Conspiracy Cautions

If we are not careful to let the scriptures shape our thinking, we will say things about God and His church that are anti Biblical. This is especially true when we believers endure trials in their lives. The book of James reminds God’s people that we should be quick to hear the Word of God, and slow to speak our own speculations and opinions (James 1:19). Because when we do not begin with hearing the Word of God, it leads to speaking or acting rashly. And rash thinking leads to false speculations, which culminate in fear and anger.

The friends of Job Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are an example of people who interpret the circumstances in front of their eyes through secular thinking. Their friend Job had experienced a horrible tragedy in losing his family, his crops, and his health all in one day. Looking at the circumstances, they presumed upon the mind of God. They spoke for God in tell Job that the Lord was punishing job. And they spoke harshly of the Lord’s servant job in condemning him for sins that they only speculated about.

But as we see in reading Job, the Lord was not punishing Job. God was molding Job. He was teaching job to trust Him more deeply, and to know Him more intimately. God knew that the way to accomplish these two thing was to allow extreme affliction in Job’s life. God used the trial not to punish Job, but to grow him in his faith.

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;” Job 42:5.

Just like the friends of Job, we can just as easily wrongly interpret our circumstances. Just like the friends of Job, we can presume upon the intentions of God, and begin to speak harshly of the servants of God and His church when we forget the wisdom of God and become wise in our own eyes.

In the midst of this trial of pandemic that we are currently facing, many believers in Christ are falling into the mold of the friends of Job. First, they are presuming upon the mind and intentions of God. Recently there has been much talk about conspiracy theories, end time prophesy, and speculation about what God is doing. Some say this is saying that our pandemic is a fulfillment of the book of Revelation. Some are proposing that God is judging the world for it’s sins.

Is this pandemic the beginning of the end? Is God judging His people? Maybe. Then again, maybe it is being used by the Lord to draw people to Himself. Maybe God is using this pandemic to bring His people to their knees and reset their priorities. Maybe the Lord is working as He did in the life of Job to bring about great revival.

In the 16th century, Christians like Martin Luther speculated that the pope of the Roman Catholic Church was the antichrist of Revelation. During World War II, many believers espoused that Adolph Hitler was the antichrist and that the one world government mentioned in the book of Revelation. Even the disciples of Christ thought that their generation would be witnesses to the second coming of Christ. Speculations and theories are not new to God’s people. The friends of Job would attest to this.

The truth is, no one knows what the Lord is doing except the Lord. Our current trials may indeed be a setting of the stage for His glorious return. Then again, the Lord may tarry for a dozen more lifetimes. But the church of God is not commissioned by the Lord to preach speculations and conspiracy theories to the lost world. We are commissioned to preach Christ and all that He has commanded. As believers, our message does not change when uncertain times come our way. We have one message and one commission. We are not called to preach our ideas and theories about what God is doing. We are to preach the Gospel.

“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5.

The lost will not be saved by our self imposed opinions and speculations about what God is doing in the world. They will only be saved if we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Not only can God’s people fall into the trap of presuming upon God’s intentions in times of peril, but we can also fall into the trap of wrongly accusing God’s servant. Just as Job’s friends turned a critical eye towards and drew false conclusions about him, in the same way we must guard our hearts in our day against this folly.

As it pertains to our current Covid-19 situation, there are some who stating that the church should have no fear and that believers should continue meeting despite the threat of mass infection. They are some believers who are mistaking the church’s caution for cowardice. Once again, desperately need the scriptures to correct our mistaken views and accusations.

In the book of Acts, Jesus said to His disciples before ascending into Heaven that  they were to go and be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem was the home of the disciples, and they had not ventured very far outside of their comfort zones. So how did Jesus accomplish prodding His church to spread out from Jerusalem and take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? The answer is, He sent persecution upon the church.

As a result of persecution, the church scattered in the dispersion throughout the ancient world. And as they scattered, they proclaimed Christ to the world. Imagine for a moment that when the persecution began, the first century believers had said, “Let us not be cowards, we will stand our ground in the face of death and continue to meet in public.” They would have not gone to the ends of the earth, and the believers would have been exterminated in their home town of Jerusalem. But that was not the plan of God. He intended them to be cautious. And their caution led to the fulfillment of His Great Commission.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17.

Not long after the Apostle Paul was converted, he was being hunted by the Jewish leaders who sought to kill him for preaching Christ. Paul did not spit in the face of danger and continue to enter into dangerous places. Rather, the disciples aided Paul in fleeing away from the danger, hiding him in a basket and sneaking Paul out of the city. Paul’s caution is not to be mistaken for cowardice. He was being wise in realizing the threat. If Paul had defied his dangerous circumstances, he would have been captured and killed. But God used his caution to fulfill Christ’s mission.

“When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.” Acts 9:23-25.

The book of Proverbs is all about Godly wisdom. And the writer give the church solid direction in saying that we should not be a people that through caution to the wind, but rather we should remember that it is quite possible that the Lord is redirecting the steps of His church in the trial. In His providence, the Lord guides His people at times through the guardrails of trial. We would be wise not to hope those guardrails.

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3.

In the midst of our current pandemic, believers are called to rest and remember. We are to rest in the knowledge of who God is. He is good, just, and Holy. And He does all things for the good of those that are called by His name. And we are to remember that we are not called to presume upon the mind of God. Believers are not to live in speculation and preach hearsay to the world. Our message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And also to remember that God has often altered the lives of His people to redirect their steps. The bride of Christ is to be cautious and wise, carrying the message of Jesus with us wherever He may lead.  Don’t trust in what you see in your circumstance. Trust in what you know about God.

Covid-19; God’s Knife or Scalpel?

A few days ago as I scrolled through the television channels, I came across a very well known televangelist. Of course, he was using his platform to speak about the Covid-19 pandemic. In his sermon, he was blurring together the virus and Satan. This televangelist was rebuking the virus, casting it away in the name of Jesus. At one point, the preacher exclaimed, “And we know that God will crush your head Covid-19, just like he did to you in the garden of Eden.” The immediate thought that went through my head was literally, “Wait…what?

I’d had my fill of daily heresy for the morning, so I turned off the television and decided to see what was happening in the world of social media. As I scrolled through the land of Facebook, I was shocked to see that many people held the same theology as the train wreck of a message that I had just witnessed from the televangelist. Numerous people were posting messages that said things like, “I am binding the devil and Covid-19 from my home!” Another posting stated, “Praying God’s power against this satanic plague.”

I concluded that one of three things was happening. One; I had just entered the Twilight Zone. Two; That televangelist must have a massive following. Or three; There are many people who are not reading their Bibles.

As we see through the pages of scripture, it is not Satan who commands pestilence and plagues. It is the Lord who sends them. That televangelist who prayed for God to “Crush the head” of this pandemic was actually ascribing more power to Satan than he actually has. 

“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7.

When we read the book of Exodus wherein God sends the ten plagues against Pharaoh, we give a hardy thumbs up to the fact that God sends plagues to judge evil men. But when trials like a plague come upon us in modern times, by default we all view ourselves to be “good people.” Therefore, in our default thinking, we consider this current plague must be from Satan, because God would never send something like Covid-19 upon His people! Much less would He use a pandemic for good!

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. …” James 1:2-8.

You see, God sends things like a pandemic not always as a means to judge His people, but to strengthen their dependence on Him.

A sharp blade can be used for good or it can be used for evil. If a thief  mugged you in a dark alley and held up a knife to your face, his intent would be to harm you and to take from you. Sadly, many believers view the Coronavirus as a knife in the hands of the devil that is being used to greatly harm and take from God’s people.

But a blade can also be used for good and to save lives. Consider someone who has a cancerous tumor. Their doctor tells them that in order to remove the cancer, he must utilize the painful and very traumatic procedure of using a scalpel to cut out the tumor. Although the scalpel will most definitely do external damage to the patient’s body as it cuts through their flesh, it is a necessary tool of the surgeon used for the good of his patient in removing the internal tumor.

We must remember as God’s people that Covid-19 is the necessary scalpel of the Lord, our great physician, that is being used for the good of His people in removing their growing dependence on the cancer of the world and strengthening their faith in Christ. It would be crazy to call an earthly doctor’s scalpel evil, because we know that it is a tool used for good. 

The Coronavirus is the spiritual blade that is being used as a doctor would wield his scalpel to remove a cancer from his people, not as a violent thief looking to take and harm.

We need to remember the character of our God in times like these. We know that God is good. God is just. And all that the Lord does is for the good of His people and the glory of His Son. Therefore when we enter into painful times, we don’t interpret our circumstances by beginning with ourselves. We begin by remembering the character of God. 

If we truly believe that He is our Great Physician that does all things for our good, then we can look at things like Covid-19 not as a violent knife that intends to hurt God’s people, but as a loving scalpel that is intended to strengthen God’s people.

We do not know why God has sent Covid-19. However, it is not the place of God’s people to speculate and theorize as to the purposes of the Lord. We are called to rest in knowing who God is. We are to rest in His Holy attributes as our comfort. We are to remember that God does all things for good. And we are to let things like a pandemic press the church into personal repentance and joyful proclamation. 

In closing, consider Job. God allows Satan to inflict misery upon Job throughout the whole book. The death of Job’s family, the plague upon his body, and the loss of his fortune were all part of the spiritual surgery that God was performing on Job internally. All of his afflictions were not meant to harm Job, but to bring him into a deeper knowledge of his Creator. How do I know this? Let’s read one of the concluding statements of Job as he looks back at the tragedies of his life. 

“I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” Job 42:5.

Job had heard about the Lord, but he says that it took the pain of losing his loved ones, it took a plague being sent upon his body, and it took a great economic loss for Job to truly see the Lord as sovereign, providential, and loving. 

I had HEARD of you Lord. But now I SEE You.

It took the Lord using a spiritual scalpel externally upon the life of Job to remove the proverbial internal tumors that had hindered the strength of his faith. As a result, Job grew to know the Lord in a much deeper way than previously when everything was going great in his life. 

My question to us today is, “Do we really think the purposes of God change for the people of God in our 21st century context?” The greatest comfort that we have is that God is immutable. He is unchanging. And when we seek to understand the hand of God in our world today, we need not listen to the televangelist on the television, but read and recall the ways of God through His Word. God uses all things, good and bad, for the good of those who love Him and the glory of His Son (Romans 8:28).

 Is Covid-19 a violent knife or a loving scalpel? Viewing the world through a Biblical perspective changes everything.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15.

‘Now What?’ The Reality of the Resurrection

This morning, as we leave yesterday’s celebration of the resurrection, many Christians can be left with a sense of sadness. We greatly look forward to Easter each year, and when it has passed, believers can begin to internally ask, “Now what?” These feelings are heightened now more than ever, with so much uncertainty and fear over what tomorrow holds given our current state of pandemic. As we look in our rear view at yesterday’s celebration of Easter, and stare ahead at an unknown future, questions arise in our minds.

Jesus’ disciples were very familiar with our feelings. After the very first Easter when Christ had finally ascended to the right hand of His Father, the disciples felt much of what you may be feeling today. As they gazed in celebration at their Lord and Savior rising to His throne, they began to mentally look forward to an unknown future. 

There was no doubt that persecution was coming to the church. And things were going to change. No more would they be able to publicly gather together as they once had done when Jesus was physically with them. They would now have to begin meeting in private. Due to this coming persecution, the followers of Christ were now living in a different world. Does this sound familiar to our circumstances?

As the disciples contemplated what their ‘new normal’ might be, they continued to look up into the sky that Jesus had just disappeared into. They were scared. They were uncertain. They were most likely asking, “Now what?” Then the Lord sent two messengers to set them back on course.

And when he (Jesus) had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11.

These messengers reminded the confused disciples that they had been given a mission. They were not to just stand parayzed, gazing back at the joy of Easter. And they had been taught by Jesus to not let worry over the future lull them into complacency (Matthew 6:25-27). Basically, these two messengers told the disciples to stop staring at their circumstance. In light of Jesus’ victory over death, it was now time for the church to begin making disciples.

As we sit today remembering the joy of yesterday’s Easter morning, and we simultaneously contemplate an uncertain future, the message to us is the same. Stop staring at your circumstances and remember what Christ has commanded you to do. We have been given a Gospel to proclaim to the world. We remember and rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, but we carry that joy with us as we move. Just as the disciples faced an uncertain future through persecution, our uncertainty is rooted in a global pandemic. But we know through the scriptures that believers are not to let fear sway us from what we have been called to do.

As the messengers told the disciples, Jesus will come again in the same way He ascended over 2000 year ago. We are to let this reality embolden us as the church, regardless of what our new normal may look like. Due to Covid-19, the church cannot physically gather together as a body like we once did. But neither could the disciples after the stoning of Stephen. However, as God’s people, we don’t cave in fear to circumstances, we adapt to our mission in joy.

The reality of the resurrection motivated God’s people into action, regardless of their circumstances. We celebrate the resurrection of Christ not just on Easter morning, but always. It is our motivation in the Great Commission that we’ve have been given (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).

Remember this week that you have been called to HIS mission of making disciples. Pick up the phone and call friends and family who may not know the Lord. Use social media to share Gospel centered videos and messages with your contacts. Begin writing that internet blog in attempts to share Christ. Start now reaching out to people in your sphere of relationships to invite them to join our LIVE streams and eventually, a local church body.

God used persecution to embolden His church after the resurrection, and the result was that they literally turned the world upside down with their passion for spreading the Gospel. I believe God is using our current pandemic in the same way. The church of Jesus Christ has historically always thrived under persecution. Don’t let our modern day “New Normal” draw you away from what Christ has called us to do. We are the church. Let’s turn the world upside down with the Gospel.

And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,” Acts 17:6.

Love Cannot Exist Apart From Wrath

Love cannot exist without wrath. I love children. Therefore if I truly love children, I must by default hate the evils of abortion. I love my family, and if anything or anyone tried to hurt them, they would see my wrath. If you truly love something, you must be wrathful against that which opposes it. God is love. But His love is seen through His wrath. He is righteous. And His rightness is seen through His justice enacted against the. unrighteous.

Tomorrow morning, Christians all around the world will celebrate Easter. And most everyone who professes faith or even a simplistic belief in Jesus knows that this is the day that Christ rose victoriously from the dead. The love of God, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, was magnificently displayed in the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Savior. The church most definitely has the greatest of reasons to rejoice on this day.

However, if we are not careful, we can get caught up in the emotionalism and celebration of Easter so much so that we totally ignore the Biblical implications of why the sacrifice of Christ was such a loving act of God, thus stripping the resurrection of it’s meaning. During Easter, more times than not mankind elevates the love of God while simultaneously disregarding the wrath of God because by nature, humanity desires self pride over God’s glory.

Just read the popular cliché sayings that are prevalent when Easter comes around. I once heard someone say this of the meaning of Easter; “The cross proves that humanity is the apple of God’s eye.” A very popular social media meme states, “God could not bear the thought of eternity without us, so He chose the nails.” 

Although these statements may give us warm and fuzzy feelings, they are theologically inaccurate and they rob Christ of His glory. For starters, the proverbial apple of God the Father’s eye is Christ the Son. And God did not save humanity because He was lonely without us in eternity. This is blasphemy in insinuating that God was somehow lacking within the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, and He needed us to make Him complete. Statements like these elevate the worth of man’s value above the worth of Christ’s glory. 

We can easily fall into making ourselves the reason for the celebration of Easter by elevating the love of God over the justice and wrath of God. The good news of Easter is that Jesus had taken the punishment for sin on the cross so that God’s disposition towards those who believe in him would be not condemnation but everlasting life. The brutally honest truth of the resurrection is that God the Father poured out his wrath that was meant for sinners like us upon His one and only Son.  

Some have argued that God is not wrathful towards sinful humanity. And some have even taken offensive at the thought of God executing justice upon Jesus instead of us. When the justice and wrath of God are spoken of during Easter, many refute the thought of seeing God in this way and say, “That is not my God.” It may not be their God, but it is the God of scripture.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:10.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18.

My question to this opposition is, “If God did not send His Son to endure the wrath that you deserved due to our sins, then who has paid the penalty for your trespasses?” If a price for our sins was not required by God, then why did Christ have to die? You see if Jesus had not incurred the wrath of God at Calvary, then you and I are still under His wrath and awaiting our eternal execution. You cannot separate the love of God from the wrath of God. Once you do this, the other ceases to exist. His love is seen through His wrath against sin. 

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.

Why did God send His Son to die in our place? Was it for the glory of man? Was the sacrifice of Christ necessary because God desperately needed us to make Him complete? Or was the cross ordained in eternity past primary for the Glory of His Son? 

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and rthe Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56.

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. iAfter making purification for sins, jhe sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Colossians 3:1.

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.

In the death of Christ, God saved us by Himself, from His wrath, and for His glory. There would be no reason to celebrate Easter without an understanding of why Christ had to die under God’s wrath. And there would be no reason for the death of Jesus if God were not one to execute justice against evil. The love of God is see through the wrath of God.

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Romans 1:18. 

God the Father sacrificed His one and only Son so that He would receive the utmost glory. The enemy loves an Easter that ignores the wrath and justice of God. As theologian Jared Wilson wrote, “The devil doesn’t mind a shiny trinket around your neck so long as it’s not a shining treasure in your heart.”

Satan is afraid of the truth of the resurrection. He is afraid of true repentance and sorrow over sins coming upon Christians during Easter. He would much rather we celebrate and place the focus on us, not Christ. Satan knows that when we gaze upon the wrath of God that was meant for us, it pierces the heart of man and reveals that the blood of Christ washed sinners clean. Satan knows that the justice of the Lord, when it is rightly understood, creates true worship of Jesus among God’s people. And he knows that the blood of Christ satisfied the wrath of God against sinners, thereby making us free from condemnation.

This is the Gospel. That the wrath of God was directed at you and I for our transgressions. The justice of God had to be carried out. And the Son of God took our cross under that wrath, dying in our place and for our sins. Don’t let the devil distort the meaning of Easter by ignoring the wrath and justice of God. God’s wrath and justice only serve to magnify His great love.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

Out of Darkness, Light

Throughout history, it was always the darkest periods that served as birth pains to the greatest times of revival. In the mid 1700’s, there was a growing indifference to the things of the Lord. Secular rationalism was being emphasized, and passion for religion had grown stale. Praise God for men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and many others who didn’t see the surrounding circumstances as defeat, but rather an opportunity to preach the Gospel. This resulted in what we now recall as the Great Awakening, wherein many were drawn to Christ.

The Catholic church had cast a luminous shadow across Europe in the 16th century due to it’s false teachings and legalistic rules. But God used men like Martin Luther and others, who saw opportunity in the midst of the trial. Their persistence to preach the Gospel led to the historic Protestant Reformation, which brought about a return to Biblical Christianity. The reformers coined the Latin phrase, “Post tenebras lux” which means “Light after Darkness”.

After the resurrection, before Christ ascended into Heaven, He addressed His disciples with some parting instructions.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

Consider the mission that Christ had given his followers. Not only were they to carry the Gospel throughout their hometown of Jerusalem, but they had now been commissioned to take this message throughout the entire world. However, the disciples were fallible men, just like us. And the biggest hinderance to radical obedience in Gospel proclamation is complacency. As Christians, it is very easy for us to grow comfortable in the world, praising Jesus with our mouths, but neglecting to proclaim Him to our neighbor. 

So how did Jesus accomplish His mission of getting these complacent men to wake from their comfortable slumber and actually start to evangelize to the ends of the earth? The answer; Jesus removed their comfort and allowed His people to be brutally persecuted beginning with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. And as a result of this dark period, believers dispersed from their home of Jerusalem and scattered throughout the world, taking with them the message of the Gospel.

In our current dark period of uncertainty, could God be using pandemic as a means to rouse His church from a comfortable slumber and move believers towards mission? A believe that a close look at church history as well as the scriptures themselves give us a clear answer. Absolutely. 

When some believers in Luke 13 were asking Jesus the meaning of certain tragedies that were happening near their hometown, Jesus pointed them away from dwelling on the circumstances and to considering their own spiritual state before God.

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5

This way of viewing clarity in our world always leads to repentance in the heart of any true believer. And true repentance results in a joyful heart of gratitude that overflows in Gospel proclamation. 

Has this recent Coronavirus pandemic caused you to accuse and question God? Or has it caused you to repent and proclaim? Although we are practicing social distancing, we are blessed to live in a day and age where technology has made Gospel proclamation more accessible than ever before. 

As your unbelieving neighbors and family members call you in fear of what the future holds, let them hear a firm calm and confidence in your voice. Let them sense a peace in your countenance in the midst of crisis. And when they inquire as to the different spirit their see in you, point them toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, for the Christian, Pandemic should result in proclamation. The world is looking for answers. Use this God given opportunity as an open door to given them hope in our Lord. Worldly catastrophes are glorious Gospel opportunities for those who have ears to hear. Take heart in this. Repent. Rejoice. And proclaim the peace of Christ to our culture that desperately needs hope.

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1:27-30

Peace in the Midst of Pandemic


Currently we are facing unprecedented times in our world with fear over the Coronavirus and uncertainty over how our economy is going to be affected as a result of this global pandemic. Add to this our frustration as believers not being able to gather together to encourage one another in love.  

If our eyes are on our circumstances, it is quite easy for panic and anxiety to set in. But as we have been considering in our streaming sermons as of late, let the example of the Apostle Paul lift your eyes off of your circumstances and on to truth.

Recently I have referenced the book of Philippians in my sermons because I believe it speaks so clearly to how the Christian worldview must be shaped in perilous times such as these. Paul was imprisoned at the time of his writing the epistle. His future was uncertain. He did not know how the future turn out. And he was unable to gather corporately with his church family due to his circumstance. Paul’s circumstances closely mirrored our own. Notice some things that Paul did not do in the midst of this crisis.

  1. He Didn’t Blame Satan For His Predicament

To blame Satan when calamity comes upon us is actually to give Satan more credit than he is due. This is a default that we as believers can easily fall into when tribulations come our way. And I believe that with the best of intentions, we are quick to give Satan credit for life’s hardships because in a way, we are trying to protect God. It sounds wrong to us to say that God would ever allow or ordain trials and or persecution. However, in our attempts to “protect God” from accusation, we fall into sin by neglecting scripture and failing to see the beauty in God’s sovereign plan. Consider the words of the Lord in Isaiah and Amos wherein He addresses the origin of worldly tribulations;

Isaiah 45:7 “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.”

Amos 3:6 “When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?”

Knowing that it was God who ordained that Paul would be imprisoned gave the Apostle the greatest of comfort in the midst of his persecution. Because to believe the alternative, that Satan had escaped his leash and was frustrating the plans of God is more terrifying. Also, Paul knew that the Lord used trials and persecution in the world for the ultimate good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

The Coronavirus is not the result of Satan frustrating the plans of God. Rather, this pandemic was sent by God. You may ask, “Why would God send a virus such as this?” The answer; For the glory of Christ and the good of those that love Him. The question is not, “Is this true?” The question we must ask is, “Do we believe this?” That the Lord is so powerful that He uses evil to bring about good that could not be had without it. If anyone would doubt that God can use evil as a tool to create beauty, let them be reminded of the cross. 

Acts 2:23-24 “But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.”

Genesis 50:20 “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people.”

This reality should radically shape how we as believer view tragedies, wars, and pandemics in our world today. If we are not rooted and grounded in a Biblical worldview, then we will default to speculation and myth when hard times come. And this knowledge of God allowed Paul to endure suffering without grumbling or complaining. Paul knew that his present suffering was bringing about a greater manifestation of God’s glory and a future good for His people. And it is the same in the circumstances we face today.

2. Paul Didn’t Complain, He Rejoiced!

Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When someone in the first century wanted to put an emphasis on something, they would repeat it. In the face of horrible circumstances, Paul was adamant in reminding the church to REJOICE in the Lord! Why? Because again, Paul knew his hardships were producing a greater good for those that love the Lord! 

In hard times, it is common for people and especially believers to feel that the Lord is somehow distant. Paul knew how easy it is for people to feel this way. Notice in the verse above that Paul tells the church to rejoice, and he follows that up by reminding them that THE LORD IS AT HAND! He is not distant and far off! God is not apathetic to His children. Rather, through the suffering believers are bearing witness to God using the evil as a chisel to create beauty!

Therefore, building on what Paul knew of God’s sovereignty over evil, he could confidentially tell the church that they should not be panicking. Nor should they be fearful or anxious! The reason for their trepidation was because their eyes were not on God, but were on the trial in front of them. 

Let me as Paul emphasize my point by repeating myself. It is crucial that we let our worldview be shaped by scripture and not by current events. I will go farther and say this; We cannot rightly interpret the events we see played out in our world without filtering everything through the scriptures.

What is the result of having our eyes on Christ rather than circumstance? Peace in the midst of tribulation. And this peace is a witness to the outside world. Consider this; When your unbelieving neighbor or family member calls you to express their fear over this pandemic that we currently face, and they hear a clam in your voice, it wont be the reaction that they expected. When the outside world sees a smile on your face in the midst of crisis, it will cause them to wonder where your peace comes from. They may even be prompted to ask you, “How is it that you are so calm and peaceful in this great time of uncertainty?”

If this happens, the door has swung open wide for you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. You see, if we view this pandemic through the lens of God’s Word and then let it be our comfort, even a situation such as this can turn into an opportunity to present the Gospel that may never have so naturally come about without our current crisis.

Rejoice brothers and sister! And again I say REJOICE! The Lord is at hand! He is not only in the midst of this pandemic, He is using it to create a greater good that couldn’t have been had without it. 

The Sufficiency of Scripture

A.W. Tozer once said that Christians don’t tell lies, they just sing them in church. This statement is more accurate than most of us realize. Strangely, there seems to be a glaring disconnect at times between the truths that we profess as believers and how we live as a result of our profession. 

At the very core of this problem lies question of the sufficiency of the scripture. Do we believe the sufficiency claims of scripture to be true? By sufficient, we mean that the Word of God is not only all that we need for teaching and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), but also that it is the final governing authority in matters of Christian conduct and church polity. 

Christians fall prey to sins of omission almost without knowing. We cling tightly to some commands in the scriptures while omitting or turning a blind eye to others. We claim belief in a sufficient canon but betray our words with a lack of obedience. I often use the example of pregnancy to press my point. Either a woman is pregnant or she is not. There is no half way or in between. And in turn, the scriptures are either fully sufficient or all together unreliable. They are either the final authority or man has the last word. There is no in between.

Jesus gave testimony to the power, authority, and sufficiency of scripture after his resurrection and before his assertion. 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-19.

The Word of God was the authority that Christ declared to the disciples. And with this authority they were charged to teach the church to observe and obey the commands lain out in the scriptures. Notice that Jesus did not say that the disciples had some authority apart from the Word of God. All authority had come from God was given Christ’s followers with the expectation that they would neither add to or take away from them.

Peter proclaimed that the Word of God was fully sufficient for all things pertaining to life and Godliness.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” 2 Peter 1:3.

Again, we see that Peter was mimicking the words of Christ given in Matthew 28:18-19 when he said “His divine power has grated us all things…” We have no authority of our own that is separate from God’s Word. Everything else falls into the category of either speculation or opinion. All authority comes from the Word of God. 

The Apostle Paul acknowledged in his letter to the Corinthians that we have no sufficiency within ourselves, but only in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are ministers according to His precepts, not our own.

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6.

The question is not if we profess the scriptures to be sufficient, because to say otherwise is a denial of what is blatantly obvious. Rather, the question is do we humbly bow to this authority or do we try to add in our own preferences? 

When our traditions override scriptural authority, then we are denying the sufficiency of the Bible. When our man made rules ignore God given commands, then we are denying the sufficiency of scripture. And when our personal preferences take precedence over the Word of the Lord, then we are denying and defying the sufficiency of scripture and the authority of Christ Himself.

When it comes to things such as discipleship, how we worship, the church’s ecclesiastical structure, evangelism practices, and all other things pertaining to life and Godliness, God’s Word must be the final authority in our faith and practice. Because our concept of authority is self biased and critically flawed, but His words are fully sufficient in every way.

Mission Blueprint

Currently I am preaching through the book of Titus with our Foothills Community Church family on Sunday mornings. As I began to study this great epistle, I was immediately struck by Paul’s instructions to Titus in verse 5. And Ive not been able to get past the implications of the words of the Apostle in this one verse.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” Titus 1:5.

This is the Biblical blue print for missions. But more than that, this is the Biblical mandate for discipleship in general. As Christians, we so often over look this cookie cutter approach to making disciples to our great detriment.

Titus was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He was mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians a total of 9 times. Titus was also present with Paul at the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15. Titus was not only discipled by Paul, but he was trained by the Apostle in doctrine and how to refute error. After being raised up by Paul, Titus was sent on mission to the island of Crete.

Paul immediately gave his protegé two orders. First, Paul ordered Titus to “Put what remained into order.” Paul was speaking of teaching the natives proper doctrine. It is easy to infer by the words of Paul that the Gospel had reached the people of Crete. And quite possibly there had been believers trying to establish a church. However, what remained on the island was confusion over Biblical doctrine.

Titus wasn’t ordered to go to Crete and play games with their children. Titus wasn’t ordered to go to Crete to do Boy Scout, good deed, missions. Titus was sent there to first teach them Biblical doctrine and set straight where they were believing in error.

Paul first ordered Titus to straighten what remained, that being the doctrine, as a means to an end. What Paul really sent Titus to Crete to do is to establish churches in the area. And you cannot establish churches without first raising up men who are equipped with a Christ centered doctrine. This is why secondly, Titus was commanded to raise up Elders.

So many missionaries passionately claim they want to go to the ends of the earth to give their life to the people of the world. But people don’t need our life. They need men who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel and refuting error.

It’s not enough to send simply send any warm blooded man or woman with a church membership into the mission field. Missions is not a Christian vacation. In missions, we are sending people into the Spiritual war for the souls of men. We must strive to send people who are able to teach Biblical doctrine and raise up new leaders.

I fear that the church in America has for the most part lost it’s focus. In our great zeal to reach the lost, we have forgotten the blue print given through Titus and at times, resorted to man centered tactics. We’ve become more concerned with drawing lost men who are outside of the church instead of focusing on raising up the saints inside it’s walls with intentions of sending them out to preach the Gospel to those in their lives.

Paul’s blue print for evangelism was never to say to Titus, “I sent you to Crete for two  reasons; to create churches that are more like the world so the world will come to you, and to get people into the church building by any means possible so they will hear the preacher.”

The blue print was never to get people to merely come hear the preacher on Sunday mornings. The goal was never to put our hope in being as culturally relevant to the world in hopes the world would come to us. Because if our hope is in the power of relevance, then it’s not in the power of the spoken Word of God.

The goal of the church is replication. It is to disciple men, creating many preachers that would then go forth in making disciples.

The church is not a vacuum, attempting to suck as many people in the doors as possible. The church is to be a dispenser, churning out trained disciples able to rightly handle the word of truth as they go forth as the Royal Priesthood of Christ.

One of the great flaws in modern day evangelism is neglecting to pray fervently that God would raise up men from within who are doctrinal sound and equipped to speak the truth in love. We pray for the lost and right we should. But how often do we corporately pray that God would raise up leaders from within?

I pray that our churches would consider heavily the command of Titus 1:5.

I pray that our greatest focus as pastors and church leaders would be to preach and teach Biblical doctrine. I pray that our people would become disciples, not attenders. That we would raise up missionaries, not members. And that God would bring forth preachers, not partitioners. 

The focus of the church should be to glorify God, to edify the saints, and to raise up pastors, elders, and missionaries from within. And when spiritual maturity has been achieved, we send them out. The goal of mission and discipleship must be focused first on reaching and discipling the church. Because when the church is made strong, the lost will be reached.

Biblical Evangelism

Christians are Biblically and historically know as a called people. However, I fear that with each passing year, believers are forgetting what they have been called to do. Cultural Christianity is rapidly taking the place of Biblical Christianity. Catchy clichés are quipped more quickly than Bible verses. And an ever changing array of the latest fads in outreach methodologies are being utilized by churches instead of looking to the scriptures for our evangelism blueprint. In our evangelistic zeal, I fear that this 21st century Christian culture is neglecting to examine the Biblical pattern of evangelism that was given through the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ Himself, and instead attempting to use worldly tactics to draw sinners to the Savior.

I mentioned yesterday on social media that I was greatly bothered by a post I saw by someone attempting to promote their church so that others would come. The post read, “Come to our church. We’re the church for people who don’t do church.” Others have also spoken of this church, boasting of its amazing performances, its entertaining speakers, and its vast fun filled programs for the family. Not once was the Gospel presented. Not once was the aim of Christ’s glory mentioned. They desired to be known as, “The church for people who don’t do church.”

The justification for this statement is always something like this; “Well we have to get them into the church somehow.”  What is actually being said is, “The Gospel is powerless and not attractive, so we need to disguise it by appealing to their flesh.” Let me say that I am not anti church programs nor am I against outreach strategies. But the question must be asked, “What is our main objective in evangelism?” Is it to get people on a membership role? Or is it to glorify God?” Even more to the point, “Are we sharing the Gospel and presenting Christ as Savior in our evangelism?”

I fear that we have forgotten the 1 Peter 2:9 mandate that says that all believers are a Royal Priesthood;

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9.

The mindset of today’s evangelism is to get people into the church by any means except confronting them with their need for a Savior. The mindset is, “Lets get them in the church and THEN, once we’ve enticed them with appealing to their desires the Pastor can preach to them.” But if we are truly to be a Royal Priesthood, shouldn’t that mean that it’s not only the Pastor’s job to present the Gospel, but the duty of every believer and the purpose of evangelism?

How you draw men to the church then becomes the measure as to how you must keep them in.

If people are drawn to the church by the tag line, “We’re the church for people who don’t do church”, then you cannot do “Church” in any way that will come across as being contrary to their expectations. If you draw people with cotton candy and balloons, then you will have to keep with the same methods.

In John chapter 6, Jesus fed 5000 people by miraculously multiplying five barley loaves and two fish. The people were so amazed by this feat that they followed Him, even wanting to make Jesus their King. They followed Jesus across the sea to Capernaum. When they finally caught up to Jesus, the crowds were eager to see another miracle from Christ. And Jesus spoke directly to them.

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” John 6:26.

Jesus then proceeded to begin teaching them doctrine. He began teaching them about Himself being the bread of life. No more miracles. No more entertainment. And the multitudes of people turned and walked away from Christ until he was left with only the original twelve.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66.

What we draw men with is how we must then keep them.

So how do we properly evangelize? Recognizing the role we have as Royal Priest, how do we witness to others around us? The most effective pattern that I’ve ever seen has been recorded in the scriptures and it is seen time and time again.

Reluctantly, Jonah went to the wicked city of Nineveh to evangelize the people as God had commanded. He confronted the people with their need for a Savior. He spoke of the wrath of God against sinners, and the Salvation that the Lord offered to those who would repent of their ways. And the people saw their transgressions and repented before Holy God.

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” Jonah 3:4-5.

In Nehemiah chapter 8 the prophet Ezra began to preach from the Word of God in the town square, reading from the law and exposing to the people how they had all transgressed against the Lord and we’re in need of saving. The response from the hearers was weeping and heartfelt conviction of their sins.

“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” Nehemiah 8:9.

One of the most notable examples of evangelism is seen after the resurrection at Pentecost. Peter preached to thousands of people and many Jews who had been instrumental in condemning Christ to death. Peter, like the prophets before him, preached the Gospel. He exposed the people to their own sins by pointing them to Christ. And the result was mass repentance and true conversions.

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:36-41.

In our evangelism, there is nothing wrong with highlighting the great things about our churches. There is nothing wrong with noting the great fellowship they will find within, the Christ centered programs that are at their disposal, and the wonderful people they will meet. My concern is this; are we seeking opportunities to have the hard conversations with people? Are we proclaiming the Gospel and trusting in its power to save or are we ashamed of it and fearful that it needs our help?

I heard a pastor once tell of one of his members trying to explain why he didn’t share the Gospel with his friends. This member told his pastor, “I don’t share the Gospel and speak of sin because I don’t want to run them off from church!” The Pastor replied, “Where are you going to run them to, Hell number two?”

When we take time to present people with the Gospel, and let them see how Christ has saved and transformed us, then He will be seen as a Savior and not self help guru. He will be cherished as a treasure and not a means to their fleshly desires. Those that only are coming for the entertainment will leave just as quickly when the fish and loaves are replaced with doctrinal preaching.

There are numerous approaches to putting ourselves in front of people to evangelize. But there is only one method that has been ordained to draw men for the right reasons, and that is the sharing (preaching) of the Gospel, not just from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, but in the context of everyday life, engaging with those whom God has placed in the path of each of His children.

Let us never become so consumed with attempting to get people in the church that we forget the reason for our outreach to begin with. Let us never become “The church for People who don’t do church.” Pragmatism is always easier than sharing the Gospel. When we neglect to share the Gospel in our evangelism, we show that we are trusting in our own strength and not the strength contained in speaking the Word of God.

“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5.

The Gospel is the only way that men will ever be saved. The evangelistic methods of the prophets, the Apostles, and Christ Himself will prove no less effective today than it was in their day. May we always trust in the power of the Word to change and transform.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Weekend Roundup (5/11/18)

 

“It takes two ingredients to deliver a message that really sticks. It takes the right message and it takes the right time. Matt Chandler’s 2012 sermon “God is For God” is an example of this kind of timely message. Tim Challies revisits Chandler’s sermon and the controversy and Christ-centeredness that made it so memorable.”

The Intersection of the Natural & Supernatural in Preaching — “How do the supernatural and the natural intersect in the act of preaching? The emphasis will be on the fact that God intends for preachers to make the fullest use of their natural powers in preaching, even though the aim is to waken and sustain worship that is possible only in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.”

How Does God’s Sovereignty Not Violate Our Decision Making? — “How does God’s sovereignty over every life not make each of us robots? Where is the place for human willpower and decision-making? And how does God govern over it all?”

4 Reminders From Galatians That Every Pastor Needs Today — “One of the central blessings of pastoral ministry is saturating your mind with the Word of God. Pastors have the privilege of devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

A Great List of Book Recommendations — “I friend made the request. He’s looking for books to read and to recommend to others. “Give me a list of 50 or 60 authors you’ve read and a representative book by each of them.” His wish is my command. Here are 50 or 60 contemporary authors I’ve read and a book by each of them you may enjoy.”

Isaiah’s Sixfold Depiction of God’s Glory — “What kind of God does the prophet proclaim in Isaiah 42:18– 43:21? What must God be like if He promises to restore and renew despite the abject failure of His people? What kind of God is our covenant Lord? The answer is that He is like no other!”

How We’ve Misunderstood, “Do This in Remembrance of Me” — “Often today we call it communion or the Lord’s Supper. Although churches differ on how frequently we should take communion, the universal consensus among Christians is that this meal is an important part of our faith.”

6 Cracks in The Secular Worldview — “Don’t get me wrong. We Christians aren’t good people either: We’re a bunch of immoral hypocrites clinging for dear life to a beautiful Savior. But something about that clinging seems to help.”