“What can I do about guilt over not having done what I should have done?

Without knowing the specific reason(s) you feel guilty, is it possible that you are placing guilt on yourself that you really don’t deserve? Perhaps you were in an emotional place in your life that made it very difficult or almost impossible to be able to do what you think now you should have done. We expect ourselves to be forgiving and compassionate toward others and it is also important to extend that compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves. We don’t want to overlook the fact that we have wronged others but neither do we want to keep berating ourselves so that we lose our sense of the forgiveness that God has offered us, through Christ. He tells us that he forgives us (Co. 2:13) and should we then hold higher standards of forgiveness that even the infinitely holy God does? Worse case: Let’s say that you should have done what you think now you should have and you refused, for whatever reason. That is not the worse sin ever committed but is it not perhaps compounded by continuing to perpetuate punishment on yourself when God has said that he is willing to and, no doubt, has already forgiven you? What if you would accept his forgiveness as genuine and then follow his example by refusing to punish yourself by reminding yourself of what an awful thing it was to not have done what you should? Instead, tell yourself that if God has washed you clean through the blood of Christ, let that be good enough for you and then rejoice over forgiveness. Since Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” he wants your guilt to continue to drag you down and cause you continuing remorse. God desires that you rejoice over forgiveness.
What do you think?

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Suicide: What to say?

To the question of why God allowed the suicide; we ought not to speak where God has not spoken.   Even though we are promised that “God works all things after the council of his will” none of us knows the specifics of that will. How could we hope to bring comfort to someone by offering what we know is only our speculation? So an honest “I don’t know” can assure them that they are talking to someone who can be trusted. Even though we don’t know the specifics of His will, we do know he is more than an observer in our lives. There is no action we take that can exempt us from the declaration that God uses “all things” to bring about his will. Even when we can’t understand it, His will is the expression of his infinite wisdom and love. To believe this brings comfort.

Why Church?

I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes, when I’m really honest with myself and with a few people I can really trust, I sometimes wonder if I would ever go to church on a regular basis – if I were not a pastor. After all, there are so many things to dislike about church not the least of which is sheer boredom. If the sermon is not a bore (to everyone but the preacher), the never-ending announcements about stuff that only 3 people are interested in is enough to create a mental escape to this afternoon’s football game. So guess what has perplexed me for some time now? While on vacation, I find myself wanting to go to church! What is wrong with me? I work in the church. I have been a minister for over 30 years in the same church. Why wouldn’t I want a vacation to include a vacation from church? After all, I know what goes on behind the scenes at churches. I know the competition that often precedes the allotment of time given to the various aspects of the service. I know that behind the beautiful music would likely be some battles over “style” and behind the welcoming faces at the door would likely be a battle over getting someone (anyone!) to help present a welcoming face to the newcomers and behind the sermon would likely be the battle over how to present truth to people with competing theological backgrounds and preferences. There are all these things, and more, to dislike about church. Why not a break? I certainly did not need to get any “new ideas” or tips on the latest revolutionary trends that were bringing new life to some new church – been there, done that. So why not take a break from it all? After knowing all the dirty laundry about church and churches, why did I really want to go, even while on vacation?

Why all this talk about discipleship and what is it anyway?

DiscipleWithout a sense of mission, an organization or person loses focus.  An organization that recognizes the need for direction must decide why it exists before it can decide where it is going. The church goes to the scripture to find its direction and purpose.  There we find our Lord telling us why we exist.  It is to carry on his work of making disciples.  Introducing him to the world and helping those who respond to follow him (Mt. 28:18-20).

The thing that makes a person a disciple of Christ is the embracing of Christ for all that he claimed he was and is – God Himself and the only sufficient sacrifice that makes a person acceptable to God in an everlasting relationship of love.  Disciples are “students” of Christ. Discipleship is not helping people become students of a certain life-style so that a person thinks that the way they live makes them a Christian. Discipleship is helping a person “grow in grace”, helping them place all of their hopes for this life and all of their expectations for the life to follow in someone other than themselves – in Christ and in his wise and good will for them.

What About the Blood Moon Prophecy?

MoonThe “blood moon prophecy”, as I understand it, refers to a relatively rare alignment of the moon, sun and earth producing a reddish color on the moon (a type of eclipse).  Since there seem to be four appearances of this type of alignment in this century that apparently occurring on significant Jewish Holy Days, some have concluded that this may be a significant sign from God regarding the nearness of the coming of Christ. Joel 2:31 is quoted in support of this concept:

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Joel 2:31

When dealing with things that are not specifically stated in scripture, it is important to distinguish between:  1) Revelation – what God has said  2) Interpretation – what someone thinks is meant by what God has said and  3) Speculation – what someone thinks is true about something God has not said.  For example God said what we find in Joel 2:31 (Revelation).  People differ about what God meant by what he said in Joel 2:31.  Some people believe it to be completely fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:17) while others believe it will not be completely fulfilled until the return of Christ. (Interpretation).  Then there is the category of speculation where people assign specific fulfillments about prophecy that God has not made.  For example, there was a book published in 1988 called “88 Reasons Christ will Return in 1988”.  God did say Christ will return (Revelation).  He did give signs of his return (Revelation).  He did not say he would return in 1988 (Speculation).  Is it wrong to speculate?  Not necessarily, it is simply our God-given imagination that attempts to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in areas where God has not been specific about the fulfillment of his plans for us. The only problem is when we elevate our human speculation  about something God has said to the level of Revelation.  For example, to say that God said (based on my speculation about His revelation) he would return in 1988 would be to mislead people into thinking God has said something he has not said.  It is important to distinguish Revelation, from Interpretation and interpretation from speculation.

Why do you say that Christianity is not about living a good life?

Because Christianity is about the Gospel – the “good news” that our failure to live a good life has been forgiven by God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The good news is not that by living a good life (with the help of Christ) we can merit heaven, (provided that we do well enough in our attempt).  That is bad news if we are honest about the level of our success to consistently love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and to love our neighbors as fervently as we love ourselves.  The news is only good if someone who is both capable and willing has secured for us the right to enter the everlasting presence of God.  This is what the gospel promises – that Christ has lived a perfect life and will share with us that perfection if we will only trust him without attempting to add our meager two cents worth of morality.  That is not to say that Christianity does not have anything to do with morality but that our attempts at morality are because of the good news, not an attempt to secure the good news.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested . . .  even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe. . . (Excerpted from Romans 3:21-22)

 

 

                                                   

WHY DO CHRISTIANS INSIST ON BELIEF IN JESUS?

Narrow-minded isn’t it?  Bigoted isn’t it?  Why do we insist on the necessity of Jesus for a proper  relationship with God?  Why isn’t belief in a god and living a moral life good enough for God?  Why should faith in some person be essential? 

 These popular arguments present us with the question of authority.  Who is the authority that we adopt regarding these questions?  Some would say the ultimate authority lies within each one of us – we determine what truth is, what morality is and how a person becomes acceptable to God.  We who follow Christ would say that he is the ultimate authority.  Having adopted him as the ultimate authority, we take seriously the amazing statements that he makes about himself as “the way” (to God), “the truth” (from God) and “the life” (of God – cf. John 14:6) .  These statements would be either lunacy or intended deception coming from someone other than God himself.  With these kinds of statements, He makes himself indispensable to our salvation.  Without him, the scriptures teach that we have no sufficient offering to God as amends for our offenses against his holy law.  In his everlasting grace, he has made the amends we were incapable of making. 

 

 

Why Don’t You Give Altar Calls?

Image)prayer I certainly hope that what I say on this subject will in no way convey any disrespect to those who believe that “altar calls” are an important part of evangelism.  “Altar call” refers to the practice, introduced by Charles Finny in the 1800’s, of asking people to make a public decision of their faith in Christ by coming forward, raising the hand, etc.  As a young person, I came forward in an altar call in more than one religious meeting.  I have given altar calls, I have (rarely) asked people to “receive Christ” in public worship.  The reason that altar calls are not a regular part of my ministry has to do with my understanding of how a person comes to faith in Christ.  The position of the Reformers (as opposed to the Arminian view) is that a person is incapable of placing their trust in Christ as savior apart from the work of God in their heart (1 Cor. 1:18).  We are solely dependent upon the grace of God in giving us faith and drawing us to Himself.  We do not “come to Christ” by coming down an aisle or any other external activity.  He draws us to Himself by the internal working of His Spirit who gives us faith to believe (Eph. 2:8-9).

When the emphasis is placed on what we do, whether coming down an aisle, standing or raising a hand, it is easy for a person to think that what they did is part of the basis for their salvation as well as what Christ has done for them.  To ask a person to participate in some way other than believe, can give the impression that their confidence can be placed in that participation rather than solely on the work of Christ on their behalf.  If I am given the impression that something I did was necessary to my salvation, then it seems to me, that I have distorted the truth that salvation is gift and even the faith to receive it is also divinely bestowed.

What About Music?

musicnote.jpegSometimes people think that I don’t care about music in worship.  The truth is that I love music (master’s degree).  God loves music (a gift to us).  I think the problem comes when I emphasize the priority of the word (of God) over music in worship.  Reasons:  “faith come by hearing and hearing by the word”  (not music).  But what if music is a vehicle for God’s word?  Fine, but that would limit us to the songs that either directly quote or paraphrase the word.  It’s not that music’s personal response to or reflection on God’s word is not valid and helpful in our worship.   It’s simply that God’s word is described as “living, powerful, able to separate between soul and spirit.”  This refers to God’s word.  It does not refer to every comment a preacher makes about God’s word and it does not refer to music.  Music is powerful, emotional, and enriching.  People have deep reactions to it but we ought not to make the mistake of elevating it to the level of scripture and, in our worship, giving it equal status in our hearts.  There, I’ve said it!  Surely, some musicians or music lover (as I am) can find holes in my perspective.  What is your loving reaction?

HELP IS HERE

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From my vantage, the extroverts have it easy.  They like people and they like to approach people.  We introverts like people too, it’s just not so easy for us to approach them.  Dr. Robert Wise (minister, author, church planter, artist) is, indeed, wise.  He knows introverts and is willing to help us in this matter of outreach. I have already been motivated to reach out in my way.  Come this Wednesday at 7:00 to hear how we can all participate in our Lord’s call to “make disciples” in the unique way Christ may open up opportunities for us.