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Entries in Differences (6)

Tuesday
May212013

Jesus Hates Your Doctrine. 

(Title and emphasis borrowed from my good friend Matt Jacobsen)

“Loving the truth” is often the thin veil that shadows the grey countenance of a Pharisee. Jesus hates that. He hates the dreary parsing of tiny details that substitute for a vibrant, loving relationship with Him and His children. Your doctrine is not important in comparison to love. Review our Lord’s attitude toward the religious glitterati of His day – He leaves no room for “truth”-obscured agape. Who cares if you are right if you do not love?

Being “right” in your doctrine is often the hammer that rings the bell of rivalry. Being “right, free from error, doctrinally pure, etc, ad infinitum” drives the wedge of “me vs. you” into relationships. It assumes levels, factions, classes, and sub-classes of Christians. It subjugates all else to your understanding of God’s mind. Your doctrine is not that important! Your doctrine does not sit as potentate of all that should be. How many Christians are at this moment faced off in bitter rivalry – in direct opposition to the Lord’s command? (Ephesians 4:3)

Test yourself. If you are offended by the two paragraphs above you just might be the subject of them. You may be thinking that I (the author) am one of those “love at all costs” liberals (notice how defaulting to labels brings an familiar clarity to your mind?) that wouldn’t know truth if it hit him in the face. Quite the contrary – I’ve slaved in the mines of loveless truth and found them intellectually, arrogantly, stimulating. I loved the truth. I loved my doctrine. I had very little real love.

If you do find yourself offended by the first two paragraphs you may be completely blind to the whole point here. The point is that Jesus hates your doctrine. What are you going to do about that? Will you hold onto your doctrine as a replacement and rationalization for your lack of love? Will you continue to separate from Christian brothers who don’t hold your view but have done nothing to offend their Lord or you? Will your doctrine remain the monarch on the stone throne of your heart? 

Notice very carefully that my point has been that Jesus hates your doctrine. He doesn’t hate His own. He doesn’t hate doctrine. Where His doctrine is concerned, He is delighted. One thing about Jesus’ doctrine is that it is always lived out. It is never an intellectual, prideful pursuit. It is always a pulsing, overflowing, fully transparent conduit for Love.

We can’t love what is “right” and not rightly love. Truth is walked out. It is vulnerably displayed in completely broken people. Truth is lived more than it is spoken. Arguments, debate, reasoned proofs, and the like are at best imperfect attempts to explain a perfect life of Love – the perfect life of Jesus. When truth leaves us broken and pleading for some resolution to our miserable condition we have gotten close to the heart of it. When truth leaves us abased and hopeless at the foot of the cross, groveling for an ounce of grace, we are very near the center. Absent this, we are probably back to paragraphs one and two. 

I’m resolved to pursue the truth lived out. Ready to remove the veil and join me?

Friday
Apr062012

Missing the Message: Living in the “Idiot Light” Zone.

I ran into a friend today at the local coffee connection. She said she ran out of gas this morning on her way to work. After expressing how sorry I felt for her she explained exactly what she meant by running out of gas. What she meant by running out of gas is that the little “low fuel” warning light popped on that morning. Oh! I exclaimed, that’s not running out of gas – that’s normal operating range for me. She went on to explain that she just hates it when the “idiot light” comes on – it makes her feel so stupid. Wow, I said, then I live in the “idiot light” zone. What made the conversation more ironic was that I really had run out of gas – just yesterday!  I was temporarily stranded on the side of a very busy road – waiting for my daughter to rescue me with the spare gas can.

 

That conversation took my brain out of idle and shifted me into another gear. Living in the “idiot light” zone seems a common theme for me. I haven’t traditionally been very good at paying attention to warning lights. I’m a “foot on the gas” at the yellow light kind of guy. Braking is only a last ditch fallback. My mindset is - I can always go another 50 miles with the light on. Maybe you, or your husband, are the same.

God uses “idiot lights” you know. The Bible is replete with cautions to pay heed to the pitfalls of life. A quick reference search for “take heed” in the KJV reveals no less than 65 passages that warn us to pay attention – at least 65 “idiot lights” for us. I’m sure there are many more – we seem to need frequent alerts. 

One of the most poignant of these warnings is found in Galatians 5:15. It reads, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”

At first glance this seems like a very strange analogy –  a reference to some sort of cannibalism – a little freaky to my ears. Paul is setting up a stark contrast with this phrase. Paul utters this immediately after saying, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Vs. 14” Cannibalism Vs. Love is the message. The analogy is shocking but valid. We do have a tendency to cannibalize one another – we do bite and we do devour. Been bitten lately? Have any bite-mark scars from past attacks? Are you a biter?

I’m continually amazed at how much devouring goes on within the Kingdom. If you are reading this blog my guess is that you read others and maybe you keep up with some of the controversies within the Church. If you’ve entered the scary world of the Christian blogosphere then you may well have seen Christian Cannibalism up close. (Not that blogs are the only place this happens!) It’s a frightening and often disgusting experience. Snarky comments, arrogant accusations, fangs out, eyes afire, slavering saints ripping at other saints with the ferocity of a feeding frenzy. Sometimes I think there are believers that lie awake at night lusting for the next fight. They feel no life unless there’s a battle.

Paul was God’s instrument in a similar frenzy. He flicked the “idiot light” on with the intention that it shine brightly in our eyes when we are tempted to exalt correctness over concern for our brothers. The love of truth (or their own idea of truth) had pumped the Galatians into a snarling, thrashing, flesh tearing, and bloody fight. The clear warning is that the fight for truth threatened to consume the Body. We could never rightly accuse Paul of not loving truth so let’s not think that he is asking us to put truth aside for love. The warning light is against destruction – take heed that you don’t destroy your brother with your appetite for your infallible position.  

The stinging brilliance of this warning is that Love doesn’t trump Truth – Love trumps being right! Love is ONE with Truth – they are completely impossible to separate! If we decide to bite and devour for the sake of our prized position – be warned – we might be consumed! We never ignore God’s warnings without consequences. In this case we don’t just run out of gas – we drive straight into the jaws of destruction. We threaten ourselves, and those we are supposed to love, with extermination. It’s serious business to kill the Bride!

If you find yourself in the midst of a fight and the “idiot light” flickers in your soul – take heed. If you can’t slow your own momentum – get help. If the brakes are failing – call a mechanic. If the car is out of gas – find a filling station. If you’ve tried everything you know of and haven’t found peace or resolution – contact us at churchone! We want to help! Don’t hesitate – cautions come before casualties.

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.
Tuesday
Jan032012

What's the Big Deal? 3

What does Jesus want most in addition to His glory?  Of all the things He could have requested from the Father on the night before His death I would not have expected this one. I would have expected Him to spend much more time on a couple of things He only briefly mentioned – that God keep and sanctify the disciples. Those requests track more closely with my desires – I want God’s protection and the personal holiness He can give me. These seem to me to be more pressing than what He spends the most time on. What is it He really wants - His Brides’ Unity! He wants the Church to be one.

So why unity? Why does Jesus spend verses 20-23 with three or four references to His desire for the unity of the Church? “…that they all may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…”  I don’t pretend to know anything beyond a distant and vague sense of what might be involved in being one with God. Phrases like this temp me to mysticism. They befuddle me. They twist my mind in the same way the Trinity does. I probe the barriers of eternity only to find myself tired and vacant. I can and will make an attempt at what it means for the Church to be one, unified for Christ and with one another.  

The request for us all to be one is mystical and intriguing on its own but Jesus doesn’t leave us with that thought. He goes on to mention the “why” behind His prayer for unity. It’s the great “why” that captivates me. What’s at risk? Is it really that big a deal?

It could have been a nice platitude wrapped in the mystery of Deity for us all to wonder at but never really grasp. It could have been easily read and forgotten due to the impenetrable nature of the subject. It could have been dismissed as God speaking in language too high for us but Christ did not leave us any of these options. He clearly states the reason He desires unity in the Church. Read slowly with me, verse 21, “that they may all be one…SO THAT the world may believe that You sent Me” and verse 22-23, “that they may be one…that they may be perfected in unity, SO THAT the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them…”

The unity of the Church is THE PROOF to the world that God the Father sent God the Son and that God the Father loves the world. Incredible that the witness of God to the world hangs on the frayed thread of the unity of the Church!

Think of the ramifications! A unified Church shouts sacrificial love to the world. We are truly an aroma of life unto life when perfected in unity. Expressing accord one with another expresses God to lost and dying souls. Unison and harmony sing mighty hymns of compassion and grace, mercy and righteousness, humility and acceptance, to a world blinded by sin and lost in darkness. Let those who have ears to hear – hear! Unity is powerful!

On the other hand, a divided Church is proof to the world that the Father did not send the Son and does not love them. Ouch! Strife among brothers is tantamount to denying the Gospel. It’s the devil’s holiday to see brothers at odds. It’s the world’s justification for ignoring and distrusting the Church, the Bible, and God Himself. Brothers, we are to blame in part for the continued rejection of Christ. We are culpable in the matter of the message going unheard and unheeded. When the lost see factions and fractures in the Church they “know” there’s no real Jesus and no real love. We need not be surprised at their reaction when we try to tell them differently – our actions are shouting denial while our words are faltering feints at the truth.

Miserable thoughts aren’t they! What should we do with them? My will to write about these things is often wrapped tightly in my own guilt for participating in and perpetuating division in the Body. I recoil at the thought of my own failures in this area. I have most likely been one who has placed a stumbling block in the path to peace. Rather than wallow in those thoughts we need to press on. Let’s resist the temptation to lie where we’ve fallen. I’d like to persevere. I want to see God win this one.

And God fully intends to win. We see this in the return of Christ to His first request and the main theme of the prayer. He wants us to be with Him and to see His Glory. It’s all about His glory. Look at how He even ties unity to glory in verse 22. Jesus has given us His glory so that we may be one. A unified Church is a glorified Christ! The glory, the “otherness” of God, given to men, so that we might live in such a way that all men might know that God loves them and sent His Son to die for them. We share the glory of God in order to reflect His character to desperate individuals “without hope and without God in the world.” We share the unity of God to show the world that there is “One God and Father of All Who is over all and through all and in all.” The way we live preaches one thing or another to the lost – will we “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?” 

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!