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". 

A more simplistic definition that I came up with for the differences between legalism and sin:

SIN:  When a person violates a clear new testament command in the Bible, OR violates his or her conscience.

LEGALISM:  When a person is offended by another's actions, thinking it is sin and trying to convince the offensive Christian that they are in sin, which may  have been decidely made a sin for in the life of the offended.

           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 is very convincing that it is wrong to have babies and live together out of wedlock. 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 and therefore they try to convince unbelievers of their "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, or self. 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 for them.  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 has 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 and tries to convince them of their "sin", 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 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 as in 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 just doesn not 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.  Alone time in the word should always be treasured, in addition to that, reading and praying with someone is something singles miss out on....and 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, 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.
11. "How are you going to meet a lady if you dont to a singles ministry/bible study?"
-So if I meet my future wife outside of bible study, than it's not a legitimate relationship?  I'm just totally confused by this.  Did YOU meet your wife/husband at a bible study?   I'm willing to guess that only about 1% of married Christians met their spouse at a bible study or church.
         So what DO you say to a single person?   Ask them about......THEM, not there status or something you know willdon't go depress them, but perhaps what God's been teaching 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 and single status.   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 outside), 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, most likely guys, but women too I'm sure.