A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Monday, July 18, 2011

You Can't Take It Back

Years ago someone told me the story of a preacher who had been the victim of gossip from a church member. When he discovered who spread the rumor, he confronted the church member who quickly felt remorse, penitently promising to make things right. To make a needed point, the wise preacher asked the member to accompany him to the top of the bell tower. At the top he took a feather pillow and ripping it open, let the downy feathers fly out into the wind and spread over the city. He turned to the church member and said, “Please, go out and get all those feathers back for me.” The now former gossip said it couldn’t be done; there was “no way anyone could ever find every last feather that flew into the wind.” The preacher agreed, “So it is with gossip. You can never control its spread or unsay what was said.”

As a Spirit-led apostle, one of Paul’s great concerns was for the unity of local churches. He expressed his fear that there might be disharmony in the Corinthian church by saying, “Perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder (2Corinthians 12:20 ESV). You see that gossip is high in the list of things that destroy Christian unity. Christian unity is high in the list of things the Lord desires for his people. Jesus earnestly prayed for it (John 17:20-23). Don’t gossip!

We all know we shouldn’t gossip. We’ve all likely heard sermons about it. Why then does it persist? Maybe we don’t realize what we’re saying is gossip? Maybe we just don’t think it’s as bad as the Bible says? You can trust it’s as bad as the Bible says, so enough about that, but what counts as gossip? Ask yourself these four questions: Am I willing to say this to the person I’m talking about? Am I seeking to be helpful to everyone involved? Am I complaining to someone with power to fix the problem? Would I say it to Jesus? If you answer no to any of the four, it’s gossip and it’s sin. There’s no way to know how far and wide a thoughtless, malicious, or false word about someone will go once it has been released into the wind. So take care to guard your tongue from gossip!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

CHORES (Family Devotional)

“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2Thessalonians 3:10 ESV).

Being in tune with Nature is more than hugging trees and loving to go on long walks. It means being in tune with the one who made Nature. From the beginning God has shown us his love of good order. When he made our first parents, he gave them the job of making the Garden of Eden an orderly, beautiful place. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 ESV).

All worthy work is comparable to gardening. The worthy gardener takes what the Lord has provided—soil, seed, sunlight, water—and works it to bring out the potential for use and beauty without being wasteful, destructive, irresponsible, unethical or immoral. All good work essentially involves the same process, though the raw materials differ. Being in tune with God’s nature means everyone has some work to do for the common good. Home is where God intends our little ones to learn the work ethics essential to becoming good “gardeners.”

Chores provide an opportunity for children to learn how to work responsibly and honestly. Every child should have his or her own regular chores to do that contribute to the good working order of the home. Within reason, good parents need to offer their children the chance to develop the character they’ll need to face whatever challenges their life’s work will present them as adults. This means some chores need to be difficult and sweaty work! It’s a good idea to give kids at least one regular chore that challenges them to develop problem-solving skills. A home environment like this is in tune with the good order of God’s nature and will do as much to prepare children for “the real world” as anything else. It may well prepare them for the world to come as well!

Suggestions: If your family has already split up household duties among all capable family members, discuss how each chore contributes to the good order of the home and the wellbeing of each family member. If you haven’t yet done this, take the first steps to good family order and create a plan that includes worthy responsibilities, or chores, for every member of the family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Protect Your Influence!

Fact is we all have an impact on somebody. I’ve seen figures from “studies” over the years telling how many people each of us influence in an average lifespan, but in reality there’s no way to tell. Some of us have more of an impact and some less, but we all affect the world to one degree or another for good or evil. It’s up to you to decide which it will be.

Now don’t give me the post-modern “there’s darkness and light in all of us” bit as if there’s no such thing as good and evil. We all certainly do “sin and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23), but not all of us have given up the struggle. In fact, by yielding to the Lordship of Christ he will so radically cleanse anyone from sin that it would hardly be appropriate to call a true Christian evil anymore. Read the whole New Testament and see if that isn’t the balance of what it teaches. You have to try. It takes time and effort to grow in Christ, and the road will be difficult (Matthew 7:14), but through the gospel you very well can be “good” and wield a powerful influence on the world for its betterment. The fight between good and evil is very real and you are on one side or the other, but you can change what side you’re on!

You cannot make anyone do anything; all you can do is try to influence them. We all desperately need to be an influence for what’s right! There’s always peer pressure, and just as there’s bad peer pressure, there’s the good version too. It’s so easy to just sync with the flow of this world and do nothing to save people, and it’s just about as easy to cripple our influence for good by willingly doing what’s wrong. We must do everything within our power to avoid crippling our abilities to influence others for good. Avoid hypocrisy. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, but be honest and forthright about your weaknesses, and let others see through your actions that you’re growing (James 5:16; 1Timothy 4:15). Be selective about where you go, what you say, do, and who you choose as friends. Protect your influence so that through Christ you might be a force for good to help make this world a better place and save as many souls as you can!

Image: savit keawtavee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, July 4, 2011

Church-Speak

Every community has its lingo; special ways of saying things (or not saying them) that nearly every member of the community understands and most outsiders don’t. In the church, we call ours things like “church-speak.”

In the church we draw most of ours from Scripture, but some is rooted in tradition. With the former, preachers and teachers must patiently explain the terminology. With the latter, while it all may be perfectly wholesome, it’s probably best to leave it out of Sunday morning sermons (the time when we see the most visitors from outside the community) as much as possible.

A community’s lingo is as much about what its members won’t say as it is about what they do say. Sometimes reacting to disagreements, or desiring to maintain distinctive identity, members of a community decide certain terms are out of bounds. Among churches of Christ, words like “witnessing,” “testimony,” and “revival,” became scarce indeed for several decades due to disagreements with the way these terms were used among various denominations. Some of the ways these terms were used by other groups was clearly unscriptural, but some of the arguments among churches of Christ that developed for why we shouldn’t use them were also wrong. Each of the three terms is perfectly Biblical when understood properly, and we should attach no stigma to such proper use. Nor should we exercise liberty in using any term not necessary for the full communication of the gospel if it will hinder the growth of a church in love, truth, and unity.

As natural as it is for a group to develop its own lingo, and as helpful as it may be to the community, the church has to be able to speak the language of the people Jesus wants us to reach. Paul said it well, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1Corinthians 9:22b-23 ESV). Even Jesus “spoke as [the people] were able to hear it” (Mark 4:33). Church-speak is inevitable on some levels, but let’s be careful not to confuse non-members who desperately need to hear a word from God they can easily understand.

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, July 2, 2011

(Family Devo) God's Plan for Marriage

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for[e] him." ...Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:18, 24-25a ESV).

God didn’t just make the first people and leave them to their own devices to create social structures as they saw fit. As soon as there were two people he created the social arrangement around which all human life, and upon the foundation of which all levels of society are built: marriage, between one man and one woman for life.

Scripture teaches us we will have marriage with us until the resurrection (Matthew 22:30). The Bible also commands us to take it seriously. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4 ESV).

It was no coincidence that God made a man and a woman. It also isn’t just by whim that God only made one man and one woman. In his choices he declared his will regarding marriage for all time. Nowhere has he ever released this divine institution into human hands to allow us to define it or alter the terms of it in any way. Marriage is God’s and he alone has the right to say what it’s about as it’s his invention for his purposes. He’s revealed his will for marriage in the Bible.

So, today, the foundation of civilization remains unchanged: marriage between one man and one woman for life. Scripture teaches us marriage will be the way of things until the Lord returns. We are free to disrespect it, redefine it, ignore it, or change the divine will governing it at our own peril!

Suggestions for families:

If you are married, show your wedding bands to your children and explain to them what they mean. Say a prayer together asking God to bless your marriage, and pray that your children, if they desire to marry, will find good, Christian spouses.

Note to Parents:

Parents, no one will have more of an impact on your children regarding marriage than you will. In many ways the success of their future marriages (if they choose to marry) depends on you. That doesn’t mean marriage failures have to become the generational curse. It does mean, regardless of your marital status as a parent, you must teach your children marriage is God’s institution and must be taken seriously. You must teach them to seek God’s help in their marriages, and to search his word for wisdom about it.

When you or your spouse make mistakes, be as open, honest, and humble as possible in explaining things to your children. Blaming others will influence them negatively. Keeping them in the dark almost always ends with them fearing the worst or worse, blaming themselves!

Talk about the promises you and your spouse made to each other in the presence of God and how seriously you take them. Don’t hesitate to show affection toward each other in your children’s presence.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Image: Rosen Georgiev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net