One More

There are moments we encounter that provoke great questions.  In those moments we seek to assess reality in order to identify what is going on in this world and how the circumstances we are experiencing are going to impact us in our own immediate context as well as life’s trajectory in the days to come.

Every week there seems to be a national tragedy that causes us to shake our heads in disbelief.  Terror has crept in and is creating chaos, instilling fear and dividing humanity into polarized factions all over the world.  The political wrangling expends a ton of energy measured in billions of dollars and 24/7 media coverage, but it only seems to achieve greater division and disappointment.

The struggle of raising a family in this environment is real.  Our society seems to be unraveling, our culture is evolving rapidly (almost morphing into something unrecognizable to us) and the hope of this nation to be the United States of America is ever dwindling.  The hostile rhetoric and increasing violence exposes more than a loss of civility, it reveals that we are a fractured people that is spiraling into great brokenness.

It is in these moments.  We ask questions.  It is in these moments we seek to understand what is going on, but ultimately we search in order to define what we believe to be true.  Truth is what sets us free.  This world says strike a pose, play the game, and pretend everything is fine, but posturing will not fix the wrecked or ruined parts of life.   And although this world continues to undermine what is true, we know that in an ever changing world truth is the only thing that is constant.  Is it any wonder then that Christ gave Himself that name.  He is Truth!  We can believe what is true.  If we are to stand in uncertain times and not be swept away by a shifting worldly current, then stand upon what is true.

 

The Gospel Change

Bulletin 2

The Bible teaches that believers in Christ are actually an altogether new creation.  That is what the bible says.   2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  That means those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have been justified (declared righteous) by faith in Him are living in a new sphere of life.  Old things have passed away; all things have become new because of this new position in Christ.

Let me say it this way.  There was a time in each and every one of our lives we lived in the womb of our mother.  That was the sphere of our life.  It was a very necessary sphere, but it was limited and narrow.  But now, things have changed.  We are no longer in the womb but are now living in this world.  Our natural birth has brought about an enormous change in our lifestyle.  In fact, we have changed so much, none of us even remember that way of life.  It is foreign to us now.

In the same manner, those that are in Christ have been born again.  There has been this spiritual rebirth and our spiritual rebirth has changed our lives completely and absolutely; once and for all.  Things will never be the same.  We have been made new and, at the same time, are being made new.  We are in Christ.  He covers us and consumes us; so now we live, and move and have our being in Christ.  He eclipses everything this world has to offer.  We have seen His glory and we are now changed.  He has made us new and our lives reflect that transformation.

However, this is where we must be careful.  We must recognize what happens when pledging our faith in Christ.  When embracing faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ changes us.  Therefore, we begin to do different, because we are different.  Our spiritual birth has awakened us to a brand new way of life.  Yet, sometimes it comes off as this religious pressure to perform, when in reality our responsibility in living a Christ centered life has everything to do with the awareness that Christ is changing us.

In essence, our dreams and desires change.  Our passions and priorities change.  Our wants and our wishes change.  We are motivated to do different and to be different because we are different.  We are made new and are being made new.  So then, we are not transitioning in life by implementing change, we are transforming in life evidenced by the change.  Therefore, our doing is not some mechanical prescription to do better, our doing is God’s supernatural power that is making us new.  This is the gospel change and it changes everything about us.

City of Houston Subpoenaed Pastor’s Sermons

imagesThe title of this post is correct.  The the city of Houston Texas has subpoenaed local pastors sermons in a targeted witch hunt.  High profile pastors that oppose the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance known as HERO have been singled out in an attempt to smear their character.  This highly controversial measure dealing with gender and sexual identity is the latest front of the ongoing social battle raging across the nation.  Most conservative evangelical churches refuse to compromise their faith by denying the teachings of the Bible regarding the homosexual lifestyle.  Therefore, this is the latest yet unprecedented attempt to bully and intimidate the church.  The city of Houston is clearly trampling on the separation between church and state in a flagrant disregard for the self evident right of religious freedom recognized by the First Amendment.  Below is an appropriate response by the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church.

 

Russell Moore2During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy traveled to Houston to assure Baptist ministers there that he was, in fact, committed to religious liberty and separation of church and state. The fear was that he, as a Roman Catholic, might not recognize those principles. He did. Turns out, the Houston ministers should’ve been less worried about the Vatican and more worried about, well, Houston.

Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.

The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.

The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi. After an earthquake, sent by God, upturned the prison where Paul and Silas were held, Luke tells us that the officials sent the police to tell Paul and Silas they could go. Paul replied. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men who are Roman citizens and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly. No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37).

A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights.

The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.

John Kennedy taught us, rightly, to ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Our country deserves our allegiance. But no government can set itself up as our god.

Take God At His Word

blogJohn 20:30-31“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

As I read that, one thing in particular jumps out. It takes more than me. It takes more than me to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It takes a credible witness to believe the good news of Jesus. It takes the sworn testimony of another to substantiate the gospel claim. Like the lawyer who presents his case in a court of law by calling forward an eyewitness to testify. It is this eyewitness account, this preponderance of evidence that the case is built and ultimately rests upon.

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Where Do I Find Life, Liberty and Happiness?

sure_foundations_std_t_nvHave you ever stopped long enough to consider how most Americans find happiness?  By that I am not just referring to the short moments of pleasure, but real satisfaction and joy in life.  In other words, how do most Americans find wholeness in our society?  What goals do they believe are worth pursuing?  What do most Americans live for?

A quick look around are nation can be quite telling.  I believe most Americans think happiness comes by achieving material wealth.  I can still remember my guidance counselor in my public high school “guiding” me my senior year to choose a career that would provide the greatest income.  Identifying my dreams, pursuing my personal interests or communicating societal needs was not even a consideration.  I was led to choose a field of study solely on the merit of a large paycheck. 

We live in a culture that equates happiness with money and/or material gain.  Although, we have heard how money cannot buy happiness, it is evident that money can wield power, influence and prestige.  I fear that many confuse these things with happiness.  No doubt we have all considered how different life would be if we had unlimited financial resource, but money is not the answer to an unhappy life for money cannot buy love, peace or joy.

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Are We Free?

blogTwice the New York Times has endorsed President Obama during his campaign for the presidency and has championed multiple planks of his agenda.  However, this past week there was a seismic shift and parting of ways of sorts with the editorial board saying that the Obama administration had “lost all credibility.”[1]

According to the New York Times, their frustrations have been mounting due to the increase of public scandals such as the IRS investigations regarding their tactics of intimidation, the multiple investigations about wiretapping the press and the misinformation concerning the events surrounding the terrorists attack in Benghazi.  However, the latest smoking gun uncovered this week regarding the massive overreach in gathering data on ordinary Americans was seen as a flagrant assault on American civil liberties. 

First, a report serviced exposing that the NSA (National Security Agency) had been collecting phone records from millions of Verizon subscribers.[2]  Then a Washington Post story wrote of a government program called PRISM was letting the NSA and the FBI tap into servers of 9 top internet firms, “extracting audio, video, photographs, email, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”[3] 

What does this mean?  Well, this process which has come to be known as data mining, has enormous implications.  The government now has the capability and is using it to infringe upon American freedom, to invade our privacy, overstep their authority and intrude into the lives of average citizens.

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The Unrelenting Pursuit of the Emerging Church

Introduction

Over the last two decades, the terms “emerging” and “emergent” have been associated with a movement that has swept across the globe.  At the center of the movement is the belief which regards changes in the culture as indicators that a new church is “emerging” and, as a result, insist Christian leaders adapt to this emerging church.[1]  In other words, the emerging church is emerging (just like their name implies) and is believed to be in a state of continual development regarding its belief system.[2]   Some are quick to point out that the “emerging” church and the “emergent” church are distinctive and in need of separate consideration.  For example, Enns distinguishes a difference between the emerging Church and the emergent Church by pointing out that “emerging” identifies the ideology of the movement while “emergent” identifies the movement itself.[3]  Enns argues that the term “emerging” represents a more conservative belief system while “emergent” draws a more radical conclusion in its beliefs.[4]  However, although some may understand these terms to represent different values or ideologies, it is not uncommon for the terms to be used interchangeably meaning the same thing.[5]  For the purposes of this article the terms “emerging” and “emergent” mean the same.

The emerging church is a movement seeking to connect and address the needs of the postmodern culture.  In essence, the emerging church indicts the traditional church in failing to reach their generation due to an unwillingness to adjust to an ever changing culture.  The insistence of evangelical, fundamental and orthodox worship services and methods in the traditional church is seen by the emerging church as failing to impact the culture.[6]  Therefore, those frustrated with the seemingly failed response of the traditional church may find the emergence appealing and admirable due to the perception that traditional evangelical churches are not attuned to cultural changes and are thereby unable to communicate with the people in the postmodern world.  However, in an attempt to be culturally relevant, the emerging church has abandoned the Bible which is the authoritative source of truth.  Therefore, the emerging church is an active rebellion against the traditional church as it holds to relativism making itself a product of postmodernism denying the absolute truth of Scripture.

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