Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23


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Is It Truth or Love?

TruthinLove

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:15

In this verse we see that the opposite of deception and craftiness is “truth in love”.  I notice in this verse that it does not just say “truth” but “truth in love”.  It is unfortunate that oftentimes as seasoned Christians we can become inpatient with young believers and become so intent on teaching and preaching truth that we fail to show Christian love.  We fail to use the compassionate love that Christ used so often.

I grew up in a generation and in an area in the north where many sermons, particularly revival meetings, contained Biblical truth but were often yelled most of the way through the message.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need and importance of inflection in public speaking but to yell a sermon does not come across to most people as love.  In the Book of Acts we read of the Apostles proclaiming the Gospel to the crowds, and in Paul’s writings he writes with conviction and with power but his tone is a tone of compassion and love even in the midst of his chastening of the Believers.

Remember in the Scriptures where Christ threw out the money changers and called them a den of thieves?  Christ was speaking to those who were already against Him.  His response to their actions was effective because it was not his normal demeanor with them.  I don’t recall anywhere in the Scriptures where Christ spoke harshly to those He was trying to teach.  Christ spent a lot of time with His disciples and no doubt there were times when He had to be firm and very direct, but even then it was apparent that He loved them.  In observing Christ’s conduct, who is our ultimate role model for communications, I see two things:

  1. Love’s foundation is based in truth.
  2. Christ’s message was always heard by the hearer (truth without love is seldom heard)

I have often thought back over the years and contemplated something that I saw far too often.  I saw time and time again preacher’s and missionary’s children (as well as other children) walking away from the faith they grew up in.  In seeing this occur, I have come to several conclusions.  First, the Scriptures are clear that we as individuals, regardless of our upbringing, choose for ourselves the straight and narrow road or the broad highway.  No child can live out their parent’s faith.  It must be personal.  Many loving and caring Christian parents have done all they can to train up their children in the way they should go only to have a son or a daughter reject the truth of God’s Word.  The choice to turn away from God is always an individual decision.  The second conclusion that I have come to based only from an outsider’s view but seeing it often, is that many times these children lived in homes where truth is made know firmly, very firmly, with what appears to be an absence of Christ’s love with the communication of these truths.  Often times in our zeal to teach and communicate truth we fail to include the ever so important ingredient of love.

One of my struggles over the years has been with patience, particularly on occasions when I think the individual either should have gotten the message the first time or I think they are callous to the issue.  In these occasions I would typically walk away and stew about the situation that just occurred.  I must realize that in these moments I must question my motives.  Am I trying to communicate truth in Christian love or is my anger due to my own selfishness?  What is it that is angering me?

Jonathan Edwards had this to say about anger:

“We should never be angry but at sin, and this should always be that which we oppose in our anger.  And when our spirits are stirred to oppose this evil, it should be as sin, or chiefly as it is against God.  If there be no sin and no fault, then we have no cause to be angry; and if there be a fault or sin, then it is infinitely worse as against God than it is as against us, and therefore it requires the most opposition on that account.  Persons sin in their anger when they are selfish in it; for we are not to act as if we were our own, or for ourselves simply, since we belong to God, and not to ourselves. When a fault is committed wherein God is sinned against, and persons are injured by it, they should be chiefly concerned, and their spirits chiefly moved against it, because it is against God; for they should be more solicitous for God’s honor than for their own temporal interests.”  (The Spirit of Love the Opposite of An Angry or Wrathful Spirit, 1 Corinthians 13:5)

Is my motive to teach them or to get my way?  When it is my goal to communicate a principle or concept, particularly biblical ones, is my communication done in Christ-like love or in harshness?  When as a parent it is my duty to disciple a child, is it done in love or in anger?  One way to know this is; do your children fear you when they have done wrong or do they fear the consequences of their sin?

When we are teaching or preaching or even disciplining young believers, are we communicating truth in a way that they are motivated by fear or love and compassion?  Yes, there may be a time for “tough love” but being tough is only effective when the love is evident.

I’m reminded of a saying I heard many years ago, “I can’t do anything about it if you dislike me because of my position, but I can do something about it if you dislike me because of my disposition.”

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The role of the Church: Ephesians 4:11-12

 

Ephesians 4:11-12 

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

 In these verses we read how Christ equipped the church and for what reason.  Many books have been written about the subject of these roles in the church and I could not do justice here to the topic so for those interested, an in depth study would be recommended.  

John Maxwell, noted Christian author and Leadership “guru” gives his definitions of these five roles in his “The Maxwell Leadership Bible: 

  1. Apostle:  One sent forth to pioneer and establish new works and new leaders.
  2. Prophet:  One who speaks forth God’s Word to inspire, correct, and motivate.
  3. Evangelist:  One who shares Christ with outsiders and trains others to do so.
  4. Pastor:  One who shepherds, guides, and guards God’s people as they serve.
  5. Teacher:  One who trains God’s people in the truth and teaches others to do so.

 I believe that all but the role of the Apostle are still active roles in the church today.  John MacArthur gives supporting Scriptural references to support this view: 

Six biblical reasons may be given as to why the apostolic office is not for today:

1.    The church was founded upon the apostles (Eph. 2:20)… Their role was to give grounding, support, direction – to provide the underpinning for a fledgling church. They were the church’s founders. That role was fulfilled by them and by definition can never be repeated.

2.    Apostles were eyewitnesses to the resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1)… There is no trustworthy evidence that (Jesus) has appeared to anyone since the close of the apostolic era.

3.    Apostles were chosen personally by Jesus Christ (Mt. 10:1-4).

4.    Apostles were authenticated by miraculous signs (Ac. 3:3-11; 5:15-16; 9:36-42; 20:6-12; 28:1-6)… No such miracles were ever performed – even in the apostolic era – by anyone other than the apostles and those commissioned by them.

5.    Apostles had absolute authority (Jude 17)… When the apostles spoke, there was no discussion.

6.    Apostles have an eternal and unique place of honor (Rev. 21:14).

John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, © John MacArthur, 1992, p. 148-151

 As we look at the roles described in verse 11 for the church, we can see how that Christ gave the church all the leadership roles needed to make the church successful for the cause of Christ.  As we consider our churches today often times the churches that seem to over emphasis one or a few of these roles above others are the same churches that have lost their spiritual balance.  Like and individual that loads up only on proteins or only on carbohydrates, the church that does a similar thing will eventually become spiritual malnourished and will become ineffective. 

 The purpose of these roles in the church is as it says in verse 12: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” 

 And to that end, let me ask you this question:

 How can a spiritually malnourished saint perform their God-given work in ministry effectively?  And if they, if you, if I cannot effectively fulfill our responsibilities as a Christian, how can the body of Christ be edified or encouraged?  Consider your church today and then ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is my church helping me and my family to become well balanced Christians? 
  2. Is it calling sin – sin, right – right and wrong –wrong?  Or is it afraid to address sin?
  3. At times do I feel the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin or is every Sunday marshmallows and cotton candy? 
  4. Is my church an evangelistic church, reaching out to the lost and proclaiming the way of Salvation and encouraging and teaching me and my family to do the same?
  5. Does my church reach out to shepherd the flock, getting past the superficial topics and issues and helping its members to deep dive into each other’s lives as a way to encourage, uplift, support and edify each other?
  6. Is it dividing the Word of God rightly?  Is it teaching biblical doctrine or is it teaching feel-good sensationalism?  Is it helping and encouraging you and your family to dig deeper and build your spiritual life in such a way that you in turn can disciple others?

 If your church is not helping you to eat a spiritually balanced diet, then determine if it is you or the church.  If you’re only picking the sweets from a balanced spiritual buffet, then shame on you, repent and learn to eat the broccoli.  You’ll find that it’s does a body good.

If you find that the church has good intentions but fall short, in the right spirit and with humility go to your pastor and discuss the topic.   But if your church cannot, or is unwilling to provide a balance diet as Paul has outlined in verse 11, seek another church that can and will.  You may say, but Donn, I attend a small church and you don’t understand, it just isn’t big enough to provide it all.  I know what it is like to be a part of a small assembly of believers.  I know what it is like for your family to be the only ones in attendance at a service.  I know what it is like to be a teenager and the only ushers.  Our family started a church in mid to late 1970’s in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.  We did not have the resources today but my Dad had preaching and teaching tapes available to the membership.  He had a large library that people could borrow from if they desire.  Even in small churches today there are so many resources available to us as Christians that we should not lack in our spiritual diet.  There are books, CD’s, DVD’s, online courses, blogs and websites that we can feast on.  The key to all of these is to be discerning in knowing which ones to dine on and which ones are spiritual junk foods.   Your pastor and spiritual mentors can help you to determine at which “restaurant” to dine.

 So are you being spiritually completed at your church?  If not, what are you going to do about it?


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Getting Back to Ephesians….

I recently finished the series entitled: Lessons From a Heart Attack and I wanted to get back into my study of the book of Ephesians.  I’ll probably intermingle other topics along the way.

 As a reminder, I have broken up the book of Ephesians into sections about relationships.  So far we have discussed the following:

  1.  Our Relationship with God = Chapter 1-2:10
  2.  Our Relationship with Christ = Chapter 2:11-3:21
  3.  And we are now in beginning of section three:  Our Relationship with Fellow Christians and the World = Chapter 4:1-5:21

 Since it has been awhile, why not go back and review some of the previous posts.  These can be found to the right under “Categories”.

 I plan to have my next posting on Ephesians within the week.


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But He’s Different Than Me…

After several weeks of failed attempts to divert from the text and go off on a rabbit trail on the topic of diversity and tolerance, I have finally learned my lesson, stick with the text.  In verses three through six of chapter four of Ephesians, Paul discusses the topic of unity of the believers.  “Endeavouring” to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:3-6

As a review, we recall in chapter two and three, how Paul addressed the conflict between the Jews and Gentiles and how that we, as Gentiles are fellow-heirs with the Christian Jews.  This was a big deal back then and I suspect it is a big deal in Christianity today.  Moving into chapter four Paul reviews our vocation and how we are to walk in our vocation –through lowliness, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance in love and then he gets to unity of the believers.

Paul uses the word “endeavoring” in verse three to describe how we are to approach this biblical unity.   Endeavoring means to do/give/be diligent, to labor, to study.  We are not to approach unity with a hum-drum attitude, and attitude of carelessness or complacency.  Unity does not come easy and Paul is telling us that we are to be diligent, to pursue it, work at it, to strive for it.  

How often do we pursue unity among our breather that may be a little different than ourselves?  Do you homeschool, use the public school system, or a Christian school?  How is your unity with those who use other forms of education then yourselves?  What about your church?  Is it an “us 4 and no more” kind of church?  Do they fellowship with other churches that do things a little different than you do?  I’m not talking about having unity with a family or church that has significant doctrinal differences for as we know, light and darkness cannot not go together, but what about those that may do things a little different than you do?

Why is it so hard to have unity with people that are different?  Paul hit the nail on the head, the verse just before verse this one.  We always want to assume that we are right and the other person is wrong.  We want to be the person that has it all together but that other person or group are the ones that just can’t get their act together.  Oft times don’t want the heat attitude of longsuffering or tolerance for those who may be in a different place in their spiritual walk.  We have the attitude of, “Hey, I got it, I understand what God is teaching me, why don’t they?”  Not realizing how God deals with us as individuals and therefore each of us are learning different biblical principles at different times or places in our lives.  It is interesting and obviously planned by the Holy Spirit to have Paul write about these character qualities BEFORE he mentions unity.

Another reason why we find it so hard to find unity with those different then us is because we fail to remember what Paul reminds us of in verses four through six.   “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  Notice that last phrase, “and in you all”.  Wow.  How often to I fail to remember this of other Christians?  How about you?

On the flip side, I think that we all have had instances where we were somewhere in a non-“religious” setting and we met someone for the very first time and immediately our hearts spoke to us and told us that they were believers.  How does this happen?  It is that unity of the Spirit that is bound in the Peace of God. No other faith on this earth can ever hope to have this kind of Spirit-filled unity.  We are blessed beyond measure to have the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, living inside of us.  Teaching us, guiding us and uniting us together in one body.

In a world that teaches and preaches diversity and how much we are all different, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, teaches us how much we as fellow-heirs have in common.  That is the foundation to unity.

We could continue on for another many hours discussing this section of this chapter but if I even intend to get to chapter six, the chapter I originally wanted to discuss, I need to move along.