Sharing the burden of our brothers

Pastor Tianming leads the members of Shouwang Church in Beijing, China in worship in the midst of a blizzard.

The members of Shouwang Church in Beijing have suffered for Christ. They have been evicted from their building because they refuse to allow an earthly government to dictate to them how to worship their Lord, Jesus Christ. They have met outside in blizzards. Many of them have been arrested, interrogated, physically abused, harassed, and threatened with the loss of their jobs.

They are relying on the Lord for their strength.

We admire their faith. But admiring their faith does them no good.

We pray for them. That helps. The Lord owns everything the church needs and He is quite capable of supplying them with every resource — including their faith that we so admire.

But are we not moved to action by their story? God has blessed churches in the United States with remarkable resources. We have money and means where they have needs. Can we not make this connection? What if we have been blessed with these resources so that we can, in turn, be a blessing to our brothers and sisters?

Do we really think we’ve been blessed so that we can have new carpet in our sanctuaries and state-of-the-art air conditioning? Do we really need a new gym and coffee bar?

I can hear the objections now…

  • The gym really needs a new floor. The old one is so worn and tattered. It just looks so bad.
  • The carpet hasn’t been replaced in 20 years. It’s almost impossible to keep clean.
  • But our air conditioning is about to go out. If we don’t replace it we’ll have to attend church in 85-degree temperatures in the sanctuary. It’s even possible that some of our members may not come if that’s the case.

Our brethren in China met outside in a blizzard so strong was their desire to hear the Word of God and to fellowship with other believers.

What if the money we were going to use on our own comforts we instead sent to China so that they may have a roof? What if we used it to go and be with them in person — to pray with them, learn from them, cry with them, rejoice with them? What if we came back to our own churches and saw them in a different light?

Our perspectives might change concerning the tattered gym floor, old carpets and the uncomfortable temperatures. Perhaps after sharing in the burden of believers whose need far outweighs our own we would view these things as tangible reminders that we are doing without a little because we helped our brethren who are doing without so much more.

Note: If you are serious about helping churches around the world then contact one of these missions agencies. I’m sure the folks there would be happy to help you get connected.

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A Modern Baptist Catechism

NEW FROM FOR ONE BOOKS: A MODERN BAPTIST CATECHISM

For One Books is proud to announce the publication of, A Modern Baptist Catechism.

A Modern Baptist Catechism is a blend of the classic catechisms written by Baptist theologians of the past like Benjamin Keach, John Bunyan, and Charles Spurgeon — only written in a style that will be more understandable to the modern reader. It is a summary of the historic doctrines that Baptists have cherished for centuries, but don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of some of them before — many churches stopped teaching them years ago in order to be more man-centered and “relevant to the culture.”

But it is time to rediscover what Baptists have long believed — Scripture isn’t man-centered, it is God-centered and there is nothing more “relevant” to your life than knowing the great truths God has revealed about Himself in His Word.

There are no “new” truths here. Just the old ones rediscovered.

Visit this online bookstore to read some sample pages or purchase your own copy of A Modern Baptist Catechism.

It’s election time — how should we pray?

Every election season the call to prayer goes out.  We should pray for our country, we are told. We should pray for our leaders. We should pray for the election. And one of the verses that is usually trotted out to support this call is 2 Chronicles 7:14…

“…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14

People tend to think this verse applies to their land in their day. I know many Americans think this. I used to. I used to think that this verse meant that if Christians in America would repent and pray that God would heal America.

I was wrong.

2 Chronicles 7:14 has a specific context. Do you know it? Do you know who spoke these words and to whom they were spoken? Do you know the occasion? Context is the key to understanding Scripture. Let’s take a look at the context…

“Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.’” — 2 Chronicles 7:12-15

God spoke these words to Solomon immediately after the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. This message was specific to Israel and the Temple. It was specific with regard to things that Israel might suffer and to prayers offered in the Temple. It has nothing to do with America. (Click on the image below to learn more about Solomon’s Temple).

Max Lucado, an author and well-known figure in evangelicalism, has issued a call for “40 Days of Prayer for the U.S.A.” He used 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Now, I certainly agree that Christians should be praying in the days leading up to this fall’s election. But I think we should pray how we’ve been taught to pray by our Lord…

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” — Matthew 6:7-13

According to Jesus our focus should be God’s glory and His kingdom. We should earnestly desire that His will be accomplished in His way. God raises up empires when it suits His purposes. He also destroys empires when it suits His purposes. Yet, we tend to pray according to our desires. We want America to be strong, safe and prosperous — and we pray to that end. Max Lucado’s call to prayer asks you to pray for three things:

  • Unite us
  • Strengthen us
  • Appoint and anoint our next president

In case you missed it, the acronym is USA. On it’s surface that prayer seems to be aimed at America’s glory — not God’s.

What if the time has come for persecution to come to the church in America? What if God’s will is to purge His church of the unregenerate? What if His will is to make life so difficult for the church that the goats go running into the night, leaving only Christ’s sheep? What if, like Egypt, God raised up the United States so that by her destruction He might be glorified? Our focus should be so fiercely kingdom-centered that America is a mere afterthought (if that).

Regardless of who wins the next presidential election, there are things that will be just as true then as they are now…

  • The world (including America) will still be a mess.
  • America will still only be a temporary, earthly kingdom — it will cease to exist one day.
  • Christ will still be King.
  • God’s kingdom will still advance.
  • His will will still be done.

Maybe it’s time for us to pray accordingly. You know, like Jesus taught us.

How serious is gossip, really?

We like to joke about gossip. Probably because we like to gossip — and joking about it helps us to take it lightly. But, is this something we need to take lightly?

Bill Mounce, a noted Greek scholar, takes a look at gossip on his blog, “koinonia”, by asking the question, “Are gossips in heaven?” He answers the question by examining what Scripture has to say about the subject.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” — James 1:26

I won’t share with you everything he said about gossip, but I will give you a couple of takeaways from his article that may help you understand the tone with which he approaches this topic. He points out the impact and implications of gossip for both the church and the individual…

  1. What Gossip means for the church: When considering what sins are the most destructive in the church, Mounce said, “Gossip, in my mind, is number one. There is nothing that tears down and destroys faster. Not divorce, Not sexual misconduct. As I said, I believe gossip is the native tongue of the church. It rips and shreds. The church should be the safest place of all, and yet most have found that it is one of the most dangerous.”
  2. What Gossip means for the individual: When considering the implications of gossip for an individual, Mounce said, “So gossips, hear this. You can go to church, sing loudly, give money, volunteer in the nursery, led a Bible study, wear your Christianity on your sleeve, be an elder — but no matter what you do, no matter what people think of you, it is all a sham, worthless. Your gossip invalidates everything you do. At least, that’s what the Bible teaches.”

Still want to make jokes about gossip?

Me neither.

 

A golden opportunity

We have learned in recent months that President Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform law requires employers to provide abortion services for employees — even employers with deep-seated, religious convictions against abortion. Americans are being forced to fund activity they regard as morally repugnant, even criminal. The federal government of the United States doesn’t care.

The matter has gone to court.

President Obama’s attorneys are arguing that government can “override” your religion. How they square that with the first amendment to the constitution is a mystery. Nevertheless, the point of this post is NOT to outline the egregious violations of both the constitution and the natural rights of men in the implementation of Obamacare (to adequately outline these violations would take multiple posts). No, the point of THIS post is to point out to my brothers and sisters in Christ the incredible opportunity our Lord is placing right before us.

Recall the apostles in Acts 5 who were preaching in the Temple. People were being healed and saved. This made the high priest quite jealous and he had the apostles arrested and imprisoned. An angel of the Lord released them and told them to go back to the Temple to preach, which they did.

The high priest brought the apostles back in. Let’s pick the story up there…

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. — Acts 5:27-41

Please note that when the laws of men contradict the laws of God, they are null and void. The high priest ordered the apostles not to preach in Jesus’ name. He had no authority to give such an order because they had orders from a higher authority to do just that.

Likewise, Christians in America now have a golden opportunity to disregard a law our government has no authority to issue. We have been commanded by God not to murder. And make no mistake about this: Abortion IS murder. We are to have no part in it.

You may be wondering, if Christian businessmen disregard the mandate to provide abortion services to their employees won’t that be costly?

You bet it will.

They could be fined. They could lose their businesses. They could even go to jail. And therein lies the golden opportunity — the opportunity to put feet to our faith. Standing up for Christ when it is difficult is what really sets us apart from the world and calls attention to our Lord. Besides, the apostles in Acts 5 give us the perfect example of what our mindset should be in trying circumstances. Please notice the last sentence in the passage above — “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

An honor to suffer?

Yep.

But, some will argue, in today’s society resisting these laws will be characterized as intolerant and narrow minded. It won’t really bring honor to our Lord.

I direct your attention to the apostle Paul at Mars Hill. In Acts 17 we read about Paul’s encounter with the philosophers of his day. Men who sat around trying to impress one another with their thinking (not unlike modern day politicians). You should understand that before he addressed these men, Paul was fully aware that the gospel would sound foolish to them. But he went on ahead and preached, his faithfulness to God being his primary concern…

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” — Acts 17:22-31

These men were no more likely to accept Paul’s message than are those in our day. Yet notice what happened…

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed… — Acts 17:32-34

The same will happen today. If Christians stand against unjust laws in favor of obeying God they will be mocked. Count on it. But, others will want to hear more. More importantly, some will believe.

Living out our faith as a testimony to Christ has never been an easy thing. Jesus never said it would be. But, for the sake of those who will witness our testimony, who will see how we react in the midst of suffering, we should be willing to endure all things. This is why Paul, while wearing chains in a Roman prison, was able to write this to young Timothy…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. — 2 Timothy 2:8-10

Yes, brethren, we are witnessing the erosion of liberty in America — and what a wonderful opportunity it is.

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