Monday, August 11, 2014

Additional thoughts on Responding to Persecution

In last night's sermon, we saw Daniel and the persecution he received from following Jehovah (Daniel 6).

I have been thinking more about Daniel praying before the open "windows".  We are not told his motivation for leaving the windows open to public view - only that this was his practice all along to pray toward Jerusalem to the LORD.  There may in fact be some Jewish prayer practice involved in this.  The question is whether to be publicly bold toward persecution or to avoid and flee persecution that you may live for God and evangelize another day.

We see examples of both in Scripture.  This morning I am reading in Acts 17 and in v.10, 14, and 15 there is fleeing by Paul, Silas, and Timothy to avoid persecution.  In just my quick thoughts, it seems like most of the persecution toward Paul came abruptly and spontaneously rather than him having warning or opportunity to flee.  Of course, the greatest consideration of Paul's response to persecution comes in Acts 21 when he seemingly ignores the leading of the Holy Spirit and goes to Jerusalem knowing that persecution awaited him. This bold choice to head toward persecution does NOT seem to be the will of God for Paul.

Of course, I am thinking of things like Hobby Lobby, photographers and bakeries refusing gay weddings, etc.  I am thinking of so many in the workplace that are forced to take diversity training that is entangled with decisions for Christ.  I am thinking of churches and pastors who will be threatened to lose tax exemption and tax privileges if they do not conform to political correctness.

It seems to me, as I said last night, that the Holy Spirit by His exact will in the situation must lead each believer to do what is God's will at that moment.  Daniel could have avoided and maybe even fled - but he did not.  He chose to continue in his public worship and trust the Lord with the outcome.  In all cases, we must not deny the Lord or disobey him to avoid persecution.  We must not cower as believers in the face of persecution.  It is never right to convert at the hands of oppression like many are doing before ISIS in Iraq.  However, the response to persecution is not a set standard either.  We have examples of different godly responses both to publicly stand, and to avoid and flee.

May the Lord give us the direction of His Spirit at the time to do His exact will.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Glory Days of Fundamentalism

Judges 2:10  And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

As I read these words this morning, I couldn't help but think that they apply to the present state of Fundamentalism and the generation that was not privileged to see what could be called "the glory days of Fundamentalism".

With all the negative hype today about the failures of Fundamentalism, you would think that there was nothing good about the 100 years or so that Fundamentalism was a driving force of Christianity.  Just like the Judges passage above, this young generation should not be ignorant of the great things the Lord did among those who were once proud of being labeled "Fundy".

There is a very sweet revival today among 20-30 somethings for the word of God, theology, worship, and true spiritual things.  Unfortunately, that revival is marked by many earnest young people leaving the ranks of Fundamentalism to the gatherings of the reformed movement of Conservative Evangelicalism.  There are other young people more like the verse above that grew up in Fundy churches, but have seen such negativity that they have left the church and any semblance of organized religion.  I would like to spend a few minutes telling you of some of the wonderful things the Lord accomplished in the "glory days of Fundamentalism".

As a young boy, I can remember a strong sense of joy and anticipation when we met to worship.  People had a real sense that God had His hand on Fundamental churches.  You could feel it in most services.  People were enthusiastic about serving the Lord.  The preaching was viewed as a reverent thing where you were going to hear from God.  Fundamental churches grew dramatically and bus ministries were prosperous all over America.

Packed Fundy churches were the norm when I grew up - my pastor was not a lording or overbearing leader, and yet people came.  Sunday was full, Wednesday was well attended.  I remember special meetings where chairs were placed in the aisles to provide more seating.  There were no "worship wars" then.  Choirs were large and sang out the familiar hymns.  The young generation may believe that with all the external rules there would have been a feeling of oppression - that was not the case.  In fact, probably the pastors fell into the excess of legalistic rule-making because God's people were so joyful and willing to do whatever God wanted them to do at that time.  Obviously, that is a good and potentially dangerous thing.

I remember going to visitation with my Dad and there being a large crowd of people going out.  I also remember that it was normal to see fruit from these visits.  This is the hand of the Lord that I mean.  Often people would be born again.  Often people would accept invitations to church and come and be genuinely saved.  God was on the move.  There was a strong sense of the return of Christ then.  There were many conferences on End Times and books written.  Christians really believed that Jesus would return at any moment.  

The public invitation was also something that was a positive thing, I believe, then.  What I mean is, the people responded in humble confession without coercion.  The arguments against public altar calls today are valid, but then there seemed to be a willing eagerness to deal with conviction issues immediately.  I'm sure there was some of the same reservations, but because so many people responded, it was less of a show and more of many in the church dealing with their hearts immediately.  I'm just telling it from my perspective.

There were powerful organizations like the Moral Majority that were "nearly" Fundy.  The voice of Fundamental churches really shaped our nation at that time:  Blue laws were passed closing businesses on Sunday; liquor stores and adult bookstores were closed in some situations; laws were overturned and preachers challenged unjust government practices.  Many Fundy leaders rose to prominence and were covered in newspapers and television.  We loved watching "Show My People" each Sunday night.  It was a glory time.   When President Reagan was elected, he flew many Fundy pastors to meet with him in Washington.  I knew one of these Pastors.  Wow.  Imagine that - The President of the United States wanted the opinions of Fundamentalist Pastors.  Wow.

There are so many other things that I could mention - booming Bible Colleges; growing Christian School movement; restored families; strong fathers, etc.

There is no question that in later glory years negative issues began to arise - however, the next generation should know about the work of God and the very positive things in their heritage.  I praise the Lord for the recent humility that has come to Fundamentalism.  There are some corners of Fundy-land that are absolutely ridiculous and far from the view of the Christianity of the New Testament.  It is yet to be seen whether Fundamentalism as a movement will survive, or whether Biblical Separatism will arise under a new movement.  Until that becomes clearer, it is exciting to know that Lord is still on the move and working in powerful ways among fervent young believers.

Whatever it is labeled next,  may the Lord bring back the glory days of historic, conservative, biblical Christianity.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mom's Night Out - A Fair Review

To my knowledge, I have never written about a movie.  Why would I as a pastor take the time to write a review about a film? - Because the influence of a movie may have the same influence or an even greater influence on our church members than one of my sermons!  I especially think this is true because believers will watch a movie over and over.

I am also reviewing this movie because it has picked up traction even in our own church as a movie "all believers should get behind and support."  Amy and I saw the movie last night.

First, I would like to commend what I believe to be the positive messages in the movie:  1.  The solid love that couples can have.  The main characters were portrayed as a loving and supportive married couple.  2.  The value of friendship.  3.  The honor of motherhood and specifically "stay-at-home moms".  All of these and a few more messages were valuable and neat to see in a public forum.

However, and I believe this is a pretty strong "However" - there were muddy messages here that should not be overlooked; messages that sound "sound" Biblical in our "folksy-advice-kindof biblical" modern church culture.

I don't write this to be a bubble-buster.  As a pastor, it is my responsibility to guard the flock and call them to discernment, so here it is:

1.  The main message seems to be the same message that Disney promotes:  Accept Yourself as you are.  We all have problems and baggage, you are being too hard on yourself, Jesus accepts you with open arms, you are God's masterpiece, etc,etc, "Love Yourself" doctrine.

The problem with this is it is CHRISTLESS.  The answer is NOT Jesus; the answer is not die-to-self and live for Christ; the answer is not "be content in God's will and your value in Christ's forgiveness, atonement, an your ever changing growth in the gospel" --- the answer in fact was pretty shocking.  The main character was unhappy with her life and felt herself to be a failure.  So, the writers chose the seediest character (or almost seediest) to be her "answer" --- the biker guy who "left the faith" years ago, knows every bar in town, runs a tattoo parlor, tells her at the climax of the movie something like "Jesus loves you not only just the way you are, but because of how you are" --- it is subtle - but that's the message.  He leads her to realize that she is the only one who is not accepting herself.   "Jesus will take you with open arms just the way you are."   The problem with this message is it deny's how God really accepts us.

God's acceptance of failures and sinners isn't because He is really "reasonable" and knows we all "blow it-so, oh well, love and accept yourself" - it is because He has punished His Son for our failures and given us by declaration the standing of saints. -- Through Christ -not "just the way we are" - through Christ we can be clean, accepted, justified, adopted, joyful, guilt-free, etc.  Our value in life comes always and only in Christ.  When we try to go around that or short of that, it will ultimately be empty because it is false.  When we embrace our standing in Christ and realize we are REALLY saints, priests, kings, etc. - then we FEEL our value in Christ.

Now, I know that this is a movie to a general audience - and even an unsaved audience -- but it lead people AWAY from the solution - the gospel - not to it.  If I were lost watching this movie, I would think "I need to be content with myself because Jesus accepts me this way."  That would be damning.

2.  I also struggle greatly with "greater Christianity's" steady walk toward viewing edgy people as better leaders, more "real" leaders, etc. --- the resolution for this main character could have easily come from the Pastor of the church, his wife, or one of her church member friends - but they chose the "biker-rebel-tattoo-drinker" to be the guru of truth.  This is just a head nod to the fact that we don't really need organized church or spiritual leaders to be walking the "good path" - if we are "real" - that is enough.

3.  There was a moment in the movie that I think was disrespectful to the Lord.  The Pastor's wife thanks the Lord and Donny Osmond (who is tattooed on her back) that her daughter says she will never get a tattoo. ("thank you Jesus and Donny" she says, making a joke out of our Lord's name.

4.  There is another subtle "anti-conservative" message in the movie.  The pastor's wife tries on a few occasions to protect her testimony -- She doesn't drink, she doesn't dance, etc. --- Then, at the end of the movie when all is resolved and everyone loves themselves she (and everyone in the movie) let's go in crazy party dance at the local bowling alley.  The message -- "guarding yourself and your reputation as a conservative Christian isn't necessary -- in fact, it would be much better if you just relaxed and went wild.

Courageous and Fire Proof are Christian mainstream movies that have much clearer Biblical messages.

Overall, I had a tremendous time with my wife Amy, but I think the message of this movie is more harmful than helpful to the clear message of the gospel.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Missions Emphasis Month Kick Off

Our Missions Emphasis Month has had a tremendous kick off in my view with the capable preaching of Dr. Keven Callahan.  I heard many of you comment on how much you enjoyed Sunday.

I praise the Lord for the work that was done in our hearts beginning in Sunday School with the Dispatches from the Front Video.  My heart was open to Southern Asia and the Gospel need there.

I talked with our next speaker today - Pastor Scott Bandy, and I can't wait to hear his passionate points about the gospel need for our church.  We must pray that the Lord stirs our will, our finances, our vision, our proclamation of Jesus' gospel.

It was a sweet thing last night to pray with several men who really knew how to pray.  It was so transparent, so genuine, so Spirit led to hear them submitting their hearts to God and asking God to do His work among us.  One of the major themes of the prayer time was asking God to continue to work through the Missions Emphasis Month.

I believe this is a special time of missions awakening at LBC and that we are going to be shocked at what God is going to do in and through willing believers.

Whose Mission is it?  "It is OUR mission Lord, please tell us what to do."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Picking up the Spare, Turkey, and Casey

We don't say much about the church bowling league from the pulpit.....doesn't really seem like the place - but it has been very enjoyable and encouraging to bowl with our church family these last several weeks.

Bowling is "Winter Golf" to me: both are frustrating and impossible to master.  Amy out-bowled me last night with a 145.....What!?

It is fun to wait your turn and just ham it up with the friends you worship with, love, and will spend eternity with.  There is a special bond in the body of Christ that is not present outside of the "blood".  We are all "for" each other in a way that is beyond the 10 pins.

I appreciate Butch Singleton's role in our church of organizing sports fellowship.  You may not realize how much of a ministry this is unless you have played softball, bowling, or the upcoming church golf outing in the summer.  However, these activities form a skeleton to be able to encourage and love each other around.  I find playing games or having lunch or doing something with another brother in Christ fosters an atmosphere of natural care and fellowship.  This is real fellowship that doesn't have to happen in the Fellowship Hall at church or the church picnic!

Concerning Casey.........the boy bowls.  Two weeks ago, we all held our breath as Casey bowled 8 strikes in a row heading for a perfect game.  He missed the ninth strike and ended with a 252.  Wow.  It is fun to see his unorthodox style that hooks about 5 feet from the pins and blasts them apart.

Well, just wanted to comment a bit on the fun and fellowship we are having.  I've never been to a bowling alley where 24 people huddled to pray before they threw 3 games.  Good Stuff.

Here are some statistics if you care to see......