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.

Apologetics and the Christian Faith

Apologetics: A word that is often misunderstood. It does not in any way point to sorrow or grief or an “apology”. Apologetics is the defense of a belief or system.
 
When we, as Christians, fulfill the command of 2 Timothy 4:2 to “be ready in season and out to give reason for the hope that is in us in Christ Jesus” – we are giving a defense of what we believe (in this case, the “hope” that we have because of what Christ has done – aka “the Gospel”.
 
Apologetics is one of the most often forgotten aspects of what church ministry is supposed to be about. It comprises a major component of “equipping the saints…” (Ephesians 4:12).
 
Ask the typical “Christian” on the street what they believe about _____________, and you may get either a blank stare or a pat answer. But ask WHY they believe it – and the chance of getting a coherent, logical, and evidence-based answer is actually pretty unlikely. Most professed Christians really cannot defend what they lay claim to believing. I won’t delve into the many possible reasons for such an inability, but to actually take the blame as an unappointed, unelected representative of pastors and preachers. We have spent years (decades or more?) giving. information. Telling people what they should believe, and many have done so faithfully and given correct information. But sadly, we often fall short of explaining WHY.
 
In the realm of Christian Apologetics, we have two primary types of defense:
  1. Presuppositional – God doesn’t need to be defended, thus we begin with the “presupposition” that the Bible is God’s Word, His divine and perfect revelation of Himself and His will for mankind. All arguments are based strictly on this foundation (and any other presuppositions one can find).
  2. Evidential  – Like a professional investigator, you piece together the evidence, from not only Scripture itself, but you are able to, by the predominance of evidence prove the Bible is what is claimed, that the claims within its pages are true, and that therefore faith is a reasonable response to the evidence.

In fact, there is a pretty serious theological battle that has been raging for pretty much the entire history of Christianity over which method is the correct method. But when one follows the narrative of Scripture, we actually see both used. For the witness to the Hebrew people, a great deal of presuppositional work is done, beginning with the common ground of God’s law and overall revelation in the Old Testament. But we also see evidential defense made by Paul in many scenarios, beginning not with statement as fact, but building a “logical” case for Christianity based on his own life, the miracles witnessed, the eye witness accounts of Jesus and the other first-hand “primary” evidence, coupled with existing Scripture to “prove” the Christian gospel as correct and true.

But the bigger purpose of apologetics is not to build biblical academics or to give bragging rights to the prideful.  Apologetics serve two purposes that both build up that foundation of 2 Timothy 4:2 – First in that it is to give confidence to the believer. When we not only know WHAT we believe, but WHY we believe it – when we know how to defend our faith, we strengthen that faith and the hope that is in us glows brighter. But the second aspect of apologetics is the outward witness – we can make the case for Christ in a world that is by default against the gospel.

But regardless of the apologetic form you prefer to focus on, they both must begin with understanding WHAT we believe.  For those of us who cling to the biblical platform of “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone), we believe that the Bible is sufficient and complete for all instruction and defense – “All Scripture is inspired (literally breathed out by God!) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Read the Bible. Study it. Find new ways to engage with the Word through not only personal reading, but group study. Challenge yourself, be willing to spend time and effort really learning what God has recorded for our benefit.

Plug in to resources by people who have dedicated their lives and often ministries to defending the Bible and the Christian faith. People like J. Warner Wallace are contemporary apologetics, but there are literally hundreds who have, though history, worked extensively to build an incredible defense, both from a Presuppositional and an Evidential basis.

But the very best source of learning to be able to give a defense of your faith, the the Bible itself, for it is truly sufficient!

What Does It Mean to Be Faithful?

We in the Christian/Church realm use the term “faithful” a lot.  Why not? It is an extremely important term used across the Bible. Sadly, I believe our contemporary (especially American version) gospel realm has adopted the secular, wordly meaning instead of the Biblical definition and example.

Screen Shot 2019-11-19 at 11.08.19 AM
Merriam-Webster.com, screen shot 11/19/2019

As the image shows, the Webster’s definition of “faithful” is divided into a definition of the term as an adjective and as a noun. Both are used in Christian terms, but again – let us compare the secular term vs. the biblical use.

Merriam-Webster defines the adjective faithful as steadfast in affection or allegiance, firm in adherence or observance of duty, or the meaning most closely connected to the biblical definition: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original. Sadly, it is this last (but most applicable in our context) meaning that is most forgotten.

I regularly hear the term mentioned in conjunction with funerals and memorial services, or connected to teachers, preachers, and writers. But I don’t believe the way it is used is always accurate.

Faithful does not imply (from a biblical perspective) perfection. Lets begin from the perfect example of “Faithful”.

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Deuteronomy 7:9-10

God is described in His own Word as the “faithful” God, with identifying fruits of that faithfulness as evidence: He keeps His covenants, His lovingkindness to the generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. But God’s faithfulness is also pictured as Him repaying those who hate Him – destroying them. God’s faithfulness here also (necessarily) includes His justice.

Jerusalem is referred to in Isaiah 1:21 as formerly faithful, but now a harlot. Why? Because they formerly were just (and from the larger context, had been a center of the worship and service to God).

Paul used the term often. One example is in the greeting of his epistle to the Ephesian church:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 1:1

Paul’s use of the term πιστός (pistos) implies yielding, believing, true, credible, trustworthy in their faith. The sense is that Paul had confidence that the believers to which he was penning this letter were solid believers who were sticking true to “the faith once delivered to them” (paralleled in Jude 1:3).

While the label “faithful” can mean a lot of things – when we use the term in relation to a professed Christian, the implication is more than them being reliable (they attend church regularly), but also presupposes that they cling to truth (the Word), that they stick to their faith and live it – it assumes fruits of said faithfulness.

Sadly, the term has so lost meaning that it is readily applied to those who are wildly popular and active in the “Christian” realm, yet are anything but faithful to the Word of God. Can we rightly apply the term “faithful” to a Christian speaker or writer who puts out good quotes, but holds to a blatantly heretical gospel?  Can we accurately call a professed Christian “faithful” if they deny the inerrancy of God’s Word? Does a person earn the faithful title because their name appears on a church roll and “faithfully” gave to the church?

Is a Christian “faithful” if their viewpoints are more easily shifted by cultural preferences than the black and white text of Scripture?

And are we being “faithful” when we jump to to the defense of those who teach and push false gospels and unbiblical teaching – hitching ourselves to these false teachers with the name badge of “faithful”?

And lest we forget, those individuals that God directly labeled as faithful were not simply mechanically reliable (in fact, some had reliability issues), but were counted “faithful” because they stuck to the foundation of truth God revealed and unwaveringly trusted in His Word, not man’s opinions and preferences.

The Bible vs Women In The Pulpit – Division

We Baptists, particularly conservative Associational Baptists, lay claim to the Bible as our sole foundation for belief and practice. Of course, we have stretched some aspects into tradition, but the foundation we try to keep is Scripture.

Yet one denomination of Baptists is about to pull itself apart (and I fear others that have historically held to an even more conservative reputation) over Scripture – including 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6, et all…

And at the epicenter of this division today is a woman named Beth Moore.  Mrs. Moore is arguably the most successful woman writer of Bible literature, books, etc.  Indeed, at one time, I would not have had serious concerns about her or her materials beyond its general shallowness (theoretically in an effort to make it uplifting and encouraging).  But if one pays attention to both her writing and her public speaking (as well as her social media), one can see a dramatic shift.  From moving away from and ultimately rejecting the biblical view of homosexuality, to working with and endorsing some of the biggest names and figures in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), prosperity gospel, charismatics (particularly Joyce Meyer)moorelead11102018a1. I believe this shift has been fueled by financial success, popularity, and a hyper-inflated ego that has driven her right off the tracks of biblical orthodoxy. Her current positions span the map of currently-trending false gospels and doctrines.  She promotes direct, ongoing, verbal revelation (prophecy given to her), all caged in language that sounds more like a boyfriend that the almighty God, to having her materials  edited to specifically remove homosexuality from the references to the need to repent. Further, in her rush into the Social Justice Movement, she basically launched the #ChurchToo hashtag – the church version of the #metoo movement to claim sexual abuse (even if via being “Oppressed”). Yes, Beth Moore has also joined the ranks of Feminism – which brings us to her position currently in the shakeup of the SBC (and to other Baptist denominations). Beth Moore is now promoting and encouraging women to not only preach in church (in direct contradiction on the matter found in the Scripture passages listed above). And when many addressed her bragging on social media, she again played the victim and stirred up her cult-like following.

Fast-forward to a recent conference where Dr. John MacArthur, a many who has spent more of his life studying, preaching, and doing theology than many of us have been alive, who has dedicated his life, his ministry, and his efforts at proclaiming and standing on the Bible, was being questioned in a somewhat light way. From this came a now infamous quote “go home”. EHHdZsHXkAAb0q_This quote was associated with the questioner’s throwing out the name “Beth Moore”.  You see, Dr. MacArthur is among hundreds of pastors and preachers who have been calling Beth back to the Bible, praying for her to find her way back to Scripture and out of her derailment – and most recently – to quit promoting a radical form of egalitarianism that promotes women preachers in violation of Scripture. She has repeatedly mocked Dr. MacArthur as well as many who have attempted to address her errors. MacArthur’s response, in-context, refers back to the entirety of her departure from Scripture, but with a focus on her claims to being a preacher (and her efforts to promote other women to do the same, and to even bill themselves as pastors). Beth Moore – go home.  Drop these unbiblical aspirations. Drop the efforts to usurp authority that is not yours (something you formerly use to actually respect – but have since thrown under the bus). Beth go back home to the truth – where you don’t partner with and endorse radical heretics. Beth Moore… go home.

And now we have a wide gambit within the SBC and other Baptist groups (mind you, Dr. MacArthur is not a Southern Baptist) casting Dr. MacArthur under that same bus – dismissing everything he has done for many decades for the cause of Christ, the thousands of pastors and preachers he has had a hand in nurturing and educating, and his unwavering stand on the Word of God.  And I suspect it is this latter that has caused the real stir. You see, John MacArthur has been a champion against the growing cancer of the Social Justice movement (a false gospel by any definition). He has stood on many a hill for the sake of truth and in the face of dramatic opposition. And more recently, has apparently lost some long-time friends who themselves have become infected by the insidious tentacles of false Social Justice gospel and the #wokechurch it creates.

And sadly, the most outspoken against Dr. MacArthur and his “go home” comment, remained completely silent as Beth degenerated from the Bible, as she drifted into full derailment. Indeed, they helped her along by their unwavering support and endless promotion.  They bought her books and reviewed them as near-Scripture jewels. And even has her doctrinal fallout began to directly contradict their own doctrinal positions – they simply promoted her more aggressively.

About 50 years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention nearly self-destructed. The radically liberal faction had overrun the denomination, questioning then completely rejecting the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture. But before the denomination fell the way of so many others, faithful men set aside their theological differences on Soteriology (Traditionalists vs. Calvinists), and joined together into what became known as the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Through carefully planned maneuvers and strategic actions, those who still held to the fundamental truth of the Bible’s inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority “won the day”. That historic battle resulted in an SBC that cruised along in a relatively biblical course for decades. the “loss” was the spinoff of a group known as the Cooperative Baptists. This group were the holdout congregations that had rejected the full authority of Scripture, that had been proudly jumping into the far extremes of liberalism and doctrinal error.

Sadly, the SBC is again venturing into the dark place of liberalism but with a new name: the Social Justice Movement. Yet the root of this drift is the same as the previous – a low view of Scripture that places man’s thoughts and feelings above what God said, what God preserved, what God directly inspired.  It is the same old “I know what the Bible says, BUT…” mentality.

I know some women who can teach circles around about any man. Who have biblical maturity and wisdom beyond many pastors and preachers I have known. But they remain biblically disqualified from having authority over men (especially in the church), from “preaching”, and from holding the office of pastor, elder, bishop, etc. (or deacon, but that is another discussion). A godly woman who truly holds the Word of God in the highest of esteem recognizes her extremely important role – and that it is not, nor ever should it be, to usurp the authority over men and the offices God ordained for them.

And lest we forget, there was a time when Beth Moore spoke at conferences and events specifically for women, where men would sometimes attend – and she would clearly open with a thank-you to the men present, and strongly would say she had ZERO authority over them, and that she was speaking to and for the women’s audience.

This is the same Beth Moore who earlier this year, at a conference, commanded a man come down to the floor where she was, to get on his knees, and apologize for all harms men had inflicted on women:

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There is no biblical case for women to serve as “preachers” or pastors. Does this in any way diminish their importance, their worth, or OUR need of women in the church? Absolutely not! Quite the contrary, it ought to reinforce their value and importance that God has ordained purposes for all of His people – rightly fitted together in the local body. But Beth Moore now rejects biblical gender roles and recently made no bones about it at a conference put on by the ERLC.

Let us not reject what God has said in His Word for the sake of a politically-correct pursuit of the false gospel of the Social Justice Movement. Seek the truth. Pray for those who hold a low view of Scripture.  Pray for Beth Moore- particularly that she would “go home” – go home to the Word of God, and to repent of her prideful and radical feminism that attacks the Bible.

Pray for the Southern Baptist Convention, the BMA, and any other denomination (or independent) that needs desperately to refocus on what God has already said and laid out clearly in HIs Word.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Why Your Pastor Should Say “No Moore” to Beth Moore
Testimonies of People who have broken free of Beth Moore
Beth Moore Relentlessly Attacks Straight White Men on Social Media

 

Is Your Church or Denomination Going #WOKE?

Do you think your church is biblically-solid and that it could never succumb to modernistic adulteration of God’s Word? You might want to think again.

Just a few months ago, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to recognize and implement “Critical Race Theory” and “Intersectionality” as valid measures and procedures for measuring the denomination’s “progress”.  For more detailed definitions and explanation of these two terms, click the links above, but in short – Critical Race Theory basically defines racism as solely committed by white people towards other races, that it is always systemic and always about power. Critical Race Theory when applied to churches is an assumption that churches are equally systematically racist if they are “white”. It is a parallel to the ancient cult of Gnosticism that assumed that everything physical is, by nature, evil and everything spirit is good, but in this case – if it is white, it is systematically evil and racist.

Intersectionality deals with gender and gender roles. Those who follow intersectionality despise complimentarianism and reject biblical gender roles.

These two ideologies are a part of the bigger cancer of the Social Justice Movement, one that is at its foundation, a false gospel. The Social Justice movement can take many forms, but nearly all reject biblical absolutes, diminish or even redefine sin. From “Christians” who are “pro-choice” regarding abortion, to those who support homosexual “marriage” on one end, to those who simply inject race and gender into every discussion, promoting “Justice” as the real purpose of the gospel. Many large, modern “churches” promote easy-believism for the sake of numbers, while rejecting the call to abhor sin. You generally will not hear Social Justice preachers call listeners to meaningful repentance, nor will you hear them condemn those who proclaim heresies. And the sad reality is – Social Justice #WOKE theology is rooted in Marxism, and is actually quite UNjust.

The reality is – all of these concepts and views fall under the trendy #WOKE mantra. If your pastor refuses to call sin, sin – if you have a woman who preaches or is the “pastor”, your church might be #WOKE. If your denomination is constantly apologizing for the past sins of previous generations – it might be #WOKE. If your church’s leadership refuses to call out those who are promoting and teaching heresies – they may be #WOKE. If the same people in leadership speak more of being “gentle” or the need to “tone it down” when others are addressing these falsehoods and heresies – they might be #WOKE.  If your leadership is calling for reparations for past injustices of a nation, they might be @WOKE. If your preacher constantly refers to the Gospel Coalition as a trustworthy source of biblical teaching – yep: #WOKE. If your church, pastor, or leadership consider Beth Moore to be a solid biblical teacher worthy of praise – they might be #woke.

And it is this last example that brings me to the latest Social Justice blow-up. At a recent biblical conference, Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church was ask (in the context of the above Social Justice issues – particularly intersectionality and Beth Moore’s promotion of women preachers – including bragging on her own pulpit-envy), Dr. MacArthur said that “Beth Moore needs to go home”. This has caused a giant uproar among those who hold to these Social Justice/#WOKE views. These purveyors of false gospels are attacking Dr. MacArthur as “unqualified”, and some even are calling him a heretic. Dr. MacArthur is among the most sound biblical expositors of our time who has dedicated a very long career teaching, discipling, and proclaiming the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a biblical responsibility of Christians, especially leaders, to protect the sheep by identifying and calling out false teachers. Indeed, Paul wrote to the Roman church specifically on this matter:

“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them”. (Romans 16:17)

Simply put, we are to exercise discernment and stand for truth and abhor evil. Those in the Social Justice #WOKE vein are more concerned with numbers (and usually money). I rejoice when churches grow rapidly because of the Holy Spirit’s movement to create transformed, repentant people who love the LORD with all their heart, soul, and mind! But when growth is measured simply by bodies in the chairs (worship attendance), and sacrifices genuine heart change – there is a problem.

Christianity of today, particularly in the United States, has presented a rather weak gospel for decades, but the current #WOKE trends under the guise of Social Justice are throwing the sin-hating, repentance-bringing, heart changing gospel completely under the bus. The Southern Baptist Convention is teetering on the brink of a massive meltdown because of it – but don’t for a moment think your “conservative little denomination” is immune. I sadly have witnessed the tumors of the Social Justice movement beginning to grow in my own denomination, the Baptist Missionary Association. When respected leaders and church planters begin promoting the very tenants of #WOKE theology, and calling out genuine men of God for speaking truth – we have a very serious problem.

So what is the answer? The same that spawned Martin Luther to pen his 95 Theses: seeking what Scripture really says and taking a stand on that, not on people’s feelings. Gospel ministry is not about popularity or making friends, it is about seeking lives changed by the transforming power of the gospel! Don’t be afraid to call out those who teach another gospel (Paul said they should be accursed! (Galatians 1:9). But above all – do not let it go unaddressed! Speak up. Call them to repentance. Point them to Scripture.

Responsibility, Decisions, Accountability, and Politics

I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, from economic to moral, from spiritual to physical. When I was a child, my parents tried to be selective in when and how they would “bail me out” of the consequences of my errors, all with the intent of guiding me to learn from my mistakes.

When I graduated high school, I was able to secure a band scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas, but I had to find funding for the rest of the expenses – from room and board, to books and additional fees. I was able to secure the old “PELL Grant” most years, but had to fill the gap with fairly sizable loans from a private fund for most semesters, and even a Federal Guaranteed Student Loan for a few semesters to make ends meet.

When I finally finished my extended undergraduate time and received my degree, I quickly learned that education loans, whether Government guaranteed, or privately-funded, remain one’s responsibility no matter your economic situation. They just don’t go away. It took several years on the relatively low income of a public school teacher to finally get those debts paid off. I often looked back at my fellow students who chose to work many long hours to pay for their education instead of taking out loans and thinking “that was what I should have done”. But at no point did I ask for or demand anyone else pay off my student loans for me. They were my responsibility.

Since then, I have been in several areas of work and ministry that have truly opened my eyes to how our national mentality has shifted from personal responsibility. Just listen for a minute to many candidates for the 2020 Presidential election who are promising to “wipe out” student debt. We hear cries of those being “crushed” under the weight of 6-figure debt for relief. But we hardly hear a peep about the fact that they all voluntarily entered in to said debt. We don’t see much published about the worthless diplomas being “earned” at such high cost.

But is this really so out-of-character for our culture?

Absolutely not! Every day, it seems we see yet another demand for something to be an entitled “right” – unlimited health care (at no cost to them), handouts, panhandling by people making more than the average employee – it really is startling if you take an honest look. I cannot find the article now, as it’s been several years ago, but a local media outlet did a bit of actual journalism and found a panhandler who admitted to taking in an average of $1,500 per week simply standing on a corner with a sign asking for money. Pretty lucrative when you consider there are no taxes being paid on that!

Have you ever taken someone grocery shopping who came looking for food help, only to get to the store and they don’t want any staples and components that would stretch the dollars available? Frozen meals, name-brand products, etc. And it all has to be “heat-and-eat”.

I must admit that I have become a bit jaded when it comes to people asking for help. If you come to me asking for $10 for gasoline – and you have a lit cigarette in your mouth and a pack of cigs in the car seat – I see gas money being smoked up. If you come asking for diapers or baby food because your kids are hungry – but I see beer cans and lottery tickets on your floorboard – it is you who deprived your child of those needs via your priorities.

A tough lesson in grace…

I say all of this precisely because I have allowed myself to grow jaded, pessimistic even, when it comes to those who come asking for help. How does one balance demonstrating grace while at the same time trying to not enable and encourage abuse and ongoing defective decision making and priorities? Grace.

This is why the church I pastor sponsors what we call a Micro Food Pantry we call “God’s Kitchen”. It is a box set up outside one of our doors that is “self-serve” with the mantra “take what you need, leave what you can”. No questions are asked. No criteria or paperwork necessary. If you take from it, that is between you and God.

At the same time, we really should look at the biblical example. We can rightly look at Jesus command to care for the widows, feed the hungry, give water to those who thirst, clothe the naked, etc., but we must balance that with the Old Testament warning about those who do not work (do not eat!), as well as the “filter” given in the New Testament regarding those like widows who have other means of support (like family). And from a moral persepectiv, if you have the means or are physically able and choose to take take handouts (or even demand them), you are taking resources from those who do not have the means or ability ot help themselves.

When we have means to discern real need – exercise it diligently. When we do not have such ability, then exercise grace. Be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And remember – it is still about personal accountability. If they take from you but don’t really need it or are abusing it – that will ultimately be between them and the LORD, if you are simply being faithful.

Don’t expect or demand that the government/taxpayers bail you out of holes you dig for yourself. Step up, make sacrifices, and take ownership of your situation. Stop digging holes you can never fill in. Get the help you REALLY need (and it might very well begin not with economic help, but spiritual help!). Find someone to help hold you accountable.

And if you really need help – don’t be afraid to ask for it – but with the request, commit to making the changes necessary to fix the problem at hand by making the changes in priority, habits, patterns, and decision making necessary.