Welcome to Grace Assembly, Lynchburg, VA.
  • A shortened service
  • No child care or Sunday School Classes
  • No common meal
  • No Coffee Bar area
  • Chairs are spaced appropriately
  • Exercise basic CDC hygiene protocols, hand washing, respect for space. Anyone with a fever, must stay home.
  • Mask are not required, but may be worn
  • Those still unsettled about public access, may use their own discretion about attending
  • We believe church attendance is an essential command of God, and like anything else, comes with inherent risks and uncertainty.

I offer this as brief haunt to a self-convicted attitude.

It requires spiritual finesse to walk between the extremes of perceptiveness vs. priggishness.

Between being smart or self-righteous. Discerning or Damning. Clever or Condemning. Self-righteousness is loathsome. It’s a sneaky venom that enters our members by the bite of unsuspecting pride. Our good deeds become tainted with an heir of subtle self-superiority.

So I was pricked when a co-worker told me about an old country church, that had it’s home-coming yesterday. I listened to the event details with confirmation bias, quickly striking mental X’s across any serious legitimacy towards that pitiable church. Seriously? Can anything good or substantive come from such a church? Among a people who:

  1. don’t understand historical theology
  2. make church an extended family club, rather than a diverse community of true disciples.
  3. regard the “Preacher” as the flawed but charismatically transcendent ring leader.
  4. make dress, fashion and material displays the THING.
  5. are minimalist in their approach to scripture
  6. are just so different philosophically that I’d need a NASA GPS to find common ground.

 

I could offer more empirical data on this church that troubled me. But that’s not my point. My point is  that in spite of how true my observations are, my spirit too easily scoffs at their plight with a self-righteous attitude. How easily our attitudes can be so fixed to condemn that at some point we may grow recalcitrant to any genuine work of God happening in such a church. We create an “us” vs. “them” divide. I don’t lament my discoveries as much as I lament my attitude, which too quickly forgets that I am a helpless sinner brought to the table of Grace through the finished work of Christ.  I should remember to guard myself against a Godly discernment that quickly can lapse into smug self-righteousness:

Romans 12:3 “I say to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he out to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Gal 6:3  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

2Co 12:7  And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

Pro 16:18  Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

Pro 16:19  Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Luk 18:11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

Php 2:3  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Php 2:4  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Php 2:5  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

Ecc 7:16  Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?

Being shrewd and wise as serpents will cause us to be unliked, but I offer these verses as a counter-active against self-righteousness. We also must be gentle as doves, and these verses are offered to provide a guard against we who tend to think we “know it all.”

Grace prevailing!

Shannon

 

As a pastor this is frustrating to me. I hear the reasons often for why such and such didn’t make church. Church today is becoming a shared priority. It’s been a slow pendulum shift from the 1980’s and 90’s when church attendance and faithfulness were seen hand in hand. Sunday school 10 am, Worship hour 11 am, monthly Potluck 12:30 pm, Sunday evening church 6 pm, Wednesday Bible study 7 pm; and the really spiritual folk did visitations Tuesday night! Gone are the days when being a busy-church goer meant you were paddling against the currents of other distractions in the world. Church commitments were almost meant to distract you from the nonsense of poor choices with your time. Yes, there was a day when you weren’t taken to be a serious minded Christian if you missed these events even irregularly.

Bring in the 2020’s. 

20 and 30 years have passed, and now the babies from that era are all grown up, and the faint memory that remains is of a time when church seemed ‘peculiarly hard – and time constraining.‘ The things other kids were able to do, we could never do. So that generation is now grown up, feeling free molded by the pervasively preached anti-legalistic gospel. So the old model of church didn’t work, they say. Throw in changes in the American culture– Child centered approaches in parenting, two-fully employed parents, the need to pay off exorbitant college loans, the desire to provide our kids with more than we had, has shifted the interest away from ecclesiastic priorities to domestic and personal priorities.

Sunday church meetings now seem hollowed out rather than hallowed in. I believe the quest for the American dream is eroding our hope for Heaven. Since there’s a new ‘no judgment zone’ culture if someone misses church, we are left thinking that missing church because of other priorities is quite acceptable. As such, my personal beef is not whether the individual reasons for missing are legitimate, but rather that the accumulations of ‘good reasons’ have we reached a tipping point in my thinking to where Sunday church (or even other church gatherings) have become optionally valued because they compete with other ‘necessary’ events. And so I ask, have they become a shared priority? Has all the preaching against church-legalism created this growing apathy? And if the answer to the first question is ‘yes,’ as a believer I’d want to know why? Why isn’t church day a priority? Especially when the following text, which has almost been wholly discarded as a serious proof-text for church attendance, due to it bring preached so often to guilt folk into repentance; speaks precisely to church attendance. Check it out again (my footnote commentary adjacent);

Heb 10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Survival tight grip on the hope of eternal life. Imagine the grip you’d have during a tornado, holding on some safety anchor.
Heb 10:24  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  we must stir ‘others’ up because as verse 23 implies, ‘wavering’ is a real problem and potential. Don’t go it alone!
Heb 10:25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Meeting together accomplishes this much:

  1. Since verses 23 and 24 are the goal, verse 25 is the goad. Assembling together is the goad that will accomplish the goal of holding fast without wavering.
  2. It helps you see your confession of hope more clearly (v. 23)
  3. It helps keep you from wavering (v. 23)
  4. It directs you to other saints who move you to love and good works (v. 24)
  5. Church is the place of exhortation – notice it’s not from just the Elders, it’s one-another. It’s a multi-faceted collection of persons who invest in this. Hearing a message by the way from your own Elders, is quit different than listening to Sermon-Audio (a good thing) but not a replacement for the preaching of your Elders who watch over you. Their messages are tailored to the needs of that meeting group. And God is directing them. I think if nothing else, to disregard your Elders is to disregard the authority of the one who has appointed them to such a task. So you need to be there (Hebrews 13:7). There are few times in which God has spoke of a time or place as being essential, and he is saying ‘assembling of ourselves together’ is essential enough as to not be forsaken.

In conclusion, it’s so vital to our spiritual health that we return to a mindset where being together on Sunday is our chief scheduling priority. Because our soul’s health and the soul’s of others in the church is our chief priority. Consider rescheduling that travel Sunday until after church or return from a trip Saturday night; sacrifice lost sleep and be there, insist that guests who come in town go to church with you, find a job that doesn’t require Sunday shifts during church. Involve yourself with children’s sports on a non-Sunday, or surrender the sport. If an event is on a Sunday, consider the worth and value of being together as more valuable than anything else you have to do. Don’t say to yourself, ‘well I’m not sinning if I miss church.’ You may not be, but to him who knows the good he should do and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17). Christ is Lord of his church, and these are his words; let his people dedicate themselves with faithful participation.

  • Luk 6:46  “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 

It has become too easy.

It has become too cheap.

It has become too theatrical, even too contrived.

It has become world-like.

It happens in the comfort of air-conditioned facilities in summer, warmth of heat during winter.

It comes without a personal sacrifice, or shall I say “offering?” Heck, it happens without much personal commitment.

It comes with bed and breakfast amenities in lavatory, child-care, OSHA safe exits.

It provides efficiently timed, non-life interrupting meetings.

It comes with soft-serve icedtruth.

It markets to those who are of similar demographic.  No time for messiness.

It has world-class music performances.

It allows us to get our fill, wipe our mouths, leave and enter back to reality – unamended

It is the place where the dead can feel for a moment alive, respected and integrated into Jesus society.

It’s big business when done well, and it’s custodians will do everything to preserve and tend it.

And yet it’s untouchable, it’s protected by the exuberant veneer of Christianism’s, that would create a riot to contest it.

….but it has little resemblance to the authentic church…it is the new era of the modern church, which cares little for legitimacy or legacy but rather for leverage. Church is now a day, generally Sunday, it is not a life nor a peculiar community. It is what it is. We arrived at this point through a series of bad reactions and compromises to scripture. It neither demands nor examines for repentance. It is so seeker sensitive, that confrontation of sin is not only uncharitable but cruel. Integration is the new evangelism. So the church is more converted by unbelieving culture, that the other way around. Holiness is not a requirement if preached at all, since in the new era, it is optional. Hell is not a threat, because the ‘new evolution’ baptizes anyone and everyone with a quasi universalism. It is so clean, so sanitary like the artificial world in ‘The Truman Show.’ While it cannot be dismissed it as ‘fake’ altogether, a wiser believer should ask if Christ is in the true head of it all; first asked in my own life, and ultimately when pondering some of these establishments, so called…’Churches.’

Discern,

Shannon

 

Ephesians 5:16  redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

I make a little “electronic” phone reminder used as my sales motivation, “time wasted equals opportunity lost.”

In the workplace, that’s my B-12 vitamin to keep plugging away at it, because not only is our future uncertain, but our past is unnredeemable – can’t get it back. On a Friday I may be faithfully serving the King but if the day before was time poorly spent, then no matter how successful later I am, I still can never regain that precious time. When I am older I may well regret these occasions.

Among other practical lessons this verse teaches to Christians, of grievous note is how easy it is to miss squander doing good, while we are sandwiched in a devilish culture. We should make the best use of time for Christ glory says this verse. Turn evil upside down on its head by being conquerors of our time. Our children, our job, our marriage, our finances, our fellowship with the brethren…heck, even our health is impacted by how well we “pour in and invest in” the time given us. I met a person recently who lost a loved one suddenly, and that person told me to “go hug your wife” because you never know when they will be gone. When a loved one is gone, we cannot find those moments again. Today we should consider where we need to “bless” the time, with effort and spiritual energy during our numbered days.

Pray about it, meditate on it. We need so badly to be faithful here.

Shannon

 

UPDATE: This article was written after the shootings in Texas on November 5th, 2017. This article can also be applied to the recent school shootings in Florida, though it’s focus is how people have reacted on social media. This article, in no way, wants to negate the horrible reality that victims have to face in light of these tragic events. Christians should also be moved to compassion and acts of generosity towards those that are hurting. Again, this article is confronting one, of the many, reactions that happen when tragedy strikes our lives.

 

Twenty-six people were killed while worshiping in Texas. This reality is unchangeable. The internal question that seems to pop up in everyone’s mind is, “What if that happened to me?” That question, though not bad, hasn’t been answered properly at times. That question begs for prevention protocol, for social media debate, and a thousand needed answers. Why? Because nobody wants to die, and nobody is prepared to die! So, many of the answers are: “Get your gun and get ready to fight back!” “Have police guard the church service!” “Have all the deacons conceal carry!” No one with a good understanding of Scripture would stop anyone from trying to protect their fellow man. Moving to the aid of those in need is definitely a biblical mindset (Pr. 24:11; Ps. 82:4; Jer. 22:3; etc.). It could even be seen in the sixth commandment that the Lord is against murder and so should we. Therefore governments have put laws in place to punish those who murder and we should actively stop someone who is trying to murder if we have the ability. This is not the argument.

The real issue I have seen is people taking to social media actively daring someone to walk into their church and start a fight. Churches have run to the police to pay them to stand at the doors and guard the service. Leaders have moved to have all the deacons conceal carry in order to fight back if attacked. This knee-jerk reaction is not what God would have us to move to first. When others are in pain, the Christian response is not, “how do I avoid the same pain?” These initial reactions are seen as acting out of fear or even, sadly, a possible desire for violence or vengeance. The love of the gun and the idol of “rights” has infested the mind of many a Christians. Even to the point that holding the gun is more precious than holding the Scripture. This is not everyone, but a lot of people who claim the name of Christ.

First, how should we think about these knee-jerk reactions? Simply, God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). If one’s reaction is to immediately run to find protection in every way that is usually a sign of fear and maybe even a love of comfort that someone doesn’t want to be disturbed. After nine years in the military and a long extended time in war, most people confronted with violence are not bold and ready to protect. There are far more people who will buckle or run when confronted with that form of evil. We need something more than tools of the flesh to make us fearless.

As far as the possible love of violence or a pull to vengeance, the Lord has two overall answers. The Lord has made it clear that “His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Ps. 11:5). This should be a shock to our system! God “hates” the one that loves violence. This also means that God will move to actively judge that person because God’s hatred is not stagnant or just forgotten through the passing of time. And as far as vengeance goes, Paul has rightly quoted that vengeance is the Lords (Rm. 12:19). If our hearts are acting out of vengeance, we are actively trying to usurp God’s sole right. We, as believers, should never try to take over what God has claimed as His.

Now, with these things in mind, what should be our reaction when tragedy strikes? I’m sure we have heard this a lot, but it is amazing how easily we can forget and not realize its relevance. When tragedy was brought before Jesus, His reaction can almost be seen as out of left field or even lacking compassion; but it is not. Galilean’s had their blood mingled with sacrifices and a tower fell on eighteen people killing them. The Galilean scenario almost matches what happened in Texas. Those killed were killed by someone evil and seemingly unjustly. But Christ’s answer doesn’t change dependent on the scenario – “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Lk. 13:3, 5). Christ looks at what we consider tragedy as an opportunity to repent. He keeps in mind, what may seldom be in our mind – “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23) and “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Death is something we will all face. How it comes is completely out of our hands.

We are called to repent of our sin and turn to Christ. Christ didn’t give them insight on how to better protect themselves if another angry man storms into their place of worship and decide to wreak havoc. He didn’t give them a building plan to make sure a tower doesn’t randomly fall from possible faulty construction. He calls those who are alive to repent. This should be where we all start when we are faced with tragic news. We are not promised tomorrow, even as believers. God holds the right to end our stay here through any means that He sees fit. Jesus knows that life is too short and far from our control that we should worry about what we do to protect ourselves in order to prolong our lives. Our days are already numbered (Job 14:5). Friends, the lesson here: you are vulnerable now, so repent now!

In conclusion, we cannot change what evil has taken place in Texas. We cannot change what may or may not happen to us. We must use these situations as an opportunity to repent of our sins and turn to the saving power of Christ. We can definitely protect one another and move to save those who are going to the slaughter. But we must never be motivated by the fear of man or the loss of our lives. We are sojourners in this land. Here today, gone tomorrow. Are we ready to see God face to face and give an account of our lives? Or are we worried about whether we are protected enough to fight any incoming attack? Jesus was called the Lamb, consider yourself a little lamb in this world, ready for slaughter! Let’s, together, find the balance in these things and not allow the wild pendulum swing to take over. Read how we are to arm ourselves as believers in Ephesians 6:12-20. This is where we should be informed first and the Lord will guide us in the other areas as we look to Christ.

Justin Wilson

If you want to get accepted today in the typical American workplace then just throw out words like “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” Now you’ve joined the club. Diversity means, no one can discriminate in hiring or functioning in the workplace on the grounds of their age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference or self-conception. We grant that this must function in a business to maintain cohesion. The purpose of a business is to make sure it keeps revenue flowing, so hiring the right ‘horses’ makes a better company. This inclusiveness necessarily suggests people will come from diverse walks. As Christian’s we understandably embrace (or shall I say tolerate)  this concept, as we are called to be in the world of sinners, and to be compassionate to them all (of whom we once were – Titus 3:1-3); in order to proclaim Christ to them and establish the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). So as Christian’s we expect to see some unusual things and face peculiar people, belief systems, and behavior.

But, this new American ‘diversity model’ requires more than the Christian can consent to, and actually threatens the Christians end game. After all, the basis of hiring in America is not founded on Christian standards of holiness, but on the evolving ethics of human rights. In fact the words “God” and “sin” are heard as much as a pin drop in the human rights vernacular! The human rights agenda continues to add and embrace new participants under workplace safety laws that will fence out how freely Christians speak their convictions. 40 years ago, we lived in a more pro-Christian era. Now we are in a more post-Christian era. New ‘diversity’ training standards now legally protect those whose self-concept is transgendered or homosexual. So at work, if a person talks about their longing for a gender change and is “gently admonished” by a Christian that this behavior dishonors God; should they feel offended and HR is contacted, then this can become grounds for workplace harassment by the Christian. And diversity laws will call foul on the Christian. The transgender seeker is more free to speak her mind, but we are less free to condemn it. Anticipate the penalties growing in severity.

Where does the diversity model stem from? Partly, the Preamble…”That all men are created equal…and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…of which include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is part of our Declaration of Independence. The diversity model champions ‘all being created equal, and all having unalienable rights.’ However, the gospel adds that their Creator has also endowed them with His law and a conscience to guard equality and unalienable rights from turning into moral chaos. The gospel teaches that Jesus came to save sinners, people in choas. That sinners in choas must turn to him to be saved or else face unbearable judgment one day (Romans 14:10; Mark 9:43-49). It may be the topic of another article, but isn’t it interesting that Christian freedom and American liberty are heading towards a furious collision course!

Now here’s my point…the Christian must be aware the he is becoming an unpopular minority, and I anticipate the following freedoms will be surrendered as a result of this new morality called ‘diversity’:

1.) Speaking out – for example at the water fountain where people still talk politics at work; but the Christian will be pressured into airplane mode. You say, ‘but doesn’t our 1st Amendment privileges of free speech, doesn’t it welcome and accept all viewpoints including the Christian gospel discussion?‘ No, because as Hebrews 4:12 suggests, when Christians speak it enters into uncomfortably deep places. It offends. Are Christians subtly being asked to keep silent like Peter and John in Acts 4:17-18?  The new morality wants us to shut up and “get over it”? No one wants to hear of wrath and condemnation over people ‘we apparently hate’. ‘Christian (says the world) we are past your ancient religious extremes. We have lapped your antiquated ethics. If you can’t play tolerantly at our table, then we’ll have to ask you to leave.’ Which is not very inclusive is it? Has business profitability become such the golden calf, that speaking out on important issues is not tolerated? I fear the Christian witness is being secularized and stifled. Worse, that Christians would choose income and security over the speaking the truth with an occasional well-framed interjection. Now, most controversial arguments the believer is wise to avoid (2Tim. 2:16), but God will always provide a few opportunities to speak light to darkness, and life where there is death.  My point so far? Expect to be the minority, excluded from ethical conversations. 

2.) Naming sin – This habit is a comedy of errors, how every man judges each other; and this is the brunt of workplace conversation…lashing invectives against people they don’t understand or agree with (Romans 2:1-3); but let a Christian call sin referencing scripture and the days are coming (or maybe they are already here) where he will be be ignored, suspended, or fired. (e.g.- a Christian tells a non-Christian co-worker who bragged about his weekend drinking binge “my friend, you’re destroying your life, your family, and worse, God’s judgement is upon this. You need a Savior!”) The right of free speech and liberty are slowly restricting Christians from preaching the gospel of liberty. My point: the diversity culture hates the Christian view of righteousness, it does not understand it, because it does not know God. But don’t stop proclaiming righteousness and the need of a Savior!

3.) Freedom at work – we will be watched more closely. I strongly advocate that a Christian earn the right to use words, FIRST by his contagious work ethic! Be busy at tent-making in the workplace, not evangelizing. We are paid to work hard for the work cause, and unto Christ our all-seeing Master. Having said that, the workplace allows for ‘team-building’, ‘and the typical offline conversations’ between co-workers. To expect that Christians would not express their passion, their life, their all in Christ in the workplace, is the “diversity system” showing it’s exclusionary fangs to Christians who on few occasions plead for a co-worker to come to Christ in repentance and faith. My point: Earn the Right to give an answer for your hope.

4.) Being Respected – being a tolerant person gets ‘mad respect’ today. So, anything less, is seen as intolerant. Intolerance will no longer be tolerated and less…respected. Praise God for those times when Christ glory and righteousness is shown in our manners, integrity and conversation and it unintentionally convicts or ruffles feathers in the workplace. I remember Paul reasoning with Felix about purity, self-control, and the judgment in Acts 24:25; I believe we’ll see more Christians unemployed if they stand up to this diversity model. When holiness is called hate, we can be certain that we are being excluded from the inclusion group. While we may be disrespected, God’s name will be feared. My point:  We must engage our co-workers, be great listeners, and speak gentle convincing truth to all diverse people (Col. 4:5-6)!

Christian, there’s little we can do to stop this tide or rewrite this reconstruction of diversity. I simply wanted to prepare you, for what the new corporate morality calls diversity actually confines and shackles Christians, and excludes them from mainstream ethics, and prevents them from acting out their calling. To make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them to observe all that He commanded us. But press on we must.

It’s August 15, 2017…and once again, people are up in arms. It was heightened in Charlottesville, VA this weekend, and seems to be gaining steam recently in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

I watched the latest Durham protest, the sacking of a bronze “Old Joe” Confederate statue, come crashing down by the force of a frenzied group of millennials who simply ‘had enough!’ of any white supremacy associations or nonsense. My comments here are short, and have little to do with the morality of these extremes group, fascists- KKK Alt-Right Nazi groups, or the view of those the oppose them. I think they are self-evident: ungodly.

Rather, as I sat and watched the video, having been in Durham before, having recently eaten at the Mall in Charlottesville, VA with my daughter, I thought: the inhabitants of those communities are generally level-headed educated Americans, reasonable people, with the same sensibilities of a next-door neighbor…right? One can scarcely go through Charlottesville, in 15 year period and witness unrest, much less a mild-protest. I watched the vitriol of a young woman senselessly kicking the toppled life-less “Ol’ Joe” statue in the fury of her protest. The reactions mushroomed. The crowd roaring, momentum building, blood curdling violence, amazing. I suppose I could actually share in their frustration, but only with a rather sad and fearful identification. Could I have participated in that, could I have felt that same frustration at that point in my life? Yes, I was that guy who on the grounds of principle could riot my personal ideology (even not knowing what it was), risking the consequences, or even a possible broken foot!

But, with spiritual eyes as a believer, I quickly imagined my Savior, the Lord of glory. He pushed buttons, tapped the heart, he undressed us, he cut through the stony sanctum of people’s natural ideologies. His preaching put everyone on skates. The listener, either turned to Him or turned against Him. We saw back in Jesus ministry what we witness now…don’t cross human lines! Mankind crucified their own Creator!! How atomic are we?! Men are calm, quiet, and peaceful until you touch something dear to them. The Durham riot is an education in human anthropology, that man still has an invisible “this-means-war” boundary to protect. Sometimes protests show the image of God on us, that we stand behind innate God-written codes of ethics like equality, and liberty for all. But mostly, they show men protesting God himself (Romans 8:7) and his Holy code of righteousness as revealed in Scripture. That man takes vengeance into his own hands (Romans 12:9). Therefore, mankind is a ticking bomb of emotions, a bag of sinful confusion selectively determining on the fly, what his morals are.

What I saw in Raleigh is a warning, and mankind is standing up in defense and emboldened rage against ISIS, terrorists, hate groups. “We will fight against this” its says. Then instantly I thought, “I understand this anger today, but what about when that turns against us (Christians), what about when they see me (the proponent of eternal life, and good) as the enemy? What if my righteousness is seen as unrighteousness? That same anger has precedent, and has fomented in history against Godly causes.” This passive to now aggressive anger and its potential is frightening, we believers may become the statue. All we have to do is cross the line. The history of Christian persecutions attest to this, and I predict it will repeat itself in America, as we challenge its ideology of ‘human’ rights. We may be seen as the haters. Let’s not kid ourselves, mankind hasn’t become refined or civilized. Rather, he is successfully re-engineering and defending his code, his world view, his own bible, his own gospel. It’s not the true saving gospel of Christianity, it’s the dangerous one of moral relativism, which is constantly being rewritten. Cross-it only if you dare!

So, what are we set up for NOW…when Christians speak on behalf of God’s word and holiness? When they say for instance, “thus says the Lord, homosexuality, same-sex marriage is a sinful abomination to God?” What will happen NOW…when Christians rightly articulate a peaceful protest next to abortion clinics, next to pornography centers? Or, if we street-preach at popular intersections and urge all men to turn to Jesus and away from their sin pattern?  Folks, these are more frictious times and potentially violent days for people to speak out. 

So, before your heart rallies to support anti-demonstrations, ask yourself if identifying with such a spirit of vitriol is a good thing? Are we fighting for the cause of man, or for the cause of Jesus Christ? The answers we give, must be salted. Remember what Jesus said in John 18:36? To fight the right fight as a Christian, is to labor to proclaim the Gospel as often and as clearly as we can to those who wrongly fight for a kingdom with a terminal end. Our fight ain’t here, but our gospel focus is!

 

The pagan Philosopher Voltaire once quipped, “The happiest of all lives, is a busy solitude.” One may interpret the Philosophers words variably, but what I think he really meant was, we are better off busying ourselves in our own solitude than we are in the presence of frictious people. While we can all sympathize that it’s sometimes safer to keep away from ‘public’ threats in order to protect our own happiness; yet a spiritual soul can see that leans towards narcissism. So, I want to evaluate the good and bad of solitude. By solitude, I simply mean – the time we spend by ourselves, as opposed to time we spend with others (family, friends, and especially the Church).

I just heard on the news, that retail store hiring fell well below projections this last quarter, once again because online stores are exploding. The access to buying in your own privacy is trending. We have all benefited from this convenience. But my concern is that our society is becoming a-social (socially negligent), meaning our old dependence upon the public setting, the market place, butcher, the baker, the cobbler, the dry cleaners where normal physical human interaction took place, is being replaced with personal needs being met on a “virtual” cyberspace platform. So we are becoming conditioned a-socially. Electronic modernity is finding that its easier to avoid the annoying public and still get your goods and services. Our best social interaction (by popular sentiment now) is in the solitude of a smart-phone. Have you noticed that people even in large groups, are still glued to their ‘precious’ devices?  With these devices we can control the world, engage in touching people without really touching them. I can talk about my day whether the outside world cares to hear me or not, I can get things off my chest, whether the world agrees with my slant or not. And yet, I am alone, in solitude, I am not in the physical presence of people made in God’s image. Hmmm!

So I wonder what the effect will be on the local church? On believers in Jesus Christ. Will she trend towards solitude? My concern is we’ll forfeit face to face interaction, that we will become socially weird, and socially sabotaged. That we will forget the importance social space and social presence, and miss the beautiful non-verbal cues of smiles, frowns and burdens that can only be perceived in a real presence. That we will not be used to fluid confrontation, that relationships will be screened with a “those in my twitter handle” bias. I wonder if we may trend to becoming afraid of people, of society, of risk, of honest constructive discourse. We are now in such the habit of structuring our lives and controlling everything electronically, that we may try to do the same thing socially, and it won’t work. I’ve even heard of “virtual churches” that pull saints from all across the world together, and they actually consent to church polity and a statement of faith. This too concerns me.  The local church has always about believers adopting a new family and yet emphasizing “coming together” (Act 20:7), to celebrate, encourage one-another in the word of God, and to break-bread in Christ.

On a biblical level, we are encouraged towards solitude when we visit with God in prayer. (Matthew 6:6; Acts 10:9); but never as a habitual excuse to stop meeting with the body of Christ (Heb 10:24,25)

On the healthy side, the Apostle Paul said he always aimed to make sure his conscience was sound before God and men (Acts 24:16). A verse like this reminds us that a good conscience towards God makes us eager for fellowship with the family of God! In between those ends, are spiritually focused people that understand the proper balance between spending time alone with Christ, while desiring to do so in the company of other believers, being nurtured together in the Word of truth. So, there is a trending solitude that may spell doom for the church if we are not careful, and yet there is a classic solitude of prayer and study that moves the Christian to growth and a hunger for being with other believers.

Let us being encouraged the follow the latter. I think even Voltaire would be annoyed with the busy solitude of today. Believer, stay active in the local church!

 

What makes a nation great? The goal of every Presidential election is the hope for National greatness, improvement in health, able employment, wealth, national security, secure marriages and families, the elimination of violence, addictions, criminality, so that we have communities that enjoy their times on earth in peace. The answer is found in scripture: very simply:

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people – Proverbs 14:24

There is our first answer. The nation that focuses, constitutes and orders itself fundamentally around ‘righteousness’ will be exalted. Here are some more complex observations though:

  1. What is righteousness? It is God’s moral standard of ‘right-living’ often called, his precepts, his statutes, his laws. God is perfect, and speaks into law his uncompromising terms. He never changes.
  2. What does it mean to be ‘exalted’? Simple again…’to be set up high, lifted up.’ We for instance see the devastation of certain countries and we think, ‘they are so God-forsaken, can they get any worse?’
  3. What is a nation? A people living under in a common territory, governed by like-laws.
  4. What is sin? A trespass against God’s character and laws. It’s the opposite of righteousness. Humans don’t see sin like God does because he is perfectly holy. Never committed a single sin Himself.
  5. What is a reproach? An unacceptable shame, worthy of blame by another. It’s when the whistle should blow.

The election here in America is 32 days away. Christians represent here a nation among a larger nation. The hurdles for those of us desiring to see this nation become great/exalted stem from this all-too-relevant verse. But: there can be no effort to pursue righteousness without a God-ward moral standard. Or should I say, without a view that “God is.” The is no exaltation possibility if God’s standards are ignored or are hostile to. The result? To be a true patriot of one’s country, naturally requires one to be a patriot of God. To be indifferent to God, is to be indifferent to country. To hate God is to hate country, and isn’t this becoming increasingly self-evident in our country? Otherwise, the nation will stagnate, and suffer by consequence of sin. Unemployment will rise, the national debt will increase, racism/discrimination will remain, sinful vices will be taught as acceptable, righteousness will be unrecognized, and judged as intolerable, stifling and bigotrous. And what about Reproach? Sure, there will still be blame, even hypocritical laments with sinners judging far worse sinners.

So today America appears to be on the long road of confusion, shame, futility rather than on the high road of exaltation. But there’s hope for this nation, because Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness that many here have long ignored as historical fact; He intended to make himself a sacrificial Lamb, he was crucified by sinful hands (like ours) but in the process, by glorious mystery of mysteries…he was humbly bearing the curse ‘and tasting death for sinners’ so that whoever repents and believes in Him as God’s substitution for our sin and unrighteousness, would receive the promise of a ‘new life’, and his perfect righteous as a full payment. This is the doctrine of ‘Justification.’ It’s the greatest teaching ever conveyed to men and is still offered universally! It’s God’s creation of ‘a New-Nation.’

So this is the good news we want to hear when we see our country going to the pits. That bad news still? Every non-repenting American must face God as an unpardoned foe in that day when he comes to judge the living and the dead. Will you be a foe or a forgiven friend?

So, what will make this nation great?

Similar to answer #1, answer #2 is…go in full-fledged repentance to Jesus Christ, who is both God and creator of the world. Trust in Him by faith. He is the atoning righteousness for our sins if we believe (John 3:36; Romans 10:9-12) in Him.