10 things Christians do not ask the world

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the world, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”  (Psalm 1:1). 

“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…” I Corinthians 2:14

Around Easter or Christmastime polls, surveys, and magazine articles all indicate the world has given up on Jesus, on God, on Christians, on the church, or on preachers.  But let not your heart be troubled, Christ-follower.

We may as well ask a blind man what he thinks of the sunrise I enjoyed this morning, a deaf person how they appreciated the symphony, or my unbelieving neighbor what he thought of my sermon last Sunday.

The world is lost.  Never lose sight of that, follower of Jesus Christ. So, we should not be asking it for direction or seeking its counsel. When the disciples told Jesus the Pharisees were offended by Him, he said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.”  (Matthew 15:12,14)

And yet, how often do we hear of people polling the neighborhood of a designated area to find out what people see as their greatest need, what they would like most from a church, or why they no longer go to church. Then, they build a church program around the results of their poll.  What’s wrong with this picture?

They are called ‘lost’ for a reason. (See Luke 15.)

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Listen to the experts, but don’t take it to the bank.

“How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?  When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). 

Someone said to me, “He may be an atheist but he has a Ph.D. in Greek and has studied the Scriptures in their original languages.  That gives his views a great deal of weight.”

I laughed.  And so did “Someone” on the royal throne (see Psalm 2).

On the back of a book on prayer, a blurb described the pastor/author as an expert on prayer. I’m not sure why that offended me.  I felt as if one of my five siblings had announced that he/she was an expert in communicating with our parents. “What’s so hard about that?” I would have replied.  “They love us and are always available.”

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just anyone calling himself an expert that bothers me.

I have read that FDR had an innate distrust of anyone called an expert. It’s not a bad philosophy.

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Some hurts of this life are so deep they never diminish with time

On our blog, I had given ten suggestions for helping people navigate the transitions of life.  Number 10’s suggestion was to laugh every day.  And that brought a private note from my friend Anne.

“This reminded me of something I did thirty-three years ago,” she said.

Anne had been pregnant, almost in her sixth month, when the doctors diagnosed the baby with a condition called anencephaly.  The news was devastating.

Anne explains that for a fetus to be “anencephalic” means no brain or the brain grows outside the skull.  Of course, it’s incompatible with life. Anne explained that it forms very early, often before the woman even knows she is pregnant.

They had named the baby girl Amy.  They often prayed for her–still in the womb, of course–along with her two older brothers.

“Such babies are often extra active in the womb,” Anne told me, which only adds to the mother’s pain and the cruelty of the condition.  Even so, Anne says, “I relished each time Baby Amy turned or kicked since I knew my time with her would be limited.”

As if that wasn’t enough…

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You’re going through a transition: What to do.

The Lord is my Rock.  Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.  Shelter me under the Rock.  (found all through the Psalms)

You’ve just been released from one job (position, place of service, ministry, etc) and you are preparing for the next one.  What to do in the meantime?

You’ve lost your spouse of many years, whether by death or divorce or something else.  What do you do until the way opens up before you?

You’ve moved from the only home you ever knew to a new city/country, and you’re finding it difficult.  What now?

Keep your eye on the Rock.

Changes can be hard.  But they can be lifegiving and life-altering.

Life is about change.  Anyone who does not like change is going to have a lot of trouble in this life.  Any Christian who cannot handle change is going to have trouble following the Lord Jesus.

Here are our top ten suggestions to you on how to make the most of the transition time…

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What “acting on faith” involves

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” ( 2 Corinthians 5:7).

A friend said, “I have atheist buddies who say they live by science.  They like a lot of things about Christianity and what we do at church, but they just can’t do faith.”

I replied to her, “They may think that, but it’s not so.  They do a thousand things a day by faith, just like all the rest of us.  If they get in a car and drive on the interstate, they are showing great faith in the people who build and maintain the highways and the motorists all around them, none of whom they know.  If they eat in a restaurant, they are demonstrating faith in those who prepare the food, people whom presumably they do not know and will never meet.  And yet they open wide and swallow. They go to a doctor, he diagnoses something they never heard of, writes a prescription they cannot read which they take to the pharmacy.  They may never see the pharmacist who chooses what goes into the pill bottle, but when they get home, they do what the rest of us do–pop a pill or two in our mouth and wash it down with water.  It’s all of faith!”

We all live by faith, believer or not.

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Letting others do our thinking

“My wife handles the religion in our family.  Talk to her.”  –A man in Luling, LA giving his young pastor the brushoff when I tried to introduce the matter of his relationship to Christ

Who handles the big things in your family?

The old joke goes: “When my wife and I got married, we decided I would handle the big things in life and she would take care of the little things, like where we lived, the house we would buy, the car we drive, and such.  It’s worked well. And, so far, over these 40 years, there have not been any big things.”

I told a group of Facebook friends I was reading James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty,” about his years in government, first as a U.S.Attorney and then Director of the F.B.I.  It’s a fascinating book and contains much worth retaining. (Although, admittedly, it can be boring in places.)

Because the man is controversial, the book has been attacked and disputed from the Trump team and his supporters.

The reaction of Facebookers was along party lines.

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A reservoir of trust–and a hole in the dam

This is one somewhat lengthy paragraph from James Comey, taken from his book “A Higher Loyalty,” concerning his years as a U.S. Attorney, in the Attorney General’s office, and as director of the F.B.I.

It was now my responsibility to build my own culture within the U.S.Attorney’s office, one that would get the best out of our team and drawing, in different ways, on the lessons of Giuliana and Fahey.  I tried to attend to this task from the very first day. I hired about fifty new prosecutors during my time as U.S. Attorney and sat with each of them as they took the oath of office.  I invited them to bring their families.  I told them that something remarkable was going to happen when they stood up (in court) and said they represented the United States of America–total strangers were going to believe what they said next.  I explained to them that although I didn’t want to burst their bubbles, this would not happen because of them.  It would happen because of those who had gone before them and, through hundreds of promises made and kept, and hundreds of truths told and errors instantly corrected, built something for them.  I called it a reservoir.  I told them it was a reservoir of trust and credibility built for you and filled for you by people you never knew, by those who are long gone.  A reservoir that makes possible so much of the good that is done by the institution you serve.  A remarkable gift.  I would explain to these bright young lawyers that, like all great gifts, this one comes with a responsibility, a solemn obligation to guard and protect that reservoir and pass it on to those who follow as full as you received it, or maybe even fuller.  I would explain that the problem with reservoirs is that they take a very long time to fill but they can be drained by one hole in the dam.  The actions of one person can destroy what ti took hundreds of people years to build.

The credibility of an institution.  Like a government, a college, a school, a church.  Even the credibility of one person–a leader, a president, a senator, a law enforcer, a pastor.

Plenty of people are saying that Mr. Comey himself blew a hole in the dam of the FBI during his time as its leader.  Which, if so, makes his words above even more poignant.

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What did you do in the war, Daddy?

“As his share who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage: they shall share alike” (I Samuel 30:24).

When Roland Q. Leavell returned home to the States from the “Great War” in Europe–what would come to be called the First World War–he had a problem.  People wanted to hear stories of the war, of battles, of heroism. The problem was he didn’t have any.

Roland Q. Leavell was in his 20s, single, and with a bachelor’s degree from seminary.  He had pastored small churches and had been sent to “the front” as a representative of the YMCA.  In those days, there was no USO to take care of American troops overseas, and fledgling organizations and ministries were still trying to figure these things out.

According to Dottie L. Hudson’s book “He Still Stands Tall: The Life of Roland Q. Leavell,” based on her father’s diaries, Roland did a hundred small things in his efforts for the Y:  He led Bible studies, he counseled soldiers, he ran a canteen, he taught French to a few soldiers, and he drove an ambulance.  At one point, he inhaled poisonous gas the Boches sprayed into the air. The one time he shot a gun was as a joke, pointed into the air across no-man’s-land.  “I guess I didn’t kill over 50,” he remarked in his diary.

And when he got home, people wanted to hear his stories.

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Baptismal regeneration? The controversy continues on how to be saved.

“And some men came down (to Antioch) from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according tot he custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren (there) determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”  (Acts 15:1-2)

And so we have what is called the First Church Council, convened by the early church fathers to answer the question ‘How are we saved?’  Is it by faith alone or are works of the law required?  Must a Gentile become a Jew to be saved?

The reason this is on my mind today is that I’ve been in a dialogue with a preacher in the Church of Christ denomination (although he and their leaders insist they are not a denomination!).  He gave me a packet of pamphlets written by one of their elders which he is distributing.  I took it home with me, read through them, and was answering them.  When I concluded he was more interested in defending their narrow (and erroneous) interpretation of the truth than in finding and doing the truth as taught in Scriptures, I shut the discussion down.

One of the pamphlets addresses the question “What must I do to be saved?” from Acts 16:30.  But instead of giving the answer Paul gave–“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household”–the writer proceeded to attack the very answer Paul gave.  In one paragraph, he writes:

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Stripping the Christian faith of its hard edges

“Master, are you aware the Pharisees were offended by (what you preached)?”  (Matthew 15:12)

The truth has a way of offending.

Those who preach the Word must keep a sharp edge on their message.

The typical “liberal” church in modern America has no problem offending traditionalists.  What it cannot do–will not dare do, not for all the world!–is to go against the conventional wisdom of the day.  If the culture decides a thing is wrong, the accommodating church finds a way to adapt its doctrine and practices to the prevailing whims.  And so we have churches that call themselves Christian and Bible-believing ignoring or twisting Scripture in order to justify abortions, euthanasia, legalization of drugs, and the LGBTQ agenda, while erasing from their beliefs and practices anything having to do with the necessity of being born again, the role of the blood of Christ in our salvation, or the reality of hell.

What’s going on here?

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