All posts by Pastor Bill

I am married to a lovely lady who rescued four children from being raised by a distracted dad. Together, we're blessed with three grandsons . My wife, Marcia, loves the Lord deeply, loves history, and, being gifted by the Lord as a teacher, teaches both with passion and knowledge. We live in farm country in the North Carolina Piedmont with Beau, our Golden-doodle. Until recently, it was my joy to pastor a wonderful flock at Faith Baptist Church in Pembine, Wisconsin. My ministry has always been pastoral in nature with an emphasis on counseling and teaching. We've lived and ministered as a family in three states, Ontario , Canada and Romania and we've visited and ministered in numerous countries. Now we find ourselves living in North Carolina. My wife has roots here and there enough Dixie in my blood that I've always been comfortable here even though moving north when a boy. My passion to to know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, grow into His likeness and help otters grow in His grace. My wife and I have a passion to study and influence others for God's glory. We hope to leave some disciples for Christ behind when we leave this life. I am grateful for my father's influence and mentoring throughout college and grad school. Humanly speaking, he was my most profound teacher. Institutionally, I've attended Bob Jones University, FaithWay Baptist College of Michigan (degrees), Northland International University (DSM candidate) and taken classes through Central Baptist Seminary in Minneapolis and Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. But the most powerful training I have received has always been through my local church. Even to this day, my church is the fellowship where I grow the most and change the most deeply. It is the one "classroom" I need the most and for which I am most grateful.

When God Pulls the Rug Out

By: Ed Welch

Has this happened to you?

  • You read all the signs that were so blatantly from the Lord—“yes, this is the path, go this way, I am with you.”
  • You have been amazed at the way he opened doors—you were scared but you walked through them.
  • The Lord confirmed his will for you through other people too—they were excited that God was doing this.
  • Finally, you were on board. You were excited. You were all in. You had peace about your decision.
  • And then, splat, he pulled the rug out from under you.

How will you be able to trust God again?

This, I think, is a common experience. Very common. It happens with all kinds of decisions: business, vocational, financial and relationships. You pray earnestly, you see God moving, you are amazed, and then…  it looks as if he simply vanished and left you on your own. You especially see it in broken relationships. That is, you seek the Lord about a marriage or relationship decision, it starts almost too well, and then the relationship takes a sudden and tragic turn, and there is no explanation for it.

You want to know why

Some problems are universal, but this one is for those who are spiritually mature. It happens to people who are earnestly seeking God, and only the mature do such things. And though anger toward God might flash occasionally, it isn’t the real issue. The real problem is that you feel you no longer know him. You want to know why God did this, yet he is silent. It doesn’t make sense: he gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

“Why?”

When no response comes, you start filling in the blanks. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you have done wrong and you need to figure out what it is. That’s what maturity gets you; you see yourself as the culprit. This approach is understandable and—misguided.

 Not a scavenger hunt for sin

“Why, O Lord?” is a recurring question in Scripture. In response, God does not send anyone on a scavenger hunt for sin, and does not fill in all the details that the asker might want to know either. Instead, he reaffirms that he does see trouble and grief (Ps. 10:14), and he will strengthen those who are weak (Is. 40:27-31). With these words he is revealing to us what we really need to know.

 Check your assumptions

But there is another matter to consider.

All this started with our assumptions about how God works—we had confidence that we could know the will of God. We could discern the “open doors” and had that “peace.” Even more, we were confident that those open doors would lead to blessing, according to our definition of blessing. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.

The Apostle Paul held very different assumptions yet he believed that he knew plenty about God’s will. The King reigns, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are ripe for the picking—that was enough for him. The times he received specific direction, he was confident that it would mean blessing for the larger church and hardships for him. He knew that if God was in it there would be challenges—challenges that reveal weaknesses and test faith.

God is not playing games when he pulls the rug out from under you. He is up to something, but it is probably not what you think it is.

Written by Ed Welch / Published: Sep 10, 2012

The Failure of Feminism or the Victory of Virtue

by Marcia Phillips

The current firestorm of sexual abuse accusations and the fall of political and media leaders represents failure on so many levels, personal and cultural. But it strikes me that it also demonstrates the failure of Feminism in America after nearly a half century of its tenets being embraced. Just hear me out on this. In spite of decades of promises of empowering women and men verbally embracing the concept of strong women, women are still becoming the prey of powerful men in the workplace. While the victims are not responsible for being taken advantage of by selfish men of position, we do have to ask why a whole generation of girls who were raised to feel empowered mostly…by the majority…did not speak up when abused until someone else did. Did Feminists teach them to succeed in a career but perhaps also that the zeal to succeed might cost them their innocence and their voice? Did Feminists convince them that they were not to be defined by their sexuality but then created a culture where allowing sexual violation without consequences was rampant? Didn’t Feminists slam the Biblical teaching of submission of wives to husbands but somehow fail to tell their daughters that they did not have to submit to abuse passively? What a contradiction to tell our daughters they can do anything they can dream but they cannot respond to a nightmare by doing the right thing and confronting wrong. Victimized as they were, having the courage to speak out sooner may well have spared some other young women the same agony. They are not responsible for the initial wrong against them, but may bear some responsibility for not protecting each other. Did Feminism not triumph women supporting other women? Do they get a pass on that in this matter?

I champion strong women shaped by Biblical examples and principles. Didn’t the Virgin Mary brave shame to do right? And what of the courage of Jael and Deborah and Abigail and Ruth and Esther to confront men of power, trusting the God they obeyed and believing they were in the situation they found themselves “for such a time as this.” While we want our men to be Josephs, both of the Old Testament who fled temptation and of the New who denied personal desires to carry out the mandate to protect Mary, we must also teach our daughters to be the daughters of Sarah, who “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” They need to know that “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love and power and a sound mind.”

“I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in truth.” I taught my daughters how to scream bloody murder if they ever felt threatened or violated and to never be afraid to speak up or seek help if abused in any way. I’ve heard them use that voice and knew when they slapped someone who deserved it. Courage to do right is what we need to instill in our girls as well as confidence in God more than fear of what man can do to them…any man. The Proverbs 31 woman “dresses herself with strength” and “opens her mouth with wisdom” knowing that “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” She understands the principle behind “Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” How terrible to get this wrong and be just the opposite, wise as doves and innocent as serpents.

Hebrews 11 tells us that mighty “women received back their dead by resurrection” but also “some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two. They were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated –of whom the world was not worthy.” Now that takes courage!

Isn’t there more than enough in Scripture to mold a young woman of character? Perhaps instead of telling our daughters to follow their dreams and achieve, we should be preparing them to deepen the well of their spiritual lives and believe. Feminism has failed our daughters. Let’s not make that mistake.

Why was Paul so Tough?

Why was Paul so tough on those guys in Galatia? Not the members but the leaders. In chapter 5:7-12, Paul lays into the teachers in Galatia without mercy. He accuses them of hindering the spiritual progress of the believers. The word used here (5:7) means to obstruct their spiritual growth and even, at times, to arrest and to stop it! Not what you expect a spiritual leader to do with his flock. Paul says what they were teaching was so aberrant from the gospel that it could not have come from God who “called” them (5:8). He gets even tougher and describes their ministry as leaven which changes everything (5:9) and states that such teachers are worthy of judgment and condemnation (5:10). Keep in mind that epistles were usually read publicly to the church and these men were likely present. Paul was not playing politics but he was playing for keeps!  He goes on to claim that their “gospel teaching” removes Christ and the cross from the Gospel which he had not only preached to them but that he was still preaching and that he was still being persecuted for – something he would not do if it was not primary. That Jesus died for their sins on the cross was the very heart of their standing with God and assurance of His presence and power in their lives and their eternal future. So dangerous were such teachers that Paul wished they would slip with their own Pharisaical knives and emasculate (castrate) themselves. And yes, that is the literal and accurate translation of the Greek work Paul used in verse twelve. Wow! Why was Paul so tough on these guys?

Because the minute self-effort is mixed into the Gospel, it becomes powerless to save. Adding one’s own works to the gospel makes it like all other religions in the world – works based and graceless. Grace is removed and now one’s salvation depends on being good enough to earn favoritism from God. But the truth is that God will not ever be in debt to anybody. The minute one can earn their way or “keep” their salvation by their own meritorious works, they become the boaster and God the debtor and it is not possible for God to be God and to be in debt to anyone. God owes no one anything and no sinner can ever produce works enough to put God in his debt. He owes no man salvation or a place in heaven. We cannot do the work it would take. Jesus did the work. The only man who was not a sinner and who was infinitely righteous and eternally existent and able thereby to do the work, earn the merit, pay the debt man owed to God, and please the Father was the God-man Jesus. The minute the false teachers arrived in Galatia and began to spread their leaven, the glory and majesty of Jesus took a blow. Calvary was no longer the message but a footnote. The glory of God was diminished and the love of God was tarnished. What was their problem? Did they believe the Father did not respect the obedience of His Son? Did they think the life and Calvary-work of Jesus marred and sinful or that it contained errors and missteps? What was it about God’s character that made them think He would send His Son on a mission and then refuse to honor the Son’s work and sacrifice? What kind of Father did they think He was?

When these false teachers stepped in and began to devalue the work of Jesus and diminish the glory of God is when Paul got tough. As Paul Washer says in The Gospel Call and True Conversion, “This is why the apostle Paul labors with all his might in his writings to accentuate the depravity of humanity and prove their utter inability to please God in the flesh. He desires that ‘every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God’ (Rom. 3:19). Only then will people turn their eyes from themselves and look to God in faith. Only then will they cease from works and fall into the arms of grace. Only then will their boasting in self become a boasting in God. ‘As it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD’’ (1 Cor. 1:31).”

Wherever the Gospel of grace has been preached, this heresy follows. Satan is quick to send his preachers t mix the message, dilute the power of Christ and diminish the name of God. Many believe they’ve been saved but that they had better be good so that they stay saved. It is as though they believe more in their conduct and behavior than in the conduct and behavior of Jesus. Jesus lived a sinless life and died a perfect death and rose again with new life for those who trust in His work – not their works. No man is saved by his works. One can only be saved by Jesus’ work. Let go of your works and accept His. He obeyed because we could not obey and His obedience can be ours only by faith.

These false teachers did not like the idea that God’s Son had to die for them. This was, as Paul said, an offense and scandal to them (5:11). They must have been embarrassed that there was nothing meritorious within them that would impress God and force him to owe them their salvation. Their pride and desire for self-honor refused to let them give God His honor. That is a struggle we can all understand as we are strongly bent to please ourselves and seek respect and value in the eyes of others but the only true value and honor we can ever find is that which is found through the infinite value and perfect work of Jesus who invites us to join Him in the Father’s family as His joint-heirs. There is our proper and right rejoicing – not in me but in what He has done for me and for whom I am through His work – a forgiven and cleansed saint in the eyes of the Father. I am child of God and that I can boast in. As Paul exclaimed, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

Why I Will Not Vote for Donald Trump.

1. He claims he is a Christian when he is obviously not.

I don’t have to have a Christian for a president but I will not vote for a manipulative phony who demeans my Savior. Donald Trump is no disciple of Jesus and does not even appear to be a God-fearer. He is smart enough to know exactly what he is doing when he uses Jesus to persuade voters. Tragically, the man is spiritually lost and has deeply offended God. He has claimed – twice – that he has never needed to ask for God’s forgiveness. Christians know better. He arrogantly writes in his own books of committing adultery with some of the prettiest women in the world boasting that he has done so with even the married ones. He has profited off of the sex industry through strip clubs, encouraged drunkenness, gambling, vulgarity and lewdness through his casinos and has appeared on the cover of the pornography industry’s flagship magazine. This magazine and its founder has has led the charge in attacking Christian morals in America often mocking the scriptures and Christians. He is twice divorced yet claims he’s a unifier.

In short, Donald Trump is the poster child for phony, full of bologna wannabes. Jesus described such men numerous times as spiritually empty, lost, and going to hell. “By their fruit ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:16). In the day of judgment, when false professors cry out that they are believers, Jesus said “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:23). Later on, he taught that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). Long before Jesus came, the prophet proclaimed, “As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness’” (I Samuel 24:13). The Apostles echoed the same truth. It has been a well-known truth in every generation of believers that the very sins Trump brags of committing reveal his true spiritual state to be unbelief.  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality” (1 Cor. 6:9). Any sinner may repent and find God’s grace. Donald Trump can find full reconciliation with his Creator through the Gospel of Jesus.

So when Trump pretends to be an evangelical, he is false. Oh, he’s not the first to do this. It happens every election. But no candidate has ever been as offensive and disrespectful in doing so. Such blatant abuse of our Savior should repulse true believers.

  1. His character is deeply flawed.

On top of all the admitted debauchery, he has stood on national TV, on the debate stage, and on the dais of many rallies and flat out lied to everyone. He must or the truth about him will be known. If he ever admits a fault, an error, or a sin, his run is over. He too has read Alinsky and can shout down others, insult and ridicule them, and stay on the offensive with force. Lies are necessary for him to continue his momentum. But he who lives by this sword will die by it. His character will out, if not by exposure from others – and the Democrats are licking their chops to have their shot at such an easy target – his character will be exposed by his own behavior. Of course, a race with Hillary Clinton may become a pot and kettle comparison. The danger here is that as president, he will have the same disregard for ethics and law that he does now. How can one be easily convinced he will obey the law of the land when he can’t obey the rules on the playground?

Winning, in his mind, justifies everything. His Machiavellian edges have been sharpened by years of practice in the cut-throat world of big and get dirty business. He is not so brilliant intellectually as he is in dishonesty and wily trickery. The art of the deal is in the dealing and he deals from the bottom of the deck. Forget the liberals pragmatic ethos, “Slick Willies” are blue-plate specials to someone who has dined on shark. He is no simple Jesuit and Trump has moved beyond Alinsky’s ways. (Look out Democrats!) That was mere undergrad training. He has spent time in some of the world’s toughest Machiavellian laboratories. Who knows, with bigger weapons, he may outdo his master. And the White House may afford him such weapons. In his world, the ends justifies the means – absolutely. He does not love Jesus, admire Him nor value His virtue.. He does not love the Constitution nor admire the Founding Fathers. He loves victory. He loves winning his way. Not my way. Not your way. His way. As he often says, “I’m a winner.” And he wins. Wonder how that seems to happen so much? Sorry but I wouldn’t even play marbles with his kind.

  1. I do not need a playground bully to protect my faith and me. I have an amazing God who has already signed on for that!

A believer in Jesus Christ trusts in much deeper promises than campaign slogans. Doubtless, religious liberty is in peril in America. While I am willing to let someone have the right to morally disagree with me they are less and less willing to let me disagree their choices. Worst of all, they are more and more aggressive in taking away my right to practice my beliefs. Freedom will be lost in any republic where liberty of conscience in not vigorously defended. Eventually, the republic itself will be lost. Many Americans of faith believe that we need the government to stand up and protect us from those who would deny us this freedom. Our government does not need to play church – which SCOTUS did on marriage – but they do need to make us all live by the constitution. The most genuine of believers in Jesus can be misled into voting for a candidate who promises moral security. Some are even in an angry panic. But is it possible that believing we need a strong man to protect us is an indirect admission of “no confidence” in God? In other words, to believe a man can protect me from those who would take my freedom may be, if one does not guard his heart, an admission of fear that my Sovereign God does not hold sway in such matters of history. Furthermore, it is to act as though one’s Heavenly Father has not given his word to protect His children – even in the face or grip of their enemies of their enemies. What? Has God not shown up for those who have been jailed for their faith? Has he been there for those who burned at the stake and given to hungry beasts when they kept the faith? Of course I pray for liberty and would fight to protect it but I will also fight to defend the name of my God. He is able! There is no need to panic and call upon an angry chest-thumping bully to care for me and mine. It is faith we need. Not a protector. I already have a Protector thank you. I do not need Trump, Carson, Rubio, or Cruz or whoever to protect me. My God is able to raise up such protection! While I hope to vote for one who will lead per the constitution’s intent, I will not trust the arm of flesh. The hymnist wrote correctly, “the arm of flesh will fail you; ye dare not trust your own.” Let alone Trump’s.

If you are voting for Trump because you are angry about the erosion of your religious liberty, understand, I am angry too. But I will not fear men. “ …do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Do not think you are protecting your children and grandchildren when you put your faith in men and not in God. You may be opening the door to the erosion of faith which is more valuable than freedom. Find a better reason to vote for a candidate.

  1. Trump does not cherish the constitution.

Romans 13 calls believers to obey the ruler of our land. In our nation, that is our Constitution. This is why public leaders are called to pledge loyalty to its words, principles, and doctrines and to defend it even to their own hurt if necessary.

It is not my intent to imply that Donald Trump disrespects our Constitution. Rather, it is my charge that he does not treasure it. He does not quote it, refer to it, acknowledge it, nor speak of it. Because it would be politically disadvantageous to disparage it, he would never speak ill of it and may even speak well of it, if politically helpful. But he does not cherish it or he would quote it, campaign on it, refer to it, interpret it and use it. Any candidate who does not have a deep enough respect for the Constitution to refer to it as the basis of our laws is not a candidate worthy of election. If Trump cherishes the Constitution and loves it, he has done a good job of hiding it for it does not seem to structure his thought, inform his policies, be on his mind or on his lips. What a man deeply loves cannot and will not be hidden. I want a president who has deep regard and love for the ruler God has allowed us, in His sovereignty, to live under. It is still, I believe, a good ruler and I will not vote for a candidate who does not readily submit to it.

There are other reasons I would not recommend voting for Donald Trump. Most of them are political. I will not go into them. By this time tomorrow, he may have his party’s nomination pretty well wrapped up. I won’t be surprised. Angry Americans have made poor choices before. We will survive.  Who knows, he may be our most anti-left president ever and be able to dismantle the liberal bureaucracy. They won’t outmaneuver him if he decides they’re the enemy. He does like to win at all costs! But don’t vote for him because he says he is a Christian or because of his supposed virtue or because you think God needs a hit-man. We would do well to elect someone with character and deep loyalty to our constitution.

It all keeps us praying doesn’t it? Yet, our confidence remains in an all-knowing, loving, all-wise God who is the Sovereign Ruler over the affairs of all nations. “…Kiss the Son lest He be angry with thee! …Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12). He will provide His children all they need to glorify and honor Him regardless of man. Serve Him.

(Of course, these are my views and do not reflect on any position taken by any ministry I am affiliated with.)

FIVE TRENDS CHRISTIAN MILLENNIALS MUST STOP DOING

This is an interesting and helpful perspective – what Millennials ought to stop doing that is hurtful to their cause and the cause of Christ.  Author John Wesley Reid is a millennial himself, doing graduate work at Liberty University. 

“…This piece is…a holistic response to young Christian Millennials who often sacrifice their Christian values for the sake of being relevant to the world. I will remind you, beloved children of God, that Jesus himself said that the world will hate you because of your love for Him. You can love the world like Jesus loves the world and still be hated. It’s not your fault, so don’t change your method. Your advocacy for Christ should never come at the expense of your relationship with Him. Here are five ways that many Christian Millennials are hurting their delivery of the gospel to a world that desperately needs it.

1) Tolerance:  Tolerance flies in the face of the gospel because it is apathetic both to brokenness and holiness, and when we don’t recognize our brokenness then we will never recognize our need for holiness…and thus Jesus becomes, at best, superfluous. Millennials have it in their minds that hating people’s sin means hating the individual. This message is due in part to the liberal media but many young Christian Millennials sing the same tune. Instead of hating sin for the separation that it causes between us and God, they accept the sins of others in the name of ‘loving them for who they are’.  But the problem with that is when we accept people for who they want to be, we neglect the people that Jesus made them to be.  Jesus was the prime example of love, but never does He display an ounce of tolerance…Indeed the cross was proof of His intolerance. What type of tolerance prompts a king to step off his throne to die for his people? Tolerance was never part of the story! The gospel does not boast ‘come as you are, stay as you are’ but rather ‘come as you are TO BE RESTORED!’  We don’t get to make up the narrative here, folks! The story has already been written.

2) Neglecting Theology:  Consider the etymology of the word theology; theo- God, logy-study: the study of God. A trendy message among young Christians these days is ‘theology is good, but loving like Jesus is better.’ The problem here is that the two are not mutually exclusive….but rather they are dependent on each other. The more we know Jesus, the more we love Him and the more we love Him the more we want to know Him and so the cycle continues. Our desire to know him (theology) should be an implication for our love for Him. And the more this continues the more we will desire to live like Him and thus love His people AS HE loves them.  You wouldn’t show your love for a spouse simply by how you talk about them; you’d show your love by knowing them, spending time with them, and serving them.  But when theology is neglected, the ramifications are made known in the way we treat others. Even with a Christian label we only love them with a wishy washy love that promotes no agenda for change and restoration. When theology is neglected, Christian Millennials succumb to weak cultural ideas and defective scriptural interpretation such as ‘Jesus just said to love people, so why should we be opposed to gay marriage?’ and ‘the Bible says not to judge, so don’t tell me that I shouldn’t be sleeping with my boyfriend!’ when the Bible actually tells Christians to judge each other (Matthew7:24, I Corinthians 5:9-13). A good theology will inform individuals that not only are they wrong in their sin, but that Jesus wants so much MORE for them; more joy, purity and intimacy with Him.

3) Separation from the World:  You are not of the world, so don’t act like you are (Romans 12:1-2).  ‘But…  Jesus partied, so I can party!’  Well, sure I guess you can say he partied because He did attend parties and even contributed wine to one (and yes, I admit that this wine was alcoholic). But the above quote is used in a defense of partying that is NOT consistent with Jesus’ partying, and those who make the argument know that full well. As Christians we are to be light and salt to the world. Salt gives flavor to bland food, light gives vision in darkness. See the analogy there? We are to be different and we are to be good. Good in behavior and good in our advocacy for Christ).

Does this mean we can’t drink? Not necessarily. Does it mean we can’t get drunk and cuss and make poor decisions with people that we likely wouldn’t have done without the influence of alcohol? Yes, it absolutely does if our agenda is to represent Christianity.  But even the movies we watch and the music we listen to are important. If it has an explicit language sticker on it then there’s really no justification to be listening to it. It needs to be tossed. ‘But I’m an adult. Yes, which means you’re a Christian and you’re old enough to know better. Not to mention you’re supposed to be setting the example. Junk in, junk out no matter your age.  We’re quick to sing popular worship songs like ‘O To Be Like You’ and ‘Jesus, Be the Center Of My Life’ but how practical do we allow this to be? We need to be Daniels, Esthers, and Joshuas, people of faith who love without ceasing and represent without compromise.  Also, I understand that nobody is perfect, but it’s one thing to sin and try to justify it, while it’s another to sin and repent; confess and turn away from sin.  Stop flirting with what you can get away with, and instead pursue holiness through Jesus Christ.

4) Bashing the Church:  Christian Millennials are quick to throw the Church under the bus. Blogs are constantly cycling the internet like ‘3 reasons why I left my youth group’ (and of course it’s the youth group/youth pastor’s fault, not the student who left). While the Church isn’t perfect, I feel it is much more effective to celebrate the good that the Church is doing than the negative, which a lot of times isn’t even negative, it’s rhetoric. For example, it is easy to knock a mega church for putting money into their building but how many mega-church bashers have actually researched the hundreds of thousands of dollars that said mega-church is giving to inner-city and overseas missions?  It’s also important to remember that as Christians we ARE the Church therefore we are the imperfection that is, the difference that needs to be, and the good that the Church is doing.

5) Declining Accountability:  The same group of Christian millennials will be the first to dish out accountability, usually in the form of Church-bashing, but will be the last to receive it. It’ll be rendered them, but they won’t accept it. If you call them out on wayward behavior they will notoriously accuse you of judging them and use the Bible to support their plight. But indeed the Bible says that Christians ARE to judge each other, as we saw earlier. If you identify as Christian then you fall within the God-appointed jurisdiction of judgment from your sibling in Christ. To be clear, judgment should be read as corrective counsel in attempts to hold one accountable and thus point towards restoration.  Accountability is not only biblical, but it is wonderful. Repentance is a means of turning from darkness and receiving the gift of restoration that is found in Jesus. It’s easy to read repentance as a scary thing, but Hebrews paints a wonderful, gospel-reflecting image of it: ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace, to help in time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16).

There is nothing scary about that. If anything it’s overwhelmingly comforting that WE, sinners made pure through Jesus, are not only allowed to but are ENCOURAGED to enter the highest of throne rooms to receive mercy and grace from the Almighty, the One who we have grievously sinned against.  God see’s you as His child, beautiful and righteous through His son, Jesus. Let us all remember the love that has been lavished on us and make sure that we go and love likely, in truth and in grace.

 

On the Healing of Our Racism

racism-and-the-church

It has been exciting to see believers and churches across the body of Christ lead the way in a genuine and true racial healing. After all, if anybody should be able to lead in reconciliation and healing, it should be those whom God has reconciled and healed by His grace. Usually, all we hear about in the media is shootings, looting, and riots. Many speechify with a pseudo-piety or vitriolic anger that makes a caricature out of the issue. With broad brushes they paint large swathes of the general population as evil and hateful. Well. there are large swaths of the American public who are loving and forgiving. They are making great strides in racial healing. (I hope you and I members of such a group!) This was written by Glenn Reynolds and published in USA Today. I repost it below because it is encouraging and hopeful. 

 

“On a now-famous tweet, Jon Gabriel wryly remarked, ‘My favorite part about the Obama era is all the racial healing.’  In the public sphere, that racial healing is indeed sufficiently scarce as to justify sarcasm. Charges and countercharges of racism fill the air. Accused killers ranging from the white Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C., to the black Vester Flanagan in Roanoke, Va., left racial manifestos and hoped to start a race war. And even more mainstream political figures have pursued strategies of racial division and agitation, hoping to keep key voting blocs fired up for next year’s elections.

But if you leave the politicians, the pundits and the crazies aside, ordinary Americans are behaving quite differently. Maybe we should be paying more attention to that bit of good news. And maybe so should the politicians and pundits.  After the Charleston shooting, citizens of South Carolina, both black and white, joined hands, and more than 15,000 of them marched in a show of love and friendship. As columnist Salena Zito wrote, ‘They met in the middle; they wept, smiled, laughed, hugged, turned strangers into friends. Homemade signs with messages of outreach, love and solidarity flapped in the wind, as prayers and hymns filled the air. There wasn’t a major network or cable news channel, only local TV crews, rolling cameras to record America doing what it does best – opening its heart; the networks always seem to be on hand for looting or rioting.’

They do, indeed.  But many people still noticed, even if the national agenda-setters were, as usual, more interested in spotlighting hate than love.  Likewise, last week saw 20,000 people show up for a multiracial “All Lives Matter” march in Birmingham, Ala. It could be the largest such march there since MLK. Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris were there, but that’s not all. AL.com reports: ‘Alveda King, a niece of civil rights activist the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., marched in the front row. Bishop Jim Lowe, pastor of the predominantly black Guiding Light Church in Birmingham, co-organized the march with Beck and marched with him at the front. As a child, Lowe attended Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where the march started, a headquarters church for the civil rights movement in Birmingham. Lowe and his sisters were in the church when a KKK bomb blew up the church and killed four little girls on Sept. 15, 1963.” (Note: One of those girls was a childhood playmate of Condoleezza Rice.)

 

 

 

Is being a Church Member relevant?

Thomas Rainer wrote a short, clear, and simple book on church membership. It’s an excellent book. We use it in our new members class at Blaise. Here are some recent comments he made bout the relevancy of the term “church member.” I wholeheartedly agree.

“Two years ago I released a book…and I’ve been blown away with the response; sales are about to reach one million books. One of the more frequent question readers have asked me is: ‘Do you think the term “church member“’ is still relevant?’’‘  My simple response is, ‘Yes I do.’ In fact, I have seven reasons why I emphatically believe churches should never let go of this descriptor.

It is biblical. One of the best descriptions of church membership is in 1 Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul specifically uses the term “member” at several points in the chapter. For example, in 1 Corinthians 12: 27, he says: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.”

It is a perfect metaphor for belonging. Read the same chapter, specifically verses 15 to 20. Look how many times Paul uses the word “belong.” To be a member of the body of Christ, the church, is to belong to an incredible gift given to us by God.

It is a perfect metaphor for contributing. As Paul describes the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, he highlights the diversity of gifts of the members, and emphasizes the absolute mandate for every member to function and contribute. There is no place in the church for non-contributing members.

It is a perfect metaphor for caring. Because church members all belong to the same body, they are motivated and mandated to care for one another. Paul states this truth clearly: “So there would be no division in the body, but the members would have the same concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25).

It is a perfect metaphor for unity. Church members are members of something greater than themselves, the body of Christ. Once again, we are reminded of this truth in 1 Corinthians 12:27: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it (emphasis added).

It is commonly understood by most people. Some churches use terms other than church member to describe those affiliated with their congregation. My purpose in writing this article is not to disparage them, but to advocate for a term that is both biblical and clear. Most people do indeed understand the basic meaning of church member.

It does not yield to culture. We have abandoned too many things in our churches in order to accommodate culture. While we recognize that some people will think of membership in the sense of country club membership, we in the church need to reclaim its biblical intent. Church membership does not mean we get perks and privileges because we “pay our dues.”

It means we give, sacrifice, and serve.  The essence of church membership is the sense of belonging to something so much greater than any one of us individually. We are thus motivated to give, serve, love, and care. The biblical understanding of church membership is an incredible concept. It is not a term we should abandon.”

Treasuring Truth

What is the value of truth? Priceless. “Buy the truth and sell it not” counseled the wiseman in Proverbs 23:23 because no price can be set that matches its value. Of course, the wiseman speaking of more than just the matter of truth-telling though the clear implication is that honesty is to be highly valued (even by fishermen). But the rare and valuable commodity the sage is referring to primarily is the matter of wisdom and understanding. Core truths, foundational principles, and unchanging realities. Spurgeon said, “…we must never sell the truth, but hold it fast as a treasure that will last us when gold has cankered, and silver has rusted, and the moth has eaten up all goodly garments, and when all the riches of men have gone like a puff of smoke, or melted in the heat of the judgment day like the dew in the beams of the morning sun. Buy the truth. Here is the treasure. Cost it what it may, buy you it. Here is the piece of merchandise which you must buy, but must not sell. You may give all for it, but you may take nothing in exchange for it, since there is nothing that can be likened unto it.”

The following news item demonstrates the clear value of God’s truth that is found in His inspired and inerrant word. What happens when a church decides to no longer stand on that priceless and worthy truth? Read on..

WHEN “DISCERNMENT” LEADS TO DISASTER   

“The historic First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, announced in May that it would declare itself be ‘open and welcoming’ to all people and that it would allow same-sex marriage and ordain openly homosexual ministers.  The move came after the church had undergone a ‘discernment’ process under the leadership of a ‘LGBT Discernment Team.’ That team brought a report to the church’s deacons, who then forwarded it to the congregation. The church then approved the statement by standing vote.

The statement is very clear: ‘In all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership, First Baptist Greenville will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.’….The congregation, now more than 180 years old, is one of the most historic churches in the South. It participated in the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845…. Few churches in the South can match its historical record.

Nevertheless, First Baptist Greenville and the Southern Baptist Convention had moved in very different theological directions in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The church was moving steadily in a more liberal direction and the Southern Baptist Convention was moving to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and a far more confessional understanding of its identity.  The church and the denomination were set on a collision course, and the congregation voted to withdraw from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999. If that had not happened, the SBC would have moved to withdraw fellowship on the basis of the church’s announcement in May. The denomination has adopted a policy of withdrawing fellowship from any church that affirms or endorses homosexuality….

The central issue of dispute (between the SBC and the church) was the inerrancy of the Bible. The more liberal faction in the SBC affirmed that the Bible is ‘authoritative,’ but would not affirm inerrancy. Conservatives focused their arguments on the necessary affirmation that the Bible is completely without error. Both sides knew that the issues at stake ranged far beyond inerrancy, but both sides also knew that inerrancy was the central axis around which all other issues revolved.”

Mohler goes on to say, “There are big lessons here for every church, every denomination, and every Christian institution. Once biblical inerrancy is abandoned, there is no brake on theological and moral revisionism. The Bible’s authority becomes relative, and there is no anchor to hold the church to the words of Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian witness.  The discernment process at First Baptist Church in Greenville offers us all ample lessons that should lead to a more fundamental discernment: Without the affirmation that the Bible is inerrant, ‘discernment’ leads to disaster.”

(“WHEN “DISCERNMENT” LEADS TO DISASTER” was written by Dr. Charles Wood and copied, with permission, from his private blog THE WOODCHUCK’S DEN.)

Why Do Daily Bible Reading?

For fifty-four years, I have been awash in God’s grace. However, I can’t say I always understood that nor when I did, I cannot say I embraced it daily. Fortunately, it has held me every day. Many undeserved gifts were given thorough the work of Christ. One was the ability, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, to understand His word. His Word and His Spirit are a packaged gift, and like all gifts, it can be received with varying degrees of ownership. How I wish I’d read and studied it every day of my life. To have memorized and meditated more on it and to have always owned it as my own would have done much for my life, my self, and my loved ones. Why? For many reasons but here are a few.

1. Wisdom: Every morning, my mind wakes up worrying or wondering or wandering. It has sometimes awakened me with outright fear, angst, and, upon occasion, with a wonderful idea or plan. Sometimes it is in a great state and sometimes it is in a deplorable state. My selfish ambitions, fleshy desires, and vain ideas are all swimming around and I need to sort through them quickly and center my thinking with clarity. Some of that sorting happens quickly and easily. Praying through morning duties and talking to God in one’s heart can clear much clutter but how clear other matters become when I open God’s word. It is my habit to read a chapter in Proverbs every morning. On a practical level, things that matter most in duties and relationships jump off the page. A few Psalms will focus my soul on the greatness and largeness of God. At 4AM, that family or church issue looked so daunting but after a little time in worship before God’s sovereign throne, life gets scaled back to the standard of realism. Reading with an ear to the Spirit on a daily basis reminds me of who I am, who He is, and why and how much (or how little) others matter. It equips me with a mountaintop from which I more accurately perceive life’s vista. Sometimes, it’s only a treetop but God’s will in my life becomes doable.

2. Truth: While it is not enough to have right doctrine, it is necessary. Don’t forget that the demons could likely pass any seminary exam as they have a lot of experience with holy things (James 2:19). So deep theology is not a cure-all for weak or poor spirituality or for bad character. However, poor theology means a poor view of God and a poor view of God will warp all of one’s thinking in a wrong direction. Understanding God better and more deeply will widen and heighten the space in one’s soul to experience joy, peace, grief, disappointments and to rest in the beauty of God’s gospel. Also, understanding what is real and what is true and what is not real in this world is not easy. Constant bombardment with other’s views, opinions, slants, and spins is a reality of our hi-tech culture. Being connected yet disconnected is so easy today and not just relationally but in regards to God’s truth as well. One can easily hear more views and opinions today in an hour than ever before yet never hear God’s voice. Daily Bible reading will deepen you and connect you to ancient and eternal truth needed in any and every age.

3. Worship: My agenda is made and I am ready for the day. Does it include worship? If I have not stopped to be reminded of the beauty and power of God, my list may reveal my idol. It could be me. If I have to get this list done to feel fulfilled and accomplished, respected and admirable, whom am I worshipping? Whom do I fear? Others? My boss, the crew, and my family can easily supplant a righteous motive in my heart with a good one – and that is one step (or more) down we’re asking God to take in our hearts. Daily Bible reading brings me to commune with the architect of my soul and helps me become more effective in ordering all the lesser priorities and less, but significant, relationships and enables me to keep Him high above all.

The danger of Bible reading (yes, it can hinder you) is that one may trust the Bible or the habit of reading it to be all one needs. Approached in this manner, it can become a tool or an idolatrous sacrament. What one needs is God – Father, Son, and Spirit – and what one needs to do is come before Him at the throne of grace for help. Properly read, this is where the Bible will take us – to our knees! The value of Bible reading is lost when one treats it as a formula for success, a sacrament or ritual that adds spirituality to one’s life, or as a good luck charm that guarantees that God is happy with them and will bless them that day. I am reminded of the impact that Bible reading had on George Whitfield as a new believer. His first time through the Bible, he read it on his knees. He was not worshiping the book. He was worshiping its Author. He was in wonder at the God the Bible revealed. He was humbly positioned to receive the teaching of His Master. Are we?

STAYING SHARP WHEN GROWING OLD

How can one stay current even as they move into the last two decades of their lives? I do not mind growing older – who can avoid it? – but I don’t want to be one of those older folks who holds others back.  It seems many older folks are oblivious to what is going on around them and, therefore, become less and less relevant, practical, and helpful. The following counsel is from an octogenarian that I have known for many years. I met him when I was in college (he was a friend of my father’s.) He has walked a consistent and authentic walk in life and ministry over the years. You may not agree with everything he says here but it is all worth thinking about.

SECRETS TO STAYING ON THE “CUTTING EDGE:”
No one will ever convince me that growing older and duller necessarily go together.  The old bod tells me that I am growing older (then there’s Vin Scully, five years older than I and still doing play-by-play for the L. A. Dodgers), but the mind is still at least marginally functional.  I work with and am around people the age of my children (and younger) very frequently (our church is multi-generational), and I don’t want to loose that certain edge.  Here are ten of my suggestions for staying sharp while growing older.
1.  Keep on dreaming.  I know he is as annoying as all get out, but “Dickie” Vitale, who is 75, wants to be the first broadcaster to do live play-by-play when he is one hundred.  Now that’s a dream.  When all your dreams have come true, you had better get some new ones.  There are still things I want to do and accomplish before the Lord takes me home (I’ll spare you the list).  Here’s a neat little outline on dreams: dare to dream; prepare the dream; wear the dream; repair the dream and share the dream.
2.  Keep in touch.  I always try to talk with some of the younger people (and that includes some in their teens) every opportunity I have.  I also try to do something very difficult for a man my age (especially one with hearing problems), I try to listen.  Although at this point a hearing aid is in the dream realm, I don’t want to be the guy about whom someone – I think it was his wife – once said, “I wonder why he has that hearing aid, he never listens anyhow.”  Spend time with people.  Do what Jesus did – walk slowly through the crowd.
3.  Keep growing internally.  Let’s face it, the standard of greatness keeps rising, but the means to achieve it is also rising at an even faster pace.  Get around great people.  Listen to great videos, visit great places (when possible), attend great events, read great books.  Try Tim Keller’s Center Church – if that doesn’t give you a brain freeze, it will give you a ton of things to think about.
4.  Forget the fear factor: Fear is the thief of dreams.  There is always more lost in what we don’t do because of fear than in what we actually do.  I’m not sure the battle with fear is ever over, even if it’s just the fear of being considered an old boor.
5.  Focus on recruiting, mentoring, etc., leaders to eventually take your place.  I think it was John Maxwell who said that leaders who last, recruit and mentor strong leaders.  What are you doing to leave behind a legacy of shared insights, constant encouragement, lessons learned?  That’s one of the reasons why there is a Woodchuck’s Den.  I don’t know a whole lot about a whole lot of things, but I have been there, done that, and am more than willing to share the consequences of a whole lot, whether good or bad!
6.  Ah yes, fatigue.  I tire more easily than I once did, and it takes me longer to get it back together than it once did (and sometimes even longer to remember where I put it after I had it all together), but He promised me that my strength would be sufficient for my days.  I have previously quoted the profound wisdom of Warren Wiersbe, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”  And sometimes that’s all I need to get back after it again.
7.  Watch your priorities.  Sure, there’s a tendency to meander in life, but things that matter most must never be subordinated to things that matter least.  As our days grow shorter (and that is true of everyone), we need to prioritize such things as money, time, people, activities, gifts, to say nothing of family.  Just this exercise might well prove difficult enough to keep you on the cutting edge (be careful that you don’t get “cut” on that family thing.  Grand kids are great, (and great grands even greater), but be careful of the priorities.
8.  Keep the big picture in mind.  We get so wrapped up in who we are, what we are doing, how people are treating us, etc., that we sometimes forget that it really isn’t all about us.  God’s work on earth is vast (one of the reasons I struggle with those content to stay in little denominational or positional boxes), and I want to be involved in it as long as I possibly can be.  By-the-way, hopefully, your church won’t close the day you leave it.
9. Be open to change – there I said it, and I meant to say it, and I’m glad I said it!!!  My doctrine hasn’t changed a bit over the years, but a whole lot of others things have because I live in a world that is constantly changing.  Change itself is neither good nor bad, but part of staying on that cutting edge is keeping abreast of what is changing, evaluating it and making a decision regarding it.  I’m a bit weary of people my age who have an automatic negative reaction to change.  For instance – and I’ve said this before – I don’t like all of the new music, but I didn’t like all of the old music either, and I love some of the talented kids that are involved in the new music.  May I make a suggestion?  How about concentrating on the words instead of the instruments, repetitions, unfamiliar (and sometimes, un-singable) tunes.
10. Beware of hidden private sin.  Just because you are no longer the lead man doesn’t mean that you have a certain quota of sin that you are allowed without offending God.  Yes, we’re physically immune to some of the more fleshly lusts, but our often insufficiently occupied minds are fertile grounds for the devil to work.
And a final, unnumbered word: be careful in keeping on the cutting edge that you don’t fall off the edge.  More than one of God’s older servants has done something later in life that has destroyed much of what he spent his life building.  And if you are a younger whipper-snapper, don’t hesitate to share these thoughts with your older members and blaming them on me.