Doctrine (like Theology) Matters!

This isn’t the first post that has touched on this subject, and in this case – I plan to be as brief as possible. The primary thing that identifies a particular church (and thus denomination, association, or convention of churches) is doctrine. There are even the cases of “non-denominational churches” that fall into either being non-aligned, but holding fairly clear doctrinal positions (often baptist in nature), or that have absolutely no doctrinal foundation – and thus have no spine or biblical credibility. We Baptists have historically been somewhat confessional (much to the chagrin of many modern baptists), in that we have long held some very firm core doctrines that actually define the term “Baptist”. Among these are:

  • The BIBLE– The Inerrant, wholly-inspired, Word of God, given through men across thousands of years as the perfect and complete revelation of God to mankind. It is sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. The Word of God (the Bible) is the sole authority on faith and practice.
  • GOD – There is One True God, who exists in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection, in three distinct persons: The Father, The Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit – all of one substance, power and eternity, undivided. Jesus Christ, the Word, has always existed with the Father and the Spirit, was born of a virgin (took on flesh), lived without sin, with the single purpose to die in full payment for sin that wasn’t His own.
  • MAN– Mankind is made by God in His image, created for relationship with God, to bring Glory to God and to Enjoy Him forever. BUT – mankind is, because of Adam’s fall, sinful by nature and has no ability to restore himself to right relationship with God.
  • SIN – That which violates God’s Law, that in any way attempts to rob God of His glory, whether sins of commission (actions), or omission (things left undone). For All have sinned and come short…
  • Way of Salvation – God has made provision for the restoration of fallen, sinful man through the perfect sacrifice of Himself in Jesus Christ, who took on the penalty of sin that we deserve, and in His death, paid the eternal price for that sin. Salvation is by grace, through faith – not of works. (Ephesians 2:8&9)
  • BAPTISM & LORD’S SUPPER – the two ORDINANCES given to the church as signs and as an encouragement to believers as well as a testimony of the gospel in participants. Baptism is the immersion of the repentant convert in water, conducted in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a public sign and profession of the individual’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, sometimes referred to as Communion, is the memorial meal of the Cup representing the blood Jesus shed for our sins, and the bread – of His flesh broken on our behalf. Jesus commanded His followers “do this in remembrance” of Him. Both ordinances are to be practiced by born-again believers. The Supper to be practiced by believers who are members in good standing of a local New Testament church.
  • The CHURCH– is the Body of Christ, expressed explicitly as the Local Body of Believers, yet in a sense understood as the larger union of all true, New Testament believers who are part of the local church.
  • PASTORS/ELDERS & DEACONS– There are two distinct “offices” recognized historically by Baptists: Elders (also known as pastors and by various other terms) who are called out and set apart by God and via ordination of the local church, to be undershepherds of Christ’s flock. The New Testament lists some very specific qualifications for a man who desires the office – (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Among the most obvious are that these are to be MEN (the Greek is unambiguous), of high moral character, and gifted in teaching. Likewise, Deacons – who are not rulers, but men of character and spiritual maturity, who are to carry the primary burden for material/physical care of the local church’s members, with a particular emphasis on widows, orphans, etc.)
  • AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH– While Baptists have historically often worked together in various associations and later “conventions”, Baptists have a very biblical perspective of the autonomy of the local church – meaning that each church stands units own, and is beholden only to the Lord Jesus Christ and is not to be subjected to the whims of the secular world, nor to the rule of other churches of entities (essentially the opposite of the episcopal/top-down church government of Catholicism, Methodism, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and others).

Beyond these, Baptists have followed a variety of local church polity from firm elder-leadership, to democratic congregationalism. In ecclesiology, there is a wide range of practices among historic baptists (though congregational government seems to be the most common). Churches are free to associate and cooperate with other churches for the sake of fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission, and for mutual aid and encouragement. It is out of this voluntary association that larger formal Associations (like the BMAA) and the Conventions have come into existence.

I say all this to set the stage for this concern:

Doctrine Matters! It is doctrine that binds a local church together. That “unity of faith” Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4:13 that believers ought to be seeking together. This all begins with the gospel itself – that Christ died to reconcile lost sinful man to our Holy and righteous God, by HIS sovereign will and purpose. The fundamental beliefs of any church body or denomination serve as the defining of their faith, and SHOULD be the basis of cooperation and fellowship. This is why Baptists generally reject any cooperation with Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses – as they hold very different views of God, Salvation, and even in WHO Jesus Christ is. This is why it is extremely rare to find areas of cooperation between Baptists and Roman Catholics – because their view of salvation and other doctrines are so radically different (and why when there is such cooperation, it is on a single-issue like the right to life).

Even in Baptist history, there have been significant doctrinal dividing points. Early Baptists were divided primarily along Soteriology with the predominant view of Particular Baptists (some might refer to them as Calvinistic Baptists), and General Baptist. While many don’t understand the difference, the underlying division is over salvation – with Particular Baptists firmly holding that salvation is 100% of the LORD *(monergistic- Ephesians 2:8-9), while General Baptists (including those known as “Free Will” Baptists) hold that the individual must gain and hold on to salvation (synergism). It is rare to find these two primary groups associating and cooperating due to this significant difference in soteriology.

In the association of churches I am a part of, the Baptist Missionary Association of America (and the state version), a church is expected to completely affirm our formal statement of faith to be in fellowship and cooperation with us. We believe that an association of churches (voluntary) ought to hold to a common core of values, just as the local church should. A set of theological and doctrinal distinctive that eliminate any misunderstandings on these matters. Beyond these fundamental (primary) beliefs, we allow much more flexibility – whether it be in who the local church invites to the Lord’s Supper table (close vs closed communion), worship style, ministry models, church polity, and even eschatology (theology of end times). But the doctrines that matter, are what bind us together.

I have recently discovered that the Southern Baptist Convention, while having a history of affirming a set of common beliefs, no longer have such affirmation as a criteria for cooperation and fellowship. Maybe this has been a factor for a significant time (I have been trying to research when that came about), but this reality should be a concern. If an Assembly of God congregation decided to cooperate with the SBC, would that be accepted? Based on the current language – the AoG congregation might be found to be in “substantive agreement” with the BF&M. What would stop them?

There are congregations in the SBC who functionally reject parts of the BF&M, including the core belief of sexual immorality, the limiting of the office of Pastor to men, and apparently even the practicing of the “Miraculous Gifts”. Add in that there are some congregations that have pastors preaching blatant heresies that not only directly contradict the BF&M, but shred Scripture – is it any wonder that Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and a myriad of other anti-gospel ideologies have become firmly rooted in many churches? These all find their support in a low view of Scripture -and the question “has God really said?” just as the Serpent used so long ago in the context of the fall.

I would propose that the current “liberal drift” of the SBC (and in other denominations and local churches) is the product of several factors – one originating in another. It is the product of a low view of the Bible, God’s Holy Word – a functional rejection of it’s inerrancy, reliability, and sufficiency, which makes mankind the arbiter and judge of what is and what isn’t/what God did and didn’t mean. But even this is in many ways the product of a woeful failure to make disciples. Making disciples means, as Jesus clearly stated – TEACHING THEM all that I have commanded. It means passing on the doctrines and theology that Jesus (and in a larger sense that all the Bible teaches) – that the man (person) of God is fully equipped. Instead – churches (including baptists) have become the gathering of “feelings” and what is easy, expedient, world-pleasing, and yes – pragmatic. And in a world that hates God, hates Jesus, and hates those who follow and love Jesus (just as HE warned us would happen), pragmatically seeking the world’s approval is doctrinal suicide, and has led to churches that far more reflect the world than the Glorious and Holy God they are supposedly worshipping and proclaiming.

Doctrine Matters!

A Denomination Built to Fail: The SBC

Let me preface this with the fact that I pray daily for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. We share a common spiritual ancestry and at least by statement, believe the same Bible and hold the same core values. And as I sit here in my “2nd Office”, having prayed about this post for several days, hoping that the LORD would change my mind – I have received confirmation after confirmation that this post is necessary. Yes, the Southern Baptist Convention has done many great things for the Kingdom of God – including planting churches around the world, supporting seminaries that have through the many years, trained many Christians for greater work for the cause of Christ. BUT: things are not all well with this organization.

This week, as the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Anaheim, California for their annual conference, they face a massive problem that goes well beyond the very publicly-aired grievances. On the surface, you don’t have to be an SBC insider to be well aware of the hashtag #changethedirection. The Conservative Baptist Network (CBN), Founders Ministry (led by Tom Ascol), and even G3 Ministries have been among those most vocal in calling for mayor direction shift by the world’s largest Baptist denomination, a cooperative convention with stated goals not unlike those of my own BMAA.

So why #changethedirection?

Some of us are old enough to remember (or have studied) the “liberal drift” of the SBC that came to a head in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. A significant number of cooperative churches had begun to adopt theologically and doctrinally liberal positions that ran contrary to historic Baptist positions (and more importantly, BIBLICAL positions). The fundamental issue was not the “liberal drift”, but the low view of Scripture that was at the core of this shift. A handful of well-known figures (and a myriad of lesser-known men) began in 1979 to fight in earnest for the “soul of the SBC”. Over the course of several years, Dr. Albert Mohler secure election as President of the convention, which opened the door to change in leadership of the various agencies and seminaries, bringing what is now known as “The Conservative Resurgence”. Among the better sources on this subject was penned by Judge Paul Pressler entitled A Hill On Which To Die (A worthwhile read for anyone interested in that tumultuous time in Southern Baptist history). The end result of that “coup” as some called it, was the spin-off (split) of the “Cooperative Baptist Fellowship”, a parallel body of mostly former Southern Baptist congregations that hold a wide, though significantly liberal in doctrine, beliefs including the ordination of women, affirmation of the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, and what most Bible-believers would call a very low view of God and the Bible.

To those of us outside the Convention, we have watched as churches of the convention have continued to spin off into liberalism. Somewhat controversial ministries like Pulpit & Pen/Protestia, Reformation Charlotte, and others have been sounding the alarm for well over a decade. Often maligned and accused of being divisive (despite the Scriptures always labeling those in doctrinal and theological error to be responsible for division), these men and ministries have been battling – many leading their own congregations out of the SBC on the basic principals at hand. Over the last several years, as SBC superstars, often in megachurches, have been ramping up the assault on God’s Word, again bringing the inerrancy, authority, reliability, and sufficiency of Scripture into question. From well-documented redefining of sin to simply “brokenness“, the ramping up of easy-believism and “come as you are, but we don’t expect change”, With so-called pastors refusing to speak of teh very real consequences of sin, in favor of soft tone and coddling sinners – it was only a matter of time before this produced the spiritually weak and immature churches, building what my friend Allen Nelson (@quatronelson) has complained are “unregenerate church members”. Mega churches in the convention are now not only ordaining women to pastoral positions (Saddleback Church/Rick Warren), but proudly boasting of having LGBTQ+ volunteers and staff people (Church on the Glades, Corral Gables, Fl). The SBC’s own ministry, the ERLC (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), which has expended millions of cooperative giving dollars in promoting mosques, condemning churches that didn’t shut their doors under COVID, and now actively opposing state legislation to stop abortion (unquestionably the greatest injustice in the US for almost 50 years). In fact, the current leadership (following the train wreck that is Dr. Russell Moore, a politically and biblically-liberal man who has left the convention to a far more suitable and liberal group) has announced their “pro-life” conference – where they refuse to even call abortion evil – instead using a slogan of “Make Abortion Unnecessary”. When asked when abortion is “necessary” today, leadership (according to those in Anaheim this week, refused to answer).

ERLC’s slogan for their “Stand For Life” conference

What we see unfolding is a war within the Southern Baptist Convention. A war where the battles and skirmishes are over sin, liberalism, Critical Race Theory (a distinctively Marxist and brazenly racist ideology), Intersectionality, radical feminism, and much more, that at its core – isn’t ABOUT these, which are simply symptoms, but are all rooted in the exact same cancer that divided the denomination 40 plus years ago: The Word of God. IS the Word of God reliable? Is the Word of God inerrant? Is the Bible sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16)? It is on this set of questions that essentially all of the “issues” being battled under the banner of #chagnethedirection rest. Indeed, to fight against the clear teaching of the Word of God is to be “ashamed of the gospel” itself (Romans 1:16). Instead, as churches and now the Convention dive off into the poison pill of pragmatism, seeking to please the world instead of their Creator – it begs the question: Now what? Will the effort to elect a distinctly conservative man to the President of the SBC fix the problem? No. The process to even remotely impact the actual direction of the Convention, made up of some 47,000 local churches, with several seminaries that are rapidly flying off the rails, with those holding to liberal ideologies now in the majority in most committees that have any say, is a decade or more of uninterrupted conservative leadership.

To my third-person perspective, it looks like a lot of folks are holding out hope that a man (Tom Ascol) somehow can be the “messiah” of the Convention. Alas – even if he were to be elected today in Anaheim – it doesn’t solve the problem that nobody seems to want to address: Corporatism and an ecclesiology built to fail.

Ecclesiology?

Ecclesiology is by definition, the “study of the church” and is an area of Christian theology that often gets less attention than is appropriate. Within ecclesiology is the study and application of church structure, governance, and polity. Baptists have historically held to a bottom-up framework that emphasizes the equal vote and value of the individual regenerate church member, in a mostly congregationalist local church polity (with some degree of elder-leadership), autonomy of the local church (the local church is not beholden to any other entity or in subjection to outside denominational authority), with each local voluntarily associating with and even cooperating with other local churches in fulfillment of the Great Commission. This is in stark contrast to the episcopal/hierarchical model – where the local church is subject to a ruling denominational authority (Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and even some Pentecostal denominations. Within the Baptist realm, there are some variations in the view of local church “autonomy” – form the stereotypical “Independent, Fundamentalist Baptist”, to the more organize Baptist denominations. But in all – Baptists proudly (and I believe accurately) hold that “the church” is manifested in this world as the LOCAL church.

The problem with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Polity:

The Southern Baptist Convention has grown into a massive corporation, with hundnreds of millions of dollars given every year jsut to the national denomination (and Billions when totaled with state and local conventions and associations). The Convention has several ministries that function as semi-independent entities (such as the North American Missions Board, the International Missions Board, Lifeway, the ERLC, etc.). These all receive their primary funding via the denominational umbrella. I won’t delve into the details of how the money filters up mostly from state conventions, but suffice it to say that churches have very little say in where the funds they contribute are spent. And therein lies the rub: The size of the Convention becomes the excuse for a lack of transparency and accountability. Over the years, many have come into leadership positions that had no business in even leading a local church, much less a multi-million ministry organization in charge of missionaries and missionary policy.

Some within the more conservative circles of the Convention have been trying for years to even find out the compensation package for certain officers. Likewise is the effort to simply get a detailed accounting of how cooperative funds have been spent. The structure itself makes such information functionally a “protected secret”. Outside of general budgets and offering totals, the average church member of a Convention church has no way of being fully-informed. By the time a problem is obvious, the hole is already dug (or in the current situation – the derailment already well-progressed). Even seminaries are under this (though at least for accreditation purposes – they have to have more transparent financials). But when seminaries have professors (and even presidents) who are teaching or tolerating serious errors, doctrinal contradictions, and even blatant work contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (the official statement of all churches in the Convention) – change is nearly impossible because of so little accountability.

The Convention has become and albatross – one that is easily steered by political correctness, but rudderless in trying to “right the course”. And his all goes back to the title of this post: A Denomination Built To Fail. When we explore the New Testament and the model of the Church(s) – we see independent bodies, connected not by some hierarchal system, but bound by the teachings of the apostles, once handed down (Jude 1:3), revolving around the one gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul was so passionate about (Romans 1:16, Galatians 1:8). Churches were organized then left to further the ministry. Yes, Paul and others checked in and offered suggestions and even commands to those early and immature bodies. But we see that contributions were sent for specific purposes to specific churches in need – not via some denominational organization or authority – but simply out of love and concern for the brethren in need. Indeed – we often see reference made to “churches” within a geographic area who often worked together for ministry. But the local church remained the foundation.

What we have seen historically is that the farther away from the local church structures get – the more susceptible they are to corruption and trouble. The latest scandal in the SBC revolving around sexual abuse and the accompanying cover-ups, which should have been handled at the local church level (because biblically, the “denomination” has no authority over the local church), became a denominational issue – precisely BECAUSE of the SBS’s corporate structure. When Executive Committee members actively helped to cover up abuse reported to them – they opened the entire denomination to not just scrutiny, but to a degree of liability. The proposed “solution”? Even more top-down structure and policies.

I had to step away from writing this for several ministry duties and opportunities – but now that I’m back at the keyboard, I do it with an even heavier heart – for literally everything that has been considered “worst case” has come to pass. Just what I’ve seen reported is too much to post here on this already long entry – but here are some of the more alarming and in many cases, Scripturally contradictory actions:

  • Tom Ascol soundly defeated in a runoff between himself and Bart Barber. Bart has tried to play “moderate”, while defending Dr. Moore and the ERLC when they chose to attack churches for keeping their doors open, while also defending mosques. And lest we forget, we now have absolutely proof that Dr. Moore was an active participant in covering up sexual abuse in the convention – holding information as a secret weapon instead of helping to deal with it. Alas – Barber chose politics over biblically-correct and moral action.
  • The Pastor’s Conference elected the truly #woke candidate, Daniel Dickard, as President of the conference, over Voddie Baucham (one of the most gifted and biblically-sound preachers in all of the Southern Baptist Convention – who also happens to be a Black man and anti-woke). This was a pretty significant preview of what was to come with the Ascol/Barber vote.
  • As a result of the above, and a ruling by the Credentials Committee on the issue – the Southern Baptist Convention now endorses and approves of women being ordained to offices biblically restricted to men (including pastoral ministry). This under the decision stating they recognize that some churches practice ordination based upon the person’s “gifting”. (I’m still trying to figure out how you deal with “husband of one wife” – aka a “one woman man”).
  • A resolution submitted to recognize and proclaim the sacredness of the pulpit – and thus the need to protect it in the local church was rejected by the resolutions committee with no hope of it being voted to the floor by the full body.
  • Passively endorsed blatant plagiarism from the pulpit (in part by rejecting the above resolution), but also by platforming some of the worst and most brazen practitioners of plagiarism.
  • The ERLC announced their theme for the next “Stand For Life” – functionally asserting that abortion is currently a “necessity”… (see above).
  • The body voted to remove full acceptance of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as a necessity to become a cooperating church (in other words – a church can reject even key components as long as they acknowledge most of it and still be “Southern Baptist”).
  • Voted to implement Recommendation Two which establishes a “Ministry Check” database, publicly accessible, to functionally “register” pastors and leaders in Southern Baptist Churches at churches where there is ANY sort of abuse allegations (they did use the phrase “preponderance of evidence”, but didn’t define that), even if the pastor or other leaders were unaware of abuse – and were not part of the allegations. A functional blacklist or “sex offender registry” that doesn’t even require a conviction (or even actual legal charges) to find your name on it. We have already seen men’s names drug through the mud who were not involved in abuse (Mike Stone being one). This doubles-down and will undoubtably be used as another political weapon.
  • Faithful and honest people have been verbally assaulted and falsely accused of “stuffing the ballot box”.

The long-and-short of the matter: those who began sounding the alarm more than a decade ago were labeled as dividers, hateful, spiteful, and MUCH worse. Yet again, the Scriptures clearly and consistently equates those who try to inject error, heresies, and wickedness as the “ones who bring division. As the Southern Baptist Convention consummates their marriage to the accursed false gospels and doctrines of “wokness”, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and inevitably incorporating full acceptance of the LGBTQ+ movement (as already openly and proudly practiced at the aforementioned Church on the Glades). But lest we forget – the unaccountable and utterly lacking in transparency missions sending entities of the SBC have been pushing women in leadership roles (including functional pastorship) for a while now.

And sadly, we have a biblical precedent for what we are seeing (as well an historic and recent example): When God’s timing came to bring dramatic judgment to His own people, and after dramatic and warnings by many men of God, Israel was utterly crushed and carried away. Prophets continued to warn Judah to repent and return to God and HIS Word, rejecting their idols – but they refused to heed the Word of the LORD and suffered even more horrific judgment by Babylon. Similarly, the United Methodists went through a nearly-identical (though somewhat more protracted) drift over what is essentially the same issue (God’s Word and it’s reliability, inerrancy, and sufficiency – aka “Hath God really said?”. They too had opportunities to #changethedirection, they too labeled the Conservatives among them as divisive and evil. They too progressively shut down Conservative voices. And now, the UMC is in the process of a dramatic division. I see no path forward for a united Southern Baptist Convention. And sadly, like the UMC, it is the more Bible-aligned “Conservatives” who are getting run out.

An Alternative

But there is an alternative. There is biblical grounds for churches to associate together and to cooperate for the Great Commission Work. But along with that association is a need for both accountability (to the LOCAL CHURCHES) and in that – transparency. The BMA of America is such an association. No “Executive Committee” driving a massive corporate structure (thus no ruling elites entangling the entire denomination in sexual cover-ups and other legal wrangling that consume offerings from churches intended for the support of missionaries and church planting). The BMAA operates with a dramatic and intentional bottom-up structure, where the LOCAL CHURCH is the driving force, the fundamental platform, with the associated (aka – cooperative” work being subject to and in support of the local church’s work in spreading the gospel and planting churches). Churches give directly to each and every ministry, which themselves exist as autonomous entities that don’t even inter-mingle funds. Because of this structure, transparency and accountability are paramount. Every associated church gets reports that include itemized giving and audited expenses, and something as simple as every director’s compensation is clearly listed (and approved) every year! The same-said directors are also re-elected by the body every year – thus they are directly accountable to the churches of the BMA (and the same structure is used at the state level as well). Every church decides which ministries they give to (not some body that makes the decision for you). Missionaries are directly supported.

And the only thing possibly more important the above – is that to be welcomed in to fellowship with the BMA simply requires that you petition in, and completely affirm our statement of faith (and the larger comprehensive confession – the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which use to be the confession of the SBC as well). We believe in protecting the pulpit, we believe in the inerrancy, reliability, and sufficiency of the Bible. And of interest to some: Messengers to our association meetings is a set number (3) per church, regardless of how inflated your church membership roll is! Every church has an equal voice.

Is the BMA “perfect” – absolutely not any more than the local church (or individual believers). But we believe we have a much more biblical grasp of ecclesiology. We take autonomy of the local church very seriously, only eclipsed by our passion for the Word of God.

Oh – and our seminary (Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, Jacksonville, TX) – happens to be one of the most cost-effective, fully-accredited, and biblically-conservative seminaries in the country, proudly teaching expository preaching and a very high view of God’s Word.

We have a small, but extra-ordinarily biblically-sound publishing house (Baptist Publishing House) producing unabashedly “Baptist” literature, with the primary literature being titled Baptist Expositor, a curriculum for Sunday school or small group study.

Our broadcast and media ministry is called Lifeword, which produces gospel broadcasts in a massive list of languages, podcasts and ministry videos, as well as conferences, retreats, and events to bolster faith and to help equip believers.

The BMA has other ministries under the umbrella – yet every one is autonomous and independently funded by the churches and individuals of the BMA.

This post was not intended as a sales pitch (though I’m sure the last chunk sure seems like it!), but simply to address some of the symptoms that are sooner than later bringing spiritual death to the Southern Baptist Convention, while presenting an alternative for those churches who can no longer bear to associate (or even to be unequally yoked) with the works of darkness that have become the norm of the Convention (Ephesians 5:11). Please know that my prayers are with our brethren in the SBC. Whether or not you take a look at the BMA, I do pray that you come out of what has become a type of Babylon!

Endless Discontent and LGBTQetc+++

At first iI was TOLERANCE– out of “Christian love of your LGBTQ+ neighbor” and “for the sake of the gospel”… Just “tolerate”… Coexist. Let it go…

But that wasn’t good enough, so then it became…

ACCEPT– you and your church must be accepting of these identities and lifestyle choices. Just accept them for who hey believe they are- accept their feelings as fact, because it is “who God made them” (so don’t you dare preach about THAT set of sins or even call it sin!)…  Or, as made famous by the likes of former SBC President JD Greear & current SBC President and plagiarizer – Ed Litton- “God (only) whispers about sexual sin”…

Oh, but that too just wasn’t enough.  

And now you must AFFIRM!  Not only must you tolerate (not enough), and accept (which still means you might secretly hold on to “outdated Biblical values” and really think they are in need of some kind of change… 

No!  You must offer heartfelt AFFIRMATION– praising their life choices.  Praising what the BIBLE clearly calls sin (oops – not suppose to call it that – just ask Beth Moore who in the last few years removed homosexuality from her materials when identified as sin that needs to be repented of).

And now, as Southern Baptist megachurches begin turning over and giving in to the culture, thus giving up on God’s Word (literally denying it), the downgrade of the largest “protestant” denomination in the US readies to go down in flames. Local congregations like Church on the Glades in Coral Springs, FL have pastors who make promotional videos lauding that they have LGBTQ+ members (active, practicing), even on staff… The proudly state that they are affirming of all…

page screenshot

Or the message I received this morning from an old high school associate that sometimes sounds things off for a pastoral perspective, who sent me a link to a page/message form the web site of 2nd Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Included in this churches radical Social Justice agenda (their motto apparently is “Where Faith and Justice Meet”) is an entire series that begins with “inclusion”, but is bolstered by a message from their pastor titled “Why We’re Affirming”. That’s right – not only do they “tolerate” or “accept” this – they formally and officially affirm the LGBTQ+ – they promote it, the hail it, they join in celebrating it as some kind of beautiful thing. Typical for the #woke church movement, where dollars and noses are more important that regenerated souls and disciples made. Where calming identity in Christ, yet celebrating the very sin that necessitates the death of Jesus…

Scripture doesn’t whisper about any sin, but sexual sin – from the acts of homosexuality, to adultery, rape/sexual assault, fornication (improper, out of order, out-of-wedlock, and also same-sex sexual activity), effeminate behavior, men dressing as women/women dressing as men, and even lust – are all addressed firmly as sin. Alas – the modern American, pragmatic version of the gospel is powerless to change lives and hearts. The gospel sold by these groups is one that could please only the Devil himself. And all is put on a pedestal of “God loves me just the way I am”, giving cover to never seek change, nor to repent.

Sadly, we see God’s Word (the very text that the above seem to think are not really Scripture) coming alive before our eyes – Romans 1 in dark, vivid scene – given over to a reprobate, exchanging the truth for a lie…

What the shall we do? If you are a truly regenerated believer in Christ Jesus – Study God’s Word and pray as if your life and the future of your family depends on it, that you may stand boldly for the truth, calling others to repent of their wickedness. To call other professed believers to seek the truth and turn from the false gospels and doctrines of devils that are being foisted from stages and pulpits – poison being cast to goats. And call preachers to repentance when they are spewing attacks on the character of God and HIs Word.

Flee from any so-called church that refuses to call sinners (regardless of their sin) to repentance. Run from any church that celebrates sin in any form.

And if you find yourself among those who’s identity is still functionally found in your chosen sin – or you blame God for your sinful lusts and actions – then you need to repent and believe the gospel!

The Product of Warnings Ignored

It is a rare breed that would deny that our nation (and the world) is in dramatic decline. Certainly there would be massive disagreement over what constitutes that decline, as well as the solution. But one thing rings true no matter what: Morally and Spiritually, America is likely at its lowest point in her almost 250 years of formal existence. Indeed, I will argue that while the relative moralism of chattel slavery of our first 100-ish years of existence were horrifically wrong, the overall moral and spiritual condition of this nation is actually worse today, and this is directly attributable, not to “Leftist and Liberals who hate God and hate what America stands for” (though this is a real condition), but to those who claim Jesus Christ, yet have willfully shut their mouths or refused to engage the culture for decades, or have lived in a state of denial in spite of the “remnant” who have sounded the alarm and been shunned and demonized as divisive or even evil.

Indeed, I lay this at the feet of the current state of The Church. Now – let me deal with some definitions so that we have no misunderstandings. When I use the term The Church, I am using it in the very limited context of Paul’s writing to the Ephesian congregation (Ephesians 5:25), or in the form that Jesus Himself used the term in Matthew 16:18. The singular term is the minority use of ἐκκλησία (called out assembly). In this world, The Church is actually manifested, not in some invisible, hypothetical giant umbrella, but as the physical, local, New Testament Church. I reject the generic “universal church” of all professed believers – as all believers are commanded to be joined with and assemble together, not in some mass body (that is reserved for the final days), but with the LOCAL CHURCH (think of the salutations of the New Testament epistles – “to the church at ______” or “to the saints at______”.

But for the sake of this post, I am referring to the larger umbrella of churches that claim to be OF Jesus – or maybe better I could use the equally deceptive and generic “Christianity” (with a particular focus on more contemporary “Big Evangelicalism”, but that quickly devolves to an entirely other discussion).

But my point here is this – the root tool or mechanism that has lead to the incredible spiritual and moral decay in this nation is the very institutions that Christ instituted to be models and champions OF His Word and foundations. Just as Israel of the Old Testament was called out and set apart as a witness to the pagan world of God and His character, we who are genuinely regenerated believers today are to be a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9) – and this doesn’t mean simply to put on a front, but to live out and speak out the truth as the early Apostles did, and indeed as our perfect example – Jesus Christ – did.

Who would have thought just a few decades back that some of the biggest denominations in Christianity would not just endorse homosexuality, but certify same-sex “marriages” as valid? How many saw coming supposed Christian leaders fueling racial and ethnic division via promotion of certifiably-anti Christian and anti-Gospel products of the Frankfurt school’s blatant Marxism as the “solution” to society’s claimed woes? Jesus came to BE the solution to the woes of this nation and the world. That woe is spelled SIN. The woe that enabled and promoted chattel slavery for so long was the sinful and unchanged hearts of mankind. The fuel for radical skin-color based discrimination and hateful actions for many years following the formal end of said slavery (and even the remnant of that today) is not “anti-racism” or a “Social Justice Gospel” as perpetuated more and more by supposed churches. The answer to any and ALL is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which directly crushes Social Justice, it shreds such Marxist concepts as Critical Race Theory. It is the gospel that actually erases lines between ethnicities, skin color, nationality, socio-economic status, and every other division. Galtians clearly states this in no uncertain terms –

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.

Colossians 3:28

And while we are battling senselessly over these massive derailments, heresies, and those “going apostate”, we have also witnessed professed believers behaving as scared lemmings, literally bowing in homage and worshipful adoration of supposed government experts who have now perpetuated a grand power-grab using a human-engineered virus (aka – a bioweapon) to exercise a whole new wave of humanity-manipulating evil. And how has this been done, even to masses of professed “Christians”? Because so many fear death more than they fear Hell itself.

Why? How? Because “we” (Christians/The Church) have grown far from proclaiming the realities of Hell, even among our own congregations, much less in this lost world. Being labeled as “judgmental” is more concerning to our ears than the desire to hear “well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Churches that have decided to become massive corporate entities instead of refuges and barracks for training and equipping Christ’s local armies (churches). Instead, “churches” have trained up apologetically-weak, worldly “Christians”. Many bemoan the huge majority of supposed “Christians” among our young people who go off to college and functionally walk away from their faith. When Jesus said (Matthew 10:16) “behold, I send you as sheep among wolves”, He wasn’t tossing unequipped, helpless pawns as cannon fodder, but sending soldiers who were to take up the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Instead, “The Church” has become a bunch of country clubs that are more concerned with tickling ears and building up not a warrior class of believers serving and living life in unity, but in self-centered, fleshly soup of debauchery disguised with church-ish practices and vocabulary. Meanwhile abortion continues practically unabated (thank you Texas for taking meaningful steps to protect the unborn). Though the actions of a few black-robed dictators with an agenda (some of which claim to be Christians), every state in this nation must issue certificates and recognize same-sex “marriage” as legitimate. We have legislations and court decisions opening the door to chemical and surgical mutilation of children as young as 5 to “change their gender” (what happened to genetic “science” we are suppose to “pay attention to”?

I could continue to bloviate about the “woes” of modern Christianity, but it all circles back to the view of Scripture in the professed believers heart. Either the Bible is the wholly-inspired, inherent, and sufficient Word of God, or it is not. No human has the authority or wisdom to pick-and-choose, do deprecate some parts and elevate others. It is beyond time for those who truly know Christ to set aside their worldly worries, fear of death, and stand for God’s Word.

Sadly – there are those who have taken a stand throughout biblical history. The Old Testament prophets were often hated and reviled as troublemakers and even were put to death. Those who sounded the alarm have historically been among the most harshly persecuted. In our own day, many have been attacked, shunned, condemned as hateful and wicked men, mostly because of the tone of their “polemics”. Organizations like Pulpit & Pen, Reformation Charlotte, Protestia, and guys like Jordan Hall, Seth Dunn, Cody Libolt, and a bit later – SovereignNations (and it’s leader Michael O’Fallon) have been calling out Christian figures, pastors, and false teachers for years, and their reward (in this world) has been vilification and marking – yet the woes of today’s “Church” are nearly all fulfillments of the very things they have been sounding the alarm about for all this time. And only recently have other figures finally begun singing the same song and realizing the utter futility of worrying more about tone and feelings over the brutal truth.

What is truly needful? For all who profess Christ to follow the same root model that the aforementioned men and organizations follow (regardless of the “tone” used) – the very same methodology that the Lord affirmed through Luke’s record of the early church and Paul’s ministry: Be Bereans! (Acts 17:11). Question everything. Open up the Word of God and actually compare what you hear and see to what God has already clearly said. The Bible isn’t outdated. No problem or woe faced today lacks an answer in the Word of God – and literally, everything can still be measured and discerned when compared to what the Bible says. Sins may have been redefined. Some so-called “preachers” may have said we need to “unhitch from the Old Testament” (just one of a mountain of heretical false-teachings of this man who is more concerned with pleasing man over God), or to simply stop judging people (clue – it isn’t US judging, God has ALREADY judged everything we are proclaiming). Indeed – if a toddler were to jet across your parking lot and towards a busy road, would you be worried about offending the child with your “tone” as you attempt to keep him or her from running to their violent and bloody end in that road? I pray not! And until we fully see that EVERY soul we encounter regardless of their choices of sin, is running willfully, blissfully, and blindly towards an eternity of condemnation and utter suffering for their unrepentant and unregenerate hearts – we will sit idly by in our inward-focused, sugar-coated, and disobedient cruise ship churches and just watch people, like lemmings, gleefully follow these heretical anti-christ types right through the gates of Hell. I might rightly ask – how can anyone who truly knows Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for the payment of our sin debt and reconciliation – sit and watch?

Whenever 2 or More Are Gathered?

Imagine yourself traveling back in time – a little over 1900 years back, to take a look at the early Christians and what they were enduring. Scripture gives a few indicators that believers were gathering for more formal worship on what we know as Sunday (the first day of the week). But what the Bible itself only hints at, those early believers often were assembling in direct contradiction to the demands of the day set by the “ruling authorities”. We can read in the book of Acts the records of Peter and others being commanded to stop preaching Jesus and Him crucified (aka – the gospel) – with the understood implication that the gathering of like-minded folks (aka – the church) was also on the prohibition list – because what else draws believers together like the common bonds of our crucified and risen Savior?

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These early gatherings were not held in big, multi-million dollar temples of brick and stone (or steel and glass…), but in homes – sometimes the LORD blessed a local body with a wealthy believer who opened their estate up for the assembly (like Nympha of Laodicea mentioned in Colossians 4:15). But what we can gather from history plus Scripture – is that believers regularly met together for edification, teaching, and worship via hymns, songs, and spiritual songs, bearing one-anothers burdens, and frequently observing the LORD’s Supper in remembrance of Christ Jesus and HIS sacrifice on their behalf. We also know that this was often an al-day event, and generally included food. But of prime value to this post – we must recognize that often – these meetings were considered “unlawful”.

House church raided by police in China

Now let us return to our present time – but fly across the Pacific to China (or several other Asia/Pacific nations). We find ourselves there on a Sunday – and other than a scarce state-authorized “church” that teaches a Chinese Communist Party edited and approved religion that barely resembles biblical Christianity. But keep looking. In apartments, homes, and even in some of the few remote outdoor places – you may find churches – often comparatively small, meeting together – singing songs of praise, edifying one-another, often sharing a meal, and preaching Jesus and Him crucified – all in a jurisdiction that is actively engaged in the arrest, torture, and murder of those engaging in biblical Christianity – and those small house churches are growing – and despite heavily-enforced prohibitions – they continue to meet – taking quite literally the command that God recorded in Hebrews 10:25 “…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.” Their love of Jesus and their faithfulness to the call for believers to come together as the Body (and as a side-note, often an amazing zeal for sharing the gospel despite the unlawfulness of it) is a much higher priority than the laws of the earthy authorities.

But this brings us to today, right here in the USA & the rest of North America – And we have seen government entities, under the guise of a global “pandemic”, shutting down churches. On the surface, we might not see a problem – in the “interest of safety”. Yet even as other gathering places and businesses were allowed to reopen under the guise of “essential” (including casinos, big box retailers, liquor and tobacco vendors and bars, etc.), some jurisdictions continued to demand churches remain closed and/or strictly limited attendance to a small fraction of capacity.

Grace Life fenced off by Alberta Authorities

One high-profile example comes from Edmonton, Alberta Canada, the home of Grace Life Church, who’s pastor, James Coats, had led his church to continue in their corporate worship. The church refused to tell some (the majority) of the local church that they couldn’t attend – that only a couple dozen could worship together. As the situation escalated, provincial health authorities and police began showing up, then began threatening tickets, and finally demanded they cease or there would be arrests. Eventually, Pastor Coats was arrested and spent a month in jail, as a judge refused to allow bail – because this pastor would not promise to stop preaching and meeting with the church assembled. Since then, other churches in that province have also faced arrests and massive fines. And just this week, RCMP and Alberta Health Authorities took the unprecedented action of raiding the church to have a riot-style, double-fence installed to physical barricade the church from meetging on their own property. Even here in the US, churches like Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California faced similar threats from Los Angeles County authorities for holding in-person worship services. They still are accruing thousands of dollars a week in fines from the county.

And in defense of those who are trying to prevent churches from assembling – are those (some of which profess to be Christians) shouting “ROMANS 13!!!”. For those who may not know, this is a reference to Paul’s command to “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)

Unfortunately, those using these two verses as a club against churches fail to take the context of that passage (which follows in verse 3 & 4) the PURPOSE of government – which becomes moot when said government rejects its biblical mandate. Indeed, we have no biblical reference or example to validate believers shutting down corporate worship (the assembly together) based on any government or ruling authority mandate. Quite the contrary, we have example after example of believers meeting together in spite of mandates and laws, and yes – sometimes even to their own arrest and martyrdom.

But that brings us to the cryptic title of this article “2 or more are gathered…” I have been attacked for supporting Grace Life Church (and others who have been fighting the fight for the church and their right, regardless of mandates, to assemble as they see fit). Most recently, this has been in repeated misuse of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” The story goes something like this:

What we find here, is a complete misunderstanding (or intentional plucking out-of-context) of what Jesus was talking about. The immediate context (Matthew 18:15-20) is about dealing with sin in the church or when your brother sins against you. It isn’t a description of, or a prescription for worship. In this case, it is a reference to the Old Testament law regarding witnesses (again – remember – this was a passage about church discipline).

The ESV Study Bible notes the following for Matthew 18:16:

Evidence of two or three witnesses follows the guideline in Deut. 19:15 and refers to witnesses of the subsequent confrontation described in this verse, not necessarily eyewitnesses to the original offense.” And 18:20, “Jesus affirms that he will be divinely present among his disciples as they seek unity in rendering decisions, which is rightly understood also as an affirmation of omnipresence and therefore of deity. “

So, what we have here is a completely different subject matter than corporate worship/assembly. The verse is so frequently and wrongly used (being forced into a meaning other than its actual meaning is called eisegesis. NO, a gathering of two or three believers together isn’t a substitute for corporate worship. Believers are expected – and the biblical example in this IS prescriptive – to assemble together regularly for worship, prayer, fellowship, and the teaching/preaching of God’s Word. Period. It is not a sin to do this even when the “ruling authorities” tell you not to. Indeed, Scripture couldn’t be more clear that we are to chose this day WHO we will serve – God or man. If choosing to follow God’s commands is wrong – then Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were actually sinning for refusing to bow down before the Babylonian emperor and his golden statue, or for refusing the food offered them.

And even more troubling – that means that the first-century churches that gathered in spite of the ruling authorities and their commands to the contrary…

And our brethren around this globe today who worship despite laws against it – who face literally torture and death for their assembly…

Are actually committing sin against God.

Are you really willing to go there?

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

Stop and Think – Election 2020

NATION DIVIDED

I have a great deal weighing on my mind and heart tonight. It is Saturday evening, November 7, 2020 – a full 96 hours since the polls began closing on Election Day 2020. This was a presidential campaign that defied all logic and reason, in a nation that is divided like it hasn’t been since the US Civil War 155 years ago. Some have even suggested that the division is along the same lines – yet that is utterly incorrect, and I will explain momentarily.

2020 has been a year that will go down in history as a very dark year for most of the world, despite some incredibly positive events and achievements. Primarily, this year will be remembered for a virus that became a political issue above a health issue from the earliest outbreak. SARS-CoV-2, better known as COVID-19 (the name given to the illness caused by the virus), originating in Wuhan, China has been blamed for 234,264 deaths (as of this writing) in the US and 1,255,516 worldwide. It has been a year of some high-profile deaths and of course, a very dark presidential election that still has massive question marks over the results…

But this post isn’t to bemoan the media calling the election for Joe Biden/Kamala Harris. It isn’t to dissect and complain about how a virus has been used as a political tool. This post is to ask the reader to stop and thing, especially if you believe you are a “Christian”. Think on these things:

  • The majority of votes cast in this election were for the wholesale slaughter of the unborn. This wasn’t an issue of Roe v Wade being undone – that simply isn’t likely even with a supposedly “Conservative majority” on the US Supreme Court. Despite the loud complaints by those on the political Left, Roe is in no real danger of being overturned. What this REALLY was about: dramatic expansion of abortion from conception to natural birth, unlimited and paid for with the tax dollars you pay. Indeed – for the millions who voted for the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket – you voted for this. Own it.
  • Those who voted for the Democrat presidential ticket voted for promoting gender confusion and even a promise to change the law to allow gender reassignment “treatment for 8 year-olds. YEs, that is 8 years old!
  • Those who voted for the Biden/Harris ticket endorsed the systematic destruction of the oil and gas industry along with millions of jobs that are directly connected to this still extremely needed energy sector.
  • Those who voted with the majority in this election support the radical so-called “Green New Deal” that even the most favorable number crunchers say will cause irreparable damage to our economy.
  • Those who voted in the majority said loudly “no exceptions for your religious beliefs” when it comes to running your business – or maybe more troubling – even for churches (The First Amendment was in the crosshairs for the Democrats, specifically on this issue – but also for restrictions on free speech – to include only allowing that which aligns with their positions and narrative (see what the social media giants Facebook and Twitter have been doing the last few months – selectively blocking, suspending, and censoring Conservative posts and most recently – even video evidence of election fraud).
  • Those who voted for Biden/Harris cast their vote directly against the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution – with both of these people being on the record as promising massive bans, confiscations, and heavy taxes on any firearms remaining in the hands of civilians. In fact – Joe Biden is among the most anti-2nd Amendment politicians in my lifetime.
  • There were so-called leaders in the Evangelical world (labeled #BigEva), including several Baptists (primarily SBC) who not only downplayed the above, but actually proclaimed that voting for Joe Biden was morally superior, in spite of these anti-God, wicked campaign promises (that actually are included in the DNC Platform). Figures such as John Piper, J.D. Greear (SBC President and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, NC), The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore (@ERLC/SBC), Mark Dever (Capital Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC), Tim Keller (founding pastor Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC), and a slew of lesser-known followers of the same #WOKE/ Social Justice false gospel these men are proponents of.

And while I would like to bemoan the details, let me circle the proverbial wagons back around to this reality:

Our divisions, while attributed to race, police, “inequality”, and so many other excuses, the REAL problem in our nation is a SPIRITUAL PROBLEM! The USA is NOT a Godly or Christian nation. Period. While we can debate whether this nation has ever been either (and that is a very hard case to make from a Biblical perspective), the majority voted for the most anti-God, anti-Bible presidential ticket in the history of this nation. And this was supposedly morally superior to a man who once said on a high microphone that he grabbed a woman’s p________. But you know what – I cannot change the outcome of this election. It might drag on in the courts until inauguration next January. Or this might be over with altogether by a myriad of other possible means that are circulating on the internet… NONE of that changes my personal mission, nor the mission of the apparently minority of this nation who actually have been redeemed by Christ Jesus, and who truly believe the Word of God – taking what God says as evil to be that…

What this means to the remaining churches who still cling to God and the Bible: Our mission is even more clear, and ought to be seen with more urgency than ever. We live in a nation that is, by any definition, wicked. A nation that bemoans “rights” yet deprives the most innocent of humanity (the unborn) of the most basic and fundamental right of all: the Right to Life – the opportunity to even draw a single breath.

And we got here, particularly to the point of professed Christians voting for and endorsing Biden as the somehow “morally-superior” choice via two, related realities:

  • There are a LOT of people who claim to be Christians, who are not, and churches have, in the interest of numbers, money, and attendance, perpetuated this problem via unregenerate church membership and “preaching” that never calls for repentance or genuine change.
  • Churches have, for years, failed to make Biblical disciples of Jesus Christ. Decades of programs, literature, and classes that have done nothing to actually engage church members to live lives that genuinely reflect Christ Jesus – by teaching them ALL that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:20), have led to blblically-illiterate people who profess Christ, but believe whatever the winds and media tell them, who’s faith is more about what they feel and their opinions, than what God has said.

So – what will we do? I can only speak for my self and what I plan to encourage the church God has entrusted me to do: Refocus on the mission the LORD has given to His people – as found in Matthew 28:18-20, and that is to Go Make Disciples, which includes baptizing them, teaching them, and leading them. And this election, regardless of the outcome of it from a political realm, will serve as the eye-opening proof that our nation is one of unregenerate people in need of the real Gospel. But we absolutely cannot stop there. For if there is any hope for this nation in the future, then we need biblical disciples who will be humbled before God, not man – submissive to the LORD, not wordly systems, who will bow before the King of kings, instead of seeking worldly saviors.

And lest we forget:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

Spiritual Warfare is Real – and NOW

One aspect of the Christian walk that I have often heard people talk about, but I find most professed Christians are sadly unprepared for.  Unfortunately, we really don’t realize just how real the spiritual war is until we are put to the test.

For many, 2020 has been (pardon the term) the “year from hell”.  The entire world has now experienced the first significant pandemic in most people’s lifetime. We began with what we know were lies from the country where the virus originated, and have seen a battle between credentialed experts on whether we would see millions of deaths in the US, or if it would more resemble a bad flu season. We’ve seen a virus become quickly the most political virus in all of history. And caught in the middle of it all are churches and their pastors. Our kids have been deprived of so very much, and are now missing the important camps and activities that often are their only escape from lives that are often quite difficult. We now are seeing churches with splits forming over opinions regarding how this virus should be addressed. In the public square, we see professed Christians attacking one-another over the wearing of masks, of closing or reopening churches for worship, or even how many people we might “allow” into worship services.  I have witnessed very public abuses of Scripture to justify unbiblical viewpoints as well as biblical viewpoints pushed using worldly standards.  Many pastors that I am connected to have expressed similar battles and frustration and sadly, growing heartache. Indeed, the most heart-crushing reality of pastoral ministry today, beyond trying to comfort those most affected by this virus, is figuring out just HOW to minister in this environment.

For other churches, while having some issues related to COVID, have been separated by the politics of the current version of #BlackLivesMatter – from a church planter friend who’s ministry is basically near ground zero in Minneapolis, MN, (link to facebook fundraiser page) to churches that are now having to confront actual racial issues within their own membership – more heartache on top of the very well-publicized destruction and hate. Even more disturbing is the growth of so-called “woke” churches and theology, that employs Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality to systematically destroy the gospel from within. This is becoming another wedge in not just local churches, but denominations as the Social Justice false gospel replaces the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Divisions and heartache…

On a more personal level, after the sudden onset of illness and the death of my mother in April, handling the insanity of probate of her estate, and now my father who’s health has been in decline for several years and is now down to managing comfort as there is nothing left to “fix”, my own life has been turned upside-down. Each day goes by and the urge to just throw up my hands and give up grows stronger. But I know this is not God’s game plan. But for biblical Christians, we do know who’s game plan involves confusion, division, and anything possible to obscure or completely cover the gospel – Satan.  And that brings us back to the title of this post and a bit of Scripture.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Every battle we are facing as individuals, as cities, states, and a nation – whether over a virus, race, destruction of history, divisions in churches, or the political headache and corruption that has become so evident – while carried out by people, is actually the work of the father of lies and division – Satan. The devil. Beelzebul. The false accuser – and we who may not be really prepared to battle in this spiritual war – either caught unaware or simply not properly equipped, are easily drawn into the wrong side in the battle. And the very first error we usually make in fighting this spiritual battle that is very much going on in our world today: misidentifying the real enemy.  As the verse from Ephesians above clearly reminds us – the REAL enemy is not one-another. Even when we mess up and say things or take actions that are wrong, even when people can even act with what seems to be hate and violence – the REAL enemy is found in the rulers, powers, word forces of this darkness – the SPIRITUAL forces of wickedness. Our real enemies are spiritual enemies – and Paul went on to address this – we are given the battle plan for the believer:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…

In Ephesians 6:13-19, at its core, tells us that God has provided the weapons to fight this spiritual battle – both defensive and offensive weapons!

  • Girded your loins with the TRUTH
  • Breastplate (of Righteousness)
  • Boots of the Gospel of Peace (the real, Biblical gospel)
  • Shield (of Faith)
  • Helmet of Salvation
  • Sword of the Spirit
  • Prayer…

And notice – all of these armaments have to be picked up and put to use.  It is like having an unloaded firearm in your safe as a “home defense weapon”. It does you no good if it’s not at the ready! Likewise, all of these arms provided by God are of no use if not taken up and put to use. We must regularly practice with them as well.

Paul began with girding our loins with TRUTH – yet we live in a world that makes truth into something subjective – something that is up to the individual. But the Word of God itself is the TRUTH and is ALWAYS true – what God says is good is good. What God has said is bad is bad.  Scripture leaves very little room for anything grey – and certainly no room for relative morality. In fact – that is the rest of verse 14 –

breastplateThe Breastplate of righteousness – Which begins and ends with the righteousness of Christ – but in living lives that reflect the righteousness of Christ – based on the Word of God – when we walk by what God has said is good and bad – and when we take a firm stand on that – true righteousness – our hearts are protected – we are not so conflicted and divided at the core –

Boots of the Gospel of Peace – we often do not think of boots, especially in the context of roman_boot1_1.jpge999de54-042f-4d5e-93b2-7410d18ce558Originalbattle, as instruments of peace – but the concept is quite simple here – we must have something solid as a foundation. In athletics and in work – the right footwear is important to our ability to stay in the work at hand. Those of us who have done real work with the wrong shoes know exactly what this can be like. In the case of our equipping for the spiritual war that we ARE involved in – is having a solid foundation – that we might not be tripped up – and that is the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. One that isn’t carried away by cultural norms and expectations – a gospel that reflects the understanding of the utter sinfulness of mankind – our inability to “fix” that ourselves – but instead requires the supernatural actions of God in the great exchange of our sins for Christ’s righteousness – all by the grace of God. A false or weak gospel is no foundation for us to stand.

12-Roman-Helmet-BBHelmet of Salvation – when one is truly, soundly saved – with the right understanding of the gospel – with the heart for righteousness and truth – the helmet of salvation – the knowledge of our security in Christ Jesus – because HE has paid it all – and it is in the power of HIS resurrection by which we stand redeemed – that our minds – our thinking can be confident.

And the Sword of the Spirit – the NASB intentionally capitalizes “Spirit” here because we SD4116L_a1are dealing with wielding the power of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power we are given! A power that is based on being actively filled by the Holy Spirit in walking WITH the Spirit day-by-day.  When we practice the presence of the Lord in our lives – We are, as Kyle Idleman wrote in his “Not a Fan” book, empowered in ways that we cannot be by our own power. What is interesting – the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives is described as “fruits of the Spirit by Paul elsewhere – with the chief fruit being… Love.

Then the repeated weapon that many miss in this passage – prayer.  Prayers and petitions before God’s throne.  We cannot confuse the sovereignty with God with being unable to bring about change by our prayers!  Moses prayed for the Hebrew people – time after time God changed His actions based on the fervent prayers of righteous men on behalf of themselves and others. Prayer is one of the two most powerful tools given by God – if we genuinely believe in the power of prayer!

So – if you are really a Christian – whether or not you are a member of the church I pastor today, member of another church – or are seeking where the Lord would lead you to be an active part of a church body – please join me in praying that we would take seriously the very real spiritual battle all around us. Pray that we would see the REAL enemy, the devil – not our neighbors whom we are suppose to love. That we would not view one-another, especially within churches, as the enemy, and that we would truly take up the FULL armor of God and be not only “at the ready”, but willing to STAND for truth, for Love, for the Gospel – for the Kingdom of God!

Please Stop Abusing Scripture

Brethren – there is NEVER an appropriate time or circumstance to force meaning or personal views onto Scripture. It is never appropriate, regardless of your intentions, to pluck Scripture out of its context, then bend it back double to paint a picture or prove a point to “reach a hurting person”. The formal term for this is “Eisegesis“.
 
Just as I would never tell a grieving person who just lost a loved one that definitively their loved one was in “in a better place, despite having never professed to trusted in Christ. That would be an abuse. There are other paths to seek comfort than lying to them (don’t give them false hope, give them the Gospel – the ONLY source of living Hope!).
 
I don’t tell people that God won’t give them more than they can handle – despite generations somehow twisting 1 Corinthians 10:2 to mean such. Again – it’s a false narrative.
 
It would be an abuse for me to that God’s will is to always heal our loved ones of every form of sickness and disease – Because it is clear, Jesus often overlooked sick for more important purposes. (And no, Jesus didn’t bear our stripes and die on the Cross to heal my mom of Botulism, or my friend of cancer. He died to redeem the lost sheep. Yes, there is an eternal sense of perfect healing for those who die in Christ… but I can’t just reach out and “claim it”.
 
Likewise – when we are faced with the traumatic events of our day – whether a virus or injustice and rage… we cannot simply pluck verses of Scripture, bend them around, and force a modern-day narrative on that Sacred Writ – but there IS plenty of God’s record that DO deal with what we are facing today – that is just as true and applicable as it was IN IT’S CONTEXT when penned.
 
Want passages to deal with those who faced hate due to their ethnicity? What about Jesus’ meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26)? Or maybe the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)?
 
Want to help someone have a biblical, healing, and God-glorifying understanding of how to respond to the hate we see before us? Open up Romans 12: 18-21 (among many others).
I have been seeing an example of eisegesis spreading like a virus all over social media that uses Jesus’ parable of the shepherd leaving the 99 to find the one lost sheep. This parable isn’t in any way a race or ethnic statement. It is simply about God’s willingess (through Christ Jesus) to seek the lost of His flock and bring them home. Each and every sheep is of great value to the LORD. This is not some kind of statement about skin color. Quite the contrary, it is a clear picture of the value of ALL His sheep.
There is no justification for bending God’s Word, even “well-meaning” bending. God’s Word is not a toy to play with or to throw about like a rag doll. We must not trivialize it by throwing it around out of it’s context and actual meaning. Sadly, this is a product of several factors – but one of the biggest being too many years of “teachers” using the phrase “what does this verse mean to you?“.  What I want a verse to say, and what my defective fleshly heart would desire it to say is irrelevant.  Scripture says and means what it says and means – firmly established in its context. To ignore the context and meaning at the time of writing is to set the stage for every form of heresy. And ultimately, forced eisigesis is a form of blasphemy.
Please stop abusing Scripture! Jesus is the ONLY hope, not the twisting of Scripture.