Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trump the Tumultuous

We are ramping up to an election year, and this year is the wildest I have ever witnessed. Every day when I turn on the television, radio, or Facebook, I am bombarded with news from the past day, and especially news concerning Donald Trump’s interactions with various political and economic leaders. Most of those interactions are full of petty insults and hot tempers. If Donald Trump doesn’t like what you’re doing, you can bet your last dollar he’ll tweet about it to the whole world. This rough-sandpaper approach to conflict is doing wonders for Trump in the polls, but is this approach a good example to follow? Should I be more like the Tumultuous Trump?

The Proverbs teach us how to live wisely (or foolishly, if we so choose). Listen to their take on Trump’s approach:

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. (Prov. 12:16)

A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless. (Prov. 14:16)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Prov. 18:2)

A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov. 18:6)

Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. (Prov. 29:8)

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Prov. 29:11)

Trump's approach is not called wise by God. While it is tempting to imitate such behaviors, and while it may initially feel wonderful to get everything off your chest, in the long run you will find ruin.

Our Lord Jesus instead teaches us to resolve every conflict as privately and quickly as possible. Rather than calling out our grievances from the rooftops, we are to speak privately and make peace without incident (Matthew 18:15). Instead of stomping off to attend another congregation, we ought to be patient when we are wronged and work to make peace with our brethren (Phil. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Our culture is pushing us away from what God calls wise and toward what He calls foolish. Don’t fall into the trap, be patient and kind to each other even in correction, and find the wisdom of God.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Prov. 12:18)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Is The Holy Spirit Active Today?

Is the Holy Spirit active today? Emphatically, yes. The harder question is, “How?” There is a lot of talk in the religious world about how the Holy Spirit worked in the first century and how His work differs today. This article does not attempt to answer every question about everything the Bible has to say concerning the Holy Spirit, but rather to take notice of a peculiar parallel and make sense of its purpose.

In Luke 11:9-13, Jesus gives an example of our Heavenly Father’s goodness toward us, saying:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
The Father will give the Holy Spirit? What does that mean? What will He do for me? Will I be able to perform miracles like the apostles? Perhaps it means I will receive a feeling that tells me the right choices in difficult situations? Consider this: What if Jesus didn’t mean any of those things, and instead simply means that God will bless our lives if we ask Him to?

In Matthew 7:7-12, Jesus makes almost exactly the same statements, but changes His conclusion. Take a look:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
If we let these two passages interpret each other, every truly good thing we receive is given by God through the Holy Spirit; often in a very providential, seemingly natural way. Is it fair to say that every good thing comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17)? Of course it is. Maybe instead of all the abstract concepts we come up with today, Jesus is just trying to teach us that God is willing and able to bless our lives with every good thing we need, and especially the tools we need to serve Him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Planning for the Future

Every second you’re alive, you’re older than you were before. As you grow older in the church it can be tempting to enter Christian retirement. Your body limits your level of physical activity and so you move into the background, thinking you aren’t as useful as you once were. 

Instead of retiring from Christian work, consider changing the type of work in which you are involved. Older members, you are filled with experience and wisdom that is begging to be shared with younger Christians. Older members, you have been blessed with longevity, and in your life you have studied and learned and gained much insight concerning life and how to live for God. Share your wisdom. Mentor younger Christians. Help us to see life more clearly through your hindsight. 

Mentoring can be a daunting task, and you may be wondering about how to be a good mentor. Learn from the apostle Paul. He was a mentor especially to Timothy, and you can learn how to mentor effectively from watching that relationship. Here are three steps toward effective mentoring from the life of Paul and Timothy:

  • Praise Publicly (Philippians 2:19-22)
    When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he praised Timothy to them for his genuine concern for their welfare and that he sought the interests of Christ Jesus, not his own. Paul was singing Timothy’s praises to other Christians. An effective mentor sings the spiritual praises of his protégé to others openly and publicly.

  • Correct Privately (2 Timothy 1:6-7ff)
    Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, and in this second letter he reminds Timothy to “kindle afresh” or “fan into flame” the gift of God which he had received from the laying on of Paul’s hands. That implies Timothy had let his gift die down, and was neglecting his mission in Ephesus. Paul is correcting Timothy’s course as privately as he could, in this letter written to him personally. Effective mentors will keep correction honest and kind, and as private as possible. 

  • Trust Completely (1 Timothy 1:3)
    Paul spent time training Timothy personally in his travels, but there came a time when Timothy needed to work on his own. Paul left him in Ephesus with a mission to complete, and trusted he could accomplish it. Paul didn’t stay in the dock to swoop in the moment trouble arose. He trusted in Timothy to do the work. 

As Paul closed his final letter to Timothy, he charged him once again to remain faithful and complete the mission set before him (2 Timothy 4:1-5). And if Timothy wondered why so much was being placed on his shoulders, he only had to read a couple more verses. Paul explains that his own death is very near, and Timothy will be left to continue the work. 

Older members, you have precious little time to share with younger members the wealth of wisdom you have gathered. Younger members, you have precious little time to gain that wisdom before you are left on your own to continue the work. Let’s work together to strengthen the church!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Marriage Apocalypse?

CNN recently shared an interview with several millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) titled, “Ready for the marriage apocalypse?” The interview focused on their goals and future plans. While other subjects came up, the interview fixated on marriage and the fact that some of these millennials saw it as unnecessary, undesirable, and even irresponsible. Why would they view such a wonderful union in such a distorted way, you ask? Just think about what they have lived through! Current divorce rates are staggering, and after seeing the fallout that follows divorce (child support and custody battles, parents manipulating their children for personal gain, etc.) it is easy to see how a generation would want to steer clear of that horror show.

Is this the marriage apocalypse? I hope not, as marriage is the only way the human race can persist under God (Mt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:2). However, we are being presented with an opportunity to radically  reexamine what marriage ought to be. This generation has seen the problems that arise when two people marry without truly committing their lives to each other and God. They have seen, and often experienced, the emotional and psychological damage of divorce. The generations who have gone before have often presented a mangled and distorted view of what marriage was designed to be. When God designed and created it, marriage was very good (Gen. 1:31). But like so many things God created, we have abused it and turned it into something painful. If marriage is to persist, it must return to God’s design.

  • God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman, and it is to last for the rest of their lives (Mt. 19:4-6).
  • God designed marriage to provide companionship and aid (Gen. 2:18; 1 Pet. 3:7).
  • God designed marriage with sexual fulfillment for the man and woman in mind (1 Cor. 7:2-5)
  • God designed marriage to produce children (Gen. 1:28)
  • God designed marriage with spiritual growth and eternal life in mind (1 Cor. 7:16)

For many millennials, marriage has been seen through selfish eyes. What do I get from this relationship? How does my economic or social status rise based on my husband/wife? Is she a gold digger? Is he a dead-beat? We have seen the effects of such selfish motivations, haven’t we? They produce a “marriage apocalypse”.

Some in this new generation are realizing these self-centered goals do not end in marriage at all! They know a self-centered life will never produce a healthy marriage, and so they abandon marriage altogether.

Let me offer a different solution: Instead of abandoning marriage altogether, reexamine it, and let God show you its purpose. When you do, your understanding of marriage may be changed forever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just People In Pews?

For years, Christians have been encouraged to invite friends to worship with them. In that encouragement, the question “Why?” is often left unconsidered and ultimately unanswered. In response, many members conclude that the invitation of a friend to worship is the entire goal. That conclusion may even be reinforced by the announcement of attendance numbers the Sunday following a “Friends and Family Day”.

While inviting friends and family to worship is a good practice, the end goal must consist of more than people in pews. Christians have been called to make disciples (Mt. 28:19-20), and accomplishing that goal requires more than sitting in a pew together. When a friend visits the Lord’s church, consider what they see and take the opportunity to make a disciple.

What will they see? If we are the church Jesus purchased with His blood, they will see a great deal.

  • They will see true, pure love between members (Jn. 13:35). 
  • They will see imperfect people who help each other with their struggles (Gal. 6:1-2). 
  • They will see worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24)
  • They will see people listening to and seriously contemplating the Scriptures together (1 Tim. 4:13).

Now take the opportunity to make a disciple. These sights may well be enough to spark a visitor’s curiosity concerning the Lord’s church. In that curiosity rests an opportunity to make a disciple of Christ. A curious mind is fertile ground for the truth of the gospel. When that curiosity presents itself, listen and show them passages like these:

  • “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4)
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)
  • “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16:15-16)

Invite a friend to worship, yes, but realize that sitting in a pew together does not a disciple make. When they see the love, patience, and dedication to the Scriptures that is found in the Lord’s church, their curiosity may be sparked. And if they are unfamiliar with the gospel, you, Christian, must show them. Talk about what they saw, listen to their thoughts, and offer them the Scriptures so that they might be saved.

Remember our mission, brothers and sisters! Let’s teach the world, starting with the people we already know.