Tag Archives: Church

Troublemakers

negative energy

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice,  have nothing more to do with him.  Titus 3:10

There are verses here and there that tell us what God thinks about people who stir up drama and division.  Here are a few of them:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid.  For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  Romans 16:17

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.  Proverbs 16:19

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  Proverbs 10:12

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.  Hebrews 12:14-15

Are you starting to get the picture?  Being divisive is driven by bitterness and hatred and it needs to be kept in check.  Otherwise, it is like a cancer that spreads and takes others down.  It must be dealt with.  Paul tells how to handle someone who is a spreader of drama and contention: warn them twice and then, if it continues, have nothing to do with that person.

Actually, Paul tells about a few different types that we are to have nothing to do with.  In 2 Timothy 3:5 he wrote to avoid people that hold to the form of godliness but deny its power.  In Ephesians 5:3-7 Paul lists a bunch of things, including foolish talk and crude joking, along with greed and sexual immorality, that if believers exhibit them to stay away from.

Peace and purity in the body of Christ are big deals.  It might seem radical to have nothing to do with people that spread strife, and some might call it unloving.  But creating and maintaining an atmosphere of peace honors God and promotes spiritual growth.  

Think about your own handling of something that doesn’t go your way, or of trying to work together in a group.  Are you the one who resorts to ‘taking your ball and going home?’  Do you back stab, manipulate or undermine decisions?   Do you have unresolved bitterness that you need to take care of so you can sow peace and not drama?  Do you have a “friend” who is constantly stirring up trouble that you need to have a critical conversation with?

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15

 


Itching Ears

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  2 Timothy 4:3-4

The last days.  Have you heard of them?    Those are the times before Jesus returns to the earth.  It sure feels like the last days, doesn’t it? The last days are what Paul described in 2 Timothy 3-4.  In Matthew 24, Jesus talked about wars and rumors of war, lawlessness increasing and peoples’ love growing cold.  He said that was just the beginning of birth pangs.  In other words, this could go on for awhile and get much worse.

George Barna, a Christian researcher and pastor, published a book in Sept. of 2016 called America at the Crossroads.  In it he explained the difference between fads and trends.  A fad is something that comes and goes in popularity, like leg warmers or Cabbage Patch Dolls.  A trend is something that impacts the culture and causes a shift that lasts.  I would say a recent cultural trend, or shift, came about when Bruce Jenner launched the headline, “Call Me Kaitlyn.”  That was an event that swung many other cultural pieces into motion.

itching2.jpgMoving away from God and toward evil is a trend that will only continue. It is interesting that the reason Paul gave for this trend is because people will have itching ears and will act to suit their passions.   It’s already happening.  People with itching ears don’t want to hear Biblical truth because it might pinpoint a sin habit that they either haven’t come face to face with, or one that they are currently engaged in and don’t want to quit.  They find a different place to go that suits their passions.  Or, as statistics show us, they stop going to church all together.

Part of our itching ears has to do with short attention spans, a consumer based view of what people want in a church, and a make-your-own-sundae approach to belief systems. Barna wrote about how people aren’t just picking and choosing from Biblical truths to form their worldview, but they are gleaning things from the Koran, some from Buddhism, others from New Age principles.  That’s called syncretism.

At least we’ve been warned, so as to not be surprised by any of it.   That’s one of the reasons why Paul wrote what he did to Timothy and to us.  Another purpose is so that we stand firm and not water down the truth to make it easier to handle.  Stand firm in what you firmly believe and have been taught, and don’t let your ears itch.  In the next verses in 2 Timothy 4, Paul admonishes: “Be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

We may or may not be in the last days.  But we can be in our own last days, recognizing that our own lifespan is just a vapor and a mist.  Make the most of them.


Let peace be your umpire

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  umpire safe.jpgAnd be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

The first thing to notice here is that it reads that the peace of Christ should rule in your hearts. That suggests that the peace of Christ should be the ruler collectively in the body of Christ, not just in our own lives individually.  When there is a dispute in the body then, the prevailing rule of the thumb should be figuring out what will benefit peace and not cause strife, conflict, or division.  Sometimes it is so easy to get fired up about what truth is at stake that peace loses out.  Ephesians 4:3 backs this up.  Paul writes, “(be) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. “

The word for “rule” is the only time it is used in the New Testament. What it refers to is an Olympic judge; the guy that would award a medal or disqualify an athlete from his prize. This guy was the umpire. You can argue all you want but the umpire is the one that gets to make the call.  (cited from http://www.mikeleake.net)  Peace is the umpire.  If peace is sacrificed, then drop it.

You may think important things might get diminished, or compromised.  But yet, it seems like most rifts aren’t about whether or not Jesus is the only way to God or other crucial doctrinal tenants.  Most conflicts are over hurt feelings, pride, jealousy or matters of preference.   If I am growing in the Lord and able to look beyond my own interests, then I should be able to let someone else’s opinion or preference win out.  Keeping peace is so much more important than me being right or getting my way.  That’s the more mature option.

It is easier to take that option if you have learned to let the peace of Christ rule in your own life.  James 3:14-18 reads, But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

There are some Christians that have chaos ruling their lives, not peace.  It could stem from having jealousy and selfish ambition that are not surrendered to God.  There is most likely bitterness and pride that needs to get renounced.  Those people are difficult to be around because they aren’t  aware that the real problem isn’t what everyone is doing to them, but what their own bitterness and jealousy is doing.  Disorder results.

And be thankful!  Thankful people are hard to bring down.  They are quick to point out the things we have in common, rather than to focus on the dividing points in the body.  Thankful people are the opposite of those who have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Are you thankful?

Take a look inside and see if you have surrendered all of your bitter jealousy and selfish ambition to the Lord so that the peace of Christ can be the umpire in your heart.

 


Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel

live worthyOnly let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Philippians 1:27

What does living a life worthy of the gospel look like?  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul writes that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  The glory of Jesus is our gospel, for in Him we find the good news that God sent Jesus to come to die for our sins.  In coming to Him, we find forgiveness, purpose and eternal life.

As recipients of this marvelous grace, our lives must look different.  Paul tells us to live a life worthy of the gospel, one that puts the spotlight on the glory of Jesus, not our own glory or agenda.  There are at least three ways to do this contained in Philippians 1:27-28:

  1. Standing firm in one spirit.  In Ephesians 6:10-18 we saw that  to stand firm and not be dashed about by the troubles of this life, we must be dressed in the armor of God.  But here Paul adds, “in one spirit.”  That means that we stand with others who are fellow believers, finding common ground in Jesus, and battling alongside of them during the tough times.  And rejoicing with them in the good times.
  2. Striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Our standing together isn’t just to cheer each other on during the tough times, it is to spread the gospel.  It is so easy to be self absorbed and preoccupied with the things of this world, rather than to be about our Father’s business.  We are to be kingdom minded, understanding that we are in service of the King.  We must not be so busy sitting in bleachers at kid’s games or vacationing, or just working to pay the bills that we miss the grander purpose that God has for our lives.  And if you’re not in church, you won’t be able to do this!
  3. Not frightened in anything by your opponents.  Jesus said it over and over that because the world hates Him, they will hate us.  He warned  of persecution for His name’s sake and of how things will get worse and worse (check out 2 Timothy 3:1-5).  In the middle of this opposition, His word is “do not fear.”  Don’t let the haters wear you down.  It is tempting to want to become a “bubble boy” and withdraw because of the threats to our well being.   But the call here is to not retreat, but to advance the gospel.

To live a life worthy of the gospel we are to stand together, strive together, and to sing songs of faith and courage to one another.  When we sing hymns and worship songs, we aren’t just singing to God, but we are affirming what we believe and will die for to each other.  We are singing to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, the church words like “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake” from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”

So stand, strive and sing to live a life worthy of the gospel.

 


Why Do We Go to Church?

Hebrews 10:24-15 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

That’s like a command to go to church, and one of the main reasons it gives is so we can motivate and encourage one another to live the Christian life.  The question occasionally comes up about whether or not someone is ‘being fed’ by what takes place, or why a person or a family doesn’t attend much or at all anymore.

I have been in the habit of attending church and being involved on a weekly basis for decades.  But in the last few years, perhaps just the older I get, I have this tug of war about staying home and just spending some quality time alone with God as opposed to the face time, assembly line routine that may or may not be significant.

So then the question that popped up in my mind as I sit home on a Sunday morning, ‘What feeds me?’  I know what doesn’t feed me, and I have come up with a few things that do.  Maybe I’m different than anyone else, maybe not.  But here’s my little list.

  • What feeds me is to learn and to apply truths of Scripture to what’s going on in my life and in life in general.  My head swims with work stuff, of grinding out a tough winter, of US and world news and events, wanting my life to count, and intersecting with happenings of the people around me.  It takes time to process those things as a group, but sitting in a bigger Sunday school room with people coming in and out and watching a video or having one person face the rest of the class doesn’t get to those things.  That set up doesn’t help to really hash through the topic, the Scripture or life stuff.  You see people but there’s not much past that.  If we’re supposed to encourage one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds, we need a format to do that.
  • What feeds me is getting into the Word and letting the Word get into me.  I don’t like three points picked out of a passage of Scripture, sprinkled with Internet stories.  I do like digging into God’s story and letting the Spirit apply it to our story.  I like pastors and teachers who have been grabbed and gripped by God’s truths and then is helping us to be grabbed and gripped too.  The Word is living and active and it pierces to our motives and intentions.  Spread the word!
  • What feeds me is praying and asking for God’s working power to show up and change us.  It says in Acts 13:2 “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said ‘set apart Barnabus and Saul for the work I have called them.'” True worship is listening to the voice of God, not programming out a set number of songs. Worship is singing songs of praise, but it also involves praying, more than just the offertory prayer, waiting on God and doing what He says.  We’re so American, and it’s hard to avoid that.

So what would my church look like?  Maybe Sunday School being more of an intentional small group, led by people who know how to teach, listen, pray and guide.  Maybe all the groups study the same Scripture together, like working through the New Testament and then we get together and share what we learned, facilitated by the Pastor who then has a teaching time.  Maybe we sing and pray at tables in the sanctuary, and not rows of chairs to enable that small and large group praying.  Whatever it is, it would be aimed at teaching, encouraging, applying, equipping and listening to God and to others more.