Thursday, October 31, 2013

I’m Not Concerned About The Evil In The World

  I’m a bit worried we have gotten a little too obsessed with
how bad the world is.  I hear so many discussions about how bad things are getting, so many posts about warning about this wicked new twist, so much indignation over a famous person’s wicked behavior.  It seems that some Christians spend most of their time watching the world so they can report on it's behavior.  It has become an almost voyeuristic pastime to look at the world and comment on how wicked it is.

Of course its wicked, it is the world. Do we really need to be told that?

   I understand we get concerned about these kinds of things because we want our country to be better and are worried about the future for our children.  But we need to remember the world has always been the home turf of the devil (1st John 5:19) and will always be.  Wickedness will be around us no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

  Consider what we read in 1st Corinthians 5:9-13,:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges

  We know we are to stay away from evil people and behavior, but as long as we are in this world, we are going to have to wade through the muck it creates. God is going to deal with the wicked world.  Rather than focusing all my attention on those that are outside, I would be much better off turning my focus inward.  When we look at the crumbled ruins of the world, if makes our own nicked edges look like much less of a concern.  We are not however going to be judged by the standard of the world but according to the standard of God.  So what if the world is evil, the real question we need to be focused on is, “Am I more like them or more what God wants me to be”?

  Cursing the darkness doesn't do much good. What we need to be doing is turning on a light. That light must come from ourselves (Matthew 5:14-16) in how we live different from the world.  I don’t care how bad the world is; are we doing better? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Blame Someone Else

The woman's husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she had stayed by his bedside every single day. One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer. As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, "My dearest, you have been with me all through the bad times. When I was laid off, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I was robbed and got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. You know what?" "What dear?," she gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth. "I think you're bad luck."

  Sometimes, like this fellow, we jump to the wrong conclusion. Rather than see things for what they really are we put our own spin on things. Like when we say:
God wants me to be happy, so it is fine to stay in this sinful relationship.
This is a sin but  we should go along with it since good will come from it.
Nothing immediately bad happened to me, so it must be OK.
God made me this way, so my actions are justified.
People have accepted it so God will as well.
  Basically no matter how we put it, our conclusion is God is causing this so he must be fine with it.  But consider what the scripture says;
James 1:13-15
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Don’t jump to the conclusion that your sinful choices are somehow God’s fault. When sin, death, and it’s ruin come to you, don’t blame God.  Until we realize, the true nature of circumstances and why we are their can we ever come to appreciate how wonderful God is to provide forgiveness

Thursday, October 24, 2013

So They Say...

    Well you know they say lightning never strikes twice in the same place.  You know what they say Rome was built in a day.  You know they say that all that salt will kill you.   You know they say you can't go home again.  You know they say we are in for a bad winter…
     I sure you have a onetime heard something “they” say.  You might have even quoted back something “they” say.  They seem to have a lot to say about a lot of things.  And if they say it, well it must be true right?  So exactly who is “they”?

     “They say” has become a common expression because it lends credibility to a statement by appealing to the majority.  If a group of people are saying it, well it must be true.  This logical fallacy is one that is prevalent in our world.  We survive as a group.  We trust safety in numbers.  So by nature we tend to go along with a group even if that group has no idea where it is going.  Our authority is the majority.

    But Jesus warns us against that very thing in Matthew 7:13-14.
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Just because they are saying this is the way doesn't mean it is. Truth isn't affect by the number of people that believe it or know it. Authority is not created by a majority.  They can say it is or isn’t so but that does make it so.  When we consider truth, all that matter is if it is true.

    Don’t make your the most important journey you will ever take based on what “they” say.  Only one person knows the way to the father (John 14:6).  Even if everyone else tells you can go to heaven a certain way, his way is the only true way.  If you salvation is based on anything other than what Jesus said it won’t get you there.  Don’t take any shortcut, detour or bypass.  His truth will stand forever no matter how many people think something else will work.

    It doesn't matter what “they”, it matters what Jesus said!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Five Reasonable Reasons To Leave A Congregation

   Something has gone wrong in your home congregation and you are thinking about packing up and heading someplace else. Should I stay? Should I go? You don't want to leave the place that has been your home, but could that be what is best?  Here are five reasonable considerations on why it might be best to go.

1.       The Church Is Unscriptural And Will Not Change
   We all make mistakes, even churches.  They use bad judgment and don’t consider the consequences of their actions.  But when we do wrong and refuse to make it right, it becomes willful rebellion.  When a church embraces something that goes beyond the Word of God, a faithful Christian can’t be part of it.  Our presence is a form of acceptance and that makes us participants in the error (2nd John 9-11).  If we stay too long, there is temptation to give up right principles and go along.  I've seen many sound Christians pulled away because thier emotional connection to a congregation has overruled sound thinking.  Our allegiance must first be to God and his Word.  If the error can be corrected, we should stay and work to fix it, but if not, it may be time to go

2.       I’m Not Benefiting the Kingdom Where I Am At
   Every member has a responsibility to be using their God given abilities to build up the body (Luke 12:48).  Sometimes there are factors that might keep us from doing so at a given place.  If we can’t use our talents, that’s not good for us or the church as a whole.  Before you leave, try to expand your horizon to other areas but if you feel you are still unproductive, it might be time to consider a change.

3.       I Could Help Another Struggling Congregation
   Some congregations have an excess of talent.  People tend to flock there. Some congregations suffer with lack of help.  People tend to leave there. Shouldn't it be the other way around?  Instead of shopping for the “best” church we can find, how about considering where we can be of the most help.  One or two active families can make a huge difference to the work of some struggling congregation.  If it won’t hurt one place and could greatly help another, that might be reason a good reason to go elsewhere.

4.       It Would be Better for Someone Else If I Did
   The retired preacher can overshadow and intimidate the new guy.  Your children may not be growing in the environment that benefits you.  A family member needs support in difficult times and it is not available at the place you attend.  We don’t want to become church “shoppers” but it still important to consider the spiritual needs of others.  It might be more helpful to another to attend a somewhere else.  It might be more helpful to another to not attend a certain place.  Our decision will affect others as much as ourselves (Romans 14:7).

5.       I Can’t Be Faithful There
   There will be times a congregation is faithful but you might not be faithful at that congregation.  The personality of the congregation and the personality of the individual don’t fit together.  You don’t ever feel comfortable.  Your own spiritual life is suffering.  Assembling with the church is a burden rather than a joy.  Don’t fall away because of it.  Find a place you can be faithful.  Remember however this needs to be an extreme condition.  We need to be longsuffering with differences.  A few small issues is no reason to bolt.  It needs to be something that you see is becoming a dangerous temptation for you to not assemble with the saints.  Better to go to another congregation and stay faithful to the Lord than stay at a place and fall away.

  If you need to go elsewhere, do so for the right reasons.  Don’t try to burn the place down as you go.  Make sure you are making your decision based on the word of God and sound logical thinking, rather than own emotions and selfish desires.   Don’t give up on the Lord’s church because you struggle with a single congregation.  In everything, we must remain faithful and be a builder of the Lord’s people where ever we find ourselves (Hebrews 10:23-26). 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Five Terrible Reasons To Leave A Congregation

   Something has gone wrong in your home congregation and you are thinking about packing up and heading someplace else. Should I stay? Should I go? The answers might not depend on what happened, but on the reason you are making that decision.  You have your reasons for wanting to leave, but are they good reasons. Here are five terrible reasons to leave a congregation.

1.      Someone Made Me Mad!
It might have been the preacher, or the elders or the little old lady that took your seat, it doesn't matter you’re mad and you don’t have to take it. You can pack up and move to where you will be treated right!  You will “get back” at them by leaving!  But if you are moving because you are mad, chances are you will be moving again pretty quick regardless of where you go.  No place is perfect. No place will do everything right all the time. If you don’t learn how to deal with your anger it won’t matter what they do, you will get mad. Getting Mad doesn't help (James 1:20).  Don’t leave; find a way to solve the problem. Forgive. Forget. Get over it and move forward.

2.     I’m Seeking Anonymity
Early in my career, the congregation I was working with was near a “mega” church. Often when the preacher and I would visit wayward members they would often say they had been going to the mega church instead. I don’t know if they were since there was no way to tell. They could slip in and out of services and not be noticed.  Even if they were unfaithful in attendance, who would know?  Some folks leave a congregation because they don't feel comfortable with the level of commitment it requires. They may not say it that way, but it is the reason nonetheless. They would rather “ghost” around so they can be at services enough to keep their guilt at bay, but never are expected to do much more than show up.  If this is your attitude, it would be better for you to not go anywhere than be lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16).

3.     I’m Looking For Something Better
This place has a wittier preacher, or better Bible class, or softer pews. It doesn't matter what is better, it’s that idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the highway.  We think that better is just a move away.  How about instead of trying to find better elsewhere, try to make it better here?  Instead of looking for someone else to make improvements, why don't I start right where I am and work to improve this place.  Better is more often what we make happen, than what we find elsewhere!

4.     They Don’t Do Enough For Me
The preacher isn't keeping my attention.  The youth program isn't dynamic enough. The song leader won’t lead any good songs.  They didn't give me what I thought they would. Simply, I want this and they don’t have it. So I’ll go where they do. The problem is we want to make church more Burger King and less McDonald’s. Let me explain that. Burger King’s motto is “Have it your way!”. You are the consumer so you should get what you want.  But what does it say on the McDonald's sign? “Over one million served”.  You are not part of the Lord’s church to have it your way but to serve (Mark 1:33-35).  This consumer mentality is destroying the purpose of the church. To borrow a line from Kennedy, "Ask not what the church is doing for me, ask what I can do to serve my Savior

5.     I'm Leaving Because Of Something I Don’t Know All The Facts About
They fired the preacher I liked, so I am leaving. They didn't commit to this work; they must against progress so I'm going somewhere else. They made some decision that I can make only a vague guess as to why, but it will be enough for me to leave.  Did we ever think maybe just maybe there is something going on that I might not know about that caused them to act that way?  Maybe the preacher needed to be fired and they want to keep others out of the mire? Maybe they want to do the program but need to lay some groundwork first so it could be successful.  Leadership in the church is about considering more than just one point of view.  One side of a story doesn't tell the whole picture.  Before jumping out the door with the wrong conclusion, try considering that you might not know everything that goes on.

There may be a good reason to leave, but none of these are those. Before we let our anger and assumption cause us to hurt the Lord’s people, let examine our own motives before we do.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Touching Home

    My best friend growing up was a baseball player through and through.  I’ll never forget the story for his first “real” home run.  He had been playing high school ball for a year or two and was a good hitter but had never hit one over the fence.  Until that one day when he turned just right on a fast ball and sent it out of the park.  As he round the bases, you could see his smile on his face from the stands.  When he turned past third, his teammates pilled out of the dugout to meet him with a chorus of high fives and pats on the pack.  The jubilation continued until he stepped back in the dugout and was promptly called out.  You see in in all the congratulations and excitement he never stepped on home plate.  So when he left the playing field, he put himself out; the only person on the field that could do so.
    I’m sure Josh hates that story, but I bring it up a reminder of very important spiritual point.  When we put Christ on in baptism is a lot like hitting a home run over the fence.  The deed is done, we know what will happen. In baseball the run will be scored, in life, we have a place in heaven.  No one else can put you out; no one else can keep you from taking that prize.  No matter how slow we run or even if we trip and fall down, we still can get up and keep moving toward home.  No one is going to be able to put take us out of play except us.  If we don’t touch home, we don’t get the reward!  As a Christian, we must know that after our salvation we have to keep moving to the goal of heaven.  If we stop running, or leave the path, and don’t finish, we will cause ourselves to be out.  Jesus said “but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved”(Matthew 10:22  ). Revelation 2:10 tells us 'Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.  Our home is there ready for us we just have to make sure we finish the task!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Won't Someone Please Think Of The Children

   According to modern thinking it is a wonder that any of us survived childhood.  We rode our bikes without helmets.  We climbed on metal monkey bars over unpadded hard ground.  We somehow didn't electrocute ourselves with uncovered outlets.  We rode in cars without car seats.  We went to every house in town to “Trick or Treat”.  We spent the afternoon in fields and empty lots without any adults in sight.  We played sports without proper safety equipment and without any organized leagues and official rulebooks.  Sometimes we even talked to strangers. How did anyone survive!

   Today, it seems that safety is a top priority for parents.  We will go to extreme lengths to make sure our children are protected.  We pad all the corners, childproof all the caps and read all the warning labels.  We love our child and want to protect them.  The thought of allowing anything, even the smallest and most unlikely thing, to cause them harm should be prevented.  Our children are just too important to risk.

   So, if you would let’s consider the words of Jesus:
"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
Mark 8:36
  Even if we protect them from every worldly danger, educate them to the highest levels, provide for every physical need and don't do anything to help them reach heaven what good have we done?  I am amazed the lengths parents will go to support their child schools, ball clubs or organization yet leave it up to a single youth minister to teach them about God.  They will drive all across the country to attend games, spend a small fortune on equipment and lessons, and give up their precious time for all of it, yet won’t give a thought to their Bible study or spiritual development.  If they win state, go to the best college and never suffer a day in their life, yet end up in hell will any of it have been worth it?

  If you are really concerned for your kids or grandkids safety, do something to protect their souls.  Study the Bible with them.  Get involved in the youth work.  Teach their Bible class.  Talk to them about spiritual things.  Make sure they are well equipped in God’s teachings.  Don't leave their souls to chance.  Make sure they “know the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation” (2nd Timothy 3:15).  

  Jesus told us in Matthew 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” We need to keep our children safe, but the greatest danger we need to protect them from is losing their soul!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

There Is No I In Team But There Are Several In Submission

  Ok I know it is dirty word to some.  Some folks might to get upset that I am talking about it but I think it something that must be taught in the Lord’s church.  It’s a Biblical concept that is you have to work to avoid in the New Testament.
It is the idea of submission.

  The Bible has a lot to say about submission.  It tells us we need to submit to God (James 4:7), human institutions like governments and police (1 Peter 2:13), our church leaders (Hebrews 13:17), our masters, like bosses and teachers (1st Peter 2:18, Titus 2:9).  It even commands submission on a personal level, wives to their husband (1st Peter 3:1), young men to their elders (1st Peter 5:5), and even to each other (Ephesians 5:21).   Now I know we live in a world that demands our “rights” and refuses to take a back seat to anyone, but for a true Christian submission isn't just a suggestion, it is a command.

  I know what you’re thinking submission is needed…. for other people.  This world sure would be a better place if everyone else let go of their opinions and did what I think they should.  But that is exactly the point.  Submission isn’t for other people, it is for me! I have a God given responsibility to set my own wants and desire for others.

  I balk at the number of times I will be among Christians that will ignore the rules of an authority.  The sign say no outside food or drink; well I’m not throwing out my coffee!  The nursery say no children over this age, well little Johnny is older than that but they can make an exception for me.  The van is leaving at 5:30, well I’m running late so they better still be there or I will flip my lid!  The regulation says you must have this feature installed in you building, but we think it is foolish so we will just ignore it.  Who are they to tell me what to do! I’ll do what I want! The rules don’t apply to me, I’m special. I demand special treatment! I’m entitled to more!

Is this kind of attitude submission?

  The Bible doesn't tell us to submit to laws we like and agree with and bosses that are fair, In fact is says just the opposite! (1st Peter 2:18, Romans 13:5)  But to hear us talk you would think the Bible says nothing about the need to submit. We have become so opinionated, so sure that we are right about everything, so convinced of our superiority that the idea of purposely putting oneself in a lower place has become an absurd notion to us.  This habit of defiance to anyone that tells us what to do is a dangerous one for the those seeking God's favor. Why? Consider this verse;
“God is opposed to the proud but give grace to the humble”
(James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)

  We better learn to submit or God will humble us.  Since this is a “me” thing more than a “we” and defiantly not a “you” thing, I better start with me.  I need to let go of something I want for the benefit of others.  I need to do something because I was told to rather than because it was be easy on me.  I need to take my self-interest and superiority and set it aside for the benefit of others.  I need to serve rather than be served.  I need to be less concern about what I am due and just obey, even if it kills me.  If I manage to do that, now who would I end up being like?