Remembering Mom

Judy Elaine Harris peacefully transitioned to her her eternal rest in the presence of the LORD at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO Wednesday morning, April 22, 2020. Born October 6th, 1946 in Durham, North Carolina to Elaine and John Hunziker.  She graduated from Watson Chapel High School in 1964, and years later after raising her son, began a new journey in education, earning her Batchelor of Arts in English Language from UAPB (1988), and the MA in English Language from the University of Dallas in 1992, then served as a professor of English at El Centro College (Dallas), Oakland University College (Rochester Hills, MI), Schoolcraft College (Lovonia, MI),  and Lone Star Community College (University Park & Tomball, TX)), from which she retired in 2011.

And while Judy was a committed mom and granny, faithfully praying for her son IMG_4688(Michael Battenfield, Highfill, AR), daughter (Tracy Harris, Sterling Heights, MI)43346151_10217450635724014_6701318273721434112_n, grandson (Anthony Fowlkes of Austin, TX), and granddaughters (Anna & Selah Battenfield of Highfill, AR), she was equally engaged in trying to make a difference in the lives of those around her, whether it be her church family (Thank you Stoney Creek Church, Utica, MI), or the great cloud of friends she had accumulated. In fact, most who knew her, knew that once you were her friend, you were thought of as family. Quick to both love and forgive, she often gave far more of herself than she had to give, She also generously supported several causes dear to her heart including campaigns against drunk driving, the arts, and education.

Judy was preceded in death by her parents, John and Elaine Hunziker, and her husband of 26 years, her “Bubby” – William Robert Harris, the love of her life who she so longed to see again.220462_1712803056482_5684683_o In addition to her son, step-daughter, and grandchildren, Judy is survived by her brother J. Emil Hunziker (San Antonio, TX).

But no more important truth about Judy, was her love for Jesus Christ as her very real and personal Savior. Indeed, it was this love for Christ that truly empowered her love for others.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 9, 2020 at 1:00PM at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs, AR, and a second memorial service and internment will be held in Michigan as soon as the Governor allows.

For those wishing to celebrate mom’s life, in lieu of flowers, may make a contribution to any of the following:

  • First Baptist Church, PO Box 175, Cave Springs, AR. 72718 or CLICK HERE
  • Stoney Creek Church, 45835 Van Dyke Ave. Utica, MI 48317 or CLICK HERE
  • BMA Seminary, PO Box 670, Jacksonville, TX 75766 or CLICK HERE
  • Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, PO Box 332161, Nashville, TN. 37203 or CLICK HERE

 

I Hate Obituaries

I hate obituaries, and I won’t apologize for saying so.  I do recognize the need for something to combine a death notice with a relatively short life overview that the people who knew the deceased might confirm and acknowledge the loss. Yet I have never read an obituary that has really done justice to the person who has passed away. Some are so brief and cold that there is no indication of who the person was. Others are flowing dedications that essentially try to compliment a person right through the pearly gates, often coming across as pompous. Writing an obituary really is an impossible task undertaken by those who are most emotionally impacted by the passing, and who are really in no position to have to think through and process all that might rightly be included in such a dedicatory piece.

As a pastor, I have often been tasked with reading the obituary in the context of a funeral or memorial service. Time after time, I find myself really no better informed of the person or the life they lived than before the reading. After all, how do you summarize the life of someone who maybe lived 50, 60, or even 73 years as my mom did? How do you honor your loved one without painting a false picture? Yet that was the task before me last week as I penned the above.  And as always, I am disgusted with what turned out. Even after dozens of edits and rewrites, I’ve been unable to come to a point that I am happy with it, but it is what it is.

But I still feel compelled to add a bit – to the person my mom really was.  She was a flawed person – just like me.  She made mistakes.  Just like we all do.  Yet through it all, my mom was one of the most consistent, reliable, and honest examples of unconditional love I have ever known.  Over the last week, I have received phone calls, private messages, and texts from her friends, former students, and others who’s life she impacted with her love.

It was my mom who, from very early in my life, instilled in me blinders regarding skin color and culture. She didn’t care what ethnicity you are. She didn’t care about your background – she had a unique ability to see you for the human being God created you as, and the amazing potential in everyone.  She was an ardent hater… of hate.  And she worked in every part of her life to try to help people to be the very best they could be – a trait that helped make her an exemplary teacher… and mom, granny, bonus mom, and faithful friend.

My mom was one of the greatest examples of a prayer warrior I have ever known – faithfully lifting up each and every request before the throne of God – beginning with me.  Indeed, I credit my mom’s faithful and relentless prayers for me even being alive today – and continue to give thanks for God’s answers to her prayers even as I try in earnest to glorify His holy name in all that I do.

Another unique trait my mom passed on was her heart for those who became her family.  You see, my mom never quit seeing my dad’s family as still “family” and her love for them never diminished, even after my mom and dad divorced and both remarried.  My cousins remained her nieces and nephews. My aunts and uncles were still her brothers and sisters in-law (and the “in-law” part never really meant anything to her). But extending even beyond literal family, was my mom’s undying love for what we refer to in our family as “extended family” – those who may not be blood relatives, but are every bit as much family because… they are equally loved.  Indeed, while I was an only child by birth, my closest friends growing up, including Matthew Haustein and Arthur Owens were 100% as sons in her world, and she was just as protective and concerned for them as she was me!  When I married Diana, my mom didn’t caller her “daughter-in-law”, she was simply her daughter.  The same for my step-sister Tracy Harris – who mom considered simply her daughter.  No ifs, ands, or buts. Anthony, my nephew through Tracy – was never a “step-grandson” – but simply her grandson, for whom she had a love that was as unconditional and absolute as it was for anyone.

I remember the day that I called mom back what seems like forever ago, to share with her the news that I had surrendered to the ministry. I was somewhat shocked when, through her own tears, stated that she was wondering how long it was going to take for me to figure that calling out.  And the joy in her heart was overwhelming –

I remember the call when we found out our first daughter was to be born significantly

IMG_1178

prematurely. And while she was her usual emotional overflow, she was still a voice ofcalm and faith. And from day 1, was deeply in love with her “Precious Angel Baby”.

And no less was her joy when her second granddaughter, Selah was born.  Granny’s IMG_3116little cowgirl was yet another jewel in her heart.

In August of 2011, Mom and Bob moved back to Michigan to write the next chapter in their lives – with a focus on investing in their grandson Anthony. 12074901_10207850028754840_2360553044091934581_n

Even though her devastating loss of her “Bubby” (Bob Harris), her husband of nearly 26 years to the hands of a drunk driver, she still remained the faithful prayer warrior who was passionate about her family.

The Unexpectedly Short Final Chapter

Last year, she began contemplating one more big move – to sell her condo in Shelby Township and move to Northwest Arkansas to write the final chapter of her life – to similarly invest in the lives of her granddaughters.  In February of this year, she sold her Michigan residence and made the big move.  She was able to find a new home, just 6 miles from our own home in the small town of Gentry. Just as she was beginning to settle in, something happened.  The world, and our nation was turned upside-down by a virus the illness it causes known as COVID-19.  This put a damper on life, but its greatest impact was not direct but indirect.  On Tuesday, April 7, mom called needing me to come take her to the ER.  She was experiencing symptoms of a possible stroke (paralyzed tongue, blurred/double-vision, weakness, balance issues), and her doctor’s office told her to get to the ER as quickly as she could.  I dropped her at the ER and helplessly watched them wheel her into the doors (closed to all but patients and staff due to the virus).  On Thursday morning, mom crashed and had to be resuscitated and moved to ICU.  The hospital called to let me know – and allowed me to come see her that afternoon.  While I was there, she was still responsive though weak.  She had about been weaned from the ventilator, and while I was there, they tested her breathing ability and decided to pull the vent.  Unfortunately, in less than a minute, she stopped breathing and again coded and was resuscitated.  From that point, she never really came back.  She was transferred to Springfield, MO for access to a much more comprehensive neurology department. Yet after multiple MRIs, they simply could not find any evidence of a stroke.  They initially began treating her for Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder that her symptoms seemed to match. yet after intensive treatment, there was no improvement (and initial lab work returned negative). Finally, the CDC was contacted with the one thing nobody had considered – the possibility of botulism. The symptoms, including rapid onset seemed to match, and the CDC even sent the antitoxin to be administered, and samples were sent for testing.  Unfortunately, test results became irrelevant as her condition and prognosis made it all futile. Her written directives were clear, and we had to honor that. So at 10AM on Wednesday, April 22, we said our final goodbyes to mom and watched her slip incredibly peacefully into eternity without so much as a sound, sigh, or gasp… but simply a single tear…

 

I Am Going To Die!

I’m going to die!  I am 100% certain of it – and no doctor can tell me otherwise, nor can they prevent this from happening.

CoronavirusNo, I don’t have COVID-19. No, I’ve not been diagnosed with cancer or some other dread disease.

But Scripture is clear: “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:11).  I was born with a death sentence on my life. While I don’t know when that day will come, or even by what means that death will come, it is a date which is already set in stone.   Indeed, even by worrying myself to a frazzle, the same Bible clearly record the words of Jesus: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)
worry
You see, we all share the same death sentence, totally earned and deserved. For the wages (just payment for) of sin is death
Romans 6:23a.  I will one day draw my last breath and die the first death. Short of the end of the world and the LORD’s return, every single one of us will face that certainty. What comes next is the kicker!

For those who are in Christ – we are partakers of the resurrection – and will be unaffected by the second death –  the eternal condemnation and judgment of a very real Hell and the Lake of Fire – the abode of torment created for Satan and his fallen coconspirators.  For God has made it clear For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18)iu-3.jpeg

I not only am completely unable to save myself from this totally justified wrath by the Holy and Righteous creator of all things – but am utterly and hopelessly condemned – BUT…

While I could never in a million years of doing good stuff make up for my sin, God, through His Son Jesus Christ (both fully God and fully man), took on my sins and paid that sin debt on my behalf- All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on 1.jpgHim. (Isaiah 53:6) God Himself paid the debt I owed, taking my sin and shame and carrying it as far as the East is from the West.  And not only that, but He has promised “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37). Even more blessed is that Jesus also said: “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30)

And this all is so simple, as to almost be impossible to fathom.  But Scripture says that “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13). But let’s think a moment about what it means to “call upon the name of the LORD” – It isn’t simply like asking someone for a gift. Calling on is at its simplest – when you absolutely and completely trust someone to come through in the very worst of situations – when all people you know might very well fail – KNOWING that GOD alone is there with you – helping you – strengthening you, that you will NEVER be alone. Paul, in quoting the Old Testament passage Deuteronomy 31:6, wrote in Hebrews 13:5 “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.”

“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9)

Confessing simply means to affirm and be willing to state with absolute certainty that Jesus Christ is LORD (that HE is God, who took your sins in full, paid the price by His death on the cross, carried them away, and was resurrected winning victory over death, and that HE is the King and ruler of your life (he is even if we don’t acknowledge it – but it is a willingness to live it).

Jesus put it even more simply as He was traveling through Galilee calling His first disciples – He simply said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (MARK 1:15). To repent means to literally TURN FROM your sins – reject sin, a change of heart regarding sin and those things that offend God.


1_thumbnail

But none of this is even possible on our own – again, I go back to my utter inability to do anything about my sins or to pay for them. You see, God described it way back in Ezekiel this way: “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19)

God begins the work in us, and as part of the greater gift, by drawing us to Himself “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day”. (John 6:44)

That greater gift? It is that Jesus did it all for us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) By God’s Grace (His divine, sovereign will an choice) He draws people of all ages, groups, nations, and people to Himself, gives them than new. Heart of flesh, opens their eyes to see and ears to hear, and gives them the faith to believe and the strength to turn from sin.

I will never, in this life, understand WHY, nor even HOW it all could possibly be –  but that is why it is called faith.  But it isn’t just a blind faith – for history has proven that Jesus Christ was a very real person in time – who made waves throughout the world. We an trust the Bible and how it records it all because, again, history confirms it – and the evidence is overwhelming.

And it is why we can walk without fear – 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

In fact, God has told us through the pen of Peter: “casting all your anxiety on Cast-Your-CaresHim,because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

And finally, for those who truly trust in Jesus, we have this incredible promise in my own favorite verse of all: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) In this, we are not promised an easy life. We are not promised health. We are not promised a lack of pain. He hasn’t promised we won’t face an ugly virus… or even cancer. But HE does promise His children that HE is with us, and that He will use it and work even these hard and dark things – to our good.

And THIS is why – whether its COVID-19/Coronavirus, Cancer, violence, accident, or whatever – I do not fear my last breath. I do not fear what is to come – because God has it all in His perfect hand. And it is in HIM that we can find peace and genuine fulfillment.  And it is my prayer that you too can find “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Then you too may not fear what this world may bring.

Coronavirus.png

Baptism and Faith

XIV. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
We believe that the Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried and risen Saviour, with its effect, in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation, and to the Lord’s Supper; in which the members of the church by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.

Acts 8:36-39; Matt. 3:5-6; John 3:22-23; John 4:12; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12; Acts 16:32-34; Acts 18:8; Acts 10:47-48; Gal.3:26-28; Rom.6:4; Col. 2:12; I Peter 3:20-21; Acts 22:16; Acts 2:41-42; I Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; I Cor.11:28; I Cor. 5:1-8; I Cor. 10:3-32; I Cor. 11:17-32; John 6:26

 

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith is a beautiful document that is the original foundational statement of faith the church association I am a part of rests. it does a beautiful job of describing baptism.  This document itself finds its origins in Scripture (of course), as well as a preceding Confession which is somewhat more detailed and the one to which I prefer to fall back on – the Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, as it holds more details. The chapter on Baptism is as follows:

Chapter 29 Of Baptism

1 Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.(Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4)

2 Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37; 2:41; 8:12; 18:8)

3 The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19-20; Act 8:38)

4 Immersion, or dipping of the person fin water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. (Mat 3:16; John 3:23)

I bring this up because of an all too common issue that comes up from time to time in ministry:  Those who make professions of faith, especially at a very young age, that FromD2L-Nelsonmight not have been genuine professions at the time. But because of “our” relatively modern methodology of “get them to say a prayer and dunk ’em” has led to many false assurances of salvation, and ultimately spiritually dead church members. In his book Death To Life, Allen Nelson IV refers to these folks as the walking dead. The startlingly sad reality is that there are (and have long been) those who – as he put it:

We would be stunned at how many people have a date written down in their bible but not their name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Even more alarming is how many of these people might be pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, or other prominent leaders within the church. Just because people feel saved, doesn’t mean they are saved. (From Death To Life: How Salvation Works, Chapter 2, p. 19)

This is a reminder of why I am so thankful for several brethren the LORD placed in my path as I began ministry. One that really sticks out in my heart on the issue of salvation and baptism is Bro. Harrel Herring. Bro. Harrel’s real burden and passion was for not just professions of faith – but for genuine conversion.  His own testimony was one oft-heard – having “walked the aisle” when his brother did, and an evangelist who asked all the wrong questions and offered raving, yet false, assurance of salvation.  Bro. Harrel knew at the time he wasn’t genuinely saved – but who was he to question or argue the 

image1point as a youngster?  But Harrel knew what the problem was and did indeed come to
genuine repentance and saving faith.  But this experience planted in him the passion he spent much of the rest of his life trying to help other to avoid false professions and to find real, saving faith. Indeed, I first met Bro. Harrel at Budd Creek Baptist Camp during the BMA of Arkansas week back in 2006. At camp, Bro. Harrel had the privilege of meeting with each young person who made a profession, to ask the right questions to at least have some basis for recording decisions.  He also gave out copies of a booklet he had put together specifically for new believers titled Starting My Life With Christ. I still have a handful of copies and find it quite useful!

The problem Brother Herring was trying to address is a real one. Every church I have been a part of in my walk since conversion has had more than one similar illustration – someone who made a profession, but then at some point later determined that it was not a genuine conversion and came to Christ afterward.  Unfortunately, there are those in churches who never do realize their repeating of a “sinners prayer” was nothing more than the “vain repitition” Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:7! They are, as Allen Nelson labeled them – The Walking Dead.

But God is indeed full of Amazing Grace! And He does still call many from that spiritually dead state to new life! He is indeed faithful to call ALL who are His to repentance. And the responsibility of those He does call out of that dead state is to, as those lowly fishermen Jesus called in Galilee did – drop your nets and follow Him!

And one of the first steps one called to new life to take is baptism. Even if you were dunked in a pond, creek, pool, or “official” church baptistry – if it was on a false profession – it was nothing more than getting wet.  It was not a genuine act of obedience in faith. Therein lies the rub for many – whether it is pride or shame, some who realize their old profession was without merit find it difficult to publicly proclaim their newfound salvation for fear of shame or for their position. And many shudder at the thought of submitting themselves for “re-baptism” (a misnomer if the first was not scriptural). Sadly, some never make known their latter genuine conversion for fear of what others will think. And this is what brings me to the impetus for today’s entry:

As both a father and a pastor, I am always extremely concerned about the possibility of pressuring a young person, particularly my own daughters, into a “decision” that is not God-initiated, and preceded and empowered by the Holy Spirit and HIS complete work in salvation. In this case, my youngest daughter, Selah, made a profession several years ago while I was still in my first pastorate (Park View Baptist Church, North Little Rock). She followed on the heels of her older sister. Both had been immersed in the gospel from birth (or before if you consider in-vitro time in church!). Both had received the benefit of not only their mom and me trying our best to speak and demonstrate the gospel, but a church with many caring souls who also poured into them the words of Life. So when Selah came to me and said she had asked Jesus into her heart, she had all the right answers, to the right questions (as Bro. Harrel would put it). Selah is sharp and while casual observation might lead you to believe she is paying zero attention – she soaks in what is going on around her in an amazing way. So – after several of us visited with her, she submitted herself to be baptized.

Yet far too often, we saw signs that gave her mom and I serious pause regarding her actually having seen genuine regeneration. Some of her actions going way beyond “childhood indiscretions” or “immaturity”.  Six months ago, Diana and I both voiced concern about Selah’s spiritual condition and began praying in earnest for answers, guidance, and for God to truly work in her.

On Wednesday evening, July 18, those of us at Ozark Baptist Encampment, Week 1, those of us at camp knew something was up.  But when I got the message that I was needed at our girl’s cabin at nearly 10:30PM, I knew something was serious.  Selah was afraid that I would be mad if she told me – but she knew without a doubt that when she made her “profession of faith” several years ago – it wasn’t real – she just did what she knew the rest of us wanted – and what got her positive attention. There were signs this time of genuine contrite heart and very heavy conviction.

And the Sunday after camp, Selah came before First Baptist Church and confessed before the entire assembly of what had happened, including her false profession years ago, and submitting herself humbly for baptism! I am pleased to announce that on Sunday, August  19, I get to genuinely baptize my precious daughter! And don’t ever doubt my joy and thanksgiving that God didn’t just leave her to her own case of The Walking Dead! And don’t ever doubt the power of God to call His own unto repentance and genuine salvation!

And preachers – never tire of preaching the gospel, the whole gospel, the saving gospel always!

…because we love the brethren

As the pastor of a relatively small church who is always looking at the condition of not only the congregation I lead, but to investigate the history of churches that have seen divisions, splits, and much more.  Since long before I was ever called to ministry, I have “suffered” from a constant yearning to know “why” and “how”. It is just part of my core being.

As a pastor, I try to grasp the whys and whats of a church’s history – why people join or leave a church, why young people (as much are wringing their hands today over) seem to be leaving churches in alarming numbers, and even why a church might split. Part of that ongoing series of quests is a look at the problem of swollen church membership rolls – that often include names that possibly no current member even knows the identity of! I believe one of the core problems (or diseases) responsible for a lot of these symptoms and issues is a spiritual issue – and in many cases, the problem is unregenerate church membership.

Bear with me for a bit – as this will take a few steps to explain.  You see, Jesus assembled His church – that first local church (as Christ’s Church is nearly always referred to) in Israel – a “church” that moved around following Him until He returned to His rightful place in Heaven. That church settled in Jerusalem where it gained the respect – dare say even admiration from their neighbors (Acts 2:47 records that they had favor with all the people). What inspired this period of favor (that also appears to have drawn people to Christ – and thus to be saved?) – the relationship these members of that first church had with each other – they were:

And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ACTS 2:44-47)

Quite simply, their love for one another was such that they made sure everyone in need had their needs met (through sacrificial giving), worshipped God gladly and sincerely, and were day-by-day (regularly, even daily meeting together including fo worship). This early church was demonstrating what Jesus identified as one of the biggest of hallmarks of being a genuine Christ-follower:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

The word love here comes from the same Greek word (ἀγάπη – agapaō the same self-scarificing love Jesus demonstrated on behalf of His sheep on the cross!  And this is the exact same term translated as love in the source passage for my tltle today:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14)

This is the same love that Peter wrote of in 1 Peter 4:8 to the church under great persecution: Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

I have long chewed on the concept of “love covers a multitude of sins”.  A genuine, personal, self-sacrificing love for your brothers & sisters in Christ overcomes/covers more sins than we can comprehend – just as Jesus’ perfect demonstration of this same kind of self-sacrificing love covered 100% of the sins of every person who would ever trust Jesus alone for Salvation – His sheep. We are called, time and again, to have and to demonstrate self-sacrificing love, beginning with our “brethren”.  It is this same love that drives a God-called pastor to fulfill the charge Paul had for Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2) to be ready in and out of season to REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT. Indeed, anyone claiming to be a pastor who is unwilling to reprove (put to the proof – point out error based on proof), rebuke – to boldly address, call out, to put/shut down errors, and to exhort – to call to action/correction – literally to plead with urgency for change. A pastor who loves his (Christ’s) people is willing to stand on Scripture and to take the steps necessary to correct those in error (sin, as well as doctirnal/theological errors).

And out of love for Christ and love for their brethren (including such a pastor), born-again church members should desire and even be glad to receive such correction with a right attitude.

Likewise – even a pastor with the best of intentions can make an error, and should have such a love that he can take correction with gladness.

Within the local church – genuine, intentional discipleship begins when members have this same self-sacrificing love tha they are willing to invest of themselves and their time to walk side-by-side with fellow believers to teach, lead, and help mature those believers.

It is the same kind of unselfish love that will draw together a local church as nothing else will – and will actually attract those around them who need to experience that same kind of love.

And it is this same love that will lead the born-again to regularly assemble together to worship God, to grow spriritually, and to edify their brethren – and lead you to not forsake the assembling together (Hebrews 10:25).

Which brings us full circle to the title verse – and the sobering reality penned by John under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 John – that we boil down as beign able to identify thsoe who are not abiding in life (Christ) by their lack of love for the brethren.

Do you love your fellow Christians? Does that love cover a “multitude of sins” – aka when they mess up, as humans do? Do you desire to be WITH Christians – beginning with the regular meetings for corporate worship as the local church, but also that you would spend a significant portion of your life with fellow chrisitans sacrificially giving to them of your time and self (disicpleship)? Does the church you are a member of have a pastor who loves you enough to be willing to deal with the real and hard issues and to reprove, rebuke, exhort the body to follow Scirpture?

Or do you abide in death?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hypocrisy and Current Events

This post originally appeared on the authors old blog.

hypocrisy:

     1. a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially  :  the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

 
     2. an act or instance of hypocrisy
The simple definition of the term would be in application – to claim to believe or hold a belief or view, but your actions or words contradict your claims.
I have been reading, watching, and listening to the constant noise regarding the so-called #BlackLivesMatter movement. I have been trying to absorb all I can to try to understand where those protesting (or participating in much more nefarious activities) are coming from. But the more I read, the more I actually look at facts, the more I spend time in prayer for our nation and for those who are involved, I find the more jaded I become. I have been labeled a racist more times than I can count. I have been told that I just cannot understand – after all, I apparently am afflicted with this now dread disease called White Privilege.
Ok – I’m fed up. I’m tire of the labels, and I’m tired of the abject lies and hypocrisy being demonstrated. But as always, I want to take a biblical angle on this, so here goes:
What does the Bible say? It says all people are made in the image of God (Imago Dei). Scripture clearly points to the very reason murder is wrong:we are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Further, Jesus clearly commanded that we LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS. Neighbors in this context is not just literal neighbors who look like us, who live near us, who are parts of the same social circles and do the same activities – or who look like us. Our neighbors are humanity. The easy answer to all the garbage we see would be to “love our neighbors”. But that is shunned – why? Oh, because it means actually seeing people of other backgrounds and races, people who don’t look or act like us – as having intrinsic value in their very lives.
But let us get back to the hypocrisy that spawned this post:
#BlackLivesMatter is probably one of the most hypocritical movements I’ve every witnessed. The movement began with the shooting of a young man on the street in Ferguson, Missouri. The immediate response, before his body was even cold, was a media-fueled frenzy over the claim that he was unarmed, and that he was shot in cold blood with his hands in the air shouting “hands up-don’t shoot!”. Yet when the evidence – the cold, hard facts – came out, the officer was shown to have clearly been clearly justified in the shooting, as his life was threatened by the attack by this young man.
But in response to the shooting, long before any real facts were available, large crowds assembled ostensibly to protest the “wrongful shooting” and in a more broad sense – against the “open season on black men” by law enforcement. Protests led to riots, which led to looting. All behaviors that the core of the black community has tried hard to distance themselves from – chalking such behavior as unfair to label them with. Yet it gave ammunition to those who do indeed still hold racist views of African-Americans.
We have heard cries of “open season” on Black men, over police shootings of black men. Yet the actual statistics show something quite different. Last year, the official numbers show that nearly twice as many Caucasians were killed by police as African-Americans. Yet those claiming to want the truth, continue to absolutely ignore the statistics. Telling lies and repeating lies to gain support for your views is repulsive, no mater who does it. If you want justice, then it must begin with facts.
And now we have, after two high-profile police shootings of black men in two different states, and now police officers are being targeted for murder – police officers that are not even connected to the shootings in question. Indeed, the guilt born by the officers killed this past week was exclusively based on wearing a badge (and having light colored skin).
#BlackLivesMatter – blocking traffic on major roads, delaying medical care for a young girl headed to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
#BlackLivesMatter – spawning, inspiring, and encouraging hate towards Police Officers (even if it really is unintentional).
#BlackLivesMatter – using the label of racist to anyone who points to facts and reality.

#BlackLIvesMatter – conspicuously absent in Chicago where young Black men are murdered every day, by fellow Black males.
#BlackLIvesMatter – conspicuously absent from the abortion clinics all over this nation who have killed more African-Americans than all the wars fought, and police violence taken in this nation’s history.

And then we have the politicians who are playing along with this movement, calling for gun bans, stricter gun-control, and other measures that would actually disarm and/or limit access to firearms by law-abiding African-Americans.

Of course, a student of history knows that the earliest gun control legislation in this nation was a response to the freeing of slaves, and was pushed specifically with the intent of keeping guns out of the hands of these freed slaves.

Planned Parenthood, started and built by Margaret Sanger, who had a well-known agenda of eugenics against Blacks. Yet so many in the self-appointed leadership of the Black Community are adamant supporters of…Planned Parenthood, and often are among the biggest supporters of so-called “reproductive choice” (aka – the murder of unborn children).

We are told that #BlackLivesMatter in such a way that it can’t help but be interpreted as ONLY Black Lives Matter. Maybe it isn’t intended that way, but when one brings up one of my original points – that ALL lives matter, as we are ALL made in the image of God, the vitriol and anger is unleashed – and the “racist” card gets slammed down.

Indeed, for years, we have heard of the unfairness of being judged by the color of our skin (Dr. Martin Luther King said it beautifully when he said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Yet we still see hiring practices and quotas, college admissions, and governmental contract requirements that specifically and very explicitly singling out a particular race for preferential treatment, overriding actual qualifications and merit.

How is this not hypocritical?

What is the answer? – What did Jesus say? LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR – something all but impossible if not for a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.


And update since the original publication of this post in July 2016.

Since this entry was originally published on my old blog, many things have happened – including the election of a new President who has been vilified by many, particularly of the #BLM as a racist.  Also since that time, the above group has been joined by another, far more terrorist in nature now as #ANTIFA (ostensibly standing for “Anti-Fascists” – though their tactics are, themselves, trademark fascist tactics).  Since that post, a woman was killed and several others injured by a driver in Charlottesville, SC, the scene of an incredibly ugly set of protests from widely-differing viewpoints, all driven by local government to an obviously intentional clash. Violence meets violence, all set-up by city officials and law enforcement.

Since that original post, I have found myself the center of vitriolic attacks for essentially holding to the viewpoint I espoused in the original. Apparently, believing that all lives matter before God, our Creator, is somehow both racist and hate-filled.

And just recently in Las Vegas, NV – a supposed lone gunman opened fire on over 22,000 music festival attendees outside the Mandolay Casion and Resort, killing (at latest count) nearly 60, and wounding over 500 in a senseless act of cowardice by a man (assuming the narrative holds) who was a pawn of Satan, unregenerate in heart, and completely given over to his evil intentions.

And again I ask – does life matter? Should certain skin colors have more value in the eye of the public than others?  Not according to the Bible.

Pray for this nation – pray for repentance. Pray for revival of local churches – including a rekindling of the fire for the Gospel message and Christ’s command to make disciples.