Defending the Faith

This morning I opened up my computer to read the news that Ravi Zacharias had passed away.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dr. Zacharia’s work, he was a very well known apologist who spoke at college campuses and throughout the world regarding the Christian faith.

Often, Dr. Zacharias would take questions from the crowd as part of his lectures.  My fondest memory of his lectures comes from this time.  A young man approached the microphone with a question regarding original sin and the depravity of man.  He asked, “Why do Christians believe that people are evil and incapable of doing good?  I feel like I am a good person and I think most people are good.  Why doesn’t Christianity focus on helping people be better instead of telling them they need saving?”

Ravi Zacharias grinned and slowly approached the microphone.  “Let me ask you a question,” he responded, “Do you lock your doors at night?”

A roll of laughter went over the crowd and his point was made.  The young man at the microphone said that he believed people were good, but his actions contradicted his words.  Dr. Zacharias went on to explain his theological standpoint and how it could be seen in humanity.

Dr. Zacharias’ life is a powerful reminder that the church needs to know what she believes and be able to defend those beliefs.  Here are a few things that I have learned from Zacharias’ ministry that I hope you will take away from it as well.

1.  Defending your faith means knowing what you believe.  

If there is one undeniable truth about Zacharias, it was that he knew his stuff.  If we go back 70 years it was easy to go through life as a Christian without being challenged.  Today Christians have their beliefs challenged daily.  We are challenged by our peers, challenged by our leaders, and challenged by our culture.  If we do not have a strong grasp of what we believe and WHY, then we are going to be set up for some major challenges.

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to knowing your stuff.  Yes, the Holy Spirit works in and through us to make the Gospel known (Mark 13:11) However, this is no excuse to be ignorant of our faith.  We need to read, even study, our Bible.  We need training and discipleship in order to stand firm when we are challenged.  Paul said it this way to Timothy, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.  Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.”

Notice that Paul commanded Timothy to trust in the Spirit, but do the work also!

2.  Defending your faith means knowing what they believe.

Dr. Zacharias also was very diligent to understand the viewpoint of the opposition.  Zacharias was well known for his ability to field any question that the crowd would throw at him.  This meant that he had to know the viewpoints of his opposition and speak knowledgeably of them.  He sought to not merely create a “straw-man” argument but to honestly engage with their ideas & show why Christianity was superior with a more consistent worldview.

Every Christian should be able to do the same or at least be willing to learn.  This means we need to listen to others; their concerns and their beliefs.  It also means that we cannot put ourselves in a safe little Christian bubble where our beliefs are never challenged.  Many have done so and future generations suffer when we stick our heads in the sand.  Instead, engage with opposing viewpoints.  Take the time to learn their beliefs, and ask questions to make sure there is understanding.  Be willing to postpone the conversation while you go to Scripture and other resources to make a case.

We will discover that many people want to have an honest conversation.  Peter said, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15a)

3.  Defending your faith means doing so with love

Peter 3:15 finishes with these words, “yet with gentleness and reverence.”  Peter wanted the Church to understand that the goal of “making a defense” was to win the person to Christ; not just win the argument.
Dr. Zacharias understood this as well.  His gentle voice and even temper did much to show people the love of Christ.  He did not lose his temper.  He did not insult his opponents.  He did not attack people on a personal level.  Instead, he loved people and he wanted to see them leave every conversation closer to Christ than when they began.

As we carry on, we should also seek to love first.  Let us graciously engage the culture with love and a strong argument.  It should be our goal to win souls; not arguments.  If we keep this in the front of our minds, then there is nothing we cannot do for the Kingdom of God.


Thank you, Ravi Zacharias.  You have had an impact on my life and many more.  I rejoice in knowing that you are rejoicing at the throne of the Father as we speak.  

Until that day…


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But Be Careful What you Learn

A day without learning is a day wasted.”

Unknown

 

This post is a follow up to my last post “But Did We Learn Anything?”

As I wrote in my last post, Kentucky is on the way to recovery and that means that society, including churches, are starting to open back up.

I will be honest and tell you that this has caused me a little anxiety as the day draws near.  For one, I am concerned for the safety of our members.  It would break my heart to know that one of my brothers or sisters in Christ got sick, hospitalized, or even lost their life because we allowed the virus to spread at our services.

But my other concern exists on the spiritual level.  I have a deep fear that when this pandemic is finally behind us and we are back together, that things will just go back to the way they were.

Let me explain…

I am afraid that when all is said and done, we will have not learned anything from the experience, or worse, what we have learned that will actually be harmful to us.  So I want to give you the opposite of my previous post and show you 3 things I do not want you to take away from this pandemic.

 

1.  Wanting everything to just go back to normal

Do you remember how great and perfect everything was before the pandemic hit?  No?  Me neither.  Everyone I know was stressed, overworked, and frustrated.  Going into March I had a calendar so full that I did not know when I would be able to keep up with the maintenance of my own home.  At church we were extremely worried that the few volunteers that we did have were going to disappear as their spring/summer calendar took them out of church almost every weekend.  All of us were tired, running on fumes, with very little hope of relief.

Do you honestly want to go back to that?

If this pandemic has done one thing, it has brought me closer to my family.  We have been allowed to stay home, enjoy time with each other, and rest.  I don’t want that to go away.  Yes, I hate that my daughters have missed opportunities to compete.  I am saddened that they did not get to celebrate the end of the school year.  But I am not sad that I have enjoyed more meals around the dinner table.  I have loved getting to cook with my eldest and play games with my middle daughter.  It hasn’t been perfect, but I realize that busyness does not make me a good parent nor a good person.

And I will not forget that lesson when everything opens back up.  It is time to say “no” to being busy and “yes’ to being with family & setting our own priorities.  (which should include the church!)

 

2.  The church is here to entertain me

The pandemic has caused church leadership to seek out new ways to engage the congregation and share the Gospel.  Overall, this has been a great thing that has allowed the gospel to go forth like it never before.  Many churches are doing everything they can to get the message on the radio, television & internet, but can there be unexpected consequences to this?

A drawback to putting all of our services on a screen is that it can become just another form of entertainment.  We live in the age of Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.  There is always something to watch; always something to listen to.  There is always something to distract us.  If something is not holding my interest, then I can just switch over to something else or allow it to continue while I look at my phone.  But what happens when church services get lumped into the rest of the distractions?

If I don’t like what I am hearing from my pastor or music leader, then I can just switch to another church to see if they are doing a better job.  Suddenly “church” becomes all about me and my entertainment.  My preferences take precedence and I can hop around until I find what I like.

Make no mistake, the churches themselves have to take part of the blame because we chose to play this game.  Many churches have invested a lot of time, energy, and money in order to create professional “shows” that will keep the viewer engaged.  But the church was never intended to become some sort of media outlet, and we cannot reduce the church to entertainment when we gather together again.

Look at the description of the church that we find in the book of Acts, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (2:42) None of this includes entertainment and all of it involves the participation of the disciples.

The church has to shake off the notion that we have become the “audience”.  Instead, we are the body (Rom 12:5) and as the body we have to work together!

 

3.  I am doing just fine.

“Wait, pastor…  Don’t you want us to be going fine?”

Well, yes, in the sense that I don’t want you suffering, but I do not want you to be deceived into believing “fine” is the best you can be.  

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent questioned Eve regarding the commands of God.  When Eve told the serpent that they would die if they disobeyed God’s command, he responded, “Surely, you will not die!” (Gen 3:4) The serpent convinced Eve that she (and Adam, who was with her) would be “fine” if they disobeyed God.  He convinces us of the same thing now.

I have no doubt that there have been many who have not watched a single online service or worshipped God in any way since we began social distancing; others have slowly drifted away as other things took their attention.  The Enemy is going to try and convince us that we too are doing “just fine” without God, worship, or the church in our lives.  He wants us to believe that we do not need all that stuff to live a fulfilling life and that God wants us to be happy above all else.

But this is a bold-faced life!  Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 7 what happens when we walk away from a close relationship with God.  He says, “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (v. 27)  Eventually, we will not be doing “fine”, and if our lives are not built upon the rock that is Christ then we will fall and fall hard.

Please don’t allow the Enemy to lull you into thinking you are “fine”.  Instead, seek to be like Christ, and He will do amazing things in your life!

 

So what have you learned from this whole event?  Has it made you to be more dependent on Christ or less?  Are you longing to be a part of the body or are you comfortable being entertained?  Are you ready to take control of your priorities and your home, or will you allow things to just go back to “normal”?

It’s up to you, but I’m praying for you!


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But Careful What you Learn!

“A day without learning is a day wasted.”

Unknown

This post is a follow up to my last post “But Did We Learn Anything?”

As I wrote in my last post, Kentucky is on the way to recovery and that means that society, including churches, are starting to open back up.

I will be honest and tell you that this has caused me a little anxiety as the day draws near.  For one, I am concerned for the safety of our members.  It would break my heart to know that one of my brothers or sisters in Christ got sick, hospitalized, or even lost their life because we allowed the virus to spread at our services.

But my other concern exists on the spiritual level.  I have a deep fear that when this pandemic is finally behind us and we are back together, that things will just go back to the way they were.

Let me explain…

I am afraid that when all is said and done, we will have not learned anything from the experience, or worse, what we have learned that will actually be harmful to us.  So I want to give you the opposite of my previous post and show you 3 things I do not want you to take away from this pandemic.

1.  Wanting everything to just go back to normal

Do you remember how great and perfect everything was before the pandemic hit?  No?  Me neither.  Everyone I know was stressed, overworked, and frustrated.  Going into March I had a calendar so full that I did not know when I would be able to keep up with the maintenance of my own home.  At church we were extremely worried that the few volunteers that we did have were going to disappear as their spring/summer calendar took them out of church almost every weekend.  All of us were tired, running on fumes, with very little hope of relief.

Do you honestly want to go back to that?

If this pandemic has done one thing, it has brought me closer to my family.  We have been allowed to stay home, enjoy time with each other, and rest.  I don’t want that to go away.  Yes, I hate that my daughters have missed opportunities to compete.  I am saddened that they did not get to celebrate the end of the school year.  But I am not sad that I have enjoyed more meals around the dinner table.  I have loved getting to cook with my eldest and play games with my middle daughter.  It hasn’t been perfect, but I realize that busyness does not make me a good parent nor a good person.

And I will not forget that lesson when everything opens back up.  It is time to say “no” to being busy and “yes’ to being with family & setting our own priorities.  (which should include the church!)


2.  The church is here to entertain me

The pandemic has caused church leadership to seek out new ways to engage the congregation and share the Gospel.  Overall, this has been a great thing that has allowed the gospel to go forth like it never before.  Many churches are doing everything they can to get the message on the radio, television & internet, but can there be unexpected consequences to this?

A drawback to putting all of our services on a screen is that it can become just another form of entertainment.  We live in the age of Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.  There is always something to watch; always something to listen to.  There is always something to distract us.  If something is not holding my interest, then I can just switch over to something else or allow it to continue while I look at my phone.  But what happens when church services get lumped into the rest of the distractions?

If I don’t like what I am hearing from my pastor or music leader, then I can just switch to another church to see if they are doing a better job.  Suddenly “church” becomes all about me and my entertainment.  My preferences take precedence and I can hop around until I find what I like.

Make no mistake, the churches themselves have to take part of the blame because we chose to play this game.  Many churches have invested a lot of time, energy, and money in order to create professional “shows” that will keep the viewer engaged.  But the church was never intended to become some sort of media outlet, and we cannot reduce the church to entertainment when we gather together again.

Look at the description of the church that we find in the book of Acts, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (2:42) None of this includes entertainment and all of it involves the participation of the disciples.

The church has to shake off the notion that we have become the “audience”.  Instead, we are the body (Rom 12:5) and as the body we have to work together!


3.  I am doing just fine.

“Wait, pastor…  Don’t you want us to be going fine?”

Well, yes, in the sense that I don’t want you suffering, but I do not want you to be deceived into believing “fine” is the best you can be.  

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent questioned Eve regarding the commands of God.  When Eve told the serpent that they would die if they disobeyed God’s command, he responded, “Surely, you will not die!” (Gen 3:4) The serpent convinced Eve that she (and Adam, who was with her) would be “fine” if they disobeyed God.  He convinces us of the same thing now.

I have no doubt that there have been many who have not watched a single online service or worshipped God in any way since we began social distancing; others have slowly drifted away as other things took their attention.  The Enemy is going to try and convince us that we too are doing “just fine” without God, worship, or the church in our lives.  He wants us to believe that we do not need all that stuff to live a fulfilling life and that God wants us to be happy above all else.

But this is a bold-faced life!  Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 7 what happens when we walk away from a close relationship with God.  He says, “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (v. 27)  Eventually, we will not be doing “fine”, and if our lives are not built upon the rock that is Christ then we will fall and fall hard.

Please don’t allow the Enemy to lull you into thinking you are “fine”.  Instead, seek to be like Christ, and He will do amazing things in your life!

So what have you learned from this whole event?  Has it made you to be more dependent on Christ or less?  Are you longing to be a part of the body or are you comfortable being entertained?  Are you ready to take control of your priorities and your home, or will you allow things to just go back to “normal”?

It’s up to you, but I’m praying for you!


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But Did We Learn Anything?

Always Desire to Learn Something Useful.”

-Sophocles


On April 29, 2020, Governor Beshear laid out his plan to start reopening our state and getting everything back to normal.

As part of that plan, the governor recommended that churches would be safe to open on May 20th.  This created a light at the end of the tunnel for many who were ready to return to in-person worship services.  If this does mean that our time of social distancing is (slowly) coming to a close, then now is a good time to reflect on what we should have learned from all this time away.

Solomon says these words in the book of Proverbs, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (18:15)  

So what knowledge should we find during these unusual times?


  1. The Church is more than a Building.  

If there is one thing that we should have learned from our time away it should be that the church is so much more than a building we visit.

Our church has been empty for the past 8 weeks and yet our church has done more to reach our community with the gospel than ever before.  We have adapted and adjusted the way we get the message out.  In doing so, more people than ever are turning on and tuning into our services to hear the message of Jesus Christ.  On top of this, our members have a powerful tool at their fingertips.  Many are sharing, sending, and inviting their friends to listen in as well.

On top of that, we are hitting the internet and the phone lines to call & care for each other more than ever before.  Just because we cannot be with each other, does not mean that we cannot communicate, pray, and encourage one another during these hard times.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 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.”

While we may not be able to assemble right now, we can still encourage, and motivate one another to pursue Christ and do what is right!

2. We still need Community.

While it has been a tremendous blessing to see the church serve during this pandemic, I think we can all agree that we miss our time together!

This time away has shown us that our church family consists of more than just our friends.  We don’t just miss the people in our little circles.  We miss the whole body!  We miss the people who greet us.  We miss the people who check in on us.  We miss the people that challenge us to be better.  It is a true statement that we only appreciate things once they are gone.  We have all discovered that some of the people we miss are not necessarily the people we were expecting to miss.  It should serve as a reminder that the church is made up of many different people and ALL of them are important to the Kingdom & to us!

Paul writes, “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  (Romans 12:5)  Once we are able to gather together again, let us remember that every member is important and treat them with the love and care that they deserve!

3.  Where our Treasures are…

Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (6:21) In this passage, Jesus is instructing the crowd to store up treasures that are in heaven instead of on earth.  

Many of us have discovered that we have a lot more free time these days.  Even the few of us that still go to work every day realize that our evenings have been cleared because of this virus.  Our kids do not have all their functions.  The church does not have services nor meetings.  Our hobbies & clubs are put on hold.  Even our trips have been cancelled because of this virus!  So what are you doing with all this free time?

Be mindful of your answer.  How you have chosen to fill your free time says a great deal about where your treasure is.  This pandemic has caused all of us to get to know ourselves a little better.  One way in which we can know ourselves better is by noticing what we do when we don’t have anything to do.

Now, there is nothing wrong with starting a new hobby, learning a new skill, or even just catching up on some much needed rest.  However, we do need to ask ourselves, “Am I drawing closer to God during this time or further away?”  Are you using your time wisely and investing in eternity or are you just investing in yourself and the things of this world?

Either way, a load of free-time makes our priorities pretty obvious, and that’s a good thing!  The clarity that it brings can bring us to our knees in repentance and lift up our hands in thanksgiving.  It can help put us back on the right track so our hearts will be with Christ, our true treasure!!!

Soon enough we will be together again.  I will rejoice in that day like did when the ark arrived in Jerusalem.  Until then, I pray that God continues to reveal His will to you & that you will serve Him with reckless obedience!


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Weeping May Last the Night…

“Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Ps 30:5)

 

As I sit and write this morning, It is a dreary day in Kentucky.

 

Days like today make it hard to focus on the positive.  To be honest, there has not been much positive for me to write.  The quarantine seems to be going on forever.  My children are missing out on the last week of school, which is a time for awards, field days, and fun.  Many in our church are struggling with isolation.  Some have gotten bad news regarding the health of loved ones.  Others have had to say goodbye to parents.  In the midst of all of this, my dog of 15 years passed.

Sometimes we get low.  Sometimes the darkness in the world seems so overwhelming that it is hard to muster up the energy to even look for a silver-lining, much less find it.  So how does a Christian respond to bad days, weeks, even months?  

It was the line that begins this post that has been rolling in my head all morning; a line found in the 30th Psalm.  As I read this psalm to myself today I wanted to share with you a few truths from this passage that may help all of us as we go through hard times.

 

In the midst of your struggles, go to God

“O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.”

We hear people say all the time that we need to “give it to God” or “trust God” and, if we are honest, we don’t really know what that means.

Going to God in our struggles means that we trust in the promises of God even during the times when those promises are not visible and seem impossible.  This is no small task because during times of stress we usually react before we think.  However, this does not mean that we are doomed to fail.

Instead, I want you to think about an athlete or a craftsman.  Often, they need to make quick decisions in a very short amount of time.  They may need to react to a ball hit into play or adjust their hands to keep a project from shattering into a thousand pieces.  In both situations, they do not have time to ponder all the options, weigh the results, and make a decision.  In order to ensure they make the right decisions, they will train their body and mind to react in the way they want.  This means studying and practicing to the point that the motions are instinctive.
The same is true for the Christ Follower.  When we saturate our mind and our behavior in the Word of God as we diligently seek a relationship with God, we will see our instincts transform in such a way that we will run towards God in times of trouble instead of run away.

“O Lord my God, I cried to You for help…”

Pain & Sorrow does not necessarily mean you are sinning, but it does show we live in a sinful, fallen world.

“You hid your face, I was dismayed…”

In our passage today, there is a hint that David may have spoken arrogantly about his own prosperity. (v. 6) However, there is no clear indicator that this is the case.  Instead, David is pointing out that his success is directly attributed to the work of God.

Unfortunately, we will go through pain and suffering in this life with no clear indicator of why it is going on.  Sometimes, it will be the direct result of our sin and disobedience towards God.  Other times, it is simply the fact that we live in a fallen world.

Make no mistake, all of our pain and suffering comes from sin, but it may not be the case that our pain and suffering comes from our sin.  Pain and suffering are the result of Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden.  Genesis 3:17 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”  This statement told Adam that both He and all of creation would be affected by sin, and therefore toil, pain, suffering, and death (v. 19) would now be part of creation.

Pain and suffering in this life should always remind us that this life is now our final destination.  We were created to be with God and enjoy his relationship forever.  If we are in Christ, then one day we will leave all of this world behind; including sorrow and death!  “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

You hid your face, and I was dismayed…”

 

Pain & Sorrow are temporary, even if it seems like they are here to stay

Weeping may last for the night…”

In times such as this, pain and sorrow seems to pile on.  We cannot do the things we like, we lose loved ones, we cannot mourn properly, and we cannot fellowship to help with all of this.  We can feel as we sink deeper and deeper into the mire, and we simply cannot see the end of our sorrow.

Please heed the words above!  No matter how bad things seem to be, no matter how hopeless the situation may feel; there will be brighter days.  There will be better days.  There will be happier days.  The end of this statement is, “But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

We may never really get over loss, but we can find the strength to keep going.  There are going to be bad days, but there are going to be good days too.  Live for the good days, and trust that God is doing something with the bad days to grow you and help you to truly appreciate the blessings that God is sure to bring about!

“Weeping may last for the night…”

 

Pain & Sorrow should move our hearts to worship

“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

David ended this psalm by lifting up worship to God for all that he had done.  It may seem counter-intuitive to respond to pain with worship, but it is exactly what we ought to do.

Pain and sorrow mean that we are not home yet.  Pain and sorrow mean that God is still working in our lives to make us more like Him.  Pain and sorrow mean that God is bringing about a greater good.  Pain and sorrow remind us that we have a purpose, and a mission in this world.  James said it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4)

I challenge you to do the same.  If you are suffering (like I am), then will you respond with joy?  Will you remember that God is at work in your life?  Will you rejoice as you realize that God has promised you a better future in glory?

 

I hope you will & I hope this will give you the perspective that you need to get through these difficult days.  

Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.


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Civil Disobedience

It has been over a month and a half since we as a church have been able to meet in our building.

Many are starting to feel the fatigue that comes with social distancing and the virtual shutdown of our society in recent weeks.  In light of this, the call to reopen society and allow churches to meet in person is growing increasingly louder.

We are tired.  We are impatient.  We are ready to move forward.

As is often the case, the government moves much slower than the desires of the people.  Sometimes this is a good thing; sometimes it is not.  In our current situation, it can become very tempting for churches to “choose their own path” and begin on-campus services sooner than local, state, and national officials recommend.

This leads to the question, “When is it okay to disobey the government?”

When the church looks to answer this question, she will undoubtedly be drawn to the book of Romans:

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.  (13:1)

Or the words of Peter

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  (1 Peter 2:13-14)

However as we dive deeper into Scripture, we find many examples of God’s people defying their rulers.

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego – Defied their King by refusing to worship the golden idol that he set up of himself.  (Daniel 3)

Mordecai – Esther’s uncle refused to bow and pay homage to Haman even though the King had decreed that everyone should do so.  (Esther 3:1-6)

John the Baptist – John spoke boldly against Herod’s improper relationship with his brother’s wife, despite him being the tetrarch of the region where John preached.  (Matthew 14:1-5)


So what is the Christian to do?  How do we navigate these waters in a way that above all glorifies God?

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Check Your Heart

Before you make one decision, before you say one thing, take a moment and prayfully reflect on what you are doing.

I know this may sound trite but the Christian must be sure that they are moving forward with the right intentions and in the right method.  Are you looking to defy leadership to flex your own muscles or to serve God?  Even if your intentions are good, are you doing it in a spirit of gentleness or are you simply angry & spiteful?

Prayer does a lot to calm an angry soul and put him or her back on the path of righteousness.  Remember, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

2.  Remember, the church is not a building

Next, we need to take a moment and ask what we can and cannot do.  During a pandemic like COVID-19, we are not able to meet in person like we normally do.  But what can we do?

We can still worship.  We worship in our homes and with family.  We worship through social media and television.  We can worship in our living rooms, our cars, and our neighborhoods.

We can still share the gospel.  Today more than ever we are able to invite our “Ones” to join us for worship.  Simple “Watch Parties” on Facebook, and the sharing of music, scripture, and sermons online can have a huge impact on people all over the globe who are stuck at home with only the internet as their window to the outside world.

We can still love No one is stopping us from picking up the phone and checking on people.  No one is stopping us from emailing people.  No one is stopping us from showing love and grace to those who are still serving us at the grocery store, drive-thru, or hospital.  Let your love shine even brighter today, so people will want to know the God you serve.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matt 5:16)

3. Does it further / hinder the Kingdom?

Finally, we have to be sure that we are keeping our mission at the center of our work.

I understand that there are many who want to make this a constitutional issue.  We are tremendously blessed to live in a country where the right to worship freely is part of our governing document.  Very few countries are as blessed as we are in that regard.  Yes, this should be something that we defend and defend consistently.

Having said that, we cannot sacrifice our witness for Christ in order to defend the Constitution.  This is less about whether to defend it, and more about how we defend it.  Let our words be gracious, our resolve be unwavering, and our morals be true.  We have to remember that one day the United States of America will be no more, but the Word of God endures forever. 

Please don’t use your words to scare people away from a relationship with Christ.  Instead use them to whet their appetite and make them curious about your passion for this Jesus whom you call the Christ.

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Col 4:6)

In all that we do, point others to Jesus so that they will love Him like we do.  Yes, we may occasionally disagree with the government.  Yes, we may occasionally have to do what we feel is right even in the face of opposition.  However, let us never lose sight of the fact that we are called to first & foremost make disciples of all nations! (Matt 28:18-20)


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Let Us Worship…

In my high school & college days I worked at a movie theater in my hometown.  


Every showtime would introduce the feature presentation with a commercial for the theater, and every commercial would invite the guest to do the same thing:


“Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”


Soon, the light would dim, the music would get louder, and the movie would begin.


Recently, I was reflecting with a member of our worship team and we began to discuss the tone of a worship service.  We talked about what it was, what it could be, and what it ought to be.


We both noted that there is a temptation in churches today to give the same invitation that movie theaters still give today,


“Welcome to “So & So” Church!  We are so glad you are here.  Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!”


In many cases, churches also dim the lights, turn up the sound, and start the show.


As we were talking about that, we began to wonder if that was what God wanted from his people when they gather to worship?


As I pondered this question, I found Psalm 95:


O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,

Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”  (. 1-2)

And

“Come, let us worship and bow down,

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (v. 6)


So what does this passage say about how we worship?


1.  We are called to sing; not listen.

The invitation we see in this psalm is an invitation to sing.  The church was not invited to listen to the professional singers, but to sing themselves.  Yes, we live in an age where we can give a few singers microphones that will allow their voices to fill a room, but God calls the whole congregation to join in the singing so that praises to Him will fill the room, the neighborhood, the city, even the entire globe.  It does not matter if an individual is a skilled musician or incapable of holding a tune; what matters is that God’s people lift up praises to God in unity!

2.  We are called to respond; not receive.

The passage also calls the congregation to bow with thanksgiving, kneel, and even shout to “the rock of our salvation”.  These are calls to respond to God in the midst of corporate worship.  It is right and good for the people of God to shout words of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to their Maker as the Word of God washes over them.  He is NOT calling us to be lumps on a pew anxiously waiting for the service to be over.  Instead, we ought to think, meditate, and then respond to the Word of God through affirmation, and a change in our behavior.

3.  We are called to worship; not be entertained

It is interesting to note that every verb in these passages is an active verb; not a single one of them are passive.  Nowhere did God call the people to sit back and take in anything.  Instead, they were called to “do”.  The people gathered to worship, and to worship through songs, shouts, prayers of thanksgiving, and acts of submission to the God they loved & trusted.  Worship, whether personal or corporate, should be the active response of the worshiper to God.  Anything else falls short of what God intended it to be.


If you take the time to read the rest of the psalm, you will discover that every invitation to worship God is followed with a list of reasons why.  Verse 3 reads, “For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.”  This is what we need to understand:  the only reasonable response to knowing God is worship.


He is just so great, so wonderful, so powerful, so gracious, so merciful, and so loving.  If you know God, if you have experienced Him through His Word, then you just have to worship.  You will want to worship Him, and no substitute will do.

So get to know the Lord in whom you have placed your trust.  Read His Word, learn who He says He is.  Then join us as we worship the God who loves us, and saved us by sending us salvation through Christ Jesus!


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We are not Powerless

There is nothing to do….”


Have any of you heard this over the past couple weeks?  Are any of you guilty of saying it yourself?


It might be very easy for us to think about all the things that we want to do, but we cannot.  

We want to see one another. 
We want to gather as the church for worship & Bible study. 
We want to go to a restaurant and share a meal with others.We want to go on trips, get back to work, and even go to school!

We want to, but we can’t… and it stinks.

However, this does not mean that we are powerless.  Often when we realize that we cannot do something; we also think that we cannot do anything.  

And in response to that, I want to take a look at the words of Paul:

At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (2 Timothy 4:16-18)


So let’s think about what he is writing…


Paul is in Prison.

Paul is writing about a defense he made for what he was doing as an apostle.  He is standing trial while also under house arrest for sharing the gospel. In many ways, he is under the same constraints that we are.  He cannot leave his house to do as he pleases. He cannot gather with friends or the Church. He cannot travel or maintain his usual routine.  Paul is all alone.

It would be very easy for Paul to just give up, sit at home, and await his sentencing.  However, this is not what he does!


Paul is still Proclaiming

Despite what appears to be a dire situation, Paul takes hold of the opportunity that he is given.  He goes before the leadership that will hear his case and proclaims the Gospel to everyone who is listening.  He did not regard his current situation and an obstacle or excuse to give up his calling. Instead, he viewed it as a new venue and a new opportunity to reach new people in new ways.  Ultimately, God delivered him in this particular situation and he stood confident that God was using his current situation to His Glory and for the Kingdom.
 

So how about you?

Paul did not let his current circumstances keep him from fulfilling his mission.  How about you? How is God using you during this time of “social distancing”? Are there doors that God is opening to you?  Are there opportunities to connect with people in new ways that you are discovering? If you are not sure, let’s look at some opportunities that we are seeing:

Start with your family.  For many of us, we are spending way more time at home than ever before.  All the things that used to over-fill our calendars are suddenly gone. Take this time to clearly share the Gospel in your family and develop healthy spiritual habits like a family devotion & quiet time.

Look in your neighborhood.  Have you noticed an increase of walkers, joggers, and bike riders?  There are many people who are getting out of the house and exercising in their neighborhoods.  How can you reach them? Be present! Try taking a walk yourself, working in your yard, or sitting on your front porch.  You can wave, greet, and converse with neighbors as you distance yourselves. As you do so, be sure to ask how you can pray for them!

Pick up the phone.  Not everyone is savvy with computers, but just about everyone has a phone. Set aside time to call people.  You can call people in your church or people from work. Try to check on friends, classmates, and the elderly; anyone God has laid on your heart.  Again, make a point of offering to pray with them. You never know who needs to hear the Gospel!

Get online.  Finally, we are so blessed to live in a time with the internet.  Through the world wide web we are able to video chat, message, post information, and SHARE THE GOOD NEWS THAT CHRIST DIED TO SAVE US FROM SIN & ROSE FROM THE GRAVE.  There is no better time to start an online Bible study, share your testimony on social media, or invite a friend to watch a church service online. You can also reach out to neighbors, start new groups to connect with people, or just check in on people with whom you have lost contact.


Paul used his time under house arrest to see that “the proclamation [of the Gospel] might be fully accomplished…”

How might you do the same thing?


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How Long, O Lord?

Oh I will never complain about being stuck at home again!!!

This pandemic reminds me a little of when I first moved to Kentucky.  It was January of 2011.  I moved before my wife and daughters did in order to get the youth ministry started at Tunnel Hill Baptist Church.  Since I came in winter, I knew that there was going to be the occasional snow day, but I was not prepared for what actually happened.

From the end of January all the way until the beginning of March, it snowed every single Wednesday…

Every. 

Single. 

One. 

We had a policy at the church that if the schools canceled, then we would not have services.  I learned very quickly that very little snow would shut down the county schools and therefore, our church as well.

I found myself in a new place, very far away from my family, and I was unable to do what I was called to do…  or was I?

It did not take very long for me to figure out that I could still do ministry, even if it wasn’t on Wednesday nights.  I could still connect with the youth through social media like Facebook.  I could still call and check in on them.  I could still be where they were like sporting events and band concerts.  Just because I could not do what I wanted to do (or had always done), did not mean that I could not further the Kingdom of God.

Today is no different.  We are very used to gathering on Sundays & Wednesdays.  We see our people on those days and we invite people to these gatherings in hopes that they will follow Christ like we do.  However, these gatherings have been put on hold, but the Great Commission has not!

How can you still serve the Lord while you are social distancing?  Can you call another member or your “One” to check in on them?  Can you set up a computer chat to get people together for Bible Study?  Can you lead your family (especially the kids learning from home) in a daily devotional?  Can you deliver food or other needs to those who need assistance?

Many Psalms have the phrase that is the title of this post, but I want to leave you with the words from Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.”

Let us as the Church put our trust in God and continue to serve Him in new & exciting ways!

Who knows?  Maybe when we gather again one day soon, we will see new faces joining in our worship!!!


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Take my Heart, Lord. Take & Seal It.

I was talking with a group of people recently about New Year’s resolutions and the increase of people at the local gym.

One thing that they noted was that most gyms see all those News Year’s resolutions start to waver by the third week of January.  I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that so many give up so quickly.  I also understand.  The first week you are really excited.  You exercise, break a sweat, and you start to feel better.  By the second week, I have no doubt that the soreness begins to kick in.  If you are doing it in the morning, the bed starts to feel so comfortable.  If you do it in the evening, your calendar starts to get busy. 

I just doesn’t take much to create a good excuse.  “I’ll go tomorrow.”  “It’s too cold.”  “I need a day to rest and recuperate.”  They are all good excuses, but they also begin to take you down the road to a broken resolution and no real change in the New Year.

Over the past couple days we have been studying Jeremiah as a church in our January Bible Study.  During our study, we focused on the events of Jeremiah 34.  In Jeremiah 34, the people living in Jerusalem find themselves in immediate danger.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has come to Jerusalem to overthrow the city and crush a rebellion.  In their fear, they make a covenant with God, which included the liberation of all Hebrew slaves in the city.

The King declares this covenant and all the wealthy of Jerusalem resolve to free their slaves.  There is a big public ceremony to show their intention and shortly after doing so the armies of Babylon leave to address an army from Egypt that is marching to aid Jerusalem.

Here’s the problem.  Once the armies began to move out, the people celebrated and almost immediately took back the promises they made in the covenant.  The wealthy found excuses to justify enslaving their countrymen again. 

This results in the following prophecy:

“You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you… to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (v. 17)

God was not fooled by their false promises, nor their good intentions.  The truth was that their motivation for making this covenant was never about love for God.  On the contrary, they only wanted to avoid the punishment for their disobedience.  Soon the armies would return and leave Jerusalem in waste with many taken away into captivity,

We do the same thing today.  We beg, plead, and try to make a deal with God in hopes that He will grant our wishes or allow us to escape certain doom.  However, once the threat has passed; we often go right back to sin as usual.

In 2020, we need to break the cycle.

We do this by putting fear in its proper place.  We need to stop fearing punishment and start fearing God. 

Fear of God is more than terror that He might make our lives unpleasant.  Instead, it is the realization that He is our Creator, and He is sovereign over all things.  This realization ought to move us to reverence of Him and obedience to Him. 

It also shows us that even though He is so high and lofty, He loves us; showing us grace and mercy over and over.

So let us be motivated by our love and fear of God in 2020.  If we do, we may just see the changes we really want to see this year.  “For nothing is impossible with God!”  (Luke 1:37)


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