More or Less

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Is your church attendance connected in any way with your spirituality and relationship with Jesus Christ? In an effort to keep church attendance from being a work for salvation, many believers have grown accustom to dismissing the need and obligation of gathering together as believers. They might say, “I worship God on my own.” “I just catch the podcast.” “I am in God’s Word everyday. It won’t matter if I skip the Midweek service.” To be clear, our salvation does not rest on our church attendance. However, your spiritual wellbeing does. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 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.”

Let’s consider some reasons why assembling with our church family should not be viewed casually.

  1. The Pattern of the Early Church
    From the earliest days in the book of Acts, the followers of Christ gathered together. This was their pattern. They did not gather three times a week, but daily. They gathered for teaching, fellowship, prayer, for the remember their Lord. This was a time to be strengthened in their Christian journey. It was a time to encourage and to be encouraged.
  2. The Relationships We Need
    Our society is quickly becoming a closed society. Neighborhood block parties are seldom. When we get home from work, we park in the garage, close the door and remain cut off from our neighbors. We order on Amazon. We pay at the pump. We bank online. Soon, we will pay for our items at grocery and retail stores through apps taking away one more human interaction. With headphones, people walk through stores barricaded behind their music.What does this have to do with church? The closing of relationship in society is slowly happening in our churches. Christians want quick, downloadable church. Church that does not demand their attention for long. It is popular to rush to the service of choice and then rush back into private living. We need the relationship with one another. Catching the podcast or live stream will give you truth to ponder, but it is completely detached from relationship that is needed. One reason we are not to neglect the gathering of believers is so that we can consider and relate with one another.
  3. The Stability It Provides
    Paul tells the Ephesian believers that the gathering of believers and the ministry of the pastor, along with other God called spiritual leaders, was essential to their stability. In that day and today there are many winds of doctrine blowing. Sometimes it seems like a hurricane of false doctrine. Yet, instead of gathering with their church family, many believers will settle to scroll through YouTube, download a podcast or watch Christian television. Wind tossed and discouraged by unbiblical teaching, they ask their pastor if what they heard was really true. God designed the church body and gave a pastor so “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” The great instability among believers today can be often traced back to a casual approach to their gathering with believers under sound preaching and teaching.

While many will argue that you can be spiritual without assembling with other believers in your local church, the Bible teaches us that we are not to neglect it for our own spiritual good. In fact, we are to assemble more as the end nears. So I ask you, this year, do you need to be assemble with your church more or less?

 

So…What about Disney?

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Disney and the Gay Agenda

Disney has been in the center of some controversy over its decision to include a gay scene featuring Josh Gad as LeFou in the newly released Beauty and the Beast (released March 17th). The opposition was voiced especially via social media and petitions. One of the petitions created by Life Site News gave the message to Disney, “Children’s movies are no place for promoting a harmful sexual political agenda, one that offends the deeply-held beliefs of countless parents and families.” The New York Times responded to this opposition with the article, “‘Beauty and the Beast’: Disney’s $300 Million Gamble.” Even the New York Times saw such a move as a dangerous one for a company that claims to be family oriented.

If any people wonder if this is a casual move on Disney’s part, it is not.  Bill Condon, Beauty and the Beast’s director, is quoted as saying the movie includes “A nice exclusively gay moment.” He goes on to share that Disney deals with the opposition by ignoring it. The point is, Disney has no intention of changing. In an interview, Condon was asked about his feelings toward the Bible and what he would do when he finds one in a hotel, “I wish I could say I’m like Ian McKellen and immediately go rip pages out of the Bible, but there don’t seem to be Bibles in the hotel rooms I stay in these days.” The obvious fact is, Condon has no respect for God’s Word and defiantly chooses to promote agendas contrary to it. Furthermore, it is evident that Disney will continue to promote whatever agenda is in vogue even if it causes them to lose supporters for a time. 

Nothing New

We must realize that this is not new for Disney. Disney has been a kind of Trojan horse, seeming to uphold traditional, moral, family values, when in reality, they have been doing just the opposite. During 1994, Disney opted to begin granting health insurance benefits to homosexuals. This move was a declaration of approval for the gay lifestyle. Their annually hosted “gay days” at their theme parks further confirms this. Disney has well earned the public reputation as a promoter of the homosexual lifestyle. 

What Does the Bible Say?

God designed marriage to be between one woman and one man, and it is honorable. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Nature itself reveals that this is God’s design for companionship and procreation.  Man will give account for every distortion of this sacred institution. (Romans 1:26-27, 32)

Shock of Bible Believers

However, even with Disney’s blatant defiance of Biblical principles, I am often more amazed at the shock expressed by born-again believers concerning the decisions of this and other secular organizations to promote anti-biblical agendas. There is shock over Starbucks not promoting Christmas on their cups. There is shock that Target would want to publicly jump on the transgender bathroom bandwagon. Currently, there is shock that Disney would take an old story, reshape it, and use it to promote a sexual political agenda. The list could go on, but I think you get the idea. We sometimes are stunned at the fact that the lost act like the lost.

A Secular Company and Biblical Values

This is what is most astonishing about this issue–not that Disney is failing to uphold moral values, but that believers are surprised at it. You see, the Bible gives us several truths about the lost that show us that they simply do not have the ability to understand or uphold Biblical values. 

I Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 

Those without Christ do not understand Biblical truth and do not make their decisions according to it. We are reminded in Ephesians 2:1 that before salvation, we “…were dead in tresspasses and sins.” 

We were spiritually separated from God in active lawlessness and defiance against God. Every lost person is in that exact position of defiance against God’s laws. I John 3:8 shows us that they continuously sin and side with the god of this world—Satan.

“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” While we all mourn the declining morality of so many in our society, we must remember that they do not have the ability to uphold Biblical values—they are lost. That is the job of Bible believers. 

Christians point their fingers at the lost and expect them to act like believers and follow God’s Word. They won’t. That’s why we have been left here. God has told us to be salt and light. He has commanded us to go and preach the Gospel to every creature. They will not stop acting against God until they personally know God through a relationship with His Son Jesus. That’s where we come in.  

May we as Bible believers be ever ready to share Jesus Christ everywhere we go.

Book Review: The Insanity of God

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The Insanity of God. An eye catching title, I know! When this book was first recommended to me, I have to admit, it didn’t sound like a book I would read. You can never judge a book by its cover! From the first pages I was struck with the powerful testimony of God’s guidance in the life of Nik Ripkens who sought God earnestly. Here are some of the lessons I learned from the book and why you need read it as well.

  1. God is a Rewarder:…he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
    Nik’s heart to seek God and to do His will is obvious throughout the book. There is a progression of growth in the author’s life that makes one thirsty to seek God also. By the last chapter, there a sense that Nik had experienced enormous growth in both the knowledge and love of God. It is time that American believers seek God in sincerity.
  2. God is Working in the Midst of Persecution: Much of the world does not know the freedoms that we experience in America. Persecution is a daily occurrence for many believers around the world. As Americans, we think restriction and persecution limits the work of God, but the opposite is true. God’s power is revealed in the most amazing ways in the most heavily persecuted countries. Persecuted believers in Somaliland, Russia, China and in Muslim lands are seeing God work as He did in the pages of the New Testament. Though we ought not seek persecution, we ought to embrace living for and serving Christ with same focus and passion as our persecuted brethren.  As Stoyan said, reference American believers, “I took great joy that I was suffering in my country so that you could be free to witness in your country.” He went on to say, “DON’T YOU EVER GIVE UP IN FREEDOM WHAT WE WOULD NEVER GIVE UP IN PERSECUTION— AND THAT IS OUR WITNESS TO THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST!”
  3. God uses Dedicated Disciples: I discovered that these persecuted believers knew by experience what Jesus meant in Luke 9:23 when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” I was left asking myself, “Do I know what that means.” They serve Jesus gladly even in the face of death because Jesus is worthy. Reading of their dedication, I have no question why God used them as He did. Let us decide to be dedicated to Jesus no matter what happens. He is worth it!
  4. God is the Same: The Bible tells us that God is always the same. We read the Biblical accounts of God’s powerful works and conclude, “That was just for Bible times.” Nik  asks, “Is the resurrection power that the New Testament describes still real and available to believers in our world today?  Nik discovered that the God of the New Testament had not changed and was still able and ready to show Himself strong.  Our God is not limited by governments. He is not limited by evil. I was personally convicted of my lack of faith in the unlimited power of God. How we need a fresh realization of the grandness and power of our God.

After reading this book, I plan to recommend it to everybody I can, simply because it was a huge help to me. I am hungry to see God work in America and more specifically in my own community. This book challenged me not to get sidetracked by the thrills of life, but to seek to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

Available on Amazon

Following Christ in the Last Day

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Deadlines bring about a certain amount of focus and yes, panic. If you are a procrastinator, you have experienced the panic of deadlines. Perhaps it is a report or presentation that was due at your job. Maybe a research paper for that college class. Regardless, you can identify with the feeling experienced at deadlines.

The events of the past weeks in America have cause many believers to be reminded once again that we are in the last days. The Bible tells us about the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-4.

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 

Current events are a vivid display of many of these descriptions. We see disobedience and lawlessness. There is ungratefulness and a care less attitutde about life. Dishonesty and slander are a norm. Self-contol is not practiced and we see a rise in uncivilized behavior. Note the word ‘fierce’ in verse three. It literally means untamed and is the idea of uncivilized. The list goes on, but what we are seeing in our county is what the Bible told us would happen in the last days. I am not saying “All hope is lost.” There is always hope in turning to Jesus Christ!

With all that said, I believe that followers of Christ must be very purposeful in these day. I want to share three practical ways the last days should affect our living.

  1. We need to Increase our Gathering Together (25)
    It is popular to attend church gatherings once a week. In fact, over the last decade or so, the number of people who have quit attending church as risen by 30% which translates into 38 million people. That is the cultural trend. Yet God told us in Hebrews 10:25 that our gatherings should increase as we see the day approaching. Church is not something to be skipping out on in the day that we live. You need it and the rest of the church needs you there as well. Don’t look at gathering with other believers as a burden, it is one of the ways God designed for your burdens to be lifted. I cannot be more emphatic about this, you need to gather with believers whenever the gathering is happening. It is for your good and for the good of others.
  2. We need to Intensify our Focus on our Mission
    When you are running a race, as you get down to the end, there is an intensity that builds. Your focus is not on those behind you or around you, but on the finish line. We are getting down to the end and followers of Jesus ought to have an intensified focus. We need to stop being distracted by temporal endeavors or petty issue and get focused. Bitterness that been held onto for years must be confessed and forsaken. Apathy about the lost must be turned to passion. Priorities need to be adjusted and aligned with Christ’s purpose for putting us here at this time and in this country. Christ mission was “…to seek and to save that which was lost.” Our mission statement ought to be Matthew 28:19-20 and every activity of our life ought to be focused on accomplishing it someway.
  3. We need to Increase our Encouragement of Others (24)
    Our world is hurting. Many followers of Christ are hurting. Don’t be a critic that adds to the burdens of others. Be an encourager that lifts burdens and points people to the  Burden Bearer—Jesus Christ. Learn to pray with others, not just tell them you will pray for them. Use your social media to encourage with God’s Word and testimony of His goodness and mercy. Remember that Jesus often had His schedule disrupted in order to meet needs. If you will encourage others, you will have to be fine with being flexible. You will have to be ready to sacrifice what you were going to do in order to encourage a hurting heart.

Which of these areas do you need to increase and intensify in your life as you follow Christ? May God give you grace and strength to follow Christ in these last days.

Listen to the sermon Following Christ in the Last Days

Following Christ in the Last Days Keynote

Love and Hate

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All around us we see hate rising. Hate is not a new thing. Since the fall of man there has been hate. Do you remember Cain and how his hate toward his brother Abel led him to commit murder? Hate is the result of many other sins like envy, pride, greed, covetousness and prejudice. It is rampant in our society!

Jesus taught His followers to be different. He encouraged them to show love no matter if they were shown love. Luke 6:32 says, “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.” Society around shows hate to those who hate them and love to those who love them. The followers of Jesus are to love and keep on loving. People around you toward are thirsty for genuine love. Refresh someone today with a loving spirit just like Jesus.

What Next?

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I am sure you are like me and shaking your head as you watch the news. There seems to be a spirit of lawlessness rising in our country. I do not claim to know all the details of the Dallas shooting, however I do want to just give a couple of thoughts that followers of Christ ought to practice in these days.

  1. Pray for Americans to Turn to Jesus
    Those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ will be peacemakers. Jesus taught His disciples to seek peace. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” One cannot be a peacemaker without possessing the Peacemaker Himself. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Let’s pray for a great awakening in America to the person of Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers to all.
  2. Respect Authority
    It is always right to obey the authorities that are in place over you. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Followers of Jesus ought to be bold examples of respecting police officers. If you get pull over, do what he or she says. Be submissive and if you were doing wrong (like speeding), be humble enough to admit it.
  3. Appreciate Local Law Enforcement
    Everyday the police officers in your city show up to roll call and wonder quietly if their shift will go without a violent situation or a socially charged attention getting incident. They get into their cruisers wondering if they will return to their homes safely. The vast majority of officers simply want to keep their communities safe, no matter the races represented. They wear a uniform and a badge, but behind it is a heart that needs encouraged and appreciated. Find a way to appreciate your local police  officers.

My heart hurts for what I see in my country. The Bible tells us that in the last times things would get worse and worse. We are experiencing that on many levels! Let’s  be sure to shine for Jesus brighter than ever in everything we do.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

If He Can There, I Can Here!

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Most of us quake in fear when we think of personally spreading the Gospel in the Muslim world. Preaching the Gospel in most areas of the Middle East legitimately requires that a man would be willing to lay down his life for Jesus Christ.  These are precisely the reasons why the autobiography of Edgar Feghaly, Forward in the Face of Fear, will grip your attention. As I read it, I was encouraged by the testimony of a man who chose to walk by faith and not by sight. I was inspired by the countless examples of how God had preserved the life of His servant. Here are five reasons why this book would be a great encouragement to you.

  1. It is Current—We hear the great missionary stories of the past. They are inspiring but, in our minds they are often relegated as possible in the past, not in the present. Chapter after chapter is filled powerful accounts of God doing the impossible during the lifetime of my generation and last. As a young man, that just encourages me!
  2. It is Relevant—With all the focus on the turmoil in the Middle East, this book will be one you don’t want to put down. While reading of the power of God, you will also learn enlightening history describing the beginning of conflict in that region. You will gain a greater understanding of the unrest we see there today. Beyond that, you will see that the unrest has not stopped the Gospel from advancing or Christ’s church being built.
  3. It is Simple—When I hear of the ways God used great men of the past, sometimes I am tempted to think that God used them because they were special. While that is not true, it is easy to slip into that thinking. Edgar Feghaly is just a man who simply decided to follow Jesus early in life and practiced simple faith in God’s extraordinary power. “Although I knew at a young age that God had called me to serve Him, the night I walked the aisle at the Baptist church to surrender to His will I had no idea what a life of service would involve. I just knew I wanted to tell everyone I met about the One who had changed my heart and my family. And soon, God blessed me with opportunities to do just that.”
  4. It is Challenging—You will be challenged by Mr. Feghaly’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Multiple times his obedience to the Spirit kept him from danger or enabled him to win a soul to Christ. You will be challenged by his contentment to serve God without complaint. After all, there are easier places to preach Christ than Lebanon!
    “I am ever grateful to the Lord who called me to minister and enabled me to serve Him in Lebanon. He truly provided spiritually, emotionally, and physically for my family’s every need.”
  5. It is Applicable—In America we have many excuses for not telling everyone we meet about the One that has changed our hearts. When you read of the circumstances in which Mr. Feghaly preached the Gospel, every excuse will pale in comparison. We have not been touched by unending war on our home soil. We have not faced persecution or even extreme opposition of our faith. Yet in the midst of a hostile, war-torn region, the Gospel went forward. I found myself thinking, “If he can do it there, I can do it here!”

Forward in the Face of Fear will be release on April 11, 2016. You can purchase your print or digital copy at Striving Together Publications.