Building A Biblical Worldview
By: Ryan Kunce
The Three Most Powerful Words
“It is finished.” – John 19:30
Three simple words and perhaps the most powerful of all. On this hinges the eternal destiny of the believer. Without these words where would we be? If Christ had chosen to walk away… If these words were never uttered… there would be no hope.
The Greek word tetelestai is translated “it is finished.” In Greek the perfect tense signifies a past action, the effect of which continues into the present. The nuisance we miss in English is that it ‘has been completed’ and ‘is still complete’. There is a very rich sense of finality.
To help us further understand the meaning of these 3 words scholars over the last few centuries have noticed this word “tetelestai” popping up in all sorts of 1st century commercial papyrus (documents). Moulton and Milligan, authors of The Vocabulary of The Greek New Testament, poured over many 1st century receipts and contracts of the Roman world. This phrase telesestai was found abbreviated at the introduction of these bills. It is an accounting term symbolizing that the obligation had been completed. The debt was paid in full. Our English New Testament reads, “It is finished.”
When Jesus uttered these words, he was declaring a victory cry. He had completed everything the Father sent him to do. He had finished his ministry, his suffering, and his sacrifice. Sin was dealt a fatal blow that day. The debt was paid in full.
Philippians 2:7-11 reads:
7 but (He) emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every
name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Have we truly grasped that our sins led him to the cross? Have we grasped that God desires us? Look at the extent to what he has done! God left the glories of heaven above and became like us. He obeyed to the point of death. He even suffered one of the most humiliating forms of death there is, the Roman Crucifixion. What more could He do? Why would He go to such a great extent? So that everyone of us would confess him as Lord. He did it for the Father and… He did it for you.
I recognize how easy it is to tell everyone just how much God cares, loves, and freely offers forgiveness to them. It’s even easier to talk about how much Jesus loves his Heavenly Father. But it’s another thing entirely different to talk about his love for ‘me’.
Yes, Jesus primarily embraced the cross to bring His Heavenly Father glory, but that is not the only reason. If not for the Father only then who else? John 3:16 tells us why, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Don’t you see? Jesus died for you. Can you accept this? Can you honestly say the words, “Jesus embraced the cross for me. The empty tomb was for me. He is my savior.” Unfortunately, our sin, shame, and pride can cloud the picture. It can make it difficult for us to accept this great sacrifice. Some of us can go so hard on ourselves that we can’t see our own value to the Lord. In our sin we can’t forgive ourselves nor accepts the Lord’s forgiveness of us.
The reality is this: God, my friend, believed you were worth dying for. So no matter what you may say or think about yourself, He says, “You are worth it. You are valuable to me. I love you.”
Just let that thought sink in. Nobody else gets to tell you of your value – not your job, your success, your loved ones, not even yourself. Only God gets to tell you your worth. And you know what He is saying, “You were worth dying for.” Give yourself a break from all the self-shaming. Just accept that He thinks you’re worth dying for.
Please pray with me, “God how could it be that you think of me? How could you find me worth anything? I have scorned your ways, spurned your face, and squandered your gifts. Yet here you remain with your arms wide-open for me. I have no words. Nothing I can say to this sort of love that I don’t deserve. Thank you… Thank you for the cross and the empty tomb. Your son is precious to me. I love you God. How amazing is the grace? How sweet is the sound that you would save a wretch like me? Thank you for your forgiveness. I accept that I am valuable simply on the grounds that you think I am. Help me to live for you.”
Passing The Legacy of Christ
Last week I was saddened at the news of Dr. Billy Graham’s passing. I have never heard a man speak with more confidence and fire in his belly for Christ than Billy Graham. In so many ways I have wished to have but one portion of the fervor he had in winning the lost to Christ.
Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said:
“An epic era of evangelical history has come to an end. Billy Graham was not only a titanic figure in evangelicalism, but in world history and perhaps
represents the last of a kind. He dominated 20th-century American evangelicalism and remained a major figure on the world stage throughout most of the
20th century in a way that we can envision no evangelical leader in our times. He was a man of deep conviction whose passionate heartbeat was for the
gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I couldn’t help but agree with Dr. Mohler when he said that Billy Graham’s death marked the end of an era in evangelical history, that he represented the last of his kind. But in all honesty I do not want this to be true. I desire to still see the world turned on its head by the power of the gospel message. To see nations swept with revival across the land, to see America repent of her sins and faithfully turn to Christ. But is that a pipe dream? Has a final era passed?
I don’t think God would want us to reflect on the past glory years and then lose hope in the present. I believe that if anything, he would want us to do the opposite. God wants you and me to look at future glory and press on with gusto. Real glory is coming, it lies ahead. When I look to the past at Billy Graham’s legacy I am excited to think that every faithful Christian plays a part in the exact same legacy. For Billy Graham’s legacy was not his own, it was founded on our Lord Jesus and then passed from one generation to the next.
Ephesians 2:19-21, “19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together,
grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Dr. Graham shared what he received. What will we do with that received message? To think, every Sunday School class you study the word, every Vacation Bible School you volunteer for, every potluck fellowship you patriciate in, every meal you provide to the grieving, every sabbath day you gather with the church, all of it is the exact same legacy Billy Graham participated in.
I’ve asked myself before why Billy Graham’s conviction to share the gospel was so intense? What motivated him so boldly? I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit he knew the future glory coming.
Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the
Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Grieve but don’t lose heart at the passing of Christian brothers and sisters. Let us press on in this great legacy and make the Christian heroines of the past proud. For one day you and I will be the dust of the past. What will future generations behold?
Billy Graham famously said:
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a
legacy of character and faith.”
May we now serve the Lord and pass this great legacy of Christ on to ourselves and future generations.
I Want To Know What Love Is…
Tis our culture’s season of love. Local stores are flooded with assorted chocolates, balloons, flower bouquets, stuffed animals, and romantic greeting cards. A man can hardly escape the checkout line without being drowned in holiday paraphernalia. If us married men stop by the store at least once, we are without excuse on Valentine’s Day. Our wives want to know we think of them, especially on a national holiday where we are supposed to love on them. Definitely buying them a chocolate and rose lets them know we are. But what I want to ask today is, what is love?
According to Dictionary.com they define love, “1. an intense feeling of deep affection. 2. to feel a deep romantic attachment to (someone).”
Our culture tells us love is an ‘intense feeling’ of affection and it’s also ‘romantic attachment’. This means when your feelings are no longer intense and the romance is absent, so is the love. But is this really love?
I dare challenge our cultural definition of love. I conjecture that what we believe to be ‘love’ is indeed ‘infatuation’. Note the meaning of infatuation, “an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone or something.” Does that not more accurately explain our culture today? We are a culture of infatuation. Captivated today and then abandoned tomorrow.
Our cultural belief in love is quite shallow. Consider that premarital sex is not only the norm but fully embraced. Hollywood is rife with plotlines of a man in love (what I call infatuation) with a woman and before you know it, they’re in bed well before their marriage. They do ‘love’ each other so it’s okay, right? According to the IFS (Institute for Family Studies) as of 2010 only 5% of new brides are virgins. That number is staggering and breaks my heart!
Furthermore, IFS has found that the odds of divorce are lowest with zero or one premarital partner. That means an active ‘love’ life outside the covenant of marriage is unhealthy. It only increases risk of psychological unhappiness and future unfaithfulness. Translation: parents should never encourage their children to ‘test the waters’. This will only lead your child to greater heart break and uncommitted relationships. Statistically marrying a partner who has had no ‘love’ life (a virgin) will provide a much happier and fulfilling marriage. Funny that God’s way is always better.
Consider also divorce in America. According to the APA (American Psychological Association) about 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. This would also explain why infidelity is a scourge across the marital landscape. Partners claim that, “they are sorry but they ‘love’ (infatuated with) somebody else now.” Why do I call this infatuation and not love? Great question! Let’s look at the Biblical definition of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV), “4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
According to the Bible love is patient. It does not hastily rush into premarital sex. A young man loves his girlfriend best by protecting her and keeping patient. He is kind to her and does not attempt to seduce her. He is not envious of her. The same can be said of married men and women. They are to remain patient and not covet other partners. Their eye must not wonder accept only to their God given spouse. A Godly love does not quarrel or is easily offended. It is not resentful but instead forgiving. A Bibilcal love bears, believes in, hope, and endures with their spouse.
This definition of love is a far cry different than ‘intense feeling or romantic attachment’. God’s kind of love is sacrificial and obedient. The cultures love is shallow, superficial, and uncommitted unless intense feelings are present. Biblical love is not temperamental intense feelings, its action rooted in the gospel. Jesus sacrificed his life for us. That’s the kind of love we need for each other. We must choose to sacrificially love as Jesus did. He loved us who were not worthy. Our love towards our spouses, children, and neighbors should look like this.
Our culture needs a much more profound definition of love and the Bible gives us that.
Looking Back & Looking Forward
Happy New Year! As one year ends another one begins. I am blown away at the awesome privilege I have had to serve our church family for the last 5 years. I know, you can’t believe it either? What a real joy it is to see so many of you blossom and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. From tragedy to elation, you have weathered many storms and have basked in the warm light of the sun. Through all the highs and lows, you persevere and remain triumphant in our Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 2:20-22 says of the church that we are:
“20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)”
That’s you, First Baptist. All of you make up the temple of God. Our foundation is Christ and the mortar that holds us together is the Holy Spirit. You, His bride, are dearly loved by the Father. What a privilege it is to serve you.
As I reflect on the past and look forward to the New Year, a flood of thoughts rush through my mind. Julie told me she found my first gray hair 4 months ago. I first went into denial and then argued it was ‘light’ brown. Let’s face it, it was gray. Life isn’t slowing down for me. If anything, I wonder sometimes if somebody hit fast forward and skipped a few chapters. Yes, we are now already entering 2018; can you believe it? I remember anticipating New Year’s Eve 2000 and the millennium bug – it was all supposed to come crashing down yet here we are. Yeah that was 18 years ago… almost 2 decades!
Well, New Years should make us think about how we did this year and what our plans are for the next. I’ve got to say I really enjoyed 2018. God significantly enhanced my personal evangelism skills and I only wish for more. From missions in Texas and foreign missions in Haiti, to here in Bethany, the testimonies are incredible. I’ve learned from our Lord to first pray, and then ask lots of good questions as Jesus did. Now I wonder, what will 2018 hold for me? What will it hold for our church, and for you?
We have focused on who God is (theology), why we should love our community (outreach), and how we should go about sharing Jesus with them (evangelism and apologetics). Now, as we anticipate 2018, I sense a leading to talk about true worship. What is it? God has pressed into my heart Luke 10:27, “And he (Jesus) answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” What does it mean to love with heart, soul, strength, and mind? How is loving your neighbor an act of worship to God? What is worship?
My prayer for 2018 is that we will continue to find ways to proclaim Christ in worship, thought, word, and deed. I hope that the New Year will be a time where we grow together in wisdom. I invite you to pray for our church, for all of our opportunities and challenges, for our staff, and for all of those in positions of leadership. I need all the prayers I can get, so please pray for me! Know that I will be in prayer for you, for your joys and struggles, your spiritual journey, and your relationship with God. Let us proclaim Christ and trust that He is with us always!
Finding Your Awe Inspiring Moment
“Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o're the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Shepherds why this Jubilee
Why your joyous strains prolong
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song
Gloria, Gloria in Excelsis Deo”
What inspires awe in you? What captivates you? What makes you speechless? Is it the sight of your beautiful Bride gracefully walking down the aisle? Yeah, that one got me too. Or how about the highest Summits of the Colorado Rockies? I still remember drinking from a cascading waterfall cutting through the mountain pass. Or have you seen the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean? Trust me, the pictures don’t do justice the rolling waves along the shore.
The night Christ was born was the most monumental, awe-inspiring, opulently divine event of human history. God sent His only begotten Son as a sacrificial lamb, for by this child’s blood we would be healed. He would one day be crushed for our iniquities. There has never been an event in history like this, the night the Shepherds witnessed. One angel appeared on the scene declaring to them, “10 Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)”
To witness a single angel must have been quite a sight. I too would need to hear them say the words “Fear not”. But the shepherds did not witness merely one angel that evening. Moments later a great multitude of heavenly hosts appeared. And what were these thousands upon thousands saying?
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Yes they sang “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” – Latin for glory to God in the Highest.
I imagine at this point the Shepherds’ knees hit the floor and their faces firmly planted in the ground. For how could they be worthy of such a sight? I myself would have had to lift my jaw at such a majestic sight. I imagine Luke must have been hard pressed to adequately write the words.
Most people these days have fewer and fewer awe-inspiring encounters with God. We are so incredibly distracted with busyness and entertainment that few of us pause and take the time to enjoy God. I don’t know about you, but the Holiday season is quite a busy time in my life. There are Christmas parties, festivities, shopping, school activities and family travels galore. It’s not just all the events but the distractions abound. From cell phones to television we are losing our awe-inspiring moments before the Lord. The whole reason for the Christmas season is to be captivated by the glory of God and our wonderful Savior.
This Christmas, make an attempt to re-claim those breathtaking moments with God. Strive to join the choir of Angels and worship our Lord. Find once more your awe-inspiring moments with God. Do not settle for an ordinary life in Jesus, rather make it extraordinary.
Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Merry Christmas & Glory to God in the Highest!
Celebrating 500 Years of Reformation
This last Halloween I was proud of our church to collect more than 2,000 pieces of candy and hand out more than 430 Bible tracts to children in our community. Who ever said Jesus and Halloween don't go together? I was so proud of our First Baptist family who gathered and shared the love of God with the children in our community. As I set here, I also wonder if anyone else realized what was this October 31, 2017? Not just Halloween and are evangelistic outreach, but it was the 500th year anniversary of the reformation. 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the doors of Wittenberg. Why does that matter to us? Glad you asked.
The church for a very long period of history lived without the word of God in the vernacular (the common spoken language). The Catholic church only supported Jerome's Latin translation of the Hebrew & Greek Bible, known as 'The Vulgate'. His Latin translation was the only authorized text. As time passed on it became a dead language no longer spoken by people. The Catholic church refused to translate the Bible into the common tongue. Even their Mass (worship service) was spoken in Latin. Sadly, many churches had to request translations of the Mass and it too was often met with refusal. For centuries, some have even suggested a millennia, this went on.
Due to this, nobody could read the Bible. If Bible translations were made into the vernacular (say German or French) Catholic authorities had these individuals burned at the stake, lynched, or hung. As one of the few educated in society Martin Luther had access to the word of God, able to translate Hebrew and Greek. Luther came to realize the Catholic Church was advocating teachings contrary to the Bible. People were easily manipulated by the Popes and church authorities.
Hence the the middle ages became known as the 'Dark Ages' - because of corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. Popes were ruling as kings, there was veneration of saints' relics, a forced celibate priesthood, institutionalized moral hypocrisy, and selling of indulgences. None of these are supported in scripture. Martin Luther's 95 thesis was written against the selling of indulgences (the ability to literally buy your deceased love one out of hell [purgatory] and into heaven). No where does the Bible teach such concepts. Martin Luther took his stand against the church and protested. All of us who are non-Catholic Christians follow Luther in this tradition. We are in protest to the Catholic Church demanding that they change these false doctrines. We are protest*ants, hence protestant churches. For we protest the catholic church.
The hallmarks of our faith that we still celebrate today, which Catholicism does not, are known as 'The 5 Solas'. Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Soli Deo Gloria (Glory of God Alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We reject the catholic dogma of 'personal righteousness' + 'Christ' = heaven. No just faith in Jesus = heaven. Works will follow the truly born again heart.
Martin Luther was summoned to trial at the Diet of Worms before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He was to recant his 95 thesis and all his other teachings against the church. Luther defiantly said:
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear
that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my
conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me.
As the faithful have said, "Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my belief, I will kneel and let him strike off my head."
Always reforming to the word of God,
What are you living for?
If you were to pull up a chair and have a conversation I’d like to ask, “What are you living for?” I think the answer to that question is revealing. Perhaps it’s to pay off the mortgage, maybe it’s to put the kids through college, it could even be to grab the corner office and rake in the cash. Yeah that’s the good life isn’t it… or is it?
At the end of life, you will discover that personal happiness becomes too fleeting a goal. For all that you have will one day be naught. You will discover it was never truly yours, your stuff belongs to God and it was on loan.
The psalmist in Psalm 39:4 says, “4 O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (ESV)” Why do we do that? Why do we make the world center around ourselves? God forgive us of our fleeting self-aspirations. Life is too temporary to make it all about us.
What then are we to live for? Colossians 1:16 gives us that answer, “16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (ESV)” Translation, we were created for Christ. We were created for God’s glory, to enjoy an eternal relationship that never perishes, yeah, that’s something to really live for. There is nothing fleeting about that.
Psalm 115:1, “1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory. (ESV)”
God reminded me of something Albert Mohler once wrote, “An old preacher . . . told a group of younger preachers to remember that they would die. ‘They are going to put you in a box, put the box in the ground, and throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.” Someday this will be my fate. I will die and so will you. All that lasts is what’s done for Christ. I only hope we lived for the glory of the Lord. Everything else pales in comparison to the exceeding greatness of His power.
Psalm 90:12, “12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (ESV)” I began by asking, “What are you living for?” I’ve been thinking a lot about this question myself. “What am I living for?” If that answer is not God then it’s fleeting.
A passage of C.T. Studd’s famous poem records:
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
What is the meaning of life?
Could you comfortably answer this question? If you were to ask leading atheists you would find no unanimity to their answers accept only one – the universe according to them is purposelessness. To them you are an accident, not just you but all life and living organisms for that matter. The sooner you acknowledge this ‘truth’ the better off you’ll be in a merciless cosmos which is survival of the fittest.
Atheist psychologist Susan Blackmore states, "The pointlessness of life is not a thing to be overcome. It's something to be celebrated now, because that's all there is." Richard Dawkins further asserts, “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life... life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA... life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
Really that’s all there is… pointlessness… purposelessness… nothing but pitiless indifference? I often wonder how these guys roll out of bed in the morning. Not surprisingly you don’t hear words of encouragement from secular humanists during times of national tragedies like September 11th or the Boston Marathon bombing. You actually don’t hear anything at all for that matter, we find them surprisingly tight-lipped. Why? Well since life is meaningless accident, not much more can be said about someone who dies in an obscure corner of the universe. No matter how you die, you’re just one animal amongst many and that’s the circle of life. The universe is merciless like that.
The Bible, however, has much more to say about the meaning of life than our atheist friends. There is a far greater hope we possess than ‘pitiless indifference’. You are not an accident, the world is not spiraling out of control, and you do indeed have a purpose. Colossians 1:16 states, “16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
In other words you were created ‘by’ and ‘for’ God. This is the very purpose of your life. One of the greatest answers I have found to life’s greatest question is given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer, “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” You were created to worship and enjoy God in a lifelong relationship with Him. This does not work vice versa. God does not exist to serve your purposes but you exist to serve His.
You are not a random accident but specifically created and highly valuable to a sovereign God (Matt 10:31). You are not one animal amongst many, but are rather special being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). You are not some random chance the universe burped up, but God intentionally thought of you long before you were born (Jer 1:4-5). Yes, there is indeed purpose to your life. When you live out life’s ultimate purpose you will find life’s greatest joy.
If you want to experience this joy then it starts with God. He has created you to walk in a relationship with Him. The Bible teaches we have all been separated from God by our sin. A chasm exists so deep and wide in our relationship with the Lord that it’s impossible to cross on our own. You need to be rescued and the only one capable is Jesus. He is the only sinless person whose sacrifice on the cross gives us access to God. If you have not gone through him, then now is the time.
If you have already surrendered your life to Christ then I wish to ask you one question. Right now, what are you living for? I hope you said the Lord.
To God Alone Be The Glory Forever & Ever,
Pastor Ryan Kunce
It doesn’t take long being a father to realize how much children love sweets. I remember my Grandparents offering candy and my mom would tell them, “No he doesn’t need any right now.” Well now that I’m a parent I realize why and it’s not simply about calories. These kids have a ton of energy and they don’t need anymore. If anything they could spare some for the rest of us, amen?
This year we brought our kiddos to children’s camp and my son stole my cake when I wasn’t looking. I was talking with Brad Walker and he asked to sit on my lap. I said, “Awe sure buddy.” Being a good dad I felt so proud. Here I was holding him thinking, this is really cool. Well, when I finally went to take a bite, the little stinker had already eaten half of it and the evidence was all over his sticky face and fingers. Afterward I had to help him clean MY cake off himself. In all fairness I know, I talk way too much.
In a lot of ways sin is like that. According to the scriptures we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23). We are so covered in sin we are unable to save ourselves. We cannot in any measure clean up the mess we have made. We need our Heavenly Father to clean us up.
Recently I was reading through Matthew 8:1-4. In the passage Jesus has just come down the mountain with a crowd following and runs into a leper pleading, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Notice, this guy believed Jesus could cleanse him. Lepers were placed in a separate colony quarantined from the rest of society for fear of others contracting the disease. There are even biblical commands about staying away. But this leper was willing to break those commands because he believed Jesus could heal him.
What I love about Jesus is that without hesitancy he responds. He stretches out his hand and touches the guy saying, “I will; be clean.” Immediately the leprosy was gone. Isn’t it wonderful to know that when we come to our Heavenly Father He is willing and ready to cleanse us? Sure this was a physical ailment that needed to be healed but the reason Jesus is healing is so that we too would believe in Him, just like this leper did.
The simple truth is we are all like my son and the cake. We snuck into what we are not supposed to and have made such a mess we need our Heavenly Father to clean us up. Right now God is with you. If you were to simply stop what you are doing and ask Him, I mean really ask Him in surrender, He will cleanse you. It’s not just you He would cleanse, it’s your neighbor too.
My prayer is that you would talk with your heavenly Father. Be real with him, get honest. The reality is He knows everything anyway. Ask him to cleanse you and He will. I love that about God. He doesn’t hesitate. He will reach right out and touch you and with 2 simple words “be clean” and you will be.
To God Alone Be The Glory Forever & Ever,
Is God Your Afterthought?
This summer season has been quite lively with foreign missions coming and going from our church family and I could not be more proud of those who have surrendered to the call both in short and long term missions. I think of the people we as a church family have already prayed for and sent: Howard Gamber, Peyton Spurling, Morganne Sweat, Sharon Johnson, Paige Petterson, Ryan & Julie Kunce (Haiti), Pam Fitzgerald (Alaska), Kim Marshall (Honduras), and not to mention our youth street evangelism team in Dallas Texas. It’s amazing how God has used these individuals in their perspective mission fields and we certainly rejoice in God our savior for their testimonies.
My greatest fear, however, is that we at First Baptist might conclude our Lord works more powerfully abroad than at home. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether we go to foreign lands or not, everyone has a mission field and is called to live a missional life for Jesus. So when it comes to loving on our local community and sharing the gospel with friends I want to remind everyone of something God had to show me this year. When we serve the Lord we must remember that the Holy Spirit is vital to our efforts and cannot be overemphasized. In fact evangelism is not about you involving God in your outreach efforts, but it is rather Him involving you in His.
Rather than tell God what we will do, let us first go to Him and daily ask, “What is it you want me to do today? How can I serve you? Lord would you please show me who to talk to, serve, and what to say?” The difference between telling God and asking God is the difference between independence from rather than dependence on the Holy Spirit. It’s the difference between self versus divine possession. It’s the difference between usurping versus surrendering to Him.
Jesus commanded his disciples in Luke 24:49 to, “stay in the city (Jerusalem) until you are clothed with power from on high.” The early disciples began with surrender and I believe this is the way forward for every believer. We need to first ask God for His will and then surrender to it. We should not be making God an afterthought. We make him an afterthought every time we make plans and then afterward ask Him to bless our efforts. That’s like planning a night out at the movies and then remembering to ask your date if they would like to tag along.
It’s not pleasant being an afterthought and trust me, God does not like it either. The Lord does not enjoy being your sidekick. He would rather be the hero. As one famously said, “He is not the copilot He is the pilot.” He is not your Robin to your Batman, if anything he is Batman and you are Robin. You get the picture. First surrender to Him and let him lead in everything, yes even before you make plans.
We do well to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of unbelievers not us. Acts 16:14 speaking about Lydia coming to Christ, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Simply put, if God had not opened her heart she would have never heard Paul’s message and responded accordingly. The same goes for us as well. If we walk around in our power and wit we will not experience the miraculous work of God. Even if we did we would be too foolish to notice, praising ourselves rather than God who changed the person’s heart in the first place.
Remember it is the Holy Spirit who converts the heart, not us. We must ask God for divine appointments rather than try and make our own. It is the believer’s job to share but it is God’s job to do the saving. Notice 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 says, “6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” God is responsible for salvations and we are merely the tools in his hands. He is the superhero and we are the sidekick. So let us first turn and ask God if we may participate in His work.
First Baptist Family, we must be desperate for God to move and that means we need a life of prayer and surrender. Prayer is vital. Prayer is not just a brief request for blessing but it is ongoing reliance and communication with God to guide us. We need him to open the doors that we cannot. We need him to remove the scales that we cannot. We need him to save the souls that we cannot. So let us pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us. May he give us divine appointments and us the discernment to know when it’s Him. Oh that we may glorify him and not ourselves.
To God Alone Be The Glory Forever & Ever,
The Writing On The Wall
This last week I drove to Jefferson City for the Missouri Baptist Nominating Committee meeting. I was reminded how much I love the spring, it was one of those days you could roll the windows down, enjoy the breeze, and look at the lush green trees teaming with new life. Upon arriving at the Baptist Building (wow what a beautiful building by the way, think marble floors and walls), I met a little less than 20 great pastors and lay persons who stretch out across Missouri in our Southern Baptist churches. After receiving our assignment, I decided to visit our Missouri State Capital Building. That’s where my thoughts really begin.
As I approached the Capitol I could not help but notice the oodles of children, teachers, and parental chaperones that flooded the building. There were more than 2 dozen exhibits spread out across the capitol to learn about US and Missouri State history. In the midst of the sea of educators and students stood your ‘weird’ pastor taking pictures of the walls. You ought to have seen some of the interesting facial expressions I received. Here’s a guy taking pictures not of the exhibits, or of the historical facts, but he’s snapping pictures of the walls. What a crazy guy right? Aren’t you proud of me First Baptist? Seriously don’t answer that. Haha!
Well, strange as it may seem, I was observing a different US history, one that seems to have been forgotten these days. I was taking pictures of all the inscriptions etched into the stone walls of the Capitol. These inscriptions were left by our forefathers so that we would never forget them. They read things like “THE EARTH IS THE LORDS AND THE FULLNESS THEREOF”, “RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION”, “LORD GOD OF HOSTS BE WITH US YET LEST WE FORGET”, “WHERE THERE IS NO VISION THE PEOPLE PERISH”, and “IDEAS CONTROL THE WORLD.”
My how we have forgotten these ideas. We don’t hear that sort of lofty speech much anymore do we? I think for many of us, Christianity seems like something from a bygone era. How many Christian articles have you read stating we in America are now a post Christian era? Doesn’t that make you mourn? Don’t you wish times were different, more like the way they used to be?
I think Satan wants us believing Christianity is dead. But the truth is, as long as you are born again, it is alive and strong. Rather than us mourn how our culture is no longer what it used to be, may the voices of the saints in the grave bolster our faith. When I saw these inscriptions confidently displayed on the walls for all to see, I wanted to leap for joy. I wanted to shout Jesus to every parent, child, and educator in the room. I wanted to plead that every US Politician heed the inscriptions left for them on the walls.
In our own church history at First Baptist our ancestors left for us this inscription: “The purpose of this church shall be to devote ourselves to the intimate fellowship with the living God, to the welfare of humanity, to the bringing of men and women to Christ through every open door and with every helping hand.”
May the zeal of the saints, the apostles, and even the inscriptions on the wall compel you to advance the Kingdom. Christianity is not a bygone era. It’s alive and well, and it’s in you.
To God Alone Be Glory Forever & Ever,
Pastor Ryan Kunce
A Come To Jesus Meeting
When was the last time you had a heart to heart with God? I mean when was the last time you really laid it all there – your sin, dreams, hopes, failures, and burdens?
It’s easy to get into a ‘mundane’ prayer routine. You know the kind of prayers I am talking about. Like the ones you shared as a child at the supper table, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food. By his hands we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread.” Yes, those kinds of prayers. I’ve noticed even with me, praying over supper or at bed time can get pretty repetitive, even rushed depending on the schedule. These prayers, however, lack genuine communication with God. They are more duty driven than relationally inspired.
In Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus has a lot to say about our prayer life.
"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV)"
Christ wants every one of us having an authentic prayer life. Here he is not against public prayer (even the early church corporately prayed see Acts 4:24-31 or 12:5-18), but he is against the kind that seeks to enhance one’s reputation. We all too easily fall into this sinful type of communication with the Lord. Like when we pray because we are ‘leading’ our family spiritually rather than talking to God. If we are praying simply ‘to lead’ and not commune with God, then it becomes about appearances. Our desire to pray is motivated for others rather than for God. Remember the Pharisees prayed for the sake of ‘leading’ others. We pray to genuinely talk to God and hope others catch authenticity in the process.
The Bible does not stop on appearances but Jesus also commands us to avoid empty phrases of repetition in the next verse. Matthew 6:7, “7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (ESV)”
God does not want an automaton robot response. When our prayer life sounds like a voicemail recording or another rerun of last night’s television drama, it’s time to start asking ourselves some serious questions. Questions like, “Do I really want to talk to God right now? Am I just doing this for duty sake? Perhaps I am praying ‘to lead’ spiritually by example and uphold ‘appearances’? Or am I praying because I simply want to lay it all out there with God?”
If our prayer life is repetitious (like gentiles), then there is a very real chance we have an empty, dead, lifeless prayer life. Duplicating our prayers over and over again is a sign of a comatose communion. In addition, if were praying for the sake of appearance then we have a prideful prayer life (like Pharisees). God wants us praying simply for the sake of being authentic. Five words of authenticity are better than 10,000 words of vain lifeless repetition.
It’s time we all ask ourselves some really hard, but good questions about prayer. When is the last time I got real with God? How often do I pause to talk to him, I mean really talk to him? Do I care to speak with him, if not why? What’s holding me back even now?
Find the secret place, and come to Jesus.
To God Alone Be Glory Forever & Ever,
A Christian Response to Transgenderism
As a child I participated in both the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of America (B.S.A.). I remember making home made ice cream with a coffee can (definitely an essential life skill, amen?), learning how to start a fire with flint rocks, sharpening blades, and cooking on a cast iron skillet. The local Christian school and church sponsored the group so I participated with several class mates. My own father took me on several outings and regularly volunteered to help with my troop. But these days the B.S.A. have been the source for many new debates. In particular, in the area’s of gay and transgender rights.
As recently as last month on January 30th Effie Delimarkos the director of B.S.A. in an emailed statement said, "Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application.” Translation, the B.S.A. is now accepting children born as girls who now self-identify as a male.
The Boy Scouts of America are not the only ones who have recently taken up the cause for transgender rights. Last year we witnessed as the Company “Target” announced employees and customers can use whichever bathroom or fitting room corresponds to their gender identity. In other words, it’s not based on your birth gender but whether or not which when you decide or feel you are. Recently this week President Donald Trump rolled back the Obama era guidelines as it pertains to transgender students in Public schools using bathrooms. So this is the hot button in our current news and culture while I am writing.
So what do we as Christians think about transgender rights? Not to mention what should be our doctrinal statement as a church family? How do we respond as the culture continues to barrage us with new and unfamiliar territory? Are parents justified in choosing to view their son as a "gender-creative child" - or, to put it plainly, in raising him as a girl? Some Parents are indeed doing so as we speak. One couple is raising their 6 year old boy as a girl since that is what he was suppose to be. Where do we turn for our answers?
As Christians, we must turn to scripture to have an understanding about what the Lord’s position is on these issues and then align ourselves with His. Furthermore, we also have a responsibility with our own children to protect them from cultural confusion and encourage a healthy and Biblical psychological development. All around us we are seeing a ‘complete capitulation to the gender and sexual revolutionaries’ of our time. It is critical that we as a church have an understanding and respond accordingly to the times we now live in.
In Genesis 1:27 we see that God is the one who gave us our gender and furthermore made us to reflect His image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This means that gender is not decided by the creature but by the creator who made them. Our genders come from the Lord and He calls them good. For us to reject or reverse what God calls good is to in fact reject God and His good plan over our lives. We indeed commit idolatry every time we stray away and contradict that which the Lord has willed for us – when we exalt our wishes over His. Therefore, we must reject the transgender movement position and uphold it as sinful in the face of God who made us distinct. God decides our gender not us.
At the same time we must also affirm that we live in a fallen and broken world. As Focus on the Family acknowledges, “There is room for confusion about sexual identity in certain individuals. We're also aware of the existence of certain rare medical conditions such as Turner Syndrome(X), Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY), Kallman Syndrome, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (comprising an extremely small portion of the population - about .018 percent).” To these individuals there is understandable confusion that faces them. But to the remaining 99.999% of our population we are born distinctly male or female.
Transgenderism is indeed a gender identity disorder. We must teach our children that some people simply dislike the way God has made them. In their frustration they wish to be the opposite sex. But since God is the one who decides this, no one can truly change their sex. We are not ‘self-defining gods’ capable of labeling our own identity – that is God’s position alone. We also must teach them that God can heal those who are hurt and discontent.
Furthermore, we believe that all people are image bearers of God. This not only includes you and me, but it also includes the transgender person as well. We must strive to be patient and sympathetic with their psychological plight. We must also condemn any acts of abuse or bullying committed against them. Most of all we must believe that they can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, finding renewal in His forgiveness. This is why our Southern Baptist resolution was upheld in 2014 that says we "affirm God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception. (…) We regard our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against them. (…) We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel."
I conclude this article in hopes of challenging us how we treat those with the disorder of transgenderism. Southern Baptist Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said: “We should never mock or belittle those suffering gender identity disorders. These are our neighbors to be respected and served, not freaks to be despised.” I totally agree.
We must uphold God’s created design and choice for the sexes as male female and at the same time be compassionate towards those caught up in gender confusion.
To God Alone Be The Glory,
True Love Serves
February is the month of love. Red hearts scatter the grocery stores like a 2 year old met a bag of flour. Roses overcrowd the entrances like people waiting for Black Friday. Not to mention there's enough chocolate to fatally overdose a herd of black bears. It's literally impossible for a man to tell his spouse he 'accidently' forgot about her on valentines day. Yep love, that's what our culture focuses on this month, well that and black history but this article is not talking about that, we're focusing on the topic of love.
If you were to google the word love, right at this very moment the first thing you would see is a definition of love that reads 1.) an intense feeling of deep affection. Or as a verb 2.) feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone). But what if I told you love is more than a box of chocolates, roses, and a $50 dollar meal. We as a culture really know how to cheapen what God has called us to do. The Bible does not refer to love as a romantic feeling nor does it even teach the object of our affections is meant only for those we like. If anything love is an action whereby we care for people other than ourselves.
1 John 3:16-18 (NIV) teaches, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Men, when the Bible says to lay down your lives for your wife as Christ did the church (Eph. 5:25) its more than spending one night a year with your bride reminiscing or manufacturing feelings. No love is action. Love, gentleman, is you handing her the remote while you go and do the dishes. Love is you folding the laundry while she soaks her feet in a basin. Love is you finally hanging the picture on the wall that she's resorted to nagging now for over weeks. You want to show her love, serve her. Don't cheapen it by throwing money at her. Yes of course you should do that but only so long as this is not your only pathetic attempt of love. She needs to be nurtured and that's done by regular servant leadership.
With Grace & Love,
P.S. Don't you dare say Pastor Ryan said to skip valentines, the chocolates, and the love letter in place of service. Rather what I mean to say is do that and much more for her. Lay your life down for her. Count yourself as nothing. Sacrifice your needs for hers and then you will be headed in the right direction of Biblical love.
A New Day Has Come!
I pray the holiday season was refreshing for each of you. As we begin a New Year most of us will take time to reflect and look forward to what God has in store for us. This helps us realign and refresh God's purposes for our lives. I like to ask myself, "How am I going to do things differently than last year so as to fulfill what God has called me to do this year?"
Answering this question is going to be different for each of us. For some it might mean diet and exercise for good health, others investing in a 401k plan, some seeking family counseling, others applying for a new job, and for the few God wants you to be radically courageous with a new ministry. I'm not certain what God's plan is for your life but whatever it may be, I assure you He has one just for you. The word of God in Hebrews 13:20-21 says, "Now may the God of peace (...) equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight."
God's desire is to see His saints equipped with everything good, fulfilling His will. This means God has a plan for your life and He wants you fulfilling it. We must diligently pray, search the scriptures, and share with Godly friends in-order to discover what that will is.
As we launch into 2017 have you asked what the Lord's will is for your life? Have you asked questions like, "God what areas of my life do you want me to change? God how would you use me in 2017 with family, friends, and even strangers? God what new habits do you want me to develop and which old ones do you want me to break?" I believe by faith God will shatter the chains of habitual sin, mend broken families, and restore the spiritually wayward. We must ask how does God want to use us by faith in 2017.
A long time ago I heard a preacher on the radio say he ends his morning prayer with, "God, whatever you are up to today, I want to be part of it. Please use me." I really like that prayer and for some 10 plus years I've been daily praying it.
May the New Year, 2017, bring about blessings for our families and our church. God has new plans for us on the horizon. A new day has come in the life of our church. God, may you bless us with wisdom and the discipline to seize the day. May you bless the new pastor, Casey Joyce, his family and his ministry that we are receiving this January. God, we desperately want to know what your will is. We ask you to show us your will, we want to be part of it in 2017. Give us the courage and fortitude to do what you are asking of us. In the name of your only begotten son we pray - in Jesus name, Amen.
To God Alone Be The Glory,
Making a List and Checking it... twice?
I recently read an article posted by AOL Finance that said holidays are a time of giving, receiving, and mostly overspending. According to America Research Group, US shoppers will spend an average of $929 this season. In addition, new data has been reported by T. Rowe Price confirming that parents are spending an average of $422 per child. My first reaction was wow, that’s a tremendous amount of money! I know very few people who could spend that and stay financially comfortable. That’s when it dawned on me just how many go into debt this time of year.
It’s one thing to budget Christmas money throughout the year but it’s a whole other situation when we go into debt. God wants us to enjoy Christmas, he doesn’t want us regretting it. In light of the Holiday Shopping Season I thought I would offer up some Biblical wisdom as a means of encouragement.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)
1.) Avoid compulsive buying. Compulsive buying is characterized by excessive shopping and buying behavior that leads to distress and eventual financial catastrophe. We all must remember that our possessions do not define us – Christ does. Unfortunately, all of the advertisements are screaming the opposite this time of year. They are designed to make you feel incomplete without their product. Bill and Sandra bought their child a PlayStation 4 Pro so you ought to get your Sammy an Xbox One S. Only the great parents do that. The ads want you to feel like your lacking so you’ll make emotional purchases. Furthermore, stores design their floor layout so that you see the hot items and compulsively buy them. Before you wheel your cart up to the cash register I recommend you pray before buying. God has a way of reminding us of what we truly need. I also think your spouse should be informed about the check book, accountability really helps. Don’t buy the cultural lie, all this stuff will never make you complete, only Christ can do that.
2.) Stick to your budget. If you set a limit before you began the holiday shopping season then stick to it. Galatians 6:7 (ESV) says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Consider this biblical principal in regards to your money. If you sew to things that you don’t have, then months following you will reap the consequences of financial debt. If, however, you keep to your budget, then you will reap the reward of financial peace. My advice is to set a limit. Limit the total amount you plan to spend as well as how much you will spend on each person.
3.) Give to the Lord by giving to those in need. The beautiful thing here is often times you can do both at the same time. Scripture teaches when you give to someone in need you are in fact giving to God. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 (ESV), “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Ryan’s Translation: giving to those in need is literally giving to Christ. Teach your children and train yourself to give to others in need. You can do this in several ways. Consider supporting Christian agencies like Samaritan’s Purse, Food For The Hungry, or the IMB through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Sign your family up to serve for the local food pantry or soup kitchen. Help a stranger when you see them handing food back to the store clerk. Adopt a family for Christmas and have your children dedicate a portion of their allowance or old toys to other children. A bonus would be sharing your testimony as you serve them, I call that evangelistic giving. All these things count in my book as giving not just to man but to God as well.
4.) Joyfully Give to the Local Church. It’s easy this time of year to neglect giving to our local church families. When all the bills come rolling in, Jake wants his bluetooth hoverboard, and you need gas money to get half away across the nation God often takes a back seat. When the money isn’t there it simply is not there. This is why before you run out of cash; I recommend first setting aside a portion of your budget to God and His local church. Jesus loves the church, it’s his bride. He wants her financially taken care of. The church is where discipleship, evangelism, and fellowship happen – the very things Jesus loves. Churches are literally our local missionary hub to our communities. Without financial support these agencies cannot function as God calls them. As Dr. Allen President at Midwestern Seminary has often said, “We all know the Bible says that where there is no vision the people perish. It’s also true that where there is no money the vision perishes.” For the local church to pursue its God given vision she needs your financial support. This is why God challenged the Hebrews in Malachi 3:8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” God expects us to joyfully contribute to our local churches, and when we do we are indeed giving to Him. To this day I have never once regretted giving to the local church. If you do it, I bet you won’t either.
Let’s make Christ the center of Christmas. Let’s surrender it all, including the checkbook. Rather than remorse over Christmas next month, let’s be wise this month. God wants us to enjoy Christmas; he doesn’t want us regretting it.
Christians & American Politics
"Pastor, where do you stand on these key issues? Pastor, what should we as a church do about this? Pastor, what do you think about this presidential candidate? Pastor how are you going to vote?”
We all have different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Not to mention that in this election year I’ve never seen more people fueled by anger, fear, and angst than in any other election. I know that in our church there is a truck load of differing opinions. This year people are very passionate about their opinions.
In an environment like this I find it far too easy to anger someone else who doesn’t share a similar viewpoint. Unfortunately, it feels like in recent years I’m getting better at that than I’d like too. Just keep reading and at some point I’m sure to upset you as well. I think of the American Funk band War in their hit song, “Why can’t we be friends?” But my God given task is to not be a people pleaser or a politician. As a Christian, my soul purpose is to follow Christ’s teachings and to be a mouth piece of God to a fallen world marred by sin.
In scripture God does not call us to a political party, we are called to Christ. The funny thing is, when I think of all the political issues floating around out there in America, it’s getting increasingly harder to select a candidate who stands in alignment with all my Christian beliefs
Consider for just a moment what the Bible would have us stand for concerning key issues in our country. God would have us select leaders first by their character (see 1 Timothy 3). A good leader has integrity and consistently aligns their life with the teachings of scripture. Lies, deceit, and infidelity have no place in a godly leader’s lifestyle. Jesus also teaches that we should tend to the poor and be concerned for their well-being (Matthews 25:35). The Bible also instructs we should be kind to the foreigner (see Deuteronmy 10:19, Ruth 2:10). God would also have us be good stewards of the Earth since Adam and Eve’s original mandate was to tend to the garden and have dominion (Genesis 2:15). There is even scriptural teachings on the ethical treatment of animals, though man is the only created being in the image of God (Proverbs 12:10).
Caring for people further leads us to a theology that stands for the sanctity of human life. We as Christians should speak on behalf of the unborn, elderly, and those entrapped by slavery and trafficking. I would even argue how men treat women and vice versa has to do with human dignity. If we are image bearers of God then we must pay careful attention to how our political leaders value human life (Genesis 1:27, Jeremiah 1:5). The Lord would also have us defend the sanctity of marriage as between one man and woman (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6). In addition, we are called to be good stewards of our finances. Greed can lead into ungodly amounts of debt, debt that God says we must be committed to repaying (Romans 13:8, Psalm 37:21). Furthermore, racism is an evil ideology that has no place in a Christian worldview. God would have us racially reconciled through the power of the gospel (Galatians 2:11-14).
The truth is no one political party stands up for everything that I find in the Bible. It can be quite frustrating for me at times. Our calling is first to Christ before it is to a political party. The problem with today’s Christians is that they get behind one candidate and then defend them religiously before they have consulted God in His word. I believe the Lord wants us to first start with Him in scripture. It is after having a complete Biblical worldview we can then evaluate our leaders according to the Bible rather than our preferences.
This election year we are not going to have a candidate who upholds all of the principles of scripture – I’m not sure we ever have. But what must happen following the election is that we Christian’s continue to be a mouth piece on behalf of God. Regardless of who is leader, we must stand on behalf of the Lord and call both our nation and its leaders to accountability. I often think of how John the Baptist did something similar when he called King Herod to repentance for marrying his brother’s wife. As we move forward, it must not come from a heart motivated by hate but one by love. May we pray for our leaders, submit to them, and still pay our taxes.
Church In A Van?
“I don’t need church, most of my church happens in my van outside. God has heard me worship and shed plenty of tears in my vehicle. That van out there is my church. Church is full of hypocrites and I don’t need that.”
That comment happened while I was in the office last week and it came from a person who was dropping off packages to the church. I only had so much time I could spend chatting with the lady, she was on the job, but it really got me to thinking. Why do we need church? Furthermore, given all the hurt we can inflict on each other, what’s the point of attending? Here’s a lady saying she doesn’t need church and people are hypocrites anyways. God is for me and that’s enough. But is it really enough?
When it comes to church life worship before God is supposed to be both vertical and horizontal. Meaning that it goes up to God and out amongst the people. When we gather we make up a body, a unit before God, a collected temple (see Ephesians 2:19-20). But what do we do when the horizontal gets… well… ugly?
The truth of the matter is we are all sinners. Disagree? Then read Romans 3:23. We can’t forget that this includes not just my neighbor, but it includes me too. Now adding to this fact, we all also have our own passions, desires, and ideas. In my experience, usually the disagreements in church are not over doctrine. Most of us in church are not arguing over the 5 points of Calvinism, eschatology, or ecclesiology. We are all on board with Christ being born from a virgin, his miraculous healings, and even his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the tomb. So what is it then? What might cause our package carrier friend to despise church so much?
Well first it might be the sin issue, ours or even hers. Maybe it was a deacon one time, a Sunday School teacher, or even a pastor who did something to destroy her trust. Or on the flipside maybe she is walking a life contrary to God and coming to church stirs too much conviction. I can’t say I know for sure. But sense her reasoning was church people, and her truck was more appealing, it got me wondering. What about times when it is not necessarily sin?
When most of us disagree in church life, it seems to be over methodology not theology. For example, when we church goers fight over using our funds to hire a youth pastor versus constructing a new facility. Or when we debate the merits of a choir versus a guitar and drum set. Or even the pros and cons between publishing newsletters via the post office or electronically on the new church website – which by the way someone may or may not have wanted. The disagreement is over priorities. It’s arguing over methods. Both parties actually want to worship the Lord, they are just disagreeing as to how to go about it.
These preferences are not in and of themselves sin issues, they can breed sin if left unchecked, but they’re not sin. It’s when a church seeks to devour themselves and unity is destroyed that they turn sinful. It’s when people who were once able to hold a friendly debate turn sour and fight – accusations, slander, and gossip breaks out in the body. Then we have a sin issue that first started with mere methodology and a difference of preferences.
When communication breaks down Christ gets lost. That’s the real issue. Going to church is not about our methods and preferences, it’s about us finding God. It’s about going to God in worship and finding him in our Sunday School fellowships, corporate church gatherings, and even in our neighbor. I don’t know about you, but when I hear a farmer share about the day he lost it all and turned to God in surrender, that encourages me and shows me how I too can trust God. When I hear how a nurse overcame her fear to share Christ with a colleague that gives me confidence to try too. When I see a mourning mother confide in her small group, that tells me God will listen and comfort me too. I find God in people and the relationships we share. And that my friend is what church is all about.
Going to church is not about us finding our own wants, preferences, and desires, it’s about us all finding God together. Sure we might disagree on how to go about it, but let’s all agree on this one thing. Let’s seek God and find him with each other. It’ll make it awfully hard for a person to say they hate church when they see us love each other in spite of our preferences. When love not only overcomes but it defines our very being as a church family (John 13:34-35).
What Many Christians Lack
If anyone has ever spent some time getting to know me, then they know I love to read. Yep, I’m a bookworm at heart, but I was not born this way I became this way. I love to talk about, devour, and apply the sound advice I glean from them in my life. I know many people who say, “You can’t learn life in a book you have to do it yourself,” but I often think these people are making excuses not to read. Contained in books are a men and women’s life lessons. Their trials and struggles can literally mature a person decades ahead of themselves just by giving a listening ear. Yes, if I had it my way I would be a lifelong student.
One of my favorite genres’ of reading are the practical ‘how to’ books. I suppose that’s why I love the Bible so much, not to mention that Jesus has done much of the ‘how tos’ for me – at least the big stuff. But I remember 5 years ago setting in a preaching class with a pastor who I had highly respected. After class I asked him if there were any books he would recommend I read before becoming a Pastor. His answer surprised me. “Boundaries. Get the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Too many leaders, Christians, and parents struggle with defining God given boundaries.”
Many sincere and even dedicated Christians struggle with knowing their own limits and when to establish boundaries. Setting limits can seem unloving and even cause guilty feelings to surface in the life of a believer. Boundaries, however, determine how we let other people physically touch, mentally share our own thoughts and opinions, and even emotionally harm or manipulate us. Due to many Christians feeling guilty about establishing boundaries, they suffer much heartbreak and lack of control over their own lives.
Even God has limits and boundaries. Many Old Testament passages speak to how God establishes and desires justice in Israel. Defending the innocent and speaking on behalf of the destitute are commanded in Proverbs 31:8, these are social boundaries. From the flood of the Earth, the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah mankind was crossing the Lord’s limits and kindling His righteous anger – these consequences for sin are what follow. God even draws clear boundary lines in regards to His own worship in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 6:6-7 we see a man named Uzzah touch the Ark of the covenant, the most holy of holies, and God immediately strikes him dead.
Such boundaries carry over into the New Testament. In Acts 5 a couple named Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit about the selling of property. They are then struck dead for this offense against God. In 1 Corinthians 11 we see that church people are falling sick, even dying for how they are distributing the Lord’s Supper. Even at the Judgment seat of God in Matthew 25 we see that God will separate the sheep from the goats. Clearly the scriptures are teaching us that God is a God of boundaries.
If God is a God of boundaries then Christians must be a people who uphold those boundaries and live by His righteous standards. Yet too often, Christians struggle with establishing boundaries within their own life – family, friends, spouse, children, work, themselves, and with God. We over commit ourselves and then blame others for the stress when the fault is truly our own. We must learn to take ownership of our choices, no matter how we feel.
From the parent whose 25 year old son flunked out of college and now plays video games in the basement to the overworked employee caught in bondage to their job, God wants us to establish boundary lines. People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the controlling demands, pressures, and even needs of others. The trick is knowing what you are and what you are not responsible for.
Reading the book Boundaries was some of the best advice my professor gave me. Now I hope to pass that along. Starting next Sunday, September 11th 2016 we will begin a 9 week discipleship study on Boundaries. I hope you might consider joining us.
For His Glory,
In light of our country and recent events, the term ‘racial reconciliation’ has become a buzz word. In the past few months I have met people, whether churchgoing or not, on opposing sides. One group desires to do something about it and the other says there’s no need for it. Debate has broken out on a national level between catch phrases like “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter”. I have also been increasingly confronted by the concept of ‘white privilege’. So what are we as Christians to make of all this? Is reconciliation still necessary? Is there a privilege between races in America? Furthermore, how should we respond according to the gospel and the teachings of Christ?
The word ‘reconciliation’ in Greek is Katallasso which means “to effect a change.” In particular, it is used in the New Testament to describe the restoring of two groups who have been at odds with one another. Reconciliation is not for the faint of heart, but when both groups are willing it becomes a beautiful testimony to the power of God. Not only is reconciliation encouraged in the Bible, but it is literally the gospel message. Romans 5:10 reads, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” The gospel is Jesus reconciling us as enemies of God, back to a saving relationship with the Lord. Translation, Jesus is a reconciler.
You probably learned this in elementary school but just to remind you, the word ‘race’ or rather the human race is defined as a group of people with certain common inherited features that distinguish them from other groups of people, i.e. black vs. white skin. So if we put these two words together the term ‘racial reconciliation’ is referring to the need for various races (whether White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) who are at odds with one another to be restored in a healthy relationship with each other.
Before we go any further, the Bible does contain racial reconciliation. Look no further than the savior Jesus Christ, a Jewish messiah, and his gospel message to the world. Jesus suffered the cross in order to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God. Do we understand this? Yes, God’s son a Middle Eastern Jew, loved all other races so much that he died for them. It reminds me of the Sunday School song lyrics, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” There is no difference in the sight of God (Rom. 10:12). In heaven there will be tongues from every tribe and nation that will equally worship the Lord (Rev. 5:9). Racial reconciliation is both Biblical and modeled by our savior.
I know that speaking as a white pastor, I am unable to fully understand what it’s like to live as a black African American in our society. The same can be said of me regarding all the other races in America including Hispanic, Asian, and the rest. The only racial identity I’ve ever experienced is that of being a white American. So when I heard of concepts like ‘white privilege’ these terms at first seemed foreign and almost offensive, until I began to listen and understand.
Let us then consider current events in our media. For example the bumper sticker war between ‘Black Lives Matter’ versus ‘All Lives Matter’. When the first slogan cried throughout our nation it was to draw awareness to the racial inequality that our African American brothers and sisters are experiencing. The latter one then arose in rebuttal emphasizing that all lives matter, that it’s unfair to make one group more special than the other. I’m not writing to clarify which group is right or wrong, but I am writing that we consider bringing about reconciliation, which means we listen to the point of understanding our grievances.
Reconciliation begins with us first acknowledging that we live in a fallen and broken world marred by sin. Sin is everywhere and in all of us. It even affects our society to the brink of alienation of others based upon their inherited features, features that they have no control over. Not only does skin color come to mind, so does one’s age and even physical handicaps. This happens around the world and in America. Preference is given to one group at times over that of others.
Take for example the well-known field experiment on labor market discrimination known as The Jamal and Lakisha study. In this study researchers sent identical resumes to various companies all throughout the United States. Nothing was changed accept the names on the resumes. One batch had common ‘black’ names like Jamal and Lakisha while the other batch had common ‘white’ names like Greg and Emily. The study revealed that one’s chances for an interview by the hiring manager were significantly increased for the ‘white’ names over that of the ‘black’ names. This study was one of many done to demonstrate the existence of white privilege.
When I heard this study it caused me to grieve. There is no difference between us except the color of my skin. I had never stopped to consider how that alone may have been advantageous in the job market. I read an article by a Christian woman named Rachel Evans pleading for racial reconciliation, who is ethnically both black and white. As a child she said she was taught from both races. She writes, “I learned from blacks, at a very early age, that whites were manipulative, selfish, always out for "their damn selves" and not to be trusted. I learned from whites, at a very early age, that blacks were violent, stupid, unacceptable human beings who were less important than themselves and most of all, not safe."
When I heard this I began to understand that tensions like what happened with the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson did not simply come from nowhere. I’m not writing to indict or determine that case. My intention is to bring about understanding so we can all seek racial reconciliation. What may have made no sense to some has been simmering for a long time. America is reaching a boiling point, a crisis.
Ms. Evans gave some sound advice about displacement in her article. Perhaps we should all consider going somewhere where we’re the only member of our race (in my case white) for miles around. Displace yourself by attending their churches (whether all black, Hispanic, Asian, or White). Go grocery shopping in their neighborhood. Displacement allows us to understand and walk in the shoes of others.
How will we Christians seek the equity that God loves? How does God want to use our white, black, Asian and/or Hispanic identity to reconcile people to each other and to God? Our differences are not meant to divide us, what makes us unique indeed strengthens the church (1 Cor. 12). Remember, we are called in scripture to be a people of love and unity.
Just To Be Clear
Last month Julie and I traveled to St. Louis in order to attend the National Convention. Don’t worry I’m not going to fill you in on all the details; you can grab a ‘Pathway’ Newspaper for that. But what I want to share is what happened to us. You see while there Julie decided to have her haircut at a beauty salon. We have both enjoyed forging a friendship with a man we will call ‘Nick’ and intentionally go to him when we are in town. He has cut my wife’s hair since before we were married and he even styled most of our bridal party including bridesmaids, groomsmen, and parents. Something you should know about Nick is that he lives an openly homosexual lifestyle.
Knowing this we still choose to have him cut Julie’s hair. Not only is he a nice guy but he is hands down the best hairstylist that has ever touched my wife’s hair. Their simply is not a better beautician than Nick and I let him know it. You should also know that we give him a very generous tip when he is finished. So why tell you this story? Because it’s about what happened while we were there.
During Julie’s hairstyling Nick asked my wife a few questions. He began, “So your husband is a pastor isn’t he?” To which Julie affirmed and then he inquired, “Well what kind of church does he pastor?” Julie told him we were Southern Baptist and he rebutted, “Oh no! That’s the really bad one who hates us isn’t it? What do you think of all those people, 49 I think, who died in Orlando? Another Baptist pastor is going around saying he wished all homosexuals would die that way.”
My awesome wife responded in the best way she could – with outrage towards that Baptist pastor, whose name by the way is Roger Jimeneze. Roger’s direct quote in his sermon was actually, “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.” Nothing frustrates me more than a pastor who encourages hatred and misrepresents the rest of us from the pulpit. Julie in that conversation made sure Nick understood that his views do not represent all of us Baptists. She also clarified that though we both disagreed with his lifestyle we still love him and his partner.
The simple truth is I don’t care if your black or white, young or old, gay or transgender, atheist or Muslim, even falsely claiming to speak for God when you don’t, I am still going to love you. And when another Baptist pastor or some other Christian responds with hatred I will not align myself with their position. God calls us to love people and yes a homosexual person qualifies, in case you were just wondering. Loving God and loving people, these are the 2 greatest commandments according to Christ.
Like Nick I have questions too. Where is the Biblical love behind murdering 49 people and injuring many others? Where is the love behind saying you wished he would have killed more? Last I checked I thought the scriptures taught us to lay down our lives not take the lives of others.
So in light of all these rapid cultural changes on both same sex marriage and transgender issues what are we supposed to do? The answer is to love them so much you tell the truth about God. We can befriend people, reject their lifestyle, and still love them. The New Testament church had these sorts of people around attending church service. Yes I just said that, attending church. How do I know this? Well, look at what Paul says:
1Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV), “9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral or idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Did you catch what all was in that list (sexually immoral, homosexuality)? Did you also catch where Paul tells the church, “And such were some of you.” How do you think most conservative Bible believing churches would respond if a transgender or homosexual person attended one Sunday morning? Would it be rejection because it seems people like this were attending or at the very least being reached at Corinth. I hope our churches would choose to love and not shy away from teaching the scriptures. If you still cannot get past loving the other person in spite of their lifestyle then let Jesus motivate you here. Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Remember we all sin, we all have our different temptations, and we all need Jesus.