Berean?

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:10,11 NIV

 

I’m one of those annoying people who treats their faith as important. It is important on a surface level as I sit in a pew, sing the songs, pray, and soak in the sermon which has been prepared by a Godly pastor. But it’s more than that. If I am going to believe in the Gospel that my church teaches, and that it is truth, then for me it is important enough to know why I believe it. So, the theology behind the doctrine is important too because it must be in harmony with the Bible.

 

The result in my case is that I will look into the beliefs closely, and check them against Scripture and only then what other commentators say. The reason is simple. When we do anything else in this life, or buy into any secular scheme, we do it with much care. This is more important than choosing my next car, so it must be even more important that I get my theology right.

 

So far, so good, but there can be a problem that comes with the quest. While chasing up, and checking out the truth of doctrine, I find myself asking other pastors and leaders whom I respect, what they think, and more importantly, believe. This can come across as questioning their own faith, and that is far from the truth. I am not in college or university, so I don’t sit at the seat of learning to sharpen my faith. I have to do that part by bouncing my thoughts off other human beings, and I try to choose carefully. Unfortunately, I have found to my horror that I have unwittingly offended as I chase the importance of my church’s theology.

 

After all, each church has its own take on interpretation, so do I just stick a pin in a sheet of names and go there? Do I blindly accept the doctrine of the church I attend, or do I find out why? Eternity is real, so my thinking is that the articles of faith I accept are important. I trust I will be like the Bereans and examine the Scriptures first and foremost.

 

Question: How do you and I confirm the beliefs that are important to us and our church?

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Dilemma

The definition of ‘dilemma’: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.”

 

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 1 Kings 18:21 NIV

 

The thing that jumps out of the page at me is the fact that the people said nothing. Can you believe it? They didn’t make a decision either way, and in today’s language they sat on the fence. I may be taking this verse out of some context, but allow me some slack here.

 

The easiest thing to do when faced with a difficult choice is nothing. That is especially true when either choice is not a good one, or pleasant. Why not bury our face in our hands, close our eyes, and hope it goes away? But it doesn’t, and in fact it never does. Note that Elijah says, “how long”, telling us that ultimately a choice is necessary.

 

How I recognise this truth. Stuck between two thoughts, beliefs, or opinions and staying quiet, in the forlorn hope that the situation wasn’t there. But it is, and eventually I need to make a decision. No matter which way I choose, there will be disappointment and possibly hurt feelings, if not mine then someone else’s.

 

I have argued with myself for too long. How I wish I had someone to talk to. It’s time to decide and live with the consequences. I know understanding will be in short supply, and criticism will follow, even from friends. But what is more important? Saying nothing and continue to stew, or take a stand for conscience and getting rid of this burden?

Disown?

We do it on Facebook when we decide that someone posts things which are offensive, inappropriate, or racist, and we think nothing of it. We do it in life with some folks we come into contact with who might be opposite from ourself in so many ways and you get irritated and annoyed when you are in their company. Churches do it, by excommunicating or excluding those who do not uphold that church’s beliefs, and who go directly against doctrine. They might be called heretics. These are all examples we could live with, and we may have done one of these ourselves. Social media comes to the rescue, and makes it so easy to ‘unfollow’, ‘unfriend’ or ‘block’ that annoying person.

 

Does this mean we are free to disown anyone we take a dislike to, or one who goes against the things we like, accept, believe, or uphold? Disowning someone publicly has serious consequences, especially if we claim the name of ‘Christ’-ian. In life, there are lots of people who don’t agree with us in everything, and likewise there are those we don’t much like ourselves. Is it enough to disown someone purely because we don’t like their lifestyle? I don’t think so. We might decide never to holiday with them, but disown them? No.

 

What message are we giving to the people we would disown? Maybe it’s that they don’t live up to my or your standard? Is it because they are inferior? Could it be that we forget how we behaved when we were immature, and the behaviour we now detest, we once did ourselves? Am I getting uncomfortably close to the truth? If we really want to claim the name ‘Christ’-ian we need to believe His word and behave like He tells us. After all…..

 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

AntiSocial Media

If you live in the UK, you will know the sad story of Charlie Gard, a little 11 month old baby who had a life limiting disease, and how his mum and dad had been through the court system, trying everything in their power to save him. His life maintaining tubes and medical paraphernalia were recommended to be removed to allow the little boy die ‘with dignity’. His parents were distraught, and were been faced with a situation which at the end of the day is the life and death of their only son, and one which no parent should ever have to face. This whole situation was played out in the media court of worldwide public opinion, which made it worse. I even saw a USA newspaper report which blamed the UK NHS and the government for Charlie’s death. In my opinion, that is one country which has no room to talk about health care and politics.

 

As if this heartache wasn’t bad enough, thousands of mindless people took to ‘social’ media to question the medical staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and their care for Charlie. Death threats were even made on so called ‘social’ media against the very people who cared night and day to keep this little soul alive while a court case raged around him. All the medical opinion was that his condition was irreversible and his life support should be removed, but these ‘not so wise guys’ who make Facebook and Twitter (there are other social media sites) their weapon of choice, think they know better. No qualifications or medical experience. No connection to the family. No heart. Just anger at a hospital who do what they can to improve the health of children when they can, and are distressed when they get too close to their tiny charges, and the unthinkable happens. Then there was the American doctor who raised false hope by claiming his revolutionary experimental treatment  could turn Charlie’s situation around. It took him months to come to London to see the baby for himself and view the case notes, and it was too late to prove anything. That speaks volumes. Heartless? Do I hear a cash register ringing in my ears? The Pope and Donald Trump also offered ‘any help they could give’, but that went silent as well.

 

If there was ever a case for believing our society has reached the tipping point of understanding true compassion, this is it. These thousands of mindless trolls represent the kind of society we belong to, and I am ashamed that I am seen as a part of it. This is only one part of an obviously broken community, country, and world. I believe the only thing that will help is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sort out the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, the good from the evil. Only then will we rest in the assurance that the death of this little boy has been defeated, and our literally ‘God-less’ society has been set straight.

How Close?

It’s a game some Christians play all the time, and although the rules can change from person to person, it goes something like this. I want you to think I am a good person, and even a Christian, but I don’t want my friends to think I am so different from them. Basically, I don’t want to look or sound weird to them.

 

I can make an effort to dress like them, with provocative clothing. This would apply more to the ladies, and shows itself in lower necklines and shorter skirts. The lower and shorter the better you play the game.

 

Or..We might want to talk like them in everyday conversation by using words and language which go close to the bare bone. Some will even use words which rhyme with and sound like you are using a swear word, but the good thing is, you are not. You get very close but don’t cross the actual line. The more you can sound like the unsaved, the better you play the game.

 

Or…We would never read the same secular, racy magazines, but we will be seen to know about similar reading material, all in the quest to look like them. You know, just human. Yet another way to play the game to better effect.

 

Or…It is so easy  to use the internet to see what they are watching, just for research purposes you understand. And anyway, who will know what level of ‘racy’ or ‘adult’ material you happen to come across in your desire to be like them. It can also give you common ground for striking up a conversation. Not a Christian one of course, but who knows it might lead there eventually. A way to get your information without being caught in a compromising situation which would be difficult to defend. You are playing the game really well with this little sleight of hand.

 

Or…When we mix in the same company, no matter where, we show them that although we are a Christian, we can go to the same places as them, and no one will bat an eyelid. The more we behave like the ‘regulars’, the better we play the game. And we can do that so convincingly. So we go to church, but also go to the pub and/or club. By now, we have pretty much mastered the game, and feel very comfortable. We can so easily defend ourselves by saying that Jesus sat with sinners, unlike the Pharisees who knew what their Bible said but had no love. We are only trying to be like Jesus, right?

 

Of course the ways to play the game differ, but the aim is always the same. To make it look to our Christian friends that we are in fact Christians, while at the same time, making it look to our unsaved friends that we are human, just like them. My only concern is how could we be a convincing witness for our unsaved friends to want to be a Christian when there is so little difference?

 

Let me leave this thought with you. There are other Christians who do not play this game, and have no need or desire to walk so close to the cliff edge. What effect do you think it has on them, particularly the younger ones in the faith? Would they be in danger of falling over the edge of the cliff? The cliff edge that you have so carefully tried to avoid? Other lives do matter, both the saved and the unsaved, so why play games which do not help either, and only serve to play to our own ego?

 

When I reach heaven, I want to be greeted with “Well done, good and faithful servant”, not “Well you cut that close”. How about you?

Walter Mitty

Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:8 NLT

 

Walter Mitty is a fictional character who lives in a dream world. One in which he is far removed from the mild mannered person he really is. In fact his real life and his hidden life are very far distant from each other, but it’s only a bit of fun, isn’t it, and quite harmless?

 

The Bible tells us that we are in great danger if our loyalty is divided between God and the world. Yes, we must be in the world, but not of the world. If our loyalty to God is not divided and is clear, we are stable in everything we do. Did you catch that? When our loyalty to God is undivided, we are stable in everything else we do!

 

Jesus had stern words for the church leaders of His day, and He described them as whitewashed tombs. Clean in appearance on the outside, but inside it’s a different matter. Full of death. We say it another way nowadays and it is every bit as clear.. We must “walk the walk, and talk the talk”. How else will the others around us know which part of us is the real, or greater part if we are divided? Who we say we are, or who we really are?

 

Are we playing the character of Walter Mitty with spiritual things? Good and pure during a Sunday, but no different than our worldly friends Monday to Saturday? Do you really think they don’t notice? Whether they say it or not, they have already made up their minds if we are loyal and stable. I pray we are up to the challenge, because unlike Walter Mitty, that’s certainly not harmless either to ourselves, or the witness to our friends. It has eternal consequences.

Same In – Same Out

You know the old truth, “Don’t expect anything different to happen if you keep on doing the same things”. It’s a fact, but sometimes overlooked in church circles. There are some things that should never change, no matter what happens, for example the certainty of our salvation, even though numbers around you are dropping. Or the preaching of the Gospel.

 

However, there are other methods we use today, which may have worked 40 years ago, but don’t work now. Church attendance across most denominations is falling, and leaders wring their hands and say, “what are we doing wrong?” One change is that parents no longer send their children to church or Sunday School, and that has made a big difference!

 

If the methods we use are working against us, then it’s time to change to something different. It seems a lifetime ago now, but in engineering we were used to watching for the downturn of results, and making corrections before things got too far out of hand, making recovery impossible. We are not good at that in church circles, because we don’t like admitting to defeat, and we tell ourselves not to quit because that would be the wrong thing to do. Or is it? We can be prone to “wait and see”. Unfortunately, in business and yes, even in church, there are times when we have to admit defeat, abandon a particular project, and move on!

 

There may be no certainty that doing a new thing will work, but one thing is sure, we can always tell when the present setup is not working. As a final thought, It is very true that “numbers are not everything”, but have you noticed that this is usually said by members of a small church, with little history or outlook of growth?