OCTOBER 26, 2022

OCTOBER 26, 2022

Dear Friends,
 
Yesterday, our mail included a handful of election related postcards.  This morning, I received a text message asking for money for a candidate in another state who “WITHIN TWO POINTS” in his race for public office.  My email inbox is filled with reminders of the upcoming election.  And of course, if I turn on the radio or cable news, the midterms are the top story.
 
We still have two weeks to go before the votes are cast.  And no telling how long it will take after the voting is over before we have results.
 
What that means is that for the next two weeks, you’re going to have to be on guard against all kinds of people who are going to want to lead you into temptation.  Instead of encouraging you to be filled with the Spirit and as a result to demonstrate love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and faithfulness and goodness and self-control, there will be folks investing a lot of money with the goal of stirring up anger and fear and disgust in your soul. 
 
It’s already happening.  We’re already hearing that the outcome of the election will determine whether our democracy lives or dies.  It’s nothing new.  I can’t remember an election cycle in the past twenty years that wasn’t bathed in apocalyptic language.  Every two years, we hear that the coming election is “the most consequential election of our lifetime.”  This cycle is no different.
 
So as you pray each day, asking God to lead you not into temptation but to deliver you from evil, I hope you’ll be on guard against the voices who will be daily tempting you be to loathe your ideological enemies. 
 
I heard recently about a pastor who said “One of my biggest tasks in ministry right now is to challenge my people and keep them from contempt.”  Author and speaker Trevin Wax explains that the sin of contempt involves “looking at the person across the aisle from you and thinking, The world would be better without you in it. It’s more than disagreement; it’s disgust, rooted in the inability to see the image of God in your opponent. It’s the attitude Jesus warned about in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21–22).”
 
Why is contempt such a big deal right now, he asks?  “Because it’s lucrative,” Wax observes.  “It works.”
 
“Contempt is the silent killer of Christian charity.  It has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus. It kills the passion of seeing others converted and replaces evangelistic zeal with the quest for zero-sum victories, smackdowns, and ‘destroying.’”
 
Contempt is a cousin of anger.  And while we can experience flashes of righteous indignation, any anger that is stirred up in our hearts is always co-mingled with our own sinful passions and desires.  To the extent that there is something other than a passion for God’s glory fueling your anger, you are not experiencing righteous anger.  “Then anger of man,” the Bible tells us “does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
 
And while it’s appropriate to be concerned about cultural and political issues and to have reservations about the direction in which our country is headed, when our concerns make us anxious or fearful, we have lost sight of the truth that God is ultimately in control of all things.  A spirit of fear is not from God.  He gives us a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  The writer of Hebrews reminds that we can confidently say “The Lord is my helper.  I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).
 
So as we continue to move toward election day, guard your hearts from the temptations you will face in the coming days to be fearful, angry and filled with contempt.  Whatever happens on election day, remember that God will not be removed from office.  As we sang last Sunday, “the Lord Almighty reigns.”  Anchor your soul to that truth.  And find your hope, your rest and your peace there.    
  
Last week, I weighed in with my thoughts about the ballot initiative regarding legalization of marijuana in Arkansas.  I had someone reach out to me this week asking if I had any thoughts about another ballot initiative.  Along with voting on legalizing cannabis use in Arkansas, we’ll be asked to vote in two weeks on what’s called the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment.  At issue is whether we should amend the state constitution to provide that “government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”
 
Those who favor Issue Three are concerned about what they see as a growing trend to take away religious liberties in our culture.  They are seeking to proactively protect us from these potential threats.  While our religious liberties are protected by the US Constitution, and religious freedom is part of the Arkansas Code, the proponents of Issue Three want to provide an additional layer of protection for religious liberties.       
 
The bottom line from what I can tell is that if you’re concerned about the First Amendment to the US Constitution and the religious freedom provisions of the Arkansas Code being insufficient to protect religious liberties in Arkansas now or in the future, you should vote yes. 
 
But you should be aware of a potential downside.  The language of this amendment could conceivably allow fringe “religious” groups to claim protection for their activities.  For example, there are Jewish groups arguing currently for the right to have an abortion as an issue of religious freedom.  The idea is that because some Jewish scholars have taught that life begins when the first breath is taken, people have a right to an abortion as a matter of religious freedom.
 
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s editorial board says about Issue Three “we don’t see how it improves on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which already guarantees religious freedom across the whole country.  When in doubt, vote no.”    
 
If you’d like more information about Issue Three or any of the upcoming ballot initiatives in Arkansas, here’s a link to a pretty balanced, bi-partisan voter guide produced by the Public Policy Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
 
I hope you’re planning to vote.  And I hope you’ll spend some time preparing yourself so you can be an informed voter.  I thank God for the privilege we have to participate in our government.

TRUNK -OR- TREAT

Saturday night, rain or shine, it’s Trunk or Treat time!  Brings the kids, bring their friends, invite the neighbors. 
 
If the weather is bad, we’ll have the fun and games set up inside the church. 

Please pray for this event.  Pray that we will be a blessing to our neighbors and that God might use the event to encourage them to investigate our church and come hear the good news!

LADIES FALL RETREAT – habakkuk

 There’s still time for you to sign up for the Fall Ladies Retreat which is now two weeks away!  Reserve your space and be part of the fun and fellowship.

FIRST TUESDAY MEN’S GATHERING

 Men, I don’t know what you have planned for next Tuesday night, but I’m pretty sure whatever it is, it won’t be as profitable as spending time with other men eating chili at 6:15, and then hearing from Pastor Dean Inserra at 7:00 on the distinguishing characteristics of authentic discipleship. 
And it’s not too early to circle your calendars for our upcoming Men’s Breakfast on Saturday, November 19.  Plan to join with guys for a hearty meal and some great fellowship and encouragement!

FIRST FRIDAY GAME NIGHT!

ISRAEL TOUR 2023

I mentioned in church a few weeks ago that we are rescheduled for our Israel Tour for May of 2023.  You can get more information about the tour and sign up here.  This will be a small group tour – maybe 30 of us.  And we have a very full itinerary. 
 
Trust me, this is a trip every Christian should take at least once in your lifetime.  Your understanding of the Bible will take a giant leap forward.
 
If you have any questions that the website doesn’t answer for you, send me an email.  bob@boblepine.com
 
We continue this week to focus on the Farewell Prayer prayed by Jesus in John 17.  As we saw last week, what mattered most to Jesus in the hours before going to the cross was that what was about to happen would spotlight for everyone the goodness and glory of God.  Jesus knew that the only way that would happen was for Him to complete the mission and accomplish what He came to do.  As we’ll see this week, Jesus prayed that God would sustain Him for what He was about to endure to bring us eternal life.
 
 See you in church.
 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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