Times & Seasons

After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples gather around their recently slain master and ask Him “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus turns to them and says “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Image result for old calendar

For our purposes I want to examine three words/phrases that Jesus’ used in his reply to his anxious disciples.

  1. “Not for you”

Jesus will neither confirm nor deny His disciples request because they do not have permission to know what only God is allowed to know. The disciples must learn their place. They do not have the right to know what only God can know; i.e. the future.

2. “Times or seasons”

Speaking of the future, how much time do we waste everyday obsessing over the it? Our sinful souls desire to live in a world that requires little faith. We want to know everything, even at the expense of the joy we receiving in trusting in God’s timing.

3. “Father has fixed”

God is completely sovereign over time. This is something that we will never understand this side of eternity. We are commanded to simply trust in His sovereignty. In the beginning God was and is and will always be. God is not limited to “times or seasons” like we. Time for God is a scroll that he has fixed. Now the questions we need to be asking ourselves are:

a) Do we believe this?


b) Do we trust that God is good?

If we do, we will trust in Gods timing. We will accept our roles as creatures and not the creator. And we will further devote our time to Him. Trusting in Gods sovereignty over time is a wonderful way of strengthening (and confirming) our faith.

Scripture taken from Acts 1:6-7 ESV translation.

America the worshipful.

Preface: I have tried my very best to explain that I am proud to be an American. Please read this blog with an open mind and heart. I am by no means seeking to slander the church or the United States. 

This Tuesday our Nation celebrates the Fourth of July, an annual holiday in which we celebrate our independence as a nation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I love this time of the year! It’s a time when families gather together and grill awesome food, shoot fireworks and celebrate the freedoms we have in this great nation. And don’t get me wrong, we live in a great nation! Yes America has its problems, serious problems, but it is still the greatest place to live in the world. I am proud to be a citizen of America. I thank God that He created me and allowed me to exist at this time in the greatest country in the world. I am also thankful for the men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we currently enjoy, many of whom I call family. Furthermore, I would have no problem serving in our Nations military if my country needed me. Truly.

That being said, I must confess that as a churchman, I have always been uneasy about how many churches conduct their worship services this time of the year. It’s typical for churches (especially in the Bible-belt) to conduct what is known as a “Patriotic” service. The traditional Patriotic songs (sometimes printed in the hymnals) are sung, like “America the Beautiful and the “Star-Spangled Banner“. Some churches even begin their services by reciting the pledge of Allegiance, as a large American flag adorns the front of the sanctuary. Red, white & blue decorations cover the sanctuary from the pews to the pulpit. Those who have served in our Nations military are typically honored, sometimes by performing a flag demonstration. The Pastor typically preaches on our Nations history; how the puritans came to America to escape religious persecution or how the founding fathers were Christian or how we need to get back to where we were at our Nations founding or how the mess we are in as a Nation is because they took the Bible out of the schools.

Let me be clear: I have no problem reciting the pledge of Allegiance nor singing our Nations patriotic songs. I have no problem with Ministers voicing their opinion on our Nations history and progression. I do have a problem, however, with churches forsaking the worship of God for a “Patriotic” service.

I want you to ask yourself something: Why do we gather for worship on Sundays?

Is it…

  • To share the gospel with the lost
  • To sing hymns and give tithes
  • To be reminded of what the church teaches
  • To gather together with friends and family
  • To celebrate the freedoms we possess; our Nation
  • To earn favor with God and man

If you answered “yes” to any of the above statements, I strongly encourage you to reconsider. Just think about the meaning of the words “Worship Service/Gathering”.

Yes, churches are to share the gospel with the lost, gather together as friends and family and collect tithes, but that is not its primary purpose. The purpose of the church’s gathering on the Sabbath is the worship and adoration of God by the administration of the sacraments, the expository exultation of Gods Holy word, and the singing of praises by Gods people. The worship gathering is when the community of faith gathers to glory in and find hope, peace, assurance & joy in serving our God.

To put it simply: the Sabbath is not about you. It’s not about us. It’s not about America. God created the sabbath for us to worship Him. It is a time for the redeemed of God to rest in the excellencies of our Savior.

Why would we model our services any other way?

Who are we gathering to worship on Sunday?

As a Children’s Pastor I have caught flack over the years for not having our children recite the pledge of allegiance during Vacation Bible School. This year I finally caved and gave in, not wanting to cause any unnecessary division. I have tried repeatedly over the years to state my case (it’s not due to lack of patriotism, but rather I find no Biblical basis for it), but to no avail. As a young minister, this church/patriotism conundrum disturbs me greatly. It is not the church’s job to honor our Nation. It’s certainly not the church’s job to forsake the worship of God for the worship of our Nation.

We also have to remember that as faithful followers of Jesus, we are citizens of a greater country: the Kingdom of God. The United States of America is nothing but a drop in a bucket compared to Kingdom of God, which is composed of every tribe, people and Nation throughout human history.

Imagine yourself before the throne of God, singing hymns to God along with the angelic host. After singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD God almighty”, do you think you would turn to the hymn “America the beautiful”?

I highly doubt it.

Not because you are not a patriot or “un-American”. You would not sing that hymn in the presence of God because…you are in the presence of God! It’s not appropriate to sing praises to anyone else before the throne of God. When we gather for worship we are called to celebrate our sovereign, gracious, merciful God…and nobody else.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. -Hebrews 11:16

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
    and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
    behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

-Isaiah 40:15



“Choosing” Jesus.

In April 2001, my mother took my brothers and I to visit my grandma in Athens, Alabama. We stayed the weekend, attending the morning service at Salem Springs Baptist Church, where my Grandpa served as pastor before passing away in 1997. I will never forget that Sunday. I wish I could remember the Pastors name, or even the text that was preached, the only thing I can remember is feeling Gods unmistakable call to repent of my sins and trust in Him. I began to weep during the invitation. My Mother and Grandma were a little alarmed, because I had already made a profession of faith several years prior. After church I told my Mom that I would like to speak with our pastor the following Sunday when we were home. We did, and I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ the next Sunday.

I’ve thought about that Sunday for many years now. What made me choose to become a Christian? By all accounts, I was already a Christian. I had already repeated the sinners prayer and was baptized. I knew Jesus was Gods son and that He died on the cross for my sins. I had been a church kid all of my life and possessed an adequate understanding of the Bible. Before that weekend I never questioned my salvation or even wondered if it was genuine. What was it about that morning service that shook me so strongly?

Is the decision to follow Jesus similar to all the other decisions we make throughout our lifetime? College or workforce? Netflix or exercise? Chicken or steak? Suv or Mini-van? Beard or no beard?  Did I simply desire to better my future by choosing eternal life instead of eternal suffering? If that’s the case, then why doesn’t everyone choose to follow Christ?

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide. -John 15:16a

Jesus told His disciples that they did not seek Him out, but rather He sought them. The Son of God did not host a series of tryouts for those seeking to become His disciples. He did not even go to the tabernacle to pick from the best and brightest. Jesus chose twelve, and only twelve, and appointed them to be His Apostles. Ironically, those who desired to be his disciples were told to “Leave the dead to bury their own dead“.

In the same way, God chose Abram. There were many people to choose from, even after the destruction of mankind by the flood, and yet God called Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans. God promised Abram that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed“, even though his wife Sarai was barren.

God fulfilled His promise to Abram by choosing Israel. There were certainly many nations and people groups to choose from, and yet God chose one people to proclaim His glory. God tells His people,

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Similarly, God chooses His church. When Jesus foretells His coming return, he refers to His children as the “elect“, which is another word for chosen.

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

For the very same reason, the Apostle Paul is able to call the Christians in Colossae “Gods chosen ones.” They did not choose God. God chose them and called them to a life of holiness. After elaborating over Gods everlasting love, Paul rhetorically asks the church in Rome, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Meaning that whomever God has chosen will be justified by the blood of Christ.

“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” -Rom 8:28

I do not believe that I choose to become a Christian. I believe that God chose me before I even came into existence. I do not say this with pride, I am simply admitting that God is sovereign over all His creation. This is in fact what the Bible teaches. Consider the beautiful introduction to the book of Ephesians,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,  so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

If you are a Christian, it is by Gods grace alone. It was not because of your intelligence, works, wisdom, social standing or cultural context that you decided to follow Christ. A Christian has no grounds for boasting in regards to his salvation.

 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Cor 1:26-29

We “choose” to follow Christ because He has chosen us. The effectual (Effective) call of Christ only comes to those who have already been chosen by God. This truth should overwhelm us with thankfulness and deep gratitude for the grace of God. We deserve death, and yet Christ has given life to all He has chosen. If you have been purchased by the blood of Christ, you were chosen by God.

God hates.

I hate abortion.

I do not believe there is anything more indicative of man’s depravity than the acceptance of infanticide. In ancient times, parents with unwanted children would simply “expose” their children to nature (leaving infants in fields, wooded areas, or by tossing them into the sea). Today, we simply tear our children limb from limb with a vacuum for cheap in unclean facilities. We live in a world where an abortion costs 400 dollars, and adoption can cost 40,000 dollars. It’s much easier to end life than nourish it. All for the sake of convenience.

Over the years the arguments have changed. The argument that an infant is merely a fetus and not a living-functioning human being is being proven false as we continue to advance technologically. Ironically, science is our greatest ally in this respect.  Now, the Pro-choice argument is that it is a woman’s right to end the life of her child, so long as it is still inside her. Abortive rights have become a feminist issue.

I say all of this not to inform you on the horrors of abortion (hopefully you will educate yourself on this issue), or the sinfulness of Pro-choice advocates. I say this because I want to prove a point: You hate whatever threatens what you love. The greater the love you have for someone or something, the greater your hatred for whatever opposes it. The more you love, cherish and celebrate life, the more you will hate that which takes life away.

It’s the same with sin. God hates sin. Yes, God is full of grace and love (He is love), but He is not some sentimental being who overlooks sin and pardons the unrepentant. God sent His very Son to die for your sin. Sin brings death, and God hates death. Do not be like the Jews who presumed that God would save them simply because He was patient and merciful. They practiced external rituals in order to make themselves appear righteous, but deep down they knew they were not. They simply hardened their hearts and presumed that God would save them regardless.

Remember this, God forbids because He loves. God hates because He loves. He does not restrict for your displeasure. God is for your life.

Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgement of God?

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

-Romans 2:3-4 (ESV)

Imitation love

Love & tolerance.

Incredibly ambiguous words. We are starting to hear the term “tolerance” more and more in our postmodern culture. Tolerance is praised by the media landscape, the academy, and our government. Everyone desires to be known as tolerant. People who are deemed “tolerant” become instantly worthy of praise. But what does the word “tolerant” mean?

I’ll give you an example of what true tolerance is. My wife believes that steamed broccoli is delicious, even after I assure her it is not. Broccoli is disgusting. It becomes even more disgusting when it is steamed on the oven. I believe there is nothing in this world that can make broccoli taste more appealing. It smells bad, tastes bad, it even looks bad!

Marissa disagrees. She thinks that broccoli is delicious, especially with cheese. Marissa could have steamed broccoli with every meal…Marissa and I respectfully disagree. I believe she is wrong and broccoli is disgusting, and she believes I am wrong and broccoli is delicious. However, we both respect one another and can live with the fact that the other person is wrong.

Allow me to give a greater (and more serious) example. My Pastor Jake and I disagree on a few things in regards to scripture. Jake believes that Jonah physically died before being swallowed up by the great fish. Scripture never says that Jonah died, but it does hint around the fact that Jonah was “brought back from the pit.” And that could certainly be interpreted as meaning that Jonah was brought back to life. Another passage that supports his interpretation is Matthew 12, when Jesus tells the Pharisees that…

“No sign will be given to (this generation) except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Jesus certainly died and was laid in the earth for three days and nights, so it’s safe to assume that Jonah was dead as well, before miraculously being brought back to life by God. I believe that Jakes interpretation is reasonable, but I disagree with it. I do not believe Jonah died, because the text never specifically says that he did. We respectfully disagree with one another. This is not an essential issue, so we can agree to disagree.

But that is not the kind of tolerance that is being promoted in our society today. Our postmodern understanding of tolerance is very different than the examples I have provided. Tolerance today is understood as being “accepting” and “non-judgmental.” Tolerance no longer means that we can “agree to disagree,” it means that we must agree, affirm, and conform.

For example, Jake and I are not considered “tolerant” if we accuse each other of being wrong, even if we do so in a respectful manner. Jakes interpretation of Jonah is correct, and yet so is mine. Somehow, we are both correct in our interpretations. If we are to be considered tolerant, in today’s social climate, we must agree that both of our interpretations are correct, we must affirm that to be the case, and by doing so we conform to the idea that we may never know who is absolutely correct.

…Except one of us is wrong. Jonah could not have been alive and dead at the same time. Either I’m wrong or Jake’s wrong. We both cannot be right. Do you see the issue here? Postmodern tolerance is the enemy of truth. Postmodern tolerance would have the world sacrifice truth in order to be politically correct. I’m right, you’re right, everybody is right. There is no such thing as right and wrong, good or bad, truth or falsehood. It’s all a matter of opinion.

You have experienced this in our culture haven’t you? Spend a little time watching the news or surfing the internet, this false definition of tolerance is everywhere. To make matters worse, people who are considered to be the most “tolerant” are typically very intolerant. And those who are deemed intolerant are castigated, mocked and given little credence. Tolerance is promoted as being peaceful and non-judgmental, as long as you conform and stay in line. G.K. Chesterton, a British theologian in the 20th century, wisely remarked,
Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.

Unfortunately for the world, Christianity is a faith that requires certain convictions. We must believe in absolute truth because we have encountered the way, truth and life. To be a Christian, one must confess Jesus as God, Lord and Savior. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

What’s most unfortunate is that many Christians, in order to remain culturally relevant, have jumped on the secular bandwagon and are misusing Jesus as their “tolerance” spokesman. How many times have you heard statements like these, “Jesus says “Do not judge,” “Come as you are,” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” “Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, so why don’t you all stop judging!” “Aren’t we supposed to love one another? Jesus commanded us to love people, no matter who they were.”
The only problem with those arguments is that they are half truths. J.I. Packer says this: “A half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.” Jesus certainly did say “Do not judge,” but if we read that verse in its context we discover that Jesus was actually encouraging us to judge…only do so correctly. Jesus says we must first take the log out of our own eye in order to see clearly to take the speck out of our brothers eye. That is probably the most misused teaching of Jesus.

Jesus never said, “Come as you are.” Never. Not one time. In fact, Jesus’ first sermon was this, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17) The biblical understanding of conversion always places an emphasis on repentance. We must confess our sins to God in order to be saved. Here is what Jesus truly said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5) But you wouldn’t know that if you listened to many Christians.

Did Jesus hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes? Yes. Did they continue in sin after encountering Jesus? Absolutely not. Matthew and Zacchaeus gave up their trade, and Jesus told the woman at the well to “Go and sin no more.” Jesus hardly gave approval to any sinful lifestyle. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of hanging out with the undesirables, He said “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)Did you catch that? Jesus ministered to sinners in order for their repentance. Jesus ministered to them; He did not party with them. Ironically, those who like to use this excuse have more in common with the Pharisees than the sinners.

Does Jesus command us to love everybody? Yes. Jesus even commands us to love our enemies. But what does that kind of love look like? This is where I believe many misled Christians get it wrong…They believe that love is synonymous with tolerance. They think that loving somebody means giving affirmation to their lifestyle. If they do not have the courage to do that, they simply keep their mouths shut. Although they know the truth, they refuse to voice it in order to not appear “intolerant.”

Anyone who has ever worked with children knows that love and tolerance are not synonymous. Is it loving for a parent to allow their children to continue in disobedience? No. A parent who fails to discipline fails to love. To Marissa and my horror, my daughter Evelyn loves to play with the electrical outlets in our home. We had to buy those little plastic covers that plug into the outlets like all good parents do. Do you think they deter my daughter? No, that’s my job. It’s my job to protect my daughter by keeping her away from the outlets. It would be incredibly unloving (perhaps evil) for me to allow my daughter to fool around with the electrical outlets.

And yet, I see so many parents “tolerating” their children’s disobedience. I often wonder if this false view of tolerance invading our society is simply an extension of bad parenting? Culture does begin in the home.

But love is not tolerance. And Jesus was not some dude who taught tolerance and political correctness…In other words, Jesus is not the Dalai Lama. Jesus is not a political pawn that can be misused and misquoted in order to push a worldly agenda. Jesus is love, and love can be hard…but it’s infinitely greater than tolerance.