Celebrate Life

The reversal of Roe v. Wade is definitely something to celebrate. This decision gives states control over the laws of abortion. While many states will outright ban abortion, in reality most will not. That means that the battle has only begun. We cannot stop praying and reaching out and doing what we can to save the unborn. The unborn are people made in the image of God. To allow them to be aborted goes against the commandment that you shall not murder. Let me say it in plain language: ABORTION IS MURDER.
God commands us to do what we can to rescue those who are facing death.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. (Proverbs 24:11, ESV)
Why? Because we hold that human life is precious and valuable, no matter their economic status and no matter their physical or mental capabilities and no matter any other category you want to throw out there. Just because someone has a handicap of some sort does not make them any less valuable. In actuality, we all have handicaps of various sorts. Does one handicap make someone less valuable than another person? In the eyes of God, every human, no matter what, is valuable and their life is to be celebrated.
God finds every human so valuable that He sacrificed His one and only Son to save humanity from their sin. No greater gift could have been given. This is not only the ultimate showing of love, this also demonstrates how much a human life is worth in the eyes of God. And if every human life has worth in God’s eyes, they should have worth in our eyes. So we continue to press the battle until abortion is merely a sad part of the past. But not only do we battle the negative of abortion, we then celebrate the positive of the preciousness of life.

God’s Reputation through Our Reputation

I remember watching one of those music reality shows and one of the judges told one of the contestants what Hollywood’s philosophy of life for stars truly is: They can talk good about you or bad about you, all that’s important is that they are talking about you. It seems to work for them because no matter how much of a fool some stars act people still see their movies or listen to their music.
The problem with that philosophy in the Christian life is that to the outsider God’s reputation is closely tied to our reputation. I know it shouldn’t be that way, but the unbelieving world doesn’t see any other visual or audio representation of God other than our lives. So that means that through our reputation we can give God a good or bad reputation in the eyes of others.
So, for example, Paul tells the Thessalonian church: Your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:8, ESV) The church had such a great reputation of faith that everyone was talking about it and giving glory to God. But then there is the other side of the coin. When David committed his sin with Bathsheba, he was confronted with these words from Nathan the prophet, who told him: By this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of Yahweh to blaspheme. (2 Samuel 12:14, LSB) David’s sin gave unbelievers a reason to mock God. It works both ways.
So, what kind of reputation do you have, and how is it affecting the reputation of God in a world that is watching?

Brag on the Lord

Can I be honest with you? I’m a typical human being, so like most human beings I like to brag. I like to brag about my family. I like to brag about my sports team (at least most of the time—I guess it depends on the season). But mostly, I like to brag about myself. I don’t always say it out loud, but I can get pretty proud of myself on the inside. I can get pretty impressed about myself on the inside. But it sometimes leaks out. And let’s face it, you can be the same way too.
Polite culture says that it isn’t nice to brag like that. (I stress polite culture—the culture of Hollywood and sports and music, on the other hand, is all about bragging about yourself.) But, when all is said and done, and if we really think about it, there is nothing so great about ourselves that makes us any better or worse than any other person in the world. You see, the object of our boasting makes all the difference in the world. If we boast or brag about ourselves we demonstrate that we are pretty naïve about who we really are. But if we boast about our great God, we show that we know where true greatness lies.
We find in the prophet Jeremiah:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24 ESV)
If we are going to brag on anything let’s brag on God’s provision of salvation; let’s brag on His mercies that are new every day; let’s brag on His patience and kindness; let’s brag on His power and glory. If we are going to brag, then let’s brag on something worth bragging about. Let’s brag on God.

Passing Down Faith

We often talk about passing THE faith down to the next generation, by which we mean the content of our faith—our set of beliefs, our doctrines. This is very important so that the pure truth of the gospel and the Word keeps perpetuating for years to come. But I want us to consider, do we pass down faith, as in are we teaching the next generation to completely trust God with everything in their lives? And not just that, are we demonstrating in our own lives that we have that kind of faith?
There is a story about a famous tightrope walker who came to Niagara Falls and stretched his rope across the thunderous currents from Canada to the United States. Before the breathless multitudes, he walked, then ran, across the falls. He did the same blindfolded, with drums rolling. Then, still blindfolded, he pushed a wheel-barrow across the falls. The crowds went wild, and the aerialist shouted to them, “Who believes I can push a man in this wheelbarrow across these falls?” A gentleman in the front waved his hands, shouting, “I do! I believe!” “Then,” said the tightrope walker, “come and get in the wheelbarrow.” To no surprise, the man’s intellectual assent failed to translate into personal beliefs.
We say we have faith that God can do anything to us and through us, but do we really believe it? As the cliché goes, when the rubber meets the road do we trust God and have confidence in what He has said. I want to close this post with the story of a woman who pursued Jesus by faith until she received what she needed, and I am pretty sure she passed her story down to the future generations so that they too would trust Christ completely.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21–28 ESV)

Fuel Up

If you’re like me, you probably have allowed your vehicle to run out of gas a few times.
Thankfully when I have run out of gas it was pretty near a gas station. It’s embarrassing to have to walk into the gas station, buy a gas can, go to the gas pump, fill the gas can up with gas. Walk down the street with the gas can, everybody driving by looking at you like you’re an idiot because you ran out of gas. It’s like “OH, IS THAT WHAT THAT LITTLE GAS PUMP ON THE DASH BOARD MEANT WHEN IT LIT UP?”
How much more embarrassing is it when a Christian isn’t fueled up. How much like a car that ran out of gas is a Christian that ran out of spiritual power because he or she did not stop at the fuel tank of prayer. We think we seem to be getting along OK in life without prayer, but everything is done in the power of the flesh and not in the power of the Holy Spirit, and I tell you that nothing that is worthy of the kingdom is ever done in the power of the flesh.
You may think this is too basic of a subject, and yet do you really think that your life and your church is as powerful as it could or should be? I tell you, if we are not “prayed up”, our family life, our work life, and our church will be as ineffective as a car without fuel.
In Matthew 6:5 Jesus says, “When you pray….” It was assumed that anybody that knew Him would pray. Those who did not pray would not have any spiritual power to get anywhere in life. So, if we want to keep the engine of your spiritual life running, we need to fuel up in prayer.

Sacrifice for the Cause

As Memorial Day is coming upon us, it reminds me of an article that I read many years back:
Growing up in Bay Shore, NY, Private First Class Jacob S. Fletcher dreamed of serving his country. He always wanted to be a soldier. He always had that kind of passion in him, and he wanted to be that kind of man. The death of a friend in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks sealed the decision. He enlisted in the Army, becoming one of the first soldiers to parachute into Iraq. Fletcher died on November 13, 2003, at the age of 28 when explosives struck a bus he was on in Iraq. A family friend said: “He was making a difference in Iraq. He felt that he was helping the women and children and that meant very much to him. It sustained him.”
What you notice in the story is that there was a major event that personally affected this man’s life that caused him to take action. He sacrificed his time and effort and ultimately his life for a great cause–for the welfare and benefit of the nation and its citizens. And just like a life-changing event sprung him into action, we who have believed upon Jesus Christ have had just such a life-changing event, and it ought to spring us into action as well.
We have been saved and this life-changing event ought to cause us to go out into the harvest and give of our lives in saving people from eternal death by sharing the good news. Yes it is uncomfortable. Yes it is a sacrifice. But there is no greater cause on earth than this.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38, ESV)

Seek for Revival

In 1904, a great revival spread throughout the land of Wales in the British Isles. God’s power came down and swept the land, and it is estimated that some 150,000 people were saved. If you look at the beginnings of that revival, it began with some men & women who got serious about holiness before God and prayer and seeking God with their whole hearts. They were not double-minded, but they had hearts exclusively belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ.
We hear these stories or read these stories and think: That was then, this is now. America is too long gone. There is no hope. We’ll be lucky not to lose any more ground much less get a nation revived and awakened. Yet I tell you, the God who brought revival in Wales in 1904 is still the same God in heaven today and He is waiting for some Christians to get serious about Him & Holiness & Holy Spirit Power
This same God can still renew and revive an entire nation—but how? What would it take for an entire nation to be renewed and revived? It would take a people who would develop hearts that see the Lord Jesus Christ exclusively. Not seeking Christ and entertainment. Not seeking Christ and sports. Not seeking Christ and anything else. Seek Christ with everything. 
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7 ESV)
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:3 ESV)
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil (Isaiah 1:16 ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

The Christian View of Abortion

In light of the recent “leak” of the potential Supreme Court verdict overturning Roe v. Wade (which it should be overturned), I thought it appropriate to reprint an article I did a while back to give a slight glimpse as to why we oppose abortion…
Since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling, abortion on demand (elective abortion) has been allowed in the United States. Although it may be legal, that does not mean that it is moral. Strong lines have been drawn on both sides of the issue as “Pro-Choicers” and “Pro-Lifers” battle it out for the heart and soul of the nation. However, where Christians stake their claim on the issue ought to be informed by the Bible both explicitly and implicitly. When one carefully considers the Biblical stance, one would find that abortion is not permitted in the vast majority of the cases.
Although there is no one law or rule in the Bible that says: ‘You shall not commit abortion of a baby in the womb,’ there are nevertheless biblical and rational principles that would seem to give one guidance on this important issue. The main biblical precept one must consider is the commandment: ‘You shall not murder’ (Exodus 20:13). To say that one should not murder is to say that one ought not to willfully and deliberately take another innocent human life. Life is precious to God. This can be seen in the various laws and commands that protect life and call for punishment, including capital punishment, for those who would take another’s life. It would almost seem obvious that a child, even in the womb, has not committed any action that would call for his or her death, therefore the child is innocent (at least, innocent of a crime worthy of death), and thereby their life is precious and protected. To kill a baby by deliberate abortion is murder.
As cut and dry as this might seem, there are several issues that are raised when considering this commandment with regard to abortion. One issue that does not seem obvious to some people is when life actually begins. Those who support abortion come up with all sorts of reasons to try to make the child that is in the womb less than human. They may argue that until the child is outside the womb, he or she is still part of the mother’s body, and the mother has a right to choose what she can do with her own body. Other may argue that unless a child is viable, able to make abstract decisions, able to do some things on their own (and other such criteria) that the fetus is not a person (of course, they may or may not realize that their criteria would also consider several older children and even some adults who may have some mental handicaps as not being persons under these standards).
Is the child in the womb a person? I would say from a biblical and scientific standpoint that God considers the child in the womb a person who is worthy of life and protection from the moment of conception. Biblically, one can consider the fact that God says that He is intimately involved in the forming and shaping of the person toward a specific goal according to His will while still yet in the womb. One considers what the psalmist says in Psalm 139:13-16 that God knew him and molded him from the time he was conceived. One also considers what God told the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, that even from the womb he had been called to be a prophet. God related to the child within the womb as a person—God does not ‘know’ mere inanimate objects or chemical processes in a relational way, and God does not ‘call’ mere inanimate objects or chemical processes in a relational way toward a purpose. God knows and calls people in relation to Him. With the overall biblical view that life is precious and special, along with the fact that the Bible stresses that mankind is made in the image of God and is therefore the epitome of His creation, it would appear that the pure biblical view would be that from the moment of conception the embryo is a person, and is therefore worthy of the protection of the commandment: ‘You shall not murder.’
Yet, I believe that scientifically it could also be demonstrated that the embryo is a person—more specifically a distinct person from the mother. After the sperm fertilizes the egg, immediately the process begins whereby the father’s and mother’s chromosomes mix and match, and within a matter of hours, the embryo has his or her own distinct genetic makeup that is completely separate from that of the father or mother. That being the case, technically the embryo is not merely another piece of flesh that is part of the mother’s body. The embryo has different DNA than any other cell found within the mother’s body (be it a skin cell, liver cell, etc.). With different DNA, the child is a separate person from the mother. Thus, again, from the moment of conception the baby is a unique life, made in the image of God, precious in His sight, and therefore is afforded the same protection: ‘You shall not murder.’
From a more rational standpoint, I would also say that even if you would not consider these biblical and scientific points as evidences that life starts at conception, and that you would instead just claim ignorance for knowing when life begins (since making such decisions are above your paygrade), common sense would seem to dictate that you would err on the side of caution and assume that an embryo is a person whose life began at conception. Instead of immediately leaning to the side of murder (from my standpoint, but they’d say it’s a choice), one ought to believe the embryo is a child until proven otherwise. This cavalier attitude of claiming ignorance but going ahead and facilitating murder would be like a demolition company that was hired to demolish an old building, and when it came time for the explosives to be charged they realized that nobody checked to make sure that the building was abandoned. So, instead of ensuring that the building was empty, they claim ignorance and go ahead with the demolition anyway. In this last case, most people would say they acted immorally and carelessly. Yet, how is claiming ignorance about when life begins and yet condoning elective abortion any different?
With these considerations in mind, it would biblically appear that any elective abortion at any time during the pregnancy is the murder of a person, and is thus morally reprehensible. This would include the oral abortive known as the ‘morning after pill.’ The morning after pill apparently prevents a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall, thereby the fertilized egg perishes. As indicated above, from the moment of conception the process immediately begins of the fertilized egg forming his or her own genetic makeup, and is therefore a person outright. This would therefore include the morning after pill as murdering the child.
From a more philosophic note, some rational considerations can also be included when considering the issue of abortion. For example, one ought to rationally consider what makes a difference between a child that is inside the womb from a child outside the womb? From a rational standpoint, what does a child outside the womb have that a child inside the womb does not? One might say that size is one of the differences—the child inside the womb is obviously smaller than one outside the womb (at least in the initial stages of pregnancy). But to say that a child is a person because they are bigger and more physically developed, and a child in the womb is not, would be tantamount to arguing that short people are less so people than tall people. No one would argue that all the short people in the world are not people and therefore taking their life is not murder (no matter what the song may say that short people have no reason to live). Another consideration might be their location. Some may argue that it is the fact that the embryo is inside the womb and a child is outside the womb—somehow being outside the womb grants you personhood. But location is a ridiculous notion, because it would be tantamount to saying that people in Wisconsin are less so people than people in Kentucky. Unfortunately, some have actually believed the lie that people in one nation are less so people than in their own nation, and used that argument for genocide (with the extreme case illustrated by the Nazis with the Jews). But this too is a rationally ridiculous and immoral notion. A third consideration might be their developmental ability. A child outside the womb might be able to do more (such as crawl, eventually walk, eventually drive a car), and therefore that is what makes them a person. But such a claim would then argue that anybody that is not as developed in their ability as others have less personhood than others. Unfortunately, some have made that argument for killing those with handicaps or killing (or, they may say, euthanizing) the elderly—because they no longer have the abilities to function as a helpful citizen in society. This too is rationally and morally wrong. My son is much more developed and has much more ability in sports than I do. Does that make me less of a person? So even from a more rational standpoint, there is little reason to consider a child within the womb as less of a person outside the womb. That being the case, elective abortion murders an innocent human life—a genuine person made in the image of God.
Yet even with these positive moral considerations, those who support elective abortion of fetuses will give their own argument to support abortion or at least attempt defeaters for the arguments brought forth from the Christian perspective. In one case, they actually try to utilize a Bible verse that they interpret to mean that God does not consider embryos in the womb to be people. In Exodus 21 there is a case brought up that if two men are fighting and somehow a pregnant woman is present and gets injured or killed that there are specific punishments that are to be meted out. What the abortion supporters consider is a part that they translate and interpret to mean that if the child is killed, there is only monetary damage given to the parents for that loss. Knowing that the Old Testament biblical principle was a life for a life in such cases, they argue that since the penalty is not death to the offending party, then that means the embryo does not have the status of a child (is not considered a ‘life’). There are several problems with this particular argument. First, this case study would appear to describe something that happens accidentally—there was no intention on the part of the fighting men to hurt the mother or the child. This is a far cry from deliberate, intentional killing of another human life. The other problem is with the translation and interpretation itself. It would actually appear that the Hebrew verbiage in this case does not refer to the death of the child, but rather to the mother going into premature labor and having the child early rather than going to full term. Thus the monetary penalty could be for medical care for any harm that came to mother or child. Therefore, this argument does not disprove the notion that a baby is a person from the moment of conception.
Another argument that is often mentioned by supporters of abortion is the fact that more embryos die from spontaneous abortions than by elective abortions and there is no moral quandary in those cases. They might state that elective abortions are doing nothing more than what nature itself does. They refer to the fact that quite often fertilized eggs will not naturally attach themselves to the uterine wall, and are naturally aborted. They also refer to the fact of miscarriages and stillbirths. Sadly, these things do happen at a large frequency—an unfortunate part of the sin-curse on the earth. Yet there is no moral problem with these since these are tragic accidents that occur on their own. In such cases there is no deliberate intention nor motive to cause harm to the child. On the other hand, elective abortion is motivated by a deliberate intention to end the child’s life. This is what makes elective abortion murder and the other not.
At other times, supporters of abortion will attempt to come up with exceptions, saying that it would not be moral to take away the abortion option for girls going through these particular situations. One of the most common exceptions mentioned is for the health of the mother. Often times supporters of abortion blow out of proportion the number of abortions that occur to save a mother’s life, when in reality over 93% of abortions are merely for personal/social/economic reasons (see, for example, http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html). With medical technology as it is, there are very few cases where both mother and baby cannot be saved. Yet, for the sake of argument, one may consider such a case. What may happen is an ectopic pregnancy where the child begins to grow somewhere other than the uterus (quite often in one of the fallopian tubes). If the child were to continue to grow, the mother would eventually die. However, in this case, the child himself or herself will also die. This is a case where both will die. It is morally better to side with life, therefore the mother has the biblical and natural right to protect her own life, therefore an abortion in this case might not be immoral. In such cases, there does seem to be a hierarchy of values. A similar case might be argued with regard to a mother who is pregnant, only to find out that she has some form of cancer. If the mother takes treatments for the cancer (chemo, radiation, etc.) the baby will die, or possibly the baby would need to be aborted for the mother to have the treatments. However, if the mother chooses not to receive treatments, she will die. Here, as before, there does not seem to be an easy solution, but the mother does have a right to protect her own life. ere, she could choose to abort or allow the baby to die from the treatment, or she could choose to forestall treatment to give birth to the child, possibly forfeiting her own life. Neither choice is ideal, but the mother might not be immoral in making either choice. Now, having considered this particular exception, in no way does this give a moral greenlight for elective abortions outside such cases. There is nothing in this argument that would commend the 93%+ abortions that occur due to personal/social/economic reasons. Abortions in these cases would still be considered murder.
Abortion supporters also talk about exceptions being made in the cases of rape and incest. No doubt rape and incest are utter moral tragedies that unfortunately occur in a fallen world. These victims will need help to live and cope with these crimes, and this is where the church can do much good in loving and supporting such people. However, the means or method by which a conception occurred in no way negates the personhood of the child. Life still began at conception for the child at the time of the rape or incest. How he or she was first conceived is not the child’s fault—they are the innocent party. Therefore, it would still be murder to abort a child in these cases. And, as before, this does not give the moral greenlight to the 93%+ of abortions that occur for personal/social/economic reasons.
Abortion supporters may talk about the need to abort a child due to some handicap (be it physical, mental, or genetic) that the child may be born with. They believe that it is cruel to allow someone to live in such a state. Yet, just because someone has some sort of handicap does not make them less of a person. No doubt, the child will struggle and the family will struggle, and again this is where the church can come alongside the parents to help, love, and support them. But a handicapped child is still a person, and therefore to abort them is to murder them.
There are so many considerations to take into account when dealing with this issue. Emotions run high on every side. Abortion supporters argue that it is a woman’s choice to do with her body what she wants to do with her body. However, a fetus is a separate life, a child, and is therefore not part of the woman’s body, and she therefore does not morally have a choice to murder the innocent. The child in the womb is a person who is made in the image of God like all other human beings, is special to God, for whom God has a plan. Therefore, they have just as much right to live as anybody else. Biblically, scientifically, and rationally abortion is murder, and the only moral thing to do is heed: ‘You shall not murder.’

No Updates

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
(Acts 4:12)
So, I was having computer problems again this afternoon. Of course, most of my problems have to do with user error or mistakes. Often the problem has to do with shutting the computer down while some sort of Windows 10 update was running in the background without my knowledge. And then I have to restart the computer for some reason which messes up the update which in turn messes up the computer. I swear Windows wants to update its operating system 24/7. You would think that with an older operating system they wouldn’t constantly need to update, but they do. Microsoft just feels the need to constantly and continuously update.
Unfortunately, there are churches and teachers that think the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified and raised needs constant updating. They feel the need to make additions to what is already there. They might include social issues. They might include pop psychology. They might include mysticism. They might want to twist Scripture to their own liking. The message that Jesus saves is not enough for them. They think that it needs an update.

The problem is that the original gospel message is the only message that saves and changes lives. This message cannot be improved upon or changed. Microsoft every few years creates a new operating system and then constantly adds update after update to that operating system. You cannot do that to the gospel. There is no Gospel 8 or Gospel 10 or Gospel 11. There is just the gospel, plain and simple. And if anyone tries to add an update to it, they are to be avoided at all costs. The gospel needs no update.


I’m sure you are familiar with Nehemiah, the person God used to rebuild the wall around the ancient city of Jerusalem. He became burdened about the ancient city being in a state of disrepair. He traveled a great distance and challenged the people to rebuild the wall and in a period of fifty-two days the wall was completed. The completion of the wall in such a brief time was tremendous.
But it is what came after the rebuilding of the wall that is even more spectacular. The people were challenged to allow God to refresh them as His chosen people. The refreshment included their faith, families and finances. How many of you know how to refresh the browser on your computer? You are given additional information when you refresh your computer. Look around and see the faces of people you pass by every day in need of something refreshing to happen in their lives. Many of them need a refreshment from the Lord. People seem to think they can find what they desire by accumulating things and at times lose all perspective of the things that really matter.
Christians need refreshment of joy and strength. Unbelievers need the refreshment that comes with being born again. What can you do to be the person to bring that refreshment into someone’s life? What can you do to be a source of refreshment for your family, your church, your neighbors, your work, your school? You could completely change the direction of someone’s life when you refresh someone’s soul in the Lord by praying for them and giving them a good word from the Word.
Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
Philemon 20.
Make a commitment to be that person that refreshes someone’s heart in the Lord.

Don’t Say That

Over the past several months we have been blessed with many visitors. It is a privilege to be able to make them feel welcome and serve them while we live and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we need all of our members and regular attenders to go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. It is a team effort to have an outward focus. This means that we have to be careful not to do or say anything that would prevent visitors from coming back.
Church strategist and author Thom Rainer wrote an article that speaks about ten things that we should never ever say to visitors. I hope that by sharing this we all make ourselves a little bit more conscious about how we interact with new people that God sends our way. (You can see the original article at https://archive.thomrainer.com/2015/05/ten-things-you-should-never-say-to-a-guest-in-a-worship-service/)
1) “You are sitting in my pew/seat.” This sentence was actually said to me when I was a visiting preacher in a church. The entitled church member did not realize I was preaching that day. I had the carnal joy of watching her turn red when I was introduced. And, yes, I did move. She scared me.
2) “Is your husband/wife with you?” This question is rightly perceived as, “We really don’t want single adults in our church.” Members see their church as family friendly as long as “family” meets their definition.
3) “Are those your children?” This question is becoming more common with the growth in the adoption of children who are not the same race or ethnicity as their parents. One parent with an adopted child was asked if he got to choose how dark his child would be. I’m serious.
4) “The service has already begun.” This sentence is rightly understood to mean, “You are late, and you will be disrupting the service.” I saw that happen recently. The family left. I was late too, but I stayed since I was preaching.
5) “There is not enough room for your family to sit together.” I was visiting a church a few weeks ago that did just the opposite. When larger families came in the service, members actually gave up their seats to accommodate them. Now that’s true servanthood! I bragged on the members when I spoke that morning.
6) “You will need to step over these people to get to your seat.” No! Please request those seated to move to the center. It’s a church worship service, not a movie theater.
7) “That’s not the way we do it here.” Of course, you can’t have a worship service where any behavior is acceptable. Most of the time, however, the varieties of worship expressions are absolutely fine. I heard from a lay leader recently who witnessed that sentence spoken to a guest who raised her hand during the worship music. She never returned. What a surprise.
8) “You don’t look like you are a member here.” Perhaps when this sentence was spoken, the church member meant to convey, “Are you visiting us?” But to the guest it sounded like, “You don’t belong at this place.”
9) “Have you considered attending the church down the street?” I’m not kidding. Someone shared that comment with me on social media. She was new in town and was visiting churches. She had no idea why the man in the church said that to her, but she never returned to the church.
10) “The nursery is real full.” To the young parent, this sentence is interpreted one of two ways: “There is not enough room for your child” or “Your child probably won’t get good care.”
There’s probably a whole lot more that Thom could have listed, but I hope this list (somewhat funny, somewhat sad) will make us more aware of how we treat visitors. I hope that this will also awaken us to the opportunities to personally take responsibility for visitors. All of you have an obligation to do what you can to make people feel comfortable being a part of the family. Talk with them. Sit with them. Invite them to lunch. Do what you can to make visitors want to come back.

The Worth of Knowing Christ

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)
This week is often called Holy Week or the week of Christ’s Passion (His suffering). Christians take time to pause and take notice of the foundation of their faith–the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, too often, this week comes and goes with little fanfare. Sure, we might have a big family luncheon on Easter Sunday afternoon, but then on Monday we go on with our lives with seemingly little consideration. However, the early apostles never let the events of that week leave them unchanged.
Paul wrote the words of Scripture that are above from a prison. After all of these years, the events of Holy Week were always fresh on his mind. He says that knowing Christ, and knowing what Christ accomplished, is worth more than all of the wealth of the entire universe combined. Everything else that humans normally hold so dear is nothing but rubbish / garbage / sewage in comparison to living for Christ in the power of Christ to affect the world for Christ. There is power in living for Christ–resurrection power. Resurrection power isn’t just for when we receive our resurrection bodies, it is for the here and now. But we can’t live in that power if we regard Christ and what He did in Holy Week as no more than a reason to eat.
There is little resurrection power in the church, and the church is ineffective because of it. But if we want that resurrection power in our lives and families and churches, it begins with valuing Christ and His accomplishments as the most important thing in our lives. My prayer for myself and my family and my church family is that we hold Christ to be more valuable than anything else in the universe, and everything else that we think is so important is really nothing but garbage. And then see Christ’s resurrection power at work.

God Made Them

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
This past week, a video was leaked that showed Disney executive Latoya Raveneau admit that her team has implemented a not-so-secret gay agenda and is regularly adding queerness to children’s programming. This is just the latest step amongst liberals in promoting a perverse and damaging (as well as damning) view of sexuality. Coupled with the controversies of transgender athletes in women’s sports, gender and sexuality is under a grievous attack.
The Bible leaves no room for debate or equivocation on this issue. God created people certain genders, always intended them to be those genders, and created marriage to be between male and female. Full stop. No grey areas. That is Scriptural. 
Although this biblical view is interspersed throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, it begins here in Genesis 1:27. John Piper notes that this verse tells us three things:
(1) God created humanity
(2) God created humanity in God’s image
(3) God created humanity male and female
What this tells us is that since God created humanity, He alone sets the boundaries about what it means to be human. And since humanity is created in His image, they are endowed with special blessings, privileges, and responsibilities. Although in sin the image was marred, Jesus Christ restores that image to it’s intended purpose. And God purposed that humans be male and female and that in this marriage relationship they procreate. Being in the image of God is reflected in both genders, and God specifically created you to image Him in the gender that He made you.
To go against any of these truths is to shake your fist at God, be in rebellion against God, and to bring misery upon yourself both now and for eternity. While the world may try to pressure us to conform to their views of gender and sexuality, this is not an area of compromise (of course, there is no part of Scripture that we should compromise, but this is a definitely an area of pressure in our day and age). In love we must stand for truth, and for those that have fallen into the lie we share the gospel of peace and hope and wholeness in Jesus Christ. Stand tall. Remain faithful. Share the Gospel.

Others May, You Cannot Part 2

Last week I shared the first half of a poem that gave us some food for thought about our choices as Christians. God is our ultimate authority, and there may be some things that He allows others to do (even other Christians), but He does not want us to do it because it does not fit into His personal plan for us. If we fight for our “rights” or “freedoms” in these things, we will miss God’s best for us. But if we submit ourselves, we will see overwhelming victory in our lives. So here is the second half of the poem:
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. SO make up your mind that God is an Infinitely Sovereign Being, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you, but if you absolutely sell yourself to be His love slave, He will wrap you up in Jealous Love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.
Settle it forever, then that you are to DEAL DIRECTLY WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this PECULIAR, PERSONAL, PRIVATE, JEALOUS GUARDIANSHIP and MANAGEMENT OF the HOLY SPIRIT OVER YOUR LIFE, then you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.
WHEN YOU ARE forgotten, neglected, or purposefully set at naught, and you smile inwardly, glorying in the insult or the oversight, because thereby you are counted worthy to suffer with Christ, THAT IS VICTORY.
WHEN YOUR GOOD is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, when your taste is offended, when your advice is disregarded, when your opinions are ridiculed, and you take it all in patient, loving silence, THAT IS VICTORY.
WHEN YOU ARE content with any food, raiment, climate, society, solitude, or any interruption by the will of God, THAT IS VICTORY.

Others May, You Cannot Part 1

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. (1 Corinthians 10:23, ESV)

There is freedom in Christ; we are not under the law. But just because there is freedom, that does not mean that we can just do anything we want to. As Christians, there are some things that, although are not inherently wrong, are not useful or profitable for us. There may be some things other Christians can do, but God won’t allow you to do them; He has something better for you. It is for your good and sanctification to obey that calling. I had found a poem that speak to this, so I wanted to share some of it.

-Author Unknown.

IF God has called you to be really like Jesus He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious He may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make YOUR REWARD TEN Times GREATER When JESUS COMES.
That is the first half of the poem. I will print the other half next week. May you rejoice in all that God is doing in you, not fret about what He is not.