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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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Some thoughts for fellow followers of Jesus…
The ten second sound bite version of what I am writing is this: If you blew it, and have a mess on your hands, let God fix it. You thought you could be in control and do things your own way, and now you have a mess. In your flesh, you made a mess. What makes you think that in your flesh, you can fix it? Better to walk in the Spirit like you should have to begin with. Walk in the Spirit, and let God fix it.
The longer version of the same story line is as follows…
Sin is a nasty thing. It promises much, and delivers little. The consequences are always bigger than the gratification. It never seems as bad as it really is…until later.
We get used to sinning. We minimize it. We get de-sensitized to it. We agree in our heads that something is wrong, but we do it anyway, intending to stop.
There are sins of commission: we do things that we know are wrong.
There are sins of omission: we don’t do things we know that we should.
The sin in a Christian’s life can run the gamut of not reading your Bible (dumb…you need God’s Word, heart, and direction) to something much more obvious, like substance abuse or sexual immorality. We can be committing little sins, like being disagreeable, or we can be committing bigger sins, such as being violent and a striker. A sin of omission might be that you don’t think that church attendance is important, and eventually find yourself isolated, alone, unchallenged, un-encouraged, etc. There are numerous examples of sins of commission and omission.
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Filed under: Christianity
, Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Self Awareness
, Spirit Filled Life
, Spiritual Blindness
, Spiritual Growth
Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity. In any city, there is the church universal. Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.
We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world. We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.
These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds. We meet them where they are at. We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”.
Human nature is such that we love our peer groups. Birds of a feather flock together. We all have that tendency. Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves. It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us. And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.
While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity. The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group. There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups. Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated. People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.
Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture. The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.
Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational. Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.
The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). There is a new culture called “Christian”. There is a new man called “Christian”. There is a new peer group called “Christian”.
If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.
If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.
We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen. Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.
I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church. They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it. The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group. All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.
Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society. Both are needed. We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group. Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur. Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them. Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.
Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person. Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter. Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.
I just returned from another week in Mexico. I have been there 10 out of the last 14 days. This last week was not fun. The first 24 hours I enjoyed my usual portions of tacos, rice, and egg dishes, but Wednesday night, we found a “nice” restaurant that served “Enselata de Cheffe”. That sounded good, so I ordered it. I didn’t stop to check that “Enselata de Cheffe” translated into “eat this and you’ll be sicker than a dog”. Yup, the next two days were spent in my hotel room doing what sick tourists do. Let the reader beware.
I appreciate good food, and will go a bit out of my way for a good meal, the word “bit” being somewhat relative depending on what I am craving. So yeah, I can be a bit snobby when it comes to food. I have really grown (no pun intended) to appreciate the fine dining found in the Napa Valley.
But I was thinking about food critics, and how over the top and extreme restaurant reviews, etc., can be. A good meal is one thing. Extreme, opinionated diatribes about food…me no like. At some point, it seems ridiculous. Chef wars? No thanks. Baking competition? Uh, no…unless I am judging.
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God is good, all the time. Part of His goodness is His willingness to disrupt our plans to sin, block the paths of our efforts towards unholiness, and cause us to have a wake up call and to realize that we are foolish to turn to anyone but Him.
God spoke through Hosea and said about His people:
Hosea 2:6, 7 “ Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, And wall her in, So that she cannot find her paths. 7 She will chase her lovers, But not overtake them; Yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘ I will go and return to my first husband, For then it was better for me than now.’
Pastor David Guzik comments…
I will hedge up your way with thorns: To bring Israel to repentance, God promised to set a hedge of thorns on the sides of her path, so that it would hurt whenever Israel went off the correct path, and so the wrong paths would be hard to find.
When God hedges our way with thorns, we usually don’t like it. We sometimes think God is against us when the thorns hurt and we can’t find the wrong paths. But it is really one of the sweetest expressions of God’s love to hedge up your way with thorns and to wall us in.
I will go and return to my first husband: When God allows the passing pleasures of sin to pass, we often then see how good it was to follow the LORD. In a marriage sometimes the grass can seem greener even with the best spouse; in our walk with the LORD our idols seem attractive until God exposes them. Then we are ready to return to our first husband, the LORD.
NOTE- Pastor David’s commentaries can be found at http://enduringword.com/
Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him…”.
To know Him must be our controlling desire as Christian believers, even as it was with Paul. He cannot be known just by hurried snatches of two-or-three minute “prayers” in the morning or at bed time. We must somehow get unhurriedly alone with Him long enough and often enough for Him to fulfill that promise of John xiv.21 “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and manifest myself to him”.
To know Him thus must be our deepest and dearest ambition.
Think how men have been mastered by the passion for money, the passion for power, the passion for knowledge, the passion to discover, to invent, to achieve. Then reflect how pathetically lackadaisical most of us are in this holiest and heavenliest pursuit of all! How easily we give way to discouragements and interruptions! There is a place for human resolving in this matter of knowing Christ. Spasmodic outbursts of prayer can never take the place of regular, daily withdrawings into His presence.
It is as Hosea vi.3 tells us: “Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord…”.
Excerpt from “Going Deeper”, by J. Sidlow Baxter.
Water cannot rise above its own level. Neither can a Christian by any sudden spasmodic effort rise above the level of his own spiritual life.
I have seen under the sun how a man of God will let his tongue go all day in light and frivolous conversation, let his interest roam abroad among the idle pleasures of this world, and then, under the necessity of preaching at night, seek a last minute reprieve just before the service and by cramming desperately in prayer try to put himself in a position where the spirit of the prophet will descend upon him as he enters the pulpit. By working himself up to an emotional white heat he may afterward have reason to congratulate himself that he had much liberty in preaching the Word. But he deceives himself and there is no wisdom in him. What he has been all day and all week is what he is when he opens his Bible to expound unto the people. Water cannot rise above its own level.
Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. The fruit tree is determined by the tree, and the fruit of life by the kind of life it is. What a man is interested in to the point of absorption both decides and reveals what kind of man he is; and the kind of man he is by a secret law of the soul decides the kind of fruit he will bear. The catch is that we are often unable to discover the true quality of our fruit until it is too late.
A.W. Tozer- from The Root of the Righteous
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.
We all have natural tendencies and a certain kind of disposition that makes us who we are. When we come to Christ, those tendencies don’t automatically disappear, nor would we want some of them to disappear. A lot of our natural tendencies are very useful as we dedicate them to God.
But as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells, us, there is a time in life for an opposite response from what our natural tendencies might lead us to do.
Some of our default settings need to be overruled. We shouldn’t always respond to every situation the same way. Jesus didn’t respond to everyone the same way, but responded according to the need of the moment, as He was led by the Holy Spirit.
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