The Most Loving Thing

A friend of mine recently sent me this video: A Corrupt Church System & Love

Go ahead and watch it…I’ll wait.

OK, got it?  Great!

There are several things that this man says that I wholeheartedly agree with.  Here are a few:

  • In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus does indeed say these two commandments are the most important.  The first is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • In John 13:34-35, Jesus does indeed say that people would know His disciples if you have love one for the other.
  • “There is not going to be a Pentecostal section in Heaven and a Baptist section and a Catholic section and a Protestant section and a Lutheran section in Heaven.  There is not going to be any divisions in Heaven.  And, therefore, there should not be any divisions among the church.  God never authorized division in His church.  There is only one church and one God.” – Amen!  Amen!  Amen!
  • “Christ’s church is founded on unity!” – Again, Amen!
  • “Everybody who knows the truth needs to break down those walls!” – Totally agree!

That last one is the one I really want to talk about.  “Everybody who knows the truth needs to break down those walls!”  I completely agree, and I want to start trying to break down those walls right now.

The speaker in the video says that we need to break down those walls by loving one another.  I think he’s right about that.  So, I’m going to tell you about the most loving thing you can do.  Ephesians 4:15 says that we are to “speak the truth in love.”  Telling someone the truth about what God would have them to do is the most loving thing you can do.  Every time you tell someone the truth about what God wants, it’s like telling them “I love you so much that I want to spend all of eternity with you!  Will you choose to spend eternity with me?”

Finding the truth can be difficult, however.  We can sometimes find part of the truth, but miss other parts of it.  Psalm 119:160 says “The sum of Thy word is truth.”  What does that mean?

I heard a preacher once say that is means that until you hear all that God has to say about any particular topic, you haven’t heard the whole truth.  You must take ALL that God has to say about something, add it all up, and then you will know the truth.

Can I take just a few minutes to tell you the truth in love?  Not because I want to beat you over the head, but because I care for you immensely and want you to be with me for eternity in Heaven.  For a few minutes, would you put all defensiveness aside and listen to my love?  I sure hope so.

The speaker in the video used scripture and his words sound wonderful but there are a few vital things he forgot to mention.  Unfortunately, he also said some things that are incorrect.  I want you to have the whole truth.

The Greatest Commands

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord;and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31

As I mentioned above, Jesus did indeed say that these are the greatest commands and they are.  However, that doesn’t give us a free pass to ignore the other commands.  We aren’t graded on a scale where these two commands get a higher score than the others.

The same Jesus that said what was recorded in Mark 12:28-31 also said “If you love me, keep my commands” in John 14:15.  “Which ones?” we may ask.  The answer is simple…all of them.  We are to keep all of Jesus’ commands.

So, then, we can ignore anything in our Bibles that isn’t written in red since Jesus didn’t give those commands?  Once again, the truth in love is that we can’t.  If you believe in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then you believe that the things written by Paul, Peter, and the other New Testament writers are inspired by the Godhead of which Jesus is part.  That makes those commands of our Savior also.  We need to keep them all.

“Well, then, why did Jesus say these two were the most important ones?”  Can I show you the parallel passage where Jesus answers this question himself?  It’s found in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with 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.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Notice in this reading that there is a final explanatory sentence: “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  What is Jesus saying here?

He is simply saying that every commandment given, every law we are asked to follow, and every rule that is set stems from those two base commands.  Why shouldn’t we take the Lord’s name in vain?  Because, we should love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Why shouldn’t we murder other people?  Or rob them?  Or covet what they have?  Because we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

These two commands aren’t the greatest because we should follow them more closely than all the other commands but because they are the basis for all the other commands.  We are expected to follow all the commands given.  Why?  Because, we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  “If you love me, keep my commands.”

 

Love Isn’t Exclusive to Followers of God

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Jesus certainly told the disciples that men would know they were his disciples if they have love for one another.  However, taking this verse and this verse alone doesn’t tell the whole truth.

The same Jesus that said this also said in Matthew 5:46-48: For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Here Jesus is telling His disciples that they should love their enemies, but notice what He says.  He says that tax collectors and Gentiles have love for one another.  Does that make them disciples of Christ?  Not at all!  He used them as examples in this passage because they were NOT followers of God.

If we read only John 13:34-35 we might think that when two people love each other then both are followers of Christ, but that simply isn’t the case.

 

No Division

I completely agree with the speaker in the video that there will be no division in Heaven and I completely agree with his statement that God never authorized division in His church.  I will be the first to say that there should be no denominations.  Denominationalism is not authorized and is, therefore, sinful.

In the garden on the night before His arrest, Jesus prayed: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their (the apostles) word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

He prayed for those that would believe in Him through the apostles’ words.  Jesus prayed directly for us!  But, His prayer is that we would all be one just as He and the Father are one.  How did we get to this point?  How did we get to the point where there are over 3000 denominations if we are all supposed to be one?

Jesus answers that one too.  In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'”

I want to point out with love what is going on in this passage.  Jesus says that there will be sincere believers who thought they were doing the right things who will be rejected by Him.  He is not talking about scum-of-the-earth type people.  He is not talking about blatant sinners.  He is not talking about people who straight out reject Him.  He is talking about people who did things in His name whom He will reject.  He is talking about “Christians.”

Why would He reject people who believe in Him?  He answers that also.  He says it is because they practice lawlessness.  Going back to John 14:15…He will reject them for not keeping His commands which shows that they don’t really love Him.

I’m going to have to tell you a very hard truth but I still do so with love.  Here is the very hard truth: Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is actually one.  And not every group that professes to be a Christian group is actually one.  Some of those people and some of those groups will hear “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Certainly, there are false teachers in the world that know they are false teachers.  I Timothy 6:3-5 says: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”

We see some of these false teachers that use the word of God as just a means of making money.

However, Jesus here is talking about another kind of false teacher.  A false teacher that doesn’t know they are false teacher.  This makes me sad.  It makes me sad to think that there are people who love Jesus just as much as I do that will be turned away because they didn’t dig hard enough to find the whole truth and instead settled for what someone else told them.  Or simply failed to discover all that God had to say on a particular topic.  Those that stopped short of finding the whole truth and instead settled for a small portion of it.  And then, unwittingly taught that to others.

I’m about to say something that is very unpopular…but once again, I do so in love.  If two denominations disagree about a point of doctrine that the Bible discusses, one or both of them are wrong.  It is not possible for two opposing viewpoints to both be right.  We know this in every other aspect of life.

For instance, if I ask what 2+2 is, one person may say 3.  Another may say 5.  Yet another may say 4.  They simply can’t all be right.  It is an impossibility.  But, in matters of faith, we like to say “I’m OK.  You’re OK.  It fine.  We can both be right.”

But, NO, we can’t.  God has an opinion on many things including: men’s roles in the church, women’s roles in the church, what day the church is to meet on, what kind of language a Christian should use, the role of government in Christian’s life, how to pray, and many other things.  We don’t have the authority to change what God has said to do in these cases and if we do change it, we are WRONG.

Let me use one example from above.  Language.  Some people say that curse words and bad language are OK because it’s just cultural.  I know many people who call themselves Christians whose language is abhorrent.  Others say that we should keep our language clean.  If the Bible had no opinion on this, then each could do as they want.

But, the Bible does have an opinion on this.  Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  This passage goes past using cursing and foul language and even serves to condemn speaking harshly or impatiently with someone.  It says that our language should give grace to those who hear.”

So, the person who thinks that cursing is OK and teaches others that it is as well, is violating God’s opinion.  That person is a false teacher even if he believes with all his heart that Christ is Lord.  And, yes, even if he doesn’t know he’s a false teacher.  It also makes him an unbeliever because he isn’t keeping Christ’s commands and, therefore, according to John 14:15 doesn’t love Christ.

The Bible gives me commands about holding fellowship with unbelievers and false teachers: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14

Does that mean I shun them?  Not at all.  It is my job to tell them the truth in love.  To try to show them their error so they can better understand what God wants them to do and can follow Him correctly.  But, I am not to accept and tolerate their false teaching.

Sadly, this goes for entire denominations.  There are denominations that teach incorrect things.  When I run across one, I can’t accept those false teachings, but that doesn’t stop my love for them.  I still feel the need to teach them their error.  Jesus wanted all of His followers to be “of the same mind.”  This only happens when we all believe the same thing.

My sincere desire is for denominationalism to die.  But, that can only happen when everyone agrees on the truth.

 

Conclusion

Although I agreed with many things the speaker in the video had to say, I feel compelled to point out these problems.  I would love to be able to embrace everyone who calls themselves a Christian, but because 2+2 = 4, I simply can’t accept false doctrine as alright.  I have to reject false doctrine but at the same time love those who are caught up in it enough to try to show them the truth.  I hate denominationalism just as God does, but I love with all my heart those that are caught up in it just as God does.

Jesus founded one church…just one.  Dig deep, study hard, and fight until you find that one church.

I would love to help you in that journey.  Please let me know if you need any help because I want you to spend eternity with me.

The Importance of Context

I have spent some time in the last couple of days listening to the debate between Jack Honeycutt and Michael Brawner as was mentioned here: http://brotherhoodnews.com/2016/10/24/10-baptized-debate/

The debate is on whether or not baptism in water is essential to salvation.  It was a two night debate.  It can be found here:

Part one – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mdkUTBNerA
Part two – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf851FqoMYg

On the first night, Mr. Honeycutt was in the affirmative position (supporting the necessity of water baptism) while Mr. Brawner was in the denial position (refuting the necessity of water baptism).  On the second night, they swapped roles.

Overall, the debate was very good and had a lot of good information.  However, something was said on the first night by Mr. Brawner that I waited for Mr. Honeycutt to respond to, but he didn’t.  I don’t blame him.  There was a lot of information and no possible way that either man could address everything that was said.  This particular point hit me hard, though, as a classic example of taking scripture out of context.

On the first night, Mr. Honeycutt gave his first 30 minute speech affirming the necessity of water baptism.  After that speech, Mr. Brawner had a 30 minute speech giving his denial.  During that first denial speech, Mr. Brawner asked the audience to open to 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 which he read while adding his commentary to it while reading.  Here is the full quote:

‘Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work shall be burned’ Now, what kind of work is that that’s burned up?  We would say those are sinful works.  Things that are flammable.  We would say that these are the things that if works could condemn an individual and send them to Hell after they’ve been saved, these would be the works.  But notice what this scripture says, it says ‘If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss’ but what is going to happen to that individual?  ‘But he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.’  So, we see that that individual who is saved, they remain saved.  So, I’m getting back to works.  Works didn’t save.  Works do not condemn.  What saves is grace by faith.  And what condemns…is failing to believe.

Before the quote above, Mr. Brawner started by saying, “Work has never saved nor has it condemned anybody.”  And by reading what he quoted, it’s easy to get that idea.  However, he failed to understand those verses properly because he failed to put those verses in the proper context.  Let’s expand the reading to include verses 1-15:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

By including the context, it completely changes what we thought those three verses meant.

In this passage, Paul is dealing with a problem.  The problem is that division was already happening within the church with some saying “I follow Paul” and others saying “I follow Apollos.”

He goes on to explain that neither he nor Apollos is what matters.  That they are only servants.  He explains that he may have planted the seed, and that Apollos may have watered the seed, but that God is the one that caused the growth.  He explains that the person who plants and waters are working together toward the same goal, but each of them will receive a reward based on his work.  He then tells the Corinthians that they (the Corinthians) are God’s building.

He goes further in explaining that, like a builder, he laid the foundation by teaching the Corinthians about Christ, and that another (Apollos) is building on that foundation.  But that each person must be careful how he builds on it because the foundation is Christ…not another.  So, you have to build a building worthy of being built on that precious foundation.

It is in this context that we then must evaluate the final three verses of the passage.  It is clear from the context that what is being tested in verses 13-15 is the builder’s work, not the building itself.  In other words, the work of the various teacher’s is what is under test, not the person who was taught.

What this scripture is telling me is that if I teach another and they remain faithful, I will be rewarded (one of the greatest rewards is the feeling when you help someone you care about find God).  But, if I teach another and they fall away, I will suffer loss (the loss of a brother or sister and the heartbreak that comes from that), but I will not lose my own soul because a brother or sister fell away.

This passage has nothing to do with being saved or not saved by works (either of the law or of men’s hands), but is strictly talking about how the obedience of the student affects the salvation of the Christian teacher.  The short answer is, it doesn’t.  As long as the Christian teacher is teaching the full truth based on the foundation of Jesus Christ, his salvation is intact even if his student defects.

Taking these verses out of context teaches a heinous falsity.  Namely, that what I do in my body has no affect on my salvation.  This doctrine flies in the face of 2 Corinthians 5:10 which states:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

This scripture clearly teaches that my works do have a bearing on my salvation.  “Deeds in the body” = works.  “According to what he has done” = works.  James tells us that “faith without works is dead being alone.”  In contrast, Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that works without faith is dead:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

It goes on to say that everyone who hears Jesus’ words and ACTS ON THEM (does work) is like the wise man who built his house on a solid foundation of rock and when the storm came and the building was tried, it didn’t fall, but stood firm.  But, everyone who hears Jesus’ words and DOES NOT ACT ON THEM (does not work) is like the foolish man who built his house on a sandy shifting foundation and when the storm came and the building was tried, it fell.

It is clear from the Bible, that works will not save us.  No amount of work is enough to earn our salvation.  But, there certainly are works that can lose us our salvation and eternal life.

I would beg Mr. Brawner to reevaluate his teaching on the above passage and consider the context it is surrounded with.

And for the reader, please, always read the context or you may not know the doctrine you are being taught is a false one.

 

 

 

Just What I Needed!

Yesterday, it was my sincere honor and privilege to baptize a dear friend into Christ.  She had been visiting with us for several months and participates in a Wednesday Night Bible Study that I conduct.  Over the past three months, I have gotten to know and care for her.

Yesterday, she made the glorious decision to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sin.  There is no better decision that she could have made.

About a week before, another dear lady was baptized into Christ by another brother.  As I congratulated her, she told me that one of my recent sermons had been on her heart and helped her make her decision.

Both of these ladies made exactly the decision they needed to make.  They did exactly what they needed.

But, what they may not know is that their decision is exactly what I needed also.

First, I don’t want to take anything away from them or their decision by what I write below.  But, I hope through this post, I can encourage those who are striving to teach others the gospel.

Anyone who works to bring others to Christ knows that there are peaks and valleys in your endeavors.  You know that sometimes you wonder if your work is worth it.  It isn’t that you think about quitting…you press on, but you wonder if you are making headway with anyone or just standing still.  It is natural to critique yourself and feel inadequate in delivering a message as import as God’s will.  You intensely consider the words of Matthew 5:19:

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

You also think about James 3:1

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

You wonder if you are one who shouldn’t be a teacher.

You feel down about your work.

Then someone comes to God, weeping and tender-hearted, and you realize that God, in his infinite wisdom, blesses not only the person who obeys, but also those who witness that obedience and the teachers, friends, and family members who have helped that person to find Christ.

And, it’s just like a booster shot only without the sting.  You are immediately back on the peak!  Is it any wonder that the Bible says:

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10

So, for those who work to teach the Word, don’t give up.  It’s worth it!  Every time you struggle to answer a question, it’s worth it!  Every prayer you pray is worth it!  Every valley is worth just one peak!  One soul is worth the entire world and all that is in it!  And your endeavors have helped win that worth to God instead of Satan.

So, continue to work.  Thank God and live for those moments when your work is productive.  But, also remember that it is only God that gives the growth.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:6

Those moments are precious and powerful.  Thank you, ladies, for giving me just what I needed.

“Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.”
Deuteronomy 32:2

 

What Bugs Me Most About This Election?

It seems like the current election cycle has been the most divisive of any I can remember and I really can’t figure out why.  There doesn’t seem to be that much difference between the candidates.

If I listen to both sides of the argument, I come away with the following: On one side, we have a liar and a potty-mouth.  On the other side, we have, well….a liar and a potty-mouth.  On one side, we have the worst thing that will ever happen to this country.  On the other side, we have…the worst thing that will ever happen to this country.  On one side, we have someone who is hostile toward women.  On the other side, we have…someone who is hostile toward women.  On one side, we have a rich person who uses legal means to not pay some taxes.  On the other side, we have a rich person who uses legal means to not pay some taxes.  Are you getting the picture yet?

This could go on all day but, suffice it to say, nobody seems incredibly excited about either candidate.  It is most certainly a hold-your-nose election.

But, that isn’t what bugs me.  What bugs me is that neither of the candidates seem to know God.  And, to me, that is the saddest thing I have ever written.

Now, I know that some who read this may already be thinking, “Brian, you precious fool (or if you are from the south, Bless your heart), don’t you know you aren’t supposed to judge?  It says so right there in Matthew 7:1.”  It sure does.  Thank you.  Now read a little bit further in that same chapter:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Matthew 7:15-20

I’m doing exactly what Jesus said to do…I see their fruits, I hear their words, I see their actions and I come to the conclusion that they are a bad tree.  Now, I could take the time to further explain Matthew 7:1 in the proper context, but I won’t take the time here.  If you are still fuzzy on it, please read this:

http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/CanWeJudge.html

Now, back on point.  It’s sad.  Really sad.  Why?  Because, it’s what I am without God.  I am not a good person.  I am a liar.  I am a thief.  I am a law-breaker.

I am a sinner.

And so are you.  I am not passing judgement when saying this.  I am just trusting that God told me the truth in Romans 3:9-18:

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
“Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

And also what Jesus said in Luke 18:19:

Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

There is only one difference between me and the candidates.  I have put my trust in God and in the power of His might.  I am not good enough.  I am not strong enough.  I am not worthy enough.

Only Jesus, through His sacrifice, is worthy enough to pay for my sins.  I owe a debt that I can never repay, but thanks be to God that He allowed Jesus to pay it for me.

And because He did that, I should feel compelled to obey His words, to repent of my sins, to not be ashamed of Him in confessing that I am His, to praise His perfect name, to submit myself to baptism which emulates His sacrifice and triumphant resurrection, to live for Him doing those good works which He has prepared for me to do, to teach others about Him, to live my entire life in service to Him…not as repayment, but as thanks…to worship Him loudly, proudly, and unapologetically, to help as many souls as I can into His glorious light, and to wait, with eager anticipation, for that moment when I will hear Him say “Well done.”

So, what bugs me the most about this election?  That I don’t personally have the chance to sit down with the candidates and teach them about Jesus.  To plead with them to listen to Him.  To beg them to follow Him.  To help them know Him.

I pray for a chance to do just that.  Will it help?  I don’t know, but when God asks “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”, I echo Isaiah’s answer:

Here am I.  Send me!

In the meantime, I will continue to pray for God to put people in my way that are searching for Him.  So, I make the following offer.  If you need to understand what God wants you to do, if you want to know Him better, if you want to follow Him and give Him your life, I will be happy, honored, and excited to help you understand His love for you and His desires for your life.  Please, please, please contact me.  I want to help!

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence

1 Peter 3:15

Political Violence

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t want this to be a political blog, but sometimes politics and religion overlap and I just can’t let the opportunity go by without writing something.

Now, people that know me know that I take very little at face value.  I fact check pretty much everything I’m told.  That happened again recently.  A little background first, though…

I’m a conservative.  More specifically, a constitutional conservative.  I love God, country, and fellow man.  I respect the office of President, the military, and the voting process.

Now, I don’t particularly like Donald Trump, but I’ve been upset that people that support him have been physically assaulted by those who don’t.  As I said, I fact check these things and in this case, there are multiple videos that show these attacks.

There are also reports of attacks by Trump Supporters on innocents as well.  One article I was sent can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/anti-trump-protesters-attacked-all-of-us-in-san-jose/485444/?utm_source=atltw

So, what I wanted to know is if the candidates or the President have said anything condemning those attacks.  And I found that they have…sort of…

Here is the link that I found: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/clinton-trump-rally-violence-223885

Clinton started off with a good thing to say:

“I condemn all violence in our political arena”

But, then she started in with what I call the “condemn but blame” game.  Here are the next things she said:

“I condemned it when Donald Trump was inciting it and congratulating people who were engaging in it. I condemn it by those who are taking violent protests to physical assault against Donald Trump.”

“He created an environment in which it seemed to be acceptable for someone running for president to be inciting violence, to be encouraging his supporters,” she continued. “Now we’re seeing people who were against him responding in kind. It should all stop. It is not acceptable.”

“The police have a hard enough job trying to make sure that we’re able to gather and talk about the issues facing our country, and Trump has lowered the bar. And now is it a surprise that people who don’t like him are stepping over that low bar? I don’t think it is.”

Our president picked up on the “condemn but blame” game too:

“It is very important for us to remind ourselves of who we are and what is best about American democracy and not slip into some of the bad habits that currently manifest themselves in the other party”

“We saw in San Jose these protesters starting to pelt stuff and Trump supporters. That’s not what our democracy is about. That’s not what you do. There’s no room for violence. There’s no place for shouting. There’s no room for a politics that fails to at least listen to the other side — even if you vehemently disagree. Because I believe if you’ve got the better argument, then you don’t need to do that. Just go out there and organize and persuade.”

Trump was not innocent in all of this either:

“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell—  I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise. It won’t be so much ’cause the courts agree with us too.”

I’m appalled.  All of these people who profess Christianity, but can’t seem to adhere to Christian values.

First, to Mr. Trump.  This was a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to say.  Violence of any kind against anyone in peaceful society should be frowned upon.  Inciting people to commit violence should not be something coming out of the mouth of a presidential candidate.

Mark 9:42 tells us that we should be careful not to cause a brother / sister to stumble:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. – Mark 9:42

Inciting someone to assault another person is causing them to sin.  Why would you do this if you profess Christianity?  Even if you don’t profess Christianity, why would you do this?  Why not just say something like:

“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience.  If they decide to throw them, it’s fine…it will wash out.  Matthew 5:39 says “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  And look on the bright side, if you do have a tomato thrown at you, hey, free tomato.”

Furthermore, to be completely fair and to try to be as non-partisan as I can, I couldn’t find any statements by you condemning the attacks that your supporters have perpetrated on others.  As much as Mrs. Clinton and President Obama’s remarks are “condemn but blame” statements, at least they had the condemn part.

Second, to Mrs. Clinton.  Why qualify this?  Would it be so hard to just say “I don’t want violence of any kind against Mr. Trump’s supporters.”  And leave it there?  To continue on like you did was a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do.  Your statement can be summed up like this: “I don’t want any violence against Trump supporters, but he brought it on himself.”

That may be so, but why say it?  By saying this, what you are saying is no better than some of the following ridiculous statements:

I didn’t want him to have his house broken into, but he shouldn’t have left the door unlocked.

I didn’t want him to get murdered, but he shouldn’t have been there.

I didn’t want her to get assaulted, but she shouldn’t have dressed that way.

All of these, including your statements, are idiotic.  And are victim blaming.  Furthermore, it’s not even Trump being attacked…it’s innocent supporters being attacked by people that support you.  So, to put this into perspective, the statements from above become:

I didn’t want him to have his house broken into, but his neighbor shouldn’t have left their door unlocked.

I didn’t want him to get murdered, but his mother shouldn’t have been there.

I didn’t want her to get assaulted, but her friend shouldn’t have dressed that way.

This is ludicrous in the extreme.  Where is your empathy for those people who were doing nothing wrong but only holding signs or wearing caps?  To you it’s simply unfortunate that those people were attacked, but it’s understandable since their candidate said something stupid?  Why don’t you just say something like this:

I would like all of the violence to stop because the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:9 “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing”.  Please do not attack anyone that supports Mr. Trump.

Now, on to you, Mr. President.  You almost had a great statement, but you had to get your jab in first, didn’t you?

“It is very important for us to remind ourselves of who we are and what is best about American democracy and not slip into some of the bad habits that currently manifest themselves in the other party”

Just couldn’t make a statement without trying to vilify the other side of the isle, huh?  Once again, this was a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to say.  Why not just:

“It is very important for us to remind ourselves of who we are and what is best about American democracy and not slip into bad habits and violence”

Are you not everyone’s president?  Are you not supposed to try to bring the nation together?  Why do you constantly disparage people who don’t agree with you on political topics?  Is that the thing to do?  Why can’t you just say something like:

Romans 12:18 says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” so I would encourage everyone in the country to not be violent toward another because of what they believe.”

I have not yet decided if I will vote in this election.  It seems my choices are all bad ones.  I will say this: I cannot vote for you, Mrs. Clinton, because of the sin you support.  Mr. Trump, you support a lot of sin as well and that may keep me from being able, in good conscious, from supporting you either.  But, even if neither of you get my vote, you may get my respect if you would listen to and employ the things I’ve said in this post.

I really don’t expect this blog to ever be read by any of the candidates.  I would love it if that were the case, if they saw the error of their ways, and turned to Christ in earnest instead of just using His name for political gain.

In that vein, I ask all my brothers and sisters in Christ to share this post with everyone they know.  I usually don’t ask for recognition or to have my posts shared, but if this one can get out then perhaps we can finally have that voice that Christians are always saying we need.  I don’t want to be in the spotlight, but if I can bring glory to God by being his messenger for a time, I will gladly do that for Him after He has done so much for me.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” – Romans 12:1

The Bathroom Debate

<Sigh>

Usually, I try to stay out of these types of arguments, but as I watch this debate over the bathrooms unfold, it seems to me that everyone is talking about everything except what we should be talking about.

On Side 1, we have the argument that everyone should be treated equally and should get to use the restroom they want based on how they feel.

On Side 2, we have the argument that you should use the bathroom that matches your physical gender.

And all of a sudden, both sides are saying things about the other side that aren’t true.  Side 1 accuses Side 2 of being transphobic and says that Side 2 thinks all transgendered people are pedophiles.  Side 2 accuses Side 1 of hating the American way of life and wanting to bring about the downfall of society as well as being ungodly heathens.

I’m going to take a different approach here and ask “What is a law supposed to do?  What is the purpose of a law?”

Now, first, I would like to ask everyone to put emotion away for a minute (or however long it takes to read this) and consider the following things based on pure logic and reason.  I know that this is extremely difficult for some folks, but I’m begging you to try.

Ok.  Let’s get started.

I would like to submit that the purpose of a law (aside from keeping the peace) is fairly singular:  To protect the innocent and law-abiding and deter the guilty and criminally-minded.

So, I would like to propose a scenario that doesn’t have anything to do with bathrooms.

Let’s say that a law was passed that gave each male in America $1000 every Monday.  Yes, I know that this is an unfair law since it only applies to some of the population, but don’t get emotional…just stick with me.

So, each male get $1000 each Monday.  Great.  Here is the question.  On that first Monday when the males line up to get their money there will be many different people there.  There will be classically masculine men, there will be redneck men, there will be black men, there will be homosexual men, and there will be transgendered men who have made the transition from female to male and are legally male now.  All of these people are entitled, according to the law, to the $1000.  Now, do you suppose that there may also be women dressed up and pretending to be men so that they could take advantage of this law?  Unless I severely underestimate humanity, my answer would be “Is the Pope Catholic?”

There can be little doubt that there is an element of society that would do whatever they could to take advantage of this law.  Why?  Because the “reward” of getting the money outweighs the “guilt” of breaking the law or the fear of getting caught.

A few things to notice:

  1. There are always those who will take advantage of a law to get what they want.
  2. I am not saying here that transgendered people are doing anything wrong.  If a transgendered person is legally considered male, they are entitled to the money.
  3. This isn’t an issue about discriminating against transgendered people (they got the money too).  It’s an issue about some people breaking the law for their own gain.

Now, let’s bring this back to the bathroom example.  And immediately I know an objection.  If you haven’t put your emotions away as I requested and aren’t thinking rationally, you may say “But, Brian, all they need to do is change the law to give everyone the money and the problem goes away, so all that needs to be done is for all restrooms to be open to everyone.”  But, you are not making the proper correlation.

The money isn’t a stand-in for the bathroom.  The money is a stand-in for the safety and innocence of women and children.  Now, don’t jump straight back to emotionalism.  Stick with rational thought a little while longer.

The issue with the bathroom isn’t that transgendered people are using them (which they have the right to do based on current law), but that there is an element of society who will use a law to their advantage.  Transgendered people can currently use the bathroom that matches their legal status.  The problem isn’t there.  The problem is with allowing anyone to use any bathroom based solely on how the feel or identify.

When we allow anyone to use any bathroom they desire base on how they feel or identify, we have no legal recourse to stop those who would enter the bathroom with criminal intent.  A true rapist could simply say “I identify as female” so he could legally gain entry into the women’s room with absolutely no legal way to stop him.  He would have every right to be there with the women when they are in a place where they should be safe.

Furthermore, this applies to the safety of every woman including those transgendered women who have made the transition from male.  They are at risk also.

Before you grant unlimited access to any bathroom based solely on how a person feel or identifies, you MUST have a way to stop people who would use that access as a way to hurt others.  Right now, if a man enters the women’s room dressed as a women so he can see women in possible states of undress, he can be arrested because HE DOES NOT BELONG THERE.  But, if you grant access to anyone based on how they identify, nothing can be done to a man who goes into the women’s room hoping to get a peek because no one can say he doesn’t belong there.

And this applies even more to possible pedophiles who want to use this as a way to see what they desire.  Furthermore, this also applies in reverse.  There are female pedophiles and female rapists who may also use this as a way to act in a criminal fashion with no consequences.

In other words, this doesn’t just put women and children in danger, but puts all people (straight, gay, and transgendered) at risk.  And the benefit?

The only benefit is so we don’t hurt the feelings of 0.03% of the population, but at the cost of putting 100% of the population at higher risk for sexually based crimes.  The desire to include 0.03% of the population actually puts that 0.03% of the population at greater risk…along with everyone else.

In any other place, at any other time, this would be considered a bad bet.

Now, since this is mostly a religious blog, I’m about to talk religion for a moment.  But, once again, don’t get emotional.  Keep it rational.

Yes, I am a Christian.  And I do believe that certain things are sin.  But, I am going to take the same stance as God takes.  We each have free will.  We can do what we want and think what we want.  And we can do that, even if it is outside what God wants.  That doesn’t mean He approves of what is thought or done.  It only means He allows it because He wants you to follow His rules of your own volition.

Now, even though I believe that some things are sin, does not mean that I hate you if you do them.  We all sin and a person that lies, a person that commits adultery, and a person that practices homosexuality are all the same.  All are sinners that needs to repent of their sin and ask God for forgiveness.  So am I.

So, with this post, I’m not judging sin or debating whether something is a sin or not.  My job isn’t to judge sin, my job is to preach the gospel and try to convince sinners (of which I am one) to repent of their sins and follow God’s word.  So, what I have said above about the bathrooms isn’t a product of my religious beliefs, but solely a product of what I consider to be safe.

Now, I know that some who read this will immediately say that I’m being a transphobic, homophobic, bible-thumping redneck.  That is your prerogative, but if you do that, you will need to explain where in this post I have said anything against transgendered people.  You will need to explain how my concern for their safety isn’t as genuine as my concern for everyone else’s safety based on what I said above.  You will need to explain how, even though I said differently up above, I actually don’t think safety is the primary concern.  And you will need to explain exactly what shade of red my neck is.

In other words, you will have to completely disregard and dismiss everything I have written, give up rational thought, make up your own ideas, and then pretend that’s what I think.

And if you do that, then are you any better off than the close-minded person you accuse me of being?

 

 

Be a Storm

Storms aren’t usually something we think positively about.  They are frightening.  They are unpredictable.  They go where they want and many times leave a path of destruction behind them.  They are accompanied by high winds which can be destructive.  They also bring lightning which can hurt and kill people.

A storm doesn’t seem like something we should model our life after.

So, imagine my surprise when I bought a new Cornerstone album (Cornerstone is an acapella group from Faulkner University) and it was named “Make Me a Storm.”  It also had a song of the same name on the album.  My initial thought was “What in the world could they be talking about?  Storms are bad.  I don’t want to be storm.”

Then I listened to it:

The wind and waves obey your voice
I want to be like that
Listening before each choice
I want to be like that

Chorus

Father, hear my humble plea
Help me to be
Like the ocean that is under your command
Help me be still, I want to do your will
Oh Lord, make me a storm

The raging sea did not think twice
I want to be like that
Following without a fight
I want to be like that

Chorus

Father, hear my humble plea
Help me to be
Like the ocean that is under your command
Help me be still, I want to do your will
Oh Lord, make me a storm

 

Wow!  I had never considered the story of Jesus calming the storm from the storm’s perspective before.  I had thought about it from the apostles’ perspective and also from Jesus’ perspective, but never the storm’s.  Not only is this song fantastic, it is also scriptural:

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” – Mark 4:35-41

In our lives, we must become like the storm.  Our obedience is required, not optional.  We constantly mess this up because we try to force God to accept what we want to give.  We try to decide what God wants from us instead of listening to Him.  We try to get God to bend to our will instead of striving desperately to align our will to His.

We need to listen to Jesus the way the storm did.  In complete submission to His desires.  We don’t get to decide what He wants.  We can choose not to follow what He wants, but if we do that, we aren’t being like the storm.

Jesus tells us the things we need to do to be with Him.  All of the following passages are the words of Jesus.  You can choose to follow them or not.

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” – Luke 6:46-49

Jesus says that if we want to call Him “Lord” we must do the things he says to do.  We don’t get to claim Him as Lord and ignore the things He tells us to do.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” – John 14:9-11

Jesus says that we must believe that He is God and that He is in control.

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than allother Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:1-5

Jesus says we must repent of our sins.

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:32-33

Jesus says that we must confess His name before men.  We can’t be ashamed of Him.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:15-16

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”  Jesus answered,”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:1-8

Jesus says that we must be baptized.  By being baptized, we imitate the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  In other words, we follow the perfect example of our Lord.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” – John 14:23-24

Jesus says that we must remain faithful by keeping His words.

Now, some will look at this and say “No, no no, this is all wrong.  All you have to do is accept Jesus and make Him Lord of your life.”  I completely agree that we need to make Jesus Lord of our lives.  What I disagree with is the means by which we do that.

What most people mean when they say that is that all I have to do is say a prayer like “Oh, Jesus.  I beg you to come into my life.  I know I’m a sinner and I want you to take control.  Amen.”  But, I believe the words of Jesus when He said “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21)  I do not become a Christian by just calling on Jesus.  I become a Christian by obedience to His word, by doing the things He has said to do whether I want to or not, by becoming like the storm.

John 14:6 says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  If you are trusting in anyone other than Jesus to get you to Heaven, you will fail.  No father, mother, sibling, friend, elder, deacon, preacher, or any other person can do for you what Jesus did.  If you are listening to the voice of any other, whether they are still on this earth or have gone on, instead of listening to the voice and commands of Jesus then you are loving that person more than Jesus.  You are gambling with your soul.  Your father didn’t die to save your soul.  Your mother didn’t die to save your soul.  Only Jesus died to save your soul.  Don’t put another person in the spot reserved for Him.  Obey only Him.

Be a storm.