Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Wild Wicked West

The length of this blog is longer than normal, but this is what happens when believers behave in a way that even the world would view as vile.

When I saw the link above my heart broke for the Caner family. Let me be honest and say upfront that I have more issues with Dr. Caner with regard to everything from his theology to practice... but that can be said of other men, and can be said by other men about me. Let me also state that while I may agree with some of the adversaries of Dr. Caner theologically, I would not align myself in their camp in practice. 
Here is the problem:
When professing believers go to such a public source as the internet to blog and attack, while both believers and unbelievers watch things play out, it does damage not only to the Kingdom but to families.  There is a desire for many people to call on opinions to just cease about the Caner family following this tragedy but in truth, that is a desire to avoid the obvious. This 15 year old boy who committed suicide has been attacked by bloggers posting things on twitter, he watched his Dad be attacked and attempted to be destroyed by bloggers, and if you have the ignorance to believe that these things did not contribute to the psychological damage of this child, you live in the Land of Oz. 
Let me be clear, I do not agree or condone Dr. Caner, I do believe there are some “issues,” but it is of no benefit in the Kingdom to carry on vitriol and arguments in a public forum. When I look at Matthew 18 I do not see the Universal Church nor the World involved in correction. Dr. Caner says he is a believer so I must then treat him as such and at the very least, go to him as a brother. Nothing in the Word of God states that if he doesn’t listen, I then go to the internet to allow a hell bound world to watch as we disagree. Many of the people who have blogged on him would be more welcome to fill my pulpit than Dr. Caner simply because of doctrinal stance, but that is my prerogative as a Pastor, however there is no place under any circumstance for us to litter the street with our disagreements for a lost world to watch this play out.   Let’s think for a moment what Paul would have done with someone such as Dr. Caner.  I think he may have dealt with this issue in Philippians 1:15-18:
There were some men preaching with wrong motives, and some with right motives. Some had questionable integrity, and some exposed questionable desires of the heart in their actions. In these situations, Paul didn’t let that side track him and he didn’t call them out publically. Why? Because they preached Christ.  Dr. Caner has attacked, been somewhat divisive and antagonistic at times when he should not have been. But in truth, I have too.  I have been inconsistent, I have been antagonistic at times and, unless you are totally blind to your heart…you have been too. Here’s the point, there is nothing wrong with confronting error, there is nothing wrong with calling out someone on a lie.  There is absolutely nothing wrong when we speak with grace and truth and this should be done. But the "how" is just as important as what you are saying and the reasons why you desire to say it.     I grew up in a Bible preaching church that was not afraid to preach Matthew 18, but like most churches there were some in leadership that were a bit apprehensive about actually practicing it.  I am currently the Pastor of a church that stands out as a "three headed creature" in our community because we actually do practice it, but even in our fellowship when something is confronted the first question we ask is “Who has a relationship with this person?”  The reason we ask that? No one has ever been brought to repentance by someone on a blog calling them to turn in repentance. Even if every word is true, is it really helpful? Is it really Biblical?  Is it being a talebearer? Am I going after another brother?  I am from Georgia, both of Caner brothers are Presidents of Baptist Colleges in Georgia (one is my alma matter), if I were a Georgia Pastor today I would send my  young men out of state before I sent them to either of those schools. However, to go after these men who, while theologically different from me they are not heretics, is wrong. There are men who are not preaching a true gospel to whom we turn a blind eye, there are men in Georgia who have brought in groups who baptize the same teenager three times in three nights because he wants a different group of the Power Team to baptize him. In the SBC we have Pastors who have inflated, manipulated and shown little to no integrity with numbers, who we are totally silent on and who would never be confronted over that. But in our cowardly society we feel bold when we get keyboard courage and, through the anonymity of a blog we tear down other people. What is the motive?  When you call out a teenage boy, when you tear down his Dad, when you harass him like a poodle nipping at his heals and you see the family damaged forever, have you done your job? Have you accomplished your goal? Do the Caners preach a false gospel? Is it a works salvation? Do they preach the god of the Mormons? Preachers, Christians, brethren - I think we would rather devour each other and make sure we "expose someone" than do something Kingdom worthy. There are more churches in the Bible belt, more churches in our county that preach a weak or distorted gospel than probably anywhere in the world.  While a blog explaining the difference between a true gospel and false gospel might educate some or answer questions for those who are curious enough to look, there is no benefit to dragging a man or family into a public forum like the internet for a modern day verbal stoning.  My job is to deal with the small area of God’s Kingdom I have been appointed to and ground them in truth.
I have heard it said by someone “The internet is the great equalizer” and that is true, but here is the issue…all men’s opinions are not equal. Some of these bloggers, in their Mom’s basement being verbal snipers, when they publically begin to talk with their wild eyed hatred and envy are exposed as what they are…mean spirited kooks. So, it puts the guy who sits stringing sentences together with hatred and venom (you know, the one who if you saw him in real life you would realize he is NOT someone to put a lot of "stock" in)  in the same forum with the folks who desire to grow, educate and help . If you do have credibility and fall into this second category, then try asking what your real goal is? By saying this/blogging this, is it slander?  Is it tale bearing?  Can it in fact damage the gospel more than if I saying nothing. If I believe in the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of Scripture, then I am going to handle things biblically and when I am out of Biblical options, then I stop. Do bloggers, haters, vicious attacks share the blame for the brokenness the Canners are going through right now? I would say by observations and experience, sadly it is resounding yes. I don’t intend that mean spirited.  I do however, mean it to say that if as a blogger you can post “the blaming and finger pointing need to stop now”  my question is why "now"?   Truth is truth even when tragedy strikes. If "in the name of decency" you are calling a stop to it now, why should it not have stopped before this tragedy?  Is decency not required until harm is done?  Let's make a commitment to be decent and just stop.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Theology Not Just For Our Head, But Also Our Heart

In my counseling and my interaction with people, I have sadly realized that much of our theology hits our head but doesn’t reach our heart. Let me illustrate:

I know I worship a sovereign God. He is faithful to me…. He in fact, has always been and will always be faithful to me. He would never do me evil, there is no evil in Him. I know this, I can teach this, I read these truths in the pages of the Word. The problem is too often I do not preach to myself and my heart, which is very deceitful, and lies to me. I once heard it said that our enemy doesn’t desire to fill our hearts with hatred for God as, for the believer that would not be a good strategy, but his desire is to make us forget God if only for a few minutes. If I am allowed to look at my situation, my hurt, and my circumstances what happens is that the truths that I know, the truths that I have read about and experienced - those same truths grow strangely dim in my heart. This is why I need the church.  This is why we need other believers. Somewhere in our lives we have come up with the idea that being encouraging means telling someone that everything will be okay, that if they just hold on that God will take their proverbial lemons and make lemonade.  What real encouragement is, is speaking truth to one another when our heart does not believe what our head knows. The truth is sometimes the battle with cancer is lost, that life is messy, and sometimes it doesn’t work out like I want it to. But that is no reflection on God’s sovereignty, it is no reflection on God’s character, it is simply a reflection on my nearsightedness, on my inability to comprehend God’s ways.  Many times I have to come to the reality that it’s not my theology that needs help, it is me actually believing my theology practically.  In one of my favorite books, The Success Syndrome by Kent Hughes, he points out that one of the elements of success is “believing what you believe” and the point he is making is just what I have been explaining, that too often we don’t really act on what we believe. I believe forgiveness should happen, but I won’t do it.  I believe I should prefer my spouse but I just don’t do it. I believe God is in control but my emotions state other wise. The problem is when I don’t believe truths that are declared in the Word, I end up sleeping with the enemy. This enemy robs me of rest, hope, energy, wisdom, grace and so much more. This short post is meant to serve as an real encouragement in truth for both you and me today…remember, God IS in control.  He is good and He is working in the best way in your life as a believer so you can give Him the most glory. This is not always easy - it sometimes feels horrible…but He is still good.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Importance of Clarity in the Church

At Trinity we are in the process of “resetting” by reviewing and clarifying, and even rewriting practically everything in our fellowship.  It’s quite interesting when you see so much confusion in the “Bible belt” about what church should be.  The confusion should come as no surprise for us simply because many pastors have not even sat down to think nor teach about church. In the next few weeks we will be walking through and voting on our new church covenant, and the importance of having such a document. Our church culture longs to tell the world what is wrong, but we fail to even clarify to the church body what is right. We condemn same sex marriage, and certainly we should do so with clarity and grace, but when it comes to laying out what a believer is accountable to other believers for, this is when many people lose their backbone. Most have no problem dealing with the overt sinfulness in our culture, but when it comes to issues of faithfulness to the church body, confronting one another in sin, or expectations of the behavior of a believer, we don’t like to deal with that issue because well…we sit by that person. It is very easy to deal with the sinner we don’t know, but our cursing the darkness while ignoring the believer in our midst screams inconsistency to a lost and dying world. They see us preach against homosexuality but ignore division and we wonder why we are not making an impact on our society.  It is not the spiritual darkness of the world as man is not more sinful today than ever before, but the problem is the church is displaying less light than ever before. Much of that is because we want to live in isolation, we want to communicate by text or email rather than face to face. “Believers” don’t want their sin confronted but remain the on moral high ground. When one church tries to hold members accountable you have too many other “churches” all to willing to accept them without question in order to increase their nickels and noses rather than keeping watch over their souls. You have believers not willing to join a church until they get a visit with a staff member but want to sneak out under the cloak of darkness or e-mail. Our desire with our covenant is to make it clear that when I am a part of a church family there are expectations.  That if a member is coming, or leaving our body there is accountability as a part of their life at TBC.  If they are coming to our family, we will be up front and honest about expectations and not paint some “bait and switch” tactic once they are members.  If they are leaving TBC and have not dealt with things biblically, we have an obligation to inform the next pastor/church of their level of accountability while here. My original intent was to simply write the “Why?” of a church covenant, however when I read this post by Dr. Russell Moore I wanted to not only speak to the covenant but the undercutting of the biblical standards by so called “sister-churches.” I hope this increases the understanding of accountability among the brethren.

How Church Discipline Can Be Like Doctor Shopping

October 03, 2012

Law enforcement officials use the term “doctor shopping” to refer to the way those addicted to prescription pain medications seek to avert accountability. If you go to your doctor to ask for Vicodin, and your physician refuses to prescribe it, you are doctor shopping if you then seek out multiple doctors until you find the one who will prescribe the Vicodin. Sometimes an addict will have multiple doctors going at once, all prescribing different medicines, often those that are dangerous to mix. I’ve noticed the same thing going on when it comes to church accountability.

The truth is, there’s a certain type of personality that doesn’t want accountability, but affirmation. If one wants to divorce someone one shouldn’t divorce or marry someone one shouldn’t marry or do something one shouldn’t do, he seeks out a pastor’s “accountability.” When the pastor tells him the opposite of what he wants to hear, he leaves and goes to find a pastor or counselor who will. And this goes on and on.

This isn’t being shepherded. It’s the same old autonomy of the self, that first manifests itself in the life-cycle of a child saying, “But Dad said it was okay…” except now grown up into something with a far more malevolent motive and a far more dangerous outcome.

Sadly, there are too many ministers of the gospel out there willing to empower this sort of behavior. If you have a church member who has been warned or disciplined by another pastor or church, you have a responsibility to investigate what’s going on. True, it might be that the old church spoke where there is no authority to speak, disciplining a parent for not homeschooling, for example. But, even then, if you will give an answer for the soul of this person, you bear the responsibility to find out what exactly is going on.

If you’re the kind of minister who refuses to acknowledge the discipline or accountability structures of other churches, you might simply be more enlightened than those churches and leaders. Or you might not know what you’re dealing with. And you just might be fighting against a word spoken by Jesus himself, handing over an unrepentant soul to Satan, with the hopes of ultimate repentance (1 Cor. 5:4-5).

Your affirmation of an unrepentant and fugitive-from-discipline church member isn’t an act of love or mercy. It’s an act of hatred. You are empowering the unrepentant to “bear the name brother” or sister (1 Cor. 5:11), to assuage a conscience that should be convicted by the Spirit. If so, you’d be better off just prescribing an addict another round of Percocet. 



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tough Questions

I have shared before that a couple of times a year during our family worship I have a list of questions I ask my boys about me. These are times that I really have to talk to myself and make sure they never see any defensiveness in me, because these are very vulnerable times. Being boys, and our home and family being what it is, very seldom are there any "pulled punches" but through the years there has been an amazing amount of grace. I have listed the questions before and I will list them again here, but something amazing has happened through the years as I have asked my boys the following questions:


Questions For My Boys:

1.       How is your personal Bible study?

 2.       What is God teaching you?

 3.       In your own words, what is the Gospel?

 4.       Is there a specific sin you are aware of that you need  
            my help defeating?

 5.       Are you more aware of my encouragement or my

 6.       What am I  most passionate about?

 7.       Do I act the same a church as I do when I’m at home?

  8.       Are you aware of my love for you?

 9.       Is there any way I have sinned against you that I’ve
            not repented of?

 10.   How am I doing as a Dad?

 11.   How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?

 12.   Does my relationship with your Mom make you
           excited to be married?

The last two times we have done this something astounding has happened. The boys have asked if the following night they could ask me questions. Last night, we went through their questions and one of the boys said what I so often feel but don’t have enough guts to say. He said, “Ok, I am asking these questions but I’m not real sure I even want to know the answer.” We laughed and went through questions they came up with like…”What is in my life that you see that is halting my growth as a godly man?”   “What are some areas of sin you see that I am not relying on God’s grace?”  These questions that they come up with set a tone for teaching, showing grace and confessing my sin and exposing areas of sanctification that I would not have an opportunity to deal with in any other occasion. I am learning through them, that openness to correction in my life is allowing me opportunity to teach and correct in a more grace filled way. May our home and our Church always be a place that grace flows and sanctification is at work.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Grumbling...hmmm....Do I Grumble?

All of us have times that we grumble and complain. It may be about the weather or about our circumstances, but it is one of those “acceptable sins” we participate in  with little correction because we know that everyone does it. I came across this blog by Paul Tripp that is a great reminder for all of us as we go through our day. I hope it will serve you as well as it did me. 


Grumbling and Disputing

When was the last time you complained?
I live in Philadelphia, and this past winter was one of the worst we've ever had. From November through March, all I heard was, "It's so cold. I hate the snow. I can't wait for summer."
Philadelphia also has the tendency to get uncomfortably hot, and guess what I've started to hear already? "It's too hot. It's so humid. I can't wait for Autumn."
Maybe you're abnormal and don't complain about the weather, but you complain about something. Have you ever stood in front of your wardrobe, stuffed with clothes, and grumbled, "I have nothing to wear..." Have you ever looked in your refrigerator, stocked with food, and sighed, "There's nothing to eat..."
Here's the reality: wherever you live, whomever you're with, no matter what the time of day, and regardless of circumstance, you have the amazing ability to complain about something!

Philippians 2:14

In his letter to the saints in Philippi, the Apostle Paul writes, "DO ALL THINGS without grumbling or disputing." (Philippians 2:14, emphasis mine).
Can you imagine just one day that isn't marred in some way by complaint? Imagine waking up in the morning and being completely free of stress and pressure. Imagine lying down at night and sleeping with a heart that was satisfied with every situation of the day.
Imagine being a parent and not complaining about your child. Imagine being a spouse and not complaining about your husband or wife. Imagine being a citizen and not complaining about your neighbor or government. Imagine being a worker and not complaining about your boss or employee.
Now, without a doubt, the world and the people in it will create havoc for your life. There will be holy reason to groan and pray for change (Romans 8:23). But more often than not, your complaining reveals your selfish heart and the things you desire (Luke 6:45).
I want to look at the two words Paul uses - grumbling and disputing - and explore what they say about our heart.

Grumbling - "I Deserve Better"

Grumbling has to do with the emotional side of complaint. The English translation is onomatopoeic, meaning that the word audibly represents its definition. Maybe you should wait until you're in private to try this, but if you grumble the word "grumble" over and over again, it has the drone of complaint: "grummmmbblling, umb, umb, umb, umb."
Grumbling says, "I deserve better!" When we grumble, we insert ourselves into the center of our universe and make life all about us. When we don't get what we want, immediately when we want it and precisely how we want it, we grumble. It's the audible representation of a heart captured by the claustrophobic kingdom of self.

Disputing - "I Know Better"

Disputing can be translated to "questioning" (American Standard Version) or "arguing" (New International Version). It simply says, "I know better! If I were ruling my world, I would do X, Y, and Z differently." You are disputing the sovereignty and wisdom of God.
Of course, you would never publicly compromise your theology, but in the private moments of your life, you actually dispute who should be God. Maybe you wouldn't go as far as to replace God, but you would try and add a fourth seat to the Holy Trinity!

7 Reminders

What should you do when you feel the urge to grumble and dispute? I say all the time that you're the most influential preacher in your life, because no one preaches to you as much as you do. So, preach to yourself!
Below are 7 of my favorite verses that remind me why I don't need to grumble and dispute. There are dozens, probably even hundreds more, so find a few that you can bind on your heart and tie around your neck (Proverbs 6:20):
  • GRUMBLE: the only thing we deserve is death (Psalm 103:10), but we've been given life instead (Romans 3:24), and given everything we need for life (2 Peter 1:3), so we don't need to be anxious (Matthew 6:25-32).
  • DISPUTE: God has been around from the beginning (Genesis 1:1), He has designed your entire life story (Acts 17:26), and His plan is for His glory and your good (Jeremiah 29:11).
This self-preaching will be helpful, but you (or your pastor) will never be your savior. Your only hope is found in the One who came down from His heavenly kingdom to liberate you from bondage to the kingdom of self.
Draw yourself close to the King of the Kingdom of God and experience the joy and peace He can bring to your soul!