Archive | January, 2015

The new tolerance isn’t the old tolerance: Josh McDowell saw it coming

16 Jan

In 1996 I attended my second Southern Baptist Convention in the New Orleans Superdome. One of the speakers was the well-known Christian apologist Josh McDowell.  In his sermon to Southern Baptists that year, McDowell surprisingly did not speak about the evidence for the Christian faith.  Instead he discussed the rise of what he called “the new tolerance” in America and the challenges it would present for the Christian church.

According to Josh McDowell, the “old tolerance” as he described it was the type of tolerance that had been ingrained in American culture. Intertwined with the American ideal of personal freedom, McDowell described the old tolerance as the idea that I can respect your right to have your beliefs and practices without sharing or affirming them.  The old tolerance meant the free exchange of ideas, thoughts, and practices for everyone.   Then McDowell described the rise of what he termed the “new tolerance” which is a totally different concept.  The new tolerance demands affirmation.  The new tolerance says you do not have the right to do anything but affirm my beliefs – even if you don’t share them.  If you do not affirm whatever I believe or want to do, then you are a bigot according the new tolerance and unworthy of respect or a voice in society.  McDowell went on to describe the effects of this rising new tolerance that he was seeing on college campuses where he spoke. He shared how the new tolerance sought to silence and ostracize anyone who did not go along. He predicted that the new tolerance would eventually lead to the overthrow of American morality and present the greatest challenge to the American church of the 21st century.

As I walked out of the Superdome that day, I saw a pastor friend who was a mentor of mine. He looked at me and said, “That was a prophetic word by Josh McDowell, he is exactly right.”  To be honest, I really didn’t think much more about it. After all, I was a busy young pastor and seminary student struggling to keep my head above water.  However, I have gone back in my mind to that day in New Orleans many times recently.

A simple check of the news reveals what is happening.  Gay marriage is now legal in 36 states.  Christian photographers and bakers are being sued because they refused to participate in gay weddings.  Each week brings new stories about how our public schools and colleges are descending into moral insanity while they are busy affirming every lifestyle or belief system – except any lifestyle or belief system that refuses to affirm all other lifestyles and belief systems!  Many who work in corporate America report the unspoken pressure that is felt to keep conservative Christian beliefs to yourself or risk losing promotions, positive reviews, or even the job itself. The city of Atlanta just terminated its fire chief because he espoused his Christian beliefs regarding sexuality and marriage – beliefs which could not be tolerated by the new tolerance running rampant in Atlanta.  Incredibly, at some point in all of the controversy, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was quoted as saying he took action against the fire chief because he (the mayor) works everyday to ensure that Atlanta is “a welcoming city for all citizens – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs.”  Chief Cochran and the many thousands who share his beliefs certainly don’t feel the welcome.

The message could not be more clear:  Biblical beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and morality cannot be tolerated.  Why?  Because the new tolerance only works for those who go along. Anyone who dares to disagree must be ostracized and silenced.  Their views cannot be tolerated. We are assured by many leaders that everything is fine because we can believe whatever we wish in our “pews, hearts, and homes.”   Everyone still has “freedom of worship” in the church of their choosing. They say everything is fine.  Don’t you believe it for one moment.  Our nation is headed down a path that will inevitably lead to tyranny and a loss of freedom for everyone.  Even more tragically, many millions of people will enter the eternal destruction of a Christless eternity in hell having tolerated everything except the one message that could have saved them.

Josh McDowell saw it coming.

Religious liberty is at stake

14 Jan

Most of the time I write my own articles on this blog, but today I am compelled to simply urge all of my readers to carefully read this post from Dr. Albert Mohler, along with the column in the New York Times in order to better understand the issues that we are facing.  Powerful people in our country are seeking to put Bible believing people of faith in a box – “pews, hearts, and homes.” Any expression of our faith outside of that is declared out of bounds.  Please read this article…

http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/01/12/religious-liberty-vs-erotic-liberty-religious-liberty-is-losing/

If judges, government leaders, and members of the media are able to declare our faith unacceptable except in our “pews, hearts, and homes” then how long will it be until our faith is declared unacceptable anywhere?

Seasons

9 Jan

In Alabama this week, the season is definitely WINTER!!  It’s been cold. I have friends who love it and eagerly look for the snow in every weather forecast.  Other friends love winter because they hunt, etc. Personally, winter is my least favorite season. It’s followed by spring, which I don’t particularly enjoy because we always have the threat of strong storms and tornadoes in Alabama during that season.  I love summer and fall.  Summer is great because there are so many hours of daylight to get things done around the house and for recreation.  It’s also time when special trips are taken because school is out.  Fall is special because the weather is near perfect in Alabama and football season kicks off!  Personally, I just hunker down during winter and spring looking forward to the seasons of better weather and enjoyment. The good thing about seasons is that they are not permanent. Seasons change.

Seasons aren’t just related to weather either. There are seasons of life. For instance, young adulthood is a season of life where people typically begin their careers, get married, have children, etc.  Middle age is another season of life. The kids are older and the nest eventually empties. You are long established in your career, but new challenges arise during this season. Senior adulthood and the retirement years are another season with new challenges & opportunities. On top of these seasons, every marriage goes through seasons – some good, some not so good. Talk to any parent and they will tell you that there are seasons in raising children – seasons of joy, seasons of uncertainty, seasons of rebellion, seasons of struggle, seasons of growth. There are seasons in our careers. Our churches go through seasons – some of them are sunny and blessed and others are stormy and rough.  This week in my personal Bible reading, I revisited a familiar passage of scripture that spoke to me in a fresh way about seasons of life…

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, ESV)

This famous passage reminds all of us that seasons of life happen to everyone and they normal.  It reminds us that seasons of life, like seasons of the weather, are not permanent. Seasons change. We have to endure unpleasant seasons while waiting on more pleasant days.

Perhaps you are reading this blog post, and you are going through a difficult season in life. It’s a harsh winter in your life. Don’t give up. Seasons are not permanent, and the sun will shine again in your life even though it doesn’t feel that way now. You just have to keep going, keep trusting, keep being faithful until the season changes.  This is why just a few verses down Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that the Lord makes everything beautiful in His time.  Praise the Lord for a God we can trust through the seasons of life we all go through!

Followed not found

6 Jan

It’s great to be back blogging again after taking a break for the holidays.  While taking some time off, I read David Platt’s book Follow Me.  In that book, he makes a statement that really resonated with me:  “God’s will isn’t something we find; it’s something we follow.”  All of us know what it is like to seek God’s will regarding an important decision.  Certainly, David Platt would be first to agree that our decisions should be bathed in prayer before the Lord.  His statement really speaks to the fact that most of God’s will for our lives is already revealed in scripture.  It’s clear what we are to do.  Our job is to begin earnestly seeking to align our lives with God’s will as revealed in the Bible.

Let’s take a couple of examples.  In the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus gives us what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission…

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, HCSB)

This is God’s will for us as individuals. This is God’s will for our churches. We don’t have to pray about it, have a business meeting about it, or otherwise decide.  It is God’s will that we make disciples of the nations.  Period.  The issue is how we live that out in our individual lives and our churches.  The issue is how we align our lives and our churches according to God’s will.  Here is another example…

Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, HCSB)

Did you see it?  It is God’s will that we rejoice in Him always, pray constantly, and give thanks in every circumstance.  Our challenge is doing that when everything in us screams otherwise. Our challenge is doing that when our natural selfishness and comfort pull in the other direction.  However, there is great blessing when we consciously seek to align our lives according to God’s will in these areas.

Those are just two examples, but if you think about the scriptures you already know, then you will find that so much of God’s will for your life is already known.  What about the areas of your life where God hasn’t spoken clearly?  Concentrate on being obedient in the areas where he already has spoken clearly until the way becomes more clear about those particular issues.  Too often, we get so caught up dwelling on the 5% of God’s will we don’t know that we fail to understand the 95% of His will we already do know. Think about it. That’s why most of God’s will is followed, not found.  He has already made it clear.

Many years ago when I was a young pastor, a member of the church I was serving at the time made a statement I’ve never forgotten.  He said, “Pastor, let’s face it. Most of us know a lot more than we are doing.”  WOW!  Isn’t that so true?  I imagine that every single one of us reading this blog already knows more of God’s will than we are doing right now.  Let’s get busy following God’s will rather than worrying so much about finding it.