Pastors, people saying let’s go Brandon don’t need your critique. They need hope. Too often we foolishly call out matters that are best left alone. Grievously, we don’t call out things the Bible has a bigger issue with. I recently read an article decrying Christians … Continue reading How can a Christian say Let’s Go Brandon?
Should I take a stand on public matters that are political when I am a church? This is a question, in various forms, asked of me in the last month. In my prior article on this topic, found here, I address areas where repentance is … Continue reading Engage: Solutions to getting involved
Should I take a stand on public matters that are political when I am a church? This is a question, in various forms, asked of me in the last month. Many pastors are challenged by the issues of our day. Should stances be made in … Continue reading Engage: Repent from apathy or neglect
We are losing the importance of education. Not degrees or schooling, but of actual learning. A week does not go by where I read “but seminary didn’t…” or “it doesn’t matter how much you know…” or “I just tell me what to do…” We do … Continue reading The brain is a vital organ
“How does Jesus pointing people to God the Father line up with the emphasis on Jesus in preaching?” I asked during a conference. “It seems with our emphasis on Jesus in the Scriptures we are forgetting God the Father, who Jesus pointed to, submitted to, and sacrificed himself so we can have a relationship with. Later I watched an interview of a celebrity pastor give an awful answer to politics in relationship to preaching to a right of center pundit. He tossed aside the issue of economics but focused on morality illustrated by speaking to the right to life issue. The Bible has much to say concerning economics. It’s a moral issue.
We need an alignment
Our tires were months old, but no longer good. We needed an alignment. At that time in our marriage, we drove over 175,000 miles in three years. That means we needed 5 alignments a year. Oops. With the laser focus on the centrality of the Gospel or Christ we have done something similar with the church. We are in need of fresh tires because of over emphasis. At this point the “yeah…but…” is starting to rise. While the Gospel is the main thing, it’s not the only thing. While it is most important “I delivered to you as of first importance…” It is not the only thing that Paul, Jesus, and the Bible spoke on. So why do we need an alignment?
Foolishness is evil
Jesus said in Mark 7 that what comes out of a person is what defiles them. He gives a list. At the end of the list is foolishness. Why is this a big deal? Because right after that Jesus says “All the EVIL things…” Foolishness is evil, according to Jesus. Proverbs makes the point that to be wise is to be godly. Paul, in Ephesians 5 flips that. To be godly is to be wise, “making the best use of the time for the days are evil.” The preacher of Hebrews relegates the basics of the faith as milk, not solid food. The church is out of practice when it comes to “the mature who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
What are you saying?
Would an average Christian have an informed answer when asked what is the biblical view of government, economics, and what criteria for judging nations? Some reading this may say “The Bible teaches on politics?!” The Bible speaks deeply about these matters. Do a study on “unjust scales” for example. (Federal Reserve system won’t match up too well with this.) Do a study on God judging a nation based on Nahum 3. (The U.S. foreign policy wont match up well will this.) Do a study on coveting. (Push towards socialism won’t match up well.) And if you’re thinking “…well, that’s the obsolete testament, old covenant thing…” Remember God judges nations in Revelation, which voluminously quotes from the Prophets. We need to build discernment in all areas of life.
Is Jesus the main thing or the Father?
More importantly the need of an alignment is our view on God the Father. While much of the Bible points to and is about Jesus, I would suggest God the Father is the central figure. We ignore him too often. Paul alludes to this in Philippians when he says “… every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul’s prayer in Ephesians chapter one amplifies this point. Paul thanks the father for the work done in us, through us and for us in Jesus. But more than that is what Jesus said.
A few things that Jesus said in Matthew
… so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. … so that you you may be sons of your Father who is heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good… You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. …your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. All things have been handed over to me by my Father… For whoever does does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. My Father if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
- While the preaching of the Gospel is primary, and Jesus the agent that makes that happen, as Gospel centered people we must point people to Father. Jesus did. Significant parts of the Bible are about our Father. In focusing on what Jesus is to us, let us not forget that our brother Jesus established our relationship with the Father, goes before the Father on our behalf, and that together we glorify the Father by doing Dad’s will.
- As foolishness is evil, and the current time evil, let us sharpen our discernment to distinguish good from evil. Let us be deep, reasoned, and thoughtful saints. Let us think, judge and redeem every area of life around us. This involves knowing the whole counsel of God, and applying it to life, family, relationships, economics, politics, ethics, philosophy, history, protection, law, childrearing, conflict, science, engineering, environment, criminal justice, monetary policy, entertainment, etc., etc., etc.
- Preach Jesus! While the church needs an alignment, we must not “swing the pendulum” the other direction. Without Jesus, we cannot know who is central, the Father. Without Jesus, we lack the power of the Holy Spirit to live biblically discerning lives. Without Jesus, we are of all most people to be pitied. In course correcting, let us never forget that the Gospel was delivered to us as of first importance. Preach Jesus, and don’t forget to build discernment. Preach Jesus, and don’t forget our Father in heaven. Let us be in proper alignment and not out of balance. Our culture needs this from us.
This questions was raised recently and I thought I had blogged on it. I did, but never posted it. In today’s religious climate, much of what people can gain from going to church can be seemingly obtained from other avenues. What makes going to church unique is something that is critical for the church to rediscover.
Yeah but crowd
At this juncture someone is no doubt thinking we are the church, we don’t go to church. It is really both. I said often I need to leave a particular meeting and go to family time. That time, designated family, doesn’t mean that I’m not family when I’m apart from them. Quite the contrary, we set aside- make holy- special times for family. The same is true of church. Yes, we go to church.
Categories of Christians
Many of the non-church going Christians, or sporadic church goers fit into a few categories: naive, so-called spiritual, spiritual abuse survivors, and unspiritual. The naive suffer from a simple lack of theological development. So-called spiritual crowd border on either being heretics or idol worship of which sports is a major one. Spiritual abuse survivors stem from either over reacting to legalism of ‘if the doors are open you have to be there’ or they were traumatized to the level that a physical reaction to going to church is hard to overcome. Unspiritual are people who claim to be Christian, understand the importance of church, but choose to put other priorities over the church.
What Jesus couldn’t explain
In John 3, Jesus describes the workings of the Holy Spirit as a mystery. We know that he works, and we see fruit of his working, but not even Jesus could explain it. The Father and the Son send the Helper for our benefit. There is a critical function going to church fulfills in our relationship to God. Specifically the working of the Spirit. The Spirit’s mysterious work incorporates the Scriptures, our spirit, and the Spirit’s work in other believers, as we gather. Much of North American Christianity has a too individualistic view of the Spirit when it is clearly a corporate issue. We- the church- are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Danger, danger, danger
Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in the gathering of the church family, there is a dangerous element if treated too casually. Warnings against putting out the Spirit’s fire, grieving the Holy Spirit, or lying to the Holy Spirit in worship is connected to church gatherings. Being dismissive of the Spirit in worship can, has, and does cause death or maladies. As Jesus died once for all sin, that does not mean we can do what we want. We can grieve God to the point where he sends us home.
The tension with church is this: Not going to church is a sin, but having to go to church every time the door is open is a sin of legalism. Discernment is the key. That said the sin isn’t so much in performance of church going as it is in priority. The purpose of going to church is building up other believers. It is to serve your church family. That simply cannot happen well with sporadic or non-attendance. Failure in this grieves God, much as failing to make family a priority grieves parents.
Think garden not weeds
Weeds grow organically, great, and everywhere. Gardens are organized, take time, and require nurturing. The church is a garden and not a bed of weeds. This no doubt ticks off the organic church or spiritual crowd. Organization, logic, programing is not the antithesis of spirituality, it is actually the expression of it! Order and filling are key aspects to a biblical worldview. Such is about nurturing like that of artistic expression, not the coldness of manufactured products.
You cannot be a Christian, spiritual, or have a great relationship with God, and write off the church. This grieves the Holy Spirit. Jesus died for the church. God the Father gave the church to his Son. Part of “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” is in relationship to the church. John says that if we say we love God, but hate our brother, we are a liar and the truth is not in us. Much church bashing or neglect demonstrates a lack of love for God. Answer this, how would you feel is someone consistently dissed you, neglected you, and at the same time said they loved you?
So why go to church?
Christianity is a religion based on a relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that is expressed in a family we call church. For the Christian to neglect church is a sin. There are a variety of reasons to have that sin struggle, but it is not legalistic to say one needs to be engaged in church. Church, like all families, is not about what you get but about what you give to the relationship.
We are too often incoherent in our treatment of alcohol. I delayed writing this for sometime as I have friends on all sides of the issue. More frequently I see posts of articles decrying alcohol in a way that is frankly void of biblical thinking. Being asked about this question often, I suppose publicly stating a position is important. What, then, is a Gospel centered approach to alcohol? Simple: discern how, when, and if you should drink or not drink. Simple enough…
Alcohol is not sin
It is not a sin to drink alcohol. It is a sin to get drunk. Period. Too much preaching points to alcohol as being sinful, which is unbiblical. Some even hedge this a bit by saying strong drink is a sin, also unbiblical. Why? Because God allows for it and he also drank and will drink. At this point my abstaining friends are thinking “yeah, but…” The problem is unbiblical preaching is inherently unstable, and frankly for my pastor friends, poor preaching. There are clear benefits to drinking supported by both science and Scripture.
Getting drunk is sin
The Bible EXPLICITLY states that being drunk is sin. There is a line clearly drawn in Scripture. I am all for preaching against drunkenness for it has firm biblical handles from Genesis to Revelation. There are even groups of people who shouldn’t drink based on certain passages, and there is practical application to those in our modern context.
Preach broader than alcohol
The fruit of the spirit lists self-control. This issue is much broader than alcohol, but I’d submit includes alcohol. If one is predisposed to lacking self-control, or specifically lacks self-control in a particular area, that area should be avoided. Lack of self-control in playing video games can have a similar appearance to a person on drugs. In the Gospel we are free, but not free to sow to the flesh, but to the spirit. Preaching on self-control nails everyone and has the benefit of being biblical.
1) Wine is different… People got and get drunk Genesis through Revelation. Whether it takes 1 drink of 10 drinks to get drunk does not matter. Drunkenness is the sin. Also, the relationship of water to wine is such that one based on sermon on the topic a doctor told me a person would drown in their own tissue for consuming too much liquid, yet people got drunk in Bible times.
2) The Bible says to avoid the appearance of evil… This is a mistranslation (sorry KJV only crowd.) The issue is to avoid any form of evil. This is a BIG deal. Meaning, a pastor walking into a bar may appear evil but it may very much be a holy, missional thing (counseling, removing someone who is drunk, graciously attending an event, etc.) Taking a drink is not evil for it is not a sin. (Preaching wrongly on alcohol is a form of evil.)
3) We are not to cause stumbling… Causing someone to stumble means causing them to sin. It is sin for a Christian in their freedom to place a shot or a pint in front of an alcoholic. At times it may even be a sin to drink in the presence of those who struggle with self-control or who think one shouldn’t drink. Much preaching based on the stumbling is illogical. Based on many sermons I have head people should not eat based on people’s struggle with gluttony. The issue of stumbling makes many issues full color and not black & white.
4) I think it is wrong… Then if you drink you sin for you are not doing it in faith. It is OK and biblical to, in your conscience, believe drinking alcohol is wrong. Based on those who destroyed their lives because of alcohol, taking a strong stance against alcohol is not unbiblical. In some instances it is even prudent. But, in doing so, be biblical.
5) No good comes from a Christian drinking… I read this all too often in articles arguing for abstaining. Yes, good can come from a Christian drinking. For instance, there are many medications I cannot take, so alcohol helps prevent traumatic medical events from occurring. Meaning, it is helping me maintain health and the temple. I would submit that is a good thing. At this point what people say is “oh, for medical reasons that is ok.” But, in the Bible alcohol is consumed for worship situations as well. A person drinking in self-control and with discernment can and does bring out good things. Paul likely told Timothy to take a little wine because Timothy was probably over reaching on qualifications of a pastor. Alcohol doesn’t help an upset stomach.
The bottom line:
The Gospel sets us free. In living for more than ourselves, we bear fruit of the spirit, which includes self-control. We should seek to demonstrate this in all areas. We all struggle with sin. Whether, how and when to drink should be carefully discerned. The answer will change as your ministry context changes. For sure getting drunk is sin, and the Bible gives clear warnings about the potential dangers of alcohol, but the Bible does not declare drinking a sin.
If you lean towards getting drunk and/or alcoholism runs in your family, abstaining is the prudent choice. If you work with minors and others who struggle with drinking, abstaining in public is a prudent choice and perhaps in private as well. If in the presence of those who struggle with alcoholism, abstaining is a prudent choice. If you drink in the privacy of your home and/or in public because the previous situations are not in play, God bless. But for both sides, do not use your freedom or abstaining as a measure of superiority or holiness for the Bible argues strongly against you both. For those who drink should be commended for self control and those who abstain should be commended for their sacrifice. Both of these are demonstrations of a thirst for holiness.
This may not be a clean and simple answer, but neither is life clean and simple until we see Jesus face to face.
A person is made up of many voices and influences in their life. Some stand out in remarkable ways. One such person is Dr. Steve Shumaker. I had the pleasure to have Dr. Shumaker as a professor at Baptist Bible College. God is moving the Shumakers to Colorado Christian University for the fall of 2013. He will be delivering his last lecture at BBC on Tuesday.
The life of the mind is invaluable. As Proverbs points to the pursuit of wisdom leading to godliness, Paul in Ephesians 5 points to godliness leading to wisdom. Christianity does not remove the need to develop discernment. Instead, Christianity requires reflection and interaction with the deep questions of life. What this looks like to a student of Dr. Shumaker is: Think. Judge. Redeem.
I appreciate Dr. Shumaker’s approach. (At this stage of life I almost wonder if it was a brazen approach.) Rather than teach us vocabulary of philosophy and basic arguments from a textbook, he instead drove us to primary source material. My understanding of philosophy came from key influencers of philosophy instead of a textbook. And that from a man who is passionate about his relationship with God. This formed necessary skills of discernment.
I’m thrilled at the opportunity God gave Dr. Shumaker and I wish him the best. I’m also grateful that he chose to invest in a Bible college in Pennsylvania. Happy journeys to you, Dr. Shumaker, and God bless!
First, separation is a command
The Bible teaches separation. There is no avoiding that in Scripture. Our associations, friendships, business partners, ministry partners have to be viewed through a lens of separation. I often hear from those chucking church or fundamentalism that “separation is wrong.” Oddly, they then “separate” from fundamentalists. The issue is whether separation is a core doctrine or a matter of wise discernment. I take it to be discernment.
Separation as objective idolatry
For some fundamentalists separation is a core tenet of the faith. Not always by articulation, but often by practice. This unbalanced view of separation leads this idea of a particular articulation of theology and/or method of doing ministry as being pure. Others as to be critiqued and questioned. Theological correctness becomes more like a God and not the God of correct theology.
Theological separation isn’t dead
In reading about the emerging church split that evolved into “missional” and “emergent” circles, the lines of separation were similar to the liberal/fundamentalist controversy of the early 20th century. If people are going to deny the Gospel, there is an obvious line and clear expectation for separating. There are times when discerning whether to separate or not is blatantly clear.
In the world
Jesus in his priestly prayer talks about how we’re to be in the world and not of it. The great commission sends us into the world. The Gospel and the church are culturally neutral and able to contextualize the Gospel in a way that doesn’t violate Scripture or the Gospel. Still, in North America the issue of proclaiming the Gospel in a way that our culture understands gets clouded by an unbalanced view of separation. An unbalanced view of separation is a fortress mentality, not a discernment one.
Fear of man
An unbalanced view of separation focuses on one’s self and not God. Yes God is all holy and to be honored. But we shouldn’t neglect grace to fulfill the command of separation. A hard focus on separation creates an environment of distrust, is poisons grace and it often leads to an unloving culture. I often observe that it seems more about gaining approval of certain men the focusing on what God. We all love the pats on the back for standing firm in the faith by our peers or congregants. Jesus was called a friend of sinners- not always as a compliment.
The public school
I remember an intentional “you’re not going to be invited back” conversation based on a comment I made in a workshop. “The easiest place to live a dynamic Christian life is the Public School. There you have no choice, you’re either on fire or a hypocrite.” Apparently, I violated the doctrine separation by that statement. After being instructed on separation, I was then told that nothing good comes from public schools, broken homes, etc. A good christian has no place in a public school.
By God’s grace, I was able to start a Bible study, hold a regular morning prayer meeting and witness in my public school. I remember conversations about respecting parents, not having an abortion, being a servant and others. I remember people accepting Christ and being affirmed in the faith. I came form a broken home, and again by God’s grace, I’m a minister of the Gospel pointing people to Jesus. This explanation wasn’t good enough.
The bottom line:
An unbalanced view of separation distracts from the mission of making followers of Jesus. It violates love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. It pulls us away from the world. Separation is a command in Scripture to be obeyed through wise discernment. It’s not a command to build a fortress and hide until the rapture. Don’t react out of a fear of man or protectionist ideology. Act out of wisdom, applying the Scriptures to each situation.
Here comes another election year and the onslaught of all that comes with an election cycle. I wanted to give a few tips as we enter this season. Too often in churches politics becomes polarizing. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Gospel First Gospel Central
A key question to ask yourself is what is most important? In relationships with people is it more important that they follow your political persuasion or that they now Christ? For some people aiming to persuade a political opinion can close the door to the Gospel. I’m passionate about our country, but I more passionate about the Cross.
You have an obligation to be informed: about the process, about the people, and about their views. Not just what you believe but also other viewpoints. The big thing: think and develop discernment. It is often to get stuck on a single issue. Often that is counter productive.
A Democrat may be a socialist and a Republican may be a fascist, but that’s rarely true. Often they’re people just like you trying to make sense out of the world and be a part of the process. Be Civil. If you can’t be civil, take Proverbs advice and be quiet as “even a fool is consider wise when he keeps his mouth shut.” For some historical perspective, our country often sees hard times and has intense elections. As Christians, we should elevate civil discourse and model it well.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” ~1 Tim 2:1-2
It’s not wrong to hold a political opinion. To act completely neutral isn’t authentic. The Bible says to submit to governing authorities and according to our constitution, that’s “we the people” in an election. Where being involved becomes a problem is when the Gospel is no longer first and central. Holding your political views doesn’t make a person saved. Knowing Jesus and the power of the resurrection does.
Vote and encourage others to vote. And when you vote: be informed, examine Scripture, pray and then vote your conscience.
The bottom line:
Elections have been nasty because “We the people…” made them nasty. Let’s set a new standard for 2012 regardless if you’re DNC, GOP or ???. As Christians let’s not forget what is most important. Don’t turn people off to the Gospel because of pushing a political opinion.