Thursday, February 9, 2017

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Are You Settling for More or Less?”-Feb. 9, 2017

          I recently read a book titled Settle for More written by former Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly.  The book, autobiographical in nature, shows how she has overcome a variety of difficulties and set-backs.  Set-backs and obstacles are common to all people, but the way we handle them is crucial.  In Kelly’s particular case, the untimely death of her father and the difficulties of career burn-out greatly affected the course of her life.  She was inspired one day while hearing Dr. Phil on television saying “The only difference between you and the person you envy is you settled for less.”  She goes on to talk about how that quote changed her life.  The key to getting from where you are to where you want to be takes determination and persistence.  But it also requires a person to pay a certain price; therefore it is necessary to weigh out how much we really want something. 

          In reading this book, and reflecting, I cannot help but make a comparison between this concept and the Kingdom of Christ and His church.  After pastoring for almost 22 years I can assuredly say I have seen overwhelming numbers of believers “settle for less,” in their walks with God, when they should only be settling for more.

          Everywhere I look it seems there are people pursuing their dreams and goals educationally, economically, in regards to their career, and in regards to their family.  People are adding to their personal collections of whatever they collect, talking about trying a new restaurant, saving for a dream vacation, and getting all their ducks in a row for retirement.  But how important are these things really?  Certainly, they bring us some level of happiness and that is fine.  However, I must ask, “How much do they matter in the long run?”  Everything at a garage sale was new at one time.  Furthermore, everything at the city landfill was also new at one time! Your old clunker probably was once a source of pride when you first drove it home.  Your new cloths quickly become old.  We tend to pursue things with very limited value with gusto while displaying a great deal of apathy about some things that really do matter, and matter a lot, like the Kingdom of Christ.

          I have observed many believers sadly settling for much less than God desires.  I grew up in church but I did not necessarily always want to be there.  In fact, I am confident in saying that I would not have gone most of the time had not my parents made me go.  But, there came a change in me in my late teen years when I really committed my life to Christ.  I could not get enough church.  I could not get enough preaching, teaching, or reading from the Scriptures.  The best way I can describe how I felt, and still feel, is that it is like an “unquenchable thirst” that I have now and have had for the better part of 30 years.  I have since built a decent size library of Christian books simply out of a desire to learn and know more about God.  It is very hard for me to understand how others are not reacting the same way I reacted when first coming to know Christ.  It seems I am constantly asking myself about others, “Do they really know Christ?”  I hope so, but their behavior and lack of desire for the things of God, sure makes it hard to tell sometimes.

          So many Christians fall into a comfortable groove of settling for less, even far less, than God desires.  C. S. Lewis wrote “God is not so much offended that we want too much as by the fact that we are satisfied with so little.”  Paul commends the church at Philippi to develop and keep a joyful attitude about Christ that motivates them to ever-increasing service, just as it had occurred in his life.  He writes “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me . . . forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)  Paul did not see this as merely for him, but he understood this thirst/desire for the things of God to be a hallmark of all Christians.  He goes on “Therefore let us, as many as are mature have this mind . . . Brethren join in following my example and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” (Phil. 3:15; 17)

          The modern day term “nominal Christian” is really a contradiction and would have really caused the Apostle Paul to scratch his head.  The word “nominal” means “Existing in name only; small; far below the real value or cost.”  Sadly, that is the best way to describe many who would claim the name of Christ.   Their brand of Christianity does not resemble the third chapter of Philippians, but instead the dictionary’s definition of “nominal.” Paul wrote to young Timothy “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

          In these difficult and morally challenging days in which we live, nominal Christians are unfortunately bearing testimony to their neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and extended families that there is little to “Christianity.”  It is just a moniker or title and means little to nothing.  They wear the name, without the changed lives.

            Many of the great martyrs of centuries past went confidently to their own deaths, proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord” with great boldness and conviction.  By contrast, many modern- day church members are melding with the world and treating church as little more than a back-up plan when they have nothing else to do.  I assert the gathering together of believers for church should be a top level priority.  Christ Jesus died for the church and will once again return for His church/bride.

          In Christ there should be no shame but a consistent and unmistakable motivation to only settle for more of Him.  Paul confessed “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16)  Never settle for less.  In Christ, only settle for more!


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Allen Raynor Weblog: Re-Issue of “A Fresh Perspective on Failure”-Feb. 6, 2017

          Often a book I read inspires me to write a weblog summarizing the arguments made by the author.  This was the case after reading Erwin Lutzer’s book Failure: The Back-Door to Success.  Lutzer is the pastor of the historic Moody Bible Church in Chicago and, over the years, has become one of my favorite authors.  I encourage you to check out some of his many books sometime.


Allen Raynor Weblog: “A Fresh Perspective on Failure”

(May 31, 2011)


          It is natural for human beings to generally prefer success over failure.  The really tricky part though is determining, and then understanding, what really constitutes success.  In his book, Failure: The Back Door to Success, Erwin Lutzer explores the issues of success and failure and offers a slightly different take than the typical consensus that failure is bad and success is good.  He explores how success often is born, out of failure.  It is true historically, and it is still true today.

          Sometimes failure is merely a stepping stone to ultimate success.  In the words of Peter Marshall, “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”  Sometimes there is a bit of a “wilderness” wandering which must take place for us before we can really hear God speak.  Often the clamor and noise of the world and its subsequent distractions cause God’s voice to be drowned out to our hearing.  Sometimes He is speaking and we just cannot hear; other times He is not speaking at all and forcing us to wait for our own good and development.  Lutzer writes, “Often the doorway to success is entered through the hallway of failure.”(30)

          Was anyone ever called to be a failure?  Well there are a handful of Biblical characters that we could point to that would be failures in the eyes of men.  But these same characters were hardly failures in the eyes of God.  Was Noah a failure because he could not convince more people to get in the ark?  Was Paul a failure because he was ultimately martyred?  Was Hosea a failure because his wife played the harlot?  Was Stephen a failure because he was stoned to death?  Consider this discouraging assignment given by God to Isaiah.

‘Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’  ‘Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and repent and be healed.’ (Is. 6:9-10)

Lutzer writes, “Isaiah was told in advance that the people would not respond to his ministry!  He was to preach only to provide a further reason for God’s coming judgment!”  Worldly success was very limited for any of the Old Testament Prophets.  In fact, as I have read a number of leadership books and church growth books I do not find much about the prophets.  The Bible is used, but not often the prophets.  Unfortunately, we have come to believe we know what success is and anything which does not look like the world’s version of success looks suspiciously like failure.  But is it really?

          Well, it might indeed be true failure, but it also might be the particular “class” in the curriculum of God’s school in which we are students.  About the time I was 1/3 of the way through my Hebrew course in seminary I was not only thinking about how I could get out of this “pressure cooker” of a class, I was thinking about filling out applications at Home Depot!  Suddenly wood screws, pipe fittings, and plywood was much more interesting than pronominal suffixes and sere yod’s!  One of my young sons at the time was looking at some Hebrew sentences I was attempting to translate and asked the profound question, “Daddy how do you read it when it is written like that?”  That was a good question, which I did not have a good answer for!  Every day of Hebrew class I felt like a failure.  I feared being called on by the professor to answer a question or, worst of all, have to go to the board and show my work in front of the class.  I realize now it was not true, but at the time I felt like I was the only student in the class who was lost and the others had a handle on things.  I ultimately came out of the class with a B+ but felt like I was swimming upstream the whole way!  I did not fail Hebrew – not even close – but I felt like I was failing the whole way through.  Sometimes we only feel like we are failing when we really are having some measure of success.

          Neither failure, nor the threat of failure, is necessarily a bad thing.  The threat of failure can serve to motivate and otherwise sharpen our actions with a precision which nothing else could do.  But failure can be painful.  How many painful lessons from childhood can we recall?  C.S. Lewis said, “Pain is God’s megaphone.”  In much the same way, failure is an important word from God.  Circumstances are one of a handful of ways by which He tends to speak to us.  Failure is not necessarily a bad thing.  Failure can work to make us better, failure in the world’s eyes may be unmistakable success in God’s sight.  True failure however, can even motivate us to get on the road to true success.  My advice would be, to use all your failures wisely in your pursuit of true God-ordained success!

In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Allen Raynor Weblog: The Tough Issue of Immigration-Feb. 2, 2017

          The issue of immigration has been one of the most difficult for Christians to fully come to terms with, seeing that it is not as cut-and-dry as are some other issues.  There are plenty of doctrinal and ethical issues that are quite clear from Scripture such as the doctrines of justification, the substitutionary atonement, the sinfulness of homosexuality, adultery, and drunkenness.  However, the multiplicity of issues related to the ongoing immigration debate in our nation are often treacherous waters to navigate.

          This is one of the few issues that, at least in part, defies the left and right.  There are some on the right that side with the left on this one and some on the left that side with the right.  Like all issues, it really should rise above politics and be decided by Scripture and conscience.

          We are a nation of immigrants.  The words engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty read “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  Between the years 1820 and 2010, the U. S. saw 80 million souls immigrate to America.  Fourteen million immigrated during the decade from 2001 to 2010.  But, as we know, immigration also has a dark side.  Buried within the statistics are millions of undocumented immigrants.  The latest estimates put those at around 11-12 million.

          The United States has proudly welcomed outsiders, but today there are a number of factors which have changed the thinking of a great many people.  Primarily, it is deeply held concern that the proper channels of lawful immigration have been set aside and there is little oversight to the whole process.  More and more illegal immigration is affecting the lives of average Americans in negative ways.  A combined study of U. S. governmental departments revealed that illegal immigrants were responsible for an extremely high number of crimes.  The study was based on a sampling of more than 55,000 illegal immigrants.  It was shown that there were almost 460 thousand arrests among this sample pool (an average of about 8 arrests per person) for drugs, immigration offenses, etc.  Fifteen percent of this sampling were arrested in connection with violent crimes including murder, robbery, assault, and sex-related offences.

          Now the advent of “Sanctuary Cities” is making it more difficult to enforce laws.  These cities have become havens for drug trafficking, murder, armed robbery, rape, etc.  Several defiant politicians, such as State Governors and City Mayors have proudly announced their defiance to comply with laws already on the books.

          David Jeremiah, in his book Is This the End?  Signs of God’s Providence in a Disturbing New World cites many statistics about the overall immigration problem.  In speaking about the financial, and other burdens, placed on our system by illegal immigration he writes “Dallas’ Parkland Hospital offers the second-largest maternity service in the United States.  In one recent year, sixteen thousand babies were born at Parkland, and 70 percent of them were to illegal immigrants at a cost of $70.7 million.  Because few of these patients speak English, the hospital now offers premium pay to medical employees who speak Spanish.  This need has forced the University of Texas and Southwestern Medical School to add a Spanish language requirement to its curriculum.”  This is just one tiny way illegal immigration is causing problems/issues in our culture.  Health care costs rise to cover the expenses of those who cannot pay.  Further, they rise to cover language training and enhanced pay for those who speak Spanish.  It is true across the entire spectrum of health care, and all social services.

          Believers are to be compassionate to immigrants.  After all, it is almost certain that either we, or our ancestors immigrated to this land we call America.  Immigrants are human beings with the same basic needs and dreams as we ourselves.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Acts 17:26-27 “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  Both the Old Testament and New Testament address the issue at many points, but there are some common threads which run throughout the texts that deal with immigration.  Most importantly, the people of God were to “assimilate” the stranger.  If a stranger/immigrant wanted to live among them God’s Word says they were to keep His statutes (Lev. 18:26, 24:16, Ex. 20:10, Num. 15:30) David Jeremiah writes “The message of the Bible concerning strangers in the land is clear; if they accept the national culture and work as participants in the national economy, they are welcomed and allowed full participation in the life of the nation.  If they refuse to assimilate and cling to their old laws, beliefs, and customs, their activities must be restricted for the good of the nation.” (David Jeremiah; Is This The End?; 50)

          God has always had laws that mankind were to respect and follow.  They should never be seen as merely restrictions for the sake of being restrictive but rather for our own protection and to help us see and appreciate the holiness of God.  Knowing the law teaches us the difference between right and wrong.  This is true of God’s laws and man’s laws.  Immigration is a good thing if it is done lawfully.  Millions have already gone through the process and are law-abiding American citizens which enrich our country in incalculable ways; however the millions of illegal aliens that have no intent of going through a process, nor have any intention of assimilating to our culture have no business being here and should go back to their country of origin or be deported.  There is a right way and a wrong way to go about all things.  God’s way is always the best and He gave a clear path in His Word for those who desired to be a part of His people.  God is a God of order and all things are to be done decently and in order.  Our laws in America also show a clear path to follow if anyone desires to be a citizen of our great nation.  As believers, our duty is to have compassion and point others toward that which is right.


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor