Tag Archives: the church

Mixed Messages

Ezra 9-10

I wonder if the Church isn’t guilty of “marrying foreign wives” like the people of Israel including priests and Levites were guilty during the time of Ezra.

So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed messages. Worse yet, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage. (9:2b)

No one wants to talk about the Church as the holy race. We’d rather talk about how we can be attractive to foreigners, to those who don’t know the Savior. Our goal, preached from so many pulpits, is to actually bring the foreigners into the Church!

That’s like marrying a non-believer, expecting them to change. Folks, you know that doesn’t work. It certainly isn’t working in the modern Church.

I watched a movie on Pure Flix last night, “Play the Flute.” We geezers will recognize Loretta Swift from “Mash,” Fred Grandy from Love Boat (your remember Gopher, right?), and Clint Howard, Opie’s real life brother. It’s a good movie about a young youth pastor, burdened for the teens in his church who not only do not read the Bible, they don’t even see a need to read it.

The youth pastor struggles with whether or not to make his youth group about programs and events and fun so numbers grow. He hears from a friend whose own youth group has grown because of all the things they are doing. He reads articles and commentaries from church leaders who promote the idea that if youth group is an event, kids will come. But he can’t shake the conviction that the Bible needs to be the focus of his youth group.

So he gets up in front of the teens and reads what Jesus says in Matthew 11:

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a funeral song, and you did not mourn.”

He likens God’s Word to the flute, himself as the musician, and to the teens as those who refused to dance, who just sit there and don’t accept what they hear. The pastor tells the kids he’ll continue to play the flute. What they do with what they hear is up to them.

I hope you’ll watch the movie. I think you’ll like it. It certainly has me thinking today in light of what I read in Ezra.

Church, it might be time for us to divorce ourselves from foreign wives, and return the Church to that which God intended – a holy people. It might be time for us to simply play the flute and quit dancing to get attention. Why do we think the sound of God’s Word is incapable of changing hearts today? What if we got back to having the preaching and teaching of Scripture plus nothing be our focus?

I know some of you will say times have changed, kids are bored with church, we are a technology focused society, that bells and whistles are needed to draw people in. And some of you say we want anyone to come in no matter what they believe.

But is that what God says He wants of His Church? Times have changed, but He hasn’t. His demand for a holy people still rings true today. And foreign wives, mixed messages, are defiling His Church.

That’s not just my opinion. It’s what God’s Word says, whether we like it or not. I’m praying for my church, and for your’s. I’m praying for Christians everywhere to get back to God’s Word and let Him work in the hearts of people without our interference. I’m praying for the holy people of God to pick up our flutes and play them with all our hearts.

And let God do the rest. He’s better at it than we are anyway.

Another Jesus

The King of Assyria sent his thugs to threaten the children of Israel, to bully them into surrendering. They pointed out that Assyria had successfully defeated the nations around them, that none of their gods we’re able to saved them from the mighty Assyrian army, and that the writing was on the wall. Israel was next.

Surrender or die.

Then these representatives of the Assyrian king said something that has me thinking today:

What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord Himself told us, “Attack this land and destroy it.”

One of two things could be true about that. Either God is using Assyria to punish Israel for their sin, and indeed instructed the enemy to be His judgment on the Jews, or the men representing the Assyrian king were lying.

Today, Satan is to us what the Assyrian King was to Israel in this portion of Scripture. He is the one threatening to destroy God’s people, and bullying us into submission. And he is using the Name of God to do it.

Bethel names the name of God. Benny Hinn names the name of God. Joel Osteen calls himself a Christian minister. I could go on. And so could you.

The question is, are we going to stand with God according to His inspired written Word, or are we going to be bullied into surrendering to Satan?

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse. (Galatians 1:8)

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

Guard your heart, dear one. Know what Scripture has to say so that you can recognize Satan’s lies. Then stand firm. Because the truth is, there isn’t another Jesus. There is only the One who is revealed in the pages of the Bible. If anyone says they have had a special revelation concerning Jesus… they are lying

There is only one true Gospel. There is only one true Jesus.

Do not be deceived.

How Free Are We?

Proverbs 31

We will hear the word “freedom” a lot today, because today we celebrate the fact that more than 200 years ago, a group of people broke from the tyranny of an English king, and with thoughtful, prayerful consideration, implemented checks and balances to construct the republic we know as the United States of America. It is, in its truest sense, the absolute best form of government in the world.

From the very beginning, our founders recognized our inalienable rights, and insured our freedom from tyrannical rule. They not only set us free from England, they gave us the tools to keep us free from future tyrants.

It’s ridiculous for anyone to think that document, which ensures our freedoms in 2022, is outdated or irrelevant to modern society (a lie perpetuated by would-be tyrants).

How free are we? Not as free as we were when I was young. Not even as free as we were ten years ago. In fact, there are those who believe that unless you align yourself with the left, or are “woke,” you should have no rights, no freedom to speak your mind or take actions in support of your right to live free. We are looking in the face of tyranny.

How free are we? God has given us the freedom to choose. If we choose Him according to Scripture, we are set free from the judgment our sin deserves. We are free to live lives directed and protected by God Himself.

To the people who believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 9:31-32)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:7)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

If we choose, however, to reject God, we give up our freedom and become slaves to sin.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:34)

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

I believe what we are seeing in the US is the result of sin, which leads to the eroding of freedom according to Scripture. We should not be surprised, considering the blatant sin around us, the unashamed depravity thrown in our faces at every turn. Sin is the opposite of freedom, no matter what we are being told.

When our freedom is gone, it won’t be just because of politics, but because of the sinful hearts of politicians. It won’t only be because of non-Christians, but because of weak, lazy, self-centered Christians who are unrepentant themselves.

I wonder what our nation would look like if the true Church in America lived like a Proverbs 31 wife of our Heavenly Husband. I wonder how free we would be if we, as God’s people, called by His name, would humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways. Because God promises in that case to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. (see 2 Chronicles 7:14)

How free are we? We are as free as unrepentant sin affords.

Build On, Lord!

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house, the work of the builders is wasted.

We are about a month away from moving into our new church building on the north end of this island. To say we are excited is an understatement.

If I would tell you the many ways God has shown His hand in the twenty years since our church was formed, you would be amazed. We can see His direction and blessings at every turn. Just since we broke ground eighteen months ago (yes, during COVID), there has been one delay after another, the business building we owned and could not sell for years finally sold, we were faced with price increases and materials shortages. So many things that seemed like obstacles to us, turned out to be avenues for God to do His thing! And did He ever! We are almost ready to open our doors nearly debt-free.

It’s going to be a glorious day!

But our prayer is that this will be the LORD’S HOUSE in every aspect. We know He has built the structure. But more important is the building of the Church, those of us who will worship Him there.

The “building” has only begun.

May each of us allow God to continue teaching, leading, convicting, forgiving, growing each of us who call Frederica Baptist our church home. May our hearts be yielded to His will, our efforts be to His glory. May the Lord continue to build this house so that our work is not wasted.

He has been so faithful in bringing us this far. He will be faithful as we move ahead in our new digs. May He find us faithful.

Build on, Lord!

Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater

2 Samuel 20

I remember a cartoon from my youth. I think it was Yosemite Sam who was being tormented by a fly. No matter how often he swatted at the fly, and no matter what he used to bat at the fly, the fly kept dive-bombing him. Then the fly landed on the wall. And Yosemite Sam quickly aimed his rifle and blew a hole in the wall.

Problem solved.

Ever hear the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?”

Joab wanted Sheba. Sheba had turned traitor and started a rebellion against King David. Joab knew Sheba had to be stopped, and he was willing to go to any length to do just that; even going as far as destroying an entire city and the inhabitants who lived there.

A wise woman helped him see the error of his ways. The city was saved, and the guilty man paid for his own crimes.

When I was a young teacher just beginning my career, we were encouraged to discipline children gently. If a child misbehaved we were told to say something like, “Some of you are having trouble following the rules. We need a time out. Everybody put your heads down on your desk and stay quiet.”

Did you, as part of a class of children, ever have to stay in at recess because a few of your classmates hadn’t done their homework? You’d done yours. But that didn’t matter. Everybody paid the consequences for the few.

Part of the rationale was protecting the egos and feelings of the guilty, believing they’d recognize on their own they were responsible for everyone missing recess, feel bad, and change their behavior.

Yah. That didn’t work. Those ornery kids soon realized the power they had over all of us, including the teacher.

I think what the wise woman helped Joab to see was the importance of accountability. If a person does something wrong, you don’t slap their child.

I don’t think we Christians are very good at holding each other accountable for our misdeeds, our sins. Yet throughout Scripture I see evidence that is what God wants us to do.

Jesus Himself gave us the guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Paul, in Galations 6:1 says it like this:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted

God tells us we are to address sin, confront it, remove it from our midst. We should never allow sin to get a foothold in our fellowships. The Church has to remain holy.

But you don’t give up on the Church. You don’t walk out just because you recognize a hypocrite in the pew in front of you. You don’t get angry and start a rebellion. You go to that person and lovingly confront the issue, like Jesus taught us.

The guilty party may need to be disciplined, but you don’t destroy a church (or a city in the case of Joab) to deal with the problem. You don’t blow a hole in the wall to kill a fly. And you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Let’s hold each other accountable. You may save a brother or sister from a world of hurt, and at the same time strengthen the body of Christ. I believe with all my heart that is what would please our Lord.

Who Are We Listening To?

Numbers 11

I never noticed it before. I’ve read about the Jews complaining about the manna many times. But I guess I overlooked the fact the complaining began with “the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites.” (verse 4)

Makes me wonder. Are the changes in the Church coming from fully surrendered Christians inside the Church, or from people on the fringe who want to hold on to a bit of the world, people who want to feel good about themselves, and enjoy an entertaining hour on Sunday morning and call it worship?

Do we inside the Church hear a complaint (I’m sick of manna. I’m sick of hymns. I want meat. I want a cappuccino) and think, “Yeah. Me, too”?

The Israelites, instead of encouraging the foreigners to appreciate the God given manna and to praise Him for His blessings, took on the sin of the foreigners and complained themselves. Instead of pointing the foreigners to God, the foreigners pointed the Israelites to themselves. Many Israelites died as a result.

I wonder if we haven’t taken on the sin of self-centered, worldly desires of our foreigners, too, instead of helping them understand worship is not about them, not about their likes or dislikes, but about a sacrificial surrender and focus on God? Do we inside the church prepare those who are on the fringe to worship God in spirit and truth, or are we just interested in making them like us?

Who are we listening to? If we are listening to the “foreign rabble,” or today’s unchurched, we might be listening to the wrong people. At least that’s what I see here in God’s Word.

(Lamentations) Lord, Bring Us Back

If the Old Testament nation of Israel is a picture of the New Testament Church, all of us should share in Jeremiah’s grief. The frightening truth is that if God could turn His back on His chosen people, if the city of Jerusalem and the temple there could be destroyed, the Church had better pay attention.

Read Lamentations with our modern Church in mind. There are so many spiritual red flags here, from a look at starvation in a spiritual sense, to cannibalism which speaks to me of parents – and church members – who try to get what they want out of God while sacrificing the spiritual needs of their children, to the Church once revered now an object of scorn by the world, and seen as an enemy to be destroyed by some.

We have reason to lament.

God’s protection has always been linked to obedience. But there are people who believe the Church is somehow different, that because Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, that the Church’s position on earth is untouchable.

Israel wasn’t untouchable. Jerusalem wasn’t. The temple wasn’t. And it’s my opinion that the Church in 2021 isn’t untouchable, either. God’s demand to be obeyed is as binding as it was in Jeremiah’s day. And disobedience means separation from God, and destruction.

An obedient Church is untouchable.

I am thankful that every time God warns His children about the coming consequences for our disobedience, He leaves us with a bit of hope. The writer of Lamentations prays:

Lord, bring us back to yourself, so we may return; renew our days as in former times, unless you have completely rejected us and are intensely angry with us. (5:21-22)

Yes, Lord. Bring us back to yourself.

(Proverbs 24:10-12) How We Care

We hear that the neighbor down the street has received a devastating medical diagnosis. We shake our head and sigh, “I’m so sorry to heart that.” And we mean it.

We find out our friend is leaving her husband, and say, “I had no idea things were so bad.” And we really didn’t know.

A married couple you’ve gone to church with for years goes MIA for a few weeks. You say something to the person who normally sits near them during Sunday morning worship, and find out they’ve started going to another church. You’re surprised because you didn’t know they were even thinking about leaving.

Whose fault is it when we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives? Yes, the one who is going through hard times, is unhappy or dissatisfied ought to speak up, ask for prayer, talk things through. But let’s face it – you don’t do those things, either.

The wisdom of God tells us we have the responsibility to know. Not so we can spread the word like some gossip, or so we can have the satisfaction of being “in the know.” We need to be invested in each others lives so that we can be the chauffeur, or chef, or babysitter, or yard maintenance worker, or maybe an ear. We have the responsibility to know so that you and I can be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus in the lives of people who are hurting.

It’s not enough to say we care. God will hold us accountable for how we care.

(Psalm 36) Who’s To Blame?

I doubt if anyone (believers and non-believers alike) can look at this world and think things are going well. I doubt the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when describing society is “love, peace, or perfection.” Why is that?

Most Christians would say Satan is to blame. Or they would point a finger at atheists, Muslims, and the like. But I wonder.

Warren Wiersbe said something in his commentary on Psalm 36 that has me thinking. He writes: “If there were more salt and light in this world, there would be less decay and darkness in society.” (Be Worshipful; David Cook Publisher; 2009; p. 134)

Read that again. Think about it for a minute.

David said this about the wicked in Psalm 36:

Dread of God has no effect on him. For with his flattering opinion of himself, he does not discover and hate his iniquity. (vv 1b-2)

Are non-believers the only ones flattering themselves and not dreading the judgment of God for sin? Are only non-believers accepting sin instead of recognizing it and repenting of it? I’m pretty sure Christians are having difficulty discovering our own sins, too.

Even in Christian circles, we would rather talk about the love of God than address sin. We would rather talk about God as our friend, instead of a fierce and frightening Holy Judge. The result is watered down salt and dimmed light, and darkness in the world.

Yes, I believe the fault of our decaying society falls on God’s people, the Church, we Christians, and NOT on non-believers. Non-Christians will act like non-Christians. We can’t expect them not to.

The truth is you can’t legislate good behavior, no matter how much big-government proponents want us to believe they can. You can’t write enough laws, throw enough money at programs, change history or demand equality enough to solve the world’s dilemma.

Only God can do that. And He has chosen to work through Christians to accomplish His will. Because if we are obedient, if we are holy and set apart, fleeing sin, and surrendered to God, God would do what He longs to do, what Jesus came to do…

save the world!

So to answer the question in the title of this post, “Who’s To Blame?,” the answer is, Christian, you and I.

(Psalm 2) Chains? Or Lifelines?

Verses 1-3: This psalm paints a picture of a wild animal fighting against the chains which hold him captive. Snarling, writhing, pulling this way and that with teeth bared. But he is only hurting himself.

He doesn’t understand why he is chained. He just knows he wants to be free of them.

Verses 4-6: The one who has placed the chains on the beast sits back and waits for the beast to wear itself out. He knows those chains has placed the beast under his control, not the other way around.

Verses 7-9: In fact, he gets his authority from the owner of the beast, the big boss. The owner has made him his son! He’s been given the power to control the situation, extending to the ends of the earth.

Verses 10-12: The beast is better off in the hands of his captor, under the protection of the one given authority. Instead of fighting against him, the beast would do better to submit to him. “All who take refuge in him are happy.” (verse 12b)

Here’s what the beast doesn’t understand. He is chained for his protection. There are enemies out there stronger than he, determined to kill him. While he is under the protection of the one with authority he can move around, enjoy freedom within the safe boundaries set out by the one with authority.

Warren Wiersbe says: “Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys.” (Be Worshipful; David C Cook Publisher; 2009; p 24)

Let me say that again. “Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys.”

We are seeing a society of people racing toward destruction because they want to throw off the shackles of Truth, of rules, of religion. They want to create their own truth and will fight anyone who disagrees. Anarchy leads to destruction.

I’m not just talking about society in general. The same is true of the modern Church. We want the freedom to worship like we want, believe what we want, live like we want. Throw traditional dogma out and be free. Anarchy leads to destruction.

But there ARE rules. There IS Truth. There IS right and there is wrong. You may consider them chains. I see them as lifelines.

I am sure most of you get it. This psalm is talking about Jesus, the One given authority by the Father. Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus who tells us to follow Him, to be holy, to believe and be saved.

Jesus is not a bully-captor holding us back with cruel chains. He is the lifeline!

All who take refuge in him are happy!