Now more than ever…

When I started my journey in fresh childlike trust
I believed that the Lord’s way was best.

When my journey began, my trust was childlike, because I was a child. I asked the Lord into my heart at an alter made of the dining room chairs put in a row, in my home in the smallest of small towns (it doesn’t even have a post office). But even at a young age, I knew that I needed something that I didn’t have, and that no man could provide.

I can tell you now the time
I can take you to the place
Where the Lord saved me
by His wonderful grace

On January 5, 1991, realized that even though I was a “good kid,” I was still a sinner. I asked God to forgive me of my sins, to come into my heart, and to “cleanse me from all unrighteousness.” The journey over the last twenty-four years has not been easy. There have been times when God’s presence would have not been any stronger if I was standing in the throne room of Heaven, and there were times when the valley seemed insurmountable.

Looking back, I can see the valleys were all used to teach me more about the King I serve. I learned that just because I want something, it is not what is best for me. I learned just because someone claims to be a man of God, it does not make him infallible. I’ve learned that just because someone makes assertions based on scripture does not mean that the assertions can be accepted without verification, study, and prayer.

Oh, but now more than ever I cherish the cross.
More than ever I sit at His feet.
All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true,
And He is so precious to me.

I can honestly say I am stronger in my faith than I was at this time a year ago. The convictions I have are mine; not thrust upon me by my peers. The Christian walk really does get “sweeter as the days go by.”

The Search for a Godly Church

Living in the middle of the Bible Belt, there are churches on almost every corner. I should know, I’ve been visiting quite a few over the past few months. The time finally came where it was time to find a church for me and my future family, instead of continuing to attend the church where I was raised with my parents. It has been a long hard journey, and unfortunately I cannot say that journey is over.

It has shocked me how many differences there are, even among churches of the same denomination and conference. Over the course of my visiting, I’ve been to eleven different churches.

Some sing hymns. Some have praise and worship (which I can’t stand). Some are blended.

Some use King James Version. Some use New International Version. Some use English Standard Version. One used New American Standard Version.

Some used notes. Some gave topical sermons. Some gave expository messages.

All of that is a matter of preference. What bothered me was the total disregard for scriptural requirements in a worship service.

These requirements are found in I Timothy 2-3. These requirements are not popular, but they are straight from scripture. If they are ignored, how can any of the gospel be intact?

Churches should have a leadership organization of Bishops (pastor or elder) and Deacons.

Bishops must:[1]

  • Be Blameless
    • Not given to wine
    • Not a striker
    • Not greedy of filthy lucre
    • Not a brawler
    • Not covetous
    • Of good behavior
    • Have a good report with them which are without
  • Rule his own house well
    • The husband of one wife
    • Given to hospitality
    • Having his children in subjection
  • Vigilant
  • Sober (of sound mind)
    • Apt to teach
    • Patient
    • Not a novice

The requirements for deacon are similar:[2]

  • Grave
  • Not doubletongued
  • Not given to much wine
  • Not greedy of filthy lucre
  • Hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience
  • Husbands of one wife
  • Ruling their children and their own houses well.

“Let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.” (I Tim 3:12) Being a deacon or a bishop is not something you can obtain, then grow into. You must be qualified before you receive the office.

In addition to this, I Timothy 2 requires that services be conducted by a man.

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Tim 2:11-14)

I cannot see how anyone can ignore the fact that the services are to be conducted by men, who meet certain qualifications (for the record, of which I fall short). Not only must it be men, but it the men cannot be brawlers, but be strong in the faith (not a novice, holding the mystery, etc.)

Furthermore, they must both rule their household well and be the husband of one wife. Does this mean God cannot use you if you have a child it rebellion or a wife that has left you? Of COURSE not. But, your place to serve God is not in a place of authority over a congregation. It is a higher standard for those in authority.

Why did I write all this out? Because in those ten churches, I have seen women do a children’s sermon, oversee the communion service, and be part of the deacon board. I have seen a divorced man take the pulpit and preach a sermon about relationships. I have seen a man whose son openly mocks the teachings of the church stand in front of his congregation and brag about the greatness of his family. And, I have seen a man who calls himself a man of God invoke elements of witchcraft into a sermon.

It makes me sick. No wonder the world does not have any idea about the holiness of Christ. The church ignores the doctrine they claim to promote because it is antiquated. I believe with every fiber of my being that the Word of God is not antiquated. The straightforward requirements for the church to follow are not antiquated.

If the church starts ignoring portions of scripture with which it disagrees, where does it end? First creation was not done in a literal six days. Abomination becomes an alternative lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what you believe, or how you manage your house, as long as you are a good person. Don’t worry about worshiping God, just give to the needy and you’ll still get to heaven. It would all be laughable, except I have heard all of these things.

The Church MUST get back to the unconditional truths of scripture. It is not popular. There will be a push against it. Me just saying this will quite possibly cost me some friends. But if you can show me from scripture where I am wrong, please do so. I am just human. I can be wrong. But scripture is Divinely inspired and the Holy Word of God, which is exalted even above His name. [3]

———-

  1. I Timothy 3: 1-7
  2. I Timothy 3: 8-13
  3. Psalms 138: 2

Merry Christmas!

I hope you and your family have a very merry Christmas. I pray that the Creator of the universe will make His power known to you. I pray the God who reigns forever as the triumphant King of Kings and Lord of Lords will make His holiness known to you. I pray that He who has conquered death and the grave will make His love real to you this holiday season and throughout the coming year.

You’ve heard Handel before. It is not quite as well known that The Messiah’s lyrics come straight from scripture. So, here are selections from Acts I and II, with along with the scripture references.

Isaiah 40:1-5

1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . .
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4.Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Malachi 3:3

1. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in:Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
2. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
3. And He shall purify the sons of Levi. . . that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

Isaiah 7:14

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name EMMANUEL, God with us.

Isaiah 9:2

2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Isaiah 9:6

6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:8-14

8. There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
9. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger.
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Zechariah 9:9,10

9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior.
10. . . And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.

Isaiah 35:5,6

5. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.

Isaiah 40:11

11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Matthew 11:28, 29

28. Come unto [Him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [He shall] give you rest. 29. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [Him]; for [he is] meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:30

30. [His] yoke is easy, and [his]burden is light.

Revelation 19:6

6. Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Revelation 11:15

15. . . the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 19:16

16. . . . KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS.

Who then shall I fear?

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.
~ Psalm 61: 3-4

Last Thursday, my phone received a message no one ever wants to receive. The first way I knew something was up is both my phone, and the phones of all of my coworkers beeped for a text message, then rang at the same time. The message was quite simple, in retrospect, but was terrifying at the time.

An emergency condition exists on campus. Please evacuate as calmly and quickly as possible. Exit all buildings and proceed off campus to First Baptist Church.

We get notifications all the time. But generally, it is just by email for things like weather watches, etc. With this, it was text message, email, voice call to both cell phones and office phones. The emergency condition ended up being a seemingly creditable bomb threat which had been called into the county 911 center.

A bomb threat. I am a planner by nature. I think through many possible situations. We have been through training for severe weather, power outages, active shooters, hostage situations, snow storms and what I thought was everything else. But I had never thought about a bomb. The thought had honestly never crossed my mind.

But, this post is not about the bomb threat. It was not about the evacuation, which went as well as could have been imagined. Instead, I want to write about scriptures which have been bouncing around my head ever since Thursday afternoon.

Scripture talks over and over again how the Lord is our strength, our salvation, our strong tower, and our refuge. But on Thursday, thousands of students, faculty, and staff were taking that assurance literally. The monument of logic and reason was no longer safe. Regardless of faith or belief, they all took shelter in quite literally the shadow of the Cross.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.
Psalm 27: 5-6

I’m not saying the evacuation was a good thing. I was a horrifying time that I hope was never repeated. But, in the midst of that terror, God’s word was still true.

Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58: 8 (NKJV)

All of this happened on November 1st. The day before was the anniversary of Martin Luther posting his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, which is marked by many as Reformation Day and the beginning of the Protestant movement. Martin Luther also wrote a hymn which I believe is appropriate.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

The Colonnade (the school newspaper) has a photo of the assembled group on their Facebook Page.

We owe Him Everything

I visited a new church this morning. I spent the first 13 years of my life living a few blocks away, but this was the first time I ever attended a service there. When I saw the topic, my heart kind of sank. I’ve heard enough tithe messages to last a few lifetimes. But, today was a perspective I have never heard from a pastor before. The scripture was a fairly well known parable.

And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
Luke 21: 2-4

Most of the time, with this scripture, it is talking about giving to God. Specifically, giving 10% to the church. What if, instead of 10% as is tradition, Christians gave everything they had? I’m of course not talking about money here. I’m talking about something far more important. I’m talking about giving God, or giving back to God, our everything. Our every effort. Our every action. Our every motivation.

My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Proverbs 7: 20-23

We are commanded to keep commandments all the time. Following the revelation of the Lord will direct our daily steps. If we are to give God our everything, that means that every moment we should seek to glorify Him.

How can we glorify God throughout the day? By being prepared to do what he calls us to do. Sometimes, the Lord presents what seems like the strangest opportunities to us to bring honor to him. Something as simple as bowing your head to say grace in a public place can be a witness. I’ve had several people over the years come up to me and speak to me after doing just that.

In short, does the creator of the universe doesn’t need your 10 percent. He needs, deserves, and demands your everything. Devote your life to him, and watch how he turns your devotion into situations which will bring honor to His name.