For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Borrowed Light: Pray For Your Wife: 31 Day Challenge

Here's a great idea for all you husbands out there.  It seems a little simplistic on the issue of "accountability" but the idea is a great one.  And what man can't use the encouragement to pray for his wife more?  Read the blog, join the facebook group, or at the very least let this remind you to pray for you wife regularly.

Borrowed Light: Pray For Your Wife: 31 Day Challenge: Last week I listed 7 Reasons Husbands Should Pray for Their Wives . It had a favorable response and so I thought that perhaps we should tak...

Monday, July 29, 2013

10 Years at Faith; and the Truth of Proverbs 16:9

In the first 14 years or so of our married life/ministry, Cheryl and I were much more nomadic that we really wanted to be.   Between school and ministry we were in three states; moved about 9 times (several were local moves, not ministry "changes"); served with homeless ministries, youth ministries, church planting, a mission church on a Sioux reservation, and pastored three Missouri churches.  Sadly, we never seemed to stay anywhere that long. Three years here, four years there. I always dreamed of what it would be like to put down roots, stay somewhere for at least ten years, and enjoy the "benefits" of ministry. 

This Sunday will be the tenth anniversary of my first Sunday as pastor of Faith Southern Baptist.  Ten years.  We only had three children when we came, the oldest of which was only 11.  Now there is a fourth little blessing, the oldest is about to enter her senior year of college, the next one just graduated high school, and the third will graduate next spring.  Lots of things have changed, lots of "life" has passed by.   But what about all those ministry "blessings" I was looking forward to?

Well, I will say that in general I consider having served this congregation for ten years has been an enormous blessing.  There are days when I'm just thankful they let me come back and preach the next Sunday, but then other days when I almost feel like this should be my last Sunday.  I'm learning that many, if not most, pastors have that yo-yo feeling.  However, my "vision" for what would happen in ten years hasn't quite worked the way I thought it would. 

I'm not really sure what I was thinking, what I was hoping for.  I think I believed that after ten years in one place, everything would be a bed of roses, everyone would always love me, the church would become exactly what I thought it should be, etc.  I realize now that there was a lot of "me" in those expectations:  people would love me, what I think the church should be.  I'm learning the lesson I've been trying to teach our church for ten years now:  It's not about me, it's about God.  It's His church, and it's His plans and purposes that reign. 

Proverbs 16:9 says that "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps."  I'm beginning to realize that this means my plans aren't always going to work the way I want them, but that's ok.  It's so much better to let the Lord's plans take center stage.  It may not work the way I want, or look like I want, or have the "success" I want.  But if God is working, His plans are moving forward, then I am enormously grateful and exceedingly blessed.

I wish our church had grown more in ten years.  I wish we had seen our baptistry filled more often.  I wish we had become a more passionate church, with a greater desire for worship.  I wish there had been more spiritual growth and maturity in our membership.  I wish we had raised up more pastors and missionaries in our midst.  I wish we had become more missions minded. I wish we had more fully captured a family-centered mindset.  I wish...

Then I realize.  God probably wishes the pastor had grown more, had become more committed to His Word, had spent more time in prayer, had developed a greater heart for His people.  And the church probably wishes their pastor had loved them more, prayed for and with them more, been more involved in their needs, listened more to their hearts.  So I guess we all have room for improvement, right?

But again, the Lord establishes our steps.  Regardless of how I think things ought to be, I know that when God brought me here ten years ago, it was His plan for me to be right here today.  I don't think we should ever be satisfied as a church, ever feel like we've done enough, grown enough, or "arrived."  But we should take great comfort in knowing that God is at work, He is in the process of molding and shaping us into the people He wants us to be, and we need simply to be faithful in continuing to seek Him, to seek His will, to seek His glory in all things.  And in that we'll find our blessings.  In that, I'll find my blessings. 

I honestly pray that ten years from now, I'll be looking back at 20 years at Faith.  I know that if I do, I will look back and think "I wish we had done more..., been more..., grown more..."  And the church will probably look back and think "we wish the pastor had done more..., been more..., grown more..."  But I hope I also look back and realize what a great blessing it is to serve the Lord for ten minutes, let alone ten years, or twenty years.  I hope I realize that the "blessings" I'm looking for in ministry are staring me right in the face each and every day.  And I pray that I, and that we, will still be seeking Him, His will, and His glory in all things.  And as He orders our steps, we will be content to walk with Him wherever He leads. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Return of the Intolerant "Tolerance" Folks

Almost exactly one year ago today I posted a little piece about the hypocrisy of the "tolerance" crowd.  Those who yell so loudly about how we ought to tolerate their lifestyles, while at the same time disallowing anyone to disagree with them.  In fact, I suggested that we have redefined "tolerance" to mean not just allowing a view to be stated, but to agree with it.  To be tolerant in the world's eyes, I not only have to allow homosexuality to be expressed, I have to support it.  Read that post for the evidence. 

Now, a year later, there is another example in an ever growing list of examples that show those who support the liberal, pro-gay, pro-death agenda violently opposing anyone who would dare disagree with them.  Watch this. 

My heart breaks when I see this.  Not only for the poor guy holding the sign.  Not only for the violent marchers blinded by their sin and led to rage and bitterness.  But for our nation as a whole.  What have we become when we are so blinded by the so-called "tolerance" crowd that we can't see how hypocritical this is? 

If this had been a group of Christians attacking a homosexual holding a sign, it would be all over the media for months on end.  We would be hearing non-stop about those cruel, heartless, hate filled Christian bigots who attacked this poor innocent protestor.   But because it was a group of gay pride marchers attacking a Christian, well that's ok.  We'll let that one slide. 

It is a sad, sad day in America when this can happen.  In the midst of all the "racial" outcries over Trayvon Martin's tragic death, in the midst of all the cries for equal rights for homosexuals in marriage, in the midst of all the talk about tolerance, and curbing violence against those who are "different", etc. we sit back and ignore this outrageous behavior.  As one young man said to me after viewing this, "God is not smiling on America right now."  How very true.  And how very sad.  And chances are, at the rate we're going, it's only going to get worse.   

I've always hated the "sky is falling" alarmists, but the truth is, persecution for the true Church is coming to America.  We're seeing glimpses of it all over. And we had better be prepared as those who have fought for "tolerance" will eventually lead our nation to their desired end, the complete intolerance of Christianity. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Does Truth Matter?

You have to be living in a cave not to know about the whole Zimmerman/Martin case down in Florida.  It seems we can't get away from it.  What fascinates me about the whole thing is how different people can look at supposedly the same set of facts and come up with such wide ranging conclusions and reactions.  The jury, arguably the ones who heard most of the actual facts in the case, rendered a verdict of not guilty.  Thousands of people around the world, who granted have only heard the facts as presented by the media and so called "civil rights" folks, disagree so strongly with that verdict that they are willing to go on a rampage.

Now, apart from the ridiculous nature of that kind of response to one of thousands of similar cases that happen all the time in various circumstances, the question is: what is truth, what are the facts, and do they matter?

Liberal groups are protesting and attacking Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law which allows citizens to defend themselves.  Interestingly enough, Zimmerman's lawyers never even appealed to that law in their defense. That's the truth.  That's the fact.  But does it matter?  Apparently not.  

This whole thing raises an important question.  Does truth matter?  Not just in this case, but in general?  Part of the problem comes from defining truth.  In this case, the jury saw truth in one way, the protesters believe the truth is something different.  So is truth just what we believe?  Or is it something else that stands outside of our belief?

I would argue the latter.  Truth is truth, period.  It's true whether you believe it or not, accept it or not, embrace it or not, discover it or not, etc.  It is true, and it doesn't change.  In this legal battle, there is a chance that we may never know the whole truth.  Only the two men involved know all the facts, the full truth.  Again, a jury heard the facts as presented and rendered their opinion on the truth.  Others hear the media firestorm, stoked by pictures of a much younger and innocent looking Martin, and believe the truth to be something else.  But there is only one truth in this case.

Does truth matter?  Or are we satisfied with having our emotions charged by "beliefs"?  And again, this is a question that reaches well beyond this one case.  In fact, it is a question with eternal consequences.  Because ultimately, truth has to do with the the Truth of God.

It's interesting how when discussing truth, we usually look at the facts, but when it comes to religion, we redefine truth in terms of preference.  It's objective vs. subjective truth.  And the swapping of those two is what leads some to say ridiculous things like "all religions are true," or "what's true for you is fine, and what's true for me is fine, even if they are different."  Really?
So, I can say that the world is flat, and you can say that it's square, and that's fine for both of us even though the facts, the truth is that the world is round.  How silly.  It doesn't matter what you "believe" to be true, or how sincerely you believe it.  Truth is true, period. 

Stop and consider the basic logic of things.  Hindus believe in thousands of gods.  Buddhists believe in no god.  Jews and Muslims believe in one God in one person.  Christians believe in One God, but in Three Persons.  How can all of those be true at the same time?  They might all be false, but they can't all be true.

Eastern religions believe in reincarnation and working toward eternal bliss.  Muslims and Jews believe in various forms of "works" salvation.  Christianity believes in grace through the finished work of Christ on the cross.  They can't all be true, no matter how much we believe them.

Here's the point. Truth matters.  Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.  So examine the facts.  Don't let emotionalism and "belief" get in the way.  Look at the historical facts and you'll find that only Christianity lines up with the Truth.  Jesus Christ came and died on the cross, and rose again.  Historical facts.  Doesn't matter how the "jury" or the "media" interprets the facts, they are facts.  It's true.  It's the Truth.

My favorite example is the old bumper sticker that says "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."  And my argument has always been:  God said it, that settles it whether you believe it or not.  Truth is true.  God has set it before us.  Whether you "believe" it or not doesn't change the reality of it.  So we'd better check the facts and embrace the true Truth.  Because, again...eternity is a long time to be wrong. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Curbing our Patriotism?

In my last post (which was almost two weeks anyone still out there?) I wrote about the current state of our nation compared to the mindset, beliefs, etc. of our founding fathers.  Surely, we've come a long, long way from those beginnings.  But how much time should we spend focused on "bringing the nation back"?

I'm in the midst of preparing an adult VBS study on developing a biblical worldview, and one of the video presentations I'm planning to use traces the history of that worldview in our nation.  It points out that our founding fathers had a well developed biblical worldview, that is seeing all things through the lens of Scripture, through the eyes of faith, etc.  (As you know, worldview studies takes in a bit more than that, but for the sake of this post, that oversimplified summary should do.)  We indeed have a proud heritage as Americans when it comes to this. 

The presenter goes on the bemoan the current state of things, which he is right to do.  But at what point to we take this too far?  At what point does this consideration of our rich national past sidetrack us from our proper biblical role of preaching the gospel and making disciples?  

If you've read anything in these cyber-pages, you know that I'm a proud American, have been immensely active in political things, and have a strong desire to see our nation return to its biblical roots.  But at what point do we let our patriotism overshadow our kingdom responsibilities. 

One of the things that concerns me about presentations like the one I'm using, is an almost one-to-one application of God's dealings with Israel, and God's dealings with America.  We act as if God's defense of His chosen nation in the past, now applies to America today.  It may not always be in the extreme of some of those radical reconstructionist types, but there is a undercurrent in much of modern "evangelicalism" that tends to truly see America as the chosen people of God, and equates our current woes as a nation with Israel's disobedience.

We do know that the USA is not Israel, right?  In fact, controversial as it may be with some, modern Israel is not Israel.  (I guess I shouldn't digress into the whole idea of the Church being the inheritors of the promise and the spiritual children of Abraham and the dividing wall being torn down between Jew and Gentile and God making one new man out of both, so...moving along)  

This is a wonderfully blessed nation.  We've enjoyed unprecedented freedoms.  And yes, we have moved far from the foundations that gave us those freedoms, and yes, we may even suffer as a nation because of it.  But is our job as the Church of Christ to save the "nation" or to make disciples of all nations?  Is our focus to be on trying to reinstate biblical principles in our government, or is it to see men and women come to faith in Christ, to become fully devoted followers of Him?  

Now, two things.  One, as good Christians citizens it is our right and responsibility to be involved in the political process.  I've argued that case over and over.  We should be involved as citizens.  And two, the truth is that if we saw men and women truly come to Christ, if we saw a genuine revival across this nation, it couldn't help but have an impact on society, government, etc.  So the two goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive. 

But how much of our time and energy should be focused on that vs. our Kingdom responsibilities?  Is our national patriotism to supplant our Kingdom commitment? Do we need to curb our patriotism, in the sense that while being involved is a good things, spending too much time on "national" issues to the neglect of "church" issues is not a good thing? 

Drawing the lines can be tough, sometimes.  I'm certainly not going to be less involved in voting, in my support of the Constitution Party, etc.  But maybe I need to be more worried about the men and women God has placed right in front of me; seeing them come to know Christ; placing my Kingdom Citizenship in front of my American Citizenship.  Just some thoughts. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The America We Celebrate No Longer Exists

Tomorrow, all over the country, there will be parades and picnics and pyrotechnics.  Even though July 4th is not the official date of the writing or signing of the Declaration of Independence (read here), it is the day we’ve set aside for celebrating our national independence.  We celebrate the founding of our great nation, and remember the boldness and sacrifice of those who worked so hard and fought so bravely to ensure that founding.  Sadly, what those men and women stood for and fought for is hardly recognizable today.

Our founding fathers, regardless of the liberal rewriting of history, were people of faith.  The freedom of religion was a prize for which they came to this land, and for which they fought.  Freedom of religion, not just freedom of worship.  The two are different.  One allows expression of faith in all walks of life, the other simply allows your church to meet.  Today we have freedom of worship (mostly), but have less and less freedom of religion.  Sure you can believe what you want, as long as you don’t share it or show it (especially if you’re Christian).

Our founding fathers were people of morality.  Family, life, godliness were all near and dear to them.  Today, we’ve devolved our “freedom” into the freedom to kill unborn children, to pervert nature and morality with so-called “gay marriage”, to pursue whatever ungodly lifestyle we want.  While at the same time those who promote Christian values, the same values our founders held fiercely to, are scorned and treated as outcasts, even as criminals.

Our founding fathers established a nation of free states, escaping the unwanted intrusion of the king’s representatives in our homes, our businesses and our churches.  Today, “Big Brother” continues to grow out of control, spying on its own citizens, taxing them into poverty, seeking to control more and more of their lives, right down to the kinds of “sugary drinks” you’re allowed to enjoy.  The Federal Government continues to ignore the 10th Amendment, acting as if the states are beholden to D.C. rather than the other way around.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I love this land.  I consider myself to be blessed to have been born in the grandest nation on earth.  And tomorrow, I’ll take part in a parade, get together with family for food and fireworks, and have a good time.  But the celebration, for me, is still tinged with a bit of sadness.  Sadness because I know this isn’t the land those great men and women fought to establish; their words have been twisted, their lives often ignored, their beliefs ridiculed.  Sadness because I know that on our current path, many of the freedoms we now enjoy will not be enjoyed by our children; many of the blessings we enjoy, they will miss out on.  Sadness because the America we celebrate, in many ways, no longer exists.

And yet, in some ways that may be a good thing.  Maybe it will wake up the Church of Christ and help us to separate the gospel from the American Dream.  Maybe it will help us to see that while we appreciate the freedoms we have in this great land, true freedom is in Christ, and Christ alone.  It’s a freedom enjoyed by brothers and sisters all over the world, in all sorts of government systems, in all sorts of socio-economic conditions.  Maybe we need that reminder. 

Or maybe I need to stop being so gloomy and go shoot off a few fireworks.  Yeah, that’ll make it all better.