Every Pastor has them. C & E people. Christmas and Easter, the two times each year when people pay their obligatory dues to God and ‘go to church’ as though church is something we go to.
Yesterday was no exception. The crowd was larger than the usual, swelled by these C & E, in this case E people. I made several observations of these folks that I share in this BLOG.
First, there are those parents who convinced unbelieving children to ‘go to church’ with them. These are almost always mothers who live with the dread that their children are lost. They pray for them. They invite them to special events. They persuade them to attend on Easter. As the service progresses, you can observe these mothers wiping tears from their faces as we sing the songs of the redeemed. They know their children are not.
Second, there are those unregenerate children. This is a growing legion, a well defined demographic in our culture. They sit stiffly with arms folded. Their faces reveal the scoffing attitude which resides in their hearts. They do not sing. They do not pray. They just endure, frequently checking their phone or watch to see ‘how much longer’ before I can get out of here, free once more till Christmas.
Third, there are those friends and extended family that have prayed faithfully for these scoffers over the years. These folks for the most part are waiting for the Pastor to ‘get em saved’. Not gonna happen!
Finally, there is “the message”. This is an emotion packed diatribe complete with video clips of the crucifixion. Bloody. Traumatic, yet terribly deficient and truncated. There is no way possible to depict with even a semblance of accuracy by dramatic reproduction the horror of the crucifixion of the Son of God. The spiritual, not the physical aspects of the crucifixion are the most wretched. The theological dimensions of the crucifixion are not delineated. Why must Jesus die (to atone for the Sins of men). What is Sin? What is reconciliation? What is an Ambassador (2 Cor. 5:11-20).
Is anyone transformed by this gathering? Only eternity will tell. The ‘faces of Easter’ that I observed did not reveal any changed attitudes or submission to the TRUTH of the Gospel. Perhaps because what they heard was not the Gospel. God help us!
Salad For Breakfast
We gather at Cracker Barrel. The background music is ‘Casting Crowns’ bringing us hymns and choruses (this is Alabama). The Waitress, who is always cheerful, brings us coffee and water. Then she takes our orders with the exception of one man. This is where it gets interesting. He always gets the same thing.
There are 8-9 men in this group. We meet at 6 AM to enjoy the common bond we share in Christ and to be accountable to one another for the integrity of our faith. Did we share the Gospel with anyone in the past week? Are there any specific issues in the lives of people we contact each day that need our prayers and encouragement? Any specific issues for which we can and should praise the LORD?
Back to the guy who always gets the same thing. He is a Fireman. He often joins us just having completed a night shift with the Fire Department. His order is always the same. In fact, our waitress knows what to order for him without asking. He gets a HUGE salad (cf. photo below). Cheese wedge, deviled eggs, ham, lots and lots of lettuce and two large containers of dressing. This is his ‘evening meal’. There is never a shred left when he finishes. The others consume eggs, pancakes, sausage, oatmeal, grits, bacon, etc. He gets Salad!
When you encounter people from day to day, remember this. When they have salad for breakfast they are not whacky. Their journey has a different rhythm than yours. And, you may want to try ‘Salad For Breakfast’ some time. You may enjoy it!
One of the candidates for the office of Governor in AL is proposing a Lottery, ostensibly to fund and support Education. Such a proposal is ethically, morally and pragmatically bankrupt.
Wisdom Literature, the Book of Proverbs, declares with absolute clarity that the incorporation of such a mechanism into Social Policy is woefully lacking and counter-productive.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Prov. 12:11)
The literal translation from the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament for the final phrase in this verse, ‘lacks sense’ is ‘has a needy or deficient heart’, (kesar leb). The NIV translation of this verse is ‘but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.’ The lottery is the quintessential fantasy and those who fund this endeavor by purchasing lottery tickets are the least able to afford such expenditures. The poor are enticed by this fantasy and squander financial resources they can ill afford to waste. Waste indeed! In the end of this game, everyone is a loser.
A 2011 paper in the Journal of Gambling Studies conducted a thorough review of the available research on lotteries and concluded that the “poor are still the leading patron of the lottery”.
The most effective means of improving the education of children in Alabama is dedicated and involved parents, mothers and fathers. They turn off the TV. They shut down the Video Games. They read to and with their children. They model the vital importance of education by daily focus, instruction and personal investment in the things that matter most.
Buying a Lottery Ticket is indeed a fantasy. We do not need a Governor that promotes fantasy as Public Policy. We do need parents that invest wisely and persistently in the education and development of their children.
How many pulpits in America would be vacated if Pastors were required to mount the scales before they mounted the pulpit?
Recent research reveals that obesity among Pastors is greater than obesity among the overall population. The church does not tolerate the sins of gossip, greed, or false witness. They should not tolerate obesity due to the intemperate and undisciplined consumption of food and a lack of discipline in exercise and physical fitness. Failure in these areas reflects poorly on the message of the Gospel.
According to Pulpit & Pew, an interdenominational research project on pastoral leadership, clergy work was considered one of the healthier professions in the past, just below teachers in terms of low mortality rates.
Follow the link to a color map of the USA showing the Obesity rates by State.
However, recent data has found the obesity rate in clergy members has climbed to 30 percent.
One of every three American adults is obese
By 2015, 75% of adults will be overweight; 41% will be obese
Google BMI = Body Mass Index. Find out how you are doing in the “Battle of the Bulge!”
Social Media is a blessing and a cursing. Blessing – there is an infinite opportunity to exchange messages with a host of people, some redeemed and some not. That is great. Cursing – this infinite opportunity includes many who are not biblically literate and in fact downright heretical. Their thinking is shaped by some of the influences promoted on this same tool.
Here is where the conflict enters the picture. The text of Scripture, Titus 1:9 includes a command for those who are Elder/Pastor/Shepherds to teach/instruct in SOUND DOCTRINE and to REBUKE those who contradict it.
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
When correction is offered regarding unorthodox or heretical postings the conflict rages. What one regards as a proper REBUKE, others regard as a WITCH HUNT. The Strange Fire Conference hosted by John MacArthur at Grace Community this past October turned a brush fire into an inferno.
REBUKE has many nuances in the original language; bring to light, expose, convince, reprove, rebuke, punish (A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition, p.464, note 42).
The following are my thoughts offered during one of the Social Media Exchanges.
A Word about the “Witch Hunting” accusation that is appearing with greater frequency in Social Media among professing Christians.
First, there are some who are attracted to controversy like bugs to light. There is excessive criticism and perhaps hatred in their post. This should not be.
Second, great (faithful) Leaders are commanded to teach Sound Doctrine and Rebuke those who teach otherwise (Titus 1:9). Doing so IS NOT WITCH HUNTING – - IT IS OBEDIENCE TO THE CLEAR MANDATE OF SCRIPTURE.
Third, a primary test is motive and manner. When I encounter false teaching I must first examine my own heart/eye and make sure there are no LOGS present. Then, I must speak/write with absolute accuracy based on sound exegesis of the text. Then, I must carefully and honestly ‘rebuke’ the offending party/parties.
Fourth my Brothers and Sisters, compassionate and consistent fidelity to the commands of Scripture is NOT “Witch Hunting”. I call upon all who are using this nomenclature to cease and desist. The fall out will be intense but the task is not conditioned by the response of those we speak to in love.
There is Pathology in Theology. When error however obscure is not challenged it ALWAYS grows and eventually explodes into damaging heresy and apostasy.
Responses solicited and welcome. THANKS!
Follow the link to acquire additional insight into this false accusation that exegetical precision is “Witch Hunting”. Anything but.
The following text was written by a Pastor friend of mine (35 years) as he prepared his Sunday morning message. Well worth reading. This kind of friend is a gift of the richest fare!!
Preparing for Sunday’s Message and wrote out the following thoughts on “Following Jesus.”
Just recently, I joined a new gym. I spoke to Andre and he explained the terms of membership. It was much like my previous gym. I could get a basic membership for $25 per month but for a few dollars more I could use the massage machine and bring visitors with me for free. The same approach is used by Amazon; you can sign up for free, but for about $100 a year you can get Amazon Prime that allows you many extra privileges such as free shipping and access to a variety of Movies and Music. For the avid reader you can sign up for Kindle Unlimited that gives you access to hundreds of thousands of Ebooks; you can read and listen to them for $9.99 a month. For another $15 per month you can join Whispersync for voice and seamlessly move between reading and listening to a book. There are probably other services they offer that I still haven’t discovered.
I hope you see the point. In the market place it is not all or nothing but you can decide which services you want and ignore the others. As the consumer, you decide what is good for you and without penalty ignore the parts that are not a fit. This climate has in many ways filtered into the church in America. Many churches have become Amazon clones and offer a variety of services that you freely choose to use or ignore, no questions asked. The lines become a bit blurred here and it is easy to feel the marketing shadow creeping in to shape membership commitments in the church. It is not so easy to say whether this is totally right or wrong.
Let’s take this one step further and ask if there are such options for “Following Jesus.” Can you sign up for the basic package with minimal commitment and be guaranteed a “fire escape clause” but for a bit more get a measure of joy, a sense that life has meaning, and a guaranteed future in heaven. For the really hard core you can sign up for the full membership with discipleship, scripture memory, and even some suffering for Jesus. It is clear that many approach following Jesus much as they choose their Amazon options. Has Jesus offered us these options or are they marketing ploys that religious franchisers use to sell Jesus?
Matthew’s Gospel makes it quite clear that following Jesus is quite different than the familiar marketing model. In fact, it is all or nothing! Jesus said if anyone wants to come to me the terms are not negotiable. You can’t sign up for basic or premium discipleship. You are either in or out! You either follow Jesus completely or you follow your own path (which is really Satan calling the shots without really understanding how he is using you). Every one who chooses to follow Jesus must exercise self-denial, kill the sinful passions that constantly pressure you to conform, and purposely and intentionally follow Jesus without reservation. Luke’s Gospel makes the demands even stronger, unless you hate mother, father, children, and even spouses you cannot be his disciple. Isn’t this a bit too radical??? Don’t we need some balance?
Almost eighty years ago D. Bonheoffer wrote, The Cost of Discipleship to combat such cheap grace. There is no basic membership offered by Jesus but for those willing to follow him at all costs there is life that throbs with his presence and Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I awoke lat night and had difficulty getting back to sleep (unusual for me). I turned on the TV and went to the ‘Church Channels’ on Cable TV. Ugh!!!
Channel after channel presented a wretched distortion of the Truth of the Gospel. There was a clear theme and purpose on every channel with only one exception. That theme was “sow your seed = $$ and get the anointing!” The claim was if you sow into ‘our ministry’ God will multiply your financial condition a 100 fold. The statement almost always was prefaced by ‘I believe’. What some huckster believes is of no importance, especially when that conviction is a total perversion of God’s Word.
For the sake of simplicity and brevity I list what I observed as characteristics of these charlatans.
1) No biblical text – no honest and accurate exegesis of the text.
2) Rabid emotionalism – loud, frenetic and consistently implied threats if you do not do as they ask.
3) High Pressure Tactics – go to your phone NOW; God only acts in the ‘heat of that moment’.
4) A false concept of God’s Anointing – it is so much more than $$ and for His glory not my riches.
5) Distortion of God’s Word – they cite Luke 6:38; pressed down, shaken together, running over.The context of this verse is a command to avoid judging and condemning others. The overflow is God’s marvelous grace and kindness – NOT NOT NOT – $$ filthy lucre.
6) A violation of 2Peter 1:20-21 – private interpretation of Scripture with wretched distortion.
7) Grace Abused – Isa. 55:1-3 God’s gracious call to sinners; Free Grace!
”Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:1-3).
Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror On Every Side. For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword. (Jeremiah 20:1-4) ESV
This passage is classic. Most Pastors that have served more than 5 years in Pastoral Ministry have found themselves immersed in this mind set. Jeremiah charges the LORD with deceiving him (20:7). He threatens to no longer speak the word of the LORD because no one wants to hear it. Pashur had the title of priest but he was a phony. His message was corrupt. His message led the people down the path to destruction and rejection by the God they claimed to love and serve.
Pause for just a moment. Consider the numerous descriptors I listed for ‘church’ in the News Letter. Giving away a Jeep is consistent with the LORD of Glory and the Gospel?
How does the church in which you serve function? Are your people engaging in the marketplace or do they simply ‘invite people to church’ and call that evangelism? Worth thinking about. You may be more like Pashur than Jeremiah. Not good, not good at all!!!
God has always expected His people to read His word
It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes Deuteronomy 17:19 (NASB)
This was speaking of kings in Israel, that they must read the Old Testament Law every day! Obviously, not many of them kept this law, but this was what God wanted.
When do you read the Bible?
Do you read the Bible every day? What about maybe 3 days a week? Do you only read it when you are at church? I know of a number of people who leave their Bibles at the church building where they attend. While some may have other Bibles they use during the week, it is often a sign that they do not read at all during the week. Does that describe you?
If you read every day, how much time do you spend reading? You can read through the whole Bible in a year with only reading about 15 minutes a day, but shouldn’t we give God more time than that? This is how He talks to us! We need to be listening.
We just mentioned one reason—God speaks to us when we read the Bible. This is how we know what our King wants. We must read if we are to know what God wants us to do. We cannot guess what He wants, and we shouldn’t rely on the preachers to tell us what God wants. We can have God speak to us personally through His written word that was made for each one of us.
But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Matthew 22:31-32 (NASB)
Do you see what Jesus said to these people who were living hundreds of years after Genesis was written? It “was spoken to you by God.” The Bible was written to you! Don’t you want to know what it says?
In reading the word of God, we get help in overcoming temptations. There are so many temptations in this world, but if you have a good relationship with God and have been paying attention to what He has to say, you will be equipped to fight them with His help.
If you do not read the word of God, you will never be equipped to help others understand it. How sad would it be for someone who claims to follow the Son of God to live out their lives never able to help another person come to Him. You need to get into the book and learn for yourself.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. Hebrews 5:12 (NASB)
Do you want to know what God wants you to know? Do you want help in fighting temptation? Do you want to help others who are dying in their sins? Read your Bible every day! Learn! Grow.