Preach The Word (even through tears)

I was privileged to participate in an ordination service for a young man who had recently been called a pastor of a church that had been without a pastor for quite some time. As is boilerplate, the charge was brought centered around the command to “preach the Word” from 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Sadly, you rarely hear spoken in these services (or even in seminary classes) that simply “preaching the Word” will bring grief. Yet I’ve had reminders of that truth in the last 24 hours.

A friend in another state, faithful expository preacher of the Bible – who holds no unscriptural view, who has never even been accused of preaching falsehoods, but instead – because of a broken local church ecclesiology (theology of church polity and power) – has been pushed out the door and forced to move from the parsonage, without pay to even afford another place to live. This man has been a faithful preacher of the Word. He has been honest and faithful to his call – but this faithfulness has also been the dagger that stabbed him in the back. When you preach in an expository format, you cannot easily skip over the controversial, uncomfortable, and “hard” stuff that many topical preachers conveniently just avoid. If you preach the Word, you will meet these difficult passages with honesty, love, and in a way that will very likely step on toes. And sometimes a church that has members rebelling against God in their personal lives will become offended and want more candy and less meat.

But add in the clear need for biblical discipline – such as a church member going on a well-publicized (in state-wide media) racist rant, or radical, community-rocking sexual sin (thing the incestuous forniaction of 2 Corinthians fame) then to get blocked by the church’s un-biblical church government – and you have a perfect storm to completely devastated a pastor and his family.

broken church

No sooner did I get some details on the above case (which is FAR from the first similar case I’ve become acquainted with among pastor friends), I got word of another friend in a somewhat different ministry position who also has been pushed out of his position via an extremely unbiblical and un-Christlike manner.

This is a sad pattern that, as I shared with my friends this morning, is nothing new and will continue to exist until Jesus steps foot on this earth. But I grieve for the damage done to these men who are simply pouring out their heart, giving of themselves in a very sacrificial way to glorify God and “preach the Word”, to make disciples – and to endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Much of this is rooted in an extremely dangerous theological perspective that many churches have, one that I heard hints of even in the ordination service I was a part of yesterday. While we who claim the Bible as our sole foundation and measure of faith and practice, we often take things to extremes. One example we find – we claim that Jesus is the “head” of the local church. We might even give verbal assent to a pastor being an “under-shepherd” to “lead” the church. Yet I have heard many times (and again heard it yesterday afternoon) that a pastor “serves at the pleasure of the church”. This always strikes me as completely incongruent with Scripture. It is about a maximum stretch to find a full-on “democratic rule” of the local church depicted or prescribed in the New Testament, but to find anything that remotely resembles a pastor being nothing more than a convenience to serve at the fleshly whims of the local church is exactly what brings us to the above mentioned recent cases, and these all are found in a very man/me-centered theology, which is an upside-down theology. It is a very small-view of God that actually places man ABOVE God. While Jesus is the head of the local church, and the church belongs unquestionablly to Him who gave His life for her – scripturally, we have the model and even command for the church to be “elder-led” – meaning God’s man (or men) are called to “rule” (we really hate that word). At the same time, the church does have a voice in many factors – but ultimately, a pastor is God’s man, called to be the primary lead – not as a hireling that can be cast aside when tastes and fleshly desires or feelings blow in a different direction.

But don’t we see this in many help-wanted pastor listings? How often do we see a church saying that they are looking for a man who holds certain degrees from prestigious institutions, who has decades of successful (by what standard?) ministry, yet never even mention that they are looking for God’s man – for the soul that the LORD Jesus Christ would be preparing to lead that congregation. As a seminary graduate myself, I appreciate the tool that seminary was (and still is) in my life and ministry – but the seminary does not make a pastor (or preacher). Wordly preferences do not dictate what God would have for the local church. And the sad reality of many congregations, filled with nominal or immature Christians, we have a recipe for disaster.

Does a pastor, who is faithfully dedicating his life, heart, blood, sweat, & tears deserve to be treated in any matter less than with genuine love, grace, and biblical processes? Understand that a God-called man sacrifices more than you could ever know. He isn’t going to brag about the hours spend in prayer and studying. He isn’t going to post a time card listing the miles and hours dedicated to helping that stumbling church member, that sick widow, or the questioning worry-wart. He won’t trumpet the inconvenience of going to a funeral home with a grieving family that doesn’t know how to put a funeral together. He doesn’t ask for lots of vacation time or leave unless there is no other option available. His phone is on nearly all the time, even when it means sacrificing family. And whether you know it or not: he is praying for you, usually by name every single day.

And in our current world of confusion and fear – he too is dealing with anxiety – and possibly measurable depression. Some who have been deprived of preaching time due to lockdowns or personal quarantine and illness, are struggling with simply not emotionally breaking down. These men… we pastors are not selfish when we pray for some return to “normal”, we are not uncaring when we have expectations that believers would act not out of fear but out of confidence in the LORD as a witness, a living testimony to a fear-paralized and broken world. When we desire the least-restrictive church operation possible, we are not seeking the illness or death of church members, but looking to make the facilities, ministries, and services accessible to the most people.

If you are a member of a local church, you may not realize it – but your pastor loves you. He has been entrusted with your spiritual growth and maturity – and tasked not with babying you and acquiescing to the world or church member preferences, but admonishing, encouraging, and yes, even bringing biblical church discipline when justified. If he preaches a message that spiritually slaps you in the face, don’t get mad, but instead get on your knees and thank God that the LORD and your pastor love you enough to speak the truth – then repent and pursue righteousness! Don’t launch a devil-inspired campaign of dishonesty and destruction in retaliation. And if we slip, if we fail – then remember the Biblical means of addressing that – in the spirit of love and reconciliation, walk and act in grace, covered by prayer, remembering that this pastor is a soul too –

Cast all petiness aside (Read and pray through Romans 14, especially the last 13 or so verses). And seek to walk in the truth of God’s Word.

Please pray for these two men hinted to in this entry – one in Missouri, the other here in Arkansas – and the many facing similar circumstances that I just haven’t heard about yet. If you have issues with your pastor – please pray both for him and for your own heart in the matter – and seek the biblical answer to the perceived problem. And act in LOVE, not vanity and flesh.

Hated Heroes

Just like many little boys, I use to dream of being a police officer. I always looked up to them. Even after I grew up a bit (some would argue it could never happen!) and no

Kid Cop
Not the author

longer dreamed of being a cop, I still looked up to them. I met way too many good men (and later even some good women) who loved their job, and who were truly following a calling to “protect and serve” – who believed their lives mattered and that they were making a positive difference in their communities.

I’ve cried with cops, I’ve stood and let some vent their frustrations. I’ve prayed with them. And I have even gotten past external-content.duckduckgoa few bad seeds who tried their best to cause me to despise them (ask me about a certain Arkansas State Police officer back in 1988, I believe it was). Yet I never grew to hate police.
And just like the way I was raised to judge people based on who THEY are – the “content of their character”, not on a representative few, I still view the statistically small number of bad officers as aberrations to the badge and uniform – as they to the majority of cops who just want to make a positive difference – who don’t care about your skin color – they simply want to make a difference.
And here we are – with a society that has decided that all police officers, of every ilk, of every department from Sheriff’s departments to local and state law enforcement – are all seasons-2evil, wicked, hunters of black men for sport. Statistics don’t matter. Reality is in the eyes of the one narrating the story by the mainstream media.
So I ask: why would anyone put on the uniform, pick up their badges, and go to work to save an ungrateful population that apparently now thinks they are worse than the antichrist? Why would the respond to a domestic disturbance knowing that there is a significant chance of being attacked or even killed? Why respond to that crying mother who’s child has disappeared? Why pull over and help that motorist with a flat tire on the side of a dangerous interstate highway?
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Because police officers have become the new hated minority in this country. Judged not by the color of their skin, but by the uniform they put on to protect YOU. Judged based on an apparently accepted narrative based on the extremely small minority of their coworkers.
Someone please again explain to me how it is morally wrong to judge an entire ethnic group based on the actions of the minority of them – which become an incorrect stereotype… But is just fine to judge all police and law enforcement by the actions of these very small minority of bad players?
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And lest we forget – a black male is exponentially more likely to be killed by another black male than any other means… other than abortion. But our society doesn’t loudly bemoan, protest, riot, or try to shut down the nation over the actual epidemic of black-on-black crime (which is glorified in the entertainment industry, including that produced by African-Americans), or the same regarding Planned Parenthood and other purveyors of literal genocide and eugenics.
No – we have to ostracize and shred the hearts and jobs of hundreds of thousands of caring, justice-minded, and hard-working men and women who willingly put their lives on the line for you and me every single day – despite the growing hate that they did absolutely nothing to deserve.
And now, even Lego toys is pulling (even if now claimed to be a temporary halt to marketing) of police sets and figures?18Clx0A
Meanwhile – while my voice can do little, I will pray for ALL law enforcement. For those who are honorable (often-times genuine heroes), that they would remain safe and not lose heart – that they get to return home to their families after each shift. And yes, for the small number who are truly wicked individuals – whether “dirty”, or hate-filled bigots – that the LORD would break their hearts to see the sin of their ways and that they might repent before they breathe their last (or harm another soul).
pray4police

Is Donald Trump an Evil Racist?

OK – now that I have your attention, I wanted to post related to the ongoing and intentional division being inflicted on our nation, mostly based on engineered circumstances and blind willingness to believe everything one hears and reads, mostly because of our presuppositions (see HERE from last time).

I have seen, with the approaching mid-term elections here in the US, an increase in the stoking of old claims and hatred – all with the purpose of attempting to influence the election. Yes, it is normal to tie mid-term elections to the sitting President – especially if the President’s political party matches the party in the majority in Congress. If said President’s policies and legislative victories are good in your eyes, then, in theory, you would vote for the congressional candidates that would most likely continue that trend.  In contrast, if the current president’s actions and “achievements” in conjunction with the current Congress are in opposition to what you see as positive progress for this nation, you would most likely vote for a candidate that would present an opportunity to change that direction.  It seems like a fairly simple and logical concept.

But we have a problem: I am seeing a huge swath of Americans who are basing their voting (mirrored by their social media and public interaction) not on actual agenda or facts, but on what they have heard or read – often times turning a complete blind eye to reality and facts.

One of the largest targets of all today is President Donald Trump (Twitter: @realDonaldTrump). I have been quite candid about my views on Mr. Trump. He disgusted me as a candidate, and his hot head and fast trigger finger (at least on Twitter) drive me insane.  I have directly addressed him on several issues and have remained less than thrilled at him as a person.  BUT…

The vitriol that is being hurled at President Donald Trump, and by extension, towards those who do support him and his America First ideology is mind-numbing and has grown to the point that it is far more offensive than the language the man has used himself over the years.

The headline topic – racism has always been a hot button issue in this country. We do, indeed have a history that is rife with abuses.  At the same time, the US made huge strides in racial relations, and it has been just the last 10 years or so that have reopened wounds – and somehow Donald Trump is responsible for it all (despite the rips opening up long before he was a candidate or even in a position to affect race relations).

So – let us take a look at Donald Trump and his label as a racist.  After all, this tops the list for most people as to why they hate him so deeply.  Exactly what are these claims based on?

Is it based on some alt-right/White-nationalist websites endorsing him for office in 2016? Much like several radical Left-wing Black-Power racist websites and organizations wildly supported candidate Barack Obama for President in 2008 and again in 2012?  The New Black Panthers even exercised voter intimidation at polling places to prevent white and senior citizens from voting. Donald Trump quickly distanced himself from these brazen white-supremacist groups.  So then his campaign connection to Steve Bannon, who himself, because of his association with Breitbart News was connected, indirectly to “alt-right” entities.  Yet that argument fails to make Donald Trump a racist.

So his comments regarding illegal immigration must be the sure-fire reason he is a “racist” – after all, he campaigned all along on reigning in illegal immigration (never mind that he has never negatively mentioned LEGAL immigration, and in fact has been quite vocal in supporting legal immigration and improving the system that gets so bogged down).  Then-candidate and now President Trump has been so brazen to suggest that we need to take control of the border and that people should be screened and vetted prior to coming in. That they should not “cut in line” before those who are following the law. President Trump has (accurately) stated that dangerous street gangs are filling our streets via illegal immigration (MS-13 being a long-documented and well-known problem across several administrations). The President has suggested that employers who knowingly employ those here illegally should be held accountable.  Somehow, these comments about illegal immigration and the need to control it are glaring evidence that Donald Trump is an “Evil Racist”. I find it amazing that the very people leaning on Trump’s illegal immigrant position and statements are the very same peopel who have been (and continue to be) huge fans of previous presidents who have said essentially the exact same things!

One example:

This sounds incredibly like the vast majority of Donald Trump’s speeches on the issue – even the language used is very similar.

Presdident Obama also had strong words regarding illegal immigration (then Senator):

And then there is Hillary Clinton who, as Senator Clinton, voted for and spoke passionately for building a border wall.

Whether one agerees with any of these viewpoints, we cannot ignore the fact that both of these previous Presidents sound a whole lot like Donald Trump.  If it is “racist” for President Trump to say it, then why was it ok for then Senator/President Obama to say it, or for President Clinton to say it? What has changed?  The person saying it.

Or maybe it is the statement that some claimed Prsident Trump said in a meeting regarding DACA and the lottery system of immigration. Depending on who you as – either the vast majority who were in the meeting who say he did not use the phrase in question (“S**thole countries”), though he did admit to using “tough language”, or the a couple in the room who, at the time, were in the throwes of political battle with the President. But lets say that Trump used the offensive term in the meeting (because we have no recordings or other proof) – before it was even “verified” by Dick Durban, when the story was simply from a single Democrat congerssional aid – the biggest talking heads on CNN and company were blasting Trump as a blatant racist.  No context.  No wait for verification – the ruling was made: Donald Trump Is an Evil Racist.  Never mind that at leats one of the talking heads, Don Lemmon, has a history of his own racial bias and willingness to yell the term from the rooftops for every situation in the world.

I am willing to accept that President used ugly language, regardless of the actual terms, to describe several nations that make up a large portion of our current immigration numbers – nations that are often also hotbeds of crime, violence, corruption, drugs, and growing terrorist activity (especially on the African continent). While I don’t necessarily agree completely with his views on revamping the immigration policy – his intent is to shift to a more merit-based system.

Assuming this one incedent is an accurate portrayal of Donald Trump’s real heart – then certainly we can use the same standard regarding Hillary Clinton, who’s infamous outbirsts while first lady (both in Arkansas and the Whitehouse) are epic. We surely can guage her thoughts by such statements towards campaign manager Paul Fray as a “F__ing Jew Ba*tard!“. And of course, her comment in support of her husband’s crime policies that black men are “super predators” wouldn’t be overlooked?  Even her 2016 opponent Bernie Sanders called her out for her racism. And of course, her off-color remarks regarding Mahatmah Ghandi as running a gas station in St. Louis really was harmless, correct? And never mind her scripted and rehearsed skit for a Democrat fundraiser with Mayor DeBlasio where they openly mocked “CPT” – a well known anacronym for “Colored People’s Time” (even the African-American actor on stage was offended).

All of this while the same media blasting Donald Trump as a racist, have ignored a long history of a Donald Trump that was hailed as a friend of minorities, who received numerous awards and accolades for his efforts for minorities, and who was, until running for office as a Republican, was considered a friend of African-Americans and other minorities.

But lets pause for a moment.  Regardless of all that is posted above – the hypocricy on display, the claims of racism (whether merited or not), have you ever stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, that NONE of the supposedly “racist” claims against either party or any listed- were actually as “racist” as they appear – but are being blown out of proportion simply to inflame hate towards one side or another?  Have you considered that each episode above is beign selectively swept under the rug or broadcast wtih tears and claims as a tool set to promote division?

Could it be that the long-time “trump card” (no pun intended) of racism might be simply noise to distract from the actual positive accomplishments that the current President and Congress have delivered?  That maybe, just maybe, if voters were not constantly bombarded with engineered or artificially inflamed stories of negativeity, they might actually look at what has REALLY been done, and make voting decisions contrary to how those controlling the narrative (especially in the media) are trying to drown us with?  Regardless of whether Donald Trump is actually a certifiable racist or not, the following cannot be described as anything but positive for this nation (unless you really do hate the USA):

  • Through some pretty unconventional means, Donald Trump was able to get the North Korean dictator to the negotiating table, to actually take measurable steps to end and destroy his nuclear program, and – a comfort to many service member families, to return the remains of some 200 military remains.  All of this is far beyond what ANY president since the Korean Conflict has been able to do.
  • ISIS/ISIL has been dramatically shrunk, a feat that President Obama said was impossible.
  • Economic Growth – Despite recent claims by former President Obama that the current economic growth was his doing, the documented reality is – President Obama said that sub 1.8% growth was the “new normal”.  Yet we now see well over 4.6% growth.  With the reduction in regulation and the tax overhaul, we are seeing record low unemployment numbers, with African-Americans seeing the lowest rate of unemployment in recorded history.  Further, people across income bands all are seeing more money in their pockets from the tax changes as well as personal income is rising rapidly.
  • Manufacturing is returning, with announcements by major manufacturers of reopening factories, expansion of existing facilities, and entirely new production lines.

No, positive accomplishments do not erase Donald Trump’s character flaws, of which he has plenty.  The sad reality is, our nation has had very few presidents that have been genuine men of character.  Some have been relatively decent, others have been pretty rotten by pretty much any standard.  We have had serious racists as President, as well as men who fought for freedom ultimately costing their lives.

Glorious Day, Yet Grieving…

Today will go down in history, at least in my own little world, as a radical rollercoaster. We had an incredible day at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs today, including the addition of a new church member and a discussion with another couple who expressed their intent to join next week.

We had a fabulous lunch fellowship and then the crowning time of the day – the ordination of my brother in Christ, friend, and servant-minded man Roger Meredith to the deacon ministry (my first such service to lead). It all was quite wonderful!  Yet while all of this was unfolding in our little neck of the woods, in Sutherland Springs, Texas – a young man, Devin Kelley carried out a horrific and apparently planned attack on the First Baptist Church in that small community.  A church with just over 100 members, and an average Sunday attendance around 50…  Reports so far are that at least 27 are dead and possibly 20 others wounded/injured.  The victims at this point range as young as 5 years old.  And particularly heartbreaking for me – the pastor’s daughter, Annabelle, only 14 years old, was among those murdered. In fact, this particular detail is the one that kicked me in the stomach the hardest – bringing this story FAR too close to home…

At the same time – while I grieve for Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife as they have to struggle to come to grips with the loss of their youngest daughter – maybe this extremely ugly, evil, and sad event serves as a bit of an illustration. You see – this morning, preached a message from Luke 9:57-62 titled “No Excuse Faith” (should be posted on the church Facebook page in the next 24 hours or so). The basic message in a nutshell – Jesus wants followers who have a a No Excuse Faith – who step up and follow Him TODAY- because we really don’t know what tomorrow may hold – or even if we will HAVE a tomorrow.  It shadows Paul’s statement to the Corinthians that “TODAY is the day of salvation!”

How many who were gathered together for worship with FBC Sutherland Springs had a clue that today would be their last? How many put off decisions the Lord had been leading them towards? How many went to their grave having shrugged off the conviction of the Spirit?  How many had a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ – that they carried to the grave because they thought they would deal with reconciliation “tomorrow”?

How many of the young victims among them didn’t hear their mom or day tell them they loved them this morning? How many forgot to tell their spouses how much they loved them? Who among them possibly put off turning to Jesus until a “tomorrow” that, for them, won’t come?

The reality is – today is the day to take a step of faith to follow Christ with everything you have in you – to trust in Him, because you may never find  another opportunity.

The same goes for our loved ones – have you hugged your wife/husband’s neck and simply told them “I love you”? Do you sometimes skip telling your kids the same? Take the opportunity you have right now to tell those you love just how much you do!

Stop making excuses – make the most of today, because we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. It’s a shame we sometimes have to be reminded by such shocking events.

Make a difference today!