those who are given over to the ways of the world. Especially those who are given to the ways of the world! The key is to remember that Peter and John, and the others, did so while filled with the Holy Spirit!

When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?””

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.””
‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:7, 19-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

That is who the Christian is. According to our faith, we are those who are saved by grace. Filled with the Holy Spirit with a task of sharing the Kingdom of God with the world. When we are true to that, we then can be guilty of allowing the Holy Spirit do great things in the world!

Forgiveness, One of the Greatest Stumbling Blocks of Man

One of the most difficult things for human beings to do is forgive. Many might agree that it is in fact the most difficult thing for people to be able to do. Often time’s people will carry burdens in their hearts for many years, sometimes for an entire lifetime. Many families, friendships, churches, and businesses have been totally destroyed because of the lack of forgiveness.

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Click the pic to get book

Also there have been many who have suffered unnecessary physical, mental, and spiritual illness due to not being able to forgive. Why is that? What makes forgiveness so difficult? Why is it that something so healthy to the human life and so beneficial in the hearts of human beings is so difficult to do?There are many people in the world today that are holding on to bitterness and resentment or even anger simply because they fail to understand what forgiveness really is.Most people’s understanding of forgiveness is not a very good understanding and some even are simply completely wrong in their understanding. You see, the key to being able to forgive is first being able to have a good understanding of what forgiveness is!

What Forgiveness is

Using the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forgive) we can find the definition of the word “forgive”.

to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgivean insult>
to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon<forgive one’s enemies>

God’s definition or explanation of forgiveness is simply love. Just as we saw in the Webster dictionary, God seems to want us to know that forgiveness is a choice between demanding what is owed or deserved and choosing what is good and right. Choosing love.

What forgiveness is NOT

Now that we have taken a glimpse of the definition of the word forgive, that means that we might come to the conclusion as to what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not and “easy button” you can pick up from your local office supply store. Forgiveness is not a tool to be used to go back and act like nothing ever happened. It did.

Forgiveness also is not a tool for leverage. Those who believe that if forgiveness is extended to others that somehow the forgiven now owe the forgiver is inaccurate and only contribute to the already serious problem. This is “mafia” mentality and this type of thinking is not in any way true forgiveness.

Many times we have questions about forgiveness or certain situations get in the way of being able to forgive. It is important that we seek the wisdom of God’s Word for the answers that we seek.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who goes to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NASB)

The Problem with Un-forgiveness

Holding a grudge or harboring bitterness toward another is sort of like when a person seeking revenge sneaks to the another person’s house in the blackness of night, setting their house on fire, killing all their livestock, and turning donuts throughout their harvest field with a monster truck and walking away laughing sinisterly while eating the last Klondike ice cream bar from their freezer. All of that only to find out as the sun rises that it was his own house, livestock, fields, and Klondike ice cream bar.

Un-forgiveness can make the most beautiful person become one of the ugliest and ill- tempered people. Not only does it affect self, it affects everyone connected to self. Un-forgiveness is also destructive to relationships, more importantly it is lethal to a person’s relationship with God. Un-forgiveness is sinful. Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew chapter 6 as he was teaching them how to pray,

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, you Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew :14-15 (NASB)

Much can be written about the topic of forgiveness, and much has been written. I myself have put together a small book about forgiveness, it is titled “Forgiveness-An In Depth Look”, in hopes that it will be of help to some who may be struggling with and suffering because of un-forgiveness. Forgiveness plays a crucial role in the relationship between each one of us and God.

There are so man questions surrounding this very complex and difficult topic. I only scratch the surface of a few of them in this book. Topics like:

Why is Forgiveness so Difficult?
Why is Forgiveness Necessary?
How Do I Forgive?
Does Forgiveness Include Forgetting?
How Can “THAT” Be Forgiven?

I hope that you seek wisdom from God through prayer and bible study for the true understanding of forgiveness. There are plenty of books and articles out there which can be very helpful as well. If you choose to read my book, I pray that it will be a blessing to you. (You can click the photo to find the book)

What I know to be absolute truth about forgiveness is that if what a person understands or believes about forgiveness does not agree with what God Himself describes as forgiveness, well it just simply is not and cannot be forgiveness.