Children, Compassion, and DACA

I try not to spend too much time and effort in posting with political material.  Yet int he last couple of days, much has been said, and the faith of many Christians has been questioned in the political realm. What’s it all about?  

DACA –Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

DACA is a policy put into place by President Obama in June 2012 to try to deal with the growing issue of young people who were brought into this nation as children (minors), and who have no legal national identity and therefore were somewhat stuck in a very difficult position (and possibly eventually even be deported, though they have no connection to the country they came from as a child). Obviously, this is a pretty horrible position to be in! Few people on either side of the political isle argued that something needed to be done, but the President decided not to follow the Constitution and the rule of law, and instead chose to use an Executive Order to establish his “solution”.

President Trump campaigned on  many things, including ending the DACA policy. Therefore, once the official announcement was made yesterday (September 5), the vast majority of the media and every Progressive commentator has filled the airwaves and social media with amazingly ugly vitriol and renewed claims of racism.

Sadly, those posting and deriding the President in this case has nothing to do with what he has actually said or is doing, but is just another excuse to deride and defame the President. If they would pause and actually look at what he has said and challenged Congress to do.

According to the President himself, he specifically said that he wants to “help” these children and has no desire to deport or otherwise hurt families, but his intent is to handle this through LEGAL avenues – returning the issue to Congress who actually have the constitutional authority to deal with this.  He has never expressed a desire to deport those affected.  He specifically said he does not want to split up families or cause any harm. 

While I do not hold President Trump up as a bastion of morality, and indeed often get frustrated at his off-the-cuff, knee-jerk (and sometimes rather ugly) reactions and statements, in this particular case, I believe he is actually doing this correctly. And his words certainly seem to be sincere and right-minded. 

So – all of this to be said, we need to first of all pray for President Trump, for wisdom and guidance from God Himself, for protection, and even for a filter for his words!  But most importantly, pray for President Trump’s salvation. If the reports were true of his profession several months ago, I pray it was genuine.  If not, pray that the Lord would indeed regenerate his heart and call him to repentance, and that we would see incredible fruits of conversion even from the White House.

Pray that this nation would CHOOSE to step away from blind hate that only serves to stir the pot, not put to rest old wounds and divisions.

Pray for all of our leaders, both elected and appointed.

Pray that we would focus on what is right, not necessarily what is expedient or convenient, or just fits a certain agenda.

And particularly pray for Congress as they take up the DACA issue, that they would see beyond political posturing and actually seek a genuine, biblical, and compassionate solution. 

IGNITE!

I am truly excited! Tonight is the launch of FBC Cave Spring’s IGNITE Ministry.  What is IGNITE?IGNITE_FBCCS_LOGO1.png

IGNITE is First Baptist Church’s approach to Wednesday/mid-week ministry.  Year-round, we have Wednesday evening classes available for all ages, but during the school year, we have a special emphasis on children and youth.  Each Wednesday evening begins with a fellowship meal @6PM, followed by prayer, then dividing into age-appropriate groups for activities and Bible study.  At the end, there is a closing time for all children and youth to bring the evening all in to focus.

But why am I excited about tonight in particular?  Actually, there are several reasons for my excitement – the first being it is my first time since coming to FBC to participate in the launch of a ministry (even if it isn’t a totally new ministry). The second reason I am really pumped up about tonight is that we have worked together as a leadership team to really focus in on what we are going to do, and where we would like to go with this ministry.  This focus was much needed and gives us the opportunity to reach, accomplish, and grow as never before.  And one more reason I am truly looking forward to this all beginning: my own passion for discipleship.  As part of the changes made for this year, we have arranged for a great deal more relationship-building and interaction opportunities where older, more mature Christians will have the chance to invest in our younger participants and their lives. From sitting in mixed groups at the dining table, to visits from more seasoned Christians to to the classrooms where the younger groups will be meeting – to opportunities to see the Christian life actually lived out on mission, we have an opportunity to make a truly eternal difference in the lives of those who come.

As to the WHAT will be studied – The “IGNITE ADULTS (which actually meets year-round) is currently engaged in an Old Testament Survey, where we are looking at the tapestry of the Old Testament as God’s revelation of Himself and His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.  It has already been amazing just in our walk through Genesis, Exodus, and the start of Leviticus, to see the Cross of Christ foreshadowed and demonstrated in so many miraculous ways!

The younger groups (K-2nd, 3rd-6th, 7th-8th)will begin with Creation and proceeding through several Old Testament Prophets, and will be investigating the idea of God’s creative working and provision, while always bringing it back home to how what the Bible has to say really does apply to us – giving us direction and reason to celebrate, serve, and worship God.

Our Student group (9th+), led by Ms Cheryl, will be progressing through several studies also with the focus on how what we study really is applicable to our lives today – and how we can draw from God’s Word help and direction to face life in the world – and how to make good decisions based on what we study.

With solid teachers in place, and a firm vision of making disciples and ultimately making a real difference in the lives of those we minister to, things are truly worth getting excited about!

Tonight is IGNITE Open House

Have some dinner, meet those who will be leading, teaching, and helping, and enjoy the evening as we get fired up for IGNITE!

Supper is at 6PM.  See you there!

Ukraine, Arkansas Master’Singers, and God’s Plan

In 2014, the Arkansas Master’Singers (a ministry made up mostly of worship pastors and musicians serving primarily in Arkansas Baptist State Convention churches) traveled to Ukraine with Evangelist Michael Gott to share the gospel through music and preaching.  Approximately 10,000 people attended the series of concerts and heard a clear presentation of the Gospel, with some 4,000 responses for Christ!

The Master’Singers initially wanted to go back this year, but could not get the trip together, so we began praying. A new opportunity to return has come for next April (2018).  After much prayer, I committed to be a part of the group to go. I set up a fundraising page with YouCaring (similar to GoFundMe), and placed it in the Lord’s  hands.

https://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser-widget.aspx?frid=841130

Yet over the last several months, I accepted a new pastorate in Northwest Arkansas, and my wife Diana also began work with a new bank up here. We are still trying to sell our home in Clinton, and the costs continue to rise.  At the same time, expenses related to the house in Clinton don’t stop – and just today I found out that the A/C needs between $500-1000 in repairs – required if we have any chance at all of selling the house.

And while I feel no less burden to go to Ukraine next April, I just don’t see a practical means to get there, particularly from a financial standpoint. Unlike my last mission trip endeavor, funds have not rolled in, and my own financial standing is pretty shaky with two house payments.

Please pray for me as I move forward.  If I am to give up on the prospect of being a part of this mission, then so be it. But I really need to have some degree of peace with that, which I just cannot seem to get. I do have faith that God has something planned.UkraineImage_michael.png

https://www.youcaring.com/fundraiser-widget.aspx?frid=841130

Identity Politics, Race, and the Church

What part of Jesus Christ’s ministry, teaching, or preaching played race-identity politics?
 
What, then was the message, both of Jesus’ own words and the rest of Scripture? It’s summed up in Christ’s response to those trying to corner him:
 
The greatest command is to love God with all – your heart, body, mind, spirit, EVERYTHING – first and foremost. The second – to love your neighbor as yourself (with the “love” translated here being the same used to describe God’s love in John 3:16, and the kind of love Jesus inquired Peter about. A self-sacrificing kind of love – a love that considers others (our “neighbors”) literally above ourselves… a servant/humble attitude so perfectly and in every way modeled by our Savior.
 
The love of Christ was poured out in the form of His precious blood for the sins of not one race, not one nationality, not one “people group” – but across all of the above. God has and is redeeming a people for Himself from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation – with no racial, economic, or social distinctions. We have ZERO right to judge others worthy of the Grace of God. And we, as professing Christians, have no right or place to become purveyors of race-identity politics. 
This week, the Southern Baptist Convention, convened in Phoenix, AZ (#SBC2017) approved a non-binding resolution denouncing racism and specifically the alt-white movement.  It is my prayer that the heart behind this was to put a biblically-mandated separation between that denomination and a truly hate-filled, race-identity thriving movement. I don’t have a problem with the spirit of such a resolution – the SBC (and many Baptist denominations) have a long history of very real race issues.  My problem with this particular resolution is that it is a one-sided and fails to even go back to both the Gospel and Christ’s commands. It simply buys in to the media and political Left’s race-identity politics. It continues the white vs. other narrative (the resolution uses the term anglo and non-anglo).  It fails to genuinely recognize and affirm the “#HumanRace, and accepts the overly-broad brush the terms used have become.
And I speak from the view of having been a leader in a church early in my ministry that, while claiming to “love its neighbors”, used terminology such as “those people” and “we don’t want them taking over” in reference to people of a different race. I speak of someone who grew up in a very diverse home town, where race has been a problem for centuries, and where many of us did, indeed, look beyond skin color – something now deemed offensive itself.
I write from the view of someone who is just plain sick-and-tired of race-identity politics and divisions.  Why is it so difficult to just take Christ’s words for what they are: Love your neighbor.  Period.  Our neighbor is anyone other than ourselves.
Racism is an evil that just doesn’t seem to want to go away.  Sadly, after a few decades of attempts to move away from race-identity, it now has come rushing back from all sides.  And it is no accident that politicians from every direction play the game in one form or another: it is all to “divide and conquer”.  The sooner we begin to recognize our neighbors, regardless of what they look like, what they wear, how much money they have (or don’t have), where they are from, and what religion (or lack of) they practice as our “neighbor”, and someone who desperately needs the Gospel – the sooner racism begins to fade.  And the way to that – is the Gospel itself.  It’s pretty hard to love like Christ, when we don’t really know Him.  When we are not made a “new creation” in Christ Jesus.  If we have not received the new heart He promised (Ezekiel 36:26). Until we are born again, not of flesh and blood, but of spirit – we just cannot see and love as Jesus does.
So – to my SBC brethren.  To my BMAA brethren. To my ABA brethren – and to all who genuinely know, believe, and follow Jesus Christ – repent of your sins (including any vestige of hate and racism), distance yourself from those who cling to those divisive race-identity politics, and seek Christ’s Love – and Love your neighbor…

Loving, Christian Parents

A news story crossed my feed this evening, a story that literally broke my heart.  Here is a link:

13-year-old girl who was supported by her Christian parents in living as a transgender boy commits suicide

The title pretty much says it all.  Two parents, who apparently profess to be “Christians” chose to not only allow, but encourage their 13 year-old daughter to live as a boy – to pursue the “transgender dream” of changing her God-given gender. Yet the thrill of becoming the opposite gender from birth, while seeming to be a popular idea today with promise of greater happiness as the “gender one feels”, the statistics prove otherwise.  The suicide rate for so-called “transgenders” is exponentially higher than any other demographic, with the rate among teenagers hitting a staggering 41%+ rate of attempts (meaning 41% admitted in surveys to have at least attempted suicide at least once).

Yet while the heartache over yet another senseless loss of life is predominant, I also am alarmed at the article’s title, and this girl’s parents profession to be “Christian”. And this led me to my soap box for the evening:

How, now, are we defining “Christian parents”? Maybe we should really grasp what being a “Christian” really means – and I’ll start with the base definition: Follower of Christ.

To profess Christ, yet blatantly walk counter to His Word is to live a lie. Yes, we ALL sin and come short of the glory of God. BUT – when one is genuinely a Christian (characterized by not only a verbal profession, but a life changed and a hunger to know our Lord and Savior, and to follow Him closer each and every day – to love Him – and to keep His commands.

As a parent, if your child begins to walk a path of rebellion against God – you don’t hate them. You love them. But loving your child should and cannot ever CONDONE or SUPPORT walking in open rebellion against God. Period. Indeed, to actually ENABLE such behavior is to be guilty of it yourself – and more ugly – is quite the opposite of loving your child.

If you kid were running full-speed towards the busy highway with no signs or desire to stop before running directly into the path of a tractor trailer and certain death, what do you do? Do you encourage him or her to run faster? Or maybe you tell them to enjoy the run? No – of course not, you cry out to them with a warning of the impending devastation. You drop everything and you go running after them to stop them by any means you have at your disposal to prevent them from certain destruction.

Yet why would a parent (professed Christian or not) not only stay quiet, but actually encourage a child to run at full speed into certain death and destruction – and in this case, eternal destruction?

And one last rant before I post this: this is a symptom of “the church” today – not every local church, but the far-too-common version so prevalent today – that preaches and teaches a false gospel, a gospel that does not demand change. A gospel that is so weak as to not even begin to bring about a “new creation” in Christ Jesus. And most certainly doesn’t take intentional, personal, and biblical discipleship seriously.

I pray that this will lead to a much more serious look at the harm being done by encouraging “gender rebellion” as I call it.  And if you attend a church that would be ok with this story and it’s foundation – of not only being accepting of this rebellion, but encouraging of it – then please, flee that “church” and seek one that teaches and preaches the FULL counsel of the Word of God, not one that picks and chooses what is worth following and what is not.  I pray for this family, that this horrible event will shake them to their core in such a way that they turn to the REAL Jesus in their own life – and that God would then use that to wake many up to the truth.

Lest you forget – there are eternal consequences at stake!

Church Membership? (why should I join?)

There are many misconceptions today about many areas of Christianity.  There is even a movement among some Christian groups away from a “formal” church membership.  The New Testament never mentions the term (in any translation I am familiar with) “church member”, but the attitude with which Paul writes to the various churches and to Timothy reflect what most would see as an implication that there is some form of accountability and “order” to the local “body of believers”.  Further, how can effective and real church discipline be carried out without some form of “formal” membership or fellowship?

So why be a “church member”?  The first reason might very well be as a testimony and commitment to the work of the local church and to glorifying God through (in/by) the church  (Ephesians 3:23).  Even of more eternal importance: “The Church” is the Bride of Christ as depicted in Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19.

But there is a cost to “church membership”.  The price isn’t in money – but in a willingness to give others permission to help you to remain accountable, to grown, and to serve in God-glorifying ways.  But there is another cost – an that of commitment – commitment to walk in Christ as a living testimony of saving faith and total reliance on Christ Jesus.

Hope in a Hopeless World

I received some truly heart-rending news last night from our old stomping grounds of Carlisle, Arkansas, where I spent 13 years of my teaching career. News of another student taking his own life.  This was the second such sad news in a month.  Of course, immediately rumors were flying that this was yet another case of bullying. No doubt, bullying is a very real problem that has been around for far longer than any of us breathing have been alive. Yes, young people have access to more avenues to bully and generally be ugly to each other than ever before. But we have to understand, bullying by itself is not a cause of suicide. No, suicide is the result of hopelessness.  When one has a genuine hope, they are not overwhelmed by the hopeless world.  Yes, they may get “down”, and even at times despair.  Further, there are measurable and diagnosable conditions that result in depression, which most certainly can lead a person to a very dark and dangerous place.  Medical science of today even tries to medicate depression (and even those who appear depressed, but are not clinically depressed) with drugs that themselves can, when taken erratically or suddenly not at all, lead to extreme depression and suicidal thoughts. But again – no attempt to help those struggling with depression is complete or should be expected to really work without giving them hope.

Which brings me to a reply I put together on a thread about this most recent death in Carlisle. This reply really deserved its own place – so I include it here to conclude my thoughts on the matter.  And please pray for those involved in this terrible situation!


I cannot comprehend in my own mind and heart why a teen would take their own life. I understand that there are many pressures from our society, as well as I know that in many cases – Christ has been left out of the family equation (I am in NO WAY suggesting that is the situation in this most recent case). I also know that everything from drugs to family dynamics that have been turned upside down by our lost and dying culture often are a major factor. And Satan does, indeed, roam around like a ravenous lion seeking whom he may devour…

There is a message of Hope, found in the lines of Scripture – a Hope for something greater and far bigger than our selves and our current situation. It is within the pages of the Bible that we find the Source of real Peace and strength, the source of containment, the source of hope in a world that seems hopeless. And we who HAVE this blessed Hope must truly engage those around us with the reason for our great Hope – and that is Jesus Christ.

And as I have said most of my life, whether it was my 14 years of teaching, or my 9+ years in active pastoral ministry: May I make a difference in someone’s life… today, tomorrow and every day until the Lord calls me home! Never underestimate what a kind word or act can do. And certainly never underestimate what God can do when you share Jesus!