Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What Does Facebook Have to do With Matthew 18

To answer the title of this post…absolutely nothing. We live in a day when social media allows kneejerk reactions and foolishness to run rampant and sadly, it is all too prominent among Christians. From Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and all the areas across the USA, you have an amazing amount of “Christian” people doing anything but acting like a Christian. I have seen everything from “Pray for my husband, he is so cold and our marriage is a mess,” to “Pray for me I am leaving my church because of certain issues,” to “Praying for a friend because people are so mean.” The common thread is the Pharisaical language that screams out “please let me gossip.” This is the complete opposite of what Scripture commands –

·         that I am to guard my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ

·         I am to glorify God in what I do and say

·         I am to do everything without complaining and grumbling

·         I am to do all for the glory of God.

I know there was no social media when the Bible was written, but gossip is still gossip and the Word of God still reveals the human heart and exposes our sin. The lady or man who writes and complains about their spouse, the Pastor or members who air their grievances on social media would do well to consider that we are accountable to the Most High God for every word that we speak. In a book I read some time ago entitled Character Assassins,  the author dealt with gossip and wrote “they are experts of disguise when they see it would be to their advantage. They are able to present themselves as pious, devout and spiritual church members, who are doing their destructive work for the ‘good of the church’ to advance God’s Kingdom…these people live in denial as to their true nature….They firmly believe that what they are doing is the will of God.”  
It used to be we had to worry about our teens doing dumb things on Facebook that could forever damage them, now we have to worry about adults doing those things. We would do well to remember:

 Ecc. 5:2 “Do not be rash with your mouth and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.”

Social media allows us to be rash, it gives what I call “keyboard courage,” it stifles life on life, face to face work. Phone, e-mail, Facebook, twitter and so many of these similar things damage hearts and testimonies and, most importantly damage the name of our great God. It has never been easier to flaunt our depraved heart, to react, to bait someone to ask questions. We spend a great deal of time reminding our students that one bad decision can forever destroy them on social media, but in truth one reactionary “tweet,” “post,” or comment can destroy a testimony that one has spent years building. In such an “advanced” world we would do well to remember the old children’s song that encourages us to “be careful little lips what you say, because the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little lips what you say.” We may need to add a verse that says “Be careful little hands what you type, text or retweet.” It might not rhyme but it certainly is applicable for our day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Great Thought

When I saw this blog I thought it was very fitting for every believer.  May God keep all us from this prominent attitude.  

Or below:

The Most Damaging Attitude in Our Churches
By Cara Joyner
   February 3, 2014

It was an attitude I learned in Church, and I used to believe it was a strength.
I thought I was simply a critical thinker, full of constructive insights. My husband and I shared a “gift for reflection” and spun many conversations around what we considered to be compelling observations about what the Church and other people were doing wrong and what they could do better. Never mind the fact that our tips were not actually being presented to those we believed would benefit from them. At least we saw the problems, right?
But with time, the satisfaction of hearing ourselves talk began to fade and a nauseating feeling settled in its place. No matter how positive a light we tried to cast it in, we were filling up on bitterness and tasting the result.

Subtly, without even realizing it, we had become cynics. And the toxic effect could be felt in our marriage, our relationships and our ability to communicate Christ’s love for the world.

We tend to think of cynicism as something that’s overt. We love watching the overt cynics—Bob Kelso, Gregory House, Don Draper. We laugh at their bitter rants and quote their best one-liners. Perhaps their extreme negativity makes it easier to justify our quiet tendency to be overly critical, especially in the name of something good.
But cynicism doesn’t always present itself in the sweeping, broad negativity we see on TV. In the day-to-day, it looks more like quick, unwarranted, “constructive” criticism. I’m not talking about the critical thinking required for success as an adult. I’m referring to the way we constantly evaluate and critique people and what they do:
“Worship was great this morning! I can’t believe all those people were just standing there and not raising their hands. Some people just don’t take worship as seriously as I do."
“Worship was great this morning! I was trying to be still and reflect, but the guy next me was moving so much and flinging his arms around. Some people just don’t take worship as seriously as I do.”
“The sermon was good. If he had just said this, it could have been better.”
“I was so annoyed by this guy at the mall. He had no common sense and was so rude. Nobody teaches people how to be polite anymore.”
“The problem with the Church today is ___________.”
Sound familiar?
Subtle cynicism, or the overly critical nature of our culture, is a toxin satan uses against the Church. And it’s all the more damaging because we often don’t even realize it’s happening.
It’s time to change our posture. I’m not suggesting an extreme alternative of falsely positive, overly peppy Church culture that says nothing is wrong. Jesus, Paul, David and every writer of scripture has shown us that this is not Biblical.
But when we recognize the dangers of subtle cynicism, we are able to engage in honest conversations that are productive, loving and full of grace.
When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he addressed a steady stream of negativity. He pleaded with the church to rally around their shared love for Christ, sacrifice for each other and “do everything without grumbling or arguing.” With this as our example, let’s remember the following when we are tempted to snap sarcastic quips or offer unsolicited insight:
The Church is the Bride of Christ and deserves our respect
It is made up of broken people. We may not agree with everything, in fact, we may be spot on in calling out behavior that opposes the Gospel, but let’s speak truth with the love and humility of Jesus. He died for this Bride that He adores, so I’d imagine how we talk about her matters to Him.
Reject anything that resembles an “us” versus “them” mentality
Jesus was honest about truth and spoke confidently to those who challenged it with their hypocrisy and legalism, yet He did so without mocking or belittling anyone. He didn’t post open letters on the town gates and He didn’t publicly ridicule those who questioned him. He met them with Scripture and self-control. Any foolishness they felt came from getting caught with their foot in their mouth, not from Jesus laughing at them with crowds behind Him.
Focus on what is good
In the four short chapters of Philippians, Paul instructs the Church to rejoice 15 times. It’s interesting to note that he appears far less concerned with why they are negative and much more concerned with their choosing to change.
Identifying problems is easy. Following Paul’s call to focus on what is good, lovely and admirable takes intentional work, and it breathes new life into our relationships. If God can choose to no longer look on our sin, we can choose to stop focusing on the things we would change in others and get busy loving them instead.
When we become subtle cynics, our ability to grow becomes stunted
Unveiling flaws outside of ourselves requires little to no personal sacrifice. Examining the depths of our own brokenness requires vulnerability and risk, both of which are essential for growth.
Life in Jesus involves the death of self (Mark 8:34-35). This is difficult to do while clinging to the belief that we know more than someone else. But as we move into a space of grace, our eyes are opened to lessons we were blinded to before, and we begin to find the places in our hearts God longs to address. If we are too busy discussing the ways everyone else needs to change, we lose the ability to see our own need for restoration and we get stuck rather than grow.
Pray first. Talk later.
Paul begins his letter to the Philippians by writing that he thanked God every time he thought of them. If we model Paul’s heart in this way, the thoughts and words that follow will reflect Jesus.
There are times when a thoughtful, loving, critical response is the most appropriate one. But before we jump in to offer it, we should examine our hearts and consider what is most beneficial, being willing to say nothing if it tears others down and hinders the Gospel of Christ. What we say matters. Choose carefully.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Blessing Most Will Miss

We at Trinity, have been going through the Peace Makers material and studying how to biblically deal with one another when we have conflict/disagreements. If you know anything about people (even believers), you know there is bound to be disagreement. One of the most clear truths in Scripture is how to handle conflict on a personal level, but also a church level. While there are many passages of Scripture that are explicit in the directive of how conflict or even a sinning brother or sister should be dealt with, I can say with confidence that there is a minority of evangelical churches that have ever really followed Matthew 18 in application. Our lack of application in most cases, cannot be traced to a lack of belief of its validity:  I personally don’t know of a single pastor or even Christian, that has ever shared with me that they believe Matthew 18 is not part of Scripture, nor have they said that it is not applicable to us today. In fact, I know of countless brothers who have preached on the text in a strong clear way.  But, among even those who preach on it, even those who believe it with their head…I know of only 3 pastors who have ever even attempted it. This is troubling - that something can be so clear in the Word of God yet, so few churches that claim to hold to truth have ever followed it out. Now, if this was "Disney Land Christianity" we could assume that maybe those churches have never had a member in unrepentant sin, but I have been in the ministry for almost 25 years and I have never been in a church where there was not someone, at some time caught up in unrepentant sin. After carrying out church discipline in my first pastorate in the 90’s, I realized why so few Pastors would ever lead their church to do this…it’s hard. It is something that has no benefit for the Pastor, and virtually no benefit for the congregation. The world will look at them as being judgmental, they will be talked about, gossiped about, slandered, cussed, hated and even when it is done, there will be countless people who give the adage, “I don’t disagree with it being done, I just don’t like how it was done.” I have been a part of some phenomenal churches and have concluded that either the ones I have been involved in have more people that get into sin, or frankly that the other churches decide that corrective church discipline really isn’t worth it. Sadly, I believe the latter is true. If it is indeed this, then the joy of a repentant sinner is seldom seen or celebrated. 

This past Sunday, a man in our fellowship returned to our congregation after being voted out. He repented and gave the most complete gospel - dripped apology to the fellowship I have ever heard. We had a meal in his honor and celebrated a brother coming home and a family reunited, all to the glory of God. Our fellowship was allowed to see that loving someone enough to be uncomfortable, caring enough to do uncomfortable things, believing the Word enough to behave it, has benefits. Now, it usually doesn’t have the benefits most of us would like - like that your church is applauded by society, nor will it be praised by churches who see “the other church” as their greatest competition. But, it will glorify God and that is our calling and that has to be enough. God could have put this man and his family back together in numerous ways but, He outlines in the Word that He will use the body of Christ, and when this is done the repentant Christian as well as his church family is allowed to celebrate because our God is a God who heals. He restores broken, damaged, sin plagued people and He is praised for His grace. I have shared numerous times with our people there are two frightening things for a believer in this world (1) Falling into unrepentant sin (2) Falling into false doctrine. If we really believe that those two are the worst two things that can happen to a believer, we would see that as more important than our preferences and even our comfort. I always challenge our people in our New Member’s class to ask at least two questions before joining a church: (1) If I get into sin or false doctrine will you kick me out? (2) Have you ever done it?  Many churches will agree to number one but most have never experienced actually applying the Word in this context. 

I say this to simply say “thank you,” God for your amazing grace on this family, and thank you Trinity for being strong and bold enough to do something tough and uncomfortable for God’s glory. We got to experience something great this past Sunday because of that. We are truly blessed