Monthly Archives: July 2020

Reality of Covid-19

Philippians 4:6; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” [NASB] A similar admonishment is found in Matthew 6:25-34, referencing worry or anxiety. In the present day that we find ourselves this can be and has been a difficult task. We are immersed in a time within our country and world where everything seems to be out of control. When I hear of all the social protest and crime in many of our cities across the country, I cannot help but think of the toll this is having emotionally, mentally, and spiritually on people. I do not want to get into who is right and who is wrong, that is not the focus of this article. Rather I would like to exchange some ideas of how human and fragile we are as God’s creation.

I have been asking others and myself about how the Church will come out of this time of turmoil and upheaval. It is one thing for Churches and their Pastors to navigate the Covid-19; quite another to add on the social unrest, elections, schools opening or not opening, and politics on top of the virus.

When I talk with pastors and leaders, I have found that I want to genuinely know how they are doing. I am not asking how their ministry or church is functioning, but how are they as a PERSON coping with everything. Some are surprised with question and then others are ready to open up about the difficulties they are going through. I think that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the minutia that we forget that it is real people and places going through the raging storm.

I read an article by Ed Stetzer about How to Convert Retreat into Advance [Blog Ed Stetzer in Mission Group Blog 7/20/2020] In the blog he referenced FDR’s quote of “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The context of the quote found our nation coming out of the Great Depression and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, drawing Americans into World War II. At a point of great tribulation and unknown future, the President was trying to rally people to view the days with optimism not pessimism. I have found that if I allow myself to, I can really get depressed and anxious about the world around me. Usually this is fueled by listening to reporters tell me how bad everything is going.

In Stetzer’s blog, he identifies some principles we need to do in order to “Advance rather than Retreat.” First, renew our vision to what God has called us to. We are to be on mission with the Gospel. People need hope and Jesus is this Hope. Secondly, Reset your why. In other words, remember WHY we are doing what we are doing. God has commissioned us to be HIS ambassadors with the Gospel. We are to be the Light and Salt in a world that desperately needs direction and truth. Thirdly, Stetzer talks about “returning to the mission.” When I read this, I thought about how the Church during all this has been a Hybrid Church – both trying to meet physically and virtually at the same time. Oh, by the way school systems are trying to navigate that issue now. We have the greatest opportunity to make a difference in our current situation with the Gospel then we have had in the last 25 years. Here are some TRUTHS:

Truth, the Covid-19 is no longer a novelty, but a burden with no specific end in sight. Another Truth, we are all tired of it and want life to return to normal. Truth, we no longer have a Normal. Even if the Covid-19 ended today, we are probably looking at another 12-18 months of adjusting to a New Life existence.

Truth, I do not have the answer to all of this. I do not know where this is all going to end up. I need the very HOPE that I am sharing with those without Jesus need.

Truth, this has had an effect on me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. There are times I want to run and hide, but I know I cannot. So, my only choice is to trust in the Lord with all my being. That may sound overly simplistic, but it is the best answer I have right now. So, let us all extend mercy and grace to one another, for life just is not easy right now. I am praying for you and the Churches of Galveston Baptist Association, that we will Advance the Gospel, not Retreat into isolation!




Dr. Jim




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Civility or Chaos

Readings in Deuteronomy 23-27; One of the most discussed challenged topics in the Bible is the matter of the Law; the Mosaic Law. In Deuteronomy we have the “2nd Law” given to the New Generation of Israelites preparing to enter the Promised Land after 40 years of Wilderness Wanderings. Their parents are dead and Moses is the last to die up on Mount Nebo. But before Moses makes his journey up the Mountain, he reiterates what was given on Mount Sinai. Almost everyone knows the 10 Commandments written by the finger of God, and the second set as well. The Ten Commandments have been a staple in Judaism and Christianity. The question repeated by every generation is “Do we still have to obey the Mosaic Law?” It is an interesting question, but there is a deeper question – Do we govern our lives by laws? Today in our global culture we find tremendous push back from any kind of law. One push back is the requirement to wear or not wear face masks in public. As i write this blog the world is entrenched in a Pandemic called Covid-19. As of today over 600,000 have died and millions more contacting it. We have seen restaurants, bars, schools and businesses closed.  The underlying question is “when do we return to normal?” What is normal? I think this is different for each one of us to some extent. My fear of life today is we are living in a Judges 21:24 time. The verse says, “in those days there was no king, and everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

Now i must admit most of the challenges with the Mosaic Law is about the dietary restrictions. But there is much more to the Law. In the chapters we read this week there is a subtitle called “Sundry Times.” These are various Laws to govern culture situations and protection of society. Laws like, a woman is not to wear men’s clothing, proving or disproving whether a wife was pure at her wedding; adultery and sleeping with man and woman outside of marriage; and restrictions on who can and cannot enter the Temple.  A chapter on divorce; when arguments arise between men; how to bring in the first fruits as an offering to God. Obviously, looking at these Laws our culture IS NOT paying attention to any of them. As the title indicates there are two possibilities for society – civility or chaos. Today i live in a state of chaos, mankind is rebelling in nearly all sectors of society around the globe. Man without God wants to be free to live and do as he pleases without any consequences or regrets; especially having someone tell him he cannot do what he wants to do. A person without the Holy Spirit does not act like a man that God breathed life into, instead he acts like an animal – operating only on instincts.

I made a statement one time “if everyone has their own rights, then no one has rights.” This may appear to be messed up, but think about it if everyone does what they want, their freedoms will overlap others freedoms and rights. Which mean my rights end when they compromise someone else’s rights and this is self-restricting and no one can live completely without affecting someone else’s life.

Today we are having protestors trying to de fund the police across our nations. There is city officials advocating and passing legislation to do exactly that. To me this is absurd! I do hold the belief that there needs to be accountability for those who are put in place to protect and support humanity. The cry is for JUSTICE. I do not want justice, I want MERCY!

In Romans 13, Paul advocates that people [believers] are to obey laws, kings and those who have oversight over us. I know this in itself sounds ridiculous in light of the many tyrants who have been in control in history. When mankind is left to govern himself; lawlessness prevails. [Exodus 32-34]

There is a purpose for the laws and for oversight protects from civil authorities; that said the very people placed in positions of leadership and protection of the people MUST have accountability. The Laws were given for man to have guidance on how to live out not only their own life, but how to live with each other. Laws are for the perpetrator and lawless. If we live our lives both morally and civilly then we have no fear of the Law. Since humanity is depraved and has a fallen nature – Laws are necessary. Are some laws unnecessary and ridiculous? Yes, and they need to be revised. Order and civility mark a nation and people. Today we live in a self-serving, no sacrifice on my part society. We have forgotten how to live as a people, focusing only on the ME!

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Life in the Land

Deuteronomy 18-22; life for the nation of Israel would be quite different than living in the Wilderness or Egypt. God was giving Israel the Promised Land, all they needed to do was live as the people of Yahweh; the many warnings were not heeded and Israel became prisoners in their own land.

After learning how to observe holidays and festivals, Moses reiterates the requirements for life in the Canaan land and the temptation to become like the inhabitants. God had chosen Israel to be His people, they and we are called to be “a peculiar people.” I have said this in sermons before – peculiar not weird. But then again I guess Believers are a bit weird.

When we take a close look at the kind of people living in the Promised Land, we find that every sort of cultic practice was acceptable and being routinely done. Even today, in our global culture we find many if not all of these spiritual, cult expressions having taken root in our lives to the extent we do not even think about their assistance or impact on daily life. God calls the “detestable things.” But when people are forbidden to do something, it seems there is this insatiable appetite to do that brewery prohibited thing.  While we might try to discount or excuse the behaviors and actions as just the world being the world; if we look deeper at the root of the behavior, we will find that they are “spiritual” forces of darkness at work [Ephesians 6:10-18]. Believers must remember that “Lucifer, Satan, the Father of lies and the prince and power of the air is real and seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy.” [John 10:10a]

The list of forbidden behavior in the Promise Land by Israel – divination, omens, casting spells, mediums, spiritist, calling up the dead, witchcraft and sorcery. Quite a list of evil behavior. I have to admit it is a very “dark” list of topics. Now let us remember that because of Canaanites living in such a manner, they were being annihilated. We also must remember the testimony of Rahab in Joshua 2, the people knew that Yahweh was God. They lived in fear for 40 years of the Israelite’s, for they knew that God had given them the land. However, Israel lived in faithlessness for 40 years, never living in the Promise of God. My point, the tribes of Canaanites, Hivities, Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites were warned to “move out” but they remained in the Land God had promised. Te list of actions and spiritual cult behavior is the reason the tribes of Canaan was being evicted and destroyed. As Romans 1 tells us, even though they knew God, they refused to worship God as God; so God gave them over to the futility of their minds. There was nothing good about the  depraved tribes and their sensuality of religions. Moses brings a strong warning not to get involved with the people and their cultic practices. Yeah i know Israel doesn’t listen. Sadly, neither do we today. A question we must ask is why are we looking around for “other gods” when we have the Great I AM who has done all things for our holiness and salvation? Why, because we are a fleshly and sensual people. My generation coined the phrase – “if it feels good do it.” Sad to say most of mankind leans this way of life.

Life in the Promised Land was built on obedience to the Law given to Moses. Instructions of how to handle civil crimes; creating “sanctuary cities” for the manslaughter killings. We find that Moses really is describing the civil government to be established in the Promised Land with Judges and courts. In chapters 19-22 we have explicit instructions of how to live in the new land.

When thinking about living “In the world, but not of the world,” we need to remember that while we live and have our being here for a time; we are only passing through. We are to be as pilgrims on a journey, our journey end at the throne of God who is the builder and protector is God. I do think today we [believers] have become too acquainted with how the World lives, that we have forgot who we are suppose to be. The adage “there is more world in the church, then church in the world” rings oh so true. This should not be. Will we be courageous to live like people of God or like people in the Word. The World is passing away – let’s hold on to the things of the world with  a lose grip, and be the peculiar people – salt and light in the Land we live.

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Diets and Don’ts

Deuteronomy 13-17; here is a repeat of the dietary restrictions from the Law. He foods and animals that Peter said He had never eaten  in Acts 10:14. You might be shocked if you knew how many time pastors have to answer the question about what can be eaten and “do we have to keep the dietary restrictions today.” In Deuteronomy 12:15 it says that you may eat whatever you slaughter within your gates; whatever you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD  God which He has given you. When I read this, I think why did it take so long for them to understand that what “God has declared clean, don’t call unclean?” Now I read about the prohibited list and see a lot of birds and animals that I wouldn’t want to eat anyway. Bats don’t appeal to me.

There is a repeated phrase in these chapters – “the place which the LORD your God chooses to put His name.” This alludes to the future Temple that Solomon would dedicate in 2 Samuel 6-7. We still read about the restrictions the people of Israel have when they enter into the Promised Land. It was filled with all religions and cultic practices. God tells them “Do not get entangled with it.” The reflects back to Exodus 32-34 when the people rose up to play. Now there is a great struggle with this restrictions, for we are sensual people and the cultic worship had a very intense sensual [sexual] connotation. The people are warned again about idolatry and immorality. I wonder why it is that those two words seemingly are quoted together?

In the last blog I mentioned some words that were repeated, but here in chapter 13, we have some words we need to put into our lives, so as not to fall into the garbage of the cults/world. Words like “keep, listen, serve and cling.” If we are focused on pleasing the Father, we won’t have time to entertain other gods and idols.

In Chapter 15 we find the concept of “Sabbatical” year. It means that the 7th year people get to rest. This previously included animals and slaves. Here we find that slaves are set free. But that they are not to be sent away with nothing, but that they are to be given some of the owners provisions and property. This is especially true when the slave was a fellow Israelite. I have never had a Sabbatical, but I love the concept. Especially the Year of Jubilee [49th and 50th] because everything returns back to the original owners and all are set free. We have this program today call “Bankruptcy” that allows all debts to be expunged. When a person trusts Jesus as Savior, our debt is paid in full. It isn’t just wiped off the record, it is dealt with – Jesus PAID our debt with His precious life-saving blood.

In our reading we have the provision for distance traveled to the “future” Temple. Exchange money for a suitable sacrifice at the Temple. Yeah, we know how that all turned out in Jesus’ day with the moneychangers. Anyway, people were required to travel three times a year to the Temple – the Place where God chose to put His name. The Feast of the Weeks, the Feast of Pentecost, and The Passover. Obviously, taking animals to the Temple would be difficult, so the provision was made to buy the sacrifice when you got to Jerusalem.

In chapter 17, a topic of great importance – Justice. Contained in this chapter are examples of how to administer justice in the community. If we will look closely we find that justice is laced with MERCY. I would rather have mercy or justice any day. I don not want what is coming to me! Evidence must be brought by the witnesses of two or more. Wow, what if we put this in practice today, not reacting when someone “accuses or insinuates” a wrong. But to require evidence of wrong doing before we judge the person. It use to be that a person was innocent until proven guilty, now it more like prove you are innocent instead of the accuser having the burden to bring evidence.

In verse 17:7 it tells us to “purge the evil from your midst.” I find that today we are living in a time when “evil is called good and good is called evil.” Oh, how I long for a Holy Spirit movement washing over His people and coming to a place where the “Lion and the Lamb lay together.” Let us remember it is not about behavior but about an issue of the heart, for out of the heart comes the issues of life.

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A Friendly Reminder

We pick up in Deuteronomy 8-12; the Second Law as the book has been called, finds its purpose in reminding the New Generation about what their parents generation forgot. The Law that was given to Moses up on Mount Sinai, is repeated here for the New nation of Israelites. The People who have been born in the last 40 years of wandering in the wilderness because of disobedience. God’s Word is eternal, it is everlasting and it is established. The Law of governing the people and their behavior was/is still valid. I don’t mean that we are under the Law to do the Law, but that God gave specific instructions of what to do and how to live in the Promised Land. God the Father was going to dispose the tribes and Canaanite nations out of the Promised Land that He gave to Abraham years ago. I guess we could also say that the Promises of God are eternal and effectual u=in accomplishing the Father’s Will.  The Parents of this New Generation did not listen and obey the Law, God tested them several times to determine if they would obey and love Him – they failed the tests time after time. It is important to remember that God’s Will was that Israel go into the Promise Land; even though the first generation failed to get in – God was longsuffering and through Joshua, brought in the generation who believed in the Promise of God.

This brings to mind; especially with the need for revitalization in current churches, will God have to wait for another Generation to die, before He can accomplish His Will for the people? Too many churches die today [approximately 18 everyday] – why do they die? Numerous reasons, but many die because they to are stiff-necked and stubborn like the original Israel that was delivered out of Egypt. The nation of freed captives always wanted to return to bondage instead of moving forward in the Plan of God.

In chapter 8 the word -Remember is repeatedly used. The nation had to remember who they were, where they had been and Who it was that was taking can of them. Moses jogs their memory with some examples of how God was with them, but also how they left God at the drop of a hat. Israel provoked God to anger many times, at one point He was willing to destroy all of them and start over with Moses. Stubborn is another word that is repeated again and again. I wonder can that word be applied to the Church today? Are we more interested in our comfortable living than in the service to God? We do what we want in worship services. It has come to the point where Churches do only that which their members will allow and accept. This is wrong , we all know that, yet we continue to repeat the same mistakes from one generation to the next.

Now I would love to tell you that the New Generation listened to what God reminded them of – well okay they did until Joshua left the scene and even remained faithful until all who were brought up under Joshua – but then in Judges 21:25 – they forgot again! Doing that which was right in their own eyes. Have we forgotten that we serve God? Are we guilty of self-serving church programs and services? I think we all know the answer.

In chapter 10:12 we are given the formula to keep our memory active and responsive. The words “fear, walk, love, serve and keep” are words to live by. Words which we can set as a foundation for living. Those words though have to be centered on God and His Plan for our lives and the world we live in. This new generation is being taught by an 120 year old man in Moses. I know today, there seems to be a movement to eliminate the “traditional” and replace it with “progressive.” I would say that is like “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” The Church is the Lord’s. We serve at His pleasure not our own. God gave statutes, ordinances and laws to live by – going forward into the Promised Land. We today have the Law of God written on our hearts; we have no need that one should teach us. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. I believe we are on the verge of becoming a “forgetful people” and soon to become a “forgotten people” if we do not remember from whence we came!

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