06 May 2010

Jesus Centered

Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

I'm really not sure where to begin on this one today. But I'm continually coming back to the subject area of truth, and the bible being the only source of absolute, unchanging truth. For evangelicals especially, this would on the surface seem to be a simple prospect; the Bible is the inerrant word of God. But as recent Barna polls shows, this is not automatically the case. More and more often mainstream Evangelical Christian leadership is beginning to second guess scripture…and think that is 'natural'. It is natural for the secular human, but cannot be for the devout, true Christian.

Without making this a sola scriptura debate, I just want to key on one thought. There is much debate surrounding the bible. There is much debate as to whether it is the recorded Word of God. There is debate as to whether or not the details of the texts have been corrupted and/or that errors may have crept in during translation from Hebrew to Greek to Aramaic to Latin, to German to King's English to the majority of all written modern languages on earth today. My point is that as much as we want to say that the is clear on all things, God does leave room for debate on some non-salvational issues.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I am of a pre-millennial rapture theology. I believe that the bible clearly teaches a rapture of the 'church', i.e. believers prior to the time of the Great Tribulation. Others believe just as strongly that there will be a mid-tribulational rapture, others a post-trib rapture, and still others in no rapture at all. While I'm certain that what I believe is taught in scripture, I do not allow this position to effect my ability to minister to or with those who hold opposing views on such a biblical event. Why am I OK with that? Because this is a non-salvational issue. So while I feel that there is room for healthy discussions on certain issues, and that the ultimate 'final truth' on every single question that you might have may not be written with line-item instructions in scripture detailing how each situation must be handled, there is enough of the 'entire counsel of God' to KNOW His character well enough to make right, and righteous decisions in all things.

Perhaps most importantly, I DO believe that where salvation is the issue, God leaves no doubt. Robert McAfee Brown once wrote, "We do not see everything… but we see Jesus. We may see darkly, but we do see. We see enough to walk with confidence. We see enough to commit our lives to God. WE see enough to trust God. We see enough to know that God will meet our deepest needs. We see enough to shed light on the mystery of Jesus, to know that He is… the meaning of life."

God has made the bible CLEAR on what we must know to be saved. Of this there is no question. It is of course centered on Jesus. We must learn to leave room where God leaves room, but to stand firm and be united in Christ. As others have said, we must not major, on the minors. But in saying as much, we must be careful. As this statement for too many of the liberal bend, is taken as license to live a Christian C'est la vie, live-and-let-live life style where all things going are tolerable as long as they take place under the banner of being "Christian". Yes, we are to be united, but we are to be united in the character and love of Christ, and of all the characters in scripture, Jesus was the last person to give license to, and distance Himself from those who opposed the gospel and the Father's character.

Our center must be Jesus and noting more. Our future must be Jesus and nothing more or less. Our hope must be Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. Our Unity needs to be in Jesus and His character, not in a religion, a creed, or anything else. Just the Jesus as shown to us in scripture, and as is alive at the right hand of the Father still to this day. Only then, shall we have the unity of faith to a perfect man.

05 May 2010

It’s My Favorite!

One of the funniest movies in our family's opinion id Elf starring Will Farrell. In that movie, Buddy the Elf of course dressed like an elf walks into the Christmas department in Macy's store in downtown NYC. In the process, the manager of the Christmas department assumed Buddy is employed there. The boss asks Buddy, "Why are you smiling?" Buddy replies "Smiling is my favorite!" Well, all this is well and good but the Christmas department boss assumes needs results, it appears that Buddy is not working. His quip in response, "Make WORK your new favorite!" Just like a boss.

So what does the story of Buddy the Elf & Christmas have to do with your Christian walk in May? Well, a great deal, at least I think.

As we go through life we will be faced with all sorts of things. We will have to deal with hard times in marriages, in school, finances, spiritual battles and more. Not dealing with them does not solve the problems. Pretending they are not there, does not solve our problems. We must address them each according to their merit, and we must address them each according to God's power and not ours.

The bible was given to us, as many before me have said, as an owner's manual for Christian life. Inside those pages are dozens of worthwhile stories and examples for just about anything you might face in life. If a specific example is not there, there is a character of God, and His whole counsel to give guidelines promoting a Christian reaction or response to everything we might encounter. The resources are there (scripture) and the tools are there (the Holy Spirit), all we need to act is a heart to follow God. What does that mean? We need to make studying God's Word our favorite!

Favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite music etc are all good things. It's nice to have a favorite to fall back on. Life throws so many choices at us that having a favorite is something that comforts us in the face of choices. It's comforting to have a favorite, something that you know is always there for you, is always good, and well, just feels right. An issue that so many have is that their favorite is "ME", and whatever it takes to make ME happy or satisfied, rather than making decisions that make God happy, and is others centered.

Having a favorite does not prohibit us from stepping outside of the norm either. I am a Pepsi guy, not Coke. But, on occasion I'll drink the swill from Atlanta when I have to. I take from it what I can, but always go back to Pepsi. I have also read the Qur'an. I take from it what I find useful, and go back to what I know is right. And by the way, I'm just making an analogy; I'm not equating Coke to Islam (or am I… J) I read books from Reformed pastors and theologians in spite of my disagreements with their theology. I have read Calvin, but I'm not a Calvinist. I've read the Wesley brothers and still to this day sing many of the Wesley Hymns (as do you), but I'm not a Methodist. In other words, while the Word of God remains our center, we may do well to educate ourselves on what's being taught out there, and that we can do so without turning our backs on truth.

A tendency of us as humans, and perhaps even more so as Christians is to deal with a problem by asking this question first: "Does anyone know of a good book on how to deal with [inset problem X here]?" Does anyone know of a good book on healing, prayer, child-rearing, divorce, alcoholism etc, etc? Sure these can be helps, and I'm not saying that we cannot go to other sources (I better not, since I just advocated it in the last paragraph), but rather that we need to make the Word of God our favorite! Our first answer should be "Yes, the Bible", and offer some comforting verses that may help. We are often afraid to turn to the Bible first and will sooner find a book dedicated to that topic. But digging into the word, making it our favorite source is what really truly helps us grow!

Get to know the bible like an old friend. Like an old Favorite! Knows it inside and out, be able to quote it, reference it first. Make God's word your new favorite.