Category: Religion

The broken commandment that causes most of our problems

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Most people think that the 9th commandment states, “Thou shalt not lie.” And while that is a simplification of the command, the actual directive is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” The actual wording of the commandment lifts the standard from a prohibition of speaking falsehoods, to a prohibition of validating stories you don’t know to be true. Let me share what I mean.

Several years ago, I was working as the news director for a local radio station when I received a visit from a listener of the station. Through casual conversation, she told me that HEB had agreed to build a grocery store in our community.

Now, over the years I had worked in media in Brownwood and Early, Tex., the biggest desire of the residents was a new, trendy grocery store. HEB has become one of Texas’ folk-hero companies, so they were at the top of the list. The news that HEB would be coming to town would be our top headline, if true.

I asked the lady where she heard the news, she told me that a friend had told her. I asked the friend’s name, got contact info, and contacted the friend to verify. The friend told me that she had heard the local economic development director make the announcement on our competitor.

That was a slap in the face. As news director, I had allowed my department to become the PR wing of the local economic development corporation, expecting to be first in line with such news. For them to give a breaking story like that to my competitor was highly disturbing.

My competitor would not be willing to verify the story, and the economic development director had left town to attend a series of meetings. Meanwhile, social media buzz began to build about the coming of HEB. Everybody heard from somebody that the city had announced the coming of HEB.

I called the local chamber of commerce (which worked hand in hand with the economic development corporation). The director told me that the city has worked to recruit new grocery stores, but no agreement had been made yet, and if it had, my department would be the first to know.

She allowed me to interview her for a story to dispel the rumor that HEB was coming. (I often ran stories to clarify or dispel rumors). The story ran.

After the story ran, I received a call from the economic development director, who asked where all this came from. I told him, someone heard from a friend who heard from a friend that the announcement was made on my competitor. (The competitor denied an announcement was made, and I believe them).

The economic development director was upset, but civil. He explained that rumors being spread like that can cause agreements to bring new retailers to town to fall apart. He explained such had happened in the past.

Little did anyone know, the economic development director was in talks to bring a major grocer to town, and a few short weeks later, the announcement of a new United Supermarket was made. A deal almost lost because someone heard from a friend that something was going to happen.

We think of lying as blatantly trying to deceive, but bearing false witness is also deceptive, and destructive. The reason the commandment was given was that witness testimony was solid evidence in Old Testament courts, and a false witness who was just repeating gossip could cost another man his life.

Today, people aren’t executed over gossip and false witness. However, reputations, careers, businesses, marriages, homes, families and churches are destroyed every day by false witness.

Are you passing along information, something you heard, which may or may not be true? Are you presenting information as being first hand when you really have no direct knowledge? If so, you may be breaking the 9th commandment, and “bearing false witness.”

Chan: Forget it, I’m out!

In his final address to the students at Azusa Pacific University, former megachurch pastor Francis Chan announced that he is leaving the United States to pursue ministry in Asia.

In his message to the students, Chan noted that the people of Asia are open to the Gospel and cleaving to the Lord. He compared his ministry in the United States to fishing in a fishing hole that was over-fished, such that the fish no longer bit the lures. As part of his message, Chan expressed frustration at the way scripture is being de-emphasized and how more people are building beliefs on what feels good rather than the truth of the Bible.

“We only believe what we want to believe!” Chan said. “Name one thing in the Bible that you believe that you don’t want to believe.”

He went on to say that there is absolute truth, and that truth can be found in the scriptures.

Chan exhorted students to take the Bible at its word, and not to try to twist its meaning through endless word studies. He criticized the way the current generation (as all generations have) rejects prior wisdom, believing they have found their own wisdom.

“Are you ready to surrender to the Word?” Chan asked. “Let God be true and every man a liar. If your thoughts contradict this book, then you need to come under this book and change your way of thinking.”

The entire message is posted above.

Do We Really Have Too Many?

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nThere I sat across the table from a man who would determine whether my qualifications were strong enough to warrant a position within his company.

“What brings you to Brownwood?” He asked.

“I am coming here to start a church to reach the lost and unchurched of the Brown County area,” I said. I know that talking about church planting, state mission work, and religious work to someone in a secular setting like a business meeting or job interview can sound insane, but I had to answer the question honestly. Besides, if I couldn’t tell a potential employer my plans, then would I be able to effectively share the Gospel to the general public?

My future employer then joked that I was another preacher who thought he could convert the city of Brownwood, Tex.

To those outside the church, I can understand how insane it must seem. When the general public thinks about missions, they think about soup kitchens and clothing drives for impoverished people living in a desert overseas. They don’t think about ministers taking to the streets of their hometowns preaching the Gospel, desperately trying to reach the lost they pass by on a daily basis.

So, when you tell someone that you are a state missionary sent to a town that already has a few dozen churches in the same denomination, and hundreds of others, they probably wonder if you are really a scam artist or cult leader.

This type of thinking is not limited to the lost and unchurched, either. Often, pastors, ministers and denominational leaders will evaluate the legitimacy of a mission project based on how many other churches of like faith are located on the field of labor.

In both scenarios, you may hear someone say, “We already have too many churches.” Others will say that the presence of so many churches dishonors Christ, because it shows that Christians cannot get along. After all, shouldn’t we want to come together in one large glorious church and be one big happy family? In a perfect world, maybe so. In the perfect world that God will create after He destroys sin once and for all, we will.

Until then, however, we live in a fallen world.

When I came to Brownwood, I was immediately introduced to a few churches, and dozens of individuals who were faithfully serving the Lord in spirit and truth who worked tirelessly to reach the lost. Some helped us get Life Point started. Upon meeting these dedicated servants of the Lord, I wondered why God would call me to a place where so much Gospel activity was already occurring.

Through time and experience, God taught me that He called me to Brownwood because, despite the best efforts of so many, there were still those who needed the Gospel, who would respond to the Gospel.

Simply put, the more workers for the harvest, the greater the harvest.

In business, there’s a concept called market penetration, which is the measure of the sales or adoption of a product in a particular market. Companies work to increase market penetration by increasing promotions, offering new outlets to purchase their product, and diversifying their efforts to reach different demographics within the market.

Subway restaurants drew a few odd stares when they announced the opening of a new store inside a megachurch. (That’s a different subject for a different day). In explaining the move, Subway representatives simply said, “If we think we can sell sandwiches in a particular location, we’re going to open a store in that location.”

If you look around, you’ll notice that there are Subway locations everywhere. A small town near my home that cannot support a traditional restaurant has a Subway.

The same tactic has been employed by McDonald’s, 7-11, and the Southern Baptist Convention. A location on every corner penetrates the market, and increases “sales.”

Yet, no one ever complains of there being too many McDonald’s restaurants, 7-11s, or Subways. They do, however, complain of too many churches.

Why? It’s Spiritual.

The Missionary Baptist Association of Texas holds its messenger meeting in November. Several local and area associations will meet between now and then. As we discuss missions at these meetings, whether as part of the formal proceedings, or informally around the table of fellowship, let’s not discuss missions in terms of how many churches exist in how many towns. Let’s discuss missions in terms of how we are penetrating these fields of labor with the Gospel.

The Ballad of Thomas Ryman

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There are many reasons why people think that the Ryman Auditorium is called “the Mother Church of Country Music.” First, it looks like a church. Notice the arched windows and doorways, the American Gothic architecture, and the wooden pews inside.

Then, there’s the devoted, religious following of the Grand Ole Opry, which still closes most of its performances with a Gospel tune.

Finally, there’s the notion that you haven’t really arrived in Country Music until the “Mother Church” gives you her blessing, and you are invited to play the Opry (even if most of the performances are now held at the Opryland Resort.)

But how many realize that the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, was actually a church?

In 1885, Riverboat operator and saloon owner Thomas Ryman noticed that the ongoing Christian revival across Tennessee is cutting into his business. Looking to preserve his business ventures, Ryman decided to go to a revival meeting held by the great Evangelist Samuel Porter Jones for the purpose of disrupting and heckling the service.

Instead of stopping the revival, Ryman himself wound up converting to Christianity. So moved by the preaching of Jones, and his own redemption, Ryman endeavored to make sure everyone could hear the Gospel as spoken by Jones’ voice. So, he invested $100,000 ($2.7 million in today’s cash) to build the “Union Gospel Tabernacle,” a 6,000 seat chapel where Jones would be able to preach to multitudes.

Worship services were held, and Jones held many revivals in the facility. The tabernacle was renamed the “Ryman Auditorium” in 1904 by Jones as he preached Ryman’s funeral.

The Ryman Auditorium closed in the 1930s, and fell into disrepair before being taken over by WSM-AM in the 1960s to become the site of the Grand Ole Opry.

I read this story several years ago, and it continues to impress me that a hardened sinner was so moved with gratitude for his salvation, and concern for the eternal destiny of his fellow man, that he put his fortune to the test to build a place where everyone could come, hear the Gospel, and be saved.

When I think about this, I wonder what I have done to show my gratitude to God for my salvation. I also wonder what would happen if I did more. Furthermore, what if we had more Thomas Rymans in the world, hardened sinners broken and redeemed by the power of Christ who turned around and did everything in their power to reach those around them? If this happened, what kind of revival would we see in our country?

Right now, the entertainment industry politicizes everything, thinking that to legitimize their fame and popularity, they have to adopt a cause or message to change the world. Politicians legislate to leave their mark on the world. Athletes endorse ideas and causes.

The rest of the world uses its platform to advance a secular agenda. Isn’t it time that Christians use their platform to advance the Kingdom of God?

May God grant you the boldness to live out your faith and reach others with the Gospel.