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Lifeway Christian Stores carrying So-Called Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church This is an amazing blessing since we did not even market the book to them. It was presented in the proverbial 'stack of books' that many distributors place in front of book buyers hoping that one or two of them will be chosen. We are thrilled and honored that ours was selected! Praise to God!

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Entries in Church Conflict (10)

Friday
Jan202012

The Wrangle-Tangle of Titillating Topics.

Oh No! It’s five o’clock! I just spent three hours chasing down tweets and blogs and comments and rants about the latest theological nuance. Man, I didn’t have the time for that!

Catch yourself in this situation lately? We are such word warriors, truth tracers, and rigorous caretakers of what’s right that we often get dragged into controversies completely irrelevant to our ministry or sphere of influence. I’ve done it – spent hours reading, commenting, and chewing on issues that really mean squat to my walk with Christ and those He’s called me to influence. It’s easy to do these days. Everyone has a voice via easily accessed mass social media and we love to tune in. 

“Connecting” via mass social media has two sides. It is good to have quick, easy access to godly men and women who are truly wrestling with great questions. It is bad to get entangled in issues that waste time, create unnecessary stress, tempt us to unrighteous anger, and have the potential to cause gratuitous division in the Body of Christ. Our Lord, through the voice of the Apostle Paul, throws down a warning for all of us tempted to bandy over words.

When we trace through both letters to Timothy we find Paul’s insistence on maintaining truth juxtaposed with his insistence on avoiding frivolous arguments about truth. Check this out:

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” 2 Tim. 1:13-14

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 2 Tim. 2:14

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.  2 Tim. 2:15

But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. 2 Tim. 2:16-17a

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 2 Tim. 2:23

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:24-26

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.  2 Tim. 3:14ff

Navigating this posture is like crossing a rope bridge on a windy day with one leg.  It can become a game of spiritual mumblety-peg or worse, religious Russian roulette. The balanced instruction of Paul is to carefully pick our battles - Some are worth the war, some are not. Our difficulty (at least mine) is to discern what hills to die on and which ones to surrender. Fortunately there are some easy to grasp instructions in Paul’s fatherly letters to Timothy. These are meant to guide us through some of these battlefields. Take a look:

  1. Retain the Standard (vss. 1:13-14).  In essence, Paul is encouraging Tim to maintain the truth he passed on to him. He qualifies that he should do it with an eye to faith and love. In other words, “live out what you were taught.” Live it with all faith in its veracity. Live it out with agape love toward God and others. Paul said it like this in 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  To summarize, Exemplify the truth entrusted to you through a life of love filled faith. Guard truth through the power of the Spirit.
  2. Remind them of Truth (vs. 2:14). Keep repeating the truths that Paul taught. Never grow tired of refreshing the mind to truth.
  3. Demand a Cease-Fire (vs. 2:14). “Solemnly charge them before God…” is serious business. Paul is telling Timothy to take charge. Don’t be afraid to say, “In the name of God, with the authority of God – Stop It!” when it comes to the issues of wrangling over words to the hurt of all. It’s useless and leads to the destruction of people. Be brave, put a stop to it where you find it.
  4. Diligently Study Truth (vs. 2:15). Accurately handling the truth means diligently studying truth. This cannot be separated from #1 though – study is not enough. Paul means for Timothy to know truth, love truth, and live truth. His progress is to be recognized by his word-infused, Spirit-led life.
  5. Refrain from Empty Babble (vs. 2:16). Stay out of controversies about non-essentials. Stop wasting time on worldly, empty chatter. It’s a corruption that leads to ungodliness. These arguments are vacant and do not lead to a closer walk with Christ. They only spawn more argument. On the other hand, it may be a good argument. It may be something that needs to be debated. But, is it my debate? Is it essential to my walk? Or, is it a distraction from what I should be doing? Is it edifying to those I’m called to influence? Is it a necessary addition to my knowledge of God? Test your involvement in these issues with these types of questions.
  6. Refuse Stupid Questions (vs. 2:23). Yep, that’s what it says. The actual word is “moron”. Paul is referring to moronic, undisciplined questions that lead to more moronic undisciplined questions. How many blog-flames would be prevented if we all exercised disciplined refusal to respond to moronic questions? We can pour ice-cold water on red hot but foolish controversy by simply refusing to participate. I invite you to walk the other way.
  7. Don’t Be Combative (vs. 2:24-26). Do you grit your teeth and furrow your brow as your issue-oriented blood pressure rises? Do you get angry with the opposition? Do you blast and minimize your brother? Do you attack and assassinate? I don’t mean only that you actually write your attacks or say them out loud – I mean to ask, “Are they in your mind?” Are these your instant reactions?  These are signs that you’ve taken on the mantle of a crusader. You’ve become a warrior – not a servant. Combative Christians are not winsome. They don’t attract others to the beauty of Christ. Paul commands a different attitude.
  8. Do Be Kind, Able to Teach, Patient, Gentle (vs. 2:24-26). This is the winsomeness of Christ. This is true godliness. We win wars with kind, gentle sacrifice. We teach with grace and patience. We hurt for those in the wrong. We plead with those taken up in error. We weep for truth. Perhaps God will grant them repentance. We may win an argument but lead to further ungodliness. We may prove our point and lose a soul. What a tragedy to win an acre of ground and lose a battalion of saints. We speak the truth and let God win the hearts. God releases captives. God detains the devil. God bestows knowledge. Let God fight, perhaps we will have the joy of seeing them “sitting down, clothed, and in their right minds.” Mark 5
  9. Abide in the Truth (vs. 3:14). Make truth and the exercise of it your intimate companion. Draw truth up into your heart like umbilical blood. Let it energize your actions. Love in truth. Laugh in truth. Weep in truth. Pray in truth. Speak in truth. Live in truth.
Thursday
Dec222011

The Difficulty of Open-Hearted Acceptance.

Would a German Jew swing his door open wide for a Gestapo agent at the height of the holocaust? Where would his mind go as he clutched the door handle? Do you know Christians who cause you to experience those sorts of thoughts?

Whoaaa there –isn’t that a caustic, belligerent, intentionally shocking comparison? Maybe. Depends on if you’ve ever felt the tension. I’m surmising, but I think the Jew knows he’s free up until the moment he peeks through the keyhole to see the uniform of the Third Reich.*  I’m free up until the moment I open the door for my brother who is about to judge my freedom. He’s going to go there you know – to that standard, that personal conviction that he must impose on me. 

What do I do now? Paul says swing the door open with a smile, a hug, and an open heart. In fact, give him full access to your heart. (Romans 14:1) Seriously? My soul cries out, “Paul, you wouldn’t say that if you had met this guy”. Then my Bible trained mind corrects me – yes he would and he did. It’s the heart of God. Scripture makes it clear that Paul had to wrestle with every sort of personality and quirk of conviction that existed in the first century. Beyond that, Jesus Himself faced every doubting disciple with the calm assurance of His freedom in the Father. Thomas had to see and touch, Peter corrected Him and even cursed against Him, the sons of thunder wanted the preeminence, Judas was smarmy and in the end, evil. I think it’s fair to say that Jesus never closed His heart to any of them.

Ok, so I’m opening the door. I’m even going to pray that Jesus helps me open my heart but I do-not-like being put in this position! 

If I may, dear brother/sister, pull you aside for a moment. This is your opportunity to display true, supernatural love in blazing glory! Conquer this and the legions of hell cannot refute it. This is the moment – this is where Christ shines! He must increase but we must decrease. John 3:30

Back to the door and my "sensitive of conscience" brother. What next? According to Romans 14 you enjoy his fellowship, encourage him as a brother, love him as Christ would, and DON’T bring up his issues of conscience for discussion. It’s forbidden. The free brother, the stronger brother, is not to make the weaker brothers’ doubts or convictions a matter of conversation. And definitely DO NOT flaunt your freedom in any way. Put your freedom on the shelf, limit your liberty, and express full-flighted love for your brother.

“But you don’t understand, he always brings it up!” Using always is almost always hyperbole in this context but I get where you’re coming from. You’ll have to wait for another post on that one…

 

*My apologies to anyone for whom these memories are real and intensly painful. Corrie Ten Boom speaks very clearly of her experience in just this sort of situation in one of her recorded talks.

Thursday
Dec082011

I'm Curious - What issues are you fighting about?

Here's your chance - blow some steam. What issues are you passionately battling for now? How would you categorize them - Essential? Optional but REALLY Important? Marginal? My Personal Rant?

Have fun and let me know exactly how you feel - especially if you've got Bible reasons for your position!

Thursday
Dec082011

Spiritual Mutilation: When the Church Attacks Her Own.

We hope to find a publisher for a short 10 chapters with the above title. The first draft is finished. Below is a brief description of the contents from the Introduction.

This book is about, "Overcoming and preventing the most common source of pain in many Christian lives. Healing torn relationships and restoring relational connection between brothers. The key to advancing the Gospel in a love starved world. Drawing close to Christ by caring about what He cares about."

"Practically speaking, you’ll learn several things that will help you live a more obedient, harmonious, and loving Christian life. Here are some of the lessons you’ll encounter.

  •   The two life altering things on Jesus’ mind the night before He died on the cross.
  •  The most powerful rebuke to the early Church and how to avoid it for yourself, your church, or your Christian ministry.
  •  THE EVIDENCE the Church presents to the world to prove that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for them.
  •  The wisdom of God about differences in the Body of Christ and how to deal with them.
  •  The healing power of rightly relating to believers with whom we disagree.
  •  The Bible passages that confront spiritual mutilation and give instruction on how to stop it.
  •  The rare occasions when Christians are commanded to avoid or separate from other Christians.
  •  The importance of recognizing “Those who Can and Those who Can’t”.
  •  The Apostolic challenge to the modern Church to address what may be the greatest hindrance to our Gospel witness in the world.
  •  The dividing line between Christian and Non-Christian – what Christians must agree on. Or, What makes us Christian.

And much more that will perhaps revolutionize the way you fellowship with God, love your brother, and witness to your world."

More on this as we progress.

Wednesday
Dec072011

What's the Big Deal?

Paul emphasizes unity so much we have to wonder why it’s so important. What’s at risk? Is it really that big a deal? So what if we have some divisions in the Church – aren’t we all still preaching the Gospel, encouraging the saints, winning souls, and in the end, glorifying Christ? Why take so much time on this when there’s a world to be won?

Again, worthy questions. Let’s get our answer from the Lord Himself.

We Christians speak often of the passion of Christ. When we do we usually mean the entire experience of His humiliation, torture, death, burial, and resurrection. I would like to rewind a bit and focus in on the hours before He was betrayed. There’s a passion consuming the mind of Christ that burns itself onto the pages of Scripture. Embers kindled in that same fire glow in some of the passages we’ve cited and others we have yet to cite. This passion is recorded in John 17, a passage known to many as The High Priestly Prayer of Christ.

It was after Judas had departed the upper room table on his desperate errand and before Jesus and the disciples entered Gethsemane that Jesus stopped, most likely on the crest of the hill that descends into the Kidron valley, and prayed. His prayer is the outpouring of eternal desire and immeasurable affection. It is a window into the great heart of God. It is the crystallization of the intimate thoughts of the Godhead as they commune together on the night before the most horrific schism ever to occur. It is the craving of Christ in the hours before He would be separated from perfect Love and bear alone the sin of the world.

What would the Lord of Glory possibly be thinking at that hour? What burned so brightly in His mind and heart that it burst out for all eternity to read and experience? What were the last words of a Man soon to be murdered by those He had not many years previous fashioned with His own hands? Are they important? Are they powerful and life altering? Are they worthy of deep meditation? Some say a man’s final words are the most important he ever speaks. What about these closing words of the God-Man? Granted, they are not the final words of Christ on earth but they are the final words of Christ to the Father concerning the Church and spoken in the hearing of the Apostles.

Take a few moments to read John 17. Perhaps you have some time to truly meditate on the passage. What do you hear Jesus praying? What are His impassioned supplications? What is He asking the Father to do? More on this later...

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