Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dealing With People Who Are Different Than Us

Some of the easiest things to say as a Christian are some of the hardest things to do. This is never so true as when it comes to dealing with people who are different than us. I am talking about people who hold to different belief systems than we do. When we think of our response to such people, we find ourselves thinking in two different directions. We will find that, generally, we can break the world down into two different major people groups ... the lost and the saved. Our response to each group has certain similarities and also certain differences.

If we determine that the person we are dealing with is lost, the Bible gives us some guidelines in dealing with them. First, we are to love them. Here is that part that is easy to say and hard to do. Yes, we owe them our love. We also owe it to them to give them the gospel message, the good news of the forgiveness of sins and of new life through saving faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. We owe it to them to respect them. Even lost, they are bearers of the image of God that is present within every human being. And since we don't know whom God will choose to be merciful to, every lost person we meet may one day be a saved person ... a brother or sister in Jesus Christ. We owe it to them to treat them like a person who will one day be a partaker of the Holy Spirit with us. We owe them love, respect, and the gospel, until the day comes when we are led of the Spirit to shake the dust off our shoes and move on. Remember, some plant, others water, but God gives the increase. It is not every one of us who get to see a person come to conversion. Some are planters, some are waterers, and yet others see the increase. We need to learn to treat lost people with love, respect, honesty, integrity, mercy, justice, good works, and all such good as comes from God. We are the Ambassadors of Christ to the world. They should see Him in us. We owe them that.

These are the same things that we owe to other Christians who differ from us. This is easy to say, but it is extremely hard to do. But we must learn this lesson. If we determine that someone has a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ then we must be about everything we can do to show that person that we love them. One writer, I cannot remember who right now, said that the Holy Spirit within us calls out to the Holy Spirit in them, knitting us together in the bonds of God's love for Himself. That is why it is such a sin to refuse to attend a local congregation. Because if we say we love Jesus then we automatically must love his people too. And you want to fellowship closely with the one you love.

But even more is that the quality of love that we have one for another is of such a quality that even lost people see it and know that we are followers of Jesus by how we (Christians) love one another. It is a superior kind of love that can only be from the source of the Presence of God living within us.

We can find all kinds of reasons NOT to relate to each other with this kind of love, but honestly, we are only rationalizing our sin. Our flesh loves to be offended, loves to get the dirt, and loves the fight. But that is not the way of the kingdom of God. Love, respect, civility, mercy, justice, good works ... these are the things we owe each other as Christians. We are Christ's brothers and sisters ... kings and priests ... members of His own Body. We have the illumination of the Holy Spirit inside us. We hear God's voice. We owe it to each other as Christians to let our fellow brothers and sisters see Him in us.

It is easy to say. It is hard to do. There is a quote from John Calvin that says "It is easy to preach 10 sermons. It is hard to live one." I find that to be very true.

In theology, in the Church, there are sometimes great differences between Christians. There are differences between various denominations. There are differences between systems of theology. There are differences on how to run the Church. Goodness ... there are differences on almost every conceivable topic. Some of these differences are minor. Others are of major importance as to defining who we are as Christians. They ought to be debated ... zealously, vigorously, passionately .. but always as Christian debating Christian. We should expect it from each other. We should demand it from each other. We should also expect and demand it from ourselves too. I confess that in my dealings with others, I am less than the perfect role model for this post. But I take heart that I am a jar of clay and the Master Potter is not yet done with me. Even as I grow older, I know there is much yet for me to learn. I suspect I am not alone in this, but isn't repentance also part of the sanctified Christian life?

Christ prayed that we would be unified as Christians. Even though the Church seems hopelessly divided, if we are in Christ, there is much more that united us than separates us. We need to stop doing as much damage as possible to other Christians and learn to love each other as Christ commanded us. Anything less is simply unchristian.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Precious Time

In James 4 we are reminded of this great truth ... "Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what [shall be] on the morrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye [ought] to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." (James 4: 13-15).

Time is one thing, I think, we all take for granted. We waste so much of it. And once an hour, or a minute, or a second is gone, it is gone. It can never be regained. But all of us are only granted so much life. In Job, we are told "Seeing his days [are] determined, the number of his months [are] with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass" (Job 14:5). God has our days numbered. Before we are born the Lord knows the time of our dying. It is a conceit of the young that they live under the illusion of immortality. But how many people who ought to know better still live as though they will never die. They spend their lives fighting God because they think they will never face Him. Scripture also tells us that "It is appointed unto men to die once and after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27). In the history of the human race, only two people have gone to heaven without dying (Enoch and Elijah) and one died and came back to live forever. All the rest have died and passed on into eternity.

The point of all this is to remind my readers that the time we have on earth is precious to us. It is limited. Ask yourself how your life might change if you were told by your doctor that you had only a few months, or a year or so, to live. But the scripture passage I quoted at the start of this blog post reminds us that it is presumption on our part to assume we are going to be alive to see our beds tonight. We don't know, when we wake up in the morning, if this is not going to be our last day on the earth. We could be struck down by an unknown (or known) illness, a terrorist attack, a drunken driver, or our own careless stupidity. Any number of things could happen to us. And we would find ourselves suddenly facing God.

The late Walter Martin had it right when he said "We need to live our lives as though we don't expect to see Jesus for another thousand years; we need to live each day as though we expect to see him tonight." The thing you are doing now may be the last thing you do in this life. Therefore, make it worth doing. Enjoy your time. Savor it. When you leave for work tomorrow, take time to really say something to your children. Kiss your spouse and enjoy it. You may not ever have another. Take time to smell the roses along the way. Life your life in a way that is worth living if it were to be the last thing you ever do.

Life is a gift from God. Don't squander it. Make it count for something. Make it count for God. Whether you have a lot of life left, or a short time left on earth, you don't know. That knowledge is in God's hand. But whatever time you have, use it wisely and with all your might. Live life! To the glory of God alone! But live it! And do your best to not waste a second of it. Remember, once it is gone, it is lost forever. So try not to lose any precious time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Becoming Like Jesus

Imagine there is a line that separates being Christian from being worldly. Much of modern North American Christianity spends it's time trying to get as close to that line as possible and still stay on the Christian side. Of course, that is a recipe for failure. Those of us who believe the doctrine of total depravity know that humans default to sin. If we are not careful we always lean towards sin. So, that line we talked about gets crossed quite often. Or it gets straddled. Either way you end up with professing Christians living worldly lives. Ask yourself how long it has been since you have heard a sermon in church on worldliness. Yet, the Holy Scriptures tell us that to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God.

I was listening to a well known seminary professor recently and he was mentioning the current trend to talk about doing deeds for Jesus. He spoke of how we (North American Christians) have come to believe that we believe the right things and that we simply aren't living them out. He quoted a well known Evangelical preacher who said that the first Reformation was about creeds and now we need a second reformation that is focused on deeds. But then this seminary professor goes on to point out that we are living out our beliefs. An old Baptist adage says "Right belief leads to right living." If that is true, then it also follows that the more we deviate from right beliefs the more we will deviate from right living.

Foundational among our beliefs is the belief that the Bible is the Holy Word of God. Jesus Christ is the Living Word, but the Bible is the written word of God. Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. We receive the Bible as Moses received the stone tablets on Mt. Sinai. Those tablets were written with the fiery finger of God and the Holy Scriptures were written by the Spirit of the Living God through the hands of His chosen writers. We call the Scriptures inerrant and infallible. And so they are. We call ourselves "People of the Book." And so we are. We make nothing binding on a Christian that can not be clearly shown from the Word of God. It is our "final rule for faith and practice." Yet for all that, we tent to take the commands of God as divine suggestions and we bend it's teachings so as to make ourselves comfortable in our modern, worldly lifestyles.

Beloved, how do we become like Jesus? I will tell you how. We must remember what we say we believe about the Bible, the Holy Word of God. Then we need to make that belief a part of our innermost being. Then we need to read the Bible and receive it as words spoken to us from on high. Then, and this is the hard part, when we find something we are not doing, we must do it. IF we find something we are doing that we ought not to do, we must stop it. Above all we need to quit arguing with the Word, reinterpreting the Word, changing the Word, ignoring the Word and (in short) quit disbelieving the Word. We must stop treating God's commands as suggestions to be obeyed or not as we wish. Believing every one of us ought to be Bible Christians we need to know that ignorance is not bliss. We need to twist, bend, or break our lives to make them conform to the Word of God. Is it not true, that all too often we twist the Word of God to make it conform to our lifestyles?

Beloved friend, be a Bible believing and Bible living and Biblically conformed Christian and then you will be like Jesus. That is the goal for every one of us ... Christlikeness.