I am a follower of Jesus, and because of that, I get lumped into a large pool of people that go by various names. They are called Evangelicals. They are called Conservatives. They are called Homophobes.
They are called Christians.
A lot of what these people do embarrasses me, angers me, and leaves me shaking my head. I do not resonate with most of what they do. I do not prioritize life the way that they do. In fact, I actually hate some of the things that are done in Jesus’ name. I do not associate with them in many of their activities, and yet, because of a common shared faith in the person of Jesus, I am united with them in a bond that will never pass away.
The bottom line is this: though I do not sympathize or empathize with many (called) Christians, I am united with them by a shared faith and a mutual indwelling of God’s Spirit.
I cannot dismiss myself from them simply because they do things that I think are foolish. To do so would mean that my valuation of them is based upon a philosophical agreement, rather than the bond of Christ. To dismiss them would be to value my opinion over the truth of what Jesus prayed for and what Paul the Apostle declared: We are one in Christ.
I must be willing to be guilty by association to those who would paint me into the same corner as others with whom I disagree on many levels.
But this is the lesser of things to consider. To many, Jesus is guilty by associating with us.
When Christians do stupid things, He gets blamed, maligned, and mocked, yet He never disassociates Himself from us. When I do foolish things, He never turns away from me.
Jesus is willing to be mocked, blamed, misunderstood, and mis-characterized by the masses that see the foolish things that His followers do and say, often in His name.
If you are a Christ follower, it’s not about you, it’s about Him. Do not divorce yourself from those whom Jesus indwells, simply because they do things that embarrass you. Following Jesus isn’t all about you finding people that agree with you on every point. Following Jesus is to recognize the Church Universal, and to love her in spite of all her failings.
Though it isn’t right, Jesus is willing to be guilty by association. How about you?
God calls His people to different tasks, and He gives them different gifts by which they may serve Him, but gifting is only one side of this equation. God gives the calling and the gifting, but we must grow into these callings, and we must develop the gifts He has given us. We must also grow in the grace of God.
Let me offer a hypothetical example. A young man is called to be a leader in his church. He senses that calling even as a young teen. The sense of it is strong, and he is sure of it. But with that calling, the young man must grow spiritually. He must respond appropriately. There must be self discipline. There must be growth. Most importantly, he must learn to live in the grace of God for himself. He must be OK with who he is as a person. His victories must be tempered with the knowledge that God’s grace has enabled him. His failures must be met with a sureness that God’s grace pardons him because of Jesus. He must be sure to pay attention to God’s timing.
Let me offer an illustration. A young boy wants to be a soldier. He is intelligent, and a committed patriot. He studies weaponry and battle tactics. Because the army (church) is short on soldiers (servants), he is enlisted and outfitted. He is committed, but he hasn’t grown enough (matured enough) to be effective. He stumbles with boots that are four sizes too large. The gun is too heavy to carry. He fatigues in the battlefield because he doesn’t have the strength to carry the over-sized backpack. Instead of being an asset, he now becomes a liability. Not only can he not do his job, but he endangers his fellow soldiers who have to constantly rescue him. His comrades cannot depend on him. They may even begin to resent him; not because they don’t like him, but because instead of helping, he actually makes warfare (ministry) more dangerous (difficult).
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Editor’s Note- God disciplines His children for their good. Any loving parent knows this. When a person turns from their sins, God forgives immediately, but their full return to life as they knew it before might take a while, or, may never happen. That doesn’t mean that life after discipline and repentance can’t be good, indeed, it will be good….but may we not dictate to God what that ought to look like or when it should happen. Rather, may we believe that God will do what it right and good, and that He will do it at the perfect time.
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
1 Lord, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
Lord, you have been merciful to us. We were in Babylon because of our sins. I was away from my good life, my family, my friends, everything that I loved. I lost my job. You have disciplined us in your love, and now that time of discipline is over. Thank you.
2 You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. Selah
3 You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.
You have forgiven us. You no longer see the sins that caused us to be taken away. Thank you that that season is over.
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The Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) has decided that gay marriage should be allowed and supported in the United States. The predicted vitriol has surfaced from both sides of the argument. I think that God hates vitriol, no matter where it comes from. Actually, maybe He hates it more from those who bear His name.
Some are saying that the SCOTUS decision doesn’t affect me as a Christian or as a pastor. They are wrong…it affects me greatly. Life in the United States has changed, and it affects everyone, whether they have thought it through or not. The SCOTUS decision was a defining moment, and a pre-existing trajectory has been reaffirmed that I believe will bring negative results.
Simply put (according to what I believe) the Supreme Court of the United States has approved something that God disapproves of. The country in which I live has yet again reminded me that I am a pilgrim and a sojourner. I already knew that, but I feel it more deeply today.
If I am wrong…if there is no God, or if He exists but doesn’t care, then I have worried needlessly and preached incorrectly. But if what I believe is right, then the SCOTUS has acted in direct contradiction to the principles of God, and there will be negative consequences regarding their decision.
If there is a God, he is not mocked. If there is no God, then no worries, right?
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The world is full of negativity and sadness. That is a huge understatement. Even the Church has plenty of sad challenges within its four walls; God’s people are not immune to tragedy and setbacks. I have pastored since 1989…I have seen much within the church that can break one’s heart. Many times, my heart has been broken over the effects of sin within the church.
It seems that in the minds of some church leaders, the solution to sadness and negativity is to never talk about it. I think that the motivation to encourage people is a good intention. People need to be encouraged, and church is a great place for that to happen.
All that being so, I am concerned about what I believe is an unhealthy trend in many churches. There is a deliberate avoidance in talking about sin or judgment. The Body of Christ isn’t warned against straying from God, but instead is taught about how Jesus can improve your life. The unbeliever isn’t warned about fleeing the wrath to come, but is told that Jesus will fill the emptiness of their heart.
I DO believe that Jesus improves the life of His followers, and that he DOES fill a believer’s heart, but that is NOT the full preaching of the Gospel, nor is it the full counsel of the Word of God.
I think that some pastors are failing.
I don’t say that because I feel superior to anyone. I say that because some pastors are not teaching their congregations all of God’s Word, but only selected portions. In doing so, they are not making mature disciples, but only meeting the felt needs of the people. They are teaching from the Bible, but they are not teaching the Bible. There is a huge difference between those two practices.
Chicken Legged Disciples and the search for deeper teaching…
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I used to never want to post articles that covered the material that follows. I was fearful that people would think that I was complaining or wanted sympathy.
The Apostle Paul spoke candidly about his challenges, sufferings, and difficulties. He did so to further the Gospel. It is in that spirit that I post this link.
I complain to God, my wife, and a few friends. I don’t want sympathy…I love being a pastor. But for the sake of whoever this might help…please read. Blessings.
In the Spring of 2012, I decided to try a gluten free diet. I stumbled upon the idea while in a doctor’s appointment for my mom. She is diabetic, and her sugar levels had been a little high. The doctor reminded her about what her diet ought to look like, and then mentioned being careful about eating too much bread.
When you eat bread, it converts to sugar in your body. The doctor also mentioned that it adds belly fat. THAT caught my attention. :-/ I got home and started researching gluten free diets and weight loss, and then discovered another stream of thought regarding gluten and migraine headaches.
My internet research revealed that many people were testifying that gluten free diets had significantly reduced their migraine headaches. I am currently 57 years old (2013), and started getting migraines when I was about 23. Over the years, I have taken a lot of medication to control the pain, but I have always been worried about the long term side effects. One of my doctors told me that a long term side effect of one of my meds was that I would be pre-disposed to a stroke. :-(
In those 34 years, I have missed thousands of hours of life, missed family gatherings, work, and recreation time. I have cried, thrown up, moaned, and been sequestered in my bedroom with ice bags on my head and the room pitch black. Even after a migraine has subsided, there is what I call a “migraine hangover”, but what is more popularly called “brain fog”.
Even when I wasn’t suffering with migraine, I had brain fog most days. It is what it sounds like; an impaired ability to think clearly and process information. Brain fog makes it difficult to find the right words for conversation or form clear sentences. If you have known me for a while, and have sometimes wondered “what my problem was”, there is part of the explanation.
Adopting a gluten free diet has been absolutely life changing. My migraines have been reduce by 90%. That is unbelievable. The brain fog has almost totally disappeared. Another benefit of a gluten free diet has been a huge reduction in muscle aches. Bread turns to sugar, and too much sugar in your body creates stiffness in your muscles. I was constantly stiff and achey before going gluten free. The muscle pain has greatly decreased since going gluten free.
People ask me if it has been difficult to maintain a gluten free diet. The answer is a resounding and exclamatory NO! Considering the pain that I have suffered over the years, I am highly motivated to maintain a gluten free life. My life has radically changed for good since cutting gluten out of my life. Pain and loss of living is a strong motivator to not eat gluten.
There are many good resources online regarding gluten free living. If you suffer with migraine, muscle aches, or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), or if you have constant stomach pain…consider going gluten free for a few weeks and see how you feel. I noticed an improvement in three days.
Here is a link that can get you started on gluten free living. Blessings…
There is so much I want to tell you, and hear from you, but…
I don’t know if I will drive you away, make you mad, make you sad, or be misunderstood. There are those who would tell me that my feelings don’t matter, and that the truth must be told, whatever the cost. Yeah, I understand that…tell that to my heart.
I am telling the truth right now. I worry about you…I wonder about you…I pray for you…I ache for you. Yeah, I do.
There are a thousand million “truths” out there in the world, and I very humbly but very firmly believe I have found “the” truth. I believe in Jesus.
I know that you say you do too, but I wonder if you really do. Who am I to judge, you ask. You can consider me a busy body, a self righteous snob, or a loving friend…that’s up to you. No, I don’t know your heart, but Jesus said that “from the treasures of the heart, the mouth speaks”, and I hear you saying and see you doing things that cause me concern. (Matthew 12:34)
OK…here I go…
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I am a follower of Jesus.
Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities. Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable. But what about those other options? What about my desires, dreams, and hopes? Everyone has them, or had them at one time.
As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture. If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know. There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.
Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence. Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”. It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life. A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets. Such can be the outcome of a person’s life. We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.
To some I may sound idealistic. To others, legalistic and confined. I have considered those possibilities as well. I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.
As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic. Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”. Logic is the thing that seems obvious.
A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career. Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him. Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should. Two examples of this come to mind: Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell. Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.
People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell. Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.
Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths. Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher. Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.
Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best? Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?
Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good. Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path. Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life. God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.