Content or discontent, which tent are you in?

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Content or discontent, which tent are you in? It’s a hard question to ask yourself. Several years ago my wife and I were talking about something and our daughter looked at me and asked “dad, which tent are you in content or discontent?”. This stopped us both in our tracks. Now, she didn’t come up with that question on her own. I think she was listening to Damon Thompson and heard him say this, I’m not sure. We can’t remember anything other than this question.

Discontent is seemingly the American way. Companies spend billions of dollars in marketing campaigns to keep us wanting the next greatest thing. The more they advertise the more we want it. The better they make it seem the more we think we deserve it. The desire to want everything new is driven by greed, jealousy and pride. All three lead to being discontent with what you currently have.

Being discontent leads to depression when you can’t afford to get what someone else has. The more advertising we see the more we want and the more we spend the less we can afford. I’ve heard people lament on how depressing it is that they can’t have what someone else does. I’ve heard others say they will not stop until they have earned enough to get whatever it is they think they deserve.

People become discontent with their families when they focus on what their coworkers family looks like or the families portrayed in magazines, T.V. and movies. They become discontent with their spouse after watching porn. They see what they don’t have and compare it to the reality of what they do have. They often don’t stop to consider that what they are seeing in media is not reality.

Men have said if their wife only looked like this they would be happy. If their kids only made these grades, had these stats in sports, had this kind of job, was built like so and so they would be happy. Wives have said the same thing. Both have said if only they did this I would be happy or if we lived here and drove this we would be happy.

The truth of the matter is none of these things will make you happy. No change in your situation to reflect your current desires will make you happy. You are not happy because you are not happy with yourself and you have not learned to be content. Until you learn to be content everything you get will eventually seem old and inadequate in favor of something new. The moment of satisfaction is fleeting.

Scripture tells us to in Philippians 4:11 ” not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned that whatever state I am, to be content.”

1 Timothy 6:6-9 states ” Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.” 

Hebrews 13:5-6 states ” Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.What can mere people do to me?”

Where do we find this kind of contentment? It’s only found through a close relationship with Christ. When you are more concerned with doing His will then your desires you lose sight of all the foolish things that distract us creating useless wants and desires. When you are content with what the Lord has given you, you become a threat to the enemy. He wants you discontent chasing useless things and accumulating staggering debt that prevents you from having true freedom. There is an old proverb that says the borrower is a slave to the lender. If you don’t borrow you can’t be a slave to Visa, Master Card, Discover, Amazon, GMAC, etc…

Discontentment is from the devil. It makes you complain about what the Lord has given you, not appreciating it. It causes division and discord in churches, work places and families. To get the devil to leave you, you must draw near to the Lord for him to leave you as taught in James 4:7. The devil won’t flee, won’t leave you alone if you just say no. It only works if you draw near to God. Drawing near to Him and being thankful for what you have, what he gave you is where you will draw contentment and happiness.

I ask you again, which tent are you in? Content or discontent?

Andy

Communicating & serving in marriage

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A few days ago I posted a picture of a book written for wives on how to communicate in a way that your husband will understand. The ensuing comments were interesting to say the least. The comments quickly veered into serving the other spouse. The comments on that showed a fundamental misunderstanding of serving one another in marriage, in particular a biblical – Christ centered marriage.

To explain this I’m going to go with two premises that could be taken as one. The first is that marriage was created by God and is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church ( Ephesians 5:22-32 ). In this relationship one serves the other, not in the manner of slaves like in Roots, but in free men and women who are serving each other in a manner of worship. This worship is to bring honor and glory to Jesus the Christ. This is where the misunderstanding of service lies. We say it’s a great and honorable thing to serve the nation. We applaud and honor those who service the community. We lift up those who are faithful and serve the church, yet we allow our pride to get the better of us and say we will not serve our spouse.

The second premise is marriage is not about our happiness or contentment, it’s to bring glory to God and reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. Nowhere does it say that following Jesus is to bring us happiness, but that we are to bring glory to God and carry out His will.

The Bible does say to find contentment in all things ( some translations say to learn to be content in all things ). It does not say the other party has to do “x” for us to do “y”. We are to learn to be content in the marriage we are in and serve our spouse in a manner that brings glory to God before man. This means we will do things that may seem to be ignored or not appreciated. It means we will have to do things we don’t want to or don’t like. It means we will have to behave in a manner that is counter cultural. If we do not learn to be content we will always be chasing something new, eager to throw away the old and never learning how to value, cherish and maintain what we have.

Taking the hard-line that we will not serve our spouse is showing a fundamental lack of communication with God and therefore a lack of understanding His word. This has led to the bastardization of the passage in Ephesians mentioned above. Poor teaching has caused many women to view submission and serving as being the same as slavery. This has caused communication issues in marriage. If a wife can’t respect her husband, the husband will find it hard to love the wife. If the husband does not love the wife, the wife will not respect the husband. It’s interesting that serving each other is interwoven in this love and respect formula.

To say I will not serve my husband is to say I do not respect the position he holds that God put him in. For a husband to say he will not serve his wife is to say he does not love her. Both are saying they will willfully disobey God’s word. If we are not willing to serve each other, how are we going to communicate effectively? There are numerous areas where tone of voice and body language set the course of the coming discussion.

Gary Chapman wrote a book “The 5 Love Languages”. In it he discusses the five ways we feel loved. In order to find the way that speaks love to you, that makes you feel loved, by your spouse requires you two to communicate. To “speak” the others “love language” it requires you to submit yourself to the other and serve them. To not do this is selfish, immature and disregard for His word.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote a book titled “Love and Respect”. He published a video series title “His needs, Her needs”. Both of these explain how the husband and wife have different needs and hear the same thing differently. An example is the wife wants the husband to take out the trash. He thinks it’s no big deal and doesn’t so she does it, or nags him by asking a hundred times and throwing in some complaining for good measure. What he hears is every female in his life that nagged, scolded or tried to control him screeching in his ear. I know, you will say you are not doing that, but that is what he hears. If taking out the trash is so important to you explain why while not scolding him. Communicate the “why”.

The same goes when the husband is home from work and he wants to kick back for a few minutes, but the wife has the overwhelming need to dump the remaining days needs on him or start telling him about her day. His brain doesn’t work like that. One comment made was ” How many men come home from work and go deaf when they walk in the door? ” It’s not that they go deaf per say, they compartmentalized it so they can mentally transition from work to home. When they don’t have time to do that they typically shut down in response.

Those of you married to someone who is gone from home for weeks, months and sometimes a year or more should keep in mind that the routine day-to-day things of running the home does not cross their mind. They don’t have to deal with that at work, someone else is tasked with taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. Most of the routine tasks just don’t register with them. When you do ask they may not see the importance or the harm in letting it wait. Here comes the importance of communicating in an effective manner. Explaining the importance of this being done to you instead of asking 50 times should be more effective. If not, pray more and talk about it less. That is the only way to bring honor to God.

The key to marriage is effective communication and serving one another in the manner that speaks to them, not you. Just because it’s something you like does not mean they will appreciate it.

Andy

Which man do you follow?

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Man has always followed another man, or woman, since the beginning of time. The reasons vary, but the tendency to follow man in a quest to get close to God has remained to this day. In this quest the man being followed, if giving in to human nature, becomes power-hungry and authoritarian. He, or she, starts adding rules and requirements to keep power and the image that they are needed. In other instances the man is truly trying to follow God, but the people are not. For the sake of simplicity “church” and “denomination” are interchangeable, but I will mainly use “church”

In a vast majority of denominational and church splits the people follow a person, not Jesus. A person has swayed a number to his / her way of thinking and they eventually leave to start another organization. In this split they leave anger, betrayal, sadness, distrust and other baggage in their wake. It’s left with those who refused to leave and taken with those who left. This also leaves a bad taste in the mouth of those that were not even involved, but watched the turmoil and back biting.

What’s seen to a similar degree is a person, or group, leaves one church to start another. Maybe they “felt” called to help or serve in another ministry. Regardless, they were “sent out” with blessings from the old church and people who are disenfranchised where they are will follow the ones leaving in hopes that new will be better.

Then there are the revival followers. Those who travel from one revival to another in search of “IT”. That elusive feeling that comes when the Holy Spirit moves through the revival. These people never get “IT”, they just keep chasing it. They never get “IT” and keep it, feed it, cultivate it, or use it. They never take “IT” back with them and bring the revival to their home church, town and workplace. These are some of the most unstable “followers” for every revival they are off and trying to fit what’s being done there into their local church that has a different mandate, or mission if you will. In time they just fizzle out and blame it on the pastor or worship and jet off to the next revival. They never matured enough to get off milk and onto steak. They actually wind up sowing discord that acts like yeast in a bowl of dough – or a malignant tumor that is not treated. It grows and spreads throughout the congregation, sowing discord and frustration with many others. All the while undermining what is being done there.

When it comes to following “man” scripture is very clear on this. You are not to follow anyone but Jesus. Jesus gave the command in Mathew 8:22 when He said “follow me, let the dead bury the dead”. In Mathew 16:24 Jesus said “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your own cross, and follow me”. In John 21:19 & 22 Jesus said “follow me”. In 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 it says ” For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying “I am a follower of Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I only follow Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!

People who follow others instead of following Jesus are doing a great injustice to the church other believers and non-believers. We take it so far as to prominently display the pastors name in bold letters on the sign, the marquee, the website with his picture in the newspaper and anywhere else we think it needs to be. We are showing everyone that the individual is elevated above Christ. When the outsider looks in and sees people talking about bishop so and so, evangelist so and so, reverend what ever with barely a mention of following Christ, the natural assumption is that you are following the wrong man so why should I follow him too?

The problem with church splits is that they are often not over legitimate issues. Sometimes they are and you need to leave the church. Of all the splits I’m aware of, only a couple were legitimate. The others were due to pride. Pride in that you didn’t get your way with the music. Your pride was bruised when they took out the pews and put in chairs. Your ego was bruised when you were chosen or recognized for something. Your pride will not allow you to stand and worship when something other than a hymn is sung when you clearly told the pastor you didn’t like the new stuff. New carpet was laid in the sanctuary and it wasn’t the color you thought appropriate. Pride in that you just don’t like the way the new youth pastor or associate looks. Stop and look at the stunning amount of discord between those who are supposed to be “one” and the equally stunning lack of maturity that is on display to non-believers!

In 1 Corinthians 1:10 it says “I appeal to you brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather be of one mind, united in thought and purpose”. Furthermore in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 it says “When one of you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even the little things among yourselves? Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life. If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I’m saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another – right in front of unbelievers! Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers”.

The case here is laid out very clearly that you are to follow one man and that is Jesus the Christ. No other is to be followed. No revival hopping, no following the most recent sent out person because the grass is greener. These acrions show a spiritually and emotionally immature person. The reasons to leave a church are very few. One is God told you to go somewhere else. That’s not a “feeling”, that’s a directive. If you say you “feel” you are moving on emotions and those are rarely right, often proven to be foolish and erroneous. The second is the current church is no longer preaching the word of God, the cross, the blood, repentance and salvation. They are preaching things contradictory to scripture or not preaching / teaching the Bible at all. They are condoning things in the body that are directly in violation of the Bible. When this is happening it is time to go. It’s not time to take 20 others with you and cause a split. It’s not time to tell all your coworkers and friends about how bad the church is.

As followers of Jesus we gave up our rights as individuals and gave those to the Lord as a soldier gives up his rights to serve the country, thus elevating the cause and organization above himself. We assumed the role of ambassador and child purposed with representing His kingdom and His will, not our own. Our own likes and dislikes take a backseat to His will. This is why it is so dangerous to simply say you are saved by “accepting Jesus into your heart”. See my blog on misrepresenting Christianity for more on that. As in marriage, our relationship with the church is not what can I get out of it, but what can I give to it. Not what can I do to get my way, but what can I do to help ensure it grows healthy, in unity and strength. To do this you must first ask yourself this, who am I following? Which man am I following?

Andy

 

Tearing down the walls

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Walls have been in the news since the last election cycle. In fact, walls have been a part of civilization for thousands of years. Jerusalem had walls, China has a wall, Israel built another wall, castles have walls, we have portions of a wall, the Vatican has a wall, numerous other cities and nations have built walls. Not all walls were designed to keep others out. The intent of same walls is to keep some in as the Berlin Wall was designed to do ( as pictured above ).

Archaeologist have found evidence of walls in many locations as well as historical accounts of walls. One of the most famous walls in the Christian faith is the wall around the city of Jericho. That wall was so thick that people lived in it and they raced chariots on top of it. By all human reasoning there was no way for an invading army to get past this wall.

God instructed the Israelites to march around the city once a day for six days with a precise order of march. On the seventh day they were ordered to march around the city seven times. One of the instructions was to not say a word until the loud blast of the horn then they were to shout. At that point the walls collapsed and the Israelites charged into town. Some versions say charged straight into town. Others say they simply went into. It doesn’t say they climbed over ruble, it doesn’t say they had to clear the ruins of the wall out-of-the-way. It says they went into the city.

Archaeologists have found what they are certain is the city of Jericho. What is interesting is a portion of the wall is much deeper than it should be for the time period. It is as if the hand of God came down and pushed that portion of the wall straight into the ground like He held the Jordan River back for them to cross. This is the only way for there to be no ruble to impede the army, but there still be a wall centuries later to be unearthed.

A few things about this victory of a seemingly impenetrable wall and the walls in our life that seem to be a perpetual hinderance.

God gave the Israelites specific instructions on how to prepare for the march and how to conduct theirselves while on the march.

God, through Joshua ( the account can be found in the book of Joshua ) told them to not say a word during the march until a specific time, then and only then could they say anything and the only thing was to shout.

Obedience was key to victory over overwhelming odds. Without complete obedience to the commands of God they would not have won.

The command to not speak is the most interesting. This speaks to human behavior. You take an army of experienced fighters and tell them to do something that seems stupid and you get a lot of grumbling and complaining. This is the language of hell, just as praise is the language of heaven. If they would have sown discord among themselves talking about how stupid it was to just walk around the city with a few people blowing horns they would have complained their way right out of faith and victory. The best thing to do was to not say anything.

The shout of victory before the wall actually fell was a shout of faith. The faith that said we will be victorious because God said we would. The wall did not fall until they shouted. The shout of faith activated God to move on their behalf and remove the obstacle of the wall from their path.

Compare their actions with yours in dealing with the walls in your life. The wall can be anything that is keeping you from what God has promised. In our filthy humanity we fall back to complaining about how difficult the circumstance is. We cry about the unfairness of the situation. We murmur and complain about the directions the Lord gives us because they don’t make sense to us. All the time we are sitting there staring at this unmovable wall that is keeping us from our promise. It wasn’t the wall that kept the Israelites from their promise. Their obedience to God and their praise is what defeated the wall.

We need to keep circling our walls in a posture of praise until God tells us to shout and GO! We don’t know what lap we are on, He doesn’t always tell us that. We just have to keep walking around it, not complaining or murmuring, but praising the one who gave us the promise. When His timing is right the victory will be His, not yours. Then you will walk into your promise.

For some of you the wall is medical. For others the wall is all in your head. Others yet face a wall that is job related. Others still have a wall that is a child that has gone off the rails while others it may be a wayward spouse. Maybe your wall is debt or no job. You know what you are facing. Do like Israel and keep marching around it praising the God who gave you a promise and don’t stop until he removes the wall.

Andy

The role of Christians and the church.

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When you read the title you might be thinking, aren’t Christians the church? Yes they are, but not all people in the church are Christians. Many think they are, but have been led wrong by bad teaching.

A young man from a church in Pennsylvania comes to mind when this topic comes around. We were visiting family there and sat in on a Sunday school class my aunt & uncle were teaching. I had met him earlier through his mother who is a retired Marine ( Marines always seem to find each other ). In this class the question came up of why do you come to church. His response was ” so I don’t go to hell “. His church experience led him to believe that coming to church made him a Christian and saved him from hell. He was in his early twenties and that was the last time we ever saw him. I hope there was follow up on the truth I shared that coming to church would not keep you out of hell, only following Jesus as your Lord and saviour and telling others will keep you out of hell. Telling others is confessing Him before men. Jesus said of you don’t confess me ( deny Him ) before men I’ll tell the Father I never knew you ( Luke 12:8-9 ).

There are others in the church that have been led to believe that simply asking Jesus into their hearts made them a Christian. At that point they could continue on with life uninterrupted and all is good. The shocking thing is the command to ask Jesus into your heart is nowhere in the Bible. I wrote a blog about misrepresenting Christianity that goes into this. It reminds me of A.W. Tozer saying ” If your Christian conversion did not reverse the direction of your life, if it did not transform it then you are not converted at all. You are simply a victim of the ” Accept Jesus ” heresy! “.

Now that that’s out-of-the-way let us get to the role the church is to play, the command we have been given. Make no mistake about it, we have been commanded by Jesus to do certain things, yet we are insistent on making excuses as to why we can’t or why this person or that is not qualified to do it.

The command is simple ” Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ” which is found in Mathew 28:19. The other is actually two in one, ” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself “. This can be found in Mathew 22:37-39.

To sum these up simply we are to spread the gospel all over the world, love God more than anything else therefor putting Him first and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. You don’t neglect yourself so you should not neglect your neighbor. You will go through great lengths to protect your life as you should your neighbor.

What the Bible does not say is to be the Holy Spirit for your neighbor or all the world. It does not say bring conviction on them for things in their life that you feel is not God honoring. It doesn’t say to try to change them or dictate their behavior. It tells us simply to love them and share the good news with them then baptize them.

If we teach the true spiritual truths to them, if we teach the Bible with accuracy, the Holy Spirit will bring life changing conviction on them. If we live our lives with holiness and live what we claim to believe that will bring validity to scripture and open the door for the Holy Spirit to work.

When we run around and try to correct them on habits, lifestyles, language, outlook on life, the way they dress, what they watch, the people they hang out with, the way they act at work, etc… we are making Christianity look like a kill joy that wants to just say no to everything and control you. If you don’t have an established relationship with them they will not be very receptive to your words. If you persist they will eventually stop coming to church and turn their back on Christianity. If the approach to salvation is ” accept Jesus ” they can walk away from church and scripture thinking they are good.

I can’t begin to tell you of the number of people I have met that will NOT go to church, yet say they are good with their maker. When I get to know them well enough to ask what they mean by good, are you saved? The response is, yea.. I asked Jesus in my heart. When I ask why they are not involved in their church they say they are judgemental hypocrites. Invariably the thinking that they are judgemental hypocrites came from people in the church trying to tell them how to live now that they were “saved” even when those lecturing were not living how they were lecturing. This violates the first rule of leadership, do NOT expect others to do what your are not willing to do.

We had a neighbor named Bobby. I’ll use his first name now that he has passed on and we have no earthly  idea where his daughter is. When we first met Bobby it became apparent that he was addicted to alcohol and marijuana. He was a friendly, helpful, entertaining and honest neighbor despite his addictions and physical disabilities. He always looked out for the kids when they were outside. He always had a smile for us and would walk over to just visit. In turn my wife and daughter were always feeding him because they felt sorry for him. He was a skinny dude and would disappear at times for days and we would later find out he had been in the hospital for one reason or another. We frequently asked him to come to church with us and if he knew Jesus. He always said he didn’t want to go to church and he knew his maker and made peace with Him. One of the days when he was particularly drunk & stoned he admitted that he stopped going to church because the people always looked down on him and judged him. He went on to say that the people who said they cared for him at church never came to check on him or his daughter when she was in a bad car accident that put her in a coma and permanent disability. We asked him to let us know when he was in the hospital, but he never would because he knew the kids would want to come to see him. While we were in Texas he died and we don’t have a clue as to where his soul is going to spend eternity.

How many others are out there that the “church” has run off because they mistake their role to be that of the Holy Spirit and not the messenger of the good news? How do you interact with those who are not “churched” or different? Are you sharing the importance of making Jesus Lord & savior or just accepting Him and asking Him in your heart?

Andy

Who Is The Christian Soldier?

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The Christian Soldier is not just men like Alvin York ( Sgt. York ) who served in the military while being a Christian ( If you don’t know who he is it is well worth the time to read up on him. He was an extraordinary man.) It is all of us who profess to be a follower of Jesus. There are comparisons and references in scripture to this fact, but we do not act like it. The question is why don’t we? Why is it that so many “followers” do their own thing with no unity, direction or discipline? I have two reasons for this.

The first reason is so few in the western world, especially North America, have served in the military. The percentage of the population that carries the “veteran” designation is very small so our frame of reference as to what being a soldier looks like is limited to movies, T.V and books. As a Marine I’ll tell you this does more harm to what a “soldier” looks like then it helps.

When Paul told Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:4 to not get entangled in civilian affairs so he might please him who enlisted him as a soldier, it was clear to Timothy living in a militarised society with soldiers and garrisons all around what that was like. They saw how soldiers lived and trained, how they fought and carried out their everyday duties. In our society when that is said we don’t have a real frame of reference for this.

In the military a soldier trains for war. They train not just to fight but to eat and sleep at the ready. They learn how to move as one in a unit. They learn their role and the team learns to trust that the one next to them is doing their job so they can focus on theirs. They learn to study, reference and read about all manner of topics that will make them a better soldier. They learn the exercises that will strengthen the body and the foods that will nourish it. They learn how to take care of their feet and boots when on long marches. They learn how to use all their weapons the most efficiently. They learn how to use the technology and tools they have to support those on the front lines. They know that nobody may know about their job, but that job is critical to the mission succeeding,

When you watch a war movie you don’t see the sailor brushing rust off the battleship and paining over the bare spot. That’s not glamorous enough for Hollywood, but it’s necessary for the ship. You don’t see the hours a rifleman sites through the sights or scope at images painted on a barrel “dry firing” round after round to get the proper sight picture committed to muscle memory. You don’t see the hours of class time and off duty time committed to studying. You don’t see the mundane inspections for the inspection before the inspection. They don’t show the countless hours of cleaning what is already clean. You might see the rank structure and the proper utilization of the chain of command, but not likely. There are millions of things that soldiers do that are not seen, but are vital to good order, discipline and unit cohesion.

The more elite the unit, the less they care about rank and more about being the best at their job and mission success. The more “on the edge” the more they look after each other and their brothers best interest, even to the point of laying down their life to ensure the team makes it back. They know they have a task and that there are a million mundane things to do over days to get ready for a mission. They just get it done.

Translate this to the church. The behavior seen in the church is the mission of the church is not important. The other activities like ball games, workouts, cookouts, the beach and T.V shows are more important than the command to the church to go and make disciples. There is no sense of mission or unity. People want to do their thing regardless of the leaderships desires. They show little respect for the chain of command as it is. The pastor, it doesn’t matter if God anointed him and placed him here, we don’t like him so we will vote to fire him and bring in someone we like. The deacons ask you to do it this way, but you do it the way you want. The schedule requires things be done and ready to start at 10:00 and you don’t show up until 9:55. Things are done haphazard as the discipline to do with excellence is lacking. You gossip behind a leaders back and sow discord because you weren’t elevated to the position you want and think you deserve.

You don’t see those traits in the military from someone who wants promoted. When one gets promoted the others who are now below him in rank obey him because of the position, not the person. That comes later. If the platoon commander has 5 NCO’s on a detail he has to pick one to lead. The others follow and obey because the one chosen to lead carries the authority of the officer who placed him in that position. When a pastor is placed in a position by God, he carries out his duties in His name. When you disrespect, disobey, disregard, gossip about, undermine him you are bringing dishonor to the one who placed him in that position. Soldiers understand this.

The second reason why people behave like this in regards to the church is due to our nature. It’s not an accident that Jesus compared us to sheep. Sheep are stupid creatures that get lost easily, will wander off then run around bleating when they realize they are alone, they basically do what they want. Then you have the goats that are more stubborn and ornery. They will actually lead a lamb off and leave it lost. Sound like anybody you know in the church?

When Paul referred to us as soldiers he wanted to convey to us the importance of being of one mind, the mind of Christ. He wanted to convey that we are not to worry about what people who are not Christians are doing, but to focus on what our commander, God, wants us to do. He wanted to show the importance of being disciplined and devoted to the gospel and “recruiting” new followers of Jesus to the Kingdom.

One of the reasons the Marine Corps has less of a problem hitting recruiting goals than the other branches is the image it puts forth. One of the reasons everyone knows units like “Airborne”, “Seals”, “Green Berets”, “Recon” and such is because they are so disciplined, so well-trained that they have earned the recognition. On the flip side no one knows about the 3rd maintenance battalion or the 14th Infantry. They do their jobs, but are not the elite, therefor unknown to most.

When we look at churches and ministries that are well-known it’s for the same reason. They didn’t just get lucky, they worked hard, trained hard, prayed hard and made sacrifices. Those that haven’t done this are not known by anyone outside the local community and sometimes the local neighborhood.

We need a body of Christ that will stand up like a united body and behave like soldiers if we have any hope of curing our societal woes.

Andy

What is your legacy? What kind of inheritance are you leaving?

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In our city there is a historical park that has this cemetery in it. In here you will find the graves of people who passed on in the 1700’s, Civil War vets and the most recent we found was dated 1952. Of all the graves not one name stood out to us. Sure, a few family names that are common in our area, but not a single persons name stood out. We couldn’t place a name with an achievement. Many had inscriptions saying “not forgotten” or a variation of their survivors not forgetting them. But, how many of their descendants alive today are even aware of them? I know there are descendants in my family that I have no idea who they are, what they did or where they were buried. I have no idea if they left an inheritance or a legacy. Could they be the same thing?

Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” This is one of the few verses that speak directly to a person leaving something material to the next two generations. All the verses in the New Testament speaking of an inheritance speak of believers inheriting the Kingdom of God, except for the 4 verses that Jesus used an inheritance in a parable to teach a lesson. There is not a direct command from Jesus to leave an earthly, physical or material inheritance. There is not a similar command in the rest of the New Testament after the four gospels. That leaves me to conclude that, yes a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but this is not a command. This is a proverb and proverbs are not guarantees, but sayings of wisdom on how things are most likely to pan out. Think of the proverb that says raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it. There are too many instances to count where that has not been the case. The reasons why for many are for another blog. So leaving an inheritance is a good thing if you can and if the Lord tells you to. If you can’t and/or He doesn’t tell you to then don’t.

What’s interesting is when I search for “legacy” on BibleGateway I do not get any hits under the NKJV, ESV or the 1599 Geneva. The only hit I get is in Ecclesiastes 2:21 in the NASB. The reason being is “legacy” is a synonym for “inheritance”. This tells us that they are the exact same thing, but often used in different contexts. An example is when someone says “he left his farm as an inheritance to his grandchildren” vs. “he left a Godly legacy for his grandchildren”. Both are saying the same thing.

The real question is, which is more important, a Godly legacy for generations to be blessed or some land and money for the next two generations? Which will affect their eternity? There are four verses where God says He will visit the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generation ( Exodus 20, 34, Numbers 14 and Deuteronomy 5 ). This is called a curse and it is brought on by sinning against God and bringing Him dishonor. No amount of material inheritance will make this go away or easy to carry. The most hateful thing you can do is leave an ungodly legacy that brings about this kind of curse.

In Deuteronomy 7:9 God states that he will bless “to a thousand generations” those who honor Him. This is showcased in a study of two men, Jonathan Edwards and Max Jux. Jonathan Edwards left a Godly legacy and his family reaped blessings for generations to include: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries. In contrast 42 men in prison traced their family tree to Max Jux. More information on the numbers can be found at “Jukes-Edwards A Study in Education and Heredity” written by A.E. Winship in 1900.

The question for you is, what kind of legacy are you leaving your children and children’s children? Are you leaving a Godly inheritance or strictly an earthly inheritance? We tend to focus on the earthly as we can see it, touch it, use it, spend it and fight over it. A Godly inheritance can be seen for generations long after the possessions are broke, sold or traded and the money squandered. We often see families torn apart and lives ruined by the sudden access to material things that were once beyond their reach.

Don’t carry false guilt because you can’t leave a fortune for your descendants. None of the 12 disciples who were married were able to leave an earthly inheritance. Many Godly men in third world countries do not have the resources to leave an earthly inheritance. Many pastors and missionaries here in the developed industrialized world do not have the resources to leave an inheritance other than a Godly legacy. This does not make these men not good. What is important is that you leave a legacy that eternally impacts subsequent generations. It doesn’t matter if the 4th generation after you ever knows your name, but it does matter if they are reaping the benefits of your faithfulness.

Andy

Violence and the fatherless society

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Since the Parkland FL school shooting the national focus has shifted from the FBI & DOJ’s actions during the presidential election and after to renewed calls for gun control. The cry is summed up as ” if we pass more gun laws this won’t happen”. In all the discourse there are two themes that are overlooked, mental illness and a lack of a father’s presence. I’m going to address the issues surrounding the lack of a father in the home or in the home but not being involved.

The problem we are facing with our young men is what I will call the ” fatherless society “. For a couple of decades now we have been telling women they don’t need a man. They can do anything a man can do. We applaud them as courageous and strong when they leave their husband to strike out and forge their own future. We tell the women and the kids that they don’t really need dad around. He’s just a stupid, lazy, foolish goof that knows nothing and has to rely on the wife’s strengths just to survive. If you doubt this just pay attention to how the dad is portrayed and treated on modern T.V shows, commercials and movies. We go on to say that divorce doesn’t really effect the kids that much and it’s really doing them a favor by divorcing someone you don’t love. We then lament that the men aren’t sticking it out with their families and are deadbeats.

The biggest lie is that divorce is better for the kids. Every family that goes through a divorce leaves the children scarred and self-conscious, wondering if it was their fault. They feel abandoned and betrayed by one or both parents. The stress on the abandoned spouse and the children is almost identical to the stress measured at the death of a spouse. The psychological wounds run deep. The truth is divorce is the selfish, self-centered way out. It is an easy way out to avoid dealing with the hard truths about yourself and your contributions to the problems. It allows you to run away from the problems at the sacrifice of your children’s well-being.

Let’s look at just a few statistics.

  • Teens in single parent families and blended families are 300% more likely to need physiological help in any given week than teens from intact families.
  • About 40% of children who do not live with their biological father have not seen him in 12 months.
  • 85% of youth in prisons come from fatherless homes.
  • 70% of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes.
  • 90% of all homeless runaways are from fatherless homes.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of children who show a behavior disorder come from a fatherless home.
  • 46% of children are growing up without fathers.

These are just a few statistics gathered from numerous sources. A fatherless home is a home where the father was never in the picture, was and left or incarcerated, died or is in the home and not involved with his children. In my opinion the last is almost worse than the others as the father being there, but his his lack of involvement tells his children they are not good enough, not loved or wanted leaving deep wounds that they will struggle with their whole life.

It’s undeniable that fathers are critical to the well-being of our boys, male youth and young men. The mother can not fill both roles, it’s impossible. She can fill her role only and pray like the grandmother in War Room. She does not have the masculine mindset to impart the life lessons and discipline a young male needs. Her lacking in this area is not her fault. It’s the way she was made. The politically incorrect truth is we were designed by God with gender roles. When we fulfill these gender roles we mold all around healthier children who grow to be healthy and better adjusted adults.

Men have a unique role to play as father. God gave them the authority to give identity to everything they are in authority over. Yes, men are head of the house, the marriage & family as Christ is head of the church. Christ gives us identity and purpose, the man gives his spouse and children identity and purpose.

It says in Genesis 2:19-20 ” So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and the birds of the sky – He brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky and all the wild animals “. In so doing he forever gave them an identity. We read how the father named the male children. In giving them names he gave them an identity and that identity was their purpose.

In Mathew 16 Jesus told Simon Bar-jonah that his name was now Peter. That was significant and it was an identity that Peter would live up to. In Genesis 32 God told Jacob he would now be called Israel. He lived up to the name Jacob ( deceiver or trickster ) and after he received his new identity he lived up to the name Israel.

What our young men, youth and boys are missing is a father to give them that identity, discipline, love and guide with that firm masculine leadership that they desperately need. When a mother tries it comes across as nagging or screeching. This automatically turns the heart and stomach of a man, especially a young man. It leaves such a lasting distaste in their soul that when their wife reacts the same way they not only get angry, but shutdown and withdraw. It’s the masculine part of a man that rebels against this. It’s the part that drives them to restrain anger, refrain from violence until it’s needed to protect and defend, to provide and lead. Without the father their to help shape this aspect the male child doesn’t know what to do with this aggression. It frequently comes out in very inappropriate and harmful ways.

The only way to bring the national epidemic of violence under control is for men to assert their rightful place in the family. If you are not involved in your child’s life, get involved at all costs to prevent a cycle from repeating itself. If you live with them and are not involved, get involved. Your career or ministry can wait for you have no higher calling than to raise men. If you know a single mom or a grandma raising boys, help. There is no excuse why a single mom or grandma in our society, let alone our churches, should ever be left with trying to be both mother and father. Timothy was raised by his mother and grandmother and discipled by Paul. The women laid the foundation for truth and Paul helped shape that into a major church leader.

The longer we ignore the self-inflicted plight of the fatherless the more our society will pay.

Andy

The truth of the 3rd commandment.

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The Ten Commandments are pretty straightforward, yet we lose the importance of them in the English translation. The 3rd commandment uses the phrase ” in vain ” which is very easy to misinterpret as the original language is Hebrew. The Hebrew language has words and phrases that do not easily translate to English.

One thing we learned ministering at a predominately Hispanic church is that there is a difference between translating and interpreting. Translating is simply taking a word, phrase, sentence and changing it to another language. In English when you want to greet someone you might say Hi. Translate that to Spanish and you would say Hola. Both words mean exactly the same thing.

Other words and phrases require interpretation because there is not a word in the other language that means the same thing. One example was when I was preaching about Jesus and used the term scapegoat. Those fluent in English understood, but the five people who translated could not come up with the words in Spanish to translate scapegoat so we then had to interpret the phrase so there would be the proper understanding. This was a real eye opener for us and an issue I had failed to anticipate.

This is what has happened with the 3rd commandment. The English translators translated the Hebrew phrase to say  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…”. From this, in the English language, we get the notion that we should not use His name in any other form other than in prayer or praise. We have been taught forever that saying something like ” Oh my God ” or “God, did you see…!” or “God I’m worn out” that we took His name in vain. This is absolutely wrong and the religious among us just got all sorts of upset. 

If you look at the rest of Exodus 20:7 ( the 3rd commandment ) it goes on to say “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”. That’s a powerful statement and a damning statement. We learn in the New Testament that those who have accepted Jesus as Christ, Lord and savior are redeemed and will be held guiltless before the judgement seat. We are found guiltless, not from what we did, but because of who we follow and obey. That has us clothed in a cloak of righteousness and makes us co-heirs with Christ and a Royal Priesthood. We can not be these things and be found guilty. The only other commandment that holds a curse for disobedience is having false gods. Yet, that curse does not say you will not be held without guilt. If you ask a Jewish Rabbi he will say this means you will not be forgiven. That’s huge! 

Now, with that implication for violating the 3rd commandment it can not possibly mean if you say “Oh my God! would you look at that!” or any other variation of phrases that  He will not forgive you but will forgive and cleanse a murderer, an adulterer someone who forgets the Sabbath or violates any of the other 10 Commandments. This is nonsense and makes God look petty and foolish. Besides the translation being less than stellar it also makes no sense because God is not His name. It’s His title, the position if you will, that He holds. His name is Adonai Elohim as you will see in the Torah Hebrew. On a side, using the term God when talking to Him is terribly impersonal. It’s akin to talking to your wife and calling her wife instead of using her name.

Bear with me as I always struggle with getting the English spelling of Hebrew absolutely correct and the right words as one word. The proper translation is ” low Tisa at shame Adonai Elohim alisov ” which means ” do not carry God’s name in vain “. This a drastically different meaning then what the vast majority of Christians have been taught. To carry His name in vain is to bring it shame, to slander it, to malign Him. Those who murder in His name, those who enslave in His name, those who rape in His name, those whose torture in His name, those who steal in His name, those who molest children in His name are carrying His name in vain. They are the living examples of those who are violating the 3rd commandment.

Those who commit crimes against others in His name are making it easier for people to say that there is no god. They say God wouldn’t do those things. They are right, God ( Adonia ) wouldn’t do those things. A false god or a demonic entity would do those things in God’s name. What better way to turn people from the I AM than to perpetrate heinous crimes in His name?

When crimes against humanity are perpetrated by a secular ( Atheist ) government it actually causes the gospel to spread like wildfire. It is a catalyst for great faith as seen in the old Soviet bloc countries and currently in places like China ( where a Christian will go to prison for 3 years on average ), Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places hostile to the gospel where being convicted of being a Christian will get you killed, tortured or both.

Now some of you will still not want to use God’s name in vain in the traditional western sense, that’s fine. Just know that when you slip up and comes out of your mouth you aren’t going to hell for it. It’s a cultural sin, not a Biblical sin to say it. As Paul cautioned just because I have liberty in Christ, it doesn’t mean that all things are good for me and if it makes my brother stumble than I will refrain ( a loose paraphrase of several verses ).

This is why it is imperative to study scripture on your own. You must study it to know the truths contained in it for yourself. You can not rely on a human, regardless of the education, to tell it to you. It will be filtered through their life experiences, theological beliefs, doctrinal background and education. You may get something totally different from a passage of scripture. Just because many Jews are not followers of Jesus, it does not mean that we can not learn truths from the Old Testament, that was majority written in Hebrew, from them. After all, it is their language.

Andy

Prejudice in our churches.

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When we hear or read anything with the word prejudice we automatically think of color. It’s like we can’t think outside the Crayola box and recognize that prejudice comes in more forms than dislike due to color. In fact, our churches are swimming in prejudice and we explain it away as doctrine and religion. The church is condoning the very thing Jesus spoke against. We will close ranks against anyone who is different from us in looks, hygiene, dress, finances, color, etc. We then wonder why the church has fallen from the most influential organization in America to the bottom 50 organizations in only a couple of decades.

You say our church doesn’t do that! You might even say that they might but I don’t. Lets take an honest, no holds barred look at that. Take a look around your church. How diverse is it? I know, you are going to say we have a mix of blacks, we have a  mix of whites, we even have some Hispanics. You say this with pride like it’s an accomplishment. To some degree it is, but it’s still not an indicator of being truly non-prejudicial.

Two people walk in the door. One is wearing old, frayed and faded clothes. They drove up in an old car. They shuffle to the door looking down and mumble a hello in response to the greeters welcome. They might smell like cheap soap or maybe smoke. Their eyes might not be clear, maybe a little yellowish or mildly bloodshot. You greet them and hand them off to an usher who then seats them near the back where they will be out-of-the-way. Very few people stop to talk to them. In all honesty probably nobody does. They are a nobody and quickly forgotten.

The second person comes in wearing an expensive suit. He has a high dollar watch on his arm. You can’t help but notice he walks with pride and a sense of purpose and confidence. You see he’s wearing shoes that are obviously expensive and you watched him climb out of a brand new Mercedes. You great him warmly and enthusiastically. You personally hand him off to an usher who seats this man as cloose to the front as possible. You make sure to get his name right and make a point of introducing him to the pastor. All the while the poor guy you dumped off in the back is watching.

You have a congregation that religiously adheres to the practice of showing up to church in their ” Sunday best ” regardless of the weather. They make it known to friends that this is of utmost importance. One Sunday a couple walks in wearing nice blue jeans, clean cowboy boots and nice buttoned up shirts. They get the stink eye from everyone and a cold shoulder due to their clothes. At some point an elder, a deacon, maybe an usher or the self-appointed dress code moderator pulls them aside and corrects them on their dress.

I knew a gentleman who drove truck for a living. He worked hard so his daughter could go to a Christian School that was ran by the church. On her graduation he took the day off to attend it. It was held in the main sanctuary on a Saturday afternoon. This was the first time he had ever been as he and his daughters mother were divorced. He parked his trailer and drove the truck to the church and parked in the back. As he was walking to the front doors he was stopped by a deacon who informed him he was dressed inappropriately for church and could not disrespect the Lords house in that manner. This man was always dressed in Wrangler’s, Justin boots and button up shirts, always. He missed his daughters graduation and never stepped foot in a church again. He made his daughter promise that when he died that the funeral would not be held in a church and no ” so-called pastor ” would preside over his funeral. She upheld his wish and last I knew she never stepped foot in a church after her graduation day.

You have a nice, polished, well to do crowd. The church building and grounds are a source of pride. It’s often boasted that you attend the nicest church in the area. One Sunday a person high on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol wonders in. The congregants are very perturbed that this person would have the audacity to show up in such a state! Doesn’t this person know this is the house of the Lord? You push them off to the side trying to hide them to make the least amount of people upset. You may even ask them to leave until they are sober and more fitting to come to the ” Lords house “.

Every time I hear a story like this it is almost always followed by ” I’ve never been to church since ” or ” I’ll never go back to church ” or some similar refrain. We have witnessed this behavior at every church, but two, that we visited or attended. We’ve even had conversations with people in ” leadership ” who boast about only wanting certain people in ” their ” church. Is it any wonder that the church has been painted as bigoted, intolerant and hateful!

All these examples take place every Sunday all in the name of religion. This is never done in the name of Jesus. Jesus would never treat anyone this way. As a matter of fact Jesus commanded us to minister and treat the poor with utmost care and love. He commanded us to love the lost like He would. He never once said anything about how an individual should dress. He just wanted them to come to Him so much that He went to them. He didn’t care.

When you shun the prostitute that wonders in after a night at work. The woman who is empty inside and looking for an answer, any answer. You are shunning Rahab the prostitute who is in Mary’s, the mother of Jesus, lineage. When you shun the known adulterer who isn’t ” churched ” you are shunning David who is in Jesus’s lineage through Mary.  When you ostracize a person due to their nationality you are saying Ruth, who married Boaz and is in Jesus’ lineage through His mother Mary, was not worth hearing the good news as she was not a Jew, but was accepted.

Think of the people who would have died with no hope if Nicky Cruz was ignored by David Wilkerson because he was a gang banger and didn’t need to step foot in church. Nicky Cruz went on to found an outreach that has reached thousands. If Chuck Colson had been ignored as unworthy because he was a felon think of the millions of inmates who would never have the chance to hear the gospel through his prison ministry. How about the millions who would have never heard the gospel from Billy Graham if some church found him unworthy to teach because he was a poor dairy farmer? The list of examples goes on and on.

This brings to mind the song Which Jesus Do You Follow by Todd Agnew. The lyrics are poignant in light of the behavior of our churches. They are as follows:

“My Jesus”
Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Why do you look so much like the world?

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land?
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand?

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

And who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side
Or fall down and worship at His holy feet? Holy, yeah

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part?
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

‘Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
And I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus, yeah
I wanna be like my Jesus, oh, oh, oh

Not a poster child for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I wanna be like my Jesus, but I’m not sure what that means
To be like You Jesus

‘Cause You said to live like You, to love like You
But then You died for me
Can I be like You, Jesus?
I wanna be like You, Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus

The best thing we can do is to put away our ignorant and selfish desires to only be around people like us and go out to those who are not like us. Stretch yourself, live a little, see what life is like and let the poor, downtrodden, addicted, angry, drug dealers, stripper & prostitutes, homosexuals, adulterers, convicts & inmates humble you with their stories. You will never be the same.

Andy