Humbled by God’s Provision

So, I’m the pastor of a pretty small church in Western Maryland.  We generally have 30-40 people on a Sunday morning.  We have people from every walk of life and the church takes great care of me and my family.  I wouldn’t trade this group of people for anything.

So, I’ve been looking to take a vacation this summer.  I’ve always wanted to take my wife and little girl on a vacation.  But my wife and I do not have much money so, we are looking to stretch the dollars as far as possible.  I found a potential bungalow on the beach in North Carolina–not very expensive and for an entire week!  So…upon further investigation, I find out that the only available week is the last week of June–the same week as The Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.  Bummer!

Today, my wife and I took a care package to a family in our church.  They are a simple family and they do not have much–in the way of money or possessions.  Also, there are some health issues in this family and some disability.  Our church provides a monthly care package of food and the church is happy to do so.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks:  This family will probably never take a vacation.  They will probably never know what it is like to escape their situation–even for a few days.

I feel like an idiot.

Like so much of the world, I am lamenting what I don’t have and feel I deserve rather than thanking God for what He has given me–nothing of which I deserve.

No, I am an idiot.

I’m reminded of the saying: I was once upset that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.

May God forgive my preoccupation with myself and may He forgive my cold, cold heart.

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Of Pronouns and Pastors

I once heard a story about a Minister of Music’s “run in” with a Pastor: The Minister of Music was trying to explain to the members of the music ministry that music wasn’t to be done with him, the church, or the pastor in mind. Rather, music was to be done with God in mind. God was our “audience” and the church was His, not our own.

For his exhortations, the Minister of Music was called into the Pastor’s office only to be told by the Pastor: Never forget, this is my church.

Needless to say this kind of sentiment sends cold chills down my back. Where did we get the notion that it is our church?

Pastors have an inherent problem with power.  Most people look at the pastor as “the boss” and they seem, at times, to put their faith in him.  So, even though the pastor is the recipient of many accolades, as unwarranted as many of them may be, he is not to be the object of anyone’s faith!  Sadly, many pastors forget that the people of any particular church are under our care, not our ownership.

Well-meaning pastors have taken to referring to the church they pastor as “my church.”  As with most things, the heart-intent of the pronoun my determines the true meaning and it determines the intent of the pastor’s heart.

IF you say “my church” and are truly referring to the church to which you belong, your heart may be in the right place (although it is not guaranteed).

IF you say “my church” and are truly referring to the church for which you will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment, your heart may be in the right place (but, again, no guarantees).

However, IF you say “my church” and are referring, even unintentionally, to the church which you own, you might be in deep trouble.

We must all try to protect ourselves and our pastors against this false and condemning mistake.  And if you see that I’ve forgotten to practice what I am preaching here, please remind me!  May God grant us His grace to keep this in its proper perspective.

The simple truth of the matter is this: Pastor’s do not “own” churches and, unfortunately, way too many pastors act like they do.  Pastor’s are simply shepherds of the Master’s flock.  We are stewards of the Master’s property.  And, unless you stretched out your arms on a Roman cross and spilled your blood (which you can’t even qualify to do), you simply cannot call it “my” church.

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Offering Our Children to Molech

In the disastrous wake of President Obama’s decision to put the full faith and finances of the Federal Government behind the destruction of human life, I have come to a shocking and bone-jarring conclusion:  As a society, we are engaged in child sacrifice and we are unashamed.

In large measure, this post is not directed at the irreligious, the anti-religious, the atheist.  Rather, this post is meant to be a punch in the gut to the people that call themselves “Christians.”  The irreligious, anti-religious, and atheist are, by nature, sinners.  We should expect them to sin and to call sin “OK.”  All too often, however, those who claim the name of Christ look no different than the irreligious, anti-religious, and atheistic people of the world.

The Problematic Situation

For years, society has been heading in the myopic “I-Me” direction.  This devolution has resulted in an insanely selfish society.  But, again, what else do we expect sinners to do?  The church, though, has followed along with society.

1. Worship Wars abound in churches over the style of the music.  Nowhere in the New Testament is a specific style of music commanded.  Since, in the Old Testament, God decrees the minutiae of worship–down to the very thread in the priestly robes–we might expect the New Testament to decree a style of worship.  It doesn’t.  That’s strange and very telling.

Rather than being a gracious and giving lot, our church folk have turned on each other to devour each other.  Why?  because they want the style of music they are most comfortable with.  Arguments are “invented” to keep the status-quo in place.  This is not New Testament piety; this is worldly selfishness.  This is seeking your satisfaction at the expense of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now, I’m not commenting on a particular style of music.  If I had my preference, the church I pastor would do Bach and Handel (after all, I am a classically-trained trumpet player).  What I am commenting against is the selfishness displayed in our churches.  Why not have a variety of musical styles?  Why not rejoice with someone who prefers “contemporary” styles when, on one Sunday, a contemporary ensemble leads the worship service?  Sure it’s not your preference.  But, church is not about you!  Church is about God and God commands us to be gracious to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to rejoice with and for them, and to be a people known for self-sacrifice.  Instead of a Godly “give/give” idea, we are left to see a worldly “take/take” idea.  How sad and how un-Christian.

2. Churches have become outwardly focused to the exclusion of the fellowship of believers.  Do we need to do mission work?  Absolutely!!  However, mission work is not to be done at the expense of building up the members in our churches.  All too often churches are acting like they exist only to do outreach.  Remember, outreach is only one aspect of church life.  The edification (or building up) of the current members (brothers and sisters in Christ) is also required of the church.

Where this becomes a problem is that the builders and the outreachers are usually fighting over which is more important.  How stupid!  That’s like doctors fighting over which organ a patient can live without–a heart or a brain.  Both organs are necessary and both aspects of church–edification and outreach–are necessary as well.

Yet again, we, in our myopic selfishness, do not work with the other “party.”  No, instead we call them names and brand them as “less spiritual.”  Maybe we do this to justify our own selfish desire to be right?  Maybe we do this because we are so spiritually deficient that we need to feel sufficient and rather than looking to Christ–who is Himself the only all-sufficient One–we demonize our brothers and sisters in Christ to exalt ourselves?

If it is true that our actions speak louder than our words, and it is, Christian have much to be ashamed of.  We look too much like the world.  Selfishness is rampant in the church–almost at the same level as the world.  Essentially, we look no different from the world.

Selfishness is Idolatry

All selfishness is, in one way or another, idolatry.  We seek to place our own thoughts and desires over God’s thoughts and desires.  When we seek to justify ourselves at the expense of our brothers and sisters in Christ we commit the sin of idolatry–self-idolatry.

Idolatry is a struggle.  I don’t mean to speak ill of those who are constantly engaged in the struggle.  I do, however, mean to correct those who refuse to even engage in the struggle!

The Worldly Parallel

One of my biggest frustrations is shopping carts left in parking spaces in the supermarket.  This really is the height of self-absorption.  This is the idea of “I’m too important to be bothered with taking my cart to the cart return.  Someone else, who is obviously beneath me, can do that for me.”

If I had a dime….never mind.

How in the world does this relate to Molech?

Leviticus 20:1-9 says:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.

6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. 7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

Molech was one god of the Canaanites.  Worshiping Molech was on the same level as worshiping Baal.  Baal, being the storm god who brought the rain and made the crops grow, was worshiped so that the people of the land could eat.

Parents would sacrifice their children to satisfy their own appetites.

The Canaanites practiced child sacrifice.  Child sacrifice is the height of wicked selfishness.  What parent would sacrifice their own children so that the parents could benefit?  How many examples of parents sacrificing themselves, selflessly, so that their children could live have we seen in the history of the world?  What about Moses’ parents?  They might have been charged with treason and subsequently put to death had the Pharaoh discovered they disobeyed his order to kill the male children.  What about parents who shield their children from tornadoes–using their own bodies to absorb the debris?

It is natural for parents to sacrifice themselves and their desires for the betterment, survival, and support of their children.

So, how can it be the case that women are having abortions because it is summer and they don’t want to look bad in a bikini?  How can parents give their embryonic children to the scientific butchers to grow new parts and pieces for some type of Owellian chop-shop and garage for human fraility?  Why are parents not yelling to the scientists “Take me and leave my children alone!”

One reason: Selfishness.  A selfishness that seeks your own good and your own comfort over the very life of your child.

Molech in the Church

How does this all come together?  Our churches have raised a generation of people (and I purposely didn’t use the word “believers”) who care only about themselves.

If we truly cared for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we would lovingly (notice: lovingly) correct them when they act outside of God’s will.  If we really cared we’d seek the good of our brothers and sisters before we sought our own comforts.  You do not need to look far to see the demise of proper church discipline.  Usually proper church discipline mutates into one of two un-biblical extremes–people seek to crucify, not restore, the brother or sister in the wrong or people refrain from any discipline whatsoever.  Both extremes are wrong.  Both extremes are born out of and serve perverse selfishness.

Is it any wonder the church is shrinking?  We care more about numbers of baptisms than we do about true Christian discipleship and growth.  We don’t discipline each other because the confrontation will take us out of our comfort zone and trying to discipline someone may make them leave and our numbers will fall.  We concentrate on baptisms and the number of people on our church rolls because it serves our own egos, not the ultimate well-being of our brothers and sisters.  See?  Selfishness, again.

The shrinking church is evidence that God has turned His face away from us (I’m not talking “America;”  I mean that God has turned His face away from the church).

May God forgive us for our rampant selfishness.  May we repent and experience His face shining on us once again as we seek to be properly Godly and properly Biblical in all we say and do, both in public and in private.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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Pro-Abortion: An Impossible Position

I have not written about abortion, until now. I will admit I am a bit bothered. I have had a rough week–one of my Seminary professors (Carl Stam) has had a recurrence of lymphoma; I just found out one of my favorite teachers of all time–from High School–Dr. Buck Offutt has had a stroke; and a gifted young musician, Coleman Mellett–we played in the same groups in High School–was killed in the Buffalo, NY plane crash. So, why does that prompt me to write on abortion?

Abortion is murder. Pure and simple. The end of a life without due process of law and without extraordinary, accidental circumstances is nothing more than murder.

Many have sought to quote scripture, which is extremely relevant, when writing on this topic. Admittedly, there are some who will dismiss the Bible out-of-hand. Therefore, I will make logical arguments.

Argument One:

If an embryo is not a life, why then are the embryos of endangered species protected by law?

The proponents of Abortion run into an impossible conundrum here: Why are animal embryos considered different and treated different from a human embryo? The Bald Eagle is a magnificent creature. According to the Endangered Species Act, to take a Bald Eagle egg from a nest will get you a fine of not more than $1,000 and not more than one year in jail. (source)  Yet, you can walk into an abortion clinic and pay someone to end a life (or what will become a life–in keeping with the egg of a Bald Eagle) and you and the person doing the abortion get off scott-free.  In fact, both parties will probably be congratulated on their progressiveness and how they exercise their rights.

This is especially damning to the pro-abortion position when you consider that many people will believe in the evolutionary process (which I whole-heartedly reject) and, therefore, have every reason to believe that humans and animals are, in fact, different versions of the same stuff–just differences in evolution.

So…the conundrum:  How are potential Bald Eagles different from potential Humans?  According to the animal rights and pro-abortion philosophies, they are not.  The pro-abortion proponents hold to a logically indefensible position.

Argument Two:

How can an anti-death penalty person also be a pro-abortion person?

Many of the anti-death penalty people I’ve heard stick to the party-line and they tend to be pro-abortion too.  They claim life is too valuable to be ended, even for some of the most heinous crimes.  All too often, the pro-death penalty, anti-abortion people (like me) are accused of a hypocritical position.  Here’s the pro-abortion, anti-death penalty problem:

If you believe that life is too precious to be taken, even in the face of a heinous crime, how can you believe it is OK to snuff out what will become a life (assuming for argument sake that an embryo is not a life)?

Let’s examine a progression.  If someone is sentenced to death, it means they have been tried by a jury of their peers and have been duly convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.  In addition to this burden of proof, there has been a long and thorough appeal process.

To abort an embryo, you are denying a person of this right to due process.  The embryo is being aborted when the person has done neither good nor bad (in the eyes of the law).

So, the pro-abortion, anti-death penalty people fail this test.  It is a position which cannot be logically argued.

Now, to answer the undoubted rebuttal:

How can someone who values the life of an embryo not value the life of someone sentenced to die for a crime?

Simple.  If you value life, it is impossible to require anything less than death for the most heinous crimes.  Why?  Your life is the most valuable thing you have; it is the one thing that, if you lose it, you have lost everything.  If life is not that valuable, why do the families of victims of plane crashes file lawsuits against the carrier for wrongful death?

Of course many families do file and win lawful death suits–showing that life is indeed valuable, far beyond anything else.

So how do you exact payment for a heinous crime of pre-meditated, first-degree (to be redundant) murder?  You require the life of the perpetrator.  To require less is to de-value the person who was killed and that de-values all life.

Argument Three:

How is the pro-abortion position not linked to the billion dollar abortion industry?

Planned Parenthood says that it prefers to distribute contraception and to engage in sexual education.  Their records (available here) show that 38% of their activities are related to contraception while 3% of activities are related to abortion.  However, when you look at the financial activities, there is a gross disparity.  According to teenwire.com, the average cost of a Planned Parenthood abortion is between $275 and $700. (source)  Of course, condoms don’t cost much.  So, when Planned Parenthood reported their “Health Center Income” to be 356.9 million dollars, I began to wonder if they were being honest.

According to their own records, Planned Parenthood performed 289,750 abortions in 2006.  If we assume the average cost of a Planned Parenthood abortion to be $487.50, they would have made $141,253,125.

The numbers simply do not add up.

What is more, and perhaps more insidious, the pro-abortion lobby seeks to eliminate any “choice” from the abortion decision making process.  The so-called “pro-choice” proponents always scream the loudest when the hint of requiring that a person contemplating abortion be given the other alternatives like adoption.

Why would the pro-choice crowd not want choice?

Because abortion has never been about “choice” it has been about money.  Abortion is an industry and the pro-abortion lobbyists have done everything in their power to give themselves a monopoly in their business.

So, how can a pro-choice person be against giving all the options?  Again, this is a logically indefensible position.

Surely there could be more examples.  Sadly, the pro-choice, pro-abortion (they are synonyms) crowd will undoubtedly reap the whirlwind which they have sown.  May God change their hearts and save their souls.

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Thoughts on Thanksgiving

One of the books I’ve read lately is Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be.  The authors Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck mention that in Hollywood, it is popular to be searching for God…it just isn’t good when you find Him.  Similarly, it is chic to be thankful.  However, when you mention Who you are thankful to, well, that crosses the line.

I am afraid that many Christians in America today are just that: “Thankful.”  Thankful, that’s it–No mention of the One to whom we should be thankful.

One of my Favorite Hymns in the Baptist Hymnal (1991) is Let All Things Now Living.  It is widely regarded as a Thanksgiving Hymn (whole text here).  I find the first section of verse two to be most helpful to me:

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;

You know, there are many people who are thankful for the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars.  Yet they are not thankful to God for the Sun, Moon, and Stars.

This is superficial, not true, thankfulness.

To be truly thankful, you must be thankful to the One who gives you that for which you are thankful.

1 Timothy 6:13, Romans 4:17, Job 12:10, James 1:7, and Acts 17:25 tells us that it is God is the One who gives life.  So, whether it is admitted around the turkey or not, we must be thankful to God.  If we are not thankful to God, we are not truly thankful.

It is my hope that Christians will realize this and will start to be more thankful people, but in the right way.  All Christians must actively thank God.

If you woke up this morning, if you’ve returned from the “Black Friday” shopping safely, if you have a wonderful family–all of that is God’s doing.  You did not do that yourself; God blessed you.  Therefore, He is the One to whom we must all be thankful.

Thankfully,

The Archangel

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Piper on Presidents, Politics, and the Sovereignty of God

This is a great video clip of John Piper explaning what our political attitudes should be.

For a longer clip (but still containing the above clip) look here.

Thanks to Bro. Matt’s Blog for posting this clip which is embeded above.

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A New President and An Historic Election

In the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, no one in the area of Ft. Sumter could have predicted that 147 years later an African-American would become the President of a unified United States of America.

It is an historical irony that Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States–from Illinois, who authored and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, would, in essence, pave the way for the election of a fellow Illinois man to be elected the 44th President of the United States.

After the pains of reconstruction in the aftermath of the Civil War (which went on far too long!) and the unfathomable discrimination of the 20th Century which witnessed, among other things, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is a great thing to see an African American be elected President.  It is truly a great day to be an American.

I did not vote for our President-Elect.  I am a conservative and he is not.  I do not share his vision for America, for it seems far too socalistic and anti-evangelical.  However, as Romans 13 and 1 Peter 1:13-17 tells us, Government is God’s idea.  As God is absolutely sovereign, He has seen fit to give us Barak Obama as our President.

Though I do and probably will continue to disagree with his politics, vision, and policies, as a Christian, I must pray for him as our President.  If you disagree with me, read 1 Timothy 2:

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

May God, through the government He has provided, grant His people lives which are marked by peace and quiet and lives that are, above all, Godly and dignified in every way.  May God bless us so that we may live peacefully, practicing our faith freely.

I would encourage every Christian to pray for President-Elect Obama, for it is what God expects us to do.

Many Blessings,

The Archangel

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