Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Blame Game

folsom car crash

I happened to catch the news last night, and one particular story caught my attention. A police chase ended when a burglar crashed his car into a minivan containing a mother and child. My reaction was, “Look at the harm this criminal caused to innocent bystanders!”

The reporters asked for a statement from the father/grandfather of the woman and child. He said, “[The crash] could have easily resulted in death for both of them…I’ve been against chases because of the collateral damage that I’ve seen through the years” (source).

Wait, did I hear that right? It is the fault of the police that a burglar crashed into a minivan? When did we stop blaming the lawbreakers for the consequences of their foolish actions? When did we start reprimanding our protectors for chasing down criminals?

The police are now having to defend themselves for chasing down a criminal, for doing their job. The police stated plainly, “Unfortunately we cannot control how a suspect drives and whether a suspect is able to see traffic ahead of him.” In other words, the police can’t stop a criminal from making foolish decisions. And neither should they be blamed for them.

Often times when false teaching creeps into a congregation, the one who chases it down is blamed for the dwindling membership which so often follows. What is the outcome of that blame game?

  • A church that tries to cover up false teaching rather than expose it.
  • A church that tries to ignore sin rather than repent of it.
  • A church that allows false teachers to creep in among them as long as they aren’t too obvious about it.

All these follow because nobody wants to be the one who gets blamed. As we avoid the blame, however, we allow the flock of God to be torn apart by wolves in wool sweaters. That is wrong.

God commands us to actively expose sin and false teaching in our congregations (Eph. 5:11). You aren’t keeping the peace by ignoring it, you are letting a deadly infection grow beneath the surface (2 Tim. 2:16-18). The ones who call out sin and stand firmly against it are not the problem, they are guarding the flock of God (Acts 20:26-32). Those who set aside their own desires to fight for and serve the church of Christ ought to be held in high regard (Phil. 2:29-30). Encourage those who stand and teach the truth, especially when it is not received well (2 Tim. 4:1-5). They do so for your sake, so that you can obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10).

I don’t know the two in the minivan, but I do know several who are no longer faithful to God because they were unwilling to remain in the truth. Some were dear friends. I cannot blame the ones who hold to the truth for my friends’ lost state. Each person chooses how they will respond to the truth of God, and each person will bear the consequence of that decision, whether eternal life or eternal punishment. Instead of blaming those who hold to the truth, I am grateful to them for making the way of God plain so that one day those lost friends may return obediently to God (2 Tim. 2:24-26). May the faithful always chase down false teaching and sin in the church so that she may remain pure and acceptable in the eyes of God.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I’ve Already Looked Into It For Myself


“Don't you ever wish you could go back...with all the knowledge you have now?” –Uncle Rico

Time travel is a favorite dream of many. Most of us have some event in life that we would like to go back and change. If we could just stop ourselves from making that one mistake, that one bad investment, that one wrong turn, everything could be different. We like to think about going back and correcting mistakes or giving ourselves wise advice as a passerby so that our lives now could be better than they are.

In His wisdom God has caused us to live only in the present. We live each day as it comes without the ability to change what has been before. We cannot change what is past, and we cannot control the future, we can only choose what will be today. And today is enough for us (Matt. 6:34). Many times even today proves more challenging than we are willing to overcome.

As much as we might want to, we cannot go back and change what has happened in the past. For this reason Paul advises that we approach each day, each moment, with the wisdom of God’s Word in mind:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” -Ephesians 5:15–17 (NASB95)

As the moments pass, we write our history. Are you making the most of your moments? Do you choose what is wise, that which is according to the will of the Lord? As you look back on your today, are there regrets in it? If you could travel back in time, what would you change?

Although you cannot change what has passed, you can choose wisely now. You can write a better history starting now. How many days have you lived, regretting what you cannot change? How do you want to spend the rest of them? God’s will is that we live in the present, preparing for the future (2 Pet. 3:10-13). Today you can change tomorrow’s yesterday. Will you make the most of your time today?

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” -Psalm 90:12 (NASB95)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Calculated Risk

Tornado Watcher
When I tell people in California that I’m from Oklahoma, their response usually carries some confusion as to why anyone would want to live where tornadoes strike without warning, demolishing everything in their path. I often, and happily, return the question, “Why do you live where earthquakes shake homes to the ground?” Every place has disasters and risks attached to living there, and some are admittedly more dangerous than others. Australian researchers were interested in how people would react if they were warned of increased risk of natural disasters in already troubled areas. They found:
“Humans may be willing to put daily pleasure ahead of the threat of long-term disaster when selecting where to live.” (abc.net.au)
They found most people are determined to live in unsafe and risky locations as long as they like their surroundings. Most are willing to gamble their future and even their lives against disaster because they enjoy the daily routine.
For many, this risk-accepting mentality extends into their spiritual life as well. They have heard the warning offered by the Scriptures that Jesus will return for judgment unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (Luke 12:39-40), so why do so many continue to live in sin? Because they like their current surroundings. Because right now, life is good. Because today is all that matters to most of our world.
Christians, we must impress on our culture the need to look forward, to look beyond today and into eternity.
  • Give the warning again. Warn the lost of the judgment that is coming on an unexpected day, and warn of the eternal suffering that waits for those who ignore the Lord’s commands (Matt. 24:48-51).
  • Give the message of hope again. Speak simply the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:1-2). Spend the few moments to share the hope found through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and how to attain it (Acts 2:38).
  • Give them your Christian example. Let them see you living your life with godly principles at work. Show them you believe the message, and perhaps their mind will be changed (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Remember, not everyone is willing to be corrected (Prov. 1:7; 10:8). Some will stubbornly cling to their sins, and no person or message will convince them to let go. But there are a few who will listen (Matt. 7:13-14) and those few are worth every effort you can give (1 Cor. 9:19, 22). As you show God’s way to the many, you will find the few who will listen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Have You Learned Today?


We take a break of about 15 minutes between Sunday morning Bible class and worship. During that time the auditorium fills with the noise of adults and children talking, laughing, and discussing the events of the week. I love when the children have something special to show like a bookmark or a colored picture from their Bible lesson that morning. Hearing them describe what they learned in Bible class is precious. Names might get mixed up here or there, but their fascination with the events recorded in the Bible is encouraging to see on their faces and hear in their voices.

I encourage every parent and grandparent to make sure your children and grandchildren regularly attend Bible class on Sunday and Wednesday. Beyond all other benefits of this habit one stands supreme: They will learn God’s Word. Very few things are as important as teaching your children the Word of God as they grow. Teaching them the Bible sets their life on a good and right course, and will help them correctly make difficult decisions in the future. Proverbs 22:6 says:

6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Yes, our children will benefit greatly if we teach and train them in God’s way, which is the way they should go. But children do a curious thing: They imitate especially what they see their parents doing, and they repeat the words they hear their parents saying. It would be tragic to sabotage your attempts to raise them in the Lord by displaying apathy or irritation when it is time to assemble for worship or Bible class. They will see and hear you groaning at how much time it takes or how much better it would be to nap than gather for worship, and they will imitate you when they are grown.

What are you really teaching your children? They are learning all the time, not just when you give them to the Bible teacher. Teaching God’s truth must go beyond the doors of the church building. Show them that even adults continue to learn from God’s Word. Let them see your eagerness to learn and grow. Help them to desire greater knowledge and wisdom from God by desiring it yourself. When they are young they will imitate you, but as they grow they will learn the truth: You taught them to imitate Christ.

1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. -1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB95)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fans and Faith on Display


Just yesterday I was traveling from store to store looking for a tower fan for our living room. I visited four different businesses who carried fans and I was surprised that most were not plugged in at all, if they were even out of the box. The only fan that was plugged in was about $300 higher than the competition. The fan seemed to work great, just not great enough to earn THAT price (It’s a FAN, people, come on). So I was left with several fans to choose from, none of which I could try out or experience for myself. I checked internet reviews to see which was rated the highest and what the pros and cons were for each model. I wanted a fan that was quiet, powerful, and had the option to oscillate. Eventually I found one that seemed to have those qualities, and I made the purchase. After arriving home and turning it on, I was pleased. The fan was everything I hoped for.

It took around two hours to figure out which fan was the one worth purchasing. It could have taken 5 minutes if they were PLUGGED IN AND WORKING. That’s the power of a DISPLAY. It allows you in a few minutes to understand what would otherwise take hours.

Is your faith on display? To a lost soul searching for the truth, 5 minutes of displayed faith is powerfully convincing. We spend an awful lot of time talking about being faithful to Christ, we sing songs about walking with Him and following His example. All that good may be inside of you, and you may think about lots of ways to display your faith, but unless you plug your faith in it’s not going to do you any good, and the searching soul will never see it. Instead of living unplugged, boxed up lives, let’s plug in our faith and put in on display. Here’s some ideas:

  • There will be someone in your way in the grocery store. Introduce yourself and invite them to worship with you.
  • When you’re getting gasoline, introduce yourself and ask the person on the other pump if they’ve obeyed the gospel. They may be searching for answers you have found!
  • When you sign the receipt at a store or restaurant, write your phone number and Acts 2:38 in the white space. Who knows what could happen?

Let’s get creative. Seek out ways to make contact with the lost, put your faith on display for them to see, and share the results with your brethren on Sunday and Wednesday to encourage them to put their faith on display. Together we can win this world to Christ!

8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. –Titus 3:8 (NASB95)