Teenage Transgender Surgery Is None Of Parents’ Business?

insanityThe state of Oregon now allows youth, as young as 15 years of age, to receive sex change operations WITHOUT THE PARENT’S CONSENT. 

As if you did not need anymore proof that the citizens of the United States of America have lost their minds the state of Oregon gives you a cargo ship full of proof. Oregon has a statewide policy that allows 15 year old youths to receive puberty suppressing drugs and gender reassignment surgery without parental consent. These procedures are provided by taxpayer dollars. Below is a Fox News report on this ridiculous policy. I first read of Oregon’s policy on Denny Burk’s blog. I have included a link to his blog below as well. I want you to consider all of the dumb things we did when we were 15 years old and now Oregon has adopted this policy that will allow some children to become transgender without parental counsel or permission. Dr. Paul McHugh of John Hopkins, a medical facility that no longer does gender reassignment surgery, cites a study from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden which found that 10 years after sex reassignment surgeries the transgendered suffered increasing mental difficulties and were 20 x’s more likely to commit suicide than the nontransgendered population. (1)

Denny Burk’s blog can be read here.

(1) Paul McHugh, “Transgender Surgery Isn’t The Solution,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2014.

DOES OPPOSITION TO SAME SEX MARRIAGE = LEGALISM?

Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments

The issue of same-sex marriage has taken up a lot of my reading over the last few weeks. People on both sides of this debate have spent a great deal of time defending their position. On one hand, the pro same-sex marriage argue from a position of doing what feels right and equal rights. On the other hand, the opposition to same-sex marriage argues from thousands of years of recorded history that marriage has always been between male and female. They also cite Scripture demonstrating God is opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This is when the debate usually breaks down and name calling begins. Sometimes the Christian who is opposed to same-sex marriage based on Scripture is called “legalistic.” The point of this blog is to see if that is a fair accusation.

 

I. HOW LEGALISM ACCUSATIONS ARE USED TODAY.

The term legalism or legalist is thrown around today by people who have absolutely no idea what the term means. Some call others legalistic if they have deep convictions. For example, a person may have strong convictions that Sunday is to be a special day and for this reason may refuse to work on Sunday or eat out on Sunday. Many level accusations at such a person of being legalistic.

Some call others legalistic if they have convictions that are not explicitly stated in the Bible. For example, I personally have a conviction against going to the movies. I have not attended many movies in my adult life and the ones I did attend I am ashamed of. There is not a Bible verse prohibiting movies so many would call me legalistic. However, such an accusation is unfounded. I believe I understand the confusion of such accusations. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day based many of their practices on traditions not found in the Bible. They also were legalistic. However, one has nothing to do with the other. They were not legalistic because they had beliefs based on traditions and not the Bible.

Some accuse any who try to keep some of the Old Testament Laws as being legalistic. I know no believer who believes Christians should keep all Old Testament laws. However, many, myself included, believe there are certain Old Testament laws that are universal moral absolutes. We desire and strive to keep such laws. There are some who profess Christ that believe the Christian is bound by no law whatsoever. This is known as antinomianism. This is the belief that there are no moral laws that God expects Christians to obey. Antinomianism is made up of two Greek words “anti” meaning “against” and “nomos” meaning the law. This group is literally against the law. To the antinomianist anyone who tries to keep the Law is a legalist.

Most use the term legalism simply when someone is opposed to what they are for.

II. WHAT LEGALISM REALLY MEANS.

Legalism is a belief system where some try to merit salvation by keeping the Old Testament Law. Some trust in the Law for salvation. Paul could not have been more clear in Galatians 2:16, “know that a man is not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus  that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the Law, because by observing the Law no one will be justified.”

So in the environment we live today if you are opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage you may indeed be accused of being legalistic. Your reply should be, “No I am not legalistic. I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.” The claims of legalism are unfounded unless a person is attempting to keep the Law to merit God’s favor and their salvation.

An author I really respect and enjoy interacting with wrote a nice blog on legalism several years ago. I invite you to give it a read here – Gulf Coast Pastor.

WHAT HAPPEN TO REVIVALS?

1930's Baptist Tent Revival
1930’s Baptist Tent Revival

The Southern Baptist Convention has consistently declined over the last few decades. The Baptist Press reported a couple weeks ago we lost more than 200,000 members in 2014. This is the largest single yearly decline since 1881. What is even more troubling to me is the fact that we baptized 305,301 people last year. From 1998 -2002 we baptized right at or over 400,000 people each year. We, as Southern Baptist, topped the 300,000 baptisms a year threshold  in the 1940’s. This means Southern Baptist are now baptizing the same numbers of people we were in the late 1940’s. This is an issue because in the 40’s we had 6 million members and today we have 16 million members. Why is the Southern Baptist Convention baptizing fewer people? In this blog I want to share one thing I believe might contribute some  to the decline in Baptisms.

WE STOPPED HAVING REVIVALS. 

Now it’s true not every church has stopped having revivals but revivals have become almost taboo throughout the SBC. To drive this point home I am aware of two full-time evangelists in the entire Mississippi Baptist Convention, one music evangelist and one preaching evangelist. There are some part-time evangelists but there are not enough revivals being conducted in Mississippi to sustain many full-time evangelists. The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists website, shows 146 dues paying members. Let that sink in, a denomination with 16 million members and approximately 46,000 churches has 146 evangelists.

  1. Some of my best memories are from revival meetings. I look back on many great times and times of spiritual growth during revivals. My hometown church had a great preacher from Oklahoma by the name of Alan Day conduct a couple revival meetings. Dr. Day was an excellent preacher. God used him to instill in me a desire to study the Word. Through the years it was a joy to see Alan at various functions throughout the SBC and reminisce about his times in Purvis.  In my late teens, I attended a Sunday School revival conducted by Mr. Sunday School,  Bro. Leon Kilbreath. Each night the crowds grew and decisions were made. The last night I remember he taught on how a teacher of the Word had to be consecrated. He urged teachers to quit smoking, dipping and drinking. I enjoyed smokeless tobacco when I was a teenager. I remember during the altar call I walked down the isle and laid a brand new pack of chewing tobacco on the altar. I was committed to giving it up for I was preaching fairly regular at this time. I remember as I backed my car out of the space I put it in park and opened my door. The passenger with me asked where I was going. My response was, “I am going to need that chewing tobacco before I get home.” I am glad God has given me victory over that nasty habit today. I often speak of these revivals with joy. They were some of the best of times in my life. As a pastor, I often discuss the highlights of our church’s history with my members. These highlights  were often during times of revival meetings.
  2. Some of the greatest movements of God I have seen have taken place during revivals. As a pastor my practice has not been to have a revival annually. I have always had revivals when I felt impressed to have a particular preacher conduct our revival meetings. I can honestly say some of the greatest movements of God I have witnessed have taken place during some of these meetings. I have seen dozens, if not hundreds, saved through the years during revivals. I have seen broken relationships and families repaired during revivals. I have witnessed my church come together and work hard for Jesus’ cause during revival times.

WHY HAVE MANY STOPPED HAVING REVIVAL MEETINGS. 

  1. It takes a lot of work to have a successful revival. When I first went into the ministry you could stick a sign up in your church yard reading, “REVIVAL WEEK” and people would come. The reason why is there was not much else to do. In my first church community we had two local television channels and a gas station for our entertainment. People went to church during revival week. Now you have to plan well in advance so a busy congregation can schedule for revival. Constant reminders have to be kept before the people. Time must be spent in prayer for revival meetings. Meals and schedules must be coordinated. Advertisement must be taken care of. A church must commit to giving four nights to the revival meetings but they will have to do so much more to have a successful meeting. Some pastors and churches may forgo revivals because there is a lot of work involved.
  2. A bad meeting can do as much harm as a good meeting can good.  I have had a few bad meetings. I have had revivals where the hard work was done and the crowds were simply low and no visible decisions were made. This is a morale killer. This may surprise many of you but there are some nuts preaching today. One time I was excited to schedule a well known evangelist to preach a revival for me. I booked him well in advance. I had a chance to hear him preach several times leading up to our revival. His preaching had changed. He now was very dogmatic about the End Times and he started preaching on a few pet topics. He preached the Masons were demonic instruments of Satan. He preached politics and how true Christians would vote exactly like he voted. He preached contemporary music was spawned from Lucifer. I had a long conversation with him and asked him to preach the Bible when he was with me. Sure enough, the second day he was with me he unloaded on all his favorite topics. Needless to say I spent months undoing what this nut job tore up in four days. Some pastors have had bad experiences and for this reason don’t schedule revivals.
  3. Insecurity may be the reason some are not scheduling revivals. I am merely speculating on this point, but it could be some pastors are insecure about allowing well known and highly effective preachers preach to their congregations. Also some may be insecure in that if the church works hard for this one week and gets everyone involved the question might be asked why doesn’t our leadership work this hard every week.
  4. Theology may be one reason why there are fewer revivals. I am careful about mentioning this last point because I do not want to offend any of our brothers and sisters in the SBC. However, there has been a increase of reform theology in our convention. It is important to note that while I reject this teaching it is orthodox and a perfectly acceptable interpretation of certain passages of Scripture. This theology holds the belief that God has elected some to be saved. These elect will be saved regardless and the non-elect will not be saved regardless. I have many pastor friends who are Calvinist and who feel revival preaching often leads to false professions and the crowding of our church rolls with lost people. For this reason, many of our reformed brothers do not have revivals.

I am a big proponent of revivals. I feel one reason we are seeing fewer baptisms today in our convention is because we are having fewer revivals. Statistics can be used to argue my point. Southern Baptist conducted simultaneous revivals in 1990 – called “Here’s Hope,” in 1995 – called “Here’s Hope ’95,” and 2000 – called “Celebrate Jesus 2000.” In all these years we saw spikes in baptisms and we went over 400,000 baptisms in those years.

I am asking all who read this blog to take a moment to pray that we as Southern Baptist will regain our zeal for evangelism.

Let Me Tell You About My Father!

Happy Father's Day
Happy Father’s Day

This Sunday, June 21st is Father’s Day in the United States. The History Channel says this of the origin of Father’s Day, “On July 19, 1910, the governor of the U.S. state of Washington proclaimed the nation’s first “Father’s Day.” However, it was not until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official, that the day became a nationwide holiday in the United States.” So Father’s Day has been around since 1910 but was made an official national holiday in 1972. In this post I want to share with you about my Father.

My Dad was an incredible man, at least in my eyes. He was a hard man, serving over 22 years as a sergeant in the Army tends to make men hard. He never compromised. He never seemed intimidated. He worked hard at two low paying jobs to put with his military retirement to provide what we had, meager as it was. He always seemed to be in control. In spite of all this persona I know he loved me and my older brother, Robert. Not once have I ever doubted how proud he was of us or how much he loved us. In July of 1978 my father was involved in an accident. He was working at our local golf course when somehow the tractor and mower he was working on ran over him. His injuries were life threatening. My father was helicoptered to Forrest General Hospital and I was ushered to Jake and Karen Keith’s home. This would be the best place for me. They lived in the staff home at the golf course that was such a huge part of my young life. There I could swim in the pool and play golf and be surrounded by my friends. The day of his accident was the last time I saw my dad, Bob Stewart, alive. He died a few weeks later on Friday, July 21st, 1978, 26 days before my 10th birthday.

I was able to deal with my Father’s death well. There were a few things I remember even to this day that were difficult. I will never forget the look on my Mother’s face when I walked in the room after my Dad’s death. No one ever told me he had died; that look shared everything I needed to know. My Dad was dead and my Mother seemed to be dying. Seeing my Dad in the coffin was also tough. However, for the most part, I adjusted and life went on as normal as we could make it. One day several months after Bob’s death I went with a friend to his home to ask permission to go down the street to another friend’s house. We three youngsters were inseparable, Lawson, Stewart and Adams. When you saw one you usually saw all three of us. This day my friend asked his dad for permission to go down the street and maybe some money for a coke. The conversation went something like this, “DAD, can I have some change for a coke and can I go across the street? Here you go, SON.” Those words hurt. There was nothing inconsiderate in this conversation. It was a normal conversation. No reasonable person would have ever known how they stung. I realized there is certain finality in death; I would not say DAD or hear SON ever again. I made a silent commitment that day to try to never again hear those words from anyone else. Over the next few years with no one ever noticing I tried to never be present with a son and dad. My life revolved around a handful of places that were safe for me: golf course, school, home, pool hall, Aunt Barb’s to fish.

Church was soon added to the places I loved hanging around. I had been miraculously saved by watching a TV broadcast of Main Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, MS. My family did not attend church very often. One Sunday morning as a ten year old boy in a home all alone Jesus saved me. Honestly, I was on the fast track of discipleship. It was unusual how I loved studying the Word and going to church to hear preaching. Let me assure the sanctification process was slow but I was gobbling up the Word. My life was a mixture of golf, pool, fishing, church and a little school. Still silently I avoided FATHER/SON conversations.

Fast forward in time a few years. I was 14 years old and working through a call on my life to preach. My home church was having an event in which we were having a special prayer meeting. I asked my pastor if I could come to the prayer meeting and he invited me. We prayed for laborers, souls, resources and the speaker. When that prayer meeting was over my life changed forever. My 5th grade teacher, Mary King, came straight to me and before I could stand to my feet she cupped my cheeks with her hands and put her face to mine. She was standing and I was sitting and I was still taller than she was.  We were nose to nose and eye to eye. Ms. King was an old lady when I was born and was a tough teacher. I am sure she had to be near 80 at this time and I was afraid she was about to scold me as she had many times in her life. I will never forget what she said, “Dean, God has impressed upon my heart to tell you that God will be your Father if you will let Him. Son, you don’t have to carry around the hurt you are carrying. You have a Father and He is God.” How did she know? Had it been obvious I avoided certain places and conversations? Was she just so close to God she could see what others couldn’t see?

My life changed that very moment. God no longer would be just God. He was now my Father. How my life changed! From that moment, every Sunday I went to friends’ homes and ate Sunday lunch. There I was surrounded by sons, daughters and dads. Never again did I dread hearing the words, FATHER or SON. God is not an impersonal God who we can’t approach. He is our Father and we can approach Him boldly. What son is afraid to approach his father? Through the years there has been one chapter I read more than any other. It is my favorite chapter. Romans 8 contains every promise a believer needs. Right in the midst of all those promises is this verse, Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry Abba, Father.” Thank you Jesus! We can call God our Father and we are His children.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads. You guys are great. I am grateful for Mary King for she was the first to teach me every believer has a great Father.

 

THIS IS THE NEW NORMAL!

Bruce Jenner  set a world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics and was considered the world's greatest athlete.
Bruce Jenner set a world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics and was considered the world’s greatest athlete.

I have read a fair amount of material over the last week on Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner and his transformation from man to woman.  One cannot help but see the pictures of the Vanity Fair cover. The reaction from the Christian community has covered the spectrum. There are those who are quick to condemn anyone they can with the harshest tone. My main problem with this crowd is they seem to be way too happy God is going to judge the wicked. It is with glee they pronounce Jenner is the Antichrist and on his way to the fiery lake. In Romans 9:3 Paul teaches he would be cut off from Christ if it meant salvation for his fellow Jews. We shouldn’t take delight in anyone’s eternal damnation.

On the other end of the spectrum there is a large group of Christians that are trying to figure out how to minister to the LGBT community with the truth without being offensive. This group is in danger of being too tolerant.  I read one blog last week where it was discussed if Jenner should be called a woman or man, he or she. Many writers encourage us as believers to be kinder and more tender toward the LGBT community in order to share the truth with them in love. I Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” No debating the fact that whatever we say must be spoken in love. A few articles spoke of how Jenner desiring to be a woman would be offended if one were to refer to Jenner as “him.” Let that sink in, church leaders calling a person created a man a woman because of gender bending in order not to be offensive. 

Let’s consider the psyche of the LGBT community in America for a moment. To begin with, they are now as mainstream as anyone in America. Open homosexuals have been a part of the NBA and NFL. There are hundreds of openly gay entertainers today in America. They can adopt. They are in the Boy Scouts. They are in the military. There are gay fraternities and sororities in some universities. We have homosexual governmental leaders, news anchors and they permeate every form of media. In the Church in America we see homosexual clergy, singers and authors and after this June their marriages will be recognized across the United States of America. The only way the LGBT community could be made anymore welcome in America would be for the church to say God is wrong, sodomy is normal and we apologize for our centuries of sins against homosexuals. The church is the only holdout in America where homosexuality is not considered normal.

Back to Jenner and him being a her or her being a him or whatever. Many are focusing on his feelings and how to minister to him and people like him. My greater responsibility is to minister to the 40 or so youth that sit under my preaching on Sunday morning. While our kindness must always be visible as followers of Christ we owe it to the next generation to be clear on sin, immorality and demonic activity. Having read a lot encouraging us to be considerate of Jenner I ask has anyone considered how inconsiderate he has been to his children and grandchildren. This MAN has fathered six biological children.  His driver’s license has had “male” stamped on it for 65 years. He married a woman and had two children. He divorced, married another woman and had two more children. He divorced, married a third woman and had two more children. When will someone say Bruce Jenner cares more about himself than his children or grandchildren? For a man who says he felt like a woman he certainly knows how to do the one thing synonymous with manhood. The only way these children and grandchildren cannot be confused is if their minds are as warped as Jenner’s.

Imagine grandparent’s day at the local elementary school where a Jenner grandchild attends.

“Hey everyone, this is my grandmother. He, uh, she used to be my grandfather. She, uh, he was an Olympic gold medal winner for the United States when she was a he. Here is a picture of her when she was a he on the front of a box of Wheaties. My favorite memories of her are when he used to take me to watch the Dolphins play football.”

While this is taking place a pastor somewhere is encouraging folk to call him her and defends her hero status in the name of compassionate Christianity.

Welcome to the new normal.

HEY! EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!

look at meOk, I am about to go on a tangent, however, that is alright because I own the website. I will try to  spiritualize my tangent and give us  all some practical application for life. The book of James is an in your face letter. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem, penned this letter. If you are looking for the warm fuzzy stuff that makes you feel warm and gooey you are going to have a hard time finding it in James. James tells us again and again our faith in Jesus will result in the believer doing good works. Verse after verse he describes what this will look like. In James 4 he writes on submitting to God. In verse 14 we read a very familiar verse, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” Pride vs. Humility! Our society has a problem with pride. I have had a problem with pride in my life. It was once said of me that I autograph my own Bible when I get through preaching. It’s amazing what years and sin will do to a prideful person. Time and recognizing one’s own sin will humble a person. Let me say, today I love grace more than ever. Over the past few days I have noticed just how much some people desire to be recognized and deplore not being the center of attention. Allow me to share a few examples from the last few days of some people who had to be center of attention. I apologize in advance if this hits home.

I. HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION.

As a pastor I know I am going to attend at least one high school graduation  every year, sometimes as many as three. This is supposed to be a ceremony filled with dignity and honor. The graduates have fulfilled one of the most demanding goals in their lives. High school graduation requires a commitment of 13 years for most students. Our graduates wear academic dress. This practice dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries when many, if not most, of the graduates were clergy who had taken certain vows and wore clerical robes. I have read in several places that with no sufficient heating systems during this time all scholars began wearing the robes for warmth. Academic regalia was practical in the beginning. It kept the graduate warm. However, graduations chocked full of regalia and pomp and circumstance are meant to be dignified and classy occasions today. There is great shame when a student accomplishes a goal, has his/her name called and as they walk across the stage someone or several someones stand and yell, “Whooooooooooooohooooooooooo, Bubba! Way to go. Good job.” What this person is saying to everyone who is sitting quietly is: “Hey, everybody look at me.”

II. THE WAFFLE HOUSE.

One day this week I was traveling north on Highway 49 toward my home and a pastor friend was traveling south on Highway 49 toward his home. We happened to call each other and decided to stop at the Waffle House in Florence, MS for a cup of coffee and a visit. It was a great visit. I love Mike Grenn and for an hour and a half we visited, drank coffee and had a glorious time – EXCEPT FOR A FEW MINUTES. As we made our way into this famous house of waffles a gentleman was standing in front of the restaurant near an old motorcycle. After a few minutes in the parking lot he came inside and sat down behind Mike and myself. One of the servers made the terrible mistake of asking him what kind of motorcycle was he riding. This server just lost his tip from me. With a voice so loud people were hitting their brakes on Highway 49 he told everyone it was a 1976 Honda CB 400. It had an inline four stroke. It was just an updated version of the 350 from 1975. It had a six speed transmission.  Something called the compression ratio was 9.4.1. It had 37 horsepower and could generate 8500 rpm. As our conversation turned to our graduate services the motorcycle man’s voice went up a few octaves declaring that the CB 400 was the predecessor to many of the rocket bikes on the road today and that he had ridden his in 36 of the states in the Continental United States. I prayed as earnestly as I have ever prayed he would not begin to name the states. This man should have just walked in and said, “Hey! Everybody look at me.” By the way, I kicked a Honda over at a gas station later because of this annoying man.

III. THE MEXICAN RESTAURANT.

If any of you make a comment about seeing a pattern of restaurants in my life I will not forgive you. Last week I ate at a Mexican restaurant with my family. As I approached the check out I could tell there was an aggravated man coming through the door. Don’t be impressed with my discernment it was easy to see he was aggravated. Evidently he had picked up a to-go order and had gotten home and the order was not correct. Let me simply say once I traveled 26 miles to my house with a box of Popeye’s fried chicken only to discover it was spicy and not regular. To everyone’s amazement I got back in my vehicle and went back to Popeye’s for the correct chicken. It’s that important. I felt his pain. Anyway this man started barking demands at a young lady behind the counter. He was mad, rude and ugly about the situation. I would have said something but I am quite convinced the young lady couldn’t understand English so it wasn’t upsetting her too much. This man was at the front of the restaurant, in the largest dining room in the building, throwing a hissy. He did not want his problem solved; He wanted everyone to see him. He could have just as easily walked in and said, “Hey! Everyone look at me.”

The next time any of us who are believers are tempted to draw attention to ourselves remember the words of some of the Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast of Passover in John 12:20, 21, “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.”

Hey! Everybody look at Jesus. I hope they can see our Lord in our lives.

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT CHURCHES.

old churchSunday was my first time to preach at Vaiden Baptist Church in three weeks. I have been out of my pulpit for the last three weeks participating in revival meetings. I want to interject how amazed I am at some of the evangelists I know who preach 40+ revivals a year. I do not know how they do this! I was in three different churches over three different weeks and felt like I had not been active in my home in months. As I ate, interacted and preached in these churches I noticed certain things about these churches. This has got me pondering about some of my experiences from a lifetime of being in churches. Allow me to share a few observations from my experiences and Scripture.

I. CHURCHES ARE UNIQUE.

From time to time I will read or hear a person share what is wrong with churches, or what churches need to do, or the latest trends in churches. I advise everyone not to give too much credence to such articles for every church is different. In the churches I preached in recently there were countless differences. One church ran every facet of the service off video projection. One did not have video projection or screen at all. I was not aware there were any churches without video projection left. One church had a steeple and one did not. One church had huge stain glass windows and one had small windows that were barely noticeable. One church began at 11:00, one began at 10:45 and the other began at 10:30. In one church every man in leadership wore a tie. In one church no one wore a tie. One church gave a hearty “amen” throughout the service. One church looked at me as if they were frightened and trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I read of their ministries from the bulletins. One church was intentional in attempting to impact the kids of their community. They were advertising events and ministries through the summer targeting children. One church was concerned about ministry to their members in need. They discussed various needs and problems of church members. They made plans and preparation to meet these needs. Because of the internet it is possible for laymen to read expert opinions about what their church should be doing and look like. CHURCHES ARE UNIQUE.

II. CHURCHES ARE SPECIAL.

Some practices in churches would drive me out of the ministry if they were done in the church I pastor but some of our practices would aggravate or even infuriate some. Once I preached some services for a church that sang one particular song as the call to worship every service. I need to add they also sung it poorly and without any emotion. It was a brutal experience. I have many friends that I have preached for who take prayer request in each service. I don’t think I could handle taking prayer requests at the beginning of each service. To me, it is a service killer. Imagine having a stirring call to worship filled with emotion followed by someone saying pray for …….. insert gut wrenching prayer request here. There is a time for intercessory prayer. Again, to me, this is not the time. Some churches love testimony time. I have preached many services where at the end of the service the question was asked, “Does anyone have anything to say before we go?” If I ever say that call 911; I am having a stroke. Some have greeting time. Some recognize birthdays and anniversaries. Some are formal others are casual. Some are made up of old congregation others younger people. They are all special. We have bought into the mindset that growing, large, cutting edge equals special. Wrong! That church that sings the same song as a funeral march every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night is special. She is special to God and to those precious saints who attend faithfully. They love their church and how they do church. We are to admire the strongest, fastest growing churches. However, we are to admire any church who is faithful to the Lord and His Word. Regardless of size, average age or type of ministries churches are special.

III. THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE CHURCH.

This thought will be confusing to many today who have bought into the notion of the universal church. Today, the view of the local church is so low that some professing Christians scarce believe the local church is necessary. This is a foreign concept to the New Testament. What is done in the name of Jesus in the New Testament following the ascension is done through the local church. The local church is seen as the church in the New Testament. The common Greek word for church in the New Testament is “ekklesia.” This word means a called out assembly. This would have to be a local assembly. The majority of the time when you read the word “church” in the New Testament it is referring to a local assembly. For instance, I Thessalonians 1:1 reads, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.” Any question what Paul means? He is writing to a local assembly meeting in Thessalonica. Read I Cor. 4:17, “This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” Paul taught in the local church. Certainly we understand there are Christians around the world who have trusted Jesus and are part of the body of Christ. However, the believer is to function and focus on the local church. The New Testament pattern is the work of the Lord is done through the local church.

One final thought on this matter, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the two ordinances of the church. They are to be administered in a local church setting. There is a real danger today of believers loving the church universal while ignoring what the New Testament describes as church – “the local called out assembly.”

IV. ALL BELIEVERS NEED TO BE PART OF A CHURCH.

We have all heard the nonsense of learning deep truths about God in nature. People use this thought to justify their golf, fishing, hunting, farming, swimming, sleeping late, etc… and dropping out of church. Romans 1 does describe that certain things about God can be realized through nature. Those attributes that can be recognized are He is God and He has eternal power. The revelation from nature is limited. You can’t learn of God’s redeeming love or His eternal plan from nature. You can’t discern the fruit of the Spirit by watching a sunrise. You can learn that God exists and is all powerful from nature. Hebrews 10:25 reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” For the believer, these unique, special, local churches are necessary. I can’t imagine not being part of a local assembly. I love preaching revivals and sharing in as many churches as I can. However, I miss something when I am absent from my local assembly. I need them and they need me. We need each other so that we can be built up and mature in Christ. This is the function of the local church.

V. VAIDEN BAPTIST CHURCH IS THE BEST!

After three weeks of being away it was awesome to be home yesterday!

THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE

book of lifeLast week while having lunch with a couple of pastor friends our conversation surprisingly turned to spiritual matters. One pastor threw on the table for discussion the topic of the Lamb’s Book of Life. There are many opinions on what exactly the Lamb’s Book of Life is and its purpose. In this blog I will share with you what I believe the Bible teaches and what I believe about the Lamb’s Book of Life.

1.  WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE LAMB ‘S BOOK OF LIFE.

A. There are seven passages of Scripture in the New Testament that mention The Book of Life     or Lamb’s Book of Life: Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15 and 21:27.

B. Sometimes we read in the Bible of the Book of Life and at other times we read about the Lamb’s Book of Life.

C. Believers cannot have their names blotted out of the Book of Life. We read in Revelation 3:5   of the Lord promising the over-comers at Sardis He will not blot out their names. The totality       of Scripture teaches the Christian has an eternal security. This passage is often used in                 defending this position. Luke 10:20 seems to speak also of the Book of Life and our eternal         security. Look at what Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 10:20 (HCSB), “However, don’t                 rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” “Written” is in the perfect tense and gives the idea of a permanent record. Jesus is telling His disciples to rejoice that their names are permanently recorded in heaven.

2.  WHAT WE SPECULATE ABOUT THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE.

A. Some speculate there are two books, one being the Book of Life and the other being the Lamb’s Book of Life. Under this interpretation everyone who is born has their name written in the Book of Life. When a person is saved they have their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In this interpretation a person will have their name removed from the Book of Life upon their death. This interpretation is probably the most traditional and certainly is the view of our Calvinistic brothers who embrace limited atonement and view the Lamb’s Book of Life as containing only the names of the people Jesus died to redeem. In the Calvinist view those names not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are people for whom Jesus did not die.

B. Others, myself included, view the Lamb’s Book of Life and the Book of Life as being one book. Examine a few passages that influence my thinking. One is the Messianic Psalm, Psalm 69. This Psalm describes the suffering that Jesus would endure. In describing the enemies of Jesus who tormented our Lord, David makes a statement in verse 28, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” David appears to be praying not merely for their death but their names not be recorded or remain in the Book of Life along with the righteous. Those who crucified our Lord were not struck dead when He died so physical death is not what is in view in this Psalm. David’s prophetic eye did not see the enemies of Jesus dying; he saw them as unbelievers and Christ rejecters whose names were to be removed from the Book of the Living. He prayed their names would not remain recorded next to the righteous.

A second passage that leads me to believe the Book of Life and the Lamb’s Book of Life is one book is Revelation 3:5. The Lord promises the overcomers in Sardis He would not blot out their names. There is an implication in this verse that names can be blotted out of the Book of Life. So it is my speculative opinion that everyone Jesus died for has their name written in the Book of Life. According to John 3:16 and I John 2:2 He died for the sins of the entire world. As unbelievers die they have their names removed from the Book of Life and this book becomes the Lamb’s Book of Life at the end of time. Some do not have to die in order to have their names removed from the Book of Life. Revelation 13:8 reads in the KJV, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” A group of people during the tribulation will worship the beast rather than the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world which is Jesus. According to Revelation 13:8 their names are already removed from the Book of Life. Some translations, in my opinion in error, attach “from the foundation of the world” to names not written in the Book of Life thus making it seem that these people have not had their names written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. I believe that is a mistake. This verse is teaching those who worship the beast and take the mark of the beast have crossed a line and cannot be redeemed. Therefore their names are removed from the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.

3. FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE.

A. Your name must be in this book if you are going to have eternal life in the presence of God. Revelation 20:11-15 teaches of the Great White Throne Judgment. On this day everyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire.

B. God knows your name. I will never get over the fact that God knows my name. I have met some people who the world says are fairly important. I am convinced seconds after these important people heard my name they had forgotten it. GOD KNOWS YOUR NAME AND HAS IT WRITTEN DOWN!

C. The emphasis of the Book of Life is on the redeeming work of Jesus and not human efforts. We can do nothing that merits our names being recorded in this book for eternity. Some are trying to be honest enough, loving enough, faithful enough, good enough to have a relationship with God. Praise be to Jesus for what He has done on Calvary to redeem us. Through His redeeming work followers of Christ have their names recorded forever in the Book of Life.

 

What’s Wrong With The Rapture?

A belief that I hold dear has been rejected by many of my dear brothers and sisters in the church today. I grew up in the ministry listening to great preachers of yesteryear preaching on the rapture of the church. All of my heroes in the ministry from my younger days held the belief that the church would be raptured from the earth into the air when Jesus comes for the church. This belief has never been universal among Christians by any means but today many seem to loathe the idea of the rapture of the church. In this blog I want to answer a few of the criticisms against the rapture.

  1. SOME SAY THE BELIEF IN THE RAPTURE IS HURTING THE WORK OF THE CHURCH.

I read articles and hear sermons regularly that claim the church today is not effective in ministry or evangelism because of the belief in the rapture. Some critics say the rapture is “escapism,” that is Christians avoid all tribulation while the earth and its population go through hell on earth. They further contend that those who hold this escapism belief have several flaws in their belief system. Here are some accusations I have read.

A) Opponents of the rapture say believers in the rapture are missing the point of the New Testament that we are commissioned to transform this world into God’s Kingdom rather than looking for an escape from this world and its troubles.

B) They further hold that those who believe in the rapture of the church have a perverted view of the earth. Because it is not our home and we are looking for the return of Christ we will not be good stewards of the earth and her resources. Some claim we see the earth as a holding station until we get to go to heaven.

C) Some see those who believe in the rapture of the church as people who have thrown their hands up and quit and are accomplishing nothing while they wait on the return of Christ. I recently heard a very dear friend of mine claim that if Christians don’t quit looking for the rapture we are going to lose all the ground we have claimed for Christ.

D) Some argue that the descriptions of Christ’s return in the Bible are images of a returning victorious king to his capital. They view the return of Christ as a localized event and not a universal or worldwide event.

2.   I HAVE AN ANSWER FOR ALL THESE ACCUSATIONS.

A and B above are just logically flawed. Simply because we are looking for the return of Christ does not mean we are not trying to transform this world into God’s Kingdom. The Apostle Paul made at least 3 missionary journeys in the face of many dangers in an attempt to share the Gospel of Christ with the entire world. No reasonable person will argue that Paul was not attempting to transform the world for Christ’s sake. However, listen to what Paul says in II Timothy 4:6-8, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”

The crown of righteousness that Paul speaks of is for the person who lives a righteous life motivated by a love for the return of Christ. Some believers are so in love with Jesus that they long for His return and keep themselves righteous and productive until He returns. The Lord’s appearing is motivation for living out the Gospel and thus transforming this world.

Also, it is flawed logic to argue that because we do not believe this world to be our final home we will neglect it and fail to be good stewards of the resources planet earth provides. I have a couple of friends who have built and sold many houses in their lives. Often when they sell the house they are living in they will rent a house while building a new home. The rental home is not their final home so this logic dictates they will never cut their grass or sweep or vacuum. They will not take care of the house for it is not their final home. I can assure you that may be the case with some but not with my friends who kept up each rental home they have lived in very well. This reasoning is an attack on the rapture that is fabricated simply to bolster an argument. It has no merit.

In C above we see some say we who believe in the rapture have quit serving while waiting on Jesus to come get us. This argument is not valid. Read Acts 1:9-11, “After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them.
11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”

The angels tell the disciples that the Lord is returning as He departed (seems reasonable to mean in the clouds) and the disciples should not be standing around gazing. The return of Christ is seen as motivation for faithful service in this passage.

Finally, in D above we see some argue that the return of Christ is a localized event. They see Him returning to one place, like Jerusalem, and His disciples there receive Him. This makes no logical sense whatsoever. Let’s say that Christ’s return is a localized event in Jerusalem, this would mean that those of us who are believers in other parts of the world would have to buy airline tickets or boat fare to come see our Lord. Some believers would get to see Him years earlier than others. Some believers might have to sell their homes or save for years to have enough money to travel to see Jesus.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 is clear and offers a better thought. Look at verses 16 and 17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.”

The church in Thessalonica was concerned about Christians who have died before Christ’s return. Paul assures them that at the rapture they will be raised first. This statement is to comfort those believers who have seen loved ones die in Christ. Then we who are alive shall be caught up in the clouds with those who have been raised and then we will always be with the Lord. Localized event? That is just nonsense.

We may debate when the rapture takes place: before the tribulation, during the tribulation or after the tribulation. We may debate where believers go after the rapture: off to heaven for a season or immediately back to earth. However, I don’t see any reason for debating the rapture of the church. To be honest, I know why some hold to this view, they have a dislike for the nation of Israel and most of those who hold the view that the church will be raptured also embrace a pro-Israel theology. The replacement theologian believes that the church has replaced Israel in God’s heart and plans. For this reason some find it necessary to throw out the rapture because many who hold the belief in the rapture believe God removes the church in order to finish His business with Israel. I feel like a dinosaur sometimes but I still believe in the rapture and that Israel is God’s chosen people.

 

A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul and Mind, Part VIII

cancer curedThis will be my last blog on the wonderful experience of the Lord healing me of cancer by supernatural means. This is the eighth blog on this healing and I do pray that God will use it to help someone who is in need of encouragement. Through the years I have shared this experience many times and I have it condensed in a short sermon form. It has been my honor to have the doctors who treated me through the years call me and ask me to come to the hospital or their offices to speak to a young cancer patient or a patient who has been diagnosed as terminal. I know God healed me when doctors said there was no chance of medicine healing me. I want to share just a couple final thoughts about my healing.

I. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ANYONE TODAY HAS THE GIFT OF HEALING.

I know that this will surprise many that a man who was supernaturally healed of cancer does not believe in the gift of healing. I am what is known as a cessationist. Well, I am a modified cessationist. I believe there were some gifts given to the apostles to identify them as apostles and caused people to listen to their words as the Word of God in the first century. One of the gifts that I believe ceased was the gift of healing. I do believe God heals. He healed me of cancer. However, I do not believe anyone today possesses the gift of healing like the apostles had. Read Acts 5:16, “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits and they were healed EVERY ONE. [emphasis added]  New translations read, “And ALL of them were healed.” [emphasis added] You need to note that in this verse everyone that was brought to the apostles were healed. This passage teaches not a single time was a person not healed by the apostles. Today I know some people who have a way of getting a hold of God in prayer. These people know how to pray and I often share with them my prayer requests. However, I know of no one who can pray for the sick and healing take place every time they pray. There are sheep in wolves clothing who put on great productions and claim to have the gift of healing but not a single one of these guys is willing to travel to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis and pray for the healing of the heartbreaking cases that can be witnessed in this wonderful place of treatment. I believe in healing but I do not believe anyone has the gift of healing today.

II. I DO NOT KNOW WHY GOD HEALED ME AND HE DOES NOT HEAL OTHERS. 

I want to be honest and transparent, I do not grasp why God heals some and not others. In particular, I do not know why God healed me and others have died. I know of a couple great pastors who have been diagnosed with cancer and heart disease at a young age and tremendous people of faith poured out their hearts for God to heal. Yet, in spite of these prayers I watched as these great men of God passed into eternity. As they died I carried the knowledge that God had healed me. I know in my heart I am not as dedicated as they were, I am not as faithful as they were, I am not as effective as they were and yet I live and they died. Some will say things like, “God had more for you to do or God was not through with you.” I am appreciative of the sweet words but I also know that God can use the next person in line to accomplish far more than He will accomplish with me. The fact that God heals some and not others is nothing new. Read I Kings 19:14 as Elijah speaks, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword…” Elijah stated that Israel had slain the prophets. We also read in Daniel 6:22 that God shut the lions’ mouth when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. Acts 12 is a fascinating chapter for me. In verse 2 we read that Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword. It seems that God did nothing to spare James, one of the sons of thunder, from death. However, we read in verses 5-19 where God supernaturally delivered Peter from prison. James dies and Peter is spared. Some prophets die while Daniel was spared. One apostle is killed while another is supernaturally freed. Only God has the answer for why this is. There are several reasons why God does not heal every person that believers pray for: 1) Unconfessed sin hinders our prayers according to James 5:16. 2) A lack of faith impacts our prayers. James 5:6 tells us to ask in faith not wavering  and verse 7 says a man who prays wavering can expect to receive nothing from the Lord. 3) God has bigger plans. Sometimes when we pray for a healing God has something bigger in store than a healing. C.S. Lewis in, “The Problem Of Pain,” wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pain, it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf ear.” The truth is sometimes in suffering and death God produces greater results than in healing. We are to pray like our prayers have everything to do with the sick being healed. We are to trust God is sovereign and wise when He chooses not to answer those prayers with healing. There are other reasons in Scripture given why prayers are hindered but I will list just these three.

III. I DON’T KNOW WHY THE JOY OF THE HEALING HAS FADED THROUGH THE YEARS. 

Again, I am going to be honest and transparent. In the days following the miraculous healing of my body from cancer I never had a bad day. If I had a flat tire I thanked God I was healthy enough to change the flat. When I played golf it didn’t bother me if I shot 72 or 82 I was healthy and happy. Something terrible has happened, the farther away from the miracle the less appreciative of it I have become. I have enjoyed writing about this miracle and I often preach on the miracle during one service when I am preaching revivals but I don’t constantly thank God for the healing like I used to in my prayer life. I do have bad days. Sometimes I am a grouch. I must confess that my life has even had times of less consecration after the miracle than before. I made a determination to very seldom mention the cancer that gripped my body while I was preaching to my church family. I have kept that commitment. I do preach the sermon form of the miracle testimony at least every other year in the church that I pastor but I have always been afraid of sharing about the disease too much. I am so grateful for the miracle but through the years I have come to understand the weakness in miracles. Revelation 13:13 says of the future false prophet, “And he doth great wonders so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”  II Thessalonians 2:9 says the Antichrist will come with power and signs and lying wonders. Satan and his henchmen can imitate miracles. Miracles can’t build your faith like the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” As a student of the Word of God I know that miracles can’t build faith like the Holy Bible. However, that Holy Bible teaches me to have a grateful heart. I am ashamed that sometimes I forget to thank God for the miracle He performed in my life almost 16 years ago now. All of you dear brothers and sisters who prayed for me to be healed deserve better from me. God deserves better. I hope I say it everyday the rest of my life, “Thank you God for extending my life. Please help me to glorify you with this life you have extended.”