Friday, June 26, 2015

You May Not Be Mean And Unloving Just Because Someone Thinks You Are

We didn't even know our four year old had an ear infection until his ear drum burst, and we saw blood running out his ear. He was a tough little man. After several weeks of treatment at his pediatrician, he started complaining of pain in the ear. That didn't make sense, so the pediatrician sent us to a specialist who found that he had developed a fungal infection in his ear canal. Treatment required scraping the canal and treating it with a medicine that burned. After several painful trips to the specialist, his ear was cured. About a year later we were driving past the specialist's office, our son saw the office, and began to cry "no, no doctor." Even though the doctor saved his hearing, he really thought the man was mean.

We are living in a culture in which Christians who believe in the goodness of God, in the goodness of His design for life (including His design for human relationships), and who insist on proclaiming His design are considered mean. Certainly some have been. Some have pridefully condemned certain sins and sinners while ignoring others. Yet, many have lovingly proclaimed that unborn children are human beings, worthy of the same right to life as those whose lungs are developed enough to survive outside the womb, not because they hate women or liberty but because they love God, unborn children, and those who practice abortion.

There is a new challenge, another reason to call them mean. Some who claim Christ have been and will be mean-spirited about homosexuality and so-called same sex marriage. Many will not. They will recognize the dignity of all people because God created all in His image. They will lovingly proclaim the life-giving design of God for human relationships, and the power of the Gospel to save any and all sinners. They will be called mean and bigoted. They will be rejected, penalized, and possibly persecuted or prosecuted. Just because they are considered mean doesn't mean they are. But, they could be, and they could quickly become preachers of condemnation, rather than proclaimers of the truth, and the Gospel. 

It is important for them to remember five things. First, the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Second, God loves sinners. Third, "you cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time" (Ed Stetzer). Fourth, rejection of God's truth is status quo for the human race. Fifth, the only hope the world has is the proclamation of the Gospel, for only God's truth can set the sinner free.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Being Saved Doesn't Make You Sane

Summer discipleship groups have just started and God has really used the memory verse for the first week in my group to stir up what I believe are some important thoughts. Here's the verse, "Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God." (Rom.12:2-HCSB)  

This verse, addressed to Christians, makes it clear that being born again doesn't make you discerning or wise. It makes it clear that born again Christians, whose thoughts are conformed to the world when they are saved, must transform the way they think if they want to be able to discern right from wrong, good from bad. It is not automatic upon being born again.

So . . . being saved doesn't make you sane, meaning you can be saved and still have opinions that are influenced by sin and the world rather than by the Savior;  being born again and feeling like you know what God's will is doesn't make it God's will; so we should not expect saved people to have God's worldview just because they are saved since that requires discipleship. Jesus said we were to make disciples by "teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."  (Matt.28:20a-HCSB) 

So, it's entirely possible to be born again and believe all kinds of things that are wrong. It's not possible, however, to be a disciple (a follower) of Jesus Christ, to know what is good, to please God, and to live a life that glorifies Him if you don't intentionally transform the way you think by the application of His truth. 

Take a step toward renewal. Read what Jesus said about it all in John 14 and 15.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Expectantly Expectant: American Expectations

This morning I sat down with a fellow pastor who had just returned from a mission trip to a Central America. While there, he had an unusual conversation with a gang member. The man understood the Gospel, but said he was not ready to surrender his life to God. He did, however, know that the Bible was true and that he needed God.

He then went on to talk to the pastor about his impression of the United States. This Central American gang member said his countrymen do not respect the US, because it does not believe or respect the Word of God, and because it is a country that has no moral standard on which to lecture the world or impose its beliefs.

While you might call a gang member a hypocrite, listen carefully. He knew he was living wrong, because he believed that the Bible is the word of God. He feared the God of the Bible, even though he was not ready to surrender his life to him. He said that the USA's embracing homosexuality and homosexual marriage, its rampant drug culture and legalization of marijuana, and its moral decay were clear indicators that the nation does not respect God or his word. The pastor from the States said it was an eye-opening conversation, and that, sadly, all they could do was agree with this Central American gang member about the moral depravity of our country. 

We expect to fly the flag and be respected. What if the flag flies in the face of God?  We, who follow Christ, should never place the hope of the Gospel in the hands of the state. We should have learned our lesson from history. The state is not the church, no matter how moral its laws.  As much as we love this country, it, and every other country, will disappoint.

Read the words of the prophet, Jeremiah, carefully.

This is what the Lord says: The man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed. He will be like a juniper in Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. The man who trusts in the lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn't fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)