I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, from economic to moral, from spiritual to physical. When I was a child, my parents tried to be selective in when and how they would “bail me out” of the consequences of my errors, all with the intent of guiding me to learn from my mistakes.
When I graduated high school, I was able to secure a band scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas, but I had to find funding for the rest of the expenses – from room and board, to books and additional fees. I was able to secure the old “PELL Grant” most years, but had to fill the gap with fairly sizable loans from a private fund for most semesters, and even a Federal Guaranteed Student Loan for a few semesters to make ends meet.
When I finally finished my extended undergraduate time and received my degree, I quickly learned that education loans, whether Government guaranteed, or privately-funded, remain one’s responsibility no matter your economic situation. They just don’t go away. It took several years on the relatively low income of a public school teacher to finally get those debts paid off. I often looked back at my fellow students who chose to work many long hours to pay for their education instead of taking out loans and thinking “that was what I should have done”. But at no point did I ask for or demand anyone else pay off my student loans for me. They were my responsibility.
Since then, I have been in several areas of work and ministry that have truly opened my eyes to how our national mentality has shifted from personal responsibility. Just listen for a minute to many candidates for the 2020 Presidential election who are promising to “wipe out” student debt. We hear cries of those being “crushed” under the weight of 6-figure debt for relief. But we hardly hear a peep about the fact that they all voluntarily entered in to said debt. We don’t see much published about the worthless diplomas being “earned” at such high cost.
But is this really so out-of-character for our culture?
Absolutely not! Every day, it seems we see yet another demand for something to be an entitled “right” – unlimited health care (at no cost to them), handouts, panhandling by people making more than the average employee – it really is startling if you take an honest look. I cannot find the article now, as it’s been several years ago, but a local media outlet did a bit of actual journalism and found a panhandler who admitted to taking in an average of $1,500 per week simply standing on a corner with a sign asking for money. Pretty lucrative when you consider there are no taxes being paid on that!
Have you ever taken someone grocery shopping who came looking for food help, only to get to the store and they don’t want any staples and components that would stretch the dollars available? Frozen meals, name-brand products, etc. And it all has to be “heat-and-eat”.
I must admit that I have become a bit jaded when it comes to people asking for help. If you come to me asking for $10 for gasoline – and you have a lit cigarette in your mouth and a pack of cigs in the car seat – I see gas money being smoked up. If you come asking for diapers or baby food because your kids are hungry – but I see beer cans and lottery tickets on your floorboard – it is you who deprived your child of those needs via your priorities.
A tough lesson in grace…
I say all of this precisely because I have allowed myself to grow jaded, pessimistic even, when it comes to those who come asking for help. How does one balance demonstrating grace while at the same time trying to not enable and encourage abuse and ongoing defective decision making and priorities? Grace.
This is why the church I pastor sponsors what we call a Micro Food Pantry we call “God’s Kitchen”. It is a box set up outside one of our doors that is “self-serve” with the mantra “take what you need, leave what you can”. No questions are asked. No criteria or paperwork necessary. If you take from it, that is between you and God.
At the same time, we really should look at the biblical example. We can rightly look at Jesus command to care for the widows, feed the hungry, give water to those who thirst, clothe the naked, etc., but we must balance that with the Old Testament warning about those who do not work (do not eat!), as well as the “filter” given in the New Testament regarding those like widows who have other means of support (like family). And from a moral persepectiv, if you have the means or are physically able and choose to take take handouts (or even demand them), you are taking resources from those who do not have the means or ability ot help themselves.
When we have means to discern real need – exercise it diligently. When we do not have such ability, then exercise grace. Be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And remember – it is still about personal accountability. If they take from you but don’t really need it or are abusing it – that will ultimately be between them and the LORD, if you are simply being faithful.
Don’t expect or demand that the government/taxpayers bail you out of holes you dig for yourself. Step up, make sacrifices, and take ownership of your situation. Stop digging holes you can never fill in. Get the help you REALLY need (and it might very well begin not with economic help, but spiritual help!). Find someone to help hold you accountable.
And if you really need help – don’t be afraid to ask for it – but with the request, commit to making the changes necessary to fix the problem at hand by making the changes in priority, habits, patterns, and decision making necessary.
Media is aflame – from network news to social media, everyone is losing their minds over Jussie Smollett’s accusations and now arrest. What we see is an example of hate, racism, and an unregenerate heart deliberately trying to further divide this nation, and it seriously pushes the envelope not just of the law, but truly even sedition.
For those who may somehow not know what is going on:
On January 29, 2019, Jussie (so-called Hip-Hop artist, and star of the TV drama Empire) Smollett’s manager called Chicago PD to report an attack that allegedly occurred at approximately 2AM. Over the course of the next two weeks, many stars and politicians began loudly beating their chests over this alleged hate crime. You see, the allegations were that two white males, wearing MAGA hats, physically and verbally assaulted Smollett, a gay black male, putting a rope noose around his neck, hurling racial and homophobic slurs at him, then pouring bleach on him while chanting “MAGA Country!”.
Certainly, if true, these allegations should be extremely troubling. Even President Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted how egregious and horrible the alleged attack appeared to be. At the same time, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) tweeted out her feelings on the matter:
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) loudly proclaimed the attack as a “modern day lynching”.
As the story has unfolded over the last week, the Chicago PD has determined that Smollett hired these two men to help him stage the ‘attack”, including buying the rope and literally scripting the entire storyline. The brothers were released, and now, as of today, Jussie Smollett has been arrested and charged with filing a false report, though I suspect further charges are in order.
You see – Mr. Smollett was simply using “whatever means necessary” as so many who want to divide this nation have actually verbalized, to try to further drive a wedge in this already divided nation. What he did was a demonstration of his own hate – not just for this country (that actually provided a means for him to achieve fame and wealth), but against the elected President, and the nation as a whole. But even more concerning to the Christians reading this – is that he was remonstrating his corrupt and unregenerate heart that is in need of a Savior. Jussie Smollett is actually demonstrating the worst that he and the political Left accuse the President of being – a hate-filled biggot. He tried to inflame the nation over race and the new poster child for hate – homosexuality.
Wile I cannot presume to know the darkest corners of this man’s heart, what is glaringly obvious – we need to pray for him. While I pray that the legal justice system uses him as an example, I pray that God will open Jussie’s eyes to his corrupt and broken state, his destination if he remains unrepentant and unregenerate, that the LORD will give Jussie a heart transplant that he would believe and become a child of God, experiencing the genuine love that can only be found in Christ Jesus, that he would repent of his sinful lifestyle, that he would repent of his intentionally-divisive efforts, and that he would leave behind the agenda of division and hate that has become a sadly common commentary on our society.
But Smollett’s false accusations are nothing new. Over the course of the last decades, the number of false reports, hoaxes, and fabricated “racist” or “homophobic” attacks have increased.
Sadly, if we are going to truly become a great nation – it must be recognizing it is only by the Grace of God, that it must be in submission to God, and that we can NEVER achieve the unity that would be required if we continue to use deception, false accusations, and intentional divisiveness as tools.
I am reminded of the old story of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. I won’t retell the story here, but the gist of the story is that a little boy, out of the desire to get attention and to entertain himself, cried that a wolf was coming – over and over. Eventually, the townspeople tuned him out and low-and-behold, a real wolf showed up and ate him up. The moral of the story that I believe so clearly should be learned here – when one cries Racism/Homophobia as a weapon, over every single disagreement or issue raised, when you hurl the accusations not just blindly, but knowingly in a lie – you are actually hurting the very cause that you claim to be trying to help. You have demonstrated you are a liar, a divider, and a corrupt soul – all while numbing the general population to your cries of “wolf” – so when the real enemy – the real predator shows up – 1 Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
- Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
- In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
- For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD.
- The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
- 2 In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
- 3 For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, And the greedy man curses ad spurns the LORD.4 The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
This post was originally posted by the author on his Old Blog and represents one of his favorite (and oldest) posts.
There is a “new” and destructive trend blowing through Christianity. But in reality, this trend is nothing new. The Apostle Paul wrote stern warnings, and Jesus Himself warned of this trend.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.(Galatians 1:8-9)
From the earliest days of Christianity – even when Jesus still walked the earth – there were already twisted “alternative” views of the gospel developing, even in the hearts of Christ’s own inner circle. This trend really began to take off once the Gospel began to spread soon after the day of Pentecost.
I have said from the pulpit that the root of all of this is Satan and his use of the natural human nature towards pride and selfishness. After all, Satan is described as being like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Which brings us to a quote I heard (and read) several years ago:
Satan couldn’t beat the church, so he joined it.
The first time I heard that, I was speechless. And then I began to open my eyes. If God’s Word is unchanging. If God HIMSELF is unchanging, then there can be only one correct understanding of scripture – thus only one true Gospel.
So how do we get to where we are today? Simply by people, under the leadership of Satan (and I believe oftentimes these people are not even aware of it – they have also been deceived, to a point), have “joined” churches, have worked/manipulated themselves into positions to teach and eventually preach another gospel – all with the intent of helping themselves (fleshly/selfish desires), and Satan in “devouring” those they can deceive.
Somehow today, we have, just in the mainstream “versions” of Christianity (denominations). This chart is in no particular order, except the first column being the biblical statement:
Where in scripture are we, as believers, given the authority to command God perform a miracle and raise someone from the dead (or to demand He do anything else?). Nowhere. Pray- yes. Plead with God on behalf of others (intercessory prayer)? Yes. But the only god that is subject to human commands is a Burger King god – done YOUR way.
And we wonder why there are so many disillusioned professed “Christians” floating around in this world. It’s because they were sold a bill of goods by those “enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ” who told them that they could just “ask Jesus into their hearts” and he would make life easy, bless them financially, and they would be “heaven-bound” no matter what happened.
- No repentance (a change of mind and heart regarding sin – an intentional TURNING FROM sin).
- No God-transplanted heart of righteousness
- No sincere sustaining faith
- No real conviction of the Holy Spirit
- Just have an experience and/or see “signs and wonders”
- And god becomes your servant…
- It is time for churches who have allowed false teachers to hijack them to repent! It is time for Christians to repent! It is time to get back to God’s Holy Word. It is time to stand up and call sin what it is – sin. No situational ethics. No ever-changing and “living” God’s Word that conforms to the times.
- It is time to stand against those who proclaim a prosperity gospel.
- It is time to stand against those who preach a gospel of liberation theology.
- It is time to stand against those who would create their own Burger King god.
It is time to get back to the Word of God. The same Word of God that says clearly that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The same Word of God that clearly states that the wages of sin – is death. Period. It doesn’t matter if you have decided you were “made that way” – sin, is sin.
It is time to get back to who God (in Jesus) really is – the perfect Lamb of God who came, not “to be a good teacher”, not even to heal and preach (though in His grace, He did). Jesus came with one and only one purpose – to die in our place, pouring out His precious blood on the cross, that sinners might be saved from the wrath of God. Yes – the very wrath that so many want to ignore or forget about. Jesus died that we might live – eternally. But that will never happen with a Burger King god.
Jesus didn’t die (and rise from the dead) so you can command Him to raise your loved one or friend from death. Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead so that you could have a fat bank account, a fine home, and all the luxuries this world has to offer. Jesus died that sinners might stand before a Holy and Righteous God and be viewed in the righteousness of Christ, not our own unrighteousness.
And for those who are truly saved, born-again, in Christ Jesus, are made new creatures. Put off the old self, for in Christ we are made new. Read Colossians 3.
God is not who you, in the flesh, want Him to be. God is 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.
Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Zechariah 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire,and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name,and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
After a troubled night of sleep, much prayer, and time in God’s Word, I am still struggling with the events yesterday Sutherland Springs, Texas. I’m struggling with what could drive a person to commit such a horrific act. I struggle with my own family and their safety – especially after the news that the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (who was out of town) lost his daughter in this mass murder.
And then I turned on the news this morning. Sadly, after recent programming change in our service, the only news network we have right now is CNN – so that definitely slants the reports coming out. And not surprisingly, the talking heads are already speculating and laying blame in every direction except on the real root issue in this case. Indeed, it doesn’t take a degree in psychology, law enforcement, or in criminal investigation to know the real cause, but I will address that later in this post.
Of course, the first blame is being “aimed” at guns. Those evil guns, along with the wild and clueless rush to identify specific kinds of guns. CNN’s anchor used the identification “AR556” – later to discover it was apparently the Ruger version of the popular AR-15 sporting rifle. Later reports say that he had a Glock handgun and some other .22 caliber handgun in the vehicle he was in.
Within hours of the shooting, the former President tweeted a mostly good tweet, but had to insert his own political agenda into the atmosphere
I’m all about reducing violence, but not by capitalizing on the grieving hearts of people who have lost entire families. But the very last part is rather ironic in this snappy attempt to use this tragedy for political gain is the bit about wisdom to reduce “weaponry in our midst”. Why do I call this ironic? It now appears that this shooting was stopped by the neighbor who lives across the street from this church – who pulled his own AR-15 firearm to engage the church shooter. It was the very kind of firearm so hated by the political Left that was used to STOP this attack.
Guns are not the problem. Research, documentation, and statistics all verify that. Indeed, additional laws do nothing but take away firearms from the very kind of guy who stopped this mass murderer. And I’m going to really stir the pot: no-one has ever been killed BY a gun of any kind! Many people over the history of firearms have been killed WITH a firearm. Guns are tools – tools for sporting purposes, tools for recreation, tools for hunting, and tools for self-defense (as well as defense of our nation from tyranny – as our Founding Fathers indicated – the primary background to the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution). Mankind has always had the proclivity to kill, using whatever tool or method is available. It is a problem that has existed nearly as long as mankind has walked the earth (see Cain slaying his brother Abel). But again – this is a hint to the real cause…
Gun laws? The shooter in Texas purchased several firearms, despite a military criminal history and apparent dishonorable discharge that SHOULD have prevented him purchasing said firearms. The Pentagon/Air Force apparently hasn’t or doesn’t reported military crimes and convictions to the NCIS system. Laws not followed don’t help.
But some of the laws being proposed – would have disarmed the guy who is now being hailed as a hero for confronting the shooter with his own weapon.
Do we blame beer for drunk drivers? There were drunk drivers when the USA had prohibition. Indeed, it is speculated that alcohol abuse actually increased under prohibition! No – drunk drivers kill – because they made a series of bad decisions that included the alcohol.
There are many now pointing to mental health failures and the possibility of anti-psychotic drugs that have become so prevalent, though there are no indications of a diagnosed mental disorder in this case. Indeed, even if there was a diagnosis for the shooter, contrary to popular opinion, mental disorders still do not address the actual cause. Mental disorders don’t kill people, people kill people. Anti-psychotic drugs do indeed play “Russian Roulette” with brain chemistry – and are also probably over-used. Has anyone really taken an honest look at the INCREASE in violent crime, including these mass casualty attacks and the vast expansion of the use of these drugs to “treat” the perpetrators? A quick scan of previous cases show a terrifying number of shooters who used or had used these chemicals. But again – drugs don’t kill, but they might open the channels for what is inside to emerge and carry out what one might not normally do.
No – laws, and rules will not make us safer. Additional restrictions to Constitutional rights for law-abiding citizens is counter-productive. All the pontificating on mental health seems to only lead to more excuses for tragic behavior. We must address the core issue at hand. These acts are carried out by people who have a heart of sin. A heart that is evil. A heart that is not filled by the Holy Spirit. Humanity stands condemned because we all are sinners. But when one still has their heart of stone that comes with the natural man, you tend to do what the natural, unregenerate do – and that is sin, including beating your wife and child (as the shooter in this case was convicted of while in the Air Force). An unregenerate heart leaves open the door to seeking out others to commit harm to other people. A sin-filled, evil heart, refuses to see the value in human lives. A broken, twisted, unregenerate heart isn’t changed by anti-depressants or anti-psychotic drugs. The only cure for the kind of heart that we all begin life with – is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will not deny that there are cases where some people have chemical disorders in the brain that CAN be aided by some medications – but without the Gospel, they still have the sin-filled, violence-prone heart. Why is it that the most successful drug treatment programs and criminal rehabilitation efforts all are founded on faith-based, Christ-centered efforts that begin with the Gospel, then deal with the other issues.
And the ultimate “fix” for all the evil that is so pervasive in our world is the same: Jesus. The Gospel is God’s answer. I pray daily for a great spiritual awakening to seep our nation – beginning with hearts being regenerated and drawn to Christ. But if that isn’t to be, then I pray for the return of Christ as was promised. when Jesus comes, guns, drugs, and other things will no longer even figure in to the situation. All things will be made new –
But as a side-note. I have heard several things that have been encouraging in this otherwise horrific and dark event. First is the neighbor of the church who picked up his AR-15 and engaged the shooter at the church, apparently wounding him and causing him to drop his rifle and flee. Add to that, another driver picked up this neighbor to give chase and keep law enforcement eyes until they could arrive.
I was also encouraged by the family members of victims in the church who spoke boldly of faith, of turning it all over to Christ -and the need to cling to Jesus in all of this.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Originally published by the author on his old blog.
Part 2: Who is “I AM?”
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18
I often hear said that “Jesus never claimed to be God”. While in a very limited and literal sense, Jesus didn’t use that exact phrase to describe Himself, between the above actions that the Jews were complaining of were understood in their time and context as laying claims to being “equal” with God – Yet there is non other. There is none like God.
“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he* you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58
Compare this direct statement by Jesus to Exodus 3:14
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’.”
The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
As I sit here on our couch, after spending nearly all day at First Baptist Church Cave Springs, I sit in wonder, awe, and with tears…
Today has been a blessed day for the memory book in so many ways.
From our services this morning, with the LORD filling my head in an amazing way, to the incredible hands and hearts of love by “my” church family…
To the Spirit-filled Worship…
Even to the meeting with our deacons and elders to plan out next week’s ordination service for our newest deacon candidate…
To this evening’s SINGSPIRATION! 5th Sunday singing and spoken word worship…
To the brotherly love-filled fellowship time afterward.
Oh, and I didn’t even mention the silent auction bake sale quickly organized this week to help with my mission trip expenses for next April with the Arkansas Master’Singers to Ukraine.
I am just humbled, overwhelmed, and filled with joy. Seeing church members step up in service to God through serving their brothers and sisters and other. There is just so much to fill this “Lonely Pastor’s” heart. All I can do is praise God for leading us here!
To serve God in a church that has a sincere desire to hear the Word of God, who gives me the freedom to speak the truth, to proclaim what is right, to call sin what it is – sin, and to not feel pressure to skip the uncomfortable parts of the Word, is a set of blessings that many pastors don’t have.
I firmly believe, the Lord has great things in store for FBC Cave Springs. He is moving among us, in us, and with us for His Kingdom! Praise be to God!
Oh – and I didn’t even mention that after all the blessings this day already poured out, I got a call from my mom to let me know she believes she has finally found a church she feels called to be an active part of – a church where she can serve and be in a real church family!
Yes – my heart is filled with Joy! It might even be hard going to sleep tonight!