What a blessed time remembering the Lord's promises to cleanse and receive sinners. May this memorial live on and continually stir us up to faith and obedience.
I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give up,' and to the south, 'Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth.'
God is infinite in his being and the only supreme good. We were made for Him and were designed to find our delight in Him.
Put these two facts together and you understand: No other thing in this world can bring us true happiness or satisfy the longings of our soul. Nothing in creation can compare with Him or measure up to Him.
Enjoying God does not come easy. But we can be more apt to relish Him when we understand the depth and degree to which the Lord enjoys us.
The best job I've ever had was being an elementary school gym teacher. If the pay had been worth while, I may never have left it. The reason was simple: I had the admiration of every kid in that building.
I didn't know anything about teaching. I had no snazzy methods or dazzling teaching techniques. I was just in charge of play. My day consisted of kickball, dodgeball, tag, basketball, and what amounts to infinite fun.
And the kids loved it; they loved ME. I could do no wrong in their eyes. They looked forward to my class. They shouted at me in the hallways, "HI COACH!" The level of enthusiasm of these wee tots was cranked to extreme every day.
But I've also taught high school sophomores.
Not long after starting that job did I learn the etymology of the term. It may go without saying that these were dark days in my life. If purgatory were a real, I would certainly say that it consists of two consecutive periods of being an instructor at this level.
It is obvious which group of kids I enjoyed most and who's company I preferred. I delighted in the wee tots because they so much delighted in me.
This provides us with one of the keys to enjoying God. We will be more inclined to enjoy God when we understand just how enamored He is with us.
Sometimes we do not fully enjoy God because we do not fully realize the extent to which the Lord delights in us. Often our view of God is distorted: we see him as an angry tyrant, an ogre, an unpalatable judge. As a result, we live in fear of Him and serve from a distance.
But we must remember that this is a false image. The Lord always sees us in Christ. Thus, we may hear the echos of "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased."
God's Word emphasizes this repeatedly when it tells us that He rejoices over us with singing; He works all things for our good, and He loves us with an everlasting love.
Psalm 147 & 149 state it in the clearest language when they say, "The Lord takes pleasure in his people."
God takes pleasure in us! It is no wonder why these two Psalms are so jubilant and full of praise. The Psalmist is only reciprocating the personal exuberance that God himself shows to us.
Read more in this week's Hopewell Weekly...
Hopewell was blessed to participate in Mansfield's annual pro-life walk/rally again this year. The Richland Source provided coverage of the event and highlighted some of Hopewell's involvement.
We might note that the RS article does need some modification. Those who participated numbered well over 100 people.
In 2 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul reminds us that jealousy can be a good thing--a very good thing. When false teachers woo the hearts of God's people away to another gospel and another Christ, God is provoked to anger.
Join us as we study this godly jealousy and the exclusive rights of God to our affections.
As we look back over 2017, we can definitely see the good hand of Providence among us. The year has been full of gospel opportunities, fellowship, and growth in grace. So much has been His blessing that we can say with the Psalmist, "The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad." Psalm 126:3
Some of these great things can be witnessed in our HOPEWELL 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW (pdf). Feel free to check it out and see what God has done among us!
If you believe that God is almighty, why do you fear devils and enemies and not confidently trust in God.
If you believe Him to be sovereign, why do you not call upon Him and crave His help in all your troubles and dangers?
If you believe God to be infinite,
how dare you provoke Him to anger?
If you believe that God is simple, how can you play the hypocrite and maintain double motives?
If you believe that God is good, why is your heart not more settled upon Him?
If you believe Him to be a just Judge, how dare you live so securely in sin without repentance?
If you truly believe that God is most wise, why do you not patiently bear and appreciate the crosses of life? Is He not able to turn all things to the best for those who love Him?
If you are persuaded that God is true, why do you doubt His promises?
If you believe that God is beauty and perfection itself, why do you not make Him alone your chief end and primary pursuit?
If you believe God is generous, why do you not pray to Him? Will He not open wide the storehouse of heaven and pour forth with great liberality wisdom, love, earthly goods, faith, and friendship?
Check out all the latest in this week's Hopewell Weekly.
At Christmas time we remember the good news of the Savior's birth. He entered the world to bring salvation to men.
But our appreciation of Christ will be more fully attuned when we remember that His incarnation was anything but glorious.
The Son of God's entrance into the world was part of his humiliation and thus very "inglorious." We can only appreciate the work of the Savior when we see his incarnation in this light.
Consider the depths to which he did descend to bring you salvation:
1. He left his Father - Prior to the incarnation the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father, wherein he enjoyed perfect love, joy, and blessing. His leaving this sweet realm marks his first step into hell (for hell is separation from God). What pain it is for us to leave home and part with human parents! How infinitely greater was the pain of Christ in relinquishing the enchanting place of the Father's presence!
2. He was born - He who was very God of very God took upon himself the very flesh He did create. He created man in His own image, but then took the image of man himself. And while this cannot expressly be said to be part of his 'humiliation" (for he retains his human nature now in his exaltation), it is a superb act of condescension on his part.
3. He was born into severe conditions - Christ was not only born into abject poverty, but his birth suffered from the further indignities of obscurity and insult. Bethlehem was little known town, the stable was an undignified place, the manger was, to say the least, crude. Added is the insult of relatives in Bethlehem who did not show compassion on the poor travelers and expecting mother.
4. He was utterly dependent - The sovereign Creator, upon whom all creation depends, was himself made dependent upon Mary & Joseph. He who was used to the service of angels was at the mercy of new parents.
5. He suffered the extremities of infancy - Catholic dogma says that Christ retained the reason of a grown man from infancy. But this is not true. He grew in wisdom & stature. More than that, He suffered from the first hour the new experiences of humanity: hunger, neglect, fatigue, grief, etc.
6. His infancy was filled with accentuated agonies - The conditions surrounding his birth were filled with adversity, adding to his difficulties. He felt the pricks of hay for bedding, endured the pains of an unhospitable manger, and was threatened with death by Herod.
7. He subjected himself to the law - He who was the very Lawgiver, Lord, and Judge put himself under the law. It was not just to live by it as a rule--for he already did this by nature. Rather, he came under the curse of it. He came into this world to fulfill its stipulations for others. In sum, He was born to die.
This week the Supreme Court began hearings on the case of Christian baker Jack Philips. Since it is back in the public eye we are are once again being inundated with arguments to support same sex marriage.
Let's examine their rationale and see how none of the reasons should be influential for us as Christians.
1. It's LOVE! The world today has a radical misconception of what love is and what kinds of things you can love. Love is not to be defined as a feeling, romantic desire, erotic impulse, or even zealous, long lasting commitment to another.
Love is only to be defined by God and His law. The Lord alone, who himself is the embodiment of Love, tells us what we are to love and how that love is to manifests itself. In the case of homosexual marriage, it is a misplaced 'affection' and a perversion of how love is to be expressed.
2. They are consenting adults! Mutual agreement can be a good thing, but we need to recognize that consent of involved parties does not make an action right or wrong.
We must keep in mind that God's approval is what matters most. If God is against it, it doesn't matter how many people may concur with a decision. Even if the Supreme Court ends up offering up its unanimous consent, it is still wrong.
3. It's a committed / monogamous relationship - In a day where most change lovers as often as they change their clothes, it is almost refreshing to hear people talk about monogamy. But we shouldn't be fooled - homosexuals rarely are monogamous. We know that one perversion usually is followed by another, and studies have shown this to be true in the case of homosexuality.
But even in the rare instance where monogamy may be practiced, it still doesn't constitute a lawful marriage. God not only requires singular devotion, He also requires two people of the opposite sex: a male & female.
4. It doesn't hurt anyone - This tag is bandied about regularly and loosely. And, as you may have guessed by now, harm (or lack of it) does not constitute lawfulness in and of itself. God's Word is to be the final authority in all matters of life and faith.
But Christians shouldn't be fooled by this innocent sounding declaration. We know that the wages of sin is death. Sin always has consequences. And those who embrace sinful lifestyles not only harm themselves, but they also inflict harm on those around them.
The effects of homosexuality are rabid, starting with the decreased life span and increased sickliness of those who practice such things. It also has ramifications for children of such couples and has destructive social implications too (including financial burdens, political fallout, etc).
5. You can't legislate morality - Well, what else is there to legislate then? Such a declaration is a complete misnomer because morality is exactly what is under the government's particular scrutiny. The civil magistrate was instituted by God for the expressed purpose of maintaining a just and orderly society. It is God's expressed agent in punishing the evildoer and exacting His vengeance in cases of criminal offense. (Rom. 13)
Moreover, if morality can't be legislated, why was Jack Philips (and others like him) were taken to court in the first place?
If the present SCOTUS case tells us anything, it isn't that we cannot legislate morality. The real issue is, "Which morality do we legislate?"
This case is a simple reminder that all nations are inherently religious and their laws reflect the god of the land. Since this is so, let us pray that God might be honored and our land might be granted true revival.
This article appeared in the Hopewell Weekly, the weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe to get each week's teaching, announcements, & prayer requests sent to your inbox.
The sordid details of yet another sexual scandal has lit up the news media. Unfortunately, such stories are becoming a daily occurrence.
Since these exploits reveal the prevalence of sexual sin in our day, it is a good time to review some Biblical truths regarding the subject of purity.
1. The innocent will not be put to shame (Ps 25:3). Those who live clean lives will not be disgraced. Chastity has the simple reward of being free from public embarrassment and the shame of guilt.
On the contrary, dishonorable people will eventually be dishonored. If the latest news spin tells us anything, it is this: What is said (or done) in secret will be proclaimed on housetops.
2. God avenges the powerless. Closely related is the fact that God acts to assist those who are weak and defenseless. To be sure, sexual harassment is a form of oppression. Crude talk and lewd advances are at their core power plays (perpetrated by both men and women). Respectful attitudes and actions towards the opposite sex is further reinforced when we remember that the Lord "executes justice for the oppressed." (Psalm 146:7).
3. Keeping Good Company is Wisdom - Who is laughing at Mike Pence now? His policy of never dining with a woman who is not his wife (sometimes called the Billy Graham Rule) has become the gold standard for purity and non-accusation.
Proverbs 2 reminds us that wisdom is the greatest friend a person can have because it connects with people of integrity and provides unassailable alibis.
4. Biblical sexuality is the most fulfilling - Marital fidelity not only offers a life of no regret, but it provides the avenue for the greatest joy and fulfillment. God designed marriage for the express purpose of sexual gratification. Scripture repeatedly associates the deeper concepts fulfillment (unity, intimacy, and happiness) with fidelity, while associating death, despair, and difficulty with fornication.
5. Decency = contentment - Much of the unfaithfulness that occurs in the world has to do with one simple thing: discontent. It is because people are not content with God and His plan that they seek exploits and eroticism. What Paul says about those who are not content with material things is also true for those who are not content with their wife (or lack thereof)--they "fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."
One of the most perplexing parts of the Bible involves the Old Testament food laws. Indeed, many unbelievers will go so far as to use these laws to mock the Christian religion.
While these laws are no longer binding on Christians today, understanding their place and role helps us know more about God's will for our lives now. Here are five lessons that we can glean from them.
1. God is watching out for us - The Jews were some of the healthiest people on the planet. The reason was much because of their diet. Most of the animals that God forbid were, to some degree or other, toxic for consumption. Jews didn't have to worry about scurvy and trichinosis b/c God was watching out for them. Other animals had unsanitary eating habits...and who wants to eat toilet bowl cleaner?
We must remember that obedience is good for us. God's law is meant to facilitate life. If we obey God's law we will likely see good health and much happiness.
2. God loves us immensely - God had given the food laws so that the people of Israel would be distinguished from all the other people's of the earth. They were to stand out as a holy nation, a peculiar people, etc. Their diet only served to reinforce the notion that they belonged specifically to the Lord.
The food laws may not make for devotional reading, but each line should remind us that God has a special love for us. We are His unique people and He has chosen us out of all the people of the earth.
3. Unity - Food is the great unifier, is it not? Our carry-in meals create greater bonds of fellowship among us. We gain encouragement and strength as we sit and eat with each other. So too with the Jews! The food laws of the OT helped the Israelites bond as a people. It reinforced their identity and faith in God.
As the wise have said: "Intimate friendships are formed at table."
4. Bad company corrupts good character - It's not too hard to figure out who doesn't come to a vegan party, does it? Just as food unites, it also separates. It can keep people apart.
The finicky diet of the Jews kept them from having unholy companionship. Since they couldn't fellowship with pagans very well due to the different menues, they were often kept from relationships that would lead to idolatry and sin.
From this we may be reminded that we ought not to be unequally yoked and develop deep relationships with people of different faiths.
5. Redemptive reminder - One of the prime food laws regarded the eating/drinking of blood. Not only was this a practice that was unhealthy and typically associated with idolatrous rites, but it was a reminder of the realities of life and death. Blood (which is a symbol of life) must be shed due to sin. To profane blood is to profane life. Moreover, it reflects poorly upon the blood sacrifice of Christ, whose aim is to restore life.
Read more in our latest newsletter...
We are ever so glad once again to have had another blessed family fellowship day. A special thanks must be given to the ladies who planned the outing, our dear sister, Kim, for putting together such fun entertainments, and (of course) the Lillo's for hosting the entire gang all day.
In the 16th century the church elites were telling people that they must offer prayers, payments, and pilgrimages in order to get right with God. At the time people thought that you needed to beef up your faith with a few added works in order to enter heaven.
To be sure, having faith in Christ was considered a good thing. It just wasn't enough. You had to be just in order to be justified. So that means you had to do, do, do as much good as possible in order to become as good as possible.
This teaching though, was contrary to Scripture. Scripture declared that one was right with God not on the basis of what he does (or how good he is), but solely on the basis of Christ's perfect work. And this was merely to be recieved by faith.
The Reformers began to protest the standard teaching of the time because they read passages of Scripture like Phil. 3:9, which says...
"That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
The Reformers understood that sinners cannot do enough or become good enough for God. They needed what they called an "alien righteousness." It is the "righteousness which comes from God" that Paul talks about.
That is why their mantra became "Faith ALONE." The sinner was to put his faith, not in himself or in what he could do, but rather in Christ and what He had done for them.
The Reformers understood that Christ's righteousness had to be imputed (given over) to us, not gained (infused) or improved by us. This is why faith may be said to be the "passive" instrument of salvation. It is not actively working to do something, but merely receiving and resting in the Savior.
And thus, it still stands that no amount of prayers, tears, payments, or pilgrimages can make God more inclined towards us. We must rely solely on the payment that Christ himself made on our behalf.
Find more in our latest issue of the Hopewell Weekly.
The Las Vegas shooting is quickly fading from the media's headlines, and becoming "yesterday's news."
But before moving on, let's pause and think about what lessons we can learn from the tragic event.
1. Man is depraved beyond measure: President Trump called the shooting "an act of pure evil." This is perhaps more true than our president realizes. What would cause a man who had nothing more than a speeding ticket in his life to become a mass murderer? It is simple: He was a sinner. His heart was filled with the corruption of Adam.
While our president condemned the shooting with theologically precise language, we must remind ourselves that any heart not subdued by grace is filled with the same vileness.
2. God restrains evil to a significant degree: While man’s depravity is fundamental to his nature, we acknowledge that men are not as bad as they can be. The hearts of men are kept in check. Moreover, humanity does do some outward good (as is evidenced in those who went into the line of fire to help those who had been shot). This, we understand, is due to the benevolent work of God in the world.
3. Life is Tenuous: Those at that concert didn't know they were going to die that night. It came upon them like a bandit out of no where. In like manner, death looms over us all and may come quicker than we expect.
We ever need the reminder that our days on earth are numbered and death may pounce upon us at any moment. Thus, we should look heartily unto Christ and serve him like it is our last day on earth.
4. Life is precious: Monday morning hearts hung heavy with grief. Anger, sorrow, and disgust were in the emotional mix as well. But these emotions seethed only because man has inherent worth as an image bearer of God. The repulsion that many feel is a reminder that life is sacred and it should not be violated without just cause.
5. Evil is a Thing: Tragedies do not comport with our culture’s relativism. Postmodern America would like to say that there is no absolute truth and that right and wrong are phantoms of a bygone era. But when grotesque evils like this rear their ugly heads even the most radical relativist tips his hat to the fact that there is a God in the heavens who has set sure and defined boundaries for morality.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to confess our sins to one another and mend our broken relationships. It is our duty to seek pardon from those we've offended and make things right.
Our last post began to look at Ken Sande's 7 A's of confession. We noted that we must...
1. Address everyone involved.
2. Avoid word that excuse or qualify (but, perhaps, however, etc)
3. Admit specific sins (both attitudes and actions).
Here are four more helps to healthy confession:
4. Acknowledge the hurt.
We've all seen kids apologize when a parent makes them say they are sorry. Their attitude usually lacks sympathy. We instinctively know that this icy act isn't true repentance.
When we confess our sin, we should acknowledge the depth of our offense. We might express that we are truly sorry by saying somthing like, "I understand that my words angered you" or "I let you down by not keeping that promise. You depended upon me and have a right to be frustrated."
5. Accept the consequences.
The Bible requires restitution where appropriate. That may mean financial reimbursement, but it may also take some other form (such as vindicating a ruined reputation).
The point is that we ought not to try to wiggle out of the consequences of our actions. We should admit, "I deserve to be fired (or grounded, etc)" and own up to the fallout as well as the error.
6. Alter your behavior.
Repentance means going in a new direction. It is an about face in life actions. If you can articulate this in your confession, it shows you've already started down the right direction. A husband may say, "Next time I will be more sensitive to how your day has gone before I..."
7. Ask for forgiveness (and allow for time).
"Will you please forgive me." These words might be implied if all the pervious steps have been taken and they might not need to be expressly stated. However, clarity is key. Forgiveness is the pathway to reconciliation. We do not want a grudge to be held or any lingering animosity to get in the way.
Understandably, we may need to allow a person some time to work through their emotions. So we should not force their forgiveness. But we should seek it in so far as we can.
Sin happens. It is a fact of life. At some point you are going to offend someone.
Then again, you might already have. There's a breech between you and Person X because you were terse, unfaithful, or deceptive.
Proverbs 28:13 says that the one who conceals his sin will not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes it will find mercy.
In sum, you are called to get right with that person. That means confessing your sin and clearing the breech that exists.
How exactly does that happen? Peacemaker Ministries lays down seven guidelines for mending relationships. Here are the first three...
1. Address everyone involved.
Dealing with sin means dealing with everyone who was affected by it. So don't cut any corners or try to save face by limiting the range of your repentance. If you yelled at your wife, apologize to her and the kids. They heard it and need to hear you own up to it. If your sin against a co-worker affected the rest of the company, you better make amends with your boss too.
2. Avoid qualifiers and excuses.
We like to shroud our confession with words like "if, but, and maybe." Such terms help to shift the blame and make us sound more innocent than we are.
Listen to the difference: "If I've don't anything wrong, please forgive me." (Well, did you or didn't you do something wrong?) "I'm sorry, but you did do ___ to me." (Was that an apology or a backdoor attack?).
Any verbiage that hints at a reluctance to confess usually indicates that there really hasn't been true confession. So nix words like however, perhaps, possibly, & I guess and be genuine about your guilt in the matter.
3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
"I'm sorry that I hurt you. I know I'm not the best friend." That's nice, but its drowning in a hazy fog of vague ambiguity. Confessing sin means owning up to exactly what you did wrong. We "clear the air" in our relationships by being clear about sin(s) we've committed.
It certainly is harder, but much more honest to say, "I am sorry for being so critical of you. I was jealous that you got that promotion.
Next week we'll consider the final "A's" of confession. But this week you can be intentional in making amends by putting these steps into practice. Who have you offended? How can you implement this advice?
It is no longer "in the closet." Our culture has given the green light to those who have gender confusion issues, and they are free to do as they see fit.
Since we are likely to meet people who identify as LGBTQ, we need to consider what the Bible requires of us. How do we as Christians relate to a person who has this kind of lifestyle?
Here are a few principles that can serve to guide us in this regard.
1. Take a holistic approach – We should never reduce a person to their sexuality alone. Neither should we limit our interactions with them merely on the basis of this one dimension of their life. We must treat them as people, recognizing that he or she still bears the image of God. We should be willing to get to know them and engage in meaningful friendships with them. Jesus certainly did the same as the one who was “the friend of tax collectors and prostitutes.”
2. Don’t reject them or disavow any type of relationship – In 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul says that is permissible to associate with people outside the church who are immoral (at least so long as we are not corrupted by their lifestyle). If we weren’t permitted such liberty, Paul says we’d have to leave this world! To be sure, people outside the church should be expected to live ungodly lives. Our job is to reach out to them and be genuinely interested in them.
3. Never compromise – We may love someone who identifies as LGBTQ and we can seek to be a good friend, but we do not accept or tolerate patterns of sin in their life. If a friend would use crude language, we wouldn’t ignore it or act like it doesn’t matter. We’d politely request that they not speak in such a manner. We should do the same with a LGBTQ friend whenever issues of their sexuality come up. We can express in the kindest of terms that such urges, interests, and acts are not in accord with God’s will. All in all, being a friend doesn’t mean wholesale acceptance of their lifestyle.
4. Listen and talk candidly when the opportunity affords – Some LGBTQ people like to let their sexuality be known and are very direct about their sexual deviance. Others may be more “in the closet” and wish to have someone to confide in about their struggles in this area. If that should be the case, welcome the opportunity to chat. Take time to listen to what they have to say and demonstrate interest in them as a person. If they are open to it, share with them what the Scripture teaches and be just as candid about God’s design for human sexuality. Whatever you do, don’t merely react or lash out at them in anger.
5. Take the long view -- Caring patience is key. Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian activist, said that a person who is a homosexual probably didn’t get there overnight. It likely came after a long time of real thought. The best thing you can do is to be part of the long thought process that leads them back, should God grant it. This is where those who lash out in anger or press for a quick “decision for the Lord” get it wrong. We must have a mind to take the long road of discipleship
Six kids from the Hopewell Bible Bee competition qualified to compete at the national level this past week. This is quite a feat as you must rank in the top 120 from all across the nation to be eligible to compete at nationals.
The first command tells us that we are have no other gods. That means we are to have God and put our full trust in him. But how do we do this? What does it look like in everyday life?
In his famous exposition Martin Luther fleshed out in clearest terms exactly what it meant to place your confidence in God alone. In sum, Luther said that we fulfill the command with...
1. Godly Stewardship: Luther makes the point that money, power, fame are gifts that God bestows. Thus, God is to be glorified by them. Too often though, we put our trust in them and regard them as our source of comfort. Luther says we can recognize the error "when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn."
2. Simple Prayer: Listen to how Luther laid low the superstitious practices of his day: "If any one had toothache, he fasted and honored St. Apollonia; if he was afraid of fire, he chose St. Lawrence as his helper in need; if he dreaded pestilence, he made a vow to St. Sebastian." Luther equated the invoking of saints with sorcery. His point was that God was to be regarded as the sole provider of good and that we should demonstrate our trust by resorting to Him alone.
3. Thanksgiving: It is easy to look to the strength of our own hand or find our help in others. But thanksgiving is the constant acknowledgment that all we have comes from the good hand of God alone. Luther says, "Creatures are only the hands, channels, and means whereby God gives all things...Therefore no man should presume to take or give anything except as God has commanded, in order that it may be acknowledged as God's gift, and thanks may be rendered Him for it"
4. Trust God's means of provision: If we are to look to God alone for our welfare, we then should trust His appointed means of provision, namely work and private charity. Taking public assistance, stealing, or making money through illegal activity is, according to Luther, "not receiving from God, but seeking of ourselves."
5. Patience: Faith means trusting God to do the right thing at the right time. But since it may seem to take a while, faith exemplifies itself in patience. Luther beautifully illustrates what God says in Scripture, "Whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.
The most egregious sin in the Bible is not homosexuality, adultery, greed, or failure to serve on a church committee. It is idolatry.
We evangelicals like to think that are much more sanctified than the Israelites of old-- who seemed to thrown themselves down before every stone statue that came their way.
But the truth is: evangelicals are just as idol prone as our forefathers were. The following are a few prevalent forms of idolatry that may be found in the church today:
1. Evan-jelly-fish: A faith that has no spine is no faith at all. If you're not willing to stand up for biblical doctrine, acknowledge Christ's supremacy, or affirm the authority of His law, then you're bowing to the god of toleration and moderation. Such a faith has been so overrun by postmodernism that it is Christian in name only.
2. Christi-tainment: Neil Postman's classic book "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" continues to be prophetic in our day, especially in our churches. Worship that is driven by fun, amusements, and showmanship plagues the evangelical world. Choosing a church on the basis of its music or youth group events, rather than its focus on Christ & His word, is much like making an offering on an alter of entertainment.
3. Superstition: Symbols have their place. A cross necklace can be something that proclaims who you are. A sticker on your car can identify where you stand in your beliefs. But such things can also become objects of worship. When we impute divine power to them, depend more on a trinket than we do prayer, or trust it as "God's channel of help" we've essentially created a golden calf.
4. Cult of Personality: Protestantism has always eschewed popery --kissing rings, thinking he is the head of the church, etc. Unfortunately, it is still alive an well in Prot circles in the form of celebrity pastors. While honoring good teachers is good, infatuations can be overboard. Leader worship breeds discontent with "ordinary," everyday clergy and "groupies" can follow certain charismatic fellows more than they do Christ.
5. Biblical Mutts: Christians must biblical thoroughbreds. If you mix breeds by mingling beliefs from other faiths or philosophies, you're rejecting the God of Scripture and forming a new religion. It is idolatrous to claim to be a Christian and believe in abortion, homosexuality, Marxism, Buddhist meditation, alternative means of salvation, etc.
The Israelites' idolatry was rarely ever a complete rejection of the Lord. They typically provoked the Lord by their blending their faith with the customs of the surrounding nations.
See more in this week's Hopewell Weekly.
Some of the Hopewell membership joined with other believers from the Mansfield area to pray prior to the gay pride events in Mansfield this past weekend.
The prayers availed much as the morning events were rained out and the rest of the day did not see any significant turnout.
Some of us also went out to share the gospel with those who came to the gay pride festival. We thank the Lord that we were able to have so many good conversations and give witness to the saving power of Christ.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.
1 Thess. 5:11
Edification is the native tongue of heaven. Every angel and soul in that place speaks only that which will reinforce positive spiritual life in others. Every Christian this side of heaven ought to have a similar accent in his speech.
While our native tongue is earthly--being filled with words that tear down, we ought to be striving to speak the holy language of Christ's country. How can we develop this kind of speech? Consider these five pointers...
1. Fortify your vocabulary w/ good study - You can only take out of a cash register what has been put in. It is the same way with our lips. It is only out of the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks. So if we want to reduce harsh, cutting words, we need to bulk up on sound spiritual doctrine. Remember that grace begets grace.
2. Keep a sense of our present misery - Nurses speak with extra tenderness when at the bedside of the sick. They are sensitive to the pains that person is experiencing and seek to offer nurturing tones. This is they way we should operate. We should remember that everyone around us is sick with sin and laden with miseries of every kind. If you remember that life is a string of miseries, you can be more readied to be light in the darkness.
3. Speak well with God - We are called to "rejoice in God," "extol His name" and "be thankful in every circumstance." If we are busy lifting up praise and celebrating God's goodness, its likely we'll reflect that on the streets. However, if our prayers are full of complaints, sighs, and bellyaching, we shouldn't be surprised if we speak to our fellow man in derogatory ways.
4. Glory in the smallest blossom of goodness & beauty - Encouragement is the art of commending that which is good, reinforcing the beautiful, and highlighting the virtuous--no matter how hidden or small it may be. Discouragement is usually easy because there is a lot of woeful things in the world to harp on. When a diamond sparkles in the rough, we should make every effort to embrace it and revel in it.
5. Keep the trap shut - Your mother said, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it." She was wise. Before a dog can learn to roll over or jump through a hoop, it needs to learn how to sit and stay. Our speech is not much different. Before we can do spiritual tricks with our tongues, we likely need to learn the discipline of silence.
[The following article was submitted by Matt Timmons, Hopewell's teaching elder, as a letter to the editor in Ashland's newspapers. It's aim was to help combat the rising problem of drug & heroin addiction in the Ashland area. For assistance with addiction recovery contact Matt or visit our addictions page.]
Heroin and drug use are the number one problems facing the Ashland area today. Reports of their destruction come out daily and drug related deaths are skyrocketing.
But users and their families should know that deliverance is possible. There is a way to escape the cult of addiction and religion of substance abuse. It is by turning to Jesus Christ, and beginning to worship the true and living God.
We’ve been conditioned to think that the answer to addiction is found in a twelve step program, a stint at a recovery facility, or better law enforcement tactics. But the ultimate solution is not in behavioral modification, educational programs, or conditioning. The only real and lasting remedy is wholesale religious conversion.
While we can be thankful for the existence of such programs we must recognize that something deeper is at stake. Addiction, at its most fundamental level, is a cult. It is primarily a religious issue having to do with servitude and worship.
The Bible says that we are either slaves to God or to something else. A slave of God will serve the Lord and have Him as the supreme object of his delight. An idolater will serve some other object (such as drugs, drink, sex, etc.) and will find his primary delight in it.
This is the nature of addiction. The drink or drug becomes your master. It once served you; it relieved your pain or gave you a little pleasure. But now it rules you. You have come to feel that you cannot live without it. You crave it, throw your money at it, and give it an absurd amount of attention.
It has become your religion.
It is deeper than mere appetite. It is a matter of faith. For the drug has become the object of trust: It is relied upon for happiness. It promises to save, fulfill, and relieve your pains. You believe in it and rely upon it as the only hope of satisfaction.
The worship is further seen in that the addict can’t bring himself to stop. Addicts will try to stop, but they can’t. The drug has become an idol to whom they are religiously devoted. It is the dominant force in their life.
If an addict is to be helped, he must acknowledge that he does not have a drug problem per se. He must admit that he has a faith problem. It is not so much about what is injected, smoked, or swallowed as much as it is about what is worshiped, adored, and served.
Thus, the road to recovery (i.e. redemption) lies in religious conversion. It is by repentance and turning to the one who is the one and only living God, the one who offers true life and eternal salvation.
All in all, the cleansing of the veins and clearing of the mind begins with a cleansing of the heart and clarity on the issue of idolatry.
In future articles we will explore more of the religious nature of addiction and how the Christian faith provides a means of escape. In the meantime, addicts (and affected loved ones) can explore the recovery helps that Hopewell offers at hopewellashland.com.