That we may be one

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35 CSB

We’ve spent a lot of time on various podcasts talking about the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Jarod and I have discussed it from perspectives of big-picture government responses, doctors and researchers exploring the spread of the virus and how it may be stopped or treated, and of course, the ways churches have tried to respond to this in a way that balances respect for local government authority and safety of their congregants with the need to gather and worship the Lord. It has produced for so many of us an intense time of longing for a return of the community we’ve been denied for several weeks now.

As all this has progressed, I’ve also watched individual responses and interactions, both close friends as well as far, laymen as well as leaders. I have wrestled a lot with how to speak to what I’ve seen. I’ve started writing many times on different platforms and deleted it, left it alone, rather than speak in anger and frustration or without trying to be fair in considering different viewpoints. Where I’ve landed is honestly not about where one falls on the spectrum of “open it all now” to “not until there’s a vaccine and even then I’m gonna wait a couple weeks.” Rather, my heart has been heavy with frustration more about the way I’ve seen us, believers in Christ, interacting over this.

I’ll be real honest with you people. I am very disappointed with how we as Christians have dealt with this. This experience should be a time for us to shine. Christians everywhere who have any kind of means should be out searching for any neighbors who are just hurting right now whether from lost work or illness or something else and pouring themselves out. They ought to be devoting themselves to service, to prayer, to crying out to the Lord to protect the sick around us and to provide for the poor.

But what I have seen has not looked like that, at least not from so many who have a high degree of visibility. I have seen leaders, godly men who I have looked to for wisdom and truth on so many issues and circumstances, arrogantly reacting unlovingly to everything from gentle correction to news stories. I’ve seen good brothers and sisters who previously had been gentle and sweet to each other now turning against one another in bitterness and division. And it has me deeply saddened and hurt to see so many not walking even remotely in a way that demonstrates the truth of Jesus’ words above: His desire that we would be recognized as His disciples by our love for one another.

Love one another

I’m not going to screenshot stuff. I’m not going to “get receipts” or whatever it is that the gossip-mongers and drama channels say when they dig up the latest dirt on someone with even the smallest amount of clout. Instead, I want to speak directly to each person who takes the time to read this: it is time for us as people who profess to love Jesus Christ to put up or shut up. It is time for us to stop regarding the Scriptures as a series of technicalities that allow us to disobey one thing in order to obey another. It is time, in short, for us to feel the weight of the Lord’s discipline on our hearts and to look to His example in giving up ourselves for the sake of love.

If you are new to this blog and podcast, you may not know that I spent the better part of last year working through the concept of unity in the Christ for the church. If God is willing, I am not done doing that either; Jarod and I are making plans for other projects that will involve this central and critical topic. If there is one thing that I hope is clear from all that, it is this: unity involves both a definition of what we are unified around, as well as a clear view of what walking in that unity looks like.

I’ll tell you what it doesn’t look like: it doesn’t look like “owning the libs.” It doesn’t look like your favorite TV or radio host Snarky McSmartAleck who cracks wise in precisely the right way that lets us look at those who disagree with us and go “Yeah, ya big idiots!” It doesn’t look like screaming like a lunatic about the president, no matter who it is. It doesn’t look like circular logic that begins with the conclusion you desired in the first place. And it doesn’t look like assuming the worst about your brothers and sisters.

“Aren’t you kind of doing that now?” you might ask. But I don’t want to assume anything. I just said: many of the people (on both sides of this fight) are men and women I respect and love. They aren’t people who are normally across the ideological or evangelical divide from me, but those who I have always regarded joyfully as fellow servants of Christ and brethren in the faith. And it is my desire that all of us in Christ, no matter where we fall within that aforementioned spectrum, would recall to mind that the one with whom they are speaking is like themselves: human firstly, saved by grace secondly, an heir of a greater gift by the blood and the Spirit.

No excuses

Firstly: are you serving? Are you giving, and asking, and looking for those around you who are hurting? Or, are you so busy thinking about the fear of government takeover that it prevents you from seeing the hurting before you? Are you so driven to argue that it prevents you from listening and considering?

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks of the truth that even thought he had the right to the same kind of life that others in the church had, he desired to surrender those rights for the sake of those who he so diligently sought after for the sake of Christ. And he was willing to follow the path of Jesus in giving up all of himself for the sake of Christ’s people. He knew what he needed in order to live. He knew that God was aware of that fact as well, and he trusted fully to the Lord for those things. Yet he was willing to sacrifice it all if it meant Christ would be glorified and hearts would be transformed.

So at the end of this frustrated and frustrating exercise in responding to a whole myriad of arguments, the question I want to put before you the reader and myself is: how are you dying to yourself for the sake of Christ in the midst of this? Is the way you speak to and of others during this time showing a heart that trusts that God is a better provider, or do you cling to His gifts even as He tugs them away? Are you more fearful about losing your freedoms than you are about dishonoring the name of Christ before unbelievers?

I’m not saying I’m flawless in this. But this is certainly weighing deeply on me, and I hope more people will stop bickering and complaining and start thoughtfully considering the best way we can live in these deeply uncertain times with the only certainty that matters. We have an eternal weight of glory before us that ought to press in heavily on the way we consider these things.

Don’t mishear me: I am not saying it’s bad to disagree. I think that disagreements had properly, with love and gentleness, and with our hope fixed squarely on the eternal, are a reality of this world. Even if we agree in faith, we are going to disagree over earthly matters that the Bible doesn’t speak to. You can’t flip to a page and see “Oh, well, it says right here how to handle this outbreak” except perhaps in the sense that Levitical law speaks to quarantining in certain situations.

But you can see how to disagree, and my desire is that those who actually take the time to read this post will perhaps slow down and think about the questions I’ve raised. Brothers and sisters, it is my hope that we can disagree in love and unity, and serve our neighbors faithfully. Let us turn our efforts to love, service, prayer, and repentance, as we ought to, and seek to give glory to Jesus as the one who stands in the way of life, even when death and fear lurk.

Spurgeon Audio: The Blood of the Lamb, the Conquering Weapon

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We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone, and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.

Charles H. Spurgeon, sermon 2043: “The Blood of the Lamb, the Conquering Weapon”

Brothers and sisters, fear weighs upon all our minds. The news continues its cycle of drumming out the advancement of this unseen but deadly villain. There is good reason to feel the weight of this on us, because so much mystery surrounds it, both natural and man-made due to the lack of testing.

It is my goal with choosing this sermon to point our minds, hearts, and eyes to the focal point of our faith, to the cross of Jesus. The weight of glory waiting for Him drove Jesus to endure all the suffering and death that He did, and we place our eternal and temporal hope in that truth. Jesus promised his disciples that in following Him, they were not avoiding the sufferings of this life–they were in fact going to walk in their own sufferings, because of the hatred of this sinful world for its holy and just God. The scent of the gospel to those being saved is life, but to those who are not, it is a scent of death, a warning of the wrath to come.

Rest in the midst of anxiety – in His blood

We’ve talked about the fear and anxiety gripping the world as we continue to pass through the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus. The number of cases, and the number of deaths, continue to climb. As an American I don’t always know how this kind of thing weighs on the minds of my brothers and sisters in other nations (though I would love to hear the testimonies of those who are engaging with this, and Jarod and I would like to talk about that on an upcoming Kings Highway Radio episode). But it seems that a lot of my American brethren are struggling with this especially because it’s clear that this threatens not just life, but way of life. I certainly don’t disagree with that. After all, having so many businesses forced to shutter and social interactions ranging from movie theaters to that most crucial to our lives as believers, church services, being disrupted could hardly be more troubling to our hearts. And beyond that, the looming threat of global recession, job loss, and whatever may come beyond it that we cannot see.

The Lord knows all this, and more than that, He rules over it in ways and to ends we cannot know at this time. We don’t long for pain and suffering, but neither should we allow ourselves to buck against it in anger and ingratitude. Jesus knows, and though His rod of discipline may fall, His love is not less for His children. Don’t forget the reminder of the writer of Hebrews that God disciplines those whom He loves, and this time as all other hardships and evils that have befallen us and those who came before us will obey the words of Paul in Romans 8:28: all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.

That should encourage peace in our hearts. I don’t write this as one who sits above the fray with no fears weighing on his own heart, but as one preaching this to himself as well. The blood of Christ preached in this sermon is sufficient for all the evils of my life, and by that blood I go before the Father and ask daily for strength, for peace of heart and mind, and for encouragement when I see the black unknown of this world looming before me. I pray the same encouragement for all of you, and I especially pray for those of you who do not know God in Jesus Christ who He sent, that you would feel the weight of His call on your hearts, and turn, and rest in Him.

Support

If you feel so led and can do so without disrupting your own support for your local church, please consider joining the Patreon we have created! My goal is to be able to set more time aside to continue creating content, and as I figure out exactly what I can do with this, I hope to be able to find new and creative ways to serve and minister to my listeners as well.

Kings Highway Radio: Fear and Power in Denton, TX

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Jarod and I got together for what may be our last time to hang out in a public place for at least a few weeks, at the new Denton Cigar Company. We spent some time talking about our thoughts on the ever-present fear and anxiety surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our county along with many others has announced the closure of all public places and called for gatherings to not exceed 10 people.

This has caused a lot of anxiety and frustration among many, especially Christians missing the closeness of worshiping with the body of Christ. We spent some time talking about the issue and going over the reality of what it may look like to navigate this as believers in the coming weeks and months.

Jeremy Young’s Twitter thread breaking down the Imperial College report can be found here.

We also talked about the topic that will be discussed over the next few episodes. We will be going through the book Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church? The title may seem a bit clickbaity, but it is actually a very insightful series of essays from many teachers and leaders within the church on various elements tied together by one element: the effect of seeking after power in one form or another while also trying to be a leader in Christ’s kingdom. If you want to read along with us, it is still available on Amazon.

Supporting this podcast

We have started a Patreon to help us free more time to produce content and expand what we are able to do with the space God has given us. If you are edified by our work and you would like to help us in that effort, please consider becoming a patron!

Episode 66: Mr. Fearing Comforted

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I think I shall be quite safe in concluding this morning, that there are some here who are full of doubting and fearing. Sure I am that all true Christians have their times of anxious questioning. The heart that hath never doubted has not yet learned to believe. As the farmers say, “The land that will not grow a thistle, will not grow wheat;” and the heart that cannot produce a doubt has not yet understood the meaning of believing. He that never doubted of his state—he may, perhaps he may, too late. Yes, there may be timid ones here, those who are always of little faith, and there may be also great hearts, those who are valiant for truth, who are now enduring seasons of despondency and hours of darkness of heart.

Charles Spurgeon, sermon 246, “Mr. Fearing Comforted”

This episode features the straight audio recorded while livestreaming on the Facebook page Sunday afternoon. So that means all the little pauses and puppy interruptions are still intact. Nevertheless I wanted to read this sermon in hopes of making my position on the fears surrounding the ongoing pandemic clear.

The way a Christian faces difficulties and hardship is important. The Bible does not promise that believers will not face these, but rather promises that God is faithful to provide for His children in the midst of such hardships the faith required to endure. We glorify Him by placing a greater value on the pleasure of knowing Him and by our faith in His provision. Paul teaches in Romans 8:28 that for those who are in Christ, everything serves for God’s pleasure and for our good. This is a tremendous promise which we can hold fast onto in every situation.

Christ is on the throne. His sovereignty over all things does not stop at the border of a disease, of financial strain and recession, or anything else. But I want to remind us all that Christ’s rule does not remove the possibility of suffering. I’ve encountered a lot of American believers especially who think that this is not a big deal and will pass away in a matter of a couple weeks. While I certainly hope that is the case, we need to prepare our hearts for the fact that this may not be the case. If we spend our time in this frustrating moment grinding our teeth and just trying to gut it out, we are not testifying to our faith in God’s great grace and mercy in the midst of all things, nor to our hope in an eternity that makes times such as these look like nothing in comparison to the glory and joy that awaits.

Let us not fear and hide, neither let us act rashly or arrogantly. In all things, I would say that we must stand together in faith, knowing that even if the worst fears come to pass and many suffer or even die, that we have served and loved those around us, and that we have been faithful with the time He has given us.

Your support

I have spent a long time debating if I should venture into this, but after talking it over with trusted brothers and sisters I have decided to create a Patreon account to help support this podcast. I have always struggled with the best way to keep this place rolling along, but I’ve been having to put in extra hours to get ahead on certain financial issues, which puts a strain on how much time and energy I can devote. My desire is to reduce the need for overtime and increase my work here. If you enjoy this and find it edifying, I hope you will consider visiting my Patreon and donating, even a small amount. Also, if you have ideas for what the donor levels could receive in exchange, please feel free to drop me a line as the concept for me is still a bit of a work in progress.

As I said in the podcast, please DO NOT donate if it will interfere with your giving to your local church. That needs to be your first financial giving priority and I do not want to interfere. But if you are able and willing, I hope you will join me as I and Jarod try to build this podcast out into something we can all enjoy and grow from.