Category Archives: Faith & Practice

Religious Liberty Is In Hospice. To Whom Will You Bow When It Dies?

statechurchHospice.

You know the word. And you know what always comes soon after.

Death.

When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1788 it did not do so without controversy — either before, during, or after. As they were concluding their meeting Benjamin Franklin is famous for his response to a lady who questioned him about what the result of the Convention was. He said, “A republic. If we can keep it.”

Indeed, many leaders in the several states lamented the results of that Convention and fought hard against their respective state’s ratification thereof. Only with the guarantee there would be a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution, enumerating certain things the federal government absolutely could not do, was ratification achieved.

The freedom for people to belief as they feel compelled to, and to live in accordance with their beliefs, was considered so absolutely necessary that the very first of those rights enumerated in what came to be known as the First Amendment was that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So inalienable a right was it, and so vital to both state and national interests, that the very next clause in the First Amendment made clear the freedom of speech (inherent in which is the freedom to express oneself).

For over two hundred years then constitutionally protected rights were considered a given, at least as it relates to matters of faith and practice. However, in the twenty-first century, and especially in the last few years, we are living in a new age (at least for us comfortable Americans). Our freedom to believe what we want and live in accordance with those beliefs is no longer a given, and I write this, in particular, for those who share my faith in the one and only God, Father of our one and only Savior, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I write this with respect to those who, like me, believe that God has revealed Himself through the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. I write this to those who, like me, believe God has made Himself plain as it relates to matters of marriage and human sexuality. 

If you believe like me you know that God is holy, holy, holy, and that He cannot, does not, and will not tolerate any sin, at any time, for any reason whatsoever. True, God is patient toward sinners, but every sin that has ever been committed will have been judged in time. 

So then, you also believe, like me (because the Bible is God’s word and it’s not too difficult to understand), that God created man in His image, male and female He created them, and the two of them joined together as one flesh. Thus, homosexuality is sinful state of mind, homosexual acts are sinful acts, and homosexual marriage is a figment of the imagination, a byproduct of a mind hostile toward God, because God, the Creator of marriage, has already defined it (one man and one woman until death do they part, and what God has joined together let no man separate). 

Well, at least you used to be able to believe that, because on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling in the favor of Hobby Lobby in a recent case in which the government was trying to force the owners of that business to violate their religious convictions with regards to insurance coverage for certain contraceptives considered abortifacients, now the President of the United States is signing an executive order prohibiting job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The constitutionally of such an order can be debated at another time. Nevertheless, the order means if you are a business owner and have a government contract, you can’t decide not to hire that man, whose mother named him Chris, because he wears a dress and identifies himself as a woman named Christine. His right to be “transgender” is more important than your right to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ and conduct your business and even hire employees who best represent the worldview you want your business (which you own) to convey.

President Barack Obama’s decision to sign this order is hardly shocking given some of his statements in the past, but the ramifications of such an order, once enforced, are chilling to the mind of us Americans who are used to being comfortable in the land of the free. And should the trajectory of our culture remain unchanged, and I see no reason to believe it will, this order is an ominous portent of things to come.

This is just my opinion, but I believe it to be one grounded in an understanding of the culture, and more importantly the Bible, but things will probably not get better. They will most likely get worse… much worse.

As American Christians we must remember first that we are Christians who happen to be Americans, not the other way around. We are citizens of two kingdoms, but our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20), guaranteed to all believers by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, must trump our American citizenship every time

Once that is understood, we must also remember that freedom, while codified in a human constitution, isn’t guaranteed in Scripture. Many of the believers who received Paul’s letters and Peter’s letters lived under the constant threat of persecution. The Christians in Judea were ostracized by their Jewish kinsmen to the point Paul was collecting an offering for them half a continent away. Herod had the apostle James put to death in Acts 12, to say nothing of church history which teaches us that Peter and Paul were both murdered for their faith around A.D. 67. Even today in this enlightened age to be a Christian in more parts of the world than not means to be under constant threat of some sort of persecution (even death) from a government or other religious group.

Therefore, while we might rightly say religious liberty in America has been taken to hospice, with all signs pointing to its impending death in coming years, the question for you and I becomes: To whom will you bow when it finally dies? Is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ such that we will readily endure suffering the likes of which none reading this most likely have ever truly pondered? Will your knee remained bowed before Jesus the King? Or will you bow to the state and to the culture, thus proving your knee isn’t bowed to Jesus in reality now?

We must, by the grace of God, waste no time in setting our minds (NOW!) on things above, and not on the things of the earth (Col 3:2). Beloved, Satan has attacked us in our comfort here in free America, but the days are coming when I believe he will attack us otherwise. I pray you, I, and we all might remember that “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

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Pastoral desires for the church

Note: I originally posted this on my “From the Pastor’s Keyboard…” blog on the Bethlehem Baptist Church web site.

Sometimes the stuff of church becomes routine, even for the pastor. But it’s truly an honor and a privilege, a sacred calling even, every time I get the chance to preach and teach God’s word. I’m commanded by God to faithfully explain His word to you. That’s something I can never afford to think of as routine, and something you shouldn’t take for granted, either.
On Wednesday night I got to preach from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, in which the apostle Paul expressed some pastoral desires for that church. Remember, he had planted the church, but only got to stay with them for three weeks before being run out of town by Jewish persecutors. Still, Paul had a pastor’s heart for these people. That’s the whole letter… his heart being poured out to teach them the truth, and in the process guard them from error. And at the start of what we know as chapter three he turns toward some of his heart’s desires for these relatively new believers.

As a pastor myself (as your pastor if you’re a member of Bethlehem), these are things I desire for you as well. Continue reading

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Donald Miller and one anothers

Ok. Everyone else seems to have written about this so I guess I’ll add what probably amounts to two literal cents in blogging currency…

Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, writes that he rarely goes to church anymore. So how does he interact with God?

The answer came to me recently and it was a freeing revelation. I connect with God by working. I literally feel an intimacy with God when I build my company. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe God gave me my mission and my team and I feel closest to him when I’ve got my hand on the plow.

Twelve I‘s, me‘s, or my‘s in those four sentences. No one anothers, which permeate the New Testament and are integral to church life. So if you are one who thinks you are a Christian but do not immerse yourself in a local Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Christ-exalting church, then you are either fooling yourself or you are in disobedience to many of the Lord’s commands. And Jesus says if you love Him you will keep His commands (see PDF file).

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Serving Steven Furtick: Reasons Elevation Church is a great place to work

6a00e54eea6129883301a511607889970c-800wiI saw a link to this image on Twitter today. You’re going to have to click on it to really see it. But it’s something made up by Elevation Church, pastored by Steven Furtick, complete with church logo on the bottom and the trademarked raised hands in the background. It’s thirty reasons why Elevation Church is “the best place to work.”

Here are some examples:

1. We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.

3. We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.

7. We serve a Lead Pastor who pours into us spiritually and professionally.

16. We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.

The opening riff to Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” comes to mind when I read this. Here I thought that Christians are to worship the Lord their God and serve Him only. Apparently since Furtick seeks and hears from God, it’s great for Elevation employees to serve him. It’s not surprising to see that employment at Elevation centers on its Lead Pastor, who has never met a biblical text he couldn’t make about himself.

Granted, Steven Furtick’s name is not to be found on this list. Then again, neither is another name…

Jesus.

(HT: Chris Rosebrough)

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Our racist past, murderous present, and eternal hope

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Tomorrow is another anniversary. I post this in between intentionally.

I’ve been reminded in recent days about the sinfulness of sin when it comes to racism, particularly in this country. The 2011 film The Help has been playing on TNT in recent days, and it is one of the favorite films my wife and I can agree on. It’s just a wonderfully told story, a period piece of the South in the 1960s. It’s absolutely infuriating at times. That final scene where Abilene gets fired comes to mind. But more than that, it angers me that my parents’ and grandparents’ generations not only condoned such behavior, but took part in it.

The ButlerThat righteous anger was reinforced when my wife and I rented the recent film The Butler from Redbox the other night. It is the story of an African-American boy who sees his mother taken away to be raped and then his father killed before his eyes by a stereotypical white Southern plantation owner. He becomes a house servant and eventually leaves, circumstance taking him to the employ of the White House, where he serves from the Eisenhower administration into Reagan’s second term.

The film is engaging until it absolutely comes apart in the final twenty minutes, when it strips off all pretense and reveals itself to be little more than a propaganda piece. Even so, the depictions of racism are real, particularly in the scenes where the butler’s son is a participant in receiving ridicule, injury, and arrest because of the color of his skin. Righteous anger wells up.

I start to be thankful for how far it seems our country has come in such a short time on race. To be sure, America has seen its citizen push forward in several ways to realize the key ideal of Dr. King’s most famous speech, that men are judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.

I start to be thankful, but then I consider how many African-American children were slain yesterday, and will be today, before they ever take a breath. I remember that tomorrow is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. I remember that the religion of abortion has a temple called Planned Parenthood, and its Solomon, Margaret Sanger, built it to eradicate the black race from Harlem. I remember, and I lament.

We still have so far to go.

And yet I have joy… and hope, for I remember what Paul said to the Athenians in Acts 17:24-27:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;  nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;  and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

To quote another Pauline phrase, creation groans. We groan within ourselves, but not without hope. Jesus has made us all. There really is only one race — the human race — and Jesus saves sinners in that race from the consequences of their sin every day. One day He will return and make all things well. Until then, we grope for Him, knowing that the days are evil, but salvation is here… and coming.

While we wait for that great day, let us contend to abhor the very idea of racism, and the very idea of abortion, for they are both broadsides in the spirit of Satan against the very image of the One we were created in (Gen 1:26-27).

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