All posts by Pastor Bill

I am married to a lovely lady who rescued four children from being raised by a distracted dad. Together, we're blessed with three grandsons . My wife, Marcia, loves the Lord deeply, loves history, and, being gifted by the Lord as a teacher, teaches both with passion and knowledge. We live in farm country in the North Carolina Piedmont with Beau, our Golden-doodle. Until recently, it was my joy to pastor a wonderful flock at Faith Baptist Church in Pembine, Wisconsin. My ministry has always been pastoral in nature with an emphasis on counseling and teaching. We've lived and ministered as a family in three states, Ontario , Canada and Romania and we've visited and ministered in numerous countries. Now we find ourselves living in North Carolina. My wife has roots here and there enough Dixie in my blood that I've always been comfortable here even though moving north when a boy. My passion to to know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, grow into His likeness and help otters grow in His grace. My wife and I have a passion to study and influence others for God's glory. We hope to leave some disciples for Christ behind when we leave this life. I am grateful for my father's influence and mentoring throughout college and grad school. Humanly speaking, he was my most profound teacher. Institutionally, I've attended Bob Jones University, FaithWay Baptist College of Michigan (degrees), Northland International University (DSM candidate) and taken classes through Central Baptist Seminary in Minneapolis and Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. But the most powerful training I have received has always been through my local church. Even to this day, my church is the fellowship where I grow the most and change the most deeply. It is the one "classroom" I need the most and for which I am most grateful.

STAYING SHARP WHEN GROWING OLD

How can one stay current even as they move into the last two decades of their lives? I do not mind growing older – who can avoid it? – but I don’t want to be one of those older folks who holds others back.  It seems many older folks are oblivious to what is going on around them and, therefore, become less and less relevant, practical, and helpful. The following counsel is from an octogenarian that I have known for many years. I met him when I was in college (he was a friend of my father’s.) He has walked a consistent and authentic walk in life and ministry over the years. You may not agree with everything he says here but it is all worth thinking about.

SECRETS TO STAYING ON THE “CUTTING EDGE:”
No one will ever convince me that growing older and duller necessarily go together.  The old bod tells me that I am growing older (then there’s Vin Scully, five years older than I and still doing play-by-play for the L. A. Dodgers), but the mind is still at least marginally functional.  I work with and am around people the age of my children (and younger) very frequently (our church is multi-generational), and I don’t want to loose that certain edge.  Here are ten of my suggestions for staying sharp while growing older.
1.  Keep on dreaming.  I know he is as annoying as all get out, but “Dickie” Vitale, who is 75, wants to be the first broadcaster to do live play-by-play when he is one hundred.  Now that’s a dream.  When all your dreams have come true, you had better get some new ones.  There are still things I want to do and accomplish before the Lord takes me home (I’ll spare you the list).  Here’s a neat little outline on dreams: dare to dream; prepare the dream; wear the dream; repair the dream and share the dream.
2.  Keep in touch.  I always try to talk with some of the younger people (and that includes some in their teens) every opportunity I have.  I also try to do something very difficult for a man my age (especially one with hearing problems), I try to listen.  Although at this point a hearing aid is in the dream realm, I don’t want to be the guy about whom someone – I think it was his wife – once said, “I wonder why he has that hearing aid, he never listens anyhow.”  Spend time with people.  Do what Jesus did – walk slowly through the crowd.
3.  Keep growing internally.  Let’s face it, the standard of greatness keeps rising, but the means to achieve it is also rising at an even faster pace.  Get around great people.  Listen to great videos, visit great places (when possible), attend great events, read great books.  Try Tim Keller’s Center Church – if that doesn’t give you a brain freeze, it will give you a ton of things to think about.
4.  Forget the fear factor: Fear is the thief of dreams.  There is always more lost in what we don’t do because of fear than in what we actually do.  I’m not sure the battle with fear is ever over, even if it’s just the fear of being considered an old boor.
5.  Focus on recruiting, mentoring, etc., leaders to eventually take your place.  I think it was John Maxwell who said that leaders who last, recruit and mentor strong leaders.  What are you doing to leave behind a legacy of shared insights, constant encouragement, lessons learned?  That’s one of the reasons why there is a Woodchuck’s Den.  I don’t know a whole lot about a whole lot of things, but I have been there, done that, and am more than willing to share the consequences of a whole lot, whether good or bad!
6.  Ah yes, fatigue.  I tire more easily than I once did, and it takes me longer to get it back together than it once did (and sometimes even longer to remember where I put it after I had it all together), but He promised me that my strength would be sufficient for my days.  I have previously quoted the profound wisdom of Warren Wiersbe, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”  And sometimes that’s all I need to get back after it again.
7.  Watch your priorities.  Sure, there’s a tendency to meander in life, but things that matter most must never be subordinated to things that matter least.  As our days grow shorter (and that is true of everyone), we need to prioritize such things as money, time, people, activities, gifts, to say nothing of family.  Just this exercise might well prove difficult enough to keep you on the cutting edge (be careful that you don’t get “cut” on that family thing.  Grand kids are great, (and great grands even greater), but be careful of the priorities.
8.  Keep the big picture in mind.  We get so wrapped up in who we are, what we are doing, how people are treating us, etc., that we sometimes forget that it really isn’t all about us.  God’s work on earth is vast (one of the reasons I struggle with those content to stay in little denominational or positional boxes), and I want to be involved in it as long as I possibly can be.  By-the-way, hopefully, your church won’t close the day you leave it.
9. Be open to change – there I said it, and I meant to say it, and I’m glad I said it!!!  My doctrine hasn’t changed a bit over the years, but a whole lot of others things have because I live in a world that is constantly changing.  Change itself is neither good nor bad, but part of staying on that cutting edge is keeping abreast of what is changing, evaluating it and making a decision regarding it.  I’m a bit weary of people my age who have an automatic negative reaction to change.  For instance – and I’ve said this before – I don’t like all of the new music, but I didn’t like all of the old music either, and I love some of the talented kids that are involved in the new music.  May I make a suggestion?  How about concentrating on the words instead of the instruments, repetitions, unfamiliar (and sometimes, un-singable) tunes.
10. Beware of hidden private sin.  Just because you are no longer the lead man doesn’t mean that you have a certain quota of sin that you are allowed without offending God.  Yes, we’re physically immune to some of the more fleshly lusts, but our often insufficiently occupied minds are fertile grounds for the devil to work.
And a final, unnumbered word: be careful in keeping on the cutting edge that you don’t fall off the edge.  More than one of God’s older servants has done something later in life that has destroyed much of what he spent his life building.  And if you are a younger whipper-snapper, don’t hesitate to share these thoughts with your older members and blaming them on me.

Strengthening My Marriage

Here is some good advice from Brandon Cox.
God planned our marriage for His pleasure. That is, the primary goal of the oneness that my wife and I develop is ultimately designed to reflect His glory to the world as we worship. This is why we grow when we pray together, sing together, attend worship services together, read or study together, and talk about spiritual things together. Our marriage is not simply a relationship in which we get to pursue our personal agendas of feeling good. Our marriage is an opportunity to glorify God and show the world what He’s all about.
God formed our marriage for fellowship, with each other and with Himself. I say at weddings that a strong marriage is really a marriage of three, not two, because God is always the invisible third member. That sounds pretty, but we forget it about six minutes after the bridal kiss. But it’s true.
“God wants spouses to be one, which means to intimately know and to intimately be known by each other. That’s why secrets destroy marriages – not just the scandalous secret sins but the secrets of our hearts – our pain, our temptations, our inadequacies.  Few things are more important to a thriving marriage than honest, open, real, raw, heart-exposing conversation. And He desires for us, as a couple, to know Him intimately. And intimacy is either nurtured by intentional pursuit, or it is stagnating, but it’s never neutral. Intimacy happens as we make time to be with each other, to talk to each other, to show physical affection and to enjoy physical intimacy with each other. God wants us closer to each other and closer to Himself.
“God created our marriage to make us more Christlike. I am, by nature, a selfish dude. My wife has made an enormous dent in my selfishness. She challenges me to be God’s man, to be more like Jesus, to root out sin, to keep praying, to stay in the Word, and to love Jesus fully. And my responsibility is to present her to Jesus someday more mature, more Christlike. That doesn’t happen by controlling or bullying or dominating. It also doesn’t happen accidentally or unintentionally. God’s purpose for marriage is that we each look more like Jesus because of each other.
“God shaped our marriage to serve Him by serving others. One of the most difficult seasons of our marriage hit us when we moved from serving together to doing life a bit separately. Church was great. The weather was awesome. The opportunities to be adventurous and to experience a new place were wonderful. And the friends we made are life-timers, especially within our small group. But, we made a painful transition.”

Vote. Then open The Book.

This past Sunday, I urged our people to vote. Jesus commanded His followers to be salt and light and to love their neighbors. That being said, let me state that I do not believe that the hope of America rises and falls on any election let alone this one. The government does not have, never has, and never will have, the answers we need. Our society’s great need is a spiritual revival among us believers. Call me cynical, but I am not sure that is going to happen without the the rug being pulled out form underneath the culture Christians have accommodated themselves to. The answer to our national ills is not in an election but in The Book. I thought this poem was a breath of fresh air in its perspective. It does express a hunger for truth and a lucid awareness that truth is missing in our society. That is not a shocking event in a post-christian world where all is relative and the public square no longer allows a fixed point of view. Without a “true north” on the compass of one’s soul, how can anyone find their way? There is only one Absolute. “In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God” (Jn. 1:1)

 
The Last Election 

Suppose there are no returns,
and the candidates, one
by one, drop off in the polls,
as the voters turn away,
each to his inner persuasion.

The frontrunners, the dark horses,
begin to look elsewhere,
and even the President admits
he has nothing new to say;
it is best to be silent now.

No more conventions, no donors,
no more hats in the ring;
no ghost-written speeches,
no promises we always knew
were never meant to be kept.

And something like the truth,
or what we knew by that name-
that for which no corporate
sponsor was ever offered-
takes hold in the public mind.

Each subdued and thoughtful
citizen closes his door, turns
off the news. He opens a book,
speaks quietly to his children,
begins to live once more.

John Haines

What if Americans opened the Book, spoke quietly to their children, and began to live — some for the first time?

Don’t just vote. It won’t be enough. Pray. And, above all, open The Book.

Vote. Then open the Book.

This past Sunday, I urged our people to vote. That being said, let me state that I do not believe that the hope of America rises and falls on any election let alone this one. The government does not have, never has, and never will have, the answers we need. Our society’s great need is the Gospel of Jesus. We who believe the Gospel need to be revived by His Spirit. Jesus commanded His followers to be salt and light and to love their neighbors. Call me cynical, but I am not sure another revival is going to take place among God’s people without the the rug being pulled out from underneath the culture we Christians have accommodated ourselves to. The answer to our national ills is not in an election but in The Book. I thouht this poem was a breath of fresh air in its perspective. It does express a hunger for truth and a lucid awareness that truth is missing in our society. That is not a shocking event in a post-christian world where all is relative and the public square no longer allows a fixed point of view. Without a “true north” on the compass of one’s soul, how can anyone find their way? There is only one Absolute. “In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). Please vote. It is your Christian duty. But then, go home and open The Book. In it you will find our hope.

 

The Last Election 

Suppose there are no returns,
and the candidates, one
by one, drop off in the polls,
as the voters turn away,
each to his inner persuasion.

The frontrunners, the dark horses,
begin to look elsewhere,
and even the President admits
he has nothing new to say;
it is best to be silent now.

No more conventions, no donors,
no more hats in the ring;
no ghost-written speeches,
no promises we always knew
were never meant to be kept.

And something like the truth,
or what we knew by that name-
that for which no corporate
sponsor was ever offered-
takes hold in the public mind.

Each subdued and thoughtful
citizen closes his door, turns
off the news. He opens a book,
speaks quietly to his children,
begins to live once more.

John Haines

What if Americans opened the Book, spoke quietly to their children, and began to live — some for the first time?

Don’t just vote. It won’t be enough. Pray. And, above all, go home and open The Book.

Claiming God’s Kingdom with Authenticity

     Most Americans believers resist the biblical idea of being “poor in spirit.” Tim Keller describes us as more “middle class in spirit” rather than “poor in spirit.”
     He writes: “On the contrary, you believe that God owes you some things—he ought to answer your prayers and to bless you for the many good things you’ve done. Even though the Bible doesn’t use the term, by inference we can say that you are ‘middle-class in spirit.’ You feel that you’ve earned a certain standing with God through your hard work. You also may believe that the success and the resources you have are primarily due to your own industry and energy.”
     I must agree. We do not see ourselves as bankrupt morally or spiritually. This is the reason we do not sound authentic in the ears of the world when we claim the kingdom is ours and that we are the kingdom’s citizens. The kingdom really does not belong to those who are “middle class in spirit,” does it? (Matt. 5:3)

Couldn’t say it better!

TREVIN WAX|12:10 AM CT

Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck

wolf-of-wall-street-poster2-610x903-1I grew up in a fundamentalist environment. The church I was baptized in believed it was inappropriate for Christians to go to a movie theater. To this day, my grandparents maintain this standard as a bulwark against worldliness.

The library at my Christian school had a variety of books for children, sanitized for Christian consumption. Encyclopedia Brown made the cut, but all the “goshes” and “gee whizzes” were marked out with a heavy black pen. No second-hand cursing allowed.

Films without anything objectionable were allowed at school, but looking back, I see how this analysis was applied simplistically. I still remember watching an old version of The Secret Garden – a movie with no cursing, thank goodness, but with a pseudo-pantheistic worldview that healing power is pulsating through all living things.

As a teenager, I discovered the work of Chuck Colson, Francis Schaeffer, and C. S. Lewis. These men had a different perspective on art and its merits. I began to see artistic analysis differently. I realized Disney movies weren’t safe just because they were “clean,” and PG-13 movies weren’t bad just because they had language or violence. It was possible to watch a movie with a critical eye for the underlying worldview.

I never subscribed to the fundamentalist vision that saw holiness in terms of cultural retreat or worldliness as anything that smacked of cultural engagement. I don’t subscribe to that position today.

But sometimes I wonder if evangelicals have swung the pendulum too far to the other side, to the point where all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.

Generally speaking, I enjoy the movie reviews I read in Christianity Today and World magazine. They go beyond counting cuss words or flagging objectionable content and offer substantive analysis of a movie’s overall message. But in recent years, I’ve begun to wonder if we’re more open than we should be to whatever Hollywood puts out.

Take, for example, Christianity Today’s recent review of The Wolf of Wall Street. Alyssa Wilkinson devotes nearly half of her review to the graphic depictions of immorality, yet still gives the film 3.5 stars out of 4. Another review counts 22 sex scenes, but can’t be sure since it’s hard to tell when one ends and another begins.

My question is this: at what point do we consider a film irredeemable, or at least unwatchable? At what point do we say it is wrong to participate in certain forms of entertainment?

I understand there are complexities to this issue. Some Christians disagreed with the praise showered on the recent Les Miserables film. I am among the number who thought Les Mis showcased the glory of redemption. It was a movie in which the sordid elements only served to accentuate the beauty of grace and the dehumanizing nature of sin.

Les Miserables is not unlike the accounts we read in our Bibles. Sexual immorality, rape, and violence are part and parcel of the Scriptural narrative. If a movie version of the book of Genesis were made, it wouldn’t be for minors. It seems silly to cross out cuss words from Encyclopedia Brown when first-graders can discover some pretty adult-themed events in their Adventure Bibles.

So, please don’t hear me advocating for a simplistic denunciation of Hollywood films. I am not. But I am concerned that many evangelicals may be expending more energy in avoiding the appearance of being “holier-than-thou” than we do in avoiding evil itself.

Yes, Paul used a popular poet of his day in order to make a point in his gospel presentation. Cultural engagement is important and necessary. But church history shows us that for every culture-engager there’s also a Gregory of Nyssa type who saw the entertainment mindset as decadent and deserving of judgment.

Is there justification for viewing gratuitous violence or sexual content?

At what point does our cultural engagement become just a sophisticated way of being worldly?

I find it hard to imagine the ancient Israelites admiring the artwork on the Asherah poles they were called to tear down. I find it hard to picture the early church fathers attending the games at the Roman coliseum, praising the artistic merits of the arena even as they provide caveats against violence.

Yet now in the 21st century, we are expected to find redeemable qualities in what would only be described by people throughout church history as “filth.”

What’s the point in decrying the exploitation of women in strip clubs and mourning the enslavement of men to pornography when we unashamedly watch films that exploit and enslave?

I do not claim to have this all figured out. But one thing I know: our pursuit of holiness must be the mark against which our pursuit of cultural engagement is measured.

If, like me, you’re conflicted about this issue, maybe it’s because we should be.

On Mission Today

Wherever you are today, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are on mission with Jesus. This is intentional, not coincidental. Primary, not peripheral. Normal, not extreme. Created to fill the earth with His glory, we fell in Adam but as His newly created people in Jesus Christ, the last Adam, we have been “re-commissioned” to fill the earth with His glory. It is not a career choice for special people doing unusual things in far-away places. It is God’s call to all who wear His name. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ today. Make disciples of all nations.

 

OUR “NEW SINS” DON’T ALLOW FOR REDEMPTION

Edwin Leap is an Emergency Room Physician in a medium-sized hospital in Western South Carolina.  He writes a weekly column in the Greenville News, and his blog is usually a re-post of that week’s article.  Here’s what he, himself, says about his faith: “As an emergency physician who has seen almost every example of man’s fallen nature, as well as many of the wonderful ways we are indeed ‘in God’s image,’ I believe that Biblical Christianity is the most accurate explanatory theory for the human condition, and also the most rational cure available for the race of men.  That’s why I write a great deal of material that touches upon my faith. I’m no Bible thumping madman, and I’m not here to scream at, threaten or demean anyone who disagrees with me. I don’t want to force anyone to believe anything. I do want to use this space to offer hope and meaning.”

The following is one of his weekly columns, and it touches on a subject that is increasingly visible in our convoluted society and troublesome to those who have some form of moral compass.

“Given that this is Sunday, I’ll pose a Sunday-School kind of question. Is there any such thing as sin? It’s a funny word, sin. It’s a concept deeply embedded in our culture and language. (Some of us would say, in our souls.) It implies wrong-doing, an offense against God.  But these days, the very idea that people might be separated from ultimate good (much less God) by their hearts or behaviors, the very idea that humans do ‘bad’ things and need to confess and repent, well that’s a bit of a stretch for polite society, isn’t it? ‘Oughts’ are passe, and have been generally replaced with feelings and a kind democratic process in which we all rather vote on right and wrong (or let entertainers and pundits decide for us).

“However, sin is alive and well. Let’s face it, society may scoff at the church for saying fornication is a sin, or drunkenness or theft (or anything else proscribed in scripture). But society loves (and I mean loves) the concept of sin. And people love to condemn others; it’s quite invigorating to judge, even though we are all told not to do it. (Ironically, judging is a modern sin of the first order…unless judging those who are intolerant or judgmental, obviously.)  Need an example? It isn’t hard to find, as American culture is absolutely full of modern sins. How about the ‘sin’ of racism? Ask Paula Deen if she committed a sin. Heck, she was more roundly condemned and castigated than any Mosaic scape-goat could ever have been. Years ago she used a racial epithet and because she confessed her sin of racism, she was required to repent on national television. And her penance? Loss of her cooking ‘empire.’ (No Hail Marys for Paula!) And what penance will the world require of Oprah’s Swiss shop-girl?

“How about disbelief? No, not disbelief in God. I mean disbelief in some popular idea. What about disbelief in global climate change? Why, you might as well be a baptist who doesn’t believe in casseroles! Environmentalism is its own religion to no small number of moderns, thanks to our tendency to worship something. And anthropogenic global climate change is an essential part of the catechism. In general, ‘Science,’ with a big ‘S,’ can never be doubted without opening oneself up to angry accusations of ignorance; despite the very real fact that it is the job of science to question science.

“What about big business and greed? Is greed bad? Well yes. But not just to people who think God says so. Greed is bad because big business and wealth are bad; and they’re bad because, well, greed is bad. The Occupy Wall Street movement was full of tent-dwelling ascetics with student loans, i-Pads and Starbucks cups who just knew it. Wealth and greed are fine if the greedy agree with the right ideas or donate to the right campaigns. ‘Greed: good for me, bad for you.’

“And to really push the hot-button, what about those folks who just aren’t on board with same-sex marriage? In modern parlance, they’re haters (even if they happen to love same-sex people). Or, to put it another way, they’re sinners. In an odd turn-about, the condemners of what was traditionally considered sin find themselves condemned; not by God but by man, the new arbiter of the New Law. And the new cultural priests spew their own fire and brimstone, and mark their ideological enemies with a scarlet B for bigot or F for fundamentalist.  Although it’s not an exhaustive list of the ‘New Sins,’ there is something hopeful to be learned here. We all at least agree that some things are wrong. While we disagree in content, between ancient revelation and modern construction, the fact that the very idea of right and wrong still exists gives me a little hope.

“What’s hopeless is that there is no redemption from the new sins. There is no real forgiveness; there’s only surrender, complicity and endless sacrifice. Judeo-Christian faith tells us that God forgives and forgets if we ask in sincerity. But the New Law is never satisfied. No sacrifice is great enough and no repentance sincere enough and no past sin, however remote, is free of examination; unless you are a law-maker, of course. And any deviation, any heresy, is intolerable.  As New Sins and New Laws continually emerge, I wonder if we’ll discover that the old ways, which called out sin but simultaneously offered repentance and redemption, were gentler than we ever realized.

(Borrowed and quoted from Dr. Charles Wood’s post at “The Woodchuck’s Den.”)

Motive Matters

Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ 

Expediency ask the question, ‘Is it politic?’ 

Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ 

But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’”

(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

People make decisions for a lot of reasons and most of them are not good. Of the four choices mentioned by Dr. King, only one – conscience – is right. All others lead to trouble and, in the end, destruction. While I counsel people to listen to their conscience, I also encourage them to examine the scriptures and their conscience side by side and consider the possibility that their conscience is not biblically trained. (All consciences need some reckoning with biblical truth regardless of how one grew up.) Nonetheless, when all is said and done, they must do what they believe is right.

There was a time, when with all the discernment of a proud Pharisee, I would glibly judge a man’s motive. Having been burned by my pride and the guile of others’, I try not to presume anymore. Being that we all struggle with our motives, we must judge ourselves and do so strictly and humbly. Especially leaders. Doubtless we’ve all made decisions as cowards, as politicians, and some with much vanity. Some have decided spiritual issues based on what’s good for business and many make choices simply to “save face” and stubbornly refuse to change course. We all have a lot of decisions to make and the first question one must learn to ask in decision-making is the question of their own motive. After all, this will come up at the Bema!

If pleasing God is our motive, then at some point, scripture and its principles enter into the picture. In decades of pastoral ministry, I have been unpleasantly surprised at the absence of biblical thinking going on in the lives of many outstanding people I have known. Little mention is made of biblical parallels, principles, or truths when arguing a point of view. The absence of biblical precedent in their thinking and discussion may indicate nothing at all or it may indicate a great weakness in the body – weak minds not renewed and not saturated with the Word of God. It is not expected that all would think like they had theological training but it is expected that believers who have sat under years of preaching and teaching should have some scripture seep into their thinking. Maybe that’s not the weakness though. Maybe it is just cowardice. Maybe many of our leaders are political. Maybe? It is a sad state of affairs when men of God put their agendas, their careers, and futures ahead of the glory of God, the name of Christ, and the welfare of His people.

Not all the things one can do are things that one should do. Paul, in addressing the Romans and the Corinthians on the matter of making difficult decisions, makes others the high priority. “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). People matter to God. Do they to you? No, we’re not prisoners of others’ expectations, misguided convictions, and untrained consciences. That’s not the issue. But we are our brother’s keeper and we should not put him in a place of danger or temptation with our liberty. “It is good not to… do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Rom. 14:21). Standing fast in our liberty is not a matter of protecting my personal liberty but a matter of living by grace. And doing so for the sake of God and for others. Restricting my liberty is not legalism, it is a matter of being a channel of grace and, thereby, extending grace to others. It is also a personal means to grace and growth – one that is sorely needed in the body of Christ today. Paul’s discussion on the matter of freedom in Galatians five includes a description of those who stand in freedom as producers of fruit akin to the nature of the Spirit and character of Jesus. This “standing fast in freedom” builds others and glorifies God. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity…, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”(Gal. 5:13-15). Those who don’t stand in liberty are a danger to themselves and others. They have a spiritually macabre propensity to “bite and devour one another” and to please their flesh causing strife and division. Such ugly behavior appears in all who abuse freedom – libertines or legalists. They both bite and devour because they are both selfish and self-serving. (And that style of “gospel living” will not attract even the most lost among us!)

Paul is not defending one side of an issue or another. He is jumping all over one’s motive. Motive matters. You can be right theologically and dead wrong in your behavior. You can also be wrong theologically but still be right in how you carry out your position. And how about the times where we’ve been wrong on both accounts? If your motive is the glory of God and the welfare of others, you will find the right way to come out at the right place. You will be a discerning steward of grace rather than an ugly opportunist. To claim your liberty at the expense of others in order to make a selfish decision is wrong. On any side of any issue.

Make your choices according to grace. Train your conscience in grace and discern how best to channel God’s grace to others thereby. Grace is not your privilege and license but God’s gift to be exercised in a wise stewardship. Steward wisely. You will rejoice now in this life and later at the Bema. I don’t know about you, but like Paul, “I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting” (1 Cor. 9:15).

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (I Cor. 10:31-33).

 

Happy Birthday Preacher’s Wife (a.k.a Mom)

As an “aged” PK married to a PK and who has raised four PKs, I find Andy Stanley’s words about PKs ring true:

“We see church different than anyone else. We see it from the inside out. We know that when people say they ‘felt the Spirit moving,’ it probably means the room was full and the music was good. We know that what goes on at home is the litmus test of a man or woman’s walk with God, not how well he or she does once a microphone is strapped on. We know the difference between giftedness and godliness. We know the two can be mutually exclusive. We know that the best performers usually build the biggest churches but not necessarily the healthiest ones. We aren’t impressed with moving lights, slick presentations, ‘God told me,’ ‘the Spirit led me,’ or long prayers” (from “Deep & Wide”).

Of course, the PK’s “inside out” perspective can make a cynic and rebel out of one but what a joy to have had a mom and dad who’s godliness came before giftedness and who passed the litmus test in front of their five kids sitting in the “front row.” Yesterday, was her 83rd birthday and she’s still being tested and still passing and still the Lady she has always been.

Thanks mom. God saved me but you were His earthly partner in divine rescue. I know that God can save the most cynical and does not need our help but I was spared so much because He found such help in you. Who knows, with you, I may not have been rescued at all.