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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Baptists and Sound Doctrine

american-baptists

Last month I was accepted into the American Baptists as a Pastor. This is a radical shift from the Independent Christian Church in both structure and in Doctrine. My turning from the Independent Christian Church to the American Baptists came through my theological shift over the past 18 months. For that period of time I have continually questioned the doctrinal beliefs of the Independent Christian Church and its overall structure of Church Governance. My questioning of my own tradition lead to months of deep study of theology and comparing 2 different vantagepoints. This study forced me to look much closer at “Free Will” theology and take a closer look at classical Baptist Doctrine which would be called Calvanism or Reformed Theology. Through this journey that was done prayerfully I discovered that Free Will Theology has many holes in its basic framework. As I dove into Reformed Theology I found a framework that matched up more closely with the biblical text than any other doctrinal stance that is in our culture today.

Since going through this shift and becoming a part of a denomination as a Pastor I have found a greater assurance of what I believe and a contentment that cannot be found in Free Will Theology. When anyone who is a Christian begins to understand what it means to be “saved by grace through faith” without any works playing a part of our salvation they should find a comfort and a joy that can only come from being as Christ-centered as one can be in this lifetime.

So much of the time people in the Church do not understand where their church stands when it comes to the area of Doctrine. What a church believes will affect everything they do and how they approach each other and God. Without a good understanding of who God is and how He works with those who are His you can easily find yourself frustrated with the Christian life. knowing good Christian Doctrine can be a liberating experience and give you a greater sense of peace. If you have no idea where your church stands then find out and see if it matches up with what the New Testament teaches. I believe with everything in me that Reformed Theology is proper Christian Doctrine. Whether you agree with that statement or not you need to have some type of doctrinal foundation that directs your relationship with God.

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Phone Call From Steve Farrar

Last night as I was starting to watch one of my favorite shows on TV the phone rang with a guy who said he was Steve Farrar. The name sounded familiar and he asked if I knew who he was. When he told me that he was a Christian author I looked him up at Christian Books online to realize that I had read one of his books and knew who this guy was. In my mind I began to think “why in the world is this guy calling me on a Friday night and how does he know who I am?” He began to explain to me that he heard I was going through some tough times with my recent departure from vocational ministry and wanted to know if he could talk to me about it. He informed me that a mutual friend had sent him an email telling him of my recent hardship and then went on to tell me how he went through something similar some 18 years ago.

We probably spent 45-50 minutes on the phone together and Steve ministered to me for the entire time. It was something that God knew that I desperately needed. It was God’s providential hand letting me know that He was with me and as the New Testament states that “He is faithful.” During the past month I have gone through many different emotions and now I was talking with someone who finally understood everyone of them. Here I was talking to a guy I have never meant and who is well known in the Christian realm and yet he ministered too me in greater ways than anyone up to this point. Before this phone call I had been wandering about God’s movement and care in this situation. It was God’s perfect timing and comfort that I had been so desperately seeking only the day before. It was a aha moment! It was a reminder that God’s hand is not removed from my situation, it is directing it for His purposes and His glory.

So many times as Christians we forget the Sovereignty of God. It means that God is in control of all things at all times. We forget that what looks bad from our perspective is just the way God wants it to be for His own purposes. Throughout my frustration with leaving ministry for a season I have been meditating on Joseph and the time that he spent in prison and alienated from his family for many years and seasons. For some reason I have been reminding myself of Joseph and his hardships to help me through when I feel confused. At the end of our conversation Steve Farrar informed me that he is releasing a new book about Joseph which is the picture for this post and asked me if he could send me a copy. I believe God wants me to remember Joseph and this conversation just backed it up. God speaks to us the clearest when we are at our lowest. He cares and He is faithful! Praise the Lord for his gracious hand.

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Existential Conversation

Yesterday after a business meeting I spent time with an old friend who is approaching 60. He informed me that his time could be short on this earth due to medical problems. This was hard to hear because I love my friend and he has always been around when I needed him to be. As our conversation progressed to a more philosophical nature he began to tell me about a relative and what their take was on the after life. It seems the family member of my friend had some strange views about what hell would be like that are in no way theologically grounded. As a professed Existentialist my friend was not troubled by what the outcome of death would be which troubled me for the rest of the day and into this morning. One of the most troubling issues in the Church today is the existence of views in any local congregation that look like a buffet rather than a clear and concise understanding of biblical truths. Existentialism is once again on the rise with the help of a certain woman talk show host. New age has also been re-packaged and all of it mixes with biblical truth until for some it becomes a dangerous theology that people are now living by.

When false beliefs and teaching mix with theological truths the outcome is a Church that is living for itself on a shaky foundation. Instead of the Church doing and becoming what God has called it to be it becomes a bastard child of existentialism which at its core is about self worth and satisfaction. As Christians we have been called to carry our cross which usually means discomfort and hard work. Instead we hear people say things like “people need to know What’s In It For Me” which I heard one person say. That statement should scare anyone who is a Christian because it takes the focus off of bringing glory to God. Most of the frustrations in this life and the Church have to do with selfishness and self satisfaction. Our lives and our Church will only improve when we understand how it is suppose to work. We can only discover that by reading through our bibles systematically on a regular basis. If we do not we will have dysfunctional lives and dysfunctional churches.

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Pride!

Prayer can be dangerous! It can also be so frustrating! Everyone who is a Christian probably has had many up and downs with this aspect of their faith. If you are consistent enough you come to realize that over time you experience being more open with God. Learning to be comfortable can be great, but it can prove dangerous because the closer we get to God the more convicted we become over areas in our life. I have noticed that when I am being honest with God through prayer that the conviction to match my life with Christ is much deeper. This past month has been the most difficult because God seems to be using multiple circumstances to reveal to me things that I need to work on. My first response is alway to hide from the conviction. Then when God moves in an unexpected way to reveal it to me I know that it is my praying more openly that has lead me to where I am at. That is why prayer can be dangerous. It leads asks God to do something in us and through us not realizing that there is still a lot of work to be done.

The hardest part about all of this is prayerfully working through the conviction that has been laid upon you. When God reveals an area of our inner life that needs attention we don’t always like to give in. The hard part is agreeing with God and then trying to prayerfully work out this issue. The only thing that can hold us back is our pride. I have had experience with this when it comes to conviction, but I know that the best was is the one that brings glory to God. Humility is never easy to attain, but we are commanded to be humble many times throughout the New Testament. If there is one area that kills the church it is a building full of prideful people who are refusing to work through convictions that God has laid upon them. I trust that God will move through me in greater ways as I work through my issues with Him according to His plan. If I do not work through them then pride has the victory in my life. Humility is a tough thing to obtain for the Christ, but we are command to do so. I think working through our issues will prove a greater desire for God and the people who sing next to us every Sunday morning.

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As I look around at the state of the Church I wonder how serious we are about our relationship with Jesus. People in the Church tend to become more isolated than what the believers of the 1st Century were. They had a vibrant faith that conquered cities in the name of Jesus. They had less comfort and a greater devotion to what they had been called too. What will it take I wonder for the 21st Century church to have that same type of fire that the church initially started off with when it was formed? I don’t think that another church program is the answer or even going to a conference to get fired up for only a moment in time.

I think one of the missing elements that hinders spiritual growth is dedication. The early church was dedicated to the Great Commission no matter what their circumstances were. We need to take not of that collectively. When we decide that we are going to give our best to God despite what happens in our lives I believe that we will see God move in great ways among us. It sounds simple yet we have a problem with truly living it out all of the time. Revival is what serious Christians are longing for. Before revival can come we must saturate ourselves in prayer and God’s word regularly. How can we know what God wants from any body of believers who are not in constant communion with Him?

If we want to be serious about our faith we have to decide that we are going to live for God with intensity. It means that we are willing to come before Him and let Him direct how we live our lives and learn to submit to His authority. The bible says that humility comes before honor. Are there any humble Christians left who truly desire God’s Will for their lives? When humility is taken seriously we will see a turn around within the body of Christ. When it is not achieved we will only keep spinning our wheels and professing that we love Jesus.

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Personal Conviction

As a Christian we should always have the desire to grow. I think that many have that desire in the Church, but hold back when God convicts them of certain issues. By holding back from God we in turn hold Him back from pouring out more blessings into our lives. Conviction sometimes comes in moments when we least expect it to. It comes from the Spirit of God into our lives when we have been giving ourselves over to God in greater ways. God is trying to get our attention through conviction, but are we listening to Him? Our relationship with God is meant to be a continuous growing process, but for some it can become a stagnant routine that they simply go through each week in worship. Growing is never easy, but in the Christian life it is worth the effort that we have to exert to move forward spiritually.

Sometime last week I was having my quiet time with the Word and in Prayer and as I was praying there came to my mind a certain television show that I have been watching. All the way through my time in prayer that day I kept seeing images of that particular show. The rest of the day I had a heavy burden on my heart and talked it over with my wife about this conviction. I told her that I believed that God was telling me to lay down that certain program. So when the program was on a few days later I made a decision never to watch it again. What I discovered the following week was a greater sense of God’s presence in my life and a greater amount of peace. I want to be a Christian who is filled up with the Spirit of God as much as possible. To be that person I must give into the convictions that the Holy Spirit places on my heart. It is the age old art of dying to myself. This is never easy, but it is definitely worth the reward of going deeper with God each passing day.
” The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, NIV)

What we put into our beings is what will always come out!

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With Fear and Trembling

Have we mass marketed the Bible? Have we packaged certain verses in such a way that we now believe we have such a total grasp on them they no longer have the power they were intended to have? I think that we have! What I mean by “marketing the bible” is that we have thrown around certain verses in the church with such frequency that they have lost their potency to some extent. Philippians 2:12 says “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (NIV).” That verse has been tossed around a lot in the past to such an extent we have let it lose its power in each of our lives.

While Jesus has redeemed those who are His there remains an expectation that each of us individually will strive for an excellent Christian life. That one verse calls out to us to roll up our sleeves for a lifestyle that can be demanding at times. This verse is one that all of us need to meditate on and ponder more frequently. When taken seriously it forces me to look within to see where my inner life needs attention and beckons me to do something about it.  We need to make sure in each of our lives that we are not taking the word and tossing it around like another cute slogan that eventually loses its power. “With fear and trembling” can be powerful words if we truly absorb them and let the Spirit of God search our hearts and minds to see what we are lacking in our journey with God. I want to be a person who is always working it out. What do you want?

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