Some thoughts about the flag, standing, and kneeling

What we love about this country – what the veterans served and died for – is more than a flag, it’s an ideal, a system of values. Freedom.

So we respect the flag, not because of what it is but because of what it stands for. We support those ideals and we understand how much better life is with that freedom intact.

But don’t Americans also wish for everyone on earth – and especially other Americans – to enjoy those same freedoms? Those who abide by the law and who work to preserve the ideals that our country’s forefathers have given to us should certainly be blessed to bear the fruit of freedom and the American way.

Do we turn a blind eye to the cries of our American neighbors simply because we disagree with the way they make their voices heard? Are their struggles real? Are their complaints valid? Do we even care enough to find out?

Or does the flag only represent what we want for ourselves and our family, with total disregard for the welfare of others? In other words, is our pursuit of the “American way” rooted in selfishness or in the pursuit of the wellbeing for all human beings?

I don’t know how Americans should respond to all of this. Some think everyone must stand to honor the flag and those who served to defend it. Others think that those veterans served and died to give people the right to stand or not to stand.

But I do know how Christians should respond. They should, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17). They should love their neighbors as themselves (Mat. 22:39). They should treat other people with respect (Mat. 7:12) and love (Rom. 13:8). They should consider others before themselves (Phil. 2:3-4), serving them (compare Mat. 20:28), rejoicing in their happiness and weeping with their pain (Rom. 12:15; Mat. 25:31-46). They should love God with their entire being (Mat. 22:37-38), seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mat. 6:33).

Whatever we do, we must do that.

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).

Abortion in America


Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:4-5).

I’m coming to you today in defense of those who cannot defend themselves. They have never taken a step or uttered a word. They are unborn babies who have been aborted.

Abortion is the strategic, intentional destruction of an unborn human being in the womb. It is dismemberment. It is poisoning. It is death.

Statistically speaking, 18-20 unborn children are aborted every 30 minutes or so. There have been more than 57 million abortions in the United States since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in 1973. The number of children aborted each year nearly equals the number of American deaths in the Revolutionaly War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf Wars combined.

What is wrong with our society?!

Why is news of a pregnancy met with disappointment instead of joy? Why has our culture turned the conception of a child – something that used to be the product of love between a wedded man and woman – into something that is the unfortunate product of lust or fornication? Why are there unborn children who are unwanted and unloved?

My opinion is that the sexualization of our world has something to do with it. Have you noticed that everything in our culture is sexualized? You don’t have to watch very many commercials to figure that out. The result of all of this is that our sense have been blunted. There is no such thing as moral “oughtness,” as right and wrong, as righteous indignation. These things have been thrown aside.

Here’s what has come about as a result: just over one million abortions are performed annually in the United States. Thirty percent of those – that is, 327,166 abortions – are performed by Planned Parenthood (according to 2013-2014 stats).

I’m sure you have heard about the release of several undercover videos in which the Center for Medical Progress attacks Planned Parenthood. The first video, released July 14, 2015, showed Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior medical director of Planned Parenthood, casually discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies. While reaching for her salad with her fork, she says that there is a great demand for fetal livers and that “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.”

The saddest part of the video to me is the blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life. How could someone discuss something like that while eating? Clearly, there is on regard for the moral – yea, biblical – view of abortion and human life.

Let’s wrap it up: The Bible says that the Lord hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Prov. 6:16-17). America needs to wake up and realize that the blood of over 57 million unborn children is on this nation’s hands. Christians cannot sit silent in the midst of this decades-long moral crisis. That’s why I’m coming to you today – and all this week on The New You – in defense of those unborn children who cannot defend themselves.


TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.

Realize the Reason


What’s wrong with our culture? Why is our country spiraling into moral calamity? Why are people lashing out in rage against others? Today, I want us to be honest with ourselves in identifying the problem. My friends, this is not really a gun control issue, nor is it an issue about any kinds of flags or anything else. The problem is sin.

If we will just realize the reason behind these senseless acts, we will be motivated to do something about it. You remember how Jesus contrasted Himself with Satan in John 10:10:

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Overlay John 10:10 to our culture and you see it, don’t you? Satan wants to destroy our lives, ripping apart relationships and interjecting violence and hatred into our lives.

You know, the evil that we see in our world stems from sin in people’s hearts. Jesus said,

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Mat. 15:19).

He also stated that

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (Mat. 12:35).

A world that is comfortable in sin reacts harshly to Christ and His disciples. Jesus said that “everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20).

The sin problem is taken one step further when we – as God’s people – allow sin to be S2E4-Sinamong us. Some people are going to take issue with that statement because we are imperfect people. I get that. But doesn’t the Bible still identify us as the called-out ones, ekklesia, the church? Doesn’t the Bible still say we are to “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16)? To be holy is to be separate, consecrated for God’s service. Christians are called “saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), referring to holy ones, and 1 Peter 2:9 calls us “a holy nation.”

Christians, please listen carefully: You cannot allow sin to be in your life while still calling Jesus your Lord (Luke 6:46). You must intend to be faithful the Lord. You must dedicate your life to doing His will (Col. 3:17). You must be holy.

Let’s wrap it up: Sin is our world’s problem. It always has been the world’s problem. Prior to our relationship with Christ, it was our problem. Jesus’ blood washes away our sins in baptism (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4), and His blood continues to cleanse us as we walk in His light (1 John 1:7).

As a Christian you have the opportunity to shine the light into the world’s darkness. Further, as a Christian, you have the responsibility to be holy. Separate yourself from the world’s evil practices. Realize that sin is the reason why there is so much violence, unrest, and hatred in the hearts of men today. Let that motivate you to more holiness and faithfulness to Christ.


TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.

Six Ways to Prepare for Persecution


Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).

These words of Paul are familiar to many of us Christians. We’re used to studying about the persecution that our first century brethren endured, including Paul. Could it be that modern Christians will come to know that kind of persecution? I can’t answer that question for sure, but I will say this: I believe we are about to experience different types of persecution – perhaps more similar to that of the Christians in the Bible – than the “persecution” (if we can even call it that) which we have previously received.

This is a far different country now than the one in which we all grew up. The legalization of same-sex marriage is a manifestation of a shift in American thinking – one that has been a long time coming, but has finally caught up with us and with our worldview as a nation. Of course, we are seeing similar changes take place in other parts of the world, too.

But persecution is not the end of the world. Peter says that we can “glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16). The apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Paul said that God’s people should expect persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus said that the world will hate His followers because the world hated Him (John 15:18).

We need to prepare for persecution. But how do we do that? Here are six suggestions.

1. Pray.

The first century church responded to the persecution of Peter and John (brought about by their preaching) through prayer (Acts 4:23-31). They prayed for boldness that they would keep preaching.

2. Put on the armor.

Satan will use persecution to try to shake your faith. That’s why Paul exhorts us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). That armor will equip you to fight the spiritual battle in which Christians are engaged. We are armed with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the word of God.S2E3-Persecution

3. Choose faithfulness today.

It’s hard to know how we will respond to intense persecution. We’re not living that right now. All we can do today is to choose that we will always be faithful. That’s what Jesus exhorted the church at Smyrna to do. He said, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer … be faithful…” (Rev. 2:10). Decide today that you will never forsake your Lord.

4. Look to the crown.

Revelation 2:10 goes on to say that the faithful will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Paul echoed that same promise in 2 Timothy 4:8.

5. Look to Jesus.

Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). We look to Him.

6. Choose to grow in persecution.

Peter said that the Christians to whom he wrote were experiencing a testing of faith by fire. It was intense and likely unpleasant, but they could get through it, and their faith would be stronger because of it (1 Pet. 1:7-8). The first century church thrived in persecution, and we can, too!

Let’s wrap it up: Persecution is not the end of the world. We will have to make some difficult decisions that will set us at odds with our culture, but God has promised us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).


TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.

Do Discipleship


I believe that it is imperative for Christians to stand up and stand out in our dark culture. But what will we do? How do we respond to a culture in which sin is legalized? What do we do to influence those who would seek us harm? I believe that step number one is discipleship.

You may be thinking, “Discipleship?!” Right. You and I as Christians must be sure that we are fully committed to the cause of Christ. Have we fully given our lives to Jesus? You see, that is the essence of true discipleship.

Throughout Jesus’ teachings, there were those who sought to offer excuses regarding why they couldn’t do discipleship. Let’s look at four of those now.

1. “But Lord, my family…”

Some people give in to the idea that full, committed Christianity will in some way condemn their family members. So, even though they are New Testament Christians, they may become lax in areas such as divorce and remarriage or modesty or social drinking or others. However, on one occasion, Jesus stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Mat. 12:49-50).

2. “But Lord, let me do this first…”

One person said he couldn’t immediately follow Jesus because he needed to bury his father (Mat. 8:21). Jesus told him to follow Him, and let the dead bury their own dead (Mat. 8:22). Some believe that maybe this man’s father was not yet dead; he was just putting off following Jesus until a more convenient time. Will there ever be a convenient time to follow the Lord? There’s no better time than right now.

3. “But Lord, it’s hard!”

Let’s face it – being a true disciple IS difficult! This is undoubtedly why Jesus said, after giving the Great Commission, “I am with you always” (Mat. 28:20).

4. “But Lord, I could lose my life!”

It’s true, some people have sought to kill Christians simply for living as Jesus taught them to (cf. Rev. 2:10). Jesus’ response is this:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mat. 10:28).

Let’s wrap it up: Jesus has been abundantly clear. Those who are unwilling to put Him above ALL others cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:26). Those who are unwilling to suffer with Him and for Him cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27). Those who are unwilling to forsake all that they have cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:33).

How many people do you know who have been influenced negatively, and have found Christianity repulsive because they saw someone who claimed to be a Christian, but wasn’t a true disciple? I’m afraid I know far too many such people. On the other hand, how many people do you know who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, who motivate you to do right. I’m thankful to say I know a LOT of people like that. And with those two illustrations you see the powerful force of true discipleship.

We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The 5-4 decision mandated the legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states, and, in so doing, fundamentally redefined marriage.

Sunday, July 5, I preached a sermon at North Charleston in which we looked at the decision itself, the effects of this decision upon American Christians, and what we should do now. I hope that it can be a blessing to you.

As I emphasized in the sermon, I don’t hate anyone. The last thing I want to do is to make anyone feel as though I hate them. The motivation behind this sermon is to communicate love. The Bible is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). To study and apply the Bible’s teachings is to apply the love of God to your soul, and to secure the hope of heaven. That is why I preached this sermon.

Click the play button above to listen to the sermon. You can view the slides and download the outline from the sermon below.

[button color=”orange” size=”medium” link=”” target=”blank” ]Sermon Outline[/button]

Has the Distinctiveness of the Church Been Forgotten?


I have in front of me an article titled Local Church of Christ adds instrument to worship. It was published last week, April 16, 2015, from The Daily News Journal out of Rutherford County, Tennessee. The article reports that “the Stones River church of Christ made a radical move – at least by denominational standards – to allow instrumental worship to take place on Sunday morning.”

There are several things that concern me about this article. I am concerned that this congregation would decide to introduce instruments into worship, thereby departing from the New Testament pattern for true worship (as we discussed yesterday). However, perhaps the addition of the instrument is a symptom of a much larger problem – that is, a problem of misunderstanding the uniqueness of the one, true church of the Bible.

This article follows in the footsteps of one published by USA Today last month. The national newspaper ran an article on March 6, 2015 with this headine: Church of Christ opens door to musical instruments. The article chronicled the journey of the Otter Creek church in Brentwood, TN as they, too, decided to add the instrument into some of their worship services.

In the Otter Creek piece, Heidi Hall writes, “Church of Christ commitment to a cappella dates to the faith’s emergence in the 1800s Restoration Movement.” Hall goes on to say, “Scriptural citations backing the a cappella tradition include a passage in Ephesians about singing hymns and making music in the heart. But Otter Creek’s preaching and teaching minister, Josh Graves, said church history is a stronger influence.”

Have some members of the Lord’s church forgotten the distinctiveness, the purity, the separation from worldliness (including worldly religions) of the one, true church of the Bible?

With all of the love in my heart, I must say that the Bible only speaks of one church. It’s the Lord’s house that Isaiah said would begin in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-3). It’s the kingdom that Daniel said the Lord would set up which would never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44). It is the church that Christ Himself promised to build (Mat. 16:18-19). It is that kingdom that Christ said is not of this world (John 18:36), that would come even before some of Jesus’ apostles and first-century disciples died (Mark 9:1).

This is the one church to which the believers were added upon their baptism in Acts 2:47. It is that church that spread like wildfire throughout the New Testament world (Acts 8:1-4), that walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31). That is the kingdom of which the Christians in Colossae were a part (Col. 1:13).

Jesus is the Head of that church (Eph. 1:22-23). He is the Chief Shepherd of it (1 Pet. 5:1-4). It is that one church that He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He gave Himself for the church (Eph. 5:25).

It is that church, referred to as Christ’s body in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians, and elsewhere, that the New Testament clearly teaches that there is only one (Eph. 4:4).

Let’s wrap it up: I return to this article that I have before me which states that the Church of Christ is a denomination that came out of the Restoration Movement in the 1800’s. That’s just not true.

I don’t want to be a member of a denomination. I want to be a member of the church that Jesus promised to build, the one that was established in His name in Acts 2. This is real history! These are the facts. That’s the church that I want to be a part of. Don’t you?

So why are articles about instrumental music, women serving as preachers, and a host of other topics popping up in newspapers all across the country? It seems that at least one reason is because some people have forgotten that the Lord’s church is not a denomination. It’s precious. It’s Christ’s bride (Eph. 5). It’s unique.

Modern Departures from True Worship


Today, I want us to talk about some modern departures to true worship. But first, let me point you back to this week’s episodes of The New You. If you haven’t already done so, go to and listen to episodes 71-73 of The New You on which we talked about some Old Testament departures from true worship, followed by some applications from those accounts and, finally, the fact that God has specified how we are to worship today.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s tackle four departures from true worship in our day.

1. Hand Clapping In Worship

I know there are congregations all over that allow hand clapping during the singing, during the preaching, and perhaps even at a baptism. This concerns me. Listen: I’m not concerned because I didn’t grow up with hand clapping. I’m concerned about it because hand clapping during worship is simply not authorized. It is an addition to God’s specified commands to sing using our hearts and our voices. It is not expedient in aiding our singing. Further, when people clap during a sermon or after a baptism, it places the emphasis on the person rather than on Jesus, His gospel, and what He has done in the life of a believer who submits to baptism. There’s just no place for that in true worship.

2. Praise Teams

The passages in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 clearly state that we are to sing to each other. That tells me that everyone is to participate. Therefore, utilizing a praise team that would sing in our place is unauthorized and is, therefore, unacceptable worship according to the New Testament pattern.

3. Lifting Hands or Body Swaying

You know, 1 Timothy 2:8 speaks of “lifting holy hands” in a worship context. However, this is not a prayer posture. The Bible often uses the hands to represent the work that someone does. James writes, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 3:8). He isn’t saying that they need to wash their physical hands. Instead, the point is that their lives need to be holy. So it is in 1 Timothy 2.

I think some modern worshipers in our culture are appealing to emotionalism instead of to Scripture. Don’t get me wrong, there is an emotional aspect to worship. No question about that. However, we must avoid emotionalism as an effort to feel closer to God without actually being closer to Him. To state it differently, the way we get closer to God is by doing the things that He tells us to do.

4. Instrumental Music in Worship

There’s a lot that could be said on this subject. However, I don’t know of anything clearer to say than this. Instrumental music is a blatant addition to the New Testament. I know it’s mentioned in the Psalms, and I know that there are many talented people who can play instruments. I also freely admit that I like the sound of instruments. However, none of that matters when I look at the New Testament and see that the only authorized instrument to be played in worship to God is the human heart, coupled with the human voice (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).

Let’s wrap it up: It is so important to do what God wants in the way that He wants it done. God is serious about worship. He has specified how we are to do it. Are we listening, or are we making worship about us?


TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.



By February 13, 2015, Fifty Shades of Grey will officially hit movie theaters practically worldwide. This is a film adaptation of a wildly popular novel by the same title. The novel was written by E. L. James, a British author, who self published the book in 2011. It is the first installment in a trilogy. According to Wikipedia, the series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I have done a little research so I can learn about this cultural phenomenon. The novel is classified as an erotic romance. Do I really even need to go further? Clearly, this isn’t something that is appropriate for Christians to read or to watch. It’s pages are filled with – well, let’s just call it what it is – fornication. On top of that, it is so explicitly erotic and sick that some activists of domestic violence are speaking out against the book and the film.

Here’s the point: you don’t need me to police what you should and shouldn’t watch. I’m not trying to do that. I have enough policing to do with myself! I just want to caution us to be sure that our entertainment is consistent with the Christianity that we profess.

In James 4:8-9, James says that we better be careful with the things that we find entertaining and enjoyable:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

There are three important concepts in these two verses. Beginning at the bottom and working our way backwards, we first see the way our attitude toward sin is to be. James says that we shouldn’t laugh at things that are worth mourning over. Sin is toxic. It costs us eternity with our Father and sends us to Hell. So think about how you view sin. Are we finding enjoyment in that which sent our Lord to the cross?

Second, we see our actions against sin. James says, “Cleanse your hands … purify your hearts.” We are going to have to be proactive in guarding our souls against sin’s stains. Going to see a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey will hardly produce clean hands and pure hearts.

Finally, James speaks to our atonement for sin. He says that it is possible for us to draw near to God. That’s amazing! And it’s only possible because of the blood of Jesus that reconciles us to God. Jesus assured us that those who seek God will find Him, but you won’t find Him among wickedness.

Let’s wrap it up: Let’s be consistent with who we are – Christians – and Whose we are – God’s. Make your entertainment choices consistent with that just like you seek to make everything else consistent with your Christian values. That’s the essence of being the new you.


TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.

Family CROSSroads, Lesson 15: “Heaven”

Note: Family CROSSroads is a Wednesday evening study for the fall quarter at North Charleston. Below are slides and helpful resources pertinent to our class discussions.


[highlight]Lesson #15: HIT THE ROAD – CROSSroad: Heaven (December 17, 2014)[/highlight]

SUMMARY: It is only fitting that we conclude this series with a brief study of heaven. We cannot long for a place about which we never think. Meditating about heaven will help us realize that “this world is not [our] home, [we’re] just passing through.” That realization is the key to choosing wisely at the crossroad of Christianity and culture.

This lesson will focus on three parts:

  1. Who will be in heaven.
  2. What heaven is like.
  3. What is NOT in heaven.



Personal Note: Thank you for checking out the Bible class series titled Family CROSSroads. This is the concluding lesson of the series. The entire series has been recorded, and you can find all of the notes and audio recordings on this website. Just click the orange button below.

[button color=”orange” size=”medium” link=”” ]Family CROSSroads Series Page[/button]