Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3

Now that our racial hostilities have come to a fast boil – some might argue a volcanic eruption – I believe it is time we admit that our approach to the issue has been ineffective.  I would describe my approach to racial tension throughout much of my life in terms of ignorance and apathy.  I didn’t know, and I really didn’t care.

A little more than 20 years ago, God used a visiting evangelist to expose the racism in my own heart.  It came through a discussion we were having after a chapel service in our Academy.  I was an assistant pastor at the time.  My evangelist friend had just preached a message to our teens about courtship and marriage.  Our pastor had one objection, and he addressed it after the students were dismissed.  His objection? “You didn’t say anything about interracial dating.”

Before I relate our evangelist’s answer, I should remind you that a traveling evangelist depends for his livelihood on the relationships he has with pastors and churches.  It would be easy enough for an evangelist to be a little bit craven out of fear of losing meetings.  Our evangelist friend was not.  His answer stunned me, like an open-handed slap to my face.  He did not hesitate: “I don’t have a problem with interracial dating or marriage.” He explained: “You can’t tell me that a black girl and a white boy who grow up in the same church and live a few miles apart shouldn’t marry because of the color of their skin.  They were raised in the same environment, they have the same cultural experiences, there can be no Scriptural reason to forbid it.”

I interjected. “God separated the races at the tower of Babel.  Interracial marriage blurs the lines between those races.” He looked at me and shook his head: first, nothing in the Bible commands that we maintain “racial integrity” through marriage standards.  The idea that “God set the bounds of their habitations” came from Bob Jones, and (as my evangelist friend said it), “everyone knows that the old man was a racist.” Second, nobody could give a Scriptural breakdown of what constituted a different race, or which races were forbidden to marry one another.  He pointed out that some pastors say there are three races, some say there are more – some as many as seventeen.

I respected this man for his answer, but at the time, I strongly disagreed with him.  Since then, God has changed my heart.  First, my friend was right – God has not put a restriction on marriages based on skin color.  When Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for his Ethiopian wife, God gave no credence to their criticism at all, though He did punish Aaron and Miriam for opposing Moses’ leadership.  Second, God reversed Babel on the day of Pentecost, when the gospel was heard in the heart languages of – you guessed it – seventeen nationalities (Acts 2:8-11).  Third, God has made of one blood all nations of men (Acts 17:26).  And while it is true (as Bob Jones argued) that God has determined the bounds of their habitation, He has never restricted a nation to that boundary.  Fourth, and I think most importantly, God has made us all of one blood.  There can be no Scriptural grounds for forbidding marriage between blacks and whites.

In the twenty years Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3”

Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 2

On July 4th, at least two NBA players – Chris Paul and Donovan Mitchell – posted a meme on their social media accounts.  The meme said, “Free-ish, since 1865.” Predictably, many white fans were outraged by this sentiment.  After all, these men are NBA stars, millionaires. Hasn’t America been exceptionally good to them?  When have their rights been deprived?

But they have a point.  The road to freedom has been especially rocky for black people in our nation.  As I highlighted in the first part of this series, even after slavery, America treated blacks as sub-human, an inferior race and culture.  We degraded them, despitefully used them, and persecuted them.  Though I was never personally involved in the segregation that characterized the first half of the 20th century – and neither were my parents or grandparents – I can assure you that my attitudes as a teenager would undoubtedly have supported such a thing.  Had I lived in the days of segregation, I believe I would have been a fan of it.

Out of the 150 years since the Civil War Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 2”

Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 1

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)

Now that all the woke realtors have stopped using “master bedroom” and JPMorgan-Chase has dropped terms like “master” and “slave” from their internal tech code, I think we can all feel much better about our new and enlightened sensitivities.  After all, I don’t want my computer to be in a slave relationship to me.  I want my computer to master me like everyone else.  I’m not going back to Master Muffler until they get woke either.  Give me a better name, like Novice Muffler or Beginner Muffler.

Race relations is serious business, of course, and every Christian should be concerned about it.  Those Christians have it right who find the solution for our racial hostilities in the gospel.  But we should also recognize that many barriers have formed over time that make it hard for some in our society to hear the gospel preached.  Every Christian should work doubly hard to see those barriers removed so that the gospel can bring forth abundant fruit.

Even before a rogue cop murdered George Floyd, Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 1”

An Insider’s Look at the Coronamadness

Depending on who you talk to, my family and I have exposed ourselves as “socially irresponsible.”  We have contracted COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus.  I’ll admit it: we weren’t wearing our masks in the car.  We shared air with people – people not in our immediate family.  We accepted handshakes from people, even when no recent use of hand-sanitizer was in evidence.   As a result, we have been banished from society for a period not to exceed six months, given that we follow all protocols to allow for successful reentry into society.  People in our circle of contacts must now face hard realities and reexamine their interactions with our family. They must determine whether they should invite space-suited medical professionals under white canopies to jam a q-tip up their nose and swab vigorously for 15 seconds. 

While our family does penance for this egregious lapse of sound judgment and social consciousness, some assure us that the stigma of having contracted the coronavirus will not be too severe.  Besides the fact that some refuse to attend our church right now, lest we infect them in our absence, they say that the primary fault for this breach falls to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the fact that we live in a red state that “opened too early.”  The shut-down was both prudent and necessary to crushing the curve and stopping the coronavirus, and if we had only stayed the course, we could right now be eating our furniture and scavenging our yards for mealworms like the people in New York.  Employment?  Who needs that?  It would be better to starve to death than to contract COVID-19.

Let this be a lesson to all of you, lest you too contract this vile virus: social distance.  Wear a mask.  Stay home from church.  Work from home.  Unless you work on a road crew.  Or a fast-food restaurant.  Then, make sure you wear gloves when you take my money and pass my food and take the next guy’s money and pass his food. 

And so, from the basement of my shelter-in-place safe-space, let me offer a few observations, only slightly less facetious than this introduction. 

First, it is human nature to look for a scapegoat.  My family and I traveled out of state the week before the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus.  We flew to Baltimore, then two of my kids flew on to Indianapolis while three of us drove up to Pennsylvania.  Our friends in Pennsylvania have solemnly assured us that our secret is safe with them.  They promise not to tell anyone in PA that we have this disease.  They don’t want people who don’t have the virus to know that we do, because those people might blame us when they get it.  Never fear: if someone gets the coronavirus before you get it, they gave it to you. 

Of course, we figure that we picked up the coronavirus either in the airport or on the airplane or in one of the nearly 100 different yard sales we visited in Pennsylvania (yard-selling being PA’s official team sport).  But you can be assured that if anyone we know gets this disease between now and Christmas, it came from us.  That goes for all the states we visited, including but not limited to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming.  And maybe Nevada.  It would be dangerous and irresponsible for people to visit our church at this time since we infected our entire church, and it is now only a matter of time before we all catch it.  We trust that those who have been joining our services via live stream are taking appropriate precautions.  Be sure you take your phone out of the case before applying the hand sanitizer. 

Second, it is great entertainment to see people skid into a complete 180 on the significance of COVID-19 once they know someone who has it.  During the months when our church limited attendance to 10 people, we were treated to a regular barrage of rants against the shut-down.  When we asked everyone to wear masks, people greeted me at the door with mask factoids: the CDC says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; the WHO says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; Dr. Fauci says masks are essentially non-essential.  This virus is silly, a scamdemic, ridiculous, pointless, absurd, just a little virus, you can’t stop it.  Then, Pastor Mallinak contracted the virus, and lo-and-behold, we need to shut down immediately, we shouldn’t be bringing anyone to church, we shouldn’t be having church, we should all be wearing masks, we shouldn’t even look each other in the eye.   Okay, I made that last one up. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Nobody should change their view of COVID-19 because Pastor Mallinak contracted it.  We shouldn’t be saying, “Wow, this must be serious if he caught it.”  I mean, yeah, I do have the special pastor force-shield that would, under normal circumstances, prevent my contracting the garden-variety diseases that afflict the common man.  Unfortunately, I left it home with my mask when I hopped on that airplane. 

Seriously folks, if you thought the disease was nothing before you knew someone who had it, don’t let little-ole-me change your mind.  As in most cases of the coronavirus since the beginning of your life in those ultra-dangerous days when your mother dropped you off at the church nursery, unnecessarily exposing your feebly beating heart to a whole myriad of life-threatening respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is no fun.  It has a high misery-factor.  You won’t be lying in bed, thinking about how fun it is to be sick as you scroll through Facebook.  It acts a lot like the A-strain flu.  Which many, many people have had and passed around to others with whom they don’t share an address. 

Third, we are so glad that our nation decided to “crush the curve” on this one.  That way, we could catch the virus in the summer when things are back to “normal” instead of in the spring when things are shut down already.  Because you know of course that the goal all along has been to “stop” the coronavirus in its tracks.  The best way to fight a virus, as we all know, is to shut down the world around it so that it will only pass to one person at a time.  The virus will magically run out of people to infect if we all live in isolation from each other, as you well know.  Follow the data.  If we just stay home until they develop a vaccine in a year and a half, we can avoid infecting people.  And there won’t be any new virus in a year and a half.  Besides, the government prints the money. Unemployment pays. 

https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/504903-hhs-secretary-the-window-is-closing-to-stop-coronavirus-spread

I recognize that the coronavirus affects different people in different ways, and some are especially vulnerable to this disease, especially while attending church.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone to be careless about the lives of those around them.  Please don’t stop by my house and ask me to cough on you.  Please do your part to avoid this disease.  I don’t want to see it spread through my church or anyone else’s church.  And apparently, churches are far more contagious than protest riots or work environments. 

At the same time, I hope I can encourage my friends and loved ones to keep things in perspective.  More than once, I have had someone tell me that I am the first person they knew who contracted this virus.  Please don’t let the fact that my family has it change your mind about this disease.  It isn’t the end of the world, nor does it change a few basic facts about viruses – mainly that they will work themselves around at will, and we really can’t stop a virus.  None of us are likely to die from it.  If you happen to catch it, you will miss some work, you will be uncomfortable for a few days (maybe longer), and you won’t want anyone else to get it.  Do your Christian duty – love your neighbor enough to be careful around them.  Stay home if you are in one of those “high risk” categories.  Look for people you can help, encourage, or share the good news of Christ with.  Keep your spirits high.  Stay in the Word.  Be full of joy and gratitude.  Trust the Lord.  All will be well.  God hasn’t lost control of anything. 

Blessings!

The Turning of the Tide

The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

This past Sunday marked the end of a rollercoaster week for us, and I would like to take a few moments to praise the Lord for His goodness to us.

Like every other pastor in America, I have spent many sleepless nights over the past two months.  We have been navigating uncharted waters, and it has seemed to me that every week has required a fresh decision about what we should be doing.

Before I tell our story, let me just say how much I respect my fellow pastors.  I have known that God has filled His pulpits with men of conviction and quality, but this crisis has made it even more clear to me that we have some truly outstanding pastors around our county.  Many decisions have had to be made, and the opinions and positions that have been taken seem to cover every extreme of the compass.  Yet, in discussions with dozens of pastors, I have observed one certain truth – that every one of them has acted on what they believed to be right and have sought to bring God the honor that He deserves.  I count myself blessed to serve as a contemporary with these men.

Our church decided early on that we should follow the health guidelines that were issued by our state.  Though our Governor has been great in the fact that he has not used a heavy hand to control us, yet we believed that we should exercise caution in this thing.  We added services in order to accommodate our people and give them the opportunity to be part of a service every week, and the majority of the church has had to suffer through online services for nearly two months now.

Continue reading “The Turning of the Tide”

Upheld

Two years ago, while our church celebrated our 60th anniversary, a pastor friend commented to me that throughout his ministry, there had only been a couple of years when he didn’t feel like it could all end tomorrow.

Sixty-two years ago, in a small living room on the corner of 29th and Adams, Berean Baptist Church of Ogden was born. From those humble beginnings, God has seen fit to uphold us until this day. Due to the current worldwide situation, we were extremely limited in what we could do to celebrate our anniversary yesterday. But I thought a few comments would be appropriate.

As part of our 60th-anniversary celebration, we recruited a young man to help us create a documentary about our church’s history. Pastor Nate Warren grew up in our church and now pastors a small church in Elwood, Indiana. Among other things, he is very talented in videography. He did an outstanding job helping us to record our story for our posterity.

When we set out to make this documentary, we definitely had our children in mind. We wanted to preserve this history for them so that they would know our story. We tried to get this done while some of our oldest members were still with us. We are so glad we did it when we did. A few short months after completing the documentary, one of the key figures in our church went home to be with the Lord. We are so grateful that we were able to record her testimony before she left us.

But once the documentary was completed, we thought we had something that could bless and encourage every Pastor. Let me explain.

The story of Berean Baptist Church is pretty amazing, all things considered. We aren’t a large church. We aren’t a famous church. We are an average-sized church in an average-sized city in America. Yet, God has seen fit to carry us through some unusually hard Providences through the years. In our first twelve years, we went through six different pastors. The longest any pastor stayed between the year of our founding in 1958 and 1970 was three years. One pastor stayed for three months.

In the late 1980s, we survived a devastating church split that followed, not surprisingly, on the tail of a building project. But again, God saw fit to Providentially preserve our church.

No doubt, the hardest Providence in our history came with 9-11. Two days after terrorists turned airliners into missiles to bring down the World Trade Center, our Pastor, who was visiting Fiji at the time, was swept out to sea and drowned. The story of how God worked through that time still amazes us.

We named our little documentary, “Upheld.” We believe that word captures the gracious way God’s sovereign hand has worked to sustain and preserve our church over these years. “Upheld” comes from one of our church’s favorite hymns: “How Firm a Foundation.”

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

Once we made the documentary, we felt very strongly that it could encourage other pastors. After all, ministry is warfare.  Trials and troubles are not unique to us.  God sustained our church in unique ways, but we are not uncommon in that regard.

We thought that you might enjoy seeing what God has done in our church, that it might encourage you in yours.  Churches have struggles and experience many setbacks.  It can be useful to hear how God has sustained others so that we can look forward to what God will do for us.

You probably won’t know many of the people in our story. And since we don’t have a famous church, you might not be all that interested in our history. But we think that if you take the hour or so to watch this documentary, our story might encourage you that God can uphold you too.

A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God’s notice. A small church might be comparable to a sparrow – unknown, humble, obscure, in some ways the off-scouring of all things. Yet God is big enough to care about the small stuff, to hold the sparrows in His righteous, omnipotent hand.

I hope you will consider viewing this history. We don’t publish it so we can be famous. We like it just fine outside the spotlight. But we want to encourage you with what God can do. Our history is, ultimately, the history of every church. We all face trials and triumphs, crushing disappointments and uplifting victories. Our history is not the story of extraordinary people. It is the story of ordinary Christians with an extraordinary God.

In many ways, we have gone along for the ride. God has carried us through some stormy seas. He has sustained us and upheld us, and we want this documentary to be our expression of gratitude for all he has done. What God has done for us, we are very confident He will do for you too.

Pray Without Ceasing

In I Thessalonians 5:16-22, the sometimes wordy Apostle Paul strings together a list of very clipped, concise instructions for the people of God: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks… and so forth. I don’t intend to deal with the passage here, but just to urge Christians to be praying during this time. I hope I can encourage faithful prayer for two particular things.
First, pray for our elected leaders, especially the Governor of your state. Pray for your county officials as well – your county commissioners, your county sheriff, your local health department, and so forth.  These men and women are especially burdened right now with decisions that go beyond the norm.  I cannot imagine the pressure they feel and the responsibility they carry. No doubt some of our nation’s Governors have handled this coronavirus pandemic better than others. I appreciate the way Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert has dealt with this so far, especially as he has avoided some of the heavy-handed tactics other Governors have used. No doubt any one of our nation’s Governors can be criticized for one thing or another. But I wouldn’t trade places with any of them. I am glad that I am not in their shoes. I cannot imagine the weight of responsibility they must feel at this time.
In our dealings with elected leaders, I hope we will all remember that they are in many ways a lot like us. They second guess themselves, they have doubts and fears and misgivings, and, apart from a few exceptions, they want to do what is good and right and best for the people. Most of what we know of politicians come from 10-second clips on the news. Personally, I wouldn’t want my life to be judged by a 10-second sound-bite.  I have had the privilege of getting to know quite a few politicians and elected leaders in our area.  I can’t speak for every politician in the country, but it seems to me that our local politicians get into this business so they can better our community.  They would be the first to tell you that they don’t always get it right.  They get frustrated like the rest of us.  They wish they had a crystal ball to foresee the future so they could make the perfect decision.  They feel our outrage and our disappointment with them very deeply and personally.
I am not asking you to stop holding them accountable.  We should be watching what our elected leaders do.  I am not asking you to give them a pass when they make the wrong decision.  I am not asking you to leave them alone or to avoid any sort of confrontation.  Most of them value the feedback they get from citizens, even if they disagree with it or decide to go a different direction.
people holding mask over a sculpture

I am asking you to pray for our elected leaders.  Pray that principle will determine their decisions and that their policies will align faithfully with God’s Word and our Constitutional principles.  Pray that they will guide their affairs with discretion.  Pray that they will make wise decisions that will allow us to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness.  Pray that God will uphold them and sustain them at this time.

In all this turmoil, it would be worth its weight in gold for your elected leaders to hear a word of encouragement from you.  They could retire early if all the criticisms they receive were turned to coin.  A word of encouragement goes a long way for them.

Ricky Hatch is our Weber County Clerk/Auditor, and one of the top Clerk/Auditors in the nation – no exaggeration.  He is a rock-solid conservative, devoted to the Constitution, and a great friend.  Ricky put together this little spin on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (click the link to watch it) to give some guidance to those who work with Legislators.  He offers some great advice.  You can accomplish much by shaking your fist and glowering, no doubt.  You will at least gain a reputation.  But if you can respect your elected officials and try to work with them, you will find them much easier to deal with.

Second, pray for your pastor.  I have had countless conversations with pastors over the past few weeks.  In every one of those conversations, I hear a common thread.  A pastor’s first concern is for the spiritual health and well-being of his people; a close second is for the spiritual needs of his community.  Right now, a pastor’s ability to serve his people and his area has been limited.  He feels like a hobbled racehorse running the derby.  He navigates uncharted waters right now — the turbulence doesn’t make navigation any simpler.
Every pastor I know is deeply concerned about making the right decision in this situation.  Pastors are very aware of the impression they are giving in whatever decision they make.  Some will say that they are cowing or caving in.  Some will say that they don’t care about the people of their community.  Some will charge them with recklessness.  Some will accuse them of cowardice.  They want to glorify God and please Him.  They desperately want to shepherd their people through these trying times.
Please, pray for your pastor.  Every pastor in America has been faced with a gut-wrenching decision over the past few weeks.  In a time of crisis, a faithful shepherd wants to gather his sheep around him so he can support and protect them.  Yet, our current situation has made that very difficult. 
Yesterday, I was told of a pastor who, to protect his flock from COVID-19, announced that they would be moving to online services.  No sooner had he finished making the announcement than a family in the church met him at the front to say that they were resigning their membership immediately because of his decision. 
Believer, I hope you will uphold your pastor in prayer.  You might not like his decision, but do your best to support him in it.  Understand what he is faced with right now.  The people of God never need spiritual guidance more than in times like these.  But because of the nature of this pandemic, Pastors find themselves hindered, prevented from giving the personal care and spiritual guidance Christians need.  I hope you will take some time to think through what this must be like for your pastor.
We should all be praying fervently during this time.  There is a great reunion day coming when those churches who have had to limit their services will be able to gather again in full strength.  I imagine that day will be a little like that “Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’.”  What a day that will be!  We should all pray for it fervently. 
Until then, every Christian should pray that God will accomplish His purpose in all of this, that we will surrender to Him and seek Him, that this disease will not claim too many lives, that unbelievers will come to repentance and that our nation will seek the Lord.  We should all be upholding each other in prayer.  Remember the sick and elderly in your church family, especially.  And again, please pray that our reunion day will not be long delayed.
We can rejoice at this time because God’s will is being done.  We are in God’s hands!  Praise the Lord!

Dear Christian Friend

I’m not trying to add to all the angst I see on the Internet. I get it that everyone is frustrated. We really aren’t used to these sorts of disruptions to our lives, and judging by all the whining and complaining and outrage I have witnessed, we really aren’t in shape for it. So, you might see this as some form of virtue-signaling or pious something-or-other, but I want to risk alienating a few friends so I can use my gift of slaps for those who need one right now.
 
First, I have seen the first amendment posted on Facebook a lot lately. I am happy that you love the first amendment. I love it too. But if you think all the travel bans and stay in location orders and gathering restrictions violate the first amendment, let me remind you that we have a court system for that very reason, to protect our constitutional rights.
 
But before you rush out to hire an attorney and fight this in court, let me save you a little money. States rushed to declare a “state of emergency” before this pandemic really even got going because, by law, emergency powers give the states the ability to put all kinds of restrictions in place – unconstitutional limits included. Most states have laws in place that provide them with this power. I don’t like it, and you shouldn’t like it. But that is the reality of this situation. Before you hire a lawyer and take it to court, understand that our courts would most likely uphold the emergency powers that our states have claimed. In other words, these laws probably will withstand a constitutional challenge.
 
If you don’t like the power that a “state of emergency” gives your Governor or local authorities, I would recommend that you do something to change the law. Over the years, I have heard many excuses Christians make for not being involved in politics. You are too busy, politics isn’t a place for Christians, and so on. I understand if you don’t like to be involved. But, this sort of thing is the result of Christians withdrawing from the public arena and then demonstrating their ignorance of these things when they happen.
 
My suggestion? Sometime after this is over, you might consider contacting your legislator (I hope you at least know his or her name) and let them know what you would like to see done in the future. I believe there ought to be more restraint. You might be interested to know that some states have moved to protect second amendment rights in a time of emergency. Why not try to ensure that first amendment rights receive equal protection? Consider writing some letters or helping craft some legislation that addresses your frustrations. As Americans, we really do have a great system, but it only works if we get involved.
 
Now, let me turn to something a little more spiritual, for the sake of those who think me too pious. I get it that everyone is frustrated, irritated, perhaps even outraged. Some are worried, some afraid. But I would love to see a more Scriptural response to this. Much of the angst and outrage I have seen on Facebook has come from my Christian friends. But Christians, God did not leave us without instruction when times like these come along. Let me remind you, God calls for two things from his people: consider yourself and turn to the Lord.
 
Yes, in times of calamity, the first thing God wants from His people is repentance. I shouldn’t need to give Scripture references for this one, because the Bible reminds us of this repeatedly.   
…if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Consider yourself, Christian.  Have you grown cold towards the Lord or the things of God?  Have you grown worldly in your outlook?  Are your loyalties divided?  What has your attitude been in this calamity? Have you been thankful? Joyful? Full of peace and hope and encouragement? Consider your ways.
Then, turn to the Lord.  There are about five ways that I would urge you to do this – no doubt there could be more – but these make a good starting point.
Turn to the Lord in worship.  Turn your heart, your focus, your adoration back to God.  Humble yourself before Him.  Be amazed by Him.  Could I point something out to you?  Not more than two months ago, our President stood before a joint session of Congress in the presence of the American people and proclaimed that our economy was the greatest in history. How’s that looking now?  What happened?  Regardless of who you might blame for our troubles, hasn’t God shown Himself to be mighty?
We have no assurance that our economy will recover from this.  We certainly hope it will, but we cannot be sure.  In a matter of a couple of weeks, God brought it all to a screeching halt. Isn’t God awesome?  I do not use that word frivolously either. “Awesome” is the best word to describe the magnificence of Almighty God.
Turn to the Lord in thanksgiving.  The Bible teaches us,
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
I haven’t seen much in the way of thanksgiving on Facebook.  I have seen much in the form of whining, complaining, and outrage.  But Christian, let me ask you: what are you thankful for in this inconvenience?  What are you grateful for amid this coronavirus?  It would be a sad thing if, in any situation, we could find nothing to thank God for.  It is His will that you give thanks in everything, and this coronapanic is part of that everything.
Turn to the Lord in rejoicing.  The joy of the Lord is your strength, believer.  Can you rejoice in hard times?  I struggle to hear you praise God in good times if you can’t praise Him in the bad.  Rejoice evermore.  Rejoice in the Lord alway!
Turn to the Lord in giving.  Let your joy in your affliction overflow into generosity.  Be sure to maintain your support for local church missions, your local church, those who lose their jobs in this crisis, and those who struggle and suffer at this time. This is what the Apostle Paul referred to when he said,
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
Turn to the Lord in prayer.  Pray for your elected leaders during this time.  Times like these call for special prayer for our elected leaders.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; (I Timothy 2:1-3)
Pray for your pastor.  Pray for your fellow Christians, your fellow church members.  Pray for your unsaved friends.  Pray fervently.  Pray without ceasing.

The coronavirus has made it difficult for us to lead that quiet and peaceable life in all godliness.  For the first time in my life, our government has branded church services as non-essential, restricting the size of our meetings.  In many places, liquor stores and abortion clinics remain open, while churches cannot gather.  This is not a good thing. But this explains why we must pray at all times for our rulers and those who are in authority.  I won’t ask for a show of hands (or a thumbs up) of how many have been praying for our elected leaders.  I will only remind you that this is a Christian duty.

In times like these, we must return to those things that God has called us to do.  Judging by what I have seen and heard recently, on Facebook and other places, we are not in the right mind for sharing the good news with the lost.  Admittedly, Facebook might not be the best gauge of these things. Still, I would remind everyone that the things we post in this medium are the things that the world sees about us.  And they reveal what is going on in our hearts. I hope that everyone will let their joy abound in this time, and their light shine.  And may many who are lost and desperate for hope find grace and help in this time.

May you all be blessed in these trying hours.

 

The Contemporary Worship Papers, 1st Place

And here it is, the 1st place paper from our little presentation of essays from the students at Fairhaven Baptist College. Students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first three posts offered the “honorable mentionsand the top ten.  Over the last two days, we have offered the number three and number two entries.  Today, we give you first place.

Lydia Johnson

Contemporary worship proponents focus a great deal on lighting. They spend thousands of dollars on laser lights and hazing equipment. The lights are their emphasis. They do this to “create an atmosphere to encounter God.” This idea purely is pantheistic.

With so many churches turning to contemporary worship, Independent Fundamental Baptists may ask themselves, “What’s the big deal?” These churches are bringing in people by the hundreds, some even thousands on Sunday morning. Contemporary worship is flawed because it creates a false atmosphere, and it makes no demands on the sinner.

The first issue with contemporary worship is that it creates a false atmosphere. During a contemporary worship service, the house lights go down and all eyes are on the stage. This is not an atmosphere of worship, this is a concert atmosphere. Contemporary worship proponents focus a great deal on lighting. They spend thousands of dollars on laser lights and hazing equipment. The lights are their emphasis. They do this to “create an atmosphere to encounter God.” This idea purely is pantheistic. A brief study of Eastern religion presents the idea of “encountering” god through nature. God does not make us “encounter” Him, He seeks for His own and desires His children to seek Him. God promises in Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” This is not an aimless wandering, but a deliberate search. God promises to show Himself when His children seek for Him with their whole heart.

group of people inside disco house
Photo by Thibault Trillet on Pexels.com

Finally, contemporary worship is flawed because it makes no demands on the sinner. The philosophy of contemporary worship is “come as you are.” This mentality never allows for any growth. It cheapens God’s grace to say that God accepts everyone just the way they are. God accepts sinners in spite of what they are! He sent Jesus because He could not accept sin. The sinner does not come to God pleading his merits but pleading for mercy. The “come as you are” mentality would rather have believers remain worldly than to scare away any newcomers by their conformity to Christ. Romans 12:2 is a command, not an option. The contemporary worship movement would rather gain popularity than follow the direct order of their Master.

The Contemporary Worship Papers, 2nd Place

Here is the promised 2nd place paper, from my perspective.  As I have mentioned, these papers were written as part of a lecture series on “Earnestly Contending” that I have delivered at Fairhaven Baptist College.  Students were assigned to write a short paper explaining what is wrong with contemporary worship, and why we must contend for the issue.  As an incentive, I promised to post online any articles that I thought were well-written and compelling. 

Our first three posts offered the “honorable mentionsand the top ten.  Yesterday, we revealed the third-place entry.  Today, we give you second place.

Jenna Wilson

They put up their stage lighting to “feel the presence of God” when it only takes away from the One that they are supposedly worshipping! It no longer is a service to worship the Lord, but a concert to please the flesh…

The church service used to be one of holiness, righteousness, and fully focused on God. Preachers hid behind God’s Word in the hope of reaching souls. Music was for the sole purpose of honoring the Lord. But contemporary worship has crept in unawares corrupting what once was holy and God-honoring. The people of God do not come to church to worship Him, but to please themselves.  Contemporary worship has taken over the Lord’s people’s view of music, dress, the platform set up, and even the lighting of the church. Is this God’s house or MY house?

The music in these so-called “churches” is less God-honoring and more flesh appealing. He is mentioned very little in these “praise and worship hymns”. The music style is so important; it doesn’t just convey a message, it is the message. Is Christ that message?

Style is not just important in music, but dress as well. In today’s contemporary worship services, the phrase “Come as you are” is used. Unfortunately, “come as you are” means “stay as you are.” No change actually happens. With this slogan, contemporary worshipers have developed a “shabbiness” to them. More self-pleasing than God-honoring.

Not only is the flesh pleased in music and in dress, but the platform adds to the flesh’s appetite. The pulpit is removed and is replaced with a trap set. No serious preaching from the Word of God seems to take place.

artists audience band blue
Photo by Jacob Morch on Pexels.com

Lastly, the lighting in these churches has turned from necessary to excessive. They put up their stage lighting to “feel the presence of God” when it only takes away from the One that they are supposedly worshipping! It no longer is a service to worship the Lord, but a concert to please the flesh, all in the name of serving the Lord.

Contemporary worshipers have lost the whole meaning to life–bringing praise and honor to the Lord. “for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). It is God’s house, not MY house!