If I Could Turn Back Time

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

1989. A song was heard across radios and climbed to #1 on the charts. If I Could Turn Back Time performed by Cher became one of the most iconic songs of all time. The song reveals a longing to go back time and fix the mistakes between two lovers. The singer would go to the greatest lengths, including reaching for the stars, t0 turn back time in order to restore a “golden age.”

1979. Bob Segar and The Silver Bullet Band released a song that became a staple in the Rock and Roll genre: Old Time Rock and Roll. The lyrics sing:

Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock n’ roll

Still like that old time rock n’ roll
That kind of music just soothes the soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old time rock n’ roll

Both songs reveal a desire to turn back time and return to a “golden age” of the singer. Many of the most iconic songs heard on the radio and on our playlists have a theme of going back in time to bask in the sunshine of yesteryear.

We think about the same. We hear exclamations of wanting to return to the “golden age” of our country, our church history, and even our personal selves. We hear the desire to reject the ways of today because it does not have the same “soul” as those nostalgic times.

As Christians, many of us have heard in churches about turning back the clocks. We desire to go back to another time either to a different national leader, or a time in church practice. I have not been to a church where this topic has not been brought up from the pulpit. Or, I have heard people desiring to go back to their life before Christ or at least have a small bit of it. But, is it biblical thinking to desire to turn back time?

Well, Back In…

When we look back at our lives, we often see the hardships we endure spiritually and physically. We think about how easy it must have been for us before salvation. We did not have to wrestle and struggle between serving God and the desires of the flesh. Sin was first nature. We could have gone on living like that. We could be our director. We could write the endings we wanted. Yet, we had to give everything up to follow this Jesus into a life of spiritual battles, loss of relationships, changes in our plans, and a constant responsibility to live a certain way. Like Cher, we sometimes want to turn back time and undo our decisions. We want to go back to those days that seem so peaceful and possibly had potential.

Exodus 16:1-3. The Israelites have been miraculously delivered by God out of slavery in Egypt. They were in the wilderness following God through Moses to the Promised Land. Excitement after the drowning of the Egyptian army soon turned to complaining. “Well, back in Egypt…” became their motto. Over and over again, a struggle comes up and the Israelites cry out, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”

Does this sound familiar? We say the same. We look at where God is leading us, and we say, “It was better before I gave my life to Christ.” Our lives before Christ seem better and less “chaotic” than our lives with Christ. We would gladly join hands with the Israelites and return.

The Israelites wanted to turn back time and find a way. And, they did. Moses convinced them to stay, but they decided to make Egypt in their midst through a golden calf (Exodus 32). Holding on to just a little bit of Egypt was better than letting it all go for the unknown God was doing. Would we be doing the same? Would we throw our gold in to have some comfort of our old lives before being delivered from slavery? Do we hold on to something that stokes our inner thoughts and lusts of those nostalgic sinful days?

See, the Israelites forgot one thing: slavery. They could think all about the “good” they had. But, they were slaves! They had no freedom. It is the same with us. We were condemned to Hell. No escape. Why go back to the things that lead us back to the slavery of sin? We lusted, we went after it. No shame in our actions; not caring who got hurt in the process of our desires. Yet, in salvation, Christ bled so we could follow Him to a right relationship with our Creator that ends in the New Earth with no more tears or pain.

Do we really want to turn back time to where we were before Christ? Where would you be if Christ did not die and rise from the dead for you?

Remembering the Old Ways

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16).

How many of us have heard this verse? How many of us have heard the tales of the glory days of Christianity in America? Many churches will decry from their pulpits the practices of today and urge people to return to the old practices of yesteryear.

But, that is not what Jeremiah 6 is talking about. God wants His people to return to Him. He does not want them to return to some way of living of using one instrument over another or something along those lines. He wants a return to a relationship with Him first.

We decry the cultural sin of today and we hear, “Back in our day we did not see this evil in our country or in our churches. We need to get back to a simpler time.” We then sit and reminisce about those days of old. We think how much we want to be there, and so we make our churches feel that way.

Remembering and imitating the days of old does not get rid of the sin of today, nor of the sin of yesterday. Sin will find its way. We live in a fallen world. We cannot escape it inside our churches.

It is not the former days that will save us and defeat sin, it is the days to come when Christ reigns as King on the New Earth and wipes away ever tear.

God tells us it is not wise to go back to the former days and dream about them (Ecclesiastes 7:10). God wants us to look forward as He pushes all history, all time periods, all “golden ages” to the restoration of the Creator with His creation (Revelation 21-22). We were not made to look to the past. We were made the look to the future that is bright with the radiance of our Savior as He restores creation and puts all things under his feet (I Corinthians 15:20-28).

The Time That is Given to Us

The world is falling apart. Sometimes our lives are falling apart. Bad things happen. We don’t get the job. Promises from people fall through. Our lives are not the way we think they should be. Our baby is diagnosed with a disability. The Christian leader we respected leaves the faith and turns his back on God. Every day we hear sin becoming more and more normalized. And, deep inside we ache and hurt. We cry out, “God, stop it!” When we do not get an answer we tend to want to turn back time.

A young woman is kidnapped from her home that was burnt to the ground. She is forced to present her beauty before the ruler of that nation. She is then chosen to be his wife. She is forced to marry a king who was known for his parties that involved drunkenness and orgies. After her marriage, she hears of a conspiracy by an advisor to annihilate what is left of the people from her home. When the world and her life were about to crash down, her cousin said, “Perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

We, like Esther, may wish none of what we are going through would ever happen to us. We want to turn back time to reverse decisions. Yet, it is not for us to decide. The One who made us is the One who gave us our life. He saved us. He redeemed us for a purpose. We are placed purposefully in the times we live in. Do you not think we have been placed here for such a time as this? All you have to decide is what to do with the time God has given you.

Why are we holding on to the past? What good is it going to do unless it is in remembrance of what God has done? He brought us this far for such a time as this, and He will bring us to the end for a such a time as will be.

Look to the Throne for the sake of His name;
Think of the throng who will share in His reign.
Some for whose souls we pray
Will share our joy that day,
Joining our song for the sake of His name!

In Jesus’ power, preach Christ to the lost;
For Jesus’ glory, count all else but loss.
Gather from every place
Trophies of sovereign grace.
Lest life be wasted, exalt Jesus’ cross.

For the Sake of His Name by Chris Anderson

We Don’t Talk About That…

“Faith consists, not in ignorance, but in knowledge, and that, not only of God, but also of the divine will.” – John Calvin

“He who shall not be named.”

In the world-wide popular series Harry Potter this phrase is quoted many times. The characters are referencing, Voldemort, the main villain of the book. His name, to some, should not be said out loud in fear of what would happen. Yet, it is interesting to note, the when the lines are drawn and sides are taken, those who were not afraid to speak his name were the ones who confidently took the side against him. Those who felt the fear of Voldemort’s name were either swayed to his side or questioned which side was right.

Many say, “art imitates life.” This means that our works such as paintings, sculptures, and even the narratives we craft reflect the realities around us. These cultural artifacts unveil our inner thoughts. They paint a picture of how we interact with the world around us.

This situation from Harry Potter reveals something that the church could take to heart and learn from.

These are Things That Shall Not be Named

“I was raped.”
“I got pregnant with my boyfriend.”
“I think I am attracted to other guys.”
“What about my body image?”
“What is so bad about anorexia, it is my body.”
“What does the Bible say about smoking weed?”
“What is…”
“What is so wrong about…”

“These are things that shall not be named!”

Isn’t that the response many of us face in the church? These statements and questions are things many ask in the church to their pastors or parents, and yet they are turned away. With a quick response and a Bible verse to meditate one, he or she is sent off.

Why is that? Ephesians 5 comes to mind where two verses stand out:
v. 3 – But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.
v. 12 – For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. 
Sounds like it is a done deal. But is it?

When we take a look at the context of the whole passage, we see that in verse 3 a believer should not be participating in these sinful acts. The key in verse 3 is participation.

But, verse 12? Is it saying that we cannot talk about sin and call sin as it is? No. In verse 11, Paul says not to participate in sin, but to expose it. How can one expose sin if one does not know about it? In fact, Jesus says something about this. Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Jesus knows what the world is like. He is telling his disciples to be wise. To be wise means you have knowledge. Yet, he tells them to be innocent as doves. Innocence references to actions.

God is telling us in His Word that we need to know about the dangers and sins around us. We need to be wise about them. If we were never to mention things that were shameful, then why does the Bible have stories about witchcraft, homosexuality, murder, incest, mutilations, child sacrifices, and other such things? It is not a command to keep in silent these shameful acts. Instead, Paul’s statement is one that should be of our conscience. “He did something that made me want to throw up.” “I can’t even begin to say how disgusted I was.” Paul is using a phrase to indicate how vile sin is. He is not saying we should never talk about it, but we need to keep the proper attitude towards sin. Our talk is to expose sin, but we should never lose the shamefulness of sin.

Yet, we have a fear of handling and talking about these issues. Paul tells us to expose them. Jesus says to be wise as serpents. God wrote a whole book that involves some of the most shameful acts. Yet, we have this fear and we brush off these topics saying, “we don’t talk about that.” Does that match Scripture?

Searching in Other Places

We may think the story of an individual’s question is done when we say, “It is a sin and here is a verse.” But, how many of us will be honest and say that is not where it ends?

How many people have left the faith, not because of the lack of music or church preferences, but because of being unanswered?

How many young men and young women, today in youth groups, ask why homosexuality, sex before marriage, drugs, and other things are wrong? To answer, many pastors and teachers say the Bible says its sin and that’s it. Their question indicates they have some sense that it might be wrong. However, they want to know why.

Yet, without an answer people turn to other places. They turn to people who will answer their questions. More than likely, the answers will not come from the Bible. Instead, other answers will lead those searching away from God’s Word and substitute man’s words and experiences.

Think about the answers given. Think about where that leads. Be realistic. Where does searching for answers in other places really lead?

What is Wrong with this Picture?

What is the issue at hand? How can we fix this?

Many will say, “It is their fault for not taking God’s Word as true. They did not find it enough. I gave them the verse. They needed to believe it.”

Is that the problem? Does the problem rest in the one who questions in this situation? No. God never condemns one who questions in search of the truth. Did God ever condemn Habakkuk for questioning the evil in his world? Did God condemn Job for asking questions? Did anyone in the Bible who sought truth end up condemned? No.

The issue is not with the questions asked. We have seen that the Bible is full of sins and explanations for why something is wrong. The issue is with the one who answers. To answer with just a verse and to send them on their way is the issue. It reveals the ignorance of the leaders and teachers and parents in our churches.

II Peter 1:3-4 states, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” God promises us that he gave us everything that pertains to life and godliness. It is primarily found in his Word. Yet, we send people with only a verse to answer a question. Why are we not sitting down and showing the answer to the why? God says it is there. Are we not trusting his Word that answers are there?

It is ok to say, “I do not know, but let’s search out the answer.” This cultivates a II Timothy 2:15 attitude in the church. We become students of the Word. When we show our need to rely on the Word for answers, we develop in the ones who question a real-life example of searching and using the Scriptures. Real-life examples are better than lectures on how to study the Bible.

Sit Down on the Bench

When someone goes without a question answered, they feel lonely. They feel like they are left by themselves screaming, but no one can hear them. They are left alone on the bench looking at life. A bench is found on a path. It is used to rest and figure out the next move. They are sitting on that bench.

When we give them only a verse and a shame for asking a “topic that shall not be named” we leave them alone on that bench. The spot next to them is vacant. Anyone can sit down. Anyone can give advice.

Think of your children, the people in your church, those who look up to you. Think of the questions they have. Now think of them sitting on the bench of life. They are resting to figure out which way to go. The spot next to them is vacant. Who is going to fill that spot?

Let’s shake off our fear of topics, which is a fear of ignorance. Shake off the pride of not knowing the answer. Search the Scripture with them. Take time to understand God’s Word and his plan for life. Don’t worry about who you will offend, but think about who you will inspire when God’s Word is searched for the answers. Think about how God will use a believer who faithfully studies his Word.

Let’s change “We don’t talk about that” to “Let me search the answer with you.” This is discipleship.

A Place of Openness

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Witch!” Cried one of the young girls. “She has bewitched me. Her spirit visits me and invites me to sign the Devil’s book!”

1692, Salem, Massachusetts.

Chaos ruled the town. The cry of “witchcraft” plagued Salem as many young members of the town accused others of being witches. The town was in an uproar. Judges from around the state were brought in to oversee the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Nearly 150 people were accused and arrested for being witches. 20 people were executed; including one minister who at the gallows recited the Lord’s Prayer and yet the judges still executed him.

Samuel Sewall was one of the judges at these trials. He was a prominent member of Boston. He married into a well-off family. He was a faithful member of his church. He attended prayer meetings. He was known as one who would sing Psalms, and daily read his Bible. Yet, he condemned people who were innocent to their deaths. His hand had a part in one of the darkest moments in American and Church History.

Yet, five years later a change happened. In a church meeting, he handed a letter written to the congregation. Sewall stood as the minister began to read. Samuel Sewall took on all the blame and shame of the Salem Witch Trials. He repented of his actions when none of the other judges did. He asked for forgiveness. A well-off man, a prominent citizen stood in front of his church repenting.

The Church… A Community

The church is known as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). It is also seen as a community of believers helping and encouraging each other (Acts 4:32-35).

Many verses in the New Testament encourage believers in their relationships with one another:

And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25


Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

These two passages speak to one facet of the church: community. There is supposed to be interaction with each other in the church. However, it requires openness. In order for us to provoke each other to love and good works, to encourage each other and to admonish each other with God’s Word, there must be openness between believers in the church. This means we can reveal our dark places and sin. It is iron sharpening iron. Some call it accountability, and, from Scripture, it is a necessary part of the church.

A Closed Openness

However, is this openness happening in our churches?

In many churches, there is a culture of appearance. Some wear coats, ties, and dress. While other churches are more casual. Yet, there is a culture of appearance. We want to appear as having things all together. We want people to look at us. We wear the right thing. We say the right words. Why? We want to be perceived in the right way.

Yet, does this promote a community of openness? It promotes a closed openness. We only allow people to hear what we want them to hear. We may even open about sin in our lives, but we word it in a way so we are not perceived in a wrong light.

Jesus has something to say about that, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. (Matthew 23:27)”

We quickly say we are not like the Pharisees, because we do not reject Christ. But, why did Jesus say this? He was condemning their hypocrisy. They looked great on the outside and were respected. Yet, they were full of sin on the inside. Nothing more than a rotting grave.

We dress ourselves up for church and we say the right things. But, are we honest with each other (even if it’s only with a small group) about our sin? Or do we hide the sin we know to be true like skeletons in our closet?

This can be boiled down to one thing – Fear of Man

The Blessing of Openness

When we set aside the fear of man in order to be open about ourselves, we see a change in ourselves and in our churches.

When you read the life of Samuel Sewall, there is a change that happens. After his repentance, his theology begins to change. He begins to shift from a works based mentality before God to one of repentance. He doesn’t see God’s blessing rising and falling based on his works, but the blessings of God based on his Advocate before the father.

This happens to us, individually, when we open up. When we say what is really going on internally, we see the light of God clearer. Our personal theology begins to change. First, we are honest about our state before God. When the sinner opened up about his state before God, he walked away forgiven; unlike the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). Second, when we see our state before God as a sinner we see Christ as the Savior who frees us from sin. We become Galatians 2:20 Christians. Openness changes our perspective of ourselves and God.

In our church, openness shows to each other the working of God in our lives. We get to see the Word of God and the Spirit of God at work. We get to see that our church is built on redeemed sinners who depend on the daily grace and mercy of an all loving and self-sacrificing God; not built on culture or tradition. Accountability for a church to be Word centered and “Word-Living” becomes a result. A community of encouragement and admonishing with God’s Word emerges.

The passages use words like provoke, encourage, and admonishing. How can we do that as a church unless we are willing to open up to each other?

Not Flaunting Dirty Laundry

Hopefully all of us at one time or another have done laundry. It is appropriate that we do not flaunt our dirty laundry. Yet, we all know what people wear; even the more “embarrassing” items. Knowledge of something does not mean we flaunt it.

This is the same with openness in the church. We can be open about our sin and dark places God has brought us through. It is not a celebration of sin or wallowing in mud. We celebrate the Savior who conquers our sin. Knowledge of one’s sins leads to a boasting in Christ over flaunting the sin.

Paul and Openness

Does Paul promote openness in the church? There are passages about confessing your sins to one another and bearing each others burdens. However, there is one passage where openness was shown in the church of Corinth:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Paul could only say this if the believers in Corinth were open about their pasts. To say, “some of you used to be like this,” is to say he knew their past. They opened up before him and their fellow believers.

Romans 12:9-16 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”

Paul commands every believer to be like this. Yet, for this to be apart of our lives we must be willing to be open.

Being a Modern Samuel Sewall

Samuel Sewall was a prominent man in Boston and in his church. Yet, he repented of his actions in the Salem Witch Trials.

I couldn’t help but think, “How often does this happen in our churches today?” How often are we opening up so we, individually, and our fellow believers can be encouraged?

How as a church are we doing with this? Are we more concerned about how we are perceived or how we are being encouraged by each other to live for Christ? Do we hide behind our appearances and culture in order to hide sin? Sin when it remains hidden will kill us. John Owen said, “Kill sin, or sin will be killing you.”

Are we more like the Pharisees than we realize?

It will hurt our pride and our self-consciousness when we open up. Openness does show our true state as sinners, but it glorifies a Savior who is the only one who can change us. The church is a history of Christ changing people from condemned to redeemed. Why should we stop that history with our pride?

An open believer promotes an open church which promotes an openness to God’s Word and His Working. Lives can only be changed when we are open with ourselves and with each other in the church as we cling to God’s Word.

Samuel Sewall’s last words speak to the change that occurs when we are open: “If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father. Looking to Jesus, He is the only remedy.”

A Color Blind Church?

“Unity does not mean sameness. It means oneness of purpose.” – Priscilla Shirer

My wife and I were on our flight home from a wonderful visit with her family and friends. We got comfy and waited for the rest of the passengers to board. I pulled out my book and began reading as the plane took off. However, my ears began to pick up a conversation in the row ahead of us from a group coming home from a missions trip.

“I learned a lot about how others really need the Gospel,” said one. The leader responded, “Yes, it is clearly seen with a group who has never heard the Gospel before. That group of people never had seen a white man before or knew about a church. I am grateful we were able to give them the Gospel and help them start a good church.”

This conversation pulled me from my book and grabbed my attention. Never seen a white man before? I knew what the phrase meant, but it hit me it an odd way like bad fish. The sentence of putting “white man” and “church” together needed some searching for me.

What does the Bible say about the church and race? And did it connect to having a “good church”?

Two Conflicting Passages

Galatians 3:28 – There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Revelation 7:9 – After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.

The New Testament discuss the beginning and the doctrine of the church. However, in my search of race and the church, I came across Galatians 3:28 (and others like it). “Well, that clears it up. There is to be no distinction of races in the church. All are equal and one.” I thought my research was done. Yet, I remembered passages in Revelation (like 7:9) where it is mentioned that there are people from every tribe, language, and nation. These passages were recognizing racial and cultural diversity.

Is it a contradiction? Does God really see diversity in the church or does he want everyone the same that these divisions do not matter?

Being Color Blind

According to Meriam-Webster dictionary, to be “Colorblind” means to “not be influenced by differences of race; especially: free from racial prejudice.”

Seeing and treating everyone as the same, despite their racial background, is highly valued in our world today. We are not to judge people because of their race or treat them differently because of their race. We would all agree this is a good thing.

There have been so many battles and debates won in order to make sure we stop people being treated differently because of their race.

But, should the church be colorblind?

Seeing Color – Being One

When we look at the book of Revelation, it mentions there are people from every tribe, language, and nation. In Revelation 21 it mentions the nations brining in their glory into the New Jerusalem. There is no “color blindness” (I am using this phrase in a different way) in these passages.

Why? Does God not want the church to be colorblind?

Passages, like Galatians 3:28, are not referring to being color blind, but are referring to an equality of faith. Everyone is equal in the church. There should be no favoritism. There is no discrimination of race or gender or status in the church.

Yet, we see God mentioning people groups in Heaven and on the New Earth not as one, but as nations. God is recognizing diversity. He is the one that created all of us whether of one race or the other and whether male or female. He loves diversity. In Revelation, there is no mention of a “heavenly language” that we will all speak. It says people from every language. Yet, His people are all one in Heaven through Christ.

There is nothing wrong with recognizing the diversity of people in our churches. We are all one in Christ, but we all come from different backgrounds, races, cultures, and languages. These are God ordained. Diversity is beautiful. When we recognize diversity in the church, we see people as different, yet redeemed by Christ.

In doing so, we begin to see how each person can contribute to the church. We see the history of God working in a culture. We begin to see how we can go to a different country and worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Unfortunate White-Washing

In American conservative churches (this is where I mainly observed this), there is a push for being colorblind. However, what has that done?

We see churches that have white-washed themselves. Everything that is done or celebrated is mainly “white.” I have seen a mural in a church that promoted itself as reaching to the nations and being culturally diverse. The mural portrayed various people in church history. However, all of them were white.

If God shows us a glimpse of Heaven and it has people of every tribe, language, and nation, then shouldn’t we be churches that begin to recognize how every nation has a part in church history? Every race may do church differently, yet we can learn from them? Every language can bring out a new way of understanding the Bible?

Without Color… Creativity is Lost

My favorite painting is Starry Night by Van Gogh. Yet, look at it without its color. It is still interesting to look at. Yet, something is missing. The colors work together as one to show the creativity and mind of Vincent Van Gogh.

The church is the same. Without seeing the diversity in the church, we lose the mindset of God of using diversity to the purpose of seeing His glory though the church as they reach individuals with the Gospel.

Each tribe, each language, and each nation has something to add to the church as it marches towards God’s purpose.

We are all one and equal in Christ. Yet, we recognize that our diversity can come together as one, like a beautiful painting, to show the glory of God through Jesus Christ as He works through His church.

Painting our Churches

But, now what? How can we do this in our churches today?

First, look around you. Look for the diversity in your church. Now, if the “diversity” goes against God’s Word, then it should not be recognized (for example, sin is not diversity). But, look for the diversity in the people in the church. Look how God has redeemed each one of you to be apart of His church. Find out the stories of grace that are in your church.

Second, take a trip to the bookstore or library. Have you ever read about the history of Christianity in China? Or in India? Have you ever read about the Spirituals written during the time of slavery in the US? Have you read biographies of women risking their lives for the sake of the Gospel? Do you know how God has worked in the drug cartels in Colombia? Have you taken time to see how God works through history and culture to show how He uses diversity to bring Himself glory?

Third, in our churches, are we celebrating our diversity? Have you taught your congregation a song in another language? It does not have to be on Missions Week. Are you teaching about God working in all cultures and celebrating the contributions all groups of people have given to the church throughout history?

Our culture tells us to be colorblind. In that sense of the word, yes. Never judge someone because of their race and background.

In the church we see each other as equals because of Christ. Yet, we see the “color” of diversity God is using in the church to accomplish His purpose.

“Never Seen a White Man Before”

As I think back to the conversation I heard on the plane, I can’t help but think that this group is missing out on how they should be viewing God’s church. I wanted to ask, “What if someone from Ghana or China brought them the Gospel before you?”

Let us, as a church, appreciate the diversity in the church and see how that brings color to God’s world and how that diversity can be used to march forward in oneness towards God’s purpose of the church.

Lord we stand in the midst of a multitude
Of those from every tribe and tongue
We are Your people redeemed by Your blood
Rescued from death by Your love
There are no words
Good enough to thank You
There are no words to express my praise
But I will lift up my voice
And sing from my heart
With all of my strength

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
To the Lamb
Hallelujah hallelujah
By the blood of Christ we stand
Every tongue every tribe
Every people every land
Giving glory giving honor
Giving praise unto the Lamb of God

Lord we stand by grace in Your presence
Cleansed by the blood of the Lamb
We are Your children called by Your name
Humbly we bow and we pray

Release Your power
to work in us and through us
Till we are changed
To be more like You
Then all the nations will see
Your glory revealed
And worship You

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
To the Lamb
Hallelujah hallelujah
By the blood of Christ we stand
Every tongue every tribe
Every people every land
Giving glory giving honor
Giving praise unto the Lamb of God

Behind Pleasant Faces: Standing

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” – Martin Luther

He stood there, on trial, facing his accusers. His works and writings spread across a table. “Will you recant?” Silence fell and all eyes looked to Martin Luther.

One might have wondered what was going through his mind. Did he think back to all that happened leading to the Diet of Worms? Did his mind recall the pounding of the hammer as he nailed the 95 Theses in Wittenberg? Or was it an event or an action before that? Did Martin Luther think back to the hours he spent studying God’s Word and finding the book of Romans? Did he think back to the times he found himself wrestling over the Catholic church’s teachings and the doctrine of God’s Word? Did he then think about how this time studying gave him a voice to declare and stand on what God’s Word said?

He opened his mouth, “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this was brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.”

Where the Reformation Began Then and Now

Many people see 1517 as the beginnings of the Reformation. Many see the action of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses as the spark for the Reformation. But, was it?

How do you think Martin Luther arrived at these conclusions that were contrary and condemnable at his time? He started by personally studying Scripture. Luther did not just vent complaints. Instead, he found the teachings of Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic church to be in conflict. He then spoke.

In these last three posts, I have written about the King James Only Movement. I have laid out reasons why we left the churches found in this movement. Many have done the same. Why? Was it because we do not like the King James Version?

No. It is from taking the teachings of this movement and comparing them with Scripture. 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.
II Timothy 2:15 is the attitude that sparked the Reformation. It was when an individual took time to study the Bible that God gave them a voice. It was studying the Bible that lead us to separate from the King James Only Movement.

It is not about preference. It is about what God says.

Raising Your Voice Like Paul and Martin Luther

When we read the New Testament epistles, we find an attitude of Paul towards various issues in the churches. When it came to issue of false teaching in the church, Paul was direct. He did not beat around the bush. He was blunt. He calls for false teaching to be exposed, separated from, and then a return to Biblical teaching.

Martin Luther followed suit. He was direct. He did not beat around the bush. He called out false teaching, called for separation, and then he did one of the most beautiful things in church history: Martin Luther began translating the Bible in the German language. He wanted the people to know God’s Word and know what God teaches. The only way for one to know the Bible is to study it in their own language. The Reformation followed Paul’s example by leading people to Scripture.

Both never called for a destruction of an individual or group of people because they were teaching unbiblical thing. Instead, call it out > separate > return to Scripture.

Now We Turn to the King James Only Movement

What are we to do with the King James Only Movement and the churches and people who follow this teaching?

Our first question should always be: Is it biblical?

They claim that holding on to the King James Version as the only version is a key component of the faith. Is that biblical? It is not. https://bracedbytruth.home.blog/2019/06/26/behind-pleasant-faces-house-rules-as-doctrine/
Please see the link for the Scripture. It is not biblical to say this because it ultimately makes the Christian faith a “Jesus and…” faith.

Their ideologies are similar to that of the Gnostics. They promote one can only know God through the secret knowledge only found in the KJV.
https://bracedbytruth.home.blog/2019/07/03/behind-pleasant-faces-dissecting-and-exhuming-ideology/

It is clear, based on their teachings, the King James Only Movement is not biblical. When we hold their claims up to Scripture, it is not a match.

Behind Pleasant Faces

There are many saved individuals in King James Only churches. There are many good Christians sitting in those pews. There are many good pastors who are preaching there. However, what they hold to is unbiblical teaching. They are being deceived. Behind their smiles and warm acceptance is the deception that goes back to the New Testament of adding to salvation and sanctification.

It may not be their fault. But, we still need to call it what it is: unbiblical. Pleasant faces can hide unbiblical deception.

Standing

The truth has been stated. We follow suit with Paul and Luther. It is hard to do. But, it comes down to a question: if something unbiblical is happening in the church, what should we do? What do we ultimately call the KJVO movement? Romans 16:17-18 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

But, it is not enough to just separate. All that does is leave behind a deceived people. We must stand on the truth. We must stand on God’s Word. They can have all their Greek and Hebrew manuscript debates. But, it must come down to what is ultimately being taught. Does it match Scripture? We must always stand with Scripture over everything else. We must always promote the truth of Scripture. We should not be seated and just see these movements as a matter of preference. Standing with and for the Truth is what we are called to.

Concluding

As Martin Luther gave those words, he sealed his fate. Yet, he stood for the truth. It was not popular in his circles and he probably lost friends and relationships with neighbors. But, Luther could not go against Scripture. He had to promote the truth. He did not try to close down the Catholic Church or destroy the papacy. He spoke truth and pointed people to the truth.

As we look at the KJVO Movement and other movements and teachings in our churches today, do they match with Scripture? What are we going to do as individuals who know the truth when unbiblical teaching happens?

We should follow the example of Martin Luther and Paul. We call it out. We separate from it. But, we do not leave it there. We speak the truth. God’s Word and His Truth is much more powerful than our attempts to close a church. His Word changes hearts and that is how a church is changed. We have to be faithful in proclaiming that Truth… even if we stand alone.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Behind Pleasant Faces: Dissecting and Exhuming Ideology

“My dear Wormwood, the fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy.” – Screwtape

A medical examiner stands over a recent victim of a vicious murder. She begins to take notes. “Thin slice across the neck severing the jugular. There are also two, three, five stab wounds in a circular pattern.” She steps back. Her face says it all. She has seen this before. She phones the forensic team, “The body on my slab has similar patterns to John Doe 245, the cold case we buried last month. I need an order to exhume that body.”

In the news, we hear of stories where patterns have emerged on a recent murder victim to identify a serial killer. When a pattern is found resembling another case, an order to exhume (or dig up) the other body is given. Dissecting a present case can lead to exhuming the past.

In matters of the church, as one investigates, a study into the past may become necessary. Church movements of today may have similarities to patterns of the past. It is not to say that one group today is equivalent to a movement of the past. Instead, it is to see the similarity of ideology.

Behind Pleasant Faces has been our look at the King James Only Movement. It is a recent movement going back to the 1950’s, and then not until the 1970’s was this movement made public. But, does this movement have any patterns to the past? Is it truly a new movement? Or is the ideology found in the King James Only Movement similar to another in church history?

First, we need to have a dissection of the ideology found in the King James Only Movement to see if it warrants an exhumation.

Dissecting the KJVO

Since its beginning, it is difficult to find out what the King James Only Movement teaches in their ideology. Many books and debates have wrestled with the textual criticism in this movement. But, what of their ideology? For this, we need to turn to the men that have pushed this movement forward: Peter Ruckman, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and Jeffery Fugate. (These do not represent every major name in the KJVO movement, but is an excellent sampling).

“The true Christian stays with the true text of the King James Version which is God’s true Word.” – Jeffery Fugate

This quotes states something very clearly: the King James Version is the true Word of God. This means that God’s Word is only found in the King James Version. Peter Ruckman says that a Christian cannot truly know God or cannot know the full truth without the King James Version. It is clear that in order to know God, one must have the knowledge of only the King James Version. Without that, a Christian will never truly know God. According to these two men, there is a special knowledge that gives a Christian the full truth of God only found in the King James Version.

This view of the King James Version leads to some more ideology in King James Only churches:

First, in observation a visitor can notice that a lot of songs and themes in a KJVO church is that of Heaven and going to Heaven. Songs like, I’ve Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop, resonate this theme. Heaven is the ultimate goal. It is taught in many of these churches to reject the world and focus on Heaven. The material is bad, but when focused on Heaven one is on the right journey. The earth is seen as “the Devil’s playground.” And, as Jack Hyles mentions, when one does not hold to the King James Bible, the Devil can lead that person away into worldly living. This ideology is also known as Dualism. It is the separation of the Sacred and the Secular. The King James Only ideology teaches that being on your way to Heaven is more important than anything else and a good Christian rejects the material world which is evil. While this is an important theme in Scripture, this teaching fails to look at that God sends us into the world to make disciples of all nations. We were not made for Heaven, but to be God’s image bearers on earth. The New Earth is our real destination in the end, according to Revelation 21. Separation from the world is biblical. Rejection of the material is a different matter. While we are alive we use the materials God has given us in the world to reach the world with the Gospel. We do not huddle in churches, we reach out.

Second, this ideology of special knowledge found in the King James Version leads to a certain view of Scripture. Peter Ruckman states, “The truth is that God slammed the door of revelation shut in 389 BC [the Old Testament], and He slammed it shut again in 1611.” “The King James Bible is God’s work… God is the author of the King James Bible,” says Jack Schaap. With this line of thinking come ways of handling Scripture. “Cherry Picking” and “Proof Texting” become ways of proving the validity of the King James Version. Also, due to the difficult language of Elizabethan English, many preachers in the King James Only Movement will begin to say that passages have a deeper meaning or a more mystical meaning than meets the eye. This leads to allegorizing passages that are not meant to be allegorized. As a result, many think they are getting the “better spiritual truth” of the King James. They are kept in awe and wonder as these preachers and authors wow them resulting in these men’s works seen with the same influence as the King James Version.

This is a sad reality. As one digs deep into these men’s sermons and writing, it comes apparent that these three things are basic ideology of the King James Only Movement.

An Ancient Exhumation

In our dissection of the King James Only Movement we found three things:
1) The ideology of a special knowledge
2) The ideology of dualism
3) The ideology in handling Scripture with mystical meaning and a high view of teachers

Do these three things warrant an exhumation? Have we seen these things before?

Yes. Second Century AD.

While there may be other Church historical movements resembling these patterns, I want to go back to ancient church history. There is a movement that should be exhumed for their ideology: Gnosticism.

The Gnostics were a second century group that is found inside the church. It did not come from the outside, but from inside. They had their own set of documents that were taught from as well as the Scriptures. However, they claimed that one could not fully understand God without their special knowledge hidden in their texts. The Gnostics claimed to possess a secret knowledge that only through their teaching one could learn it.It was only through the “demystifying” of the text through their teachers that one could fully understand it. The text was seen as needing a mystical mindset to understand and to untangle the allegories of Scripture. From the Gnostic teachings, one can clearly see an ideology of Dualism as it was taught to reject the material world and only focus on Heaven. If one departed from the Gnostic teachings, it was taught that something bad would happen to their faith.

The Gnostics were not seen as a good group in church history. Because of these three basic ideologies, they were condemned.

The Churches’ Response

How should we respond to this?

First, how did the early church respond? Iranaeus, a Church Father, wrote a 672-page volume titled Against Heresies. Here, Iranaeus works his way through the teachings of Gnosticism and comes to one conclusion: this is unbiblical. Gnosticism strays from the Bible and teaches things that are not congruent with the teachings found in the Bible. He calls forth a solution. Iranaeus prescribes that the unbiblical teachings of Gnosticism needs to be exposed and taken out of the church. Then, the people need to be brought back under the teaching of the Bible and the church needs to be held accountable for what is being taught inside the church.

How about us?

As we have seen from these past posts, the King James Only Movement is an unbiblical movement. It is teaching house rules as doctrine, and has similar ideological patterns to Gnosticism. It is a poisonous teaching that is feeding Christians a lie. But the solution is not to shut down these churches. It is like dealing with a disease. First, a patient needs a public diagnosis. It needs to be stated that something is wrong. Then, a doctor needs to go in and take out whatever is causing the problem. Finally, a doctor then prescribes good things to be added into the body to help it heal: medicine, diet, exercise, etc. it is the same with the KJVO Movement. We need to begin speaking out when unbiblical teaching sounds in the church. Then we need to remove that teaching and begin to fill in the truth of the Bible in leading people to what the Bible says about these things. Shutting down these churches will do nothing. Instead, we must get back to the Bible. Anything that is said from the pulpit must be checked by Scripture.

Back to the Bible

In the second century, combatting false teaching in the church was to promote the people to go back and search the Scriptures. In the Reformation, Martin Luther, Zwingli, and John Calvin all pointed to the need to know what the Bible says and to check the going-ons in the church with the Bible. This is why we have a translation of the Bible in our own language. We need to stay biblical in our teachings in the church. This means we, as individual Christians, must study the Bible for ourselves.

Being a biblically based church means that we as individuals in the church must have a 2 Timothy 2:15 attitude, we must stand for truth because we know he truth, and we must combat passivity in our churches’ attitude to knowing the Bible (ignorance is not bliss).

In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape, as he is training his nephew in how to get people away from the truth says, “The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy.” It is only in studying the Bible as individuals in the church that we will be able to see the flower of unholiness and bring truth to the soil in our churches.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word
What more can He say than to you He hath said
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled

*This post is based on a paper written by Stephen Field in 2018. If you would like to read a copy of it, please contact me and I will be glad to send you a copy with all sources.

Behind Pleasant Faces: House Rules as Doctrine

“Now, in order that true religion may shine upon us, we ought to hold that it must take its beginning from heavenly doctrine and that no one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” – John Calvin

Last week I posted Behind Pleasant Faces: Lessons in Leaving a King James Only Church. Due to the feedback, I am posting a series on the issue of the King James Only Movement. It is my goal to systematically work through the decision we made to leave and our response to the King James Only Movement.

A Definition Before We Start

First, what is the King James Only Movement or belief? The King James Only Movement claims that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other English translations and every English translation after it is corrupt. They state the KJV is superior in its text (as well as the process) and its theology in comparison to other translations. Churches and people may be on a spectrum in regards to this belief, but one thing is believed that there is something special or different about the King James Version and one should stick with it.

There has been many textual debates and books written about this topic. However, I want to share a different aspect that caused us to leave. When we consider the definition and what they believe, what does it mean for the church to believe this?

How About a Game of Monopoly?

Summer has hit and so has the heat. A family on vacation finds it too hot outside to do anything. Instead, they rummage up an old classic board game that will be fun to play together: Monopoly. The silver pieces cling against the table as they are dumped out. Hands grab for the Top Hat, the Dog, or the Car. No one really wants to be the Iron or the Wheelbarrow. The money is dealt and all minds begin to strategize how to make their opponents cry when mortgaging various properties in loss.

As the dice hit the board and the game starts, things begin to change. “And now I get $200, because it’s my birthday.” “No! That’s cheating.” “House Rules!” How many have heard that phrase, “House Rules?” Once that phrase is said, the only way to calm everyone down is to pull out the rule book that can be dated to 1934. Once the rule book is read, the game begins to form itself along the original guidelines.

Doctrine and House Rules

“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.” Doctrine? What does it mean when a pastor claims something is doctrine and a key element of the faith?

In the King James Only Movement, this is what is at the basis of their belief. The King James Bible is a core doctrine for the church. What is a doctrine? A doctrine is a teaching in the Bible on a various topic. This would include teachings such as creation, the incarnation, man made in the image of God, the holiness of God, the nature of sin, the work of Jesus Christ, sanctification, etc. All of these are found in Scripture and we are exhorted by the New Testament writers to keep and guard the doctrines and teachings of Scripture (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:14-15). Doctrines are like the rule book for Monopoly. When there is a disagreement about a teaching or a concept that someone has said, we need to check the Bible to make sure what is being said aligns with Scripture. In church there are no house rules. Everything must align with Scripture.

The King James Only Movement as House Rules

The statement mentioned above is one that is found in many variations in King James Only churches. The question is, is it truly Scriptural or is it a house rule?

Let’s unpack it.

We have seen a definition of doctrine and understand what doctrine is. What the King James Only Movement is declaring is that the use of the King James Bible is as important as the incarnation of Jesus, the creation of the world by God, the nature of sin, and Christ’s work of salvation. What they are doing is adding to the doctrines of Scripture. So, when one lists the doctrines the KJVO church believes their list would put the belief in the King James Version and the necessity to hold on it at the same level as the doctrine of salvation, sanctification, the nature of sin, creation, and the incarnation.

Yet, what is the test? We must go back to Scripture to see what it says. We see many scriptures backing the other doctrines mentioned. But what about the KJVO teaching? The Bible does say God will preserve His Word, but Scripture does not say how. Therefore, there is no Biblical support for the KJVO teaching as doctrine or being a key element of the faith.

But, Paul does say something about adding to the teachings of Scripture. In Galatians 1, Paul is astonished that the church of Galatia was turning away from what they had been taught and accepting another teaching: following the Old Testament law as a way to be right before God specifically following the law concerning circumcision. Paul condemns this belief. Jesus teaches the same view in Mark 7. “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men (v. 8)” The Pharisees were guilty of rejecting what God instructed in order to put their own “doctrines” on the same level as God’s Word. Both situations included a teaching (a house rule) that did not align itself with Scripture.

So is the King James Only position a doctrine and a key element of the faith? According to Scripture, it is not a doctrine. In order for something to be a key element of the faith, it must be on the same level as salvation and sanctification. If you are holding to the King James Only position as a key element of the faith, then you might as well join the church in Galatia that was holding circumcision as a way to be seen right before God. Being made right before God is through the propitiation and justification of Jesus Christ (Romans 3). There is no mention of anything else that makes you right before God.

The King James Only Movement is trying to play church by house rules rather than clinging to Scripture.

What is Preached Matters

When it comes to what is said in a church or by a pastor, we must keep a 2 Timothy 2:15 attitude. We must go back to Scripture to make sure what is being said is true and Biblical. When a church begins to write their own doctrines and and adding to Scripture, it is time to leave.

There are many pleasant faces in King James Only churches. They become family. Yet, behind those pleasant faces is a deception of adding to Scripture and claiming what the Bible does not claim.

It is not wrong or disrespectful to check what is being preached against the Word of God. The New Testament writers encourage this. This means you are personally studying God’s Word in order to keep and guard the doctrines that God has given us in His Word.

Pleasant faces and great personalities can fill pulpits and positions, but what is behind that pleasant face? Is it genuine? Or, is it a teaching that cannot be backed by Scripture and is in fact condemned?

Things to Think About

Now many say, “I grew up with the King James. I love it. I love the wording. I can understand it.” Great! Please continue using it. However, let me pose one question.

If you had to leave your King James Bible, for another translation, would something happen to your faith?

If you said, “yes,” then your faith is based on a translation and not founded on Jesus Christ.

As the Monopoly rule book silences the claims to “house rules,” so the Bible must be put above anything that is taught in a church.

Are we going to be a church that follows our “house rules” or a church that sticks closely to God’s Word?

Two key words to think about: Our’s or God’s.

Our words or God’s Words?

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