Your Church Might Not Be As Pro-Life As You Think It Is

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Is your church pro-life?

Are you sure about your answer?

Perhaps you need to take a closer look.

Sure, your church hates abortion. At least once a year, there’s a sermon against it. Folks from your congregation might even participate in the occasional pro-life rally at the state capital. You all hate the idea of some girl, somewhere in the country, giving up her baby to the abortion industry. Everything inside of you wishes that the nameless teenage girl, in some unknown part of our nation would keep her baby.

But what about the girl that you do know? You know, the girl that sits a few pews over from you on Sunday mornings? The scared teenager who will no doubt be keeping her baby but has no idea what to do beyond that? What about her?

Will the self-righteous looks and passive aggressive comments from some of the stone throwers in your church make this young girl wonder if keeping her baby was the right decision?

Will the leaders of your church care more about teaching her a lesson than they do restoring her in grace?

Is there an environment in your church where those who have made the same mistakes feel free to come alongside this girl to walk with her in love?

Will you help her with diapers and a crib and babysitting or will you leave her to herself because, “that’s what she deserves”?

There’s this philosophy among guys in the military. Leave no man behind. In battle, no matter the danger and regardless of damage that has already been inflicted, men do not leave their brothers on the battlefield. They run back to them. They get them up off of their feet. If they have to, they drag or carry them back to safety while dodging enemy fire. No man left behind.

Sadly, the Christian army is often very different. We ignore our wounded. We leave them to suffer and die alone in enemy territory. Or even worse, we shoot them.

Chances are, that pregnant teenage girl in your church knows that she’s blown it. She doesn’t need your daily reminders. What she needs is to be reminded of the gospel of grace. She needs to be reminded that Jesus came to save sinners, not hang out with perfect people. She needs to know that her sin is not beyond the reach of Jesus’ nail-scarred hand. She needs to hear passages like Matthew 1 preached where we see a pretty messed up family tree that eventually led to the birth of a perfect Savior.

I hope that your church is pro-life. But I hope that your church’s pro-life stance extends beyond a voting booth or a political rally and bleeds over into the next pew where a scared teenage mother-to-be is wondering what the future holds.

I pray that you are there to show that girl that no matter what happens with her and the life inside of her, there will be plenty of grace in their future.

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About That Mosque In Rural Georgia

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There’s a big fight going on in my part of the world. Some people want to build a mosque in rural Newton County, Georgia. Most of the people in Newton County, Georgia don’t want the building there. At least that’s how it seems. At first, those in opposition cited traffic concerns but at a recent public meeting, the real reason became apparent. The people of Newton County don’t want a Muslim place of worship in their community.

The will of the people is understandable here. After all, Islam hasn’t done the best job of separating itself from bloodthirsty lunatics. On the surface at least, one can understand why the people of Newton County wouldn’t want a Muslim place of worship in their community.

But that’s just on the surface. A second look reveals that allowing the government to decide which religion can or cannot put up a building is a very slippery slope. Beyond the rhetoric, fear and tribalism there is the following reality: when one religion is banned by the government, no religion is safe.

Islam is a lie. More than that, it is a demonic lie. Millions have been and continue to be deceived by it. I would love to see the religion wiped off of the map. But I don’t want that to happen because of a local government with a new ordinance or a federal government wishing to make “the sand glow.” I’d rather see Islam choked out by the gospel of Jesus Christ, the One True God. One day it will be.

There are a lot of houses of worship in my community. The one closest to my house teaches the false doctrine that Jesus was created. Many others, with more socially acceptable titles on the sign out front, haven’t preached the gospel in decades. If Jesus showed up this Sunday, they’d form a committee and have him voted out. There are other churches where the gospel of salvation by good works and the promise of health and wealth are boldly proclaimed. For them, the God of the universe is the means to the end of their best life now.

I pray for these churches and houses of worship. For some, I pray that they would shut down because everyone there comes to realize the lies they have believed and the truth of the gospel. For others, I pray for revival and a new start. But what I’m praying for can only be done by God, not the government.

I get it. Most terrorists are Muslims, not Jehovah’s Witnesses. All the people in Newton County want to do, I’m told, is keep terrorism out of their community. They don’t have a beef with any other religions.

Consider this.

I’m the pastor of a Baptist Church. I frequently preach that homosexuality is a sin but that homosexuals are not beyond God’s grace. I believe in male leadership. I am very particular about what wedding ceremonies, even the heterosexual ones, I will perform. I believe that every word of the Bible is God’s true word. There are some instances where I would be forced to tell government officials, “I must obey God rather than man.” And I’m not alone. There are millions like me.

But do you know what all of that makes us in the eyes of our increasingly godless culture?

Terrorists.

Why do you think that peaceful, evangelical church planters have such a hard time finding a building in the northeastern United States? Because the angry mobs see them as intolerant. Or as being on the wrong side of history. Or hateful. Or just plain old terrorists.

The First Amendment of our Constitution does not speak of the freedom of the Baptist religion. Or the Methodist religion. Or a religion that we’re more familiar with and that’s less scary. It speaks of the freedom of religion. Period.

My dad used to tell me that democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner. Right now in Newton County, the wolf mob is friendly to Christianity. But we would be foolish to believe that it will stay that way. The tide has already turned against us in a significant portion of our country.

So if some group decides to build a mosque in your community, let them do it. The spread of Islam will not come to a stop because of a town hall meeting. But, at least in my part of the world, it can slow down when Christians start viewing Muslims as lost sheep in need of a Savior rather than pests in need of an eviction notice.

Freedom is scary. It comes with risks. There is danger involved. Some people can’t handle living under a government that isn’t big enough to keep them safe in any and every circumstance. As a result, they are left with a very large government that is big enough to protect them from any and every religion.

I hope that the mosque in Newton County gets built.

But, somewhere along the way, I hope that it gets repurposed because the families who worship there come to see the supremacy of Jesus Christ over Allah. That can’t happen through a government ordinance.

Only the Holy Spirit can make it happen. That can be a scary reality.

But when we rely on government to do what only God can, we are left with something even more frightening.

Tyranny.

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Don’t Waste Your Sermon

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He told me that the church service was a complete failure. His words crushed me. But after hearing his complaint, I had to agree. I think that’s why his words still weigh so heavy on me, several days later.

The man wasn’t talking about the church where I pastor. It was another church, in another town. The man’s family had been through a lot of adversity in recent months. It was more adversity than most of us could could ever imagine. Now, just as things were starting to settle down, it was time for my friend’s son to move away to college. The whole family loaded up and made a weekend event out of it. They wrapped it all up on Sunday morning by going to a church that I had recommended.

I’m somewhat familiar with this church. I’ve visited it several times. I knew that it would be a good place for a young college student to get plugged in. That’s something that I desperately want for students who are leaving our church for college. This family, perhaps more than anyone I’ve ever known, needed to hear an encouraging word from the Bible.

Instead, they got an infomercial.

When my friend gave me his assessment of the service he said, “The preacher never cracked open the Bible one time and all he did was ask for money and try to sell stuff.”

Pastor, you have one job to which all of your other ministerial responsibilities take a back seat. Preach the word. But sometimes we get too distracted to obey that simple command. We get distracted with buildings and budgets and chasing relevance.

And the sermon moves to the backseat.

Or into the trunk, bound and gagged.

And the people suffer.

I recently met a man whose daughter had just been killed. I’ve been thinking a lot about him and how the church that I pastor can reach out to him. To the best of my knowledge, he’s not connected to a church. I have no reason to believe that he is a Christian. I hope that he shows up to our church one Sunday. Or another church for that matter.

But when he does, I pray that he is not met with a sermon about how everyone needs to start giving more so that we can build our new building. I hope that he does not encounter a sermon about financial blessings or taking your sex life to the next level. I hope that he hears the gospel of joy and peace and reconciliation that comes through the forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ.

More and more, I’m starting to wonder if I’m setting my hopes too high. After all, new gymnasiums don’t pay for themselves.

A mentor once told me that there is a broken heart on every pew. It grieves me to think about all of the pain that is in our churches. But it grieves me even more when I hear stories about the supposed remedies many of those churches are distributing (or selling) to those broken hearts.

You might have a great music scene at your church.

Your church might have a really swell building.

And your church might be the home of a few celebrities.

But if the Bible is never opened to show hurting people and sinners the living hope that is available only through Christ Jesus, it’s not a church that you have. What you have is a civic organization.

Hurting people do not need a civic organization.

Ultimately, the do not need a slickly produced concert.

And they could not possibly care less about your new building.

What they need is to be reminded that there is a just and holy God who, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we get to call Father.

And pastor, if they don’t hear that from you, who are they going to hear it from?

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:14 (ESV)

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What America Needs More Than Trump And Clinton

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America doesn’t need Hillary Clinton.

America doesn’t need Donald Trump.

I’m a Southern Baptist pastor so here’s the part where I’m supposed to say that America needs Jesus. While I believe that to be true, that’s not the angle I’m going with this. Of course we need Jesus. But quite often, Jesus likes to make himself known through his people. Even a quick reading of the Bible reveals flawed followers of God who were beams of light in a dark world.

That’s what America needs.

America needs brave young people like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who remain standing while everyone else bows. And make no mistake, there are a host of 90-foot statues to kneel before today. The most prominent one in our culture is naked and painted in rainbow colors. We need young people with the courage and love to say, while standing outnumbered, “I love you but I worship a different God.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)

But that isn’t going to happen if parents care more about raising great athletes who make the family a lot of money than they do bringing up men and women with godly character. And it isn’t going to happen if students at church are fed a steady diet of entertainment and sermons about following their dreams. We need young people who stand for truth when everyone else bows but that only happens if the parents and pastors of those young people are committed to teaching them the truth.

America could use people like Daniel who aren’t afraid of the threats of the tolerance police because they know that the Lion they belong to is far more powerful than the lions sent to kill them. When the world opens up our closets to find a skeleton or two, they need to see us in there praying (Daniel 6:4-5). And when praying suddenly becomes an act of terror, they need to see us doing it anyway. Continually. With the windows opened.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Daniel 6:10 (ESV)

America needs prophetic voices like John the Baptist who aren’t afraid to speak up against evil, even when it means a trip to the guillotine. Far too many of our pastors are too preoccupied with building their brand or being buddies with the world to go through the trouble of being a light in the world. Others have no problem speaking out against the evils of the world but they do so in a way that leaves them only preaching to the choir. And that choir is made up of their own family members. Yes, I’m looking at you, Westboro Baptist Church.

John was different. He wasn’t afraid to confront sin but he did so in a way that the very man he confronted wanted to hear more. That’s because, unlike many today, John was fueled more by grace than anger. America could use a voice like that today.

And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. Mark 6:19-20 (ESV)

America needs churches filled with people like the Apostle Paul who care more about winning people to Christ than they do winning people to their favorite political party (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). The church today has consumed itself with either fearing evil or embracing the supposed lesser version of it. We could do worse than praying for the human instruments of that evil to come to grips with their sin, repent and put their trust in Christ (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Paul had to stand trial for the terrible crime of lovingly proclaiming the gospel. As he stood before the king, he didn’t respond with the proverbial middle finger to the government, as many are quick to do today. Rather, he responded with compassion, boldness and gospel truth.

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Acts 26:28-29 (ESV)

America doesn’t need Hillary Clinton.

America doesn’t need Donald Trump.

And America doesn’t simply need a better candidate. The best president history has ever known would have no real success in leading a people whose hearts are turned from God. Our Lord can work through any means he chooses. He has worked through tyrants before to accomplish his will. More frequently, he works through his people. But he doesn’t work through his people so that he can make America great again.

His aim is to accomplish his kingdom purposes. And regardless of the opposition, his kingdom purposes will be accomplished. The only question is this. Will we be a part of his kingdom purposes or will we be too busy clinging to our own tiny, crumbling kingdoms?

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The Devil’s Dictionary Of American Religious Words And Phrases

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With words and phrases, there are the actual definitions and the practical definitions. The actual definitions are the ones that have been assigned to words for centuries. The practical definitions are what we really mean. Here’s a look at what a lot of people really mean when they use certain religious terms.

Sin – an archaic term that has largely fallen out of use in modern times but is occasionally used to describe how hot it is outside or how bad people other than me are

Sample Sentence 1: “Man, it’s hot as sin out here.”

Sample Sentence 2: “Jesus didn’t care near as much about sin as today’s Christians do.”

Church – a group of people with nothing better to do with their weekends than sitting around with a bunch of hypocrites

Sample Sentence: “I’m glad I’m better than all of those people at that church who think that they’re better than everyone.”

Hypocrite – anyone who disagrees with me

Sample Sentence: “No I do not have a meth problem. I have it completely under control. Now let’s talk about all of those soft drinks you gulp down, hypocrite!”

Bible – an instrument intended for selective use in order to win an argument or prove a point; anything more than selective use and argument winning is only for hypocrites

Sample Sentence: “Well, the Bible says, ‘Judge not lest ye be not judgeth,’ so take that you block-headed little fool!”

Pharisee – any person whose devotion or self-discipline forces me to come to grips with my own lack of meaningful devotion and/or self-discipline

Sample Sentence: “Yeah, I guess he’s an alright guy but he’s sort of a Pharisee. I mean look at him. He’s been married to the same woman for over five years. Oh, and that perfect little haircut. Give me a break!”

Organic – any music, teaching, book or worship service that meets my approval and contains no unnecessary ingredients such as people, music and/or ideas that I do not like

Sample Sentence: “I love our small group because it’s very organic. I just hope no one else comes and messes things up.”

Judgmental – when one person addresses the sin of another person, regardless of the sin and no matter how horrific the sin is

Sample Sentence: “Stop being so judgmental! What I do with my neighbor’s wife at the pool hall is my business.”

Authentic – when I or someone I approve of indulges in a horrific sin

Sample Sentence: “Did you hear about him and his neighbor’s wife at the pool hall? He’s so authentic. I hope he writes a book.”

Love – when other people affirm me or someone I approve of in our sin, no matter how horrific said sin is

Sample Sentence: “I want to thank all of those who have committed to love me as I have committed to continue hanging out at the pool hall with my neighbor’s wife.”

Jesus – a great teacher who lived a long time ago and, if he were with us today, would most certainly approve of my horrific sin

Sample Sentence: “The Jesus I know would be at the pool hall with me and the neighbor’s wife before he’d ever be seen in some old church.”

So now, thanks to The Devil’s Dictionary of American Religious Words and Phrases, you can finally understand what’s really being said in the comments section.

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Milwaukee Foolishness Or Why We Need The Police

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The absolute worst answer to the problem of racism in our country is more racism.

The most foolish remedy to a corrupt government is no government at all.

And yet, we’re seeing both of those things in Milwaukee right now. Yes, I realize that the rioters on YouTube and cable news don’t represent everyone in Milwaukee but it would be foolish to ignore them.

While we were all busy watching Bolt and Phelps dominate the Olympics, they were cursing at police officers, lighting gas stations on fire and just praying for a member of law enforcement to lose his cool. They were saying how they refused to live with white people. They were threatening to slice open the heads of police officers. They were mocking black police officers. They were calling on people to stop burning down the city and take the violence to the suburbs instead. How noble.

Martin Luther King went to jail. Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat. Rioters in Milwaukee are busting the windows out of police cars. Something has changed.

In much of the footage I saw from the weekend in Milwaukee, protesters were chanting the title of that old N.W.A. song. I’ll spare you the title. Just know that it’s a colorful way of expressing hatred of the police. As the crowd kept chanting, the line of police officers kept backing up. They stood arm in arm, absorbing the verbal assaults of the mob. At the command of their leader, the police fell back a few feet. And later, a few feet more. Finally, they climbed in their vans and left.

The crowd cheered.

They had finally gotten their way.

But is that really what they want?

True, none of us wants the local law enforcement setting up shop in our home. But neither do we want them packing up and moving out. It might make for a catchy song but it’s no way to live.

Here’s the reality that few people fail to recognize. There is no such thing as anarchy. There will always be government. It might be organized or it might be chaotic. It might be civil or it might be corrupt. But it will always be.

So the angry masses will never get their way. Sure, they might get their local police to leave the neighborhood. But those law men will only be replaced by lawless men who will demand the same authority as those before them only without any system of accountability. In Rwanda in the mid-1990s, the Hutus and the Tutsis couldn’t put their hostilities with one another to rest. As a result, the government collapsed. What followed wasn’t a group of people who promised to be nice to each other until things got back in order at the capital building. The result was genocide at the hands of local warlords. There is no such thing as anarchy.

There are others who would like to see the federal government become more involved in local police matters. If you think your city’s police department has problems, just wait until they have to start taking orders from Washington D.C.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to take things on a case by case basis in this country. When one black kid does something foolish, we want to blame his entire race. When one cop does something evil, rather than addressing that specific incident, we’d rather burn the whole system down. The race problems in the country require a surgeon’s precision. We have settled for a rioter’s brick. The folks at CNN, by the way, prefer the rioters brick. It does wonders for their ratings until the next plane disappears.

A free society depends on a responsible people. When a member of the police department steps out of line, the citizens can and should speak up. But they must speak carefully. They must, as the Bible says, be angry without sin (Ephesians 4:26). Perhaps that’s too much to ask for a society that has long since abandoned God. At the very least, they must realize that a properly functioning government is a gift (Romans 13:1-7). There are plenty of good police officers. And your neighborhood needs them.

So the next time you feel inclined to join in singing the lyrics to that N.W.A. song about the police, or worse, acting them out, think twice.

You just might get what you want.

And that’s really the last thing you want.

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The Offended Olympics

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There’s nothing like the Olympics to remind Americans of our favorite sport. No, it’s not swimming or gymnastics or track and field. It’s getting offended. And, so far, we’re leading in the medal count.

The good people at CNN were kind enough to remind us of the latest thing we’re supposed to be mad about. Women athletes, it appears, just aren’t being treated fairly by the sports media. No, Rowdy Gaines, NBC’s ultra enthusiastic swimming commentator, didn’t say that Katie Ledecky was a dumb broad who needed to get out of the pool and in the kitchen. But he did commit the sin of mentioning another swimmer’s husband and the role he played in helping her win a gold medal.

Gasp!

That swimmer’s husband, by the way, also happened to be her coach.

Double gasp!

Others are jumping in on the supposed injustices. Like when a gymnastics commentator dared to imagine that one of the young girls on the dominate US gymnastics team might be at a mall if it weren’t for the Olympics. The leftist, activist side of the Internet went nuts over the idea that a teenage girl might be at a mall. Here’s a tip, Mr. Gymnastics Commentator. The next time one of the girls on the gymnastics team wins gold, say something like this.

“Wow! What an accomplishment. And to think that she would be using her own bare, calloused, large hands to dig wells for orphaned transgendered penguins if it weren’t for the Olympics.”

One journalist committed the unpardonable sin of making the link between a female Olympic athlete and her NFL playing husband. How dare a writer even think about trying to make us connect with a female athlete who won a bronze medal in a sport which, until about three minutes ago, we didn’t even know existed by informing us that her husband plays for a team that even non-sports fans are vaguely familiar with?

All of this leads me to the following conclusion. We aren’t just watching the Olympics. We’re in the Olympics. The Offended Olympics. These games are different. Rather than jumping over hurdles, we have allowed our feelings to become hurdles that others must figure out how to navigate their way around. Oh, and our hurdles are connected to land mines so good luck. Instead of shooting at targets with bows or rifles, we set our digital aim on anyone who dares to question the narrative or break off from the reservation. Our dream team doesn’t have names like Kevin Durant or Gabby Douglas, athletes who excel to such a degree that they make other really good athletes look average. No, our dream team is made up of CNN and some blogger from the Huffington Post or Salon who in their continual victimhood make everyone else look like cavemen. Just as Durant and Douglas can be counted on to come through in the clutch, the members of this dream team can always be relied on to remind us of what should be offending us and of how evil we are for not already noticing.

Well, I’m sitting this Olympics out. Not the real Olympics. I’m still into those. I’m talking about the Offended Olympics. Sure, there are things I see that I don’t like. For example, on Monday night while watching the games with my wife and sons, there was a Nike commercial praising a transgendered athlete. Rather than starting up a boycott against Nike or going on a hunger strike until they release a new line of Bible-based footwear, I used it as a teaching opportunity to remind my boys that the world’s ways are not God’s ways and to encourage them to think critically rather than merely consume. I want them to be the type of men who question why it is that a gay man is validated by biology because, “he was born that way,” but a transgendered man is validated in his actions because he was born the wrong way.

But most people will continue to play the games. Rather than using their power to keep scrolling or change the channel or just forget about it, they’ll moan and ache and complain and fight until they get their way.

And then there will be no more games left to play and no words left to say. Sooner or later, everything will be too offensive.

In the Offended Olympics, everyone loses.

But hey, we all get gold medals.

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School Isn’t The Only Place Where The Satanists Have A Club

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They say that they don’t really worship Satan. He is, they tell us, just a symbol for their rational thought and atheism. All of that is just another way to say that they really do worship Satan. And now, they want to start a club in public schools. We were all shocked when we heard reports of this earlier in the week. That’s natural. But a deeper look reveals that we really shouldn’t be surprised that Satanists want to meet in public schools.

They’ve been meeting in our churches for years.

Satanism isn’t what you think it is. Sure, there’s an element out there that likes to sacrifice goats and drink blood while sitting around and listening to Slayer in the graveyard. But there’s another faction of Satanism that’s much harder to spot. As is usually the case with the devil’s schemes, this particular brand looks really good on the outside. To understand it better, we have to trace it back to its New Testament roots.

Things were changing in Jesus’ ministry. He was switching gears by talking to his disciples more and more about his death. For a group of people who were expecting their Master to be a mighty warrior sent to wipe out the Romans, this was absurd. So Peter pulled the Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords over to the side to explain a few things to him. There would be no cross, Peter told him. But he didn’t just tell Jesus. He rebuked Jesus. No cross!

Jesus’ response is one of the most cutting in all of Scripture.

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23 (ESV)

It’s one thing for Jesus to tell you that you’re missing the point. It’s quite another for him to call you Satan. That’s precisely what Jesus did to Peter. But why? We know that Jesus, the perfect God Man, never sinned so this wasn’t the result of a bad temper. Jesus’ rebuke was righteous, not sinful. Satan was working through Peter to tempt Jesus to avoid the cross. He had attacked Jesus with the same temptation face to face at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry without success (Matthew 4:1-11). Now he was giving it a another shot by using one of Jesus’ closest friends. The last thing Satan wanted was the crucifixion because he knew that it meant the beginning of the end for him.

When I was growing up, my church was always having these rock music seminars where we were taught what rock and roll bands were saying backwards in their songs. It was terrifying. And, to be honest, quite entertaining. The speakers at these seminars would always devote some time to showing us Satanic art work and hand symbols, the most common ones being the pentagram and upside down cross.

If we understand our Bibles correctly, it will be obvious that the symbol which best represents Satan is the invisible cross, not the upside down one. He can work just as easily through the eager church-goer as he can through the devout graveyard dweller. Just ask Peter. And his ultimate goal for both is the same. No cross. Since the cross has already happened, he’s now doing everything he can to turn our attention from it. A quick look at many of our churches reveals that he has been quite successful.

All of those backward masking seminars and record burnings in the 1980s were no threat to Satan. He’s okay with us getting rid of pentagrams, just as long as we don’t replace them with talk of the cross where Christ was crucified in obedience to his Father for the salvation of his people.

And today, Satan is okay with our large, relevant churches and small traditional churches just so long as none of those churches spends anytime preaching about, singing of and trying to live out the cross.

They may not be wearing black, hooded robes and slaughtering goats, but the Satanists are already in the churches. And, like Peter, these proponents of the sneaky brand of Satanism probably don’t even know what they’re spreading. But it doesn’t matter. Every Sunday school or small group lesson about becoming a better person and every sermon about taking your life to the next level or getting more money are what we might call the sacrament of the Satanic church – no cross.

No doubt, Christian groups will do what they can to try to keep the Satanists out of the public schools. They’ll file petitions and contact school board members. Perhaps, before that happens, Christians should address the Satanism in their own churches. After all, it’s hard to stand victoriously against the obvious brand of Satanism on Monday when we embrace the more subtle variety on Sunday.

Our victory will not be found in a court room or a school board meeting. It is found rather at the cross where Jesus won an eternal victory for his people.

We are, be definition, a people of the cross.

Anything less is simply Satanic.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)

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Gospel Malpractice And A Picture Of Cross-Carrying

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Thurston is a hard worker. Maybe one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. And Thurston is a real man. A while back, when his daughter was going through a difficult time, Thurston stepped up to the challenge like few men would. I’ve never known a Thurston before. Well, unless you want to count Thurston Howell III. I’m glad that I got to know the real Thurston a few days ago.

When Thurston found out that I was a pastor, our conversation quickly turned to church. He’s a church man too. His dad devoted his entire life to leading churches. Now Thurston plays music for the church. When Thurston asked me about the city where I pastor, I told him. He had been to my city before to visit another baptist church.

When he showed up to that other baptist church, everything started out like a normal visit to a new church. At some point during the morning, Thurston and his wife got separated from one another. When they finally met up again in that old baptist church building, Thurston’s wife had tears in her eyes. Like any husband, especially one in a new place, Thurston was concerned and asked his wife what was wrong.

She told him that one of the leaders in the church told her that she and her husband needed to find another church to go to. Their kind wasn’t welcomed at this church.

You see, Thurston and his wife had committed the sin of being black and visiting a white church. This would all be bad enough if it had happened in 1942. This particular instance of gospel malpractice happened just a few years ago.

Thurston told me that these kind of comments never really bothered him. He said that they always bother his wife. I’m white. I don’t know what it’s like to be told that my “kind” isn’t welcomed somewhere. I can’t relate to the pain that Thurston’s wife felt that morning. Even still, I’m with her. Those words really bother me. And they bother Jesus too.

I know that race gets hyped up sometimes. Stories about racism get a lot of views and clicks and attention, whether they’re true or not. But we must not let this blind us to the reality that racism really does exist. Thurston told me about a time when he first started selling cars and he took a few guys out on a test drive. They took him out into the middle of the country, dropped him off and drove off with the new car. This was the days before cell phones so Thurston’s only hope was knocking on doors and asking to borrow a phone to get a ride back to work.

At the first house he went to, Thurston had a gun pulled on him just for walking on the property. And, in his words, he, “wasn’t even dressed up like a thug.” He had on a shirt and tie. But that wasn’t enough to atone for the color of his skin. The next time you’re tempted to think that racism is nothing more than media hype to sell more advertising, I wish that you could ask Thurston about his experiences.

As he drew closer and closer to his death, Jesus devoted more time to teaching his disciples about the significance and meaning of the cross. Those are lessons that we would do well to learn from today.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (ESV)

Not, “Repeat this prayer after me.”

Not, “Raise your hand, walk the aisle, hug the pastor’s neck, sniff snot and sign a card.”

Just, self-denial and cross carrying wherever Jesus leads.

If we have truly denied ourselves, we will not cling to our color tribes. We won’t find our identity in the color of our skin or our politics. Rather, we will obey Jesus. Even when it’s hard. And if we’re carrying our cross, in a small way, we’ll be doing what Jesus did. We’ll be moving toward people who are different from us. We’ll be moving toward them in sacrificial love.

I’ve often wondered why race is such a problem in the church. Why are youth ministers yelled at for bringing in black kids? Why are black families wishing to worship Jesus told to take it somewhere else? Part of me thinks that the answers are far too complex for any of us to ever understand. But another part of me thinks it’s pretty simple.

We have abandoned the cross.

So rather than denying ourselves, we deny others. Rather than taking up our cross, we settle for hanging it up on a wall. And instead of actually following Jesus, we admire him from afar because after all, he might lead us some place we don’t want to go. For many in the church, the cross has become like the American flag. We respect it. We don’t want to see it dishonored. We have certain days devoted to it. But it has nothing to do with what we’re doing, saying or thinking on a Tuesday afternoon.

If we truly are a cross-centered people and not just the kind of people who like to add it to our decorations, we will be a different people. We will remember that, without the cross, we’re all outsiders as far as God’s concerned. But because of the cross, through faith and repentance, we are welcomed in.

Thurston finally got a ride home that day when he was left out in the middle of nowhere by those car thieves. An old white lady drove up and asked him if he needed any help. He explained to her what happened and told her that he didn’t have any weapons or ill intentions. She wasn’t hearing any of it. She just told him to get in the car. Thurston obeyed. He walked around back and opened the door. Again, she wasn’t having it.

She told him to sit up front.

That old lady in her car gives us a good picture of self-denying, cross-carrying discipleship.

There are Jews, Gentiles, whites and blacks who are following Jesus.

But there is no backseat.

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“So what are we supposed to do?”

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For the first time in their lives, there are many Christians who have no idea what to do when it comes time to vote for the president in November. They’re used to stepping into the booth and voting for their guy without a second thought. Those days are over. The lies, corruption, arrogance, injustice and disregard for human life displayed by both major candidates is simply too much to ignore. And it’s certainly too much to condone.

So what are we supposed to do? I get asked that question a lot. It is not the purpose of this blog post to tell you what name to write-in or what third party to go with. But I can tell you what Christians need to do.

We need to pray very hard for God to help us to love and obey him more. When we blow it, we need to ask God to forgive us rather than comparing ourselves to those who we think are worse sinners than we are. We need to ask God to help us to love the hurting, the forgotten and the hard to love. We need to make the effort to know God as he is presented in his word.

Husbands, you need to love your wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, respect your husbands. Pray that they would lead your family, not as tyrants, but as servants of Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in both of  you in such a way that you find more delight in sacrificing for the good of the other than you do in your own personal comfort.

Parents, pour into your kids. Use their victories and their failures in sports and academics to teach them what it means to be men and women. But teach them also that there is more to life than their victories and failures in sports and academics. Take on the challenge of teaching them about the Trinity. It’s worth it. Kick soccer balls, play Legos and play on the rope swing in your backyard. Don’t let the panic industry bleed into your family.

Pastors, ask God to help you to be like Ezra, who, “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10, ESV). By God’s grace, use your position to teach people, in word and in deed, biblical concepts like discernment, holiness, sacrifice, faithfulness, repentance and cross-carrying. Don’t settle for appeasing the congregation. Stand for truth and holiness, even if it means being called self-righteous. This is going to get harder as the days move on. The pressure to sit down and shut up until someone needs you to preach a wedding or funeral will be even more real than it already is. Don’t believe those who tell you to, “Stick to the word,” whenever you have the nerve to actually say what the word teaches about some new sin the church in on the verge of embracing. Stay strong. You are not alone.

Listen to music. Laugh. Cry. Rest. Stand. Learn. Repent. Often.

If you’re not voting for either of the two main presidential candidates, there are those who will tell you that you’re wasting your vote. You’re not. The system doesn’t work that way. But it is possible for you to waste your opportunity to stand while others bow and shine while others blend in. Don’t waste that.

I still don’t know whose name I’ll be writing in on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. I do know that on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, Jesus will still be God. His command for his people to love him and to be a voice for the voiceless will still be binding. His protection from evil will still be sufficient. His plan for how we should lead those he has put under our care will still be relevant. A body of believers remembering those truths and living them out is far more powerful than any president.

Church, remember that our Savior is not elected. In his grace, he has elected us (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 2:1-10). And we are his body (Colossians 1:18), not an extension of the Democratic or Republican parties.

And church, remember that 0ur identity is found on a bloody cross on Skull Hill, not in a white mansion on Capitol Hill.

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