Faith

Risky Business

risky business

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of preachers and divangelistas out there teaching that Christians have to constantly take “risks” as proof that we’re growing in Christ, that we have to perform acts of faith that take us outside of our comfort zone, that we have to dare to attempt things that could never be done without God’s direct, miraculous intervention or empowerment.

Well, I’d like to challenge all the proponents of that teaching to take a risk that (I hope) won’t be out of their comfort zone and doesn’t require any miraculous intervention from God:

Find the prescriptive passage of Scripture, chapter and verse, in context, rightly divided, that teaches this “risk doctrine”.

Because I don’t see it.

I see 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 exhorting us to love the bretheren, live quietly, work with our own hands, and walk wisely before outsiders.

I see Titus 2:1-10 telling Christian men and women to learn to be, and teach others to be, submissive, self-controlled, loving, reverent, and kind.

I see the book of 1 John saying that salvation is evidenced by loving Christ, obeying God’s word, shunning worldliness, and confessing our sin.

I don’t see a single Bible character deciding “Hmmm…I’d better come up with some kind of daring deed to do to prove my faith.”

Moses was minding his own business tending sheep when God spoke to Him from the burning bush and called on him to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses’ response? “Send somebody else.”

David wanted to do a great thing for the Lord by building the temple, and God said no.

Paul and the apostles simply obeyed God’s command to preach the gospel. Their earthly reward? Persecution and martyrdom.

Sometimes, as we walk in daily obedience to God’s word, situations will arise that are scary. Circumstances in which we must trust Scripture over our experiences. Life events that require us to obey God’s word even if we lose a job or a friend. Times when we have to believe that God is doing what is best even if it isn’t the outcome we wanted. That’s not a risk; that’s walking in faith and obedience, depending on Christ to carry us through whatever He places in our path.

But the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that we have to prove our faith or growth in Christ by proactively coming up with some big, fat, hairy risk to take, stepping outside of our comfort zone, and daring to do what can only be done by the power of God.

In fact, that kind of thing sounds eerily similar to what Satan tempted Jesus to do. Among other things, Satan tempted Jesus to prove Himself by literally “stepping out on faith” – right off the top of the temple – and trusting God to catch Him. And what did Jesus do? He went straight to God’s word and obeyed it by saying no. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” It didn’t work that way for Jesus, and it doesn’t work that way for us.

The Bible teaches us to act in wisdom, to walk in obedience to Scripture, to trust God even when it’s scary or inconvenient or counter-intuitive. But for a pastor or teacher to say that Christians have to commit acts of derring do as proof of our faith or level of growth?

That’s risky business.

Poetry, Sanctification, Suffering, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Crafted Like Christ

Originally published July 2, 2013crafted like christ

“Lord, make me more like Jesus,” I prayed.
“Yes, Beloved. I will,” He smiled.
He began to lay out the tools of His trade,
A sculptor’s tools, for shaping His child.

“Oh no, Lord, not those,” I gently whined,
As chisel and mallet He took in hand,
“Use instruments of a softer kind,
To help me walk as faith demands.”

“See, over here, the tools I’ve laid,
To gladden my spirit and brighten my eye.
Surely, the velvet cloth of blissful days,
Will change my heart into one like Christ’s.”

“And here,” I went on, “Another I’ve brought,
A feathered brush of comfort and ease,
To keep at bay life’s dust and rot,
This will bring holiness, certainly.”

“At end, I’ve laid a pleasant salve,
Of bountiful health and silver and gold,
Take this, Lord; it’s yours to have,
To make me for the gospel bold.”

“Wish you to remain a stone?”
I heard my Master say,
“My tools are used to chip and hone
What looks not like Christ away.”

“The mallet of trial, the chisel of need,
The grind of suffering,
These in love and grace I wield,
To conform you to the likeness of your King.”

“Your implements will come, in time,
Velvet will dry the tears you weep,
Feathers brush off toil’s grit and grime,
Salve, your deepest pain will ease.”

“This will make me like my Lord?” I groaned in disbelief…
“Do not spurn my tools, my child” my God said, lovingly,
“For Christ was a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief,
And learned obedience through suffering.”

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Song of Solomon 2

song of solomon 2 4

Song of Solomon 2

I am a rose of Sharon,
    a lily of the valleys.

He

As a lily among brambles,
    so is my love among the young women.

She

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
    so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
    and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
    and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins;
    refresh me with apples,
    for I am sick with love.
His left hand is under my head,
    and his right hand embraces me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
    until it pleases.

The voice of my beloved!
    Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
    looking through the lattice.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
11 for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away.
14 O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
    in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
    let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
    and your face is lovely.
15 Catch the foxes for us,
    the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
    for our vineyards are in blossom.”

16 My beloved is mine, and I am his;
    he grazes among the lilies.
17 Until the day breathes
    and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
    or a young stag on cleft mountains.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Who wrote the book of Song of Solomon? What is the theme of this book? Which genre of biblical literature (epistle, poetry, historical narrative, etc.) is it? Why do you think God put this book into the Bible?

2. Refer back to chapter 1. Who are the “he” and “she” mentioned in chapter 2? Which person speaks the words in 2:1? (Hint: there were no chapter and verse numbers in this book when it was written.)

3. Examine the metaphors the man and woman use to describe each other. What are some of the objects each compares the other to? Why did they choose these particular objects? How does this chapter point to the importance of familiarizing ourselves with the culture and context of the Bible passages we study?

4. It has been said that the Bible has a “Victorian” or “repressed” view of sex. Do you think that’s true in light of this passage?

5. How does this passage (and the rest of Song of Solomon) fit in with God’s perspective of sex and marriage? Does it complement or conflict with passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Ephesians 5:22-33?

 

Discernment

Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

discernment love

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…
Ephesians 4:14-15

Christians who know what discernment is have a variety of perspectives about how it should be practiced. Should we teach about false doctrine at all or just make sure our church is teaching sound doctrine? Should we name the names of false teachers or speak about them anonymously? Should we warn people away from false teachers or just pray for them privately? What’s the biblical precedent for using a stringent tone when speaking of those who teach false doctrine?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “speaking the truth in love” from Ephesians 4:15 as it pertains to speaking and writing about false doctrine and false teachers.

Many Christian women have the mistaken idea that “speaking the truth in love” equates to being “nice.” We’re always smilingly sweet and never say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or could rock the boat at church.

Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to do our best not to hurt others? Of course. Should we be making waves over every little thing that rubs us the wrong way? Absolutely not. We are to deny ourselves, setting aside our personal preferences and, in many cases, even our own rights, to the point of laying down our lives for others.

But we need to understand the distinction between personal preferences and biblical doctrine. And that’s where I think a lot of people get confused. We die to personal preferences. We die for the purity of biblical doctrine. The enemy is stealthily infiltrating and conquering church after church with false doctrine. We are at war. And that’s going to mean ruffling feathers, rocking the boat, and hurting feelings sometimes. Because the full armor of God doesn’t come with a white flag or a pen for signing peace treaties.

But how do we war for the truth “in love”?

Well, think about the concept and practice of “love.” Love always has an object. We don’t just say, “I love.” We say, “I love my children,” or “I love peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.” Speaking the truth “in love” is not as much about our demeanor or tone of voice as it is about the object of our love. It’s our love for others that compels us to speak biblical truth. And it’s that same love for others that should drive the manner in which we speak the truth.

So when it comes to speaking the truth about false doctrine, how should we be motivated by love? And love for whom?

We love Christ– As Christians, our love for Christ should motivate everything we do. If we’re speaking truth from fleshly motives such as pride, the desire to make a name for ourselves, or the competitive drive to win an argument, everything we say can be 100% factually right and we can still be spiritually in the wrong because the motive of our heart is wrong. God isn’t a debate judge awarding us points for compelling arguments. God weighs the heart.

We love God’s word– To love Christ is to love the Bible because Scripture is literally God Himself speaking to us. Besides the cleansing of the temple, the passage in which we see Jesus’ righteous anger displayed most clearly is Matthew 23. Here, Jesus delivers a scorching rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees for twisting God’s word and, in doing so, leading people away from the truth of Scripture. It is only natural for those of us who have the mind of Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to have that same love for God’s word and feel righteous anger over the maligning of it.

We love the church– To love Christ is also to love His bride, the church. Christ gave his life to cleanse the church “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Seeing Christ’s bride blemished and corrupted by false doctrine should grieve us deeply and motivate us to call the church to be cleansed “by the washing of water with the word.”

We love the captives– Paul speaks of false teachers “who creep into households and capture weak women.” Often, the women who follow false teachers simply don’t know any better. They are casualties and prisoners of war held hostage by the enemy. We are to love them enough to show them the truth of God’s word so that “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

We love the enemyEvery Christian was at one time an enemy of the cross. Every last one of us. Until someone loved us enough to intervene with the truth of the gospel. False teachers – those who, despite biblical correction, unrepentantly teach doctrine which is plainly refuted by Scripture – have made themselves enemies of the cross, even if they call themselves “Christian,” even if they wear the title of “pastor,” even if they’re holding a Bible in their hands and refer to it occasionally as they “teach” us.

In the same way a loving sister would not turn a blind eye and hope for the best if her sibling began using drugs and became increasingly addicted, it is not loving to stand idly by and allow false teachers to continue to sink deeper and deeper into Satan’s clutches by doing his bidding without making every effort to stop them in order to rescue them.

Sometimes – just as with the drug abuser – this can be accomplished early on with a private word of correction. And sometimes – as with the addict – more extreme measures of “tough love” and intervention must be employed. But we always love them enough to desire that they come to repentance and embrace the truth.

 

Our love for these also drives the manner in which we speak truth to them. A good soldier would never deal with a civilian casualty in the same way he would fight off an enemy bent on waging war. Likewise, part of discernment is knowing who the enemy is (and is not) and dealing with people in a biblically appropriate way. This requires humility, wisdom, thorough proficiency with our tools and weapons, unceasing prayer, and complete dependence on and self-crucifying love for our King. We trust in Him and His word to guide us in the wise and loving way to humbly speak His truth.

Discernment. Speaking truth. What’s love got to do with it?

Everything.

Parenting, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ The 10 Commandments of Parenting- 10

Originally published August 14, 200810 Commandments Parenting 10

10.
Thou shalt love.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

Loving our children isn’t something that just happens. It also isn’t just a nice fuzzy feeling. It’s a duty. A responsibility. A command from the lips of God Himself.

“…if God SO loved us…” What does that “so” mean? It’s talking about the way God loves us.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

God loved us enough to do what was best for us even though it cost Him that which He held most dear. He loved us sacrificially and unselfishly.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Even when we were living in outright rebellion against Him and didn’t care that he wanted what was best for us, God loved us.

For whom the LORD loves He reproves; Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12

God loves His children too much to allow us to continue in our sin, so He disciplines us.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us Ephesians 2:4
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

But, even as God disciplines us, in His mercy he forgives us when we repent of our sin.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD; And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong; Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

God delights in our obedience to Him and our love for Him. And even when we fall, He’s right there holding our hand and helping us get back up.

He who has clean hands and a pure heart; Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood; And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD; And righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psalm 24:4-5

God rewards and blesses obedience to His word.

Do we love our children the way God loves us? Do we…

  • love them sacrificially and unselfishly?
  • love them enough to want what’s best for them?
  • love them enough tofollow through and do what’s best for them even if they fight us every step of the way?
  • love them enough to disicipline them?
  • love them enough to forgive them?
  • love them by delighting in them?
  • love them by blessing and rewarding them for doing well?

It’s a huge challenge. Our kids are going to drive us up the wall, rebel, pout, whine, and at times, break our hearts. Just like we do to God. But if He so loved us, we ought also to love our children.