Friday, September 25, 2015

Confident people are less.... judgemental

Recently my wife and I went out for lunch, it was right after church and when we pulled in the restaurant parking lot, it was starting to fill up.  I dropped my wife off at the door to get in line to find a table for us.  It took a while for me to find a parking spot since the lunch rush was just about to explode, and all I could think of as I parked was how long it would take for us to be seated.

As I walked to the front door of the restaurant, I saw an elderly couple approaching too.  I hurried ahead of them and opened the door for them.  Even though I wanted to join my lovely wife as soon as possible, immediately I saw another couple walking up, so I held the door open for them.  Then a young family was walking to the door too, so I held the door open for them too.

I’m not bragging about being polite.  Trust me, normally I would hold the door open for an elderly couple anyday but then I would follow and simply walk on in.  I certainly didn’t plan to hold the door for that many people.  But it struck me as I held the door -- it’s easier to hold the door open for others when you know your seat is being secured.  Maybe that’s why Jesus tells us in John 14 He’s going to prepare a place for us, maybe it’s to help us feel secure, even confident.  

I don’t believe in the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved,” but here’s the spiritual overlap to holding the door open during the lunch rush -- when people are confident in their relationship with God, I think they feel less threatened by other people.  Whether it’s by new ideas or by doctrines they don’t agree with, when you are confidently close to God, you stop seeing other people as your competition.  And, overall, confident people are less judgmental.  When we trust God loves us and has forgiven us, we are free from the mental trap that God will accept me as long as I’m better than others or when I have a better understanding of the Bible than “they” do.  

There’s a problem with thinking your church/denomination is the only group of Christians going to heaven -- none of us are perfect in our knowledge or how we practice our faith.  Of course there are cults and yes there are groups who claim to know God, but really don’t.  Even so, with the imposters and the false teachers out there, this doesn't’ mean there’s no one else on the right path besides your tribe.

Even Jesus’ closest disciples seemed to wrestle with this.  I don’t know if they were overzealous, or if they were insecure.  But one thing is certain, even though they didn’t want other people to make claims on Jesus that they thought were theirs exclusively, Jesus didn’t agree with their position,  “38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.””  (Mk 9:38-41)

It’s one thing to be blessed, it’s quite another to be blessed and to know it.  Those who are blessed but ignore the fact they are blessed are usually thought of as being snobbish or as whiners.  A lifetime of reading has filled my head with priceless treasures; having a great wife to share life with has filled my heart with immeasurable joy; serving a God who has set my heart on fire has brought me endless gratitude.  The more blessed I feel, the less worried I am.  And, the more blessed I am, the easier it is to smile when I see other people walking through open doors or pearly gates.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The arrogance of preaching:

Today I ended up working 12 hours in concrete, but it's Monday. The preacher in me can't rest on a Monday when I don't have a good head start on Sunday's sermon. This evening as I started to think about Sunday's message, I began to think through the topic I plan to talk on, and I thought about the needs of the folks I preach to...

And then it kind of hit me. How arrogant it must seem, to have someone tell you how to live, how to serve God, to tell you what the Bible says about X,Y,Z. The very act of preaching assumes that people need some sort of course correction on their journey through life towards eternity, and we who stand in the gap have the answers.

 Thankfully, in my over 20 years of preaching, I've realized I don't have all the answers. Thankfully, I don't feel like the Bible Answer Man, and I don't feel like an expert.  And thankfully, I see preaching as a calling, a role that God established not to build up the preacher, but to build up His people.

While I've had seasons of life where I was an arrogant preacher (a much younger time in life...), I don't see the role of preaching as arrogance.  Instead, the danger of arrogance and the task of sharing God's Word has become humbling, even intimidating for me.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Planned Parenthood & a Message to the Church

I'm sharing a guest post here from a friend, Mike Lattier, who has articulated well how history will judge us if we remain inactive.  Mike himself has done more than just write on this topic, and he is an inspiration to all who would seek to do more.

A Message to the Church

Published by MIKE LATTIER on September 2, 2015

Image Courtesy of lifevesting

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life ... Declaration of Independence

There are certain times in the history of modern civilization when the Church, the body of Christian believers, is called upon to rise up against man's inhumanity to man. Infrequently, the Church does rise to the occasion. The abolitionist movement against slavery in this country was one such occasion when the Church led the cause to abolish that inhumane institution. Similarly, the Civil Rights movement was nurtured and sustained by black churches and pastors.

Too often though, the Church has remained silent in the face of mass destruction and brutality. The Church in Germany was largely silent when anti-Semitism was on the rise and later when Jews were being transported by the millions to German death camps. German Christians saw their government systematically wiping out an entire race of people and lifted not a finger in protest. Recently, the Church in America has stood passively by while thousands upon thousands of Christians in Syria, Ethiopia and Iraq have been beheaded, shot, raped and exterminated by ISIS.

The Church is now in the midst of another time of historical significance. We are witnessing in our own country the literal butchering and slaughter of the most innocent among us. Unborn babies are being treated no different, indeed even worse, than slaughterhouse cattle. These babies are being crushed, decapitated, having their faces split into, having their limbs ripped from their bodies, having their body parts spread out on a plate and picked through for their "valuable" organs, and even being delivered out of the womb and then murdered. And every member of the Church who pays taxes is forced to support the organization that is doing this. The level of brutality being committed against these innocent babies across the country is beyond comprehension. It is certainly no overstatement to say that it rivals the brutal medical experimentation carried on in the concentration camps by Nazi Joseph Mengele.

Yet, how has the Church responded to this wanton destruction of innocent human life in our midst? Have Church pastors, elders and leaders issued calls to action or, at the least, spoken out against it to their congregations? Have protests and marches been organized? Have Christians united en masse to demand action by Congress? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is no. Although many may be shocked by the revelations, on the whole, the entire body of believers has been deafenly silent, while the blood of the innocents cry out from their waste can graves.

Are you, Christian, the proverbial priest or Levite passing to the side of the man lying beaten and dying on the side of the road? Perhaps your answer is simply to pray for the situation. Perhaps you're not "led" to become involved. Well, Jesus did not give you that option.

The Good Samaritan took pity on the man lying in the road. He bandaged his wounds, pouring on precious oil and wine. He picked the man up, put him on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. He took his own money and paid the innkeeper to watch over the man. In other words, he stopped his routine. He got up off the donkey to care for the man. He broke a sweat. He gave of his time and money. In short, he showed love to the man, not by his prayers, but by his actions.

Will you be the Good Samaritan to these innocent lives? Will you give of your time and money? Will you get up out of your chairs and, yes, even off your knees and do something - anything? Will you show love to these children? Or, will you live through this time knowing that you spent 50 hours a month on Facebook or watching TV, but not one minute fighting to prevent further slaughter of these unwanted children. Will future generations look back on us Christians and ask: "How could they allow this to continue and not do anything to try to stop it?" Pastors, how will you answer the questions about the lack of leadership in the Church; how will you respond to those who ask, "How could you remain silent in the face of such inhumanity in your own communities?" We have witnessed fundamental changes being brought about by small minorities of committed individuals. How much more can be accomplished with the entire body of believers engaging in united action.

This is the time. We are at the moment. Will you answer the call to action? Or will you instead go inside your houses and close the doors so as not to smell the smoke rising from the incinerators? The choice is yours alone to make.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Does getting caught nullify sincere remorse?

These days Josh Duggar is on the hot seat, but his 15 minutes of fame will flicker out soon enough.  The next time around it will be a big name celebrity, a well known athlete, some politician, or a famous megachurch pastor who gets caught, forgive the pun, with his pants down.

Of course Duggar "is sorry," people say, but only because he got caught with an online "Ashley Madison" affair seeking account.  And, Duggar's wife reportedly is going to forgive him and move on, which has people all over the place infuriated, and this has people asking the question is he really sincerely sorry?

Let's rephrase the question: If someone continues to misbehave, but only quits after their deeds come to light, are they truly remorseful..., or are they only sorry because they were caught in the act?

I'm going to say, a person who gets caught red-handed can be authentically sorrowful, even though they didn't slow down in their wickedness until they were exposed.  Why?  Well, in a perfect world people would feel bad about their actions and then quit; but we don't live in a perfect world, because in a perfect world people don't turn their lives into train-wrecks.  And in a perfect world people don't need to quit bad behavior, because they avoid hurting their loved ones before they even get started.

Maybe, just maybe, the best thing that can happen to some people, ones who are entrapped in a dark sin, a bondage they can't break free from, is to get caught.  For some people, they only will stop when they are confronted with their dark secret.  Being sorry doesn't depend on if you get caught or not, being sorry doesn't depend on the reason why you quit, being sorry rests somewhere else.

Sure, to those on the short end of the stick, it would be more believable that the other person is truly remorseful if they quit all on their own, and then fessed up.  That's not too realistic, not for any of us.  And, there's a little bloodthirstiness on the line when people on the outside refuse to be satisfied by another person's apology.

Again, why am I convinced that a person can continue to make matters worse right up until they get busted, and they can still be sincerely apologetic and completely remorseful and 100% genuine when they say they are sorry?  I read a story about an ancient king who had a philandering problem.

This king who had his way with the women got an attractive women pregnant, and then killed her husband after a botched attempt to cover up the pregnancy.  It was only after the king was confronted by a prophet did the king feel bad about his actions.  Afterward this king wrote one of the most famous pieces of poetry in all of history.  I'll share a snippet of the poem:

“8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (PS 51:8-17)

Just for the record, I hadn't heard of Josh Duggar before his fall from grace, and I've never watched their family's reality show.  I hope for the best for him and his wife, I've learned in counseling people that you can forgive anything if you want to, and if you let God heal your wounded heart.