Tag: action

The great divorce: Belief from action

IMG_0349Ask a dumb question and you’re bound to get a bad answer. In the vast online discussion on living for Christ one such questions is rampant. What is more important: theology or how we live? Let me be frank, it’s a dumb question. Why? We act (live) based on what we believe (theology).

God to Joshua
God tells Joshua that he MUST be absorbed with the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). Why? That Joshua may be careful to do all that is written in it. The result is success. God did not distinguish between action and belief, He called for both. Right actions flow from right thinking. God designed us as theological & philosophical beings. Theology and philosophy are intensely pragmatic because it’s the source of our actions.

Paul to Timothy
A key theme Paul wrote to Timothy was to guard both ministry (living) and doctrine (theology). This theme echoes the idea that God instructed Joshua. Either bad theology or bad living will undercut our mission of making disciples. This is a tension in life that is best left in place. Resolving this tension, which is too often done, creates a bigger mess. Poor Christian living is often a result of bad theology.

The other words of Christ in red…
Jesus makes this point as well. In the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor Jesus upholds the value of upholding correct theology and living. Jesus calls out the error in either direction and praises success in either direction. While incorrect, people often value the words of Christ in red as more important than the other Holy Spirit (who is also God) parts of the Bible. Hilariously, people often forget the red words in Revelation. Jesus will judge our actions and doctrine.

This divorce hurts our kids
When we focus on belief vs action we lose the ESSENTIAL third rail of proclamation. God wants to be known and made known. The belief vs action debate is inherently self-focused. God upholds correct theology and correct living because He wants us to make Him known. It’s time to hang up the “preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” God wants us to use words. Bad theology and bad living will undercut our sharing that message. Our focus should be on our spiritual children and grand children.

The trinity
God the Father has a plan. Part of that plan is making Himself known to us. Life is not about us. God leads for His own name’s sake! God gave us the Bible (special revelation) so He could be KNOWN (theology). God the Son acted as a servant to point people to the Father. (He also did a lot of theology.) In communion this aspect of servanthood is demonstrated as we take the bread that symbolizes Jesus’ body which is for us. Becoming like Jesus is fundamentally servanthood (action). God the Spirit empowers God’s plan and living like Christ. The Spirit is our third rail. Acts 1:8 points this out. The Spirit leads us to not just live well, but to make God known (proclamation).

The bottom line:
We act based on what we believe. This drives us to share with others who God is by the power of the Spirit. Being like Jesus involves correct theology AND correct living for upholding our message of a risen savior. Don’t get stuck with the dumb question of belief vs living. Ask this question: Is my theology and life such that I can boldly proclaim the excellencies of Him who came as a servant, died innocently for our sin, rose victoriously on the third day and will soon return as King to make all things new?

Act don’t react: Odd Rapid Chemical Reactions

DSC_0336Act don’t react is a core proverb I follow. In studying history, particularly church history, I found people tend to react more than act. This often causes an unbalance or defining yourself as what you’re not vs what you are. Acting means to operate and explain who you are. Given my feeds lighting up with the “Strange Fire” conference, here are my thoughts to illustrate the proverb:

People don’t respond well do a direct assault.
Carefronting is done best from the side door because it focuses on relationships. Rather than set up a conference as a reaction to something, set it up to promote who you are. As such you teach truth and through that you can also rightly critique in error movements. Direct assaults, particularly in today’s culture, can inhibit your point.

Love really does matter!
Can the what about truth, what about sin garbage! If those were your first two thoughts, serious time needs to be spent in 1 Corinthians 13. Love does not equal being wishy-washy. What love focuses on is making a difference, not a point. The cross wasn’t pleasant, easy, or wishy-washy, but it was love. People who often here love and then think “what about truth, what about sin” often want to make a point and not a difference.

Rhetoric matters.
Paul instructs Timothy to guard his doctrine AND his speech. Speaking truth wrongly is sin just as teaching false doctrine is sin. Jesus made a joke about this scenario, something about removing a log from our own eye. We ACT based on what we BELIEVE. Bad rhetoric stems from a bad belief system. Further, bad rhetoric inhibits your goal. Stating “well, I’m standing for the truth” is no excuse. Rhetoric should first promote who you are.

It’s messy!
Ministry is messy! Acting vs reacting is grueling, hard, and takes time. It is not clean cut, often doesn’t get you accolades, but it is what the Spirit teaches us. I’ll let Paul speak to this:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

God has a plan, and we’re not God.
The story of Joseph makes this point well in Genesis 37-50. God’s plan will not be thwarted, even by our own mistakes! We’re not God, and while we’re called to guard our doctrine and speak truth, we should ACT on that vs react to other movements. Gently guiding and teaching people about is avoids the egg-shell walk. It also demonstrates class. Finally, it demonstrates humility by letting God be God. After all, God is the one who brings people to repentance.
The bottom line:
Act, don’t react!

Manic Monday: Love, exciting and true…

Translation 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, not bragging, not being conceited, not behaving improperly, not seeking its own, not being provoked, not calculating evil, not rejoicing in unrighteousness, but rejoicing the truth: [love] puts up with all, believes all, hopes all, bears all.

Thoughts on the passage
Paul describes the actions that love involves. Interestingly, these actions are of an emotional and attitude verbiage. Of the fifteen verbal descriptions of love, seven are stated positively, eight are described in a negative format: this is what love does, this is what love does not. More than giving a definition, Paul gives a picture of what the “fruit” of love looks like.

Each of the verbs Paul uses to describe love carries the idea of something that is ongoing, and not complete. Viewing love as a process denotes work and consistent focus. The words are fairly self-explanatory. The interesting thing is they are profoundly lacking in the Corinthian church. If “the list” is absent from one’s church or life, then love is also lacking. The verbal actions of love boil down the very definition of love: to prize, to hold as precious. If love were truly ingrained in the church, then 1 Corinthians would have been a very different book. If I prize people, if I hold God’s people as precious, it will actively demonstrated in how I interact with them. Paul defines love via its actions.

The bottom line:
Show some love

(especially on Monday)