For the Church

landscape-2On June 26th 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 and in one moment legalized same-sex marriage across all 50 states. This is a decision that we have seen coming for some time. It did not happen overnight. It should not come as a shock or as a surprise to anyone. It should serve as a wakeup call to every Christian who has grown up in this country that the United States is no longer a Christian nation. If there was any doubt left, yesterday’s decision has left no stone unturned.

While the world is busy following the prince and power of the air, the Enemy, down the road of destruction, what does this mean for the Church?

First, it means that we must stand even firmer on the truth of the Word of God. We must stand firm, because in Proverbs 14:12 we read, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Following what feels right, or accepted, or popular may allow someone the opportunity to fit-in with the culture, but in the end destroy themselves. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”

Second, it means that we must persevere. We are going to face real persecution in this country for the first time because of our beliefs. We will be hated, spit upon, and cursed. In some cases we will lose our jobs, in others the doors for promotion or advancement will be closed. We may eventually lose our property and be called to surrender our lives. Through it all we must endure this temporary suffering as our Lord and Savior endured so much worse on the cross for us. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

Third, it means that we must love. We must love those that are blinded by sin. We must love those that hate us. We must love those who wish to silence, marginalize, and destroy us. We must love them as the Lord loves them. We must not bend or be silent, but we must not lash out in fear or in hate. We must lovingly point the world to the One who is our only hope, Jesus Christ. We must speak the truth unashamedly but speak it in love.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44

“Here I stand, I can do no other.” Martin Luther – April 18, 1521

Solo Deo Gloria – “Glory to God Alone”

Rev. Jason Fletcher

Dealing With the Chronic Complainer


“41 
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.” John  6:41-43 ESV

Jesus had to deal with people who complained and criticized Him and His ministry. The people in this passage who were being critical were some of the same ones who Jesus had personally fed at the Feeding of the 5,000. How do we know the difference between someone who has a legitimate issue and someone who is just a chronic complainer?

 

What Is a Chronic Complainer?

 

principal #1 : chronic complainers always have something to complain about. This is where the rubber meets the road. Look at the track record. If someone is consistently critical, it is a character issue and has crossed the line from being just an isolated incident.

 

principal #2 : chronic complainers are contagious, they multiply like rabbits. Notice it wasn’t just one person, but had it spread to the crowd.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” – Benjamin Franklin

principal #3 : chronic complainers show their lack of faith

The root of all the Israelites’ complaining was a lack of faith in God. When we complain about things, we show we have little or no faith in God to handle what many times is out of our control.

 

principal #4 : chronic complainers can’t keep it to themselves. Here, they verbalized their displeasure at Jesus’ message. For the chronic complainer, it’s not enough just to think a certain way, it   must be communicated to others – usually for self-validation

 

principal #5 : chronic complainers think you’re not doing your job. They didn’t think Jesus was doing what they thought he should be doing. If you look back at the context they had the idea that if Jesus was really the Messiah, they should be getting free bread every day, a restoration of the provision of the manna in the Old Testament.  We can get messed up if we think we’re supposed to write everyone else’s job description; especially when that’s the Lord’s job.

 

principal #6 : chronic complainers question your qualifications. They questioned Jesus’ claim to be from heaven and pointed out his earthly parents.

 

Once we know what a chronic complainer looks like, then we can begin to deal with the problem. What Is the Cure for the Chronic Complainer?

 

principle #1: recognize the reality. You have to know what you’re dealing with. Always ask yourself first, am I falling into this trap? This is the law of the log and the speck. Before you go about taking out the speck in your neighbor’s eye, check for a 2×4 in your own.

“Complaining is like bad breath… You don’t always know you have it until someone tells you.”

Second, if we’re on the receiving end, Is the person I’m dealing with falling into this trap?

 

principle #2: confront the problem. Jesus didn’t just let them off the hook. If the problem is you, you need to confront yourself. If the problem is someone else, you need to confront them about it. If someone is being critical forgive them, if it doesn’t stop confront and forgive, and move on.

 

principle #3: stop complaining about it, whatever “it” is. the chronic complainer wants to point out the problem but not be part of the solution.

“Complaining is damaging on everything in our lives. We focus on the problem and don’t find the solutions.”

principle #4: stop the cycle “among yourselves.” What happens many times is that someone complains to us and we turn and pass that complaint on to others. If we want to follow Scripture we will go to Matthew 18 and if you have a problem with someone go to that person and that person alone and seek to work it out. 

 

principle #5: replace the negative with a positive. A chronic complainer is quick to complain but doesn’t want to be part of the solution. What I’m learning about true repentance is that it is not just stopping the vice, because that just leaves a vacuum, but replacing it with the opposite virtue.

 

So what is the opposite of complaining? it is encouraging.

What is the opposite of talking about problems? solving them.

What is the opposite of talking behind someone’s back? going to them one-on-one.

 

I’m convinced that 95% of relationship problems, marriage problems, church problems, would all be alleviated it we could learn how to biblically communicate with one another. Unless you are a cartoon character and live in Candyland at some point or another in your life you have fallen into the trap of complaining and its negativity. I would encourage you to take a moment and repent. To say Lord, forgive me for the times that I have been negative and critical.  Second, I would encourage you to resolve. To resolve to follow the Lord’s command and with his help to become encouragers instead of complainers. To resolve to build others up around you. That when you feel a complaint coming on that we seek to answer the question, how can I solve this problem? To resolve that you won’t be party to those who only want to point out problems but not work together for a solution.

 

Strangers in a Foreign Land

As I am writing this post the Supreme Court of the United States just made two rulings which give evidence to the moral decline of our culture. In a 5-4 decision the Court overturned the main provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. It is now the official policy of the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage in those states that recognize it. At the time of this newsletter that includes 13 states. The law still stands that states that hold to traditional marriage do not have to recognize legal same sex marriages in other states. While it may not be the law of the land in South Carolina, yet, make no mistake, the court of public opinion has already shifted and we are at the tipping point.

The book of Judges has a recurring phrase that typifies that time in Israel’s history:

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6

When we seek to build a nation where we evict God and relegate Him to the back room, we essentially live as Israel lived in the book of Judges. Israel did not have a physical king yet, God was supposed to be their king. Unfortunately, they ignored God and set themselves up as their own kings. This meant that what happened in Israel was that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. We live in a culture that is following this same path. I dare say that we are only inviting the judgment of God on our nation when we mock His Word.

What are we to do as Christians who believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture which clearly calls homosexual acts sinful?

1. Pray. Pray for repentance and revival in our land. This is a spiritual issue and spiritual issues are ultimately not settled with political processes. The most important time in our week collectively as a church is when we bow together in prayer-which should merely echo the times of prayer we spend individually.

2. Prepare. Prepare yourself mentally, to live in a culture that completely disagrees with you on this issue. Ground yourself spiritually in God’s Word and biblical teaching. As a church we saw this day coming and see the day coming when it will reach us in Camden. That is why in January of this year we amended our Constitution and By-Laws with an explicit statement of our belief on this issue.

3. Stand. Stand up for what is right. We don’t have to be obnoxious, but we don’t have to bend to the pressure of society. Rest assured that as long as I am your pastor and have life and breath, we as a church will not bend on this issue. I have said many times that there are few true hills on which to die-this is one of them. Living and sharing the power of the gospel is the sole way to transform our culture – one soul at a time.

I want to quote from two paragraphs that were added to our church constitution pertaining to this issue:

We believe that the term “marriage” has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture.

We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of the church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons employed by the church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers should abide by and agree to this Statement on Marriage and Sexuality and conduct themselves accordingly.

For further reading I would encourage you to visit the following websites:

AlMohler.com – by Dr. Al Mohler, Pres. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

ERLC.com – the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC

alliancedefendingfreedom.org – Alliance Defense Fund

 

Standing On God’s Word,

Pastor Jason

 

The Wisdom of Alcohol Abistinence

Below is a link to an article written by Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Akin holds to the same perspective that I do on the issue of alcohol. If you would like to read further on why I believe Christians should abstain from the use of alcohol from a biblical perspective I would highly commend this resource to you.

The-Wisdom-of-Abstinence-Articles-and-BTT-10.13.2010

Here am I , Send Me

Tomorrow begins another great adventure.

 

Myself, along with seven others from the Kershaw Baptist Association will be traveling to the Amazon river basin in Iquitos, Peru, to share the gospel with the Urarina people group and other tribes that live along the river. We will be visiting villages in which there are no churches as well as villages that have new believers that need basic discipleship.

 

I have been planning for this trip for several months: praying, getting shots, buying gear, paying for plane tickets and other trip costs. All of it has been building to this week. It seems as though the last few days have been rife with all sorts of distractions. We have had heat issues with that has taken three attempts to fix. We had a leak in the drain line to the washer which has caused damage to the floor in the kitchen and dining-room. Caroline has been sick all week with what the doctor is now calling the flu. While we haven’t had many members in the hospital yet this year, it seems like in the last few days we have had several all right in a row.

 

I could probably come up with any list of excuses right now that would say that it is not a good time to go to Peru. The only problem is that I know that God has called me to go on this particular trip. It is thousands of miles away and in a more remote location than I have ever gone before. Tomorrow I will leave and I really have no idea what to expect. I trust that God is going to provide for my family while I am gone. We are part of a wonderful church who has already poured out an immense amount of love and support. I trust that God is going to give me the words to share as I have opportunities to preach and minister in a foreign country in another language. I trust that God will multiply the work we do during this week for the eternity.

 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” Isaiah 6:8

The Gospel Project: Week 2 “God is Not Hiding”

This week we are studying about general revelation. Wayne Grudem defines general revelation as “The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law that comes through creation to all humanity” (Systematic Theology, p. 1242). The important aspect of general revelation is that God has revealed Himself to all people of all time in some ways.

“1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4a, ESV)

As this passage teaches, God is declaring Himself through creation 24 hours a day, seven days a week! “Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge” (v. 2).

What can we learn about God through Creation?
1. His existence

We learn of the existence of God by observing creation itself. We see the complexity of the universe, of our planet, of the human body-how everything works together in perfect detail. Leave one detail out, for example, of how to breath oxygen, or the oxygen makeup of our atmosphere and our lives would not exist. Did that evolve by chance or is design evidence of a designer?

“Nature’s ‘music’ points us to look for the Conductor. Nature’s beauty points us to look for the Artist. The vastness of the Sahara Desert and the Arctic Tundra and the mighty oceans, in making us feel small and vulnerable, point us to God, the strong Tower” (p. 21).

2. His attributes

It might be easy to look up at the heavens and come to the conclusion that there must be a God. But what can we learn about the attributes of God by observing creation? We learn first that He is powerful, that He has the ability to create this world and everything in it. We also learn that He is extremely intelligent as everything works together in order to sustain life. We learn that He is creative because of the beauty and diversity in which He created everything. We learn that He is good because He could have chosen not to create us, or if He did to create us as mere slaves.

“For His invisible attributes, that is His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 HCSB).

3. His intentions

In citing Acts 14:15-17, Paul testifies to the pagans in Lystra that God was good to them, even as they rebelled against them by giving them rain, fruitful seasons, and allowing them to have enjoyment in life. That is what we might call “common grace” – God’s grace which is common to humanity, regardless of whether they recognize Jesus as Lord.

Though we can learn much about God from looking at Creation, it is not sufficient for salvation. In the passage cited above in Romans 1, God revealed enough about Himself that all are “without excuse.” One must hear, understand, and respond to the gospel in order to be saved. This is where we will go next week when we look at special revelation and how God has revealed Himself through the Bible.

I’m excited to teach this lesson and have already been interacting with some of my guys about what they’re reading at home. It is sharpening me and You will get out of these lessons what you put in during the week. If you haven’t-pick up the Gospel Project this week and start reading.

Church Planter Spotlight: Carlos Soca

Carlos Soca and his Family

This week, Pastor Mark and I had a chance to talk with Carlos Soca. Carlos and his wife Madai have been married for over 14 years and are the parents of Josh, Hannah and Avery. Carlos moved to NC and earned his M. Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and became involved in Open Door Baptist Church where he currently serves as Pastor of Hispanic Ministries. As New Jersey natives, the Socas have lived and know what it’s like to be a believer in the great religious and ethnic diversity of the New York Metro area. Their desire is for the many people groups represented in the area to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). In June they plan on moving to Clifton, New Jersey, just 12 miles west of New York City with four other families to plant Christ Our Hope Church for “His glory and the joy of many.”

The need is great in the Metro New York City area as there is only 1 SBC church for every 76,337 residents. When I asked Carlos about Clifton he related that though you pass many church buildings, the people that meet there no longer function as churches. There is very little gospel proclamation. The area is also culturally diverse. The planting team that God has brought together matches the ethnic diversity of the community.

I’m excited that we are going to have Pastor Carlos down to share in our morning service on Sunday, January 27th. Its my hope to take a vision team from Hermitage up in late summer to explore Clifton, NJ, to prayerwalk the community, and explore ideas of how to come alongside the Socas and Christ Our Hope Church to help impact lostness in this area of our country. We are anticipating the development of a 3-5 year partnership where will be giving encouragement, prayer support, mission teams, and financial assistance to help them get a secure start.

For more information about Pastor Carlos please visit the Christ Our Hope Website at www.cohclife.org.

The Gospel Project: Week 1 – “The God Who Speaks”

I have been watching with anticipation the development of the Gospel Project Sunday School curriculum being developed by the folks over at LifeWay. While I had a personal interest in the material, upon coming to Hermitage I did not want to interject myself in changing much in way of the Sunday School during my first year. I wanted to let my associate pastor have leadership in that area. You could not imagine my excitement this summer when Mark returned from spending a week at Ridgecrest and asked permission to transition our church to the Gospel Project. We took our time, meaning that we did not start in September, but waited until the second quarter to begin. This week we started the Gospel Project as a church.

As a teacher myself, I wanted to share some of my thoughts after the first week. Our lesson was entitled, “The God Who Speaks.” It included two devotional readings that we were to do before group time. These two devotions worked well toward “priming the pump” and getting us ready for the heart of the lesson.

The lesson revolved around three major points:

  1. The God Who Speaks Has Authority (Gen. 1:1-3)
  2. The God Who Speaks Is Merciful to Reveal Himself to Us (Ex. 3:2-6)
  3. The God Who Speaks Gives Us Tasks (Gen. 1:27-30)

My guys really zeroed in on a couple of different points. First, they recognized the implication that if God has spoken to us and revealed Himself to us, then His Word is authoritative to our lives and we are going to have to reorganize our lives around Him. The second point that stood out was on p. 14 –

“Notice the progression again: God created (authority). Then He blessed (mercy). Finally, He gave tasks. . . Too many times, we get the order backwards. We begin with the tasks of the Christian life and seek to receive God’s blessing as a result of our obedience. . . When we begin with the task rather than the blessing, we cut ourselves off from the very power that is necessary to fulfill the tasks God has given us.”

When we went over this point, as a teacher I could see the light bulbs starting to go off all around the room.

I asked Amy how her class went. She talked about this same concept tied right into the 7 week ladies Bible study she just finished called “Duty or Delight.” The introduction of general revelation related back to a discussion her class had several months ago on Romans 1.

When we came home from church and were sitting around the dinner table I asked my girls what they learned in Sunday School. This week I already knew the answer to the question. Eden, our kindergartener is usually right back with the answer and can give the main idea. Joey and Jamie Hendrix do an amazing job with that age group. Caroline is in a preschool class and while she always has fun, she has never really answered the question. Until this week. She actually beat Eden to the punch, “We learned about Adam and Eve, that God created the world, and that He loves Me!” Over the next three years the children are going to take an adventure through the entire Bible.

I’m looking forward to how our family can grow together through Sunday School now in a way that we never have before. Watch out this could be the beginning of something big.

Have you started studying for next week?

When Christ Comes His People Will Worship Him

When Christ was born in Bethlehem he was joined by the shepherds who came and bowed down before Him. Matthew tells us of the magi from the East who came and brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In worship we bring our offerings before Him. This refers to presenting, not just an overflow of what he has given us, but our very lives.

“3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” Malachi 3:3-4 (ESV)

Notice that only after being purified by the refiners fire is our worship acceptable and pleasing to God “as in the days of old.” It is striking that many times we may enter worship with unconfessed unrepented sin in our lives and expect God to be glorified. Our worship brings no honor to God while we raise hands that are stained. We must first deal with our sin, confessing, repenting, and seeking His forgiveness. Only then will our offerings be pleasing to the Lord. It reminds me of a passage from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says,

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)

As we prepare for Christmas this year, let’s deal with our sin and then lavishly worship our Savior. Let’s bring our gifts to him like the magi. Let’s celebrate his coming like the shepherds.