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.

The Problem…

As I sit on my scheduled “day off”, soaking in the after effects of our Palm Sunday services while also ruminating on all that I see in the news of the day, I can’t help but reflect on all the insane finger-pointing. The United States is a nation in decline.  Yes, our economic state is slightly improved, but that is rapidly being undone by uncontrolled Federal spending (thanks to a brand new Omnibus spending bill of over $1.3 Trillion that carries us through 6 months… seriously!) We see lots of senseless death, from school shootings, to a literal epidemic of young black males killing each other on the streets and neighborhoods of Chicago and other major cities.  We see a radical discrimination – where the media and rabid freedom-hating protestors get emotionally up-in-arms, organizing widely-expensive “March For Our Lives”, funded in large part by radically Leftist (and almost universally unregenerate-acting) celebrities, over a single school shooting where the victims were, interestingly enough – caucasian, while these same deep-pocket celebrities essentially ignore the hundreds already dead in inner-city, predominantly black communities.  It takes the “tears of white mothers” to stir up action?  And then the “action” is against inanimate objects and totally ignores the perpetrators, the government and law enforcement agencies that flat-out failed to take any action that would most certainly have prevented this most recent mass shooting altogether – all adding up to a failure to see our problems as symptoms of a greater illness – indeed a disease that is absolutely going to destroy this nation.  It isn’t guns.  It isn’t video games. The disease isn’t violent entertainment or misogynistic, hate-filled music, or a failure for people to be able to even acknowledge basic biology (gender). The problem is not a tool or the endless list of symptoms above – but a heart issue.

Scripture is clear – Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

We have a problem known as sin – and it is a disease that has infected mankind since almost the very beginning. In fact, Scripture clearly says that All have sinned… (Romans 3:23).  And the sin problem in our nation (and world) is not improving – and I would like to propose that a major part of the problem is “US” – the evangelical world.  Oh – we may say we love Jesus.  For that matter, we have libraries full of love songs to Jesus (that too often sound more like love songs between high school sweethearts than adoration of the Holy, Righteous, and glorious Sovereign Creator!)

We have a sin problem – and while the problem isn’t new, the “Church” (especially evangelical churches) have dropped the ball – whether it is simple laziness, complacency, or even proclaiming what the Apostle Paul called “false gospels” – we have actually contributed TO the sin problems in our nation.  Doubt this?  Take an honest look into your local church. Look around – what do you see?  Yes, you see a room full of sinners – we all fit that category.  BUT – do you see in those same people – growing, maturing, and sin-shunning (constant-repenting) believers who are walking by faith?  Chances are, in many “evangelical churches” (regardless of denomination), you will find quite the opposite.  You will find a percentage that fit the above, but you will find far more who are little more than church attenders who have two persons – a Sunday Morning face, and the other 6.5 days personality. Let me further explain.

Jesus gave His great command to His church to make disciples.  For many years, from the first church in Jerusalem, we see a model laid out before us – people lived out their faith in a way that strengthened said faith, that aided each other to grow together in their walk – to see lives genuinely transformed in such a way that they were a beacon of hope, even when under incredible persecution. We still see some startling examples today in nations that are far from Christ-friendly; where Christians indeed walk in faith and where they absolutely understand the need to make disciples.

Return for a moment to the USA – where many see a man-centered religion. What happened? Back in the late 1800’s, a wave swept across evangelical Christianity – some look back with fondness, while most Bible-believing Christians who look through a more Berean lens (discerning) see something far different.  Preachers like Charles Finney began preaching dramatic, emotionally-charged sermons pleading for listeners to come to Jesus. It was the advent of the “ask Jesus into your heart” movement – where “decisions” were made based on feelings and tears (often contrived) verses genuine conversion via the Holy Spirit’s conviction and regeneration. The movement became all about what is known as “synergistic salvation”: a gospel that lays as much or more of salvation’s work on the heart of men (remember the Jeremiah quote near the beginning of this entry?). A feelings-based, emotionally-driven profession of faith, followed rapidly by baptism and adding to a church roll. Great!  But where are the growing disciples who are then to be disciple-makers?  That just didn’t really happen.  Numbers-driven ministry  only continued to take over Gospel-driven ministry. In fact, it was this same existential, pragmatic religious movement that gave birth to what we now know as pentecostalism and other Charismatic faiths, and the erroneous belief that mankind, once genuinely saved, can somehow be plucked form Jesus’ own hand (John 10:28-30). As the dramatically evolving Christianity in America began to spread – Christianity became more and more man-centered and less God centered.  We saw church building expanding along with growing church staffs to manage these growing churches – and with it the ever-growing budgetary needs to sustain these growing organizations.

But it wasn’t just these growing local churches (and so-called “mega-churches”), but even smaller local churches also started to shift towards man-centered ministry and beliefs (even doctrines). With this came the various degrees of the “prosperity gospel” and now the Social Justice/Social Gospel that substitutes the doing for proclamation and motives.

Let me return in this rambling post back to core doctrines that have contributed to our national issues – We have two common models that have evolved since/from the Finney/revivalist era – those that have attempted to remain true to core doctrines and biblical teaching – but have slipped into a form of practical legalism: after a person says a prayer for Jesus to come into their heart (I have yet to find a biblical reference or example), and we get them quickly baptized – we then throw what amounts to a list of rules for Christian conduct at them – then hope it sticks. Keep the 10 Commandments – Don’t make or bow down to idols – yet we have no problem with filling our homes and lives with literal shrines to our favorite sports team, entertainment stars, or hobbies (Whoo Pig Sooie!), don’t kill (though we forget Jesus equated hate towards a neighbor to be like murder), honor your mother and father (while we sit idle by watching society tell kids to dishonor parents and always buck the system). We say to not steal (while many cheat on their taxes, have no problem with being accidentally under-charged for a purchase, or take advantage of someone’s lack of understanding to gain an extra dollar). We say “thou shalt not commit adultery”, while turning a blind eye to the rampant divorce and remarriage rate WITHIN churches.  We MIGHT say to not “covet” what others have – yet we church folks can run with the best of the “keeping up with the Joneses”. And the list goes on –

On the other branch, we see churches that make similar please to “love Jesus”, yet make no expectation at all of change.  Indeed, the functional message is – come as you are (great!), and when you go home – go home unchanged – except with a smile on your face! We see a catering to the tastes and preferences of specific “target groups” through affinity-based churches (churches that are centered and founded on interests or lifestyles – think biker churches, cowboy churches, outdoorsmen churches, etc.) We see the growth of entertainment/flash-based churches where style, excitement, and experience reigns supreme over the Word of God and the clear-preaching of it.

The Gospel, when it is proclaimed is a gospel that helps people understand the genuine nature of sin – the genuine cost of sin (both in this temporal world and more importantly – in eternity).  The Gospel isn’t just about God’s love that was demonstrated in Christ’s perfect sacrifice, but is also recognized as genuinely good news because we see also Gods’ wrath that is poured out on ALL unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). And when God (not man) applies the true, and full Gospel to the hearts of men – regenerating their heart of stone for His heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), we should anticipate – indeed fully expect change to come. A desire to please God, to know God, to serve God who paid such a high price for our forgiveness – the same God who, through Jesus Christ, who endured the wrath WE deserve.

And with that change of heart and progressive sanctification (the ongoing growing more like Jesus) we begin to better reject sin and more interestingly – we begin to be able to exercise Judgment/Discernment.  Yes – that ugly word that so many, even professed Christians, are so scared of. We mis the understanding of just what KIND Of judgement we are suppose to exercise.  Our judgment should be connected to and based on Scripture.  We should see God’s Word as inerrant (in its original manuscripts) and completely trustworthy from cover-to-cover and trust it to be the judge of all that we see and must make decisions about. See more about this HERE.

And as we bring this all forward and look to the downward spiral of our nation- where we point fingers at guns, politicians, organizations, etc – let us not forget that many who march against rights, who point blame, who even spew some pretty nasty words – are folks who sit in a char or pew on Sundays. Let us not forget that many who commit crimes and other acts of violence were “brought up in church” and were even considered by some to be “good people”.

Some shout: “THEY NEED JESUS” to which I give a hearty “AMEN!”. But they need Jesus then they need to see good, biblical, Godly examples – not a soup of rules and contradictions along with selective picking and choosing of what parts of the Bible are applicable and dependable.  They need Jesus – and discipleship.  They need churches to not just throw rules at them, but preach doctrines that are 100% Bible-based. They need genuinely born-again Christians to extend a hand to them to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ (that we can’t forget included whips and overturning tables as well as calling sin – sin, and calling wolves and snakes what they are). It means that, while we recognize that God is the “Great Physician”, He owes us nothing! While God can and will provide our needs, He is under no obligation to provide the lusts of our flesh! It means recognizing the absolute necessity to die to self every day (to prefer the will of God and the needs of others over ourselves).

This also means that we must come out of our little protected enclaves we call “churches” and open our hearts and lives up to “those people” – whether they look different than us, act differently than us (are we shocked when people who are unregenerate and without Jesus act like they are unregenerate and without Jesus?). It means we must be willing to call out those who profess to be born-again believers in Jesus who walk in unrepentant sin, reflecting the flesh of the world instead of the Light of Christ.

Lest we forget the message of this little Jewel from the Mark Trammel Quartet:

We cannot guilt and arm-twist people into saying a “sinners prayer” and expect real change. WE must recognize that salvation is not of man, of grand speech, or clever argument – it is 100% of the Lord – as a FREE GIFT, granted by faith, not of any merit of ability we have – (Ephesians 2:8-10). But again, this is just the beginning. While genuine salvation is sure – and we can confirm it by seeing the very change it brings both immediately and long-term, we are called to repentance for a purpose – to be the living, breathing Gospel to those around us as we ourselves journey to know Christ and to make Him known!

And the sooner we realize and trust that it is God who converts the sinner into a saint, the quicker we begin to get about doing what Jesus actually commanded US to do – MAKE DISCIPLES.  Not mindless religious zombies.  Not another generation of unrepentant and shallow “church members”, but to teach, equip, and walk along-side those who we know and seeing them through from lost, to saved, to growing and mature Disciples who then become disciple-makers themselves.  If we in the Evangelical world would take Christ’s command as given, turn lose of measures that revolve around numbers (seats filled in church services and offering totals), and get serious about helping people to grow to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ – we will see first – a resurgence of the true Church of Jesus Christ – we will see churches that are spiritually healthy.  But as an extension, we will see communities changed for the good, the needs of those around us better met – and we will see the Kingdom of God as never before!

But as I preached yesterday (Palm Sunday) – it will cost us something – it will cost us our idols, our selfishness, our prejudices, and our comfort zones. But let us not forget – it cost Jesus everything!

It isn’t about being a “social justice warrior” as many en the evangelical world have become – for the works of our hands alone will make no real difference. It isn’t about a social “gospel” – for that makes no eternal difference at all (indeed – it makes do-gooders who can’t seem to do real good at all). Let us be Christ-followers – as individuals and as local churches.

If you currently are a part of a local church that not only proclaims the whole and true Gospel of Jesus Christ – a church that places a top priority on actual, one-on-one, Bible-based, Christ-glorifying disciple making – congratulations – you have found  a Jewel!  Treasure it and be an active part in it.

If, on the other hand, you find upon real, Berean-like examination according to Scripture that your “church” really isn’t much of a church at all – but a purveyor of man-centered doctrines and theologies – of flesh-pleasing programs, of man-glorifying religion – then I implore you – seek out a church that truly sees the Bible as the Word of God: every page of the 66 books of the inspired, divine revelation of our Lord – a church that takes seriously the command to make disciples – submit to sound Biblical teaching and to being discipled – with a goal of becoming a disciple-maker and using what God has given you in material and spiritual gifts to serve Him.

And to that – I humbly submit the church I pastor – not because I am the pastor, for anything good First Baptist Church may have or display is more in spite of my leadership than because of it! Yes, we have “issues”, as any and every institution made up of human beings will have.  But you will also find that we recognize our shortcomings and are constantly seeking ways to grow in Christ, to deal with the “demons”, and to be the salt and light.  We would love to have you visit, but even more – if you genuinely want to be what Christ has called people to be – join us in our journey! First Baptist Church.

Gunshots, Death, Schools, and God…

I have intentionally held off this afternoon and evening commenting formally on the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. One reason is that I needed to have time to pray about it and to give authorities time to make sure things were clear and victims being taken care of. Also, to give others plenty of time to speak up and respond. Further, my desire was and is to not overly politicize this tragedy. Many already are trying to use this shooting as yet another foundation to push their own misguided political agenda.

I was pleased to read President Trump’s quick and measured Tweet:

 But was further saddened to see the immediate responses by many who’s ugly and vile response to the President’s message betrayed the core of why I believe we are seeing these horrible acts of violence.

Let me begin by saying – we are seeing ugliness in this nation – acts of violence including mass shootings, we are seeing increases in all sorts of crimes, and at the same time we are watching an entire generation appear to collectively lose their minds (demonstrated by such acts as the recreational “eating” of Tide Pods!). We see cities like Philadelphia celebrate their professional football team’s Super Bowl victory by taking to the streets and systematically causing as much destruction as they can, while simultaneously looting businesses of their merchandise and other property.  You see – these are all symptoms (and some may say – “signs”) of both the times we live in and the absolute corruption spreading in the hearts of mankind in our nation.

The horrible and deranged acts of madmen shooting up concerns venues, night clubs, movie theaters, schools, and more, are all the product, not of WHO the President of the United States is, it isn’t the result of the “NRA” and any undue influence or money they seem to exercise towards politicians.  These acts that so shock us are not the product of a vast Right Wing Conspiracy, or of racism.  They are not the product of “white privilege” or the desperation of the poor in the “inner city”.  Every one of these acts are the direct result of unregenerate hearts.

Mankind has been carrying out violent acts and murder against man since soon after the creation of the world.  Cain killed Abel because of self-pride and a corrupt heart. Joseph’s brothers beat him, cast him into a hole, then sold him into slavery out fo pride and a real hatred for their own brother.

Jesus Christ, the very Son of God was murdered – put to death, though innocent of any sin or violation of the law Himself – because of jealousy and sinful pride of the religious leaders of His day and the willing, unregenerate population of Jerusalem.

Even in “church” history – the sad reality is – many have killed in the name of Jesus – but out of their own hate and pride or who was “right”.

Violence has been a part of this creation since the fall of man in the Garden. It is one fo the many symptoms of the who don’t know the Lord our God, and instead “turn each one their own way” doing “what was right in his own eye”.

Within minutes of today’s shooting, and on the heels (and in reply to the President’s prayerful Tweet posted above), very real hate, vitriol, and total heart corruption was put on display.  Hearts that are every bit as corrupt before a totally righteous God spewed fowl language at the President, mocked not only the President but all Christians for their “useless” prayers. Posts and Tweets across social media mocking God in particular –

And I say this – every one of them serve as a vivid reminder of just WHY God ALLOWS these horrific events to happen.  The answer is quite obvious to anyone who has ever spent any effort to read the Bible.  Just take a look at what has happened to every nation that rejects God – that turns from God (in the case of Israel/Judah). When a people functionally kick God out – turning to their own idols and pride – God has regularly allowed judgement to come in the form of unholy leaders, oppression, violence, suffering and much more.

While the context is not the modern USA (in context, God was speaking to nation Israel in a specific time and set of circumstances), the message still rings loudly –

My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~2 Chronicles 7:14

Or the words God spoke to Isaiah:

“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”  ~Isaiah 1:15

You see – all we really need to do to face the horrible things we see unfold before us and begin finding solutions, is to see that we – a nation that at one time really was known as a “Christian nation”, has blood on its collective hands.  We have sat idle by (either literally, or functionally) and watched as 60 million babies have been murdered, depriving them of the most basic and fundamental right of man – the right to LIFE.

We have, as a nation, systematically torn down the institutions that God instituted from Creation – redefining those institutions to suit our own fancy, instead of honoring the God-ordained order.

We have decided that gender is an artificial construct and not set by any standard by your own “feelings”. Need mind that even at our very biological core – the DNA specifically identifies our gender.

We have not only thumbed our noses at God’s ordained patterns and systems, we have also collectively told God to “take a hike” – shoving all mentions of the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit from the public square. We have wedged in definitions of the founding Father’s choice of guaranteeing the freedom of religion to be free FROM all religion that includes the biblical God (but amazingly have tolerated or even promoted the false “god” of Islam and other pagan religions, ultimately setting up a national religion (specifically prohibited by the Constitution) of Secular Humanism.

No – it isn’t “the guns” that are responsible for these killings (in fact, I have never seen a gun load and fire itself at anyone). It isn’t because some people actually understand the Constitution and the reasons for the Amendments wisely included.  It is the corrupt hearts of man – that will continue to kill and hurt others until Jesus Christ returns and sets things straight.

NO amount of finger-pointing at Presidents or politicians, organizations, or inanimate objects is going to fix the corrupt hearts of men.

Might I suggest we begin by humbling ourselves before God, repenting of our hard hearts – confessing that we have failed to speak up, failed to witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ (in words OR in our actions). Might I suggest inviting God back in to this nation as a welcome King? Might I urge the reader to not just let this latest horrible event just add to your hate and anger – but instead to turn your eyes upon Jesus…

Are there major problems in our society? Of course.  And yes, we have a responsibility to act responsibly – but we must begin in the strongest position of all in this world – on our knees before a Holy and Righteous God –

“The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”

“The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. . . All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

Noah Webster, (author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary)

 

 

A Miracle Named Mr. Buddy

The 2016-2017 school year at Clinton began rough. While Anna continued on her somewhat typically-successful path with Jr. High Band and Choir, Selah ran into major difficulties. Her behavior had become sporadic, even somewhat destructive. She rapidly became an issue for her teachers – with frequent notes home because she wasn’t doing her homework, keeping up with classwork, and progressively becoming a general “issue” in classes. Indeed, she was becoming far more trouble than any 5th grader ought to be.

Diana and I had come to our whit’s end. This wasn’t the first time we had dealt with serious behavior issues in Selah. The previous year which began as another year of homeschooling turned into a nightmare with her sneaking and hiding away food in her room, damaging her bedroom walls and furniture, and going out of her way to sabotage her homeschool work. After much prayer and even attempts to get her some counseling, we enrolled her then in Clinton schools where she did somewhat better for that school year. But the Fall semester of 2016 saw a return to significant troubles and after conferences with her teachers and school counselor, we were out of answers.  All we could figure out was that Selah needed “something” in her life for her to focus and giver her something to work for.

Then on day in early December, a customer came into the bank where Diana was working as a teller. The customer visited with the teller next to her and shared about a horse that they really needed to find a home for. They no longer could give the horse the care and attention he needed. And with some family issues of their own, the need to find a new home was pressing. The gears in Diana’s head, then later my own, began to turn. You see, Selah has had a passion for horses as long as she could walk. She learned to read primarily with library books about horses and equine sciences. I would scratch my head at the veterinarian books she would check out and try desperately to sound out the long words!  And at the age of 6, she knew more about horses than may employees of farm supply stores! She had long wanted a horse – though we didn’t have the property to keep one. But there was something about this case…

So, again, with more prayer and in
IMG_0105.jpgconjunction with an already scheduled visit from my

 

mother from Michigan, we made arrangements to meet him at the Grimm
home. A beautiful 19 year-old Strawberry Roan Mustang/Saddlebred cross. And while he was a bit on the thin side, his personality showed through and they bonded immediately. A friend, Eddie

 

Ragsdale, a fellow pastor and someone who is far more experienced with horses, met us that day to check him out for soundness and temperament. Eddie agreed that he was
sound. We heard the back-story of how the owner got him when he was still young, and she had learned horse training with him.  We also heard of her previous attempts to give him away, only to stop the loading of him when she saw signs that he was not going to a loving home – but more likely a truck to Mexico and a meat factory!

So the adventure began – and every day for a month – rain or shine, Selah made the trek to feed Mr. Buddy (she changed his name pretty much immediately) and to take care of a minor hoof issue that had to be dressed daily., and to spend time walking him and getting to know him.

Over Christmas break, we got a significant snow and cold weather – right at the only time we had to build the fence at my

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Dad’s house, along with a lean-to shelter. Selah worked harder than I have ever seen her work, even in the bitter cold – stretching barbed wire, digging post holes, and generally working herself to the bone. I was indeed proud of her – and she was determined to make a home for Mr. Buddy.

Interestingly enough, her report card that came in the winter already showed a marked improvement. And by the time Mr. Buddy was moved to his new home, Selah already was a new kid. Her attitude and behavior was much improved and her school work – she actually soon became the “most improved” in her math class!

Over the last 11 months of their relationship, Selah has grown up a whole lot, endured the transition to Northwest Arkansas with amazing grace, and actually climbed to an

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“All-A’s” report card! And while she is still an active and sometimes absent-minded 12 year old (as of just two days ago), her passion for Mr. Buddy and their relationship has been a true encouragement.  Mr. Buddy became Selah’s encouragement, her drive, and her Miracle. Even more interesting, when we found a place to live here, we found a place where we had access to several acres where he could have all the room he wanted
all to

IMG_1412.jpghimself. He further filled out and was looking several years younger -Selah’s friend was truly blossoming. We even bought her a new saddle and tack for early Birthday/Christmas – and she had been riding him regularly.  I even finally mounted up and took a short ride on him just a few weeks ago! Indeed, it became abundantly clear that Mr.  Buddy was a gift from God- exactly what Selah needed to direct her energies, passions, and knowledge toward something bigger than herself (literally!). Our family grew to live Buddy as Selah did and it was a really joy to visit with him and scratch his chin, brush him down, or simply watch Selah work and ride him!

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But then… Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Selah brought Mr. Buddy and Merle Haggard (our recent donkey. acquisition…IMG_2686.jpg a whole other story) over to the back yard. All was well, until Saturday morning when we discovered something wasn’t right. Merle had slipped and gotten stuck in the fence – but also noticed quickly hat something wasn’t right with Mr. Buddy as well.  They both were out of water, and Buddy was obviously in some distress. He wouldn’t drink when given water, and
appear to be able to eat – a serious red flag for a horse that could eat like, well… A HORSE! He wasn’t even interested in his usual favorite treats. After all afternoon and night trying to get water into him, we called the vet. The vet said to keep an eye on hime and keep trying to get him water. He made it through the night, but Sunday he continued to get worse. We called the vet right after we got home from church and she rushed out. Quickly she determined Mr. Buddy was choked – and began irrigating his esophagus through a nose tube to try to flush out the choke. After nearly an hour and a half of irrigation, some mild sedatives, and eventually pain medication, we got the choke free. He was weak, but actually drank a little bit of water (after a gallon of electrolyte solution was pumped in to him).

Sunday night he seemed to be a bit better and he took shelter under the back deck. Each afternoon this week, Selah dutifully got home from school and gave Mr. Buddy his penicillin injection. He appeared to be feeling a bit better each day, even eating almost a gallon of soaked alfalfa over night Tuesday-Wednesday. I even got video of him “playing” with his water on Wednesday. Things really seemed to be looking up for him – and that just maybe he was out of the woods. I gave him another batch of soaked alfalfa last night before we all went to bed and he seemed glad to get it.

This morning began like so many others – the girls were up and out to school and work early.  I was taking care of some things around the house and then was heading out the door just before 9AM to head to my own office. I remembered to head out back to check the critters one more time.  I stepped out on the deck and called for Merle and Mr. Buddy.  No response.  Normally, Merle would come running pretty much any time I stepped on the back deck. I walked down the deck stairs into the back yard and saw Merle laying near the back fence.  I began walking across toward him when I saw Mr. Buddy about ten feet away laying on his side.  By the time I got to Merle, I could see that Mr. Buddy wasn’t breathing and Merle didn’t want to leave his side.  I’m glad no neighbors were home, as I am fairly confident they would have thought someone had died.

Diana came home from work, and I headed to the school to get Selah. That was the second hardest news I have ever had to break to her, but I knew that it would be about the hardest she had had to come to grips with in her young life. We both cried int he school office. We cried on the way home – and cried at home where she bailed out of the truck and ran to the back yard and to Mr. Buddy’s side where she wept uncontrollably for some time.

I am still in shock – and this reminds me all too much of what I have experienced both in my own family and with others in my role as a pastor – folks getting seriously ill, but then improving only to suddenly pass days later.

I do wish to thank our newest deacon at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs – Bro. Roger Meredith who called me immediately after he got word of our loss and offered his tractor for me to get the burial done.  I would also like to thank Bro. Larry Williams who offered advice and helped to finish up the burial when I got way beyond my own knowledge and ability to operate heavy machinery. And thank you to the many who have been, and continue to, pray for Selah and the rest of us.

My mom calle this evening as we finished supper – she is as emotionally torn up as any of us. But in her words, she included something that was painful yet comforting at the same time – that maybe Mr. Buddy had accomplished his purpose in Selah’s life – and his job was done, and just maybe when we all have had the time to grieve, that the opportunity may come for Selah to get another horse – maybe a younger horse that she can invest more in.

 

 

Mr. Buddy – a Miracle in our daughter’s life! We will be forever grateful for the huge part of our life you played, even for such a short time, and especially the real difference in the life of one little girl…

 

 

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A Burger King god

This post was originally posted by the author on his Old Blog and represents one of his favorite (and oldest) posts.

There is a “new” and destructive trend blowing through Christianity.  But in reality, this trend is nothing new.  The Apostle Paul wrote stern warnings, and Jesus Himself warned of this trend.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.(Galatians 1:8-9)

From the earliest days of Christianity – even when Jesus still walked the earth – there were already twisted “alternative” views of the gospel developing, even in the hearts of Christ’s own inner circle.  This trend really began to take off once the Gospel began to spread soon after the day of Pentecost.

I have said from the pulpit that the root of all of this is Satan and his use of the natural human nature towards pride and selfishness.  After all, Satan is described as being like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Which brings us to a quote I heard (and read) several years ago:

  Satan couldn’t beat the church, so he joined it.

The first time I heard that, I was speechless.  And then I began to open my eyes.  If God’s Word is unchanging.  If God HIMSELF is unchanging, then there can be only one correct understanding of scripture – thus only one true Gospel.

So how do we get to where we are today?  Simply by people, under the leadership of Satan (and I believe oftentimes these people are not even aware of it – they have also been deceived, to a point), have “joined” churches, have worked/manipulated themselves into positions to teach and eventually preach another gospel – all with the intent of helping themselves (fleshly/selfish desires), and Satan in “devouring” those they can deceive.

Somehow today, we have, just in the mainstream “versions” of Christianity (denominations).  This chart is in no particular order, except the first column being the biblical statement:

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All claim to be “right” in regards to who Jesus is – who God is – and what the gospel is.  But can these be all correct?
Let us return to Paul’s warning in Galatians – if ANYONE – angel or human- preaches to you a gospel different from the one Paul and his ministry companions did – let them be “accursed” – run from them, do not tolerate them.
Jesus dictated a series of 7 letters in Revelation 2 & 3.  Five were subjected to serious condemnation and warnings – and the primary reason – false teachers.  Those who were teaching and preaching another gospel.  Whether it be “Judaizers” or “Jezebels”, they were leading people down the path of destruction – and those churches were to deal strongly with them – and not tolerate it one bit.
And this all comes from the selfish “belly” of people and Satan.
So where does the title of this post, “Burger King god” come from?  In each case – when the image or character of God is changed to the preferences of mankind, that is no longer God.  He becomes nothing more than a Whopper ordered “your way” at Burger King.
Just this morning, I saw a reply to a post regarding the young girl, Jahi McMath, who has been declared brain dead after an apparent serious reaction to anesthesia having a tonsillectomy.  This post reminded me of just how much of a “custom-made-to-order” god that is being preached in churches.
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Where in scripture are we, as believers, given the authority to command God perform a miracle and raise someone from the dead (or to demand He do anything else?).  Nowhere.  Pray- yes.  Plead with God on behalf of others (intercessory prayer)?  Yes.  But the only god that is subject to human commands is a Burger King god – done YOUR way.

And we wonder why there are so many disillusioned professed “Christians” floating around in this world.  It’s because they were sold a bill of goods by those “enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ” who told them that they could just “ask Jesus into their hearts” and he would make life easy, bless them financially, and they would be “heaven-bound” no matter what happened.

  • No repentance (a change of mind and heart regarding sin – an intentional TURNING FROM sin).
  • No God-transplanted heart of righteousness
  • No sincere sustaining faith
  • No real conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Just have an experience and/or see “signs and wonders”
  • And god becomes your servant…
  • It is time for churches who have allowed false teachers to hijack them to repent!  It is time for Christians to repent!  It is time to get back to God’s Holy Word. It is time to stand up and call sin what it is – sin.  No situational ethics.  No ever-changing and “living” God’s Word that conforms to the times.
  • It is time to stand against those who proclaim a prosperity gospel.
  • It is time to stand against those who preach a gospel of liberation theology.
  • It is time to stand against those who would create their own Burger King god.

It is time to get back to the Word of God.  The same Word of God that says clearly that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  The same Word of God that clearly states that the wages of sin – is death.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you have decided you were “made that way” – sin, is sin.

It is time to get back to who God (in Jesus) really is – the perfect Lamb of God who came, not “to be a good teacher”, not even to heal and preach (though in His grace, He did).  Jesus came with one and only one purpose – to die in our place, pouring out His precious blood on the cross, that sinners might be saved from the wrath of God.  Yes – the very wrath that so many want to ignore or forget about.  Jesus died that we might live – eternally.  But that will never happen with a Burger King god.

Jesus didn’t die (and rise from the dead) so you can command Him to raise your loved one or friend from death.  Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead so that you could have a fat bank account, a fine home, and all the luxuries this world has to offer.  Jesus died that sinners might stand before a Holy and Righteous God and be viewed in the righteousness of Christ, not our own unrighteousness.

And for those who are truly saved, born-again, in Christ Jesus, are made new creatures.  Put off the old self, for in Christ we are made new.  Read Colossians 3.

God is not who you, in the flesh, want Him to be.  God is God.

Who Is Jesus? (Deity of Christ) Part 5: Who Can Forgive but God?

Luke 5:20-21 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus clearly made many claims of His own Deity – see the previous installments of this series of posts. But we finally see an acknowledgement from even His opponents in the above passage. The Scribes and the Pharisees themselves knew that ONLY God had the authority of forgive sin. Yet here was Jesus, the lowly Carpenter from Galilee, son of Mary and Joseph – a man who was forgiving sins.

Under what authority did anyone have to forgive sins?  None – because sin, ultimately, is an offense to God almighty – the Sovereign of the Universe who is “Holy Holy Holy”. and here Jesus either is usurping the title and works of God (an act of blasphemy), or He was simply doing the very work of His Father which he repeatedly said He was doing (See John 6, for example).

And indeed, Christ’s one and only mission in His incarnation as God in the flesh – and that was to march head-long to the cross – to offer Himself as the only, perfect, and complete sacrifice for the payment in full of the sin debt of all who would believe.

At the most fundamental level – and the most important theological reality of all: God Himself paid the price for the very sins that separate mankind from Him.  A price that we could never pay ourselves. The price that the blood of millions of goats, rams, bulls, pigeons, doves, and so much more could never reconcile. It required the perfect, sinless blood of the Spotless Lamb of God – and He paid it all that we might live. No angel, no created being could ever be enough to settle the debt, but God Himself.

Part 4: Who Alone Is to be Worshipped?

Matthew 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

While being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan’s calling for Jesus to worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus said that only the Lord and God is to be worshipped and served. This is an obvious reference back to the commandments given to the Hebrew people in the wilderness so long before, and the command to have no other God before Him.
Yet in John 9:35-38, we read of a man born blind, but given sight by Jesus. The man has been cast out by the Jews for his testimony of what happened – and when Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Time an again throughout Scripture, when someone bowed down and began to worship any other than God, they were quickly chastised for their mistake. Yet Jesus has no chastisement for this healed man. The man was simply allowed to worship Jesus.
Hebrews 1:6  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
The writer of Hebrews laid out a picture of Jesus as one to be worshipped, and to boot – to be worshipped by all of God’s angels! In fact, if we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 1, we see it is all about laying out Christ’s superiority, and then the writer clearly differentiates Jesus from any created being, even angels.
Then we have Paul writing to the church at Corinth, and he identifies Jesus Christ as “their Lord and ours”:

1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

The term translated as “Lord” here is κύριος, literally meaning supreme, controller, master, or God.
And let us compare that to: 1 Kings 18:24 and Elijah’s challenge: And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD ,(יְהֹוָה – Jehovah) and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 
 
Zechariah 13:9  And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name,and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
God’s resend always refer to God as “Lord” – they are terms of worship and adoration of God. So when we see Jesus referred to as Lord, and more directly  – “my God” as Thomas stated, we can understand that Jesus is the only God worthy of worship.
And this brings us to yet another reality – because who else an forgive sins? Stay tuned for the next Episode (Episode 5: Who Can Forgive Sin?)