God's Glory and Transition

Dear BFC Family,

It’s with bittersweet emotion that I write this letter to you. Baptist Fellowship has been my home for the past 10 years. Rachel has spent her entire life here at Baptist Fellowship, and we are both eternally grateful for the time that God has given us here. God saved me in this church, he called me to pastoral ministry while I was in this church, and now I’m writing to you to tell you how God is sending me from this church on His mission to make disciples. 

Two years ago the Hebron Church of Hope received the news that their pastor would be resigning to follow God’s calling to lead a church in South Carolina. The elders of that church approached Baptist Fellowship to ask for help in pulpit supply. Our church answered that call and met a sister church’s need. I preached there on and off for over a year. In August I applied for the position and started an application and interview process that lasted a few months. In November I met with the elders of the Hebron Church of Hope where I found out that the search committee had voted to present me as the candidate for Lead Pastor. Shortly after that I informed the Elders of Baptist Fellowship of the Lord’s leading and provision. With their blessing, I accepted this opportunity.  Sunday, December 3rd, I preached at Hebron Church of Hope and following the service the church unanimously voted me to become their next Lead Pastor. I will begin serving January 1st, 2018. 

Rachel and I want to thank God for you. Thank you for the love and support that you have shown us in the 5 years that I have served this church on staff. I want to thank the elders of Baptist Fellowship for allowing me the great privilege to serve this body and to work alongside them in the ministry of teaching and prayer. I want to thank the parents of our church who have worked with us in our student ministry. Thank you to our youth ministry team. You guys are absolute champions and have been such a blessing to Rachel and I. Thank you to the students that we have worked with. Words cannot begin to express how thankful I am for all of the times you have made me laugh, cry, and take pride in your growth in the Lord. Thank you to the staff at Baptist Fellowship. You have taught me so much. Thank you to Brian, for mentoring me, for your gentle corrections, for cheering me on, and for leading by example.  

Rachel and I are thankful to God for allowing us to serve His church here at Baptist Fellowship. We are thankful to God for keeping us in this area. We ask you to continue to pray for us and pray with us. We’re down the street cheering you on, and as the Lord provides we hope to continue our partnership in the gospel. May the Lord bless Baptist Fellowship and Hebron Church of Hope as we obey the great commission. 

“Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” 

3 John 5-8, ESV

Sincerely,

Pastor Jordan and Rachel Brown

Forgiveness and Matthew 6:15.

I received another great question.  This one, like the question regarding the Trinity, is probably best answered by blog than by sermon.

Why does Matthew 6:15 say that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others?

This is a very good question, there are other passages where Jesus predicates God’s forgiveness of us on our forgiveness of others.

"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; (Luke 6:37 ESV)

However, the bible also gives us other testimonies of scripture like Col 3:12-13 where Paul predicates our forgiveness of others on the God’s forgiveness of us.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

Left with these scriptures we can easily get into a chicken/egg dilemma on which came first, God’s forgiveness of us or our forgiveness of others.

In answering the question I am going to appeal to what is called (in fancy pants theological circles) as the Rule of Faith.  The Rule of Faith states that when we have some question on what a scripture means or what a scripture implies, we look to other passages in scripture for the explanation.  That keeps the bible as the supreme source of our wisdom and also keeps us from subjecting the bible to fallible understandings of tradition. 

I think the following scripture relieves the tension.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11-14 ESV)

 

This passage tells us that God forgave us our trespasses when he canceled the record of debt that stood against us, nailing it to the cross.  The cross is the provision for our forgiveness with God.  So, in one sense, we have all been forgiven of our sins long before we ever committed those sins, indeed long before we were ever born, insofar as we are Christians.  In another sense, that forgiveness did not get applied to our heart until we sought God’s forgiveness through faith and entered into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. In even another sense, forgiveness is something we regularly apply to our lives as we live imperfect lives and regularly seek the transforming power of God’s grace through our confession of our sins as 1 John 1:9 reminds us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

If we are the kind of people who humbly recognize the graciousness of God in forgiving us before we were ever born, and who humbly recognize that God forgave us when we came to Christ and who humbly seek forgiveness as God brings to mind the parts of our lives that still need the cleansing of unrighteousness; then we are going to be the kind of people that are ready to forgive others when they come to us in humility, seeking our forgiveness.  If we aren’t, then this reveals to us that we have a very serious spiritual problem that needs to be dealt with.  It doesn’t neccesarily mean that we aren’t saved (though a person who is persistently and characteristically unforgiving should seriously look at the authenticity of their faith), nor does it negate the truth of Col 1:13-14 which says that we have the justifying work of forgiveness when we come to Christ.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

As the study note in the ESV Study Bible on Matthew 6:15 suggests:

“Jesus reemphasizes the importance of forgiving others, indicating that there is a direct relationship between having been forgiven by God and the forgiveness that his disciples of necessity must extend to others. As in v. 12forgive your trespasses here refers to the restoration of personal relationship with God, not to initial justification." (ESV Study Bible Notation)

It does mean that until we demonstrate that God’s Spirit has worked in our hearts so that we become forgiving people, we will not fully experience the transforming power of God’s forgiveness for us.

Keep the good questions coming.

Grace and Peace,

 

BCK  ><>

Questions About the Trinity

How can Jesus be both God, and God’s Son?

This was an excellent question raised by someone who emailed in during our "Hard Questions" sermon series.

Many have concluded that it is impossible for Jesus to be both God and God's son because it is an impossibility for everyone else, and thus there are serious questions and reservations when it comes to embracing the truths of the Trinity.  I can certainly understand; there is literally no other being in the universe or beyond that shares the unique characteristics of our Triune God.  Every other being in heaven and on earth has a one to one relationship between the aspect of being and the aspect of person.

I am one being with one person.  You are one being with one person.  Every other being you will ever meet (except God) has one being and one person.  Since our uniform experience tells us that being and person are synonymous we have a hard time wrapping our mind around a Being (such as God) Who can (and indeed is) One Being and Three Persons.

Nevertheless, if this is what we find must in the scriptures to be true, then such a unique conclusion must be embraced.  If our study in scripture warrants, we must allow the bible to expand the rules we have created through our experience.  The bible does just that.

First, we have to understand what the bible teaches about the nature of God.  Then we have to know what the bible says about the distinctions between the Father and the Son.

The bible uncompromisingly teaches that there is one God.  Christians are monotheists.  We believe, and rightly so, that there is only one God.  We do not have three gods, that is a misunderstanding of what Christians believe and a perversion of what the bible teaches.

We can confidently affirm this truth because of what the bible says about God being One.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV)

Israel was told that there is only one God and that it was fundamentally a violation of the first commandment to believe in any other god.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  "You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3 ESV)”

This is the consistent and ubiquitous testimony of the bible as we can see from Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 44…

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god." (Isaiah 44:6 ESV)

We also believe that God is one God comprised of three Persons.

We believe this based upon the testimony of scripture that not only is the Father God (Theos in Greek) so also is the Son.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (Theos), and the Word was God (Theos)." (John 1:1 ESV, Greek Parenthesis)

We know that the Word that John is writing about is Jesus because of what John says a few verses later.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 ESV)

John 14 tells us that the Word, the Son, Who is the Second Person of the Triune God, became flesh, thus uniting a Divine nature with a Human nature in the person of Jesus. 

Nevertheless, the Father/Son relationship did not come about through the birth of Christ, The second Person of the Trinity existed in a Father/Son relationship with the Father in eternity past.  We know this because the Father sends the Son.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law," (Galatians 4:4 ESV)

So it is indeed possible for Jesus to be both God and the Son of God due to the Trinitarian nature of our God. 

Keep the good questions coming.

BCK ><>

Worship on a Wednesday?

Happy Wednesday,

As promised this is the first of three blog posts that will address the three points of Sunday’s sermon.

The first question that I asked was , “Are you a Sunday morning worshipper or a Sunday morning worship spectator?”

While this question is worth answering for Sunday mornings alone we can also ask the question about the rest of the week.  Do we worship the Lord throughout the week or are we standing by, watching the Lord being worshipped.?

You may be thinking, “but we only have one weekly worship service, when else can I worship?

Great question.

The answer is that God is worshipped all day, every day by what He has created.

(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV) To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. 

Jesus also reminds us that if we are silent, the stones themselves will cry out in worship (Luke 19:40).  We need only to accept the invitation of all of God’s creation to participate in the ongoing worship of the Lord.

Every day is a chance for us to come before God and to offer ourselves in worship.  Perhaps we have grown so accustomed to worshipping God in a certain place that we forget that the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3).

It is interesting the way that different cultures have responded to God’s invitation to worship Him all day, every day.

The ancient Celts would incorporate prayer and song into everyday tasks, some of the Celtic hymns in our hymnals were meant to be sung during daily chores and were likely sung more on any given Wednesday than they were on any given Sunday.

In the unfortunate era of our own countries history of slavery we see the spiritual music sung by slaves as they went about their daily routines.

In both examples, we see examples of God’s children accepting the invitation to join God’s creation worship. Every day we will have the choice to worship the Lord along with His creation or sit back and watch while the heavens declare the glory of God.

Real Church Gets Messy, and that's Good.

Hey there friends,

I visit www.tgc.org quite often. It is the website of The Gospel Coalition. There I find numerous articles on theology, church life, and worldview. The Gospel Coalition is a great resource to every Christian, and I highly recommend it. This morning I came across an article entitled "Real Church Gets Messy, and that's Good." The first thought I had was, "well this ought to be interesting." So I clicked on it and began to read. I found this article to be so hopeful, so encouraging, and at the same time so challenging. I know that I'm guilty of having the perspective of thinking that we, as a church, are failing if things are getting tough. I know that I've fallen into the trap of constantly complaining, constantly avoiding conflict, and of constantly losing hope. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This morning this article reminded me of what true fellowship is. True Fellowship is walking in the light, as He (God) is light, which results in our fellowship (community) with one another, and Jesus cleansing us of our sin. Below this little note is the text of the article. Please read through it, please pray over it. Pray for your pastors, because we need your support as we fight the fight of faith. Pray for your leaders (elders, deacons, ministry leaders, etc.), because we need God's wisdom. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, because we need God to shape us into the image of His Son. Pray for our church, that we would stand on the promise of God from Matthew 16:18. My prayer, is that God would unite our church so we could be such a powerful force in this community. May His Kingdom come, and may His will be done!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Jordan

Real Church gets messy, and that's Good. 

The following text is taken from www.tgc.org. 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  1 John 1:7

When God moves in reviving power, a church might get worse—at the level of appearances, anyway. Why? Because real problems that had been submerged force their way to the surface, consciences long for relief, the Spirit presses us to come clean. First John 1:7 offers practical guidance for a church that, by grace, is getting messier than ever before. This verse explains how to experience our free justification as an ongoing reality, while God is resurrecting our otherwise dead selves.  Here is the wisdom provided by this verse:

But if we walk in the light

Walking in the light is being honest with God and with one another, as he convicts our hearts of sin. We can and sometimes do lie to ourselves and leave our sins comfortably undisturbed for too long: “But this is my personality. But my wife isn’t the girl I thought I was marrying. But look how others have wounded me. But what the Bible says is too demanding. But I can’t change.” And so on. Making excuses and shifting blame—this is walking in the darkness. It is hanging back in the shadows of denial and evasion. But our hearts start cracking open when we call our sin what God calls it: sin. No softening it, but honestly facing it.

Walking in the light means we no longer need to look better than we really are. Our needs are too intense, and only God’s mercy will suffice.

As he is in the light

It isn’t about rules. It isn’t even about accountability, which can become oppressive, a way of cornering people, pressuring people. But this is more profound. This is about God himself—who he really is, where he really is. And reality with God is not hard to find. It’s waiting for us out there in the light of confession, humility, openness. If we are walking in hiddenness, we cannot experience God. He has not located himself in our self-concealment. The verse is telling us where we go find God at any time: out there in the light of truth and sincerity, so that we let our guard down and face him and face ourselves in the light of who he is.

When we step out into the light, two things happen, right out there in the light and the mess: we discover fellowship with one another, and we experience the blood of Jesus:

We have fellowship with one another

When we start walking in the light before the Lord, we are surprised to discover one another at a deeper level. When the walls fall down in every appropriate way and we stop playing church and guarding our appearances, we enter into fellowship. We find out how much we have in common. The sympathy flows back and forth in a gentle community of grace. We discover that the most delightful people in all this world are the sinners gathering humbly around the foot of the cross. We no longer fear one another; we support and comfort one another.

And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin

Real church is more than a human support group, more than empathy. The sacred blood of Jesus is here. And we bring no sin out into the light which his blood cannot cleanse away: “. . . all sin.” This is not sinless perfection, but it is substantial healing in every area of life. That particular sin weighing most heavily on your conscience, that sin that shames you and damns you and haunts you—that is the sin Jesus bled for, and that is the point in your existence where he loves you the most tenderly. Take a step out into the light, as the Holy Spirit nudges you. Confess that particular sin to God and to your fellowship, in some meaningful, appropriate way. Then take the next step after that, as God leads you, and then the next—a new person walking in the light day by day, continually cleansed, constantly reinvigorated, daily included in the circle of grace, not shamed, not forced back into hiding, but trusting in the ongoing power of justification by faith alone, welcomed into the fellowship of the forgiven, and you’re free as never before.

Here is the price we pay: putting our pride away and admitting the truth, moment by moment, as we walk together in the light of the Lord.

What's Love Got to Do with It?

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision I thought it might be helpful to explore, in greater specificity, how we, as Christians, can view this issue through the lens of scripture.  I will be blogging 7 posts that outline 7 biblical principles that I believe help us to look at the issue and prepare us to respond to the issue in a way that is befitting the gospel of Christ.

These 7 principles are as follows:

1.      The principle of Love

2.     The principle of Grace

3.     The principle of Liberty

4.     The principle of Respect

5.     The principle of Faith

6.     The principle of Truth

7.     The principle of Hope

 

And since the buzzword that seems the most prominent is “love” I think this is probably the best place to start.

What’s love got to do with it?

                        --Tina Turner

After the supreme court announced its landmark decision regarding Obergefell vs. Hodges legions of people turned to social media to announce their support and give their congratulations to the many LGBT people who had been given the right to marry in states that had held out defining marriage in a more traditional way.  Most notable among them was Pres. Obama’s tweet:,

"Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #Love Wins,"

The way that that LGBT proponents have framed the issue immediately puts those who would dare to dissent on the defensive.  After all, who wants to be against “love.”  Furthermore, the common tactic of those who support the LGBT community’s stance is to marginalize dissenters by calling them “hateful” or, “haters.”  This has been one of the most successful spin campaigns of any interest group I can think of in recent american history.

If you support LGBT you are on the side of “love.”  If you don’t you are guilty of “hate.”

It is no wonder those who support the traditional definition of marriage have been so defensive in recent years, the spin campaign immediately declares anyone who refuses to agree with the LGBT agenda as guilty of “hate” and, honestly, who wants to start a discussion bearing the immediate presumption of guilt?

In the midst of what has already become inflamed rhetoric, I think it’s worth asking the same question Tina Turner asked (albeit in a different context), “what’s love got to do with it?”

And I personally think the answer is critical from a Christian standpoint because God’s word urges us to observe the principle of love.

Let all that you do be done in love.

--(1Co 16:14 ESV)”

Scripture is clear that as Christians, we are to uphold the principle of love, we are to be love oriented, love centered and loving toward one another and toward those who don’t share our faith and convictions. 

So that should settle it, right?  If two men love one another romantically, then why shouldn’t they have the same rights as a man and a woman and why shouldn’t they be given access to the institution that civilly recognizes that love?  And if we are to love the LGBT community, we should celebrate with them when they get access to that institution, right?

Wrong.

And that assumption errs because, as Christians, we understand the principle of love to be more than about romance and civil recognition.  We understand love to be first, theologically oriented.

The greatest command in the bible is not to celebrate what people love, nor is it to rejoice in what makes other people happy, the greatest command in the bible is to love God.

 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”

--(Matthew 22:37-38 ESV)

The first, and most important, aspect of the principle of love is to recognize Who we are to love above all else.  That means that my thoughts, feelings and attitudes about this issue (and all issues) should be informed by what God says, not how I feel or how someone else feels or even how someone else demands I feel.  Now, that in no way discounts the reality that many people have some very real, strong feelings about this topic, nor is this acknowledgment meant to whitewash the very real, strong feelings of same sex attraction that drive many people to seek a same sex union.

Nevertheless, as Christians, our first question should not be, “how does this make someone feel,” our first question should be, “what has the God we love revealed to us about this issue?”

What God has revealed to us about this issue is clear, let me give you what I consider to be the best examples:

Jesus was clear when He said:

"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

--(Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)

Jesus gives us a positive definition of marriage in this verse as He very clearly characterized the institution of marriage as a covenant between male and female. Furthermore, He did so by appealing to God’s creation of marriage as a relationship between male and female from the beginning.  In essence, Jesus reminds us that God created marriage and that God created marriage to be the permanent union of one man and one woman for as long as they both shall live.

In contrast, the Apostle Paul defines same sex relationships in the following way:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

--(Romans 1:24-27 ESV)

 

If these scriptures are representations of God's view on the issue, and we as Christians maintain that they are, then it is not loving to lie to our neighbors and tell them that we think that same sex marriage is ok when we hold the honest belief that God says that it isn't.

I have encountered a number of objections when I point out these verses.  One response has been to quote other bible verses, most likely Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged…” as if doing so somehow cancelled out Matthew 19 and Romans 1.  My response to this is to point out that all of those scriptures are true, and that none of them conflict with one another.  Jesus does indeed tell us not to judge self-righteously or hypocritically, which is what Matthew 7:1 tells us if we are willing to look at the verse contextually.  I affirm that all scripture speaks with equal authority and so I don’t accept the notion that a decontextualized version of Matthew 7:1 somehow trumps all other passages of God’s word as if we were all just playing proof text poker using bible verses.

  Another response has been to say, “that’s just your interpretation.”  My response is, “Of course, these are my interpretations of these verses.”  Everyone’s reading of any verse in any text is their own “interpretation.”  I come by my “interpretation” from a great deal of study and without trying to make the passages mean anything other than what they actually say.

  “My interpretation” is indeed, my interpretation, but it is my honest interpretation and it comes from my desire to know what the Bible actually says without an agenda other than accuracy. I would suggest that some interpretations come from a desire to make the Bible say whatever fits a particular social agenda rather than an honest exploration of the truth and that comes out in the strained and contorted nature of the interpretation.

The simplest, clearest and most straightforward interpretation of texts are usually the right interpretation of texts and I think that the Bible is both simple and clear on the nature of marriage.  Nevertheless, I would love those who are quick to point out that my interpretation is just my interpretation to offer an alternative interpretation so we can look as critically at the alternative interpretations as they do the traditional.  Sadly, these conversations rarely get to this level.

A third response that I often hear is to say, “that’s what you believe, but why are you trying to push your beliefs on me?”

My answer is quite simply that I’m not.  It is what I believe, and I would hope that others would hold the bible in as high esteem as I do, but I realize that not all will. I affirm the freedom of men and women to reject the bible outright in a country that should celebrate religious liberty (which I will be writing on in greater specificity in a future blog).

However, and this really is the point, my refusal, and the refusal of many other evangelical Christians, to accede to the LGBT agenda and to celebrate same sex marriage is not fueled by a hatred of any group of people.  It isn’t even about LBGT people.  My refusal to celebrate same sex marriage is about my love for God and for what I honestly believe He has said about the nature of the institution of marriage.

I don’t hate people who live together outside of marriage but neither do I celebrate the trivialization of marriage in those who wish to cohabitate rather than marry. I don’t hate those who have made the mistake of adultery but neither do I celebrate the dishonoring of marriage that happens when adultery is committed. I don’t hate those who have gone through a divorce but neither do I celebrate the dissolution of marriage.  I don’t hate members of the LGBT community but neither do I celebrate the redefinition of marriage proposed by the LGBT community.

In short, LGBT neighbors, please understand, my opinion on same sex marriage isn’t about you, it’s about loving God and celebrating what He said about marriage.

The first aspect of the principle of love leads to the second, and that is the love of our neighbors.  As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We don’t get to be selective when it comes to who our neighbors are.

Like the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called to be self-sacrificial in loving others.  Jesus is clear, we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

            But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

                                                                                    --Matthew 5:44

Therefore, we are called, as Christians, to engender an attitude of love, rather than hatred, for those who are celebrating same sex marriage.  We are called to speak kindly, act respectfully, and extend grace toward them in each and every context.  That doesn’t mean that we lie to them and tell them that we are celebrating with them, but it does mean that our approach should be respectful rather than aggressive.  Peter told the church the following:

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

                                                                                    --1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV

So we are called to be honest, to give a defense for what we believe and why we believe it.  Yet we are called to give that defense gently and respectfully.

The last thing we need to do is to freak out.  To paraphrase a number of evangelical Christian leaders, God is still in control, Jesus is still on the throne, and the Spirit of God still promises to lead us into all truth.

><> Brian

Freedom to Pray

On the National Day of Prayer, I am grateful for the right, in our fine country, to gather together as God's people to pray for His kingdom, His church, our nation, communities and families.

I am grateful because I see just how tenuous those freedoms are, how hard they were to come by and how easily then can be taken.

Freedom is tenuous.  Freedom has ALWAYS been tenuous.  Throughout the history of our nation freedom has always needed to be guarded by the diligence of the people.

Today we hear rumblings of the curtailing of that freedom.  Just last month a prominent presidential candidate, speaking of her desire to see pregnant moms have greater access to abortion, said: “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed."

Religious beliefs have to be changed…!?

Changed by whom? 

How, would one go about forcing people to change their beliefs?

Why must they change in the first place? Don’t people have the right to their beliefs even if others don’t like them?

 The very creation of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights was out of a necessity to amend the Constitution in order to safeguard the rights of individuals against those who believe that “religious beliefs have to be changed.”

This is what the First Amendment says:

" Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We have the right to be free from the prohibition of speech even if that speech offends the political sensibilities of some.  The bible tells us that we should not unnecessarily offend others as Proverbs reminds us that “one who loves to offend, loves strife… (Prov 17:19).  Nevertheless, the bible is replete with examples of those who did not love to offend but were willing to speak the truth even when the truth wasn’t popular and they did so because God’s people have always been called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).

As we pray today, let us do so both gracefully and truthfully.  Let us not fail to rejoice in the blessings of our country nor shy away from acknowledging  where our nation has strayed from God’s expressed will. And then let us petition God for grace for ourselves as “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23) and also for others, as Paul wrote, “Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:25).

 And let us also pray that God will continue to grant us the freedom to peacefully assemble at flagpoles, town greens, and in our places of worship to petition God for the changing of our own hearts and the heart of this nation because there is something far more ancient and binding than the current political climate and that is the word of God.  There is Someone we ought to fear offending far more than the loudest voices in politics and He is the Author of life.

The Lord God is the one Who truly gives freedom.  As the apostle Paul wrote: “For Freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Just as Paul reminded the Galatians that there were obligated to refuse to accept the hindrances that men sought to place on their religious freedom so to we are called to do refuse to allow our freedom of faith and worship to be abridged.

And we are called to do so because governments don’t create religious rights for the citizenry.  Governments merely recognize the inalienable rights that the Creator had endowed upon His human creation. When that government does so it will likely find favor with God and when that government refuses to do so it rightly invites God's wrath.

So, “Lord, please grant favor to America, my home, for she yet recognizes the freedoms you give to us, your creation.  And Lord, please continue to bless America for as long as the bells of liberty ring.  For the voices of prayer and praise of Your people will rejoice with the accompaniment of those bells, but if – some sad day - the bells of liberty refuse to toll, then the prayers and praises of You people will still be heard because governments never have given people the right to pray and praise, that precious gift of liberty came from You, Lord, and we refuse to be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

 -+- Brian