For Sake of God’s Kingdom: OPEN THE CHURCH!

This past Sunday, thousands of small house churches met in China, Iran, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and several other nations that are lethally-hostile to Christianity. Each led by a pastor, an elder, or simply a layperson who understands Christ’s call to His churches to assemble regularly together. Each faced slightly differing threats – some from neighbors, others from police or government officials – and all also under a declared world-wide pandemic. And without a doubt, there were some who were found and reported, some who have been beaten for gathering with the saints. And we have no way to know for certain just how many may very well have died for their faith as a product of simply trying to meet together with the local body of believers.

Meanwhile, here in the US, Canada, and several other far more “Church-friendly” nations, thousands of churches were empty, doors locked or with only a skeleton crew to operate a camera and to “preach” to, in hopes that an electronic video would stream to a social media or video hosting platform that some of their people might tune in. Some of these local churches are claiming to be following Romans 13’s command to subject themselves to the ruling authorities who have issued mandates and regulations that have all-but made church gatherings illegal. Others are simply scared of this virus and fear being blamed if someone were to get sick and die from it. Figures like Andy Stanley (I refused to call him a “pastor” as he has turned apostate on all manner of foundational doctrinal matters) closed their corporate mega churches months ago wiht promisees to reopen in January, yet their auditoriums are still empty with the lights mostly off – and their flocks still scattered… and like the flocks, big-or-small across this nation – the sheep are suffering and even dying from discouragement, spiritual deprivation, and growing malease from the lack of a fundamental need of all genuinely regenerated believers: the personal fellowship and edification that comes with corporate prayer, worship, and preaching.

I ask, first: which is the biblical picture? Which is seeking to please God rather than man? Which represents a hope of and in a God who is Sovereignly ruling and reigning still? Which holds a low view of God and His power and authority? Which fulfills the writer’s admonition in Hebrews 10:25

25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25

How do we fulfill the command to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) through Zoom teleconference or a recorded video?

How can we share together the ordinances of the church Christ left for us through a pre-recorded message? The Lord’s Supper, that beautiful reminder of the sacrifice Christ made of Himself on our behalf is commemorated in the sharing together of the elements – with the combined illustration of humble service. Jesus didn’t die virtually, nor should we remember that sacrifice “virtually”.

But lets address a few things. First is that claim of Romans 13 submission to ruling authorities. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are commanded to obey God first. And every single time that man’s law and rulers conflict with God’s Law & Commands, the positive choice is always God’s Commands. Whether in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, or the Pharaoh in Egypt, or in the face of Roman and Jewish rulers who demanded the early believers not proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the God-glorifying, Kingdom-building and righteous decision is to always obey God rather than man.

For those who refuse to open churches for in-person worship based on threats of fines or arrest under law or dictatorial edicts, particularly in the United States, I encourage you to find a copy of the U.S. Constitution and turn to the Bill of Rights and the first Amendment (included here for your convenience):

The key component here is that it clearly prohibits the government from prohibiting (interfering with) the free exercise of religion or the abridging of the freedom of speech… or the right to peaceably assemble. So, even if one were to try to twist Hebrews 13 to be a mandate to obey governing authorities even when their demands contradict God’s commands, these mandates and forced closures are themselves unlawful. This doesn’t’ change just because there is a virus.

So lets turn to fear. Yes, the virus that has triggered the “global pandemic” is a real virus. Yes, I personally know people who have died either directly from, or as a result of complications arising from the virs formally known as SARS-CoV-2. My intent here is not to chase theories regarding where it came from, if it was a human engineered weapon, or if it is a sign of the prophetic end times. But I will argue that Satan has used Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (hereafter referred to as FUD) to cause authorities and church leaders to make un-Godly decisions. And as we see our world (and especially the USA) turn increasingly anti-Christian, anti-church (if the church isn’t #WOKE with the Social Justice false gospel of the day), and so-called “Christian leaders” sacrifice the gospel and kingdom building on the altar of politics and political correctness to appease the culture – we see an increasing hopelessness: the exact opposite of what Christ’s people are suppose to be showing the world.

And please don’t take this wrong – many churches have been forced to reach beyond their physical building via streaming or video uploading of sermons. Indeed, the church I pastor has seen an interesting audience well outside of our local “mission field”. But again, this in no-way justifies shutting the doors of the local church meeting.

Among the most common phrases in all of Scripture, directed always at God’s people:

Each and every time the doors of the local church open, people make a decision if they are going to assemble together with the saints or not. This has always been true (and is the core of admonition regarding not forsaking the assembly as is the matter of some). Long before their was a Coronavirus causing panic or being used to create FUD, people made this decision. Week-after-week. But as a pastor, I have no right to take away an the opportunity to assemble together with believers. I don’t even take issue with taking reasonable precautions as one would with any spreading illness (we can save discussion of the efficacy of some of the current mandates and requirements at another time), if that is what it takes to help people overcome their fear. But ultimately, whether someone assembles together with the local church at any given time is a matter between the individual, their doctor, and their Creator. But I will do everything within my ability to make sure the doors of the church I have been called to lead, are open for for all who desire to worship as we have been called to worship (together), and I call out other pastors – for the sake of the sheep – the flock of God, and even more importantly, for the Glory of God and the sake of His kingdom:

Hypocrisy in High Places

There are few things that really cause me anger and disgust like lies. Most people simply think that a lie is when you say something that is blatantly untrue, with intent. But there is an even more insidious version of the lie that actually often does more damage – its called hypocrisy. From Dictionary.com:

Hypocrisy (or the label applied to the person accused – hypocrite) is often used against those who profess to be Christian. I won’t deny that many over the 2000 years of the fatih have said one thing, while living another. And undoubtably, this is a major issue that most of us must battle on a regular basis. But there is another form of hypocrisy that has helped divide this nation. It’s the hypocrisy of double-standards (or selective outrage, as I often call it).

One example is a county I use to live in, that had the highest per-capita number of people on public assistance (particularly disability). Many who claimed disability were more able-bodied that the majority of the population, but they found ways around that. Other’s, their disability was fundamentally based on drug addiction and the aftermath (the same county was featured on an HBO special for it being the #1 Methamphetamine county in the nation). Yet this county, despite the incredible dependance on the Federal Government, is also the most anti-government I’ve ever been around! The same people who demand a check from the government every month, don’t want the government meddling in their life. This seems certainly hypocritical. How can you reconcile demanding a small government, low taxes, and the government having nothing to do with you, while simultaneously demanding more money from the same government?

But more recently, we have seen a nation-wide (maybe world-wide) trend towards a much bigger form of hypocrisy based on political viewpoint. This has had hits greatest demonstration in the media, both social media and news media. With all three areas taking extremist perspectives while censoring or twisting the opposing views. This has grown to the point of fueling selective outrage, which is one of the most glaring forms of hypocrisy of all. A few recent examples include the past year of riots, mass violence, burning down of many city blocks in major cities by groups alligning themselves with “BLM” and “antifa”. BLM, who lifts up primarily some very bad people who, such as in the George Floyd case that sparked most of this year’s biggest riots – was a man who had taken a lethal dosage of illegal drugs just prior to his encounter with police. He was violent, he was aggressively resisting arrest, and sadly – he died while in police custody. I won’t defend the officers who seemed to pose in very dangerous positions. Yet at the same time, the man was undobutably resisting arrest and had already practically committed suicide by his massive overdose of fentanyl and other intoxicants. Yet this man was portrayed as an innocent, godly man who never hurt anyone (well – except his criminal record tells a much darker story) – which helped spark nation-wide protests, riots, and unfathomable property damage (in part due to widespread looting of devastated businesses). The media seemed to endorse the behavior, many high-profile figures including elected officials proudly supported (and even participated in) some of these violent events.

Yet at the same time, while each of these never lost a single post or had a bit of negative backlash from the media platforms, those on the other side of the political spectrum have regularly been suspended, banned, and panned by the news media as violent terrorists. Most recently, after President Trump spoke to a massive crowd in DC (January 6, 2020), then told his supporters to march to the Capitol (which is the same procedure and schedule as the majority of large protests and events in DC – it is symbolic to march to the Capitol and conclude your protest there). But when some arrived, they began struggling with some Capitol Police. Then, oddly, the same police then opened barricades and unlocked doors and ALLOWED in some of the most vocal and agitated of the protestors. In the ensuing hours, an unarmed white woman, a US Air Force Veteran, was shot dead by Capitol police in a hallway. She was not being violent. Another of the Protestors collapsed and died of a heart attack (apparently not related to any violent acts). Also, a Capitol Police officer was crushed in what looked like a doorway and succumbed to his injuries. While the “storming” of the Capitol (even having been let in by police) was wrong, the news media, print media, and social media immediately began widespread attacks, censoring, and banning, leading up to the permanent ban on the Twitter account of the President of the United States for “violence-inciting posts that present a danger to others”. While President Trump did keep the fires burning of questioning the 2020 election results, he never, EVER suggested, endorsed, or encouraged violence in any form. Further, his text and video posts to Twitter and Facebook trying to tell his supporters to back off and to pursue peace – in which he clearly denounced the violence – both social media platforms deleted the posts! Their selective outrage and censorship actually silencing a voice that could help calm the anger. #hypocricy.

“Pastor” Eric Mason

In the days that have followed, many posts on these same platforms have endorsed violence against anyone who supports Trump. And one particularly well-known SBC pastor actually tweeted the insinuation that (white) folks should have been shot in the Capitol. How is this any more acceptable than the other hate-filled vitreol from the Left that consistently goes untouched, while even questions of WHO was involved in the storming of the Capitol is grounds for having posts deleted and accounts suspended or banned?

And the hypocrisy goes on – with post after post by major figures calling this event an act of insurrection. Yet such a horrific event – and these so called terrorists (a term actually used) even respected the satin ropes protecting various parts of the building. Nobody lit the place on fire (though I’ve seen pictures depicting the Capitol on fire being used!). And the actual damage done was relatively minor, particularly in comparison to the widespread and horrific damage done to cities all over this nation by those on the political Left.

And lest we forget – whe Donald Trump was confirmed as the victor in the 2016 election, there was massive rioting in DC that included setting cars and buildings on fire, destroying landmarks, and much more. Or more recently, the BLM protests in DC that not only saw the destruction and vandalism of property and attacks on innocent bystanders, but these “protestors” stormed an historic church just a block from the Whitehouse in an attempt to burn it down (for what political purpose, other than the hate of Christianity?).

We’ve been told for years that labeling an entire group of people (especially identified by skin color) is wrong, yet the explosion in the last few months of the acceptability of blatantly racist posts and statements, so long as they come from those of the “oppressed group” (based on Critical Race Theory) have become commonplace. The image of the Mara Gay tweet was reposed by someone that I have long considered a brother and friend, who happens to be African-American. Someone who I though knew me better than to post or confirm something like this that is so brazenly racist.

And further, to justify the year-worth of violent rioting, bloodshed, and property losses on “angry people trying to have a voice when they feel they are unheard” – yet when every court in the land refused to even allow a LOOK at evidence of widespread corruption in our election system – a fundamental constitutional crisis – that is not even worthy of people posting on social media, much less having an event that a tiny portion of the people involved acted badly (with the help of the Capitol Police), is utterly mind-boggling.

And then we have the other race-baiting, selectively-outraged, racists who claim that the folks who stormed the Capitol received special “white privilege” and would have been treated far more differently were they “people of color”. I suppose that unarmed people getting shot to death by police is only bad when it happens to drug dealers with non-white skin? NO – its’ ALWAYS bad. But again, #hypocrisy seems to be winning the day.

And when the likes of Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission call for the dramatic prosecution of every person who entered the Capitol building on January 6th (even those that just stood and watched/videoed), but remained absolutely silent on the widespread violence all this past year – its hypocrisy demonstrated in selective outrage.

I even drew a 24 hour suspension from Facebook for reposting a tweet that points out the hypocrisy.

And the hate just keeps flowing –

Hypocrisy is wrong, regardless of who is committing it. Double-standards are wrong, regardless of who benefits from it. And selective outrage is among the most vile of all forms of hypocrisy.

Pray for our nation, though I personally have stopped praying for peace and God’s blessings. We as a nation don’t deserve God’s blessings. We deserve His wrathful judgment. And remember – Scripture says that judgement begins in the House of the Lord! I do pray for a spiritual awakening, beginning with me, my family, and the church I try to lead. I pray for my fellow believers and pastors who are desperately trying to tell the Truth – regardless of the circumstances. I’m praying for churches that have been fighting to even keep their doors open. I pray for God to raise up great spiritual men who will boldly stand for truth. And I pray God would bring to repentance those who seem to love a lie more than the truth.

The “#GreatReset” and the future of America

Many woke up this morning with something that shocked them on their TV screen or Twitter feed: Both GOP Senate candidates/incumbents were supposedly defeated by two of the most radically Left-wing Senate candidates in Georgia history. This was most shocking to them because they went to bed with both GOP candidates with fairly comfortable leads in the vote counting and some statistical figuring that said a flip was not likely.

Yet in a near-copy of the November election, over-night ballots were delivered and counted that conveniently swung the totals into the DNC column. Yet this shouldn’t be a surprise. This was predicted weeks ago when Georgia refused to fix the very problems that led to the November debacle.

One might also rightly ask: How did this nation flip after experiencing 3+ years of some of the greatest economic growth, shrinking wage gap, record low unemployment for all demographics, the first significant reduction in foreign war entanglement in decades, increased American manufacturing, and the most campaign promises kept in US history?

COVID? What some refer to as the CCP Virus – which has caused more division through the weaponizing of it through FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). Regardless of one’s views regarding this virus – and no doubt, many have died from or WITH the virus (we won’t get into the way deaths are being counted- but remember FUD). This virus conveniently undid a significant portion of the economic advances of the previous 3+ years via shutdowns, restrictions mandates, and quarantine of the healthy. Small businesses, unable to meet stringent and over-reaching regulations to open, died. COVID didn’t bring this about – but the response and division it was used to create did add to the destruction.

4 years of never-ending attacks on the President, that began literally hours after his called victory in 2016, were all part of a very literal coup engineered by the very people in BOTH political parties who were in his “drain the swamp” crosshairs. Look – President Trump is no saint. He is no savior or messiah. He is a man with faults just like the rest of us – with past baggage and a quickfire and unfiltered Twitter-finger. Yet he has tried to do what was best for this nation – even trying to put a positive spin on the all doom-and-gloom of Dr. Fauci and the “experts” who predicted millions of Americans would die from COVID. President Trump made mistakes (and I called him out on them). He endured attacks as no US President has ever faced. And as each collusion & corruption case died, despite near unlimited investigation resources and budgets… and even as the US Congress tried to remove him from office – even as the “Pandemic” began spreading – he kept fighting for this nation. His negotiations and efforts brought Muslim nations – long the sworn enemies of Israel, to the table, resulting in several historic treaties that many said were impossible. President Trump was even nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize (something his predecessor was actually awarded for doing nothing – who actually expanded US warmaking).

But here is the real deal, from my biblical perspective: God is still in control, and NONE of this has caught the LORD by surprise. None of the rapid expansion of wickedness, none of the electoral shenanigans and blatant corruption have taken anything away from God and His plans. In fact, I believe we are seeing the hand of God working mightily among us! All the nastiness, the divisions, the loss, the heartbreak, and so much more has been allowed, indeed I say was brought by God for a purpose.

You see – God punishes wickedness – in HIS time. When we look at Scripture, we see God’s people and nation Israel judged by God. But we also see pagan nations also judged. And how does God often bring judgement? It isn’t always with hellfire and brimstone raining down, with mighty earthquakes, or by a massive worldwide flood. In fact, God’s judgement is often brought in ways that look amazingly like what we are seeing today.

Attacks from Outside: The US has long had a twisted relationship with the world. Just the last massive spending bill reminds us – the world LOVES our Tax Dollars, but hates our historic values of freedom, self-determination, and yes – our reputation (deserved or not) as a “Christian nation”. From international pressures to the likely election interference, we have been under attack from outside since the Soviet Union began – in fact, Nikita Khrushchev many times said that they wouldn’t beat America with might, but from within…

From Within – Our own worst enemy: What exactly did Khrushchev mean by destroying us from within? You see, Satan is better at playing the “long game” than we who are believers in Christ. Likewise, Marxism plays a waiting game, planting seeds, working behind the scenes. In this case, from the entertainment industry, education, and finally in the open of the past few years, actual, real Marxists have been working tirelessly to undermine this nation from within.

Think about ancient Israel and Judah – while God did often use external forces to bring judgment, the vast majority of kings were wicked men. Even those who had good intentions and actually made progress had “issues”, which often times undermined their efforts (sound familiar?). Add in the many false prophets, whether fake prophets of God, or the avowed prophets of Baal, Moloch, and others – were allowed to deceive the public and kings. Look today at some of the biggest names and organizations in “Evangelical Christianity” – the likes of Tim Keller, Dr. Russell Moore (@ERLC), Beth Moore, Karen Swallow Prior, Charlie Dates (Progressive Baptist Church and Gospel Coalition writer, SBC Executive Committee), Jackie Hill Perry, Thabiti Anyabwile (formerly known as Ron Burns), JD Greear (Pastor of Summit Church, and current President of the Southern Baptist Convention) and yes, even historically-conservative Albert Mohler (Southern Baptist Seminary, heir-apparent to be President of the SBC) who have systematically adopted various forms and productions of the false gospel of the “Social Justice Movement” and more recently are endorsing Critical Race Theory (CRT), supplanting the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the poison of this Marxist tool (oh – who saw that coming?). Add in the birth, spread, and massive export of the heretical prosperity gospel/liberation theology – which again is about the here-and-now, fleshly satisfaction with no spiritual meat or foundation – which actually is a development of the official religion of Marxism: Secular Humanism, and you have yet another attack on any remaining biblical foundations.

Rev. Warnock – abortion preacher

And let us zoom in for a moment on the Georgia US Senate run-off and one of the two Democrat candidates: the “Reverend” Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. Who has a history of preaching abortion as a biblical right! Again – a blatantly false prophet (in his case, maybe profit is a better word?). With men like Warnock (and those men and women mentioned previously) preaching from pulpits and being published as “Christian leaders”, is it any wonder so many are deceived and why biblical Christianity has so little influence any longer? And as more than one of America’s founders said – the system of government they left us requires a moral foundation, and particularly one like principals of Christianity, to survive. Satan couldn’t defeat Christ’s church, so he joined to destroy from within. Likewise, the greatest damage being done and what will likely be the final downfall of the USA – is for the remaining “good men” to sit idle by and let it happen. A bleak reminder – there are none righteous…(Romans 3:10).

Today, we see the clear fulfilment of Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” We see before us the unfolding of the warning Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:3-4) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

And this brings us to the entire point of this post. Yes, be aware of what is REALLY going on. There is a coordinated effort to systematically destroy this nation, which WILL not only take away our God-given, Constitutional rights, which likely will result in more measurable persecution against those who cling to their “Bibles, Guns, and God” (the #1 terrorist threat to this nation, according to President Obama and his administration!). We are very likely to see a marked reduction in income, due in part to massive tax increases that will be absolutely necessary to pay for the unprecedented spending proposals by the political Left. And yes, the voice of biblical morality will become public enemy #1.

BUT

GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL! God is still on His throne. And Jesus’ blood is STILL sufficient to cover not only my sins, but the sins of ALL who would believe in Him! And this is why Paul could follow his warning to Timothy (see above in 2 Timothy 4), with verse 5: “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

You see – for genuine, born-again, regenerated Christians – we are not deceived. We are not led to follow false gospels – and our duty, our responsibility, our mission remains absolutely unchanged! Remain sober in all things (this is less about being literally intoxicated, but instead – means not to be led astray or influenced by the distractions of the world- or in short, be CLEAR MINDED), prepare to endure hardship (yes, God’s Word yet again warns that being sober and continuing to do what God has commanded WILL result in hardships), do the work of an evangelist (while not all have this as a spiritual gift, it is the calling of all the redeemed to be a messenger of the Gospel to all we encounter in life – both in word and in our actions). And finally – fulfill your ministry! All who have received the heart-transplant of Christ, the redemption bought by His precious blood – have a ministry, a ministry summed up (regardless of the actual specific ministry avenues) is to MAKE DISCIPLES, and more importantly – GLORIFY GOD and ENJOY HIM FOREVER! If we allow ourselves to be so utterly consumed with the wickedness of the day – we take our eyes off of “things above” and begin to stumble and fall in our ministry. No, I do not suggest we ignore wicked and evil – quite the contrary: we must know what is going on – so that we can address it with Scripture and our actions! And never stop speaking the truth into ALL circumstances. Never stop being a light of truth. This nation’s future depends on it – your neighbor’s soul needs it – and YOU need it!

Do not be afraid, nor discouraged. God is on our side! We may yet witness more heartache and pain. We may even see our nation literally destroyed. But that doesn’t change our mission or purpose.

But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15