By Pastor Andrew
I know that this is a topic that has been preached probably a million times over, but it is a topic that I believe Christians struggle with and get wrong quite often. Second chances… We all know and believe that because Jesus died on the cross, a propitiation for our sins, we have a renewed lease on the opportunity for restored fellowship with the Lord. “There but by the grace of God” often becomes our life’s mission statement as we profess our gratitude for the second….third…. and even thirtieth chance that we claim through Jesus’ grace which defeats our sins and cancels out our mistakes as proclaimed by us. Grace is a beautiful thing to be confident in, but I fear that often times Christians treat it like a rubber band stretching it to see just how far they can stretch it, or worse, begin to make their own determination of where and how grace is applied in their lives.
Years ago, the WWJD phrase was popular among both saved and unsaved alike but today I often find my self wondering WWJS (what would Jesus say). What would he say as we forgive ourselves for our sins and mistakes without ever even talking to the Lord? As we liberally self-apply grace, what would Jesus say as we boguard that grace like one who tends to collect the seasoning containers at one end of the dinner table, refusing to share that grace similarly to refusing to pass the salt.
We live in a time where the vast majority of people believe that their own opinion or way of doing things is correct or the way that things should be done while rejecting anything that challenges their perceived opinion of rightness. I will point out here the word I used was rightness, not righteousness. Relativism cannot be mistaken for righteousness as I am pretty sure if God evaluated each of our personal opinions and methodologies, we would all be found severely lacking and probably left dumbfounded. Opinions make us unique, different than the next person; however, they also reveal the character and content of our hearts. Something that I find demoralizing is watching or discussing the news with other people. It is not because I find the news depressing (we live in a fallen world; therefore, I am not depressed when I hear how fallen the world is) but rather, it is the opinionated responses that seemingly become necessary to state by those who I am watching or discussing with. It is not that I don’t value the opinions of others, because I do; however, its when those opinions begin to contradict what I know and believe to be biblical truth that I become disheartened. The news reports hate, violence, hurt, suffering, sex, politics, and crime more than anything else, and they do that because it sells. That is what draws people in and that is disturbing as well because as much as people complain about what is reported, they continue to buy it, encouraging the production of it and revealing more of their heart… I digress… I can recall countless responses to terrible news (news through media as well as word of mouth), terrible crimes, and even relatively minor offenses that were filled with anger, hate, and judgment. Responses that people who commit offenses of varying degrees should be locked up with the key thrown away, beaten, castrated, electrocuted, executed, and the list goes on and on.
I recall when our armed forces went after Bin Laden and the news broke of his death in the raid there was public rejoicing by people of all beliefs and races. I remember just reflecting on this, numerous thoughts going through my head as the mastermind behind the attacks that triggered a movement that could be titled Generation Kill named so for the desire for the death of so many in retribution. I lost brothers in more ways than just death to this movement, and while the end of Bin Laden should have brought some satisfaction, it did not. My sister in-law posted on facebook that day remarking to the effect that as sinners, we deserve death as well… There but by the grace of God… Public rejoice for the death of a sinner, judgement issued in the minds of countless people, countless believers, when hearts and our prayers should have been focused on Jesus and perhaps wondering if he had only known the love of Christ.
There but by the grace of God…should not we be facing death as well.
Matthew 7:1-3 says,
“‘Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged’”.
Let’s for a moment take the rubber band of grace out of our own hands for a minute and reflect on the word of God, spoken by the master of grace himself… Jesus…. “for you will be treated as you treat others”… I remember falling short of God’s glory on a seemingly catastrophic level, in fact I can remember numerous times that I have fallen short of His glory as can probably everyone reading this post and then some. Imagine each time you made a mistake, gave in to temptation and sinned, the executioner was standing around the corner and everyone you knew was ecstatically celebrating, finding joy in your suffering and demise.
Really think about it, you are going to die, and people are excited for your death…
There but by the grace of God, you are saved by His grace and no one is ready to celebrate your physical and spiritual destruction and an eternity spent in hell, but we will express those feelings to others?? Perhaps that rubber band of grace we have been stretching all these years has slipped off our fingers and popped us in the eye because somewhere along the line, we have failed to see that grace is not just for us, but Anyone who accepts Christ. Perhaps the words were blurred trying to read passages such as this through watering eyes smacked by grace, grace received instead of a penalty of death.
I will not rejoice in the punishment of others. I thank God frequently that I have not been a judge appointed over man because I know that my flesh at some point would get the better of me and my own opinionated vengeance would at some point be thrust upon a perpetrator instead of the grace that has been shown to me once, twice, and even thirty times over. I do not envy the job of judges, lawyers, and law enforcement as they have to make difficult decisions and enforce a system of laws that issue consequences to actions that can easily be blurred with personal opinions, feelings, and emotions. I pray that they seek the Lord daily before performing their much-needed duties. While I do not believe that forgiveness exempts one from punishment, perhaps letting the Lord work His way instead of turning our hearts into the judge, jury, and executioner may result in eternally longer results. Instead of stretching our rubber bands of grace within the limits of our own personal bubble of protected space condemning others, we can wrap it around our hand in rubber band gun fashion and send grace flying where it needs to go, given with the same measure it was given to us.
by Pastor Andrew
I was once told by a mentor, that while in ministry, one needed to remain somewhat neutral from the pulpit regarding politically driven topics and agendas. The reasoning was that congregations are comprised of differing political views and that speaking from the pulpit could either sway someone’s opinion to your opinion (the one speaking from the pulpit has the power of influence and must use extreme care not to abuse or misuse it) or could ostracize members of the congregation and drive them away. I considered this advice and found it to be a valuable insight. Since I received this wisdom, I have always tried to maintain a position of neutrality when it comes to politics and hot topics (exceptions made to addressing spiritual aspects, or offenses against the Lord). I would venture to say that there are only a small handful of people that know exactly how I feel, or exactly what I would like to say regarding politics and certain highly publicized happenings in our country.
As I alluded to earlier, with the pulpit comes power. I want to expand upon this for a moment. When you answer the call to ministry you are given a pulpit, a platform to speak. With those words comes the power to influence, regardless of whether you are standing behind a lectern or just sitting with some teens while teaching. What you say will have an impact on whoever you are speaking to. Sometimes that impact is positive, while other times it is negative. Impact is usually directly related to responsive action in the listener which is why we have to use the power that comes with the pulpit with great care, more specifically, the way God intended. I’ll share a minor example. We were once doing a candy drive in order to obtain enough candy for a holiday event. As I gave the announcements to the congregation and arrived at the candy collection announcement, I jokingly added in that Pastor (me) liked a particular candy that may have been perceived as a slight indication that I desired for someone to bring me some candy. While it was intended to be said in humor, the following weekend I received several bags of candy that I had asked for. While this particular example is pretty innocent and innocuous and in the grand scheme of things no one was hurt or taken advantage of, imagine this on a grander scale.
The reality is those who we minister to, those who have taken their barriers down, lowered their security and let you speak into their lives spiritually allow what you speak to influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions and using that open door to platform our personal beliefs, opinions, and desires is wrong. Too often we are guilty of trying to be the sower, the one who waters, the fertilizer, the glory of growth, and the harvester in a conscious or unconscious attempt to mold people into exactly who we want them to be instead of who God wants them to be. In actuality, I believe the most we are supposed to do is plant seeds and perhaps help a bit with the watering through teaching (this is also dependent upon your perspective of what planting seeds and watering look like in ministry). I lean closer to the idea that the most we are actually doing is planting a bunch of seeds and the Holy Spirit does the watering/fertilizing through being an agent of conviction which allows God to do the growing. Argument could be made that pastors and teachers are actually watering through teaching. Semantics aside, the point is we need to do our job as ministers and let God do his, as I am sure we can all agree that God is probably much better at His job than we are. Where does this lengthy paragraph fit in with the aforementioned political agendas and hot topics?
Using our position as ministers to influence students/disciples, or anyone for that matter, to change how they think or feel about political/hot topics to the way you think or feel is a road that I believe will lead to division, hurt, and hate. One may think, “well, that’s not my intention”, intended or not the power comes with the position and you cannot turn it off like one turns off a light using a switch. As a pastor, I cannot take my pastor hat off and say to everyone “the following statement does not reflect me as a minister of God’s word.” Whatever you say will be forever attached to you in relation to your position. In repetition, you will not hear some guy said this; however, you will hear Pastor Andrew said this… and now that person believes what pastor Andrew believes. Filling in the unmentioned topics referred to as this in the examples with government, social injustice, racism, political parties, war, gun control, etc. etc. should really start to put this in perspective. If our platform on these topics, and numerous others, starts with I believe, it may be time to shut up and stop and think about what is going to come out of our mouths next.
This is where pulpit neutrality comes in. Neutrality does not equate to never saying anything about it, but it does imply not siding one way or another. Yes, there are some topics that we cannot remain neutral on as Christians. Topics such as murder, abortion, homosexuality, etc. etc., can be and should be responded to; however, the response to topics such as those are given to us and were inspired by God. They can be found in the scripture and we can and should teach about these things clearly. Neutrality does not prohibit us from talking, or teaching, what a Christian, or biblical, response should look like. As a minister, I have learned a very unpopular lesson that is not expressed or taught as it should be. While salvation is a gift that is freely given, Christian living (righteous living) requires a sacrifice. That sacrifice is our flesh. Spouting our personal feelings and beliefs on certain matters does nothing to propel the Gospel but has everything to do with satisfying our flesh. It encourages our desire to be right which also indicates that the opponent belief is wrong. Being right is gratifying, while being wrong is often humbling. Someone may interject somewhere around this point that they remain neutral from their pulpit but use a social media platform, or traditional media to share their beliefs and opinions. To this thought I respond with this: If you think your pulpit stays in the church on Sunday’s and Wednesdays, you are grossly mistaken. Your pulpit extends and intermixes with your entire life. Everything you say or do is going to be inseparably linked to your pulpit and ministry and everything you say is going to be associated with your pulpit, and God. In light of this last statement, is what you are saying an accurate representation of God or is it a flesh response to emotions that were triggered and an attempt to shut the opposing side down?
James 1:19-21 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
I believe that we have verse 19 backwards today. We are often slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. We sacrifice our humility for our sake of being right or imposing our worldly beliefs on others. Yes, worldly. While there are spiritual aspects of politics, social media, gun control, they are worldly affairs and promoting them does not propel the Gospel. The world is ugly, because Satan is ugly, because evil is ugly. You, your ideas, beliefs, opinions, and platform are not going to conquer the evil that is driving the world; however, Jesus already has, and we should be spouting that instead of the filth that often comes from our tongues as a result of satisfying the flesh. If you want to listen to what people have to say about things, then listen, but listen to understand where they are coming from and where they are at instead of hearing only to retort. While you are listening, look at them as James addressed us, as beloved (agapétos, from Agapé). It may be easier to hear them if you are looking at them as God looked at you. When I read this passage in James, I associate the slow to speak with consideration of what was said. Take time to think about it, to see where they are coming from and most importantly, take time to pray before you open your mouth. Anger is related to wrath, or vengeance. Both belong to the Lord (Romans 12:19). No matter how nice you say it, if your intent is to put someone else, or their idea, down, it is a flesh response, and is related to wrath or vengeance. In any event. If it is of the world, it is not of God. James tells the reader to put away all filth and wickedness and humbly receive the implanted (emphutos: bring into living union) word. Be in unison with the word that lives within us. If we are responding from the flesh, we are not using the word. Responding from the word will stifle our flesh. In essence, James is saying, Hey Christian… pay attention, shut your mouth cause using it the wrong way can affect your salvation…
This blog made many references to ministers and pastors; however, all believers are called to make disciples and serve. Therefore, all believers are ministers in some aspect or another. All believers are held to the same standards of guidance that James lays out for us. To sum everything up, humility is an act of lowering one’s self. It is sacrificing things for the sake of others, for the sake of the Gospel. Sacrificing the flesh should be a no brainer. Understanding what is and isn’t the flesh may be challenging at times, because the flesh seeks to gratify us to prevent us from a greater gratification found in our salvation. Sometimes we must sacrifice spouting our own beliefs and opinions lest we cause another to stumble or hinder the Gospel. The Gospel, should be our only platform. Biblical truth, not worldly opinion. Plant seeds of truth and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting and let God issue the Judgment, as his vengeance is far greater than anything we could ever dish out. Understand that vengeance and gratification of the flesh should not be sought after, but rather, fulfillment from the Lord and salvation for all who would accept it.
by pastor Andrew
James is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. I feel that in some ways I can relate to James. To me, James seems to have been a no nonsense, get to the point, in your face kinda person. I prefer the no nonsense approach to things and the just tell it like it is method. This past Sunday I began preaching on the book of James and covered the opening, specifically, James 1:1-18. Verse 2 begins with “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. James wastes no time in revealing to us that it is a certainty that we will face trials and tribulation in our lives. His use of the word when opposed to if is a definite indicator of imminent hardship. Even though James reveals this nugget of insight to us, believers are often caught off guard when the trial arises.
I think the nature of the trial that James refers to is often reduced in severity and applied to everyday frustrations and aggravations that we face. This may not seem like that big of a deal but, in my opinion, thinking like that can take away from the value we place on this particular section of wisdom. Everyday aggravations and frustrations do not necessarily equate to trials. For example, driving in heavy traffic when you endure and fall victim to the heinous act of being cut-off is not the same thing as facing a trial orchestrated by Satan and his minions. The resulting response of angry words and gestures to being cut-off is purely a lack of self-control and not a tactical response to the devil’s schemes. James’ use of the word trial, probably could be compared more closely to what Jesus endured while in the wilderness. Verse three provides some support for this by indicating that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.
While Jesus was in the wilderness, He was tested, and endured temptations presented by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). While tired, hungry, and thirsty, Jesus endured a confrontation with Satan where he was offered many of the things that man is often tempted by. Food, power/authority, and wealth (all physical and psychological temptations that men struggle with in spiritual warfare). In his low, weakened, state, Jesus demonstrated his steadfastness, or his endurance in faith, by remaining true to God’s word, equivalent to wielding the sword of truth to defend Himself from the attack of the enemy. Each temptation provided Jesus an opportunity to give in to the devil or build more endurance in faith. In some ways, this may have been Jesus’ training period for building faith in His Father’s presence and provision for His bigger trial which would take place just prior to and leading up to His own crucifixion.
The temptations that Satan presented to Jesus may just have been used to contrast the suffering and pain that he knew Jesus would endure for a vastly ungrateful people whereas our temptations are somewhat different than our Lord and Savior’s. James goes on to discuss where our temptations come from. Verse 14 indicates that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. While He may test us and allow us to be tempted, God does not create the temptations we have to face. Our temptations stem from the desires of the flesh that develop within us as a result of sin entering the world and the perpetuation of sin by man. As much as we want to deny the fact that the desires of the flesh have an effect on each one of us, the reality is that they do. It is these desires that the devil exploits when we are facing the trials that James speaks of. These desires have the ability to cause us to walk away from our salvation should we succumb to them. If Jesus would have accepted any of the temptations offered by Satan, the devil would have won. It is the same with us. If we choose to engage in the temptations that are born of our flesh, the devil wins; However, if we choose to stand on God’s word, utilizing the Sword, His Word, to drive back the temptations, then and only then, have we triumphed over evil utilizing the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
Verse 12 says Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. Blessed is indicative of joy that can only come from the Lord. It is sometimes difficult to rationalize being joyful while in a trial; however, consider you may find joy in the fact that if you were not on the right track with God, then Satan would have no reason to mess with you in the first place. Perhaps the joy comes from our assurance of eternity with the Lord, our faith in the assurance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). That is our blessed hope, or Christ’s imminent return for His bride (us, the church). It is a fact that whether we are saved or not, we will face trials and tribulations; however, remaining steadfast to the Lord in a life trials and tribulations provides the Christian with a heavenly father, and advocate in Christ, and a guide in the Holy Spirit while developing a life of hope and reward. In contrast, a lonely life in the world often leaves one angry, bitter, and hopeless awaiting an eternity of what they believe to be nothingness. Comparing the two, both lives sound challenging but joy that comes from the Lord can only be found in the life that remains obedient and reliant upon the word of God. A life in the world leaves one with nothing, while a life lived in steadfastness to the Lord leaves one wearing a crown more valuable than anything that can be found on this earth (Rev 2:10). What are your thoughts?
by Pastor Andrew
The vast majority of us have, at some point in our lives, visited a used car dealership or lot. I imagine that each of our individual experiences at said lots would be viewed very differently by each other and that some could be described as good while others would be less than desirable. In most cases, when a customer arrives at a used car dealership, a salesperson uniquely approaches the potential customer masking their latent overwhelming desire to make a sale. The questions are fairly standard and consist of what brings you in today or what exactly are you looking for in your next car? Sometimes they even go as far as fishing for what you do not like about your current vehicle with the intent of pointing you in the direction of the right car. Needless to say, the used car salesman is eager to sell you a vehicle at price that is most often above what the right car is worth. They are usually well versed in all the high points and selling features of their cars and are adept at making something negative sound good. One of my favorite lines is: This car only has “blank” miles, and they are highway miles. While arguments can and have been made as to the impact of highway and city miles on a vehicle, a mile is 5,280 ft whether you are on a highway or a country road. Technology and advancements in machining may have improved engine life, wear and tear on the transmission, suspension and body components still have the potential to make the right car a lemon. The used car salesman will spend all the time you require telling you how good a car is but rarely will even spend a nano-second on what is bad or will cost you in the long run.
I do not believe that any part of salvation or Christian living is bad in the same sense that we view a used car in; however, I do believe that the Gospel, salvation, and Christian living has been sold to, and is still being sold to in some cases, to America much like a used car salesperson sells a lemon or jalopy to the unsuspecting consumer. Many who have answered the call to pastorate have memorized and used as a platform all the high points and benefits of salvation and Christian living, leaving them shouting from a platform of prosperity, blessings galore, and a trouble-free life when you fill a seat, turn on a tv program, and fill the offering basket. This, sounds too good to be true experience, may build a following or audience for a while, until the followers can’t understand why they aren’t rolling in dough after they have given all their money to a televangelist or multi-million-dollar minister. The follower may be left wondering why they are battling and dying from cancer or an illness after they were promised blessings, favor, and healing. Similarly to when our lemon the used car salesperson sold us breaks down for the tenth time, the duped Christian feels lied to, double crossed, and used.
Recovery from used car salesman theology is possible, but in many cases, the damage runs deep and is slow to be healed. Some may say, “well,” “that’s their problem” or, “it’s sad, but it happens.” How then does one sell Gospel, especially after lengthy periods of prosperity preaching, scandals, and division have wreaked havoc among the church in America. The first step is to stop trying to sell it. Take the proverbial 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s cliché cheesy used car salesman sport-coat/suit jacket off and be authentic. Start with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, please help me God.
What is the truth? The truth is that yes, blessings, favor, and healing are all components of the Bible and Christianity; however, there is so much more than that. While I am sure that if you dig, read, dig some more, twist some words, and squint you can paint an extravagant picture of a “perfect” Christian life filled with blessings, health, and God’s favor. If you open your eyes, stop twisting the words, and read in context you will find that adversity, challenges, and hardships are abound in a Christian life. Many of the same adversities, challenges, and hardships that you find in an unsaved life you will still experience in a Christian life. The difference in the two lives can be found in faith, hope, and love. A life with Christ introduces hope with reward, while a life without Christ offers no hope and no reward. A life of faith provides a tool to combat the inevitable adversities, hardships, and challenges while a life with no faith leaves one hopeless. Being redeemed and justified expands and encourages the love and subsequent relational growth between the believer and God while the individual who rejects Christ is not only rejected in return, but will inevitably be used by the world instead of loved. (Matthew 10:33; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2; James 4:4; Colossians 2:8).
This past Sunday’s sermon covered Joseph and part of his time in jail after being wrongfully accused and convicted of an infraction against Potiphar’s wife. It was pointed out that after the life that he had lived up to this point, Joseph probably had more cause to gripe, or wallow in self-pity more than most people. Instead of falling to pieces or squawking like a goose, Joseph chose to minister to those in the prison just has he had chosen to minister in Potiphar’s house after being sold into slavery. I found it interesting the word usage in chapters 39 and 40 traces back to the concept of ministering. Today, many Christians do not see acts of service, menial labor, or undesirable tasks as ministering; however, Jesus associated with undesirables, washed feet, and in accordance with His indication that the son of man came to serve and not be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) which in this guy’s opinion, is the greatest example of service ever. I want to highlight a few things before closing this blog. Even in Genesis, Jesus’ influence was evident, Jesus never taught or promised and easy life as a Christian (in fact, one could argue, He taught the contrary), and it is generally agreed upon that Jesus’ teachings, principles, and life are what Christians are supposed to exemplify.
If Christian’s understand and agree with the last statement made, why is it that when we face adversity, we go to pieces, or feel that we need to focus on something other than God’s work? Joseph ministered while in slavery and found favor. He ministered while incarcerated and found favor. Jesus facing perhaps the greatest adversity of all, continued to minister to humanity by giving His life, even for those who would reject Him, living lives of slavery to sin that He paid the price for us to leave. The truth is the same for the believer and the non-believer alike. Life is hard. Life in the world is difficult, but hopeless. There is no eternity worth investing in in the world. Life as a Christian is hard; however, life as a Christian comes with an advocate, a guide, and merciful father who longs to have a restored relationship with us should we endure through our adversities in reliance upon Him opposed to rejection for hopelessness. We should not only be straight forward with our explanation of Christian life, but we should also serve as an example by serving through adversity, keeping our eyes on God and our subsequent eternity. What are your thoughts…
by Pastor Andrew
2018 is here and in full swing. Yesterday’s sermon was called Making Camp: Where will you set up your tent? We started the account of Joseph in Genesis but stuck to the overall theme of contentment. The message contrasted Joseph’s contentment in his circumstances with his family’s and overseer’s discontent. We closed with the idea that you can make camp in discontent or contentment, ending the sermon with the question where will you camp this year?
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says this: “11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV). This passage is often reduced from its greater context, and we frequently reduce it further, leaving it to declare simply: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” It is a powerful declaration for Christians to make. It is motivating and easy to rally behind, or even to shout as one of our battle cries. It is so inspiring that it has the potential to drive a believer, who is not cautious and is being fueled by emotions, to exercise a behavior or action that aims to satisfy one’s flesh instead of bolstering one’s spirit.
In this chapter, Paul is referring to the difficulties that accumulate while living and/or serving the Lord. In Paul’s case, he was talking about being supported in his missions to further the Gospel. Many translations of the Bible have a heading over this section of Philippians that states God’s Provision. Comparing this title with the text that follows it helps us to begin to identify the applicability of Paul’s words to our lives. I think that it is here that it should be noted that one’s search for contentment must be driven by a righteous cause, or righteous discontent in order to truly have the full weight of God’s support behind them as indicated in our power verse, Philippians 4:13. Yesterday’s sermon included a brief description of Rueben’s attempt to dissuade his brothers from killing Joseph (Genesis 37:22). On the surface, this reads as a genuine act where Reuben did not want to see his brother killed. We could even draw the conclusion from this verse that Reuben was discontent with the idea of killing Joseph. Discontent perhaps, but his greater discontent was rooted in the fact that he wanted Jacobs favor and position within the family. He believed his contentment could be found in that position; therefore, his discontent with the murder plan was not with the act of murder, but with his own situation. This discontent drove him to seek contentment within his flesh rather than in something righteous which in the long run would have only led to further discontent.
We seek provision from God in many of our life situations and we should believe that through Christ we can accomplish wondrous things; however, if what we are trying to accomplish is not for the glory of the Lord then we should not be surprised when Christ does not help us accomplish things. It may sound harsh or extreme, but if you step outside of the fleshly, human, box that we are often stuck in, it begins to make sense. We declare and stand behind statements like, “God never changes” or “God’s rules are black and white, He doesn’t deal in gray,” but then we try (both consciously and unconsciously) to bend the scriptures to our own personal desires. If we can do ALL things through Christ, then why do some of our endeavors fail, why do we lose jobs, and why do relationships with those we care about fail? Another, more simplistic, example is this: In this world, we need money to function and survive. If we do not have the money to pay for our basic needs, but a bank does; can we then rob the bank under the justification that having that money would make us content and therefore, with the strength that Christ gives us we can take it by force? Of course, the answer is no.
The application of this verse is fulfilled when we are in any circumstance that is good or bad and we say with our words and actions, that we are fine with where God has us. If we are financially well off, healthy, have a good job we praise Him. Conversely, if we are poor, sick, or lose a job we must say it is well with my soul and praise Him still. This is the point that Paul was getting at. Regardless of where he was in life, on a high point or even at the lowest of low points, he was fine because that is where God brought him while living his life for the Lord. He expands on this idea by indicating that regardless of his situation, he could handle it because he had the strength that could only come from Christ through the Spirit. Contentment comes from knowing and accepting that wherever you are at in life, that God is in control, has not forgot about you, and has a much better plan to get you through and out of the lows. The ability to do all things through him who gives us strength comes after we are content with wherever God has us and we choose to seek righteousness opposed to our flesh. It is perhaps better understood if we look at it not as I can do all these things (indicative of accomplishment), but rather, I can endure the difficulties that I will face because I have God (indicative of being provided for).
Are you camping in content or discontent? If you are camped in discontent and are struggling to endure, perhaps it is time to change campsites and move to be content. What are your thoughts?
by Pastor Andrew
Change seems to be a six-letter bad word in the church today for some, but for others seems to be a breath of fresh air. Which is it? Is change in the church something to be avoided, or is it something to be welcomed with open arms? Although my time in service to the Lord has not been exceptionally extensive yet, I have experienced quite a bit of diversity during my tenure in ministry thus far. I have been blessed to sit under the teaching of several wise and experienced men of God. In addition to this, the Lord has seen fit to send what I consider to be strong, godly, people into my life to help guide me on my spiritual walk. I have also had the opportunity to be exposed to individuals who, although their intentions were good, did not exemplify the best ministerial role and became lessons consisting of things not to do in ministry, or life for that matter. The diversity I have been exposed to has offered me a glance at differing opinions of the subject of change. As our church is going through several changes during this particular season, I thought the first blog I would post would be best suited to discuss the idea of change.
Overall, I believe there is an aversion to change in the church. I believe that in this forum it goes without saying that change that is contrary to good order and biblical truth is not the change I am discussing, rather, the changes that break individual routines and habits. I am often asked about this and engage in conversations with individuals about change. After many such conversations and meditation on the subject, I have come to an understanding that aversion to change can be equated with a complacent sense of spirituality and an unwillingness to be taken out of one’s own comfort zone. The problem with this unwillingness to be uncomfortable is that it is contradictory to the Christian mission. In simplistic terms, our job as Christians is to reach people for Christ. Simpler than that, we are to identify with and follow the teachings of Christ. Looking at comfort from the perspective of comparing it to the life and teachings of Christ, we as Christians attempt to find our comfort in the wrong places. Being cozy and secure in our church buildings and weekly routines that revolve around our personal needs and desires was never spelled out in the Gospel.
While we seek to build our comfort in regularity and routine that satisfies the flesh, the enemy is hard at work, changing his tactics regularly for the purposes of counteracting the work that we are supposed to be doing in the world. Granted, we are not going to thwart every attempt the enemy makes on those we are supposed to be ministering to, nor is everyone going to end up in heaven; however, that does not give us the go ahead to stop trying. Ceasing the attempt to remain relevant, without compromising the gospel message or biblical truth, is not going to work in this day and age that is consumed by modern technology and extraordinary distractions. Continuing to operate three decades behind modern times is like entering a modern war with civil war aged weapons and tactics. The Bible is full of stories of change beginning in Genesis and continuing the theme all the way through Revelation. God changed entire societies and landscapes in order to ensure that His people were set apart and set up for success. When His people went the way of the world God sent messengers to emphasize a need for change. When the legalistic, corrupt reign of the Sanhedrin surpassed the righteous order that God established, He sent change in the form of Christ, to create a way for further change so that those who were willing to change could be restored to the Lord. With so much emphasis on change in the book that we call the basis of our faith, we sure do have a funny way of showing the world that we believe change is good.
It is time that we exit our comfort zone and get to changing so we can be effective at reaching a world that most certainly needs reaching (believers and non-believers alike). Jesus implied that there would be discomfort in following Him. Matthew 8:20 depicts Jesus telling someone who wanted to follow Him that He had no where to rest His head. While I am certain that many people can and will look at this verse differently, it appears to me as if Jesus is telling the individual that following Him will leave the man without the comforts that resided in the man’s heart. Paul’s missionary journeys, and ministry, was wrought with discomfort. In fact, 2 Corinthians 11:16-30 offers Paul’s own boasting of his suffering including being beaten and stoned for his work for Christ. I have a copy of this passage posted next to the door of my office so that I can be reminded as I leave the comfort of said office, that I have it pretty easy compared to the ministry of Paul. It is also easy to dismiss the idea of suffering in ministry because many Christians equate the word ministry with the title of Pastor. While this may be technically correct in the societal view of today, a believer should not neglect to remember that we are all called to ministry through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
I will wrap this up by mentioning with emphasis Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I do not think that it is too far a stretch to say that the world wants the church to remain stagnant and unchanged. Stagnant and unchanged does not resonate with today’s society. Stagnant and unchanged does not reach people for Christ who appeared in the Bible to be ever moving from place to place, ministering to the sinners of the world. Continuing to operate in a manner that was effective 10-30 years ago will not help us fulfill the Great Commission and I believe is conforming to the world, or the enemy’s plan. Allowing God to transform our minds and our hearts, using our creative nature that He created within each one of us, and using our gifts and abilities for the furtherance of an unchanging message is a change that I think is needed. A transformation that does not compromise the Gospel message, contradict biblical truth, draws people to Christ, and pushes us to become the hands and feet of Christ is a change that I believe God would be happy to see. It is past time to leave our comfort zones, give up what has made us complacent, be living examples of the teachings of Christ, and as uncomfortable as it makes us, share the Gospel message with those who we are supposed to be serving.