February 2016

Saved, but stuck

February 23 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Many years ago a friend said, “I know I’m saved. I put my faith in Christ, gave Him my life and have enjoyed many years of spiritual growth by His grace. But honestly, I have hit the wall. I am not growing. In fact, I feel like my spiritual life is going downhill. I’m saved, but stuck. What’s wrong?”
 
Does that sound too familiar? You’re a faithful member of a local church. You tithe. You’re in a Bible study group. But something is wrong. You’re stuck! “Saved” – that’s the good part. “Stuck” – that’s not so good.
 
It’s easy to get stuck. We can get stuck in bad habits that limit our spiritual progress. We get stuck in man-centered living that robs us of God’s ways. We get stuck in spiritual immaturity, never able to fulfill God’s purpose for our life. We develop patterns of self-sufficiency, prayerlessness, indifference and fruitless existence. There is no joy in pretending we have a relationship with Christ when, in reality, we are living in the staleness of religious exercises. That’s a bad place to be stuck.
 
Not only do individuals get stuck, but classes, churches and organizations encounter the same dilemma. Our friend Brian Upshaw addresses this subject in the Feb. 27 issue of the Biblical Recorder (see below for full text). He shares some excellent advice, worthy of your consideration.
 
So, how do we get unstuck? That’s the question you want answered as soon as possible.

We can only experience the level of maturity God has designed for us when we are walking in a living relationship with the living Jesus. It cannot merely be a mental relationship, but the personal relationship of one who is a disciple of Jesus.
 
According to scripture, the normal, healthy pattern for the follower of Christ is to be a disciple and to make disciples. Just as growth is the norm for a healthy physical body, disciple-making is normal for healthy believers. The disciplines of being a disciple will set us free from the quicksand that has trapped us.
 
I believe the writer of Hebrews had this in mind when he told the Jewish-background believers,  “you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11). In the next verse he chided them because they should have grown to the place they are teaching others (making disciples), but they were stuck in immaturity. They had returned to a diet of milk and were incapable of handling solid food. He called them infants, and said they were unskilled in handling the “word of righteousness.”
 
He said solid food is for those who “because of practice,” or constant use, have “trained” their senses to distinguish between what is good and what is not good. So he challenged them to press on to maturity, or to put it frankly, grow up! (Heb. 6:1). Get out of the quicksand of powerless living.
 
Are you paying attention to the Hebrew writer’s key words – practice, constant use, training, exercise, maturity? These are words that describe disciple-making.
 
The believers of that day were not obeying their Savior’s final command to “make disciples” and to teach them to obey “all things” that He commanded. That’s why they were stuck!

Have you ever been discipled by a mature believer? Are you now involved in a disciple-making relationship with another believer?
 
The writer of the Hebrew letter said there was so much rich truth that he wanted to give his audience, but they were not prepared to receive it. It makes me ask, I wonder how many times God has withheld rich truth from me because I was stuck in self-centered immaturity? What have I missed from the Father because I was stuck in prayerlessness and indifference?
 
The process of getting unstuck begins when we look in the mirror and get honest about our spiritual health. If that is where you now find yourself, pray that God will lead you to an accountability partner – someone who will invest their life in your life. Ask a trusted friend to pray for you in this journey. Also, ask the Father to lead you to someone in whom you can invest your life as an encourager.
 
Your leaders in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina are clearly on target with the urgency of biblical disciple-making. They are not just talking about it. They are modeling disciple-making and providing opportunities to equip you in biblical patterns.
 
If you want to get unstuck and learn new, effective patterns of disciple-making, attend the REVEAL disciple-making conference Feb. 29 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro. The sessions begin at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. For more information visit NCBaptist.org or contact Patti Cardwell at pcardwell@ncbaptist.org, (800) 395-5102, ext. 5635.
 

What to do when you are stuck

By Brian Upshaw
I hate being stuck. Maybe you know the feeling: that project won’t move forward, that relationship seems stagnant, that decision just doesn’t seem clear.
 
Like a rear-wheel drive car on a muddy road, your wheels keep spinning. It is no fun to be stuck anywhere, but it is dangerous when we get stuck spiritually. That’s where many disciples are living today. They are stuck in a spiritual mud hole and they cannot seem to find traction.
 
God’s Word has some encouragement for you if you are feeling stuck today. The Lord spoke through Haggai to His people when they were spiritually stuck, too comfortable in their own lives to attend to the mission He had for them.
 
God wanted them to rebuild His temple in Jerusalem, but the people were focused on rebuilding for their own comfort. In the Lord’s prophecy to them, we find truth for our lives.

  1. Know the time (1:2-4) – The Lord told the people it was time for them to deny their complacency and join Him on His mission. Getting spiritually “unstuck” begins with understanding His purpose for your life, which is always tied to obedience to His mission.

  2. Own your reality (1:5-11) – God said, “Consider your ways.” The people had to acknowledge that in spite of their comfort, their lives were filled with futility, reaping the consequences of their inaction. Likewise, the stuck disciple must consider her ways and take inventory of the behaviors that keep her stuck.

  3. Repent and obey (1:12-15) – The people responded to Haggai’s message and returned to God’s mission to rebuild the temple. Today, you too can find hope in obedience. Lift your eyes to those around you who need to know the love of Christ and join the Lord on His mission.

  4. Rest in God’s power and presence (2:1-9) – God was gracious to the leaders in Jerusalem to remind them that their strength came from His presence. He promised to be with them and accomplish His work through them so His glory would be seen by the world. To get unstuck, you need to surrender. God does not ask you to accomplish His mission through your power. On the contrary, God promises that He is always with us (Matthew 28:20). He desires to display His glory through your life.

So, stop spinning your wheels today. Rest in Christ, and He will carry you out of your stuck condition and empower you to carry out His mission for His glory.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Upshaw is the church health and revitalization team leader at the  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5632, or bupshaw@ncbaptist.org.)

2/23/2016 10:32:44 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Charlotte ordinance bad for everyone

February 8 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Last March the Charlotte City Council considered a highly controversial “non-discrimination” ordinance that would allow transgender persons to use either men’s or women’s restrooms, along with other special protection for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people. After strong grass roots opposition, the ordinance that most expected to pass was defeated in a 6-5 vote.
 
Charlotte’s newly elected mayor, Jennifer Roberts, promised to make the ordinance a top priority for 2016. Now the City Council plans to place the ordinance back on their agenda for approval.
 
On Feb. 8, the council was scheduled to have a private dinner meeting to discuss the proposed ordinance. [The Biblical Recorder print deadline was prior to this meeting.] The mayor intends to call for a vote without the voice of the citizens. It may be on the agenda for a Feb. 22 council meeting.
 
Citizens should contact their elected representatives and make their voices known. This is a bad, unnecessary ordinance that the council should defeat a second time. Area residents should take immediate action to hold city leaders accountable.
 
Has anyone asked the council to identify at least one example where an offense requires such an ordinance? Other than the necessary exclusiveness of the labels “Men” and “Women” on bathroom doors, we are not aware of an offense.
 
N.C. Rep. Dan Bishop (R) represents Mecklenburg County and vows to fight the LGBT ordinance. He said, “A small group of far-out progressives should not presume to decide for us all that a cross-dresser’s liberty to express his gender non-conformity trumps the right of women and girls to peace of mind in the intimate setting of a public bathroom or shower.”
 
Opponents of the ordinance held a rally at First Baptist Church in Charlotte on Feb. 6. Among the speakers were Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore. The couple declined to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding, sparking a campaign of intimidation against them, led by LGBT groups.
 
On July 2, 2015, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the lesbian couple they declined to serve. I spoke with Aaron Klein after the couple shared their story at the Feb. 6 rally. He said Melissa opened the bake shop because she wants to use the “artistic talent given to her by God. ... God gives us the ability to do things and we want to honor God with those abilities.”
 
The business was very successful for the five years it was open. Then one day, “A gal came in and she asked for a wedding cake,” Klein recalled. “I asked her for the bride and groom’s names for the contact form we fill out for wedding cakes, and she informed me it was two brides. At that point, – and this is the huge offense that the state of Oregon has touted as being so horrible – I said, ‘I’m really sorry. We don’t do same-sex wedding cakes.’”
 
The woman walked out of the bakery. That was the end of it, until a lawsuit was filed against the Kleins. The state of Oregon believes Aaron Klein’s words deserve a $135,000 fine for damage to the woman he declined to serve.
 
“That is not discrimination based on sexual orientation,” he explained. “The same woman came into the bakery a year-and-a-half prior and ordered a wedding cake for a different event. We sold her the exact thing she was seeking out for a different event.”
 
Klein insists he did not discriminate against her. He was expressing his First Amendment right to practice his faith without government intervention.
 
He said, “As Christians we don’t want to make anybody else sad. We don’t want to hurt somebody. That’s the last thing we want to do. We want to live our lives for the Lord and speak truth. They portray it as [though we intended] to hurt somebody.”
 
The First Amendment allows Americans the privilege to live out their faith, Klein explained. “The Supreme Court seems to think so,” he said. “The recent Hobby Lobby case allowed that closely held businesses get to live out the same faith that individuals have the right to live.”
 
Opposing the Charlotte ordinance, Klein believes it will affect business owners, suppliers, employees and the general public in very negative ways. “It’s going to put Christians out of the marketplace,” he added. He should know. That is exactly what happened to his small business.
 
In their case, there was massive backlash – not so much from the LGBT group in Portland, but from groups around the country. “They were just very relentless,” said Klein. “They will try to starve a business if they can because it’s just something they do. They don’t want to be told that what they are doing is wrong, even though we never said what they are doing is wrong, but that’s how they took it. They demanded that we cease doing business.”
 
For months his phone was ringing off the hook and almost every call was filled with vulgar language. Every vendor associated with Sweet Cakes by Melissa was harassed until they agreed to cease all business with them.
 
Oregon laws do not protect against hate speech and harassment. “Once the law is on their side, they will use it and wield it as a weapon to destroy anybody who simply disagrees.”
 
“As Christians, we need to be motivated to get more involved in the political process – not so much for people like me who have already been forced to pay $135,000 – but for those who will not be able to stand up under the pressure,” Klein insisted. “What about the next guy? We need to stand up for those who won’t be able to survive the harassment campaigns of the LGBT movement in the future.”
 
Klein also highlighted the problem of the abortion industry. With 58 million babies aborted since 1973, he said we should ask, “Is that a settled issue, or do we need to fight against that? We have some worthy fights in front of us as Christians. We need to stand up and honor God. We need to stand for those who can’t stand for themselves.”
 
The Kleins’ case is now in the Oregon State Appellate Court. It could go to the Oregon Supreme Court and potentially to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Did they pay the fine? Yes. Although they did not intend to pay while the case is in the appeal process, they were forced to pay the full $135,000. They appealed to stay the fine until the case is decided, but all appeals were denied.
 
Klein explained that the state had no “compelling reason” to make them pay the fine. But because the state said they had the money, they were forced to pay the full penalty. “We simply want to live out our faith and they seem to think that is an offense to them,” he said.
 
The citizens of Charlotte should heed Klein’s appeal and tell their elected leaders to reject the proposed ordinance.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition said, “It is absurd for the City of Charlotte to put women and children in harm’s way by allowing sexual predators free access to women’s bathrooms. There should be no men in women’s bathrooms! If Christians don’t rise up and stop Charlotte’s discriminatory bathroom ordinance that doesn’t even contain an exemption for churches or schools, it could come to every city in North Carolina. This is what happens when only 8 percent of the voters show up for a municipal election – radicals who support the LGBT agenda are elected to force these types of policies on a city full of churches.”
 
The LGBT movement shows a strong prejudice against Christians. If you do not agree with them, you should be destroyed, in their opinion. They practice relentless intolerance. While they label Christians “hate groups,” they are masters of hatred in practice. In the end, their hatred will be their undoing. Pray for them.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – For more information about Charlotte’s ordinance visit dontdoitcharlotte.com.)

2/8/2016 12:08:05 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments