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Saturday, March 31, 2012

If That Nation?



At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  Jeremiah 18:7,8

I don't think there can be much doubt that God has pronounced concerning the United States.  Killing babies has been decriminalized for almost 40 years now.  Perversion has been redefined as an alternative life-style.  It is hard to tell the difference between most churches and the local shopping mall.  God's people are no longer called upon to separate themselves but rather to blend in.  Marriage vows no longer represent a promise but a desirable although unlikely outcome.  (we don't really mean for better or for worse) Marriage itself is slowly becoming a relic of the past as people opt for fornication and whoredom rather than a covenant relationship.  We have painted, pierced, and scarred our bodies till we bear more resemblance to pagan cultures than we do a Christian culture.  We have given ourselves over wholesale to sorcery.  Churches permit open scandalous sin to go unchallenged, loving the doctrines and the deeds of the Nicolatians.

We are guilty before God!  Unfortunately many of God's preachers and people are like the generation of Malachi:


Malachi 1:6 - A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?


Malachi 1:7 - Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.


Malachi 2:17 - Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?


Malachi 3:8 - Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

God levels a charge and we basically say, "Who me?"  Instead of addressing the issue the messenger is attacked.  Expecting ourselves first and others to obey the bible, all of it, has become legalism instead of holy living.


There is hope yet!  "If that nation, . . . turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."


The answer is to be found not in justifying sin and disobedience but repenting of it!  America can be saved but only in the context of repentance!  Oh, how we should pray that God would give us such a fresh anointing of his Spirit that it would cleanse our lives and make us doggedly committed to pleasing him and being his instruments of calling those around us to repentance.

The fate of the nation hangs in the balance!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Labels


 

I was looking through some of my old blog posts and came across one from April 2007 entitled Why I Am A Baptist.  I was reading through the few comments at the bottom of the post and thought one exchange was worth re-posting here.  An anonymous comment was questioning the use of labels in the religious world, such as Baptist.  Following is the comment and my response:

Anonymous said...
Would "A Follower of Christ, a New Testament Christian" be an adequate label for one who holds to all of the points that you listed by which compel you and many others to label yourselves a Baptist? It just seems to me that by insisting on labeling one's self, as in this instance, "a Baptist", could provide a distraction from our primary mission and that being the preaching of Christ crucified and risen from the dead, His Gospel. It seems to me that if we are to take a label it ought to be one so closely connected with scripture that this world could not not even for a moment mistake us for none other than a Christian. If one asks who I am, I respond that I am a Christian, a follower of Christ as taught in the scripture of the New Testament. How many "Baptist" churches are there in the world today. Flavors of all kinds in varying degrees of submission to sound Biblical doctrine. I think it true to say that that labels are a thing the world finds important. The New Testament churches were know by the doctrine of being followers of Christ. They were local in locality and identified by name as "the church of such and such a place." The new testament even gives the name of the city in which these followers of Christ were by others "first called Christians" Adherence to sound doctrine ought to be the cohesive agent that binds believers together in fellowship and to a corporate desire to further the Gospel Message and bring honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and not a label.

Pastor McEntire said...
Anon

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I suppose that you do not have the same aversion to labels when you go grocery shopping. In fact you probably look for certain labels. The reason being that you have come to trust certain labels as being reliable in quality and value. You probably appreciate labels when you go to the doctor because it helps identify the kind of doctor you are seeing and helps ensure it is one with the proper training to meet your specific need. You probably appreciate labels when it comes to medicine and in fact would probably not take any medicine unless you had confidence it was properly labeled.

I am sure at least some Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses claim to be followers of Christ. Because of all the confusion in the religious world for someone to tell me they are a follower of Christ or a New Testament Christian really does not tell me anything. People who believe you baptize babies and you have to be baptized to be saved would embrace both of these terms in spite of the fact they hold to false doctrine.

In my estimation "labeling" is not a distraction but for purposes of clarification and distinction. Far from distracting labels serve to help people discriminate between different belief systems.

The Baptist name does have a very close connection to the Scripture. The man who baptized Jesus was called by God, John the Baptist.

When I ask who I am in a religious context I say I am a Baptist. This provides more information for the inquirer than simply saying I am a follower of Christ as taught in the scriptures of the New Testament. If you answered me this way I still wouldn't know what you believe. Do you accept the Catholic idea of Christianity, the Lutheran, the Methodist, the Anglican, the Pentecostal???? Many people say they are followers of Christ as taught in the scripture of the New Testament but they are not. I will always need clarification on that broad answer which is a "label" for so many belief systems.

Yes the world does find labels important because they are important. They are instructive and provide information.

The early believers were simply called disciples and churches were, as you point out, identified by their location. But this was before wholesale apostasy had developed among some churches. The disciples did not call themselves Christians, at least initially. They were called that by others. Baptists have never had the luxury of naming themselves. We have always been named by our enemies and those who have opposed our position of rebaptizing those who come to us from other "churches". While we have been called many things by our enemies through the last two thousand years one name that shows up over and over again is Ana-Baptist, or re-baptizers. We have embraced the name because it clearly sets forth one of our primary tenants that sets us apart from most others, the immersion of believers in water symbolically representing the gospel that saves.

I agree that adherence to sound doctrine ought to be the cohesive agent that binds believers together. And a good starting point for me to know if one is holding to sound doctrine or not is if they are Baptist.

If I was visiting a strange city and needed a church to attend or was contemplating a move to a strange city and needed a church the process of choosing one is much easier because of labels. Just like when I go to the grocery store to buy a can of corn, I look for the label. When I go into the city I am going to look for an Independent Baptist church because I know that it is in those kinds of churches where I am much more likely to find a home. I don't even have to bother with the local Catholic, Luther, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Methodist, Church of Christ, etc. I know because of their "labels" that I will not find what I believe to be New Testament truth in those places.

I have a feeling that religion is the only area of your life where you do not appreciate labels and that is the most important area.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Flaming Fire



Psalms 104: 4 - Who maketh his angels spirits; his minsters a flaming fire.

It was last week that I read this verse during my daily bible reading and the last half  of the verse has occupied a fair amount of my meditation since then, "his ministers a flaming fire".

The "who" has reference back to the LORD my God in verse one.  Most of the chapter is devoted to reminding us of all the things the LORD does one of which is making his ministers a flaming fire.

There are ministers that belong to him.  This at least implies that there are ministers that do not belong to him.

He makes his ministers a flaming fire.  This is what he does with his ministers.  They do not make themselves a flaming fire, he makes them a flaming fire.

Is there such a thing as flaming without fire?  Is there such a thing as a fire without flaming?  There actually is a slight difference here as to what is intended by the use of these two words.  Fire is what it is.  Flaming is what it does.  Fire just has reference to fire with no inference as to its purpose.  Flaming on the other hand involves the idea of to set on fire, burn, kindle, blaze up.  The LORD makes his ministers a flame that burns, sets things on fire, kindles, and blazes up.  God's minister's bring the heat!  Isn't that really what we need, what God's people need, what churches need, what the nation needs; red-hot preaching originating with red-hot preachers!

It's about bringing real passion to what we do.  Not the kind of passion that is manufactured in the flesh with soaring oratory, indisputable logic, rhetorical flare, or homiletic mastery.  Rather the passion that comes from spending much time with God and his word, cloistered away from the world and its deadening, fire quenching influence.

Passion, a flaming fire does not manifest itself in a singular fashion.  It may be in the context of a weeping prophet, or a prophet that calls fire down from heaven, or a voice crying in the wilderness, or an apostle with a vision for world evangelism.  But what they all had in common was a passion, they were his ministers and he made them a flaming fire!

John 5:35 tells us John the Baptist was a burning and shinning light.

In Jeremiah 20:9 Jeremiah tells us that the word of God was a burning fire shut up in his bones.

David relates his passion in Psalms 39:3 when he says his heart was hot, the fire burned, and then he spake.

Should we not be a flaming fire?  Do we not have every incentive to be passionate?  We are dealing with eternal truth!  We are called to minister to people with eternal souls!  The siren song of the temporary drowns out the clarion call of eternity!  Our response all to often is a dry eye, a dispassionate delivery, submitting to the shackles of the clock, and assuming the temperature of those around us.  The flaming aspect of our ministry has been extinguished.

Rise up O preacher, or should I say, Flame Up O preacher!  If we would own our allegiance to God he will make us a flaming fire.  With a flaming fire in the pulpit the ice will begin to melt in the pew!

Friday, March 02, 2012

From Everlasting





This morning in my Bible reading I came across this familiar phrase in Psalms 93:2 - . . . . thou art from everlasting.

I am inclined to think that we could search all the vast libraries of the ages, examine the writings of all the sages that have ever crossed the stage of life and never discover a statement that is more profound than:

"thou art from everlasting"


The antecedent for "thou" is "LORD".  Jehovah, the Self-Existent One, I Am!

This one phrase challenges our intellect beyond its capacity to fathom.  It is a phrase that reveals and yet conceals all at the same time.  It tells us the LORD has always been (revelation) and also hints there is much we do not know about him (concealment).  It is an enigma that could only be true of the LORD.

Do not misunderstand.  We have revealed everything we need to know about him for now.  The Bible does not defend, it simply declares the existence of God and reveals many things about him.  But when we read in this inspired revelation, "thou art from everlasting" we are forced to recognize the existence of someone whose history is largely concealed from view.

We lose sight of him looking back from that lofty declaration "In the beginning God".  Yet even in that startling opening we are forced to ponder the presence of a divine being present at the beginning.  The seed is planted for the coming declaration in the Psalms, "thou are from everlasting".


Before there was a sunrise there was God.
Before there was a twinkling star there was God.
Before the mountains were established there was God.
Before the seas were formed there was God.
Before a breath was drawn there was God.

He was not only there he had always been there.  For me, it is easier to get to Revelation 22: 21 and think about God continuing to exist into infinity than to start at Genesis 1:1 and think about God having existed from infinity.  To realize that when the bible says, "In the beginning" the LORD had already existed forever!

This is simply deep!