Remembering Mom

Judy Elaine Harris peacefully transitioned to her her eternal rest in the presence of the LORD at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO Wednesday morning, April 22, 2020. Born October 6th, 1946 in Durham, North Carolina to Elaine and John Hunziker.  She graduated from Watson Chapel High School in 1964, and years later after raising her son, began a new journey in education, earning her Batchelor of Arts in English Language from UAPB (1988), and the MA in English Language from the University of Dallas in 1992, then served as a professor of English at El Centro College (Dallas), Oakland University College (Rochester Hills, MI), Schoolcraft College (Lovonia, MI),  and Lone Star Community College (University Park & Tomball, TX)), from which she retired in 2011.

And while Judy was a committed mom and granny, faithfully praying for her son IMG_4688(Michael Battenfield, Highfill, AR), daughter (Tracy Harris, Sterling Heights, MI)43346151_10217450635724014_6701318273721434112_n, grandson (Anthony Fowlkes of Austin, TX), and granddaughters (Anna & Selah Battenfield of Highfill, AR), she was equally engaged in trying to make a difference in the lives of those around her, whether it be her church family (Thank you Stoney Creek Church, Utica, MI), or the great cloud of friends she had accumulated. In fact, most who knew her, knew that once you were her friend, you were thought of as family. Quick to both love and forgive, she often gave far more of herself than she had to give, She also generously supported several causes dear to her heart including campaigns against drunk driving, the arts, and education.

Judy was preceded in death by her parents, John and Elaine Hunziker, and her husband of 26 years, her “Bubby” – William Robert Harris, the love of her life who she so longed to see again.220462_1712803056482_5684683_o In addition to her son, step-daughter, and grandchildren, Judy is survived by her brother J. Emil Hunziker (San Antonio, TX).

But no more important truth about Judy, was her love for Jesus Christ as her very real and personal Savior. Indeed, it was this love for Christ that truly empowered her love for others.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 9, 2020 at 1:00PM at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs, AR, and a second memorial service and internment will be held in Michigan as soon as the Governor allows.

For those wishing to celebrate mom’s life, in lieu of flowers, may make a contribution to any of the following:

  • First Baptist Church, PO Box 175, Cave Springs, AR. 72718 or CLICK HERE
  • Stoney Creek Church, 45835 Van Dyke Ave. Utica, MI 48317 or CLICK HERE
  • BMA Seminary, PO Box 670, Jacksonville, TX 75766 or CLICK HERE
  • Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, PO Box 332161, Nashville, TN. 37203 or CLICK HERE

 

I Hate Obituaries

I hate obituaries, and I won’t apologize for saying so.  I do recognize the need for something to combine a death notice with a relatively short life overview that the people who knew the deceased might confirm and acknowledge the loss. Yet I have never read an obituary that has really done justice to the person who has passed away. Some are so brief and cold that there is no indication of who the person was. Others are flowing dedications that essentially try to compliment a person right through the pearly gates, often coming across as pompous. Writing an obituary really is an impossible task undertaken by those who are most emotionally impacted by the passing, and who are really in no position to have to think through and process all that might rightly be included in such a dedicatory piece.

As a pastor, I have often been tasked with reading the obituary in the context of a funeral or memorial service. Time after time, I find myself really no better informed of the person or the life they lived than before the reading. After all, how do you summarize the life of someone who maybe lived 50, 60, or even 73 years as my mom did? How do you honor your loved one without painting a false picture? Yet that was the task before me last week as I penned the above.  And as always, I am disgusted with what turned out. Even after dozens of edits and rewrites, I’ve been unable to come to a point that I am happy with it, but it is what it is.

But I still feel compelled to add a bit – to the person my mom really was.  She was a flawed person – just like me.  She made mistakes.  Just like we all do.  Yet through it all, my mom was one of the most consistent, reliable, and honest examples of unconditional love I have ever known.  Over the last week, I have received phone calls, private messages, and texts from her friends, former students, and others who’s life she impacted with her love.

It was my mom who, from very early in my life, instilled in me blinders regarding skin color and culture. She didn’t care what ethnicity you are. She didn’t care about your background – she had a unique ability to see you for the human being God created you as, and the amazing potential in everyone.  She was an ardent hater… of hate.  And she worked in every part of her life to try to help people to be the very best they could be – a trait that helped make her an exemplary teacher… and mom, granny, bonus mom, and faithful friend.

My mom was one of the greatest examples of a prayer warrior I have ever known – faithfully lifting up each and every request before the throne of God – beginning with me.  Indeed, I credit my mom’s faithful and relentless prayers for me even being alive today – and continue to give thanks for God’s answers to her prayers even as I try in earnest to glorify His holy name in all that I do.

Another unique trait my mom passed on was her heart for those who became her family.  You see, my mom never quit seeing my dad’s family as still “family” and her love for them never diminished, even after my mom and dad divorced and both remarried.  My cousins remained her nieces and nephews. My aunts and uncles were still her brothers and sisters in-law (and the “in-law” part never really meant anything to her). But extending even beyond literal family, was my mom’s undying love for what we refer to in our family as “extended family” – those who may not be blood relatives, but are every bit as much family because… they are equally loved.  Indeed, while I was an only child by birth, my closest friends growing up, including Matthew Haustein and Arthur Owens were 100% as sons in her world, and she was just as protective and concerned for them as she was me!  When I married Diana, my mom didn’t caller her “daughter-in-law”, she was simply her daughter.  The same for my step-sister Tracy Harris – who mom considered simply her daughter.  No ifs, ands, or buts. Anthony, my nephew through Tracy – was never a “step-grandson” – but simply her grandson, for whom she had a love that was as unconditional and absolute as it was for anyone.

I remember the day that I called mom back what seems like forever ago, to share with her the news that I had surrendered to the ministry. I was somewhat shocked when, through her own tears, stated that she was wondering how long it was going to take for me to figure that calling out.  And the joy in her heart was overwhelming –

I remember the call when we found out our first daughter was to be born significantly

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prematurely. And while she was her usual emotional overflow, she was still a voice ofcalm and faith. And from day 1, was deeply in love with her “Precious Angel Baby”.

And no less was her joy when her second granddaughter, Selah was born.  Granny’s IMG_3116little cowgirl was yet another jewel in her heart.

In August of 2011, Mom and Bob moved back to Michigan to write the next chapter in their lives – with a focus on investing in their grandson Anthony. 12074901_10207850028754840_2360553044091934581_n

Even though her devastating loss of her “Bubby” (Bob Harris), her husband of nearly 26 years to the hands of a drunk driver, she still remained the faithful prayer warrior who was passionate about her family.

The Unexpectedly Short Final Chapter

Last year, she began contemplating one more big move – to sell her condo in Shelby Township and move to Northwest Arkansas to write the final chapter of her life – to similarly invest in the lives of her granddaughters.  In February of this year, she sold her Michigan residence and made the big move.  She was able to find a new home, just 6 miles from our own home in the small town of Gentry. Just as she was beginning to settle in, something happened.  The world, and our nation was turned upside-down by a virus the illness it causes known as COVID-19.  This put a damper on life, but its greatest impact was not direct but indirect.  On Tuesday, April 7, mom called needing me to come take her to the ER.  She was experiencing symptoms of a possible stroke (paralyzed tongue, blurred/double-vision, weakness, balance issues), and her doctor’s office told her to get to the ER as quickly as she could.  I dropped her at the ER and helplessly watched them wheel her into the doors (closed to all but patients and staff due to the virus).  On Thursday morning, mom crashed and had to be resuscitated and moved to ICU.  The hospital called to let me know – and allowed me to come see her that afternoon.  While I was there, she was still responsive though weak.  She had about been weaned from the ventilator, and while I was there, they tested her breathing ability and decided to pull the vent.  Unfortunately, in less than a minute, she stopped breathing and again coded and was resuscitated.  From that point, she never really came back.  She was transferred to Springfield, MO for access to a much more comprehensive neurology department. Yet after multiple MRIs, they simply could not find any evidence of a stroke.  They initially began treating her for Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder that her symptoms seemed to match. yet after intensive treatment, there was no improvement (and initial lab work returned negative). Finally, the CDC was contacted with the one thing nobody had considered – the possibility of botulism. The symptoms, including rapid onset seemed to match, and the CDC even sent the antitoxin to be administered, and samples were sent for testing.  Unfortunately, test results became irrelevant as her condition and prognosis made it all futile. Her written directives were clear, and we had to honor that. So at 10AM on Wednesday, April 22, we said our final goodbyes to mom and watched her slip incredibly peacefully into eternity without so much as a sound, sigh, or gasp… but simply a single tear…

 

Quit Being a Selfish Jerk

Now that I have your attention… time for a bit of a rant.
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I see post after post from my age and older people slamming “young people” for being out in droves, not practicing “social distancing”, for going shopping, etc…
Who themselves KNOW about this how? Because THEY are out shopping?
But even more interesting when a friend posted that he went out to take a quiet hike and exercise some “distancing” – and when he got to his favorite area – it was packed wall-to-wall with the same age group that has done most of the complaining… no social distancing, not spacing out – literally filling the trails… Not young people or Millennials –
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But you know what – some people just aren’t happy unless they have something to complain about and somebody else to blame for their own discomfort (or perceived discomfort).
Just like many of those complaining that Governor Hutchinson hasn’t issued on order to fully lock down at home… are the same folks who regularly complain that they don’t like the heavy hand of government telling them what to do…
Another frustration – folks who are all ticked off because there are people actually shopping at Walmart or their local Grocery store when they want to go shopping… say what? 2c3ef27d-d49c-4ab1-9417-b0f3037eb057_750x422Don’t they have every bit the same right to be there as you? And then have the audacity to blast them for not using an app to get their orders delivered or at least do pick-up? You are a special kind of selfish person. There are quite a few people who still don’t do technology – They just don’t use a smartphone – barely find their way around turning a computer on – and most definitely aren’t about to give banking information over the phone – they still write checks! (oh how selfish.. right – because they also are the ones who cause you a 30 second additional wait in the grocery store isle). Never mind that many of the stores that offer delivery or pick-up have backlogs sometimes a week out… I guess they should just go hungry until then?wal-mart-grocery-pickup-parking-sign
Come on folks – you can be better than this. Quit trying to divide. Quit thinking only of yourself. Quit assuming your neighbor is an idiot, fool, or hates you because they actually still go buy groceries in-person. Show some compassion – quit judging other people based off of standards you aren’t willing to live by yourself – it isn’t helping us as communities, a state, or a nation to come together to overcome our crisis – it only makes it worse.

I Am Going To Die!

I’m going to die!  I am 100% certain of it – and no doctor can tell me otherwise, nor can they prevent this from happening.

CoronavirusNo, I don’t have COVID-19. No, I’ve not been diagnosed with cancer or some other dread disease.

But Scripture is clear: “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:11).  I was born with a death sentence on my life. While I don’t know when that day will come, or even by what means that death will come, it is a date which is already set in stone.   Indeed, even by worrying myself to a frazzle, the same Bible clearly record the words of Jesus: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)
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You see, we all share the same death sentence, totally earned and deserved. For the wages (just payment for) of sin is death
Romans 6:23a.  I will one day draw my last breath and die the first death. Short of the end of the world and the LORD’s return, every single one of us will face that certainty. What comes next is the kicker!

For those who are in Christ – we are partakers of the resurrection – and will be unaffected by the second death –  the eternal condemnation and judgment of a very real Hell and the Lake of Fire – the abode of torment created for Satan and his fallen coconspirators.  For God has made it clear For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18)iu-3.jpeg

I not only am completely unable to save myself from this totally justified wrath by the Holy and Righteous creator of all things – but am utterly and hopelessly condemned – BUT…

While I could never in a million years of doing good stuff make up for my sin, God, through His Son Jesus Christ (both fully God and fully man), took on my sins and paid that sin debt on my behalf- All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on 1.jpgHim. (Isaiah 53:6) God Himself paid the debt I owed, taking my sin and shame and carrying it as far as the East is from the West.  And not only that, but He has promised “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37). Even more blessed is that Jesus also said: “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30)

And this all is so simple, as to almost be impossible to fathom.  But Scripture says that “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13). But let’s think a moment about what it means to “call upon the name of the LORD” – It isn’t simply like asking someone for a gift. Calling on is at its simplest – when you absolutely and completely trust someone to come through in the very worst of situations – when all people you know might very well fail – KNOWING that GOD alone is there with you – helping you – strengthening you, that you will NEVER be alone. Paul, in quoting the Old Testament passage Deuteronomy 31:6, wrote in Hebrews 13:5 “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.”

“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)

Confessing simply means to affirm and be willing to state with absolute certainty that Jesus Christ is LORD (that HE is God, who took your sins in full, paid the price by His death on the cross, carried them away, and was resurrected winning victory over death, and that HE is the King and ruler of your life (he is even if we don’t acknowledge it – but it is a willingness to live it).

Jesus put it even more simply as He was traveling through Galilee calling His first disciples – He simply said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (MARK 1:15). To repent means to literally TURN FROM your sins – reject sin, a change of heart regarding sin and those things that offend God.


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But none of this is even possible on our own – again, I go back to my utter inability to do anything about my sins or to pay for them. You see, God described it way back in Ezekiel this way: “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19)

God begins the work in us, and as part of the greater gift, by drawing us to Himself “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day”. (John 6:44)

That greater gift? It is that Jesus did it all for us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) By God’s Grace (His divine, sovereign will an choice) He draws people of all ages, groups, nations, and people to Himself, gives them than new. Heart of flesh, opens their eyes to see and ears to hear, and gives them the faith to believe and the strength to turn from sin.

I will never, in this life, understand WHY, nor even HOW it all could possibly be –  but that is why it is called faith.  But it isn’t just a blind faith – for history has proven that Jesus Christ was a very real person in time – who made waves throughout the world. We an trust the Bible and how it records it all because, again, history confirms it – and the evidence is overwhelming.

And it is why we can walk without fear – 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

In fact, God has told us through the pen of Peter: “casting all your anxiety on Cast-Your-CaresHim,because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

And finally, for those who truly trust in Jesus, we have this incredible promise in my own favorite verse of all: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) In this, we are not promised an easy life. We are not promised health. We are not promised a lack of pain. He hasn’t promised we won’t face an ugly virus… or even cancer. But HE does promise His children that HE is with us, and that He will use it and work even these hard and dark things – to our good.

And THIS is why – whether its COVID-19/Coronavirus, Cancer, violence, accident, or whatever – I do not fear my last breath. I do not fear what is to come – because God has it all in His perfect hand. And it is in HIM that we can find peace and genuine fulfillment.  And it is my prayer that you too can find “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Then you too may not fear what this world may bring.

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Apologetics and the Christian Faith

Apologetics: A word that is often misunderstood. It does not in any way point to sorrow or grief or an “apology”. Apologetics is the defense of a belief or system.
 
When we, as Christians, fulfill the command of 2 Timothy 4:2 to “be ready in season and out to give reason for the hope that is in us in Christ Jesus” – we are giving a defense of what we believe (in this case, the “hope” that we have because of what Christ has done – aka “the Gospel”.
 
Apologetics is one of the most often forgotten aspects of what church ministry is supposed to be about. It comprises a major component of “equipping the saints…” (Ephesians 4:12).
 
Ask the typical “Christian” on the street what they believe about _____________, and you may get either a blank stare or a pat answer. But ask WHY they believe it – and the chance of getting a coherent, logical, and evidence-based answer is actually pretty unlikely. Most professed Christians really cannot defend what they lay claim to believing. I won’t delve into the many possible reasons for such an inability, but to actually take the blame as an unappointed, unelected representative of pastors and preachers. We have spent years (decades or more?) giving. information. Telling people what they should believe, and many have done so faithfully and given correct information. But sadly, we often fall short of explaining WHY.
 
In the realm of Christian Apologetics, we have two primary types of defense:
  1. Presuppositional – God doesn’t need to be defended, thus we begin with the “presupposition” that the Bible is God’s Word, His divine and perfect revelation of Himself and His will for mankind. All arguments are based strictly on this foundation (and any other presuppositions one can find).
  2. Evidential  – Like a professional investigator, you piece together the evidence, from not only Scripture itself, but you are able to, by the predominance of evidence prove the Bible is what is claimed, that the claims within its pages are true, and that therefore faith is a reasonable response to the evidence.

In fact, there is a pretty serious theological battle that has been raging for pretty much the entire history of Christianity over which method is the correct method. But when one follows the narrative of Scripture, we actually see both used. For the witness to the Hebrew people, a great deal of presuppositional work is done, beginning with the common ground of God’s law and overall revelation in the Old Testament. But we also see evidential defense made by Paul in many scenarios, beginning not with statement as fact, but building a “logical” case for Christianity based on his own life, the miracles witnessed, the eye witness accounts of Jesus and the other first-hand “primary” evidence, coupled with existing Scripture to “prove” the Christian gospel as correct and true.

But the bigger purpose of apologetics is not to build biblical academics or to give bragging rights to the prideful.  Apologetics serve two purposes that both build up that foundation of 2 Timothy 4:2 – First in that it is to give confidence to the believer. When we not only know WHAT we believe, but WHY we believe it – when we know how to defend our faith, we strengthen that faith and the hope that is in us glows brighter. But the second aspect of apologetics is the outward witness – we can make the case for Christ in a world that is by default against the gospel.

But regardless of the apologetic form you prefer to focus on, they both must begin with understanding WHAT we believe.  For those of us who cling to the biblical platform of “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone), we believe that the Bible is sufficient and complete for all instruction and defense – “All Scripture is inspired (literally breathed out by God!) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Read the Bible. Study it. Find new ways to engage with the Word through not only personal reading, but group study. Challenge yourself, be willing to spend time and effort really learning what God has recorded for our benefit.

Plug in to resources by people who have dedicated their lives and often ministries to defending the Bible and the Christian faith. People like J. Warner Wallace are contemporary apologetics, but there are literally hundreds who have, though history, worked extensively to build an incredible defense, both from a Presuppositional and an Evidential basis.

But the very best source of learning to be able to give a defense of your faith, the the Bible itself, for it is truly sufficient!

Freedom From Religion and the US Constitution?

Who can show me in the US Constitution where one can find “freedom from religion”.

You won’t be able to. It’s also not found in Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. 

The reason you won’t find it is because 100% of humanity is religious. 

You see- whether someone espouses Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Animism, or any other named religious system, or claim to be an Atheist or simply  “non-religious”, you are still practicing a religion. 

Yes, Atheism is a religion. You just elevate yourself as your own personal god in the place of the Creator.  The god of Atheists – is themselves, but make no mistake – it is still a religion.  This religion even has a name – Secular Humanism, a subject that is taught in schools.

Religion is best defined as a system of beliefs that direct or influence your life. Those who claim to be Atheists, simply (think they) direct their own lives by their own personal values and desires. But self-worship is still a religion. 

1st Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Of course, when one actually studies the context of the writing of said Amendment, reads Jefferson’s above-mentioned letter as well much of the remaining bulk of the writings and statements of the authors of the Constitution, we find that there was an expectation of some kind of religious affection, not only in our government but that a moral society, based on the values espoused by the “Christian religion” was the foundation the unique document was built on.

Where all the “founding fathers” Christain?  Not even if you. were to stretch the label even beyond modern over-use. But almost all recognized a God (many were indeed Deists), and almost all were educated in what would be considered bible schools or seminaries today.

The first government-funded school textbooks in the Americas?  They used Bible texts for reading and study. Every session of the US Congress began for well over a century with a Christian sermon delivered by a Christian preacher and included Christian prayer. All of this raised no opposition, even from the Deists among the delegates.

The real “wall of separation” that Thomas Jefferson eluded to in his letter was one that was to prevent the totalitarian single church-states that the early settlers had often fled from. It was not viewed, when the Constitution was penned, as freedom FROM religion, but explicitly was to prevent a single, national religion (such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglican, etc.), and the often oppressive Theocracies those represented. And it is in the full set of letters exchanged between Jefferson and those Danbury Baptists that actually help us to understand this. You see, the Baptists in Connecticut were being oppressed and shut out of having any voice in the state government. The government of Connecticut was completely dominated by Congregationalists. Even Jefferson, as President, didn’t seek to remove Christianity (much less all religions) from the public square, or even from the influence of Christianity ON the government.

Indeed, the removal and avoidance of all religious connections and influence on our government is a relatively recent movement, that is more often than not, exercised almost exclusively on Christianity. In fact, there is a growth in teaching many world religions and even training public school students to memorize and recite Islamic prayers and to practice other religious rituals as a form of teaching “diversity”.

Armed In Church? Yes, please.

The local media posted a story this morning with their usual Left-slant, claiming they had talked to local pastors (though an actual investigation finds that they actually quote exactly ONE). Their agenda is pretty clear in attacking armed churchgoers. So I crafted the following reply to post on social media, but thought it justified its own post here as well:

shooter1Interestingly – no-one tried to contact me, a local pastor. But I will share my thoughts here:

Arkansas law leaves the decision of whether or not firearms are welcome on a church property up to the local church (where it always should have been).
Show me one example of where a sign or statute has prevented someone from taking a firearm someplace and doing great harm – The infamous church shooting in Texas a couple of years ago is an example – the law in that state at the time made it unlawful to have a firearm in that church.

The reality is – if someone means to do harm with a gun, no policy, law, or signage is going to prevent them from bringing that firearm.

On the flip-side, as was demonstrated in the shooting Sunday – it was law-abiding citizens who stepped up to prevent far worse from happening. While I grieve ALL the loss of life (even the “bad guy”). I mourn what kind of wickedness must be rooted in anyone’s heart to want to go into a church service and kill people. The depravity is just unfathomable. But praise God that there were people willing to step up and stop the threat. Also – notice this entire event began and ended in less than 1 minute. Police are not magical angels who can appear in 2 seconds to end a threat. And even churches with hired/appointed security teams – can’t be everywhere at once.

As a pastor, I am glad to know that there are solid folks who are carrying a firearm every time the doors are open (and even when they are closed if I am on campus!). If we were to attempt to ban firearms – that means ONLY those who mean harm would have guns. That isn’t a positive position. As a pastor, I have the biblical responsibility to “protect the sheep”. I will do whatever it takes – whether that means I am armed, or I am confident there are good people in the congregation who are armed (or both).

If a local church’s leadership decides they want to try to ban firearms – that is their right. They can post their signs, they can make all the policies in the world. But if, God forbid, someone with nefarious designs comes in – woe is them who then are defenseless. But again – that is the church’s right.

And one last comment – I have read several posts and seen statements given complaining that church people shouldn’t feel the need to be armed. They should “be willing to be a martyr”. I’m sorry – but it is not loving to sit idly by while your neighbor is shot dead. It is not Christ-like to watch as those who very well may not be spiritually ready to meet Jesus have their lives snuffed out. And it is most definitely not the Christian thing to let children be slaughtered. Just because I believe I am prepared for my last breath – doesn’t’ mean those around me are.

guns_in_churchWhat it all comes down to is that we pastors are tasked with the protection of the flock entrusted to us. While most think of such protection as primarily spiritual protection, we are also tasked with trying to promote the safest environment possible for worship, learning, teaching, discipleship, and service that we can. If that is gained by knowing that there are solid, God-fearing people who are armed at any given time, then so be it.

What it comes down to is this: Pastors are responsible for the flock entrusted to them. While we primarily think of that care as spiritual care, we are also tasked with doing all that we can to provide an atmosphere for worship, learning, discipleship, and service that is as safe as possible. I take that

 

What Does It Mean to Be Faithful?

We in the Christian/Church realm use the term “faithful” a lot.  Why not? It is an extremely important term used across the Bible. Sadly, I believe our contemporary (especially American version) gospel realm has adopted the secular, wordly meaning instead of the Biblical definition and example.

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Merriam-Webster.com, screen shot 11/19/2019

As the image shows, the Webster’s definition of “faithful” is divided into a definition of the term as an adjective and as a noun. Both are used in Christian terms, but again – let us compare the secular term vs. the biblical use.

Merriam-Webster defines the adjective faithful as steadfast in affection or allegiance, firm in adherence or observance of duty, or the meaning most closely connected to the biblical definition: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original. Sadly, it is this last (but most applicable in our context) meaning that is most forgotten.

I regularly hear the term mentioned in conjunction with funerals and memorial services, or connected to teachers, preachers, and writers. But I don’t believe the way it is used is always accurate.

Faithful does not imply (from a biblical perspective) perfection. Lets begin from the perfect example of “Faithful”.

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Deuteronomy 7:9-10

God is described in His own Word as the “faithful” God, with identifying fruits of that faithfulness as evidence: He keeps His covenants, His lovingkindness to the generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. But God’s faithfulness is also pictured as Him repaying those who hate Him – destroying them. God’s faithfulness here also (necessarily) includes His justice.

Jerusalem is referred to in Isaiah 1:21 as formerly faithful, but now a harlot. Why? Because they formerly were just (and from the larger context, had been a center of the worship and service to God).

Paul used the term often. One example is in the greeting of his epistle to the Ephesian church:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 1:1

Paul’s use of the term πιστός (pistos) implies yielding, believing, true, credible, trustworthy in their faith. The sense is that Paul had confidence that the believers to which he was penning this letter were solid believers who were sticking true to “the faith once delivered to them” (paralleled in Jude 1:3).

While the label “faithful” can mean a lot of things – when we use the term in relation to a professed Christian, the implication is more than them being reliable (they attend church regularly), but also presupposes that they cling to truth (the Word), that they stick to their faith and live it – it assumes fruits of said faithfulness.

Sadly, the term has so lost meaning that it is readily applied to those who are wildly popular and active in the “Christian” realm, yet are anything but faithful to the Word of God. Can we rightly apply the term “faithful” to a Christian speaker or writer who puts out good quotes, but holds to a blatantly heretical gospel?  Can we accurately call a professed Christian “faithful” if they deny the inerrancy of God’s Word? Does a person earn the faithful title because their name appears on a church roll and “faithfully” gave to the church?

Is a Christian “faithful” if their viewpoints are more easily shifted by cultural preferences than the black and white text of Scripture?

And are we being “faithful” when we jump to to the defense of those who teach and push false gospels and unbiblical teaching – hitching ourselves to these false teachers with the name badge of “faithful”?

And lest we forget, those individuals that God directly labeled as faithful were not simply mechanically reliable (in fact, some had reliability issues), but were counted “faithful” because they stuck to the foundation of truth God revealed and unwaveringly trusted in His Word, not man’s opinions and preferences.