Archive for the ‘Freedom’ Category

For the past several months, someone from our pastoral staff opened the Sunday services with what we call “the service introduction.” We’ve used this opening to set the stage for the service. Sometimes we use a short story or anecdote, and sometimes we simply call attention to the subject matter or theme of the service. Last Sunday (June 26, 2015) I opened the services with how we should respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement of its 5-4 decision that makes same-sex marriage legal. To ensure that I am clear, I am repeating that response in writing.

1. God is still sovereign. We do not need to panic. Jesus Christ remains completely and totally in charge. God is eternally sovereign and nothing can change that. This means that we should not make wild declarations about how everything is lost. In reality, not many of us were surprised that the court ruled the way it did. Our response should be that of complete trust in the Lord and that He will one day bring all things together in perfect order.

2. Marriage and sexuality has not changed. The Word is very clear. What I mean by this is that God created marriage; therefore, God alone defines marriage. No legislative body, no president, and no court can change this fact. We must continue to stand for marriage and what the Bible says about marriage. As we do so, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions as to what will happen next. Some have already concluded that pastors and priests will be forced to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples under the threat of fines or jail time and that churches will lost their federal tax exempt status if they refuse same-sex couples to use their facilities for ceremonies. Jumping into such discussions accomplishes little and should not be the main focus of our conversations. Such conversations actually keep us offtrack and away from our main responsibility—to bring people who are far from God near to Him through the gospel so that all people might love Him.

3. We must lovingly demonstrate the love of Christ to all people — no matter how they have responded to the court’s decision. It would be very easy for us to get into a war mode. To do so actually does much disservice to the Lord and to the cause of the gospel. Make sure that the people who disagree with us do not think that we hate them. Remember, Paul of Tarsus live and served in a world completely hostile to Christ and the gospel. Obviously the government in his time offered no accommodations for Christianity. To be sure, the Roman government permitted pagan religions and, to some extent, allowed the synagogues to exists. However, when it targeted Christians for persecution, they had no place to hide. Even in such circumstances, the gospel prospered. Therefore, we must continue to communicate the gospel and not do or say anything that suggests that we are going to retreat from the world and from sharing the Good News.

4. I am calling for a service during which time we will spend time praying as we plead with God to send revival. Both services on July 5 will dedicated to this purpose. This experience will be unlike any we have had on a Sunday morning. We will have times for hearing from God’s Word, times for personal intercession, times for corporate prayers, and times for singing hymns and praises to the Lord. We know that God alone is sovereign and He alone can bring about revival and a spiritual awakening. What we can do is to position ourselves according to scripture so that He might bring about such a revival. “[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

Married Couple

After further reflection on the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I have concluded that we should not have been surprised by it. By and large our secularized culture has long since adopted an Aristotelian approach to determining what is right and wrong. In other words, our society has decided that morality is individually achieved and that people get to choose for themselves what is right in their hearts. While Christians believe that God defines marriage and government recognizes it, our secularized culture believes that government defines marriage and everyone must recognize the new definition. The first approach roots in Scripture; the second roots in a prideful heart.

At the risk of offending those of the secularized mindset, and because we believe that we must root what we do in Scripture, let me offer this from the book of Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18) and “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (18:12). It’s the haughty spirit that precedes destruction and this lies behind the Court’s decision to bury DOMA.

The preamble of the U.S. Constitution states that its purpose is to secure the “blessings of liberty.” A blessing is a statement of divine favor. How can we secure godly favor in a nation for which the godly is unconstitutional? A prideful nation by definition must be a nation that rejects the idea of a blessing.

As I see it, we still have only two options. We can turn back to where we belong and embrace the whole counsel of the Word, or we watch the continuing collapse of our nation. While I’m not optimistic about our culture, I am confident that Jesus still reigns and will call people to Himself. No culture can outstrip His ultimate authority because every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord of all (see Phil. 2:10-11). I absolutely believe that gospel can turn people and nations around. Remember that the gospel exploded in the first century in places like Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, and Rome. No one would dare characterize these cities as nice places to raise families!

This only serves to underscore that we cannot retreat into our sequestered and Christianized communes. Rather, we must live out the gospel and willingly speak up boldly and lovingly what the gospel says. We must love our neighbors – all of them, not just the ones we think deserve our love and ministry. Our love must radical – just like that of Christ, who unconditionally loved “sinners and tax collectors.” We must remember that marriage is not incidental to the gospel preaching. The Bible makes it clear that something supernatural is involved in marriage and describes it as profound mystery (see Eph. 5:32). We must not assume that people understand the gospel foundations of marriage. Many people have become confused due to a lack of attention to what the Bible says about marriage. This has led to many people giving tacit approval to cohabitation, to a culture of divorce “if things don’t work out,” and even to the idea of homosexual marriage.

At our quarterly congregational ministry meeting, we took a signifianct action to become the chartered organization for Boys Scout Troop 85 effective April 1. The following Sunday, February 3, we recognized the Scouts and their famiies who make up the membership of that troop in our services as part of the national “Scout Sunday.” 

Ironically, the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) announced last week that the organization will consider a policy change which, if adopted, will undermine the foundations of the organization. No doubt, the policy change comes as a reaction to intense pressure that has been placed on the BSA over the past several months, including significant corporate sponsors who have threatened to withdraw their funding.  The proposed policy change would end any national policy regarding sexual orientation and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.

This move saddens me. Even the official Boy Scout Oath requires that the conduct of the group’s members and leaders remain “morally straight.” The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the BSA with its prohibition of homosexual Scout leaders. However, the BSA board appears ready to cave to the strong-arm tactics of activists who will never end their pressure. If the activists succeed in forcing this policy change, the BSA will have abandoned its place of leadership for moral integrity. Although their principled position has made the organization a target for harassment, I urge the Boys Scouts not to compromise. In the end, I fear that the BSA may bring about its own death due to a self-inflicted wound.

The BSA needs to remain true to its values and ignore the cultural and corporate pressures. Scouting leaders need to hear from us. You will likely have difficulty getting through by telephone; however, give it a try. The number in Irving, Texas, is 972-580-2000.  I have sent an email through the BSA website: http://www.scouting.org/ContactUs.aspx. We must not sit idly by and hope that somebody will do something.

 

The nation voted last Tuesday, and Barack Obama will serve as our President for another four years. While just barely half of the electorate agree with this choice, in the mysterious providence of God has decided that he should win re-election. Remember, according to Romans 13, no authority exists except from God and anyone who resists that authority resists God.

How, then, should we respond? First, we should pray for the President and all those who serve in positions of authority. According to 1 Timothy 2, we should do so in order “…that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-5). Make note of that last phrase! So let’s ask God to bless our President. Pray that God will give him wisdom and health. We can pray that God would give him success on his good ideas and change his mind on his bad ones.

Second, must face the reality that “we don’t live in a Mayberry world” anymore. We could whine and complain about that; however, we will not reflect the light of gospel that way. I don’t believe that we should abandon our participating in the legal and political processes; yet, we may need to come to grips with what it means to be the church in an increasingly post-Christian era. And while we can expect further incursions into our constitutional liberties, so we should ready ourselves to defend our freedoms.

Third, we must remain vigilant in the rights of unborn children. In Psalm 139, David said concerning God, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” So while we agree that we should support and pray for our President, we must respectfully disagree his political party’s position on abortion. We must continue to fight for life through education, ministering to women, and promoting orphan care.

Fourth, we must show respect and live as law-abiding citizens. We don’t need to go blathering with a faux outrage about how horrible things like so many pundits so often do. We need to remember that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Unlike those who see this life (and politics!) as singularly important, we see behind everything that occurs God’s sovereignty on display.

Here’s the bottom line: For those of us who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing has changed. The gospel has not changed. We still serve Him who has declared victory over sin and death. However, our mandate does not concern getting someone elected as President. Our mandate is to advance the Kingdom has already prevailed. No matter who sits in the positions of authority on earth, King Jesus still reigns and will reign forever and ever.

Because of Jesus,
Ken Schroeder

Follow me on Twitter @kenschroeder

On November 6, our nation will hold a presidential election. As Christ-followers, Jesus has called us to live as salt and light in the world. The time has come for us to let our voices be heard and our votes be counted.

When you cast your ballot, you don’t vote according to your church’s or denomination’s directions. Your church or denomination cannot tell its members how to vote. However, you should vote according to your values, beliefs, and convictions as you have become informed through the scriptures. This means when a political party’s platform stands in opposition to biblical truth, then that party should not receive your vote as a Christian.

Our nation has seemingly lost her way. We have drifted far away from our moorings as a people who came to this continent to practice our beliefs freely. Spiritually, our nation has marginalized the Bible. We have trivialized marriage by diminishing it when heterosexual couples live together. Some states have depreciated marriage further by permitting same-sex couples to enter into so-called marriage unions. Such practices stand in stark contrast to the teachings of the Word. Our culture has neutralized the church’s influence because we have accepted lies as the truth concerning God-given roles. America today faces a time of upheaval and turmoil. It feels like the soul of our nation has been taken from us.

No doubt, as Christ-followers, you are fully aware of the precarious situation in which we find ourselves: economically, spiritually and politically. Regrettably, we feel rather powerless to do anything about it.

However, we are not helpless. We can come humbly before God to seek His face and pray. Remember, the prayer of the righteous accomplishes much (see James 5:16). And we can vote. I believe we have an obligation to vote because we are Americans and many have paid the ultimate price in order to ensure our freedoms, one of which is to vote in free elections. In the last election, less than half of those who were eligible to vote had even bothered to vote, and only about half of those registered to vote actually voted. People have told me that they do not vote because one vote will not matter. Maybe not, but to stand by idly while ungodly men lead our nation in ungodly ways which will ultimately lead to complete disaster is unconscionable.

Billy Graham, in a national advertising campaign launched Oct. 18, called on Americans to “vote for biblical values” as they cast ballots in the upcoming election. A full-page ad in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal and Friday’s USA Today featured the evangelist’s picture beside a block of text stating:

“The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.

“I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.”

Please vote on or before November 6. But more importantly, pray for God’s people to humble themselves in repentance and turn from their wickedness. Oh, how we need a spiritual awakening!

Follow me on Twitter @kenschroeder

You have no doubt had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. Telling someone – anyone who will listen – how busy you are has become the default response when someone asks, “How are you doing?” Answers to that question might be: “Busy!” or “So busy” or even “Crazy busy.” Actually these are boasts disguised as complaints, which invariably lead to stock responses of congratulations: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite!”

With the end of summer, I suppose we shift the summer busyness of going places, going to work, planning trips, and getting ready for the return of school. Now we find ourselves busy with returning to school, returning to a more regular schedule, planning other things around football games, and looking forward to the Labor Day weekend (first break from drag of the school schedule).

Busyness serves as a kind of hedge against emptiness. Obviously, your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. The obvious conclusion we make is that if we are busy because of our own ambition or drive or anxiety, because we are addicted to busyness and dread what we might have to face in its absence.

I’m worried about us. We have become so busy as a people that we have squeezed God out. For many, all that has been reserved for Him is a weekly or even less time to meet with Him in church – unless, of course, something else comes up! I have found that the most important thing in life is daily time with God. When we do not make time for Him, we miss so much. Furthermore, we don’t accomplish nearly as much as we think we do.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

When you consider what is happening in our nation, you know that we are in trouble. The continued assaults on the truth have steadily worn many down. Many now have turned away and give support to beliefs and practices that run counter to teaching of God’s Word. They even cite scriptural references to defend their twisted ideas. Nothing short of the miraculous move of God’s Spirit can change the downward spiral of our country.

Would you join me in praying for such an awakening? Would you join me in a spending time with God, listening to Him speak to you through His Word by His Holy Spirit? I heard Rod Masteller, then the president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, say back in November, “We must do all we can, so that God will do only what He can do.” We need a supernatural movement of God.

Former Arkansas governor and Fox New host, Mike Huckabee, said Thursday that the success of “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” went beyond “anything I could have imagined,” saying stores across the country reported “record, historic sales.” Customers swamped local franchise stores following Huckabee’s call for a show of support. The call came after CEO Dan Cathy came under fire in some circles for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Huckabee said the call for an “Appreciation Day” was in response to what he described as “economic bullying” by people trying to put Cathy out of business. “It was just getting out of hand,” Huckabee said. The protests against Cathy included local mayors in Boston and Chicago threatening to keep the restaurant out of their cities. But on Wednesday, stores were packed and lines poured into the streets.

Gayla and I ate a chicken sandwich on Wednesday along with our church staff. We gladly support the “in the marketplace” testimony of the Cathy family. They have consistently put their biblical values on display since the beginning of the company in 1946. Dan Cathy’s father and company founder, Truett, has devoted his life to living his faith. Truett and his wife, Jeannette, have been members of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, where Truett taught a junior high boys Sunday School class for more than 50 years.

I could go on about the Cathys and Chick-fil-A; however, I cannot help but think about how satisfied we felt on Wednesday as we participated in this massive event. We demonstrated our support – and we got to eat chicken! What if we showed that kind of passion for the gospel?

It’s great to support a good cause and stand with people who have consistently demonstrated their commitment to Christ. However, we have been commissioned to speak with words – words laced with love and mercy and compassion. God has called each of us to speak for Him. Consider Paul’s words:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:8-12).

So the gospel is for everyone!

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:14-17).

In this passage, Paul used the words “preaching” and “preach.” However, the meaning of these verses stresses the call that every believer has. Each of us – pastors, deacons, men, women, boys, and girls – have been called by God to share the good news because “faith comes from hearing.”

I’m glad to be your pastor!

Because of Jesus,
Ken Schroeder

Follow me on Twitter @kenschroeder