Faith

This page will host posts that concern the “Faith once and for all contended for by the saints” as Jude puts it.  Theology and Christian life issues will addressed.

 

Someone Else

Just spitballin’ here, but it’s something that I think may help someone out there today, I know it does me. Someone else can be really, really good. Having someone else to blame for my mistakes, or having someone else take my responsibility makes my life so much easier.  It’s so nice to be able to point my finger at someone else and let go of all of my pent up frustration that is spilling over.  Having someone else to handle the burden of all of my past hurts and mistakes, someone else to take the fall or the pain.  I love to have someone else close by that I can just yell at and abuse with my temper and blow off a little steam on.  It really is quite nice… for me… Then again, maybe that isn’t the right use of someone else. Maybe God put someone else in my life for me to bless, and to help me to see from someone else’s perspective.

Someone else can really help me to see clearly when I am emotionally involved.  Someone else can help me to keep a proper perspective.  True that someone else can help me bear my burdens and responsibilities but they can’t have them completely.  My experience has taught me that one of our biggest faults is our inability to see or admit to… our faults, weakness, you name it.  Someone else can help us with that.  But we need to let them in and let them speak.  You see we can all become volatile at times, and lose our ability to reason.  This is where we really, truly need someone else.

Who is your someone else?  How have you treated them?  Are they simply the kind of person that will join you in your delusions or do you have someone else to balance your pain filled opinions?  See, who the someone else is really matters.  We need someone else to tell us like it is, where the dog died so to speak.  We all need someone else to listen to our heartaches without judging, but ready to lend a hand.

One last thought… if you continue to treat someone else like excrement, or continue to blame someone else, or load on someone else your responsibilities, don’t be too surprised to find that you have no one else.

Just Sayin’



How He Loves

We love him because He first loved us.  This is the motivation for change.  The agent of change is the Holy Spirit.  I just need to get that out there right away.  The Lord has given us both the motive and the means but now we need to provide the do.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 9:9–10 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of wisdom… fear is only the beginning.  It should lead us further on is true wisdom.  It should lead us to the love of and for God.  Fear is excellent motivation to inspire us to find the way to appease God, that leads us right to the cross and God’s passionate love for His creation.

The problem that I think we have is that our understanding of His love is limited by our understanding of ourselves.  We humanize God to much; it is understandable, because we tend to want to bring things into our realm.  But in this case we need to get out of our heads and look at the Word and realize that there are some things that without the Spirit we CANNOT understand.  The Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians that only the Spirit of God can understand God, and only those with His Spirit can understand spiritual things.Isaiah 64:6–7 (KJV 1900) But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are as filthy rags; And we all do fade as a leaf; And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, That stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: For thou hast hid thy face from us, And hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. When we look at ourselves and we see that we are filthy and that even the good that we do is filthy and YET GOD LOVES US and has provided for US we can begin to understand the motivation to do right.

This week I was listening to some testimonies that so impressed me, they were from a former worldly rocker and a Christian musician.  They had both gotten mixed up in the drug scene and became miserable and lost. They were both so humble and powerful in their testimonies.  They had each started out in a very different way and yet ended up in utter hopelessness.  They found that they were in need of something; they were as the Psalmist says in the “miry clay”.  One had deliberately sought out success and women and wine so to speak.  He found that everything he thought was going to be great was the exact opposite.  He was trapped and hated who he had become.  The other, started out in a Christian home and had everything that he needed.  He had spiritual parents that never gave up on him even though he strayed.  He got into college and thought that he could play with fire and not get burned.

Both these men were deceived.  They each recognize this now.  When they were in the mess they each prayed a similar prayer, “God if you are out there, I need you” and “God, I am a mess, do whatever you must to bring me back to you”.  The heavy metal rocker had walked into a church.  It was a church where the worship was genuine.  What he saw while strung out on meth was a bunch of people that sincerely loved God and had joy.  He realized that they had something he needed.  He went home and prayed that prayer.  A few weeks later, he had an encounter with Jesus’s love.  He came to recognize that Jesus is real and that God loved him even in his meth addiction and even in the mess that he was stuck in.The Christian musician had a similar encounter.  God showered His love down on this fallen creature, this distracted believer.  He showed this broken man that He loved him in spite of himself.

In both of these instances it was the humble recognition that God loves ME that led them to change and to love passionately the one that loves them! 

1 John 3:1–2 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

1 John 4:7–13 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”



Amazing Grace

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times … you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!
Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me; His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

I’m sitting here in my study, it’s about 7:15am.  I’m having my time with God and listening to Chris Tomlin sing Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone.  There is a YouTube video with the lyrics fading in and out on a landscape background.  I’m half listening, I love this song and the way Chris sings it.  Then I look up on verse 2 and SEE the lyrics “twas grace that taught my heart to fear”.  I thought; how odd, grace taught my heart to fear.  Then I thought how wonderful!  Grace taught my heart to fear!  Without that fear, that awe of God and His holiness and majesty I would never have known His love and mercy!  Funny how much depth a songwriter can wring out of so few words.  Thank God for John Newton.  It seems to me that we still need both the tension of fear and awe for God and relief from God.  He is strong and magnificent and almighty and He hates sin in every form, from the believer and the unbeliever.  He hates sin so much that He sent Jesus and cruelly crucified Him to vent His great wrath against our sin.  In that loathing of sin and punishment of it is the light of love bathed in blood.  Grace taught my heart to fear.  Grace found in the Law of the Lord.  Grace to lead me from fear to love!  Jesus God in the flesh displaying the grace of God by showing His wrath and love in one terrible act.   Thank you Jesus!

“Calling himself a “wretch” who was lost and blind, John Newton recalled leaving school at the age of 11 to begin life as a rough, debauched seaman. Eventually he engaged in the despicable practice of capturing natives from West Africa to be sold as slaves to markets around the world. But one day the grace of God put fear into the heart of this wicked slave trader through a fierce storm. Greatly alarmed and fearful of a shipwreck, Newton began to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. God used this book to lead him to a genuine conversion and a dramatic change in his way of life.

Feeling a definite call to study for the ministry, Newton was encouraged and greatly influenced by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. At the age of 39, John Newton became an ordained minister of the Anglican church at the little village of Olney, near Cambridge, England. To add further impact to his powerful preaching, Newton introduced simple heart-felt hymns rather than the usual psalms in his services. When enough hymns could not be found, Newton began to write his own, often assisted by his close friend William Cowper. In 1779 their combined efforts produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal. “Amazing Grace” was from that collection.

Until the time of his death at the age of 82, John Newton never ceased to marvel at the grace of God that transformed him so completely. Shortly before his death he is quoted as proclaiming with a loud voice during a message, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!” What amazing grace!” ~ Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 170.




Vote Your Faith

The election season is in full force.    To be honest, I have no zeal for any candidate currently in the race.  That being said, we should still vote according to the character and qualifications of the candidate.  We ought to consider the term pro-life to be a litmus test for those that we support.  May God guide as we choose our next president, the economy isn’t everything; as a matter of fact, a poor economy may often conceal and embolden the enemies of morality and godliness.

The video below shows heartily what I have proposed above.  It is not for the weak of heart nor is it for elementary children (Jr. High would be fine in my estimation).  However, it is a must see video for it illustrates in the medium that the current generations identify with.

Another helpful link to guide you in your voting is http://voteyourfaith.org/



Need an Adjustment

As I have been studying through the book of Philippians for the third time now, God still amazes me.  In church this past Wednesday I preached from chapter 1 verses 20-26.  It’s taken us 3-4 weeks to get this far.  What has amazed me this time through is how Paul dealt with circumstances and how he maintained his grip on the reality of the Savior in his life.

I opened the service with a statement, a question really; who here has ever just felt like saying “God, just take me home now!  I am a mess and I just want to end it!”  I would like to say that I’m surprised by how many raised their hands.  I was one of them.  I think that we all have times when we are so down, either because of circumstances forced upon us, sins against us, or sins and messes of our own making that ending it seems like a viable option.  It isn’t.  In studying Paul’s life and work through this book we could clearly see that there were times that even the great Apostle had moments of darkness in his life.  One has only to read the book of Acts to see how much this man went through, and then in 2 Corinthians we get just a glimpse into his mind.

2 Corinthians 7:5  For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

True in this passage Paul was speaking of the comfort that God sent to him via Titus and a good report, but it also shows a very transparent Paul.  He reminds us that God is concerned with His children and comforts all that are cast down (himself included).  At the risk of sounding like another Jesus is a crutch writer I believe that Paul understood the importance of receiving that comfort and hope.  Comfort and hope lead to a greater witness, a greater testimony and great glory for a great God!

Following the message I received wonderful feedback thanking me for the message.  I think that one of the things that people were most impressed by was the transparency of Paul the Apostle, the others that raised their hands and my own.  The next day after preaching the message I was doing some research online and found the suicide note of a brilliant young man who died this past January.  He left a 4000 word letter detailing how he felt.  It may become one of the most helpful things I have ever read outside of the Bible.  It is a view inside the mind of depression and heartache.  One thing that stood out was that he felt so alone, though he was surrounded by friends. The other was that he felt so evil and hurtful and the opposite was expressed by those that knew him best.  His perception wasn’t reality, he needed an adjustment.  I don’t really know if he knew Jesus, God knows.  The sad thing is  that he felt utterly hopeless.  There is great truth in the idea that we are evil, we are sinners, but that truth without the hope of a God that loves us is a killing truth.  Sadly he grew up in what seems to be a church that emphasized just how disappointed God must be in everyone and everything.  The word love was spoken and even taught, but not necessarily emphasized.  I have visited the website and found that there are many well written articles concerning the Christian walk etc… and yet there was a disconnect with this young man.  The truth is that we will all be saddled with the presence of sin until we hit the grave, but the equal truth is that we have a God that considers us of great value even with the stain of sin for that stain of sin is under the greater stain of the blood of Jesus.  His love is embodied on the cross.  His love for us exceeds His hatred of our sin.  It is my fervent hope that churches everywhere and in every denomination with preach the truth of sin, but to never preach that truth without preaching the wonder of the cross and love of God for the sinner, yes even the saved sinner!

As I studied chapter one the phrase that caught my heart and taught me that Paul had learned to adjust his perspective was… “to live is Christ to die is gain”.  This was Paul’s perception and priority.  When your life is a shambles and you feel like it isn’t worth it, why not give your life to God here and now?  To live is Christ.  Let him have you and use you to lift others out of the depths of sin and depravity.  Let Christ fill your vision!  Let the death you are considering embracing be the death to self and let God use your mortal frame to His glory! The outcome of that is a life that will bless others.

As we begin to understand that to live is Christ then even when we fail or trials and tribulations come our way, we can shout that it is for Christ, let Him have it for his own glory.  When you sin… again… instead of accepting depression; accept forgiveness, get up and move forward learning from God the lesson He is trying to teach you  Hebrews 12 teaches us that God is chastening us to our profit.  Instead of being angry and bitter when men do all manner of evil against you, allow Christ to live through you giving love to your enemies.

To live is Christ…  when you find that you are the end of your rope… let go.  Recognize that to live is Christ.  End your life of… whatever it is that brought you to that point and get tuned into Christ.  Stop living… for yourself.  To live is Christ.  Before Jesus, there was no life.  The devil has us coming and going.  He tries to convince us that without Christ you can really live!  But without Jesus there is no life!  The cross God calls us to bear is one that brings us life! When we lose our lives to Christ we find them in Him!  Only better.

So when everything is coming undone, when the attack is hard and heavy, when you are the culprit and have only yourself to blame…. when these times come upon us we need to have a perspective adjustment.  We need to remember that the life we now live, we live through the faith of Christ Jesus.  He is our priority,  He is our life.

One last thing… to live Christ is to MAGNIFY CHRIST!  Philippians 1:20

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

This verse brings it all into perspective… listen to Warren Wiersbe’s summation of these points “When we take Christ into every circumstance, we will have joy. Paul was not the prisoner of Rome; he was the “prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:1; 4:1). The soldiers chained to his wrist were not guards; they were souls for whom Christ died. Paul had a “captive audience,” and from 1:13 and 4:22, we conclude that he won some of them to Christ. The single-minded Christian does not allow circumstances to overcome him; he or she turns those circumstances into opportunities to magnify Christ and win souls.[1]”  – Wiersbe

“For to me to live is ———————— and to die is —————————.”  Fill in the blanks yourself.

“For to me to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind.”

“For to me to live is fame and to die is to be forgotten.”

“For to me to live is power and to die is to lose it all.”[2]

Let the Great Physician give you a spiritual alignment and adjust your perception for His glory and your joy!

Let us remember that the challenge isn’t ‘you should be alive to spiritual things’ it instead is ‘you are alive to spiritual things, now reckon (or realize) it… adjust your perception!  God bless!


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (561). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Php 1:20). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.



Never Forget

September 11 ten years ago this Sunday is a day that SHOULD live on in the hearts and the minds of American citizens everywhere; indeed it should live on in the minds and hearts of the world community.  It should live on and it should be remembered so that we will never forget that there is evil in the world.  There are many that even today would have us deny that fact.  They would have us believe that the religion of Islam is one of peace and that they simply view things differently than we do.  Some of these same sycophants would have us deny the evil of the holocaust and of communism and the many other atrocities committed around the world today.

Romans 13 teaches what a government that is ordained of God looks like.  It is a government that rewards the good and punishes the evil.  Why are fighting this war against terror?  Why was it right to attack those that attacked us?  God has established this government to seek justice and to take vengeance against those who are wicked and have done these wicked deeds.

Romans 13:1–4
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

As I sit and ponder what has happened in the last 10 years, I rejoice that we have maintained a vigilance that has kept us largely out of harm’s way.  I rejoice in the end of two regimes that were either actively supporting terrorists or breeding them.  I rejoice that those that lost their lives have not been forgotten.  I rejoice that we did what we said we would.  Those responsible for this attack have finally been silenced forever.  The only screams they utter now are screams of anguish and an eternal flame.  I know that this sounds harsh, however, I didn’t start this whole mess.  I would pray that these wicked men would come to faith in Jesus and do what is right, turn themselves in.  However, they didn’t and this government did what it was ordained to do.  It brought the sword of justice down upon their heads.
Honor the dead.  Honor the heroes of that fateful day.  Honor the heroes out there now which are diligently taking the sword of justice to the enemy.  Honor them and pray for them.



A Thought on Philippians 4 and 1 Peter 5

It’s still hard to believe how the unexpected near death of my daughter Kierstin when she was born, affected our lives for the better. I moved from being a negative, if it can go wrong it will go wrong, anxious person, to a person grounded in the Word of God and the God of the Word. Because of this trial the Lord has enabled me to minister to a diverse group of people.

That didn’t make it easy to go through; and we are still going through it 19 years later, but the fact is, that sometimes, God needs to bring us through trials to bring us to the place where we become more like him. This trial taught me how to apply God’s Word to my life. It showed me the power of God’s Word when it is unleashed into the life and heart of His child.

In 1 Peter 5:10-11 we are shown these truths “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect (complete, mature), establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

Are you suffering? Take heart! Are you confused? Go to God in prayer! Are you frightened? Trust God! Probably the greatest lesson that I and my family have learned through Kierstin’s near death and subsequent disability is that God IS good. Ultimately that is the question each of us must face… do we trust God? Do we believe that He is GOOD no matter how confusing life may become? I have learned that he is, that he can be trusted. I hope you will to.



Thank You

The church at Rome, the church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi, the church at Colossae, the church at Thessalonica, Timothy, Titus, Philemon and the list goes on of churches and people that the Apostle Paul gave God thanks for.  It wasn’t placating, unmerited, flattering gratitude, for we see that the church that caused him such great heartache, the church at Corinth, received no such encouragement.  This is of course the difference between flattery and genuine encouragement; the former is a lie and is usually designed to manipulate, whereas the latter, encouragement, is an exposed grateful heart that is sincere and empty of such foolishness.

This week we will be (Lord willing, and I believe He is) ordaining Ron Anstey to the Gospel Ministry.  I wrote for the bulletin insert a warm and encouraging blurb on Cap (my nickname for him).  It was sincere and I am thankful for Cap and for God putting him in the ministry with me.  It was unusual in our church to see such a write up on a member.  However I would like to say that we should be encouraging each other; we should thank God openly for what we are each contributing to the cause of Christ.  We should be grateful for the growth and dedication that we see in each other.

In the New Testament we see that over and over again Paul was encouraging those that were around him, he was genuinely grateful to God for these ministries and men and women.  With that in mind, I was thinking about my church.  Emmanuel Baptist Church is an awesome, imperfect, welcoming, stumbling, loving, graceful congregation of believers in Jesus.  I thank God for you Emmanuel!  I thank God that He is calling men such as Ron out of you and establishing them in the ministry.  We have been blessed with such a deep and wide pool of leadership in this church, that if I were to start listing them, I am sure that I would leave someone out, but I thank God for you all.  We are being outfitted by God to affect this community and this very world for Christ.  We are seeing such growth in grace in this place!  To God be the glory!

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think that we are not alone.  There are other men and ministries that I thank God for as well.  I thank God for Perry Jones, for Tim Bagwell, for Mariano Proto, Mike Small, Erik Devitro, Paul Clow, for the other pastors in our fellowship, for Tabernacle Baptist for taking my daughter for school over the last 4 years and doing school as a ministry and fir others that God has blessed me with in the ministry.  I thank God for my brother Tracy Davis, a pastor that prays for Emmanuel and me every week with his church in Lisbon NH.

My life would be less without these men, women and ministries in it.  We should be thankful!  We should give God glory and thanks, that He would surround us with His people.  So, thank you Lord for all that you have done and are doing in this ministry and in my life!



Red Letter Christians, Living Life in the Red

Why this post?  The simplest answer to that question is that I need it so very much.  The second reason is that in my short time of 24 years in the Independent Baptist movement, I have noticed a trend of very un-Christ-like behavior in its leadership and deportment.  I have seen the bride of Christ being treated in such a rough and careless way that if she were my wife I would be up in arms (and in the culprits face).  This is a clarion call to the leadership of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches and movement and to Bible Believing churches in general to wake up and hear the voice of God once again; to feel His Spirit moving and guiding instead of the call of the world or other pastors and fellowships.  This is written from a broken heart… and to be transparent, from a broken person.  When we as the leadership fail so will our church.  When we act in a manner inconsistent with the admonishment of Titus and 1 Timothy, our churches will suffer and our cause will too.

As a movement, we need to ask ourselves the question, have we made and are we making a difference in the community around us.  Do the people that we are in the midst of even know that we are there?  Do they know that we are different?  Do we have something that no one else has?  When I say different I don’t mean in clothing or even entertainment choices, I mean something much deeper and more relevant to this world.  DO WE HAVE JESUS?  Do we have an extravagant love for one another? When the world thinks of your church, what are some phrases or words that come to mind? …controlling… strict… boring… harsh… you can’t do this and you can’t do that? I’m sure that you could add more.
Rules and standards have replaced the ruler.  Or even worse, the pastor has replaced The ruler; the under-shepherd has removed both the word ‘under’ and ‘shepherd’ from his title.  The result of disregarding the headship of Christ is a dictator that has no or little Christ-like qualities and a super strict atmosphere that encourages (unwittingly) a judgmental spirit.

To combat this trend I have seen many a church become so disenchanted with the status quo in the church that they have become overly concerned with being culturally relevant, so enamored with the world’s way of doing things, that they have abandoned SCRIPTURAL RELEVANCE.  They have become that which they sought to disengage themselves from in the first place; a church that misses the Spirit of Christ, just as judgmental in their own way as the others they detest.  One church loses sight of Christ in favor of creating a brand of holy looking members and the other does in opposition to said church and becomes worldly in their service and many other things.  Both miss the mark. THE MARK IS TO BE LIKE JESUS.  The mark is to understand Jesus and how and why He did what He did.  The mark is to find what Jesus considers of great import and make that our priority.



Operation Renovation

Acts, Galatians, Romans 12, James, Sermon on the Mount, the Gospels

Operation Renovation…  As I think of the title of my blog I realize that it incorporates many things.

It is the theme of our church for this year.  It has led us to renovate our property to be more suitable for the type of ministry the Lord has called me to.  We are changing our foyer into a gathering place, a lobby where people can sit and talk, where teaching and fellowship can happen.  It is the welcome center to the world when they come into our building.  When the renovation is finished it will be a warm welcome to people coming out of a cold New England world.  It’s more than that… it is a change in the personality of our church, it’s an emphasis on our need to be open and inviting to the lost… it reflects the heart of Jesus and now our heart as well.  Then there is the playground.  It’s a state of the art, nearly $20,000 project.  The people of our church financed this project through a birthday gift to Jesus.  This renovation to our property also represents a change of direction for our ministry here at Emmanuel.  We didn’t put a playground in because every other church has one.  We did it so that children would know that Jesus loves them.  We did it to reflect the attitude of our Savior who just seems to me was a magnet to children.  As we move forward in the coming year we are also adding AWANA to lead the children of our church and community into a personal relationship with Jesus.

More than new ministries and property renovations has been the renovation of the heart of the people of Emmanuel.  The subtitle to the theme is “removing man’s way and rebuilding God’s way”.  The changes to property and some of the new ministries that we have started (such as Reformers Unanimous) over the last two years have been a reflection of this change.  There is laughter and joy flowing through the building on any given service day.  There is learning happening and discipleship.  There is freedom being sought and found and testimonies given.  This is the heart of Operation Renovation; the change of priorities, the change of direction from external to internal.  This change has come at a price.  There are some things that no longer look pretty.  There are some things that are being left undone.  There are some that no longer come to church dressed for the runway… actually that is a good thing… a Biblical thing…  There are some that have taken advantage of their new found freedom and have lost the faithfulness they used to display.  There are some that have become immodest.  Yes change is messy.  Change from externals requires patience and grace and true heart to heart teaching.  The fact of the matter is that when some of the standards were lifted it revealed the truth; that the hearts were never changed; not by the outward pressure to conform.  Now the real work begins… to love, to teach, to preach, to disciple and yes to admonish and rebuke as necessary.  However in all of this we learn that outward pressure doesn’t really change the inward man.  That is accomplished by the Spirit and the Word.  I have yet to meet a True Believer that is happy in his sin.  I have yet to meet a True Believer that is happy in his rebellion; oh there may be some, but by and large they have left the church to pursue their path to the pigpen.  The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is my strength.  What happens in a church when the standards and rules have replaced the Ruler?  The joy is diminished year by year until there are simply the rules, an empty outward expression or religion.  What we began two years ago was a ministry of relationship over rules; the ministry of running with Jesus instead of away from Him.

AND YET… The title of this blog was really born from a heartache that I feel for the Fundamental Independent Baptist movement.  Galatians is a book that our Fundamental Baptist Churches ought to look at today.  We may not be preaching a different Gospel, but in many churches we have come close… When I was saved the thing that attracted me to Jesus was His grace and ability to do for me what I could not do for myself.  I knew that I couldn’t be good enough or work hard enough to earn His favor.  But now in our churches many have added burdens on folks that are heavy to bear, burdens that the Lord hasn’t added in Scripture;  burdens that define what a “good” Christian is… or to be honest… what a really “saved” Christian is…  really just add works to the grace of God.  It isn’t said outright… it doesn’t need to be, but instead of exalting what Jesus has done many exalt in what their churches look like.  These burdens are largely preferences based on a man or on men’s opinions.  Men such as Jack Hyles and Bob Jones and if we aren’t careful Steve Currington, Paul Kingsbury and Paul Chapel (three men that I greatly admire) have been elevated to godlike status.  Pastors have sought to have their churches look a certain way, dress a certain way, sound a certain way because of what men have said instead of focusing on what Christ has said…  This was what was happening in Galatia.  The Jewish leaders were concerned with how they looked to others.  They wanted to have their followers meet a certain standard so that they could brag on that fact…

Galatians 6:11-18(KJV) 11Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.  12 As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.  13For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.  14But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.  15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.  16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.  17From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.  18Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Mark 7 would also be a good passage for pastors to study.  I believe tradition has a place of honor but it doesn’t have a place of authority.  Many in our movement honor the past 50 years in a greater way than the last 2000 years.  We elevate preferences and tradition to doctrinal status and then separate from those with opposing views.  Instead of unity in Christ there is cannibalism on both sides of many issues.  There are some doctrinally sound churches that have a modern flair but entertain the same outward pressure to conform to their brand of Christianity.

So what is the message?  What is the point?  My point is that we need to renew our passion for Jesus.  We need to review the Sermon on the Mount.  We need to teach our people the importance of developing that relationship with Christ and let HIM change them.  We need to give the Spirit the time and the opportunity to work in people’s lives.  We need to be available to be used by Him by acting like Him.  Last year I did a series of messages on what it would look like to live out the words of Christ.  I call it Red Letter Christianity.  Let me tell you that this is far more challenging and rewarding than wearing a suit or skirt or what type of music you use.  It is in the trenches loving the unlovable, it is giving sacrificially but loving to do it, it is investing your life in someone else’s, it is being meek and kind and holy and wise and patient and loving and humorous and it is Christ.  This may be a revolution to your heart, but I dare you to try it.  Get alone with Jesus and review your life, your ministry and your walk with God.  Pastor do you look like Jesus to your church; do you treat her as the Bride of Christ?  Does she look like a New Testament church or a 50 year old Baptist church?  When I stand before Jesus and give an account for the church He has allowed me to pastor, I want to hear “well done” and not “how could you treat my bride like that”.

Operation Renovation… it may not be easy but it’s worth it.  In my younger years I was in kitchen remodeling.  I was almost always the last one on the job.  Many homeowners would take a look at their new solid surface countertops, then look around at their new cherry cabinets and beautiful hardwood floors and then the memory of the demo and the wrong parts ordered and the frustration of doing dishes in the tub would begin to pale.  It was worth it.  And so is this.