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#WrongRoad#Weakness

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

This morning (Sunday) I preached on the letter to the church at Thyatira and I approached it from the aspect of tolerance. I’ll state it right off the bat: no matter what our culture says and even what other “churches” tell us, tolerance is never mentioned in Scripture.  Another word some may be more familiar with is Compromise.  I’d like to take this blog space and talk about that a bit.

In the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus commends them for their works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and that their latter works exceeded the first (I think that means they were maturing and growing and not stagnant). BUT the church was an immoral cesspool (v.20). That “train” was led by a woman He names Jezebel. I seriously doubt that is her real name. I mean…what parent in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel, or even Delilah? Be that as it may, my research seems to indicate two possibilities she was teaching:

  1. Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught that the physical universe was evil and the spiritual was good. This led to what is called Dualism. Today is it is seen in those who teach Jesus was not fully human and fully divine.  A popular brand of this is Jesus was human until His baptism when He became divine and then somewhere before His crucifixion He became human again. One of the most prominent teachers of this heresy is the false “apostle” Bill Johnson and those associated with Bethel Church and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement.
  2. Antinomianism. It is a combination of two words: Anti which means “No” and nomian which means “Law.” Hence, No Law. This teaches you can do whatever you want as long as you invoke God’s grace when you are done. This is taught by….just about everyone. I believe God’s forgiveness is complete and His grace covers any sin, but I also believe He wants us to be holy, not acting however we want then constantly seeking God’s grace for forgiveness.

Tolerance is a slippery slope we want to avoid. We will be called all sorts of names.  We will be looked on as a three-headed monster. But God’s truth stands and we are much better taking “heat” from our culture than taking “heat” from God.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

#Insignificant#Fulfilled#MediaPerception

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

It will seem strange to many of you who know me that I would actually write about social media. I have made no secret of the fact that I do not do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other “stuff” that is out there.  Years ago when Jo started up on FB to keep up with our daughters, I said something about maybe I ought to. She said, “No, you have your blog. I’ll do FB.” She was right about that. I do have this blog. Actually, now I have two. The other is called LivingintheShadow and it is a daily devotion I write.  And yes, you can subscribe!  Hint! Hint! 🙂  But as I’ve looked back and then observed all the junk going around, Jo was more prophetic than she dreamed.  While there were times I wished I was on FB and other social media, I now realize I’m not missing a thing. Not only do I spend enough time on my two blogs, I simply cannot imagine how much time I would be throwing away aimlessly gazing at a scrolling screen. I hear enough snarky, snide remarks made by other media and people that I can graciously plead innocence to when asked if I passed something along or if I saw this post or that comment. Please understand I am not against FB but the abuse of it (and certainly some of the restrictions they are imposing, especially on followers of Christ).

I’ve also noticed how much emphasis and self-worth is placed on the number of readers, tweeters, instagrammers (I know that is not a word), and other media counting efforts to know how many people put their significance on that number. UGH!  There are some who hit the despondency button if their post or tweet is not passed on or commented on by a certain number of people. And please don’t get me started on the amount of bullying and vicious remarks that are made which devastate people because of the faceless presence one can assume.

I get my fill of hearing or reading about celebrities with big mouths (please go ahead and do us all a favor and leave the country if you don’t like living here); who do outlandish things; brag about their exploits; etc. But we idolize them as though they have “the life.” The last I looked the life of the Christ-follower is much more significant than some celluloid hero who acts the part of a superhero but lives the life of a lost soul. I’m thinking the animated film Balto actually is a more accurate story of life on the screen than any Marvel Universe project ever is.

And while I am on this whole social media rant, what is this thing that children and adults are glued to their screens, even at a meal? Dudes (and dudettes) put the screens away. Look someone in the eye and talk to them. I have to admit that my job as a pastor keeps me near my phone but I silence it during a meal. If it rings and is not important it can either go to voice mail or I can text later. Only three people do I respond to: Jo, Tami and Janna. Braden is in school so I don’t have to worry, but if his or Jason’s name shows up I will answer it.

Maybe it is time we practice what Jim Elliott, the martyred missionary once said: “Wherever you are, be all there.” I wonder what he would say today to gadgets he would not even had dreamed about!

I’d like to hear what your thoughts are.

#Consumers#WeAreGoingElsewhere#Discouraging

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

I think every pastor on the planet has at one time or another experienced someone coming to them and saying, “We are leaving and going to another church. Church XYZ has a program that is better suited for our kids. They have more things to do.” I have been on the other end of that stick and it doesn’t feel very good. It hurts even more when the decision has already been made and their mind is made up even before talking with me about it.

That is not happening right now. It has and I’m sure it will again. When someone leaves because of doctrinal reasons (they like Bill Johnson and Bethel Redding, for example, and my preaching is nowhere close to his heresy) I’m okay with that. It recently happened and I now see God sparing us from a very divisive issue. When someone leaves because they are moving over 45 minutes away (as someone very close to me did two years ago), it hurts, but I understand. I just won’t talk to him anymore (except when we get together to go out to eat). 🙂  I can get behind both of those reasons.

If a family leaves because I don’t see things as narrow as they do and leave accusing me of being liberal and compromising on issues like homosexuality, pornography, sexual conduct, abortion, and other issues, I can see there is something else underlying it. It is also so not true.

But for someone to simply pack up and leave because another church offers something we don’t, that hurts.  I don’t use the “su**s” word but I sure want to.  I’m confused. Flabbergasted. It’s like all the time and effort put into their family, their marriage, their lives means absolutely nothing.

Church-going is seen more like a shopping event than a worship event. We have become a nation of consumers, content on shopping around for the best bargain, the one (ready for it?) “that meets my needs the best.” That is certainly the one thing the seeker movement has taught us: have your felt needs met-go to the church that best meets your needs.  I’ll be honest: I despise shopping at the mall. I know everything is there under one roof. 100 different clothing stores. 30 different shoe stores. All the mobile phone kiosks. Toy stores. Lingerie stores.  Jewelry stores. (I mean, let’s face it. How many different pieces of jewelry can there be and how can one diamond store be more “real” than another?) Even a food court for your choice of food.  What the mall offers is all these stores under one roof, offering tons of the same items, still over-priced.

When it comes to the church, people lose sight of the “why” of going. They miss the “I am being fed by a man of God who uses the Word of God uncompromisingly.” Too often we determine our like or dislike by the music; the lights/camera/action; the activities going on; the entertainment value; and so on. Christ, and glorifying Him, is not king; the consumer/customer is. What does he/she need?

Granted, “feel good” positive thinking messages (I can’t call them sermons) should have us looking elsewhere. Entertainment-driven “worship events” should tire us. An endless calendar which gives us no time for family should be a yellow flag. But to leave just to leave, to feel better, to play sports or whatever, is just wrong.  Ironically, the desire for more selections and variety is what has helped create the megachurch.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

#MarkedMan#FalseAccusation

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Someone has said:

To be falsely accused and retaliate is natural; to be accused and remain in control is supernatural.

No one likes to be falsely accused, especially when it has far-reaching consequences. IMHO Joseph might very well be the OT poster boy for being falsely accused.  He is sold into slavery, bought by Potiphar, and eventually distinguishes himself so that he is elevated to top dog in the household. But it only serves to make him a marked man. Talk about pressure! Not work pressure either. Boss’s wife pressure.

He is a new kid in a new culture, one completely different than the only one he had known. Not only does he have that to deal with, he now has his boss’s wife wanting to play footsie with him.  If you know the story you know he resists. Because “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her and he ends up in prison.

Joseph’s public witness took place at work, and raises the question of our own attitude as followers of Christ. Do we, like Joseph, distinguish ourselves at work? Are we trustworthy? Faithful?  Hard working? Resistant to temptation (of every kind)? Pointed questions which need to be addressed. Genesis 39 is where I will be this Sunday.  I’d appreciate your prayers.

#Blessing#Challenge

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

As a grandfather, I have a desire to see my grandson more often than I have the opportunity to. He lives 4 hours away and is actively involved in baseball and football (oh, and school) so his schedule is pretty full. Him coming to visit his grandparents is not high on his list of things to do. And it is not high on his mother’s list either. She is a busy, working mom and wife. Neither Jo nor I begrudge that.  We just know our situation is unique and unless God says, “Time to move” we will be here ministering in Spencer hopefully for years to come.

My girls are adults now, each with their own life. Tami, our oldest, teaches Kindergarten in Bloomington, IN. Janna, our youngest, works in Delaware, OH for a car dealership (not selling but as a jack-of-all-trades doing rentals, office work, receptionist, etc). When they were babies I would often go into their room at night and pray for them and pray over them. I prayed a prayer of surrender, i.e. “Father, these girls are yours. Help me never to hold on to them so tightly I won’t give them to you.” Sort of like Abraham and Isaac. I also prayed for their salvation.

The first time I held Braden when he came home from the hospital and I surprised Janna by being there, I went off by myself with the little guy in my arms and prayed for him. I prayed a blessing over him. I prayed for his salvation and that he will grow up knowing Jesus.

All this flooded back to me as I read I Chronicles 22 Saturday night. David is making preparations for building the temple and then calls his son, Solomon, to him. He tells Solomon about why he is not building the temple (he was a man of war), but he also speaks a blessing over Solomon and challenges him as well.  The blessing is found in verses 11-12: “The Lord be with you.” But he also issues a challenge to Solomon to stand strong and be faithful to God. [Verses 12-13].

What a great opportunity we have as parents and grandparents to speak into our son’s and daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives with a blessing to cover them. I’m not into so-called “positive confession” that the name-it-claim-it people talk about. But I am into praying over and for our children and grandchildren.  In our case, being 4 hours away, that seems to be the next best thing to being there.  Who knows how and when God will answer our prayers for them.

#Celebrities#Pastors

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

I’m thinking it is not a coincidence that I would be reading Costi Hinn’s new book God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel the same time I would read a chapter in Skye Jethani’s book Immeasurable that goes by the title of Celebrity.  He begins his chapter with these words:

Celebrity pastors are not a new phenomenon, nor is our human tendency to exalt our leaders to unsustainable heights. What is new is the number of celebrity pastors and the speed with which they are being created and corrupted.

Skye places some of the blame on what he called the EIC (Evangelical Industrial Complex). He compares it too what outgoing President Eisenhower said about the military industrial complex (MIC).  His belief was those industries that were created to end the war would now push the country to start many more. His words were strangely prophetic.  The connection between the EIC and MIC is one of comparison. No, the EIC is not a military complex, BUT it is a force to be reckoned with.

So…what is the EIC?  It is (for lack of a better term) a conglomeration of companies that forego the ministry aspect, very often the “truth” aspect, for what I will call the “money aspect.” Much like an athlete at the top of his game receives offers galore for endorsements, etc, so the EIC does the same to authors, pastors, and churches.  Conferences do the same thing. Rather than ask someone who is conscientious about his lifestyle and his presentation of the gospel, the new young guy who is hip, vocal, a social media genius, and most of all charismatic, is invited. Who cares if his doctrine is skewed? Who cares if he is in the Prosperity (Un)gospel/name-it-claim-it garbage world? He’s popular. He’s funny. His church is growing (for dubious reasons).  He’s a draw.  It doesn’t matter. “Get him!” (or in these days even a “her”).  So we have a pastor who wants to shock his church by playing a very anti-God song for Easter. We have a woman “pastrix” (or whatever you would call her) who is vulgar and supportive of the LBGTQ+ agenda being given a book contract and notoriety. We have pastors who ask their people to sacrifice living in million dollar mansions. Say what? The danger of elevating immature leaders and not having any accountability is real.  There is a reason Paul tells Timothy a leader should not be a new convert.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are faithful pastors laboring daily to love their people; to shepherd their flock; to prepare good, solid, gospel sermons week in and week out (not hiring a team of writers or plagiarizing); and to labor without gaining press.  They are unconcerned with being known or running their church like a CEO.  He loves. He laughs.  He cries. He visits. He counsels. He marries and buries those whom loves and labors among. IMHO they are the ones who deserve the applause. But then again, they are not really interested in that sort of recognition. The church they serve and the Father they love and serve is gratitude enough. I should know. I used to once crave the recognition. Now? My church family and my Father’s “Well done” is all I need.

I wrote this last Thursday and scheduled it for today because I will be in Sandusky, Ohio about all week with Jo making all the final preparations for vacating her sister’s apartment and bringing some things home in a U-Haul on the 29th.  I’d like to know what you think about today’s post, so even though I won’t have internet, my phone does have access my blogs.

Mindless or #LosingMyMind

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

So I’m not sure if Mindless is the same as Losing My Mind. I’m guessing not, but the latter is my sermon title for Sunday and I’m not sure how to make that one word except #LosingMyMind. So being the decisive person I am, I decided to include them both! 🙂

We are a nation of interesting ideologies. And slogans which sometimes show our ideologies. The sports world is an interesting case. For year, Tiger Woods was the face of golf and an inspiration to hundreds, maybe thousands of children, especially people of color. When he fell from grace a few years ago, his star also fell. But last year he resurrected his career and his star is once more an inspiration to kids to pursue their dreams. And unless you were born under a rock, you also know he just won his 5th Master’s Green Jacket.  And who can forget “Bo knows” or “Be Like Mike”?

When it comes to biblical characters we prefer to be a Daniel or a Stephen or a Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego than a Peter (who denied Jesus three times) or a Judas.  Victory over sin is not won overnight. It is won in the trenches of everyday life. Romans 8 has been called the “highlight” of Romans. The next four weeks of sermons will be focusing on Romans 8. I’m calling this first sermon “Losing My Mind” because it focuses on who has control of our mind-the flesh or the Spirit.  Which one will I give my mind to?

Your prayers would be appreciated.

Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?

Effectiveness#2

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

“I’m afraid of living an insignificant life.” So said one speaker at a conference. That’s a good sentiment. I could say that as well. I might say it as “I want to leave a legacy.”

But here’s the rub: what is significant? What kind of legacy? Well….I guess it depends on who and what one listens to. If I listen to the world’s definition of significance, I’ll hear something totally different from God’s definition. Ask someone the definition of significance and most will tie it to something they have done-even though it may be something truly worthy like a home for unwed mothers, or a shelter, or feeding the homeless, etc. But that significance is tied to “do.”

When that idea creeps into a Christ-follower’s thinking, or the church, then it is easy to think my value (significance) is related to what I do, what I have achieved. I tie how I feel about myself to what I do. So the “bigger” something is the more significant my life appears to be.

NOT. TRUE.

Significance is not found in what I do or even don’t do. My value to God is based on what I am in His eyes. He isn’t going to hold me up and carry me on His shoulders to be praised before an adoring crowd. I’m not going to be ride the wave like a coach or star player after a huge victory. My significance is not based on my effectiveness (see Leader A vs Leader B again in that first post), but on my relationship with God. Service is good but it should never trump being with Him.

What do you think? Better yet, ask yourself how you view your significance. Is there a change I need to make so I can see myself through God’s eyes?

 

Fair

Monday, March 18th, 2019

For the first time since I started writing my blog in 2008 I failed to post a weekend blog about my Sunday sermon.  I’d like to beg off by saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It would be more accurate to say, “Time supersonics when you’re busy.” It seems like I was a “day late and a dollar short” all weekend long. Not that anything bad happened it was just so full.  I’ll not bore you with all the details, let’s just suffice it to say, I was swamped.

My sermon was on Psalm 73 and I called it “Life’s Not Fair!”  Those three words often fall off the lips of our children and we might say back, “Tough! Life’s not fair. Deal with it!” But there are some issues that snarky attitude just doesn’t fit. Seeing dishonest people get ahead. A weeping widow at a graveside wondering why the drunken driver lived but not her husband and the children’s father. A child being rushed to the hospital, the victim of a terrorist bomb. Scenarios like those and more don’t want easy, cliche-laden answers. Saying life isn’t fair is not reserved for kids. There are weightier matters that not even adults have an answer for.

Asaph (the author of Psalm 73) had similar questions.  He allowed his self-pity to take him to the bottom because he admits his heart was filled with envy, resentment and confusion.  Asaph found himself at the bottom of the barrel and needed a lift. He found it in the presence of God.  It was there Asaph was able to recalibrate his heart.

That’s not a bad idea on this Monday morning. A busy week ahead assures me of some needed quiet time for recalibration.  How about you?