2018—>2019?

What’s in a date change?  Beyond some business and personal fiscal year change (particularly tax year) stuff – the change from one year to the next is little more than the turn of a page on a calendar (or the putting up of a new calendar).

Yet we have made the year change into something bigger – though maybe with the wrong motives!  The calendar change doesn’t by some miraculous action “close out” any pains or griefs you experienced the year before (in this case, 2018).  The page turn doesn’t suddenly set you up for some grand spiritual “breakthrough” as some are posting.  And the changed digit in the year designation does not somehow give special powers to some grand and optimistic “resolution” you might make to undertake any number of changes (weight loss/health improvement, financial renovations, relationship adjustments, etc.). But the flipping of a number does give us an opportunity to reflect on the past year – to give an honest evaluation to where we have been, where we went, and where we are today – all in preparation for setting our eyes every more on the goals, aims, and purpose GOD has set before us in the new year.

But let me begin with a caution – don’t set some unrealistic goals and resolutions that you won’t keep!  You are simply adding to the burden society and the world in general throws at you and you are setting yourself up to fail – and year-after-year, what have the countless “resolutions” done for you? For most people, these repeated failures have done little more than to add defeat and disappointment.

I would propose a different tact this year as you begin trying to look forward to this new year: Focus on the LORD.  In Mark 12:30, Jesus responded to a Scribe who was questioning Him on which was the greatest of commandments with “…AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.”  The focus of God’s commands all go back to giving everything to the LORD – and trusting HIM with what comes.  It’s the spirit behind Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart

And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He will make your paths straight.

One of the most difficult parts of life we face doesn’t’ come from the outside world, from those we work with, or those in positions of authority and leadership.  No – among the most difficult parts to deal with are those set up by our failure to heed these words!  We don’t place God at the very top and unquestioned position of priority in our lives.  Because of our low view of God, we don’t “trust in the LORD with all our hearts” – we trust in “ME” – until I fail… again.  Then we seek those in which to place blame, or even worse – we mess it up then blame God!  But what do we actually see here in this passage?  An incredible promise made when you quit relying on yourself and our own (in)ability to grasp the whole picture and to actually make good judgement in directing your path – and instead you acknowledge HIM in ALL your ways: acknowledge isn’t just naming or giving God credit, but literally means to KNOW Him – an intimate, close, life-changing, life-directing relationship with HIM where you are constantly seeking HIM and His will in everything you do.  Thus bringing a promise that if we will quit doing it “our way”, quit trying to be masters of our own fate – and simply seek HIM in all things, in all ways – He WILL “make your paths straight”.  What is a straight path here? It simply means that He will – just as we can see over-and-ver in the conquest of the Promised Land in the book of Joshua – when Joshua and the people committed everything to God’s will and plan – they experienced 100% victory.  When they deviated from God’s direction -they often stumbled and suffered greatly.  And in every single time – when they completely sought God’s will and followed it – God always delivered – and He still does today!  We just have to realize that HIs answers and direction may very well run contradictory to our own desires and opinions!

Life is a minefield – and God has not promised us a smooth, explosion-proof journey.  He has promised to direct our paths and to guide us IN that minefield.  But sometimes we are in a minefield to make a difference for others – especially those who have deviated from God’s path and stepped on those mines!  And lest we forget – helping people (truly loving our neighbors) can be a dirty and messy endeavor!  But if we are there WITH God – following God with everything in our being – trusting HIM and HIS way over our own – He will see us through, and ultimately – see us Home!

So – regardless of what your flesh and culture are telling you to focus on in 2019 – or the resolutions that you may be mulling around in your brain – how about being resolived first and foremost – in truly KNOWING the LORD as never before, fully trusting in HIS grace – and following HIM in all things as He directs your path!

Gosnell: The Movie (Abortion Truth)

I have been putting off going to see the recently-released movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. I knew that it would be emotionally draining, and likely would even trigger primal anger. But this week, as I saw yet more reports from pro-life groups such as lifesitenews.com, savethe1.com, as well as many Christian news sources who not posted glowing reports regarding the movie itself, but also what appears to be an effort to shut the movie out of theaters, even though it rated in the top 10 movies for its opening weekend. So this week, I committed to carving out a window of time to endure the movie.

The first thing those who haven’t seen the movie need to know – though supported and promoted by several Christian and para-Christian groups, this is not a “Christian film”. There is some profanity as well as some pretty graphic descriptions and depictions of some of the horrific actions of this real-life human monster’s evil actions. Indeed, despite the claims by some that this movie is an attempt at a Bible-thumping pro-life masterpiece, the reality is – the closest it gets to “Christian” is the casual mention of the Catholic faith of a police investigator.  Indeed, the two main characters – Assistant D.A. Alexis McGuire (played by Sarah Jane Morris), and Detective James Wood (played by Dean Cain) both are accurately portrayed as pro-choice – matching the real-life figures).

The second thing that is important to know before seeing this film is that this is a true story. The details of the investigation came directly from the pages of investigator’s notes, court records, and eye-witness testimony. This means that there are some very graphic descriptions of the procedures used by Kermit Gosnell and his ill-trained staff.

From a mechanical/production perspective, the movie is fairly well made.  Sarah Jane Morris turns in a heartfelt, believable performance as Assistant D.A Alexis McGuire, who becomes emotionally invested in the trial of her life.

Dean Cain does an adequate job as Detective James “Woody” Wood, a narcotics investigator who stumbles into the murder investigation while chasing illegal prescriptions that originated from Dr. Gosnell’s office.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is eerily portrayed by Earl Billings, who’s smug, bizarre behaviors andC83A4979
mannerisms help you to truly be disgusted with him, even before the evidence mounts.

Nick Searcy plays the infamous defense attorney Mike Cohan and his efforts to keep his client, Dr. Gosnell out of prison. Searcy has a real talent for playing a cold-hearted, thick-skinned attorney.

The surprise figure to me personally was AlfonZo Rachel who played Detective Stark (a supporting role).  AlfonZo is better known to many as a political commentator, speaker, and even as a musical with ongoing YouTube episodes. While his acting is not yet quite up to top-billing, his character does provide decent supporting work.

And the final bit of information about this movie that sets it apart from most others (beyond the subject matter) is that it is the most successful crowdfunded film in history with nearly 30,000 people donating over $2.3million in just 45 days!

I won’t get into the details of the movie and its base storyline, other than to say that this film simply is telling of the investigation and trial of the man who should have been the most infamous serial killer in US History, yet was a case that received relatively little media attention. Further, the sick and twisted underbelly of much fo the abortion industry is laid bare through this film, despite the fact that those involved in prosecuting the real case specifically tried to avoid bringing abortion in general into question.

Despite the fact that this film is not a “Christian” film, I do recommend that everyone see this that can. It tells the story of a handful of victims of Dr. Kermit Gosnell that has long needed to be told – first to honor his victims, especially the babies he murdered, yet has long been swept under the rug.  The movie will likely cause even the heard-hearted to at least seriously think about the practices described.

I also stand amazed at the stories of many having their views of abortion turned from pro-choice to pro-life. I am in awe of those who have been inspired to help women to “Choose Life“.

So again, my advice – go see this while you still can. The film is worth seeing not only for the film itself but because it honors the memory of those whose lives were ended by the evil and scissors of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.  And while you are at it, take someone with you who is pro-choice. The movie will help them to see more of the reality behind abortion (and especially late-term abortion).

I went in expecting a kick to the guts.  But what I ended up getting out of this film was a cruel and real-life view into just how evil the business of killing babies really is. I believe anyone who watches the film will likely be at a loss for words, will be frustrated (angry even) over the abject refusal for most media to even cover this trial,  much less the revelations in the Grand Jury testimonies regarding just how such a “clinic” could continue to operate without regular inspections and intervention when dozens of complaints came.  And while I didn’t want to post the image directly, you can click this link to see the actual image of “Baby Boy A” that was shown in court and helped seal the result of the trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.

 

Presuppositions and Division

Everyone has a point of view – Fact.

And everyone filters their life experiences and observations through their point of view or perspective – and this is where the term “presupposition” comes in. A presupposition is one’s beginning point – it is an assumption or set of assumptions that may or may not be backed with evidence.  Presuppositions can be helpful, or in the case of many in our nation today – can be a major component of growing divisions, hate, and even violence.

In the world of theology, we often defend our viewpoint or even our entire faith system with what is called presuppositional apologetics, that is – defending our faith based on a pre-established and “assumed” foundation. Unfortunately, using presuppositional techniques to defend the Christian faith tends to fall a bit flat in the face of those most often being answered, as they do not hold the same presuppositions.  For example, I build my typical defense on my own absolute assurance that the Bible is the Word of God, inerrant and unchanging. For those who absolutely deny this about the Bible – it makes a very poor and unconvincing starting point indeed!

My theology is centered on the John 1:1 statement that The Word (aka – Jesus) IS God. Indeed, it is very difficult to make an argument for the efficacy of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross if He wasn’t really God in the flesh.

In the secular world (and in some churches… but this is a whole other discussion and can of worms), many people view their neighbor through a set of presuppositions (assumptions). For some, they have a racially intolerant set of presuppositions. In the history of our nation, we see entire sets of laws, regulations, and general treatment of people groups based on a flawed and unjust set of presuppositions.  Why is it that young black men were sometimes beaten or even lynched by hateful mobs based solely on a single, unverified accusation? 42831064_10156051385028823_9148553096673099776_n.jpgStories like that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her. No proof, no evidence. But the mob who brutally sought “justice” accepted the accusation as the truth specifically because of their erroneous presupposition that black males are criminals.

Our presuppositions are sometimes developed by our own study, growth, and experiences, while others develop from their environment – in the case of racial presuppositions – they are often the product of parents and those they choose to be around.  When you add in what has been experienced – we become pragmatic – our own experience just MUST be a universal experience – and therefore taints everything we see. I remember vividly to this day my mom being mugged by an African-American man when I was still an elementary student. And I confess, that jaded my view of black men for a time. Thankfully, my mom had a far different view – and made it clear that I could not and must not judge all black men by the actions of this one brutal criminal.

Presuppositions, fueled by those filled with hate, politics, and the media are dividing our nation along with many different lines. Those who have been brought up and/or immersed in bias and hate tend to accept as fact the narrative being pushed from every corner.  We see some who insist that White Men are the “devil” and are responsible for the world’s problems.42790180_2144218252263768_3159811803353972736_n.jpg Therefore, those who buy this presupposition then view all news with an expectation that White Males (aka – the “privileged” class)  are always to be blamed. This carries over to the accusations of racism. When your presupposition is that racism can only be perpetrated by whites and that the victims of racism can only be Black (or more broadly, non-whites) – then you turn a blind eye to a major portion of the actual racist behaviors and troubles happening in our nation. Add to this the widespread propaganda of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – that (whether intentionally or not) promote a presupposition of a single racial group to have more value than others, and we further bend the public presuppositions and actually FEED hate and divisions.

The answer is startlingly simple: View all people with this Presupposition:imago-dei-concert_blog.jpg

#ImagoDei

You see, Scripture clearly says that mankind was made in the Image of God. That is all of mankind – all nations, tribes, tongues. We all are image-bearers of the Creator. And while individuals do act contrary to their Creator and His character, we all are touched by sin, we still have value as image bearers. Judge each individual by the content of their character, not the color of their skin (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.).

More recently, we have seen a literal disgusting circus fed by other twisted presuppositions. Judge Brett Kavanaugh stands as the latest nominee for a vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court. By all measures and his record, he is imminently qualified, has lived a life and served a career with integrity. He has been honest in admitting his alcohol consumption in high school. Yet this man stands accused of ugly violent behavior against a woman when he was 17 years old.  Accusations made some 36 years after the alleged crime. And many in the public sphere have been more than willing to accept the accusations, despite vast holes and inconsistencies. Why? Because of faulty presuppositions: That a privileged white boy from a well-off family, who was a student (and apparently an outstanding student and athlete) at a prestigious private school, who liked to drink absolutely MUST have committed the alleged crime. That is just what rich, white boys do – and “always” get away with it.  We have a collision of class warfare, class jealousy, and a massive #metoo movement that presumes women are always the victim and that any doubts about the validity of a woman’s accusations against a man are nothing but #misogynistic #womanhating efforts to shame the #victim.

There is a similar issue that happened just a few years ago when the #Ferguson Missouri riots were going on as a (purported) response to the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson Police officer. The narrative followed the presupposition that police nationwide were engaged in an “open season on black men”, as originally proclaimed by US Representative Hank Johnson (D- Georgia). When you believe in such a presupposition, you will be a willing participant in the supposed response.  Closer to home here in Arkansas,  Judge Wendell Griffen of the Sixth Judicial Circuit (and infamous anti-death penalty protestor while having an active death penalty case before his bench) began issuing very aggressive support for the rioters – actually justifying their actions because of Hank Johnson’s proclamation! One would think a judge would be willing to actually see what the evidence would say as opposed to jumping on the racial and anti-police bandwagon absent any meaningful evidence. But for Judge Griffen, his racial presuppositions trump truth and evidence. And he willingly became another part of the division in this nation.

So what is the answer? I’ve already given it to you – viewing our neighbors as being image bearers of God. Quit basing our judgment on skin color, economic background, or whether one is male/female. Begin with the evidence. Be willing to withhold judgment until the fog of the event or circumstances can settle a bit.

Filter what you hear, even if it comes through your favorite media outlet or your best friend, through a presupposition of that Image-bearer lense and seek the truth, not assumed guilt simply because of race (or more recently – because of gender). Quit swallowing the vitriol being spewed from every angle.

And let us look at what the Bible says about our differences – and the “great equalizer”:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:27-28

Only in Jesus do we really begin to see each other as God sees us. Further, when we are In Christ, as new creations – we can set aside our former selves, our previous flawed and sinful presuppositions, and begin to see our neighbor through a new lens – as a person and soul – that has value and who is, at the core, in need of the same salvation we need.

And after all – who is the author of confusion and hate? Satan.

Baptism and Faith

XIV. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
We believe that the Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried and risen Saviour, with its effect, in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation, and to the Lord’s Supper; in which the members of the church by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.

Acts 8:36-39; Matt. 3:5-6; John 3:22-23; John 4:12; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12; Acts 16:32-34; Acts 18:8; Acts 10:47-48; Gal.3:26-28; Rom.6:4; Col. 2:12; I Peter 3:20-21; Acts 22:16; Acts 2:41-42; I Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; I Cor.11:28; I Cor. 5:1-8; I Cor. 10:3-32; I Cor. 11:17-32; John 6:26

 

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith is a beautiful document that is the original foundational statement of faith the church association I am a part of rests. it does a beautiful job of describing baptism.  This document itself finds its origins in Scripture (of course), as well as a preceding Confession which is somewhat more detailed and the one to which I prefer to fall back on – the Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, as it holds more details. The chapter on Baptism is as follows:

Chapter 29 Of Baptism

1 Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.(Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4)

2 Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37; 2:41; 8:12; 18:8)

3 The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19-20; Act 8:38)

4 Immersion, or dipping of the person fin water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. (Mat 3:16; John 3:23)

I bring this up because of an all too common issue that comes up from time to time in ministry:  Those who make professions of faith, especially at a very young age, that FromD2L-Nelsonmight not have been genuine professions at the time. But because of “our” relatively modern methodology of “get them to say a prayer and dunk ’em” has led to many false assurances of salvation, and ultimately spiritually dead church members. In his book Death To Life, Allen Nelson IV refers to these folks as the walking dead. The startlingly sad reality is that there are (and have long been) those who – as he put it:

We would be stunned at how many people have a date written down in their bible but not their name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Even more alarming is how many of these people might be pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, or other prominent leaders within the church. Just because people feel saved, doesn’t mean they are saved. (From Death To Life: How Salvation Works, Chapter 2, p. 19)

This is a reminder of why I am so thankful for several brethren the LORD placed in my path as I began ministry. One that really sticks out in my heart on the issue of salvation and baptism is Bro. Harrel Herring. Bro. Harrel’s real burden and passion was for not just professions of faith – but for genuine conversion.  His own testimony was one oft-heard – having “walked the aisle” when his brother did, and an evangelist who asked all the wrong questions and offered raving, yet false, assurance of salvation.  Bro. Harrel knew at the time he wasn’t genuinely saved – but who was he to question or argue the 

image1point as a youngster?  But Harrel knew what the problem was and did indeed come to
genuine repentance and saving faith.  But this experience planted in him the passion he spent much of the rest of his life trying to help other to avoid false professions and to find real, saving faith. Indeed, I first met Bro. Harrel at Budd Creek Baptist Camp during the BMA of Arkansas week back in 2006. At camp, Bro. Harrel had the privilege of meeting with each young person who made a profession, to ask the right questions to at least have some basis for recording decisions.  He also gave out copies of a booklet he had put together specifically for new believers titled Starting My Life With Christ. I still have a handful of copies and find it quite useful!

The problem Brother Herring was trying to address is a real one. Every church I have been a part of in my walk since conversion has had more than one similar illustration – someone who made a profession, but then at some point later determined that it was not a genuine conversion and came to Christ afterward.  Unfortunately, there are those in churches who never do realize their repeating of a “sinners prayer” was nothing more than the “vain repitition” Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:7! They are, as Allen Nelson labeled them – The Walking Dead.

But God is indeed full of Amazing Grace! And He does still call many from that spiritually dead state to new life! He is indeed faithful to call ALL who are His to repentance. And the responsibility of those He does call out of that dead state is to, as those lowly fishermen Jesus called in Galilee did – drop your nets and follow Him!

And one of the first steps one called to new life to take is baptism. Even if you were dunked in a pond, creek, pool, or “official” church baptistry – if it was on a false profession – it was nothing more than getting wet.  It was not a genuine act of obedience in faith. Therein lies the rub for many – whether it is pride or shame, some who realize their old profession was without merit find it difficult to publicly proclaim their newfound salvation for fear of shame or for their position. And many shudder at the thought of submitting themselves for “re-baptism” (a misnomer if the first was not scriptural). Sadly, some never make known their latter genuine conversion for fear of what others will think. And this is what brings me to the impetus for today’s entry:

As both a father and a pastor, I am always extremely concerned about the possibility of pressuring a young person, particularly my own daughters, into a “decision” that is not God-initiated, and preceded and empowered by the Holy Spirit and HIS complete work in salvation. In this case, my youngest daughter, Selah, made a profession several years ago while I was still in my first pastorate (Park View Baptist Church, North Little Rock). She followed on the heels of her older sister. Both had been immersed in the gospel from birth (or before if you consider in-vitro time in church!). Both had received the benefit of not only their mom and me trying our best to speak and demonstrate the gospel, but a church with many caring souls who also poured into them the words of Life. So when Selah came to me and said she had asked Jesus into her heart, she had all the right answers, to the right questions (as Bro. Harrel would put it). Selah is sharp and while casual observation might lead you to believe she is paying zero attention – she soaks in what is going on around her in an amazing way. So – after several of us visited with her, she submitted herself to be baptized.

Yet far too often, we saw signs that gave her mom and I serious pause regarding her actually having seen genuine regeneration. Some of her actions going way beyond “childhood indiscretions” or “immaturity”.  Six months ago, Diana and I both voiced concern about Selah’s spiritual condition and began praying in earnest for answers, guidance, and for God to truly work in her.

On Wednesday evening, July 18, those of us at Ozark Baptist Encampment, Week 1, those of us at camp knew something was up.  But when I got the message that I was needed at our girl’s cabin at nearly 10:30PM, I knew something was serious.  Selah was afraid that I would be mad if she told me – but she knew without a doubt that when she made her “profession of faith” several years ago – it wasn’t real – she just did what she knew the rest of us wanted – and what got her positive attention. There were signs this time of genuine contrite heart and very heavy conviction.

And the Sunday after camp, Selah came before First Baptist Church and confessed before the entire assembly of what had happened, including her false profession years ago, and submitting herself humbly for baptism! I am pleased to announce that on Sunday, August  19, I get to genuinely baptize my precious daughter! And don’t ever doubt my joy and thanksgiving that God didn’t just leave her to her own case of The Walking Dead! And don’t ever doubt the power of God to call His own unto repentance and genuine salvation!

And preachers – never tire of preaching the gospel, the whole gospel, the saving gospel always!

…because we love the brethren

As the pastor of a relatively small church who is always looking at the condition of not only the congregation I lead, but to investigate the history of churches that have seen divisions, splits, and much more.  Since long before I was ever called to ministry, I have “suffered” from a constant yearning to know “why” and “how”. It is just part of my core being.

As a pastor, I try to grasp the whys and whats of a church’s history – why people join or leave a church, why young people (as much are wringing their hands today over) seem to be leaving churches in alarming numbers, and even why a church might split. Part of that ongoing series of quests is a look at the problem of swollen church membership rolls – that often include names that possibly no current member even knows the identity of! I believe one of the core problems (or diseases) responsible for a lot of these symptoms and issues is a spiritual issue – and in many cases, the problem is unregenerate church membership.

Bear with me for a bit – as this will take a few steps to explain.  You see, Jesus assembled His church – that first local church (as Christ’s Church is nearly always referred to) in Israel – a “church” that moved around following Him until He returned to His rightful place in Heaven. That church settled in Jerusalem where it gained the respect – dare say even admiration from their neighbors (Acts 2:47 records that they had favor with all the people). What inspired this period of favor (that also appears to have drawn people to Christ – and thus to be saved?) – the relationship these members of that first church had with each other – they were:

And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ACTS 2:44-47)

Quite simply, their love for one another was such that they made sure everyone in need had their needs met (through sacrificial giving), worshipped God gladly and sincerely, and were day-by-day (regularly, even daily meeting together including fo worship). This early church was demonstrating what Jesus identified as one of the biggest of hallmarks of being a genuine Christ-follower:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

The word love here comes from the same Greek word (ἀγάπη – agapaō the same self-scarificing love Jesus demonstrated on behalf of His sheep on the cross!  And this is the exact same term translated as love in the source passage for my tltle today:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14)

This is the same love that Peter wrote of in 1 Peter 4:8 to the church under great persecution: Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

I have long chewed on the concept of “love covers a multitude of sins”.  A genuine, personal, self-sacrificing love for your brothers & sisters in Christ overcomes/covers more sins than we can comprehend – just as Jesus’ perfect demonstration of this same kind of self-sacrificing love covered 100% of the sins of every person who would ever trust Jesus alone for Salvation – His sheep. We are called, time and again, to have and to demonstrate self-sacrificing love, beginning with our “brethren”.  It is this same love that drives a God-called pastor to fulfill the charge Paul had for Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2) to be ready in and out of season to REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT. Indeed, anyone claiming to be a pastor who is unwilling to reprove (put to the proof – point out error based on proof), rebuke – to boldly address, call out, to put/shut down errors, and to exhort – to call to action/correction – literally to plead with urgency for change. A pastor who loves his (Christ’s) people is willing to stand on Scripture and to take the steps necessary to correct those in error (sin, as well as doctirnal/theological errors).

And out of love for Christ and love for their brethren (including such a pastor), born-again church members should desire and even be glad to receive such correction with a right attitude.

Likewise – even a pastor with the best of intentions can make an error, and should have such a love that he can take correction with gladness.

Within the local church – genuine, intentional discipleship begins when members have this same self-sacrificing love tha they are willing to invest of themselves and their time to walk side-by-side with fellow believers to teach, lead, and help mature those believers.

It is the same kind of unselfish love that will draw together a local church as nothing else will – and will actually attract those around them who need to experience that same kind of love.

And it is this same love that will lead the born-again to regularly assemble together to worship God, to grow spriritually, and to edify their brethren – and lead you to not forsake the assembling together (Hebrews 10:25).

Which brings us full circle to the title verse – and the sobering reality penned by John under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 John – that we boil down as beign able to identify thsoe who are not abiding in life (Christ) by their lack of love for the brethren.

Do you love your fellow Christians? Does that love cover a “multitude of sins” – aka when they mess up, as humans do? Do you desire to be WITH Christians – beginning with the regular meetings for corporate worship as the local church, but also that you would spend a significant portion of your life with fellow chrisitans sacrificially giving to them of your time and self (disicpleship)? Does the church you are a member of have a pastor who loves you enough to be willing to deal with the real and hard issues and to reprove, rebuke, exhort the body to follow Scirpture?

Or do you abide in death?

What are you Protesting?

One of the foundational rights we have in this nation is the right to assemble – including for the purpose of making a statement of protest or support. A major part of the Civil Rights battle here was won on the backs of those willing to take a stand and assemble in protest over discrimination and racism. I myself have participated in more than a few marches or gatherings – from the annual March For Life to multiple TEA Party assemblies at our state capitol.  Indeed, I am all in favor of the people making their voices heard – even when I disagree with their position.

So we take a look at current events – and the last few years of “protests” that cross the line from protest to simple anarchy and even criminal activity that is NOT protected by the Constitution.  Whether it be protests that turn to riots and looting in Ferguson to Baltimore and Charlottesville. We see professional athletes who proudly disrespect this nation and those who gave all to protect their right to protest, by taking a knee during the National Anthem.  When asked, most of these highly-paid athletes cannot even begin to articulate a coherent and logical purpose behind their act of “protest”. Sometimes it is said that they are making a point regarding police violence against Black Males (despite statistics that actually prove that Caucasians are more likely to be shot by police). Others say the protest is about systemic racism – yet few actual examples are provided. Others simply throw up a hand and speak of the #BlackLivesMatter movement (thought few can really even explain what that means). Amazingly, those who hinge their Anthem protests on the death of Black Americans completely ignore the leading causes of death among this same population – with Abortion being #1!  They ignore the inner-city violence that kills far more African-American males than all police shootings. They ignore the systemic crime and generational poverty caused by drug addiction and gang violence. They chase a narrative that flies in the face of facts. They blame “the system” instead of the real causes of death.  Simultaneously, many of those in this same movement get truly angry when you try to say that ALL Lives matter.  Hypocrisy.

And now we have the latest cause to march for – Gun “Control”.  All spawned by a tragic shooting in a predominantly white school in Florida. Immediately (even before the bodies were removed from the school), calls for banning guns, expanded background checks, age restrictions, and more were flying across the airwaves.  Quickly, a handful of student “survivors” became the public face of what has become “March For Our Lives” – what is billed as a “grass roots” movement of students sick of being scared for their lives in schools because of a supposed epidemic of mass shootings in schools.  The media has been beyond supportive. And the claims and numbers being published by the media, uttered by these self-appointed leaders are duplicated and repeated ad nauseam despite being proven to be either twisted or in many cases total fabrications. And again, we see total hypocrisy as blame is again placed on inanimate objects. No mention at any of the protest marches (amazingly organized and funded) in Washington DC and in cities around the nation this past weekend) of the FBI’s utter failure to even begin to investigate credible and documented threats by the Florida shooter. No reference to an agreement between the school and the Sheriff’s department which meant no students would be arrested or charged with crimes – even when they proved to be violent and a clear danger to themselves, their family, or other students. No mention of the school resource officer who took cover and made no attempt to save lives.  Not a word about an entire Sheriff’s department that showed up yet again, simply took cover and chose to not even attempt to save lives. No mention of the shooter being diagnosed with mental disorders that SHOULD have prohibited him from purchasing a firearm regardless of his age.  An entire system that failed.  No blame even placed on the young man who carried out the horrific shooting.  The only blame they are willing to place is on a piece of metal and plastic that is perfectly legal and is incapable of inflicting injury on its own.  Their response – additional laws.  I’m sorry, but how do new laws accomplish what old laws that are not enforced could not do? They are actually going to further trust a system that has blood on its hands?

You see – it’s really totally misguided and misdirected outrage:

These students (backed by big-money including Michael Bloomberg) claim to be scared for their lives – even though, statistically, they are exponentially more likely to be injured or killed by their own texting while driving, by drunk drivers, or by being killed by bare hands. Where are the organized marches (supported by, or even mandated by schools) against these far more threatening devices, tools, and actions? Compared to the tragic number of students who have been killed in schools by shooters, where is the outrage over the thousands of unborn babies ripped from their mother’s wombs every day? Where is the outrage over their fellow students killed by illegal drugs?  Where is their outrage over a mental health system who’s “solution” to those with depression and other personality issues is to heavily medicate with psychotropic drugs with a proven history to CAUSE or encourage violence (one fo the most common threads between the various mass shootings).

Where is the outrage and protests regarding widespread bullying and school failure to reign it it (or the penalties that seem to penalize the one being bullied more than the one carrying out the bullying?).

I  can’t help but harken back to the words of a parent of a Columbine school shooting victim – who testified that it isn’t a gun issue, but a heart issue. You see – our society has grown progressively away from valuing human life.  This is the product of many factors, but among the most damaging are that our entertainment (movies, television, gaming, etc.) have become progressively more bloody, and our ongoing defense of abortion – the taking of human life that represents the most innocent and defenseless of humanity. And of course – how can we miss that the problem of violence is a hate issue – one that runs directly contrary to the commands of Jesus who said to LOVE your neighbor? We as a nation of rejected God and His precepts (the very same precepts identified by this nation’s founders as the foundation of our freedom and national system).

I am heartbroken for the senseless death we see going on.  I grieve for those who’s lives are taken, regardless of the circumstances. But I also grieve for the many misguided individuals and groups who jump on the protest bandwagon while failing to actually know what you are protesting – or whether it is actually a problem.