Last Friday there was a march in Washington and in many other places. This coming Saturday there will be another march in Washington - and in many other places. The primary result of both marches will basically be that those who participated in them and supported them will be more committed to their previous stances, will feel good because they participated in them, and probably will change very few minds in the process. There will have been activism on both sides with self-imposed monickers like pro-choice, pro-life - while at the same time calling those who oppose them far less positive names like anti-choice and anti-life. But I am concerned that when it is all over what we will have is two groups who are more focused on the other side than they are on those caught in the middle.
Who are those who are caught in the middle? In regard to the question of abortion - it is several groups of people. First of all it is the women who face a pregnancy and what to do now that they know they are pregnant. There is also whatever is in their womb that is at stake. How is this being addressed? Here is where I will begin to make my main point. When Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5 that we are to, “Let our light shine in such a way that people might see our good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven,” I believe he meant something other than participating in a march. Honestly - considering what He said about the “least of these,” I believe He had in mind stuff more like rolling up your sleeves and serving those who are caught in the middle.
I’ve moved away, in my latter years, from marching much any more. Looking back over 50 plus years now, I see far more accomplished in addressing the abortion issue by rolling up my sleeves and working WITH the women who are caught in the middle of crisis pregnancies. There are plenty of them who have written and spoken saying how grateful they were for a place where they were loved and helped in the midst of their crisis. There are others who spoke through tears stating their gratefulness in having a place that loved them even after they had an abortion. Their thankfulness was for someone telling them and helping them find forgiveness when they thought it was not possible to be forgiven. At last count I don’t remember any women thanking me for marching - at least women who were caught in the middle. Do I think marching is wrong? No, I cannot say that. The right to express ourselves peacefully in a march - and even for some to carry signs with fairly incendiary messages on them (I’m speaking about both sides of the issue folks) is protected under our system of government. There are also times when a peaceful march is needed. But can I be perfectly candid with you who are reading this. Keeping an accurate count of those at a march - that is hard work - and often debated as soon as the numbers come out. Keeping an accurate count of those rolling up their sleeves and being dedicated over time to those women and whatever is in their womb in the middle? That, my friends is rather easy - because the number plummets to easily manageable numbers.
I do attend a rally every year. It is called "Sanctity of Life" day. On this day those of us who come together tend to shy away from street protests and marches. Our celebration of life focuses on God giving each of us, including developing babies in the womb, life. It focuses on the real needs of women who are facing the extremely hard decision of what do to in a crisis pregnancy. We focus on those who are hurting badly because they've had an abortion and wonder if they can be forgiven. We focus on people who have adopted children - and face many hard, day-to-day realities of rearing a child who has everything from reactive-detachment disorder to babies coming off the drugs their mothers were taking while pregnant. We want to encourage them - help them - and be respite families for them when they need a night together as a couple. We do this because we know this will help far more than holding signs with incendiary messages that honestly do far more to infuriate the opposition than win their hearts. It would not be inaccurate to say that these gatherings are about remembering those people who are still in the middle - and celebrating some who have rolled up their sleeves to help.
Oh that we would be able to see that being a "light set on a hill" has far more to do with choices to address the problems of our society with hands-on, very hard, action-oriented solutions - than it does with shouting at - and eventually shouting down those who disagree with us. According to our Lord, that light is visible as people see our good deeds. They see them not in light of how awesome we are (which will do little more than cause us to be proud of ourselves for that self-glorifying awesomeness). They see the motive for our works - as well as the works themselves - and glorify our Father Who is in heaven. At the end of such works there are no congratulations in order for us - because we know what our hearts were like before He saved and changed us. No! All congratulation and celebration is focus on such an incredible Father Who has given birth (through salvation) and reared (through teaching, encouragement, and discipline) such good kids. They honor and glory for the works belongs to God! In doing them our hope is that they will know that we are Jesus' disciples by our love for one another, our love for those who oppose us, our love for the "least of these," and even our love for our enemies. May our stand for life be seen far more often in these ways - than in holding a sign, yelling a phrase, and honestly - doing little or nothing to truly change our culture. If we want to make America great again . . . why don't we try rolling up our sleeves, wading into the mess within our culture, and getting our hands dirty serving, loving, and ministering (and I believe this includes sharing the gospel with them), to those who are hurting because of its problems. If you participate in a march - good! But if all you do is march - and there are not regular marching orders to follow to selflessly and sacrificially fix the problems, your march ended far too soon.
Today is November 9th, one day after an election where Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. It is also a fact that he is president in large measure because he received over 80% of the Evangelical vote. Since I was one of those who went through the agony of eventually voting for our president-elect, I also feel very qualified to offer the following article on the other side of the election.
Voting for Mr. Trump was one of the most difficult and excruciating things I’ve ever done. In the end I did so primarily due to one issue – abortion. After watching former Secretary of State Clinton coolly and confidently support abortion up until the last minute before a child is born, while also stating that an unborn child has no rights whatsoever – that was the turning point for me. There was no sense of anything in her except great pride that we do this in America. Because Mr. Trump had made it clear that he would oppose abortion (albeit with a promise – not exactly the most trustworthy currency in an election) I chose to vote for him. I did so without a sense of great pride in my vote – without any kind of bravado – I simply did it to protect the unborn. Having said this – and having read far too many facebook posts from both sides that broke my heart after the election – I want to offer unsolicited advice to those who are evangelicals who voted for president-elect Trump.
President-elect Trump needs our prayers (as does President Obama) as he faces the presidency. First and foremost, it is my opinion, based upon his actions and words, that we need to pray for this man’s salvation. I was never under any deception that he was or is a Christian – regardless of what the President of Liberty University says. This man needs to repent of sin and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – period. By the way, if that statement offends you, I believe all men and women need to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If you are a “true evangelical” then this is THE issue for us ultimately – is he (or anyone else for that matter) someone who has come to understand that he is a sinner by choice and by nature – has come to understand that Jesus is the God-man who came and paid for sin by His death, burial, and resurrection – and has come to repentance over his sin and now has put his faith in Jesus Christ to pay for his sin and make him acceptable to God.
President-elect Trump also needs our prayers to govern wisely as the chief executive and commander in chief over our armed forces. Ask anyone who has ever held this office, there is tremendous pressure and responsibility associated with it. And take it from someone who is only a father and pastor of a local church – the more authority you have – the greater the damage you can do by making unwise and ungodly decisions. My unwise choices affect the 14 people in my family – and at least 175-200 people who attend the fellowship I am honored to serve. Things like pride, ego, marital infidelity, foul language, caustic comments, and perverse treatment of women, are unwise and ungodly from a biblical perspective. Sorry if this offends you but I am a pastor who is responsible to teach God’s Word – and advance a godly and righteous lifestyle. We can support him in some ways – but we need to be clear that these actions and attitudes are unacceptable. Should we show our president-elect grace and love? Absolutely. But can we afford as evangelicals to just gloss over the clear elephant in the room when it comes to his character and ungodliness? If we do – we will lose the moral authority to speak to our society – especially those who opposed him in the election who need the gospel so badly.
President-elect Trump – and our nation – need our prayers for healing and unity. Only someone who has lived under a rock for the last year and a half is unaware of the incredible rift that there is in our nation. He is not responsible alone for this rift – but this past election cycle only made us aware of how wide it is. I am painfully aware that much of this rift is due to vastly divergent worldviews. Both sides of this divide view the moral stances of the other as moral bankruptcy. He will face deep divides that will require wisdom, patience, and understanding to even begin to address. As an evangelical there are issues within our nation where I have to take a stand that is unpopular – very unpopular with those who oppose it. There are moral issues – issues about sexuality – issues about justice – issues about racism – issues about abortion and crisis pregnancies – issues about how to help those in financial need – so many issues that even trying to list them makes my head swim. What makes it worse is that currently any discourse about them has become so incendiary that basic communication (where we respect one another) seems almost impossible. We so quickly descend into sound bytes and insults at the drop of a hat. Oh how we need to move away from listening to the talking heads and talk radio and actually listen to one another once again. The rhetoric of the election has left us all battered and worn out emotionally. Pray that our President – and our president-elect can begin to heal the fractures – rather than make them worse.
One final word though to those of us who are evangelicals – and it is a word of great warning. If we choose to swagger through the next several months before and after the inauguration we are going to see the gospel itself face a terrible backlash. If we act as if Mr. Trump has great moral authority after what we’ve learned about how he treats women and his own marriage – we will alienate a large group of women who need to hear the gospel. They will see our joy over his election as an endorsement of his immoral actions – and will turn a deaf ear to the message of the gospel. If we act as if it wasn’t a problem that he didn’t distance himself from the KKK and other white supremacist groups with the strongest words possible – we will alienate many in the black community. They will see our joy in his election as an affirmation of what they already see as systemic racism and will turn a deaf ear to the gospel. If we act as if Mr. Trump’s bravado and pride – and the many morally questionable insults toward his opponents – should be seen as just politics as normal – we should not be surprised to see a rejection of our gospel as if it is associated with such insults. If we don’t at least attempt to see the political discourse toned down from its new lows in foul language that should offend people’s sensibilities - too many will deduce that we have come to endorse of this kind of talk. They will mock us when we say that the Bible teaches us to reject “corrupt communication from our mouths.” They will see such statements as just another way we’ve embraced hypocrisy as Christians. This will, in turn, justify in their minds turning a similar deaf ear to whatever else we have to say about salvation and the gospel. I’ve already seen too many posts by those on the other side of the political divide who are saying that if Trump represents evangelicalism – they are done with it.
Be careful precious saints of God – and be wise in the days ahead. Our attitudes and our demeanor can do much to either advance the gospel or turn people off to it. May God give us wisdom, especially in these days to prove ourselves true sons of God – who embrace both truth and our role to be peacemakers. THE most important thing is that we, as evangelicals, see that what our nation needs most is the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are the only things that will bring about the much-needed revival in the church and the even more-needed spiritual awakening among the lost. So that these things may come to our nation may God give us grace to be men and women wise enough to navigate such a time as this.
Calvary Core Values – #3 – God’s Word, The Final Moral Authority
Our world is currently in a moral revolution. We’ve watched as our society has radically redefined morals in the past 50 years. It has been something to watch, and I admit that often I have watched more in horror than in approval of where our world is headed. In the 1960’s this revolution began with the sexual revolution. This is when mindsets changed concerning the sexual activity outside of marriage. Before this time it was generally held that sex outside of marriage was wrong. It is not that immorality did not exist before this time – because it did. What changed was the public attitude toward it. Before the sexual revolution this kind of choice was frowned upon by the majority of society and heterosexual immorality was seen as sinful. This was not the mindset after the 1960’s. In the 1970’s we were confronted by abortion. It was made legal in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. Soon, this too, was generally accepted by society. The 80’s brought us the selfish “me” generation where greed became good. The 90’s introduced us to public officials like President Bill Clinton telling us that it did not matter that he was an adulterer, having sex in his office. That was his private life – and our leaders could be godless in private – but still be good leaders in public life. That divorced any discussion about a leader’s lifestyle and whether he was fit to lead or not. Toward the close of the 90’s the issue of homosexual marriage arose – first to be banned by a vote of the people – but eventually to be by courts that legislated it from the bench. Now, whether we are aware of it or not, the revolution continues as even the issue of our gender is open to debate. To say someone is male or female is now offensive as confused men call themselves female, even without a sex change operation. We are not even to critique someone who is male one month, female the next two, only to return to be male before the end of a year’s time.
This is what happens when morals become unmoored from God’s revelation of Himself and His will and purpose in the Bible. Moral truth, when relative and made subjective to the individual, sets society adrift into a moral morass. So where do we go to get clarity on these issues and hundreds of others? For the biblical Christian that question is very easy to answer. We go to God’s Word. Our third Core Value here at Calvary Chapel of Jonesboro is that we believe the Bible is the final authority when it comes to all matters of faith, morals, and practice as we walk with God in this world.
The Bible is very clear on moral matters. The 10 commandments have given a moral clarity to societies ever since they were first given to Moses on Mount Sinai. There really is no mistaking what God considers moral and immoral – godly or ungodly. That is something we hold as a core value. The morality of the Bible is not something that is up for public debate. It is not something that ebbs and flows with the general moral stance of society itself. It is something fixed by God. We can either surrender to Him and submit to His moral truth – or pay a very high price by rebelling against Him.
This means that regardless of what the Supreme Court or any other human court says, God’s Word is more authoritative in our lives. The morality of the Bible is not up for a vote – and neither does it need to be made “more relevant” to 21st century mankind. Murder is murder – whether in the 3rd century before Christ or the 2nd one after. Adultery is adultery regardless of whether you are King David over all Israel – or you are just a relatively unknown person living outside God’s will in 2014 in Northeast Arkansas.
Let me refer to the Word of God so that you get an idea of why this is a Core Value at this fellowship. I’ll begin by quoting 1 Peter in his letter to the churches.
For, "All flesh is like grass, and all its blory like the flower of grass. The grass
withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever."
1 Peter 1:24 (NASB)
We are reminded by Peter (as he quotes from Isaiah 40) that the world around us and all its beauty will fade and be gone, but God’s Word will endure forever. His Word does not change and will stand for all time as the authority in all matters on which God speaks through it. David said this about God’s Word too as He was inspired to write,
Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89 (NASB)
Follow my reasoning for a moment here. God tells us that His Word is forever settled in heaven. There is no debate – no opposing arguments that are of any value. He has spoken and it is settled on all issues on which He has spoken. Now grasp that judgment will not ultimately be that which is done in earthly courts by fallible human judges. The ultimate judgment will be before the throne of God.
What He has stated we believe is clear and not debatable. Sin is sin – no matter whether God is speaking to issues of sexual immorality, the words we speak, the attitudes that are in our hearts, the motives with which we do things, or even the way that we do business with others. These are all things about which God has spoken – and when He has spoken – it is final.
Some might wonder why we hold this as a “core value” at our fellowship? It is because the Bible teaches us in Romans 3:23 that, “. . . all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If what is sin is debatable according to the current standards of society, how do we know whether anyone has sinned? If we are on the shifting sands of public opinion, how can we have any clarity on ANY matter of moral significance? We believe that the Bible speaks very clearly in regard to these matters. And where it speaks – it is authoritative – regardless of who questions it or what any human court, either governmental or societal, has to say about it. That may eventually get us in trouble in the courts of public opinion and even one day in the courts of our nation. But like the apostles before us, our stand will have to be that we choose to obey God rather than man.
May the Lord bless you and help you to set godly goals for this coming year. This past Sunday night our community group met and took some time to talk about goals for this coming year. This is something I write about almost yearly - and yet when I speak to believers, I find that very few of them set any kind of spiritual goals each year. Some might balk at the thought of setting spiritual goals for their lives - relegating such things to the realm of legalism. They might not be so quick to do this were they to consider what Paul's said to Timothy in his first letter to the young Christian. Let's take a look at this statement this week and seek to learn from it.
Paul said the following to young Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6-8. "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."
Paul wanted Timothy to beware of the damage that bad teaching can have in a Christian's life. What he desired for Timothy is that he would be "constantly nourished on the words of the faith" as well as "sound doctrine." The words of the faith are easy enough to discern. We know that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ." The words of the faith are Scripture - the Word of God. The sound doctrine that Paul speaks of here is simply good, biblically sound teaching that comes forth from the Word of God. Thus, what Paul was telling young Timothy was that he needed to be CONSTANTLY NOURISHED on the Word of God - and good teaching which springs from the Word of God.
Having established a need to be CONSTANTLY NOURISHED on God's Word - Paul then makes the statement one verse later that he is to have nothing to do with worldly fables - but to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. This godliness is of far greater profit than bodily discipline - because it blesses both now and for all eternity. Therefore, one of the most important things we should have is some way that we are disciplining ourselves to become godly - with a major emphasis on being constantly nourished on Scripture and sound doctrine that is founded in it. Let me boil that down to a simple statement. We are to be disicplinging ourselves to be in the Scriptures so that we can be constantly nourished by them and what they teach to us.
The spiritual goals of which I speak of simply goals that we set so that we can practice "nourishing ourselves" on the Word and on good, sound, godly doctrine. What kind of goals and practices of discipline do you have to do this? What kind of practices are you wanting to adopt and grow in this coming year so that you are being constantly nourished on the Word of God?
Let me use an example from your everyday life to illustrate what I mean. Pretty much everyone who reads this has a habit of eating breakfast, lunch, and supper. These are ingrained habits we have to make sure we are constantly nourished physically. If we were to lose those habits - or if we are practicing terrible nutritional habits in them - we are going to be in physical trouble before long. I am not hearing anyone complain about the habit of breakfast, lunch, and supper as some sort of legalism that we are in bondage to in our lives. They are helpful habits that can truly bless us if we eat proper nutrition during them. The reason I say this is simple - just as breakfast, lunch, and supper are physical habits to help nourish us physically, the habit of a quiet time during which we invest in reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture is vital to us being nourished (might I even say, CONSTANTLY NOURISHED) on a spiritual level. Without proper spiritual nourishment, we will languish spiritually, be weak when confronting temptation and trial, and will be susceptible to every spiritual malady and sickness that comes our way (read here false doctrine and sinful lifestyles that do not glorfiy God - among other things).
By spiritual goals - I refer to things you want to do each day - like maintain a quiet time. I refer to things you specifically do to be nourished on God's Word - like read through the Bible this year or read a chapter or more each day. Other things that help here are to say that you will take time to study through Romans to learn about salvation better - or memorize one verse each week with an emphasis on important passages of the Bible. Then you plan to meditate on one of those passages every day in free moments. Another spiritual goal may have to do with "obeying" the Scripture you read. Outreach to a couple of people you want to see come to Christ may be in order. Getting trained to share the gospel effectively by the end of the year might be another. You may want to read a book on basic Bible doctrine to be better grounded in your faith. The possibilities are endless - involving your own growth - the growth of your family together - the growth of others you know in basic discipleship - or even stepping up to a ministry in the church and committing to do it for a year. All these might be ways of growing by "discipling yourself for the purpose of godliness."
So . . . what are you going to do this year to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness - to make arrangements to be constantly nourished on the faith and sound doctrine? Your willingness to sit down and write out some serious goals as you ask God what to do may mean the difference between an awesome year of spiritual growth and effectiveness - or just another year wasted thinking that one day you'll get serious about following Christ. Oh dear saints of God - let this year be the former! My love to all of you as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ for God's glory in this coming year!
We’ve been looking at serving God while we are spiritually dry—or during times which Paul refers to as being “out of season.” When these times come it is wise to remember the fact of the ultimate judgment and just Who it is that we will give an account to in that day.
Paul says to young Timothy that there is a solemn charge he gives him—but he gives it to him not with Paul as his judge. There is One before Whom Timothy shall stand Who is far greater than any human being we know—or ever will know. Paul says this, “I charge you in the presence of God.” The phrase, “in the presence” is a legal term. It was used to speak of a court case where one would come before a judge. If you judge were named Bill Jones, your summons would read something like this, “You are commanded to appear in the presence of Bill Jones this Friday.” When someone received something like this, they would know that they were going to be standing in judgment for whatever case they faced. What the judge said in that instance would be final. In much the way that this happened, Paul is trying to impress upon us the seriousness of our own day before God.
What if you just didn’t feel like appearing before the judge that day? You would appear any way—because the option not to appear wasn’t given to you. You WILL show up on that day—and you WILL be judged according to the law. What Paul is saying to Timothy is that he needs to remember Who is going to be judging him in the end. Knowing this Timothy will be motivated to walk in God’s will regardless of whether he was in season or out of season.
Paul also makes it clear that this is no human courtroom. We are to appear “in the presence of God and Jesus Christ—WHO IS TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD!” There is no one who will not stand before God and give account. That accounting will be based upon the clear commandments of His Word—which are NOT contingent on whether we felt like we were having a good day or a bad one. Living in light of this should motivate us to love and serve God—if not out of a feeling of love—out of a choice based on godly wisdom and very real accountability. Sure, it would be great if we did all we do out of strong good feelings, but that is not always guaranteed. Therefore when we have those “out of season moments” we obey out of clear obligation and accountability to God for our actions.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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