God told me _______

I continue to be amazed at what God tells people these days. You all have heard me many times warn against saying “God told me…” So you may be saying to yourself “Is he going to talk about that subject again?” Why yes I am, and I admire your discernment. The reason I continue to discuss the subject is because I’m constantly confronted with the phrase. Maybe that’s because I’m a pastor and people feel led to give me a word from God directly, and that may be true to a degree. However, I don’t think is the full story. I honestly think the subject hasn’t been addressed in churches for decades. Couple this with the rise of Pentecostalism and we now have it’s widespread acceptance. Add to this the fear that most Christians have about challenging anyone who claims to have received a special word from God.

The stage is set for anyone to claim that God told them anything and everything. In all seriousness, many of these people genuinely believe God really did tell them this. So when we finally work up the nerve to ask “How do you know that God really did tell you this?” The answer is all to often “I just know.” or “I just believe he did.” And that’s usually where we leave it.

This past week I couldn’t leave the conversation at “I just know.” Because I, just knew, God would never say what he claimed. He said “God told me to vote for Hillary Clinton, so I did what I was told.” Now fast forward to this part of our discussion: “Preacher, how do you know God didn’t tell me this?” #1 God wouldn’t verbally endorse something He has condemned in writing. #2 God wouldn’t ask us to promote sinful behavior that He already forbid in Scripture. #3 While God picks each and every leader, He still holds us personally accountable for who we vote for. #4 God’s views on homosexuality an abortion are clear and unchanging. #5 If the apostle Paul was qualified and in the running, I wouldn’t claim God told me to vote for him. I would simply say he is the best candidate according to the Bible.

When challenging the claim of “God told me” we must go to what God has already said, and that is on paper. But more importantly me must do it with love for them and love for the Truth. I know this is true because God told me so… What? You can check for yourselves, I got it from 1 Cor 13.

 

New Year’s Resolution

We are officially in the “New Year’s Resolution” season. Now is the time for you to determine to change something about yourself this coming year. Step two, go out in the woods and drive a stake in the ground, or carve your commitment into a rock (you low-lander can carve it into a tree). On second thought, Why not do all three? Set your new resolution down in a permanent manner so you will not change it. Step three, post it somewhere prominent where you will be reminded of it regularly. The refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, or better yet the opening screen of your phone so you’ll be sure to see it 200+ times each day.

Allow me now to skip ahead to April or maybe just to the end of January when you give up on the new you and settle for the reality of the old you. I know some of you have a rare success story when something really did change that one year, but that was an oddity and you need to quit dwelling on the past. So here we are, after three plus weeks of trying. right back to where we were Dec 31, 2016. Oh the horror of it all! We failed again!

Instead of making one or more New Years Resolutions every year and not keeping them, lets learn something “new” this year. First off, man’s “will” is really useless. Honestly we can’t stick with much of anything unless we absolutely have too. There is a salvation illustration in there, but I’ll let you work that out on your own. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with resolutions as long as we understand they were made by us. I’m not saying don’t try to fix what’s wrong but I am saying be realistic about your expectations. Thirdly, why do we wait till Jan 1 to start? If it needs fixing we can start any time before or after the 1st. Fourthly, don’t make “do or die” resolutions. You’ll kill yourself. Last but not least, Is this resolution of any eternal value? If not, I wish you the best of luck with that. If so, you have an Advocate with the Father who can ensure your success. When you falter (and you will falter) He stands ready to forgive and start you again.

God never offered to help us accomplish our personal wishes this new year. But He did promise our personal transformation into the person He wants us to be. With that, I wish you many successful resolutions all year!

Why Do We Go To Church?

I honestly think the number one reason most Americans attend church these days is for purely social reasons. As a pastor I have a bird’s eye view of the movements of church goers. I hear the moans of loss and sighs of relief from pastors as their members move to various churches. Some times they hate to see them leave and at other times they won’t be missed. But the real question is why do people change churches so often?

Lets try to answer that with a series of questions. Is it because they have relocated to a new area? Are they seeking a place closer to their home? Has their current church defected from the faith forcing them to leave to seek out true gospel preaching? Have their personal views of Scripture changed causing them to seek a new church inline with their new views? These would all be good reasons to find a new church. But I seldom hear these reasons listed. Most people are looking for a new church for social reasons.

How do I know that, you may ask? Well let me list some of the questions I get from people looking to change churches. How many attend LCBC? I have kids, what do you have for my kids? Who all goes to your church, anyone I know? Is there anyone my age their? Do you have many veterans, retired people, young families, professional people, blue collar, sports fans, outdoorsmen, singles, widows, or any any other subgroup I can relate to?
I could go on but you get the point. Now when someone finds a new church here’s what they often say: “The kids love it here.” “The new preacher relates to me.” “My friends or the kids friends, were already going there.” “They have so many activities to get involved in.” “They have a coffee shop in the foyer and free day care on Fridays.” Are you seeing a pattern here? We like our opportunities to socialized in the new church.

Now the Bible instructs us to be in close fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. BUT, the standard of our fellowship is the gospel. I’m seeing people leave gospel preaching churches for social reasons. The opposite is equally true as well. We see countless Christians who are gospel starved hanging onto a church because of their kids, friends or activities. Pick your church by the gospel and stay put. You will never regret it.

Shaking Off The Cold

Have you noticed that the weather is getting much colder? Of course you have as soon as you open the door in the morning it hits you. Most people hate the cold but a few of us love it and look forward to the cool crisp winter air. Regardless of you personal climate preferences a good hot fire sure feels good when you come in out of the cold. Or when you get in the car and place your hands over the heater vents and within seconds the feeling comes back in your fingers. That warm soothing effect quickly overcomes a long exposure to the cold.

The corporate worship of the Church should have the same effect on believers. After a few day out in the world our spirit craves the warm fire of fellowship around the Word. If we stay out to long we will start to loose some feeling in our extremities. That’s when a quick warm up is needed in order to keep us going. After just an hour or two with the saints we begin to feel better and the cares of the world don’t seem as harsh as they did when we first came in.

The cold is not dangerous as long as we dress for it and limit our exposure to it. There’s a parallel to the Christian life here as well. When you aren’t prepared for the world and you spend to much time in it, the world can have an adverse affect on you just like the cold does. If you fail to meet with the Lord and his people on a regular basis you will start to loose some feelings. If you neglect these warning signs, you could end up with spiritual frost bite! There’s no shortage of testimonies from those who stayed away to long and now have some lasting scars to show for it. So don’t get to far away from the fire.

Even the Apostle Paul had this desire for fellowship. He wrote in Romans 1:11-12 “For I long to see you,…that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” He knew that his presence would be for their encouragement and they would likewise encourage him. That is the way church works. It is beneficial to attend regularly for encouragement and to be encouragement to others. As the world grows colder and colder toward God it is comforting to know we have a warm church to attend.

Hotly Debated Holy Days

I have recently observed the chatter of church goers online criticizing churches who are not meeting Sunday morning Dec 25 at their usual time because it’s Christmas. To which some proudly boast “We have church every Sunday and especially on Jesus’s birthday!” or “We won’t compromise with the worldly traditions!” At first glance they seemed to hold the spiritual high ground. This led me to contemplate a fresh and a new the validity of the claim that a church must meet every Sunday and especially on a holiday.

First, let us ponder the Jesus’s birthday claim. “If you love Jesus, you’ll go to church on his birthday” they said. #1 Is Dec 25 his real birthday? #2 Are we instructed to keep his birthday? #3 If so, why don’t we go to church every year on Dec 25 instead of just the years that the 25th falls on Sunday? #4 Why doesn’t the Bible give us his exact birth date if it’s so important? #5 When did the celebration of Christmas even start?

Secondly, let’s ponder the Lord’s day. #1 Have you ever missed a Sunday for anything other than illness? Maybe for vacations, traveling to visit family, work, or other responsibilities? #2 Does our church only hold one service a week? #3 Do you attend every single service of every week? #4 Is it mandatory that the assembly have to meet on Sunday? #5 Is there ever a legitimate reason to miss a Lord’s day service other than illness?

Paul actually answers this dilemma in Rom 14:5 “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” I’m not going to engage the online Scribes over this issue. He is already “fully persuaded in his own mind.” But before you take up criticizing our church calendar, ponder those two paragraphs of questions above and think of what you will doing Christmas morning. I’ll venture to say that you’ll spend it with your close family and that you’ll have Jesus’s birth in mind as you go thru the festivities. Therefore I don’t see the harm of a healthy church spending Christmas morning with their families this year or in 2022, 2033, 2039, 2044 and 2050. If you still “esteemeth one day above another:” we’ll meet at 5:00 pm Christmas Eve.

Love From Above

As I sat in my deer stand one evening last week reading 1 Cor 13 I decided to pray for every member of our church. I do this often but this time I decided to simply thank God for each person’s individual qualities. I pictured each of you sitting in your unofficial “assigned seat” as I pondered your best qualities such as faithfulness, generosity, service, meekness, devotion, knowledge, love, wisdom and encouragement and praised the Lord for gifting each of you in these unique ways.

As you know from our study of 1 Corinthians, we are all equal but we are not all the same. Some excel in areas where others lack and vise versa. While I tried to honestly confess the individual strengths that I have witnessed in each person’s life some of the same good graces kept getting repeated. As I prayed I found myself thanking God for every person’s gentle spirit and love for one another. By the time I finished the prayer I realized that everyone here loves each other. Everyone has a genuine care and a real concern for his brother or sister at Lee Creek.

Now I have been saying and preaching this for years. Just last week in describing our church to someone I said “We’re all on the same page and we love each other. That’s what makes Lee Creek so unique.” But simply knowing something is true and understanding why it is true is two different things. This kind of mutual love and care is not something that is only taught or demonstrated and then everyone just goes out and does it. I’ve heard it said that the church takes on the personality of it’s pastor: “If your friendly, they’ll be friendly.” While that may be true to a degree, this is much deeper than that. You can’t make people truly love each other. It can be a real chore convincing some people to be just be civil. I know, I’ve tried.

This kind of love is only born from above. God must plant it in our hearts. Christ spoke of this kind of love in JN 13:35 as the indicator of true Christianity. Rom 5 says “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This love is more than a human emotion, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. No man made program can achieve this level of commitment.

It wasn’t until I prayed with the single desire of Thanksgiving for every member that I realized why the entire church shares this love. God has worked in each and every one of us to accomplish this kind of unity. The real heart beat of every healthy church is not the pastor or the fine people that attend, it’s God. As we enter Thanksgiving and begin to ponder all the different “things” that we are thankful for, let us trace all these gifts back to their source: God.

My thoughts on this subject were quickly interrupted by a young 8 point that came trotting down the ridge toward me. Thank the Lord! I got him!

Elections Don’t Solve All Our Problems

With the elections over and while some are crying and others are basking in victory, I want to give a word of caution. He is just a president. He won’t cast the country in the toilet nor will he turn it fully around. He will make some great decisions and he will have his faults. They all do. Our country is not designed to be ran by one person. It is designed to be ran by the people, and this is why I’m still troubled. I’m not worried but I am aware that there is much work still to be done.

I know of many Baptist pastors, some local and some nationally known, who discouraged their congregations from participating in this election. They only speak of our country’s politics in a negative light. Most harp on the coming Kingdom and discourage any activities in the kingdom of this world. Some almost relish the idea of our country falling apart. Hoping it’ll drive all of us to focus on eternity. When I challenge their views, I’m quickly dismissed as being influenced by the world.

On the flip side of the coin nearly every university is prompting their students to engage the political system. They are actively enrolling voters and stirring them to action. Any fool can see that these universities are not turning out conservative voters who share our biblical values. Many of the professors lecture against them daily and require students to read and study liberal ideology to pass their classes.

Now the question for us to consider is, How will our country be voting in 10 years? How many voting Christians will pass away in the next 10 years? How many Christians will fall under the influence of these abstaining preachers in the next 10 years? Lastly, how many kids will attend collage in the next 10 years? There are no exact answers to these question, but you need not be a rocket scientist to read the writing on the wall.
Now I would like to give you my plan to counter this coming trend. #1 As a pastor I am going to speak more clearly on national issues and the Christian’s responsibility toward them. This begins at Lee Creek and extends to everyone I have contact with #2 I will continue to challenge pastors who promote the false notion that Christians are not supposed to engage in worldly issues. #3 I will seek to expose the fallacies and lack of coverage given by our national news media and make it available to others. Social media has given every person an opportunity to voice their opinions. It would be a shame to only use it to share pictures of what we had for lunch of the family pet.

You say, “Oh your just one man, you’ll never make a difference.” You may very well be right, and I may be worse off for doing so. Nevertheless, my responsibility still remains. If he ignores it that’s his problem, but I ignore it, that’s my problem.

Take Part In Every Election

Unless you live under a literal rock and haven’t came out from under it until today, you know we have an election this Tuesday Nov 8th. I am tired of hearing about it and I’m even tired talking about it. But come Wednesday morning we all must deal with the outcome of the decisions made by our fellow countrymen. And that brings me to my point, you are my fellow citizens and you have a responsibility in this decision. I trust you take it seriously and by seriously I mean you will vote in it.

I’ll not tell you who to vote for because I believe every Spirit filled believer is capable of making a Godly decision after prayer and consideration his choices. (the key is being Spirit filled) So that begs this question, have you prayed about who you will be voting for? It ceases to amaze me that some Christians never consult their Heavenly Father before they cast a ballot for the next leader of our nation. Many just vote the way their parents told them to years ago. Other vote for the person who promises them the most financial gain or the personality that appeals to them.

I will freely confess their are no clear cut Biblically qualified, God fearing candidates on the ticket. But is that a reason for you to stay home? I say no, and here’s why. We live in a secular world and we have to make secular decisions, many times with out any good options. Do you by all your groceries from a Christian? Do you only buy gas for your car from a Christian? Do you only eat in Christian owned restaurants? I will venture to say no, you don’t. If so, I guess you grow all your own food, walk or ride a horse, and never eat out? Oh No! But when given the option you would clearly support a fellow believer. And there are some places you will definitely not do business with because of the beliefs they stand for. An so it is with the election. Will you still sit out or will you participate?

With that said you must now do your due diligence to seek the Lord in this matter. Don’t listen to the news media, they are as corrupt as anybody in the race. Don’t listen to your pocket book, or even your own personal wishes. Listen to the Lord. Voting for the best available candidate will not ensure they win, but not voting will only help them to lose. To not act is to act.

Why is it so important that we participate? Why not stay home and show the country that Christians don’t like either candidate? Because we are salt and light. When you take us out of the equation you get rot and darkness. Christians have stayed home for various reasons over the last few elections and it shows in the degradation of our country. You say, Preacher, are you advocating the better of two evils? No, I’m advocating you pray about it and see what God advocates.

Changing With The Times

In 1897 Ransom Eli Olds founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Co and Oldsmobile soon became an iconic American car. In 1908 it became a staple of General Motors. During the 1980′s GM was selling over a million Old’s every year. Then Americans began favoring smaller more efficient cars. The classic Oldsmobile was no longer desirable to the public. Rather than make a fuel efficient compact Old’s, GM chose to close the Oldsmobile brand. The last Old’s was made in April 2004.

History has a way of teaching us about the once great names and products that fell out of favor with the public. Occasionally the product’s quality or cost changed, other times the needs and desires of the public changed. Either way history is clear, if you do not adapt your product to changes in public perception, you won’t be around long. While this is true of every business, it doesn’t translate to the church.

The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845. Within fifty years it was known for it’s strict adherence to Scripture and zeal for world missions. By the 1950′s the SBC was becoming one of the nation’s largest denominations. Turmoil gripped the Convention during the 1960′s-70′s in the form of liberalism. The conservatives won the battle and took control of the convection. They purged the seminaries and cleaned all the entities of traces of liberalism. The SBC enjoyed the reputation of being “the people of the Book.” Their influence and membership grew at an alarming rate, and we all lived happily ever after! (no, just kidding)

The problem really began when “the people of the Book” wanted to continue this growth rate in a nation that increasingly despised their Book. The emphasis began to shift from Bible teaching to finding ways to attract new people in order maintain growth. Like any good business, maintaining market share while gaining new growth was the goal. The SBC reached it’s pinnacle in 2005 with 16.6 mil members. This came with a heavy cost, and it has steadily declined since then.

The net loss of a 1.5 mil members over the last 10 years is not the real problem with the SBC. It is the fact that they lost their name as “the people of the Book.” They remain the largest Protestant denomination in the US, but that’s all they are, a large group. 2/3 of the current 15 mil members haven’t been to church in a year or more. The other 1/3 has a very shallow and limited knowledge of the Scriptures. When demand for the “book” went away, a business decision was made. Rather than go the way of the Oldsmobile they complied with consumer demand and opinion. Essentially becoming “the people of the people” doing whatever draws a crowd and maintains influence. In a day of passing trends, the lost world is in need of a classic, a 2000 year old institution with a timeless Word. ~HWS

Christians Unite! Or Not…

As our country falls farther into the toilet, you may have noticed the calls for Christians to unite together and bring God back into our country. The statements go something like this. If Christians would unite, we could take our country back. When churches come together as one around Jesus… If we join forces… God won’t bless our nation till the churches are all one. It’s time for Christians put their differences aside and work together. It’s not a time to debate doctrine, it’s a time for action. If my people, who are called by my name,… STOP IT! WE ARE NOT ISRAEL! GOD DIDN’T GIVE US LAND! (sorry, it hurts to type out of context)

If you stop and think about it, those are some of the dumbest statements a true Christian can make. Allow me to ask a few obvious follow up questions to the above statements. Does God need permission to enter any country on the planet He made? And that, ruled by a government He raised up? Does God need national unity to bring about his purposes? Christ split every crowd he preached among! How do churches “come together around Jesus” when he is already the Head of the Church? Can you imagine an Apostle putting aside doctrine to get a bigger crowd? They warned against it! Why would we put our Bibles aside in order to take action? Why don’t we just take the steering wheel out of our car and drive thru Dallas instead? What is our fascination with taking a country over for Christ? How could this happen when most of our churches can’t even articulate a Biblical gospel?

And therein lies the proof that this call for unity is not of God. Our unity is to be in the Gospel. How can we unite with those who proclaim a different way of salvation? Apart from Truth, unity can not exist. A marriage built on falsehood with opposing goals will not enjoy unity. Neither will any movement started by man. The early church enjoyed unity until false teaching entered and split the congregations. Should a true church unite a with false church to gain a majority?

That is why doctrine needs to be put aside in order for us to work together. They know this, so we are told to “rally around Jesus.” That sounds like a noble cause every Believer should join. But upon closer inspection, it’s what you teach about Jesus that matters. There are 100′s of cults that claim the name of Jesus. Every false prophet from Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen to Paul and Jan Crouch will unite with anyone at the name of Jesus. Many know his name, but he’s more than a name.

The trouble begins when you proclaim who Christ is and what he requires of men. That is the gospel! We can and will work with everyone who preaches a Biblical gospel. Truth is, there aren’t many of us around these days. But don’t let that discourage you. Christ only started with 12, and he gave them this doctrine.