Monthly Archives: September 2011

WHERE BAD ANSWERS COME FROM

Most of you are probably aware of the mess that (rightfully) blew up in the face of 700 Club host, Pat Robertson. In answering a question about a man who was dating another woman because his wife had Alzheimer’s, and he “knows she is gone”; Robertson gave the following advice:

“That is a terribly hard thing. I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one—this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

After his words were attacked by virtually everyone who heard them (even most nonbelievers knew this answer was inherently wrong); Robertson has come out with the following defense:

“Basically I’m saying, adultery is not a good thing, and you might as well straighten your life out, and the only way to do it is to kind of get your affair with your wife in order.”

Robertson then added, “(people) come to me asking for specific advice and I give them specific advice about their condition, not for the world. I’m not giving a theological [defense]; I’m not John Calvin giving the Institutes of the Christian Religion.”

Here is the point I want to make. We only have one authority for coming to conclusions about the important decisions of life – and that is God’s Word. Period! Our emotions, our empathy, our opinion’s, our desires to fit in, our culture, the world’s expectations, etc., are all untrustworthy places for obtaining answers to life’s hard questions.

Robertson’s defense states that the man was already dating another woman, so he might as well “straighten” his life out, by getting a divorce. But we cannot add a second sin to the first in order to straighten out the entanglement we get into. Regardless of the cost, total obedience to God is the only way to make life straight and that is the only path God will bless. And bless it He will!

Secondly, Robertson stated that he was not trying to “give a theological defense”. Theology is the study of what God has revealed about Himself and our world.  Theology is seeking to understand life from God’s perspective. What other kind of defense should we make than one that is theological?!! Theology should direct every important decision and action that we take.

Pat Robertson gave a dreadfully wrong answer exactly because he was not trying to be theological. We make the same mistake all too often. A mistake we can immediately rectify by dropping our thoughts and taking on God’s Word instead.

No one expected Mr. Robertson to write a church document on the issue of how we should respond to loved ones with Alzheimer’s. But he should be expected along with all who call Christ, Lord, to reach conclusions that are biblically informed. Isn’t that what God expects of us?

GOSPEL REST FOR CONTROL FREAKS

Now I am sure that there are not any “control freaks” who read this blog (he wrote sarcastically). But just in case you have a “friend” who is a control freak. Have them read this article by Laura Hendrickson, on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website.

 

WHO’S IN CHARGE?

We like being in charge! The person in charge gets to put our their views with the expectation that it will all least be heard if not followed. The person in charge, bends others to their will. The person in charge usually receives honor and benefits because of their position. But here is the problem – we are not in charge, God is. Oh, we may have a measure of authority in our family, our work, or in the church, but it is a borrowed authority. For all authority always belongs to Christ. As Jesus himself said in Matthew 28:18

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Our primary job on this earth is to be a follower. In this world, being a follower does not have the cache of being in charge, because people are not thinking about the ultimate end of those who claim to be in charge.  Leaders of this world are like “blind guides leading the blind”; and like lemmings going over a cliff, the flow of people willing to chase each other into destruction continues with each new generation. Earthly leaders think they are leading people to great new things, but loss and death is the only end to every path except the one that follows after Jesus.

What makes being a follower a grand and noble calling, is the greatest of whom we follow and the glory of where they are leading us. As Christians, we should instantaneously recognize that following Jesus falls into this category.

Being a follower makes life much simpler and gives us a certain degree of clarity, not matter how “uncertain” we are. Every day we wake up knowing our chief purpose is to follow Christ today. When life gets complicated, we know the general direction we should look for is where Jesus is headed. Our first step is always to identify where Jesus is and head for him. This means we always know the first step.

So how are we at following? If you are like me, you have a lot of good intentions, but you are easily distracted by circumstances and by our own desires. We have long experience with the sorrow and futility of getting off track – yet we repeatedly act as if we never learned that lesson. Which is simply one more reason why we should eagerly follow Christ and never trust ourselves to lead!

God knows our struggle, so He has given us wonderful helps to improving how consistently and closely we follow His Son.

  • His Word will always point us to Christ. Do we insert it into our thoughts each day?
  • Worship exalts Christ above all things, which increases our desire to follow him. Do we start our day with praise and thankfulness to our amazing Savior and Lord?
  • We have been given the Holy Spirit who convicts and teaches us in the ways of Christ. Do we listen to His and act on it voice right away?
  • The Church is given so we might be surrounded by reminders and encouragements to keep Christ before us. Do we place our lives in the midst of God’s people?

Today, will we embrace our identity as followers of Christ? To be a successful follower, we keep our eyes on the One we are supposed to follow, and keep taking the next step that brings us closer to Him.

HOLIER THAN THOU

As Christians we all (should) know that we are meant to be in an ongoing process of becoming increasingly holy.  As I Thessalonians tells us, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”.  We are also aware that the world is quick to throw out the accusation against us, of being “holier than thou”.   For the most part this is merely an excuse to brush aside being confronted by holiness; for holiness is an expression of God’s character and His rule – which is what they truly despise.

However, there are times when believers can have a arrogant sense of superiority.  Jesus made that point in Luke 18, with his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the Temple.  “The Gospel Driven Church” Blog has a short, good article HERE that enables us to see that becoming holy and becoming “holier than thou” are not “parallel” pursuits.

SERMON LEFTOVERS: 9.26.11

Acts 1:6-8 ‘Something to live for’

Jesus rebukes the assumption behind the disciples thinking

They were looking for what God would do for their world (the restoration of Israel).

God had promised a kingdom restoration, but it was His spiritual kingdom. Jesus lifted their eyes beyond Israel, to a world needing the gospel. What God does for us, is always about His kingdom not ours!

Jesus also rebukes their question, which is one we ask: “When?”

We want to know “times” and “seasons”, because we focus on our circumstances. The answers to “when” and “why” are not for us – at this time

1.  These questions confuse who is Lord and who is servant

2.  Fixating on these questions distract us from what we are here for

God who is in control and trustworthy has our future “fixed”. Entrusting our cares to God, frees us to focus on greater issues.

What is the great focus we are to live for?

Christ is gathering people for his kingdom and we have a key role. This is bigger than anything else! Do we believe that?  Is our life involved anywhere in v8? Is our heart?

What gets in the way of living for the gospel of Christ?

1.  We use up our energy worrying about what is in God’s hands:  In Luke 12:22-31, Jesus tells us not to lose our reason for living in the grind of daily life

2.  We waste our life working for a lesser kingdom:  In Matthew 13:22, Jesus challenges us to consider, what our life is producing. Regardless of all their boasting, the rich and famous in our world are producing a life of weeds.

There are four implications we need to see clearly

1.  We are to be serious about the work of gospel. If we are uninvolved, something is seriously amiss in our life

2.  We have different roles and abilities, but all believers are witnesses, because we all know Jesus. The gospel is not an activity for some, it is who we are!  Jesus is in our life

3.  The work of the gospel does not end with a prayer to accept Christ. According to Matthew 28:19-20, a true disciple is involved in making disciples.

4.  Our heart should go beyond our neighborhood. We are to reach beyond our Jerusalem to our Samaria (those who are not like us). We go beyond our neighborhood, because God’s heart is there; and in America, because we can.

What is the gospel heart beat of our life?

The Bible gives us a personal role in the gospel that is meant to be relational. Evangelism is the gospel touching people through us. A local church is people; so if we are to have more evangelistic churches, we must become more evangelistic people.

WHAT TO SAY (or not) TO A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

I have observed that well meaning people who are trying to help, often say things that only add to the pain of those they are trying to comfort.

This is because we falsely think we have to say something.  Job’s friends, brought him comfort as they simply sat with Job quietly for a few days.  It was when they tried to say wise things that they blundered.  Our presence and truly praying (not just saying we will) are our greatest comforts.  When we do speak, be honest about your ignorance and how hard this whole situation is for them – and we hurt because they do!

In the situation of sexual assault, there are even more complications to what is wise advice and comfort.  The Crossway Blog has a helpful excerpt from the book, Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.  In this list of “What to Say and Not To Say”, we can all find guidance for how to come alongside anyone who has suffered a deep hurt.  You can read it here.

GOOD THINGS

When we were in Chicago a few weeks ago, this car pulled up to the curb in front of us. My son Jordan not only knew what car it was (Bugatti), he knew the price tag ($2.1 million – yes as in dollars).  I quickly took his picture in front of the car which was mobbed with bystanders within seconds.

Earlier on that same walk, we passed an intriguing shop that sold “chocolates, wines and cheeses”. I think the owners expect you to drink some of their wine before you attempt to buy their chocolates, because the price was $5 per tiny chocolate. For the bargain conscious, you can get three for $11.

Despite struggling world economies and mounting debt, we live in a world that embraces excess. I suppose there are many reasons: curiosity, not wanting to miss out, envy, greed and the desire to experience good things. Advertising works hard to convince us that “good things” consist mainly of the things we don’t have and need to buy. Yet, would I have really enjoyed a $5 chocolate that much more than a Hershey’s kiss?

As I reflect on having good things, I am again reminded how wonderful it is to have a great wife, great children, great friends, a great church and above all, a truly great Savior, who has given me a great salvation.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”  (Ephesians 1:7-8)

 

GUEST BLOGGER: DEBBIE HUBER 9.21.11

Women of Influence

As a woman, I would guess that most women are unaware just have much influence they have on those around them.  Our attitudes, words, actions and behaviors toward others can be powerful to build up the lives of those around us; and they also can be powerful to tear them down.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

This does not just apply to the married woman or if you live in a “house” or not.  How are you influencing those in your home, family, workplace, school, church, and community?  Are you building others up to show them that you have been changed by the amazing power of the gospel?  Or are you tearing them down and not seeking God for His wisdom in your relationships with others?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss gives some examples of contrasting questions to ask ourselves:

1. Are you quick to extend mercy and forgiveness when others fail you?  (Matthew 5:7)

Or do you keep a mental record of the offenses of others to get back at them?

2. Do you give thanks in all circumstances? (I Thess. 5:18)

Or do you get offended when your expectations are not met?

3. Does your life radiate joy, peace, and contentment, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and that God is in control of every detail?  (Romans 8:37-39)

Or does your attitude convey discontentment, bitterness, or fear for your circumstances?

4. Do you have an attitude of respect toward your husband? (Eph. 5:33)

Or does your husband and others see your disrespect through your attitude, words, and actions?

5. Have you yielded all your “rights” to God and therefore can respond with meekness and forgiveness when others wrong me (as the Lord has forgiven you)?  (Colossians 3:12-13)

Or are you easily angered when you feel your rights have been violated?

Ask God to show you where you are foolishly tearing others down and pray that He will give you His wisdom to “build your house” to bring glory to God.

THE ENGINE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Last week I attended and thoroughly enjoyed the Ocean City Bible Conference. My compliments to Pastor Kevin O’Brien and the congregation of Ocean City Baptist Church, on their third annual Bible Conference.  Among the speakers I had never before heard in person, were Jonathan Leeman, Liam Goligher, Ben Skaug and Jerry Bridges.

In the final session, Jerry Bridges spoke about the gospel as the motivation or the engine of the Christian life. It was a wonderful message and definitely thought provoking. It is not that this is a new idea, but that it is often not representative of how we go through life. The gospel is not always the engine of our life. This most worthy of motivations is kept to the side as (much) lesser values and pursuits erroneously motivate how we live. We tend to view the gospel merely as the station where we got on the train; when the gospel is that and should be the engine as well.

One of the passages Dr. Bridges used was Philemon vs 8-9, where Paul acknowledges that from a biblical standpoint he could require Philemon to do what was right (which was to forgive Onesimus and receive him back as a brother in Christ); but Paul preferred that Philemon do this right thing from a motivation of love for Christ and his gospel, which had saved Philemon.

What is our big motivation? At the beginning of each day, what is the desire that leads us? When we lay down at night, how do we measure whether or not we had a good day? If the gospel is not at the center of all this, then we are doing a disservice to the gospel and to Christ!

However, the gospel will not grow as our motivation because we are told that it should be so. We need to have an ever increasing love for the gospel so that it becomes the natural and obvious motivation of our life.

The gospel came to us out of the immeasurable expanse of God’s love for us. The gospel has illustrated to us the majestic heights of love. The gospel teaches us how to love. The gospel empowers us to love. Oh, may we then love this gospel of our savior Jesus Christ. If we do not passionately love the gospel of Christ – we cannot truly say that we love Christ with any passion.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.19.11

“No one likes a hypocrite” Luke 18:9-14

One of the common excuses the world gives for brushing aside the church is to say the church is filled with hypocrites.  The Bible agrees that hypocrisy in the church is a serious matter. The Bible uses its strongest language to condemn pride, arrogance and hypocrisy.

The form of hypocrisy and arrogance that the Bible attacks most is self-righteousness

In Jesus parable found in Luke 18, we easily recognize what is wrong in the Pharisee’s self-righteous attitude. We know we are meant to avoid that attitude. Yet we must not miss that we are also meant see what is right in tax collector’s heart and embrace his attitude.

We rightly despise arrogance and hypocrisy toward one another. But do we despise arrogance and hypocrisy toward God? If we pick and choose where hypocrisy and arrogance bother us, then we are being hypocritical.

What are ways in which we can be hypocritical toward God?

1. We are offended if people come to uninformed opinions about us . . but we create our own opinions about God

2. We expect to exercise authority over what is ours . . but we reject God’s authority over the world which He created

3. We acknowledge that the world needs rules to exist . . but we don’t want to hear that God expects us to obey His rules

4. We demand justice for those who misuse us . . but we are angered that God will exercise justice against every sin

5. We are bothered when people disregard our grace to them . . but we give little thought to God’s amazing grace to us

People usually think that as long as we don’t brag about righteous deeds, then we are not self-righteous. But part of Jesus point (v1) is that if we think we are okay before God on our own that is self-righteous. The tax collector did not think he was okay, he knew he failed God, and knew he needed mercy

The most essential truth we need to learn about ourselves is that we are not okay with God.

That is not a harsh condemnation of Scripture that is an accurate description about us.

  • Because we are accountable to God’s standards
  • We have all failed those standards (Romans 3:23)
  • The penalty for sin is hell, God’s eternal punishment for sin (Romans 1:18)
  • Christ came to remove the guilt of our sin totally and forever, through His death which paid for our guilt (1 Peter 3:18)
  • If we ignore what God has provided through Jesus sacrifice, there is no hope left for us (Hebrews 2:3)

At this moment, anyone can respond as the man in Jesus parable, who cried out “God be merciful to me a sinner”

Have you cried out to God in this way? For those who have recognized our need for Christ, do we give praise for what He has done – every day?