For Sake of God’s Kingdom: OPEN THE CHURCH!

This past Sunday, thousands of small house churches met in China, Iran, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and several other nations that are lethally-hostile to Christianity. Each led by a pastor, an elder, or simply a layperson who understands Christ’s call to His churches to assemble regularly together. Each faced slightly differing threats – some from neighbors, others from police or government officials – and all also under a declared world-wide pandemic. And without a doubt, there were some who were found and reported, some who have been beaten for gathering with the saints. And we have no way to know for certain just how many may very well have died for their faith as a product of simply trying to meet together with the local body of believers.

Meanwhile, here in the US, Canada, and several other far more “Church-friendly” nations, thousands of churches were empty, doors locked or with only a skeleton crew to operate a camera and to “preach” to, in hopes that an electronic video would stream to a social media or video hosting platform that some of their people might tune in. Some of these local churches are claiming to be following Romans 13’s command to subject themselves to the ruling authorities who have issued mandates and regulations that have all-but made church gatherings illegal. Others are simply scared of this virus and fear being blamed if someone were to get sick and die from it. Figures like Andy Stanley (I refused to call him a “pastor” as he has turned apostate on all manner of foundational doctrinal matters) closed their corporate mega churches months ago wiht promisees to reopen in January, yet their auditoriums are still empty with the lights mostly off – and their flocks still scattered… and like the flocks, big-or-small across this nation – the sheep are suffering and even dying from discouragement, spiritual deprivation, and growing malease from the lack of a fundamental need of all genuinely regenerated believers: the personal fellowship and edification that comes with corporate prayer, worship, and preaching.

I ask, first: which is the biblical picture? Which is seeking to please God rather than man? Which represents a hope of and in a God who is Sovereignly ruling and reigning still? Which holds a low view of God and His power and authority? Which fulfills the writer’s admonition in Hebrews 10:25

25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25

How do we fulfill the command to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) through Zoom teleconference or a recorded video?

How can we share together the ordinances of the church Christ left for us through a pre-recorded message? The Lord’s Supper, that beautiful reminder of the sacrifice Christ made of Himself on our behalf is commemorated in the sharing together of the elements – with the combined illustration of humble service. Jesus didn’t die virtually, nor should we remember that sacrifice “virtually”.

But lets address a few things. First is that claim of Romans 13 submission to ruling authorities. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are commanded to obey God first. And every single time that man’s law and rulers conflict with God’s Law & Commands, the positive choice is always God’s Commands. Whether in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, or the Pharaoh in Egypt, or in the face of Roman and Jewish rulers who demanded the early believers not proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the God-glorifying, Kingdom-building and righteous decision is to always obey God rather than man.

For those who refuse to open churches for in-person worship based on threats of fines or arrest under law or dictatorial edicts, particularly in the United States, I encourage you to find a copy of the U.S. Constitution and turn to the Bill of Rights and the first Amendment (included here for your convenience):

The key component here is that it clearly prohibits the government from prohibiting (interfering with) the free exercise of religion or the abridging of the freedom of speech… or the right to peaceably assemble. So, even if one were to try to twist Hebrews 13 to be a mandate to obey governing authorities even when their demands contradict God’s commands, these mandates and forced closures are themselves unlawful. This doesn’t’ change just because there is a virus.

So lets turn to fear. Yes, the virus that has triggered the “global pandemic” is a real virus. Yes, I personally know people who have died either directly from, or as a result of complications arising from the virs formally known as SARS-CoV-2. My intent here is not to chase theories regarding where it came from, if it was a human engineered weapon, or if it is a sign of the prophetic end times. But I will argue that Satan has used Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (hereafter referred to as FUD) to cause authorities and church leaders to make un-Godly decisions. And as we see our world (and especially the USA) turn increasingly anti-Christian, anti-church (if the church isn’t #WOKE with the Social Justice false gospel of the day), and so-called “Christian leaders” sacrifice the gospel and kingdom building on the altar of politics and political correctness to appease the culture – we see an increasing hopelessness: the exact opposite of what Christ’s people are suppose to be showing the world.

And please don’t take this wrong – many churches have been forced to reach beyond their physical building via streaming or video uploading of sermons. Indeed, the church I pastor has seen an interesting audience well outside of our local “mission field”. But again, this in no-way justifies shutting the doors of the local church meeting.

Among the most common phrases in all of Scripture, directed always at God’s people:

Each and every time the doors of the local church open, people make a decision if they are going to assemble together with the saints or not. This has always been true (and is the core of admonition regarding not forsaking the assembly as is the matter of some). Long before their was a Coronavirus causing panic or being used to create FUD, people made this decision. Week-after-week. But as a pastor, I have no right to take away an the opportunity to assemble together with believers. I don’t even take issue with taking reasonable precautions as one would with any spreading illness (we can save discussion of the efficacy of some of the current mandates and requirements at another time), if that is what it takes to help people overcome their fear. But ultimately, whether someone assembles together with the local church at any given time is a matter between the individual, their doctor, and their Creator. But I will do everything within my ability to make sure the doors of the church I have been called to lead, are open for for all who desire to worship as we have been called to worship (together), and I call out other pastors – for the sake of the sheep – the flock of God, and even more importantly, for the Glory of God and the sake of His kingdom:

Stop and Think – Election 2020

NATION DIVIDED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And lest we forget:

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

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.


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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.

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