Behind Pleasant Faces: Lessons in Leaving a King James Only Church

“We must cease to think of the church as a gathering of institutions and organizations, and we must get back to the notion that we are the people of God.”
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

One statement… One letter… God’s Moving

I was the head of a youth ministry in a church. Appointed by a pastor and loved by the church. The church family became an extension of my family. Many get togethers and meals were shared. In fact, many came around my wife and I to help us get started with our life together.

The senior pastor moved on from that church to help another ministry. The search began for a new pastor. The church had always held the standard to use the King James Bible in teaching and preaching. However, one could use whatever translation they wanted when not fulfilling one of those two roles. In searching, the church voted to keep that standard and wanted a guy to hold to it. “We just want a King James guy,” said one of the deacons. Then a year later a pastor was voted in. He was great to work with and became a friend and mentor.

About three weeks before getting married, I was asked about my position on the King James Bible. I stated, “The King James is a reliable translation; however, it is not the only one. But, the church constitution states that in my ministry I should use the KJV. I have faithfully done that.”

This statement turned into many meetings, emails, prayers, and worries. We were told by the pastor, “One cannot reach his full spiritual potential without the better truth of the King James. The issue of the King James is a doctrinal stance for the church and a key component of the faith, and should be taught as such.” Four weeks later, I turned in my letter of resignation. I stated what the church was promoting was unbiblical and how I could not promote this church as a Bible-preaching church.

Surprisingly, they agreed that I should teach till the end of the month and then move on. However, these pleasant faces changed. Unlike unmasking a ghost in Scooby Doo (a dark ghost being an actual human), the pleasant mask revealed a much darker side.

The tables turned. We were notified soon after we were not welcomed anymore. My wife and I were branded as false teachers, and a toxicity dividing the church. We were given 30 minutes to gather all our things and told to make sure it looked like we had never been at the church. The pastor threatened us with embarrassment if we tried anything or came back. That night in Youth Group, the teens were told we left without saying goodbye and how we only taught them lies. The church was told similar things. It was praised from the pulpit that we were gone.

Afterwards, I was blackballed. There was no place for me in the community and so my wife and I (in a span of about 3-4 weeks) moved out of state. We had no idea what God was doing. Yet, a year has passed. Many tears were shed and hearts broke and questioning God’s moving was not uncommon. Yet, I would like to share with you some lessons God taught me in leaving a King James Only church.

A 2 Timothy 2:15 Attitude

As various candidates and speakers came into the church, I heard many messages. However, when pastors would say something that hit me funny, I would go back to the Bible and search out to see if it was true. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 would be a constant theme in my life during this time. “True christians will not struggle with depression, because Jesus is the light of the world.” Statements like these caused me to remember 2 Timothy and work out what the Bible said. Paul commands us to take up the Scriptures and know them for ourselves so we will not be deceived. One of Paul’s “mountains to die on” in his letters (and for other New Testament writers) is knowing false teaching and running from it in order to stay true to the doctrine of Christ. This is a 2 Timothy 2:15 attitude. Pleasant faces in the pulpit can be an excellent mask for unbiblical teaching.

Chosen Ignorance is Not Bliss

“We just want a King James guy.” This statement circulated the church during the time of searching for a new pastor. Yet, many did not know the implications of such a statement. This reveals a lesson. The people inside the church need deep teaching. A church that only teaches at “the flannel-graph board” will only develop “flannel-graph” Christians. When I began to teach Bible survey, hermeneutics, and apologetics to the teens, I was ridiculed by some and told I was only “showing off my education.” That was far from the truth. Teens who grew up in the church knew about the Bible, but did not know how to use it. They just wanted the Bible and that was it. While that sounds good, it meant if what was taught sounded too deep, then it was to be avoided. The people had a chosen ignorance in studying the Scriptures and knowing how the Scriptures should be used. Instead, they were comfortable with a list of Do’s and Don’ts and their “flannel-graph Bible characters.” Pleasant faces can hide a “flannel-graph” faith that chooses ignorance over fully knowing God’s Word. “Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.” Hebrew 5:13-14

Standing as a Soldier

Why do we send soldiers to war? It is because of this idea and truth of freedom. The same is for Christians being a soldier for Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 says, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer.” A soldier stands for truth. He states God’s truth and stands by it. He will not waver from what God’s Word says. When I resigned, I had to say some hard truth. Biblically, what the church was believing was heretical (Galatians 1). I could not sit in a pew when God’s word was being used to justify heresy. A soldier stands for his commander. As Christians, we need to stand for our Commander and His Word when it is being abused in churches. It does produce suffering, but it is better to have the smile of Jesus than the plastic smiles of men which melts quickly. When standing for truth, pleasant faces can turn to scorn. Yet, we look towards the pleasant face of our Savior.

Pushing Away from the Dock

Growing up on the Great Lakes, I have been out on boats many times. It is exciting (and a bit nervous) climbing into a boat and going out on the lake. You never know what is going to happen. You take that step off the dock into a small vessel and push off from the dock. Soon, water surrounds you. You only go where the boat takes you and you trust the captain that he knows the waters.

This is the hardest lesson. I never got to say goodbye to the teens, and I knew what was being said to them. I knew what was being taught. It broke my heart to leave them in that church. It was not the back-stabbing that caused the most pain. It was knowing the teens God entrusted to me were still inside that church. Yet, God’s Word clearly said I had to depart from false teaching. I had to step off the dock and into the boat He prepared for us. God pushed us away from the dock and moved us. It is very hard not to look back and want to go back. Yet, God moved us to a new location and a new place where we could heal, grow, and learn. It is lesson that is an ongoing process. We have to let go of the dock and go where God takes us. That church was like a family to me, but their pleasant faces revealed the truth that it was time to go and follow God more than being comfortable in a church. “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (Psalm 16:11) Following God means pushing away from the dock, forgetting the false pleasant masks, and finding the joy He gives each step of the way.

And We Follow…

A statement… A letter… God’s Moving. He did bring us to a place where He wants us and we see Him growing us and preparing us for future adventures. It is not easy to sometimes be in the liminal space, but when it is the place where we still see God moving we follow.

These four lessons are key. We need to learn them as we interact with churches and fellow Christians. When we look behind the “pleasant faces” that mask false teaching, we see the truth when we know God’s Word. However, when we push through that crowd, we see the pleasant face of our Savior who gave His life for us, gave His Word to us, and prepared a path for us. It is our choice if we will take His Word and follow His path… Even if that means leaving a pew.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way
What He says we will do
Where He sends we will go
Never fear…
Only trust and obey

American Christian or Christian American

“The Earthly [city] has made for herself, according to her heart’s desire, false gods out of any sources at all, even out of human beings, that she might adore them with sacrifices. The heavenly one, on the other hand, living like a wayfarer in this world, makes no false gods for herself. On the contrary, she herself is made by the true God that she may be herself a true sacrifice to Him.” – Augustine

Before you continue reading, please take this short quiz:
1. Name 3 founding fathers who were instrumental in founding the USA.
2. Name 3 Christians who were martyred in order to give you a Bible.
3. Name 3 pivotal events in American history.
4. Name 3 pivotal events in Church history.

Save your answers for later.

With Memorial Day behind us and Fourth of July before us, homes, stores, and other establishments are flying the American Flag. The Anthem will play, fireworks will explode with bright colors, and all Americans, hopefully, will be grateful for the country they live in and the freedoms the American heritage has bestowed on us.

Another establishment that will participate in the festivities are the many churches in our communities. Churches will sing patriotic hymns, honor those in the military, and pray for our country. This observation has caused questions that need to be answered: How do Christians relate to these festivities? What does the Bible say about this?

The Practice of Many Churches and Christians

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain / For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain / America, America, God shed His grace on thee / And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea 
With pride in their hearts and reverence to their country, many Christians will stand singing this beautiful song in their churches. It is with gratitude they sing.

When it comes to American festivities and the identity of the American, many Christians follow a similar pattern. Even when it comes to politics, many American Christians post articles, memes, comments, pictures of who they are supporting and clear indications of who they do not support. These posts can be from a simple #trumpwon to #hilaryforprison. Or, posts can turn a darker turn by comparing one political party or a political leader to a World War II group or name calling. It can result in posting memes like this:

The two situations seem almost contradictory and as opposite as can be. Yet, many Christians attend church and yet their social media is filled with posts like the one above. Is this the right attitude for the church? Is one better than the other? Or are both not right? We must look at the Bible for a clear answer.

Romans 13; 1 Peter 2 and a National Identity

The Bible is to be our guide for life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Yet, does it say anything about being an American? Yes, it does. Paul and Peter address the issue of how a Christian should relate to their government and to their national identity.

The books of Romans and 1 Peter were written to Christians who lived in the Roman Empire. Usually, the emperors were not friendly towards Christians. Nero, a Roman emperor, tarred Christians and burned them as torches. This isn’t the same as being sued for not baking a cake. These Christians were fed to wild animals for not renouncing their faith.

Today, many Christians around the world are being martyred for their faith. Yet, in America, this is not a reality yet. The early Christians experienced a government that found pleasure in these events. This situation is where Paul and Peter state: “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.” How cruel these words must have seemed as they fell on the ears of those persecuted. Yet, both Paul and Peter (who were executed) instruct Christians to remember that God is in control of the government. Submit to them. Honor the emperor. This is God’s will. Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:11-17 are parallel passages. They were instructed to see God as their Sovereign Lord and King. They served God by living peaceably with all men. This means Christians first saw themselves as God’s and then under the Roman Empire.

Daniel: The Romans 13 Example

An Old Testament example is Daniel. He is a good example of a Romans 13 believer. He was taken as a captive to Babylon. In Daniel 1, he was made into a Babylonian citizen and was trained in Babylon ways, culture, and literature. Yet, we see that he would not eat the king’s food because it violated his fear of God. We generally see this as a good thing. Yet, let’s ask a different question: did he force his beliefs on his non-Jewish peers? No. He personally kept his faith. The king eventually promotes Daniel to be one of the three top administrators in the kingdom. Here we land in Daniel 6 (Daniel in the Lion’s Den). Remember, Daniel is one of the head administrators of the kingdom. He helped advise the king. Yet, due to jealousy, a new decree went out that banned praying to anyone but the king. As an administrator, Daniel would have known about this law. It does not say if he questioned the king. But, we do know that he prayed towards Jerusalem like he did before. He kept his faith. He remembered who God is and feared God above men. Yet, did he make a public protest or chisel a political meme “Darius and Pharaoh from Exodus are the same”? No. He went and he prayed. He knew God was sovereign and he acted on that.

Read Daniel 1-6 and see how Daniel follows a Romans 13 pattern.

The American and Romans 13

How does this apply to us today? Think back to that quiz. Which answers were easier to come up with? This reveals an attitude in many Christians. It tends to be the trend to know American history better than Christian history. This reveals that we have been caught up with being an American first. We have been bought from the kingdom of darkness and made citizens of the kingdom of our Creator. That is our first and primary citizenship. This leads us to some points:

First, do we submit to the authorities that God has put in our lives? Or are we slandering politicians on Facebook? What does that say to the world around us when they see Christians slamming politicians, political parties, and policies on social media? How much do we rant about political matters rather than praying about them? What does that say about our belief in the sovereignty of God?

Second, what do we honor more: America or God? Think of the lyrics to America, the Beautiful. The lyrics portray America and American heritage as better than our own Christian heritage. It seems that the many patriotic songs we sing in church are worshipping America rather than the God who gave us our country. This does not mean we throw them out. We need to be careful how we see these songs. Is it America that is worshipped during these services or is it gratitude to God first? It is good we honor those in office, armed forces, and those who have died and are veterans. However, since our primary citizenship is in God’s kingdom, how much do we honor our Christian heritage? How much do we know about our heritage? How much does our Christian heritage affect our thinking?

As we look at how we handle our government and being an American, it comes down to one question:

Are you an American Christian or a Christian American?

But, He’s My Pastor…

“The Bible is the ultimate authority and infallible, not the pastor and not the elders. And it doesn’t mean that you believe everything he says without examining it.”
– John Piper

In teaching college students, there is one thing that is highlighted for any speech or presentation: the bibliography. A bibliography is a document that demonstrates the research. However, the one thing it should always include is reliable sources. Teaching students to recognize reliable from unreliable sources can be a challenge, but the reward in a well-research project is invaluable.

This skill is important for anyone to have. When we go on Facebook, there are so many “news stories,” that we need to verify what happened. In 2015, there were many death hoax stories on Facebook (i.e. Cher passed away). Yet, with a quick checking sources and verifying the information these claims were proven false.

Checking Sources and the Church

Checking sources and verifying information is very important for the church. It is not making sure the Bible is true and verifying the Bible. Instead, Christians should make sure their pastors and leaders are faithfully teaching the Bible.

Paul condones and encourages this mentality. Acts 17:11 is our source. Here, Paul comments on the people of Berea. He explains that this church has noble character and it is demonstrated by their actions: they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if what was being taught was true. It was not a questioning of the Bible, but a questioning of the teachings they were receiving. Did it match up with the Scriptures?

In the New Testament, there are numerous references to guarding the doctrine, clinging to what was taught, examining teachings and seeing if it aligns with God’s Word. 1 John 4:1-6 is a key passage. This is not directed to “leaders in the church,” but to all Christians. It states to test the teachings of everyone that claims Christ to see if it matches what they were taught. Therefore, it is a responsibility of the entire Church to check what is being taught in the Church.

Is it that Big of a Deal?

But, is it necessary? The average person in the church doesn’t need to do that, does he?

Let’s give some real examples that have been said by pastors:

Teaching on the life of Joseph from Matthew 1: “One of the applications we can see from the life of Joseph is not to hang around an angry man.”
Sermon on John 8:12: “Christians will never struggle with depression, because Jesus is the Light of the world.”
Sermon on Ezekiel 47 and the rivers out of the temple: “The levels of water are an allegory of the Christian life. God wants us to start out at ankle level, but He wants us to, eventually, go all in.”
Talking about being a pillar for God: “Let’s turn to Genesis 19. Here we have Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. She became a pillar of salt on the earth for God. Just like we need to become.”

Each of these statements have been taught inside a church, and all of these statements do not follow passages faithfully. Yet, many of the people did not question their pastor, because he was the pastor.

Again, Paul has something to say about this: Galatians 1. Verses 6-7 exclaim Paul’s astonishment that the churches in Galatia were abandoning the doctrine taught by Paul for another doctrine from a false teaching. He is saying that the people should have realized this was false teaching. To Paul, this is a big deal, and to us, as believers, we should share the same attitude.

How to Implement this Attitude

This is, unfortunately, not the majority attitude inside the church. How can we change this?

Leaders in the church need to teach how to properly study the Bible. It will take work, but if Paul was serious about this, we need to match his mindset. Take steps by starting with classes on hermeneutics or Bible survey. Study the Bible in order to keep the Church accountable. It takes time and energy. But, just like in seeing well-researched projects, the reward is invaluable.

What would happen in the church if the leaders began to train people to have a biblical studies knowledge equivalent to that of a Bible major?

To the Layperson and to the Pastor

To the layperson: Are you studying your Bible? Do you know if what your pastor says is true? You have the responsibility to make sure the Church is faithfully clinging to what the Bible says and not wavering from that.

To the pastors: Are you willing to open yourself for people to keep you accountable to make sure you are teaching what the Bible says? Are you willing to teach people the working knowledge they need to study the Bible at a level you study the Bible? Because, doesn’t that mature the people God has given you stewardship over?

“But, he’s my pastor!” Yes, but that does not make him God or on the same level as God’s Word. He is to be God’s servant. He follows what God’s Word says, not what he wants God’s Word to say. Paul was passionate about this and we should be too. Let us, as believers, work together with our church leaders to keep the church accountable to following God’s Word faithfully.

For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled
in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature,
for those who have their powers of discernment
trained by constant practice
to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:13-14

*Just a quick thought to get the mind thinking for future posts

Christ Conquering Chaos

“God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” – C.S. Lewis

Chaos is complete disorder and confusion

Hoarders is a TV show depicting people whose lives are defined by chaos. Their homes are chaotic from the clutter and garbage. Some people do not face hoarding, but they face other situations chaos in their lives. The chaos divorce brings when a custody battle rages over a child. The chaos alcoholism invites to rip apart relationships. The chaos of political battles, war, diseases, addictions, and other things. It is all around us. We worry about how chaos will affect our lives and those we love. It seems like there is no escape from it. Chaos seems to create the path we are to walk.

Where does Chaos come from?

Because of the Fall of Man (Genesis 3), sin has entered the world and all are affected by it (Romans 5:12). Think about divorce. Why does divorce cause so much chaos? Because divorce is bred out of the effects of sin. Why can having a child out of a married relationship cause so much chaos? Because of sin. How can an addiction cause so much chaos for an individual? Because of sin

Chaos is a result of sin. It affects us internally and externally. Think about Hoarders it clearly depicts the external effects of chaos. Internally chaos tortures our minds and puts worry, suspicion, and other thoughts that can lead to an addiction to soothe those thoughts. Yet, that addiction causes more chaos. Our choices create chaos. Think of a situation you handled in a wrong manner or did something you knew was sinful, what happened? Chaos. It plagued your mind and probably affected others.

The Origin of Order

Yet, when we see a chaotic space, for example a messy house, we are repulsed and we want to see it organized. It is because we do not like chaos. We find chaos repulsive and there is an instinct in us where we need to fix it.

This instinct for order comes from God. Genesis 1 tells us that God created the world and brought order out of chaos. He is the author of order. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says that God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. This peace is not the same as hippies smoking a joint and being cool with everything and ignoring issues. No! God is a God of peace in that he brings order. He brings structure. He is the complete opposite chaos. God does not want his world which he gave to us to be a chaotic mess because of sin. He steps in.

The Incarnation Meets Chaos

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

God takes on a human body. He dwells (or makes his living) among us. He doesn’t just look over humanity. No, he joins us. Jesus is the incarnate God. He lives among our chaos, and meets it head on.

In Mark 5, Jesus heads to the region known as Gerasenes. A man, possessed by demons, meets Jesus. This man’s life is riddled with chaos. Internally and externally the chaos is felt by him and the people around him. They have to chain him and put him in a cemetery. The man cuts himself with rocks. Chaos rules his life. But, in verse 15, Jesus heals the man and the people of the area see him sitting in his right mind. The chaos was gone.

In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. She has to come at noon, in the heat of the day, to draw water because of the chaos in her life. Her actions had created a social chaos for her life. She did not have a husband, and yet was living with a man. Her choices created her chaos. Yet, Jesus brings to her the Living Water which douses the fires of chaos.

God took on flesh to conquer, not only sin, but the consequence of sin: chaos.

But, That is Not the End of the Story…

Usually, our telling of these two Bible stories ends with them being healed and restored by Jesus and that’s it. But, there is more.

In each of these accounts, Jesus not only heal and restores them, but gives them something. The man from Gerasenes and the Woman at the Well are given a new path. Instead of a path that looks like chaos, Jesus gives them a path of peace in a chaotic world. He gives them a peaceful purpose: “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you.”

They each still had to deal with the chaos of the world, but their chaos was gone. Jesus replaced it with a purpose: recount the works of God. When we remember the works of God and recount them, we see the peace of God giving us understanding. We begin to see things from God’s point of view.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

Trying to control our own chaos only brings more internal chaos. God invites us to let him bring peace into our lives. When he does, he gives us a new purpose. This purpose allows us to walk a journey through the chaos of the world surrounded by the peace of God when we are focused on him.

Are things going to be calm and tranquil? No. God does not promise that. Instead, he promises internal peace that helps us understand to look at life from God’s perspective.

Paul, the apostle, experienced this. His life was far from calm and tranquil. He was whipped, imprisoned, beaten, stoned, abandoned, and shipwrecked. Yet, in Philippians 4:11, he says I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.

Chaos surrounded him, yet Paul was able to be content and find God’s peace to correct his thinking. God took on flesh, not only to save us, but to bring order to our chaos and out of our chaos give us a purpose. It may feel like a maze at times, but we have someone guiding us each step of the way.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.– 2 Corinthians 5:7

Let Them Stand

“For the church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different, (and He rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.” – C.S. Lewis

A warm and sunny Sunday in May began. A wife, about 40 years old, and her husband got ready for church. As they arrived, many were dressed up and bustling towards their seats. The pastor approached the pulpit after the opening song. “Welcome to our church. Today is a special day: Mothers’ Day. We would like to recognize all the mothers. If you are a mother or a grandmother, please stand.” A good number of women, over half the church, stood as they proudly proclaimed their motherhood status. However, the woman sat next to her husband not moving. Her eyes cast down. Even at 40, she was not able to join her friends. But, not only were her eyes cast down, but other eyes looked at her in sorrow that she could not join the celebration. She was childless. 

This situation is not uncommon in churches today. Many people experience an isolation in the church and feel unrecognized because they do not fit a certain category. These people never stand in recognition. These individuals eventually leave the church as they feel like they have no purpose in the church. In this post, I would like to address this issue and look at three major groups that have been ignored in the church for their contribution to the heritage of the church: the disabled, the childless, and African-Americans. 

The Body of Christ

The church is not a building. It is a group of people. Ekklēsia is the Greek word translated church. This word refers to those that are called out. But, the church is not just a group of people. Throughout the New Testament, the church is known as the Body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 1:24). Paul takes the imagery to tell us that all Christians are part of the body of Christ and all play an important role that is individualized in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul not only describes the Body of Christ, but he also corrects two wrong attitudes believers had about the Body of Christ. Verses 12-20 states that people should not say since they are not like others in their talents, they are not as valuable to the church. Paul says there is a diversity and Christians should not be jealous over other people in the church. Instead, God has made diversity in the church and given everyone gifts and abilities to play an individual, yet team role in the church. This is the aspect mainly preached on. 

But, the second attitude is not really discussed and belongs to our discussion: verses 21-26. Parts of the body begin to turn on each other. The more visible parts, the eye and feet, say to others who have not as much visibility, “we have no need of you.” Paul condemns this attitude. Instead, Paul states that all parts have their roles and the ones that seem not as visible are to have the same honor as the ones that get honor in public view. This is to be how the church should see each other in each person’s contribution to the church and its mission. 

The church today falls into the second attitude. As the story relayed, there is a minority of people who do not fit in a category that is typically honored or recognized in their contribution to the church. Many childless couples feel shame when they can’t stand on Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day. Those with disabilities are not even seen as those who can contribute to the church. And, many church leave out the contribution of African-Americans to the church throughout history. 

The Contribution of the Disabled

Many with disabilities have contributed to the church despite many physical or mental obstacles. One of these is Joni Eareckson Tada. In her early life, she was paralyzed from the neck down. Yet, that does not stop her from from serving God in the church. She encourages many people through the books she has written (see Beyond Suffering Bible). She reaches out to other families with children with disabilities. She also paints with her mouth the glories of God seen in creation. Many others with disabilities can do many things for Christ. Yet, they are in need of a chance and in need of recognition.

The Contribution of the Childless

Many churches see motherhood and fatherhood as the pinnacle role for Christian men and women. Yet, there are Christians who do not have children of their own because of physical issues. Some marry someone with children or adopt children; yet, they have no biological children of their own. However, in the church today, there is a stigma for those who do not have biological children. There are two famous men in church history who were married, and yet were childless: C.S. Lewis and John Calvin. These two men had step-children, but they never had biological children.. Yet, from the legacy these men left us, the childless can contribute the church in mighty ways. Think about the last time you read or watched “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” How did the Chronicles of Narnia impact you or children you know? How has Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity deepen your faith? How did The Great Divorce make you ponder over Heaven and Hell? Or, think of the time you thought about the Reformation. How has Calvin influenced the church as we know it today? How did he change the way we see the Bible? These are great contributions of childless men. Think about who is in your church who is childless and how they feel when motherhood or fatherhood is seen as the “end goal” for Christians. Don’t they have a place and a role to play in the Body of Christ? 

The Contribution of the African-American Heritage

One group that seems forgotten constantly are the African-Americans. When thinking of American church history many do not think of African-Americans. Instead Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, D.L. Moody, and other white Americans come to mind. Yet, many African-Americans have had impact on the church. Think of songs like Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Soon and Very Soon, Give Me That Ole Time’ Religion, It’s Me, Oh Lord (Standing in the Need of Prayer), and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. These are all songs written by African-Americans. Many of these came out the the dark period of slavery. These are memorials proving that even though many slave owners tried to keep slaves in a “man-made Christianity” (read Unholy: The Slaves Bible), God worked to show his Gospel power in the African-American population despite these dark times. So many names have contributed: Henry McNeal Turner, Martin Luther King Jr., and James Weldon Johnson for example. It is time the church allowed this group to stand up and honor all they have contributed. I highly suggest reading Ain’t Gonna Lay My ‘Ligion Down: African-American Religion in the South.

Contributing in Fellowship

As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12, the church is the unified Body of Christ, yet is filled with diverse individuals in fellowship with one another. The Greek word for fellowship is Koinōnia. In 1 John 1:3, John tells us that we, as believers, have fellowship with other believers that mirror the fellowship the Father has with Jesus and then with us. Yet, it is more than just potlucks and getting along in the church. In Romans 15:26, the word Koinōnia has another word picture: contribution. Fellowship in the body of Christ means seeing that all believers have a contribution to give. This means that true fellowship in the Body of Christ is seeing the individual contributions of each Christian in the unified mission of making disciples of all nations. All believers and all Christians, no matter their background, have been redeemed by Christ to make their individual contributions for the Kingdom of God (Colossians 3:10-11).

A Change for the Church

The disabled, the childless, and African-Americans have all contributed to the church and yet many go unrecognized without honor which Paul says should be given (1 Corinthians 12:24-26). We recognize mothers and fathers, and pastors, but when was the last time the church took time to recognize the contributions of one of the groups mentioned? Think about church history, and the church today, without their gifts and talents being used for Christ. What things would be missed without these groups?

How can the church remedy this issue? Could, during Black History Month (February), at least two Sundays be given over to teaching on the contributions of African-Americans? Could we take time to educate our congregations about the contributions of the disabled and the childless? Are there any other groups of people in your church that are not recognized?

Martin Luther King Jr. observed that Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. Even today, the New York Times and CNN agree this sad reality still takes place. How can the church reverse this sad reality? It could start by letting them stand.

* This does not cover all the contributions of all three groups, and provide all answers to this issue. However,  I encourage you to research more on each group and their contributions to the church. Always be a life-long learner for the sake of His Name. 

Disability as a Foreshadow

“Badness is only spoiled goodness. Evil is a parasite, not an original thing.” – C.S. Lewis

Terror Headline Collage

Bombings. Life-destroying storms. Cancer. Diseases. Terrorist attacks. Car accidents. Loss of a child or parent. Each one of us has faced at least one of these things. Evil stalks us around each corner and parades its rule on every news channel. We know there is a problem of evil in our world that has existed throughout history: the holocaust, the killing fields in Cambodia, the slavery, the tyrannies that starved millions of people, the genocide of Rwanda. 

Our hearts break when we experience the pain of evil. Its sting stabs at the core of our emotions. The only response is “why?” Why do these things keep happening? Then a parallel question sounds, “Where is God?” As Christians, the problem of evil is like wrestling with the Hulk. It feels like we do not have enough answers. In this post, I hope to give Christians a different perspective on the problem of evil and how to interact with the evil we face daily in our lives. 

Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

I knew from the first day of school how different I am. I checked my clothing. I matched and actually dressed in what many were wearing; that couldn’t be it. I quickly checked my hair. It did not look like a rat’s nest. I moved to examine my face. No food or smudges or toothpaste. Then why was everyone staring at me  as I walked by them? I caught my reflection. My limp betrayed me. I am not like everyone else. There is something wrong with me. Then, the bullying and the shaming began. 

Many times I raised my voice with the “why” coming out and questioning God. Like me, many people ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not the worst person in the world. Why am I the one with Spina Bifida? Why does this bad thing have to happen to me? Each one of us has, at one point or another, asked a similar set of questions. But is “why do bad things happen to good people” the right question? 

We, almost with glee, enjoy seeing bad things happen to those who really deserve it. But do we? We’re the good people who are victims of the evil around us. However, is that reality? 

The Bible claims that everyone is a sinner. No one goes after God. Everyone does what is evil (Romans 3:9-18). But, does this claim match reality? Let’s turn on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC, France 24. Yes, it matches reality. Man at his core is sinful. It is because of mankind (Genesis 3) that evil entered the world (Romans 5:12). When evil came in the world, everything was affect. Death, disease, and disaster began their control over humanity. Bad things happen to bad people. 

This means that disabilities came into the world because of sin corrupting everything. 

A Foreshadow Divine

However, we all recognize that these things are evil and bad. There is something wrong. Why is that? Because we know that there has to be a solution and complete annihilation of evil. Good is what is normal. I see this in my disability. I don’t go around thinking my body is a “normal”. No, there is something wrong with. But, I know it is not going to stay this way. There has to be a day when my body is fixed. It is like God has put these thoughts in our minds (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

There is a divine foreshadow. We know evil and the sting of pain we face is not normal and is not the way life should be. That is a recognition that something is should be done about evil. Except, we know that humans cannot fix it for ourselves. We see many stories of that ending in a dystopian future. We cannot bring utopia, even through we know utopia is what is normal. Sounds like we need an incarnation to solve this for us. (John 1:14)

My disability proves that God has shown me that my body is not meant to be this way. He wants to heal it and restore all creation to what it was when things were perfect in the garden (Matthew 7; John 11). 

A Restoration Divine

But, how can God be good and allow this evil? How can Psalm 139:13-14 be true when my disability can be a burden? In Genesis 3 God does two acts that shows he is involved and bringing an end to evil. In Genesis 3:21, God does not just remove Adam and Eve from the Garden and kicks them out because of sin. He clothes them. He kills his own creation for Adam and Eve. He clothes their guilt and shame. In Genesis 3:15, God promises that there will be someone who will crush the head of evil and restore all things. 

Revelation 21 is that restoration. A new earth is created for God’s people where there is no more death, tears, pain, and disabilities. 

A disability is evil. There is pain and suffering. However, is there no hope? I know I am not healed from my disability. But, it is a foreshadow that things will change. So there is hope.

 In John 9, Jesus says that the man was born blind in order to display the works of God in him. Today, it might not be in a complete healing. But, the problem of a disability in reality is a foreshadow of the divine restoration found in Revelation 21. Evil exists. The recognition of this problem proves there is good and it must come from outside of us. It comes from God who is going restore all things. 

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”
Romans 8:22-25

*This post is not meant to solve all the issues with the “problem of evil.” This is to give a different perspective on how we see evil and interact with it.

More than a Pep Talk with Jesus…

“Give yourself to prayer, to reading on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” – David Brainerd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.”

These words start one of the most beautiful and most quoted biblical poems (Psalm 23). The Psalms are one of the most quoted books of the Bible because they speak to our emotions and connect immediately to our lives. When we read them, we tend to picture in our minds the image above: reading our Bible at the lake and letting the truths of God penetrate our hearts so we can make it through the day.

It is common for many of us to view our daily Bible reading, devotional time, etc. as that image. We sit there with our coffee, open our Bible, and listen to those encouraging words from God. Our Bible reading begins to sound like a “pep talk with Jesus.”

There are times in our lives we need those encouraging words and promises of God. He tells us to cling to those promises and remember them (1 Chronicles 16:12; Psalm 13:5-6). It is from these promises that we move forward trusting God each step of the way.

However… A leg brace is more than a pretty color that decorates it. It has structure. It has a purpose. It has everything it needs to support an individual and make that individual mobile.

This is the same with our Bible time and Bible reading. It is more than a “pep talk with Jesus.” Our emotions do need help on a daily basis, but the Scriptures gives us a command and two other reason for doing our Bible reading.

The Command

II Timothy 2:15 states, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Paul is writing Timothy to be diligent in handling God’s Word: through studying and through preaching. Even though II Timothy is known as a “pastoral epistle,” it can be applied to our lives. A mature believer is one who follows the principle in II Timothy 2:15 – being diligent with God’s Word. Diligent means, “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort: painstaking.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

We have a command. We are to diligently study the Bible and handle it in a right manner. It means hard work for us; like being back in school. It will take time. Studying the Bible means that it is more than our “pep talk with Jesus.” Studying the Bible means pouring ourselves over it with “steady, earnest, and energetic effort.”

But why take this effort and time to study the Bible? Two reasons…

Knowing God, Knowing Me

“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:9-10

Why should we view our Bible reading as more than a “pep talk with Jesus?” Because, we need to be filled with the knowledge of God in order to know ourselves and live.

In this passage, we see that we need to be filled with the knowledge of God and his will. This is not a “fuzzy feeling” type of reading of the Bible. We need to know everything we can learn about God and his will from his Word. This means we will need to read and study out the love of God, the holiness of God, the righteous wrath of God, and what he expects from us as our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord. Reading about God’s wrath is uncomfortable, but is shows us who God is. Reading about God’s mercy and grace shows us who God is. These pictures may seem to contradict each other and be portraying two different “Gods.” But the beauty of the Bible is that it is one God. He is all these things and more. Our Bible studying should be done in order to know God in all his facets. We can wrestle with the apparent “contradictory truths” about God and study to know how they work together in the person our awesome Creator.

Braces have many parts to them. You need bolts, screws, plastic, etc. They all have to be there to keep individuals up. Not one person is only loving, or only gracious. God is the same. There are multiple facets that make up who God is that are found in his Word. You don’t really see them when you view your Bible study as a “pep talk with Jesus.” It is ok to wrestle through the passages to know God. Because, when we know God and see him for who he is, we are changed into his image more and more (II Corinthians 3:18). By knowing God, we know his will and how we are to live a life pleasing to him. He came to this earth, took on a human body, died, and rose again for us to have life. Why not get to know this God in all his amazing facets?

Dan Brown and Bible Reading

“Holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.”
– Titus 1:9

Before continuing, please watch this clip: (You may need to copy and past the link in your browser)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl56LyJTH5M

How uncomfortable do you feel? Did something not sit right with you?
Was what was said true or false?

Think about it. Was what you saw true or false? But do not stop with just saying, “The Da Vinci Code is false.” Can you defend your answer Scripturally? Can you prove out of the Bible that what was said in the clip is false?

This is the second reason why we need to study the Bible. A “pep talk with Jesus” cannot help you defend your faith and answer such concerns as like the clip you saw. Dan Brown’s novels and other novels, movies, and media are taking Scripture and twisting it. This breeds confusion and lies about what the Bible truly says. It prevalent in our culture. Most people have a skewed view of the Bible because of these things.

However, Titus 1:9 commands us that we need to not only encourage people with the truths found in God’s Word, but we need to biblically refute those who contradict and twist the Bible. Our faith is sure because of who God is. But, we need to be ready to handle the confusion, the twisting, and the lying about the Bible. The only way that is going to happen is if we are digging deep and studying the Bible. It will take work and it will take time. But, making disciples of all nations requires us to answer questions they have and be able to stand up for the truth. Deep Bible studying is our path.

How do you view your Bible reading? Is it a time for a “pep talk with Jesus?” Again, there is nothing wrong with allowing our emotions to align with God’s thoughts and promises. But, our Bible reading is supposed to be more than that. Are we getting to know God and growing in that knowledge of God so we can live out his will for our lives? Are we studying the Bible in order to answer the questions and confusion around us?

Are you comfortable with only having a superficial knowledge of the Bible? Or are you ready to study the Bible and make it more than a pep talk with Jesus.