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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 Disagreement (3)

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.
Wednesday
Dec072011

Small Matches, Large Fires

In 1896 a battle broke out. Invectives flew. Both sides joined the fracas, entrenched as enemies. Churches, districts, state organizations, and an entire national denomination got tied up in it.  Reconciliation was attempted but thwarted when one personality or the other rose up to contest the validity or the outcome of the process.  Three years the battle raged on. It was characterized by stubbornness, misunderstanding, character assassination, and unreasonable demands. A prominent, seemingly gentle, reasonable, and gracious man had his reputation ruined and was driven from his profession as a result. Others were deeply hurt, disillusioned, and harshly treated by the whole atmosphere of argument.

The fascinating thing about this battle is the cause. It is almost laughable if it had not had such serious consequences. Get this - a seminary historian (professor and president) discovered an inconsistency in some facts that many had understood as indisputable. W.H. Whitsitt, then president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had travelled to England to do some research. He discovered to his surprise that the English Baptists had not practiced baptism by immersion until around 1641. Before that they had baptized by sprinkling or pouring. That’s an interesting fact that really doesn’t challenge any Biblical convictions. It simply means that one era of Baptist practitioners used a different mode of baptism. Curiously, Whitsitt made no case for changing any practice in the Southern Baptist Convention. He merely stated the facts. He wasn’t looking for controversy.

Whitsitt published his remarks on the discovery. You wouldn’t think it, but his remarks ignited a firestorm. He was accused of undermining the “truth” that Christians had practiced baptism by immersion since John the Baptist and that true Baptists had never done anything differently. He was excoriated in numerous denominational publications. His resignation or dismissal from the seminary was demanded. Hours were spent in debate, motions were made, resolutions written, and all were hotly championed.

All this commotion raged regardless of the fact that He made no attempt whatsoever to change anyone’s mind on the mode of baptism. He remained a staunch advocate that the only truly Biblical mode of baptism was immersion.  Do you find this incredible? Are Christian men and women really threatened by a factual timeline change that doesn’t materially change the doctrine? Do you suppose Jesus gets fired up over such things? The outcome of this incident was tragic and instructive. Mr. Whitsitt lost his job, many of his opponents lost face, and years later apologies had to be made. Damage already done. 

The tragic reality is that a very small match can detonate an immense explosion. Those of us who love truth and have no reservations fighting for it are often blind to the fallout of our actions. Speaking for myself and I’m sure many others, we fire a cannon where a peashooter would do. What do we do with this tension between pure doctrine and brotherly love?

If you are interested in more about Whitsitt check out the book here, http://www.powells.com/biblio/95-9781122633727-0