Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Drawing the Right Lines


Can Christians who believe different things work together on similar things? Even when they belong to dissimilar churches? Or they have some very dissimilar ideas about doctrine?

Yes, if they will draw the right lines for the right situations. And those lines will necessarily depend on the scope of the work. Let me say it this way. If the mission is broad, the lines are narrow. If the mission is narrow, the lines are broad. And that’s a good thing. It is a good and necessary distinction. And more people ought to get a hold of this, and save themselves the frustration of wondering why we can’t all just get along. We can, if we draw the right lines.

So, let me do the work of explaining what I mean by that. 

The members of a local church will need more areas of agreement than the members of a parachurch ministry. This is because a church will participate in a broader spectrum of life and ministry than people who come together for a particular parachurch ministry.

Churches will draw different lines than parachurch ministries. A church will have certain doctrines and emphasize certain positions. Still, a church can work together with another church to accomplish some common goal. Even when they are not in the same “group” or denomination. Because they don’t have to agree on every doctrine to agree on a certain ministry mission. It is a limited partnership, and therefore it requires a more limited number of agreements.   

For example, there can be a lot of different churches who work together to provide disaster relief. Or who work together in a serving line for a soup kitchen. Maybe they come together for a season to advocate for a new Christian clinic.      

Now that’s church to church. Of course, inside a single local church, the lines are drawn differently. In a sense, more narrowly. Full cooperation within a church will require adherence to certain standards. The number of common commitments will be greater than with a parachurch ministry because the fellowship is more central, more pervasive, more permanent. The idea is not to make a church unique, and so narrow that no one can fit in. However, the teaching of certain distinctives will not be able to be avoided.     

In a parachurch ministry, those distinctives are less necessary. The amount of non-negotiables will be less. The lines are broader, because the mission is narrower. A parachurch ministry is usually devoted to a more singular emphasis, something specific, a more particularly focused mission. Therefore, it will be more limited and minimal in its formal positions. And so, there is room for people of different opinions on secondary matters to work together towards that mission, unless their practice of those opinions hinders that mission.

For example, a counseling ministry wouldn’t be addressing young earth vs. old earth creationism. That would be irrelevant to accomplishing the mission of the ministry.

Another example would be that a Calvinist and an Arminian, or a Cessationist and a Continuationist, or a Pre-tribulation dispensationalist and an Amillenialist, these can work together in a homeless or rescue mission, unless one or the other “pushes their brand”, trying to prove their position and focusing on those things as essential to the mission. They are not.

A third example would be that of a Christian K-12 school attached to a Pentecostal church. They teach biblical lessons, but they don’t focus on teaching students to speak in tongues, and they don’t require teachers to be Pentecostal. And those teachers who aren’t Pentecostal don’t teach against it. Rather, the school and its teachers focus on academics. And as far as religious instruction, they focus on the Gospel, the existence of God, and the authority of the Bible – God is real, the Bible is true, Jesus is the only way. Societal and political issues may be touched on in clear cases. The point is that it is a K-12 school, not a denominational seminary, and not a church.

Christians can work together, between the lines, in the same place, if they will do the work of drawing the right lines in the first place.  


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, June 10, 2022

Holding Forgiveness Hostage


Have you ever “fallen out” with someone? There is some sort of extended relational trouble. There was close friendship. Now there is cold formality. Something has happened, and now both sides are distant. Maybe there hasn’t been what people call ghosting. There is still some level of involvement. But it isn’t like it used to be. Maybe there hasn’t been what people call gaslighting. We haven’t tried to convince the other person that they are the villain. But it isn’t like it used to be. And maybe the reason is that our hearts are holding forgiveness hostage.

There is probably blame on both sides. But both sides are probably entrenched in a stubborn standoff. There hasn’t been any sort of actual attempt at biblical forgiveness. There hasn’t been any real Mark 11:25 in our hearts, and so there hasn’t been any real Luke 17:3 in our practice.

Now we may think or convince ourselves that we are willing to forgive. But we are only willing to forgive if it happens on our terms. This isn’t a real willingness. This is holding forgiveness hostage until our ransom demands are met. It feels like this…

I feel like you started it. So, I won’t come to confess and ask you for forgiveness until you come to confess and ask me for forgiveness first.

I feel like your part is the bigger part. So, I don’t want to admit my part in the wrong until I feel like you have admitted your part in the wrong.

I feel like you don’t see your part in this. So, I’m not going to come to you and ask for forgiveness when I know that you won’t reciprocate.

I could go on, but you get the idea. This is sinful stubbornness. I need to feel vindicated. But I am actually being vindictive. You are holding forgiveness hostage to your feelings. And it is hurting you. Because holding forgiveness hostage is holding your healing hostage.  


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Silence the Violence




In the light of another tragedy, another wicked display of violence, another school shooting, we are faced with choices, once again. What will we do? What should we do? What can we do?

Well, there will be calls for more gun control. Calls for stronger laws against violent crime. Calls for more education and programs such as mental health screening and counseling. And more.

I’m sure that there will be a lot of disagreement about what we think needs to be done. But I’m also sure that everyone will agree that we need to do something.

And this is good, and right. We need to limit the violence. We need to address these issues. But there is a deeper issue. Because preventing access to the means of murder does not prevent the ammunition of a murderous impulse. Penalizing violence won’t stop some people from being violent. Educating people can only go so far in reforming people. Identifying mental health issues doesn’t eliminate those issues.  

The only way we will silence the violence in our world is if we silence the violence in our hearts. The first step is yourself. One changed heart makes one step toward a changed world.

Now, we don’t want to be na├»ve. We could make great strides toward some sort of utopian society, where people are at peace with themselves and one another. And yet, while we are on our way, we would still have many problems. There would still be violence. And of course, we aren’t currently on that path to peace in any large measure anyway. So, in this world, you may be at peace, but you may still wind up being a victim of violence. Like those innocent children, attacked and murdered for no other reason than pure evil. That young man may have had a serious mental condition. Something made him feel like acting out was justified. But the act was still wrong. It was evil.

All of these answers, gun control, stronger laws, education, etc., they might be good and right steps to help limit the onslaught of violence. But the only way we will silence the violence in our world is if we silence the violence in our hearts. We need peace in our souls. And the only way to do that is to surrender to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. 

Jesus suffered the greatest injustice the world has ever known. The only completely innocent person who ever lived, was violently murdered. So that he would bring peace to those who believe in him. And that he could create a new world. One day, when he returns, there will be ultimate justice. And there will be ultimate peace.

Give up your war against God. Ask Jesus silence the violence, to bring his peace into your soul. And then you have truly begun to heal your world. 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Can You Imagine?




Can You Imagine?

(J.D. Hatfield) ©2013

 

Imagine there’s a heaven

Your conscience tells you why

There will be justice

Eternal and divine

Imagine all God’s people

Living for the Lord

 

Imagine there’s a kingdom

A Sovereign King there too

Something to live and die for

What Jesus said is true

Imagine all God’s people

Perfect and in peace

 

You may say that I’m evil

But our God’s the only one

I pray someday you’ll join us

And we’ll live with God as one

 

Imagine God’s possessions

The wonder of His plan

Only love for each other

God is one with man

Imagine all God’s people

Sharing all of God

 

You may say that I’m evil

But our God’s the only one

I pray someday you’ll join us

And we’ll live with God as one


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Trinity is the First Truth


What is the first truth that the Bible teaches? Well, what are the first words of the Bible?

 Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

·         There was a beginning

·         God was before the beginning

·         God created the beginning

These are the first truths that the Bible declares. And they are all so vital and valuable and connected. And they are echoed and expanded upon by John 1:1, using similar language.

John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

·         The Word was also before the beginning

·         The Word is distinct from God

·         But the Word is also God

Genesis 1:1 tells us that there is one God, one creator, who was before the beginning. But we see a fuller picture of this one God in John 1:1. We see a distinction as to persons but not a separation of those persons. In other words, the Word, who we know as Jesus, he is a distinct person from God, but he is also God. So, here we have God the Father and God the Son.

John 1:2 says – He was in the beginning with God. Here, we see the Son, the Word, Jesus, was with God the Father in the beginning. We know that this Word, who was and is God, and who was there at the beginning, also created when we see John 1:3. It says – All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made

Jesus is not a created being. He is uncreated. He is God. As Jesus says in Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 

So, when Genesis 1:1 says God created, it means both God the Father and God the Son created. And we know that this Word is God the Son because we see it in John 1:14, which says – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. As John 1:18 says – No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. God the Father and God the Son, both eternal, and both the Creator, are both God, of the same essence, but distinct from one another.  

And then we see a third person who is God, who was also with God in the beginning, and who also was involved in creation. Genesis 1:2 says – The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And then you see the events of creation unfold in vs.3 and following. So, this “Spirit of God” is also God. And God the Spirit is Creator. And we know God the Spirit is involved in the ongoing maintenance of creation. As Psalm 104:30 says – When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground

Now, you might think that this “Spirit of God” is not a distinct person. But Jesus, the Son of God, the Word who is also God, he calls the Spirit a person, who is still God, but who is distinct from both the Father and the Son. In John 14:26, Jesus says – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. You see all three, Father, Son, and Spirit in this verse, presented as distinct persons.

In John 15:26, Jesus says – …the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. Once again, you see all three, Father, Son, and Spirit, presented as distinct persons.

Romans 8:26 says – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. The Holy Spirit feels you, he prays for you, better than you can pray for yourself. He is a person, a person who was there before the beginning, a Creator, a person who is God.

So now, if Father, Son, and Spirit were before the beginning, and all are Creator, and all are God, but there is only one God, then what is the answer to all this? The answer is that God is one in essence, but three in person. This is what we call the Trinity, or Triunity of God. In a very real sense, the Trinity is the very first truth to know about God. It is the first truth of the Bible.  


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Why the Word isn’t Working


Romans 12:2 says – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

This text is pointing to your need for the word of God in your life. The Bible is the means of renewing your mind, changing what you think, how you think, how you process life, and how you make decisions.

But there is an issue, right here in this text.

As the text clearly says, being transformed by the renewal of your mind is the way to avoid being conformed to this world. And that is the issue. Transformation requires both positive and negative actions. In other words, you need to get the word of God working in your life, but part of that includes putting off those old patterns of life. Putting off the world, and putting on the word. These things work together, in concert with each other. Renewal is meant to be replacement.

The Apostle Paul speaks elsewhere of putting off one thing and putting on another. And as you get more word into your life, you crowd out that old way of life. You learn to discern what God’s will is, and your mind and your will are better equipped to want to do it. That’s the way the word of God works. You put the good stuff in and it pushes the garbage out. At least it’s supposed to.

What about you, though? Do you feel as if the word isn’t working for you? Is there a reason? Well, let me talk about one sure way that hinders the word of God in your life. There are others, but this is the big problem for most people.

The problem for most people is that they aren’t getting enough word. More precisely, they aren’t letting the word get into every part of their lives. Stay with me, this may not be what you think. In growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ, there will be other issues to address, but this issue must be addressed. You need to be immersed, marinated, saturated, in other words, fully engaged with the word of God. This is the only way that you will be renewed in your mind to such a degree that you are transformed in every area and arena of your practical life. Perhaps you’ve been dipped in it, maybe bathed a little in it, or even some parts of your life are full of the word of God. But again, you need to be immersed, marinated, saturated in the Scriptures. In other words, you need to be dunked in it, rolled around in it, and so well soaked that you are permeated with the word of God.

Now I’m getting at something here that may seem like you’ve heard it all before, but maybe you really haven’t. I don’t want to make you feel guilty, I want to show you how to grow. I want you to feel good, and hopeful, and confident that there is a clear path and definite plan for you to start getting the word to really have an effect in your life.

Sometimes people might not realize how little space they leave for the word in their lives. People are immersed in the culture, they marinate their minds with social media, and they are saturated with virtual reality, with politics, with any number of other things. That’s what’s having the most effect on them. The word of God is crowded out, or placed in a “Sunday morning and hopefully for less than 30 minutes” space. And maybe just every other week or so. You might think you’ve got to have your alone time, your family time, or whatever. I’m not trying to begrudge you that. And I’ll talk about your time in a minute. The point is that instead of the word saturating every part of your life, it is compartmentalized for when you think you need it. It is as if you expect that since the word of God is divine that it will replace your discipline. It will not.    

Romans 12:2 comes on the heels of Romans 12:1, which says – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. When you put Romans 12:1-2 together, it tells you that you need to sacrifice some of those things you might like to do for the most important thing you need to do. There is your answer. You have to give up some things, sacrifice them, to make time, in order to get the word working in your life so you won’t be fit into the pattern of this world and you’ll be able to live out the will of God in your experience.  

Now, speaking of experience, people are often looking for emotional or transformational encounters outside the word of God rather than saturating themselves with the word of God. And so, when then they hear a message like this, they think it just means they need to spend more time in their Bibles. As if it is just one more item to add to their “to do” list. You try and do that, you wear yourself out, and then you reason that you just don’t have enough time. And here we are, to the clarifying message I want to give to you from this text.  

You don’t need more time; you need to better use your time. To replace your time. To make time. You see, I’m not saying that you just need to add more and more Bible to your routine. I’m saying that you need to change your routine. I don’t want you to wear yourself out. I want you to wise yourself up. Replace time in the world with time in the word. That will always work.

You can fool me, but you can’t fool God, and please, don’t fool yourself. You don’t get to shortcut the process of permeation. Your lack will catch up to you. Yes, you should memorize verses of Scripture. But you don’t get to just memorize some verses and then think you can just whip them out like some “pocket Jesus” for those times you need extra help.

A lot of people can know a lot of Bible but still have only a little of the word working in their life. They treat God’s word like a college course that they just need to get through in order to graduate. But the word of God working in your life is a lifetime journey. It’s not a side issue.

Keep your sword sharp, my friends.  

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©






Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Why Do You Get So Upset?



When your child has a “boo-boo” and says, “It hurts when I touch it”, what’s the first thing you say? Don’t touch it. And this is right. If something is upsetting you, the first thing to do is to limit its influence. If the news is making you angry, don’t watch it. If social media makes your blood boil, get off of it. Learning to stay away from certain things is wise. It is biblical. Romans 13:14 – put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. 

But you can’t always stay away. Sometimes there is no way to avoid something. For the angry, and for the anxious, a “turn it off” approach is a step in the right direction. But it can’t be the whole plan. How many TVs will you have to turn off, how many websites will you have to log off, how many people will you have to put off, how many things will you have to swear off, until you realize that the issue is not outside of you, the issue is inside of you?

James 4:1 tells it like it is – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? The reason you have a war outside of you is because of the war inside you. There is something God is wanting to do inside you, and you are resisting, and so you have a war going on in your soul. And that inner war comes spilling outside.

There is a reason that you are always just a moment away from exploding

There is a reason why you think isolation is the only answer

There's a reason why you always think something else is the problem

There's a reason why you're so easily frustrated

There’s a reason why you’re so quickly annoyed

There’s a reason people find you irritable

There's a reason why you're so often disappointed

There’s a reason why you’re so offended

There's a reason why people so often fail to meet your expectations

There's a reason why you feel slighted, unrecognized, under-appreciated, taken for granted

The reason is always related to pride

The remedy is always related to humility

Vanity, jealousy, and even insecurity is rooted in pride. Deal with that, and you’ll learn to deal with people better. 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Thursday, March 03, 2022

The Best Way to Evangelize


The best way to evangelize at work is by being an excellent worker.

The best way to evangelize your family is by serving your family.

The best way to evangelize your spouse is by being a good spouse.

The best way to evangelize your friends is by being a faithful friend.

The best way to evangelize someone who is suffering is to suffer well yourself.

The best way to evangelize is by adorning the Gospel as a credible witness. A consistent witness. Your life speaks. And if it speaks well, people will speak to you about it. 

When you show people hope, they will open their ears. When you give them hope, they will open their hearts. 

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Feel the Love

In John 14:21, Jesus says – Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. This makes it clear that love-motivated obedience does result in greater revelations and experiences of God’s love. This is not a change in God’s love for you, but a change in your experience of God’s love for you. And this manifestation Jesus speaks of doesn’t mean visions and powers and such. It means you experience a more profound sweetness, intimacy, and intensity in your walk with God.  

I’m about to repeat two very famous sayings. They go together, and they have been said many times over many years by many people, and they are both true. The first one is this: If you are a Christian, there is nothing you can do to make God love you less. Hallelujah. The second one is this: If you are a Christian, there is nothing you can do to make God love you more. Amen.

If you are a Christian, there is nothing you can do to make God love you less, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you more. These are powerful and profound truths. I need to know that God loves me just the same when I fail him. Because I often fail him. And I need to know that I cannot earn more love from God. Because I often try to earn his love. 

These are truths that all Christians need. They help you combat your fear and your pride. But I think people often take these truths and misapply them to their lives. They take these truths about God’s love for his children, and think it means that it doesn’t matter what you do. But it does. And let me tell you how.

Yes, if you are a Christian, you can’t stop God from loving you. But you can stop experiencing the love of God. God is pouring out his love on you like rain. But Christians can put up an umbrella. God will continually feed you, but you can get out of the lunch line. The father never stopped loving the Prodigal Son, but until that son came back home, he didn’t experience the blessing of being with his father. You cannot change your union with Christ. But you can have an effect on your communion with Christ. 

When you’re stubborn, defiant, rebellious and willfully resisting God, there is a price to pay. You may not think it is happening, but it is. You may just shrug it all off because you feel good and things are going well. But you are settling for a lesser experience with God. Unless your god is your comfort, that is.

Yes, following Jesus will cost you. The gift of salvation is free, but the cost of discipleship is high. If you want to move forward with God, you don’t get to walk back the other way. And it can hurt when you have to lose in order to win. But the pain of changing is far less than the price of not changing. And the results are far better.

If you want to feel the love, then show the love. Start by going to God in prayer. Take responsibility and repent of your sins. Ask God to forgive you for grieving the Holy Spirit. Give thanks because you know that Jesus wants you to have a renewed experience his love. And then, act on it all by faith. And here is how. Galatians 5:13 says – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. You have the freedom to choose. So, the next time you feel like indulging in sin, find some way to serve someone else instead of serving your flesh. Yes, it may hurt, but it will also help. And it is the way of hope. It is walking with God. And the closer your walk, the greater your experience.   


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©