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RSS Robot

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RSS Robot last won the day on July 25 2020

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  1. One of the moments I will never forget from this year’s opening week at West Coast Baptist College was a conversation I had with a mother who was bringing her freshman daughter. We had a brief conversation about where they were from, what the daughter will be studying, and how different it will be for students this year to be wearing masks and following other CDC guidelines. Then the mother told me, “The reason I wanted my daughter here this semester, rather than waiting until after Covid-19 is past, is so she will be surrounded by faith.” That statement has stayed with me. In a way, I already knew the mother was right. Opening the college this year required a level of both faith and effort that even supersedes that of the first year we opened in 1995. I cannot describe the ways our administration, faculty, and staff have exercised faith on a daily basis over these past six months. But something about hearing someone else—and especially a parent of a new student—observe what this faith would mean to her daughter was impactful. The students who are currently training at WCBC will likely face real persecution throughout the course of their ministries. If we cannot work to instill the faith walk within them now, they won’t be able to stand in what Ephesians 6:13 calls “the evil day.” As our society works to vigorously rid itself of any vestiges of its Christian heritage and shaping, those of us who have already learned to walk by faith must not turn from the path of faith now. In fact, now more than ever before we need to model for young people what it means to walk by faith. How do we do that? Have a Spirit of Faith This is where it starts—with a firm conviction that “God is able.” Would your children look at your life and conclude, “God can do anything”? Do those in the church you pastor sense a spirit of faith, vision, and hope for the future in you? For with God nothing shall be impossible.—Luke 1:37 Take a Stand by Faith We are watching the crumbling of values in our society, and Christians—lest they be labeled as bigots or misunderstood—are refusing to speak to the biblical issues of sanctity of life, sacredness of marriage, biblical distinctions of gender, or other solid truths from God’s Word. It’s like Howard Hendricks said decades ago, “In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.” We say that we believe God’s Word, but do we have the faith to take a bold stand for its truths? Will we unashamedly stand with God’s Word so we can clearly preach the gospel? Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.—Acts 17:18 Witness for Christ in Faith One of the worst tricks of Satan during Covid-19 has been to shut down the propagation of the gospel during a time when the world most desperately needs hope. Of course, the Word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9), but in our lack of faith, we have believed people don’t want to hear about Jesus. Depending on what part of the country you live in, some usual modes of ministry are closed. In most places, you can’t make hospital visits right now. You can’t conduct Christian services in nursing homes or prisons. But you can still witness to your neighbor. You can still invite your coworker to church. You can share your testimony on social media. Here at Lancaster Baptist, we have been making doorstep visits to new move ins in our community, bringing bottled water with gospel tracts to parks, and canvassing neighborhoods with gospel tracts. All have been very well received. As long as there are lost people, there is always a way to share the gospel. And young people today need to see that the gospel is so valuable that it is worth overcoming the current barriers to share it. Would they see that in your life? And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.—Ephesians 6:19–20 The group of students here at WCBC this fall is a special group. They have come by faith, and they are getting to see expressions of faith all around them. I pray that they are absorbing this opportunity as a means to see their own faith strengthen. But it’s not just students at WCBC who need to see faith in action. It is every Christian in every local church and in every Christian home. If you are a pastor, parent, Sunday school teacher, deacon, or layperson, I encourage you, walk by faith. How is your spirit of faith? Do those you lead know that you believe God is able? How is your stand of faith? Is it evident in your life that you hold biblical convictions and intend to stand by them regardless of what may come? How is your witness of faith? Are you sharing the gospel with others? Hebrews 13:7 instructs church members to follow the faith of their spiritual leaders. Is your faith strong enough for others to follow? View the full article
  2. The balance between stillness and purposefulness is not an easy one to find! And in the search, we're confronted with all sorts of distractions... [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  3. Over the years, I have been an observer of ministry trends. Partly I observe because I want to keep growing and am always glad for new or innovative ideas. And partly I observe in order to better understand the current ministry landscape and train the next generation of Christian servants at West Coast Baptist College. Over the past 10–12 years, students in our college have had questions about some of the newer trends and terms introduced into ministry. As I studied to answer their questions, I’ve learned that while some of these trends have commendable traits, some have concerning origins and leanings that will adversely affect the faith of their adherents. As a result of this study, several years ago I began writing a book to bring biblical clarity to some of these trends. In the course of research for this book, I read dozens of other books, conducted many interviews, and spent countless hours studying and analyzing in the light of Scripture what is going on in the ministry world today. The end product is a new book titled Keep the Faith. (Click here to read the table of contents, introduction, and chapter 1.) In this new episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, my son Larry and I discuss the book and walk through the chapters and topics covered. This episode is for anyone who teaches or preaches God’s Word or anyone—pastor or layman—who would like insight into the changes happening in churches nationwide. (If you cannot view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) The book is organized into three parts: Standing for Biblical Truth—In these introductory chapters, we cover the importance of the truth itself, the biblical premise behind ecclesiastical separation, and then spend three chapters looking at church history. The history section is important because it provides context for the trends we look at in part 2. Although we look briefly at early church history, we zero in on the beginning of the modern fundamental movement and how it was birthed as a response to German rationalism, looking at how this affected the Baptist world in particular. Then we look at some of the various Baptist groups and recent Baptist history. From there we move into the birth of the New Evangelical movement and how it set the context for some of the ministry philosophies today. Discerning Ministry Trends—Part 2 is the meat of this book. It begins with an overview of the cultural changes that affect today’s ministry landscape and then looks at the shifts taking place in ministry. From there, we examine terms such as integrative ministry, syncretism, contextualization, missional ministry, Critical Race Theory, identity politics, social justice, gospel centered, radical grace, and much more. We discuss these on the podcast as well as diving deep into them in the book. Reaching forward with the Gospel—If part 2 is the meat of the book, part 3 is the purpose for it. Reaching forward with the gospel must be our passion if we are to obey the Great Commission of Christ. These final chapters of the book (and of our discussion on the podcast) wrap up the previous material with recommendations for how to keep he faith and reach into our communities with the gospel. In these chapters, I argue that we need freedom and liberty in our methods, but we need to remain focused on pleasing Christ and making Him known. We want to not only keep the faith, but also advance it! If this episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast was a blessing to you, please share it with a friend. You can subscribe to future episodes via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or YouTube. Keep the Faith is available September 8 through Striving Together Publications as well as on Amazon. (Preorder by September 7 to receive a free copy of my most recent book, Outsiders.) View the full article
  4. There is no such thing as growth without change. Of course, change is not always indicative of growth. Sometimes it is the result of drift—doctrinally, spiritually, or philosophically. Sometimes change is also forced by outside circumstances. Even so, where there is growth, there will be change. This is true in every sphere of life, including your walk with God, personal relationships, development of skills, and more. Where there is growth, there will be change. Click To Tweet This doesn’t mean every change will be radical. In fact, those consistently making radical changes are probably either immature (a young Christian making positive radical changes in obedience to God’s Word) or unstable (a leader constantly changing his philosophy or doctrine). But a growing leader will be constantly making adjustments to reflect the growth he or she is experiencing. These adjustments should be led by the Holy Spirit and carried out with a commitment to honor God’s Word. Here are three areas that growing leaders will consistently adjust: 1. Adjust your methods. As challenging as the Coronavirus has been, one blessing that can come out of it for Christian leaders is a re-evaulation of methods. There are methods that have become part of our institutionalized church culture that may have been more effective decades ago than they are now. For this reason, having our entire weekly church schedule and even the greater part of our annual calendar disrupted can be a gift if we will seize the opportunity to evaluate what programs and events are still serving their intended purposes and if there are better ways to accomplish the same purposes. These exercises should always begin with an absolute commitment to biblical commands and principles. For example, Scripture specifically instructs us to assemble and worship (Hebrews 10:25). Thus, I’m not re-evaluating whether or not our church should hold Sunday services. But our team has reconsidered some of the other meetings that typically happen at our church around Sunday services and how canceling or rescheduling those could help make the actual church service more meaningful. You’ve heard the saying, “Methods are many; principles are few. Methods may change; principles never do.” The key is to hold to biblical principles while adjusting the methods to best follow those principles. If every aspect of your personal or church processes look exactly the same after this pandemic ends as it did before, there is a good chance you missed an opportunity for growth and needed adjustments. If every aspect of your personal or church processes look exactly the same after this pandemic ends as it did before, there is a good chance you missed an opportunity for growth and needed adjustments. Click To Tweet 2. Adjust your priorities. Priorities have a way of shifting over time. And while we rarely change our stated priorities, seasons of growth lead us to reexamine our actual priorities. While we rarely change our *stated* priorities, seasons of growth lead us to reexamine our *actual* priorities. Click To Tweet Sometimes we say our relationship with God is our first priority, but then the Holy Spirit brings conviction that we’re not spending time with Him. Sometimes we say we are called to reach people with the gospel and equip a church family to do the same, but in actuality, we’ve gone weeks without personally sharing the gospel with a lost person. When the Holy Spirit points out a shift in your priorities, don’t let that pass as a simple moment of conviction. Consider what specific adjustments you need to make to retain a consistent focus on your God-give priorities. The Apostle Paul maintained a laser-like focus on this one thing: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14). There cannot be lasting growth without a continued focus on God-given priorities. And when those priorities begin to slip (as they inevitably will in all of our lives), one of the first steps to helpful change is readjusting your priorities. 3. Adjust your vigilance. The tendency over time is to relax your guard, but real growth will lead to a sharpener awareness of Satan’s wiles. Think of a soldier in battle. A new, scared soldier will see every bit of movement or sound as a threat. With experience, he’ll learn that everything isn’t a threat. But at that point, he will either let down his guard and thus expose himself to true threats, or, he will sharpen his senses so he is less jumpy but more alert. Christian leaders do not have the luxury of letting down our guard. First Peter 5:8 directly commands us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” As we learn and grow as leaders, we should become more vigilant, not less. Satan is on the prowl, and he is out to destroy you. As we grow as leaders, we should become more vigilant, not less. Click To Tweet Guard your spirit. Guard your testimony. Guard your heart. Fight temptation. Resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9, James 4:7). Which comes first? Growth leads to change. But change can also lead to growth. Churches and Christian leaders worldwide are in a season of imposed change. Even when we get past this pandemic, there will be cultural changes that began during it and are here to stay. The question is, will you grow through it? And if you are growing, what adjustments do you need to intentionally make to facilitate that growth? View the full article
  5. Anyone who tells you that they have local church ministry during Covid-19 figured out is either delusional or far wiser than I am. Because after thirty-four years of pastoring, I am finding this season the most challenging—by far. I have never seen anything like it. The health, political, and social challenges are real. Additionally, as a pastor, I am engaged in a work in which a primary aspect of my responsibility is calling people together to hear God’s Word preached. Literally, my job is to gather crowds in a time when that is highly discouraged! I’m sure there has never been a time in my life when I have prayed more earnestly for God’s wisdom nor sought clarity and counsel as frequently. As an undershepherd of Christ’s church, I feel responsible To teach and preach God’s Word to our church family. For the safety of our members and community. For the health of our church family. For the spiritual wellbeing of Christ’s flock. To continue to reach out to our community with the gospel. Balancing all of these concerns is challenging, to say the least. Other pastors I have discussed these issues with have expressed the same challenges. Some pastors, church staff, or church members may look at just one issue—perhaps scientific data—and think the answers of how to proceed are clear as day. But I can assure you, it’s not that simple. The Bible tells us, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Something similar could be said for there being safety in seeking guidance on multiple facets of these issues. In the midst of such conflicting information in the news and multi-level concerns for the church, how can a pastor make wise decisions regarding when and how to hold services, how to minister to the community, and how to biblically care for the spiritual wellbeing of his church family? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. Here in California, we’re still in a position to have to make new decisions almost every week as varying types of data emerge. But in making these decisions, there are several aspects I consider. Biblical Obedience This is where it starts and ends. My primary and ultimate concern is to obey Christ and follow His Word. God’s Word commands us to assemble: “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” (Hebrews 10:25). As I shared in a blog post last month, because assembling is a biblical mandate for the church, I do not see a scenario in which a church can refuse to assemble for an indefinite amount of time and be obedient to Christ. Obviously, there are emergency situations in which a temporary pause or change of venue (such as we all believed would be the case at the beginning of this pandemic) are not an abdication of assembly. But an ongoing, indefinite cessation of assembly cannot be an option on the table. While we will take every precaution possible to keep our church family and community safe—out of love for them and respect for government leaders working to protect public health—at the end of the day, we say with the apostles, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And the general rule of weekly assembling is a biblical mandate. Spiritual Concern I am concerned for our church members who want and need spiritual encouragement during what has become one of the most difficult times of their lives. These people—from medical professionals on the front lines of exposure to the virus, to widows and singles living alone, to young couples faced with the challenges of raising a Christian family during job losses, to men, women, and teens struggling with various emotional challenges—need the spiritual encouragement of preaching and fellowship more now than perhaps any other time. Every time our church is required to pivot in some regard to our services—outdoor or indoor location, service times, in-person or online group studies, etc.—I think of these people and how the options available in the decision could impact their access to spiritual growth. Legal and Guidance Concerns The politicization of this pandemic has undoubtedly made the medical issues fuzzier than they would have been otherwise. Even so, there are public servants who are genuinely doing their best to protect public health. I respect the office of these leaders (as Romans 13 instructs us to do), and I appreciate the efforts of those who want to keep our community safe. To whatever extent we can comply with legitimate orders that do not conflict with God’s commands, we absolutely will (and have done). Over the past several months, I’ve spent much time trying to understand and follow the latest guidance. This has included daily calls with legal counselors as well as frequent calls with our local leaders on the city and county level. It has often been frustrating to receive conflicting counsel at federal, state, and local levels. But we have done our best to understand and work with those in authority. And we have been careful to question if our decisions are sound according to legal counsel. Physical Needs I have concerns for those with underlying conditions. I’m legitimately concerned for Covid patients. I have had pastor friends experience serious cases of Covid-19. And just today, one of our dear church members with Covid-19 went to be with the Lord. I don’t take the physical needs lightly. When I speak to younger leaders, they sometimes tend to be dismissive of the health implications of the virus. Some hope for it to spread quickly so we can develop herd immunity. When I speak to older leaders, they usually tend to be concerned about taking as many precautions as possible. I pastor a church with people from infants to the elderly. I can’t take a flippant attitude, and I can’t take a fearful attitude. My practice has been to try to hear all of the concerns and be learning and understanding the best medical and safety procedures. Medical Information The medical information on Covid-19 is all over the map. Some outlets lead us to think that half of America is dying. Others seem to take it too lightly. Over the past several months there has been conflicting information, sometimes seemingly released at opportune moments to further one or another agenda. But because this is a real medical issue, I can’t just assume no medical information matters. As a leader, I try to understand the dangers and needs for caution. Obviously, this varies from one state or local community to the next. Perception of Those Concerned Scripture commands me to show concern and deference, even to someone who is more concerned than I am. Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” And Philippians 2:3–4 says, “…in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” If I, as a pastor, blow off the concerns of those in our own church who are fearful of contracting the virus, my brashness could limit the ability of some to receive spiritual encouragement because they do not feel they can come to services. Whether or not it is medically relevant, there is a real sense in which wearing masks, making careful provision for and following social distancing guidelines, and taking every precaution possible in church services becomes a matter of humility and deference. Even if I didn’t think it was necessary for protection, I will gladly do it to facilitate spiritual support and encouragement for others. Testimony with Community Since I came to Lancaster, California, just over thirty-four years ago, it has been my prayer that no honest history of our community could be written without mentioning Lancaster Baptist Church. Our church’s desire is to impact our community for Christ with the gospel. For thirty-four years, our church has reached out to every home in our valley with the gospel. We have served law enforcement and medical professionals. We have built relationships with our city and county leaders. So when those same leaders find themselves in the middle of a pandemic, I want to be a team player who helps serve the public health of our community. I want to be someone who listens to concerns and is part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. But beyond our relationship with community leaders, our church members are still inviting their friends and co-workers to come to our socially-distanced, masked, sometimes-outdoor services. Some have been saved. So, I don’t want to brazenly defy the health concerns of an entire community and leave the people I want to reach with the gospel fearful of coming to our church. The Leading of God Even with the seven considerations listed above, there are many variables from one church to the next and from one community to the next. For us, there have been variables from one week to the next! There’s no special formula to make the perfect decision in such a challenging time. At the end of the day, as the senior pastor of our church, I must seek the wisdom of God and obey His impulses. If you’re a pastor, seek God’s face. Ask Him boldly for His wisdom. I’ve been claiming the promise of James 1:5 more now than at any other point in my ministry: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” If you’re a church member or church staff, pray for your pastor. And trust God to lead and direct him. Although the context of Hebrews 13:17 is primarily spiritual, the reality of the phrase “for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account” is weighty. Speaking from the heart of a pastor, I can tell you that the physical pandemic overlaps real spiritual concerns for the flock. With this in mind, follow the guidance your pastor provides, even if your personal concerns or medical intuition would be less cautious. This pandemic has drug on for a long time. And there are some indications that aspects of it will continue for some time to come. But it won’t last forever. We will get through it. And if we are following the Lord and receiving His grace, we’ll be stronger for it. Meanwhile, our church is having services, witnessing, finding ways to engage our community with the gospel, and, most of all, desiring to be found faithful to Christ. View the full article
  6. My life has been influenced, informed, and molded by Christian education. As a student, I greatly benefited from Christian education. And since beginning Lancaster Baptist School in 1989, I have labored as a teacher, parent, administrator, and pastor, to weave the mind of Christ and a Christian worldview throughout the educational process. That’s why this summer our administration has worked diligently with parents, attorneys, teachers, doctors, and government agencies to keep our Christian school open in this needy hour. I have conference called with Secretary DeVos at the White House and had a weekly call with administrators from other Christian schools. Even now, as we wait for waivers, guidance, and court rulings, I am moving forward with a plan for education in our schools, and we are working with many other schools as well. Why is this so important? 1. Children are the heritage of the Lord. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.—Psalm 127:3 We do not believe it is primarily the state’s responsibility to train children. Children are a treasure from God entrusted to the care of parents to raise for God. Thus, parents are accountable to God for every decision they make regarding the care and raising of their children. 2. Parents are commanded to train their children. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.—Ephesians 6:4 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.—Proverbs 22:6 Bringing up a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is not a passive endeavor. It’s not something toward which a parent should take a “wait and see” attitude. This is an area in which we, as Christian parents, must be proactive and involved as we raise our children in the ways of the Lord. 3. The church is commissioned to teach biblical truths to the next generation. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…—Matthew 28:19–20 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:2 As important as the Christian home is in the life of a child, the church also carries a responsibility to disciple and teach its members. In this way, a local church-based Christian school serves as a “teaching arm” of the church and provides an education that is Bible-based and Christ-centered. Such Christian schools provide a place of academic learning for children that strengthens their faith and establishes their hearts in God’s ways. A biblical Christian school is something far more than an opportunity for Bible class or chapel. It provides a type of discipleship in shaping a Christian worldview as students learn—in history, economics, math, English, science, and more—to apply God’s principles and see life through a biblical perspective. 4. The Scriptures affirm tutors and teachers having a role in education and discipleship. Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.—Galatians 4:1–2 Christian homes in the first century employed teachers and mentors whom they asked to help in the process of educating their children. Thus, it is entirely biblical for a father or mother, at their discretion, to allow their children to be taught and influenced by mentors and teachers who have godly Christian testimonies. 5. A threefold cord is not easily broken. And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.—Ecclesiastes 4:12 Like a strong rope made of multiple cords, so influences combine in the hearts of children that can bring stability and keep them from evil. I believe that a godly family who is faithful in a biblical church and working with a Christian school makes a strong trio for raising Christ-centered children. 6. Christians are commanded to avoid voluntarily sitting in the seat of the scornful. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.—Psalm 1:1 The modern public education system is greatly influenced by the humanistic philosophies shared in the Humanist Manifesto. (I detailed these in the booklet The Value of Christian Education, Striving Together Publications, 2011, pages 25–29.) The anti-God and anti-biblical worldview of many public educators is something a discerning Christian parent will avoid. 7. It is vital to train children early in biblical principles to follow in years to come. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.—2 Timothy 3:15 As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, he pointed out that the biblical truths instilled in Timothy at an early age—from a child—had been meaningful in Timothy’s life. Our goal as parents must not be to raise well-behaved, knowledgeable boys and girls. Our goal must be to raise Christ-centered, thoroughly-prepared adults. The influences we put in their lives as children have incredible potential in leading them on a path of biblical principles for years to come. Christian parents must have convictions of faith that Christian education is a calling—a responsibility—in their roles as parents. Over the years, I have seen that parents of Christian school students either play the part of consumers or of partners. And the differences between the two will be particularly meaningful this fall. Consumers are preference driven. If something isn’t preferentially comfortable, a consumer will seek other outlets of education. Partners are co-laborers in the faith. They see themselves laboring arm-in-arm with those serving their children as “laborers together with God” (1 Corinthians 3:9) and “striving together for the faith” (Philippians 1:27). Partners work together with school administrators and teachers to help provide the best academics, social, and spiritual education possible. Many in America hate the Christian school movement and the Christ-centered applications of knowledge it provides. For the sake of the next generation, for the sake of the faith, let us prioritize Christian education this fall. View the full article
  7. There are many things we want in abundance. Choices. Opportunities. Results. But what the first-century church had in abundance was trials. The apostle Peter said they were “in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1 Peter 1:6). They had trouble coming at them from every angle. The modern American church is not used to this. Sure, we’ve had trouble in the past. But we’re in a season right now when trouble is coming at us from every side. There’s a worldwide pandemic that has drastically altered our ministry schedules and has repeatedly—almost weekly—forced us to adapt. There is civil unrest. There is economic upheaval, including many being laid off from their jobs. There is fear and concern about education options for this school year. And all this is on top of the personal trials many are already going through. Sometimes it all begins to play on people’s minds. Sometimes even for pastors it’s hard to plan for ministry. Sometimes any of us can wonder if pressing forward for Christ during such seasons is worth the effort. But isn’t where we find ourselves now the way Jesus described the Christian life would be? Too often, we’re hoping for a walk through the park instead of committing to press toward the mark. God never promised that the Christian life or spiritual leadership would be a routine, easy path every day. Too often, we’re hoping for a walk through the park instead of committing to press toward the mark. Click To Tweet What God does offer, however, is a resource the world knows nothing of—Christian hope. While many Christians are generally aware of and perhaps even talk about the reality of hope, many struggle to hold onto it or live in light of it. So how do we reach out and grasp this hope? How does it become something so real that it characterizes our lives? How do you live with this hope when you are in a season of heaviness through manifold temptations? First Peter 1:13–16 gives us at least three answers: Fasten Your Mind on Truth Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober…—1 Peter 1:13 The word gird means “to gather up.” This is a time for serious, spiritual thinking. Pull your thoughts together to the dominant truths of God. This is not a time for imagining life outside of God’s revealed will to you. It’s not a time to think unscriptural, wandering thoughts that question God’s goodness or fantasize an easier path. This is the time to gird up our minds and maintain a biblical thought process. If our minds are not saturated with God’s Word and filled with gospel truth, we will be overcome with fear or frustration. If our minds are not saturated with God’s Word and filled with gospel truth, we will be overcome with fear or frustration. Click To Tweet Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;—2 Corinthians 10:5 Fix Your Gaze on Christ’s Coming …and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;—1 Peter 1:13 The eminent return of Christ is the blessed hope of every child of God. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;—Titus 2:13 We see the world in turmoil, but God sees His plan unfolding. And in the midst of all the turmoil, God tells us to look for His coming—to fix our gaze on the heavens and the future glory in Christ. We see the world in turmoil, but God sees His plan unfolding. Click To Tweet Missionary Hudson Taylor described the importance of this truth to our work for Christ: You will often read in missionary reports that the people have turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, but not in one out of ten do you hear anything about their waiting for His Son from heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:9). I believe that the ignorance of the native Christians generally of the fact that Christ is coming again…is one reason for the selfishness and worldliness to be found…. Well do I remember the effect, when God was pleased to open my own heart to this great truth that the Lord Jesus was coming again, and that He might come at any time…. I do not know of any truth that has been a greater blessing to me through life than this.⁠1 Remembering Christ’s coming frees us from the belief that the trials of this world will swallow up our future. Even if our current difficulties were to last for a lifetime, they are only temporary. When our gaze is fixed on Christ’s future coming, our hope is anchored to the most glorious promises of all. Fashion Your Life after God As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.—1 Peter 1:14–16 Christian hope is seen in Christian living. When this world is all there is, living by our “former lusts,” or sin nature, makes sense…and holy living seems pointless. But when we remember that we have been freed from sin and called by a holy God, everything changes. Christian hope is seen in Christian living. Click To Tweet I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20 We are not to continue to conform our life to the old sinful life of the old nature, but we are to, through the power of the Holy Spirit, conform our life to our holy God. What Hope Looks Like Christian hope isn’t an unwillingness to face reality. It isn’t someone who is optimistic because his head is in the clouds. Christian hope is experienced in—perhaps even strengthened by—times of “heaviness through manifold temptations.” We can live with this hope when we are facing trouble from every side. But experiencing the help of this hope does require some decisions on our part. Fasten your mind on truth. Fix your gaze on Christ’s coming. Fashion your life after God. Are you experiencing the hope God gives? If not, read 1 Peter 1. Focus your mind on truth, your gaze on Christ, and your obedience on God’s Word. 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1 Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission: The Growth of a Work of God (London: Morgan & Scott, 1918), 407–408. View the full article
  8. Lancaster Baptist Church is committed to the infallibility of the Bible as God’s revelation to man (2 Timothy 3:16). Included in God’s Word is the truth of Christ as the expressed image of God (Hebrews 1:2–5), the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), and the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:14–15). As the head of the church, Jesus has commanded us to assemble (Hebrews 10:25), to preach (2 Timothy 4:2), and to sing praise to Him (Colossians 3:16). The church is described as an assembly of called out believers. While the times of these assemblies may vary and considerations may be made for health and safety, nevertheless, the church must not cease corporate worship or we will be in disobedience to Christ our head. While obedience to human government is taught in Scripture (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2), we believe there are limits of jurisdiction as it relates to our responsibility and right to worship. God has not given government the responsibility to oversee the beliefs and practices of the church. For decades, our church has honored and assisted our local government and law enforcement. We have prayed for our political leaders. We do not, however, believe that government should decide when and how the church should worship. Jesus taught us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). We believe, as did our country’s founders, that the church belongs to the Lord. Therefore, while we honor earthly governors and authorities, we cannot do so when their mandates for the church counter biblical teachings of morality or contradict the guidance of Christ our head. A distinctive of the Baptists is the autonomy of the local church. Each church must decide under God when and how they will worship Him. Our Baptist forefathers were sometimes called nonconformists and were imprisoned because they refused state or ecclesiastical license (Titus 1:5). Even today in communist countries, our brothers in Christ risk persecution to assemble and worship Christ. We believe the home, the church, and the government are given biblically-assigned spheres of responsibility under God (Romans 13, Ephesians 5, Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 2:13–14). When government restrictions upon the church limit our ability to gather, sing, worship, or greet one another, a biblical church must seek ways to honor Christ and obey His Word. Recent events related to COVID-19 have brought about government mandates on churches for the first time in most of our lives. In some cases, these mandates have exceeded the restrictions placed upon shopping centers, movie theaters, and other places of business. While this may be a time of brief intervention, it could also set a precedent for more aggressive persecution in the future. As human government moves further from biblical truth, believers everywhere will be tested, and we must determine to stand for the truth of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:12, Peter 4:12, Ephesians 6:12–13). Testing may bring a time of purging to a church, yet, faithful believers will bear fruit in every season. We were willing to not have in-person services for a brief time out of concern for our neighbors and church family. Early in this pandemic, we were asked to suspend meeting briefly to “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming hospitals. As the public health risk is not nearly as brief or deadly as was first described, however, we cannot indefinitely suspend services and disobey our Lord’s clear command to assemble (Hebrews 10:25). Recent decisions from the Supreme Court and ongoing indications from certain levels and sectors of government have signaled a willingness to ask churches to remain closed or severely restricted indefinitely. Not only do we believe that we have a biblical mandate to assemble, but we also believe that our community needs the spiritual hope and help of a functioning biblical church, and our church family needs the ongoing soul care that is given through the assembling and worship of a church family. From the beginning of this pandemic, we have stated our desire to obey both Romans 13 and Acts 5:29. In the spirit of honoring government and safety, we established a vigorous COVID-19 response. However, in the spirit of Acts 5:29, when the government dictates against the clear commands of God, we, the pastors and deacons of Lancaster Baptist Church, say, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” We intend to follow Christ as our King in all matters of faith and worship. We do this with love in our heart for Christ and without rancor toward our government. We align with the apostles of Christ who, in Acts 4:19–20, said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” View the full article
  9. We are leading today in some amazingly-perilous times. Around us is confusion, hurt, loss, fear, and turmoil. Sometimes as leaders we wonder where to even begin and how God can use us in the midst of such overwhelming needs. It is always encouraging to me to remember that since the first century, the gospel has been presented to a culture that is anti-God, confused, and crooked it its moral persuasion. We see this throughout the New Testament, including in Philippians 2:15: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” The need for walking with biblical leadership in these days is greater now than ever before. So, what are the biblical qualities that a spiritual leader must possess to lead effectively during such seasons? In this episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, we look at five leadership qualities for turbulent times: (If you cannot view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.) First, I believe God’s people deserve a leader with a sense of calling. We should have a firm belief that God intends for us to serve Him. Second, we need spiritual leaders with a right spirit. Just as Daniel expanded his leadership influence through his excellent spirit, people are looking for a genuine hearted, kind, forgiving leader. Third, I discuss the subject of spiritual gifts. How can we give people the opportunity to exercise their spiritual gifts during this unusual season of ministry? Fourth, I believe it is critical that we have spiritual leaders with integrity. We cannot simply have the right position doctrinally; we have to live a life that is consistent with the biblical values we teach. Fifth, we need spiritual leaders who are compassionate. People are looking for someone who has a heart for them and their needs. I hope this episode is a help to you. Next month, I plan to share five final qualities spiritual leaders must develop during turbulent times. If this episode was a blessing to you, please share it with a friend. You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  10. You’ve heard the statement, “A crisis doesn’t build character; it reveals it.” The statement is largely true, but a crisis reveals so much more than just our character. In the midst of a crisis, emotions and opinions abound. But in all that is said and shared and expressed, a picture begins to emerge that reveals aspects of your life perhaps not easily seen at any other time. Here are five: Your Spiritual Fervor In some ways, moments of crisis intensify our spiritual fervor. When the only option is to cry out to God for help, it’s what many Christians—and sometimes even non-Christians—do. But seasons of crisis are different. Whereas we might turn to God in a moment of desperation, sometimes a season of unrelenting, low-grade frustration exposes our spiritual complacency and priorities. The good news is that they also give us the opportunity to renew our heart for God. So if you sense some spiritual coldness setting in, turn to God for renewal. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;—Psalm 63:1 When, over time, our building desire is to “get back to normal” rather than to grow in Christlikeness, it exposes a lack of spiritual fervor. After all, peace is not found in the absence of trouble but in the person of Christ. If you find yourself waiting for peace, assuming it will come after the crisis passes, you’re looking for peace in the wrong place. Your Doctrinal Convictions Do your functional beliefs line up with your stated doctrinal position? For the martyr Stephen, the answer was a resounding “yes.” In the face of extreme vitriol, false accusations, and murderous hatred, Stephen held to his convictions about the deity of Christ and Him as the only way of salvation. Furthermore, he clearly articulated these convictions to a raging mob, and he did it with a loving spirit. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.—Acts 7:59–60 Our society is quickly moving in a direction that could put Christians in the position of Stephen. And I’m concerned that fewer Christians will respond like Stephen than those who now believe they would. Why? Because even without the pressure of physical stones raised, so many Christians are aligning themselves with current popular movements that abhor and deny biblical doctrines. For instance, every Bible-believing Christian is necessarily against racism. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made every person in His image, and Acts 17:25–26 affirms that we all have equal value in His sight. (I have both written and preached about this in recent months.) While I whole-heartedly support equality and justice (James 2:8–9), I am concerned about organizations professing similar views but with anti-God agendas. (I’ve written previously about the publicly-stated objectives of the Black Lives Matter Network to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” ”foster a queer‐affirming network,” and “do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.”) I assume that most Christians who align themselves with these popular movements do so with a heart of compassion for the marginalized or mistreated. And that is commendable and needful. But I have a deep underlying concern that there is either a great lack of discernment or of true doctrinal conviction for Christians to so easily affiliate themselves with some of these specific groups and ideologies. Our doctrine must inform our practice, not the other way around. Do you believe that the gospel is the power of God that can save a person from sin (Romans 1:16) and make him a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Do you believe that such a transformation will eventually impact every aspect of a person’s life? If the answer to these questions is yes, I encourage you to invest great energy and time in sharing the gospel and discipling new Christians. Sometimes those who insist the gospel-centered model of ministry must focus on social justice can do the gospel itself a lack of justice by seemingly suggesting conversion is not the answer. Your Heart to Help Anyone can say they are available to serve and want to help. But few people do it over a sustained period of time. In today’s culture where virtue signaling has become the norm, it’s all too easy to put out a carefully-crafted post on social media while investing little effort in personally serving others. Doing social good is more than participating in a parade or giving a turkey on Thanksgiving. It is to reach out to the afflicted and need and remain unspotted from the world. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.—James 1:27 James 1:27 is an invitation to engage in true gospel-focused ministry to those in your community who are hurting. To help others over a sustained period of time, give the gospel. Serve underprivileged children and families through the bus ministry. Bring food to the elderly, widows, and shut-ins. Reach out to the kids in your Sunday school class even when you’re not able to meet. Your heart to help is revealed in how you serve people with the love of Christ whether or not anyone else will ever know. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.—Hebrews 13:16 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.—Titus 2:14 Your Wisdom in the Fray A soldier in training has luxuries that a soldier in battle does not. In particular, he has the luxury of making wrong decisions. But in the crisis of a real battle, the soldier’s discernment is exposed in a way training scenarios can never do. And so it is with Christian soldiers. Times of crisis not only expose to us our need for God’s wisdom, but they also expose to others how diligently we’ve been seeking and applying biblical wisdom. Does your life and leadership more resemble the wisdom that is from above or earthly in James 3? Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.—James 3:13–18 The place where this is so easily exposed is social media. Meaningless and divisive dialog abounds. But no matter how insightful our electronic jabs at others appear, if we cannot control our tongues, we do not have true wisdom. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.—James 1:26 Your One Purpose What is it that if you can do nothing else before you die, you are determined to accomplish? The answer to this question is revealed in a crisis. Ultimately, our answer should be “to glorify God.” Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.—Revelation 5:12 And how can we better do that than by investing our lives in His great commission? Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19–20 Jesus Himself specifically said that we glorify God and demonstrate true discipleship as we bear fruit through abiding in Him. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.—John 15:8 I suppose every Christian generally agrees with these statements. But I’m not so sure that these moments of crisis have revealed evangelism and discipleship as our one purpose that we hold with laser focus and engage in with intensity. In time, the coronavirus crisis will pass. In four months, the presidential election will be over and some of the extreme rhetoric will die down. But before the dust settles, take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart, especially in these five areas. What have these crises revealed about your spiritual fervor? doctrinal convictions? heart to help? wisdom in the fray? one purpose? We all need to make midcourse adjustments from time to time. And the Holy Spirit is always willing and able to lead us in those adjustments. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.—Psalm 139:23–24 View the full article
  11. Discerning Christians are aware that a revolution against God, godliness, and biblical teaching has been underway for the past few decades. We are currently seeing a rage in our society that resembles the description of Psalm 2 and will likely continue fomenting until our national election. Between the COVID-19 crisis and the anger in the streets, we need biblical Christians to discern the times and deploy with the gospel message. The revolutionaries are successfully intimidating Americans away from Scripture and reorienting society away from godliness. We see this taking place in several areas, but two in particular stand out: A fight against the sanctity of life: The Wall Street Journal reported just last year that the American birth rate is at a thirty-two-year low. The fall in birth rate coincided with the availability of the birth control pill. Environmentalism, which can border on being an idolatrous religion, has become a leader in promoting abortion. In an article in the Global Environmental Change journal titled “Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals,” authors Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax went so far as to advocate for abortion because women must take responsibility for their “carbon legacy.” As Christians, we certainly believe that we are stewards of the world God created. But we are also stewards of the life He creates. And human life, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) is unimaginably sacred. A fight against the biblical family: The teachings of the Bible clearly collide with the revolutionaries’ teachings because they reject the gospel revelation. In Genesis 1, God created human life in His image and designated male and female. In Genesis 2, He ordained marriage. Indeed, a stable society requires stable families. Yet, beyond the tragedies of pornography and divorce in our society, Satan has now convinced a seeming majority of people that even the designation of male and female is unnecessary. Just last year in Canada the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered that a fourteen-year-old girl could receive testosterone injections without parental consent. If the parents intervened, they would be charged with family violence. Society says that gender identity is up to the individual (even children) and has nothing to do with God. Furthermore, the titles of mother and father are being repudiated in Europe. Callum Paton reported in Newsweek that France’s National Assembly voted in favor of amending the terms mother and father and instead using parent 1 and parent 2. These title gymnastics are designed to comply with the European Nations’ laws on same-sex marriage. Here in America, corporations are now forced to acknowledge and address these changes. Just last month the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based upon one’s “sex” now effectively means one’s “sexual identity or gender identity.” Not so long ago, Pete Buttigieg said that God made him gay (an idea not found in Scripture). He demands Christians evolve in their understanding of this issue. Sadly, many churches are “evolving.” Besides the fight against the sanctity of life and the biblical family, we could list other platforms from which our society is raging against God. But I think it’s evident that this is taking place. The response to the current crisis has been varied. Certainly, there is great anger in our land. We all see the angry demonstrations, and we hear from angry politicians. But average citizens are quite emotional as well. A June 30, 2020, Pew Survey indicates that only 17 percent of our citizens feel “proud” when thinking about our country. Anger and fear are widespread. In the same survey, 53 percent of adults said they are not hopeful about our country’s future. We know anger is not the answer. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:21). It is true that a godly Christian will be angry against sin and injustice, but the book of Proverbs repeatedly cautions us against the kind of reactionary anger that is currently being stirred in our nation. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…—Proverbs 14:17 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:—Proverbs 22:24 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.—Proverbs 29:22 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.—Ecclesiastes 7:9 A committed Christian will be a counter-revolutionary…but not through anger. So what should we do? It seems that as our society needs answers, many Christians are stammering and struggling. Perhaps the change of our worship schedules and the limitations on assembling as local church bodies has made it hard to know when to speak. Perhaps Christian leaders feel now is more of a time to encourage and comfort people. This has definitely been a part of my game plan lately. But we must do more. I believe there are at least three actions Bible-believing pastors must take: Preach about the sacredness of God’s institutions. In the midst of a confusing and hateful moment, we must preach for life and the biblical family. We must open God’s Word and speak to the issues of the sanctity of life, the sacredness of a God-created gender identity, and the sacredness of the family. Our second president John Adams said it well: “It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. For example, if exorbitant ambition and venality are predominant, ought they not to warn their hearers against these vices? If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue? If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, shew their nature, ends, limitations and restrictions?” How will the people in our churches overcome the aggressive onslaught of secularization and anti-God rhetoric and philosophies, if we don’t biblically address these areas? Because these ideas are so pushed on secular college campuses, young adults—in particular—are vulnerable to philosophies which could draw them away even from the faith. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville toured America to understand the secret of her greatness. He wrote: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. (emphasis added) But if the pulpits are no longer aflame with righteousness, could it be that the people will no longer know the truth? Stop mimicking the message of the revolutionaries. Sadly, in the midst of major cultural upheaval, many Christian blogs and podcasts are little more than the regurgitating of secular ideas with some Bible verses tacked on. And the ideas they are sharing are often rooted in agenda-driven, hard left goals of dismantling the biblical institutions of the home, government, and church. For instance, recently we have heard the plea to acknowledge that black lives matter. Every biblical Christian acknowledges that black lives do matter and that racism is a sin. (I preached a Sunday morning message on this topic two months ago.) I am burdened for my black friends and neighbors who have felt their lives are devalued by our society, and I am thankful for any wise steps that lead to healing in our society. At the same time, however, I’m concerned to see the Black Lives Matter organization gaining such traction among well-intentioned people who want to help. Even a cursory look at blacklivesmatter.com reveals an underlying agenda, including stated objectives to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” ”foster a queer‐affirming network,” and “do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.” This is not an organization that is bringing real help to black families…or to anyone else, for that matter. Rather, it seems to me to be an anti-Christian organization seizing the moment to push their agenda. So when a Christian turns all his creative energy for blogs and podcasts to restate what is already being stated in secular spheres, he loses the opportunity to share the transforming power of the gospel and exactly how it changes lives. What is happening today is that the revolutionaries are setting the conversational bait, and soft preachers are taking it. Part of this is because Christian leaders are acting with false guilt. Part of it is because they are not disciplining their minds to thoroughly examine what they are passing on. Part of it may be that they themselves are not grounded and experienced enough in Scripture to “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The collateral destruction is larger than a single podcast episode or empty blog post. I fear that churches today are “evolving” in their convictions and are at the same time losing the truth. Pastor, what about what you want to share is uniquely biblical? If it could be said by someone who isn’t a Christian or if it is solely on the topics non-Christians are discussing, you may need to go to Scripture for a fresh message. Preach the gospel. Round tables and discussions on current issues are good. I have met with many groups and leaders in my own community to discuss legal, moral, and ethical issues of our day. But I won’t do these meetings without sharing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. At the root of the revolutionary message is faulty theology—about man and his depravity, about sin and its consequences, and about salvation and its availability through Christ. So the message this world needs is not kinder Christians who “lovingly” encourage people to seek salvation in themselves. The message this world needs is that Christ died for their sins, was buried, rose the third day, and offers salvation to all who will believe. Preach the gospel. Conclusion We want to be wise. We want to listen to counsel. We still care for the concerns of our church members. But above all, we want to follow Christ and lead others to Him. The combination of problems facing our country and the people we serve is astounding. But, we serve a God who offers peace, grace, and healing. View the full article
  12. As spiritual leaders, we often see the fruit of a problem that has an unseen root. In our world right now, we see a lot of hurt, division, hate, and anarchy. There is political and emotional upheaval on every side. But rather than rushing to address the surface issues with surface answers, we should turn to the Holy Spirit and the pages of Scripture for discernment and wisdom as to the true issues. One of the Bible words that speak to the circumstances of our day is delusion. For instance, 2 Thessalonians 2:11 speaks of the delusion that will come during the Tribulation as the world follows the antichrist. I get the sense personally that there is a conditioning already taking place for the revealing of the antichrist. When we see the coming together of good causes (such as civil rights and justice) with anti-God and anti-government causes (such as same-sex marriage and civil anarchy), we begin to realize that there is something deeper going on than immediately meets the eye. There are spiritually-rooted problems involved that we as spiritual leaders must help people sort through. So what can Christian leaders do during this unprecedented time of challenges, anger, and unrest? In recent days, we’ve seen the full gamut of responses. Some leaders have been wise and helpful. Some have been hurtful. And some have seemed to provide merely empty virtue signaling. But God’s Word shows us how we can lead biblically through these times. In this episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, my son Larry and I discuss nine specific actions spiritual leaders can take to biblically lead during these days of delusion: (If you cannot view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here. If this episode is a blessing to you, please share it with a friend. You can subscribe to the Spiritual Leadership Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or YouTube. View the full article
  13. We have heard many things deemed essential or non-essential recently in our society. We certainly appreciate many of these essential professions—health care, first responders, food, transportation, and more. Yet, one essential life role that is too often overlooked is that of being a father. As a dad of four, I can tell you that this role is not only essential, but it is also rewarding. I agree with the words of George Herbert: “One father is worth more than a hundred schoolmasters.” There are many people who can influence our kids, but a father’s influence—for good or for bad—is more weighty than many others combined. Ephesians 6:4 teaches fathers both the negative and positive ways they should use their essential, weighty role: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” There are more ways to provoke a child to anger than the obvious moments of irritation. When a father is angry, abusive, or absent, it creates wounds, often unseen, in the heart of a child that can lead to deep-rooted anger. I believe much of the rage in our society today is due to fathers who have provoked their children in these ways. But Ephesians 6:4 doesn’t only tell fathers what not to do; it also instructs us in what to do: “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Dads, think about these five ways you can nurture your child instead of provoking him or her: 1. Live a consistent life at home and church. Your children do not expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be real. The inconsistency when a parent pretends to be one thing at church and then pulls the mask off at home and becomes someone else will discourage a child more than just about anything else. Consistency in a dad brings security to the heart of a child. You can’t be a perfect dad or a perfect Christian, but you can be a growing dad and a growing Christian. You can’t be a perfect dad or a perfect Christian, but you can be a growing dad and a growing Christian. Click To Tweet 2. Give quality time. Time is our most valuable commodity, and when we give it to our children, we show them that they are valuable to us. Giving quality time doesn’t have to be done in weekend marathons of activity. It should be regular and purposeful. You give quality time by having family devotions each night, taking an occasional family day, planning your family vacations, and looking for small teaching moments throughout the week. Time is our most valuable commodity, and when we give it to our children, we show them that they are valuable to us. Click To Tweet 3. Place a priority on relationships over rules. Rules are necessary; relationships are essential. And rules without a relationship lead to rebellion. So yes, set family rules. To not do so communicates a lack of interest and love. But if you find yourself spending all your time enforcing rules, step back and consider how you can spend more time building the relationship. If you find yourself spending all your time as a dad enforcing rules, step back and consider how you can spend more time building your relationship. Click To Tweet 4. Communicate your love. You know that the long hours you work for your family are a demonstration of love, but your children don’t understand that. You must verbalize your love. Leave notes before you go on a business trip. Send a random text to your teen in the middle of the day. Pick up a surprise “just because” gift. Most of all, tell them specifically, “I love you.” You know that the long hours you work for your family are a demonstration of love, but your children don’t understand that. You must verbalize your love. Click To Tweet 5. Surround your child with godly influences. Over the course of eighteen years, there will be many influences in your children’s lives. The best way to make sure those influences are helpful to your children is to put them in environments where the influences are godly and reinforcing of your values. In particular, surround them with influences who are positive about Christ and His work in the local church. If God has given you the privilege of fatherhood, don’t lightly esteem that role. You are essential in the life of your child. If God has given you the privilege of fatherhood, don’t lightly esteem that role. You are essential in the life of your child. Click To Tweet View the full article
  14. Recently, I heard a message by a well-meaning speaker teaching teens how they could “earn value with God.” The lesson was particularly confusing because when he used Scripture to teach on our value with God, he rightly said that our value is based on the price Jesus paid for us. We have done nothing to earn God’s grace or His sacrifice for our salvation, yet His sacrifice reveals how much we are worth to Him. But then the youth pastor pivoted and began teaching how after salvation, young people can increase their value with God. He gave an illustration that basically said, “Your salvation is a gift, but after that, it’s up to you to earn value with God.” The good things you do—his suggestions included going to church, reading your Bible, attending teen soulwinning, honoring your parents, joining the choir, and going to Bible college—make you more valuable to God. Conversely, he told us, when we choose to do things that dishonor God, we devalue our lives before God. It is true that there is value in obeying God and serving Him. But it is not true that the things we do for God make us more valuable. I believe in sanctification, service, and godly living. I believe that God’s grace leads us to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12). And I have written many times against teaching a distortion of grace that denies the importance of obedience or would cause others to stumble. I also understand and teach that purging from ungodliness makes us “meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). But the type of teaching that says, “God gives you salvation, but now you have to earn greater value” is doctrinally problematic and personally hurtful. In one shape or form, most of us have been affected by this teaching and man-centered philosophy. Although I don’t hear it as often as I once did, it is still found in certain corners of the independent Baptist movement. Many of us have been able to biblically grow through it, identifying the fallacies and establishing our worth by our identity in Christ. I’ve written before about the danger of basing our acceptance on our accomplishments or performance. (See here, here, here, and here.) But teaching that says “You must earn value with God” leads to bondage and frustration…as well as to many leaving the ministry contexts and affiliations in which that was taught. Why should we avoid any teaching applications that suggest we earn value with God? 1. It’s doctrinally incorrect. The truth is that I am already accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6) and complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9). God tells us to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18). Grace is the inner disposition of God in our hearts, and it motivates us to “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But this is a process that begins from the inside out, not from the outside in. Grace is a process that begins from the inside out, not from the outside in. Click To Tweet 2. It’s demeaning. Value-by-performance teaching tells people they’re only really valuable if they are “doing.” It’s performance-based acceptance. But we are not to serve the Lord to prove anything; we serve because Jesus paid everything. It is the love of Christ that constrains us to serve (2 Corinthians 5:14). Our worth is not achieved; it is received. And our value is not based on our performance; it is based on God accepting us into His family. Our worth is not achieved; it is received. Our value is not based on our performance; it is based on God accepting us into His family. Click To Tweet 3. It’s divisive. Teaching like I heard creates a sense of pharisaicalism in those influenced by it. The teens who outwardly do more (and particularly where “more” involves visible involvement in church-affiliated capacities) will consider themselves more valuable than others. The unscriptural, unhealthy comparison, with all of its pride and division, will continue into a new generation of young people. In the end, however, it leads to the kind of divisiveness that lightly esteems another Christian whom Christ has redeemed. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 10:14). 4. It’s demoralizing. Under this legalistic system of earning worth, you can never be valuable enough. There will always be more ways you can earn worth, and there will never be clarity on to what extent failure deducts from your worth. This has discouraged many young people to completely leave churches who pressure them in this system. But when the emphasis turns to the biblical motivation of grace, everything changes. When I am motivated by grace, I don’t have to earn worth, I serve out of love and gratitude. I think of our church family as an illustration of this truth. Lancaster Baptist Church has been one of the most generous churches in modern American history. We’re not a wealthy church by any means. Yet, our church has been generous in missions giving, church planting, and outreach, with increases each year. We’ve been careful to never motivate giving by guilt, but have emphasized that giving is a grace (2 Corinthians 8:1–8). Thus, as our church family has grown in grace, we have also grown in giving. Similarly, young people who are challenged to serve Christ out of gratitude and by grace are going to serve Him longer, with moral intention, and with joy. But young people who serve to find more value from God ultimately get discouraged and fall into sin and lifestyle patterns that pull them away from the Lord. It was the grace-based motivation for service that enabled Paul to say of his upcoming persecution, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Earlier this week, I had dinner with Dr. Don Sisk—a man who has been so greatly used of God in our generation. Dr. Sisk used to be a pastor, then a missionary, then the director of Baptist International Missions, Inc. He used to be able to knock many doors with the gospel and travel extensively as he preached to challenge Christians for the cause of worldwide evangelization. Today, Dr. Sisk is still faithfully preaching and sharing the gospel. But, at eighty-six years old, he is not able to do nearly what he once did. He is no longer a pastor or the active director of BIMI. He’s not on the mission field planting new churches. And he’s not able to travel as often as he used to. Does this mean that he is less valuable? Does a lack of service mean he is earning less value with God? Of course not. Don’t try to earn your worth with God. And please, please don’t tell others they can. Let the love of Christ in the gospel motivate you. When God’s grace, as opposed to our need for acceptance, becomes our motivator for service, everything changes. We serve because we are accepted rather than to gain acceptance—and it makes all the difference in the world. When God’s grace, as opposed to our need for acceptance, becomes our motivator for service, everything changes. Click To Tweet View the full article
  15. Our society right now is filled with negativity. There is health and economic uncertainty. News channels—social and traditional—are filled with anger and hostility. Sometimes it feels like we are being bombarded with unrelenting sources of discouragement. You turn on any news channel right now, and you will find anchors forcefully working to convince you to see things their way and side against someone or something else. Scroll through social media, and you’ll find posts designed to draw you into online conflict. Turn on the radio, and you’ll hear angry voices hoping to evoke frustration. Pick up the newspaper, and you’ll read one column after another of discouragement. Altogether, it becomes a type of phychological warfare. As Christians, we know that under the surface of politics, economics, health, and social tensions, there is a spiritual battle raging. Satan works “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10), and he is willing to use any method or platform to do it. Part of his tactic is always psychological warfare. The challenge for us is to keep our minds focused on the truth of Christ rather than dwelling on the negativity. And 2 Corinthians 10:5 gives us the strategy to do this: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;—2 Corinthians 10:5 We know that Satan will fight and that he will do so through hostile imaginations in our minds and thoughts that would tend to exalt themselves against the knowledge of Christ. So how do we fight back? 1. Submit your thoughts to Christ. What we think on is our choice. Rather than allowing outside influences (such as the news or an unending stream of social media) to fill our minds, we can choose to fill our minds with Scripture. In fact, God gives us a filter for what thoughts we should choose to think on. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.—Philippians 4:8 When you find yourself pulled into the secular cycles of anger and discouragement, consider what has been filling your mind. And then turn to Scripture and saturate your mind in its truth. When you find yourself pulled into the secular cycles of anger and discouragement, consider what has been filling your mind. And then turn to Scripture and saturate your mind in its truth. Click To Tweet 2. Be cautious about dreaming outside the revealed will of God. One of the dangers of a continual intake of negativity is that it can lead to fantasies that there is a better way than God’s plan for you. This is part of what 2 Corinthians 10:5 warns against when it refers to “every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God.” When you find yourself overwhelmed by the negativity and discouraged from believing in the power of the gospel to impact our communities and change lives, you’ll be tempted to think that other ideas, groups, or locations will provide relief or help. That’s dangerous ground because it could easily lead you away from God and His will for your life, rather than leading you closer to God through these difficulties. God will always make a way for you to follow Him, and His grace will always be sufficient for you. God will always make a way for you to follow Him, and His grace will always be sufficient for you. Click To Tweet And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9 3. Encourage yourself in the Lord. When David was at his lowest point and in physical danger besides, he made a choice that was the turning point in his situation. That choice was to encourage himself in the Lord. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.—1 Samuel 30:6 Read Psalms. Sing spiritual songs. List blessings of God for which to give thanks. Share the gospel with someone, and be reminded of God’s grace to you in the process. Think about one of the attributes of Jesus that thrills your heart. There are a hundred ways to encourage yourself in the Lord, but they all require a choice to focus on Christ and His goodness. There are a hundred ways to encourage yourself in the Lord, but they all require a choice to focus on Christ and His goodness. Click To Tweet 4. Find sharpening influences. There are a lot of people who will tell you how bad everything is. And there is unrelenting media that will push their narrative 24/7. But when you get a friend who will tell you how good God is, how essential church is, and how needful Scripture is, keep that friend. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.—Proverbs 27:17 It’s okay to not watch the news. It’s okay to take a sabbatical from social media. It’s great to intentionally put some good, sharpening, encouraging influences in your life. Be faithful to your church services—in person if possible, but on live stream if not possible. Stay connected to your friends from your small group or Sunday school class at church. Read a good book or a biography of a great Christian that will stir your heart for God. Look for opportunities to encourage others. Sometimes the best way to be encouraged is to give encouragement! Sometimes the best way to be encouraged is to give encouragement. Click To Tweet There is a psychological warfare going on. The mainstream media is pushing it. There are people who would like us to stew on it and be discouraged by it. But remember, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Keep your heart and mind in subjection to Jesus Christ, and you can live in joy and victory. View the full article
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