What’s in a name? – Part one

We were all given a name when we were born by our parents.  They searched and discussed names until they came to an agreement of what to call you.  If you’re like me, then you’ve wondered what made your parents name you what they did.  I asked my mother many years ago the reason I’m named Laurie Denise and yet she called me Denise.  Her answer was that she named me after a singer-actress from the late 40s, Denise Lor.  The reason she didn’t name me Denise Laurie is that she didn’t like the way it sounded.  Parents have opinions about names and those influence the resulting moniker for you.  When my husband and I named our children, I remember rejecting the name he liked for our daughter because I knew someone with that name.  I didn’t consider her a very nice person and didn’t want that reminder around me.  Parents have reasons for the names they choose.  The names given to Jesus throughout the scriptures have reasons as well.  In this series we will seek to understand some of the names given to Jesus and how that should affect our lives. 

There may be some of us who have suffered teasing or ridicule from others because of our name.  Sometimes the effort to make the name of the child be unique causes others to respond with finger pointing and bullying.  You have probably suffered this yourself or know of someone who has.  I remember how in my high school the last name of one particular student became the putdown for others.  The name was used as a description of not measuring up to the crowd’s opinion.  This is hard.  It hurts.  Jesus suffered for his name.  In fact, as followers of Christ we have the privilege of suffering for the name of Jesus. 

“…they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  Then they left the presence of the counsel rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Acts 5:40b-41

These verses are describing what Peter and the apostles were going through after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.  Here’s what it teaches us.

  1. The name of Jesus is cause for joy in the midst of suffering.  Reminding ourselves of Jesus’ name and who he is can bring us joy.  It doesn’t take the suffering away but the reminder of why Jesus suffered for us will bring about joy.
  2. The name of Jesus is cause to choose right even when told to do wrong.  The apostles were told by the governing body to no longer speak the name of Jesus but they didn’t obey!  They spoke the name of Jesus and called others to follow him.  Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  This can’t be done without speaking his name. 
  3. The name of Jesus may mean we’ll have to be dishonored so that he isn’t.   The jokes, sarcasm, slander, gossip, bullying, and laughing may be things we must endure for the name of Jesus.  We know Jesus, who he is, what he’s done, and what he continues to do on our behalf.  We can persevere for his name.

“But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16

This is said to Ananias concerning Paul.  The Lord had chosen Paul to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is our example.  We learn…

  1. We are to carry the name of Jesus.  As followers of Christ, his name is our identity.  Jesus lives through each of us as we follow him and obey his command to love.  Not only is he our identity but we are called to carry his name to others.  We wear it and we share it!
  2. We will suffer for his name.  This may not be uplifting to us because no one likes to suffer, but as we’ve seen in the previous verses, it is a privilege to suffer for him.  His name deserves honor and we are not to forsake it.

“Then Paul answered, What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13

Paul had been pulled aside by those who loved him in order that they might convince him to protect himself and not go to Jerusalem.  They knew he would be arrested but Paul was willing to do what God had called him to do. He’s our example.

  1. We can’t always protect others from suffering.  We want to especially protect the vulnerable.  The idea of a child going to a remote part of the world to spread the gospel can be a hard one.  Suffering will most certainly be a part of a choice like that.  The name of Jesus is worth the suffering and our efforts to protect will be fruitless.
  2. We need to be willing to suffer for Christ and allow others to do so as well.  The willingness of Paul to go to Jerusalem when he knew prison awaited him was all about the name of Jesus.  He wanted to spread his name.  The suffering was not considered as something from which to run away.  It takes prayer and dependence on Christ to be willing to suffer for his name’s sake.

Our name is important to us but there is no name more important than Jesus.  His name means Savior, something we can never achieve.  Because he is Savior, we can suffer for his name with confidence.  One day, and maybe soon, this will happen,

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  Philippians 2:10

GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS…ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION

In this world of social media, news travels fast.  We no longer have to wait until we can make a long distance call or write a letter that will take days to get to our family members.  It’s fun to be able to share the birth of a baby or wedding pictures immediately with everyone on your “the ones who care” list.  We can also share news that is sad to hear, like the death of a loved one.  What makes news good or bad?  Sometimes the same news can be good to one and bad to another.  The determination of whether the news is good or bad comes from our perception.

Everyone has a perception, their own point of view, which is derived from their experiences and knowledge.  It’s because of this fact, we have to be sensitive to others who don’t have the same perception as we have.  One thing to remember is that our perception can be subjective, as we base it on what we believe to be true.  Emotions can play a big part in our perceptions as well.  It’s so easy to base our conclusions on our feelings.  In fact, it makes us feel better to do that!  All of these things are a part of how we interpret news and determine whether it’s good or bad.

Numbers 13 – Moses sent the spies into Canaan

“Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, send a man, every one a chief among them.” Numbers 13:2

God gave this command to Moses and he chose one man from each tribe to go into the land and check it out.  These 12 men went in and found grapes, pomegranates, and figs.  They packed them up to bring back to the camp.  They spied out the land for 40 days and then returned to give their report.

“…We came to the land to which you sent us.  It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large.  And besides we saw the descendants of Anak there.” Numbers 13:27-28

The news brought by 10 of the 12 men was discouraging. They gave the emphasis on the fortified cities and the descendants of Anak who were very tall, giant people.  This was bad news.

“But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’” Numbers 13:30

The news brought by two of the 12 men was encouraging.  Caleb spoke for himself and Joshua when he said that they could overcome the people of the cities.  This was good news.

These men had different perceptions of the situation, but these perceptions went much deeper.  The 10 had the wrong perception of God.  He had brought them out of Egypt and he could certainly take them to Canaan.  However, their perception of God was clouded by their fear.  Caleb and Joshua were the only two of these men who made it to the promised land.  The others died before they could get there, as God had them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.

Does the truth of God inform your perception?

Now that’s a question for us to ponder.  We like our viewpoint, our opinion, and our version of truth.  This question should cause us to think about our perception of the news we hear.  Is it good news because it promotes the gospel?  Is it bad news because the gospel is being squelched?

Some examples

“I’m getting married.”  Good news but then the question, “Is he a believer?”          “I really don’t know but I love him and he loves me.”  Good news has just turned into bad news.  The two perceptions here are different in that one just wants someone to love her. The perception of the other is informed by the truth of God.  She desires her friend to be married to a believer.  Good news – Bad news

“I just got a new job with a substantial raise.”  Good news for this person.  The friend asks, “Full time?”  “Yes, I’ll be working seven days a week.  Lots of overtime.”  Good news has just turned into bad news.  The first has the perception that the extra money will be worth it.  The friend has the perception informed by God’s truth, and knows we need the church community.  Money will not replace love and encouragement from brothers and sisters in Christ.  Good news – Bad news.

Genesis 3:16 – The curse on the serpent.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”           Genesis 3:16

This is good news, bad news.  Good for us because it is the promise of the Messiah, the one who would save us from our sinful selves.  Jesus Christ came, lived, died in our place, paid the price for our sins, and then rose on the third day. This is the Gospel; good news for those who will believe.  However, for Satan it is bad news.  It is announcing his defeat. Satan continues to try to get in the way of the gospel but the end has been written for him and it is very bad news.

“and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”  Revelation 20:10

What informs your perceptions?

 

CHURCH FAMILY – PART ONE – PARTNERSHIP IN THE GOSPEL

Paul to the Philippian church, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5

Our world loves partnerships, whether good or bad. We’ve been exposed to many different partners over the years through television, movies, books, and people.  Remember these:  Holmes and Watson, Calvin and Hobbs, Bert and Ernie, Frodo and Sam, Scooby-Do and Shaggy, Mickey and Minnie, Pinky and the Brain, Lucy and Ethel, Pricilla and Aquila, Paul and Barnabas, and many more.  All of these partners share together in a joint interest.  They work together toward a common goal.  Actually, partners are a great support in our lives.

We all would like to have a Dr. Watson or a Tonto to help us in our endeavors in this life.  Think about the Lone Ranger.  He is called Lone but he isn’t alone; he has Tonto.  He doesn’t operate alone at all.  He’s also not the last ranger.  There were other Texas Rangers who came after him.  We often feel like the last Christian, but are we?  No; we have a family.  We aren’t meant to be alone, but in the partnership of believers for the gospel’s sake.  Paul considered the entire church at Philippi as his partners in the gospel.  That’s definitely more than a two-some!

There are many benefits to the church family.  The greatest ones are the unity in our pursuit and proclamation of the gospel.  By pursuing the gospel, we mean to proceed in accordance with the gospel’s teachings.  In other words, we are to live like followers of Christ.  That is definitely a pursuit because it doesn’t come naturally to us.  Then we are to, with unity, proclaim the gospel which means to make it known.  We are all partners in this.  As a partner for the gospel we are to support one another, encourage one another, and carry one another if necessary.

How big is our partnership?  It’s big!  As followers of Christ, we are partners with our local body of believers and with all other believers around the world.  That’s a huge number with which to partner.  We have to remember that God is a big God and he’ll give us grace in this partnership.  So what can we do to remind ourselves of this big partnership?  The same thing that Paul does, pray.  We can take the time to pray for the believers around the city, state, country, and the world.  When we pray for others, we are connected to them.  There are those around the world who are suffering for the gospel and need our prayers.  Others may be meeting in a small house church with the lights out and need our prayers.  Life is hard in many ways for many of those who are in partnership with us and they need our prayers.  What about the partners within your own church body?  Are you praying for them?  Regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we can pray for God to move within the church family for the furtherance of the gospel.

Are you grateful for your church family?

How often do you pray for the universal church?

When was the last time you prayed for those who are suffering around the world for the gospel?

As a follower of Christ, you are a partner in the gospel.  Pursue and proclaim the gospel today, tomorrow, and until eternity.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10

 

 

CHATTER VERSUS THE GOSPEL

Social media is full of chatter and many opinions.  In the realm of Christianity there is much chatter about gender roles and women in the church.  People take sides in these issues and write their opinions, arguments or come-backs to someone else’s opinions or arguments.  There is so much time spent in circling the wagons around these issues that we lose the gospel in the battle.

Are there issues in the church to be discussed concerning gender roles and women?  Yes, absolutely.  My point is that the amount of time and energy spent on these issues would be better served spent in promoting the gospel.  When we spend too much time on issues, the issues take a greater place in our thinking than the gospel.  We can’t live this life well without our thinking being saturated with the gospel daily.  The issues of the day will change but the gospel is eternal.  If we put our thoughts and efforts on the eternal, these issues will be and can be discussed from a different perspective.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:1-2

The gospel is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as being the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Those of us who have been called to believe this gospel have been made into new creations.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  God makes us new in that we are no longer bound by sin but are now free to not sin as Christ lives in us.  This is our new identity.  We become followers of Christ and with Paul can say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 

Our identity in Christ should be the engine that drives all we do in our lives.  It affects our understanding of issues.  This driving force is strengthened in us when we take the time to study the Word of God and put the principles into practice.  As we do this then everything we speak of has the gospel driving it. This is the road of progressive sanctification.  We are to put-off old habits of sin and put-on righteous deeds.  This is a lifelong process for all of us.  As we walk this road, we should focus on our identity so that we grow to be more like Christ.

The truth is we focus elsewhere on a daily basis.  We are more focused on what we want or issues we think are unjust than on who we are in Christ.  We focus on what we want in our lives not on what God desires in our lives.  The focus that we have has to be the lens of the gospel.  If it isn’t then we spend more time on issues and opinions than on truth.  The gospel is truth and whatever we discuss should be run through that grid.  The truth is issues don’t save only the gospel saves.

Our chatter should be about Jesus and what He has done to set us free from sin.  This is truth and not opinion.  Jesus changes things in our lives even our opinions.  He can lead us in a way that brings Him glory and is for our good.  Remember when Jesus spoke with Martha.  She was so concerned about her service and need for help.  She was accusing Jesus of not caring because her sister, Mary, was sitting at his feet.  But Jesus said to her, “…Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42  Do you see the focus?  The focus was to be Jesus.  It is the same today with so many opinions about so many issues.  We need to get back to the gospel and make the focus Jesus.

What is the gospel message for women?  Believe in Christ, love God and love others.  Life is more about God and others than about me.  Are we spending enough time pursuing this gospel?  Can we discuss issues of gender roles and women in the church?  Yes, but not without the gospel being the driving engine.  When the issue becomes my soap box, then I need to look down because I’m standing on my idol. What’s the problem?  The idol won’t hold me up, only Jesus can do that.

 

LIFE…A PAINTBALL WAR

 

Have you ever been in a paintball war?  “Paintball is a competitive team shooting sport in which players eliminate opponents from play by hitting them with round, breakable dye-filled oil and gelatin pellets (“paintballs”), usually shot from a compressed air (nitrogen) or carbon dioxide-powered low-energy air weapon called paintball marker.” (according to Google)  You should wear layers of clothing which consists of long sleeves and long pants, headgear with a face shield, boots, and take ibuprofen for muscle pain.  It’s all about being prepared to feel the splat of the paintball.  The only thing you can’t be prepared for is where the paintball will come from or where it may hit you. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, the game will come to an end.  It’s then that you can laugh at the paint you and others are wearing as you do a recap of the game together.  Our daily life is similar in some ways but very different in others from a paintball war.  Let’s look at life using a paintball lens.

We compete with people in life.

Unfortunately, this is very true of us.  We have a tendency to want to be better than someone else.  That’s our sinful selfish nature rearing its ugly head.  Is it the “Miss America” syndrome which tells us we are special or just the love of ourselves?  There is such a desire to compare ourselves to others.  It makes us feel better about ourselves because there’s always someone sinning more or worse off than we are.  Jesus warns us about this when he told the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  The Pharisee prays, “…God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Luke 18:11-12  Even as we read this, we may have the temptation to say in our hearts, “I’m not that bad.  I don’t pray that way about myself.”  Be careful because we don’t really have to say it to be guilty of the competition with others.  Just as those who fight in a paintball war must prepare themselves for the battle, we must be ready to fight our competitive spirit.  Jesus reminds us how, “…the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14b  We need to put on humility and see ourselves as God sees us, as needy sheep.

We shoot people in life.

You may be shaking your head thinking, “I’ve never shot anyone”.  The truth is we all have with our words, actions, or thoughts.  We spit paintballs at others splattering them with our garbage.  We don’t think before we speak or act, not considering how it will affect the one with which we are engaging.  Sometimes we strategize how we can best get to someone, other times we just react without any forethought.   “…those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.  These things are excellent and profitable for people.” Titus 3:8b  We are to be careful to devote ourselves to good works for the benefit of others.  This is a reminder to not shoot people but to do good to people.  On the paintball field of life, we should be helping them, not contributing to their pain.

We get shot in life.

We will all be on the receiving end of the splat of another hard circumstance in life.  Those who are going to fight a paintball war prepare by layering their clothing and wearing gear for protection.  This is not always possible in life.  The hard circumstances come at us when we least expect them.  How do we prepare for that?  Perhaps you can relate to being in a hard circumstance, trying to manage it when another one hits you in the back of the head.  You never even saw it coming.  This circumstance adds to the other one so, now, the pain starts to increase but ibuprofen will not relieve it.  Just about that time another circumstance hits you from another angle, then another, and another.  This can be overwhelming to the point of making us feel defeated.  Extra clothes or head gear will not help us.  There is only one help, God.  The problem is that it’s hard to see God in the midst of so many paintball splats.  We become blinded to how He is working or if He is working at all.  What do we do?

 

We remember.

When it’s hard to see beyond our feelings of defeat, we must remember God.  We remember the difficult times from our past and how he rescued us.  We reflect on His Word and the help it can give us.  “I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!” Psalm 119:107  This is a great reminder of how God’s Word will help us when we are afflicted.  These circumstances that continue to splat us may be the handiwork of evil men.  We have been given Psalm 37 to meditate on and put into practice.  From this Psalm we need to remember,

“Fret not yourself because of evil doers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” vs. 1

“Trust in the Lord and do good;” vs. 3

“Delight yourself in the Lord” vs.4

“Commit your way to the Lord” vs. 5

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” vs. 7

We need to remember these words and put them into practice as we are hit by hard circumstances. We may not be able to control the incoming splat, or even prepare for it, but we can remember how to respond after the splat.

God holds us.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

In eternity we will enjoy times of remembering the great deeds of God together as we recap how the gospel saved us and sustained us.

PRESSING ON…OVERCOMING THE “YEAH BUTS” OF LIFE THE “YEAH BUTS” OF FORGIVENESS

Originally Published:  2-22-2017

Forgiveness can be very hard.  We feel deeply the injustices perpetrated against us.  These feelings drive us to hang on to the injustice rather than to forgive the offender.  The results of not forgiving are grudges, bitterness, hatred, a miserable attitude and a lack of joy.  This affects our relationships not only with the one we haven’t forgiven, but with others as well.  Above all that, our relationship with God is affected because of our disobedience.  He calls us to forgive others but we have our excuses and we stick to them.

YEAH BUT IT’S JUST NOT FAIR!

This is one of the first complete sentences a child will utter.  We are born with a sense of fairness.  We don’t like it if we are commanded to forgive someone who in our opinion, doesn’t deserve it.  After all we are right and they are wrong!  The truth is life is not fair.  This world is sin-cursed and people are born sinners.  These two produce injustice.  As Followers of Christ we are called to live in this world while trusting God with our lives.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5  When someone isn’t fair to us we need to trust God instead of looking to ourselves for the answers.  We are to forgive.

YEAH BUT I’M MUCH TOO HURT TO EVER FORGIVE.

We nurse our hurts sometimes just like we would a baby.  “It’s my hurt…don’t touch it!  Don’t take it away from me!” It becomes part of our identity. But this is not truth.  As Followers of Christ, our identity is in Him.  We are not to be known by our hurt.  When we refuse to forgive someone because it hurts, we are not remembering how we have been forgiven.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32  The only way to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving is to first remember God’s forgiveness given to us in Christ.  Yes, it may hurt; but to not forgive will hurt us even more.  We need grace to overcome the hurt and forgive.  God will give us that grace.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16  We are to forgive.

YEAH BUT IF I FORGIVE HIM HE WILL THINK IT IS OKAY.

There is so much fear in this statement.  We think we can hold onto control by not forgiving, and keep the fish on the hook, so to speak.  We have to remember that it’s not our job to punish the offending person.  Our forgiveness is to be in direct proportion to the amount we have been forgiven.  As followers of Christ we have been forgiven all.  Do we think sin is okay because God has forgiven us?  NO!  Our responsibility is to be obedient to forgive and trust God with the other person.  The other person’s sin is not our fault.  We are not to harbor unforgiveness because of fear.  “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  Mark 11:25  We are to forgive in prayer and in our hearts even before the person asks for the forgiveness.  If we don’t then we are putting up a blocker in our relationship with God.  The blocker is a grudge against someone resulting in bitterness.  When we are bitter, the grace of God is blocked in our lives.  We are to forgive.

YEAH BUT I CAN’T FORGET!

It’s unlikely we will forget a wrong done against us.  We will forget something like what to pick up at the store or someone’s birthday.  When we are hurt by someone it makes a deep impression on us and we remember.  “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”  Hebrews 8:12  Does this mean that God forgets our sin?  Absolutely not, He is not forgetful; He refuses to call them to mind.  He promises not to bring them up again.  This is love.  In 1 Corinthians 13:5 we read that love keeps no records of wrongs.  We are not going to forget the wrongs done to us but we are going to choose to love.  This means when we forgive we make a choice to not bring up the sin to the offender or to others or even to ourselves.  We are to forgive.

We’re called to press on in our life with a forgiving heart.  We have been forgiven every sin past, present and future by the blood of Jesus.  This should make a difference in how we live.  We are forgiven!

PRESSING ON…OVERCOMING THE “YEAH BUTS” OF LIFE THE “YEAH BUTS” OF SIN

Originally Published:  2-13-2017

Sin is progressive.  It starts small and then grows bigger and bigger.  When we begin to accept the small sins, then be assured that greater ones are just around the corner.  The problem is we believe the things we tell ourselves concerning the things we do.  We make justifications for our sins or blame others for them.  One of the things we do as we justify ourselves is use the phrase “yeah but”.  This is such a great phrase because it gives the appearance of agreement and yet follows that up with a justification.  Let’s look at some common “yeah buts” we use when it comes to sin.

Yeah but, everybody does it!

This says a lot about where we get our standard for living.  We begin to look to others for our standard instead of God.  Sin is never okay; but when our standard is man, it can look pretty good to us.  As Followers of Christ, we are to seek God’s standard for life from His Word.  We can certainly have role models to follow but they must follow God’s standard.  We are to be God-imitators.  “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1

Yeah but, I’m not hurting anyone.

Sin’s consequences nearly always spill over to others.  For example:  pornography can affect relationships in marriage, driving drunk can cause an accident and death affecting the families involved, or an abortion is the murder of a baby that affects both the mother and father, emotionally and spiritually.  Sin’s consequences can last a lifetime.  We need to check ourselves to see if we have hurt others with our sin.  We need to confess and repent seeking forgiveness from God and those who have suffered because of our sin.  Our lives are about God and others.  “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”  Romans 15:2

Yeah but, no one will ever know.

We may think things like no one can see me, no one knows what I’m thinking or I’m in a different town where I’m not known so it’ll be okay.  We’re only deceiving ourselves when we think like this.  There is nothing hidden from God.  There are not secret sins that we don’t have to be concerned about.  We can’t hide from God.  He is all-knowing, all-seeing and ever present.  He knows about what we do; He sees and He is there with us when we do it.  God wants to reveal our hearts to us to bring about repentance.  He’ll use consequences to do that in our lives.  He wants to bring about repentance in our lives.  Don’t be deceived.  “Your sins will find you out.” Numbers 32:23b

Yeah but, I wouldn’t have sinned if he or she hadn’t made me.

We hate to take responsibility for our sins.  We want it to be someone else’s fault and we make that happen by blame shifting. We shift the blame of our actions onto someone else.  If we always blame others, then we will never change.  When we take responsibility and call sin, sin then there is hope.  We have hope because Jesus died for our sins and there can be forgiveness granted to us.  We get so used to playing the blame game that we never learn or grow.  We just spend our time pointing our finger at someone.  We need to remember that we are to take responsibility of our sin before we can point at someone else.  “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” Matthew 7:5

Yeah but, I couldn’t help it, I love him.

Hollywood would have us believe that lust is love.  They are always showing those who fall all over themselves to be together after just looking across a crowded room.  This assumes that we don’t have any self-control.  As a Follower of Christ, I have the Holy Spirit indwelling me who has a gift for my use.  Part of that gift is self-control.  This tells us that we don’t have to sin.  We don’t have to give into feelings of lust.  In the midst of a situation like this one, we need to preach to ourselves instead of listening to our desires.  We need to depend on the Spirit to overcome.  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  2 Timothy 1:7

When we acknowledge sin as sin then we have hope.  There is hope at the foot of the cross of Christ where forgiveness is found.  This forgiveness brings about peace because of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.  We need to check our lives, call sin, sin and then confess and repent of it.

 

 

WOMEN…THESE ARE NOT GOSPEL ISSUES!!! PART FIVE – SCHOOLING ISSUES

Originally posted 2-19-2016

“I am so glad that I have my kids in public school.  They can be a witness for Christ there.  These parents who try to shield their kids from everything by putting them in private school or even homeschooling them just don’t know what they are doing.”

“It is a sacrifice but private school is the best.  We are scrimping in order for our kids to get a great education and be in the Word on a daily basis.  I am so thankful that they are not in public school where they can be influenced by so much of the world.  I don’t know what those parents are thinking.”

“Of course, I homeschool my kids.  It’s my job!  I need to oversee everything that goes on in my kids’ lives because that is what God has called me to do.  I can control the educational input and their social life as well.  This is the only way to go.  Parents who don’t homeschool are just lazy and shirking their responsibility before God.”

Have you been a part of these conversations?  Or perhaps you have actually said some of these things.   This is a very touchy subject.  The reason is that we get very passionate about our children.  Each family has to make the decision for schooling by seeking to ascertain what is best for them.  The reasons for choosing public, private or homeschooling are varied.  The problem is that we elevate our reasoning to be truth for all other families.  When we do that, we tend to judge what others are lacking to do for their children because they are not measuring up to our standard.  This leads to prophecy.

The Bible is full of prophecy about the future and warnings of the consequences of not following God’s way.  When on the topic of schooling, people’s prophecy, not God prophecy, begins to take place.  There are those who would condemn a child to hell because the parents did not send him to private, but public school.  Then there are ones who think sin will abound in a child’s life if they are not homeschooled. Still someone else may speak out about the “bubbling” effect of homeschooling on a child, and how he will never be able to face the world.  Words begin to be exchanged between moms about this matter until one or two walk away sure their children are doomed because of their bad choices.  This does not promote the Gospel but destroys it.

Should parents be concerned about the education of their children?  Yes, of course they should.  Is the idea of getting an education for your children overwhelming?  Does it mean more than it should?  Our responsibility before the Lord is to do what is best for our children.  In some cases this may mean homeschool, for others it may mean private and still for others it may mean public.  There is room for every choice that is made by every parent.  More importantly than all of this is the real responsibility we have which is to reach the heart of our children.

It is not going to be homeschool, public school or private school that determines how the heart of the child develops.  We have to become more concerned for the hearts of our children and then share those concerns with others.  We need to be praying for one another as parents and praying for each other’s children.  Eternity is what matters.  Pointing our children to a Savior can be done regardless of where they get their education.  There is a very prevalent idea that if you homeschool your child will follow Jesus because he has been protected from the world.  You can protect children to a certain degree but you cannot protect them from themselves.  We are our own worst enemy.  A private school where the Word of God is used on a daily basis is what motivates some parents. They think that when the Word of God is prevalent in the child’s life, he will not fall into waywardness.  But there is no guarantee that the child’s heart will be open to the Word on a daily basis.  What about being a witness in the public school?  This will not happen if there is not an effort by the parents to be involved in reaching the heart of the child.

“Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children…” Deuteronomy 6:4-7a  So parents, this is not about reading, writing and arithmetic; this is about God.  This is about reaching the heart of our children with the truth of who God is and how we are to respond to Him.  It is time in the body of Christ that we have more conversations about how we are reaching the hearts of our children with the Gospel.  That is more important than where they are going to learn to read.

 

 

 

WOMEN…THESE ARE NOT GOSPEL ISSUES!!! PART THREE – INFANT ISSUES

Originally posted 11-21-2016

The way we raise our children can certainly become a hot topic.  There are opinions upon opinions coming from every direction including family, friends, doctors, and sisters in Christ.  Opinions range from how a baby should sleep or eat to total protection from everything and everyone except mom. The problem with opinions is that they are subjective.  This doesn’t mean that there is no truth in any opinion but it does mean that sometimes our own standard gets in the way of our gospel focus.

Let’s look at what sometimes happens to a mom who has been bombarded with the opinions of others. She meets someone in the nursery hallway at church excited about her baby and about being a new mom.  As she has conversation with two or three other moms, her excitement balloon begins to burst as she realizes she is not measuring up.  She is defeated.  The standards before her are too varied and too hard.  She does not feel like a good mommy.  Her excitement is replaced with a sadness that her baby has been denied a proper mother.  How does this further the gospel of Jesus Christ?

An example of one of the big issues among mothers of infants is breastfeeding.  We know that the medical community tells us that breastfeeding is best for babies.  But that does not mean it is the only way.  There are some women who cannot breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed for various reasons.    The woman who finds herself in this situation has not sinned against God and condemned her child to a terrible life.  Why do we feel like we need to make this woman feel badly about her choice?

We need to focus more on the gospel issues concerning our babies than all of these opinion issues.  What does a mother do who wants to be gospel focused?  Hang onto your hat, as this will be over the top mind blowing…Love your baby!  Yes, that is it!   “Older women…are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…”Titus 2:3a-4   Wow!  This doesn’t say anything about breastfeeding, naps, types of food, or family bed.  We are told to love.  Now, before you place your opinion in the statement of “if you love your baby you would…”,remember that your opinion is how you love your child.

Love may look different for each individual.  For instance, when I was brought home from the hospital it was a hot day and my mom wanted to love me well by cooling me off.  She gave me a bottle of cold Kool-Aid in order to do that.  She didn’t really consider if it was good or bad for me, she just wanted to love me.   I survived obviously and am grateful for a mother who loved me.  So, how do we love?  Is it okay to get opinions?  Can we learn from the older generation?  According to our Titus 2 passage we can learn from the older generation and should.  The problem is that so many have such strong opinions, it appears that no one has had a baby before them.  The truth is that babies have been around since right after the fall of man.  The truth is that there is nothing new under the sun.  Therefore, the truth is we can learn from one another; however, the best teacher is the Word.

How do we love?  “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a  If we were to concentrate on putting this type of love into practice, it would spill over to our baby and also to others.  What I am saying is that we would learn to love other moms with differing opinions.  It would not matter so much how she feeds her baby as who she is and the encouragement of love she needs.

This series began because we place our opinions of so many things above the gospel.  This does not mean that we do not have opinions nor does it mean that we do not seek out help and advice from others.  The caution is more for the one giving the advice to remember:

  1. Your advice is not gospel which means it may not be followed. Remember you are not always right!
  2. Your advice is to be given in a way that displays love for the one asking. Love them enough to leave room for disagreement.

WOMEN…THESE ARE NOT GOSPEL ISSUES!!! PART FOUR – WORKING ISSUES

Originally posted 1-26-2016

Should women work?  This is the question that is asked so much in Christian circles.  I can answer that question with a question.  Is there a woman who does not work?  I suppose if there’s a very lazy woman who sits on the couch eating bonbons while watching Dr. Phil then I would consider she was not working.  But the truth is I haven’t met a woman who doesn’t work, whether at home or employed elsewhere.  Should women work outside of the home?  That is the question.

This is so very important in Christian circles. The emphasis is usually on the fact that the one true way to be a good Christian woman is to work at home.  But is it?  The argument is made that if a woman works outside of the home and has children then they will suffer.  Will they?  What is our basis for that assessment? Can a mother be a good mother and work outside the home?  Can a woman be a good wife and work outside the home?  Can a woman be a faithful follower of Christ and work outside the home?  These are questions to be answered not based on opinion but according to the Word of God.

The passage used most often is Titus 2:3-5.  “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.  They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”  This is a great passage to show us how important the older generation is to the younger.  The older women are to teach the younger women.  The most important thing they are to teach is what is good.  This refers to sound doctrine.  It is only after they have taught sound doctrine that the overflow is the practical training in the other areas listed here.

The phrase that draws our attention is “working at home”.  This phrase is one that refers to “a keeper at home, one who looks after domestic affairs” (Lexical aid to the New Testament NASB).  The domestic affairs of a household can be taught by older women who have experience in this area to younger women who do not.  However, we must be careful to realize that the clause is not exclusive in regards to the only way a woman can work.  Let’s look at Proverbs 31 to see examples of working at home and outside of the home at the same time.  “She looks well to the ways of her household…” Proverbs 31:27a  This verse is a summary of the how this woman provides for her household by seeking food from a distance, gathering wool and linen for homemade clothing, and teaching with wisdom.  But there is more to this woman.  “She considers a field and buys it;” Proverbs 31:16a “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.” Proverbs 31:24  She works outside the home by buying and selling.  It is interesting that this is included in this woman’s resume as a wife.  So what makes so many in the body of believers think that staying at home is the only way?

The answer may have to do with the ideal that we have set up in our minds as Americans.  The idea of television shows like “Leave it to Beaver”, “Father Knows Best”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, and “Happy Days” is very appealing to us.  The 1950s seem like years where life was so good with mom at home in her heels and pearls vacuuming away while dad was at the office.  This is all very far from reality but has become such a dream for so many of what is best in a family.  Of course there is nothing wrong with mom at home and dad at the office but it certainly doesn’t look like pearls and heels.  Who can vacuum in heels?  The truth is the Christian community has replaced the Word of God for the 1950s standard.  Once again, when we do that we become judge over those who do not follow our standard.  This causes contention in the body of Christ.

In conclusion we must remember that we are to love one another in whatever place we find ourselves; whether working at home or working outside the home.  Every family has its own unique circumstances with standards that work best for them. As long as those standards line up with God’s Word we need to quit judging and start loving.  After all we would be called to love Deborah, Huldah, the Proverbs 31 woman, Lydia, Priscilla and Dorcas as women who had a job outside the home.  Can we just get along for the glory of God to be made known?