My Personal Reformatiom

God's Word reforming my life, family, and ministry.


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…But They Had Everything In Common

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32–37, ESV)

Such powerful words here. Here, The Church took care of itself. They sold everything and provided for each other. Now, before we go any further, we need to have a quick lesson here. What is “The Church”? The reason I ask this is because of the welfare mentality that is so perverse and overwhelmingly spreading throughout our society.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”” (Matthew 18:20, ESV)

Jesus called it a gathering of His people…”gathered in my name…”

In the Book of Acts, written by Luke, it is written:

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,” (Acts 1:15, ESV)     “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41, ESV)

The believers are called “brothers,” some translations say “Brethren”(NASB) and some use “disciples”(KJV). It’s a community of believers. They were added to the Body of Christ, that is, the church.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, ESV). We are members of the body. And, to the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4–5, ESV).

And, in Paul(And Timothy’s) letter to the Christians in Colassae, Paul wrote that Christ is the head of the body, that is, the church, in Colossians 1:18:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:15–23, ESV, emphasis mine).

Summing that up, the definition of “The Church” is not a building, or a small group of people(i.e. the pastors and deacons), but all believers. All professing Christians, that is those elected by God to salvation through His infinite mercy and grace when we deserved it not, are The Church. So, now, we can move on now that we(hopefully) have a good understanding of what the church is.

Going back to our passage from Acts chapter Four, it is noted in verse 34, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (Acts 4:34, ESV). There was not a needy person among them. Why is that? Because The Church was taking care of it’s own, of itself. Everyone was selling their stuff, just as Jesus had told the rich young man to do(Mark 10:17-31), and its as being distributed to those who had need(Acts 4:35). Why did they do this? To take care of themselves. They recognized themselves as not only brothers and sisters in Christ, but as brothers and sisters who need to take care of each other. As family. Now this wasn’t just monetarily. They helped each other as a community of believers in everything that was needed.

Now let’s fast forward to now, 2014(skipping past 2,000 years of important Church history, which is, for the points I am working towards, not entirely relevant). Why can’t we do things like this today? Why is the church seemingly more like a business rather than a community of believers nowadays? Commercialism. The need to have bigger churches(rolls, “members”). Money. I can think of many other reasons, but, in the end, too many churches(not all), have become more business like, wanting to see good numbers from attendance, membership, and money coming in. And, they are too afraid of running out of these that they don’t want to let any of it go out. They don’t want members to leave to do something else in ministry, in fear of the church having no members left. They don’t want too much money out to the needy because they don’t want to run out of money or, *shudders in sarcastic wit* not have enough money to pay for their new multi-million-dollar building expansion, complete with fancy light and sound systems and all the bells and whistles that go along with it. What has happened to the church? The church has moved away from the gospel, from God’s word. It has moved away from sound doctrine and believe that true theology, the study of God, doesn’t matter as much. In reality, Theology Matters. A lot. Good sound doctrine matters. A lot. Without these things, people end up going to hell because they are lead to believe things that aren’t Biblical. Things that lead them to a different god than the One True God of the Bible.

One of the things I pray for daily, and will until the day I die, is that the church returns to it’s roots, realizing that it isn’t a building or a group of men who lead the flocks of God. I pray that it comes to realize, once again, that the church is made up of believers, faithfully serving Christ. That serving others, evangelizing the lost, discipling believers to create more believers, and building up leaders within the church to multiply churches is what the church is all about. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful, passionate churches with sound doctrine and theology who do just this. But, there aren’t enough. The last person I asked about what he thought about Christians(he was not a Christian himself), he told me he saw us as elite, stuck-up snobs who think they are better than those that don’t go to church. Too much of society see the church as archaic and mundane, outdated and not needed. I remember reading throughout history how churches basically began social services. What happened to that? Churches have become to self-glorifying and not God-glorifying.

Now, where am I going with all of this? I strongly believe that this change, that this return to our Biblical roots will start with individuals and families. I believe that we need to be proactively looking for where we can help those within our church. That we need to proactively look for those to minister to within our communities. And, when people ask what you are doing, don’t just tell them “I’m handing out food,” or “I’m helping clean this person’s yard,” begin to tell them about Christ, and how the church takes care of itself, and you are doing this to the Glory of Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

*EDIT*
Let me say, I am not saying we need to sell all of our stuff to take care of each other. If that’s how you feel God is leading you, then, by all means, do so. However, what I am saying is we need to look outside ourselves to the needs of others and, where we can, help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. To those that are lost, we need to evangelize. Even the disciples understood that, “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” (Acts 6:2, ESV).


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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly…and Why We Need It All

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16–26, ESV)

Something that I have noticed while working in the various vocational ministry positions which I have held(House Parents, ministry director at my church) and as just a volunteer and congregant within the churches we have attended, is that too much nice stuff is taught to our children, and not enough of the bad and ugly. We spend so much time teaching the things about God that we deem as lovely, excellent, and necessary, amongst other things, that they should know. However, too often, “we” leave out what the Bible deems as lovely, excellent, and necessary: That is, everything in the Bible, the Word of God. The good, the bad, and the ugly, we need it all, and, to be honest, it’s all good, to our benefit, in the long run. And, this is not just true of youth, but, all people within a church, young and old.

Recently, we have been teaching The Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 to our young children within the church(mostly my kids and the pastor’s kids, as we have a small young population in our church). We have been going over them one a week on Wednesday nights. And, it’s nice. Now, this particular group is a bit too young to understand some of the sins listed in the preceding verses, Galatians 5:19-21, however, as time progresses and they get a little more mature, it is something that I am going to not skimp on(Right now, I don’t want to have to explain to them what orgies are). However, it is something that they will hear from me sooner than later. With the older youth, however, it is something that I am going to teach upon. Right now, I don’t have any regular preteent/teens that come on Wednesday nights(12 years of age and older), but, when they start coming, I am going to go over the Fruits of the Spirit with them, two a week probably, as I am with the younger kids. But, when we finish with them, I am going to go back and talk about Galatians 5:16-26, the entire passage, including the bad fruits. It is something that I am going to hammer home with them and let them know, that by the litmus test of Jesus, Matthew 12:33-37:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”” (Matthew 12:33–37, ESV)

That by the litmus test of Jesus’, people will look at them and say “That person CAN’T be a Christian with how they act,” or, conversely, “Wow, look at that person, they have something I want, I mean, they must be Christians” or something like that. I will tell them plainly that, if you live a life that looks more like Galatians 5:19-21, that they are probably not really a Christian, because in a true Christian, there is a heart change, an attitude change, and a complete 180 degree turn in wants and desires. Selfish to selfless. Loathing to loving. Taking to giving. They need to hear it. Badly. Even it it comes to their own detriment.

Some people will read this and think that I am crazy, telling kids that they are sinners and that sin is the root of all the problems and that they cannot do good on their own. To those people, I leave you with this passage of Scripture from Romans, where Paul is quoting much from Psalms and Isaiah:

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Romans 3:10–18, ESV)

And, for everyone, I leave you with this from Isaiah 55:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,” (Isaiah 55:8–10, ESV)

 

Soli Deo Gloria


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Chikin and Excellence

 

 

This afternoon, after a job interview I had, we drove back to Naples and went to the Chick-Fil-A on Airport-Pulling Road, Just north of the intersection with Pine Ridge Road. I’ve always liked the high standards that Chick-Fil-A(CFA) has had, however, what I saw today really seemed to raise the bar. And, I took a picture of it:

photo

I didn’t take a picture of the employee, as I don’t know her and probably never will. However, she was cleaning off pictures and also cleaning the chairs. And, she was doing an excellent job of it as well. And it immediately reminded me of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So, while not everyone that works at CFA is necessarily a Christian, however, it is a privately owned, Christian company, and, they hold to Christian values and standards in their work ethic. And it shows. From courteous workers to great food and an almost always clean dining area. And today, when I took that photo as we were walking out of the restaurant, I was thinking to myself “Wow!”

So, yes, I wanted to give some props to the Chick-Fil-A in Naples, Florida on Airport Road, just north of Pine Ridge Road.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 


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He Who Dies With The Most Toys…Still Dies

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6–10, ESV)

HeWhoDies

He who dies with the most toys….still dies. Yup, I had this poster when I was a teenager, hanging up on my wall to the left as you walked into my room. Next to my bed. 

However, recently, being underemployed, I have learned much about b) and various aspects of it.

First, I have realized that I need to be conent with what I have, especially now, as I, and my family, face the blessing of financial hardships. Currently, and take this in no way as a complaint, I have only a part time job at our church, North Fort Myers First Baptist Church. There, I am the Director of Family Ministry and Outreach, a position that I love. I pray that my position will become full time sometimg in the coming years, however, I am seeking a full-time job.

Secondly, I need to make sure I am content with what I have next time I do have money. Thus, I need to remember 1 Timothy 6:7, “…for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anyhting out of the world.”(ESV). When I was born, I was naked and had nothing with me. When I die and arrive in Heaven with my Lord Jesus, I will have nothing. It will be just me. For many, it is a hard pill to swollow and an even harder lesson to teach younger generations. My daughter asks for us to buy her something everywhere we go, eve at places that don’t sell things(like when we are at church or at home). And, we let her know that the more she constantly asks for stuff, the less she is going to get from us. And, albeit slowly, she is learning the lesson. 

I have come to expect materialistic behaviors from unregenerate people, those without Christ.

However, the materialisitc attitudes that I constantly see among professing evangelical Christians is so rampant, that sometimes disgusts me. And I am not even talking about the “Prosperity Gospel” heresy, either. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spoke about the cost of being a disciple. He said:

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23–25, ESV)



What does it mean to deny oneself? To deny ones desires and wants and put Jesus and God’s will in front. To follow Jesus is to give everything to Him. For Jesus to be Lord of one’s life means to surrender all of one’s life to Jesus’ control. Not some. Not most. Not almost all. ALL of it. Keeping nothing for oneself. And yet, that is our struggle. We struggle with it every day, with ever decision. I struggle with it. You struggle with it. Your pastor struggles with it. Your spouse struggles with it. Your children struggle with it.

However, what happens, is people put their desire for stuff before God, and it becomes an idol, and they are breaking commandments. They aren’t loving God with all they have. They have an idol, stuff, that is before God. They are(probably) coveting other peoples’ stuff.

Now, in no way am I saying that having stuff is wrong or anything. I have plenty of stuff, and there is plenty of stuff that I wouldn’t mind having. However, I don’t make it my life-long pursuit to get that stuff as so many other people have and continually do.

Later on, Jesus spoke again of the cost of discpleship:

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–33, ESV)

This is really summed up in the last verse of this passage, Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This means so much to the life of a true Christian. We must give everything to Jesus and be willing to sacrifice everything. We aren’t supposed to hate our families, our spouses, our children. However, compared to our love of Christ and our desire to follow Him, our love for our families would not, no…COULD NOT compare. Ever. Not. Even. Close.

So, when Jesus gave us The Great Commission, it was a command, not a suggestion. Not a passing thought. Not an idea. A command. Something we must do. We shall do. There are many ways in which people can and do participate in this(which we won’t be discussing here).

Now, let me leave you with this:

“And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”” (Luke 18:18–27, ESV)



Now, remember, it is not a sin to have stuff. It is not a sin to want more stuff. It’s not even a sin to have enough money to buy the stuff you want. It becomes a sin when your desire for your stuff takes front seat in the car. It becomes a sin when you aren’t willing to give up your stuff for God and His calling on your life. Remember that. Remember that well.

 

Soli Deo Gloria


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Have We Forgotten About The Sick?

Seriously, have we? The answer to that question is obviously “No,” however, sometimes, it sure does seem that way. Lets take a look at some words Jesus had as recorded in Luke chapter 5:

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”” (Luke 5:27–32, ESV)

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Those words hound me each time I read them when reading through the Gospels. Very few churches that I have attended in my almost 18 years of being a Christian have, from my point of view, taken this to heart. And, from all the reading and things that I have seen as of late, it seems that the seeming majority of churches have moved away from this. How so? By turning from outward evangelism of the lost to the inward caring of the already-saved, church members.

Ok, let us take a look at the text and ask those simple questions that we have learned to ask in school when writing a paper: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Who? Okay, this is a fairly simple question to answer. It’s Jesus, God the Son, the Son of God, who is talking here. He is addressing a group of Pharisees and thier scribes(vs. 30-31) .
What? Jesus is addressing the Pharisee’s questioning why Jesus and His disciples are eating with tax collectors and sinners(v.30).
Where? Jesus and His disciples are at the home of Levi, a tax collecor(former at this point, as he was now one of the apostles), who was having a feast for Jesus, and he invited also the tax collectors and others(v.29).
When? Though no exact date is given, some timelines put this event happening in 29AD, most likely in the summer(an Aritcle from BibleTimes.net has a timeline, click HERE)
Why?- Well, this is pretty well explained out in the passage. Jesus was calling Levi(Matthew) to be one of His 12, and, to honor the Lord, Levi held a feast for Jesus, and Levi invited all his friends, who, as logic plays out, happened to also be Tax Collectors and other people of ill repute. And, knowing that many considered Jesus to be a great teacher, or Rabbi, the Pharisees were very critical of Him.

Now, I know that there is a lot more to this scene, however, we have hit the major points here. Now, the vast majority of the people in this feast were probably tax collectors, as that is what Levi was. Levi, who is Matthew, is called Matthew more often then not throughout the Gospels presumable because the writers wanted to disconnect his past, as a tax collector, with his present as one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Why? Because tax collectors were the lowest of the low. No one really liked tax collectors, except maybe other tax collectors. Heck, I don’t like tax collectors to be quite honest. They take my money for things that I have already paid taxes on…more than once most likely.

So, as Jesus exemplified the idea that the church needs to to outward evangelism to the lost, unregenerate souls while He was walking this earth, shouldn’t we be fit to model His behavior? Nevermind being fit to do so, should we just do it?

Now, I don’t mean we need to invite more people to church. To be honest, I would rather people invite the lost to their homes to model and show and share the love of Christ with them. Going to church on Sunday monrings is a time of corporate Christian worship for the family, the body, of Christ. Do I not want unsaved people to come to church? NO! I want them to come to church. However, I have noticed through observation and personal experience, that not all unsaved people will understand what is going on in a good, reformed, expositional church service. I saw somewhere on the internet recently a thing saying something to the affect of  “All Christians are missionaries. All non-Christians are the mission field.” And, it’s true. Jesus commanded us to “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:18–20, ESV). We are commanded to go out and evangelize the lost.

 

I have seen so many churches, no, perhaps, too many churches that just want to take care of their own. I have heard stories about a church calling a pastor to basically shepherd the flock into the grave. I have been guilty of this very same thing, working towards being comfortable with my fellow Christians and not evangelizing. However, recently, God has put it on my heart to help His church grow. I have recently been called to a church as the Director of Family Ministries and Outreach, a position in which I am at a small church, First Baptist Church in Noth Fort Myers, Florida, that is nowhere near being a dying church. However, the church recognizes the state it is in: That if WILL be a dying church if they don’t reach out to the families within the surrounding communities. While the average age is much older, and the majority of the children in the church are currently from the Pastor’s family and mine, we are beginning to make changes and reach out more to the families. And it’s a blessing to me and my family to be a part of how God is working within our Church.

 

There is another church of which my family used to be members at, FaithBridge Church in Jacksonville, Florida, that does a great job at outward evangelism. They have a great focus on missions, sending many, many church members on short term trips to places like Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Also, my favorite outreach they do, is what they do in place of a traditional Vacation Bible School(VBS). They call it Rock The Block(RTB). Instead of having a VBS at a centralized location, i.e., the church building, they have a multitude of Rock the Blocks all around Jacksonville at members’ homes. They train up the leaders and volunteers, work cooperatively to get everything for all the RTB’s ready(crafts, games, etc.), and then they do it. Several times prior to the RTB week, they go out in groups and canvas each surrounding neighborhood, inviting all the kids to come. And the time I was able to help, it was a true blessing. So much fun. And, I think that the way they do their RTB instead of a traditional VBS is great, reaching far more people than a regular VBS.(And, by the way, from my experience, traditional VBS’s have seemed to be used by too many members of the church as a free day care service or something like that).

 

Leaving the building and reaching the lost and hurting is what we need more of. We need to evangelize, tell people about Jesus and His Good News. Let that do it’s work in a persons heart, and then bring them into the church to teach them and disciple them and encourage them and equip them. Remember:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10–11, ESV)

So, let me leave you with Jesus’ words in closing:

“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Luke 5:31-32, ESV). 

 

Soli Deo Gloria


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I Am A Horrible Husband…

 

….And father, and leader.

 

There are so many things that which I fail at, that, in the eyes of the world, one would think that I am a failure. Sure, I have my successes, like a family that loves me and that I love. But, on that same note, I am a horrible leader of my family. So many decision that I make are irrational and/or illogical. We have been married over six years, and our oldest child is five-and-a-half years old this month, and we are just starting to do family devotions, something I’ve always wanted to do and was reinforced about doing last year when I read a book on family worship.

 

Right now, I am struggling with my failures to of not being able to get a job. Obviously, I am somewhat desirable in the workplace, or my resumé wouldn’t garner the amount of interviews I have gotten. But, I haven’t got a full-time job. I’ve gotten more turn down emails and letters in the past two months than jobs I’ve applied to up to this point in my life. It’s disheartening for me, very stressful. And I feel like I’m constantly doing something wrong, like it’s my fault that I keep messing everything up. This very morning, I had what seems like a very promising interview, however, it may be a couple weeks before I hear anything back about that. All the while, we are living with my parents, and we are ready to have our own place. That is just frustrating as can be(sorry mom and dad, I love you, but, the 4, almost 5, of us need our own space). It’s truly been a struggle for me in so many way.

 

My wife is also very stressed out and struggling with everything. She’s 20-something weeks pregnant with our third child(A girl!), and plans on being a stay-at-home mom and home school teacher to our children, and she’s ready to have our own space. The four of us sleeping in a single 11ft x 11ft room is very difficult, and most of the time quite uncomfortable. And for her, being pregnant, I think she’s getting less and less sleep each night.

 

Oh how I miss the time at the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes when we had a steady income, free housing, no utilities we had to pay, and a vast majority of our food provided for us. It having been a month this coming weekend that we have been living with my parents, and we are still there. Our plan was to move, me get a job and we be out before the month of May began. And here we are, May 14th, still in that tiny room. I suck. I feel like I’m a failure of a father. A failure of a husband. I failure of a man.

 

It was one night, sitting at the dining room table that has been in my family for as long as I remember(at least 26 years, as that’s as far back as I remember having it before my family moved to south Florida), feeling like this, like a failure, that God spoke to me through His Word. I kept remembering “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That kept going through my head all that night and into the next day, and the day after that. After three or four days, I finally opened up my Bible and looked for that text. I know it was Paul who wrote it, so, then, naturally, I Googled it:

2 Corinthians 12:1–10 (ESV, emphasis added by me)

1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

There is it. All through my life, things have come with relative ease to me, a true blessing from God to me, a depraved, wretched, unworthy servant of God. I had come from a relatively well-to-do family, who lost most everything financially when I was a teenager. Up until a certain point in life(I don’t remember when, but it was after I married Roni) that I had gotten an offer from every job I applied for. I got accepted to all the colleges and universities I applied for out of high school. I was well liked within my youth group, with many expecting me to be a missionary, living overseas by now in some remote village winning souls for Christ(which, I might add, I am not doing..yet). I’ve bee groomed for success in some way or another throughout much of my life. And yet, there is one thing that I keep on forgetting with my endeavors, especially as of late. Well, two things really…

 

The first thing would be my sin of self. Not selfishness, but self. Self-reliance. I can do it on my own. I’ve done it on my own. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians,4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”( Philippians 3:4–6, ESV). Now, I am not of the tribe of Benjamin or a Pharisee, or a Hebrew of Hebrews, but I am, and have been, an overly confident man, confident of my abilities to get things done with little or no effort involved from my part. However, that is not the case. God has provided for me, even when I haven’t had any idea that he has been helping me. And, there have been many a time when I have known it was entirely from God that my good was coming. But, overall, I have been overconfident in myself and haven’t been relying on God as I should.

 

Right now, as we, my family and I, face these times of uncertainty with employment and everything, I strongly believe that God is humbling me and teaching me to be more reliant on Him. And, this leads to the second thing that I keep on forgetting: God’s complete and total sovereignty. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3, ESV). There is nothing that I do or that happens that isn’t part of God’s plan. Our God is sovereign in all that he does, and we need to recognize that. He has a plan and is going to use everything that happens for good(Romans 8:28).

 

So, during this time, I am going to live by the words from James 1: 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, ESV). And I am going to 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV). And, I am going to let God us me: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV). And, while doing all of this, I am going to trust in God’s sovereignty, knowing that His plan for our time of difficulty is perfect and perfect for us. I know that we are going to come out on the other side of this as better people, a stronger family, and with a great testimony to God’s greatness and provision.

 

So, I guess I am not really a horrible husband or father or leader. I guess I am not a total and complete failure, at least, no more than the next Christian man. What I am is a depraves sinner saved by God’s grace, God’s saving grace which He extended to me all those years ago. And, as long as I strive to Glorify God in all that I say and do, I am being the husband and father and man that I am needed to be. While there is always room for improvement, I know that God will be glorified in what I do.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

*EDIT* I didn’t mean to publish this when I did, I meant to save it. One thing that makes me the successful man that I am is Christ, and that I am in Christ. Without Christ, I have nothing. I am nothing. Without Christ, I would be dead in sin. Being that I am in Christ, Christ is my strength. Christ makes it possible for me to be successful, because Christ is my success for me. And that is what I boast in. That is what makes me not a failure. And to that, To God Alone Be The Glory! Soli Deo Gloria!


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Are You A Heretic?

Here is another great blog article that my wife found, this one on The Gospel Coalition blog, and can be read HERE.

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Are You a Heretic?

“To know nothing of what happened before you were born,” Cicero observed more than 2,000 years ago, “is to forever remain a child.” The Roman philosopher’s words are no less true today. If you’re a Christian, the history of the church is the history of your family. Studying it doesn’t have to be dull and boring. Properly done, it will instruct, exhilarate, give perspective, illuminate, inspire, humble, convict, and fire worship.

The first installments in Zondervan’s new KNOW series, Justin Holcomb’s Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics are accessible travel guides to the some of the significant events, doctrines, and heresies throughout Christian history. Each chapter covers a statement of faith (or heresy) and includes a glimpse of the historical context, an overview of key points, discussion questions, and suggested further reading.

In every generation, the Christian church must restate its bedrock beliefs, answering the challenges and concerns of the day. In these books Holcomb leads us through centuries of creeds, councils, catechisms, and confessions—as well as the errors that occasioned them—and reveals their profound relevance for today.

I spoke with Holcomb, Episcopal priest and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, about the need for creeds and confessions, today’s most “live” heresies, threats on the horizon, and more.

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Are the creeds and confessions we already have sufficient, or do we need more?

I think we’re just fine with the creeds we currently have, but more confessions would be a good thing. I say this because of what creeds and confessions are, how they differ, and how they are used. While there are differences between creeds and confessions in how they’ve been used, a genuine distinction between creeds and confessions is artificial.

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In contrast to creeds, which are basic statements of belief, confessions represent more detailed inquiry into the things of God. The creeds are the boundaries of the faith that separate orthodoxy from heresy, while the confessions color in the picture, tying theology to everyday life in all sorts of ways. Because creeds are bare-bones structures (the outlines of the sketch), it makes sense that the earliest statements of the church are creeds, while later statements of particular denominations are confessions. Creeds distinguish orthodoxy from heresy (or Christian faith from non-Christian faith). Confessions distinguish denominational distinctives (or one type of Christian faith from another type of Christian faith).

Christian confessions often define a particular group’s belief on secondary issues such as infant baptism, the end times, predestination, the Lord’s Supper, and the order of salvation. While the creeds aimed to preserve “the faith delivered for all time,” confessions tried to apply the faith to the here and now.

Did the early church accept the councils as authoritative like we do? If not, how should that affect the way we view the creeds?

There are seven ecumenical councils that every branch of the church recognizes today, whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant.

The first recorded instance of a church council is found in the New Testament. The Jerusalem Council is the name given to the meeting of church leaders of Antioch (with Paul and Barnabas) and of Jerusalem in which the large growth of Gentile converts in the early church was discussed (Acts 15:2-29).

Like the Jerusalem Council, church councils were called to address not only disagreement over a theological issue but also the practical ramifications of that issue. For instance, in the Council of Nicaea the question being asked was, “How can we worship one God (the Father) and also worship Jesus Christ?” Though this was a practical question about worship, it couldn’t be disconnected from the more abstract theological issue of how Jesus Christ is related to his Father. The council affirmed that both Jesus and the Father are members of a single being, God.

So are the councils’ decisions authoritative? It’s instructive to notice that when Paul is asked whether Christians should eat food offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:1-13), he appeals not to the decision of the Jerusalem Council but instead to the revelation he’d received from Jesus Christ. This shows that Paul saw the Jerusalem Council as authoritative in some sense but not ultimately so. His appeal was to God’s revelation as the arbiter of truth, not to a human decision at a council.

I believe that the creeds produced by the ecumenical councils are authoritative, but just not the final or only authority.

Is the “Great Tradition,” as the collection of early creeds are often called, sufficient for Christian unity?

It is necessary but not sufficient. My understanding of “Christian unity” includes doctrine but also other things that bind us together, such as practice, prayer, and love. Basically, I don’t think it’s enough to define “Christian unity” as saying the Nicene Creed without crossing your fingers.

A unity held together only by orthodoxy (right doctrine) is weak and dangerous. Without orthopraxy (right practice) and orthopathos (right affection), orthodoxy encourages Christians to view faith as a head-trip.

A unity with multiple dimensions is seen in passages like John 13:35Romans 10:3,Proverbs 19:2, and Ephesians 4:1-6.

Which heresy is most “live” today, even if in slightly repackaged form? How about one on the horizon?

Repackaged teachings from Pelagius and Socinus are the most “live” today. My summary of Pelagius’s heresy is “God has already given us the tools we need.” Pelagius developed an ascetic form of Christianity with an overly optimistic theology of human nature. My summary of Socinus’s heresy is “the Trinity is irrelevant, and Jesus’ death is only an example.”

Pelagius correctly saw human nature as something good created by God. But he ignores humanity’s fall (original sin), causing his theology to fall into error. First, Pelagius argued there’s no such thing as original sin. In no way were we implicated in Adam’s first sin. His sin doesn’t make us guilty or corrupt. Instead, as Pelagius claims, “over the years [our own sin] gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself.” Humans by nature have a clean slate—a state of neutrality—according to Pelagius, and it’s only through voluntary sin through the exercise of an unhampered human free will that we are made wicked. Potentially, then, one could live a sinless life and merit heaven, for there’s nothing intrinsically sinful about humans even after Adam and Eve’s sin. Pelagius didn’t consider us to be intrinsically damnable after the fall.

In short, Pelagius rejected the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement (the idea that Christ’s death in our place is a supernatural intervention to save us), and justification by faith (the idea that believing and trusting in Christ is the way to salvation).

Socinus held a unitarian view of God: only God the Father is truly and fully divine. Jesus, “the Son of God,” received a unique divinely appointed office as the Logos, an office that deserves respect and even worship. However, for Jesus, that respect and worship were limited to his office and didn’t extend to his person, which Socinus argued wasn’t divine. Socinus contended that the ecumenically accepted doctrine of the Trinity couldn’t be defended.

Given his understanding of the radical unity of God and, consequently, Jesus’ merely human existence, Socinus’s view of the atonement logically differed from commonly accepted views. He argued that since Jesus wasn’t divine, his death couldn’t have been intended to make satisfaction (as Anselm argued) or to pay a penalty on behalf of other humans (as the Calvinists argued). Instead, Socinus understood Christ’s death to serve as a way for God to model true love and devotion and to demonstrate the way of salvation. Jesus, then, provided the unique and divinely anointed model for humans to imitate.

Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

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