Monthly Archives: November 2012

Second Chances

There is something you need to know that will probably shock and horrify you… nobody is perfect. I know, it is hard to believe but it is the truth. We all make mistakes and commit sins and there is not a single one of us who has woven their way through this life without falling into the trappings and mistakes of sin and ignorance. Unfortunately, there are also people who believe that once a mistake has been made one is useless, hopeless, or stupid. Such individuals carry the mentality that, as soon as you fall short of expectations, they want nothing more to do with you.

However, the Bible teaches very clearly the principle of second chances. Seeing that none of us are perfect (Rom. 3:23), if God was not a God of second chances there would be no individual with a possibility for salvation. Yet the Scriptures are adamant about the desire of God for all men to be saved when it is recorded: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). It is God’s fervent desire that all men make use of the second chance available to them to receive the blessings of salvation.

Even beyond the evidence of God and salvation, the evidence of Christ and his disciples is of great value. Jesus had many disciples, but 12 of them were specifically called to follow him and learn from him over the three and a half years of his ministry (Mat. 10:2-4). These were flawed, untrained young men when it came to the principles and practices in which Jesus was instructing them. Imagine what would have happened if Jesus had given up on Peter the first time he answered impetuously, or if he had cast out the disciples the first time they responded incorrectly to a sick individual or a child as they did on numerous occasions. Yet the Lord, with patience and teaching, continued to train and prepare them for the services they would render the kingdom after his ascension.

But what about when someone betrays the trust you placed in them? A prime example from Scripture is that of John Mark. Paul took the young nephew of Barnabas on his first missionary journey, until John Mark left the company in Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). We are not given the exact reason for his quitting the mission and going home, but whatever it was Paul did not deem it sufficient. Therefore, when the second missionary journey was to commence, Paul refused to take John Mark because he did not feel he could trust him (Acts 15:37-38). Nevertheless, Barnabas was adamant about giving the young man another chance and took him as his companion to Cyprus while Paul took Silas and went on his journey (Acts 15:40-41). Barnabas’ actions were well founded as the young man would later pen one of the four gospel accounts (The Book of Mark) and would be described as follows a few years later by Paul in a letter to Timothy: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

We all make mistakes and commit sins. There will be times where we all need forgiveness, prayers, and sometimes the proverbial swift kick in the pants. However, let us be cautious not to throw away the value of an individual or the influence we can have in their lives because of a mistake. It may be that the time will come that the individual has repeatedly proven to be untrustworthy, unwilling to make the proper changes in life, and could not care less about the consequences of one’s actions; but let us strive to never make that an assumption that is the first response to the mistakes or sins of another. However, it could also be that the offender is a young Christian who commits a transgression out of ignorance, it may be an individual dealing with great emotional stress that does something in a moment of weakness that is out of character and instantly regretted, or it may be an individual that simply succumbed to temptation in an area of weakness.

The offender needs to be confronted with the issue and taught the proper response and action by means of Scripture. Such should be done with the desire that, as time continues, that one may be seen in the same light as Mark, the apostles, and the redeemed: one who bears fruit for the cause of Christ being given a second chance. Let us be known as those who are willing to give second chances, and let us ever thank God that he is willing to do so for us.

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You Have How Many Children?

As the father of four sons (our youngest being born just under two weeks ago), I have become accustomed to the glances received when out in public: the shocked looks, the sidelong glances, the curious or almost fearful approaches by those who wonder if “all of these kids are yours.” Then there’s the statements: from the always insulting: “You do know what causes that don’t you?” to the insipid references to similarity with rabbits; and the ever ignoble accusation that we are trying to be “like the Duggars.” These reactions are among the many that we have received, and these are just the ones from members of the church!

It is stunning to me to see the number of Christians who are outwardly hostile and skeptical of large families. They treat them as though they have some sort of malady or disease; as if, by the number of children they have, there is something wrong with them. Over the last couple of generations our families have gone from averaging three to four children to seeing anything over two as being excessive. Many Christians have bought into the materialistic worldview that children are a nuisance, a burden, a roadblock to prosperity.

However, the Biblical statements about families show beyond a shadow of a doubt how God feels about large families. Consider one such example: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psa. 127:3-5). The psalmist, by inspiration, extols the value and precious nature of children. They are an heritage of the Lord (vs. 3); the Hebrew word for “heritage” means “an inheritance, an heirloom.” Children are an inheritance from God. They are the greatest heirloom one can possess. They are later described as that which makes a man happy, or blessed. A man is blessed when he has his quiver full of those precious arrows. God considers children a blessing, not a curse; an inheritance, not a drain on prosperity; a reward, not a punishment. So why do we continually see Christians reversing God’s sentiment?

I believe we need to stop looking through the lens of the world when it comes to children and begin focusing through the lens of God. In a world where women desire life outside the home over the blessings of life with their families in the home, children are an inconvenience. In a world where the greatest goal in life is a financially stable 401k, children inhibit access to the full potential of that goal. In a world that focuses on self, it is inconvenient to set aside self to spend every day looking after and teaching another.

Nevertheless, when we look at the world through God’s lens the values are completely different. Children are the greatest resource for the development and growth of the church. Large families with godly parents who place God first and serve him in every possible way, training their children to do the same, are one of the greatest assets a congregation can have. The children not only increase the numbers within the congregation, but as they get older they increase the abilities and resources of the congregation through their incorporation into the work of the church.

Godly children are also the greatest inheritance a godly man can leave this world. We bemoan and loathe the direction our country is taking and the way our society has turned from God. One of the greatest impacts the church can have is a larger footprint in the next generation by means of those who love God, his word, and hold to his principles. Large families of Christians make possible that increased footprint and the possibility of a better future.

Please do not misunderstand me, I am not degrading small families or those who for health reasons and other maladies are either not able to have children or not able to have as many as they would like. It is not wrong or sinful to have a small family, and the children in small families are just as much a blessing and inheritance from God as any other. What does concern me is the lack of encouragement for the presence of large families. The increasing perception is that the family should have two children and then the mother should get back out in the workforce. That is not godly reasoning, nor is it principled in Scripture. May it ever be our goal that God bless us with godly parents; that those parents be blessed with a bountiful inheritance and that those blessings may grow up to glorify God and obey his will.

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Should we allow our Children to Attend Denominational Services?

In recent years it has not been an uncommon occurrence to find members of the body of Christ showing up to services without their children. When queried as to whether everything is okay with the child the response goes something like: “They’re with a friend at such-and-such church tonight.” If they are asked further about the circumstances surrounding the action, they often respond with statements like, “We think our children need to experience other practices to see that we are doing what’s right” or, “We had agreed that if this friend came to services with us, we would allow our child to go to services with them.” Is this action appropriate for Christians and their children? Consider a few things with me on this particular topic.

Our children possess nothing that is more valuable than their souls. Under our care and responsibility they are to be prepared, guided and, when necessary, corrected to ensure that we do everything possible to take them down the path of righteousness and truth. Understanding that, how can we as parents allow them to be placed in a location of temptation and disobedience with our full commendation?

“We want our children to experience other beliefs…” It is amazing that Christian parents make this kind of argument on this issue when they would not do it on any others. They would not give their child alcohol or drugs so that they can experience the detrimental effects on the body. They would not encourage their children to explore other “beliefs” in areas of sexuality and morality; but they will, at the endangering of their soul, send their children to worship God with those who will not do so according to his commands and who teach things the Bible does not. Have we forgotten how God feels about unacceptable worship and those who teach false doctrine? Have the lessons of Nadab and Abihu, Hophni and Phinehas, the Corinthians, the seven churches of Asia, and so many others fallen on deaf ears?

Parents have allowed their children to participate in such things under the misguided perception that such actions are somehow good for the child. However, consider another question: what if the place they attended was worshiping other gods, making offerings to idols, or performing human sacrifices: would you still allow your children to go? “Oh no, we would never allow something like that,” such parents will inevitably cry. So which is worse: allowing your child to go somewhere where God is not being worshiped at all, or allowing them to attend where people claim to be worshiping and following God but do so incorrectly? One is just as bad and detrimental to the soul as the other. On more than one occasion I have heard a child return from such an excursion claiming that it was not really all that bad and he/she did not understand all the fuss. Later, the child would declare the belief that there are saved people in all churches and one is just as good as another. Then the parents would return wondering what was wrong with their child and why they left the church in such a manner, completely ignoring the mixed signals they sent their child with their allowances.

“We are simply upholding an agreement we made with the child’s friend.” This excuse has been used on many occasions as a valid reason for endangering the spiritual welfare of a child. Parents have convinced themselves that whatever is necessary to get people in the building is what must be done. Therefore, under the auspices of bringing friends to services they have prostituted the influence of truth in their child’s life for a moment’s access to a friend or family member.

The words of Paul come ringing to the ears when he argued, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). Though often applied in such a way, Paul is not in any way speaking of marriage in this context. He is speaking of the willingness of some to try to link themselves in decisions and practices with unbelievers. Yet the call goes out from the apostle to come out and be separate, to perfect holiness in the fear of God, to recognize that there is no equality between the practices of believers and unbelievers. Recognizing this, how can we then encourage our children to do what Paul says we should not?

As parents, it is our responsibility to emphasize purity and holiness before God and the greatness of truth over the philosophies and teachings of men. That is not to say that there should not be awareness of what other religious groups teach, but there are many other and better ways for that to be done than by this means. The souls of our children are precious and the impacts of the world grievous enough without throwing them into the lion’s den as well. Let us seek to encourage our children to reach out to their friends and loved ones with the truth, to seek the Lord and serve him with all their might, but also to never set aside the principles of truth and righteousness for the fallacies of experience and equality with those outside of Christ.

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Viewing the Bible through Different Lenses

When one considers the study of Scripture, there is an apt parallel to the approach one takes to the Bible and the way one approaches an art such as photography. Most people, as they study the Bible, are like the individual with the old style 35 mm disposable camera. It does not do much, the pictures are not always clear but you can get a sense of what is going on in the picture. Many people approach the Bible the same way, sometimes the picture is fuzzy (or half missing) but they take what they can get for the low cost and effort and move on.

However, just as with photography, our study of the Bible does not have to be that way. In photography, cameras have all sorts of lenses. They change the depth of focus, field of vision, light incorporation, and many other things. The more styles of lenses one has, the more options of what they can do with a given picture at a given time.

The same holds true with the Scriptures. The lens through which we approach God’s Word gives the ability to observe varying depths, intricacies, figures, and applications that may not otherwise have been possible for our perception. Consider three lenses we can and should use in examining the Bible.

The Doctrinal Lens. This lens focuses upon the aspects of law and commandment. It is the most important and valuable lens of Scripture because when using this lens the reader is honing in on what God desires to be accomplished. This is the core of Scripture. The Bible was given to show us what we need to do to be right with God and to guide us in accomplishing that task (2 Tim. 3:16-17). However, this lens does not just help us see what is necessary for us in our time, but it helps enlighten us as to God’s expectations for men in the past. It allows us to analyze the laws God gave men in bygone generations at other times and places. This knowledge allows us to draw parallels and applications that help us understand the mindset and actions of God, thereby applying his Law for us in an even more complete way (Rom. 15:4). Therefore, the individual who does not read the Law through the lens of seeking to understand God’s expectations of him is going to miss the central key to everything the Book was given to communicate. Unfortunately, some people never attach their doctrinal lens. They are convinced that the Bible is too confusing, or simply a “good book” without any true applications to life and action today. In doing so, they have deprived themselves of the means to truly understand Scripture, and have placed before them an obstacle to ever being able to develop the pictures that will bring eternal life and peace to their understanding.

The Historical Lens. This lens focuses on the aspects of history, geography, and archaeology in Scripture. The Bible is not an historical textbook, but it is a book with a great deal of history in it. Throughout the Scriptures, God directly ties many of the laws, commands, customs, and principles of Scripture with historical people, places, and events. Many of the statements and laws of Scripture are greatly illuminated when considered through the lens of history. The reader who studies through this lens can see things as they would be seen by those to whom the letters and books were originally written. The historical lens gives two great blessings to the Bible student: context and setting. When one understands context he can then answer the questions of why certain things are said, what impact they had both then and now, and better give insight into the value and beauty of the writing or statement. The setting is of great importance because it gives a secular context into which the events can be placed. Often the Scriptures mention historical characters that can then be used to give a frame of reference to those who may not be familiar with the writings or timeline of Scripture. References to the Roman emperors and governors, the kings of various other nations, and many other statements give the value of setting to the statements of Scripture. This lens has also given the means for historical validation of Scripture. Some archaeologists have tried for generations to prove the Bible wrong in its proclamations of places, people, and events; but on every occasion where finds have been made, they have validated, not contradicted, the Biblical record. The historical lens adds a vast depth to the understanding of Scripture, turning it from a two-dimensional sketch to a three-dimensional drawing with depth, breadth, and scope that is perceptible and awe inspiring. Do not forget to use your historical lens.

The Scientific Lens. As with history, the Bible is not a scientific or medical textbook, but it is a book that contains a great deal of scientific and medical information. The scientific lens is important because it is one of the single greatest lenses allowing appreciation for the hand of God on Scripture. Many Christians are derided and ridiculed for placing their trust in the statements of Scripture when it comes to the use of this lens, yet there has not been a scientific fact yet, when accurately represented and applied, that has disproved or contradicted the things seen through the scientific lens from Scripture. Whether it involves the creation of the world, the impact of the flood, the shape and function of the earth and the universe, or the systems involved in the intricacies of life and anatomy: the Bible is always correct. When one examines the laws of God for Israel through the scientific lens, he finds a law thousands of years ahead of its time in laws pertaining to sanitation, general health, disease isolation, and many other factors that man did not know the whys and wherefores until centuries later. The scientific lens adds another layer of understanding and appreciation to the knowledge of God and his communication of that knowledge to man, even in an age where he had no way of “scientifically” understanding why God would give such expectations.

Each of these lenses gives flexibility and depth to one’s understanding of the Scriptures. As with photography, no single lens should be used on every occasion for every project, because their purposes and abilities are different. But when used cohesively and correctly, each of these lenses in tandem can reveal a depth and understanding of God’s Word that will bring it forth in beautiful 3-D imagery that Hollywood itself cannot replicate; and it will leave one wanting nothing but more!

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Speaking through Silence

Solomon admonished that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). While we often accurately discuss the need to speak out and present truth with boldness and courage, it should also be recognized that there are times when the best course of action is silence. It is certain that knowing when to be silent and when to speak is not always the clearest and easiest decision. However, it is also true that there are many occasions where far more can be said through silence than with many volumes of words. Consider for a moment the value of speaking through silence.

Speaking through silence in response to belligerence and rancor. It is unfortunate, but all of us at various times in life will have to deal with people whose attitude is one of belligerence and their level of respect for you is quite low. When presenting statements of truth to individuals with these attributes, oftentimes the response is somewhat less than pleasant. Generally the first impulse of an individual who cannot answer a statement is to commit the logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, more commonly known to us as character assassination. If they cannot defeat the statement, they will attack the intentions, character, intelligence, and often parentage/upbringing, of the individual giving the statement. This will often cause individuals to feel the need to “defend them” and to begin speaking about their intentions, defending their honor, and so on. In doing so, the truth becomes lost (as was intended by the attack), and the speaker’s influence dampened.

However, when one answers such attacks with silence it speaks volumes. It states that the individual understands the truth of their statement and that they will allow the truth of that statement to stand on its own merits; because if a statement is true, it does not matter who is stating it. It also says that the individual making the statement is more concerned with right and wrong than they are popularity. The person seeking popularity will always defend themselves; the person seeking truth will always stand for that first and let the rest fall where it may.

The perfect example of this, as with all things, was Jesus. As he stood trial before the Jews he remained silent. As they paraded pseudo-witnesses before the Sanhedrin trying to find two that were close enough they could consider them “agreed,” Jesus never said a word. As they demanded of him a defense for fraudulent charges, his “defense” was one statement, “You said it” (Mat. 26:64). As they beat him, mocked him, and cursed him, he never said a word. Why? Because everyone present knew the truth of Jesus’ innocence: Jesus knew it, the Jews knew it, the high priest knew it, the servants outside knew it. Jesus would not defend himself from belligerence and rancor; he stood with truth and allowed the rest to fall as it must. Even with Paul’s defenses before the courts of men, they were never personal defenses of his own character; instead they were defenses of the cause of Christ and why it must be preached and practiced. Be mindful to speak with silence in such cases.

Speaking with silence when actions are more important. We have all seen the occasions come when there is help needed in a given situation. It may be a financial situation, a situation of physical labor, or any of many other instances. Inevitably, there are two classes of people who respond to “help” in such situations: the ones who talk about helping and the ones who simply help. It has been my experience that the ones who talk the most in such situations are the ones often found doing the least. They want to have their say, get their two cents in, and be sure everyone knows where they stand, but they are not going to be found over-exerting themselves in any actual effort.

On the other hand there are those beloved individuals who never say a word of self-aggrandizement but simply come in, find out what needs to be done, and work to accomplish it. They are not often lauded. Often times people do not even know who they are by name. However, their actions speak volumes about their love, character, and humility. It has been my humble privilege to be on the receiving end of the generosity of a number of people fitting this description over the years, and it has never been overlooked, gone unnoticed, or been received without the greatest thanks.

It is on those occasions of sorrow when a hug and a warm meal mean more than all the words in the world; those occasions of struggle when a few dollars “somehow” wind up in your hand; those times where everything seems to be falling apart and someone drops everything to help put them together again, that speaking with silence can be so important.

Certainly an example of this type of individual is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36). The Priests and Levites often talked about the need of taking care of the poor and needy, but the Samaritan actually did it. It is this same principle that James was emphasizing when he wrote: “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (Jam. 2:18).

The necessity of speaking for truth and the cause of Christ cannot be overstated or ignored. Nevertheless there are also occasions where our speaking can be done though barely saying a word. Sometimes we can speak far louder in silence than with hours of preaching and proclamation. Be ever mindful of the necessity of both; and ever equally watchful for both opportunities.

My apologies for not having posted anything new in the last week. I have been out sick with a severe case of pharyngitis. Thankfully the cough has finally started to wear off and I am able to get back in the office today for the first time in a week. However, the voice is still nothing more than a whisper. I hope you will consider today’s thoughts carefully and may God bless you as you apply them. ~~ Adam

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