Friday, April 30, 2010

Fervent Fellowship (Radio / Podcast)

… see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…
(1 Peter 1:22)

Notice how Paul and Peter say virtually the same things at times. Compare Peter’s exhortation to us with 2 Corinthians 6:6, where Paul expresses the fact that he indeed was behaving as Peter says we ought. The Bible is remarkably consistent, and the Apostles knew what the Spirit’s power could do in the life of a believer, and in uniting a fellowship around Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the bond between believers (Ephesians 4:3-4), and He provides the power that we need to stay in fellowship together. It is not simply tolerance, but togetherness, growing in grace and trust of God and each other. We are to be fervent for the spiritual growth of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; after all, we are of the same body.

Fervently, think about that. When you love someone with a pure heart, and you love them fervently, you will stop at nothing to do what it takes to please them, to help them, to love them, no matter what. You are passionate about whatever it is you love fervently. You sacrifice for what you love fervently. You look to what you love fervently before your own needs. If what you love fervently has a problem you try and fix it.

This is just one more reason that believers must go to church; how can you love one another fervently if there are no “others”? Fervently doesn’t stay at home, fervently finds a way to fellowship. Fervently looks for the betterment of the whole fellowship. Fervently knows that everyone on the team is important. Fervently forges relationships that will stand the test of time. Fervently realizes that an on fire church starts with them. Is the whole of your fellowship fervent, and what are you doing to develop a fervent fellowship? If your church isn’t on fire, start a blaze by beginning to love others with a pure heart, fervently.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rule or be Ruled (Radio / Podcast)

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
(Proverbs 25:28)

This verse parallels Proverbs 16:32. To be tossed about by every whim of emotion makes us vulnerable to attack, and we have no defense. If we cannot control our passions, like anger for instance, we cannot focus on resisting the enemy, and we become caught up in a world of self-induced slavery. If you cannot control yourself others will always control you. If everyone can push your buttons, perhaps you have too many. On the contrary, self-control is identified as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

It grieves me to hear of people who always have to “vent” their anger and frustrations. The truth is that you don’t have to vent if you’re already ventilated. Are you as a cool breeze or a hot house? Allowing your thought life to be controlled by expectations will lead to anger, for that is what unmet expectations engender.

We must keep on maturing in the ways of God; it ought to be the normative pattern. However, this is simply not happening in the Christian world today. It seems that the moment there is conflict and discord people toss off all religious pretence and go after each other with the same fervor and passion as the unregenerate, who don’t even claim Christ.

Satan will always go for the most vulnerable part he knows of. He will try and enflame the flesh, excite the passions, and arouse the emotions. If you have self-control you disarm the enemy. But people want to cry and say “woe is me” before they even let a situation play itself out. They immediately go into attention getting mode. However, the only prize that real life drama kings and queens win is the crown of self-pity.

We need to exercise self-control. Think about that; exercise, work it out, keep it in shape, don’t get used to letting go, but get trained to staying in control of your emotions. This doesn’t mean we need to be a stoic, a monk like robot with a steely stiff upper lip. No, emotions are God given gifts, they just need to be used properly and understood, not given into without any thought. We need to learn to process things before we “go off” about them. Yes things can hurt our feelings, but remember this: in the long run, what counts is not how you feel but how you deal.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunstroke (Radio / Podcast)

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
(Ecclesiastes 1:14)

The book of Ecclesiastes deals with man and his mental anguish at confronting the seeming lack of purpose to life. The author takes a comprehensive look into all sorts of lifestyles and worldviews, yet comes back, ultimately, to God. This journey is from a human, rather than divine point of view, and although there are human errors of judgment in it, it is inspired by the Holy Spirit as scripture. Not that the Bible is promoting error; what the Bible does is accurately reflect the point of view that is expounded.

Here it is the view of frustrated man, shown so as to give the ultimate lack of purpose for the humanist. It is a reasoned evaluation considering everything that can be known about the cosmos and of life from a point of view that isn’t truly considering God. The sole means of investigation into the meaning of life is to look “under the sun”, that is, to look at nothing beyond what one can see, investigate, or by appearances alone. This is the plight of those who would look to purely naturalistic explanations for everything.

This book has good in it, but it really is to be a contrast to a divine perspective, and to bring us closer to God, to show us that we cannot possibly find the answers no matter how much we learn apart from the Almighty. Even if scientists were to find their panacea, a unified theory, they still wouldn’t become the Creator whom made it so. Science is a window to the Divine but we stop at studying the window instead of looking through it to God. The window was placed there not simply to be looked at but also to be looked through.

Even those who aren’t scientists per se can get caught up into a “see it and believe it” mentality. Christians can get the idea that they should test God, and they “put out a fleece”, or bargain with God, or any number of other silly things. By assuming to everyday life the empiricism and inductive reasoning of the scientific method, a person may naturally develop an epistemological idolatry – experience becomes the sole god of revelation. If it can’t be tested, it can’t be trusted. We turn the knowledge of God into a scientific experiment. But if we need to know everything to know anything, then we know nothing – which is self-refuting.

Solomon tested everything under the sun, and found it lacking in eternal quality. Vexation of spirit is a term that is used throughout the book, and it basically means a grasping at the wind. That is what trying to discover the meaning of life is apart from God, for it is He who gives life, sustains it, and is the ultimate cause and purpose for it. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. To know God is to know life, and to know your purpose. You can try everything under the sun, but all you will do is get sunstroke, and remain thirsty. However, he who hungers and thirsts after righteousness will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fire Extinguisher (Radio / Podcast)

take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
(Ephesians 6:16 – ESV)

Do not put out the Spirit's fire;
(1 Thessalonians 5:19 – NIV)

Learning to live the life of faith can be frustrating at times; especially if you don’t understand the battleground you are on. It seems like you are on fire for God one minute, and then later it is like you are in the burning pit of hell. Why is it like this, what is going on, you might say?

Well, most Christians know that we are in a spiritual war, but did you know that the devil is not your greatest enemy? Your old man of the flesh is your greatest enemy. What the devil tries to do is set on fire the fuel that is already there. The Holy Spirit within you is also trying to start a fire, but a holy one that envelops you with a burning passion for God.

The truth is that there are two fires we must tend to as Christians. One we must stoke (2 Timothy 1:6) and one we must stop. Both fires are trying to blaze, and you are always extinguishing one or the other. The shield of faith quenches the fiery darts of the devil, and those are darts aimed to enflame your flesh. Either you will quench those darts or quench the Spirit, quench the devil’s fire or the Spirit’s fire. It is one or the other, at all times. There is no neutral ground; the devil will rush in to set on fire the places you are leaving unguarded (Ephesians 4:27).

You will either deny yourself or deny the power of God. In those moments that you sense your new man and your old man at war, the Spirit is not just trying to get you through that moment, and not just trying to get you to do the right thing. The Spirit is trying to sustain your life force, the fire is going out, and He is putting kerosene on the pilot light that is why it can seem like such a flare up and perhaps painful. He is reminding you that you are dousing the life right out of you. The shield of faith quenches the fiery darts of the devil, the shield of the flesh quenches the Spirit. Don’t quench the Spirit’s fire.

Don’t deny the Spirit’s power to live a life sanctified increasingly to God. This would be the opposite of the list in 2 Timothy 3, which talks of having a form of godliness but denying the power. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 – ESV). The Spirit gives you the power to deny yourself instead of denying God in this way.

Satan doesn't need to read minds because he has at least 6000 years of reading behavior. He can plant thoughts perhaps, but he can definitely observe when a sinful stimulus appears and our response to it, and therefore know how to strategize. Our enemies in the spiritual war are allowed behind the lines, as it were, and we had better realize that. There are no secret sins; you are putting lighter fluid on one pilot light, and putting your fingers on the other.

In those moments where you have that choice you either choose life or death, and the problem for some is that the choice of life feels like death...and it is, it is death to self, and since they aren't used to it, it is a seemingly unbearable pain, but we must arm ourselves with this mind (1 Peter 4:1). At all times, the Spirit either is working in your life or He is becoming grieved (Ephesians 4:30). You are a fire extinguisher; the question is which one?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 26, 2010

No Pets Allowed (Radio / Podcast)

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
(Romans 16:17 – ESV)

Part of having a statement of faith and also going through a membership interview is to identify potential problems in theology and practice among people who might otherwise seem solid. Yes, everyone has issues that they need straightening out, but there are areas in which we could not allow fellowship inside the local body and participation in Communion and/or leadership activity if someone holds to different ideas than we do among the primary doctrines.

That is obvious, but it also filters down into areas where the potential might not seem so immediate, but would nevertheless be every bit as problematic over time. There could be issues in the areas of practical living that would come out during this process, such as living arrangements with a partner one isn’t married to, horoscopes and occult practices, racism, homosexual lifestyles, alcohol and drug use, and so on.

Some of these things wouldn’t limit fellowship, but they would be potential problem areas that would be better off if known and dealt with as appropriate from the start. These things might not surface until after several months in a local body, but could be catastrophic in their effect if left unchecked and only discovered as they start to destroy.

A prime example of this would be doctrines, books, ideas and practices we might label as “pets”; these would be things that the unsuspecting church might not be aware of that the candidate might try and propagate among the congregation. This type of activity is something which the leadership would not want to be happening.

Examples might be Sabbath Keeping and other Jewish observance as a somehow “superior” form of spirituality, heath and wealth and other false gospels, an insistence that the KJV is the only correct translation of the Bible, and the use and promotion of certain books and teachers as good sources of spiritual material which the church would not ascribe to and believe to be bad news.

Perhaps the most important example would be taking in persons who left their last church with an offense and want to air their dirty laundry out in a new setting. As a subset of that group, some just cannot fit in anywhere and jump from church to church because they do not want to be dealt with biblically.

It is a reflection of the biblical record and instruction and has been our experience over time that some people will try and enter a fellowship, having been involved with previous church bodies who would not let them exercise their brand of spirituality, and they are simply trying to find a local church body who will let them do things their own (unbiblical, anti-biblical or sub-biblical) way. To this we say no way, because it inevitably starts spreading, let alone the fact that it is wrong in the first place.

Some people come into a local church only looking to show off and defend their “pet” idea or practice, while others are simply hiding their lives, and still others may not even realize that they have unbiblical notions about everyday life that might be easily addressed during an interview or pastoral visit.

There is significant room for theological and practical disagreement among members of a local body, but the idea is that these things are not items and ideas that would necessarily wreak havoc, confusion, and dissension among the members, and bring disgrace to the name of God and pervert the gospel, whereas certain other things would, which is why the need to find these things out as much as possible beforehand. It makes for a more unified local body and leads to a happier and healthier congregation and for the individuals, including those who might be excluded by such a process.

If these persons are willing to repent, in other words change their lifestyle or agree that this or that idea is unbiblical or that this or that practice is not welcomed in our assembly and that they will disavow themselves of it, and not try and promote it, then they may come in. We can certainly tolerate differing views on eschatology, for example, but we cannot allow new people to come in and disrupt the flow of our fellowship with what we view are bad theology and practice.

What we are in effect saying is that while we welcome differing viewpoints, we must all agree that certain things cannot be countenanced, and that we will try and ascertain these potential problems before they might be allowed to be planted, for the good of the local body and the candidates as individuals. In any event they aren’t allowed to bring in their “pets”.

To give a specific example of how this might look, let us consider homosexual orientation and related issues. This clearly shows the importance of a formal process for church membership.

Whereas some things may not surface immediately, such as gossip or jealousy issues, this matter is integral to the person’s identity, it usually is known, and how it is dealt with upfront is important. Even if it is someone who isn’t a practicing homosexual, but they equate same sex relations and civil rights issues regarding race, we have a major problem.

Whereas race can be identified as a category of people, “gay” is more correctly identified as a type of behavior. Those engaging in such acts might be classified as to a category type, but nevertheless homosexual activity is not the same thing as race. We must never discriminate according to race; we must always be discerning about homosexuality. The Bible is quite clear on the issue.

In anticipating a possible counter-argument, we would say that a person who had an unbiblical divorce, but who would agree that they were wrong, and that the failure of the previous marriage was sin and they repent of that failure, that sin has been recognized and membership would not be denied. They would be appropriately disciplined if events such as those in the past arose again.

If a homosexual is confronted about their sin, and if they deny that it is sin, and they feel that they need no repentance for their actions, that is a different matter.

Conversely, if the homosexual repents of their sinful lifestyle and agrees to abstain then there is nothing to stop membership and full fellowship. At the very least there has to be an admission that the Word of God is true concerning homosexuality. Also, membership allows for discipline when people fall back into sin. One can be struggling with these or other issues, but they agree that the Word of God is true as to it being sin and against God’s will.

The difference is one of struggle, between admitting that it is sin and trying to deal with it, and openly denying that it is sin and continuing to practice it. While we can call practicing homosexuals friends, we cannot call them Christians. They can still attend so that the Word can act on their lives. They forfeit that privilege if they try to win others to their “pet” cause.

We cannot say that what God calls unholy is somehow holy. A practicing homosexual who has “prayed a prayer for salvation”, and says that they love God, but disagrees with His Word on the subject of homosexuality is living an unacceptable and unchristian lifestyle. The sincerity and sweetness of the particular individual does not negate the clear teaching of scripture.

As Christians, we are forgiven people, and as forgiven people we are to become forgiving people. Having said that, there is indeed a difference between a person who is struggling with sin, and one who defiantly remains in open rebellion, when confronted with scripture. Certainly there is a difference to one who is also trying to win others to their sinful cause.

Yes we would affirm that there are certain sins that are common that we could take to this level, but it would not be appropriate; there is a matter of degree. There are consequences that are matched to the damage to person or community. We cannot affirm that a person in such obvious, open rebellion against the Word of God is in right standing with Christ. It is not simply about someone who commits sins, but one who is living in it as a continual state. It would be similar to a couple living together unmarried, yet also compounded. A man who has temper issues is in a different situation than one who also acts out and attacks people.

As leaders we must take specific actions when specific behaviors are present. To do anything less is to compromise the truth and pollute the assembly. We cannot judge someone’s soul, but we can and must be diligent to keep poison from infecting the local body.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Relief of Unbelief (Radio / Podcast)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
(Hebrews 3:12 – ESV)

When temptation comes, you will either dwell on the thought, or pray, as you ought. When you dwell on a thought, the thought dwells in you. The devil’s delight is for you to look at that thing and become intoxicated with it, or fear of losing it, or despair of defeat from it. Don’t let the devil have a place inside your head. Don’t magnify his words and let them develop into your will (James 1:14-16), magnify the Word of God in those moments of evil desire.

The longer you look at the giant the bigger he becomes, the longer you pray to God the closer He becomes. When the temptation comes and what is in front of you seems too big that is when you want to draw back, to let go, to give in to unbelief and feel temporal relief, to be rid of the pressure and to find temporary peace. But it is a false peace. Until you kill that thing it will come back time and again.

Most people will just let the enemy have an outpost as long as they don’t have to battle with him. You think you cannot overcome it and it is true in your flesh you cannot, just as the Israelites couldn’t overcome the giants in the natural unless God had enabled them to be able to. God was for them, and is for you if will but draw near to God when faced with the giant temptations to draw back. They should cause you to realize that you must draw near to God or you will be consumed by the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Bible & Robin Hood (Radio / Podcast)

be generous and ready to share…
(1 Timothy 6:18 – ESV)

Biblically speaking, is it the government's job to redistribute wealth? In answering that question and ones like it, we first have to realize that there is a distinct difference between the call to help the needy and the forced taxation and redistribution of wealth. Loaded terms such as “social justice” can be used by almost anyone to prop up their own ideas of “fairness” and “equity”; but what is the biblical model? Also, we could spend considerable time on matters of morality (what is) and ethics (what ought to be) within the culture and the attending Christian imperatives. While we won’t touch on all of that, here is a brief look at what the Bible teaches.

Certainly, God wants us to be doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly before Him (Micah 6:8). The many commandments given to Israel relative to giving and helping (Leviticus 19:9-10, 25:35-38 / Deuteronomy 14:28-29) were there in part to insure that there wouldn’t be a large class of poor people in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 15:4). In light of those commandments and Israel’s neglect of the poor we discover that God ordained their captivity (cf. Isaiah 1:10-13, 16-17, 58:6-10). In that sense, “social justice” is a biblical concept.

As a Christian, it is very clear that we should be using our wealth to help the less fortunate regardless of what the government does (Leviticus 25:35 / Deuteronomy 15:7 / Proverbs 22:9, 28:27 / Matthew 6:3-4 / Acts 11:27-30, 20:35 / Galatians 2:10 / 1 Timothy 6:17-19 / James 2:15-16). Yet it does not take a biblical scholar to read Acts 2-6 and conclude that “redistribution of wealth” in the early Church was voluntary and not a requirement for membership. We also see that common goods mean common problems.

Although Jesus has much to say about helping the poor, He does not advocate robbing from the rich to give to the poor, and says nothing about taxing the rich to give to the poor. Jesus and His disciples paid their taxes to a pagan Roman government (Matthew 22:17-22). They also paid to a corrupt Jewish religious governing body, and although our Lord questioned the validity of a particular tax (Matthew 17:24-27), He taught His followers to pay the tax anyway (cf. Romans 13:7). However, our Lord never approved any form of a progressive taxation system. The idea of forceful collection and redistribution of wealth has no support in the Bible.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 tells us we must be willing to work, to do what we are able to do and not be lazy. If someone cannot work but would if they could, they are not the problem; it is those who could work but are not willing and won’t work who are the problem.

This is what can say from a Personal standpoint.

· God desires for all of us to benefit from the fruits of our labor (cf. Deuteronomy 25:4 / Ecclesiastes 3:13/ Luke 10:7 / 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 / Galatians 6:6 / 1 Timothy 5:18).

· God calls on all of us to give (wealth distribution) of our free will to the needy.

· God expects us to work and to use our resources wisely (cf. Proverbs 21:25 / Matthew 25:21 / Luke 16:10-12). We are not to give to idlers (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We are not to support or encourage lifestyles for people that refuse to work, or reward bad stewards.

This is how this would filter out from a Governmental standpoint.

· Government should encourage equal opportunity to generate wealth. Government should be able to help its citizens to get a fair income or profit from the value that they provide.

· Government should foster an environment for people to give to the needy.

· Government would be in error if it arbitrarily distributed wealth to both the idle (people that avoid work) and the truly needy (people willing to work but are incapable of supporting themselves at any given time). Government should discourage idleness. Government should not create a welfare state that supports idle lifestyles at the expense of hard-working people.

The Bible does require us to do justice. However, if we equate the gospel with the command to do justice we confuse law (what God requires) with gospel (what God has done for us). When we define social justice as equality, we automatically think of any gap between rich and poor as "injustice." Yet much of that gap cannot be attributed to injustice or malice on the part of the wealthy, but to differing skills, work habits, and such, not merely lesser opportunities. The size of a bureaucracy needed to administrate those benefits also increases as more and more “injustices” need to be addressed. Waste and corruption alone will eat away much funding.

People who appeal to the Bible to support their notion of justice do so mainly from four areas: the sabbatical year relief (Deuteronomy 15), the year of jubilee restoration (Leviticus 25), the sharing of goods in the early church (Acts 2-6), and Paul's effort to raise money "that there may be equality" (2 Corinthians 8).

But none of these really supports this notion. The sabbatical year law required suspension of payments on debts during that time because the law forbade the Israelites to work during that year; payments would resume the following year. The year of jubilee restoration is part of a law that treated land or indentured labor as collateral to secure a loan; when the loan was repaid, the collateral returned to the owner. The sharing of goods in the early church, as we discussed earlier, was voluntary (cf. Acts 5:1-9). The “equality” that Paul was speaking of wasn't about economics but of mutual service. The spiritually needy had received from the spiritually wealthy; the materially needy were to receive from the materially wealthy.

The term “social justice” is indeed a loaded phrase that has traditionally indicated a leaning toward a collective notion of justice akin to Marxism, and often this phrase is used as code language for the idea of “wealth redistribution”. According to this thinking, the social justice or the "social gospel" requires a redistribution of wealth, thereby narrowing or erasing the gap between rich and poor.

But the Bible doesn't support that notion. It is being foisted on us in many different forms. One way that it comes to us today is packaged as a solution to global warming. Environmental agencies are a front to propose a massive transfer of wealth from the developed world to the developing world, and within the developed world from the wealthy to the poor.

Money doesn’t solve people’s money problems if they are poor stewards. Robin Hood will never be able to stop stealing when people’s pockets have holes in them. One of the implications of the statement that Jesus made, “The poor will always be with you” is that we should not simply try and pay down everyone’s debt, only Christ Himself can do that.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Down in Your Gut (Radio / Podcast)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:6-7)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
(1 Peter 4:12-13)

Q: What's the difference between 1 Peter 4:12-13 and 1 Peter 1:6-7? Is he talking about the same thing in both or are they two different types of trials? Is one like the sufferings you endure because you're a Christian and the other is trials to see if you really love God?

A: Excellent question!

Basically both are speaking of enduring persecution, but 1 Peter 1:6-7 is also talking about how suffering reveals the bottom line nature of your faith, that even through it is like fire your faith remains when tested. For some people and in some situations it may not just be one area of suffering and grief, but it can be like when everything seems to stink. You just want to give up, but you can't. Something at the bottom of your gut won't let you go; you just know that you believe no matter what. You can't get rid of it. That is the Holy Spirit working. That is your faith that has been given to you. Nothing can take it away. It can be shaken and you can be depressed, but you cannot let God of go completely...He has you and you have Him.

So the trial is not really about seeing if you really love God but how God proves to you that you have a love for Him, and you feel His love for you despite the fiery trial, and you are somehow filled with joy (vs.8). It is like our sermons, “A Fresh Touch” and “No Matter How Bad”, from Romans 5:1-6…we go through a difficult time and we get a fresh understanding, a renewed feeling, a touch of the love of God and for God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Service of the Stars (Radio / Podcast)

And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…
(Jeremiah 45:5 – ESV)

One of the ironic problems pastors in small or growing churches face happens when they call the people in the pews to service. Some, instead of coming to the leadership and asking what needs to be done, take it on themselves to decide what needs to be done. Then they ask the leadership to put their stamp of approval on it, and more, to participate and sometimes to actually do the thing. It gets out of control, and ironically people are getting geared up but you want them to slow down. We want people to do something, and we already have an idea in mind, yet they don’t or won’t come to us, they feel like they have this big thing they want or they feel like the church needs to tackle, and then they expect us to sign on, and it's out of order.

It would seem that when we surrender to the person of Jesus, then the idea is that we can now just do what we want as far as service is concerned. It is like those movie stars who get saved and then they justify in their minds that of course they should have a big ministry because they have a big platform, etc. We need to submit before we serve, we don’t just get to serve in whatever way we want. We submit and do what needs to be done and then we find what we are suited for. It is part of the process of being integrated into a community of faith. God will then allow us to be used “properly”, but first God wants us to be humble enough to admit that we aren’t right to have the mentality of, “if I decide to serve I get to do it my own way”. That isn’t service that is selfish.

Some know they aren’t movie stars but they want to be ministry stars. “If I could just find a church that would let me do my thing, then they would see.” No you need to see that you are completely out of order. It is hard to tell people these things however, because they will get offended and stop doing anything and give the old “I was just trying to help like you asked” but they are wrong. They may be sacrificing time or money or talent or whatever but they are not sacrificing their will, not really. What they are saying, in effect, is, “Okay I’ll serve but you still aren’t going to tell me what to do.”

The would be ministry star has these projects that they want to do, when what they need to do is all the ordinary boring stuff that they just won’t do. You will hear the retort in many different, subtle forms, “But I have been trying to do this for so long and someone else gets their thing before mine”. They won’t be faithful in a little thing and they expect to be promoted in their big thing. How many people do you know that have big talent and never move on? Why? This is why! You must be faithful with little things and in another person’s ministry before God will let you and let them promote your own.

Here’s my advice, just suck it up, and let it go. When you are satisfied in God, and content to NEVER be able to do that great big ministry you have in mind, then maybe, God will give it to you, but not before. God forbid that He does allow you to have it when you aren’t submitted, because if you get to do it before you are fashioned in submission then what is happening is that God is allowing that, your dream, to be the means of your downfall. I tell you the truth!

It’s not about some heavy handed “this is what you must do” thing it is simply a matter of perspective. Instead of coming and asking how can I help we state, “this is the way I want to help”, and “will you help me”. It is turned on its head; the church is asked to help the member with their mission instead of the member asking to help the church with its mission.

Service without submission can be well-intentioned, but will be ineffective, it is often professional, paternalistic, problem solving, and wanting to do good by “sharing” from a position of superiority. The Bible deliberately pushes us into the area of discomfort, forcing us to accept a posture of submission until our pride is exposed, and our desire to be controlling is revealed. Instead we have no control over our own lives and yet we want to and think we can fix others.

Like Baruch, we must learn that significance is not prominence. God is watching, and we need to be faithful to give Him glory in all we do, whatever that may be (Colossians 3:23). Be a shining star in the world He creates for you, not in the one you create for yourself.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 19, 2010

Old Hymns, New Life, Good Wife (Radio / Podcast)

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
(Proverbs 12:4a)

I have often said that the old hymns aren’t dead, but that we just need to breathe new life into them. I have also said in conjunction with that statement that at our church we often use old hymns with new arrangements, and the same words with different sounds and rhythms. The point was not about the new arrangements or sounds or rhythms, but a new, fresh vigor and appreciation for the theological and biblical words, phrases, and concepts delivered by these old hymns and spiritual songs, so wonderfully rich with timeless truth. However, this was perhaps not as clear to the people as it was to me.

My wife was talking to me one day and said that she thought I needed to be a little more precise on this matter. It seemed to her that when I said this, some people though it meant that we should indeed do old hymns, but that in order to breathe new life into them we need to use new rhythms. Perhaps, she said, some might even think that they would remain dead unless we used new arrangements, etc. For them what I was saying was that it was not just about keeping the old songs, but also about losing the old timing, music, etc.

Even though I communicated clearly, people hear from their own perspective, and as a pastor I must communicate in such as way as to speak to every situation that I can without clouding the message. I had got my point across, we were doing a lot of old songs, but did I do more than I intended by my unbeknownst lack of clarity? I knew what I had meant and I was right, but did people get all of what I was saying, or did they apply it in too literal a fashion?

You can be right about a thing but still not be considerate of all the angles necessary for others to appreciate it and apply it. Think about the Corinthians who had the right knowledge of idols but didn’t consider others who still had a weak conscience. Their right was made wrong, not by their understanding, but by their misunderstanding of how love limits liberty. In the same way, we don’t just get something right and then expect that all will understand as thoroughly as we do. If it took us time to come to the understanding, and that happened after specifically studying the matter, why would it not take others time as well?

It was worth thinking about and investigating. The ministers of music send me their ideas for the songs they want to use each week. I began to notice that my wife was right; we were using many old songs but almost always with new beats, rhythms, arrangements and such. Although they had a new appreciation for singing the old songs, perhaps they missed the point that we didn’t always need to revamp the old songs to re-amp them.

I meditated on this and realized that I do not want to miss a very practical and powerful point for my own life: listen to the wife even if you know you are right. You may be right but you can always expand the reach of your rightness. Her perspective is valuable and most precious. She is on your side, but she can see more than your shore. If she understands you like no one else, and yet she isn’t exactly clear on a matter, what does that say for people who know you less?

My wife truly makes me a better pastor. Your wife is here to make your old rights even more right. Listen to her rhythm and you will be blessed. If you fail to listen to her you fail to appreciate one of God’s greatest means of your growth in sanctification, as well as sanity.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 16, 2010

Potion of Emotion (Radio / Podcast)

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
(2 Peter 2:19 – ESV)

Our text is speaking primarily of individuals who dupe others, but we want to look at the idea that our feelings and emotions can do the same thing. They promise liberty, but they bring bondage, because if we let them lead, if we do not put them in their proper place, then we become enslaved to them (Romans 6:16). If we try and fly by our emotions, we are flying backward, by the seat of our pants. Have you ever made “an emotional decision” and how many times have you been “overcome with emotion”?

We are not denying your emotions. You have them, they are real, and everyone has them. We cannot give a prescription as simple as “keep a stiff upper lip”, or “just suck it up”, because emotions are not all bad. They are a powerful motivator and they explain a lot of things, but we often fail to process our emotions in a rational way, and we can get caught up in a whirlwind of emotional activity and make decisions we might not otherwise make if we were in a more controlled environment. Emotions are there to inform us, not to lead us. They inform us of how we feel about a situation, not about how we should deal with a situation.

Many times, however, we can be under the spell of an emotional potion and it poisons our thoughts to everything that would lead us in a right direction, and lead us to make good choices. Instead we are led to destructive behavior, and away from Christ. We must learn to rule over our emotions. Feelings can be good, they can help us in many ways, but feelings can be faithless, or misdirected. We can easily become spellbound by our own emotions if we do not learn to process them and put them in their place, using them instead of them using us.

A careless cocktail of fleeting feelings can become flaming feelings, and our addiction of choice if we continue to give in to them. Many times to entertain these thoughts is to yield to death (James 1:14-15 / Galatians 6:8). In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us to direct our thoughts to right things. Romans 12:2 says that we are to turn ourselves over to God in order to renew our ways of thinking about things. Ephesians 4:22-24 confirms this and says we can put on a new way, a new man, one who is not like the old man, who was ruled by his emotions. Christ rules the new man. The new man is the new man of maturity.

Maturity is mastering your emotions. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane showed Himself to be the master of maturity. He had emotions, for sure, but He said not my will but thine be done. How about you? You may have everything against you, but do you give up, or go on, are you ruled by your emotions or do you rule over them? Are you going to let some fleeting feeling gain ground and score a terrible touchdown on your home turf, or are you going to defend your mind and spit out the potion of emotion? Are you your own worst enemy? In your old man, yes you are, but are you going to put on the new man, or not? What clothes are you wearing? What scent are you giving off, the fragrant aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:16) that Christians are supposed to or the pungent potion of emotion, like the rest of the world?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fortune Seller (Radio / Podcast)

Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
(Ezekiel 13:3)

Much of what the true prophets of the Old Testament did was to confront the false prophets of that day. In our time, this is also one of the signs of a God sent prophet, to distinguish them from the many counterfeits that are always near the real men of God. The prophet will speak against those who hear, not from God, but from their own imaginations. Men like John MacArthur or the late A.W. Tozer are persons I would consider to be a “prophet”.

We all need to be on the lookout for the false prophets of today, or any day, if we are reading material from the past. Just because you do not believe in so-called “prophecy” today does not mean that you cannot be fooled. Let’s look at this for a moment.

The false prophets of today are often not acting as fortune tellers, but fortune sellers. They have guaranteed ways of garnering God’s blessing for your life. Or so they imply, what, with their steps to success, keys to the kingdom, miracle water, anointed prayer cloth, or whatever the toy in the happy meal package is this month. These days they are not so much into telling the future, but selling the future. They may not even call themselves a prophet, but they are certainly looking to profit, if not from your money, then from your recognition. That is where even the non-charismatic person can get duped.

It is up to the believer to be able to look to the Word of God to discern truth from error. The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, points to many warning signs of a false prophet. Often false prophets understand that others are on the lookout for them, or they don’t want to be considered a false prophet, because they are deluded by their own status of self. Because of this they will make sure to maintain a sterling character, and many will not make wild predictions.

However, this isn’t the only measure of and the only way to spot a false prophet. The false or foolish prophets are not only those who incorrectly foretell the future, or those whose moral character is lacking, but also those who are self-promoters instead of God promoters, and those who do not confront the people with their sin, but instead speak smooth words designed to flatter the people. Mark it down; a false prophet will fail on one or more of these accounts. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Often we hear talk that the Bible is God’s “owner’s manual”. This is wrong. The Bible is not an owner’s manual; God is not a vehicle for you to drive. Others use the Bible and its promises like a witch uses her dark books. They distort the Word of God. If you would use proper context and a decent hermeneutic, you might see that they often claim promises that are not actually there. When we use the Word like a magic book, we try and find "spells" to justify our actions. They ask you to plant your seed, but what they really mean is grant their greed.

Self-deluded and self-important people often take the title of “prophet”, or assume a position of leadership within the visible church, but speak little more than empty words. There will always be, however, weak minded, backslidden, or fleshly churchgoers who will flock to these popular but poisonous teachers. Many whom haven’t been renewed in their minds or transformed in their character are simply looking for an edge. What they get is cut to pieces.

With so many examples of false prophets, so many warnings against falling under their influence, and so many signs given to distinguish the true from the false, it is easy to see that those who do fall prey to false prophets are often ignorant of the Word of God on the subject.

Sell out to God: read the Word, know the Truth, and stay with that!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goats, Dogs, Pigs, and Sheep (Radio / Podcast)

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:17 – ESV)

Too often people want to know God's direction for their lives in certain areas, but they won't even look to do what He has already laid out in other areas. It seems that people want God to enter into something so that they can get out of something. They only want to do the minimum it takes to get the results they want. They submit only to the extent that it gives them pleasing possibilities. It isn’t a matter, usually, of attempting to be biblical, but struggling with it.

Now having said that, some are just not aware of what the biblical instruction or injunction is, and we cannot assume they do know what is right when they have never been doing it at all. Perhaps they just don’t know this or that thing we think is obvious, to them it isn’t. Therefore we must make them aware of the relevant biblical truth and instruction before we simply confine them to criminal status.

It is time to bring the scriptures to bear. Yes God knows your heart, and He uses His Word to reveal to you the condition of it (Hebrews 4:12).

Regarding sin in our lives; very often we cling to the worthless things that we think will deliver true satisfaction. This can be especially true with new believers who are getting used to living the new life. Of course, there are people who have been believers for some time who also struggle with this. We all do to an extent, but some of the major problems ought to be “cleaned up” sooner. It is a mindset that needs to be met with scripture, but too often we are afraid to talk about such obvious problems because we know we have problems too.

This does not change the truth that Christians should be changing, letting go of lying, cussing, stealing, and things that were normal to their old life. They may still struggle and we can struggle with them, but to think it is okay to stay in that sort of lifestyle pattern is more than just sin, it is rebellion that shows a lack of real repentance, and calls into question someone’s salvation. Again, someone who knows it is wrong, and says it is wrong, and wants to change it is different than someone who tries to justify “doing a little bad”. For example, they supposedly need to skip out on the rent in order to have the deposit for the next place and they think it is no problem.

Now it is true that your personal convictions do not bind someone else’s conscience. However, we do need to show people the clear teachings of scripture when they obviously think stealing or lying or a little racism or things like this are justifiable whenever they deem it right to do so. There are things people “hold onto” like horoscopes, for another example, things people need to be trained out of, and it might seem obvious to you, but it might not to them, especially if no one has ever confronted them with it.

Salvation is more than just a change of appetite, but it cannot be less than that. God’s sheep are led by the Good Shepherd. Goats simply go their own way and only turn when they are coerced or forced. As dogs, we return to our vomit, and as pigs, we love our mire, and even if we’re taken out and bathed, we hurry back in (2 Peter 2:22). But when God changes us from goats or dogs or pigs to sheep, so to speak, we are not as open to rebellion when led by the truth and we begin to see these disgusting things as they are. If we are still “butting back” against the truth, perhaps we still have horns.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stop the Worship? (Radio / Podcast)

You worship what you do not know…
(John 4:22 – ESV)

As a pastor you always need to be talking to the song leaders about the balance. We should review the songs in the rotation and look together at new songs that they want to bring in. In this way you can use these times as teachable moments. Indeed we should have feelings and responses because of God's grace, but we need more "Thou art" and less "I will" in the songs, God entranced and not man entranced.

Now sometimes songs can slip by you or they can slip by a congregation without anyone really focusing on what is actually being taught. Congregational singing is more than stirring up feelings, it is teaching each other in song, and it is important, albeit for reasons that are sometimes lost on “worship leaders”.

It should be more about “doctrinal led devotion” than simply proclaiming our increasing love for a God we aren’t increasing in our knowledge of. It isn’t how much more I feel Him means how much more I love Him, but how much more I know Him, and then this would produce the proper devotion. We more often than not get the order reversed, and think we are growing deeper in our love for Him when we are actually growing colder even as our feelings burn hot.

Considering this, I have literally “stopped the worship” more than once. Actually I just stopped the music and singing and focused our worship on some truth I was absolutely sure we needed to hear more clearly as we sang it.

It was during the song “unfailing love” that I stopped the music and went over to the screen and pointed out the lyrics and something I wanted to make sure people noticed. The lyrics were “Praise you God of earth and sky how beautiful is your unfailing love, unfailing love”… “And you never change Lord you remain the holy one and my unfailing love, unfailing love”.

From these lyrics I showed that they teach correctly that His unfailing love is grounded in His holiness, “you never change you remain the holy one”, and so therefore He remains unfailing in His love. His love is grounded in His holiness not in our faithfulness and His holiness is that from which His love springs, not vice versa.

I’m not sure whether or not the author intended it this way, but it was good to point out considering the sermon of the day, or any day, nonetheless.

Also I used the stoppage purposefully to stop people from just “going with the flow”. The atmosphere was starting to get moving, and not necessarily in a bad way, but I wanted to make sure people don’t always equate this “everybody’s into it” thing with “now we are really worshipping”. I pointed out that we shouldn’t bristle at someone, something, or some event stopping our “flow”.

I asked if anyone was thinking like, “I was just getting into it man”, and how their focus would be wrong. Well, no sir, you were just feeling it, but God was already here to be worshipped and you must renew your mind to the fact that feelings are a byproduct of worship, not the conduit of them. Feelings aren’t the way into His presence, as if we simply stir up our emotions by repeating some vague chorus over and over, and “poof!” God is there. No. Was I wrong to stop the singing, no, not at all, it was a good demonstration of the fact that if this hindered your worship than you were worshipping at the altar of your own feelings.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not Here, Not Now, Here’s Why (Radio / Podcast)

But all things should be done decently and in order.
(1 Corinthians 14:40 – ESV)

One Sunday morning during the worship service, in the back row were a couple of young people, he was 16, she 14, and they were being distracted by one another. You see, they had decided they were a couple during the previous week at our church related summer camp. Not that we didn’t notice them always seeming to end up near each other, but during camp we can control that to an extent, and it isn’t as distracting as it would be in a church setting. Now, here they were, in church, sort of looking at each other, sitting next to each other, and talking, albeit quietly to each other.

Now this sort of thing is not necessarily bad in itself. What are we to say, that young people cannot even talk to the opposite gender until they are adults, or that they cannot begin to experience what these feelings are like and what they are for? No, that isn’t the right way, they need to begin to learn to process these sorts of things, and they must learn the ways of relating rightly to members of the opposite sex. Part of that has to do with learning when and where certain things are appropriate.

Of course, certain things are never appropriate for an unmarried couple, and certain things won’t be appropriate for teenagers, either. But the item in question here has to do with anyone, including married couples. So listen up.

You see the worship service is a sacred event, here God’s people gather together in community to sing praises, listen to God’s Word preached, and fellowship with one another in exhortation and edification. Within that context, and during the preaching especially, public displays of affection are not warranted. They are distracting to others, and they take the focus off of where it should be, and put it on one another, when we should be focusing on Christ and the Word of God as it is preached.

I had begun to preach, when this drama began to play itself out. Now I knew both of these kids, and they loved and respected me, as I did them. I began to speak about them and they didn’t even realize it, which was my cue, of course. I walked slowly from the pulpit and down the aisle, all the while continuing, not in an ugly way, but in a “aren’t you hearing me yet” sort of tone. When I had I nearly reached the back, they realized what was going on.

I simply told them, yes, loud enough for everyone else to hear, that I wasn’t mad at them, but that I needed them to separate for the rest of the service, and the boy would sit two rows up in front of her. They complied, and I walked back to the pulpit. I stated again that I wasn’t mad at either of them, and asked the congregation if they thought I was wrong, or if anyone had a problem with this, and that sort of thing. No one replied. That was the end of that.

The young man went to the bathroom later for a little while, but he did come back, and there was no more trouble, and they actually didn’t have too long of faces, mad looking, or anything like that. There was no more distraction, and everyone got into the message as usual.

Afterward, several adults came to me and thanked me for what I had done. Some said they wished others could understand that when we don’t do anything about issues like this there is no wonder they continue to learn disrespect. I agreed, and in talking with one of the men we realized something, that the event matched the sermon as an object lesson.

Now is when a pastor must move as the Spirit is directing; it was another one of these “teachable moments” that pastors must be ready to use whenever there is a chance. These type of things, when they come along, are one of the most effective training tools and lasting memories that you will have in your arsenal.

You see, Providentially, I was preaching on the Christian conception of God being the highest, from Romans 3:25-26. I explained to everyone I talked to after the service that sure, we needed to do something, but not out of respect for me, but out of respect for God, for church, for community, and for those kids. Our God takes sin so seriously because His holiness is so exalted. When we concentrate on His perfections He begins to perfect us. When we lower our regard for Him our lives are lowered, and our children’s are as well. When we devalue what God values, we devalue God in the eyes of those in our care.

We as Christian’s place the most value in our God, and God has ordained the worship service, and so it is very important. If we were to let this thing go on, then we are teaching our kids, and everyone else for that matter, that the worship service is not as important as it is. We downgrade its value, and our valuing of it to the eyes of those kids, and so God is downgraded in their eyes, and so we are downgraded, and their behavior is therefore downgraded. Can you see that?

I talked with several more parents about this and they got the message. I then went to the fellowship hall, as we were having a dinner after service, and talked to the kids in question, and told them this very thing. I explained how I did this out of concern for them, that they need to know how important I think this is, how much value God, and therefore I, place on the worship service, and why we had to do this “calling them out” thing.

I told them I knew for a fact that they were not consciously disrespecting me, I was more concerned about what I was teaching them about how much I value or don’t value what we do in church on Sunday. If I didn’t do anything, then I am saying it really isn’t that big of a deal, and that it really doesn’t matter. But it does, and I hoped that one day they would thank me as all the adults had, that they could grow and understand why this is such a big deal. It wasn’t that being together was all that wrong or that they hurt my personal feelings, it wasn’t about them and it wasn’t about me, it was about God. God considers the worship event a big deal, and this wasn’t the proper place for them to do the things they were doing.

Other adults spoke to other kids of the same thing, and many questions were answered. The two realized that they had become an object lesson from the sermon, that even though they didn’t initially realize it, they were devaluing God, and that I was right to do something, right toward God, and right toward them. I told them that I loved them, and that if perhaps one day they did stay together and I was looking at them in the middle, you know, in a marriage ceremony, that they would remember this as an important part of their lives, and we would all be thankful to God it happened, all of it. They really did “get it”, they weren’t mad at all, and the other kids all seemed to realize something that day.

That night, the boy’s family and my wife and I went out to dinner and had a grand old time, laughing and carrying on as if nothing had ever happened. In reality, the only thing that happened to all of us was mature growth. That is why we all have a role to play in each other’s spiritual growth, even when we are the ones who did the bad thing. Don’t let them off the hook; you’re just letting them down. Keep their worth high by keeping God’s worth high.

Right here, right now, that’s why.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, April 09, 2010

Jesus IS the Golden Rule (Radio / Podcast)

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 – ESV)

The Golden Rule is consistent with the other components of Christ’s teaching as revealed in the Gospel accounts (Matthew 22:37‑40). Moreover, the personal character of Jesus Himself was a living commentary on the rule in action.

Matthew 5:17 – Jesus is the embodiment of this, He fulfilled this

Matthew 5:19-20, 48 – He wasn’t relaxing He was advancing – He is perfect, His righteousness did exceed the Pharisees, and everyone else – Jesus is the opposite of the false ways

He said have no fear what others may do to you, He had no fear

He could have destroyed them but didn’t (my kingdom not of this world, a legion of angels, the only reason you can keep me is because I allow it, blew men down before they arrested Him)

Forgive them they don’t know what they do

He challenged them even though He knew this would bring trouble

He didn’t let others keep Him from doing God’s will

He gave to those who didn’t give back

He knew what they would do but He did it anyway

We cannot simply say, “Go out and live in perfect obedience to everything God said and then you will be like Jesus." If anyone could do that, then Jesus was not the unique Son of God. True saving and sanctifying faith are not found in self-sacrifice, they are found in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. You need Jesus or you will not be able to walk the road, and we walk it by faith, knowing that He has accomplished the walk for us, and when you fall He lifts you up, it is not your walk, your good works, it is His, but we follow Him along that path because we are saying we have faith, that this is the right way and we follow the righteous One. Jesus IS the Golden Rule, the way the truth and the life of it.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Living the Golden Rule (Radio / Podcast)

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 – ESV)

This Golden Rule is the summation of all that had gone on before it, and we see that there is a road to this is as seen in the Beatitudes, where the Sermon on the Mount starts. The Beatitudes reveal 7 qualities that reflect the spiritual life God desires for His people. These 7 “blessings” are markers along the road to the Golden Rule. In order to be able to live out the Golden Rule as our rule of life, we need to follow along the path that these blessings point to.

5:3 – the walk starts with brokenness, realizing our lack of strength to live as we ought
5:4 – repentance towards God
5:5 – humility
5:6 – hunger for God
5:7 – merciful
5:8 – purity leads to vision, you can see the fruit, and we are being set free from selfish sins
5:9 – James 3:13-18 – we sow because we love as God intended as the Golden Rule teaches
10-16 – they try and douse your flame but it remains this is living it out

We have broken hearts because of misunderstanding these things, and we need God to help us in order to help others through these things. Do unto others as you would have wanted them to do back when you were in that situation, even when people didn’t do you right, now turn that around, Christian, and do others right, this is living the Golden Rule.

He loves us even though we mess up. God doesn’t mess up, but He allows us to go through trying circumstances, and so we often feel like He does mess it up for us, but so do we still love Him? We must admit that the answer is often no, not really, but the beauty of God is that He gives us a chance. Even when we fail on our end of the bargain He still holds up His and we can see that He loves us more than we love Him. He has a greater love and we worship Him for it and become more like Him because of it. We would do Him the ultimate wrong (If you could kill God would you do it, would we kill Him again?) and yet He does us ultimately right, we can learn to see as Paul did (Philippians 3:8) and as Jesus taught us (John 12:24).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Perverting the Golden Rule (Radio / Podcast)

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 – ESV)

Many people espouse their version of the “Golden Rule”. However, the Golden Rule is NOT…

· Do unto others or they will do unto you (fear)

· Do unto others before they do unto you (malice)

· Do unto others because they have done unto you (retaliation)

· I won’t do unto others so that they won’t do unto me. (The silver rule often has been described as “the golden rule in a negative form.” It is the golden rule without the gold. “What you do not wish done to you, do not do to others.” This has found expression in the literature of many different cultures. Sayings like this forbid much, but they command nothing. Many people live by the principle of the silver rule: “It’s not my problem”; “it’s no skin off my nose”; “mind your own business”; and “take care of ‘number one’ ”. You might let yourself off the hook and think you are doing the golden rule by being loose with others, but it really is only so as to give yourself room to sin. The positive form is more telling than its negative counterpart, for it speaks against sins of omission as well as sins of commission. The goats in Matthew 25:31‑46 would be acquitted under the negative form. The negative confines us to the region of justice; the positive takes us into the region of generosity or grace. It isn’t “I want them to leave me alone” it is positive. It is not I’ll do unto others who can do back unto me (Luke 14:12-14) Mercy – helping someone that cannot pay you back it is not just don’t do, but do

· Do unto others as they would have you do (godlessness) – wrong it is not higher than Golden rule, a criminal wouldn’t want you to turn them in

· Do unto others so that they will do unto you (selfishness) (we should do it because we love, not for purchasing love or a desired reaction, thinking we deserve, driven by the desire to be satisfied, this one wears a subtle mask, radical flaw, we do things and expect them to do to us, or recognition, etc.)

· I won’t do unto others because they won’t do unto me (bitterness)

It is universal (whatever) / It requires action (do also to them) / It is grounded in divine revelation (this is the Law and the Prophets)

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Feeding the Monster (Radio / Podcast)

And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
(Mark 2:27 – ESV)

Here are some thoughts about institutions, both civil and church, in the light of our fallen humanity and its attendant depravity.

Help those in need, certainly; help everyone become needy, certainly not.

From each according to his ability
To each according to his need
This is not a Christian ideology, this is Marxism

What happens is that needs are created that didn’t exist before as slackers subsist on the welfare of others, while the truly needy are stuck in a queue somewhere.

What happens is that abilities are marginalized not motivated, as people have no reason to do more, or their best, there is no reason to push when everyone is on the wagon.

When the incentive is taken away productivity falls, and creativity dies.

No reason to do extra when good enough gets the same results and poor is equally awarded.

It is not only that doing more doesn’t gain anything; it is that doing less gets the same as doing more, or doing nothing.

In a fallen world, there will always be people who will only invest as much of themselves as is necessary to get the required benefit; we see it in church all the time.

Government can get so big, so intrusive, and so pervasive that it becomes a necessity beyond what it is intended to do, and we must continue to feed it, keep it going, make it bigger, because more are now so connected that if we fail to feed it, everyone else dies. That is when the state becomes the instrument of creative catastrophe.

The government is supposed to be an instrument to service the people, but the people become an instrument to service the government.

It is the same with a church.

The church is supposed to be an instrument to service the people, but the people become an instrument to service the church. We must feed the mega monster in order to keep her alive. That is when the church becomes the instrument of compromise.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 05, 2010

Before the Last Exit (Radio / Podcast)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 – ESV)

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 Paul uses the children of Israel in the wilderness as an object lesson about presuming upon the grace of God. Although they had escaped the bondage of Egypt, and had known of God’s grace and had experienced it (vs.1-4), nevertheless, many were still in bondage to sin, and they were judged (vs.5).

Indeed, from that first generation only Joshua and Caleb made it to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:30-32). Paul describes the nature of their offense as the desire for evil things (vs.6 / cf. Psalm 106:14), and then he gives us some specific instances which are representative of how they were confirmed in their sin.

· Idolatry (vs.7) (cf. Exodus 32:1-6)
· Immorality (vs.8) (cf. Numbers 25:1-9)
· Incitement (vs.9) (cf. Numbers 21:5-6)
· Indictment (vs.10) (cf. Numbers 16:41-49)

Paul then tells us that these things are a warning to us (vs.11). God dispensed judgment upon them in the physical realm and this is to be our warning about spiritual judgment, which might also have temporal, physical manifestations. He warns us to always be careful, because the minute that we think we have a particular sin mastered we are in danger of that very sin actually becoming our master (vs.12).

Now in context, verse 13, therefore, is telling us that we need to take the turn offs when they appear and stop traveling down the rotten road before those ways of escape disappear. The children of Israel presumed upon God’s grace and proved their lack of true faith. You have to continue down the grace road; if you do not, you are manifesting the lack of faith.

You can’t continue down the dark path and think that there will be an escape pod just waiting whenever you feel like turning back to God. People think they can coast, and then they wonder why this verse doesn’t seem to “work” for them. The examples Paul gives are a warning against precisely that. Repentance means we are turning back onto the Holy Highway. It is time to turn off of Temptation Street; believe me, you can’t afford the toll.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©