Joy of The Season

 
               Thanksgiving is over and the official Christmas season is upon us. I’m not going to bemoan the secularization of the holiday; we live in a carnal world and we can expect no less.  There is a lot that Christians have to endure…coffee cups with non-Christian messages, store employees saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, even Holiday Trees instead of Christmas Trees. But I am determined to not let those things diminish my joy of the season. I know what and why I celebrate. I will enjoy this season because of the festivities, decorations, the excitement in the air, and all the family things, but I will genuinely love the church activities where we unashamedly celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.
 
                There will be opportunities to publicly express our faith as we celebrate Christmas. Whether it be with our Christmas attire, magnets on our vehicles, or merely responding to the “happy holidays” with a hearty “Merry Christmas”, we can gently remind people of the true reason for the season. But also, I want to challenge you to look for opportunities to help and give God the glory. This is a solid month of financial problems, frazzled nerves, tired bodies, and frustrated attitudes. So…adjust your attitude. Be purposeful and intentional in smiling, encouraging, and helping; always look for a situation where you can remind people that you love them because God loves them.
 
                A couple of weeks ago I was at a convenience store near the house and an elderly man in front of me told the clerk he wanted five dollars on pump eight. Five dollars. That is barely two gallons of gas. I knew I had a five dollar bill in my pocket so I took it out and told the clerk to make it ten at pump eight. When he turned to thank me, he was smiling broadly (I was surprised at what a huge smile five bucks can buy!). I told him to give God the glory and have a blessed day.
 
                It’s not about money, though. Sometimes it’s just a kind word or action. Sympathize with the cashier’s long and tiring day. Call him or her by name and let them know you understand their hard day. Tell them you will pray for them (and do pray for them). Be kind to the tired parents whose excited children are behaving like little….well…excited children. The more that people see Christ at work in you, the more they will be drawn to the One who makes a difference in you! In the name of Jesus try to make someone’s day a little better.
 
Say good things about your Savior.
 
Bro. Tony

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Are Christians “Phobic”?

                Christians are often accused of being very phobic. We are said to be homophobic, transphobic, and Islamophopia along with a few others. Are we? Dictionary.com defines phobia as “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”. I want to focus on the two words “irrational fear”. I’ll gladly admit to having an irrational fear of snakes. It’s called ophidiophobia. A grown man running from a garden snake? Nothing rational about that.
 
                But I do want to make one thing perfectly clear and that is that I am very afraid of anything that is contrary to the purpose and character of God. So, yes, I am afraid of the results that accepting and teaching that homosexualism and transgenderism have on God’s creation. I don’t have to explain it or defend it. The Word of God declares them to be sinful and that is all I need to know.
 
                And anyone who thinks that Islam is a peaceful and benign religion that deserves the same respect and acceptance of Christianity is delusional. Having studied the history of Islam and the present situation of Islamic countries and radical activities, I see a double whammy on fear. First and foremost it is a religion that does not worship the one true God. It is anti-Christian. It adds to the gospel and is thus declared cursed (1 Corinthians 16:22 and Galatians 1:9). The second fear is nationalistic. The teachings of Mohammed are not in tune with our Constitution and should the Muslim believers ever gain any sense of control our nation will fall.
 
                But even with those fears they are not phobias because they are not irrational. Indeed, they are very real and rational fears. They each present a measurable threat to both our relationship with God and our wonderful nation. We should fear them, and we should do everything in our power to prevent their philosophies and teachings from permeating our thinking and our beliefs. At the same time our love for the masses who have been deceived by these horrible teachings should be evident in our words and demeanor toward them. God loves them and will save them as he loved you and has saved you.
 
 

Brother Tony


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Real Freedom in Christ

                When God gave the Israelites the famed “10 Commandments” He laid the groundwork for a special people; set apart from the lawlessness and immorality of a wicked culture. Most importantly He showed the people what He expected of them in their relationship to Him. During their journey with the Lord, of course, God continued to explain the ways to keep those commandments and even gave them commandments regarding their health and safety (don’t eat meat that can be dangerous, don’t touch dead bodies, cleansing directions, etc.). Living as God directed truly set the people apart and made their lives better.
 
                But then mankind began inserting their own wisdom and intellectual knowledge into the interpretation of those wonderful, life changing commands and by the time Jesus appeared on the scene the special Jewish relationship with God had become a religion of works and deeds: hundreds of laws and instructions that began to rob the people of a true relationship with God.
 
                Jesus taught a personal relationship with the Father that superseded the stifling man-made rules of Judaism. He taught them of a relationship by grace not laws. Though a dangerous time for His followers it was also a time of freedom and joy. But guess what? The “church” began doing exactly what the Jewish people had done: they instituted rules and regulations on how to “be obedient” to that freedom. The reformation began precisely because “church” had begun robbing the followers of Christ of a personal relationship with the Lord. It was simply a “say these words, pray this prayer, give this much money, and you’re good to go” religion. So, the Protestant movement began and the relationship aspect of Christianity was restored.
 
                My point is this: Let’s not go back to throwing away our wonderful freedom in Christ for a set of man-made rules that we think will determine our relationship with God. When we live a “rules” lifestyle it results in two distinct Christian lifestyles that rob us of a loving, fruitful “relationship with God”. One is the Pharisaic way of living where we determine all the things we can’t do and all the things we have to do, and we present that lifestyle to the Lord as our righteousness that allows Him to be proud of us and accept us. Basically, living by the law. The other is a hedonistic lifestyle where we determine all the things we can do and still consider ourselves a Christian. We end up living in the human nature and finding scripture, or lack of scripture, that seems to allow us to fulfill the desires of the flesh. Basically, living by the lust of our heart.
 
                So where is the middle ground upon which Christians are to live? What marks a true Christian lifestyle? Let’s start with the basic: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NIV). Add to that: “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NIV). Then: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5 NIV). Follow that up with: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV). You may be surprised by how living out those scriptures will result in a lifestyle that wonderfully glorifies God as it frees you from a legalistic, binding way of life.
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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Male and Female – Created Different by God!

The Big Sky Athletic Conference just named a male as their “female athlete of the week”. A senior at the University of Montana, June (his female name) “Eastwood” has been competing as a female since August of this year. Previously he ran on the male track team at the university. The male-to-female transgender athlete is becoming a problem in sports. In every case where these athletes supposedly and miraculously turn into girls they begin dominating the competition. While the “progressives” deem this a triumph and victory for transgenders the females that they constantly defeat are not happy campers. You won’t hear the dissenting stories on the main-stream media outlets because they don’t want you to know about them and because most dissenters are bullied into silence.
 
I strive to always present things from a Christian perspective; a Christ-like, Biblical view. And I will do that here. But first, let me just speak of common sense. You don’t have to be a Christian or Bible scholar to know that this transgender movement is head-in-the-sand madness. Males and females are different in so many ways, but the most obvious is physical. That is precisely why there are both male and female teams in physical competition.
 
But the radical agenda of destroying norms and Christian culture ignore the obvious and natural. Why? What possible reason could an otherwise intelligent person have for saying that there is no difference in males and females? Or that a person can just change their sex simply by changing their mind? I believe there are a couple of reasons.
 
First, because it makes them feel superior to the “un-washed masses”. That is superior in their compassion for those who are “different”. That is why those who disagree with them are called haters. Also, it makes them feel superior in their philosophy of life. They believe that they know the “truth” because the haters just can’t understand.
 
Politically, of course, there are votes to count. A politician will not get as much positive coverage if he or she doesn’t toe the left-wing line. That will cost votes. Most politicians weigh their conscience by votes. That is why the policy changes occur. One presidential candidate a few years back changed her beliefs about same-sex marriage because the Democratic platform embraced that philosophy.
 
And I may be alone in this thought, but I believe that a deep-seated hatred of all things Christian is driving the changes we are seeing in our society. Think about it: many policies of the “world” embrace things that the overwhelming masses of Christians are against based on their Biblical beliefs. I don’t think that is a coincidence. Satan is most definitely at work.
 
But do NOT be discouraged. Ultimately God is in control. The church never has and does not now need governmental permission to spread the gospel! Stay strong and focused on the Lord!
 

Brother Tony


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Seperation of the Government and Church

           Yet another politician has called for any organization that doesn’t recognize and support the LGBT agenda to be marginalized by the government. The goal is to strip churches of their tax-exempt status as a charitable organization and, I believe, to eventually force churches to hire employees and staff that believe contrary to Biblical truths. The church would become just another workplace guided by Godless government regulations. Any church doctrine that opposed the current politically correct insanity that floats around would be deemed “hate speech” and would be forbidden and somehow penalized. In essence, the government would dictate parts of our theology.
 
                When you think about that, it is the ultimate irony. People scream and wail that we need the “separation of church and state” because they don’t want Christians to express their beliefs in a government forum to affect policy. However, they are perfectly fine with the reverse: the government controlling the church. History shows us that it was the latter issue that caused the pilgrims to seek out a new land of opportunity.
 
                In 1534 England broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church. The reason was because of Henry VIII’s political and marital issues. The Church of England was basically forged by what the King (the government) believed. The church and state became tied together. Not because the church had taken over the government but because the government took over the church! The Pilgrims, because of their religious beliefs, were in many cases considered traitors because their beliefs did not match the government’s beliefs. Sound familiar?
 
                Is that just another wild “conspiracy theory”? I don’t think so. The Christian church, despite her failures from time to time, has been the last bastion of civilized, Godly morality in our nation. Preaching and teaching the Bible, the church has pushed back against the downward spiral of morals and civility. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18 (NIV) “Where there is no revelation (from God), people cast off restraint.” The concept of restraint tells us that not every urge should be acted upon and not every feeling is healthy. It tells us that we don’t need to put every thought into action or make every desire a reality. Restraint is one of the things that set humans apart from the animal kingdom.
 
            The church has been the main weapon in the battle to prevent the chaos that an unrestrained mind can bring. So, yes, if you want a nation that allows and celebrates perversion, selfishness, anarchy, and lawlessness the first thing you must do is cast off the restraints that God points out as destructive, dangerous, and unhealthy: destroy the influence of the church. And you can’t deny that we are seeing that on massive scale in our government today.
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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Halloween and the Christian

                Is Halloween really the Christian’s worst nightmare of holidays? Does the devil work overtime, snatching the hearts and minds of our children on that night? Can Christians, in good conscience, participate in Halloween activities? Because we had a decorative flag with a jack-o-lantern on our house I was told by a fellow pastor that I was “celebrating Satan’s holiday”. Was I?
 
                To be sure Halloween celebrations have changed since I was a child. We would wear cheap plastic masks and walk around the neighborhood gathering candy. It was just as simple as that. We had no deep concerns or doctrinal questions. In fact, at one church out in the country where homes were further apart than in the city our church organized a hayride to take us little “trick-or-treaters” from house to house. As I recall I was dressed as Frankenstein and one of my brothers was Dracula. We had a couple of girls dressed as witches. It was a memorable time for me, and I can’t see that I was in great danger of apostasy.
 
                Fast forward to today and you will find that the costumes are more varied and can be very scary in some instances. Adults take great pride in decorating their yards with skeletons, tombstones, dinosaurs, and ghosts among other things. Is that just one more sign of the coming apocalypse? Does it show our nation’s distance from God?
 
                Honestly, I don’t fret over Halloween and how people participate in it. I trust Christian parents to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord; to take them to church and model the Christian lifestyle at home. I trust them to know their children’s personalities and to make informed decisions on their participation in the events of Halloween: don’t go trick-or-treating at all or dress as cartoon characters or other non-scary things or put on a mask and go boo! Here’s the reason I feel that way.
 
                That isn’t how Satan works. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. He is the great deceiver. He doesn’t win the hearts and mind of people by showing his true self. He appears as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He comes to us as an attractive choice or false joy. If the devil were to come to us as a malevolent creature jumping out of a closet to kill us or as green-faced witch swooping down on us from above, the church altars would be filled with people begging God’s protection and giving themselves to the Lord in droves. In some ways I wish Halloween was an accurate picture of Satan so our children (as well as ourselves) would be very frightened of him and his work.
 
                Let me describe a true moment of horror on TV: A famous television news person leans toward a 5-year-old boy who has long haired and is wearing a dress and says, “you are a very pretty girl”. That is scary. That is Satan at work. Want another one? A judge in England ruled against a man whose defense in the case was that he couldn’t participate in a certain action because of his religious beliefs. The judge stated that “the Bible is not compatible with human dignity”. That, Christian, is frightening.
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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COTB Staff Appreciation

                On behalf of our staff here at Church on the Bluff, I want to say thank you to our church family for the gracious “Pastor and Staff Appreciation Day”. We appreciate the recognition and the words of love and encouragement. You can tell a lot about a church by the length of time that a staff serves and we are unique in that respect. Cornelius Yelding has been our custodian (I call him our Minister of Clean) here for 45 years. Kaye Davis has served as our pianist for 42 years and Duane Terpo has been Minister of Music for 18 years. Sharron Atkinson has ministered as our Ministry Assistant for 13 years. Angie and I have been fortunate to have served for 13 years, and Cindy Adams has been our organist/keyboardist for 5 years.
 
                Your acceptance and support of us is amazing and allows us to minister with a freedom that is refreshing and, I believe, beneficial to the church family. It allows us to utilize the individual gifts that the Lord has given us even as we mesh those gifts together in our service. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we look forward to what God is going to do through Church on the Bluff in the time ahead of us.
 

And speaking of what lies ahead of us, this is our busiest time of the year both as a church family and as individual families. The fall season is beautiful and brings relief from the scorching heat thus allowing a lot of outdoor activities. Thanksgiving isn’t that far away and (dare I say it?) Christmas will be here before you know it. Pray for every church activity and prepare your hearts for these times of the year when we have one of the best opportunities to speak publicly about our Savior. This is also a time for personal reflection. Don’t let all the activities take you away from a close communion with God. Let every season, every holiday, remind you that we serve a great and gracious God.

 

And, as we look forward, I’ll close with this mysterious and cryptic question: “Who’s your One?”

 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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God Uses Your Circumstances

 
 
            Many people can identify with what I’m about to say.  When I got married, I was making minimum wage. Angie and I moved into a low-end apartment in a not so good part of town.  There was no telephone and no air conditioning. We had a 6 year old car (also with no air conditioning). We didn’t have food stamps, or any governmental help and we were well below the poverty level for 1971.  We were happy but in all honesty we were poor.  It was a struggle. I liked most of the people I worked with, we had family and friends nearby, so even in lean times I suppose life was good.
 
                I look back now and can see that God had His hand on us in a certain way. Not because I was obedient.  In fact, I was in a very rebellious relationship with Him.  But now I understand that He was preparing things so that when I did become obedient, my path, though still a struggle from time to time, led me to where I am.
 
                When I decided to follow His call into the ministry the 14 years of effort, I put into my job allowed me to keep working full time at night as I went back to college.  With the generosity and support of Christian co-workers the two years of 18-hour days were tough, but doable.
 
                I thank God I know what it is like to do with less. I appreciate the people He continually put in my path to affect my life.  I can look back and see how God used the circumstances around me to help mold me into the person I am today.
 
                You see, even though I gave up on God, He never gave up on me.  He will not give up on you, either.  Whatever you may be going through, God can and will use it. Even in tough times, financially or physically, or spiritually, God can impart knowledge and wisdom that will make you better able to minister to others.
 
                Go ahead, be mad with God over your circumstances, He is still there and still working.  I know because I was there.  Feel sorry for yourself because you don’t have all the things you want.  God has a better plan that will follow.  I know because I was there.  It’s ok to have some doubts about what God is doing…just begin walking in His footsteps and your faith will be strengthened.  I know because I was there.
 
                And If I hadn’t been in those places and circumstances I wouldn’t be who I am today. So, trust God, don’t give up on Him, and as always….
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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Only Jesus Can Change Evil

                Psychology Today defines insanity as “mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior”.   That is a horrible condition for a person to live with.  It is truly a sad situation.  There is hope, of course.  With therapy and medication, a host of mental illnesses can be managed, and people can lead productive lives. As a society we are becoming more aware of such problems and for the most part see them and feel compassion and understanding.
 
                Some mental illnesses can lead to wicked and destructive actions, no doubt.  But the law rightfully says that sane people can and will do horrible things.  In fact, I’ve read that an “insanity defense” rarely succeeds in cases of violence and mayhem.  Courts rule that the person who committed the particular act was sane.
 
                So why would a sane person murder, rob, rape, and commit other acts of violence?  I believe that courts of law, by stating that sane people can do horrible things, have endorsed the concept of EVILWhen used as an adjective the word evil describes a person who does bad things.  But many dictionaries define the word evil as a noun that is “a cosmic evil force” and “something that brings sorrow, distress, and calamity”.  I do not understand how anyone, looking at the world today, can say that a cosmic evil doesn’t exist.
 
                Unlike a mental illness, evil can’t be controlled or cured by any medicine.  No doctor can prescribe a pill designed to treat evil. There is only one thing that can eradicate evil and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Because evil is a “force” of unexplainable origin, power, or cause only an equal force of supernatural power can conquer it:  Jesus is that power. I know people personally who will tell you that they were once evil, but Jesus changed their very nature.  I’ve heard people describe how He changed their heart from one of evil to a heart of love.  There are countless criminals who will gladly share that the only reason they were able to shed a heart of intense anger and hate and escape a life of continued evil is that Jesus saved them and made them a new person.
 
                 Laws cannot change evil, but Jesus can.  Continue to lift Him up as the sole Savior of a fallen people and, as always….
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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Absolute Truth

                A famous actor recently said that after his latest role in a TV series he was going to quit acting and “bring truth to the world”. He wouldn’t elaborate on just what he meant by bringing truth to the world, but my hope is that he meant he was going to begin spreading the Gospel.  Let me say emphatically that if that truth isn’t Jesus, it’s not the truth.
 
                Some would say that truth is relative, therefore what is true for you may not be true for me.  They are wrong. That isn’t truth at all.  Truth doesn’t change.  Our opinion of truth may be different, but the truth remains the same. The dictionary says that truth is considered to be absolute, if it is valid in and also beyond all times and places. Therefore, a universal truth is considered logically to transcend the state of the physical universe, whose order is derived from such truths.
 
                Did you catch that last sentence? Order of the universe is derived from absolute truth.  That doesn’t mean that just the placement of the planets and stars is determined by absolute truth, it means that the order of everything in the universe is determined by absolute truth:  Flowers and trees, the animal kingdom, and yes…human existence. Without absolute truth there would be chaos.
 
                Many would say that relative truth is proved by certain examples.  For instance, some say pepperoni pizza is good and some say pepperoni pizza is bad. Therefore, each has his own truth. Wrong.  Each has his own opinion of the truth that pepperoni pizza tastes like pepperoni pizza. You may like it, or you may not like it but that doesn’t change the way it tastes.  Good and bad are adjectives…simply describing your opinion of the taste.
 
                Am I tall or short?  That depends on whether I’m in a room full of kindergarteners or on a basketball court with NBA players.  So, is my height a relative truth? Absolutely not.  My height remains at 6’3” no matter what your opinion is. That’s the absolute truth.
 
                There is right and wrong that is absolute.  There is good and bad that is absolute.  Do you want to know those absolute truths? Look to the word of God as it plainly says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV).  That sounds a lot like the definition of absolute truth, doesn’t it?  Therefore, Jesus is the answer to every question, and He is the solution to every problem too.
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.
 

Bro. Tony


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