False Teaching, Among the People…?

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I sat in class one Sunday and thought the pastor was kidding, then I realized he was totally serious.  As he proceeded to recount how he always felt “used” by people when he does something as a favor to them, he concluded that you cannot give to people without requiring something from them, “or else they will not appreciate it from you.”  I thought at the onset of this discussion, “…exactly where is that taught in scripture?” As I pondered that false doctrine, I recalled how Jesus did all that he did for me without anything required in return from me.  Scripture teaches we are to mimic Christ.  I glanced at other class members faces realizing for the most part they were clueless to the fact they were being deceived with false teaching here.  The bigger issue was that these students had such a lack of discernment and little personal knowledge of Scripture and theology.

That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matt 5:39-42 (KJV)

Scripture is clear that our (i.e. the Christian’s) mission in life is the Glory of God and the making of disciples.  We are promised tribulation; we are promised we will be persecuted.

In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 (RSV)

We are not here on this planet to “be blessed” and live in mansions and drive the most expensive cars.  And if we are wronged by someone, we are to go the extra mile in blessing them, not try and find ways to get even.

False Teachers come in many forms and are very prominent these days.  Consider this prophecy:

 But false prophets also arose AMONG THE PEOPLE, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.

2 Peter 2:1-3 (RSV)

We live in  a society permeated with false “biblical” teachings.  Some of this is very obvious to even a casual student of Scripture (Joel Olstean (prosperity gospel) and Rob Bell (neo-orthodoxy), for example).  Other false teachers are more subtle, like those teaching such things as this topic and those taking disputable points of scripture and forming and teaching them as absolutes of the faith.

Scripture tells us to …test everything; hold fast what is good” 1 Thess 5:21 (RSV).  So, when you encounter a teacher who is teaching something contrary to scripture, such as this pastors statement (which is an example of the most subtle forms), it is to be tested against scripture, and if it does not conform to that test, discard it.  Scripture teaches that I am to be a steward of my possessions.  They are not mine.  If someone wants my coat, I am to give them my cloak also.  If someone asks of me to go a mile with them, I am to go instead two ( wince the saying going the extra mile).  If someone wishes to borrow from me, (if I am in a position to do so) I am not to turn away.  Scripture does not teach that if God has blessed me to live in a mansion and have extra cars, I am to sell of my excess to those in need.  No, I am to give freely to those in need.

Notice that the false teachers did not come into the congregation in 2 Peter; they arose from within their ranks.  The dangers to Christianity are seldom external, most of the time the damage is done from within.

 

Our Love Story, 36 Years & Counting – The Love Song & Beautiful

 

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalms 37:4 (RSV)

Marriage is an exercise in perseverance.  Endurance training in relationships is a key to successful marriages.  I am of the opinion that success in relationships in general is found by directing Phil 2:3 to your spouse selflessly:

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.

Phil 2:3 (RSV)

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I love you, the love of my life

I need you, our love is right.

I’ve found the one that my soul loves,

No other love means so much.

I prayed to my god for a heart to keep

He gave me the one, He knew my needs.

Over and over this love is sweet

I recognize the joy that makes our love complete

God gave you to me.

You’re the one I prayed for so long

Fearless trust I never thought I’d know

I’ve found the answer to my dreams

My eyes were opened to love’s mystery.

I prayed to my God for a heart to keep

He gave me the one, He knew my needs

Over and over this love is sweet

I recognize the joy that makes our love complete

God gave you to me

The love of my life…

I love you, the love of my life

I need you, our love is right

I’ve found the one that my soul loves

No other heart gives so much

God gave you to me

You’re the one I love

You are the love of my life

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In 2001, Darla Day wrote and recorded this song for her own wedding, Love of My Life (The Wedding Song).”  Music and Karaoke CD/MP3′s can be found here:  http://www.darladay.net/Wedding_Song/WeddingSong-Main.html  I was searching for the perfect song to share with my wife on our anniversary and Valentines67 Day (her birthday) on youtube and found this one spoke particularly strong to me, as it fits our story so well.  I shared it with Robin last night and her tears answered the question perfectly well that she agreed.

Today, Robin and I celebrate 36 years of marriage, and plan if it is the will of God to celebrate a 72nd together.  This song is one of the best I have heard, and I am always looking for poetry and music that expresses how I feel about my wife and our life together, ones that illustrates the Covenant of marriage between two people.

 Another song I would like to dedicate to my wife today is this one:

From the Moment I saw you,
from the moment I looked into your eyes
there was something about you
I knew I knew
that you were once in a life time
a treasure near impossible to find
and I know how lucky I am to have you

Chorus:
Cause I’ve seen the rainbows that can take your breath away
the beauty of the setting sun that ends a perfect day
and when it comes to shooting stars, I’ve seen a few
but I’ve never seen anything…as beautiful as you

Holding you in my arms
no one else has fit so perfectly
I could dance forever with you, with you
and at the stroke of midnight
please forgive me if I can’t let go
cause I never dreamed I’d find a Cinderella of my own

I have spent my lifetime exploring the universe.  My eyes have beheld comets stretching across the sky; I saw the string of pearls comet, which then left impact scars in Jupiter’s violent atmosphere (Shoemaker Levy 9); I have seen galaxies colliding; I have seen quasars in the remote reaches of the universe; I have seen the central star of the Ring Nebula winking its dim light at me; I have searched the extents and filaments of the Veil Nebula; I saw the transit of Venus (with you by my side); I searched out the galaxies in the Big Dipper; I have watched in wonder as the sun arose and sat on craters on the moon; I have seen the marvelous and awesome wonders of the universe; but none of them compare to you, my love – my angel – my life.  One gaze into your eyes eclipses them all.

I don’t know how song writers speak so accurately to my experience in love and life, as these two have.  My wife is my soul-mate, the Love of My Life, and my Cinderella.  From the moment first saw her, from that first gaze into her eyes, I knew she was something special; she is my treasure.

She is my only hearts desire…and I will forever love her with all that I am.

Marriage is to be held in honor…

 

Next Monday, February 13th, 2012, my wife and I celebrate our 36th anniversary.  Probably 37 or 38 years ago, we discussed getting married and made one primary commitment to each other:  Divorce would NEVER be an option for our relationship once we were married.  PERIOD.  This commitment was based upon our faith in Jesus Christ and our commitment to following God’s design for marriage, which we understood to be a covenant between myself, my fiance, and God.  My wife and I have never lived in a mansion, we have never owned the best of cars.  We have struggled financially, and sacrificed all for me to attend seminary.  But we are partners in life and partners for life.

For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel…

Mal 2:16 (RSV)

Is there any ambiguity in this description of God’s feelings on divorce here in Malachi?  Did He not make this clear?  Could He have been any clearer?  Is there any room for interpretation?

Most theologians acknowledge one single Biblical reason for divorce, basically infidelity.  This does not mean that a couple SHOULD divorce in this case, it only allows a divorce without committing sin (and I would say this is solely for a couple who are spiritually immature! A mature couple understands forgiveness and would relate the act of adultery in light of how Christ forgave us – but that may be a subject for another blog).  Divorce for any other reason is SIN; and the breaking of the marriage covenant is the breaking of your covenant WITH GOD.

I have heard recently of women’s bible studies where participants engage in silly discussion and  joking about divorce.  Some participants may have been divorced, so this is not all that surprising.

…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ

Eph 4:15 (RSV)

Is this proper conduct for a Christian woman, and does this foster an attitude of the Proverbs 31 woman and wife?  Does such teaching, and yes, silly jesting about divorce is teaching the younger women something about marriage, teach a young wife how they are to honor, respect and love their husbands?  Absolutely not, and it is forbidden in scripture.  And I state this as a former singles minister who served a large church and dealt for years with divorcees.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.  Keep your life free from love of money…

Heb 13:4-5 (RSV)

For a group of women to get together and not only be allowed but encouraged in silly jesting and jokes about divorce is unconscionable.

Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving.  Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Eph 5:4-5 (RSV)

I am absolutely fed up with hearing about the teaching of false doctrine and of the lack of discernment among professing Christians.

Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.

Titus 2:3-5 (RSV)

The divorce rate among Christians today is repulsive.  It shows a complete failure of the Christian educational systems to teach sound doctrine and a failure in making disciples.  Anyone who teaches anything other than Scriptural views of Divorce are teaching false doctrine and heresy.

If you enter a marriage with divorce as an option, then your marriage has already failed.

If you have been married before and are now in a new marriage, then your current marriage is to be held in honor before God and is never to be dissolved by divorce aside from Biblical reasons for divorce (and even in that case, the spiritually mature Christian will employ the same forgiveness they received from God to their wayward spouse).

Do not quench the Spirit,
do not despise prophesying,
but test everything; hold fast what is good,
abstain from every form of evil.

1 Thess 5:19-22 (RSV)

 

The Others…

I started writing this blog after meeting with one of the Pastors at the church we are currently attending, having shared with him the struggles I face as a man who has persistently pursued  ministry for the past 38 years.

He shared a story with me found in Hebrews which I had never connected to my experience:

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection.

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Heb 11:32-40 (RSV)

One has to remember that scripture promises the latter to the Christian.  We were warned that we are to suffer for the cause of Christ.  Therefore, the norm is the suffering Christian not the “successful” Christian.

In a modern context, you have some that are blessed by God with long pastorates, dynamic ministries, good pay, steady employment, and “growing” churches.  I know “pastors” living in mansions, driving the best of cars, and living financially secure.  Then you have the others, like me, who have a different experience.  They may have sacrificed retirements, careers, and security.  They may have graduated seminary, but still waiting on God while most churches seek those billboard pastors.  Faithfully serving God with little to no pay.

How then do we reconcile those who teach prosperity gospel?  They seem to stop the story in Hebrews 34a and omit the rest of the inerrant teaching of scripture to make their point which is then taken completely out of context.  They seem to miss the point that God has chosen NOT to bless some with materialism while others revel in it.

When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu’selah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu’selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Gen 5:21-24 (RSV)

God owes us nothing.  If we “walk with God,” our story may not end up any more than a short paragraph in the history of this great universe.  Nonetheless, we who are spiritual must persevere.

Notice that we have here a man who lived about 4 1/2 times the modern lifespan, and all we learn here about him is that he fathered Methu’selah, and “walked with God…”  Then the curious thing, “and he was not…because God took him.

I heard a sermon Sunday that put me to thinking on this.  The preacher spoke about Enoch and made the point that “He walked with God and was not.”  The end of the message gave the one point that was essential here.  God’s name is “I am.”  Our name is “I’m not.”

As the preacher said last Sunday, will you walk with God and “become a not?

 

Valentines Day is Fast Approaching!

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Valentines Day is one of my favorite holidays.  One of the reasons for this is that Valentines Day, February 14th, is also my wife’s birthday AND our anniversary is the day before, February 13th.  We were married 36 years ago on Friday the 13th – despite the reputation this day incurs, it turned out to be a fine and memorable day for me!  Add to this the fact that our middle son’s birthday is two days later and my mother-in-law’s birthday is on our anniversary, and it is a bit of a busy week!

I believe we men and husbands need to work harder at making such holidays (and personal events such as our anniversaries) special for our wives; doubly so if you are blessed as I was with not only marrying the one and only love of your life but also a Proverbs 31 wife.  (Ladies, if you are unsure of what this looks like just observe my wife.  She fits the description exactly, and I mean exactly, and I am so thankful for every moment God has given us and I look forward to our next 36 years together).

A good wife is the crown of her husband…   Prov 12:4 (RSV)

—–

A good wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels. Prov 31:10 (RSV)

I have know men many many times more successful than I am.  They can afford their nice houses, cars, boats, and toys toys toys… But many if not most of them are miserable in life.  I have often wondered why this is.  The simple fact of the matter is they lack treasure where it really counts.

In many cases, their jobs, toys and lifestyles somewhere along the line became their treasure, and that is where their hearts dwell as well.  Scripture, however, helps us identify where our hearts are to be focused.  First and foremost, Matthew 6:33 teaches us that if we place God first ‘all these things will be added to you.”

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Matt 6:33 (RSV)

Once a husband has this priority right, they will then and only then be able to recognize that their true treasure on this earth is the wife God has given them (Prov 31:10).

Sometimes economic hardship can be a blessing.  I learned this last year following our anniversary week.  Our funds were pretty tight, and we had funneled most of our free financial resources at the time into a few day’s at Riverbend Retreat for a celebration of our anniversary some much needed time alone together.

With our budget tight, there was little left for presents.  This would not be as years past when I had better jobs, such as when I took her on a cruise (25th anniversary) nor would I be presenting her with really jewelry.  There simply was no money for such luxuries.  So I had to be more creative; I made them.  I scroll sawed and assembled two boxes (using Birdseye Maple and Butternut) and a set of Heart-shaped Walnut shelves.  One of the boxes was oval with a fretwork lid and the other Heart Shaped with fretwork and  “Be Mine” scrolled across it’s front.  These must have been pretty good, as they were both featured in Scroll Saw Woodworking and Gifts Magazine, Holiday 2011 issue, page 16!  So if you are a woodworker or craft person, try making something special for your valentine, or have a custom item created for her.

Photo’s MWH – Heart Shaped Fretwork “Be Mine” Valentine Box cut in Birdseye Maple with Butternut sides; Fretwork Oval Box also cut in Birdseye and Butternut featuring magnetic lid and brass handles.  These were featured in the Holiday 2011 issue of ScrollSaw Woodworking and Crafts Holiday 2011 magazine, page 16.  Designs by Steve Good, The ScrollSaw Workshop.

The funny part of this story was that I had not been aware that these boxes had made it into the magazine.  So there I was during Christmas season in Home Depot thumbing through the pages of several woodworking magazines, and there they were!

If you are not handy with wood, try this idea.  Go to the bookstore (like Half-Price Books) and buy one of those blank journals.  Buy a nice one!  Research on Google, Yahoo, smart phone apps and the old fashioned thing called a library, and find poems and literature that expresses how you feel toward your wife.  Hand write these out, page after page, for your wife.  If you want to add a special touch, add some wax seals to special pages you want to highlight (I bought mine from Micheal’s).  Again, this takes some degree of effort but will be cherished by your wife!

In these hard economic times, one can put as much if not more love into items hand created and not skimp on anniversaries and Valentines presents.  And by creating your gifts, they can become family heirlooms attesting to a love between you and your wife for future generations.  Go ahead, try it men!

 

 

 

I wish you well; keep warm and well fed…

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I find myself increasingly frustrated these days watching the Church and what we often call ministry.  As I grew in the faith, I begin pursuing Ministry as a means of helping people.  I never sought to live in a mansion nor drive the finest cars…ministry to me was meant to be helping others, not myself.  My goal was to devote my life first and foremost to ministering to people – that included helping as far as I could to meet their physical as well as spiritual needs.  I have consistently pursued this calling for the past 38+ years.

Modern Christianity seems to have shifted from the concept from “what I can give” to “what can I get.“  People today do not go to church to serve but to be served.  We ingrain this concept into our youth, teaching them by making sure they are well served in the church ‘youth ministry;’  we thus hear such nonsense as “If you have no youth ministry you have no church.”  Exactly where is this taught in Scripture?

This mindset today has led to today’s concept of church as a form of entertainment.  We are more concerned with the ‘production’ that entertains and fosters ‘growth.’

The other frustration I have stems from the lack of discernment I see among so many Christians.  I personally attribute this to the lack of true discipleship done in the modern church.  Most of the ‘ministry’ today is based around building numbers within a church, and most of this is not true church growth (winning and discipling people in Christ) but rather church shifting (getting person A to leave church B and attend church C).

In the process of all of this, we see little effort to fulfill a ministry as James defined it:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

James 2:14-16 (NIV)

To me the most nauseating statement I hear is often “I will pray for you…”  Prayer is never a bad thing, but all too often it is used as a cop-out.  Most of the time when someone vows to pray fro another they never give the issue another thought, let alone intercede for the other person.  The rarest of Christians today are those who look at their material wealth and think of it as a tool God has given then to be a blessing to another.  I have sat in Sunday School classes and heard how God immensely blesses someone with wealth and then later hear that person say that they will pray for their brother who is unemployed and needs a car to get to work or interviews.  My thought is “God has blessed you with material ‘success,’ and you will PRAY for this person?”
James states that it is useless to claim faith in God and to approach needs in this way.  The man of faith places feet to their prayers, and anything less is idolatry.  If God has blessed you, then in the Christian economy you are His instrument for meeting needs.  You are not here to drive the best of cars and live in the best of homes, and God has not blessed you for those purposes.  You have been placed in a stewardship position and are to use God’s blessings as a means to meet needs of others: not to buy another boat.
Couple of Case Studies:
Compare and contrast, and decide who understands James 2:14-16 best.
  1. Successful salesman at high end auto dealership has a trade in worth $2,000 on the used car market.  He gives the car to a Christian man in need of transportation.
  2. Another professing Christian living in a mansion and driving only the best of cars has an extra vehicle worth $2,000 on the used auto market and SELLS the car to another Christian in need of transportation.

Lifetime of Devotion

Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth.

Prov 5:18 (NASB)

My greatest joy in life in the Lord is my wife.  I often realize that through her God has granted me most everything worthwhile in my life.  She was the wife of my youth literally, and I do rejoice in her always.

I remember being young and in love.  All of my high school friends dreamed of the experience sang about in this song.  Everyone’s goal in relationships was to live these words, to have someone who would “…feel like lovin [you], giving [you]me a lifetime of devotion, I second that emotion!“  Of course every couple back then felt their destiny was to experience true love with the one they were in a relationship with and whom they intended at that time to marry.

Smokey Robinson had one thing right when he said “…if you FEEL like lovin me…“  I have said before that love is not a feeling (it may cause feelings); we do not FALL in and out of love with someone.  What most identify as love is actually physical attraction or plain ole lust.  But in a way he is right on here.  You chose to love someone and to give them your lifetime of devotion.  It is a choice, it is not something that suddenly happens and all of a sudden you look at your spouse and realize you do not love them.  You chose to either love someone or not to love them.  I have heard people speak of their spouse and say “I just don’t love him/her anymore.”  No, they may have made a conscious choice not to love that person, but again, it was a conscious choice.

I was reading an article the other day on why women cheat.  One of the things listed was boredom with their current marriage or relationship.  Another was that their mate was a workaholic and gone all the time and when they were home there was little left for them.  Whatever the reason, they chose to be unfaithful to their spouse.  And Christian men and women are as statistically prone to adultery as any other demographic today.  Christian men and women who are married must remember they are called upon to not only be faithful to their God given mate but also to their God.  Adultery by a Christian not only breaks the covenant with their spouse but more-so with their God.

OK, so let’s think first of all why people are attracted to one another in the first place.  People are usually drawn into romantic relationships by a variety of factors.  These include proximity, physical attraction, similarities, etc.  My wife and I met at church and attended high school together; we were high school sweethearts.  So we are an example of a couple who initially came together through proximity, there was a physical attraction, and through the friendship that developed we learned of many similarities we had, even in the area of faith.

Seldom do people get together outside of a proximity to each other.  This happens when we meet someone at church, the gym, organizations you are involved in or even people you work with.  This is why I so caution married couples in their personal outside relationships…you have to build in guards against finding yourself in a relationship that initially is completely benign but over time (proximity) and over time might become emotional.  It is important in society today that we have friendships outside our marriages and with other couples, but caution is advised.  This is especially true if your situation is that there are issues in your marriage.  Never, never share difficulties in your marriage with a member of the opposite sex with whom you have an acquaintance.  This is often how emotional relationships begin between people and can lead to problems. When one becomes too close to another there is the potential for trouble.

“…so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

2 Cor 2:11 (NASB)

A one-flesh marriage where two people are in covenant with God is something that Satan fears.  He and his minions will stop at nothing to destroy such union, and he has a wealth of resources to use against us in society today.  God has designed us a tool against these devices – the sexual union and relationship between a man and his wife to assist us in staying the course in purity here:

“…come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

1 Cor 7:5 (NASB)

One of the excuses I have heard in men who are caught in extra-marital affairs was that their needs were not being met by their spouses in the area of sexual relations.  This excuse is yet another of Satan’s schemes, which God designed marital sex to defend against in the first place.  This is an issue of self control.  What is actually happening here is that their hearts are wicked:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the min…”

Jer 17:9-10 (NASB)

One of the things I frequently hear that tell me a lot about a persons Biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity is advice they often give in saying “Trust your heart.”  How can you trust what God has decreed is sick (wicked)?

One of the biggest blessings of my life is my Proverbs 31 wife.  A couple attributes found there that I am proud of in her are:

The heart of her husband trusts in her….Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

Prov 31:,11, 25 (NASB)

My wife and I vowed a lifetime of devotion to one another in 1976; my prayer for you is that you will devote a ‘lifetime of devotion’ to your mate.  It is your choice.

 

 

Dealing with Disagreements, Sin and Other Interpersonal Issues

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If your brother sins , go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matt 18:15-17 (NASB)

First off, this article is intended for Followers of Jesus Christ within the context of a Christian Church or organization.  It is not intended to suggest any application outside this context. This is how EVERY bible believing church is expected to operate on matters of church discipline and every believer is to act in matters of sin and disagreements.  Now, before the e-mails start flying in that we are not to judge:

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not JUDGE those who are within the church?

1 Cor 5:11-12 (NASB)

I am going to mostly address a side of this issue you may have never thought about.  This verse tells us how to deal with a Brother or Sister in Christ who is in sin.  This most usually is what you will hear about in a sermon, if sin is dealt with at all within the church.  Almost completely absent in the church today even in these episodes is any form of church discipline.  Interesting how we ignore the parts of Scripture that we are uncomfortable with.

The other side of this verse is how you are to deal with a personal problem or disagreement you have with another Christian, and this includes interpretative matters on faith or theology – the many items that are debatable.  A few examples:

  • Tithing verses the New Testament Principle of Giving
  • The mechanics of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (not will Jesus come again, but rather how and when will He come again)
  • The age of the universe and matters of natural revelation
  • The color of the tile in the new building program!

This list is not comprehensive, but you get the idea.

Ok, so lets say you and a friend at church are involved in a heated argument over a sin issue in their life.  The same principles below are to be used in such instances as well as in disagreements you may have over such matters as Theological interpretations or even personal business dealings.  Lets say that someone you know within your church is living in adultery (they are being unfaithful to their spouse OR living together outside of marriage), and you are aware of this and have first hand knowledge and proof that this is the case.  What are you to do?

Here is the procedure per this verse:

  1. “…go and show him his fault in private.” You do not mention them and the issue in a Bible Study or Prayer group.  You do not discuss the matter over dinner with a mutual friend.  You do not accuse them from the pulpit and call for their repentance. 
  2. “…if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you.” After you have gone to the person who is in sin or with whom you are having a serious disagreement with, you are to make a follow up visit with that person with one or two other believers within the same congregation preferably.  This should be the only time the situation has been discussed by you with anyone else!  It does not say to skip the first item on this list and discuss a matter in a Bible Study; it does not say you are to first discuss this in front of the deacon or elder body…this is the SECOND step in the process, not the first.
  3. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church… God is sovereign, and there is a reason for this process to be followed and  IN THIS ORDER.  The goal is ALWAYS reconciliation and repentance.  I am going to offer a bizarre example why this is so important below.
  4. and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Try applying this in one of your emergent churches or even in a mega church.  It will never happen in today’s market driven church. 

Seems straightforward enough, right?  Well, then why is this rarely followed?  Here is another scenario: you have a more minor disagreement or bad business dealing with a person in a church, then what do you do to resolve the situation?  The answer is exactly the same, you follow the procedure listed above.

Case Study:  A man was involved in a situation once in a church.  The main leader and he had a long history of conflict.  He tried to speak with the leader on several occasions, including asking him how he  had sinned against him that they could not work together and what he could do to rectify the situation.  The only answer given by the leader was that he (our subject) could always leave.  After years of conflict, one day it all came to a head.  He () our subject) discovered the leader was doing something very odd with the mail addressed to him.  Our subject had a friend ask him at a conference jokingly why he never responded to a speaking request.  It turns out that that our subject never responded and “…was not even courteous enough to decline the offer.”  Well, our subject explains that he never received the invitation in the first place (this was in the day when you sent a letter, written and placed in one of those things called an envelope and placed postage on it sending it through the mail!).

Our subject became suspicious, realizing he never received mail addressed to him at this church, including junk mail.  Our subject asked the leader why he never received any mail?  The leader claimed to have no idea.  One day the leader did his daily mail run to the post office, and our subject followed him and watched from the parking lot some very curious conduct that goes on for quite some time.  Our subject goes into the post office after the leader has left to investigate, looking into the various trash cans he had seen the leader going back and forth to.  Our subject found carefully removed labels with his name on them.  In other trash cans he found the envelopes, and in still other trash cans the contents of the various items.  Our subject confronted the leader, showed him the proof, and the leader denied the whole thing.  The next few weeks, our subject mysteriously started getting a little junk mail here and there.  Then it again ceased.  A few months later, our subject followed the leader again and watched and verified it was all going on still.

Our subject went to another man involved in the ministry in question in the church and discussed this with him.  This man wanted to see for himself, so he and our subject watched the whole strange thing, getting the verification necessary for proof.  The man he recruits per Matthew 18 wanted to bring in another person, so they did.  The third person said they wanted the men to confront him with the facts, and see what happened.  This was done, and the leader denied the whole thing.  A meeting was set with a board over the whole issue, and the night of the meeting the leader suddenly resigned.  This was never taken to the third step which is what our subject requests (that the Biblical procedure be followed).  Our subject was then asked by this board to likewise resign…three days after the leaders resignation.

Months or years later, the leader was arrested for indecency in a public setting when he exposed himself to an off duty police officer…as I said in another of my blogs, “the problem is seldom the problem.”  I suspect this leader thought there was something about to come public when the meeting was supposed to occur before the board, and in reality the thing the leader feared was not even known at the time.  Had Matthew 18 been followed, the whole thing could have been reconciled for the issue at hand, and in the process the organization might have learned of the actual deeper sin in progress in the first place.  Instead the leadership of the organization sinned against our subject by asking him to resign, and all he had done was ask for Matthew 18 to be properly followed.  The issue was not dealt with, and this leader went on to another position in the meantime and continued in his sin.  He was later caught calling another church organization (before he was arrested) talking to the secretary he had known from the first org, anonymously, with perverted sexual suggestions…

God is sovereign, and there is no excuse for mature believers in Jesus Christ to not follow clear teachings of scripture.  Matthew 18 gives clear instructions on how to deal with various issues within the church body and Christian community.  It is not unambiguous, nor is its meaning  difficult to any interpreter.  You cannot say you believe in the authority of Scripture and ignore its teachings and instructions!

 

 

 

The Extinction that Almost Happened

I read a tweet today that raised my eyebrows just a bit.  We have all probably seen the Hollywood versions of the story; a massive comet or asteroid is heading toward earth and will impact, extinguishing all life on this planet.  This may be what happened to the dinosaurs…

Well, apparently this almost happened to earth in 1883.  See the article: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27264/

Some find my blog curious.  On one hand I am counseling couples and others from the Nouthetic point of view and discussing theology, then  on the other hand I am discussing science.  Here the two intersect.

I am an astronomer, and if I had things to do over today I would probably be in some form of astronomical research as a profession.  However, I decided 38 years ago to pursue ministry and theology.  But you can never take the astronomer out of me, and this story raises some interesting questions for all of us.

What if the earth had been hit by this comet in 1883?  Life as we know it today would not exist.

However, the comet missed the earth (apparently by a very narrow margin).  There were no space stations, there were no astronauts, NASA or Nukes.  All that would have happened would be a sudden impact; the earth would have suddenly seemed like hell.  And guess what?  This could happen with little or no warning even today.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:8-13 (RSV)

I plan to blog more on this soon…

My question to you is, if this were to happen within the next 24 hours, and you knew about it and there was nothing we could do but wait and watch, what would really matter to you?

As Orion Rose


Long before you or I were born,

God stretched out the heavens for us to explore.

One of His purposes, I cannot deny,

Was secretly just for you and I.

When the time was right, you did He form,

In your mother’s womb, custom crafting for me,

 All your angelic charms.

Then one evening as Orion rose,

I looked into the sparkle of your eyes and chose.

Those mighty twins above our skies,

Shall always remind me of that sparkle in your eyes.

Never again would these eyes ever behold,

Anyone like you, the love I chose.

On that wedding night, above our bed,

Ole Gemini stood with his arms thus spread.

Hercules and Apollo stood guard outside,

As one we became, thus ever to abide.

During that night as we became one,

A covenant was sealed between you, I, and God,

Now one…

And as God watched our love begin to grow,

He smiled and said, “It is good…” – Let everyone know.

And as the sun rose on your 18th birthday,

My promise to you was that thus would I forever stay.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…”

Song 6:3 (RSV)

 

Written for my wife

 Robin D. (Rackley) Huddleston

By Marvin W. Huddleston

August 2nd, 2011

Image: http://www.allthesky.com/constellations/orion/constell.html

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