Controversy & Confrontation

Galatians 2:11-14 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was wrong. 12 He had been eating with the Gentiles before certain people came from James. But when they came, he began to back out and separate himself, because he was afraid of the people who promoted circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also joined him in this hypocrisy so that even Barnabas got carried away with them in their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they weren’t acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, though you’re a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

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Paul is on the road teaching, preaching and making disciples for Jesus Christ. He teaches the message of grace and the truth about Jesus Christ. One day he notices Peter, Cephas, eating with Gentiles (non-Christians) until people from James, an apostle, showed up. That’s when Peter removed himself, out of fear, and did not associate with the Gentiles again until after the people from James left. Peter was so influential that the other people with him joined in and began to separate themselves from the Gentile believers.

Paul sees this and has the same options we have today. He could either do everything in his power to discredit and shame Peter without talking face to face with him and then have people make up their mind about Peter over this one incident and go around saying what a horrible person he is; or he could go and talk with Peter and remind him the truth of the gospel: that everyone is invited and welcome.

We see this kind of example played out in our world today. When someone is in the wrong, what do we do? Social media has made it an easy escape to avoid talking with the person face to face. If Paul were alive today, would he have posted on Facebook or Twitter what Peter did wrong and why he was wrong? No, he would still go face to face and talk with him.

There is so much hatred in our world today. Imagine what it would be like if we watched what we said online and stopped showing the evil side of people. Sometimes it is really one incident that people are prone to make a decision about a person without ever getting to know the person.

What do we do when a person is in the wrong? Jesus taught that we should go to the person and talk with them first. This is the most loving thing to do since it is far better to praise in public and reprimand in private. Then if they do not change, Paul says to take them to the church. This does not mean the meeting is set to be negative. This is meant to built the believer up so they understand what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also, this will help the other people in the group understand the situation and their lives can be changed too.

Some people still may not get it. Paul says to let them go, in order for them to know what it’s like to be away from the fellowship and be deserted so they will return and be transformed. During this time of separation, we should be the ones to pray for the person/people because Jesus taught us that we should pray for our enemies.

The way Paul handled it must have worked because we have the evidence from Peter’s letters and the early church leadership. How will you and I respond when (not if) someone or some group goes against what we believe?

#LiveFreeInChrist

Paradigm Shift

I know many people have heard this story:

This man goes to his pastor one day and says, “Pastor, I’m at the end of my rope. I have lost everything!” The pastor listens as the man breaks down and tells the story of what happened and how he suffered financially. After awhile the pastor looks at the man and says, “I’m sorry you have lost your salvation.” “No,” said the man, “I haven’t lost my salvation.” “Oh,” the pastor says, “well, I’m sorry you have lost your hope in Christ.” The man said he hadn’t lost that either. The pastor goes on to say how sorry he is to hear the man lost his faith, God, the Spirit within him, his health, etc. The man hadn’t lost any of that. The pastor concludes and says, “Well, it seems to me you really haven’t lost anything.”

Isn’t this just like us though. When something does not work out the way we had intended or planned for it to work out, we begin to speak and think negatively. I am not saying here that positive thinking is the answer and will fix our “problems.” What I am saying here is there is another way to look at problems; firstly, by calling them “challenges.” This way we can begin looking for a solution to the “challenge,” rather than just complaining about the “problem.”

“Where are all the people? Why don’t we have more people here?”

We all have heard questions like this in any organization or group we are part of. The intent of the question is really asking and showing, or at least I hope it is, a genuine concern for the ones that are absent. But, what we do not realize is that we actually demean or devalue the people who are there. It’s almost as if a person might be saying, “You’re not good enough without the others here.”

Now, I know (or I hope) this is not what is meant; but this is how it can sound. If we take the time to look at who is there and see the giftedness they can bring, imagine the work that can be done. Instead of taking valuable time complaining and trying to think of what “other people” should be doing to bring in more people, we could simply look at who is there, thank God for each person and bless each person, then allow them to do what they know needs to be done.

This would require a drastic paradigm shift. We live in a culture that says higher numbers (money, people, projects completed, taller buildings, large stadiums, etc) are the answer and show success. I propose that we take some of the examples that come from the Bible and see what is really able to be accomplished with a “small” group of people:

  • Gideon (in the book of Judges) led an army of 300 Israelites (after an angel from God told him to) and defeated a larger Philistine army
  • David’s smaller group of soldiers was able to defeat larger armies than King Saul’s army was able to
  • We cannot forget the 12 apostles that went out into the world and turned the world upside down spreading the message of Christianity to everyone.
  • There are other examples in the Scriptures as well

The point is that we have much more going for us than we have going against us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Just because the size of the group, bank account, task list, etc. is not where we would like it to be, doesn’t mean it has less value or is immobile.

I challenge each one of us (especially me) to look at what we do have and focus on that. This way we are not coveting or being jealous over another person, group, organization and we free ourselves to allow God to work through us (large number or small number) and see the great impact God, through us, will have in this world.

Last Saturday, I was able to preach a message called “Lasting Legacy.” We explored a few ideas from John Wesley’s life and final days to help us understand how his legacy is still revered the world over and how we can leave a legacy behind that outlives us and our family. I invite you to check it out.

May God continue to richly bless you in order to make an impact in this world for the Kingdom of God. We have all we need because we have the very presence of God with us and in us.

Real Strength

One of the traits I have observed people attempting to show is being a “strong man” or “strong woman.” I believe it is important to be a strong person; however, it also seems that people may have somewhat of a wrong idea about what it means to be strong. These are some qualities that may provide some idea that show true strength (emotional, mental, social, etc). I invite you to study this list and see if something should be taken off or added.

A “strong man” or “strong woman” should:

  • be compassionate toward others
  • be able to listen
  • realize there are things we can learn from anyone
  • be able to learn from other people
  • not think anyone is beneath them
  • be the most loving person (without allowing others to “run over them”)

These are just some of the qualities and traits of strong people. What else would you add?

Judging & Dividing

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When we look at our world today, it is easy to see divisions on many grounds. We have divisive politics, economic standards, acceptable social practices, how people need to view other people’s way of life, etc. These are challenging times we live in and it is sometimes difficult to take a stand on one side or the other without being ostracized and downgraded by opposing sides.

One of the biggest issues we face today is how we can do the loving thing to our neighbor so the love of God through Jesus Christ can be shown. The phrase “WWJD” is thrown around a lot and people use this to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” This has become a very divisive phrase since people have a particular viewpoint based on “their interpretation” of the Bible.

Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”

These verses have been used to point out the “other person’s” errors and that “they” need to be more loving and compassionate. These verses come straight out of the Sermon on the Mount which deals mainly with how to live with our fellow neighbors. If you or I believe we are the ones in the right, we will typically explain to the opposing person why they are wrong and try to belittle them into feeling bad for having a “wrong” viewpoint which is really different from ours.

What could these verses from Matthew be telling us today? Let’s look at them again. Notice it does not explicitly give which side is right. It is really saying that before we go around telling another person why their wrong, maybe there is a reason they believe themselves to be right. What if we simply took time to listen instead of writing the other person off? Also, we should be careful that we are not being hypocrites and try to think we are better than the other person, because the truth is that we all have a “log” in our own eye and should work to remove that first.

Have you ever noticed how we have been given opportunities to “love” a sports team, political party, school, religious teaching and automatically demonize the other side? Think of it like this, “if you like (or love) UT, OU is the evil enemy and visa versa.” This can really be applied to anything we “love.”

So basically, before we (no matter what side on ANY issue) try to demonize or belittle the opposition, maybe we can realize they have value as well. Maybe, instead of thinking we are the ones in the “right,” we could take some time and understand where the other person is coming from.

If we acted this way, we can easily change “WWJD” to “WHJD.” Instead of asking “What Would Jesus Do?” we could remember “What Has Jesus Done?” The answer to this is simple: he ate with the sinners, welcomed and ate with the outcasts, prayed (and prays) for people (you and me), discipled people society thought unworthy, lived a life we don’t live, died for our sins and for us. Remembering what Jesus has done can change our way of thinking and could help us move the Kingdom of God closer to those who need to experience it instead of arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong.

The mission Jesus entrusted to his disciples, and to us, is still to be witnesses and bring people to Christ not showing a division and pushing people away from Christ.