May 20

Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures

FSHSWhen it comes to any matter of revelation, big or small, I want to know the truth. And knowing what the Bible teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit is no exception. However, if the title of this article piqued your interest, and you followed the link to see what “side of the Holy Spirit discussion I was going to come down on,” then I guess I will have to plead guilty to”bait and switch.”

You see, this article isn’t really about how the Holy Spirit works, but rather it is about our attitudes toward brethren who disagree with our understanding of this topic.

Please consider these three attitudinal points the next time you study with, talk to, or write an article about the work of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Represent each other fairly and accurately.  Straw men are always much easier to defeat, but such tactics are beneath the integrity a disciple of Jesus should possess (Titus 2:7).  How many times have we heard someone paint a caricature of a brother’s understanding of the Holy Spirit as, “He thinks the Holy Spirit is the Bible?” or “He thinks the Godhead is the ‘Father, Son, & Holy Scriptures?'” Then on the other extreme we hear people say things like, “He might as well claim to speak in tongues, do miracles, and write another book of the Bible?” Neither of these caricatures are fair or accurate. If one believes the Holy Spirit indwells representatively through the Word, don’t misrepresent him by saying he doesn’t believe in the indwelling. That just simply isn’t true. You may have a disagreement with him as to the manner of the indwelling, but you don’t have a disagreement on whether the Spirit indwells. Likewise, if one believes in a personal indwelling, don’t misrepresent his view by accusing him of leaning toward Pentecostalism. Such doesn’t necessarily follow.
  2. Don’t be so quick to make disagreements a fellowship issue. That is not to say there are no errors that are fellowship issues, but it is to say that not every disagreement, not every blind spot, and not every misunderstanding among brethren is a reason to divide and break fellowship.  In Romans 14, Paul addressed issues in the first century over which brethren disagreed.  Furthermore, he expounded on which side was correct and which side was incorrect in their understanding (Romans 14:14-15).  Yet, even after his explanation, he called for patience, understanding, tolerance, and love. While we should always strive to know and practice truth, not every misunderstanding of God’s will is a fellowship issue. Several years ago, a preacher I knew was calling for brethren to disfellowship another preacher because of a disagreement he had with him on the Holy Spirit. I asked this brother why this man’s “misunderstanding” required a breach of fellowship. I asked him what the criteria was for disfellowshipping one brother for an error and not disfellowshipping another brother for a different error. He had no answer to that question. If one hasn’t even worked out a criteria for fellowship and disfellowship, he might give pause before being so eager to disfellowship another. The consequences of believing we must
    agree on everything to remain in fellowship with each other will force us to draw our circle smaller and smaller. Eventually our circle will be so small we won’t even be able to worship with our spouse and children.
  3. Be more concerned with the conclusions of your study than the “camp” into which your study puts you. When someone with a denominational background studies with us, we continually encourage them to follow truth, even if it means they must make difficult changes. Why wouldn’t this good advice also apply to us? Stop worrying about who takes what position on the Holy Spirit. Instead, do your own diligent study.  Be content with the answers God gives, and stop looking for answers to questions God never asked.

So there you have it.  While I don’t have all the answers to all the questions that can be asked about the Holy Spirit, I do believe I have answers as to how we should approach this subject.  What do you think?

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May 07

When Jesus Got Angry

If I were to ask, “Can you tell me of a time when Jesus got angry?” I would suspect that most people could give me an instance or two. At the top of the list would probably be the “cleansing of the temple” (Matthew 21:12-13). Others may remember his scathing rebuke of the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:23ff). However, how many of us may not remember or even know that Jesus was angry at the follow events?

  1. Jesus was angry when the children were prevented from coming to him by his apostles (Matthew 19:14). Wait, Jesus was angry on that occasion?  Yes, he was.  While Matthew records Jesus as saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven,” Mark gives more detail.  Mark prefaced his statement with this, “But when Jesus saw it, he was greatly displeased [indignant ESV & NASB]…” (Mark 10:14).  In other words, Jesus got angry when people attempted to hinder children from coming to him.
  2. Jesus was also angry at the death of Lazarus. The text says that Jesus “groaned in the spirit” (John 11:33). The Greek word translated “groaned” is “embrimaomai” which literally means to “snort with anger.” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon).  Jesus wasn’t just sad (John 11:35), he was also angry at what death had done.

Well, did either of these two events come to your mind as times when Jesus got angry?  While they may not be frequently thought of, I for one, am certainly glad that God chose to inform us that these events actually made Jesus angry.

You see, you can learn much about a man by taking note of the things in which he delights and in the things that anger him.

Knowing that hindering children from coming to Jesus and know that death and its consequences angers Jesus makes me love and respect him all the more. I love knowing the things that Jesus loves and I love knowing the things that made Jesus angry.

Now, the challenge before us is to learn to love and to be angered by the same things.

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Apr 30

Pin-Ups and Beat Downs

consistencyDo you remember a few years ago when “Miss California” made national news when she failed to give a “politically correct” answer a question about homosexual marriage?  Because she stated that she believed marriage was to be between a man and a woman, she lost her chance at the title of “Miss USA,” but was hailed by conservatives as a paragon of virtue.

When this happened I wrote an article cautioning those who were ready to treat her as the new “pin-up” for morality. The reason for my caution was because I saw an inconsistency in holding up a women who parades herself in a bikini, to be scrutinized by onlookers, as a model for morality. But because she answered a question that fit one group’s agenda, other aspects of her life were overlooked. As circumstances had it, shortly after gaining national attention, several embarrassing photos of this young lady were published, and people had to take down their new “pin-up.”

Fast Forward…Just this past week, riots took place in the city of Baltimore.  One scene from those riots has been played on all the networks and has gone viral on the internet.  It is a short profanity laden video clip of a mother wildly flailing away at her son, smacking him in the face and head for his involvement in the riots. This mother has been interviewed by major networks on national television and praised her for her “beat down” of her son.  “We need more mother’s like her,” is what we’re being told. In fact, she’s even being called, “The Mother of the Year” in Baltimore.

Again, I offer words of caution.  While we need good mothers and fathers to hold up as role models, are we sure this woman’s actions are the model we want to extol?  Cursing at her son, wildly swinging and repeatedly hitting her sixteen-year-old son in the head and face?  Don’t be so anxious to see a parent take responsibility for her child that we endorse as virtuous what in reality is shameful.

These two examples should serve to remind us that we may have “blind spots.”  We may have an agenda we believe in so strongly that we latch onto the first thing we think might support it, only to later be forced to let it go. As a dog owner, I have had the experience of grilling out and accidentally dropping a hotdog.  Before I could retrieve it, my dog would spring into action and grab it, only to very quickly have to let go of it because it was so hot. I’m just saying we need to be more discerning that my pet. While we all have agendas that are important to us, we must be mindful of our blinds spots.

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Apr 22

5 Of The Greatest Challenges Facing The Church

empty_pews_smWhile I do not consider myself an expert in anything, I do have a few years of preaching experience under my belt.  Over the past 30 years of working with the church, preaching across the country, talking with elders, preachers, and members, I’ve identified a few challenges the church needs to work at overcoming. What do you think about my list?  Do you agree?

Preaching For “The Choir” But Not To “The Choir.”
The Church doesn’t need professional pulpiteers hired to entertain and please the masses.  What the church needs are men of conviction who will preach the truth in love, in season and out of season.  We need men who are not content to simply preach “for” the church, but to preach “to” the church, challenging her ethics, calling for repentance, upholding God’s doctrine, and leading the church out of mediocrity.

Youth Ministry That Caters To The Strong & Beautiful.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of catering to the advantaged. The first century church stumbled here too.  James had to remind the church that their desire to cater to the rich didn’t make sense since it was the rich who were oppressing the church. They were blinded by status. The rich, the beautiful, the strong and athletic…these people are “easy to love.” But often, they are the very ones who feel self-sufficient because of their advantages in life. We need youth ministry that doesn’t ignore the poor, unpopular, and discarded, and equally reaches out to them as well as the strong and beautiful.

Shepherds Who Shepherd The Flock, But Not The “Fence Jumpers.” 
It’s easy to oversee those who are compliant, but shepherds must also be willing to go, search for, find, and safely return the sheep who have left the flock and jumped the fence.  Elders can easily “busy themselves” with the compliant, but if no time is left to go after the “fence jumpers,” then an elderships’ time-management needs to be reconsidered.

Deacons Who Work at Not Working.
Through the years, I have heard from elders who were frustrated because they couldn’t get the deacons to work. Consequently, elders find themselves doing work the deacons should be doing, and the work that elders should be doing goes undone.  Becoming a deacon is not a “title;” it’s not an “election to an office.” It is an agreement to become a special servant of the church. When a deacon stops serving in that special capacity, he stops being a deacon, for it’s a work, not a title.

Members Who Maintain the Premises, But Won’t Maintain Their Promises. 
The church is stymied when the membership thinks their job is to maintain the premises. When the bulk of the congregation’s work revolves around the building, grounds, fellowship meals, activities, and weekly worship, the church will suffer.  The church needs to remember to maintain the promise they made to make Jesus Lord of their lives.  That promise demands a level of commitment that has to be taken outside of the premises and into the world.

While these aren’t the only challenges the church faces, they do identify five that we can begin working on today. I long for the day when the greatest challenge the church faces comes from the Devil and not ourselves.

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Apr 15

Saving Eutychus Without A Miracle

32483538_sOn one occasion while the apostle Paul was preaching, a young man named Eutychus fell asleep.  While asleep, he lost his balance and fell to his death from a third story window.  However, because Paul was a worker of miracles, this story doesn’t end tragically, but rather triumphantly.  The record states that Paul went down and raised this young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-9).

Since we live without access to the supernatural powers Paul possessed as an apostle, how are we to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring today? How can we save Eutychus without the power to raise the dead?

If you were to ask a preacher what makes people fall asleep during the sermon, your top five answers would probably be:

  1. They take medication that makes them sleepy.
  2. The songs were sung too slowly and drained the life out of everyone.
  3. They stayed out too late on Saturday night.
  4. Disengaged, carnal listeners who zone out when the Bible is preached.
  5. The thermostat was set too high, and the heat made people sleepy.

But did you notice that every one of the suggested reasons place the blame on the listener? Might I suggest that some of the blame might rest upon the preacher, himself? Consider the following:

  1. Preacher, don’t expect your listeners to be excited listening to a sermon you’re not excited to preach.
  2. Preacher, don’t make the Word of God boring to your listeners due to your lack of thought and study put into your preparation.
  3. Preacher, use illustrations that draw people into your lesson.  Finding the right illustration takes time, but it’s the way Jesus taught.
  4. Preacher, don’t use “warmed over” sermons you preached five years earlier.  The “Old, Old Story” needs to be preached over and over again, but do so in “fresh” ways and from new angles.
  5. Preacher, improve your introductions.  Grab your listeners’ attention, create suspense, and bring resolution in your conclusion.

So you see, maybe it’s not just the fault of everyone else.  Maybe preachers are just as much to blame.  So if we’re going to “save Eutychus” today, I offer these three parting suggestions:

  • Listeners, don’t lose sight of what it is you are hearing – the Word of God!
  • Preachers, don’t lose sight of what it is you are preaching – the Word of God!
  • Put bars on the windows.
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