Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Essentials to Faith

 Essentials to Faith

It seems to me most fundamental or evangelical circles want to sit around and scream and holler about issues that don't seem to be essential to salvation or critical to a person's faith according to the Bible, yet they are topics that they seem to want to harp on or carry on about the most.

I am not here to tell anyone what is acceptable and what is sinful behavior for you,  nor am I here to accept, condone, or  justify any certain beliefs, that is between you and God,  but I can tell you, you need to read, study, and understand scripture in context of the way and how it was written and not base it on the way you were raised, the way your church group or denomination teaches, or the way a certain preacher or teacher you adore may have taught you.  I can also tell people what I read in scripture as warnings, examples, or commands based on my study.  It's simply a matter of whether God's Word says it or not, gives you freedom/liberty or restricts you, and most of all what you feel convicted about according to the Holy Spirit and God's Holy Word.

I for one, am tired of people and churches spewing their ignorance of scripture, hate toward others they disagree with, or carry on about "sins" and things because they think they are wrong, or most of all try to make certain things a matter of salvation or a matter of fellowship with others.  That  my friends is a tragedy and a greater sin in my humble view.

I hear many people constantly carry on about drinking alcohol and I always want to ask, do you have a bunch of drinkers in your church?  Unless it's an issue in your church, then be quiet.   The abuse of alcohol is the problem, not drinking it. As a matter of fact, alcohol isn't at all related to your salvation or the salvation process. Drinking alcohol is both mentioned in the bible as normal practice among people and also speaks of warnings against drunkeness or getting drunk. So, the best I can tell as a Pastor when people ask me about drinking, I say it's between you and God and a personal conviction.  I tell them the warnings of getting drunk or letting alcohol or anything for that matter affect or control you.  Many people choose to abstain from alcholic drinks, and many people may only drink a few alcholic drinks a year, that is their right and choice.  There is a HUGE difference between someone drinking an occasional drink or someone hanging out in a bar every night or clubbing it on the weekends gettind drunk.  So, yes, there are warnings in scripture for good reasons. Drinking alchol can be dangerous, especially to those who have no self-control or addictive personalities, and yes many people choose not to drink out of convictions and that is great, and there are some christians who may partake on occasion and still respect the rights of others to not partake and strive not to be a stumbling block or bad example to others

I've heard the same gripe about playing the lottery. Again, my question is do you have a bunch of gamblers in your church who gamble all the time? Again, buying a lottery ticket or gambling is not mentioned in scripture as having anything to do with your salvation or losing your salvation.  It is like anything else, there is a HUGE difference between someone buying a powerball ticket or a scratch off a few times a year  or someone spending every day in a gambling parlor or not paying their bills or feeding their families because they are addicted.  Again the key in alcohol, gambling, or any other issue is whether it's an addiction, whether it's a problem in your life, if you are out of control and don't have self -control or practice moderation,  or it's hurting your witness.

I know some might read this article and think I am liberal or encouraging gambling or drinking, I AM NOT!   I am simply using these two items as an example to show that we focus on things and make things "a sin" or a "saved" issue when we do not have the right or authority from God.  Can gambling and drinking in excess cause a lot of problems? Yes.   Can they both cause Sin! Yes!  So does obesity, gossip, anger, greed, judgemntal attitude,  and trouble-making, which ALL are bigger problems in the most churches than then a social drink or periodic scratch off  lottery ticket.  The church has a lot bigger issues going on in our churces than these two issues.  We must do a better job as a church focusing on more vital issues and allow others to practice personal liberties in their own life.

We got people who won't give, won't serve, aren't committed to faithful attendance, and who are struggling in their faith and it has nothing to do with powerball or budweiser.   We focus on the wrong things in our world and we make issues out of things that should be non-issues and ignore the greater needs and bigger issues.

Again, I am not condoning drinking or playing lottery, but I am saying we need to focus on essentials of the faith and deal with real issues going on in our church.  We want to carry on about things like this and smoking, and dancing, and bible versions, and church music, when we are not truly studying scripture but more going along with what our churches or denominations teach us.

Many of us are hypocrites plain and simple. We judge others harshly because they do something or we don't do or agree with, then we ignore our behaviors or attitudes that may be far worse.  I am saying we need to get our hearts back in tune with the Holy Spirit and get our  minds back into reading and studying God's word and let essentials be essential and let non-essentials be personal liberty or freedom no matter the issue or topic.  There are black and white issues in the bible, but yes there are also areas of personal freedom and conviction for the believer in there, and we must give people that right and if they abuse, or do anything that leads them to sin or a sinful lifstyle it is then we deal with it and God will certainly deal with them.

These are just my thoughts as a man who reads and studies scripture on a variety of topics and issues because I want to teach, preach, and practice truth and nothing less.

I Cor. 6:12-14(NIV) (talking about sexual sin, but can apply to anything that causes us to sin)

12 “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Unplanned Rest

Unplanned Rest

How many of us have had accidents or illnesses and always say this couldn't have happened at a worse time, I got so much too do, or I got this going on, etc...I got news for us, accidents and illnesses don't check with out schedules first, they just happen for a lot of different reasons that we can't always explain or have the simple explanations we want.

The truth is, I think many times God has a way of slowing us down, or forcing us to take a break, or find rest because we are heading in, or going in a dangerous place.  Stress. Burnout. Anger. Over-extending ourselves.  Busyiness.  Can't say No.  Greedy. Avoider.  There are lots of reasons we can think of why we stretch ourselves thin, overcommit ourselves, work too many hours, or neglect the important things in our lives.  Many times we neglect our families, our physcial health, or mental or emotional health chasing promotions, an extra dollar, pat on the back, award, or God's favor and we only end up making things worse.

It really doesn't matter how much money you make, how many promotions you get, or how much you do for God, if you are sick, unhealthy, or neglecting rest, recreation, and relaxation.  Preachers are notrious for two extremes, being lazy or being a work-a-holic, and the one who stays too busy constanting doing "church stuff" or "church activities" is not doing God favors by neglecting your family, your health, or well-being.

We are on a journey not a sprint.  We also can gain the whole world and lose our soul(mark 8:36), and God is just as concerned about our mental, emotional, and physical health as he is our spiritual health, because they all are vital and important to our overall being.

This blog is not just for preachers today it's for all of us who over-extend ourselves and get so busy "doing life" that we never take time to slow down.  Jesus warned Martha (Luke 10) about worrying and being busy, that she was missing what was important, Jesus being there with her and her sister Mary.

I have been forced this past week to slow down. I am stuck in my house unable to go out because I got Shingles and am contagious to those who have never had chicken-pox so I've been forced to slow down, stay home, and rest.  Why is rest so important? It heals.  It gives you time to reflect.  It gives you time to de-stress.  It gives you time to relax.  God I believe forces us to slown down if we aren't willing to slow down ourselves.   I am not suggesting God makes you sick and all that, but I am suggesting that God uses those natural consequences of us neglecting sleep, exercise, eating healthy, not balancing  our work, play, and rest, or not taking time for ourselves or relationships to teach us the "hard way".

My encouragement for you today is if you get sick, or have an accident, or sugery that puts you out of commission for awhile, even if you don't feel well, take advantage of the time given you to simply rest your body, mind, and thoughts.  Take time to pray, read, study, reflect, and some down time to enjoy some old movies, or a puzzle, or whatever relaxes you.  Let God not only heal your physical ailments, but let God heal your mind, body, and soul.

Heed the warning signs of burnout, or being too busy, or doing too much with the wrong attitudes or motives, but if you also just sometimes have an accident or get sick and you aren't a workaholic or busybody, it doesn't matter, take advantage of the time you have to work on yourself to be the best you can be for God.  Sometimes you gotta just slow down and find some rest in God like I having to do right now.

Psalm 62:5NIV
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Church Member

Church Member

We have to realize before we do anything that a church is a body, it's not a building and it's not just some religious organization.  It spiritually represents the body  of Jesus Christ.  Meaning Christ is the head of the church and we(members) are part of that body.  That being said, your part and my part and everyone's part in the church body is vital, important, and needs to be taken seriously.

There are too many people out there that claim to be a "church member" or member of a certain church, but either they never attend churches services, only come on occasion, or are not consistent in their church attendance. But, being a church member is more than just "attending" a church service on sunday mornings or other times.  It actually means you have  a part in the body of Christ and are to use your talents/gifts to serve the Lord through His body(the church) and attending though is very important is just one aspect of it.

I have found that people(christians) really fall into 3 categories when it comes to both their christian faith or church membership:  1) Committed  2)Conditional  3)Could careless.

1. Committed:  This is where we should all strive to be in our christian relationship with God. We should be 100% sold out, faithful, and desiring to grow and mature in that relationship every day.  We are striving to learn more about God, serve Him more, and be a better Christian; We are committed to that relationship and because we are committed we are taking steps and goals to be committed.  We pray/talk to God daily, we develop times in our daily/weekly lives of bible study, reading, devotional times, being in church, and using our resources(time, talents, treasures) to serve God through His local church and yes, we are even committe to being in church and not missing for trivial or silly reasons.    We made a commitment to Christ when we professed His name and surrendered our lives to Him or were bapitzed into Christ and from that day forward we have taken that committment seriously and realize it's a life-time, make an effort, keep my word, be faithful even when I don't feel like it or mess up type of commitment.

2. Conditional: This is those christians/church members who aren't as committed or don't see the need to be that committed to Christ or His church.  We want God's "unconditional" love, grace, forgiveness, etc....but we aren't willing to be as unconditional in our service, time, and faith. We go to church if it's convenient, if we feel like it, if  we don't have something else we want to do, and we carry that attitude into our service, we will commit to doing something for God at church if it doesn't interfere with my hobbies, my kids sports, or my schedule.  We like church unless we want to sleep in, have a headache, or want to go do something. Even when we go out of town or vacation we don't take advantage of finding a local church, we just skip.  We will give money when we feel guilty sometimes, and we'll serve if we want to do our "service" for the year, but most of our commitments to God personally and corporately(through the church) are hit and miss and never consistent, because we aren't totally committed to our personal relationship to God or our part in the body(the church).  You are also same way in your personal studies, prayer time, or any christian service.

3. Could Careless. This the worst type of christian, because you aren't committed and you aren't even hit and miss conditional, you just have given up on your faith. You hardly ever go to church, maybe a christmas or easter with family, you never give anything to God or His church.  You do not tithe or give financially to the kingdom.  You do not ever volunteer or do anything to serve God, and you always put yourself and your wants above others.  You simply do not care about God, His church, or others.  You look at church attendance as an obligation or duty that is optional and you have no real relationship with God, so you do not see the need to be involved, serve the God through His church, or be an active part of his body at all. 

So my question for you today is are you a committed christian? A conditional christian? Or a could careless christian?  What type of church member or member of Christ's body the church are you? Committed? Conditional? Could Careless?  If you are a christian, you should be a member of His body the church and be committed to both your christianity and His church!

Psalm 37:4-6(NIV1984)

4 Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

God Cares

God Cares

Luke 12:6-8(NIV)
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies[a]? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Sometimes we may feel insignificant, other times we may see how big the world is and how many people are in it and think we do not matter or God doesn't care, but yet He does.  He created this big ole' world and all the people and places and things in it, and when you created something it matters to you.

However, I want to talk about another way God cares about us, not only does He care about us to the point He knows how many hairs are on our heads(for some of you that's easy to count haha), but God also cares about what goes on in our lives from day to day and that is something we too often forget.

We may think I know God loves me or I know I am supposed to go to church or I should be a better Christian, but way too many "christians" make decisions and choices every day in their lives like those things don't matter to God, and they do!

God cares about who your friends are, He cares about who you date and marry.  He cares about what career or jobs you choose, and He cares how you spend and make your money.  God cares about every aspect of us, yet so many people even christians date, marry, work, buy, sell, and do things without ever uttering the first prayer to God or seeking His will, His wisdom, His guidance, or His voice.

How many wrong paths would we have avoided if we had consulted God about the friends we had chosen.  How many heartaches would be have missed if we had sought out God for our dating mate or married partner? How many people are stuck in jobs or with degrees from school in career fields that God didn't choose or gift them for?  How much  money have we wasted or temporary or material blessings or bad investments when God had other plans?

You and I need to realize God cares about us.  He cares about our character, behavior, attitude, and walk, but so much more.   He cares about our relationships, our talents, our decisions and choices.  He cares because He has a plan and purpose for you and He wants what is best for you.  That doesn't mean we can be perfect or life will never have problems if we always follow God's care for us, but it does mean we will be in His will and will be seeking Him in all things.  

It's never too late to change your direction. Start including God in all your decisions and choices.  Do some soul searching and see if you are in the right job, or have the right friends, or dating the right person, or spending your money wisely, or serving Him as you should?  God cares and you should care that God cares for you in every way because He created you and simply wants to have a relationship with us and to lead and guide us to grow in that relationship as He prepares us in this temporary world for an eternal home.