Sunday, January 04, 2015

A Confession and an Apology

I suppose there is always a risk when a pastor airs his own dirty laundry for all to see, but hopefully there are lessons for both this pastor as well as for the congregation of which he is the under-shepherd. 

Everything began earlier in the week. All week I had been wrestling with my message on irresistible grace and kept sensing that there was something else I needed to address.  With this coming Sunday was our first communion service of the month, as well as the first for the year and so I began exploring the Biblical texts concerning this blessed ordinance of the church.  By Friday I had to make a decision on which direction to go and chose the message on the Lord’s Supper.  Two of the key themes that emerged for me (along with the more typical understandings of the Lord’s Supper) were that of our common UNITY in Christ along with the expectation of FELLOWSHIP that both Jesus and Paul express in the Biblical texts. 

While I worked on the message, my heart was heavy with the significance and importance for the body of Christ to gather and participate (rightly prepared) to partake of Communion.  There was a restlessness in my spirit; a conflict; a battle that seemed to be raging.  Little things were discouraging me, but I pressed on. 

I went to bed on Saturday night a bit later than usual for me; it was past 11 pm.  I did fall asleep fairly quickly.  Then I WOKE up.  I don’t mean just a little bit awake.  I WOKE up at 3 am in full gear; mind racing; thinking through things.  I spent 30 minutes praying about all that was on my heart for the service; praying for our people and by 3:30 am, I had to get up. 

So I crept through the quiet house, turned up the heat (it was about 62 degrees in the house); made myself a cup of coffee; turned on my computer and prepared myself for some study.  Reviewing the notes of my sermon, I was praying I would be clear; that God’s people would be encouraged and inspired by the teaching to have a high view and regard for the Lord’s Supper that we would partake of.  Before I knew it, it was 5:30 am and I began my “normal” ritual of getting ready for church.  By 7:30 am I was ready to go and started up my truck for it was way cold outside (it was 34 degrees when I got up at 3:30 am and 18 degrees at 7:30 am).

Having just said good bye to my wife to head to the church, I got a phone call from our elder who faithfully loads up the trailer at the office to bring it to the school where we meet (along with the help of our resident police officer).  Our elder informed me that the key had broken off in the pad lock on the trailer and was looking for options.  We discussed a few, one of which included me driving over with my grinder in case the key would not work.  I quickly gathered everything I needed and sped away in the truck toward the office thinking how frustrating this circumstance was for our elder along with me.  About half way to the office, I got another phone call; they got the key to work and would be loading up and heading toward the school.  I turned around and while heading toward the school was thanking the Lord for the key working and hoping that there would be no more distractions or discouragements.

They whole key and lock incident put us about 20 minutes behind an already tight schedule.  We set everything up as usual.  Part of my routine is to set up the keyboard and run through the music, warming up my fingers.  Today’s set also had me playing guitar.  As I tuned up my guitar, I realized I had not played in about a month and my fingers and hands were not cooperating.  So then, back to the keyboard to loosen up the fingers. 

We began worship practice with prayer and then began to work through the music.  As we worked through the second song (with me now on keyboard), the circumstance of the sound reared its ugly head.  It seemed that no one was hearing things well, right; it being too loud, not loud enough; not hearing this; hearing too much of that.  I could feel myself getting frustrated and proceeded to verbalize it.  Now we have always struggled with the sound and I have come to the conclusion that I too often let this circumstance get the best or me, but today I was especially “frustrated.”  And the thing is, if one or more persons are frustrated, distracted, or discouraged on the worship team, well, it has a negative effect on the rest of the group.  This morning I caused the group to be frustrated right along with me (misery loves company).  It made for an even more difficult morning and all of this just before I was to preach on our common UNITY and FELLOWSHIP around the Lord’s Supper.

Well, consistent with how we tend to deal with these things (the show must go on!) – the worship team got up there and we lead the congregation in worship.  Things went much better “live” than in practice.  Then I got up and preached on the Lord’s Supper, convicted the whole time how I had frustrated the group; realizing that I should have expected a hard morning for I was delivering a hard message; calling the congregation to be truly devoted to the practice of UNITY and FELLOWSHIP; something most wonderfully expressed in the Lord’s Supper.  Of course the enemy would do what he could to bring to me and others discouragement and frustrations.  I don’t know if the enemy woke me up at 3 am or if it was the Lord.  I don’t know if all that went “wrong” this morning was just my flesh, or a combination of my flesh, the flesh of others and the wiles of the devil.  What I do know is that neither a bad situation or Satan are to dictate to me my joy, my commitment, my patience and my RESPONSIBILITY to be right  with God and right with God’s people.  We cannot give the devil an opportunity to sow the seeds of disunity, distrust, discontent, or discouragement.  If we do, then everyone suffers all the more.  Whether the enemy woke me up or just used the circumstance of my tired flesh to egg me on, it does not matter. We are called to resist the devil and to deny the flesh and that, my friends, is a hard thing to do.

Beloved, it was a hard morning.  Perhaps some of you sensed that.  Perhaps some of you did not.  I have already apologized to those on the worship and set up teams.  I apologize to the congregation as well.  Indeed we are all human and we will all fail one another at times (sometimes more often than we care to admit).  In the end, ALL of US have a responsibility to be patient with one another; to love one another; to seek the best for one another; to forgive one another; and --- AND to be right with one another.  We cannot afford for there to be anything standing in the way of our right relationship to both God and to one another.  And for this reason, I once again apologize for allowing a hard morning to cause frustration or discouragement to anyone. 

Please continue to pray for your pastor as I continue to pray for you!  I love you all with the incorruptible love of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Extent of God’s Love

The Extent of God’s Love
Unconditional Election and the Misnomer of “Free Will”

This past week I preached on the topic of God's Unconditional Election.  I know that topics such as this can really get the brain juices flowing (along with emotions as well).  My desire is not to be controversial, but biblical; not antagonizing but affirming of the truth of Scripture.

As the Scottish engineer and inventor, William Symington once noted, “Our object should not be to have scripture on our side but to be on the side of scripture; and however dear any sentiment may have become by being long entertained, so soon as it is seen to be contrary to the Bible, we must be prepared to abandon it without hesitation.”  

When it comes to the "reason" or "reasons" as to why God chose anyone, we must appeal to Scripture and thus the revelation of God's own heart rather than to our our forms of human logic; logic that has been adversely affected by the Fall.  As a summary follow up to this past week's message, I submit to you the words of S. Lewis Johnson, beloved pastor of Believers Chapel of Dallas through the 1960's to the 1990's.  

Be a Berean (Acts 17) and see whether these things be so. As S. Lewis Johnson wrote:

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy"  (Romans 9:14-16).

God is not responsible for humanity's predicament. Human beings, because of the disobedience in the garden of Eden, are responsible for their condition in sin, disobedience, and coming judgment. Further, it is important to remember that God does exercise mercy with absolute freedom. Therefore, it is not unjust for him to do so, for God is not unjust. In fact, whatever he does is right. God himself is the standard of right and wrong. Election and reprobation are both divine prerogatives.

Since his audience recognized the authority of Scripture, Paul turned to the Word of God for evidence of the truth of his message. He cites the words that God spoke to Moses in Exodus 33:19, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (cf. v. 15). Even though Israel had failed abysmally before Yahweh, he nevertheless acted in mercy toward them, and he acts in mercy sovereignly.

Thus, the apostle concludes, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (cf. v. 16). If ever a text indicated the unscriptural nature of "free will," this one does. "It is not of him that wills," the apostle says in the original Greek. The doctrine of free will—that it is in the power of a man to turn to God by himself—is contrary to the grace of God. Salvation becomes, then, the work of God and the work of man, and the purity of the grace of God is compromised. Salvation is only of the Lord.

Man is unable to come to God of and by himself. Jesus put it as strongly as anyone in Scripture: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). We are unable to make a decision of the will for God and salvation until God has first worked in our wills to make us willing. Salvation is first of his willing (cf. James 1:18), and only then, of our response of faith.

— S. Lewis Johnson, Discovering Romans: Spiritual Revival for the Soul, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 158.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Awake, O Christian - - - and Fellowship With the Saints!

AWAKE, O Christian, and rejoice in the God of glory and of salvation; who has called you to Himself; adopting you as His own child by the means of the death and resurrection of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; and, who as His child, has been granted the high privilege of fellowship among the company of the redeemed, who gather this day for the purpose of praising, exalting and worshiping our Redeemer.  

Let us aim to rejoice together with great joy; to grow in His grace and knowledge; and to be a light of hope to both the church and to lost. Let us not betray the delightful duty of our calling; the gathering of the saints to the glory of God through any apathy, complacency, neglect or tardiness.  As the psalmist declared, "This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Middle School Girls Forced to Ask Classmates for ‘Lesbian Kiss’ During Anti-Bullying Presentation

Imagine 13 and 14-year-old girls being instructed to ask one another for a lesbian kiss in a class exercise.  The girls had no choice. The parents were NOT informed. But hey, if it falls under “anti-bullying,” than who are you to question it, right?

Heather Clark over atreports this alarming development:

Red Hook, New York – A recent anti-bullying presentation at a middle school in New York that focused on homosexuality and gender identity has angered parents after their daughters have come home to tell them they were forced to ask another girl for a kiss.
According to reports, the session occurred last week at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, New York, near Poughkeepsie. A group of students from Bard College led two workshops for the youth, separated by gender.

During the workshop for girls, the 13 and 14-year-olds were told to ask one another for a lesbian kiss. They were also taught words such as “pansexual” and “genderqueer.”

Parent Mandy Coon told reporters that her daughter was very uncomfortable with the exercise.

“She told me, ‘Mom, we all get teased and picked on enough; now I’m going to be called a lesbian because I had to ask another girl if I could kiss her,’” she lamented.

Coon stated that she was especially irate over the matter because parents were given no warning about the presentations, nor an opportunity to opt out. She is also dismayed that college students were granted the right to come into the classroom and encourage her daughter to be sexually active.

“I am furious,” she declared. “I am her parent. Where does anyone get the right to tell her that it’s okay for her to have sex?”

“The school is overstepping its bounds in not notifying parents first and giving us the choice,” another parent remarked. “I thought it was very inappropriate. That kind of instruction is best left up to the parents.”

According to reports, during the workshop for the adolescent boys, the students were counseled to keep a condom in their pocket at all times, and were taught how to identify a woman who is a “slut.”

“I was absolutely furious – really furious,” an anonymous parent told reporter Todd Starnes. “These are just kids. I’m dumbfounded that they found this class was appropriate.”

However, both the school principal and the district superintendent are defending the workshops, and are advising that they will schedule more. Superintendent Paul Finch told the Poughkeepsie Journal that the presentation was “focused on improving culture, relationships, communication and self-perceptions.”

“[We] may require more notification to parents” in the future, he said, contending that the sessions are required under the state Dignity for All Students Act, which prohibits harassment and bullying in the classroom.

He advised that Principal Katie Zahedi and guidance counselors at the school worked with the Bard students to plan the workshops. Zahedi asserts that the sessions were rather about saying no to unwanted advances as opposed to encouraging homosexual acts.

“In planning the discussion, we made it clear that absolutely no discussion of any sexual acts is appropriate to middle school, and they used the examples of a kiss,” she wrote in an online forum for parents. “It was a separate activity for boys and girls and ultimately about respect and safety.”

Mark Primoff, a spokesman for Bard College said that students had volunteered to give the presentation after Zehedi invited the institution of higher learning to participate in the workshops.

However, parents remain livid over the matter. A public meeting was held this week for residents to express their concerns.

It is not known whether girls actually had to kiss one another, or if the exercise stopped at the request.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Slumbering Noble Heart

As our church prepares to embark and engage in an Awana ministry geared to teaching children to know, love and serve Christ, I wanted to remind those who will be on the front lines of this outreach that they are participating in the sovereign plan of God to raise up those who will be the next generation of faith-defenders.  What an awesome privilege and responsibility.  

I love the following quote by Charles Spurgeon who wrote:
You may speak but a word to a child, and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian Church in years to come.”
p.s. Awana training is this Saturday, August 24, 9 am to 4 pm at the 2300 S. 13th Street building (lunch to be provided).  Our Awana program begins on Sunday Evening, September 8, 6 pm.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Schemes of Satan

As our congregation has been working through the book of Acts and the life of the early church, I am amazed at just how much opposition and struggle the church faced.  Whether it was outside persecution from either Jewish or Gentile leaders; or internal strife due to pride, ego, or unrealistic expectations, our enemy, the Devil, used anything and everything to distract, discourage, and derail the church from her mission.  Praise God for the work (the "acts") of the Holy Spirit to keep the church motivated, encouraged, steadfast and growing.

Some 2,000 years later, nothing has changed.  Our enemy, the Devil, is still on the prowl, still using inward and outward pressures to distract, discourage, and derail the church from her mission.  As the pastor of a church that has just stepped out in faith to be more effective in reaching our community for Christ, I can tell you that both the church and I have been met with an increase in such schemes designed to knock the proverbial "winds out of our sails."  

Scripture reminds us, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7); and "8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith...(1 Peter 5:8-9a). 

The church is called to "resist" - that is "to stand our ground"; not to give an inch to the schemes, tactics or wiles of the devil (see Ephesians 6:10ff).  The implication is that the devil is constantly at work trying to get us to "give an inch" (or two, or three) so that we might give in or give up.

I am asking for our congregation to be in fervent prayer for our church, our mission and our new venue.  I am calling on the congregation to be aware of the schemes of the devil; not just corporately, but individually, schemes designed to distract, discourage and derail us.  Not one of us is exempt and so we all must prove to be vigilant in this matter.  Be careful of entertaining unbecoming or diminishing thoughts about one another but learn to love one another as Christ has loved us.  Let us practice patience, forbearance, forgiveness and compassion for one another.  Let us beware of anger that gives our enemy a foothold among us (Ephesians 4:26-27).  Let us practice the exhortation of Ephesians 4:31-5:2 which says,

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Be Imitators of God 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

This past week in my theology class I was working through the tactics of Satan against the church.  I close this entry with some statements given regarding the goals of Satan in diminishing the church.  These four goals of our enemy were articulated by Richard Mayhue, in his book Unmasking Satan.  May we recognize these schemes and resist them to the glory of God and to the growth of God's Church.

The Schemes of Satan
Four goals of the Adversary

1.       Distort or Deny the truth of God’s Word
2.       Discredit the testimony of God’s people
3.       Destroy the believer’s enthusiasm for God’s Word
4.       Dilute the effectiveness of God’s Church