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June 20, 2019, 10:44 AM

Stuck in Neutral


  1. Switzerland is known for its watches, army knife, Alps, banks, and cheese among other things. It is also well known in history for its neutrality in regards to military conflicts. Paul tells Christians in Romans 12:18 to live at peace with others as much as possible. While I do agree with this as sound advice I fear that some believers have taken it to a degree of which Paul never intended. I don’t think the Apostle Paul, as passionate as he was for the Gospel, would be pleased with the way some professing believers and churches are using his words to justify their neutrality in things such as Biblical morals, theology, and evangelism. There is a difference between standing firm and being neutral. To stand firm is to resist or refuse to compromise or give in to pressure, kind of like a giant oak tree that stands firm through the storm. The danger of neutrality is that external variables determine the direction the object goes. Apply this to a professing believer and you have a person who allows a fallen world and broken societal views to determine their religious convictions and their actions based on those convictions. The Gospel is called living water and living water in Biblical times was known as flowing water. Neutrality is similar to a stream that has been dammed up and thus becoming stagnant. Because it is no longer flowing, it becomes more of a detriment than a blessing. What should be a source of life becomes a cesspool of bacteria and the risk of severe illness. Lukewarm might be another way to describe neutrality when it comes to the church and Christians. John records the words in Revelation 3:16 that because the church had become lukewarm it would be vomited out of the mouth of Jesus. I fear many churches and believers today have become lukewarm because of a desire to not offend or for self-preservation. In a nation that is increasing in liberality and tolerance toward everything except Christianity, the words of Mordecai to Esther should echo in our hearts. By remaining neutral, we may indeed keep ourselves safe for a while but we are foolish if we think that, in the end, we will somehow be allowed to live passionately for Christ and escape persecution. God is still victorious regardless, so let us stand boldly in our faith no matter what and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus clearly says there is no middle ground of faith. Luke records the words of Jesus in 11:23 as he is talking to the Pharisees that whoever is not with Him is against Him and whoever does not gather, scatters. Jesus gives the command in Matthew 28 for His followers to go and make disciples of all nations. If we are not doing this as individuals and churches then I say we are scattering instead of gathering, there is no middle ground. A lack of desire for church and kingdom growth in order to maintain the status quo or not risk offending someone should come with a reminder of the unproductive fig tree in Mark 11:12-14. Neutrality is not what believers are called to, passionately proclaiming the Gospel in truth and love while standing firm in our faith is.

Robert




June 10, 2019, 12:04 PM

Is Faith in Faith Really Faith?


Huh? I know that question doesn’t seem to make much sense upon the initial reading of it. But take a moment and ponder what is being asked. Is faith something considered to be a second cousin to karma or destiny? If a person simply has enough faith in the concept of faith then will what they hope for come to fruition? Faith is only as good as the object or person the faith is placed in. As a Christian, I don’t put much faith in things like karma, destiny, luck, chance, or coincidence. My faith is in the God of the universe who is the Great I AM. Having said that, there are times when I struggle in my faith. Life is hard and the enemy is real. Walking by faith can be a challenge but that is no excuse to waiver in our faith. In fact, it’s often in the struggles when our faith becomes a witness to unbelievers. The author of Hebrews uses Noah as an example of a believer who lived in faith even when things were tough. It was his faith in God that bore witness to all of the people who rejected God. You may think this point baseless because it happened so long ago but let me remind you that Jesus himself says the last days prior to His return would be similar to the days of Noah (Luke 17:26-27). I’m sure Noah had days when he became discouraged and tired. I would imagine that he may have even wondered if he correctly understood what God had instructed him to do. Building a huge boat on dry land that would be populated with 2 of every kind of animal from all over the world which would be brought to him because the entire earth was going to be flooded and covered with water strikes me as a little unusual. Noah did not place his faith in circumstances that would have to come to being for all of this to take place. He didn’t place his faith in his own ability to figure it all out. He didn’t place his faith in his ability as a zookeeper or master craftsman. He placed his faith in the God that was over all of those things. Because of His faith and a holy fear of God, He built the ark. So the question is this, what type of witness is your faith showing? Not that you won’t have struggles from time to time because we know that the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But overall, does your faith bear witness of the God of creation or the gods you’ve created? Salvation from the storm is found in Christ alone.

 

Robert




May 28, 2019, 10:04 AM

I Only Drink Socially (This has nothing to do with alcohol, and no, I don’t drink alcohol.)


Having worked in the medical field for about 15 years, I had to ask hundreds, if not thousands of people if they consumed alcohol. One of the more common responses was, “only socially.” Now, this is not a discussion or debate over alcohol. What it does point out is that there are things people do in a social setting that they wouldn’t do otherwise. When they are among a certain group, or if the situation arises that is conducive, they will have a drink or two. They aren’t necessarily heavy drinkers or alcoholics, it’s just something acceptable to the majority of society and it’s merely a part of their culture. Similarly, I have known people from the Middle Eastern part of the world that moved to the US but continue to live according to and celebrate some of the cultural customs they grew up with. Unfortunately, they get labeled as being Muslim or Islamic, when they are actually God-fearing, faithful followers of Christ. Though they appear one way because of the cultural aspects of their life, they are far different spiritually. The same type of thing could be said regarding some people who live in the “Bible Belt.” Though many folks living in this region have been exposed to the Gospel and partake in certain aspects of a “Christian” culture socially, they are far from being a Christian spiritually. It has become socially acceptable when someone is asked if they’re a Christian to respond, “Yes, I go to church”, or “Yes, I’m a Christian. I believe there is a God.” While these things are vital to being a Christian, they do NOT make you a Christian in of themselves. Churches in the “Bible Belt” are full of people who have embraced certain cultural/social aspects of religion but fall short of placing their faith in Christ alone. Hebrews 10:26-39 describes the difference between and outcomes for the “cultural Christians” who only follow Christ socially, and those that persevere to the end because of true and radical faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Which side of Hebrews 10:39 are you on? "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."(ESV)

Robert




May 8, 2019, 2:09 PM

Do you know the Lord or do you know the Lord


 

As a pastor, I get asked a lot of questions about doctrine and spirituality. One of the more frequent questions I hear has to do with what is commonly referred to as the security of the believer, or to some, the perseverance of the saints. There are times when the individual asking this question is genuinely concerned about their eternal hope of salvation and simply need a Scriptural guide to finding the answer they are seeking. They display genuine fruit of being a believer but may be struggling with doubt. There are other times when I am asked the question and the person asking is looking for affirmation that I can’t give. Often their search is driven by a need to ease the guilt for choices and actions that don’t align with the Word of God or a certain level of morality and ethics they were exposed to somewhere along the way. One of the most dangerous things I can do as a pastor is to give assurance of salvation. I believe the Scripture teaches what the life of a follower of Christ looks like and the conviction that comes from having an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. One of those scriptures can be found in Hebrews 8:11, which is a quoted portion of Jeremiah 31. God says that under the new covenant of grace in Jesus Christ, people won’t have to tell others to know God because those who are the children of God will know Him. Now, the same English word is used- know, but in the original Koine Greek, “know” is represented by two different words. The first pertains to knowing the precepts of God based on exposure to them. More importantly, it is used in the tense that describes a completed action that took place once in the past. This is similar to someone being exposed to the Bible or church at some point in their life but it has no lasting impact on their life. The second “know” in this verse describes a knowledge of God that is attained from a previous encounter, but contrary to the first “know”, this encounter with God has a lasting impact on the person. This is equivalent to placing one’s faith in Christ and being radically changed both now and for eternity. There are many searching for confirmation of salvation that has only been exposed to the knowledge of God and the Bible teaches that simple exposure isn’t enough. Only those who have experienced a radical, life-changing, soul saving encounter with God that continues to impact their life have the security of the believer. I do adhere to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and do believe that once saved, always saved. God does the saving, securing, and the sanctifying and there is none greater or more powerful than He. Here are some other verses that may help those who are seeking confirmation between exposure and salvation: Romans 6:17-21; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 3:7.

Robert




March 4, 2019, 9:30 AM

A Resting Place


 

East Texas is a wonderful place to live. No matter where the Lord may lead us over the course of the rest of our lives, it will always be where I consider home. One of the special things about living in East Texas is the way you can experience all four seasons of the year in a single 24 hour time frame. Recently, the weather went from the high seventies and sunny to the high twenties and rainy in just over 12 hours. Thankfully, God has blessed us with a place to live where we can escape the elements of the weather. Our home is modest and, while we don’t have a lot of extra amenities, we do have the basic comforts of an American family. In our home, we can change the thermostat to make the air cooler or warmer to counter the temperature outside. The roof is new so we don’t have to worry about rain leaking in on us. We all have comfortable places to sleep and lounge around and the kitchen has all the necessary requirements to provide adequate meals for our family, in spite of my limited cooking abilities. What I’m trying to say is this, we have a place that we can go to escape from everything going on outside. We have a place to rest peacefully regardless of what the circumstance may be like around us. The author of Hebrews describes a similar rest that is available to everyone who will place their faith in Jesus. He exhorts his audience to not be like those who have heard the Gospel but chose not to combine it with faith, and thus forfeiting their opportunity to enter into the rest afforded by God through faith. The rest given by God is a perfect rest that can’t be attained by human works or merit. It can only be experienced through salvation in Jesus Christ. It is in this rest where a person can find protection from all the circumstances life may present. The author goes on to say in Hebrews 4:10 that anyone who enters this rest can rest from their work as well. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go to your job tomorrow, but what it does mean is God gives a rest that you can’t get on your own through your own efforts so you can stop trying and embrace the rest in God. There is one caveat to this rest however, while the enemy can’t take this rest away from you, he can keep you from enjoying the fullness of its benefit. It doesn’t matter how comfortable my recliner is, I won’t be able to sit in it and rest if worry or anxiety have control of my mind and emotions. Don’t forfeit the rest you can have in God through Jesus Christ. As long as it is today, there still remains a hope for you to enter God’s rest by placing your faith in Christ alone. The Lord may not remove you from your troubles but He will give you rest in the midst of them.

Robert

https://youtu.be/mQru8LBQaKY


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