Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mission-minded

How often have you seen someone “stay on track” until college, or twenties, and then "go off the deep end"? Christian faith seems to have all but disappeared and they seem to be embracing their new found “freedom.”

Sadly, I’ve seen that exact scenario happen over and over and over again.

Somewhere along the way we, as Christians, may have missed the point of why we do what we do.

To some, the Christian life has become a list of rules containing do’s and don’ts, and sadly we’ve left our Savior completely out of the picture.

A lot of people view Christianity as restraining them from the “real” fun.

They view Christianity as a list looking something like this…

Don’t have sex until you are married.
Don’t watch bad movies.
Don’t have boyfriend/girlfriend until you are ready to get married.
Don’t curse.
Don’t lie.
Don’t cheat.
Don’t steal.
Don’t drink.
Don’t, don’t, don’t.
The list of don’ts continues on and on and many of us have no idea exactly why we shouldn’t do those things. Much less a real heart conviction on our own.

That list of don’ts is an excellent list containing some excellent advice. That is if it’s viewed from the right perspective. If it’s not viewed from the right perspective, Christianity is nothing more than a rule book with checkboxes to mark off and good works to fulfill.  There are very good and Biblical reasons to avoid all of the above, and a Christian should avoid those things.

Over the years, I have come to understand the “why” behind the do’s and don’ts.

In Matthew, part of Jesus' great commission is to go out into all the world and lead others to Christ.   I have also learned that true evangelism is not always "doing", but praying.  Praying for opportunities to witness to people and praying for God to be working in the hearts of everyone we meet, even before we share the gospel.  Later on in the Bible, Paul states that "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."

Not all things a Christian does is rightly percieved.  Some believers are trying to minister to others, yet they have been "written off" by others or perhaps Christians take up a hobby that doesn't seem right to their Christian friends, but are then seen as "gone off the deep end".

Being mission minded is being made aware of the ultimate mission and goal, making Christ known.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Unity in the bond of Peace

Christians can so easily get caught up in the work of the ministry.  Of course there is tons of work to do, but is it right to disregard our testimony to others?
This reminds me of the one another verses throughout the Bible: Receive one another as in Romans 15:7, Admonish one another as in Romans 15:14 and Colossians 3:16 and Submit yourselves one to another as in Ephesians 5:21and I Peter 5:6.  In the midst of all the work of the ministry, it is needful to be reminded of these verses, often. The church is also God's program for this age of Grace, but there seems to be less and less interest in learning what the Bible says or even serving God. 

In Romans 15, God commands us to receive one another.  This is similar to the idea of receiving a gift from someone.   I remember as a kid at Christmas time that I got gifts that I didn't want or like, but because of who it was from, I had to teach myself to receive that gift with thanksgiving.   Everyone that is called by God, whatever role it is, needs to be received (and will always be received by God) or need to receive others.  In other words, all Christians need to receive there fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, disregarding the role in which we are called to serve, either a pastor to the congregants or the congregants to a pastor.

Later on in the same chapter, there is a command to admonish.a. There is a LOT of work LOT that goes into the ministry, both physical activity and spiritual exercises.  The Greek word for admonish is to warn and no one likes to be warned of potential dangers.  It is usually taken as very critical, however, if Biblical, very necessary.  Romans 15:14 speaks of admonishing one another, but Colossians 3:16 is a little more detailed.  God exhorts us to admonish every man, in all wisdom (consistent with Col. 1:28).  Of course, God's Word is where wisdom is found and, specifically,  the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all  wisdom.   Back to Romans 15, which seems to indicate that all  believers are able to admonish a brother or sister, not just dependant on a believers role in ministry.

Lastly,  believers are commanded to submit.  This is hard for anyone, not just believers.   Yes, we are told to submit to others, but when caught up in the work of the ministry,  we want things to be done "our" way.  The busier we are, it seems the more blinded we are of the bigger picture, which of course, is leading to, and teaching others more of, Christ.  Ephesians 5:21 is a powerful verse and reminds us to submit one to another, regardless of our ministry role, in the fear of God.  As was mentioned earlier,  the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, all wisdom.  The Lord will gives us wisfom, even when submitting. Because ultimately,  it is God we are to submit to. 

There is another command found in Ephesians,  the command to endeavor or strive to keep unity.  There is so much involved with keeping unity among believers, especially when working in ministry.  Sometimes Christians overlook some areas of life in order for unity, but  when God's word is in question in a situation, of course we should obey God's Word. For life issues in the lives of our brothers and sisters,  unity is of prime importance.  God has a reason for brothers and sister to strive for peaceful unions.  According to this verse, with peace comes unity and to become a disunity because of life issues, disunity is also in disregard to all points previously mentioned.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Man's control or God's leading?

          Christians feel the need to look out for each other and, of course, rightly so.  There are times of struggle when other Christians supply temporary physical needs, like food or otherwise. 

          That often overlaps into other areas where a situation needs to be left for God to control, and He does.  For instance,  the time in someone's life when God brings someone along side.  This person may or may not be the lifelong partner God has for them, but only God knows that and will point that out, in His time. 

           Christians give the impression that they need to be in control, in almost every area of life and, even though this may not be there intent, it can clearly be represented by the way we talk, especially when stating things like " I'm going to drill this person to make sure they're the right one for him/her." or blatant untrust in Christ as seen in statements like "I don't like this and they need to break up."   Christians may feel like they are just giving advice or having a friendly discussion,  however all too often Christians who think they are better than other Christians, most often and perhaps because they may have more experience in a certain situation, very easily can give the impression of wanting to control that part of someone else's life.  God will work it out and point out the necessary issues of contention in a situation, but GOD will do that, and in His time.  Very often when 2 Christians court, neither of them really make it known at first, most likely because they know everyone else will try to tell them how the Holy Spirit will lead them along, and it comes across as they'll know the Lord's leading "only when they do what me and my husband/wife did", instead of trusting and letting God work in the situation.

         Another situation where control is easily perceived is in ministry.   There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done in ministry, but it is GOD that controls the growth and also the amount of activity.  So, how do you know how much activity there should be?   Of course, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, but in addition to that, people have limitations and their own personal convictions regarding ministry.  On one hand, some Christians want to always be serving the Lord, in as many different ways as possible and on the other hand, some Christians only serve in a few different ways, and focus on being faithful in that few. At this point,  it's a matter of interpretation of being faithful in 1 Corinthians 4:2.  The control becomes apparent when the one of these Christian seeks to regulate the other Christian's service.

         More specifically, in Ephesians 4:11-12 describes some of the different ministry roles that God calls believers to.  Pastors, teachers, laborers, and edification.  Not every believer is a teacher, or pastor, or can edify, or is a laborer.  Should believers simply assume that they, or another believer, possess all of these? The word "some" in the Greek, means just that.  God gave some to be teachers, preachers, laborers,  etc.

          I know a dear brother in Christ that was very much the edification role.  He was easy to talk to and gave Godly advice and would also put an arm around you quite often.  However, he was not really  of the laborer role.  God had revealed to him that he could and is a great person for the edification of the saints. 

          Of course there are many other areas of ministry and service that believers are called to, but not all believers are called to a certain ministry and not every believer is called to fill all the roles found in the Scriptures.   There is balance in the Scriptures, which needs to be emulated in the Body of Christ. 
 

            

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Heart of Legalism

          Why are so many Christians legalistic?  As far as I can tell, legalism is only legalism when it involves convictions and christian liberty.  Of course there are things in the Bible where there are clear distinctions, however, it seems that most cases of Christian legalism is in regards to Christians having such strong PERSONAL convictions that, in their mind, it's wrong for anyone to participate in that "sin".  It also may come across as legalistic, not because the person intends to be legalistic, but they may not be sure how to express that it's their conviction. 
          The  easiest way to make this point is by way of illustration.  According to the Bible,  it's wrong to have babies out of wedlock and live together.  Though the Bible does not specifically state this, the doctrine of separation clearly and strongly supports this conviction, there are many, many unsaved couples that choose to live together and also have children, without being married.  For some Christians, that's hard to fathom and it's clear that these couples are living in sin.  This is a clear example of legalism because the Christian is trying to force unbelievers to do something that does not bother them nor does it make sense to them. To the unbelievers, it's cheaper and there are some real and immediate benefits.  Not to mention that unbelievers do not have a relationship with Christ.
           Christians act similarly towards one another, however the difference is that all parties have a relationship with Christ.   There are still many cases where Christian liberty is just that.....liberty to do what you want without offending God.  The doctrine of separation is layed out in scripture and one principle of this doctrine is to avoid all things that may have a negative impact on your spiritual growth.  There are some things that have that effect on some Christians and those same things may not have the same effect on others.  For instance: watching television may be wrong to some christians because it is an obvious floodgate to laziness and complacency and therefore a sin.  We'll call them Christian A.  On the other hand, there is a young Christian family where there are 6 children, all of which are being homeschooled, and this family may see watching television as giving the mother a little bit of a break and they may even monitor how much television is allowed.  Maybe only allow the kids to watch Christian animations or other harmless cartoons. We'll call them Christian B.  Christian A rightly sees television in there lives as a sin for them because they are aware of the potential detriment of it.  Also, of course the Bible warns of letting evil in through the eye gates and ear gates.  It is also a sin because this Christian would be violating their conscious if they did watch television.   For these reasons, they may be led to warn Christian B of these detriments.  Christian B has completely opposite views of television and sees it as a break for the mother, and maybe the kids too, and also have no issues with letting their kids watch selected material.  This is where legalism is a very clear case.  Christian A feels very strongly about Christian B watching TV, but the Bible does not specifically state anything about television, and most certainly couldn't have because it was not even a thought to be invented. 
           The point of all this is simple.  Do our personal convictions have such control over us (the good control) that we need to make others abide by OUR convictions instead of trusting that they are at peace with God? Certainly,  if we feel led to talk to them, as a concerned friend, we should.  But to become legalistic could start to push people away and ruin the fellowship we have with that brother or sister in Christ.  Convictions help us to stay in line with Christ, but our convictions......are just ours.
            This reminds me of the one another verses. Receive one another as in Romans 15:7; Admonish one another as in Romans 15:14 and Colossians 3:16; Submit yourselves one to another Ephesians 5:21 and I Peter 5:5 and having compassion one of another and being tenderhearted as in I Peter 3:8 and Ephesians 4:32.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Never say these things to a single person.

1.  “Well maybe you should work on your relationship with God. How can you have a girlfriend if you’re not fully satisfied in Him?”
--Yeah, because everyone in a relationship has it all completely right and all fully satisfied in God.
And yes, this is a very good time to work on your relationship with God, but there are some things that a spiritual relationship doesn't provide.
2. "Just keep praying about it"
--More prayer won't bring a woman into my life any sooner, and of course I pray, every day.
3. "Study/read the Bible more"
-Every person needs to hear this, however there comes a point when EVERY activity being done alone, is depressing.  Yes, I try to read more, but same as above.
4. "It'll happen quick, when it happens"
-This is probably my favorite.  Relationships,  any relationship,  takes time.  I know that there are people that have courted and got married in less than a year, but don't remind me of that fact, it's the LAST thing I want to hear.
5. "Well, when I met my husband/wife..."
-REALLY!?  Your going to use this time to rub it in and, once again, remind me of what I'm missing.
6.  "You must like your alone time"
-Simply put, NO.  Stop reminding me that I have a ton of alone time.
7. 'Why don't you go out and meet people? "
-OK so, are you saying I don't socialize?  There's A LOT more to this than just socializing, and I do.
8. "So and so had to wait until they were this age"
-Are you saying I have to wait until I'm that old?  I realize I might have to, but PLEASE don't remind me of that. 
9. "Your standards are too high"
-So.......there's no woman out there for me? Are you saying lower your standards? I think it's obvious why this one is confusing.
10. "She'll come along when you least expect it."
-First of all, it's hard to be single and to not be aware, to some degree, of every woman that comes into my  life, even just the acquaintances,  (Never knowing how God will work exactly. ...) Secondly,  relationships don't just fall into your lap.  I know they take time, so don't lie and tell me that it'll be unexpected and sudden.
So what DO you say to a single person?   Ask them about......THEM, not there status or something you know will depress them.  I know a lot of marrieds and couples that complain because this single person doesn't talk to them or seems distant.  It could be that whenever they talk to a married person or couple, they seem to only know how to remind them of their loneliness.   In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul says to take heed lest ye become a stumblingblock.  The reason a single person may not talk to marrieds may be that the marrieds or couples are causing them to stumble into depression.  Of course this isn't the intention of the couple, but it's just the fact of how you could be talking about this in a completely innocent way and even the single person may seem fine on the ou5side, but most often, that person is feeling heart wrench all over again. This is a simply a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the thinking of some single people, guys of course, but women too I'm sure.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Book review for "A CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN DECLARATION

        This book review will be simple, compared to God's Word.  Each article will be seen from a nondenominational and fundamental viewpoint of the Holy Scriptures. Only articles that are listed are found to have some confusion, however this is just a review and not a critique of the whole declaration.  This book can found at the following link: http://religiousaffections.org/publishing/a-conservative-christian-declaration/

        There are some distinctions I would like to make in how I will be using certain terms.
         

DEFINITIONS

       Gospel, used in description of one's belief, specifically in the Gospel of Christ, or in a more general sense is in reference to that great act of love displayed on the cross, that is central to God's plan of salvation.  

       The term christian, whether used independently or in description to worship, fellowship, or behavior is in reference to the Biblical premise of those actions.  

INTRODUCTION

"We would affirm as a foundation to this declaration the system of doctrine expressed in the early creeds of Christianity (see the Appendices for the full texts of these historic creeds):"


   In the introduction of this book, is found the above statement.  Although it is good and many times beneficial to refer to other sources, I find it unwise to utilize those sources for the foundation of such a declaration. 

2 Peter 1:3 states "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue."

     It is clear what is meant in 2 Peter, ALL things that pertain to life and godliness are found through the knowledge of God.  Of course, going outside of scripture is necessary for additional understanding from the viewpoints of wise men, but it is contestable that such declarations utilized for church organizations or statements of faith.  All declarations and other official documents would be more aligned with scripture, if founded on the principles of scripture.

PREAMBLE

"At it's core, conservative Christianity aims to follow Pauls example..."


      I would argue that a true believer will strive to follow the example of Christ, not Paul.  The believer's ultimate example is found in the earthly ministry of Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 11, it is true, of coursr, that Paul told the Corinthians to be followers of him, however he makes sure that they are aware that he is a follower of Christ.  All things in the believers walk is to be brought up against the example of Christ: including evangelism, personal and corporate practice and worship, and our testimony to the world and other believers. 


ARTICLE 1

"We also affirm that to ignore this boundary by granting Christian recognition to those who deny the gospel is to demean the gospel itself (2 John 1:10)."

       Although the verse referenced in 2 John is certainly referring to the doctrine of separation,  it is not referring to a complete avoidance of unbelievers.  If that were true, there would be no point in seeking to evangelize the lost.  The essence of the gospel is God showing his love to undeserving sinners and to say that believers shouldn't try to show that love to other undeserving sinners, based on this verse in 2 John, is a misinterpretation of the gospel and of God's love.

Romans 5:8 "But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

   
"We deny that Christian fellowship is possible with those who deny the fundamentals of the gospel..."

      The doctrine of separation is losing it's validity in today's culture.  There are certainly very Biblical reasons for Christians to separate themselves from other believers, and the fundamentals of the gospel need to be preserved, however it is still necessary to maintain some sort of communication if possible with those other Christians....for the hope that they will see a Christ-likeness in you.  As long as there are two believers, there can be Christian fellowship.  Conversation may not be able to go too deeply into God's Word, but there is an opportunity to fellowship around the finished work of Christ and also to share more truth from God’s Word.


ARTICLE 2

"We affirm that the center and apex of the Christian faith and fellowship is the whole counsel of God, including right belief, right living, and right affection.(Deut. 6:1-9)"

      The only item that is of bother to me, a dispensationalist, is that Deuteronomy is referenced and though it may be applied to support this statement, it was intended for Israel.  The interpretation of the Bible passages need to remain within the surrounding context of the time of that passage and who it was written too. 


ARTICLE 3

"Beliefs are true when they correspond to God's understanding; acts are good when they correspond to God's understanding of virtue; objects are beautiful when they are fulfilling there God intended purpose in a God pleasing way in accordance with their God-given nature." 

     Isaiah 55:8 states "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."  This verse in Isaiah and the above statement seem to be contradictory in the sense that believers can not understand God.  If this is the case, then how can the above statement be true?  God’s understanding of virtue may be different than ours.  Yes, the Bible addresses virtue and so we can have a limited understanding,  but we may never have a full and complete understanding of God’s thoughts.  Some objects were clearly not invented to have any purpose in pointing people to Christ.  For instance, a car was solely invented to transport men from one place to another.  A car can be utilized for quicker results in ministry of course, but does not have a "God-given" nature.  Objects don't have a "God-given" nature, the objects purpose and nature is assigned to it by a person, or group of people.   Objects can be beautiful when a God pleasing purpose is assigned to it, but objects do not have a nature, whether secular or sacred.  They are neutral.  A television does not have any of the abilities that humans have and therefore is amoral.  All objects are amoral, and only a human can assign a moral purpose to it.


"We deny that right belief is sufficient to please the Lord." 

      This statement seems to address the way believers might percieve the supposed ignorance of others. A person can rightly and accurately interpret a passage and please the Lord, however their actions, as perceived by other believers, may not be.  1 Samuel 16:7b says "...for the Lord seeth not as man seeth,; for man look et on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."  To say that someone who doesn't practice the same we do can not please the Lord is a tight rope to walk.  There are certainly some compelling movements within Christendom that need to be avoided, but on an individual basis, only God know their heart. 


ARTICLE 6

"We also deny that people of twisted judgements and perceptions can rightly know and love God."

      John 3:16 states that WHOSOEVER will believe shall be saved.  A person with twisted judgements and perceptions may have a very hard time coming to know Christ, but it is not impossible.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Abiding

       John chapter 15 teaches the utmost importance of the believer abiding in his/her relationship with Christ.  There is another truth about abiding in Christ that is a key to living the Christian life.  Christians often seem to struggle with finding comfort and joy in there lives, especially when Jesus said that believers will face much tribulation.  So how is comfort, joy and peace provided and sought after amidst tribulation?

      Comfort

John 14:16 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;"

2 Cor. 1: 3-4 "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

       Both of these verses teach believers a very important truth about comfort.  First, Jesus tells us that God the Father will send us a Comforter (referring to the Holy Spirit) at the moment of salvation.  What is interesting about this is that this word is capitalized and it is logical to conclude, for this reason and others, that this refers to a person.  It is only by the Holy Spirit that we have the comfort we need.  It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to be our comfort in this life.  As long as a believer has the Holy Spirit, access to an abundance of comfort is available.  Jesus is also reiterates this in the last part of this verse, "that he may abide with you forever".

      This verse in 2 Corinthians is an acknowledgment and adoration of the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit, by way of recognition of God the Father.  Similar Greek words are used for "Comforter" (John) and "Comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3) are used, paraklētos and paraklēsis, respectively.  These 2 words both have an idea of being "summoned" or "called", while God the Father summons the Holy Spirit to be a Comforter in John, Paul writes that believers are summoned to be comforted.  According to these verses, the Holy Spirit is a minister of comfort to the believer, all the days of his spiritual life, but the believer needs to (not only take advantage of that ministry) realize his call to be comforted.

      Joy

John 15:11 "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

Col. 1:11 "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;"

       Joy is also obtainable through knowing what God has said in His Word.  In John, in the context of teaching on abiding in our relationship with God, Jesus says that he's teaching these thing so that his joy might remain in us AND that our joy might be full or be a perfect supply.  What a blessing!  Joy....true joy comes only from Jesus and that joy is perfect.  Whatever trials come our way, the joy of the Lord will always prevail.  The first thing that comes to mind is the exclamation of Habakkuk's joy.  Hab. 3:17-18 states:

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

        One of my favorite Bible writers is Paul and just reading through the prayers he had for others is edifying.  Part of his prayer for the Colossians included that they would be joyful, but not only in general, but joyfulness during trials.  Patience and longsuffering are needed most during trials, but to add to that, to be joyful during those times is something that we can only obtain through the strength of our Heavenly Father. 

         When we learn to abide in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, all the comfort and joy we need is available. 

John 15:4 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."