Friday, June 29, 2012

What Can We Preach About?

Currently, the Wesleyan Church is dealing through a new addition to our Discipline in regards to divorce.  As it stands, our statement gives approval for divorce only in the case of marrital unfaithfulness.  The addition would include abuse as a reason that we would approve of divorce.  The debate has been heavy and emotional, as you can imagine.  No one wants to force a person to stay in an abusive home situation.  I certainly would never suggest that anyone stay in an abusive situation.  Get out; get safe; get help.

However, in the discussion, there has been a lot of different ideas bandied about that I believe would be considered out of the traditional interpretation of scriptural doctrine.  I'm not here to address this specific topic so much as to address this philosophy that seems to prevail:  "If we're going to judge people on marrital issues in our membership, we have to also deal with people who aren't tithing, aren't attending Sunday School, or aren't doing their family devotions."

Here is my question:  Are all of these the same?  Is someone who gets divorced really not doing anything different (insert "worse") than a person who is missing family devotions?  This is the end result of the dicussions I am having with people on this issue:  We can't stand against one thing and not stand for all of the rules.

Transfer that to Sunday services, now.  What can I preach as sin?  What is going to be the standard for Christian living?  How can we stand up for something when we can't stand against something?  When is something so wrong that we just have to say, "That is worse than not paying your tithe?"  I am getting concerned about the future discussions we will have with this prevailing premise.  If nothing is worse than the other, how can we speak against or for anything? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Missing Piece is the Missing Peace

We often speak in the church about a "God-shaped Hole" inside of everyone that only He can fill.  I have been thinking about this and how to communicate it in a way that isn't too emotional and cheesy, but also captures the illogical attempts that we all have made to try to fill that void that keeps us restless and longing for peace from the inside out.  I have a thought, now, that I'd like you to contemplate with me.

My father-in-law loves putting puzzles together - Sitting there and staring at all the pieces; trying to figure out where they go.  The strategy we all find works best is to get the framework done first; find all the edge pieces with the straight side and connect them to make our boundaries for the other pieces.  (There are too many possible comparisons to make to the life of a believer to allow myself too much distraction, so I will not go into the meaning of the framework that needs to be in place so we can put the pieces together in our spiritual growth.  But that would also be an interesting discussion.)

But have you ever gotten to the last few pieces of the puzzle and realized you have a piece missing?  That is really frustrating when you think of all the time you put into that puzzle, and it is still going to be incomplete no matter what you do. 

Will it help to move pieces around and try to fill in that gap?  No.  The picture will still be incomplete.  If you just ignore the hole left by the missing piece, will it go away?  No.  You can mess with it a hundred different ways, or just stay away from it so you don't have to think about it, but that puzzle will never be complete unless you find that missing piece.

People tend to try to adjust their lives to fill the void in their hearts with pieces that don't fit.  They look at other people's lives and try to use their strategies for fixing their own lives.  They know something is missing, and the emptiness is visible to them and to everyone who knows them.  They can't ignore the void, because it is always with them.  They try to find ways to forget, but the void always reappears in the same place when they regain their focus.  Like that puzzle, no amount of switching up the same pieces of their lives will fill that emptiness.  They will never be complete until they find the missing piece.

Interestingly, when I ask people what changed the most about their lives when they gave their hearts to Jesus, they almost unanimously say:  "I just have this peace; like I've never know before." 

That uneasy, restless emptiness, is a deep need for peace.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  When He was preparing to leave His disciples to return to heaven, Jess said, "Peace I give you; My peace I leave with you."  Why "peace"?  Because God knew that what we all needed was peace between Him and us, so He sent Jesus to take His wrath off of us - which only Jesus could do - on the cross, and bring peace between God and man.

Peace.  That is the need; that is the hunger; that is the drive.  We all need peace, and we find it in Jesus Christ.  Turns out, the "Missing Piece is the Missing Peace".  I found the final piece to the puzzle of my life:  His Name is Jesus!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Love As A Command

A brief study of 1 John 4:7-8 led me to some thoughts I thought I'd share with you who read this.  The words that are centered and in bold letters are the lines of the scriptural passage; the rest are my thoughts and scriptural connections.

Beloved, let us love one another.

They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.  This is my command:  that you love one another.  So, love is a “command.”  However:

Love comes from God

How do we access that love? 

Does it somehow “flow through us?”

Is it “deposited in us?”

Everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.

*Note:  This does not say, “Everyone who speaks in tongues is born of God, and knows God.”  Many people who speak in tongues are quite unloving and arrogant.  Yet, 1 Cor. 13 begins with the words, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a resounding gong, or clanging cymbal.”  In other words, in God’s kingdom, speaking in tongues is useless without love.

He who does not love does not know God.

Love is not optional, it is imperative!  It is the evidence that you are in Christ, and in the Father.  We often judge holiness on "purity of living," but it should first produce love in us.  Love comes from God, but we are commanded to love.  He always equips us to do what He calls us to do; but never forces us to do.  Hmmm...

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Does The End Affect the Middle?

"Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

Any guesses as to where we find this passage of scripture?  Nope, not the book of the Revelations.  This is Isaiah 65:17.  Isaiah refers to this concept again in Chapter 66:22, when it says:

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.

You may be thinking at this point, “How does this apply to my daily living?  I am dealing with issues right here and now, and talking about things I can’t fathom seems like a colossal waste of time.”

I would like to submit that this applies to all of us as believers in EVERY way, and applies to ALL areas of our lives.  Peter really brings this home in 2 Peter 3:3-14:

3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

1.    Jesus is going to come back to earth. – v.4,8-9

a.    He is being patient right now, hoping that everyone will repent.

2.    The Earth and our current universe are going to be destroyed – v.7,10-13

a.    On the day of judgment – v.7; Rev. 20:11

b.    The Universe will disappear – v.10,12

c.    The elements will burn up – v.10,12

d.    The earth will be destroyed – v.10

3.    There will be a new heaven (universe) and a new earth – v.13; Rev 21:1

a.    The first heaven and earth had passed away – Rev. 21:1

The point of Peter’s reminder that these things are coming is to tell us how we should live as a result of this reality.  In v.11 and v.14, Peter tells us that since everything we see right now will be destroyed, we should live “holy and godly lives;” and “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with (God).”

Why, then, do so many of our current “theologians” in contemporary music and “hyper-grace” preaching keep trying to tell us to “quit trying so hard”, and to just accept the fact that “we all fall; we all fail; and God knows we can’t be good; but His grace just looks over our sins, so relax and just exist as you are.”?  The fact that we will probably “blow it” sometimes is no excuse to quit trying to get it right.  The fact that grace is on us is no approval to be comfortable in our sin.

The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, so we should be especially aware of godliness and holiness in our daily living.  The fight is increasingly challenging and intensifying as “The Day” approaches.  There is coming a day when men will not put up with sound doctrine at all (2 Tim. 4:3).  I would submit that this current trend of “no effort” and “just relaxing” in God’s grace is the seed of that destructive movement.

For those who will listen to the truth, no matter what they would like it to say, we need to remember that this world and its ways are coming to an end; therefore we must live holy and godly lives.  We must watch our doctrine closely and be careful as to what we give our approval (Rom. 14:22).