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A Hard Day at Church

It was a hard day at church Sunday. Perhaps the hardest I have ever experienced. Definitely the hardest I ever want to experience.

We hoped and prayed that last Sunday would never come. But Sunday, our church family at Bethel Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas voted to begin the process of transferring the property deed to the Parker Baptist Association. John Thielepape, the Association’s Director of Missions and the Association’s Executive Board will administer the transfer of our deed. We look forward to seeing how God will use the facilities for His glory to reach people that we might never have been able to.

For several years, Bethel has been on life support. We saw the demise coming several years ago and sold our parsonage. We had a flood a few years later and due to the insurance settlement, we were able to do some much-needed updates of the vintage 1970s-era carpet and paneling. All of this helped keep us afloat. For a while.

Last November, as we considered the 2013 budget, our treasurer informed us that with our current average expenses and income, we had about 4-6 months left of savings. I challenged our people to fast and pray through December and be ready to discuss at our quarterly business meeting what we felt God was telling us. At the January meeting we said that we felt that God still had work for us to do at our location. Perhaps we were in denial. God continued to provide for our finances through October — eleven months into our “4-6 months”. He’s still providing. He always does. He always will, but not necessarily the way that we pray for – or expect.

If our church has been on life support, then last Sunday was the time to “call in the family”. I don’t think anyone was surprised by the realities I presented, though not all of us were ready to “pull the plug”. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any one of us wants to pull the plug. But there comes a time that you have done all that you can do to extend life and that the life support no longer extends life; it actually extends death. And we have passed that point.

It is only a matter of time before we close the doors of the church as a fellowship. We will soon turn the page and close the book on Bethel Baptist Church. As we seek God’s plans for us as individuals, we look forward to seeing how He will use what we have learned and the experiences He has blessed us with. And we look forward to seeing how He will use our facilities in the future.

Only He knows. But as I have told our people for over six years, it’s not about us; it’s about Him and His Kingdom. We get to show up and participate.

But Sunday wasn’t just a hard day. It was also a great day to spend time together with our church family. Most importantly, we praised and worshiped the God Who called us together to begin with. Our task at this point is to continue to seek His lead as we move forward.


Was it a Good Day or a Bad Day in Court?

Today was either a very good day or a very bad day to be a US Citizen. If you are for “marriage equality” for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT), today was a very good day for you.

If, however, you are for traditional “one-man, one-woman marriage”, today was a very bad day for you.

Two very important decisions were handed down by the US Supreme Court today: the Federal DOMA and California’s Proposition 8.


Federal DOMA

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Federal Government cannot grant special privileges to one group (traditional marriage) over another group (LGBT). Tax credits and other Federal benefits given to traditionally married couples must be granted to LGBT couples as well.

The Federal DOMA was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton in an effort to define marriage in the traditional sense. The Court stated today that those who would limit Federal benefits to one group and not another were doing so in an effort to inflict punishment on the other group. In other words, those who supported DOMA — including Clinton – were bigoted and punitive against those who supported “non-traditional” marriage. Perhaps the Court was correct.

Civil Liberty is a sticky issue.

A few years ago, some groups disapproved allowing religious groups to use public school facilities after school hours and on the weekends. A doctrine of “equal access” was adopted which said that if any one group was allowed access (YMCA, Boy/Girl Scouts), then all other groups also have access. The other side of the same coin said that if one group was prohibited from accessing the school facilities, then all groups would be prohibited from using the facilities.

In a free society, I am protected to be able to practice my religious beliefs according to my personal convictions. At the same time, someone who holds the exact opposite religious beliefs from mine is also protected to practice their religious beliefs according to their personal convictions. That’s the way liberty works. Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants are all free to practice our religious (and non-religious) beliefs. Giving preferential treatment to one group over and against another group violates the “no establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof” parts of the First Amendment. If it applies for one group, it should be applied in the same way to all the other groups.

When the Parker County Ministerial Alliance requested that the Weatherford City Council start with pledges to the US and Texas Flags and an invocation, there was great caution on the part of the Council. They were afraid that at some point in the future the City might have to use taxpayer funds to defend against lawsuits from groups claiming a violation of “separation of church and state”. Their approval could have gone one of two ways:

1 – Having a designated person to pray “nonsectarian” prayers (presumably to a nonsectarian god?).

2 – Allowing a diversity of persons to pray according to their own religious tradition (including praying “in Jesus’ name” for those who chose to do so).

The Council allowed the Ministerial Alliance to coordinate the invocation pray-ers with option 2. The Alliance has done an honest job of being “inclusive” of leaders of respective groups in the community, even inviting religious leaders who are not affiliated with the Alliance.


California’s Proposition 8

The second decision handed down by the Supreme Court had to do with California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an amendment to California’s Constitution which defined marriage for the State of California; it was California’s version of the Federal DOMA that applied to just the State of California to protect it in case the Federal Government nationally legalized “nontraditional” marriage. The Court struck down Prop 8, saying that marriage cannot be limited to one-man one-woman couples. However, they also stated that a LGBT couple whose marriage was recognized in one state does not necessarily have to be recognized in any other state.


My Take on the Decisions

I am not a lawyer, nor am I a Constitutional Scholar. However, I am a citizen of the United States whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War of independence against tyranny. I am also a pastor. And these Supreme Court Decisions affect me. They affect all of us.

What we saw today is a display of man’s depravity. What we saw was the natural consequence of putting our ultimate decisions in the hands of nine fallen men and women (the “highest court in the land”).

When a nation turns its back on its original principles and reads its founding documents as “fluid documents”, open to new interpretation of each new generation, anything is up for grabs. Literally anything. LGBT today … LGBTP (pedophilia) tomorrow?

We see a very similar situation in churches that turn their backs on their original principles, where Christians view our founding Document as a fluid document, open to new interpretations of each new generation.

I’m not just talking about the “liberal” churches. I’m also talking about the “conservative” churches. We have all – in our own way – turned out backs on our original principles of reaching a lost and dying world with the hope of the Gospel as it is revealed in the Bible.

The “liberals” have done it by rejecting the Bible as a static document of God’s revelation and authority. They argue that the Bible is outdated and needs to be reinterpreted for the changing culture. They see LGBT as a new situational ethic to be interpreted according to the “love of Christ” without any judgment on the LGBT lifestyle (because the Bible is outdated, remember?).

The “conservatives” have done it by not reaching the lost and dying world. Somehow, we expect lost to find their way to us (even though the Bible clearly says that no one is righteous and no one seeks after God on their own. We have failed to “contextualize” the unchanging Gospel as revealed in the Bible and actually dialog with lost and dying people. We run from Christian huddle to Christian huddle preaching against the evils of abortion and homosexuality. But when was the last time we talked with an unwed teen, offering her viable options for carrying her baby to term (Who’s going to pay for her medical bills?)? Or when was the last time we sat down with a LGBTQ* friend or coworker about his/her struggles for acceptance (regardless of what acceptance he or she may be struggling with)?

Our only hope is for the church to be the church: repent and return to the God on Whose principles and Document our faith was founded. Only then will we have any hope for hope and the blessing that we once enjoyed as a church and as a nation.

So was it a good day or a bad day in Court? Regardless of your views of traditional vs. nontraditional marriage, today was a bad day in Court. It revealed our depravity. The depravity of all of us.



*LGBTQ is a relatively new designation that includes those who are questioning their sexual identity.


Morning After Reflections

As I type this on the morning after the 2012 General Elections, I am physically sick to my stomach. Not because “my guy” didn’t win. I feel sick because of where I see us as a nation and where we are heading as a nation. We are getting what we have asked for. And we deserve exactly what we are getting.

I don’t claim to have the spiritual gift of prophecy, but this is what I see in the coming months and years:

Homosexuality will continue to be paraded in the public square. “Gay marriage” will continue to garner support, either blatantly, or through laissez-faire attitudes by heterosexuals.

Abortion on demand will continue to be “legal and safe”. But it won’t be rare. More babies will be killed (at taxpayer expense), and more women will suffer the physical and emotional consequences of abortion.

First Amendment Religious and Free-Speech Liberties will continue to erode. Religious institutions and other organizations that are pro-life in nature, or pro-life in the organization’s leaders’ beliefs will be required to provide insurance that covers abortion/abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs).

Second Amendment Liberties will be restricted, either through the banning of certain weapons, or through the taxation of weapons and/or ammunition.

Several Supreme Court Justices will be replaced, resulting in decades of even more left-leaning decisions.

As of December 31, 2012, United States citizens will arrive at the “fiscal cliff”, seeing tax increases and cuts to our military and other programs such as Medicare. With President Obama’s reelection and continued Democrat control in the US Senate, our elected leaders will not feel obligated to address these issues — and the US House will have no authority to do so on their own. Our deficit will continue to increase exponentially, increasing the tax burden on our children, grandchildren for generations to come, as we spend more and more of what we don’t have. The result: the “recovery” trumpeted by the Democrats for the past few years will fall into another recession or worse.

Free Market Capitalism will be more restricted through increased government regulation. More workers will be laid off — or their status will be reduced to “part time” status — as employers seek to avoid the increased costs of providing mandated healthcare for their fulltime employees or fines if they don’t.


In short, our nation will continue to become much more different than what we have been accustomed to.


Our Mandate for 2012 and Beyond

It is incumbent on all Christians to pray.

Paul commands that we pray for all those in authority (1Timothy 2:1-2). If we haven’t been, we must begin to pray for our leaders. If we have been praying for them, we must not stop praying. We must pray more, not just that we get our way, but that God will bring us back to Himself, His ways, and his purposes.

“My people” in 2Chroinicles 7:14 applies to all of God’s people, not just the Nation of Israel, led by Solomon in that passage. In fact, the context of 2Chronicles 6-7, if God’s people fail to follow Him, He would bring calamity to them. If “My people” respond in repentance, then He would hear their prayer and bring restoration.

We are in 2Chronicles 7:13, 22. May we be brought back to experience 2Chronicles 7:1-4.


May God have mercy on us!

Anger and Prayer

God said something very surprising in today’s Bible reading.

“I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions.” So Samuel became angry and cried out to the Lord [all] night. (1Sam 15:11 HCSB)

God gave very specific instructions to Saul: kill everything and everyone in this battle. Saul told Samuel that he had followed God’s instructions, but Samuel pointed out that he had kept some of the animals alive.

Many application points can be seen in this passage. Here are a few.
1. When we hear a specific word from God, He intends us to carry it out to the fullest. Saul said that he had saved the best animals for sacrifice. But Samuel says that, “To obey is better than sacrifice”. (verse 22)
2. When Samuel heard that God regretted choosing Saul as king, Samuel was angry and cried out to God all night. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to cry out to God. He can take it.

However, when we get angry, it should be about the right things. We don’t know if Samuel was mad at God or at Saul’s disobedience. Regardless, his response was right: cry out to God.

Are you angry about something? Have you cried out to God about it? Remember, He can take it. But be ready to hear and heed what He tells you in response.

An Open Response to a Friend

Recently on Facebook, a longtime friend posted a rebuke of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life.

“Hey, Rick – “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Cor 6:14-15” She linked to, written by a secular journalist, which appears say that Rick Warren believes Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. The same day, someone else linked to the same article, requesting my feedback.

My longtime friend added in her next comment, “And what is so flagrantly missing from this article? That’s right… ANY mention of the Lord Jesus Christ.”. A mutual friend posted a link from Ed Stetzer (, which I “liked”. In that article, Warren himself clearly expresses his view that Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God. The first friend responded,

“Thanks for popping in and also for the link. Say, for instance, that I were to concede that everything RW says in this *particular* article is true, unfortunately, there remains more than enough evidence to indict him on this and other counts. He has proven over and over again that he is quite the chameleon when it comes to what he believes. For example, when he was interviewed by John Piper, one would have thought he was an original reformer the way he waxed on so eloquently about reformed theology, Calvin, etc.”

After several more paragraphs, she concluded,

“RW is a wolf. He may be the nicest of men, but he is a false teacher. Wolves don’t blast in wearing red and carrying a pitchfork; they rise up from among us, and they creep in unaware. If he truly “loved Jesus” then He would be about the business of unashamedly preaching Christ crucified.”

The next day, she “mentioned” our mutual friend and me, requesting a response. She noted, “as ministers of the gospel, there is no way you should be supporting RW in any way, shape or form.”

For almost a week, I have pondered how I would respond, if at all, as Rick Warren’s name has come up before with this friend. Several months ago, I stated that I don’t necessarily agree with everything that  Warren has said, but that he does have some very good things to say, which I often Tweet and post on Facebook. He has been instrumental in bringing more lost souls to Jesus than I probably ever will. (Phil 1:18)

Here is my response (and it has little to do with Rick Warren or any other specific pastor/teacher):


I have grieved as I have read the tone of your posts on Facebook. It is vitally important to expose heretical theology and unhealthy emphases in the church, as well as those who propagate them. If we hold the Bible to be our rulebook, we must deal with things biblically. There is a time, place, and manner to deal with these things. Facebook (and the blogosphere) is not one of them. But since you have opened the conversation in this environment, I feel that I must respond in turn.

In every instance in the Bible where church discipline is mentioned, the context is the local church. In a previous e-dialogue, I pointed out that Rick Warren is subject to the leadership at Saddleback and that you should take up your concerns with the elders there. Granted, times have changed and we no longer have an overall structure, as in the book of Acts, to deal with discipline, therefore we need to find new ways of application. But it should still start and end in the local church.

Biblical Church discipline will always have redemption as its goal. Now, I qualified my previous sentence with the word “Biblical” because most “church discipline” I have seen has been far from redemptive. The tone of all of your remarks about Rick Warren has consistently been punitive and downright hateful.

Unfortunately, Christians who hold to a “reformed” theology have a reputation for being prideful, mean and hateful. Your accusations and comments are exhibitive.

Yes, we should speak the truth, but we should speak it in love (Eph 4:15). Everything we say should be for the purpose of building up one another (Eph 4:29). Our conversation is to be full of grace (Col 4:6). We should always be ready to tell other people about our Hope with gentleness and respect (1Pet 3:15). Finally, it must be noted that love is the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus (John 13:35), not espousing a correct theology or insisting on using any type of shibboleth.

Whether or not Rick Warren, or any other pastor/teacher, is being “heretical”, we must deal with such issues in the proper time, place, and manner. Airing our dirty laundry in a hateful manner in view of the world does nothing to further the Kingdom Cause. God is not glorified in that.

Perhaps we (all of us) should spend more time praying for those with whom we differ as opposed to Facebooking and blogging about them. In that, God would be most glorified.

Respectfully in Christian love,