Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this week. As with any notable death, a flood of condolences and grief-laced remarks emerge in the news and on social media. The most common is “Rest in Peace”. I read that phrase a lot this week, and it always saddened me.
It’s too late for peace. If the person is not saved by grace, having repented of their sin and confessed to Jesus the High Priest, and if He had not pardoned the person upon hearing that confession, there will be no peace for that person, forever. Continue reading “RIP?”→
Two women in Arkansas sued Kroger Grocery stores recently because they said they were denied an accommodation to their religion that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows for, and were subsequently harassed then fired from their work because of their religious complaint, which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids. This Arkansas newspaper article outlines the main issue:
I passed the ten-year mark at school. I have worked in the same school for the same boss for all 10 years, with mainly the same core staff. For an autistic person, this is an achievement.
I give praise to my Lord for getting me this job, with this boss, and for sustaining me all these years. I love working with children. Seeing them grow in education and knowledge and social skills is satisfying. I love being a part of that as a teacher’s aide.
DebbieLynne Kespert re-posted a great essay from 2018 yesterday in her blog feature Flashback Friday. I always like when people do this because it either brings forward great content I’ve missed, or it reminds me of great content I can read again.
Her essay was about journaling. After I re-read it, I began thinking about journaling once more. Now, there’s journaling and there’s journaling.
In Christian journaling, we’re treated to headlines like the “How-To” articles that make great promises:
The news is always bad. That is the nature of news. But it seems lately (2020) the news has been relentlessly troubling, perplexing, and dismaying.
The virus scare that began in March 2020 caused people to do a spiritual inventory. This is because the new virus was supposed to be a rampant killer, and we Americans, as well as citizens in other nations, were told that lots of people were going to die from the virus. We weren’t going to have capacity to handle the thousands predicted to need hospital rooms, ventilators, and other life-saving equipment. Death was coming for us, they said. Fear became the prevailing atmosphere of 2020.
The saved are secure about our eternal destiny. The unsaved are scared out of their minds.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29).
In this verse we have a juxtaposition: corruption/grace. The NASB uses the word ‘unwholesome’, so, unwholesome/grace. Strong’s Lexicon defines corrupting as “rotten, putrid, figuratively over-ripe; expresses what is of poor quality, unfit for use.” We know what kind of talk that is. The Bible is negative on unwholesome of talk, which is- slander, gossip, lies, whispering, murmuring, dishonesty, busybodies… (Proverbs 16:28, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 etc).
In the Ephesians verse, the word grace means, “grace, extension-toward. Both refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them.”
When we speak wholesomely, He is near to us, blesses us, and reaches toward us.
So the next time you’re (I’m) tempted to gossip or say anything corrupting, picture rotten fruit coming out of the mouth, vomiting putridness all over the person. Alternately, picture the talk as flowers of grace reaching for the person, the very Lord Himself among the blooms reaching forward and extending Himself to them. Give grace.
This goes for social media, too.
In these days of hate and upset and negativity, imagine the freshness of graceful talk. I need to remember, and I hope others do too, that we need to give grace as well as receive it.
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:19-20).
He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” (NIV)
John the Baptist didn’t make more of himself than he ought. When the Pharisees asked John what the situation was, who are you, they wanted to know, John didn’t hem or haw. He spoke right up admitting he was not the Christ. He didn’t inflate himself by reminding them of his association with Christ. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t insert himself into the conversation. He didn’t subtly add his credentials. John the Baptist did none of that. John simply said I am not he and then immediately went on to point to Christ! (v 23).
Humility. John was humble. We know from other verses that John didn’t think himself worthy to tie Jesus’ sandal or be the one to baptize Him. (Matthew 3:11; 13–14). Jesus Himself said that John the Baptist was the greatest man. (Matthew 11:11).
Part of John’s ‘greatness’ was that he was chosen to be the forerunner to Jesus’ advent. But part of the reason too, is John was humble. His constant thought was of Christ and for Christ.
The attention did not go to John’s head. Throngs came to the desert to hear John preach and to be baptized, but John continually pointed to Jesus only. As his popularity and fame reached its pinnacle, Jesus appeared and entered into public ministry. John’s ministry started decreasing because they all began to follow Jesus instead. John’s disciples came to him and said people are leaving you and going to Jesus… Those disciples should know it isn’t a rivalry. Even though Philippians wasn’t written yet:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)
John the Baptist reminded them that that all along he’d been saying the ministry is about Jesus. John knew it wasn’t about ‘his’ ministry, it wasn’t about ‘him’, it wasn’t about ministry ‘numbers, i.e. I have more than the other guy down the street. It isn’t a rivalry. John’s ministry was about Jesus.
Jesus said that those who humble themselves will be exalted but whoever exalts themselves will be humbled. (Matthew 23:12). Gulp. How often do we insert ourselves into the conversation when it comes to ministry, or promote our greatness, or our credentials? I know I do that too often.
So, how do we cultivate humility? It’s a character quality. Our inner depravity clings to pride, and fights humility at every turn. It takes courage to be humble in a society that expects self-promotion, jostles to be first, and expects us to ‘tower above’.
One way to cultivate humility is to look to John the Baptist for a biblical example of a life lived in humility. From a Ligonier.org devotional these passages might help for further study-
Psalm 25:8–10 Proverbs 15:33; 18:12 Matthew 18:1–4 Romans 15:1–7
I always try to remember that before salvation I was a craven sinner deserving of hell. Now that I am saved, I stand on the same blood-soaked ground as everyone else, and only Jesus towers above in holiness and purity. As Peter said,
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)
Yesterday, Sunday, September 13, Pastor-Teacher John MacArthur opened his service with an announcement. In an ongoing legal battle the church is fighting against the County of Los Angeles, Dr. MacArthur told his congregation the requirements that LA County is demanding that churches (and other large venue gatherings) fulfill in order to meet (an not inside, either, just outside). In the latest legal skirmish, the Judge this week ruled against the Church, saying they may not meet unless the ‘health restrictions’ were met. After all, the County wasn’t denying them the opportunity to meet at all, just that they could not meet in the way they desired.
I suppose that is one way to circumvent the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. In effect, the Judge on behalf of the County is saying, ‘You CAN meet, just do thus and such’. Let’s look at the thus and such the County requires of churches in order to worship God together, and see if the benchmark of “free exercise of” is happening or not. MacArthur read some of the limits and requirements the County places on churches and it seemed ot me that they may NOT freely exercise their religion. At all.
I re-ordered the list that MacArthur spoke into two sections. The first section infringes on the ecclesiology of churches, i.e. what the government says churches may or may do within their own services, and the second part is related to so-called health mandates that relate to church buildings and property. These are not all of what LA County is requiring, either: (Health Order here). Just some of the limits.
MacArthur said: “Before we begin, the question has come up a number of times about why Grace Church does not just comply with the orders that have been laid down for churches, and I thought it might be helpful to give you the list of things that are required of us as a church so that you understand how utterly impossible that would be. Here are the basic orders:
–no indoor meetings at all, –people only allowed on church property for scheduled events, (Ed note: so staff employment is impacted as well as packing and delivery of ministry materials for shipping) –no hymn books, –no communion, –no offering containers, –no pew Bibles, –no singing, –no hugging, –no shaking hands, –the services have to be shortened, –and based on the separation we could only meet in the tent with a maximum of three hundred and fifty to four hundred people, –restrooms are to be used during the service to minimize the rush, –Anybody who comes in contact with someone outside their family for more than fifteen minutes must self-quarantine for two weeks (Editor note: this means if you mingled with someone not of your family, you would miss the next two services and could only return on the third week. You would miss half the services per month).
–preregistration of every person who comes on the church property, –every person who comes on the property is to be individually screened and have their temperature taken at the entry, –we all must maintain six feet of social distance at all times everywhere including the parking lot and the restrooms, –every other parking space must be left vacant, –marked pathways to maintain social distance keeping people apart monitored by staff monitors, –everyone always wearing a mask, –restroom monitors to control six feet social distancing at restrooms, –tape on the ground marking distance, –signs indicating these mandates and also full exposure on social media, –disposable seat covers changed between services, –etc.
You can see that these are the requirements that would completely shut the church down. Obviously, this is not Constitutional. But more importantly, this goes against the will of the Lord of the church. He calls us to gather. Amen?!” —John MacArthur
Many Christians are watching this legal battle with eagle eyes. Other churches in California and elsewhere may also be going through the same fight, but the most public right now is GCC. The fact it is happening in America is shocking, where we are Constitutionally protected from these kinds of government infringements upon the free exercise of religion.
The lesson for pastors and congregants here is: what will you do when this begins to happen in your state or county? When Caesar says you may not fellowship? You may not give? You may not have Lord’s Supper, one of the two ordinances Jesus commanded? You many not sing? Your service must be of a certain length? Your fellow member must now become a compliance officer (spy) inside your warm and caring fellowship? You must register with the government before you attend church??
The power grabs by various governments during this coronavirus time have been stunning. If Grace Church ultimately loses, how much more emboldened will Caesar will be in other places? Are you prepared to be arrested? Lose your job? (An arrest often means you’d be prohibited from working in certain jobs). Are you prepared to obey God rather than man? (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29; Daniel 6:13).
It’s coming. We are in a time where it seems the Lord is shaking his church to see who is still salt and who has lost their savor.
A Lamp Under a Basket And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. (Mark 4:21-24).
It is a grief and a shame that some entities and national Christian leaders are hiding under the bushel basket, dimming their light so hopefully Caesar will overlook them. It is a joy to see one beacon standing taller each time Caesar comes for them, deliberately shining their light even brighter. This is the bushel basket time. Stand and shine? Or cover and hide?