Friday, January 27, 2012

Seek Unity, Not Division

No one is perfect because they are not God. No church is perfect because it has people in it. Conflicts will arise but God desires us to resolve them Biblically. Believers must take the initiative to restore peace. Peacemakers are different than peacekeepers. Peacemakers uphold the Word and truth, applying it to conflict. Peacekeepers avoid truth and compromise to avoid conflict.

It doesn’t matter if you have wronged your brother or he has wronged you. You are always responsible to initiate peacemaking (Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15). Those who are sincere about pursuing peace do not concern themselves with who started the offense. They just want one thing – peace restored between believers. Conflict that is left unresolved between believers is sin. This results in bitterness, anger, and possibly even wrath. If left unresolved it can be a cancer that can cause serious spiritual surgery later on.

Some have said that time and space heal everything. Maybe time and space allow emotions to settle but they do not heal. Healing from conflict only comes through Christ and handling things according to Scripture. Time and space alone only bring more time and space between Christians. Time and space alone cause things to worsen and eventually explode leaving a huge mess.

Believes must take the initiative to resolve conflict. A text, email, and most of the time a phone call won’t do it. Face to face repentance and forgiveness are necessary. And when you forgive, you must do so by intentionally deciding to not talk about the offense, dwell on it, let it grow, or use it as a weapon in the future. If you have something that gets in the way of you and someone else in this way you must go to them and talk it out in a loving and positive manner.

When you are resolving conflict, you must fully listen to the other person. This shows you understand the other person, realize you are not a “know-it-all” and you value the other person’s perspective. While you may not agree with everything each other says you must be able to walk away in unity, valuing principle over preferences and truth over opinion. Someone once said a stiff apology is a second insult. We must work hard at avoiding this.

You must do everything possible to be reconciled to your brother or sister in Christ. While you cannot force them to do what is right you can still demonstrate your willingness to do everything possible to resolve the conflict. God honors this and if you have done this you have fulfilled your responsibility to peace and unity (Romans 12:18). You must then move on if someone stubbornly refuses to be reconciled. Hopefully, for the sake of the body of Christ and God’s glory, nothing will stand in between the church’s mission.

All sin destroys the church. Division and separation destroy it directly while al others will eventually destroy it consequentially. You must do these seven A’s of conflict resolution: 1) address everyone involved, 2) avoid “if”, “but”, and “maybe”, 3) admit what you did, 4) apologize, 5) ask for forgiveness, 6) accept consequences, and 7) altar your behavior, learning from your mistakes.

Remember there is a huge distinction between reconciliation and forgiveness. You must always forgive but sometimes reconciliation doesn’t happen. It only takes one person to forgive but two to be reconciled. Forgive others even if they don’t ask for it. Only God can remove and forgive sins of another but you can lay aside your own anger, bitterness, and resentment allowing God to work in you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is Tolerance Biblical?

“…in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. - 2 Peter 3:3

Today more than ever tolerance has come to mean everyone must accept anything, especially sin. Sin the Bible speaks directly against such as adultery, abortion, divorce, fornication, homosexuality, sorcery, idolatry, lying, and many others are today considered morally good in certain circles. Satan convinces the world by manipulation, lies, and deception so it will tolerate what God does not. John 3:16 used to be the most quoted verse but it seems to be replaced by “judge not lest ye be judged", although most people have no idea where it is in the Bible or in what context it was written. Tolerance has been redefined. It is no longer treating people with respect and kindness even if we believe they are wrong. It now means no one can hold any absolute truths except that there are no absolutes.

Many people consider themselves to be “spiritual”. This usually means they are not into “organized religion” and pick and choose what they believe, creating their own belief system. G.K. Chesterton said, “Tolerance is the virtue of men who don’t believe in anything.” Today’s definition of tolerance puts the power to determine right or wrong in the hands of people rather than God. Once a local college professor told me, “All roads lead to God.” I agreed with him, and it shocked him. I said, “Yes, all roads lead to God, but not all roads lead to Heaven.” Scripture is clear that all will stand before God one day (Hebrews 9:27; Romans 2:16) but not everyone will enter (Matthew 7:13-14, 21; Revelation 21:8) because a relationship Jesus is the only way to get there (John 3:16; John 14:6).

Usually the most intolerant people are those who talk the most about tolerance. It seems that one cannot take a stand on anything today except tolerance. Christians are labeled intolerant but it is not true about those who truly follow Scripture and Jesus’ example. Jesus was tolerant of the Samaritan woman (whom the Jews had nothing to do with in that day) but lovingly exposed her sin and took time with her to explain eternal life (John 4:7-27). He did the same with Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, and everyone He came in contact with. Christians shouldn’t try to force their beliefs on anyone but should lovingly attempt to persuade those in need of Christ through love and compassion in their talk and actions (Luke 6:27-28).

Tolerating sin is not a spiritual gift. It is relativism and pluralism. Can every man have an opinion? Sure. Is every man right? How can they be? Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end leads to death.” Absolute truth, while only 52% believe in it, is still truth. Just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t make it false and just because you believe in something doesn’t make it true. Truth is what it is. God’s Word is 100% true and it will set you free (John 8:32).

Absolute truth has become politically incorrect these days. Today’s culture has declared war on Biblical standards and God’s morality. Compromise to Scripture has become the virtue and those devoted to truth of Scripture are seen as offensive and irrelevant. Scripture is plain in areas some define as gray. Christians must embrace truth and morality in black and white terms as defined by Scripture in a loving yet unapologetic manner. God’s truth may not be what people want to hear but it is truth nonetheless.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Power Over Sin

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." - 1 John 1:8

I recently heard a story about two men who believed they were absolutely perfect, without sin. They told the preacher C.H. Spurgeon, “We can no longer sin, we are perfect.” Spurgeon, unsure he heard them right, asked them to repeat themselves. They replied, “We are perfect and cannot sin any longer.” Spurgeon gave them a “pop quiz” on their new found sinless perfection. He emptied a water pitcher on their heads. They responded like any other sinner would, with a few choice words, anger, and retaliation. Spurgeon discovered just how perfect they really were.

People who claim they are without sin commit one of the greatest sins of all – pride. No one is completely without sin. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Everyone has sinned.

But when you become a Christian, you should run from sin and to Jesus. Before Christ, sin had power over our lives. Our sinful natures decided for us our actions and reactions. But when we were saved, we changed. We became new creations once we gave our lives to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says old things have passed away and all things became new. Our desire to sin is replaced with desire to please and worship God. While Christians are not incapable of sinning, they now have power over temptation and sin.

In Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin. For “our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). Paul goes on to say, “Likewise, reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” Paul urges, “but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead…. For sin shall not have dominion over you.” (Rom. 6:11-14). Christians have victory over both the penalty and power of sin because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

While the Christian still has the potential to sin, sin does not have control any longer – Jesus does. The Holy Spirit gives you power to overcome and resist sin and temptation. We will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh if we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Scriptures also says when temptation comes, you have a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). While Christian may sin, there is a huge difference between those who sin and repent and those who sin and habitually and persistently continue in it without repenting. Repent means to turn away with the intent and action to never do it again. Those who continue in sin with no remorse or repentance should ask themselves if they have ever been truly saved. If we are truly saved, we cannot continue in sin (Romans 6:1, 1 John 3:9; 5:18).

In the words of Patrick Morley, “A change in belief must bring about a change in behavior. Revival in your life must include reform and repentance. You cannot add Christ to your life and fail to subtract sin.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Best 15 Minutes Of Your Day

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. – Psalm 5:3

Once, a woman complained to her friend about her son’s failure to write home from college. He was either too busy or unconcerned to write. The friend said, “I’ll show you how boys operate. I’ll get him to write home without even having to ask.” He wrote the boy a short letter stating how proud he was of him. He included $20 to spend anyway he liked but purposely forgot to include the money. In a matter of days, the friend received a letter thanking him for his concern. It also mentioned the money was missing.

All too often we communicate with those we say we love only for selfish reasons. The boy only wrote back to get the money, not to communicate out of love. He just wanted something out of the person, not the person. Talking to God only when you want something from Him is not a relationship. A lot of the times we seek God’s hand (what He can do for us) instead of his face (who He is). Psalm 27:8 says, “When you said, ‘Seek my face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’” Spending time with the Lord through studying His Scriptures and prayer is how we get to know Him.

Everyone’s day runs at a certain pace. At what pace is a typical day in your life like? Hectic? Out of control? Stable? Slow? The pace for your entire day is set during the first 15-20 minutes. Spending the first part of your day with the Lord is essential to setting the rest of your day up for success. We must invest the first moments of our day if we want a good return from it. Martin Luther was a man who valued quality time spent with the Lord. He said, “I am so busy now that if I did not spend two or three hours each day in prayer, I could not get through the day.” Many of us are overwhelmed by that amount of time spent on anything. Most are looking for 10-15 minutes extra, not 2-3 hours. Martin Luther knew the more pressure he was under, the more he needed to have time alone with God. Amount of time will come overtime. Ten minutes will grow into thirty before you know it but you have to start before it will grow. Nothing planted, nothing harvested.

Preparation is the key to success in anything. How you prepare for a test determines its result. How you prepare for a trip ensures its enjoyment. How you prepare for the day in front of you determines its outcome as well. When David prayed in Psalm 5:1-3, he fully expected God to act. We must spend time with God expecting Him to act. Giving Him the first part of your day expresses your faith in Him. We should not run to God like a kid with a Christmas list only. He is not a means to an end – He is the All-in-All! God does desire to know our dreams and passions, even our needs and wants, but He really just wants you. Jesus is waiting to talk to you and listen to you. He desires to spend time with you daily. What an amazing thought – we can have a daily appointment with the God of the universe.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What To Do When You Dont Know What To Do

Difficulties and uncertainties are both assured in this lifetime. Expecting trials is an irony in itself since no one desires them and when they come we desire them to leave. But they do come and often with fury and burden. How do you face tough times? How do you make difficult decisions when you just want to escape?

Is this your current life motto? “I need direction.” “I don’t know which decision to make.” “I feel like I’m in a fog and don’t know how to get out!”

When you don't know what you should do, because it's not specifically stated in Scripture, you can know what to do about not knowing what to do, because that is specifically stated in Scripture. Read that again. I know it may have sounded like a tongue-twister but Scripture is full of what to do when you don't know what to do.

1. Pray
2. Seek the Lord
3. Turn to the Scriptures
4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit

Jesus said in Matthew 22:29, "Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God." There is only one way to see (prevent spiritual blindness) and that is through studying and applying scriptures thus inviting Jesus in and accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I am writing this on my iPhone (so excuse the spelling and grammar) from the hospital with my dad. He will be fine but not a lot of answers for a lot of problems - but definitely a lot of the Holy Spirit and a lot Scripture to stand on. Great faith in a great God produces great results. We walk by faith and not by sight!

Read 2 Chronicles 16:7-9. “Relied” is the key word that brought victory. When Asa relied on the Lord, He gave victory. When Asa relied on other things, defeat was the result. We must rely on God and nothing else.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (MSG) says, "So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever."