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September 21

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Sometimes I’m afraid many churches try to conjure up hype. I know as a pastor it is frustrating at times wondering what it’s going to take to “fire up” a church. There is talk of that being a revival. “We need a revival” we will say. But tragically, we then go about it under our own strength.

You’ve seen it, as have I. Special “revival” meetings. Bring in a band and have a concert. Meet under a tent. Schedule prayer meetings. Bring in a “big gun” to preach. They used to say an evangelist had 7 sermons and a fast car.  He would come in. Tell it like it is. Offend a few. Stir the people up. Get out of Dodge. A lot of what we want to call revival is man-made. Correction: most of it.

In the book Jesus Revolution, Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn talk about what was called the Jesus Movement. In one section they were describing Greg’s “church plant” in Riverside (encouraged by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel). They were meeting in the Riverside Municipal Auditorium which they affectionately called “Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven” because it had no A/C. But each week the church continued growing. Greg couldn’t explain it but it was explained by using a quote Warren Wiersbe credited to former YFC president Bob Cook: “If you can explain what’s going on, God didn’t do it.” Those are good words. Maybe taking my hands off the wheel is the best thing to do. Maybe trying to manufacture revival or church growth is not a human effort at all, but is, in fact, the work of God.

“Father, show me when I need to steer and when I need to let go. Help me not to think I know best, especially when it comes to Your work.”

Note: I review the book, Jesus Revolution, on my other blog.

September 10

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

As a pastor one of the hardest things to do is to watch a person/family leave the church. Usually. Getting close to people is something I was told to never do. Unfortunately, that is not my personality. It’s just not me. So when people leave because they are moving away, it is hard, but understandable. Just about two years ago I had some very close friends move to another town that made it impossible for them to make the weekly trek here. I still miss them.

If someone leaves because they can no longer agree because of doctrine, it is time to leave. We had someone leave in the past several years-a family I had come to love and the church had loved well-because they wanted to follow Bethel and their wacky teachings.  People need to leave if the teachings of the church no longer “fit” them.

Then there are those I will call “blessed subtractions.” They are the kind that bless the church by leaving. They tend to be gossips, busybodies, cantankerous, opinionated, loud, obnoxious, “me first,” I-am-right people. Their beef is a personal thing, almost a vendetta against another. Now, if it is a doctrinal issue-like the Virgin Birth, or the nature of God, or who Jesus is-then that is a legitimate reason.  But because someone or someone(s) won’t agree with you…bye.

To all who are in a church that teaches false doctrine I say this: Get out! That is not without Scriptural precedent. In Matthew 15: 13-14 Jesus is talking about false teachers.  His advice? “Ignore them.” Get out of there! There are churches which dot the landscape that teach false doctrine…get out! Heresy is nothing to play around with. If a person is unhappy in a church over its teaching…get out! Heresy and cult often go hand in hand. Aberrant doctrine. Domineering leadership. Get out!! Avoid like the plague. That’s a scriptural reason to leave. Leaving because people won’t see things your way is not.

“Father, please give me discernment to know truth from error.”

August 24

Monday, August 24th, 2020

I read these words this morning: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” Gal. 5:13-15 (Emphasis mine).

Such interesting thoughts. Paul tells us we have been called to liberty. Freedom in Christ. I am “free” to do what I want. But there is one caveat that goes along with that-and Paul mentions it: I am not free to indulge the flesh. Instead, I am to serve others. Freedom in Christ was never to be used for self-indulgence. It was never to be used to meet Bill’s agenda. As someone has wisely said: “Your freedom stops at the end of my nose.” (or mine stops at the end of yours).

I get that. And I get Paul’s next words that we are to serve another. As are you. But what really got me were the words he used next: “If you bite and devour one another.” Such a vivid word picture! I get the picture of a wolf pack attacking its prey, or worse, if they were to turn on each other. What an ugly picture of the body of Christ turning on each other.  Gossip. Slander. Shouting. Accusations slung. Heated arguments. Violent words spoken. None of which fulfills what Paul just said-serve one another. In this day of accusations, hot-heads, and vulgar rantings, be a voice of quiet and reason. 

Let’s not turn on each other, especially as the body of Christ.

“Father, let me enjoy my freedom, but not at the expense of someone else. Let me be a voice of quiet reason and loving words.”

August 19

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

After yesterday’s post, I felt I needed to say something more. In all this talk about social justice, it is easy to forget what really is the task of the church-which is, in fact, tied to social justice.

We spent time last week with our grandson. Man, I love that dude and would gladly give my life for him. I’ve lived 67 very good years; he only 13 (soon to be 14). His mom and dad have split up and no reconciliation is in sight. At all. I/we have watched him grow from birth to be one of the lights in our world.  Our time with him is all too short, and I realize someday he probably won’t want to spend time with us. There are times I want to be closer but that is not to be. And I’m okay with that because I am in God’s will right now.

Children were loved but not really valued in Jesus’ day. He changed all that. When others were pushing them away, Jesus was saying, “Bring the children to Me.” He welcomed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the outcast, the demon-possessed, the diseased, and the poor with no qualms whatsoever. Who the person was or what his “deal” was, Jesus never shrunk away. He reached out. In that way, Jesus left us an example on how to treat others. In that way, He showed us what social justice was: doing for the “least of these.”

But notice what was missing? Protesting. Loud rhetoric. Inciting hate. Getting His message out for His cause. He wasn’t a warrior, least not as we think of one. He was an example of how it is to be done. All kinds of people fell under the loving eyes and touch of Jesus.

I find it interesting when reading about Paul’s life that I was directed to read Galatians. In Gal.2 Paul writes about seeing James, Peter and John where he and Barnabas were offered the right hand of fellowship.  They were sent out to minister to the Gentiles with one word of advice: “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I was also eager to do.” (2:10) Hmmmm, social justice in action. The mission of the church to get the Good News of Jesus out. Our work with people is simply an outgrowth of that mission. It is not to be the only thing we do.  Social justice must never take the place of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not just helping someone; it also to be used as a springboard to present Jesus.

“Father, help me not to forget others, especially those in need. And help me not to forget why I do what I do.”

August 18

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

As I write this devotion, I hesitate. I have, in the past, said I would not write on politics. But, even though I can say this is not political, there would be some who would take it that way. Such is the state of our world. But this truly is not meant to be a political statement.

There are always catch-words or catch-phrases people use. Some catch on but others go by the wayside after a time. One that is big right now (2020) is the term “social justice.” It has been spurred on by the different social events that have happened, and while it may sound innocent on the surface, those two words have become the rationale for all kinds of lawlessness and other actions. It has also become the litmus test for many in the church.

Right up front I will say social justice-the desire for equality according to the law (my definition)- is good. There is one factor which must never be forgotten. Social justice, especially when it involves right/wrong or evil, must never, never (did I say never?) usurp the gospel of Jesus Christ. Churches, and even pastors, who push aside the gospel of Jesus for the social justice banner have stopped being gospel churches and gospel pastors. If they are not going to preach the gospel of Jesus as the cure to this world’s ills, and if they are going to spend their time protesting and breeding hatred, they need to step down from their pulpits, get rid of the “pastor” or “Reverend” in front of their name and be what they really are-a social justice warrior. Speaking of which, don’t call Jesus a Social Justice Warrior. I don’t see Him marching in protest; burning buildings; hating cops; throwing molotov cocktails; looting. screaming and inciting riots; or any other type of inflamed rhetoric.

I repeat: Social justice should never, never, never take the place of preaching the Gospel message.

“Father, Your Word changes lives.  Our world doesn’t know that. Many people in pulpits don’t know that. And it stand to reason many in the pews/chairs don’t. Help me to always preach the gospel.”

*Note: I have more to say but kept it to this length to be more readable. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

August 10

Monday, August 10th, 2020

I read an interesting passage of Scripture today from Acts 11:19-30. I’ve read it oh-so-many-times before but I had a different reaction today. I suspect its because of the past 5 months of world events. Covid. George Floyd’s death. Protests. Riots. Lies of the media. The church having to adjust. It is the latter that hit me.

Acts 11:19-20 says, “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they came to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.”

Noticed what spurred them on? Persecution. Did you notice who they took the message to? The Jews-their own people. UNTIL some came from Cyprus and Cyrene and took the gospel to the Greeks at Antioch. Bingo!

There has been a lot of chatter and a lot of blogging about the church’s response to Covid and being told to shut down. My point here is not to argue that. My point is how, because of Covid, and because of “persecution,” the church had to go beyond its walls. No longer was I preaching to the church attender, to those who came on Sunday. I was preaching to unknown faces, unknown people, from who-knows-where. The church has expanded beyond the walls. And it looks as though it will continue. And that is all for the better. The message of the gospel was never intended to stay within its walls on a Sunday. The church must not waste this opportunity.

And FYI.  Want to see how Acts 11 culminated? Read verse 26.

“Father, thank you for the opportunity to take the message beyond the walls. I pray it will continue to expand until those who need to hear the message, hear it.”

August 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

One of the by-products of the pandemic we are going through has been loneliness. Being cooped up, isolated, sequestered, quarantined, or just plain fearful of being around people has led to many feeling alone. There is a hankering for human interaction, but it is often slow in forthcoming. Already lonely people are even lonelier. Many have become hermits, fearful of their own shadows. Many, sadly, think they need no one else; while in truth, we desperately need other people.

Chuck Swindoll once wrote about meeting a former Marine who was converted after his discharge. This Marine was the picture of a typical Marine-touch, cussed loudly, drank heavily, chased women, and had no need for Christians or the church. When he saw Chuck he said the thing he missed was the times at the tavern when he and his buddies would sit around a pitcher of beer and laugh, joke, and let their hair down (as if a Marine could do that).  🙂  On another occasion he also wrote a quote from someone who said, “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church.” (Dropping Your Guard-p.128)  {Note: please know I am NOT recommending someone go to a local bar or tavern for fellowship}.

What that Marine, of course, was talking about was his need for fellowship. A place he could laugh, cry, and be accepted. And that is why this pandemic has brought about so much loneliness. We have no one. Phones and computers and texting is not enough. We need face-to-face, in person contact.

How about you?  Are you isolated? Are you alone? Get outside. Find someone else who may be alone, or feeling alone. There are safe ways to make that happen if you are concerned about that.  People need people whether we realize it or not.

“Father, you are my refuge, my safe place. But sometimes we just need someone with skin. We are all made for others. Help me to search out those who are lonely and see how I can help.”

July 21

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

I have begun another adventure. No, I’m not doing the Race Across America (a bike ride from coast to coast). And no, I’m not leaving the church to take on a new ministry.  And definitely no I’m not going mountain climbing. As good as all those sound (to a younger guy).

Mine is a reading/studying venture. As I finished One Perfect Life by John MacArthur, I knew I had just read the complete (recorded) life of Jesus. I so thoroughly enjoyed that I decided to continue that task by reading One Faithful Life (OFL) by Pastor John on the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.  Chuck Swindoll wrote: “A primary purpose of the Word of God is to help us know the will of God.” (July 21 devotion in Good Morning, Lord…Can we Talk?).  With that thought in mind, why did Paul write his epistles? OFL does a great job of summarizing why. I’ll shrink it some more.

  • I Cor- defend against various corruptions which were under the guise of human wisdom and carnal chaos.
  • 2 Cor- defending his authority as an apostle and the purity of the gospel.
  • Gal- against false teachers who taught we must adhere to OT ceremonial law.
  • Eph- salvation is entirely God’s work with no human merit.
  • Phil- joy undiminished by “dogs,” “mutilators of the flesh” refuted in Galatians.
  • Col- defense vs high-falootin’ philosophy and man’s traditions.
  • 1 & 2 Thess- commendation to the church for embracing the Gospel.
  • 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus- careful safeguard the truth
  • Philemon- exemplify the spirit of Christ.

“Gospel truth permeates everything Paul ever wrote.” (OPL- p. xix) I look forward to this new venture.  New eye-opening.  New awareness. New “eyes” to see God’s truth.  And I plan to share some of it along the way.

“Father,  open my eyes to Your Word. Give me fresh eyes as I read to see new vistas before me. Clarify Your truth in my heart.”

July 3

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

I think one of the hardest things as a pastor is trying to help people and them either not accepting it or continuing to struggle. One of the most difficult things to overcome is anger, especially that which is caused by betrayal or insensitivity. Or worst of all, by gossip.

That last one is an ugly poison, a cancer that afflicts many organizations, but is especially devastating to a church. I remember reading about an old Quaker pastor who had one insidious lady in his church who loved to gossip. But one time her gossip ruined people. She came into the pastor’s office to apologize and ask what she can do to make it right. He gave her a bag of feathers and said to go outside and release them. She did. When she was done, and thought all was well, she asked him what she was to do next. He told her to go around and pick up all the feathers. “That’s impossible. They’re scattered all over!” And he said, “So are your words and you’ll never be able to take them all back.”

  • There are mean people out there in this world. Don’t tolerate them.
  • There are self-righteous, opinionated people in this world. Dismiss them.
  • There are gossipy people in this world. Rebuke them.
  • There are evil people in this world. Avoid them.

Know what is ever sadder? Many of those people are so-called “Christians.” (Yeah, you saw the change from Christ-follower to “Christians”).  Gossip N.E.V.E.R. heals or helps. It always hurts and destroys. Even gossips sometimes tell the truth, even if it hurts. Or is that especially if that hurts. I had one who justified her gossip with “I told the truth” to which I said, “Why say anything at all?”

James 3 says our tongue is a flame that quickly gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy is wrought when a fire gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy and damage is wrought when a tongue gets out of control.

“Father, words can be used for good or for evil. May my words bring healing to others and glory to You in all things.”

 

June 23

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Memory foam. Touted as the mattress material that “remembers” its shape. It always goes back to its original state. It bounces back.

The big C church has always been that way. Kick it; punch it; slap it; tackle it; it always come back. Not that if ever left. It has had to hunker down a time or two.  It has had to go underground for awhile. It has taken blows that looked like it was down for the count. It took on the look of the culture and about camouflaged itself out of sight, but it was always there. Like a phoenix it would rise out of the dust and ashes to become a champion.

How do I know that? Because Jesus said it would. He once said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” I read the following quote that got me thinking:

Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave. G.K.Chesterton

The big C church is under attack today. Speak out and we are accused of being homophobic, bigoted, opinionated, etc. Stay silent and we are accused of bigotry, prejudice, pride, and a lack of compassion. Many want to hide. But the church will never die. It may cloud over; it may become a funky gray color; it may appear misty; but it will stand. Why? Because we will remember Jesus’ word that the gates of hell will never prevail.  Never win. But the church will win. We have His Word on it.

“Father, thank you for the words of Jesus. No matter how bad things get; no matter how rough they get; no matter how disturbing and accusatory they become, the church will prevail.”