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A Needed Insight For Our Time

Beating up others – in violent riots, or violent social media posts, all because others believe differently than you … well, this is the height of social immaturity. May those who call themselves by the name of Christ be grown-ups, so the world can know what a grown-up looks like, and where to turn to find them.

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I saw a disturbing video, and could hardly believe it. A group of “Antifa” protesters beating up on a “Say No to Hate” rally. Beneath the Facebook post of the video were a number of comments about the rightness and (mostly) wrongness of these kinds of actions.

 

It dawned on me: As a populace, we are very weak and immature. Which is why we fight so much.

This according to the Apostle Paul. One of Paul’s major themes in the New Testament is how we should handle our deepest convictions. Paul acknowledges that we all have them, and they are often different.

Example: “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge (1 Cor. 8:6-7).

The Bible says that knowledge about God and the spiritual world is God-given. Not all have it, therefore not all believe the basics. So, how do we handle having this knowledge when other’s don’t?

“We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:1-3). ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:23).

We can have what we think is a better grip on reality, the truer facts of the situation, and a better idea about the next best course of actions. But this isn’t helpful just because it’s “right”. If we’re “puffed up”, we’re not helpful, and do our neighbor no good. Instead…

“I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them … to those outside the law I became as one outside the law that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

When it comes to the believer’s relationship with the world, it’s not about loving how right we think we are, then insisting that the world become like us. Rather, we become like them in order to love them, honor them, serve them. And hopefully during that interaction God gives them ears to hear and eyes to see … and are saved.

 

“As for the one who is weak, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes [one thing] while the weak person [another].  Let not the one despise the one … and let not the one … pass judgment on the [other]. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls … Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind  … For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God … each of us will give an account of himself to God” (sel. fr. Rom. 14). 

Welcome them. Be fully convinced, that’s fine … but don’t quarrel over opinions. Just don’t! And certainly don’t despise or pass judgment.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:23-33).

Give no offense! Try to please everyone. Because the issue isn’t who’s right. The issue is what will helps promote the truth, and salvation.

CONCLUSION: When we have sharp disagreements, mature people have the capacity to love their neighbor rather than insist on their own correctness. Mature people keep the bigger picture in view, not the heat of the momentary issue. Mature people humble themselves by crawling into the existence of the other — doing all they can to understand their hearts and minds — so that love will prevail over our contention.

* EO

 

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False Teaching – God’s Truth Isn’t Relative

There are so many warnings against false teaching in the scriptures.

false_360_189_90“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

“At [the end times] many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:10-13)

“False messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard” (Mark 13:22-23).

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Rom. 16:17-18).

“Such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith (1 Tim. 6:20-21).

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth (2 Tim. 2:15-18)

“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

ear tickleIn the presence of God and of Christ Jesus … I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth” (2 Tim. 4:1-4)

“There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3). 

This is “a thing”. A big thing! We can tell, because it’s repeated over and over in scripture. It’s like the incessant nature of gravitational pull – for some reason (I would say the fall), we have this inclination to drift from the pure truths laid out by Christ. And the consequences are fatal.

Pillar and FoundationOur cities, littered with denominational church institutions of numerous stripes, stands as a testimony to this reality in our day. Clearly, all “truths” are not created equal. In a culture where truth is relative, and everyone’s truth “ought to be honored”, it may be politically incorrect to insist on doctrinal purity … but it is no less important, and perhaps never more urgent. Churches need to be more effective at being the “pillar and foundation of the truth” in our world (1 Tim. 3:15). But individual believers also need to be relentlessly thorough in their knowledge about God. 

(To be continued…)

-EO

 

 

 

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1st Day of Christmastide

advent1“How can you believe in Jesus when there’s so much hatred in the world?”

Today’s Christmastide text is 1 John 4:7-16. All of these truths come from this passage:

  • if-god-exists-then-why-is-there-so-much-evil-in-the-world-todayThe Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Merry Christmas!
  • God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. The coming of Jesus is more than a sentimental idea … it’s a revelation of divine love, and is meant to change the way we live our lives.
  • Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. Right. 
  • In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son. If we want more love in the world, we need to realize it’s found in God, not in ourselves without God.
  • Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. An un-loving world is a godless world. Knowing God is the only genuine antidote for loveless living. Trying hard to be more loving, without God … well, it’s a cul-de-sac.
  • We have known and believe the love that God has for us. This is what’s critically missing in our world. Many don’t know about what Jesus means, and many who have heard don’t believe.
  • By this we know that we abide in him and he in us – he has given us of his Spirit … God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. God visited us in the person of Jesus that first Christmas – Emmanuel, God with us. Ever since, He has come to open hearts and minds by His Holy Spirit – the very presence of God, abiding in us.

love-is-possibleStrange that the world blames God for its lack of love. In Christ He came to show how we should live — and by our experiencing His Spirit, He empowers us to make it happen. In short – God has offered the solution to the hatred in our world.

So, who’s really to blame for our lack of love? To a degree, Christians … who have defaulted in our call to share the truths of Christmas, and encourage knowledge of and belief in God. But mostly, it’s our collective penchant for godlessness, which seems to be growing more every day in the Western world.

Lord, you have gifted the world with an amazing capacity to be loving and compassionate. Thank you that millions are receiving this truth around the world. I pray for our country, which seems bent on detaching from You, and trying to do our best without you. Please help your people to effectively live out Spirit-inspired love, and share the truths of Jesus boldly. Amen. 

– EO

 

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Well, Well … If It Isn’t the Truth Teller …

Let’s face it: We live in an age in which people want their understanding of truth to be affirmed, not challenged. They want their opinion to be honored, not corrected. A preferred truth reigns over actual truth. “There is a way that seems right to a man,” and it is heresy for that man to capitulate to the words of another.

Jeremiah 38: God’s prophet has a word for the people: Surrender to Babylon. You’ll live, and the city will be saved.  But, if you try to defend yourselves from Babylon, you’ll lose, and the city will be burned to the ground (38:17-18).

Jeremiah didn’t make this up. It’s the word of God. Hejeremiah_pit‘s just doing his job – hear from God, and tell the people. All he wants to do it help. And he’s right.

But the self-confident and hawkish military leaders under King Zedekiah say, “This man ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers … he is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm” (38:4). Their answer? Get royal permission to have Jeremiah killed. Their method? Throw him into a muddy well to die … “and Jeremiah sank in the mud” (38:6).

Well … Jeremiah gets saved by a very nice eunuch from the palace, and gets another audience with Zedekiah. Despite his near-death experience in the cistern, Jeremiah’s prophetic word remains the same. Zedekiah hears them, and believes them … but knows the political ramifications of accepting Jeremiah’s version of the truth, and putting it into practice. So he charges Jeremiah: “Do not let anyone else know of this conversation, or you will die” (38:24).

Well, well … Jeremiah and Zedekiah are now in cahoots. They want to bless the people by leading them according to truth. But they both know that they are on a slippery slope that may well take them from unpopularity to assassination.

Such is life as a spokesman for God’s truth.

Parents experience this every day. All good parents want to do is bless their children. Good parents know truths that their children don’t. But the kids don’t see it that way. When parents insist on what’s best for a child, they will often be met with pouts, tantrums, slammed doors and withheld affection. Parents are then tempted to toss their convictions into the well … to keep the peace, and stay liked.

Pastors deal with this, too. Steeped in the study of the scriptures, pastors have good ideas about lives can be lived within the blessing of God. They often see trouble coming in people’s sin-bent lives, and want to see them saved from self-destruction. But God forbid that they challenge people with those truths! It’s far easier, in the name of “love” and “inclusivity” to affirm the “way that seems right to a man,” and let the chips fall where they may. People’s lives may fail, but at least they’ll like their church.

Christian citizens are in a similar cultural predicament. We love our neighbors … we really do! We know that living according to God’s truths spells blessing for them. And we know that the wages of disobedience to those truths (a.k.a., “sin”) is death. So we proclaim. We warn. We try to persuade. We only want to help. But, no. We’re judgmental. We’re intolerant. We’re “haters”.

They threw Jeremiah in a well. Kids will try to run away from home. Parishioners will leave for other churches. And the world will blast and censor our Word-of-God-shaped cultural commentary.

Oh … and they crucified Jesus. Just before that Good Friday, He told his disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A
Mud People (2)servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours”
(John 15:20). 

Well … I sense it’s only going to get muddier.

 

 

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The Gospel Wears Me Out

I made the mistake today of checking out public opinion. And I’m amazed, saddened and tired of the way our contemporary society “dialogues” about issues.

Lobster DudeOne liberal TV personality is ripping another network for its repeated stories about a surfer dude who buys lobster with his food stamps.

Can’t networks just report what they want? And we’ll watch (or not)? “Free speech” isn’t really “free” if all we do is lambast people for saying what they want to.

Thousands, along with a major beer maker, are ripping the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade for not allowing the LGBT community to march in their own honor in their parade.

Imagine – a parade in honor of a Christian saint, not celebrating what the Bible clearly calls immoral behavior. Aren’t the parade organizers free to do whatever they want with their parade?

NASA photoMeanwhile, The Guardian has published a story about a NASA research study which warns of a systematic collapse of the industrialized world, perhaps in about 15 years – to the mockery of many of its readers.

Instead of just reading this article, and giving consideration to its contents, do we have to attack it’s validity and appropriateness? Slow to listen, quick to speak, quick to anger.

What’s fatiguing about all of this is that we can’t even talk anymore. Everyone seems to be in attack mode. People are angry. In “the land of the free,” where we have our rights, and an unmatched level of economic prosperity, we’re not at peace. Not even close.

What makes this hard for me during this Lenten season is … well, I’d like to make a difference. The main difference I would like to make is the sharing of the truths of Gospel: That God created a wonderful world — but then man messed it up — but that God has reached back to us in Christ to reestablish our friendship with God. God has not only promised eternal life, but a blessed life now if we choose to follow His precepts. think this is great news!

But, I get tired of sharing it. Really tired. Why?

BibleI believe God has spoken about life as we know it, and made His word clear about many of today’s issues. I believe these truths are compiled in the Bible. I believe that there is blessing in believing and following God’s ideas. I also believe there is great danger in ignoring God, and living against His ways. When I share this, it’s because I care about people, and want them to have what I’m convinced is the best possible life — reconciled to and blessed by God, forever.

But, in our climate of dialogue now days, this message, and its messengers, have been radically reinterpreted. Now, I’m a hater. I’m a bigot. I’m intolerant. I’m oppressive. I’m a prude. I’m against liberty and freedom. I’m unenlightened. I’m a lemming.

Honestly, there are days I feel like saying, “Whatever. I’m good. I was told about the ark, and I’ve got salvation secured. I have a life that is (often, not always) blessed as I seek to live according to the scriptures. And I have a community of like-minded people with whom to enjoy this Christocentric life. You don’t want me to share the gospel? FINE. I won’t. Go ahead with your anti-God life. Roll the dice, and we’ll see what happens.”

Pick up crossI think that’s where a lot of believers are today. It just hurts too much to care. So we recoil, cocoon, and enjoy our like-minded fellowships. But there’s a gnawing guilt we all share that there’s a hole in this kind of gospel living.

It’s inescapable. We’re to proclaim this Gospel as we offer practical love and service to the angry, ungrateful world around us. And we’re to pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus – because He knows we’ll get crucified by this world, even as we’re simply trying to help it.

 

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