What’s Going On with This Insane World? – August 28, 2020

Just when we think that the year cannot get any stranger, another day occurs. At the end of May, in response to George Floyd’s murder, riots broke out across the country. However, it quickly became evident that there was more going on. Not long after this, a group of anarchists took over a section of downtown Seattle and claimed it as an autonomous zone. Finally, after a few months, when things seemed to be settling a bit, another black man was shot by police in Kenosha, WI. Details are still coming out about this police shooting, and we would be wise to wait for information before we make any dogmatic statements regarding the shooting itself. However, this did not stop the riots from picking up with gusto.

Perhaps the most glaring aspect in the midst of this crisis is the lack of clarity on what exactly justice means. For the past two days, most professional sporting events have been cancelled as the teams “stand in solidarity against racism.” They state, “Something must change.” But when asked what must change, then the answers begin to wildly vary (if a cognizant answer is given at all). This is a microcosm of society as a whole. Opinions vary from eliminating the police to encouraged police brutality and everything in between. As believers, this can be an incredibly confusing situation. How did we get here as a society? How is it possible that all of society has seemingly lost their minds? This question comes into stark clarity when we consider that for the past few months, churches have been discouraged (and in some states outright banned) from meeting. They have been called dangerous health hazards. Simultaneously, these riots have been labelled as “peaceful protests,” and have been encouraged (and even at times participated in) by the ruling authorities. How could this happen? And what is the answer? How should we as Christians respond?

Over the past few weeks, I have really been contemplating the question, “How did we get to the place where society has lost its mind?” As with everything, the Bible contains the clear answer. Romans 1 reads like a modern assessment of today’s culture.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

For decades, our culture has suppressed the truth of God. Turning to humanism, our culture placed the individual as the absolute authority and denied the truths of Scripture. With each step of unrighteousness, they moved further from that which holds society together. For several decades, the post-modern idea of relative truth has been mainstreamed. Today we are reaping the natural consequences of that view. When truth does not exist, nothing can be defined. Ideas like justice have no foundation upon which to stand. Justice becomes a codeword for whatever the individual thinks or feels should happen. And so, God’s wrath is poured out on that culture as it self-destructs through a denial of truth. This leads then to,

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

When truth is denied, thinking become futile. Without its foundation, rational thought becomes impossible. Culture seems insane today, because, by definition, it is. The denial of absolute truth has led to a darkening of their hearts and a futility of minds. They relish and promote evil and begin to think in ways that seem to defy logic itself. But society does not recognize this insanity. Rather, they call it wisdom. Sound like today? Yet the slope does not end:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The only natural outcome is for society to follow the logical conclusions of their thinking which leads to anarchy. Society becomes filled with all manner of wickedness. Verses 29-32 read like a description of our day. A day in which lawlessness is encouraged and morality is discouraged. Murder, deceit, maliciousness, arrogance, despising authority, and ruthlessness reign. This is the natural outcome of a society which denies God, Truth, and His Power. So how did we get here? Romans 1 provides the answer to this as well. The entire section we have referenced begins with this statement:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

How did we get here? The church forfeited its power. In an effort to seek relevance in this society, the church turned to all manner of other power sources. Some churches (from Al Sharpton to Robert Jeffress) turned their pulpits into political dogma platforms. Other churches went with the entertainment and seeker sensitive model. Programs, plays, dances, music, hip attire, and coffee bars became the means to relevance and church growth. Still other churches focused on the “social gospel.” God came to change lives so they must enact this social change. But all these views forfeited the power of the church: the gospel.

The gospel is not a popular message. It begins with the offensive news that we are not good people. In fact, we are depraved and absolutely wicked. Only when we recognize this and surrender our lives completely to Christ, can the saving grace of Christ purchased through the cross justify us, regenerate us, and sanctify us. The church needs to emphasize the gospel (found only in the Word of God) for power. The church has lost its power and culture has suffered. As we look around and ask the question, “How did we get here?” we must begin by looking at the mirror. The blame lies at the feet of the church.

Next week we will seek to begin answering the question, “How do we fix this? What’s the answer?” As you have probably deduced from this letter, the answer does not lie in politics, police reform, or education. The answer must begin with the church and the gospel. The church must return to its source of power: The Word of God. And we must recognize our responsibility as individuals to regularly share the gospel.

The Miracle of Regeneration – August 21, 2020

Often, we view our salvation in a way that is too narrow. We view our salvation only in terms of our justification. Justification is the declarative aspect of salvation. When I turn to Christ for salvation, He declares me to be righteous. On the basis of Christ’s payment on the cross, God releases me from the punishment of my sin, and instead places it onto Christ. I am now justified. Many view salvation only through the lens of justification. Viewing salvation only in terms of justification leads to two damaging outcomes. First, when we limit salvation to justification alone, this turns salvation into simply a way to escape the eternal damnation of hell. From this narrow view comes the belief referred to as “easy believism.” All one must do is pray a prayer, and now they are no longer going to hell. According to this view, following the way of discipleship is optional. Recommended, but if ignored that person is still going to heaven.

Many choose the route of not following the way of discipleship because it is too hard. This is due to the second unfortunate outcome. And it is this second outcome I want to focus on. They have not been regenerated. When one views salvation only through the lens of justification, they miss the glories of regeneration. Now, justification is a glorious aspect of salvation. It is an amazing work of grace by God. Through Christ, I am declared righteous. But there is a second and equally amazing act of grace by God in salvation: regeneration. It is through regeneration that I am able to actually become righteous. Prior to salvation, I was spiritually dead (Eph. 4:1-3). I was separated from God by my sin. I did not even have the ability to do anything that pleased God (Rom. 3:10-18). This is why we cannot be saved by works of righteousness we have done (Titus 3:5). We are incapable of doing any actual acts of righteousness. Even the good things we do are stained by our sin and rebellion against God. When I come to God for salvation, accepting Him as my Lord (Rom. 10:9-13), I was regenerated. This means I was made alive in my spirit. Jesus referred to this as being born again (John 3). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, my spirit was moved from a placed of separation from God into a place of fellowship with God (Titus 3:5). But this new man is now able to do acts of righteousness.

Through regeneration, I am now able to walk the road of discipleship. In fact, not only am I able, it is now who I really am. I have been reborn as a disciple of Christ! This has several important ramifications. First, this means that I don’t have to sin. Prior to salvation, I was a slave to sin and sin was who I was. Now I am by nature a child of God and to sin actually goes against my nature. So while I will always struggle with it while in my flesh, I don’t have to do it. Second, this means that I can point to my desire to fight and overcome sin as a mark of my salvation. Third, this means that we can know people by their fruit. One who has been born again will seek to walk with God.

So, where do you stand? Have you truly been saved and are you seeking to live by your true nature and fight sin? If you really have no desire for spiritual things, you need to examine if you are truly saved. Further, you can win this battle against sin. You have been made into a new person. Finally, this means that there is more than this world. We have been born into a new world. One that lasts for eternity. So live for that one and don’t get discouraged by this one.
– Pastor Dave

A Promise for Success – August 14, 2020

What does it take to be a success in life? There are a variety of answers to this question: Hard work, initiative, creativity, luck, education, etc. The Bible gives a very different answer. In Joshua 1:8, God informed Joshua that success in life is the result of meditating on the Bible. In that verse, we see that we are to meditate on the Bible continually (Day and Night). Meditation on the Word is the idea of mulling over something. Many of you have worked with cows. You understand their digestive system. They have multiple stomachs and eat the same meal over and over. This is a picture of meditation. We are to feed on the Word, and then go over it again and again throughout the day. When this happens, the Bible dominates our thinking.

Further we are to do this with purpose. God told Joshua that he was to meditate on the Bible so that he would obey it. Too many of us know the Bible while allowing it to impact our lives very little. Part of are meditation should be the working out of the question, “So what?” Paul informed Timothy that the Word is profitable for every area of life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Peter informs us that it contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We need to see the Bible as necessary for our everyday lives.

When we do this, then God promises that we will be a success in life. The Psalmist in Psalm 1 states that we will be like a well watered tree. We will flourish and thrive. Sadly, Christians have bought into cultures answers alone for success. Hard work is important, initiative is vital, creativity is helpful, luck is nice, education is necessary, but none of these promise success. Only mediation on the Bible brings the promise of success. Yet, Christians go day after day without reading their Bibles. This should not be. So, start today. And when you miss a day, start again. Ask questions of the text. Mull it over. Be amazed at the riches you find there.

How Great Thou Art – August 7, 2020

This week I was reminded of the old hymn: How Great Thou Art.

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed,

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

Through this unusual time, we find it easy to lose sight of our great God. Economic tolls, virus reports, government orders, media reports, and school questions cause us anxiety and frustration. Often we turn to social media or the news to vent our pent up feelings. But what if we did something different? This week I had the opportunity to unplug in God’s amazing creation and I was reminded of His mighty power. The God who created this amazing world with the word of His mouth is certainly in control of this current situation. So instead of frustration and anxiety, go out tonight and look up into the night sky. As you look at the stars, consider their maker. Go into the woods and observe the animals and plants. Be reminded of their maker. Go to the beach and watch the waves reach the shore. Be reminded of God’s amazing control. While the world seems to fall apart, God keeps all things together through His own power. Remember our great God.

Peace in a World of Anxiety – July 31, 2020

Anxiety is a major problem today. It is estimated that 20% of adults suffer from some form of neurotic anxiety. Why do we struggle so much with this issue? I often wonder if it is not an issue of control. We fear things we cannot control. We fear harm, the future, the and the present. Anxious thoughts keep us up at night, dominate our thinking through the day, and can even have harmful physical affects. The more we try not to think about those things, the more we do. Over the past six months, it seems as though these anxious thoughts have increased. Is our job safe? Will our kids go to school? How will we pay our bills? What will happen in our country? Will we get sick? What kind of place will our kids grow up in?

How can we overcome this anxiety? Modern psychology seeks to treat this anxiety with medication. They correctly understand that if you feel nothing you will not feel anxiety. But then you will not feel anything. What if there is a better way? Scripture contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As a result, it contains an answer for us in this as well. The cure for anxiety is found in two glorious passages. The first passage is Hebrews 12:1-3. In this text we are given instruction so that, “We will not grow weary or faint in our minds” (v. 3). When life overwhelms us, God has given us an answer. In the first two verses of Hebrews 12 we are told to lay aside every weight (the things that steal our attention and affection from God even though they may not be sinful) and every sin. Instead we are to focus on Jesus. We are to focus on His person, His cross work, and His position as sovereign ruler of all things. In other words, we need to develop a proper view of God. We are reminded that He created it all, He sustains it all, He redeemed us, and He sovereignly reigns. While our circumstances may be out of our control, they are never out of God’s control.

This then leads to the second passage: Philippians 4:6-7.  In this text, Paul instructs us not to be anxious about anything. Instead we are to take these burdens to God. We are to do this through prayer (taking the requests to God and sharing our burden with him) and supplication (coming in such a way as to acknowledge that we are completely dependent on Him). There is a glorious promise if we do this. God will keep our hearts and minds. He will protect us. He will care for us. He will not let us go. And the result is peace. When you are anxious, adjust your focus from this world to God, and take your requests to Him. We have a God who is completely sovereign and unendingly loving. Don’t look to social media; look to God. You can find peace.

Our Brains: A Tribute to God’s Glory – July 24, 2020

The brain is an amazing creation of God. Thousands of individual neurons fire electric pulses to surrounding neurons through synapses causing the various functions of the body and memory. Further the brain is divided into various regions which control various functions and communicate those functions instantaneously to the rest of the brain and body. All the while, the brain works simultaneously and mysteriously with the immaterial part of us, our soul. Scientists search aimlessly to explain how such a complex organism exists and works through evolution. However, we understand that someone far greater is responsible for all this amazing design. All of creation screams out the glory of God. Our complex brain function stands as a tribute to His amazing power and design. It also reminds us of God’s daily care for us. If God created our brains so complex and so perfect, why would He leave us or forsake us? God’s intricate creation argues not only for His power and sovereignty as Creator, but also His love and compassion for man. Often our anxiety lies at the feet of a faulty view of God. We forget that He is in complete control. We forget that He is good. We forget that He holds all power. So as you read this, and the neurons are firing in your brain, processing what is here, remember the all-powerful, all-loving, ingenious God who gave you this brain, loved you so much He sent His Son to die for you. What an amazing God we serve!

The Self Esteem Culture – July 17, 2020

Over the past few weeks, I have heard these terms used a lot: Self-Care, Self-Image, Self-Esteem, Authentic-Self, etc. These terms have drifted into christianity as well through many of the TBN preachers and the so-called girlfriend theology of individuals like Rachel Hollis. How are Christians to think about these things? If we are speaking of self-care in the sense that we are evaluating our problems and rooting out sin in our lives, then we would agree whole-heartedly. If we are talking about setting biblical goals regarding serving others or growing our relationship with God, then this is wonderful. However, if we are speaking (as Hollis and the TBN preacher are) of seeking to care for ourselves by demanding that the world conform to our happiness and setting self-centered hedonistic goals, then the consequences are eternally dire. For this fails to align with what God says about me. Romans 3 informs us that there is no one good, not even one! That includes me. I am not actually special. Except through Christ. When I find my identity in Christ, that is when I discover my immeasurable worth. Christ declares me valuable. Not because of my intrinsic worth, but because of the value He places on me. The result is that I should seek to pass that value on to others through sacrificial service (Ephesians 2:10). The best self-care, the way to come to a right self-image, or to build the best self-esteem, begins by denying myself and taking up my cross to follow Jesus. But when we do this, we discover the source of true lasting peace and joy. 
As a past script, I would recommend to all our ladies a helpful podcast for ladies produced by The Master’s University called Women’s Hope. You can find it by clicking here or on any podcast directory. 
~ Pastor Dave

You Are What You Consume – July 10, 2020

Every Sunday my phone gives me a report on my screen time usage the past week. This past week it made me wonder what today’s world would be like without the 24 hour news cycle or social media. The more these venues are consumed, the more it seems one’s anxiety is raised. I have observed that as this becomes the primary source of one’s information and determines one’s reactions they respond with either anger or anxiety. As believers we are called to something different. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 informs us that all of Scripture is inspired (created and determined) by God. As a result it is sufficient for us. It informs our thinking, addresses our failures, points us in the right direction, and equips us to follow that direction. Paul then tells us it is all we need to be completely equipped for the task God has called us to. As a result we are to give ourselves to the Word. Sadly, too many Christians don’t read the Word. day after day goes by without picking it up. We feed ourselves news and social media while ignoring the Word and then wonder at our anger and anxiety. Most of those that do pick up the Word either don’t actually read the Word (but instead read books about the Word) or do a quick five minute read and call it good. But is this sufficient? On the other hand, I have found that when I make the Word my primary source of information and allow it to determine what I think on any subject, I am amazingly calm. So what would happen in your life and in our church if we decided to make the Word central to our everyday lives? My goal this week is this: When I am tempted to turn on the news or look at social media, I will read the Word first. Will you join me?
~ Pastor Dave

God Bless the USA – July 3, 2020

Tomorrow we celebrate the founding of this great nation. While this year contained many disturbing events and celebrations this year might be a little different, we have much to be thankful for and to celebrate. Tonight and tomorrow, as we hear old classic patriotic songs like God Bless America or newer versions like Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, we are reminded that we live in an amazing country. We continue to live in a country with unprecedented religious freedom. We are able to worship without fear of oppression or imprisonment. We have the privilege of participating in the governing of our country through our voting and advocating. We ought to take that privilege seriously. As election day draws closer, we ought to be as informed as possible with the commitment to participate knowledgably. We ought to regularly communicate with our elected leaders. We ought to advocate for the change of unjust laws. And we ought to pass on this patriotism to the next generation. Yet as Christians, we have a greater responsibility. The moral challenges we face as a country are not because sinners sin. The moral challenges we face are because Christians have not been interested in being Christian. We have been more concerned with relevancy than with holiness. We have been more concerned with nationalism than with evangelism. The greatest contribution we can make to this country is to live out our daily lives according the Word of God and to share the gospel regularly. If we love this country, let us seek its salvation through the Gospel. If we love this country, let us live and act like Christians. If we love this country, let us live for the Heavenly Kingdom. I believe that we live in the greatest country in the history of the world. So, let us celebrate joyfully with thanksgiving to God for allowing us to live in this great nation. Let us seek her good. And let us not be discouraged but celebrate with hope. 

June 26, 2020 – A Tribute To My Parents

Yesterday, my parents celebrated their 43rd anniversary. While they are by no means perfect, Growing up, I was able to observe their relationship and learn from it. I learned what a successful relationship entails: things like biblically resolving conflict, remaining faithful, exhibiting and receiving love, and sacrificially serving one another. I have watched by dad selflessly care for my mother through two battles with cancer. I have watched my mother pinch pennies to provide not just for the family’s needs but also many of our wants. I was directed towards spiritual growth through their commitment to God and the church. While my dad worked long hours year after year, both my parents did their best to be at my athletic events and my sister’s music concerts. A memory I will always hold dear occurred in my junior year of college. My college soccer team again competed at the national championship tournament in Kissimmee, Florida. As we warmed up prior to the first game I thought I heard my parents’ voices. As I played, I became more convinced I was right. Sure enough, when the game ended, there they were walking across the field. Unannounced, they had flown in for the weekend to watch me. In my desk I still have the picture taken at the end of that tournament, in which I am holding the national championship banner with my parents.
Why do I mention this? Because the nuclear family is the creation of God. God intended children to be raised by both their parents. Through this arrangement, the children naturally learn important life lessons. Specifically, how to interact with others and in the Christian family, how to interact with God. Husbands it is vital that you heed the commands of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3. You must learn to lead your family towards Christlikeness. You must love your wife and serve her the way that Christ loves and gave himself for the church. You must learn to understand everything about your wife. Your children are watching. Mothers, you must also learn to heed the commands of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3. You must learn how to lovingly submit to your husband’s leadership. You must care well for your family. You should be a picture of grace and care. You children are watching.
Many of the social ills our society faces today can be traced back to the breakdown of the family. Children are being raised without fathers and are left adrift to fend for themselves. Children are being raised without mothers and are failing to learn empathy and care. Left to fend for themselves, missing the God ordained structures, these individuals live out their own fleshly desires and chase the wind. Now we are reaping the whirlwind. If you are struggling in your marriage, there is no shame in seeking help. If you have a strong marriage, guard it well. For the sake of the next generation, let us be a church that values the family.
~ Pastor Dave