Friday, January 19, 2018

Let Us Love One Another

It has again been several months since my last post. It seems that life gets busier with each passing day. I have been trying to find what I wanted to write about and have been left pondering what it means to love those around us. In Scripture we have several examples of how we are to love those around us, not only those whom we love, but also those who are strangers or those who consider themselves to be our enemies. When the Bible speaks about the love that we are supposed to have, love that is meant to reflect Christ and His character, it is not given to us as a suggestion. Rather the love that we see throughout the Bible, is commanded of those who would proclaim Christ as Lord.


Jesus said to His disciples: "[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV) Jesus is calling the disciples to live in such a way that everyone who sees them will know instantly that they deeply care for one another. This is not a surface love that is only seen one or two days a week. But rather this is more along the lines of the love that should be readily visible between a husband and wife. There are difference in the intimacy shared, but the love that Jesus is calling for them to share with one another is the same. They are to care for each other in a way that only a Christian can, by the Spirit and with grace and mercy.


Later in 1 John, God writes through John:

[7] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. [8] Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [9] In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. [10] In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [12] No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. [13] By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. [14] And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. [15] Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. [16] So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. [17] By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. [18] There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. [19] We love because he first loved us. [20] If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [21] And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7–21, ESV)

These verses stood out to me and caused me to think about the manner by which we walk through our daily lives. Do those around us see the love of God? Can they tell that we actually love one another? If we fail to live in such a way that people can see that we love fellow believers, then how deeply have we sinned and failed to bring the gospel to them? Every day that we do not love each other, we are proclaiming to the world that God does not abide in us. If we claim to love God, we must love those around us. For if we do not we are liars. In verse eighteen it talks about there not being any fear in love. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. What does it mean when it mentions not having fear? Is it referring to being physically afraid? I don't think that it is, it may be in part speaking about physical fear, but I do not think that it is the primary focus. Love is something that must be expressed or physically demonstrated, and therefore the fear spoken of in these verses would seem to not only concern physical fear, but also emotional. If we truly love one another, we should not fear slights, offenses, neglects, or the sins of others. Why? Because the love that we experience does not flow from another person, but rather from God. Therefore, if someone does something that may cause us emotional pain, we should not fear because that does not represent the love of God. God's love is pure and just, never the cause of pain. It is during these times that we must show the love of Christ working in us, forgiving without needing to be asked. For God's love for us does not change because we sin after coming to faith, but rather it remains the same, steadfast, holding us, caring for us.


Matthew 5 says:

[38] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ [39] But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. [41] And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. [42] Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. [43] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38–48, ESV)

We are to forgive anyone who mistreats us, let alone those who are among the children of God. Love that flows from the believer should be perfect. Not perfect when we are able, because we never are, but we should strive for perfection because He is able to make our love perfect. Again, there should be forgiveness and peace whenever possible, keeping no record of wrongs done against us, for did not Jesus suffer more than any one of us ever could?

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12–15, ESV)
[32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. [1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2, ESV)
[21] Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” [22] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. [23] “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [24] When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [27] And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ [30] He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. [31] When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. [32] Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21–35, ESV)


Matthew 18 does not say that we are only to forgive once a brother repents to us, but rather that we are to forgive, truly and sincerely. As Christians, we are not to hold grudges towards anyone, especially not one in the family of God. We are called to forgive readily and willingly, for have we not already been forgiven more than we can even comprehend?


Let us strive to live with one another in the manner and means that God has prescribed for us to live. Let us live in harmony, not with strife and pettiness determining our actions. Let us strive to love as He has loved us.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Dear America

Dear America,

I have been pondering for almost a week now about what I wanted to say, or if I wanted to say anything at all, in response to the events that have occurred in our country over the past couple of weeks. After much prayer and consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot remain silent when so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering, while also considering the general suffering of my fellow Americans.

It is with a heavy heart that I type these words, debating over which issues to address and which to not address. I could write about the suffering in our country for days on end without covering everything that has gone on and is going on. Therefore, please do not take this simple letter to show the full extent of my thoughts and struggles on these issues that we currently face.

The first thing that comes to my mind is suffering. Our country is suffering deeply and in many different ways. We have millions of fellow citizens who are living displaced lives, currently not having a single thing left from what their lives were about a month ago. Their homes have been destroyed and their belongings ruined by flooding and the destruction of property. Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands (speaking only towards those areas that are American) among others have been ravaged by three significant hurricanes one after the other, seemingly with little respite between storms. Families have been torn from their homes, left with nothing.

The Bible calls Christians to love others, and yet instead of love, I have seen indifference and in some cases a hatred toward these people who one day were living their lives and the next had absolutely nothing left to live with. Now, many of the responses of hate have I am sure come from those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord, and yet there have also been many who would claim to trust in God that have made statements that show everything but that.

As I look at the amount of people who have been displaced (over 5 million), either temporarily or permanently due to the destruction of their homes my heart breaks. Instead of striving to figure out how to honor an egotistical degenerate who lived and, by all reports, died in his sin, we should be striving to bring comfort and rest for those who are living with nothing. We should be reaching out and doing everything that we can to help these people. Not only because they are our fellow Americans, but because many of them belong to the body of Christ and therefore are our brothers and sisters (those who believe that Jesus is Lord are brothers and sisters). Not only do we need to help those in need physically, but also spiritually. There are so many who are full of despair and see nothing left for themselves. So instead of celebrating a degenerate, let us bring them the news of Christ crucified!

During this horrible crisis in which so many have lost their lives and others everything that they own, our country has become even more of a powder keg surrounding issues of racial hate and misunderstanding. Major cities have erupted in riots and we have seen those who are suffering take the brunt of the demonstrations.

This past weekend our president and the NFL (as well as other athletes from other sports) came to a tipping point. The president said things that should never be said by the president who is supposed to care for and look after the well-being of all his citizens. The NFL responded, for the most part, as a unified front. Proclaiming that they (as individuals) have the right to actions that are peaceful in protest to many of the racial tensions and sufferings that are occurring within the United States.

As I watched these events unfold, I was deeply saddened by the reactions that I saw from friends as well as strangers. Men who play a game for the entertainment of many spoke out in order to make a statement that shows their viewpoint on an issue that can only be resolved through the love that Christ brings. Instead of having people come together to try to understand these men, to understand why they felt the need to make a demonstration in the manner that they did, people attacked the NFL and its players. Instead of seeking to understand the viewpoints of those who feel oppressed in this country, they were admonished by people based on the opinion of what their stance meant to those admonishing them, rather than upon the viewpoints of those making the demonstration.

So many of the conversations that I hear and the comments that I saw turned the conversation into whether or not these men were patriotic or not. Meanwhile, there were statements from numerable people on each team that protested stating why they did what they did, none of which were for unpatriotic reasons. People want to claim that these men hate their country, simply because they have not conformed to the status quo.

Yet, so many have simply forgotten that these same men and organizations quickly gave of their own time and money to support those affected by the hurricanes. These same men that have been villainized for taking a knee are ignored when they donated their paychecks to help ease the pain of those trying to bring their lives back together. They are called horrific names, that I will not repeat, just because they took a stand for what they believed was right, just shortly after raising millions of dollars in a very short amount of time in order to give it all towards the rebuilding of homes for those who cannot afford to, the provision of food and water for areas that no longer have enough. This same organization and the men that work for it gave freely of the wealth that so many hold against them, even amidst the strife that they felt going on in their communities and the nation as a whole.

Why are these men responding this way?!?! Because, they are Americans. Many of the men within the NFL and its organizations have responded to the natural tragedies that have occurred with swift action, ready to sacrifice what they have for those in need.

Instead of an outcry of hatred towards them, projecting reasons for their actions on them that they themselves have denied and have provided clear reasoning to the contrary, maybe we should begin to try to understand where they are coming from. To stand with them against injustice, for are these not the same men that less than a week ago we were praising for their efforts in assisting their fellow Americans? Can we not begin to understand that every person in this country sees situations differently? How many of those who poured their hate onto social media after Sunday's demonstration donated their time and money to helping their fellow Americans who are suffering? How many have taken the time to break bread with those they don't understand or disagree with in an effort to learn about their struggles and convictions?

Brothers and sisters; we serve a righteous God whose name is Jesus. It is through His blood and work on the cross that we can hope to gain any ground in this struggle that has a strangle hold on our country. Jesus didn't just stay with the Jews that he grew up with. No, He went to Samaria, spoke with the Romans, and interacted with all sorts of different kinds of people throughout His time on earth. This is how He showed God's love to others, He laid down His life for all those who would believe in Him, not just certain people groups.

Instead of breathing hatred towards one another, I pray that we would enter into deep conversations about the love of God and try to understand the viewpoints of those who have felt oppression for far too many years in a country that claims to have freedom for all. Instead of taking offense when someone feels mistreated, may we yearn to learn why and how we have mistreated them in order to correct the grievance.

May the love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

Steve

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Nashville Statement

This week as I have seen and heard many different responses to the Nashville Statement, I feel compelled to write about the document that was released earlier this week. The responses have been wide and varying, seeming to come from every part of "Christianity" and the secular. There have been those who have praised the statement, and those who have denounced it. In reading these responses and seeing the ways that people are responding to the statement, you can see two paths being taken.

The first path, which is the loudest - due mainly to their methodology and manner, is that taken by those who are opposed to the statement. These range from those who don't like the name, because they do not understand the historical traditions of the church - whereby creeds and statements have been named after the place they were written for thousands of years, all the way to people who hate God to begin with and therefore are understandably opposed to the document.

In this first path there seems to be an immense amount of hate and malice towards anyone who supports the document and it's theological statements. All while not understanding that the document reflects the beliefs and doctrines of the Church since the beginning, namely since creation. They refuse to take passages of Scripture for what they are, namely, the very Word of God. (Examples include: Hebrews 13, Romans 1, Jude 1, I Timothy 1, Genesis 1, Mark 10, I Corinthians 7, I Corinthians 6, Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, etc.)

Because the people taking the first path refuse to acknowledge the design that God put in place for men and women, they are refusing to acknowledge Him as creator. This is very dangerous ground, especially for those who claim to know Him. By refusing to acknowledge Him as creator they are in fact declaring that they do not know Him, or at the very least they are extremely confused as to who God is.

The people on the second path, those who have affirmed/signed the statement, have for the most part done nothing to specifically target individuals, but having simply attached their name to beliefs that have been held by the church since its very foundation. For their efforts they have been maligned and hated by many of their fellow community members. For affirming statements that are by-in-large found directly within the pages of Scripture, they have been called horrible things and have had to deal with the hate, disrespect, and slander of those taking the first path.

When a doctor calls to tell a patient that they have received the results of their cancer screening and lets them know that they do or do not have cancer, this is loving. So, in the same way, if Scripture tells us that something is sin or that someone is living in sin, we must relay that message to them. This is loving. To remain silent on this issue, or on an issue that deals with another sin, would be to disregard the direct commands of God, namely to spread the Gospel throughout the entire earth.

Those who have chosen to sign/support/affirm the statement have not done so because they hate those involved in sexual sin, but rather they have done so because they love them and desire to see them come to a knowledge of their sin through repentance, thereby turning from their sin to the saving work of Jesus Christ. To support truth cannot be unloving. To remain silent and allow someone to remain in ignorance is neither loving nor caring. When a teacher corrects the work of a student, they do not do so because they hate the student, but rather because they want the student to develop and grow into a well rounded individual who is able to think for themselves in a manner that correctly reflects the situation that they find themselves.

There are so many example that can be drawn from different situations in life that reflect the same thing as the doctor and teacher analogies do. Yet, there are those who will refuse to listen, those who will refuse to acknowledge truth. This is because they refuse to hold to God's Word as the foundation upon which all truth must be built. Scripture must interpret all things that we believe. If what we believe is not based upon what Scripture tells us, then we either are not Christians, or are very confused and need to change what we believe.

May we all interact with those that we come in contact with to discuss this issue, as well as others like it, with love, mercy, and grace. May we refrain from responding to hate with hate or disdain. May we all take the love that we have been shown by Christ and allow it to shine through us to others.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bleeding Hearts

A few weeks ago I watched a video that a pastor named Jeff Durbin shared on Facebook. It was a video showing an abortion support conference. This video, is enough to make me sick and extremely saddened all in one. The people in the video talk about tearing babies apart, even if they are about to be born. It shows a sickness and evil in laughing about body parts falling into their laps. It is disgusting. The very fact that these things happen is enough to show us the grave error of our ways in America.

Abortion is evil. One hundred percent evil. The only reason that any person has an abortion is for their own selfish gain. Abortions are not done in humility or love. They are done out of hate and selfish preservation.

There is a song that the artist Trip Lee does called Beautiful Life (he has two parts to it) that lends a great description of what life is and what it should mean to us. Most Christians have failed miserably in stating these simple facts. We have forsaken God's call to defend the weak and needy. Instead we have given approval for one reason or another to those who commit such atrocities against the Lord our God.

There are many who would make excuses for reasons why it is ok to have an abortion, but these are merely that, excuses. God gives life, men do not. If we refuse to believe this, we easily fall into Satan's trap to destroy the life which God has begun. Two people can have sex their entire lives and no matter how hard they try, until God gives life to the eggs and sperm as they join together, there will never be life. It is He who gives life to everyone, no one becomes pregnant without God granting life to the baby growing in their womb.

Abortions should be stopped at all costs, no matter what. They have produced the biggest genocide in the history of the world, and yet people pay to have them done. Satan clearly is influencing people to do what their flesh desires, to attempt to destroy any recognition of God as the Creator.

May we all seek forgiveness for this evil we have wrought upon our country and may we stand up to injustice and try to stem the flow of evil being done to unborn children.

Friday, April 14, 2017

When Christ Calls

There are two calls that can be described when talking about calls of Christ (God). The first is a general call, one that goes forth from those who preach the Gospel. This call is general because the Gospel is preached to everyone without discrimination. The second call is specific to only certain people that God chose before the foundation of the world to become heirs of His kingdom.

These individuals receive this specific call through the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the Gospel (first type of call). This second type of call cannot be resisted, for when the Holy Spirit calls, those chosen by God answer.

God does not restrict this calling to only those who have lived perfect lives, for there isn't a person who has lived or will live that could live a perfect life except for Jesus Christ. Therefore, this call goes out to those whom God has chosen and not to those who have any merit, for no one has any.

There is no sin too big or offensive that this call cannot conquer. It brings into the kingdom of God sinners from every vein of life. People who used to live in sin; lust, murder, adultery, theives, liars, those living out their sinful desires within the LGBT community, haters of God, and many others. None of these sins is enough to keep you from being able to resist the calling of the Holy Spirit.

However, all of these sins must be repented of and laid at the feet of Christ. We must repent of the things that keep us from Him, even the things that the world has worked so hard to make acceptable. Our lust, both sexual and our desire for more of everything. Our hatred of our fellow man. Our desires to pervert God's design for gender and sex, these too must be repented of, even though the current culture tries to make them "natural".

The Church has been called to preach the Gospel and through doing so, the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of those who hear to bring about salvation and repentance. There isn't a sin too great, not even for those who have answered the call of Satan (see previous post).

Let us love one another as Christ loves us and has called us to be lights in a dark world. May we be bold to stand for truth, knowing that doing so is to be loving. For allowing someone to believe a lie is only going enable them and encourage them to continue living in sin.

Monday, April 3, 2017

When Satan Calls

I am more and more sadden to turn on the news, look at social media, or talk with friends or colleagues. I continually hear all the many stories about how the LGBTQ community is being discriminated against or how wronged they are for not having certain "rights". It makes me sick to my stomach to hear so many people that claim to be Christians turning their favor and support towards that community.

Scripture is very clear about what God thinks about that community and the things they stand for, so why are so many throwing their support behind it? It comes from years of attacks that Satan has thrown against the church, and instead of standing strong against his attacks, the church has capitulated at most every turn. Allowing Satan to pick away at the foundational issues of what it means to be a Christian.

God created male and female. He created them good, not needing to be changed or distorted into something that is neither good or right. Every person who supports the LBGTQ community falls under the judgment listed out in Romans 1:18-32.

Not only is the church called to preach against what the LBGTQ community is and stands for, it is called to demonstrate to this community what is the right and good manifestation of God's design for sexuality and gender. I Timothy chapter one tells us that we are to use the law of God to rebuke and to guide the unrighteous.

Satan has called and the American church, in large, has answered his call with shouts of joy and excitement. There is nothing with the LBGTQ community that is good or that points to God, but rather there is only evidence of a masterful plan, created by Satan to deceive and mislead those unwilling to stand upon Scripture alone.

Scripture is the foundation upon which all knowledge and understanding of God must be built. If we reject this premise, we open the door for Satan to offer us new solutions and foundations that can at best be built upon the sand, ready to crumble with the first storm that he well throw at us. That storm is the war being raged against God and His church by the LBGTQ community. They do not want peace and equality, but domination and servitude.

They will not rest until they deem that they have sufficiently destroyed God's design for gender and sexuality. In order to resist Satan's deception the church must return and stand upon Scripture alone for the foundation of what we are supposed to believe and how we are to live.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quivers of Arrows

Recently I've been pondering family and what that means to me. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that on this earth (outside of our ministry and gospel sharing to others) it should be the most important thing for Christians. Now, many people might think that I am referring to the closeness of a family or the fact that they share the same DNA. But this isn't why family is the most important thing. While having those relationships that enable you to know a person for their entire lives is part of it. The real reason that family is so important is because it is meant to be a picture of Christ's love and relationship towards His children.

What does an earthly family have to do with a heavenly one? That is a question that I have heard asked many times. Our earthly families are meant to demonstrate certain things about God to us. However, most of the time we pervert and destroy any resemblance that they might have of the Father's love for His children. Instead of demonstrating unconditional love to one another, we hold grudges and bemoan our situations. Instead of directing our homes as Christ directs His bride, we allow chaos and strife to reign supreme.

There are many ways that we destroy the picture that God has designed in order to point to Himself. Yet, there are times that the picture and structure He has designed comes to full light and breaks beautifully upon the eyes of all who see it. The times when a child is running, falls headlong and smashes into the ground, and their parent rushes to lift them up and comfort them. The times that a child disregards what they know they are supposed to do and their parent disciplines them in a way that instructs and guides them to know and understand that their actions have consequences. The times when a spouse is overcome with love and treats their spouse to something special, just because. The times when a sibling offers to share their toys with their little brother or sister, just because they know how much they enjoy playing with it.

The New Testament is laden with images about the family and it's relationship to the church and to God. However, most of the time we either ignore them or just pretend that they don't matter that much. The images that God lays out in Ephesians of how each part of the family is to treat the other is beautiful and yet can only be understood when we look at it in the light of what God has done for His children and His relationship with them. God's love for His elect is deeper than any love between husband and wife, siblings, or child and parent. Yet, without these relationships, we cannot know what Paul means when he writes about Christ's love for His bride/body.

Therefore, the more Christlike men are when they lead their homes, the more Christlike their families and churches will become. The more that a husband and wife realize that their children reflect their own relationships with God, the more they understand how sinful they are and how utterly dependent they are for His grace and mercy to carry them. Just as a child falls and bruises a part of their body, we fall many times as God's children. He doesn't leave us in the dirt to lick our wounds, but raises us up, showing us where we went wrong and lovingly guides us forward.

Without parents, there wouldn't be children. Without children we would never see a majestic part of the picture that family represents. May we rejoice that we have been given families. May we grow to to understand the importance of seeing our families as mirrors for the world to see the reflection of God in.