Immigrants, Immigration, and the Abuse of Scripture

Stop it… just stop!

What? Quit abusing Scripture to affirm your viewpoint and agenda – especially in the hot-button issue of immigration. I don’t care if your view point may very well be the “moral one” – if you are abusing Scripture to prove it – I can’t support you.

Here in the US, we have a problem – one that is growing in severity. A problem that has been rightly described as a crisis. One that side of the political isle claims is of recent manufacture (even thought their own party used the same terminology prior to our current President taking office). The problem is that of illegal immigration. You see – we hear often that America is a land of immigrants. There is some truth to that statement, and all but those who are Native Americans are at least descendants of immigrants, if not immigrants themselves. Indeed, in many ways, much of what has developed into this great “experiment” of a “melting pot” has been a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities coming together to build what was once called the ‘American Dream” – a former ideal that America was where one could come (through the proverbial front door), work hard, and become part of the culture.

But over the last several decades, an organized effort has been underway to literally stuff cities and towns with people who do not come in the “front door”, who choose to climb or cut fences, swim across waterways, risk their lives and the lives of children (in at least ⅓ of the cases, children not related to the adults they are apreheded with, many PURCHASED or abducted for the purpose– ie: human trafficking). A well-funded and organized campaign has been launched more recently by characters raging from George Soros, to state sponsors, and even a handful of US politicians – to train and equip migrants from Central America to cross the border illegally, and how to then play the system to delay deportation when caught (the word “asylum” is among the first words they teach them). These campaigns help fund busses and guides and provide aid along the way.

And as politicians from both political parties have talked big games regarding “fixing” the problem, neither seem all that willing to actually talk about it and to take real action. Those on the Left are primarily “Open borders”, no barriers, and give those who come here any way but the legal way a free pass to the front of the line, even before veterans and our own citizens who we are still falling short in helping with medical care, housing, and other needs. On the other side of the isle, we have politicians who want to build a wall along as much of the border as is possible, and to then re-build the immigration system to point all who want to come here through the front gate – like most past generations of immigrants from around the world were ushered through (think Ellis Island).

Sadly, these people – whether you see them as targets of social justice – people who should be able to come here to make a better life, or you see them in a far more nefarious light – have become political pawns. From the recruiting for the “caravans”, to the media-engineered “horror stories” of children dying in the wilderness or after being caught and detained. It is all being built up to divide, all while those who have the power to actually FIX the problem just sit back and use the issue as a weapon.

Real people, legally here or not, are suffering. Human beings – who every bit as much as I, are made in the Imago Dei – Image of God. And whether a person is here in direct violation of the law (which does make them a criminal – thus subject to criminal proceedings), or they are citizens, or they are legal immigrants – all people deserve to be treated like human beings.

That being said – there are many, especially professed Christians (or those who hate Christ, but try to use the Bible as a weapon against Christians) who are throwing Bible verses at this like a baseball bat. Sadly, they are abusing Scripture by doing so. The most common use is Leviticus 19:33-34

‘When a stranger resides with you in your land,you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.

There are many problem with applying this passage to the current immigration issue – in fact too numerous to post in a single blog post. But I will address the biggest ones:

  1. The context: This was a set of instructions given to the young NATION of Israel. This is not a blanket rule for the world.
  2. Definition: stranger -from the Hebrew word גֵּיר (gêyr) meaning most literally – “guest”. It is the same word used to describe the Hebrew people themselves when they were “sojourners” or strangers in a foreign land. This is a reference to their time in Egypt. Were they unwelcome immigrants? No – they were invited guests, by the hand of God’s Providence in placing Joseph in the highest position in the country (other than Pharoah). But in a practical application, the concept is – those who are visiting, those who are your guests (hosptiality was considered an understood trait), treat them with respect – treat them fairly, just as you would want to be treated – like your own. The point being – this passage was not about those who were not invited, those who were not welcomed guests. But there is one bit of phrase in verse 34 that DOES point to a Scriptural basis that DOES fit our situation today:

Love your neighbor…

Jesus said “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Luke 10:27)

This goes back to what I wrote near the beginning of this – Immigrants, whether here legally or illegally, should be treated humanely. At the same time, they are violating the law, and they are not “welcomed visitors” as the term in Leviticus refers to. But prisoners also are to be treated as human beings. But breaking the law, is breaking the law. Endangerding children by dragging them across harsh wilderness and in horrible conditions is not good parenting. In fact, a case can be made that this is abuse, especially when 1/3 of the children being drug through these conditions are not even related to the adults bringing them.

So – where does this leave us, at least those of us who professed Christ? Can we find biblical prohibitions against national borders or the expectation that those entering a nation do it through the civil law of that nation? No. Is it immoral or even sinful for Christians to insist that our national borders be enforced and that said immigrants be expected to enter a nation legally, and to follow the laws of the land? No.

We as Christians should seek the welfare of those apprehended until the day they are deported. WE should seek “humane” treatment, especially of the children who had no voice or choice in being brought here. But even more human would be to insist that the borders be protected and that the entire immigration system be overhauled in such a way that it encourages immigration through the legal channels, and empowers those who come legally to find their place in the “American Dream” as productive members of the society.

But please – STOP abusing Scripture in an effort to shame Christians who just want things done legally and in a way that doesn’t further promote and reward lawbreaking.

Evangelical #Hypocricy (Who’s a Christian?)

We live in a time of people having greater concern for what is politically-correct than what is biblically correct. At the same time, many in what is labeled “Evangelicalism” (some bloggers are now using the term #BigEva (the evangelical business, as it has become), has been shouting that Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) is not worthy of being respected as the Presdient of the United States, and that Evangeilical Christians are blind and possibly unregenerate, Hell-bound souls for supporting him in any way – based on his history of sexual immorality and profane speach.

Many of these #BigEva figures, like Thabiti Anyabwile (@ThabitiAnyabwil) of the (social) Gospel Coalition (his real name is Ron Burns – but he changed it in college to his current radical racist Muslim name), a frequent speaker calling police the enemy, who has decried “White Evangelicalism” and who has become amon the most outspoken in favor reparations, has also issued hate towards Trump and his supporters, all while still endorsed by, and supported by The Gospel Coalition.

George Whitefield quote "I am nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing without God. What although I may, like a polished sepulcher appear a little beautiful without, yet within, I am full of pride, self-love and all manner of corruption."
George Whitefield

But this brings us to the issue at hand (that Thabiti/Ron Burns is a part of). Popular writer and TGC sweetheart Jared Wilson opined yesterday regarding George Whitefield and whether or not he was actually a Christian. For those who don’t know who George Whitefield was – Whitefield remains as one of the “greats” of Christianity and evangelical proclamation. See THIS LINK for more details.

Jared Wilson’s basis for questioning the salvation of one of the greatest of gospel preachers in American history? He was a slave owner. Wilson and others (like Thabiti), in an effort to promote their growing drift into the radical cutlural marxism of the Social Justice (false) gospel, are now adrift, taking hosts at dead preachers based on their particular sin. N=ever mind that Sacred Writ clearly states that “all have sinned”. By Wilson’s measure, even the Apostle Paul would be unworthy of being labeled a Christain – as he even recognized in himself that he was, even late in life, still a sinner – who didn’t do what he should, and did what he should not.

Whitefield was, like so many in the day, a slave holder – who had a bent view of humanity. He engaged in the (at the time, culturally-accepted) practice – despite the reality that no born-again Christian of our day would view slavery as anything but evil and sinful. Jared Wilson questions Whitefield’s salvation (this is what is meant by asking if he was a Christian) – based on a single, sinful activity.

This is no different than most in the Social Justice cesspool – who, like Thabiti Anywabe, and now SBC President JD. Greear, say it’s sinful to vote for candidate A (the Republican Cndidate) because of _________ sin, but it IS ok to vote for Candidate B and we will ignore his/her most vile of sins. Thi sis #hypocricy at its finest.

During the 2016 election, Ron Burns (aka Thabiti) endorsed Hillary Clinton while attacking Donald Trump. His hate for Donald Trump was connected to his immorality and the media’s depiction of him as a racist. His endorsement of Hillary Clinton was mostly unexplained, but he refused to even acknoledge HIllary’s joyful and loud promotiom of the most vile sin of our day – abortion. #hypocricy.

So – lets take a bit of an adventure together:

Imagine if you will, a preacher who you have heard all your life about. You have a great deal of respect for him and his history-book accomplishments. He is elevated as a “saint”, with monuments erected to his visage. He has entire college courses both in secular and “christian” colleges dedicated to studying him. Indeed, most of the nation pays homage to him.

But bits and pieces begin to emerge. First, something as “innocuous” as plagairizing a major portion of his doctoral dissertation. While those in academic circles generally view plaigarism as a major offense (degree candidates have been expelled for lesser examples of plaigarism). And then there are rumors…

Years later, evidence is released including credible records that this man you have always believed to be a man of God and great example, was a serial adulterer (over 40 confirmed and documented cases of illicit adulterous sexual relationships, with both men and women, while he was engaged in his most public of ministries). You find out through eye-witness testimony and further documented evidence, that he was actively involved in human trafficing/prostitution, and that he was recorded (audio) in the room watching the rape of women by his associates. You would at least begin to question everything else you knew about the man, right?

But hey – he was a Christian – and a Baptist preacher at that, right? So it’s all ok. He was still saved. We should still honor him and lift him up as our example. But…

…then, when you find out that his theology had dramatically shifted over the years and he had essentially adopted Universalist/Unitarian doctrines – indeed, this man is today, more revered in Unitarian Universalist congregations than nearly any other, with his sermons beign utilized regularly. Even his wife admitted that her husband had seriously contemplated joining the Unitarian Universalist church. He had, by accounts of his day, rejected the Trinity, rejected eternal Hell, rejected the inerrancy of Scripture.

This preacher and much-celebrated man: Martin Luther King Jr. I do not bring this up to tear down the very real and incredible civil rights progress that Dr. King helped to usher in. I am as inspired as anyone when I listen to his “I Have A Dream” speech. I was recently introduced to his speech “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint”, which is an increidble (though not overtly biblical) speech of encouragement.

But I ask – was Martin Luther King Jr. a Christian? He professed Jesus, though his later life refelcted a faith in a Jesus Christ that didn’t match that of the gospel. His view of God and eternity can be described as nothing short of heretical. And his ongoing and rampant sinful behavior reflect a horribly corrupt heart. But his outward works and speeches still remain as great works, worthy of respect. Yet Jared Wilson refuses to even question MLKJr., but brazenly questions the Christianity of George Whitefield – who believed in a very orthodox gospel, who believed in the inerrancy of Scirpture, and who trusted in the fully-God, sufficient savior Jesus Christ to redeem His sinful soul.

Evangelical #Hypocrisy.

Lets be honest. Let us be logical. Let us not be #hypocritical. The Southern Baptist Convention’s own ERLC, led by radical Social Gospel purveyor and Trump-hating Russell Moore, The Gospel Project, and several other modern powerhouses of the corporate evangelical machine, promote events like MLK50, and shame those who question the iodlatyry they promote, as they continue to push hate towards those who they deem worthy of attacking.

The reality is – this is all just a pile of symptoms of the underlying corruption that is American Evangelicalism. When churches have been selective regarding which sins they consider worthy of addressing and whih will be swept under the rug. Some churches have decried homosexuality while flatly ignoring adultery and divorce. Churches have wrapped themselves in the evils of alcohol while ignoring the abortion purveyor in their town. And then they wonder why they are rarely taken seriously – again #hypocricy. And it stems from a very low view of God and His Word. We have taken the functional position that what God has said is wrong and sinful is only that if it isn’t OUR sin. We have a lot of “thank God I’m not like THAT sinner, but failure to see the sinner staring back at us in the mirror. #hypocricy.

A Challenge for Today and Beyond: CD!

This post was originally published by the author on his old blog page.

Here is a thought for today (and every day) – maybe better a challenge: Corum Deo- to live your life each and every day before the LORD.

What does this mean? After all, God sees all things – so everything is done and lived out “before God”! Coram Deo, simply put, is to intentionally live out our lives, our decisions, our words, and our hearts with God at the forefront. It is to really grasp that God is really Omnipresent, and so we also must come to grips with the fact that not a single action or thought in our lives is beyond God’s view! It is also the vivid reminder that we all must give an account one day. Whether we be lost headed for eternal judgment in Hell and the Lake of fire because we are unregenerate sinners, or we are born-again, yet living outside of our professed faith (Jesus said if we love Him, we will keep His commands! – John 14:15). All must give an account.

Corum_Deo_Master_with_script
Living Coram Deo means to live out our entire lives, every moment of every day, in the presence of, and in submission to God and His Sovereign authority.

To live a life of Coram Deo means to live a life of integrity. It means we will recognize that our lives paint a picture to the world (I have preached it as our lives as a living epistle to the lost world).

Living Coram Deo means that we not only keep Christ’s commands, but that we most importantly act out of love, and speak Truth even in the face of opposition.

Coram Deo will rarely be the easy way. Indeed, living every moment of our lives under awareness of God’s oversight and authority will indeed put all of the trifles and struggles, temptations and frustrations in proper perspective.

How has my life today honored and glorified God? Are my decisions today pleasing to God? Are the words I choose to use going to point others to the Savior? Are the priorities I set, God’s priorities?

Won’t you prayerfully contemplate the challenge?

Discernment

What is “discernment”?

dis·cern·ment
dəˈsərnmənt/
noun
1. the ability to judge well.
“an astonishing lack of discernment”
2. (in Christian contexts) perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.
Discernment is a form of judgment the Christ commanded His followers to exercise, and the apostle Paul also wrote about. Discernment about what is right and wrong, what is of God and not of God. Discernment is simply exercising good, educated judgment.
Sadly, I see an ever-growing plague afflicting Christians – and the disease is “Discernment Deficiency”. What do I mean?
Well – the most obvious is the lack of discernment regarding who they spend their time listening to. I see many churches hosting speakers and simulcasts of celebrity preachers and teachers, who might offer up some “good stuff” on a regular basis, yet at the same time hold to heretical position, which they generally weave in with the “good stuff” they put out.
Another form of “Discernment Deficiency”” comes when Christians buy up the latest popular “Christian book”, fiction or supposed non-fiction. Devotional books that the author quite literally claims to be speaking for God being one example. Another would be popular books that depict flatly heretical, even anti-Christ ways.  So many “Christians” just lap it up. Then you have the less-obvious form of  Discernment Deficiency comes when professed Christians choose a church based on what feels good and/or tickles their ears. Or, they may just stay “content” with the “milk” instead of the “meat” of the Word. (Hebrews 5:12, 1 Corinthians 3:2).
I’ve heard the arguments before which range from “I didn’t know”, to “I take it in and spit the bones out”. I understand, I really do. But, when faced with the realities of writers who hold to incredibly wrong and unbiblical positions, when faced with the knowledge that that book and movie you so love and tell everyone they should read/see is heresy – do you keep holding on to it?
Better yet, when false teachers actually teach blatantly false doctrines, and you completely miss it time and again, there is a problem.  You see, there are a few things necessary to exercise discernment.  Here are some of the big ones:
1. A personal, saving, relationship with Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be surprised when the lost lack spiritual discernment.
2. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is clear that the Spirit guides and directs us, though we are expected to actually listen! This is promised along with salvation.
3. Bible – not just ownership of a copy, not a Bible sitting on the coffee table collecting dust, but a Bible that is read frequently. A Bible that is studied intentionally. A Bible that is heeded.
4. Solid, Biblical, Expository preaching – We need solid, Bible-based, accurate preaching of the Word in our lives.  Preaching that takes the Scriptures and actually expounds on what it actually says IN CONTEXT, not what some guy wants it to say and thus has plucked it out of its context to make a point.
5. Intentional, ongoing, Discipleship.  Jesus said in his Great Commission to go make disciples.  This means intentional, personal, and meaningful time together between mature Christians (read that – those who exercise good discernment) and less mature believers. It means having the tough conversations about what is right, what is true, what is Godly. And it means living it out before others.
Reader – please, before you dish out the money and time to go see the latest speaker/simulcast, or to get and read the latest book, or brag on the latest “Christian” film, pray about it.  Seek out wise counsel, and compare the message with the Bible. Be willing to see through the glossy cover and exciting promotional material.  Look beyond the feel-good “Bible-like” vocabulary.
And watch out for these “code words” and markers:  contemplative prayer (it is a Eastern/Mysic pagan practice being heavily co-opted and rebranded by evangelicals and even Baptists), Social Justice (another concept that has overtaken many Christians – certainly we should desire justice – but those proclaiming it as part of their theology and doctrine have the whole thing upside down and pursue a very unbiblical path to it), any form of “speak it and believe it” (closely related to the prosperity gospel), and most certainly anything that points to your “best life now”!  Pretty much anything that puts you at the center of God’s universe, instead of God at the center of it all is a pretty big indicator of problems. Also, if it is a woman acting in every way like a pastor/preacher, you probably should see there is a problem. And just because their latest book is sold on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore (including Lifeway®), does not in ANY way verify it is a good resource. Quite the contrary, as the dollar has become the master for many of these retailers.
There are too many of these wolves to put a comprehensive list together, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I will do what I can to help you to discern.

Churches, Pastors, and a Problem

I nearly forgot that I set up this blog! I’ve been using my other for some time (though not as regular as I should), and realized I really needed to post here. But it is with a sad heart that I pick this subject on which to post.

The name of this blog is “Contending For The Kingdom”, and that is exactly what I intend for every post to be geared towards. Issues of Kingdom work – observations and experience related to ministry, the Church, and the Gospel.

In this case – I was brought to remembrance of something that has weighed on my heart for some time.  Churches and their pastor(s).  Biblically, we see in the New Testament, elders/pastors basically appointed by the faithful to lead local congregations. Those men were entrusted with “feeding” Christ’s sheep. They were appointed to be leaders who literally ran the affairs of each local church. Church members (saints) were expected, so long as that elder/pastor remained qualified and faithful to the work, to submit to their authority, and to serve along side them willingly and with joy in the Kingdom work.

But there is a sad reality that has grown worse over the years of history, particularly among congregational-rule churches (as most of us Baptists are). The church issues the “call” to a man to pastor, hopefully after bathing the decision in much prayer and after doing do-diligence to find the man God has chosen for the important position. Even though the local church issues the call (usually after a congregational vote with a stipulated margin to consider it a successful call), that pastor is not, biblically, beholden to the congregation first, but to God.

Scripture clearly spells out the framework a pastor is responsible to fulfill. The most important being the ministry of the Word (this is why deacons were called – to take some of the load off the elder/pastor so they could spend more time in that study and preparation of the Word). And while visiting church members and seeing after the sick might not be a biblically-mandated job for a pastor, most of us actually are blessed to be able to carry out this form of ministry as time allows.

Sadly, some church have a great deal out-of-place. They have placed the pastor into a category of little more than an “employee”. Many such churches have lengthy lists of the required “duties of the pastor” that often bear little resemblance to the biblical model. Equally many churches like this have a “ruling body” in the church that leaves out the pastor. This body, often labeled “deacon board”, must approve even move, and hold the pastor under a microscope. Sadly, this is 100% outside the biblical role of the deacons.

Certainly any pastor/elder who has half a brain would LOVE to have a group of men who are godly, spiritually mature, servant-hearted workers to be able to discuss things, to work along side, and to consult with on issues within the church. After all, the biblical qualifications of a deacon are nearly identical to those of the pastor!

Sadly, many in churches have taken upon themselves, either because they have some kind of “seniority”, because of the size of their giving, or the above mentioned title of “deacon”, feel they have the right to exercise ruling authority over the church, with the pastor being the chief (expendable) part of that equation.

I have watched this unfold in several churches, though thankfully not in a church that I have pastored. I have friends who have been flat-out abused by their church, demoralized, and crushed under incredibly un-loving (and un-biblical) actions.

Let me pause for a moment and say this: There are times when a pastor must go. When a man begins to walk outside the clear requirements of a pastor found in scripture – say he is found to be an adulterer, their, or criminal in some other format – obviously he is disqualified and must be put out. Or, if the man occupying the pulpit is not “rightly” handling Scripture, and teaching/preaching spurious, heretical garbage, he should be put out. But even in these extreme cases, there is a process that the Word of God gives us to deal with them – to be addressed “man-to-man”, then take a couple of mature Christian witnesses, then bring it to the church.

Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord say to oust a man from the ministry because he hurt your feelings by preaching against your pet sin. Nor does the Lord indicate that ousting a man for not being able to make it to see you in the hospital. And one the is particularly saddening – when a pastor is bringing in lost people and ministering to them – but members of the church says they don’t want “those people” in the church…

I have been an eye witness to an older pastor, who had endured many health issues of his own, who had recently lost a son to the same health issue, and who was still reeling from it all, when his church, having the un-Scirptural “annual call”  saw a significant (though minority) number vote against him.  How many had actually gone to him to express any concerns they had or any problems that had arisen? To my knowledge, none.  He was blindsided and resigned days later.

Another, more recent case is a personal friend of mine who is one of the most kind, pastoral-hearted men I’ve ever known.  He is biblically-sound and a pretty good preacher who is faithful in His service to the Lord. Yet some of those “leaders”didn’t like that this pastor had disagreed with him (with a biblical response), and was further angered by not being allowed to run rough-shod over the church. This leader (yes, a deacon) pressed for the ousting of my friend. No actual charge was made.

Had my friend been biblically disqualified, had he been teaching or preaching something in error and refused to repent of it, or had he been ignoring his responsibilities as a pastor/elder to “feed the sheep”, I would have been in agreement with the church. Instead he was ousted based on one man’s agenda, who didn’t like the truth (even when spoken in love), and who was offended that those pastor would minister to folks of a different background.

And here we are a few months later, my friend is still hurting – literally wounded in his spirit and heart, and who is drifting in his own world trying to find some clarity. That church had no right to inflict this kind of harm. And I firmly believe that the individual who led this campaign, as well as those who were willing to be pawns in the game, will give answer before the Lord.

In a world of consumer-driven, disposable product, my way mentality, the last place this should be manifest is in the local church. We as a local church are called to be better than that – to be a lighthouse, to offer the world love in place of pain, hope in place of despair, and grace instead of vengeance. In fact, this is exactly what Peter was writing to believers about:

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

When you genuinely love your brethren, as Jesus said we would if we are His, then that love helps you to overlook or in love, to address issues with a person. And is there anyone in your church that needs more grace and understanding that your pastor, who wakes up each morning with the knowledge that he will give account before God almighty what he has done in the role of pastor as a caretaker of the Bride of Christ?

So – first of all, I would encourage you to love and pray for your pastor. Instead of praying for a new pastor, how about praying for the one you have? Second, if you do think there is an issue, won’t you take the biblical path and go to him. Express your concerns. You might just find that you are the one with the misunderstanding.

But even more important is to address spiritual issues within your church, beginning with yourself. Generally a church that will unjustly oust a pastor has other symptoms of spiritual disease. Often it is a membership that is more flesh-minded that Spirit-minded. Usually there is malcontent no matter who the pastor is. And sadly, there may even be the bigger problem of unregenerate membership – meaning that there are people on the church role who don’t REALLY know the Lord. They base their salvation on their attendance, giving, and position, not on their personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus told His disciples that they would be known by one, very specific, character trait: their love one for another. Do the members of your church really love the brethren? This includes your pastor!

And all this extensive blustering, yet I also am aware of churches led by men who should have been ousted long ago, yet they continue one, exercising a near dictatorial reign over their church. I even knew a pastor who had a reputation for calling people who disagreed with him to the parking lot (apparently to punch them out). Again I say – false teachers and those walking in unrepentant sin must be dealt with, and quickly. But we have to quit hurting good, qualified men of God, because ultimately you are hurting the Church. I wouldn’t want to stand before God and try to explain why I harmed the church!