Why we left N********* Church

I put off writing this post for several months because it documents a difficult experience and decision, but here goes…

I returned to the Lord in 2014 after a very long and very dumb prodigal “season.” My wife and I then attended a small, Southern Baptist Convention church in close proximity to us, but we left after one year because the young pastor made it increasingly clear that he was very favorably-inclined towards ecumenism with Roman Catholicism.

I then drew up a short-list of possible church homes. Finding a solid Christian church up here in Western New York isn’t easy. The vast majority of churches are either Roman Catholic or mainline Protestant, all of which are apostate. There are a number of Pentecostal and charismatic churches, but we are cessationists in regards to the apostolic sign gifts. There’s also a number of fundamentalist churches, but they weren’t an option after our 1983-1991 experience at an IFB church. That left only a few non-denominational church options.

On a Sunday in November 2015, we drove to the first non-denominational church on our short-list, which was ten miles from our home. Services were held in the auditorium of a public middle school. It was actually one of two satellite campuses, with the main church campus being ten miles away in the city of Rochester. Each of the three (eventually four) locations had it’s own pre-sermon “worship” (song and singing) portion, but the sermon was a digital feed from the main church to big screens at the satellites. Hmm. That was different. But we enjoyed it. The preaching (more like a lecture) was actually quite good.

So we settled in at N********* Church, but were disappointed six-months later when the senior pastor announced he was leaving for a new career with a pastor-placement consulting firm. A new pastor was then selected from a list of candidates. One of his most desirable qualities, we were all told, was his young age (30).*

We attended N********* Church every Sunday for the next three-and-a-half years, but were increasingly conflicted. There were things about the church that we didn’t particularly care for, but we told ourselves no church is perfect. Then COVID-19 hit in mid-March. We began watching live-streaming of our church’s Sunday morning services, but around the same time my wife and I also began listening to 25-minute segments from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons nightly throughout the week (See here. There’s also an app for smart phones). Well, in listening to MLJ’s sermons it became painfully apparent that we had compromised way too much by attending N********* Church and we resolved we wouldn’t go back. As the pandemic lingers, we continue with our daily sermon podcasts from MLJ and others (but definitely NOT from N********* Church).

Let’s now get into some sad specifics. This mega-church followed the Warren-Drucker-Hybels seeker-growth model which included the following characteristics:

  • The auditorium was darkened like a movie theater to accentuate the “rock concert” light show experience during the “worship” portion of the service. The worship band played Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) exclusively and the volume was quite loud. The singing of the congregation was completely drowned out by the amplified singing of the worship leaders and by the electric instruments. Songs popularized by apostate Hillsong and Bethel were occasionally featured.
  • As an essential part of its seeker-growth model, the pastor avoided deep topics in his sermons. Doctrine was skimmed over and church history was absolutely avoided. The previous pastor did refer to the Reformation and the Five Solas, but those topics were never to be heard of again after he left. Presentations by heterodox teacher, Francis Chan, were available from “RightNow Media” as part of the church’s online resources (see photo above). We participated in a “small group” for about eighteen months, where the church’s shallow teaching was also manifest. A couple of our group’s members used Joyce Meyer devotionals for their daily “scripture” readings.
  • Every facet of every church service was geared towards an 18-49 age group including the rockin’ worship portion of the service and the numerous videos and handouts. Members over the age of 50 were glaringly excluded from presentations. I strongly suspected that the main reason the previous pastor left was because he had just turned 50 and felt he had come to the end of his rope with the church’s self-imposed focus on young adults. We’re in our mid-60s and already felt out of place, so it’s impossible to imagine a believer in their 70s or 80s attending this “hipster” mega-church. It wasn’t a welcoming atmosphere for older believers to put it mildly.
  • The previous pastor mandated that he and all of the staff follow a very casual dress code. Polo shirts and khakis were not an option. Jeans and flannel shirts were the uniform de rigueur. Not a huge deal, but the new pastor gradually took the “casual look” to a radical, Steven Furtick-like level, wearing skin-tight, skinny jeans with requisite holes in the knees along with a trendy, swag haircut. I frankly was embarrassed by his skin-tight jeans and, excuse my bluntness, his unavoidable “man bulge.” It’s beyond disconcerting that I must use “pastor” and “man bulge” in the same paragraph. After taking a guest to a church service one Sunday, the first thing out of his mouth when we got back into the car was, “Man, that pastor has some TIGHT jeans!”

There you have it folks, all of our reasons for leaving this last church. We had compromised way too much by staying as long as we did.

*I’m certainly not averse to 30-year-old pastors, but this church specifically chose a young, “hipster” candidate to fit its Millennials-focused, seeker model.

Even our good deeds are like filthy rags, like showing off at church!

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” – Isaiah 64:6

All of the world’s major religions teach that a person may merit Heaven/Paradise/Nirvana/Jannah by becoming increasingly good and moral. The exception is Biblical Christianity, which declares that everyone is a sinner and no one can merit salvation. Only by repenting (turning from rebellion against God) and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone can a person be saved.

The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 that even our “good deeds” are tainted by sin and are as “filthy rags” in God’s sight. But how can that be?, people ask. I do A LOT of good things!, people object. However, even the “good” that we think we do is routinely motivated by sin. I can think of one humorous example.

My wife and I began attending a Gospel-preaching church right after we were saved back in the early-1980s. Things were done differently at church back then. Everyone brought their Bibles to church and we also used hymnals. These days, Scripture passages and CCM song lyrics are shown on the auditorium overhead, so many attendees leave their Bible at home (if they even have a hardbound Bible). But back then, everyone brought their Bible to church. If you showed up to church without a Bible, boy oh boy, you were judged to be spiritually lax or immature. Whoops, I’m already pointing out how our “goodnesses” are tainted and I haven’t even gotten to my example yet. Okay, let’s proceed.

Throughout the course of his thrice-weekly sermons, the pastor had us constantly picking through our Bibles. “Turn in your Bibles to…” was a regular instruction. When you’re a new believer, it’s very difficult to navigate through the Bible with its 66 books and odd sounding book names. Most new Christians had to resort to…argh…the index. But over time, the new believer became better acquainted with where all of the different books of the Bible were in conjunction with each other and could join in the race. The race? Every time the pastor called out the passage that we were to turn to, everybody in the congregation began flipping determinedly to the desired spot. Some cheaters had Bible tabs and automatically disqualified themselves. Those who got to the passage first gloated with pride. “Do I know my Bible or what,” they silently and self-satisfyingly beamed as others still noisily and frantically flipped through the pages of their Bibles. Nobody wanted to be last in the race, a sure sign to everyone around them that they did not know their Bible. Yup, I pridefully tried to win that race many times myself.

So even going to church and reading Scripture along with the pastor and the congregation involved a bit of prideful sin.

Disappointing and dangerous

I normally don’t publish two posts in a single day, but this one is important.

On Friday, July 24th, Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California (16 miles northwest of Los Angeles) announced that they were going to defy the state restrictions imposed after a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen worship services to the public. Health safety precautions and protocols such as social distancing and PPE masks would not be enforced at the church or even encouraged.

The photo above is from the Sunday morning worship service at GCC on July 26th. It’s clear that social distancing is not being observed by the congregants and not a single mask is in evidence among the tightly packed crowd. The congregants are standing and enthusiastically applauding JMac for his defiance of the state mandates, but will they be applauding a month from now?

From his comments, it’s clear Pastor MacCarthur views the state restrictions almost entirely as a freedom of religion issue. That very strangely belies the fact that California is in the middle of a coronavirus surge and 10,400 Californians and 162,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19.

There’s a paradigm that’s popular within conservative evangelicalism that, while grudgingly acknowledging the overburdened hospitals and funeral homes, holds to the belief that the pandemic is largely fake news, a hoax, and a conspiracy foisted upon “Christian America” by the elites of the New World Order. Some Christians have pointed to the BLM demonstrations and argued, “Many of the BLM protesters don’t social distance or wear masks and the government let’s them get away with it, so we’re not going to social distance or wear masks, ether!” The logic in that argument wouldn’t appeal to a junior high school debate team.

I quite frankly don’t get it. COVID-19 is spread in close quarters by those infected with the virus. The environment at Grace Community Church, with many people in close proximity, without masks, and singing their lungs out is prime breeding ground for the virus. Many Christians admire John MacArthur and many pastors across the nation emulate his leadership. Opening GCC and not mandating any health safety protocols is irresponsible and dangerous. Some members of GCC will attend services and forego health safety protocols, even though they know better, because of social/group pressure. What will MacArthur say to the families of members of GCC who contract the virus and are hospitalized and die? The chances of that happening are very high given the conditions I see in the above photo.

Nope, I just don’t get it. I’m very disappointed in JMac.

Postscript: In his July 26th sermon remarks, MacArthur categorized all those who disagree with his decision to reopen and ignore health safety protocols as unbelievers.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones examines “Church and the State”

After returning to the Lord in 2014 after my very long prodigal “season,” the Lord introduced me to some solid Bible teachers, past and present, including D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). I’ve read several books by and about MLJ and also enjoyed the 2015 documentary, “Logic on Fire,” about the life and ministry of the Doctor.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I desired to read some more about/from MLJ so I Screenshot 2020-05-19 at 6.59.44 AMdownloaded “Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life” by Jason Meyer to my Kindle (review to follow). While reading that book, I thought about another resource, the MLJ Trust. I was vaguely aware that Lloyd-Jones’ former ministerial assistant and biographer, Iain H. Murray, had collected the Doctor’s recorded sermons and made them available via the MLJ Trust website. I was curious if MLJ Trust had a smart phone app and, sure enough, they do! I downloaded the free app to my iPhone and, voilà, I now have access to 1600 of the Doctor’s sermons. Wow!

I quickly browsed the list of MLJ’s sermons and stumbled across a series of six sermons on “Church and the State” delivered on successive Friday evenings in January-February, 1967. Friends of this blog know the topic of the church’s relationship to the state is something I am very interested in. Roman Catholicism took its cue from Constantine and the Roman imperial model and continued to fuse together church and state. The early Reformers regrettably continued this error to a degree and when the Pilgrims and Puritans settled in Massachusetts, they established semi-theocracies. The Puritans preached that America was the New Israel and that its citizens were in covenant relationship with God and enjoyed special blessings and prerogatives thereby. That thinking was perpetuated from American pulpits for four-hundred years, although the genuine Gospel preached by the Puritans was gradually replaced over time in mainline denominations by a watered-down, social gospel. The God of the Bible was replaced by the nebulous deity/higher power of American “civil religion.” American civil religion infiltrated the church resulting in national citizenship superceding spiritual citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Americans of all denominations, Protestants and Catholics (and even Jews), could harmoniously join together in singing “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

After Americans became increasingly secularized in the 60s, 70s, and 80’s, Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority drew a line in the sand and attempted to return America back to “Judeo-Christian” values. Some high-profile ministers like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. continue Jerry Sr.’s crusade to “return America back to Jesus.” Regrettably, alliances formed with pseudo-Christian religionists in the cause of shared political and cultural concerns has led many temporal-minded evangelicals to overlook doctrinal differences and compromise the Gospel via ecumenism.

The church has been struggling for two-thousand years to define its proper relationship with the state, but it’s clear from history that the church has erred way too far on the side of church-state alliance. I fully realize that the deeply-rooted concept of America as a “Christian nation” continues to be quite popular amongst American Christians.

Okay, time to step down from my soap box and get to the crux of this post.

In the six sermons below, Martyn Lloyd-Jones thoroughly examines the relationship between church and state including the regrettable historical record and what the Bible teaches. It’s one of the best treatments I’ve ever seen or heard on this topic. Lloyd-Jones has much to say about the Roman Catholic model and the dangers of ecumenism. I’ve provided a link to the MLJ Trust website for each individual sermon. You can also download the MLJ Trust app to your smart phone and search “church and the state” to easily find the six sermons:

Church and The State (1)
Church and state; ecumenism; church and state under Christ’s authority; Constantine; Roman Catholic teaching; Wycliffe; the Reformation; Erastianism; Luther; the Church of England; religious toleration.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233337

Church and The State (2)
Church and state essentially different; common grace; the differences explained; value of history; Luther; Zwingli; Calvin; Belgic Confession on magistrates; Puritans; Presbyterians; Westminster Confession on magistrates; Melville; two kings; two kingdoms.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233338

Church and The State (3)
Pilgrim Fathers and American colonists; Separatists; Cromwell; the ‘Free Church idea’; Roger Williams; the Commonwealth; democracy; the Ejection of 1662; established churches.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233339

Church and The State (4)
Church-state relations unknown in New Testament; Old Testament appealed to; Israel’s position unique; Christ’s kingdom not of this world; confusing the world and the Church.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233340

Church and The State (5)
Summary of teaching; lesson of history; traditionalism; the state cannot Christianize society; parable of the leaven misunderstood; no gradual advance; except in the Church.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233341

Church and The State (6)
The lordship of Christ; tension between the two kingdoms; the Church should lay down principles; freedom; education; the arts; science; law; morality; individual Christians may influence society.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233342

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 11/30/19

As part of his progressive agenda, Francis will soon be adding sins against the ecology to the Catholic catechism. Catholics are taught they must successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules in order to possibly merit Heaven. Christians are certainly commanded to be good stewards of the Lord’s gifts, which include this planet and its resources, but Catholics are not stewards/servants because they are not trusting in Jesus Christ as there Savior by faith alone. Instead, they are seeking to establish their own righteousness (Romans 10:3). How will Francis roll out his guidelines on ecological sins? Will throwing gum wrappers on the street be a “venial” sin and disposing of four old tires in the woods a “mortal” sin?

After months of pleading from outraged Buffalo parishioners, pope Francis finally relented and tapped bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to look into allegations that bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo had repeatedly covered-up for abusive priests. But a former altar boy has recently sued DiMarzio himself for abuse. Responding to the allegations against DiMarzio, the pope stated that he wants the matter “cleared up quickly.” Throughout this double-decade of scandal, the RCC has consistently put its predatory priests and bishops first and victims last by seeking the “quick fix.”

The Catholic church teaches that at mass its priests transform bread wafers and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ and that the congregants receive special graces by consuming the Jesus wafer that help them merit their salvation. But recent research (see here) reveals that only 31% of Catholics believe priests actually change bread wafers and wine into Jesus, an amazing statistic! Whether they believe in transubstantiation or not, these lost Catholics are attempting to merit their salvation rather than trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

Pope Francis guilefully lifted the ban on communion for remarried divorcees via two footnotes in his 2016 Amoris Laetitia encyclical, leaving it up to the discretion of the administering priest. As liberal bishops and priests continue to roll out Francis’ novel teaching, conservatives and traditionalists rant and rail.

Christians should not be concerned about society’s approval. The Gospel will offend. However, much of society’s aversion is due to some evangelicals’ outspoken support of President Trump and Republican politics (see Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, etc.) rather than for proclaiming the Gospel.

We are so blessed to have God’s Word, the Bible, but society is more concerned with the trendiest shows available from Netflix or HBO.

The Babylon Bee takes the culture’s irrational crusades to their illogical conclusion.

Calming the credulous conservative Catholic faithful during Francis’ troubling papacy

Bad Shepherds: The Dark Years in Which the Faithful Thrived While Bishops Did the Devil’s Work
By Rod Bennett
Sophia Institute Press, 2018, 148 pages

1 Star with qualifications noted below.

Conservative Catholics are in an impossible pickle of a situation. They have always boasted of their church being led by an infallible pope, incapable of leading the church into doctrinal error. However, the current pope, Francis, and his progressive allies have guilefully overturned several cherished doctrines in their quest to make the church more relevant and appealing in an increasingly secularized world.

Since loyalty to the papacy is one of the prime beliefs of conservative Catholics, schism and even public criticism of Francis are not viable options for most. What to do? The consensus among conservative Catholic spokespersons is to uphold traditional church teaching, ignore Francis’ novelties, and hope the next pope is from the same mold as Wojtyla and Ratzinger.

In this short book, conservative Catholic writer, Rod Bennett, examines several periods in church history when popes or prelates were far from “exemplary.” His thinly-veiled, bottom-line message: the Catholic laity remained faithful to the church’s teachings despite challenges from wayward popes and prelates in the past and they must remain faithful despite Francis’ heterodox reforms.

The historical episodes Bennett examines include:

  • The spread of the Arianism heresy (denial of the divinity of Christ and the Trinity) in the fourth century.
  • The church’s preoccupation with the temporal throughout the Dark Ages (5th-10th centuries).
  • The 14th century blunders and the negative consequences of a deadly plague, i.e., the Avignon Papacy/Great Western Schism and the Black Death.
  • The church’s arrogant and counterproductive mishandling of the Protestant “challenge” in the 16th century.
  • The French church’s compromise with the 18th-century “Enlightenment” humanists which affected the rest of the church.

Bennett’s examination of the corruption of popes, bishops, priests, and Catholic monarchs during these episodes is objective only to a point. In one jaw-dropping example, he portrays Catholic Mary I of England (aka “Bloody Mary”) as a kind and benevolent monarch in contrast to her Protestant successor, Elizabeth I. Not hardly.

Nevertheless, the biased history is definitely NOT the takeaway from this book. Rather, “Bad Shepherds” is important because it’s another example of how conservative Catholics currently feel compelled to assuage their like-minded fellow members in the face of Francis’ doctrine-challenging heterodoxy. The idea of a conservative Catholic publishing house issuing a book about some of the church’s most scandalous historical episodes would have been unthinkable only seven years ago before Francis’ tenure began. This is a book borne of sheer desperation.

The message of this book is how to help keep conservative Catholicism afloat despite the current challenges. As with all Catholic books, the focus is on the legalistic and institutional oyster shell rather than on the pearl of great price; the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Recommended only for evangelicals associated with outreach ministries to Catholics and/or evangelicals who are curious about Catholicism’s current papal “crisis.”

Government: A False Messiah

Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism
By John MacArthur
Word Publishing, 2000, 192 pages

5 Stars

Readers of this blog know one of my pet peeves is “Christian nationalism.” The Puritans came to this continent beginning in 1620 determined to set up a theocracy in which faith and government were inseparably intertwined. It’s hard to fault them because church-state symbiosis had been the model since Christianity was made the state religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD. The Puritans set the stage for the very popular notion, preached from pulpits for 400 years, that Colonial America, followed by the American nation, were in a unique, covenant relationship with God akin to God’s covenant relationship with Israel recorded in the Old Testament. Bible passages meant strictly for ancient Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. What resulted were abuses and attitudes that were contrary to the Gospel and Gospel outreach. It was taken for granted by most that America was a “Christian nation” regardless of the spiritual condition of individual souls.

Alarmed by the increasing secularization of the nation in the 1960s and 70s, evangelicals took up the battle cry to stem the tide. Baptist pastor, Jerry Falwell, vowed to “lead the nation back to the moral stance that made America great.” In the push to fight the culture battles and defend morality and “Judeo-Christian principles” via the political process, the church’s focus on the Gospel was relegated to the back burner. Falwell and others eagerly embraced conservative religious unbelievers as allies in the fight against advancing secularism, thus promoting religious ecumenism. The politically-liberal lost were increasingly perceived as “the enemy” rather than as a mission field. The idea of government becoming some kind of cultural savior took hold in the minds of many. Believers were tempted to support America’s “civil religion” in which the bond of national citizenry and shared belief in a nebulous “supreme being” took precedence over the exclusively genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I recently heard about this book via some negative comments from a discernment ministry apologist who still strongly believes in the notion of America as a “Christian nation.” In “Why Government Can’t Save You,” Pastor John MacArthur responds to churches and individual evangelicals caught up in culture/morality battles. MacArthur reminds believers, with examples from the Old and New Testaments, that, yes, we should be model citizens, although our primary citizenship is in Heaven and that our focus should be on the Gospel and evangelization rather than on promoting nationalism and legislating morality.

Chapters include:

  • Introduction
  • Political Involvement: a Christian Perspective
  • Our Responsibility to Authority
  • The Biblical Purpose of Government
  • Our Tax Obligation
  • Jesus’ Lesson on Tax Exemptions
  • Supporting Our Leaders: How and Why
  • Daniel’s Uncompromising Civil Service
  • Paul’s Example Before Worldly Authorities
  • How to Live in a Pagan Culture
  • Appendix: Citizenship in Heaven: a Sermon by Charles Spurgeon (this excellent sermon can be found online here)
  • Study Guide

The book’s message of limited political engagement for believers runs counter to the historical and still very popular notion of America being a “Christian nation,” however, nineteen years after this book was published, with America becoming that much more secularized, there are more believers who are willing to concede that the Falwellian crusade to “reclaim America for Jesus” was wrong-headed and that the focus should now be on the Gospel and Gospel outreach.

Highly recommended. Order from Amazon here.

Skinny Jeans Sale for Progressive Mega-Church, Hipster Pastors (satire)

My homemade advertisement above is satirical, but there’s some truth mixed in.

Here’s an observation from one of the older brothers in the pews:

Hipster, mega-church pastors and worship team leaders are trying SO HARD to be culturally “relevant” and cutting-edge cool that it’s becoming ridiculous, pathetic, and even pitiable. Skinny jeans with “pre-manufactured” holes in the knees matched with $100 swag haircuts have become de rigueur, bonus points for tatoos. What’s next?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Spring raking: If a lawn could talk it would say, “Ouch!”

Only four months ago, in early December, I was celebrating the conclusion of my Fall 2018 leaf removal campaign. See here. With the large number of oak trees in our yard and the surrounding neighbors’ yards, I usually end up hauling 50+ tarp-loads of leaves to the curb every November. There’s obviously not any yard work to be done during the Winter months – December thru March – up here in Rochester, New York, with the cold temperatures and an almost-constant blanket of snow. But the oak trees continue to drop branches and twigs on the lawn when the Winter winds blow. And the heavy accumulation of snow on the lawn for four months often results in what we call, “snow mold,” a type of white-ish fungus that ends up killing the grass if unattended.

So, every Spring, I must go outside with my flexible, metal rake and rake our entire half-acre lawn to clean out all the debris and dead grass and break up any patches of snow mold. I was able to get out there for the first time on Saturday, March 16th. Argh, raking is VERY hard work, especially the first outing when your muscles aren’t use to it. I ended up raking about a third of the back lawn that day, and twenty-four hours later, I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck! As of this writing, I’ve raked about 33% of the entire lawn.

It’s really rough on the grass when you’re repeatedly dragging a metal rake through it. While you are removing twigs, acorns, leaves, thatch, and other debris, you’re also pulling at the grass itself, removing the dead grass, but also dislodging some of the healthy grass. If the grass had feelings and a mouth it would constantly be yelling, “Ouch!,” as you continued to drag that unsympathetic rake through it over and over. As “traumatic” as the raking must be for the grass, the end result is very positive. With much of the clutter removed, the remaining grass and the soil beneath it have abundantly more access to air, sunshine, and moisture, making for a healthier, more vibrant lawn. Have you guessed where this post is heading yet? I’m guessing you probably have.

As with many of life’s challenges and circumstances, we can make a few spiritual analogies when it comes to Spring raking. The Lord often uses circumstances and events in our lives to clean out the clutter, distractions, and temptations. He prunes away the dead branches in our lives. It’s painful and disconcerting at the time, but the end result is we’re more receptive to His Word and His leading and closer and more reliant on Him. So when the “raking” comes into your life, and it will surely come, resist the temptation to be bitter and resentful. Use the opportunity to “lean in” even closer to your Father who loves you and desires the very best for you.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:7-11

Tens of thousands of Rochesterian commuters are confronted by “Jesus Saves” billboard every day.

I took the above enlarged photo with my iPhone through the windshield of my car as I was driving home from work last week. I was driving around 60 mph at the time and took the photo with one hand. Definitely don’t try this at home! Forgive the poor quality.  Yes, I even photoshopped it as best I could.

Okay, so what about that “Jesus Saves” billboard in the photo?

Rochester, New York sits smack dab in the middle of the anti-Bible Belt. Ninety-five percent of the people here are either Roman Catholics, mainline (modernist) “Protestants,” or atheists/agnostics. We certainly don’t see a lot of “Jesus Saves” signs around here.

The huge “Jesus Saves” billboard sits aside Route 490 eastbound near the city center. It’s been there for a couple of months. Route 490 is the major east-west expressway in our county. Average daily traffic (ADT) on 490 at this location is about 100,000 cars per day. That’s A LOT of people reading “Jesus Saves” each day.

The Lord uses many people and things to draw souls to Him. I pray He uses this billboard on 490 to get people thinking about salvation in Christ. The smaller print on the billboard references John 3:16 and says it’s sponsored by The Shepherds Fold Church in Scottsville, New York. I checked the church’s website and I see it’s Pentecostal and teaches the prosperity gospel. Argh! Definitely not a church I would recommend. But I do pray the Lord uses the mammoth sign to get passing motorists to think about Him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Postscript: I remember before I accepted Jesus that I used to scoff at any “Jesus Saves” signs that I saw. My buddies and I would always be tempted to append “…Green Stamps” to any “Jesus Saves” signs or posters we encountered. If you’re younger than, say, fifty, I’m confident you have no idea what S&H Green Stamps were.