Whenever 2 or More Are Gathered?

Imagine yourself traveling back in time – a little over 1900 years back, to take a look at the early Christians and what they were enduring. Scripture gives a few indicators that believers were gathering for more formal worship on what we know as Sunday (the first day of the week). But what the Bible itself only hints at, those early believers often were assembling in direct contradiction to the demands of the day set by the “ruling authorities”. We can read in the book of Acts the records of Peter and others being commanded to stop preaching Jesus and Him crucified (aka – the gospel) – with the understood implication that the gathering of like-minded folks (aka – the church) was also on the prohibition list – because what else draws believers together like the common bonds of our crucified and risen Savior?

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These early gatherings were not held in big, multi-million dollar temples of brick and stone (or steel and glass…), but in homes – sometimes the LORD blessed a local body with a wealthy believer who opened their estate up for the assembly (like Nympha of Laodicea mentioned in Colossians 4:15). But what we can gather from history plus Scripture – is that believers regularly met together for edification, teaching, and worship via hymns, songs, and spiritual songs, bearing one-anothers burdens, and frequently observing the LORD’s Supper in remembrance of Christ Jesus and HIS sacrifice on their behalf. We also know that this was often an al-day event, and generally included food. But of prime value to this post – we must recognize that often – these meetings were considered “unlawful”.

House church raided by police in China

Now let us return to our present time – but fly across the Pacific to China (or several other Asia/Pacific nations). We find ourselves there on a Sunday – and other than a scarce state-authorized “church” that teaches a Chinese Communist Party edited and approved religion that barely resembles biblical Christianity. But keep looking. In apartments, homes, and even in some of the few remote outdoor places – you may find churches – often comparatively small, meeting together – singing songs of praise, edifying one-another, often sharing a meal, and preaching Jesus and Him crucified – all in a jurisdiction that is actively engaged in the arrest, torture, and murder of those engaging in biblical Christianity – and those small house churches are growing – and despite heavily-enforced prohibitions – they continue to meet – taking quite literally the command that God recorded in Hebrews 10:25 “…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.” Their love of Jesus and their faithfulness to the call for believers to come together as the Body (and as a side-note, often an amazing zeal for sharing the gospel despite the unlawfulness of it) is a much higher priority than the laws of the earthy authorities.

But this brings us to today, right here in the USA & the rest of North America – And we have seen government entities, under the guise of a global “pandemic”, shutting down churches. On the surface, we might not see a problem – in the “interest of safety”. Yet even as other gathering places and businesses were allowed to reopen under the guise of “essential” (including casinos, big box retailers, liquor and tobacco vendors and bars, etc.), some jurisdictions continued to demand churches remain closed and/or strictly limited attendance to a small fraction of capacity.

Grace Life fenced off by Alberta Authorities

One high-profile example comes from Edmonton, Alberta Canada, the home of Grace Life Church, who’s pastor, James Coats, had led his church to continue in their corporate worship. The church refused to tell some (the majority) of the local church that they couldn’t attend – that only a couple dozen could worship together. As the situation escalated, provincial health authorities and police began showing up, then began threatening tickets, and finally demanded they cease or there would be arrests. Eventually, Pastor Coats was arrested and spent a month in jail, as a judge refused to allow bail – because this pastor would not promise to stop preaching and meeting with the church assembled. Since then, other churches in that province have also faced arrests and massive fines. And just this week, RCMP and Alberta Health Authorities took the unprecedented action of raiding the church to have a riot-style, double-fence installed to physical barricade the church from meetging on their own property. Even here in the US, churches like Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California faced similar threats from Los Angeles County authorities for holding in-person worship services. They still are accruing thousands of dollars a week in fines from the county.

And in defense of those who are trying to prevent churches from assembling – are those (some of which profess to be Christians) shouting “ROMANS 13!!!”. For those who may not know, this is a reference to Paul’s command to “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)

Unfortunately, those using these two verses as a club against churches fail to take the context of that passage (which follows in verse 3 & 4) the PURPOSE of government – which becomes moot when said government rejects its biblical mandate. Indeed, we have no biblical reference or example to validate believers shutting down corporate worship (the assembly together) based on any government or ruling authority mandate. Quite the contrary, we have example after example of believers meeting together in spite of mandates and laws, and yes – sometimes even to their own arrest and martyrdom.

But that brings us to the cryptic title of this article “2 or more are gathered…” I have been attacked for supporting Grace Life Church (and others who have been fighting the fight for the church and their right, regardless of mandates, to assemble as they see fit). Most recently, this has been in repeated misuse of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” The story goes something like this:

What we find here, is a complete misunderstanding (or intentional plucking out-of-context) of what Jesus was talking about. The immediate context (Matthew 18:15-20) is about dealing with sin in the church or when your brother sins against you. It isn’t a description of, or a prescription for worship. In this case, it is a reference to the Old Testament law regarding witnesses (again – remember – this was a passage about church discipline).

The ESV Study Bible notes the following for Matthew 18:16:

Evidence of two or three witnesses follows the guideline in Deut. 19:15 and refers to witnesses of the subsequent confrontation described in this verse, not necessarily eyewitnesses to the original offense.” And 18:20, “Jesus affirms that he will be divinely present among his disciples as they seek unity in rendering decisions, which is rightly understood also as an affirmation of omnipresence and therefore of deity. “

So, what we have here is a completely different subject matter than corporate worship/assembly. The verse is so frequently and wrongly used (being forced into a meaning other than its actual meaning is called eisegesis. NO, a gathering of two or three believers together isn’t a substitute for corporate worship. Believers are expected – and the biblical example in this IS prescriptive – to assemble together regularly for worship, prayer, fellowship, and the teaching/preaching of God’s Word. Period. It is not a sin to do this even when the “ruling authorities” tell you not to. Indeed, Scripture couldn’t be more clear that we are to chose this day WHO we will serve – God or man. If choosing to follow God’s commands is wrong – then Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were actually sinning for refusing to bow down before the Babylonian emperor and his golden statue, or for refusing the food offered them.

And even more troubling – that means that the first-century churches that gathered in spite of the ruling authorities and their commands to the contrary…

And our brethren around this globe today who worship despite laws against it – who face literally torture and death for their assembly…

Are actually committing sin against God.

Are you really willing to go there?

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:

Hypocrisy in High Places

There are few things that really cause me anger and disgust like lies. Most people simply think that a lie is when you say something that is blatantly untrue, with intent. But there is an even more insidious version of the lie that actually often does more damage – its called hypocrisy. From Dictionary.com:

Hypocrisy (or the label applied to the person accused – hypocrite) is often used against those who profess to be Christian. I won’t deny that many over the 2000 years of the fatih have said one thing, while living another. And undoubtably, this is a major issue that most of us must battle on a regular basis. But there is another form of hypocrisy that has helped divide this nation. It’s the hypocrisy of double-standards (or selective outrage, as I often call it).

One example is a county I use to live in, that had the highest per-capita number of people on public assistance (particularly disability). Many who claimed disability were more able-bodied that the majority of the population, but they found ways around that. Other’s, their disability was fundamentally based on drug addiction and the aftermath (the same county was featured on an HBO special for it being the #1 Methamphetamine county in the nation). Yet this county, despite the incredible dependance on the Federal Government, is also the most anti-government I’ve ever been around! The same people who demand a check from the government every month, don’t want the government meddling in their life. This seems certainly hypocritical. How can you reconcile demanding a small government, low taxes, and the government having nothing to do with you, while simultaneously demanding more money from the same government?

But more recently, we have seen a nation-wide (maybe world-wide) trend towards a much bigger form of hypocrisy based on political viewpoint. This has had hits greatest demonstration in the media, both social media and news media. With all three areas taking extremist perspectives while censoring or twisting the opposing views. This has grown to the point of fueling selective outrage, which is one of the most glaring forms of hypocrisy of all. A few recent examples include the past year of riots, mass violence, burning down of many city blocks in major cities by groups alligning themselves with “BLM” and “antifa”. BLM, who lifts up primarily some very bad people who, such as in the George Floyd case that sparked most of this year’s biggest riots – was a man who had taken a lethal dosage of illegal drugs just prior to his encounter with police. He was violent, he was aggressively resisting arrest, and sadly – he died while in police custody. I won’t defend the officers who seemed to pose in very dangerous positions. Yet at the same time, the man was undobutably resisting arrest and had already practically committed suicide by his massive overdose of fentanyl and other intoxicants. Yet this man was portrayed as an innocent, godly man who never hurt anyone (well – except his criminal record tells a much darker story) – which helped spark nation-wide protests, riots, and unfathomable property damage (in part due to widespread looting of devastated businesses). The media seemed to endorse the behavior, many high-profile figures including elected officials proudly supported (and even participated in) some of these violent events.

Yet at the same time, while each of these never lost a single post or had a bit of negative backlash from the media platforms, those on the other side of the political spectrum have regularly been suspended, banned, and panned by the news media as violent terrorists. Most recently, after President Trump spoke to a massive crowd in DC (January 6, 2020), then told his supporters to march to the Capitol (which is the same procedure and schedule as the majority of large protests and events in DC – it is symbolic to march to the Capitol and conclude your protest there). But when some arrived, they began struggling with some Capitol Police. Then, oddly, the same police then opened barricades and unlocked doors and ALLOWED in some of the most vocal and agitated of the protestors. In the ensuing hours, an unarmed white woman, a US Air Force Veteran, was shot dead by Capitol police in a hallway. She was not being violent. Another of the Protestors collapsed and died of a heart attack (apparently not related to any violent acts). Also, a Capitol Police officer was crushed in what looked like a doorway and succumbed to his injuries. While the “storming” of the Capitol (even having been let in by police) was wrong, the news media, print media, and social media immediately began widespread attacks, censoring, and banning, leading up to the permanent ban on the Twitter account of the President of the United States for “violence-inciting posts that present a danger to others”. While President Trump did keep the fires burning of questioning the 2020 election results, he never, EVER suggested, endorsed, or encouraged violence in any form. Further, his text and video posts to Twitter and Facebook trying to tell his supporters to back off and to pursue peace – in which he clearly denounced the violence – both social media platforms deleted the posts! Their selective outrage and censorship actually silencing a voice that could help calm the anger. #hypocricy.

“Pastor” Eric Mason

In the days that have followed, many posts on these same platforms have endorsed violence against anyone who supports Trump. And one particularly well-known SBC pastor actually tweeted the insinuation that (white) folks should have been shot in the Capitol. How is this any more acceptable than the other hate-filled vitreol from the Left that consistently goes untouched, while even questions of WHO was involved in the storming of the Capitol is grounds for having posts deleted and accounts suspended or banned?

And the hypocrisy goes on – with post after post by major figures calling this event an act of insurrection. Yet such a horrific event – and these so called terrorists (a term actually used) even respected the satin ropes protecting various parts of the building. Nobody lit the place on fire (though I’ve seen pictures depicting the Capitol on fire being used!). And the actual damage done was relatively minor, particularly in comparison to the widespread and horrific damage done to cities all over this nation by those on the political Left.

And lest we forget – whe Donald Trump was confirmed as the victor in the 2016 election, there was massive rioting in DC that included setting cars and buildings on fire, destroying landmarks, and much more. Or more recently, the BLM protests in DC that not only saw the destruction and vandalism of property and attacks on innocent bystanders, but these “protestors” stormed an historic church just a block from the Whitehouse in an attempt to burn it down (for what political purpose, other than the hate of Christianity?).

We’ve been told for years that labeling an entire group of people (especially identified by skin color) is wrong, yet the explosion in the last few months of the acceptability of blatantly racist posts and statements, so long as they come from those of the “oppressed group” (based on Critical Race Theory) have become commonplace. The image of the Mara Gay tweet was reposed by someone that I have long considered a brother and friend, who happens to be African-American. Someone who I though knew me better than to post or confirm something like this that is so brazenly racist.

And further, to justify the year-worth of violent rioting, bloodshed, and property losses on “angry people trying to have a voice when they feel they are unheard” – yet when every court in the land refused to even allow a LOOK at evidence of widespread corruption in our election system – a fundamental constitutional crisis – that is not even worthy of people posting on social media, much less having an event that a tiny portion of the people involved acted badly (with the help of the Capitol Police), is utterly mind-boggling.

And then we have the other race-baiting, selectively-outraged, racists who claim that the folks who stormed the Capitol received special “white privilege” and would have been treated far more differently were they “people of color”. I suppose that unarmed people getting shot to death by police is only bad when it happens to drug dealers with non-white skin? NO – its’ ALWAYS bad. But again, #hypocrisy seems to be winning the day.

And when the likes of Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission call for the dramatic prosecution of every person who entered the Capitol building on January 6th (even those that just stood and watched/videoed), but remained absolutely silent on the widespread violence all this past year – its hypocrisy demonstrated in selective outrage.

I even drew a 24 hour suspension from Facebook for reposting a tweet that points out the hypocrisy.

And the hate just keeps flowing –

Hypocrisy is wrong, regardless of who is committing it. Double-standards are wrong, regardless of who benefits from it. And selective outrage is among the most vile of all forms of hypocrisy.

Pray for our nation, though I personally have stopped praying for peace and God’s blessings. We as a nation don’t deserve God’s blessings. We deserve His wrathful judgment. And remember – Scripture says that judgement begins in the House of the Lord! I do pray for a spiritual awakening, beginning with me, my family, and the church I try to lead. I pray for my fellow believers and pastors who are desperately trying to tell the Truth – regardless of the circumstances. I’m praying for churches that have been fighting to even keep their doors open. I pray for God to raise up great spiritual men who will boldly stand for truth. And I pray God would bring to repentance those who seem to love a lie more than the truth.

Spiritual Warfare is Real – and NOW

One aspect of the Christian walk that I have often heard people talk about, but I find most professed Christians are sadly unprepared for.  Unfortunately, we really don’t realize just how real the spiritual war is until we are put to the test.

For many, 2020 has been (pardon the term) the “year from hell”.  The entire world has now experienced the first significant pandemic in most people’s lifetime. We began with what we know were lies from the country where the virus originated, and have seen a battle between credentialed experts on whether we would see millions of deaths in the US, or if it would more resemble a bad flu season. We’ve seen a virus become quickly the most political virus in all of history. And caught in the middle of it all are churches and their pastors. Our kids have been deprived of so very much, and are now missing the important camps and activities that often are their only escape from lives that are often quite difficult. We now are seeing churches with splits forming over opinions regarding how this virus should be addressed. In the public square, we see professed Christians attacking one-another over the wearing of masks, of closing or reopening churches for worship, or even how many people we might “allow” into worship services.  I have witnessed very public abuses of Scripture to justify unbiblical viewpoints as well as biblical viewpoints pushed using worldly standards.  Many pastors that I am connected to have expressed similar battles and frustration and sadly, growing heartache. Indeed, the most heart-crushing reality of pastoral ministry today, beyond trying to comfort those most affected by this virus, is figuring out just HOW to minister in this environment.

For other churches, while having some issues related to COVID, have been separated by the politics of the current version of #BlackLivesMatter – from a church planter friend who’s ministry is basically near ground zero in Minneapolis, MN, (link to facebook fundraiser page) to churches that are now having to confront actual racial issues within their own membership – more heartache on top of the very well-publicized destruction and hate. Even more disturbing is the growth of so-called “woke” churches and theology, that employs Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality to systematically destroy the gospel from within. This is becoming another wedge in not just local churches, but denominations as the Social Justice false gospel replaces the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Divisions and heartache…

On a more personal level, after the sudden onset of illness and the death of my mother in April, handling the insanity of probate of her estate, and now my father who’s health has been in decline for several years and is now down to managing comfort as there is nothing left to “fix”, my own life has been turned upside-down. Each day goes by and the urge to just throw up my hands and give up grows stronger. But I know this is not God’s game plan. But for biblical Christians, we do know who’s game plan involves confusion, division, and anything possible to obscure or completely cover the gospel – Satan.  And that brings us back to the title of this post and a bit of Scripture.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Every battle we are facing as individuals, as cities, states, and a nation – whether over a virus, race, destruction of history, divisions in churches, or the political headache and corruption that has become so evident – while carried out by people, is actually the work of the father of lies and division – Satan. The devil. Beelzebul. The false accuser – and we who may not be really prepared to battle in this spiritual war – either caught unaware or simply not properly equipped, are easily drawn into the wrong side in the battle. And the very first error we usually make in fighting this spiritual battle that is very much going on in our world today: misidentifying the real enemy.  As the verse from Ephesians above clearly reminds us – the REAL enemy is not one-another. Even when we mess up and say things or take actions that are wrong, even when people can even act with what seems to be hate and violence – the REAL enemy is found in the rulers, powers, word forces of this darkness – the SPIRITUAL forces of wickedness. Our real enemies are spiritual enemies – and Paul went on to address this – we are given the battle plan for the believer:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…

In Ephesians 6:13-19, at its core, tells us that God has provided the weapons to fight this spiritual battle – both defensive and offensive weapons!

  • Girded your loins with the TRUTH
  • Breastplate (of Righteousness)
  • Boots of the Gospel of Peace (the real, Biblical gospel)
  • Shield (of Faith)
  • Helmet of Salvation
  • Sword of the Spirit
  • Prayer…

And notice – all of these armaments have to be picked up and put to use.  It is like having an unloaded firearm in your safe as a “home defense weapon”. It does you no good if it’s not at the ready! Likewise, all of these arms provided by God are of no use if not taken up and put to use. We must regularly practice with them as well.

Paul began with girding our loins with TRUTH – yet we live in a world that makes truth into something subjective – something that is up to the individual. But the Word of God itself is the TRUTH and is ALWAYS true – what God says is good is good. What God has said is bad is bad.  Scripture leaves very little room for anything grey – and certainly no room for relative morality. In fact – that is the rest of verse 14 –

breastplateThe Breastplate of righteousness – Which begins and ends with the righteousness of Christ – but in living lives that reflect the righteousness of Christ – based on the Word of God – when we walk by what God has said is good and bad – and when we take a firm stand on that – true righteousness – our hearts are protected – we are not so conflicted and divided at the core –

Boots of the Gospel of Peace – we often do not think of boots, especially in the context of roman_boot1_1.jpge999de54-042f-4d5e-93b2-7410d18ce558Originalbattle, as instruments of peace – but the concept is quite simple here – we must have something solid as a foundation. In athletics and in work – the right footwear is important to our ability to stay in the work at hand. Those of us who have done real work with the wrong shoes know exactly what this can be like. In the case of our equipping for the spiritual war that we ARE involved in – is having a solid foundation – that we might not be tripped up – and that is the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. One that isn’t carried away by cultural norms and expectations – a gospel that reflects the understanding of the utter sinfulness of mankind – our inability to “fix” that ourselves – but instead requires the supernatural actions of God in the great exchange of our sins for Christ’s righteousness – all by the grace of God. A false or weak gospel is no foundation for us to stand.

12-Roman-Helmet-BBHelmet of Salvation – when one is truly, soundly saved – with the right understanding of the gospel – with the heart for righteousness and truth – the helmet of salvation – the knowledge of our security in Christ Jesus – because HE has paid it all – and it is in the power of HIS resurrection by which we stand redeemed – that our minds – our thinking can be confident.

And the Sword of the Spirit – the NASB intentionally capitalizes “Spirit” here because we SD4116L_a1are dealing with wielding the power of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power we are given! A power that is based on being actively filled by the Holy Spirit in walking WITH the Spirit day-by-day.  When we practice the presence of the Lord in our lives – We are, as Kyle Idleman wrote in his “Not a Fan” book, empowered in ways that we cannot be by our own power. What is interesting – the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives is described as “fruits of the Spirit by Paul elsewhere – with the chief fruit being… Love.

Then the repeated weapon that many miss in this passage – prayer.  Prayers and petitions before God’s throne.  We cannot confuse the sovereignty with God with being unable to bring about change by our prayers!  Moses prayed for the Hebrew people – time after time God changed His actions based on the fervent prayers of righteous men on behalf of themselves and others. Prayer is one of the two most powerful tools given by God – if we genuinely believe in the power of prayer!

So – if you are really a Christian – whether or not you are a member of the church I pastor today, member of another church – or are seeking where the Lord would lead you to be an active part of a church body – please join me in praying that we would take seriously the very real spiritual battle all around us. Pray that we would see the REAL enemy, the devil – not our neighbors whom we are suppose to love. That we would not view one-another, especially within churches, as the enemy, and that we would truly take up the FULL armor of God and be not only “at the ready”, but willing to STAND for truth, for Love, for the Gospel – for the Kingdom of God!

Don’t Erase Our History

This year is on course to be the most insane year in American history. From a pandemic exposing the indoctrination culture that is willing to give up essential liberties for an imagined degree of “safety”, to the current explosion superficially focused on “race” and #BlackLivesMatter – we as a nation have collectively lost our minds.

But a danger looming that is both destructive and ungodly is the current effort to systematically erase our national history.  Let me be clear – we as a nation do have some very dark blotches. Chattel slavery is an affront to a biblical understanding of loving our neighbors. And who in their right mind would even begin to argue that there is no such thing as bias?  I intentionally refrain from using the term “racism” because it is an invention.  There is but one race – the human race, recorded in Scripture from creation.  God created Adam and Eve – and all humanity descended from them.  Certainly there are many people groups or “ethnicities” as the modern terminology would put it. And it is on these ethnic differences that many biases are founded. But those biases, based on external qualities, is also anti-biblical (Paul wrote to the Galatian church that in Christ there are no longer “Jew or Gentile”. Even our ethnic difference are inconsequential in Christ Jesus.

But to return to the purpose of this entry – is to look at what role history should play in our nation.  We should view our history (the good and bad) like we look at our lives.  This should be particularly clear for the regenerated, born-again Christian.  We are the product of a life of experiences, mistakes, sins… and as Christians, we have been brought from that to new life. Yet as long as I dwell in this world, I will never achieve perfection.  We speak a great deal about sanctification – the progressive improvement and transformation to be MORE Christlike day-by-day. This helps form part of our life testimony. We can look back at who we WERE – even the darkest days, then give thanks that Christ has delivered us from the former darkness, bringing us into the light of His grace and glory.

I look back at my early years – and yes, I feel the pangs of shame at some of the behaviors and attitudes I held. I still feel grief over the harm and pain I caused. But I do not ever want to erase that. Some would suggest we should “forget our past”. I disagree.  Biblically, we see time and again reminders of believer’s former selves. Among my favorite examples is Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:

…Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

-1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Being brought to remembrance of what we once were, we are able to both be humbled by our past, and encouraged by where we have come today. My understanding of my current context is built, in-part, on my experiences of the past, and the LESSONS LEARNED, even in my sin and mistakes. To forget them would be to forget the lessons themselves.

Likewise, I view our  our national history with a reverence and respect, even in the wickedness that is an undeniable part of.  The USA, contrary to the modern revisionist version, is an extraordinary nation with an amazing and providential history.  This isn’t a debate over whether this has ever been a “Christian Nation” (I would propose that functionally, we have never been, though most of the world viewed this nation as such for over a century). Regardless of the social position or if they were slave owners or not, the Founding Fathers of this nation were guided to write words that came together as our foundational documents that they couldn’t really grasp themselves.

     We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

-Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

While many of the writers themselves didn’t fully practice what they wrote, it was a glimpse to the goal – the bar to seek to achieve as a people. In fact, when you look at our history as a nation with an honest, academic eye – you can see incredible progress in reaching towards this beautiful statement from the Declaration. We have moved from widespread chattel slavery, to the abolition of slavery, to the overcoming of post-Civil War Jim Crow laws and obstacles to voting for people of all ethnicities as well as women (who make up a major chunk of the electorate today).  And amazingly, this nation not only elected a man of African-American descent, but re-elected him to the highest office in the land (and arguably, the most powerful office in the world). One has to admit this is a startling accomplishment for a country that is now claimed to be crushed by overwhelming systemic racism!

The reality is, ethnic (the world improperly uses race) divisions have been on the decline over the last half-century, with overt hate shrinking. That is, until those who stand to benefit from a divided nation began pouring gasoline on the old embers of our past divisions. From that first African-American President, through political groups Hell-bent on wedging every piece of hate they could into the public square – the flames of division have grown, intentionally.

And now, the masses are calling to tear down historical monuments. It began with destroying-confederate-statuesConfederate monuments, ostensibly to fight “racism”, but the surge grew to tear down monuments of General Grant (Union General of the Civil War), Francis Scott Key (writer of the Star Spangled Banner), Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, and even ABOLITIONIST Matthias Baldwin! What is the purpose of tearing down not just Civil War/Confederate monuments, but those representing all facets of US History (including3tiZwr_0PRDw29z00 new calls to destroy Mount Rushmore!)? It isn’t to combat perceived racism and hate.  It isn’t even a rally against “colonialism”. It is an attack on history itself.

Remember my comparison to the Christian’s testimony – and how the past helps us understand the present (and future)? Remember how history helps us to learn from the past and to improve? You see, our nation’s testimony includes seeing a people group once held as slaves, once deemed by the US Supreme Court as less than the value of a human being, to becoming entrepreneurs, celebrities, innovators, educators, scholars, Supreme Court Justices, and even President of the United States. We see the former slave, Ms. Nancy Green, becoming the first Black corporate model and spokesperson, growing wealthy and well-respected for the persona of “Aunt Jemima”:

She was offered by Quaker Oats a lifetime contract to become Aunt Jemima and to promote the pancake mix. “This marked the beginning of a major promotional push by the company that included thousands of personal appearances.” There was all kinds of Aunt Jemima merchandising. Nancy Green, Aunt Jemima, helped organize the Olivet Baptist Church. “Her career allowed her the financial freedom to become an activist and engage in antipoverty programs.” She was well paid.

The systematic destruction of monuments and history itself, is not about skin color. It isn’t about slavery. It isn’t about “systemic racism”. It is an intentional attack on the very history that has made America the great success story it represents.  There is a reason that millions clamor to come to the United States, even today. Despite the internal conflicts that would say America is evil – that people are oppressed by systemic racism, much of the world only dreams of the freedoms and opportunity available in the USA. America IS a great nation.  Is it perfect? Absolutely not – but we are a nation that for almost two and quarter centuries has grown, changed, and improved on many fronts to a nation where dreams really can come true.  Where success and prosperity are still a  reward for personal effort and work ethic.  But this nation, like me, is a “work in progress”. A product of our past, as well as the lessons of the day.  We are to seek the “better”. To do what is right, not in our own eyes, but the eyes of the LORD. We should celebrate what is good and right about our nation (of which there is much), we should thank God almighty for His divine hand of protection and His providential working in our history. We should stand proudly for our Anthem, salute our flag, all while remembering the blood shed, and the hard lessons learned.  Never forget the dark times and practices, do not diminish the wrongs perpetrated, but we must move forward. Follow the example of Christ and forgive, seek reconciliation, and pursue goodness.

But we cannot learn from the past, if we erase it and rewrite it to fit an agenda. We are not seeking reconciliation if we disrespect the flag and the Constitution that so many fought and died to protect and defend.  We cannot pursue justice without remembering the true story of injustice. And we cannot chart a course forward, if we forget where we have been. To protest this nation and its history, is to reject the very Constitution that guarantees your right to protest and to speak freely. It’s a form of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

And to be really blunt – there are millions of people in nations where they have no freedoms, they have no opportunity, who know real oppression and persecution on a daily basis who would gladly change places with you if you feel this country is so awful. Maybe you should take some time to really study history. Take an honest look at how far we as a nation have come, and the opportunities that lay before you if you are willing to learn, grow, and work. Be a part of the solutions to ongoing problems, not part OF the problem. Quit trying to destroy that which you apparently do not even really understand.

And for the rest of us – those who love this land and who thank God for the opportunities and blessings we have experienced (regardless of the color of our skin), and who do appreciate how far we have come, and who see how great this nation could still be – were we to truly seek goodness, mercy, love, reconciliation, and most importantly, the God who’s sovereign hand of providence allowed this nation to be planted so long ago – and who has blessed her, even in times of darkness.

Evangelical #Hypocricy (Who’s a Christian?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So – lets take a bit of an adventure together:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelical #Hypocrisy.

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

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

A Nation that Hates God

I have waited to pen this post for my emotions and news to settle down.  Yet despite a couple of days passing and even allowing myself to vent a bit on social media via various memes and shot statements, my emotions and my burden have not diminished.

You see, just this week, on the 48th Anniversary of the most divisive and evil decisions the US Supreme Court has ever issued – the Roe v Wade decision that with the stroke of judge’s gavels, opened the door the toe slaughter of over 60 million babies in this nation. Sixty million children never given the opportunity to experience life (for better or worse). It was that date in 1973 that the official seal of the United States was affixed by the justices of that dark court on the condemnation papers of this nation – officially rejecting God and any possible claim to “Christian Nation”.

On January 21, 2019, the New York State Legislature celebrated that evil day by passing a bill that had failed many times going all the way back to 2006.  Touted as the “New York Reproductive Health Act” (Senate Bill 2796, now Act 1748, having been signed proudly into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on January 22), this piece of far-reaching legislation not only removes all criminal penalties and even the definition of a crime from the death of infants from conception to natural childbirth, it seals the “right” to abort a baby for any reason a woman deems justifies her act in the State Constitution. Some argue that this law requires the pregnancy to be danger to the mother’s health to terminate in the last weeks of gestation – yet this caveat has been proven ineffective in many previous cases and state laws. pregnancy, by its nature, is a “risk to a mother’s health”. Childbirth itself still holds some risk to a mother’s health, and women really have died in childbirth. Therefore, the state of New York took a 48 year-old decision that already proclaimed a nation’s hate for God, and built a cathedral to the pagan god Moloch and is now laying shredded unborn babies on the high altar.

In the early days of Israel, the people were often led astray – pursuing the pagan gods of their neighbors. Among those pagan false gods was Moloch, a demonic religion that is believed to originated with the Phoenicians who lived in the area now known as Israel between 1550 BC and 300BC. Moloch was symbolized by a giant medal statue of a man with a bull’s head. Each statue had a hole in the abdomen and had outstretched arms that made a ramp into that hole.  The leaders of this religion would light a fire in the statue and babies were placed in the statue’s arms and pushed into the hole. The greatest sacrifice was believed to be that of the firstborn, and by offering that firstborn, the couple beloved Moloch would promise them financial prosperity.

moloch3.jpg

Sadly, the Israelites failed to root out this pagan religion when they were led back to the Promised Land and they quickly began incorporating Moloch into their own traditions. God specifically forbade such practice (Leviticus 18:21), but remnants continued even through King Solomon, who set up high places for Moloch and other pagan idols (1 Kings 11:1-8). In fact, Moloch worship wasn’t truly eradicated from the Israelite practices until they were carried away in the Babylonian captivity. You see – it took repeated and incredible judgement befalling Israel before they finally turned from this evil practice.

While you won’t generally hear purveyors and supporters of abortion refer to Moloch – you do hear the mantra “my body” – self worship – lifting themselves up as their own god. You will hear “its just a mass of cells” – completely ignoring scientific fact, biology, and genetics proving that even the freshly-conceived is a unique human being. They definitely ignore Scripture that plainly says that God knows us in our mother’s womb, that He Himself knits us together with His Divine hand (Psalm 139:13-14).

Indeed, if you want to discover why racism and hatred doesn’t seem to ever really die out? It is the root disregard for human life that has been systematically sustained via the practice of abortion. A practice that has so radically affected the Black community as to be on -par with the most egregious genocides in history.  When in New York State, a Black baby more likely to be aborted than born! Between 2012 and 2016 black mothers in New York City terminated 136,426 pregnancies and gave birth to 118,127 babies (Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2018). Staggering – yet exactly the kind of outcome Margaret Sanger was looking for when she founded Planned Parenthood. She was a proud purveyor of eugenics, and an avowed racist.

But we cannot stop at pointing fingers at New York for this recent abominable legislation, for abortion is still legal in all 50 states. Yes, some states have passed, or are trying to pass legislation to restrict the practice by age of the unborn, and some have gone so far as to try to ban them from the moment a heartbeat can be discerned (a threshold just as nebulous and stretchable as “health of the mother”). At the same time, another state (Vermont) is actively trying to pass a bill that is very similar to New York’s law, also making abortion legal from conception through natural childbirth. But lets be honest – one major factor in the abomination we are seeing unfold is that many churches have failed to proclaim the value of human life, or have selectively chosen which lives have value. How many so-called Christians have decried the inhumanity of deporting immigrant children brought into this nation illegally, have fought to pass laws regarding the protection of children from a variety of ills – yet refuse to call abortion what it is: murder? Abortion has gone from dark secret and shameful sin, to today’s “SHOUT YOUR ABORTION!” gleeful and open rebellion against God. And many Christian leaders have sat idle by, many of which only feigning grief over the issue. Further, entire denominations within the (overly-broad) umbrella of “Christianity” have chosen to throw their proverbial hat to support so-called “choice”, among them are the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (according to the Pew Research Center). Even the traditionally “staunchly Pro-Life” Catholic Church is seeing major rifts.

abortion-by-religion.jpg

And when you combine what can only be accurately labeled as the American Holocaust of Abortion with the other paths our nation has chosen to run in direct opposition to God’s revealed will and design (not the least of which is the LGBTQetc… capitulations), and American has truly given the worst of Old Testament Israel and its neighbors a real run for the title of most ungodly and begging for judgement. Indeed, while I pray God withholds judgment on this nation, I cannot help but identify with the psalmists who wrote imprecatory psalms, crying out for God to judge the wicked, to squash the unrighteous and oppressors, for His namesake. And the sad truth is – just as happened in the Old Testament judgements, it isn’t’ just those practicing the worst of the unrighteous behavior that suffered.  Famine, pestilence, sieges, and captivity affected all, even those who were passionately pursing God.  Men, women, and children all suffered when judgement came. 

How much longer might God stay His hand of judgment on this nation? And with abortion becoming the #1 cause of death worldwide in 2018, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see God’s wrath poured out in a global sense.

And to those who still insist on calling the United States of America a “Christian Nation” – Please spare me the rhetoric. No nation has the right to call itself “Christian” when it kills 60 million of the most innocent of all humanity.

So – what is a genuine believer to do?  Should we just chew our nails and cry ourselves to sleep?  Far from it.  God calls His people to be watchmen on the wall – to cry out when danger is approaching. We are called to reveal the evil, to shine the Light on darkness.  And yes, to even share the Hope of Christ Jesus, even to the woman has has exercise “choice”. For the Grace of God is sufficient to redeem all who would believe (John 3:16) giving eternal life to all who come to genuine faith, who repent and believe the good news – and who experience the heart transplant only God can perform. And indeed, while we should be yelling from the rooftops, and in the hallways of capital buildings for real justice – we must also genuinely humble ourselves on our knees, repenting of our own sins, and begging God to send a revival across our land, beginning with US – those who profess to be His.  Because we cannot forget  1 Peter 4:17

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?

Gosnell: The Movie (Abortion Truth)

I have been putting off going to see the recently-released movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. I knew that it would be emotionally draining, and likely would even trigger primal anger. But this week, as I saw yet more reports from pro-life groups such as lifesitenews.com, savethe1.com, as well as many Christian news sources who not posted glowing reports regarding the movie itself, but also what appears to be an effort to shut the movie out of theaters, even though it rated in the top 10 movies for its opening weekend. So this week, I committed to carving out a window of time to endure the movie.

The first thing those who haven’t seen the movie need to know – though supported and promoted by several Christian and para-Christian groups, this is not a “Christian film”. There is some profanity as well as some pretty graphic descriptions and depictions of some of the horrific actions of this real-life human monster’s evil actions. Indeed, despite the claims by some that this movie is an attempt at a Bible-thumping pro-life masterpiece, the reality is – the closest it gets to “Christian” is the casual mention of the Catholic faith of a police investigator.  Indeed, the two main characters – Assistant D.A. Alexis McGuire (played by Sarah Jane Morris), and Detective James Wood (played by Dean Cain) both are accurately portrayed as pro-choice – matching the real-life figures).

The second thing that is important to know before seeing this film is that this is a true story. The details of the investigation came directly from the pages of investigator’s notes, court records, and eye-witness testimony. This means that there are some very graphic descriptions of the procedures used by Kermit Gosnell and his ill-trained staff.

From a mechanical/production perspective, the movie is fairly well made.  Sarah Jane Morris turns in a heartfelt, believable performance as Assistant D.A Alexis McGuire, who becomes emotionally invested in the trial of her life.

Dean Cain does an adequate job as Detective James “Woody” Wood, a narcotics investigator who stumbles into the murder investigation while chasing illegal prescriptions that originated from Dr. Gosnell’s office.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is eerily portrayed by Earl Billings, who’s smug, bizarre behaviors andC83A4979
mannerisms help you to truly be disgusted with him, even before the evidence mounts.

Nick Searcy plays the infamous defense attorney Mike Cohan and his efforts to keep his client, Dr. Gosnell out of prison. Searcy has a real talent for playing a cold-hearted, thick-skinned attorney.

The surprise figure to me personally was AlfonZo Rachel who played Detective Stark (a supporting role).  AlfonZo is better known to many as a political commentator, speaker, and even as a musical with ongoing YouTube episodes. While his acting is not yet quite up to top-billing, his character does provide decent supporting work.

And the final bit of information about this movie that sets it apart from most others (beyond the subject matter) is that it is the most successful crowdfunded film in history with nearly 30,000 people donating over $2.3million in just 45 days!

I won’t get into the details of the movie and its base storyline, other than to say that this film simply is telling of the investigation and trial of the man who should have been the most infamous serial killer in US History, yet was a case that received relatively little media attention. Further, the sick and twisted underbelly of much fo the abortion industry is laid bare through this film, despite the fact that those involved in prosecuting the real case specifically tried to avoid bringing abortion in general into question.

Despite the fact that this film is not a “Christian” film, I do recommend that everyone see this that can. It tells the story of a handful of victims of Dr. Kermit Gosnell that has long needed to be told – first to honor his victims, especially the babies he murdered, yet has long been swept under the rug.  The movie will likely cause even the heard-hearted to at least seriously think about the practices described.

I also stand amazed at the stories of many having their views of abortion turned from pro-choice to pro-life. I am in awe of those who have been inspired to help women to “Choose Life“.

So again, my advice – go see this while you still can. The film is worth seeing not only for the film itself but because it honors the memory of those whose lives were ended by the evil and scissors of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.  And while you are at it, take someone with you who is pro-choice. The movie will help them to see more of the reality behind abortion (and especially late-term abortion).

I went in expecting a kick to the guts.  But what I ended up getting out of this film was a cruel and real-life view into just how evil the business of killing babies really is. I believe anyone who watches the film will likely be at a loss for words, will be frustrated (angry even) over the abject refusal for most media to even cover this trial,  much less the revelations in the Grand Jury testimonies regarding just how such a “clinic” could continue to operate without regular inspections and intervention when dozens of complaints came.  And while I didn’t want to post the image directly, you can click this link to see the actual image of “Baby Boy A” that was shown in court and helped seal the result of the trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.

 

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!