Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Dealing with Change: Attentive Church Leadership Podcast

 

On this edition of Attentive Church Leadership Podcast, Rhett Wilson interviews Jim Singleton as they discuss changes facing the North American church. It's a world we've not known before!



Click here to listen to the podcast based on Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton's new book, Attentive Church Leadership.

Billy Graham Statue in U.S. Capitol to Be Unveiled Thursday

 

In 2013, Mr. Graham was named North Carolina’s “Favorite Son” by a unanimous vote of the state General Assembly. Then-Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 540 in to law in 2015, which decreed that a statue of Graham would be commissioned to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Capitol. “There have been many great North Carolinians, but few have impacted the world more than Billy Graham,” the House Bill said.



“The legacy of Rev. Billy Graham is based on his simple message of forgiveness based on John 3:16. His lifelong commitment to preaching the Gospel, his fight for civil rights, his opposition to communism, and his spiritual guidance provided hope to hundreds of millions,” said Senator Ted Budd (R-NC) who was part of the bipartisan effort. “His likeness should stand in the U.S. Capitol forever.”

Read the entire article at BGEA here.

Click here to view the ceremony live on Thursday, May 16.


Picture from BGEA

It Takes a Morally Confused World to Be Anti-Israel

 

The moral confusion of our time is therefore not new.

Almost 3,000 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah lamented, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

But at the start of the 20th century, a new form of moral confusion was introduced. While there were always those who called good evil and evil good, shortly after Einstein discovered relativity in the natural order, Western civilization applied relativity to the moral order. As the late historian Paul Johnson wrote in “Modern Times”: “At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value” (italics added).

Read the entire article by Dennis Prager here.


Also, read the following on Israel:

Israel As ‘A Pariah’ Among the Nations

The Genocide Libel Is the Blood Libel of Our Time

Sick Jews



Picture courtesy of Pixabay.


Monday, May 13, 2024

The Growing Graces of Godly Women

 


Rhett teaches from the book of Ruth about what 

Naomi and Ruth model about being godly women.


Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Founding Fathers on Jesus, Christianity and the Bible

 

"For decades accusations against the Founding Fathers have abounded. One of the common criticisms is that the Founding Fathers were a collective group of atheists, agnostics, and or deists who wanted a strict separation of church and state, resulting in a secular government and public square. Some go as far as foolishly writing that these allegations are so evident that no actual evidence or proof is needed to substantiate their claims. 


While these charges are blatantly false, it can likewise be acknowledged that not every Founding Father or early American leader would fit in the category of born-again Christian (although most of them would). However, the overwhelming majority of Founding Fathers and early leaders wrote openly, and often about the influence of Christianity, the Bible and Jesus on their lives. While the following examples do not give the complete story of the faith journey of the individuals included in this list, these quotes and excerpts do give a glimpse into the thinking of these men. We encourage you to follow the footnotes and dig deeper into the writings of the Founding Fathers!"

Read the entire article by WallBuilders here.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay


Sunday, May 5, 2024

God's Wonderful Hesed


 

Pastor Rhett talks about one of the most common Old Testament words 

- and a vital one for understanding the theology of God's covenants.


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Swiftly Embracing Darkness: "Guilty as Sin"

 

Taylor Swift once again has taken the world by storm with the release of her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” receiving a backlash of criticism from some in the Christian community, who find her songs like "Guilty as Sin" troubling.

Worship leader Sean Feucht posted this week on Facebook and Twitter, “Almost half the songs on Taylor Swift’s new album contain explicit lyrics, make fun of Christians and straight up blaspheme God.”

One entertainment critic writes in the article, Taylor Swift Mocks Christianity in Her New Album, “The album is full of minor quips that elevate Swift above God while also featuring two songs devoted to tearing down the Christian sexual ethic.”

So what’s the big deal? Plenty of entertainers share songs, books, and movies filled with sensual, ungodly themes. Why the large, recent outcry against Swift?

Here’s the big deal.

1. Swift’s massive influence

A quick Google search about Swift reveals, “Taylor Swift has been one of the most influential artists in contemporary music since she was named the best new artist by the Country Music Association in 2007. In 2023 she was named Spotify's most-played artist, and in 2024 she became the only person ever to win the Grammy Award for album of the year four times.”

She’s experiencing success hardly rivaled. She’s the most streamed artist every globally.  Rick Margin, comparing Swift to The Beatles, writes, “Based on new albums reaching No1 on the Billboard 200 in consecutive calendar years, the Beatles are No1 (1964–1970) with 7 and Taylor Swift (2019–2023) is tied at No2 at 5 with 5 other artists including Paul McCartney (1973–1977).”

Though 1000 lesser-known artists may include sexually-explicit and other blasphemous lyrics in their work, their audience, platform, and influence cannot compare to Swift’s. And as the Bible states, Much will be required of everyone who has been given much" (Luke 12:48 HCSB).

When we want to make a point, we rarely go after the little guy. When someone wants to warn of the danger of monopolies taking over the economy, they don’t write a book about the small town hardware store buying out other small town stores. They write about huge companies trying to take over the market. See Dana Matioli’s brand-new book (released April 23, 2024) called The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power.

If a local city councilman in Westerville, Ohio, has an affair or is caught cheating on his taxes, it will make some local headlines, but people won’t be broadcasting about it across the country. But if the Speaker of the House or the Vice President of the United States does, it will be splashed over every news outlet in the country and beyond.

No one has time to point light on all of the small potatoes. Instead, we often shed light on situations by making illustrations of the big fish in ponds.

 

2. Christians are called to be different and discerning.


The apostle Paul wrote to believers living in Ephesus, a very ungodly culture that embraced the occult, all kinds of sexual perversions, and opposed the Christian reality. In that culture, where Timothy pastored, the apostle wrote, Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret (Ephesians 5:11-12 ESV).

The constant struggle for the Christian in any age is to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

Very simply, Paul gives us several warnings:

+ Be careful to not be shaped mainly by the world and its value system

+ Realize the primary place of battle for your character and formation is what you put in your mind.

+ We must learn to practice discernment, testing what is around us to see if it is good, true, and worthy of our attention.


The word discernment means to be able to judge well. One author shares, "It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to 'weigh up' and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements."

Paul challenged the philosophies of the Greeks and Romans at Mars Hill, the center of thought for their culture. Today, in 21st century culture, one of the main centers of influence is now, sadly, the entertainment industry. So we must practice great discernment with what we see and hear, so that, as Jesus exhorted, we will "be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16 CSB).

With many choices in life, we have to wrestle with, Whose kingdom do I primarily belong to?  What will I allow myself to be influenced by? And, Will I embrace this culture phenomenon? Where do I draw the line? These are not always easy questions to consider.


3. As the moral needle of culture continues moving rapidly, the entertainment industry more and more openly celebrates sex without any boundaries, the mocking of Judeo-Christian ethics, and the embracing of the occult.

Referencing a Swift music video that includes occult worship, one critic writes, “It provides another worrying example of the way witchcraft and pagan worship are being pushed into pop culture and becoming normalized.”

This is not Rod Stewart singing, “Do you think I’m sexy?” or Alabama singing, “When We Make Love” nor Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." It’s someone, who represents other smaller, less-influential artists, openly promoting Satanic practices. For anyone who doesn’t understand, that is worshiping the personification of evil and inviting him to have influence.

Again, Paul warned the Ephesians, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 5:12 ESV). Neil Anderson, who counseled numerous people who came to Christianity out of the occult, explains in some of his books that this verse refers to levels of demonic power, much like the levels of authority in the military. In a nation, for example, there may be varying levels of demonic entities assigned to centers of influence – like the entertainment industry.

Biblical wisdom literature warns about dealing with smooth lips from evil hearts, “Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed” (Proverbs 6:25-26 NIV).

Rick Renner warns, "One visit to an evening of television will quickly show that which is impure, ill-mannered, improper, unclean, indecent, coarse, vulgar, offensive, crude, lewd, and rude is dominating the air waves and society. What was once considered vulgar is now widely considered appropriate subject matter for jokes and entertainment. What God calls unholy is what society thinks is funny. What has happened to us? These are all signs of the last days.

To remain untouched by this moral degeneration, you must make the decision to keep your eyes on Jesus and please Him. Choose to make His Word the guide for your heart, and never permit yourself to entertain or find funny those things that God deems 'unholy.' This situation is not funny - it is spiritually deadly and damning."

As believers, we are to be testers of the spirits, practicing discernment with what the culture often readily accepts. Why? To keep us from naivety, "to keep Satan from taking advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11 AMP).

It's a known fact by now that Adolf Hitler was a closet Satanist, regularly participating in occult practices. That explains the incredible, almost hypnotic power he had to sway a crowd and eventually a country, creating what is arguably the evilest sweep of mayhem in the 20th century. He was being empowered by demonic forces, who can have much influence over this world.

4. Not Hating

Our culture often forgets that it is possible to love a person yet hate the evil they embrace. To call out Taylor Swift - or anyone else - on their embracing wickedness - is not hating them. It's embracing truth. However, we live in a culture that has begun embracing the idea that to call out something as wrong is to hate someone. As Al Mohler says, "We cannot settle for truth without love nor love without truth."

Paul warned us in the New Testament that we need to be able to judge things correctly on earth - because one day we will be judging angels.

The Kettle Keeps Getting Warmer

My wife, a Choral Director this year at our local high school, interacts with a lot of teenage girls. She has told me all year, they are enamored with one artist – Taylor Swift. Though there may be hundreds of other artists around, and some with awful lyrics, none of them have the current influence as does Swift.

Our family has never embraced the tendency of some Christians to “burn all of your rock and roll albums and only listen to Christian music.” Our kids have for years enjoyed a wide variety of music, ranging from classic rock to country to beach music to many other genres. However, we have also tried to teach them discernment – you need to ask questions like, “Where is this artist coming from? How are they trying to influence me? What do they lyrics behind the tune and beat suggest?” And there are times when the answer to those questions means we have to turn it off and go another route.

There's a fundamental difference between my choosing to not play a Dolly Parton song that is "edgy" versus embracing an artist who is mocking my faith and dabbling in the occult.

If a generation is subtly influenced by cultural icons like Swift to throw off all sexual boundaries, mock and reject biblical Christianity, and embrace the occult, they will be lost indeed.

The analogy of the frog in the kettle rings true. Every time culture embraces more wickedness, there’s a subtle temptation to just go along, lower our standards, and be conformed to the pattern of this world.

Jesus understood that the way to our heart was through our eyes (Matthew 6:22-23). And, if he were teaching today, I believe He would add to that through our ears. What goes in the eyes and ears directly shapes our hearts. That’s why the book of Proverbs warns, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT). Or, as the NIV puts it, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

That’s a big deal. Be discerning.



Here are a few articles worth reading about Taylor Swift and her music:

Taylor Swift Mocks Christianity in Her New Album

Taylor Swift’s Latest Blasphemous Anti-Holy Spirit Album

What Would Taylor Swift Do?

Taylor Swift and the Occult

Taylor Swift is engaging in satanic rituals in live shows, Christian artist claims: 'Music is dangerous'

When American Idol Star 'Realized Satan Was Real', He Left the Occult and Followed Jesus Instead

4 Things I Would Like to Say to Taylor Swift as a Pastor

The Gospel According to Taylor Swift


Images used courtesy of Pexels and of Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License. Photo of Swift by Glenn Francis.

Toglenn, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Discernment image used from https://readjohnpace.com/discernment/

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Taylor Swift and the Occult

 

Though it's not a blanket endorsement, I encourage you to take time to listen to the interview "Taylor Swift and the Occult" from the Drew Mariani Show.

Click here to check it out.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay

New ACL Podcast Releases Today!

  

It’s been an exciting month with the release of Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton’s book, Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known! And today, the new Attentive Church Leadership podcast releases its first episode.

On this one, Rich Hurst interviews Megan Hackman of Kitsap House in Port Orchard, Washington. Kitsap House is a church plant out of Chapel Hill Church. Rich and Megan discuss essential things to remember during times of change.

The first 11 episodes will coordinate with the book’s Introduction and 10 chapters as we explore attentive churches with attentive leaders who can discern cultural and organizational change and pivot accordingly. Healthy transformation starts with a posture of attention.

The ACL podcast will also be available on AppleSpotify, and YouTube as well. In subsequent months, it will release on the second Tuesday of each month.

Click here to listen to the podcast, and please share on social media and with your friends and contacts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Marks of a Mature Man

 


Rhett talks about how Boaz, from Ruth chapter 2, 

exemplifies the qualities of a mature, godly man.


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

#1 New Release!!


#1 new release in Christian Leadership

#2 overall in Christian Church Administration

#4 overall for both Christian Leadership and Religious Leadership



Read more about Attentive Church Leadership here.





Friday, March 29, 2024

New Book: Attentive Church Leadership

 

In my communication business, I enjoy coming alongside of other talented people, helping them market their product or service, writing their book or speech, or editing their project or proposal.

In other words, I help them make their words sing!!

I had the privilege of collaborating with my friends Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton on their new book, Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We've Never Known.



The world has changed. The changes around us present daunting challenges to the church, and we minister in places we have never been in before. But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions because every church needs to attend to its specific situation and calling. We need to listen for not only what to do but also what not to do. In a world screaming in a thousand directions for our focus, it’s essential for us to become attentive to God, our congregation, and our community.

 


Kevin Ford and Jim Singleton call for attentive churches with attentive leaders who can discern cultural and organizational change and pivot accordingly. Healthy transformation starts with a posture of attention. We need to see what God is already doing in our midst: in our own soul, in our people, and in the communities and culture around us. Chapters explore key questions that attentive leaders ask and offer case studies of attentive churches that have navigated the issues and transitions facing them. As we practice habits of attention, God leads us through the highs and lows of change into the exciting adventure of being on mission with him.

Click here to learn more about the book. You can also sign up for our bonus Leadership Toolkit.


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Don't Touch God's Anointed?

The pastor told my mother, "Marian, I am the only person in this church God speaks to." He taught people that he was God's anointed leader in the congregation. Their responsibility was to obey him - even if he was wrong. 

When I studied the concept of spiritual abuse for my doctoral research, I discovered one often misused Scripture passage in abusive, manipulative settings is the Old Testament verse to not touch God’s anointed. 

Many times this verse has been quoted to keep a toxic leader from accountability. This is a misuse of Scripture, taken out of context: "Do not touch my anointed ones" (1 Chronicles 16:22). They think, "I am a man of God who proclaims His truths, so you have no right to correct me. I'm above all that. I am the one who corrects you." The fact is we all need reproof. Such "wounds are trustworthy," says Solomon. 

The New Testament teaches that every Christian has an anointing available to them, as opposed to the Old Testament, when an anointing was reserved for select leaders over the people - like priests, kings, and prophets. John wrote, "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth" (1 John 2:20 NIV).

Paul described the reality a different way in the book of 1 Corinthians: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NIV). Today, in the New Covenant, the anointing, the indwelling of God, the presence of God us invested into every individual believer as well as the people of God collectively.

We should be careful how we treat every child of God - not just a select few.

Ken Boa writes how God’s people got into trouble in the Old Testament when they “trusted in human power and ingenuity rather than relying on the One who had gotten them this far in the first place. They found out the hard way what happens when you trust a person to accomplish what only God can do.”

Don't be deceived or manipulated to follow or protect a leader displaying punitive behavior in the name of "not touching God's anointed." B
ook after book on spiritual abuse say that line is used repeatedly in unhealthy situations to “protect” the abusive leader. 




Image used courtesy of Pexels

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Characteristics of Persons Mistreated by Churches


Spiritual abuse results in deep wounds occurring in the lives of people. The hardest struggle of those who have been spiritually abused may be dealing with the realization that they have experienced spiritual molestation. They will feel as if they have been raped, leaving their minds and spirits stripped of self-respect and filled with a sense of distrust in God and organized religion. A Christian who has been an active disciple and church member for decades may struggle with feeling betrayed by the Lord and wanting to not go to a church again. They may wish to distance themselves for a season or for the rest of their lives from Christianity. Other areas in which victims of spiritual abuse struggle are as follows: a distorted image of God, a distorted image of self, a hard time accepting grace, problems with personal boundaries, difficulty with personal responsibility, a lack of living skills, a hard time admitt
ing abuse, a hard time trusting people, or a preoccupation with spiritual performance.

Various authors offer different characteristics of people who have been abused spiritually. In this research, six correlating qualities emerge of people who endure this abuse: a loss of trust, shame and guilt, gripping fear, problems with personal boundaries, distorted images of God, self, and others, and the facing of a break-through barrier.

First, victims of spiritual abuse experience a distorted image of God, the Bible, self, and others. Because of this distortion, spiritual abuse is “ruinous to the overall mental and spiritual health of the victims.” People view God as distant, a tyrant unconcerned by the harm that came into their lives. Spiritual abuse causes people to view God wrongly. Arterburn and Felton explain, When a defective pastor crops up, those who have placed ultimate faith in him or her (rather than in God) come to believe that God is defective. They attribute all the evil of that one individual to all people of faith. While this toxic leap is irrational, it is the reason many people turn away from God. But just because a particular individual lacks pure faith doesn’t mean that the object of faith is impure.

Because the Bible has often been misused to control them, they may have a fear or even abhorrence of continuing to study the Word of God. They view themselves as failures, as unworthy of love and acceptance, and as fools. They view other people with the characteristic lack of trust.

Victims of spiritual abuse experience this loss of trust often characterized by disillusionment. To be disillusioned is to be disenchanted or to lose the illusion one kept. Church members under a toxic leader often have an illusion they cling to that their pastor is a wonderful, godly man. Even when the warning signs of abuse arise, these people keep believing the illusion. When finally faced with the reality that their leader was abusive, they experience a tremendous deflation. Some never come to terms with the truth of the situation. Some spend a lifetime and never recover.



In an abusive system the leader subtly takes the place of God. The perversion of roles in the system creates an unhealthy dependence on the pastor. Because people place so much trust in the abusive pastor, when they finally realize he has manipulated them, an incredible loss of trust occurs. The persons feel extremely violated and used. Johnson and VanVonderen write, “Those who have been spiritually abused will have a hard time trusting a spiritual system again. This is extremely significant, because the essence of living as a Christian is a trust relationship with God, within God’s family.”

Third, victims of spiritual abuse experience guilt and shame. People feel great guilt if they were used as pawns by the abusive pastor. Co-conspirators and enablers who were tools to victimize, scapegoat, and silence outcasts will experience waves of guilt if they ever accept the reality that their leader was toxic. One author shares that one of the results of long-term spiritual abuse is shame. Shame makes one fell worthless, like something is wrong with them. One feels flawed and alienated. Shame is a wound felt on the inside. Shame will cause a person to withdraw from other believers who could help them. Like Adam and Eve’s hiding from God due to the shame of being naked, victims of spiritual abuse feel the need to hide from even healthy churches and spiritual leaders, sometimes even from God, because of the shame they feel. They are often deeply embarrassed that they allowed themselves to be deceived and abused. This pain is “massive and immobilizing.” Sandra Wilson explains the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says, “I made a mistake.” Shame says, “I am a mistake.”

Fourth, victims of spiritual abuse experience gripping fear. In extreme cases, when the practice of cursing is used by authoritative leaders, victims experience incredible fear related to being cursed by the leadership if they oppose the leadership structure or leave the church. People fear their name being publicly maligned. But they also deal with the dysfunction of removing themselves from the umbrella of the toxic leader; while in the past they trusted and respected his judgments, now they have to teach themselves that his rejection of them does not actually reflect reality. What a difficult transition for many people. Some people will allow themselves to continue to be abused mainly because they cannot break free of the fear of going against that leader.

Fifth, victims of spiritual abuse experience problems with personal boundaries. A boundary is an invisible barrier that tells others where they stop and you start. Spiritual abusers disregard the boundaries of other people and institutions. Given enough time under an abusive pastor, a person will begin thinking that it is wrong to have personal boundaries. They will feel that they are being selfish if they do not let other people take advantage of them. This violation of boundaries could take the form of being expected to share too much personal information about self and others, to give money by coercion or manipulation, to give approval to plans without knowing enough facts, or to blindly and without question support a pastor’s decisions. People who leave a situation of spiritual abuse have to learn again to put up appropriate personal boundaries.


And sixth, victims of spiritual abuse must experience a break-through barrier in order to move forward.
This barrier describes the point when they are confronted with the truth that the system is abusive and they must decide to leave the abusive church. An authoritarian pastor will perpetuate the myth that there is never a legitimate reason to leave that church. Those who do leave do so without his blessing. Mike Fehlauer shares pointedly,

If you find yourself needing to leave an abusive and controlling church, you
need to realize that many times it will bring attacks against your character.
If you discover that you are in an abusive or unhealthy church and must make
the decision to leave, it will be one of the most difficult challenges you will
ever face. How you leave will determine and affect the condition of your heart.


When someone decides that the best decision for their well-being is to leave an abusive church, they must break through the barrier in spite of the risks. They will be attacked. They will be maligned by others in public and in private. They will lose friends. They will lose their church. They will experience a death, leaving one season of life for another. They will experience emotions and hurts similar to that of a divorce. But they must break through the barrier in order to move forward toward healing.

As victims recognize their break-through barrier, they come to the realization that to stay and support the church and pastor means becoming enablers of a toxic system. A pastor can be dysfunctional and an entire system can become dysfunctional. One unfortunate result of abusive leadership is that a church that has basically been healthy in the past, after hiring a pastor with abusive tendencies, will gradually move toward becoming dysfunctional, unhealthy, and a system that enables abuse unless the pastor is dealt with and removed. As the church begins to assist or enable the abusive pastor, victims may realize that their continued presence will actually feed the system, not stop it. 

If the pastor has already positioned certain people to have power, if the church is characterized by a consistent misuse of that power, if there is closed, secretive communication among a few, if truth is regularly distorted, and if a spirit of division and paranoia overcomes the church, then the system, though once healthy, has become abusive. Not only is the pastor abusive, but the church as a system has become abusive. Therefore, not only does the pastor need to change, but the “new” church must change. Even as individuals need to repent, or change, so the church system must go through repentance, or serious changing, if she is to regain health. However, it is highly unlikely that a system that is enabling abuse will quickly recognize and admit their faults and change. 

It will often take much time and much carnage for real repentance of a system to occur – if ever. The victim stuck in this system realizes that for him to continue to support the church in attendance, service, and money is to enable an unhealthy, dysfunctional one. To stay in the church but not support the church financially and with their service is not healthy for anyone. To remain quiet while a pastor and church system manipulate and abuse people is unethical and unhealthy. So, the victim comes to the realization that in most cases he must prepare to leave the abusive church.

Image courtesy of Pexels

Sunday, March 10, 2024

The Unrealistic State of the Union Address

Jody Hice, President of the Family Research Council’s Action group, offered a good response to the State of the Union . . .

President Biden's State of the Union (SOTU) address last night desperately attempted to convince the American people that our country is healthy and moving in the right direction. But reality tells another story, and political spin cannot eradicate the truth facing our nation. Nonetheless, the President charged forward, much to the agony of informed listeners.


Like a lecturer who knows his talking points are laden with feeble opinions, Biden's only choice was to "yell loud" in an unimpressive attempt to convince people that his policies are good for America. And "yell" he did, virtually the entire speech. Although his Democratic colleagues cheered him on, I do not believe he achieved his desired outcome. He neither fooled the American people nor overcame the torrents of truth that contradict his frail assertions.

That said, the speech highlighted a frightful certainty: both President Biden and his allies seem to completely believe the myths and deceptive mantra. To them (America's radical Left), this speech was not simply a rehearsed set of political talking-points. It represented their agenda.

So, what were some of his major points we need to take note of?

  • Requesting more financial aid for Ukraine
    It was strange that President Biden chose to begin his speech with an appeal for more financial aid to Ukraine. Such a strategy begs the question, why would a president who is giving a State of the Union Address, required by our Constitution as an update regarding the condition of our country, begin with a call to support another nation? One would think that America would be first on the president's mind. It definitely felt as though he was more concerned about Ukraine's national security than he was about ours.
  • Calling to expand abortion
    Another disturbing issue that dominated President Biden's speech was a call for expanding abortion and the culture of death for babies, all in the name of "reproductive rights." In fact, he and the Democrats on the House Floor spent a heartbreaking amount of time cheering and celebrating the "right" to kill innocent unborn babies. It was painful to behold.
  • Passing blame regarding the border crisis
    When he finally addressed our open borders, President Biden essentially blamed Republicans for not signing a bill he supports, which would actually do little more than provide faster processing of illegal immigrants rather than securing the border and stopping the chaos. It certainly appeared that he is not serious about stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into our country. Unquestionably, because of this reckless policy, nearly every state and community has now become a "border state" and is suffering the consequences.
  • Walking both sides of the fence when it comes to Israel
    When mentioning Israel, President Biden tried to walk both sides of the fence. He expressed support for Israel's right to defend herself while at the same time essentially pressuring them to bend to some of the tactics of Hamas. Hamas' attack on Israel was detestable, and it now uses civilians as shields in the ongoing conflict. Biden also revealed that as Commander in Chief, he is ordering U.S. troops to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Undoubtedly, that will be a very complicated mission and likely escalate tensions in the region.

Many other issues were discussed, ranging from the economy to gender ideology to the Second Amendment to a call to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (which would essentially federalize elections). But on the other side of the coin, it is interesting to note the issues that were not dealt with like the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, illegal criminals or terrorists who have entered our country, the weaponized government, etc.

But truth is hard to refute, and President Biden's depiction of America is far from the reality average citizens experience daily. In fact, most people I talk with believe America is rapidly declining. Their concerns are deep and varied.

They are alarmed about:

  • The open borders that are allowing terrorists, criminals, and others to enter our country unchecked. Crime is out of control in many cities, and an open border only exacerbates the problem.
  • The devaluing of their hard-earned money as inflation steadily increases the cost of living and the national debt continues to soar.
  • The weaponization of the federal government against Christians, conservatives, and political opponents.
  • Parental rights being replaced by government guardians and education degenerating into indoctrination by promotion of harmful theories such as CRT, DEI, and transgender ideology that are destroying children's lives.
  • The world being on fire with unrestrained tyrants. Meanwhile, our current administration exhibits no significant leadership but rather continues focusing on things like chemical abortion drugs, woke policies, and climate change.

The list goes on and on.

Again, no amount of political spin can change the facts.

But make no mistake: the need to address these problems facing America is the driving force behind our efforts at FRC Action. If there has ever been a time for us to unite in prayer and action, the time is now! This 2024 election cycle will determine the future of our nation, and we need your partnership and support in order to continue shining the light of truth as we pursue the right path forward.

President Biden says this upcoming election is about "protecting our democracy." But like many of you, I believe his policies and the current trajectory this administration is leading America on is, in fact, the greatest threat to our republic.

I urge you to pray. I urge you to take a stand. And I urge you to partner with us. Your generous donation will enable us to stand in the gap. Together, with God's help, we can move the moral, spiritual, and political needle into greater conformity with the biblical principles upon which this nation was founded.

FRC Action is heavily involved in this upcoming election. Among a host of activities, we are attempting to distribute 14 million voter guides, register new voters, identify and train biblically informed leaders to step into the arena, and help them cross the finish line victoriously.

Jody Hice

President, Family Research Council Action



Picture courtesy of Pixabay

 


Monday, February 26, 2024

The Life and Legacy of Henry Blackaby

 


In the spirit of a John the Baptizer he came. And like a prophet, he sometimes ruffled religious feathers and did not fit into the spirit of the age. He made his own trail, and the Lord opened the way before him.

Henry Blackaby, this modest, unassuming preacher became a great tool in the hand of the Lord. In my opinion, in the last 25-50 years of Southern Baptist life, I believe four men had the greatest significance, and all in very different ways. Charles Stanley, Paige Patterson, Albert Mohler, and Canadian-born Henry Blackaby all shaped Baptists in deep and varying forms.

The prophet Elijah introduced himself in light of his relationship with the Most High God: "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand . . ." ( 1 Kings 18:15 ESV). 

Henry learned to stand before the Lord. As he did, people became small and his God loomed large. Consequently, he often did not fit into religious cookie cutters, he cared nothing for denominational politics, an d he avoided manipulation and slick-looking machinations. Unafraid of controversy and unwilling to pander to popularity, he sought to be an authentic representative of the God before whom he walked.



Calling people to repent of their sins and half-hearted devotion, he taught of a real, personal, and practical love-relationship with Jesus Christ. Henry experienced the deep waters of intercessory prayer, revival and spiritual awakening, and a closeness to the Spirit of God.

Charles Stanley once said that he knew no one who had been as used of God to orient Southern Baptist preachers to the Holy Spirit as much as Ms. Bertha Smith - the last several decades of her life. After experiencing tremendous moves of the Spirit of God in China, Bertha sensed a commission from God upon her missionary retirement to "go home and tell" - spending the rest of her life testifying of genuine revival and spiritual awakening and of the place of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. 

It has been my theory for years that, when Ms. Bertha died in 1988, the spiritual mantle of orienting Baptists to the work of the Holy Spirit then transferred to Henry Blackaby, whose infamous study, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, was first published by Lifeway in 1990. The workbook sold more than 8 million copies in more than 75 languages. At one point, it was estimated that 1/2 of the students entering Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said they sensed a call to go to seminary while studying Experiencing God.

The power of Blackaby's influence flowed out of his intimacy with the Lord. I heard H. B. London, head of Focus on the Family's ministry to pastors at the time, interview Blackaby years ago. London asked him how he, a busy pastor, learned to spend time alone with God.

Blackaby shared that as a young pastor, he often hurried through his devotional time - until the day the Lord gave him an arresting word. He said the Lord whispered to him, "Henry, you are rushing Me." Henry repented, and from then on, he ordered his life so that he could spend unhurried time in His Presence.



The Blackaby grandchildren stand at his funeral

Henry believed God was able and ready to speak to and guide the believer individually - and he taught countless others how to walk in that reality. He was a man who walked by faith, trusting in the Lord's promises - and showed the way for others to do likewise.

One of his most common teachings was of the "crisis of faith." He wrote, "When God invites you to join Him in His work, He has a God-sized assignment for you. You will quickly realize you cannot do what He is asking on your own. If God doesn't help you, you will fail. This is the crisis of belief when you must decide whether to believe God for what He wants to do through you" (EG Unit 7 Day 1).

My wife and I have gone through more copies of his EG workbooks than I can remember - all the way back to the original 1990 black and orange cover one from the Baptist Sunday School Board. The original video recordings of him standing in front of a huge orange paper-board, making marks with a big black marker, are in my opinion the richest ones he ever recorded. In his typical, unassuming way, he simply gave testimony of his Lord. My wife and I enjoyed sitting at his feet in 1999 at Ridgecrest Conference Center at the North American Mission Board's "On Mission" summer conference. 

In a world of skinny jeans, smoke screens, and political correctness, how desperately our world and culture needs more leaders like Henry Blackaby.


See Richard Blackaby's article, "Why Is It So Difficult to Believe God Speaks?"


Wednesday, February 7, 2024

4 Mountains of Men Who Shaped My Life



Four mountains of men who shaped my life all died within a thirteen-month span. I suppose that goes with being fifty-something.

In recent years, my wife and I commented several times, “You realize that people our age are the ones in charge and running things?” The adults who were in charge and in their forties to sixties when I was a child and teenager are now in their last quarter of a century and graduating to heaven one by one.

Shannon Harris, a blogger, writes, “A special kind of pain is felt when your mentor’s time on earth is through.” We remember significant conversations, lessons, and nuggets of wisdom they shared. Memories from their lives, which resonated with value, begin to feel out of reach. And those who loomed larger than life – almost immortal to us – show their mortality.


The Worshiping Pastor

Pastor Jack Hayford passed peacefully in his sleep in early January of 2023. Christianity
Today magazine once dubbed him “The Pentecostal Gold Standard.”  A world-renown leader, he pastored The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, eventually became Chancellor of The Kings College and Seminary, and wrote over 400 worship songs, including the popular chorus, “Majesty.” His radio and book ministry took his practical Bible teaching, heart for authentic worship, and love for the kingdom of God into the homes of countless Christians.

I benefited greatly from his preaching-teaching, his authenticity and vulnerability, and his ministry of writing. For three decades I listened to him and read many of his books, like Manifest Presence, The Key to Everything, The Spirit-Formed Life, and Blessing Your Children. I vividly remember his message from Exodus 3 at the Atlanta 1995 Promise Keepers event, when he had every man get on his knees in the arena.

Pastor Jack’s emphasis on integrity – first learned when his mother asked him to answer her question “with Jesus in the room” - his presence as a bridge-builder in the Body of Christ, and his passion to experience Christ intimately made him a shepherd of shepherds across denominational lines. My wife and I traveled once to the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove to spend a weekend under his teaching.


Pastor Jack and
Rhett at The Cove


The Discipler of Men

Last February, my long-time friend, mentor, and cousin, Morris “Moose” Keller went to be with the Jesus he loved. Though almost forty years apart in age, our friendship continued for more than thirty years.

Moose loved to fish for men, and life was his fishing pond. Whether on the job, at the grocery store, or in church. His signature line was, "Can I ask you a personal question? Do you know if you died today, you would you go to heaven?" And then, often using a "Steps to Peace with God" gospel track, he told them about King Jesus who died on the cross for their sins.

During my college days, he and I met every couple of months. I'd drive from Clinton to Greenville and meet him for lunch at Stax Omega.

We talked about life, the Lord, and our struggles - things that matter. That's what mentoring is. Spending time with someone, connecting over important things, listening, helping them grow and learn. Moose trusted God. His faith was consistent.

The last time I visited his house he lay in a Hospice bed. His body frail but his mind bright, he quoted Scripture after Scripture to me, telling me how he was learning to trust God, and sharing how he led one of the hospital nurses to faith in Jesus Christ a few weeks before. Moose asked me about my wife and three children - all by name. He talked about my father, who had been gone for fifteen years.

He got out his IPhone and said, "Ooooooh. I have to share with you what I read in my quiet time this morning. I read it in the Message and I've never seen it say it quite like this." He proceeded to read his morning reading to me. The last several years, I could expect a daily email sent to several dozen people outlining the notes from his daily Bible reading. 

He told me, "We've been through a lot, buddy." That time was probably the only one he ever ended our conversation without, "Call me if you need me."


The Consummate Bible Teacher

Then in April, Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, Georgia, died. I tuned into his ministry as a freshman in college, listening to the InTouch radio broadcast. Attending a liberal religious college, which jettisoned the authority of Scripture and basic evangelical theology, his preaching helped anchor me in eternal truths.



My first year of school, I picked up his book, How to Listen to God, which had a shaping influence on my nineteen-year-old life. The first of more than two dozen of his books I would eventually read, I experienced his practical teaching that drew deeply from the Bible but also was illustrated with personal experiences. In that book I would find what was one of his constant exhortations: develop a lifestyle of meditating on the Word of God, expecting Him to guide you.

I first learned to preach from listening to radio teachers like Stanley. His winsome, conversational style combined with practical exhortations and challenges to trust God marked his teaching.

I met Dr. Stanley only once quickly at a book signing in Atlanta. After waiting in line, I said, “Dr. Stanley, thank you for teaching me about intimacy with God.” He stopped, lowered his pen, and stared directly into my eyes. Then he emphatically said, “That is the most important thing!”


The Encouraging Eagle

And then on January 21 of this year, my friend and business mentor Dan Miller left this earth. Dan’s books and podcast helped open the door for me, and many others, to become entrepreneurs, explore nontraditional work, and challenge conventional thinking about work opportunities.

Dan wrote, “Putting yourself in the driver’s seat requires creating a clear sense of where you want to go. A clear plan of action will separate you from 97 percent of the people you meet.”

Creating the 48 Days Eagle Community, he mentored modern entrepreneurs, which he called eagle-preneurs, to create the life they want, building their work around their life.

He modeled for many businesspeople how important it is to balance your life with both faith in God and making deep deposits in your family relationships. As he often said, “Success is more than a job.”

When we lose mentors, sometimes we grieve the lessons we’ll never learn from them. And then we realize we can cling to their God, embrace the same unchanging truths they believed and practiced, and make the world a better place by shining our light and investing in others – one person at a time.



- Three days after writing this post, another mountain of a man who influenced my life left this earth. Read my article about Henry Blackaby here.


Mountain picture used courtesy of Pexels