Our preacher, Mark Stinnett, publishes articles for the church bulletin each week. These articles are designed to teach, encourage and challenge the members of our congregation. His latest articles can be found below with the most recent at the end of the list. Mark has archived all of his articles on his personal blog 'MicroMarks' which can be accessed at: micromarks.blogspot.com.
Have you ever had an experience when you were caught off guard?
Reflect on that experience for a moment and think about the phrase caught off guard.
Why were you caught off guard?
There could be an array of reasons. You might have been distracted or tired. You might have had laser focus on something else. Or it might have been that things were going so well that you just weren’t watching.
Do you remember the fall of ancient Babylon? King Belshazzar and his nobles were caught off guard. It was a time of peace and they were partying. On that night the Medes and Persians marched right in and took over without a fight. Read about it in Daniel 5.
There have been attacks on Christianity all over the world going all the way back to the first century. In the U.S., however, we have not felt the same kinds of threats. Freedom of religion! Yet, as good as that is, Christians must recognize that God never promised us peaceful surroundings and the respect of those around us.
We must not be fair-weather Christians, that is, faithful only when the circumstances are favorable. We must be spiritually alert at all times.
8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
—1 Peter 5:8–10 (ESV)
More than ever, we who are Christians need discernment. That is the ability to tell the difference between things. You know the humorous expression: “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….” The idea is that even if the duck is disguised, a person can still discern that it is a duck by the way it walks and talks.
Regarding spiritual matters Jesus said:
Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.
—Matthew 7:15-16 (NLT)
He later said to His disciples:
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
—Matthew 10:16 (NKJV)
In the U.S. we have enjoyed many years of peace religiously. What have you done in this time of religious peace and rest? Have you been preparing yourself for the day when things might change? Have you been watchful? Or will you be caught off guard when religious peace and rest are taken away?
Are you able to discern between good and evil? Right and wrong? Can you distinguish between God’s standard of equity and love and all the jargon of our day masked with words like equity and tolerance? Are you equipped to identify the false prophets of our day, those who use smooth, religious-sounding words but do not speak the truth of God’s word?
Will you take the time to read Ezekiel 33:1-6?
After reading God’s word, I am watching the changes in our society. I am sounding an alarm!
July 4, 2021
A few years ago, while driving along a curvy and hilly highway, I came over a hill and saw an older lady walking down the middle of the road and as I slowed, she fell. A car in the oncoming lane quickly stopped to help her. Seeing the dangerous situation, I immediately positioned myself at the top of the nearby hill to wave down traffic so they would slow down before anyone was hurt. (Everything turned out OK.)
I became a temporary watchman.
A watchman’s primary task is to warn. He provides information so others can plan appropriately. I waved my arms wildly so drivers would begin to slow down long before the danger. Weathermen are watchmen who provide weather forecasts that allow listeners to prepare for inclement or severe conditions.
Watchtowers have been built into walls to facilitate those who watched for enemies. In more recent times fire towers and lighthouses were used to detect danger and issue warnings.
In general, people want to know of danger ahead of time in order to prepare. We don’t want to be caught off guard!
Yet, warnings are sometimes inconvenient, even disruptive. People are evacuated at the smell of natural gas or because of a bomb threat. Some people become frustrated or angry because of the inconvenience. Sometimes people refuse to believe a warning.
Recall the tale of the boy who cried, “Wolf.” Again and again the boy called out a warning when there was no wolf. Then, when a dangerous wolf came, no one believed his warning. I sometimes wonder if that describes our nation when it comes to the warnings found in Scripture. Preachers warn, but nothing really bad happens. So, people stop listening.
Christians can be lulled into a kind of sleep when life is going well. We experience no real threat of personal danger. We live in times of abundance where good jobs are available. We have enough to save and invest. We can enjoy leisure and entertainment...any day...every day.
Jesus was a watchman when He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24. He continued His warnings by blending them into a warning about the Second Coming and Final Judgment (chapter 25). The simple point is that when we know that God’s judgment is certain, but we do not know when it will come about, we must be alert; we must prepare.
Jesus told His listeners how to recognize the signs of the times. He told them that when they saw the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, those in Judea should literally run for their lives. Writing to a Gentile audience, Luke reported the same warning, but in terms that are easier for us (Gentiles) to understand:
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. —Luke 21:20
After that Jesus told a parable saying that people are able to discern the changing of the seasons by watching a fig tree. His point was that there were signs of change regarding spiritual matters that they should also be able to discern.
The winds of change are blowing in the United States. Laws are being passed that portray evil as good and that portray good as evil. We have enjoyed many years of peace in the church.
So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
—1 Thessalonians 5:6
Wake up! Open your Bible! Let’s get ready!
July 11, 2021
In two previous articles I suggested that we must be alert so that we are not caught off guard, but caught off guard concerning what???
The watchman described in Ezekiel 33 was given the task of watching for a physical enemy, such as an attacking army. When Jesus warned his listeners of a coming judgment (Matthew 24), He was specifically referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. In the next chapter He warned about another judgment, the final judgment.
The prophets of God were watchmen; so also were John the Baptist and the apostles of Jesus. Preachers today are watchmen, that is, if they are warning people according to God’s word.
The watchman issues a warning, and one word generally sums up the warning: “Repent!” The literal meaning of the Greek term for repent was to change one’s thinking or perception. So, repentance was the banner cry of the watchman: “Change the way you are thinking!”
For the watchman of Ezekiel 33, repentance meant changing from peacetime thinking to a mind prepared for war or invasion. The warning of Jesus in Matthew 24 was to alert the minds of the people to watch for signs of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. The warning of Jesus in Matthew 25 was to alert the minds of His followers to prepare for the final judgment of God. So, the watchword is repent; change the way you are currently thinking so that you will be prepared.
Vital elements in a warning system are alertness and soberness. By alertness, I am referring to the idea of being wide awake. By soberness, I am referring to the discernment necessary to make good judgments. An alert and sober watchman knows the difference between a fluttering leaf or passing shadow and the real enemy.
Jesus reminded the people of His day that they were able to discern the changing of the seasons by looking at the fig tree. Jesus told them that they should, in the same way, be able to observe changes in their cultural environment and identify whether or not it was time to take action.
God wants us to use our capacity for observation and thinking to discern changes in our world and prepare for appropriate action.
So, note that a number of our laws have been enacted in the past that allow behaviors that are opposed to God. Laws governing alcohol use allow for drunkenness. Free speech is the banner waved to allow for all kinds of sexual sin. In recent years laws were passed allowing gay marriage. However, all of these had one thing in common: personal liberty. Our society allows behaviors that were previously accepted as immoral. So, preachers could preach against sin and show how society’s allowances differed from God’s expectation.
Things are different now with regard to homosexuality and its associated movement. Some of our nation’s new laws not only allow behaviors previously considered immoral, but the laws also protect and promote behaviors regarded as sinful in the Bible. In addition, those who oppose the sinful behaviors are considered guilty of hate speech. It is no longer enough for a Christian to oppose and simply not engage in behavior believed to be sinful; Christians are being pressured to accept the sinful behaviors as good, or else suffer consequences.
The Jewish officials used the Law of Moses against Jesus when they brought Him to trial and crucified Him. Remarkably, they joined hands with the Romans to legally eliminate Jesus. Saul’s persecution of Christianity was legal; he had official papers.
Wake up! Our laws are being changed to give people leverage to legally attack Christians. At the same time Christians are being brainwashed to accept sin as good and to view holiness as evil.
Adjust your thinking! This is not a call to arms, but a call to prayer and holiness. Open your Bible.
July 18, 2021