Every man is as holy as he wants to be.

Every man is as holy as he wants to be.

– A. W. Tozer

ho·ly:  adjective \ˈhō-lē\

  1. exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
  2. divine <for the Lord our God is holy — Psalms 99:9 (Authorized Version)>
  3. devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity <a holy temple> <holy prophets>
  4. a)   having a divine quality <holy love>  b)   venerated as or as if sacred <holy scripture> <a holy relic>

The term “holy” has changed over time to have a connotation of divine nature, and while this is helpful in us understanding the character and person of God, it is not truly helpful when we consider the command of God that we are to “be holy as He is holy” (1 Peter 1.16).  I am not a deity or possessing of the nature of God, are you?

Originally the term meant “set apart”.  That is why we celebrated holidays, or holy-days.  Days that are set apart for special remembrance.  They are different.  God, in choosing us and calling us unto salvation has set us apart unto Himself and He calls us to be different.  The ways in which He desires us to be different are clearly outlined in Scripture.  We are to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control (Gal 5.22-23).  We are to think on those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, and anything of excellence and anything worthy of praise (Phil 4.18).  The definition of true and pure love is world rocking:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

– 1 Cor 13.4-7

These attributes and characteristics are not natural for humanity.  In fact, to live this way is impossible.  But when we realize our depravity and need for a Savior and repent of our sins, God gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and give us the desire, strength and conviction to live this way.

And [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

– John 6.8, 13-14

Once the Spirit is convicting us, the Law is written on our hearts, we then are “as holy as we want to be”, as Tozer puts it.  The Spirit convicts us of sin.  We know when we are acting in ways contrary to the heart of God.  The Scripture tells us activities that we should and should not do, and the Spirit helps us with the gray areas.  We then choose to grieve or quench the spirit by not listening, or honoring Him by obeying.

But what about the command to be above reproach?  I wrote earlier this week on the qualifications for church leadership and the bold emphasis of the entire Scripture passage was that he must be honorable and above reproach (1 Tim 3.2).  This just means that he has a good reputation.  Many of the new seeker sensitive and grace dominant movements are quick to ignore sin.  We do not want to shame anyone because “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4.8), and we are all sinners so we cannot point out the speck in another’s eye (Matt 7.3-5).

But excusing sin is not loving.  It is harmful to another’s well being to stand by and watch him slip, fall or jump into a habit that will tear his heart away from God through unholiness or disobedience.  That is why Jesus gives us clear instruction for how to deal with a brother who is sinning:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

– Matt 18.15-17

Jesus wants us to be tactful and honorable in confrontation of sin.  If we see someone whom we love doing something that dishonors God and will cause him to wander from God, we should tell him – in private!  We ought not shame him publicly at first, as he might have been ignorant, or the Spirit might call him to repentance at that simple confrontation.  If he hardens his heart by the witness of one friend, perhaps he will repent by the influence of two.  If not, then the whole church needs to get involved, and if he has hardened his heart at this point, Jesus says have nothing to do with him.  Paul goes so far as to say, “do not even eat with such a one” (1 Cor 5.11).  And by this we maintain our integrity and reputation.  We do not condone sin or welcome it, because we take seriously the commands of God.

This process is only to be followed in the case of one who calls himself a believer.  The nonbeliever is going to act like a nonbeliever, and we should not try to dress up a corpse, but pray for life.  Only once he is alive can we help him wash off the stink.

So what, then, should we do when someone’s sin is attributed to us?  How do we maintain a good reputation when someone is confused about what happened, when people think you have done something you have not?

The key is love.  Fact-sharing is not unloving.  But if we are vengeful or proud in our accounting of an event, then we are sinning.  Our heart in church discipline must be love, and unto the repentance of the hardened.  Our goal must always be to restore one another to good relationship with God and with the Church.  If your reputation has been tainted because of the actions of another, do you get angry and defame the one who sinned?  Or are you broken over the fact of the sin, and account the story with grief and tears for the wayward brother?

Many would say that our standing is between us and God.  But the way that we carry ourselves is a representation of our Lord.  And we know that God does not excuse or condone sin.  Ever.  And we ought not either.  But we are quick to forgive and forget when one falls.  And we are quick to confess and repent when we fall.  And we are extremely concerned about God’s reputation to the world in the way that we act!  If we go on sinning after we claim God’s forgiveness, “[we] again crucify to [ourselves] the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Heb 6.6).

Let’s not shame God and His provision of forgiveness.  Let us honor Him, and live set-apart lives, separate from sin.  Let us love one another enough to push one another on to holiness and maturity (Heb 10.24).  Let us love one another enough to not tolerate sin in our own lives and in one another’s lives and help each other honor God in our daily lives.  Let us choose to be holy.  Let us help one another to live our their choice to be holy.  Let’s love boldly and represent God well.

holiness

 

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Who does God say that He is?

It has become extremely popular today for individuals to define who their god is.  With the common abandon of the reality of absolute truth, people make themselves god by writing their own versions of reality.  “To me, god is ______.”  And that is only if we assent to the existence of a greater being!  Many westerners will argue that there is no god, that we make our own destiny, and that when we die we cease to exist.  There is no meaning in life.  This fatalistic view, however, is terrifying and debilitating and when we turn to finally find the Truth and reality, we can find God.

Perhaps the easiest way to learn about God is to hear what He has to say about Himself:

Then the Lord passed by in front of [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

– Ex 34.6-7

God, when He proclaims His own character, portrays the perfect balance that we must remember when we approach Him.  So many passages in Scripture look at a single attribute at a time.  God is love, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4.7).  God is jealous (Deut 4.24).  God is patient (2 Peter 3.9).  God is wrathful (Rom 9).  But here, when God presents Himself to Moses and proclaims Himself, He magnifies His grace and His wrath.  His love and His glory.  His patience and His judgment.

God is compassionate:  He has a deep awareness of our suffering and a desire to relieve it.  He is gracious:  He offers us hope and salvation when we do not deserve it, and blesses us in life beyond our worth.  He is slow to anger:  we regularly forget about Him, ignore His law and standards and He puts up with us, shepherding us to obedience through discipline.  He is abounding in loving kindness and truth:  He is kind and faithful and does not waiver or falter in Truth.  He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin when we repent and turn back to His truth and His ways.

But He warns us that the guilty will not be unpunished.  God is holy, He is righteous and He will not tolerate sin.  And He threatens, quite terrifyingly, that when a person, a people or a nation embrace sin, the consequences will pass on with weight and continued depravity for generations.  What parents allow in moderation, children will excuse in excess and the burden will grow heavier as the sin multiplies.

Jesus Christ took upon Himself the weight of the punishment for the sins of all who would believe.  Thus, when we repent, He can and does forgive our iniquity and transgression.  But His blood does not cover those who do not repent.  They will bear upon themselves His wrath both today and in eternity.  Don’t take my word for it, God said it Himself.

We cannot know God’s grace unless we understand His holiness, our sinfulness and the dreadful expectation of judgment that we deserve.  In seeing our sinful position, we know love:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– 1 John 4.10

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

– John 15.10

And our response to love is obedience:

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do what I command you.

– John 15.10-11

Let’s stop trying to make up our own reality.  Let’s seek God and ask Him what He has to say about Himself.  Let us know Him and love Him and obey Him.

14980_landscape_god_rays

Can God use me?

Have you ever wondered if God can use you?  Maybe I am not smart enough, or bold enough?  Maybe that sin that I did in my past is too terrible?  Or conversely, maybe my life story is not dynamic enough?  Maybe I have had it too easy?

Do you love God and want Him to use you?  Have you repented of your sins and decided to let God’s word stand as authoritative over your life?  Then the answer is simply, and resoundingly,

Yes!

In which facet do you desire to be used?  There are a few times in Scripture that we have outlines for the characteristics of leaders.  Deacons (people who serve the church), elders (Spiritual leaders and advisers for the church), and pastors do have “qualifications” if you will.  The characteristics are quite similar:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.  An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.  He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.  And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.  Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.  Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

– 1 Tim 3.1-13

These qualifications essentially establish that one must be mature and of good reputation.  There is one issue that presents itself as difficult from this passage for many churches, and that is the statement, “The husband of one wife”.  Many people who love the Lord have taken this statement to mean that one who has been divorced can never be used of God in these positions of leadership in the church.  Divorce has become for them the unpardonable sin.

God created marriage, and God hates divorce (Mal 2.16).  There is no question about it.  And while it is true that divorce is against the heart of God almost always a sin,, there are often times unwilling participants in divorce.  If a man has a family and his wife leaves and files for divorce, most states in America leave him with no options legally.  The new “no-fault laws” keep partners from assigning blame and allow for people to separate from one another without the consent of the their spouses.  Paul, the very same author of this passage outlining the qualifications of leaders, states that one who is abandoned as such is free, without sin (if he has managed his emotions and reactions honorably), and is not “under bondage” (1 Cor 7.15).  He may remarry.

Let us consider the character and heart of God for a moment.  He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life on Earth to redeem sinners unto salvation through His death and resurrection.  He paid the penalty and debt of sin of which we were guilty so that we might become His righteousness, His children, and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  When we repent of our sins, does it then follow that He would consider the repentant one condemned for the sin of divorce alone?  Would he say, “I forgive you, but you cannot serve me”?  David, the man after God’s own heart, had an affair, killed the man and married the woman.  He was the only man in the Scripture known by this title, and that was attributed to him after the affair, murder and cover-up.  But in his repentance, God used him mightily.  God is able to used a repentant divorced person.  Even if he was the one who sinned in divorcing his spouse.

I once heard a testimony of a couple who had married young before they knew God.  They were married for years, but came to a breaking point and got divorced.  While they were separated they both heard the story of Jesus, repented of their sins and came back to one another and remarried.  They lived a dynamic life of service and leadership within their church and desired to be international missionaries, but the mission board to which they applied denied them because they had been divorced.  Years before.  Before they were Christians.

This is wrong.  Was their divorce sinful?  Yes.  But Jesus redeemed them and paid the penalty of that sin on the cross.  And they, after being saved, repented and returned to one another.  There is therefore now no condemnation, and we put ourselves in a precarious position to condemn such a one (or couple) where God does not (Rom 8.1)!

How then do we know if one has repented?  Has the divorcee sought restoration, forgiveness and submitted himself to the word and authority of God?  Then he has repented.  If he still justifies his sinful decision, or refuses the authority of God over his life and relationship, he has not.  And this is most evidently seen in his conduct.  This is why Paul clearly outlines that one must be of good reputation (within the Church) and able to manage his own household well.  Therefore the “husband of one wife” must refer to his moral and sexual purity.  The term is literally, “a one woman man” in the Greek: not having multiple wives or sleeping around.

Perhaps you have not been divorced.  Perhaps you had an abortion when you were a teenager.  Perhaps you molested a child or raped someone.  Perhaps you embezzled money from your company or robbed your neighbor.  If you have confessed your sin and repented, that sin is covered.  No matter how grave you might believe your sin to be, God Himself died, conquered death and rose again in your place.  Jesus’ worth is infinitely more weighty than the punishment of your sin.  And He covered it, definitively.  Do not let anyone tell you God cannot use you.  There are examples of almost every sin we can imagine within the patriarchs and those people whom God chose to use mightily.

Have you repented?

Have you confessed your sins?

Have you made restitution?

There is therefore now no condemnation, and you are in Jesus Christ!

The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama has written an in depth outline of the Biblical statutes for divorce.  While it is simply entitled, “The Gospel and Divorce“, it is thirteen page graciously and lovingly written document that I recommend to you for further research and insight into the topic.

forgiveness

Christians and marijuana

I had a new life experience yesterday.  With Mondays as my day off from work, I went skiing with my boyfriend.  The lines were short since Mondays are a slower day and we were ushered straight through the lift line and onto the gondola to ascend the mountain.  The gondola is completely enclosed with a small window along the top to keep the air balanced in the inside of the lift.  We had only pulled away from the boarding station when the four others in our small pod began chit chatting with us.  They were very nice people from Baltimore who come and spend a full month in Colorado skiing.  Being quite impressed, I asked “Wow, you come all the way out here to ski?” and the youngest of the group said, “And smoke marijuana”.  The eldest of the group then pulled out a joint and said, “You don’t mind if we smoke, do you?” and lit up.

If you have missed the news, Colorado made marijuana legal recently.  I am confused how it works out, as it is still illegal federally, but whatever the case, I saw it face to face yesterday for the first time.

Should, can Christians smoke marijuana?

This might sound a little extreme.  It is still an illegal drug throughout most of the United States, and as I noted earlier, even though it is legal according to the state of Colorado, the federal government still forbids it.  And we, as Christians, are commanded to obey the laws of the land.  So this might be a non-issue.

Or is it?

Christianity is not established in our culture.  Jesus was a Jew.  He lived 2000 years ago and His culture – as well as the variety of cultures and times within the Bible – are not our own.  We have traditionalized a variety of practices within our society that we consider “Christian” that are not Biblical mandates or necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you a story.  There is a tribe of a few million people in South East Asia.  All of their neighboring tribes were converted to Islam in the 13th century, but being cannibals and pig hearders, they did not convert with the majority.  In the early 1800’s, two missionaries from Boston went to engage these people and were murdered and eaten.  Then Dutch and German missionaries returned to take their place.  Seeing the care of the Christians, the tribe, by and large, came to faith in Jesus Christ.  The missionaries, however, were confused in their application of the faith to these new believers.  They built a European church building with a steeple and a cross amidst all of the existing huts.  They required these people who take their shoes off to enter every building to wear shoes into the church (a sign of disrespect and considered dirty culturally).  They told these new, tribal believers that they need to wear a coat and tie to come to church and they translated western hymns into their language as hymns are, after all, the music of the faith.

This is an actual photo of some of the tribe’s men in 1870:

batak

 

This is what their houses looked like, and still look like today:

Batak_Toba_House

 

 

And this is a church built there:

800px-Balige_church

Jesus did not wear a coat and tie.  He took his sandals off at the door when entering into a house, and had His feet washed as they would become dirty throughout the day.  Jesus did not sing hymns with a piano or organ.  These are cultural adaptations of Biblical truths that the missionaries utilized in their worship of God.

Jesus came to redeem peoples in their own cultures.  The Bible clearly teaches us that murder and cannibalism are sins.  Therefore, this aspect of the tribe’s culture had to change in order to honor God.  But building a western church building, wearing ties and shoes and singing western hymns is not mandated by God, and therefore does not have to be adopted by cultures to glorify Him.

This might seem silly to you.  Of course we do not have to make people “American” in order to be Christians or followers of Christ.  But how, then, do we handle an ever-evolving culture like our own?  Many cultures around the world are rich in heritage and slowly change.  But American and western culture has been transforming generationally since the Industrial Revolution.  Some of us love tradition and heritage and some of us love change.  The Bible tells us to remember the tradition of the past, and also to sing a new song (2 Thess 3.6, Ps 33.3, 96.1)!  To let God transform our lives (2 Cor 5.17).

The litmus test is simply this:  Does this honor God?  I heard recently that there is a strain of marijuana that is helping children who have epilepsy.  You can read the news story that accounts a young child being freed from seizures by the drug  here.  This is a legitimate medicinal use healing a chronic illness, and appears to be taking marijuana to a new level.  Opiates went through this debate and transformation years ago.

But the Bible is extremely clear that we are to be sober minded:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…”

– Eph 5.18

Be sober-minded; be watchful.

– 1 Peter 5.8

But Peter goes on to explain why we must be sober minded:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

– 1 Peter 5.8-9

We must keep our minds alert so that we can resist the devil and maintain a life of holiness unto God.  Lions roar to make their presence known.  They are confident enough in their strength to hunt their prey and defeat them that they can boast.  The enemy is strong and cunning, and he does not need to sneak up on us because he knows how to ensnare us.  And allowing our minds and wits to be influenced by anything that dulls our senses or control gives him an in.  We must remain in control.

We also must take care of our bodies as good stewards of the gifts that God has given, and we all know the negative effects that drugs and alcohol have on our bodies.

Therefore, I would argue that numbing our brains is sinful and even while it is culturally becoming more acceptable, we should refrain.

But every aspect of our culture must be analyzed in this fashion.  If it appears to be morally neutral and is not prohibited by God, then we must consider our motivation for participating in it:  Am I doing this unto God?  In the name of Christ?  For His glory?

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

– 1 Cor 10.31

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3.17

The Music War.

organ

Music.

We have split churches over it.  We have split services over it.  Young people, come on Saturday night and we will play your music, and senior citizens come at 8:00am because you get up early anyway and we will play the hymns with the organ.  We get mad at each other for it, we choose a church based on it.  Sometimes we even build our churches completely around it!

Ok people.  We’re all guilty.  You don’t like drums, I don’t like repetition, he doesn’t like hymns, she doesn’t like that new contemporary guy.

Whatever.

When these disputes arise, we have completely forgotten the central foundation of the Church:

Church is not about me, and it is not about you.

What are the two commandments on which all of Christianity is built?

  1. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut 6.5, Matt 22.37).
  2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19.18, Matt 22.39).

Church is about God.  To praise Him, worship Him, to learn about Him and push one another on to love and know Him.  Music at church should be based on those two commandments.  You can test it by them.  Does it honor God?  Does it speak truths about Him?  Does it exemplify His greatness?  Does it rejoice in Him?  If the music is Biblically sound and if it glorifies God, do you know what the next question is that we should ask and consider?

Does my neighbor like it?  And does it help him to praise God?

Whoa.  Yes, that is a radical thought.  I personally love the hymns, ancient and modern.  I am a classically trained pianist, I grew up with liturgy and I am a thinker.  The depth of the hymns, the tradition of the music and the simple fact that so many of the hymns tell the story of redemption in the completion of the verses just makes my heart want to burst in praise for God.  In love.  To me they are SO good.  But I know many people who are feelers, and like contemporary rock.  Singing “I love you” repeatedly to a sustained chord of an electric guitar ushers them into the presence of the Spirit, without the theological depths that get my spirit engaged.  So the Biblical response for me, when I think about loving my neighbor must be:  Let’s sing the songs and the style that my neighbor enjoys because I want him to meet with and commune with God today.

We must also remember that music is not worship.  Pouring out our heart before God in the form of song, when done to His glory is worship.  But so is helping others to pour out praise from their hearts.  So is preaching and listening to the teaching of the Word.  So is serving lunch at the luncheon in love.  So is training your children to love and know God.  So is reading your Bible and communing with Him on your own.  So is eating, drinking, working and playing unto God, in the name of Christ .  Worship should be our lifestyle, and if we delegate a season of ten to twelve minutes on Sunday morning in church before the sermon as our time for worship, we have stunted our Spiritual ability and are incapable of worshiping in that moment.  We are then choosing a church because they play the music we like and we are enjoying our definition of good music.  It makes us feel food.  It is about me.  And in reality I am worshiping myself.

This is not an issue of right and wrong.  One form of music is not morally or spiritually better than another – as long as it is Biblically sound.  It must be in accord with Scripture.

The Spirit in me is not going to disagree with the Spirit in you.  If I can put my desires aside and love God and love you, the Spirit will unite us in Truth.  Because He is Truth.  Are drums of the devil?  I would challenge traditionalists to consider the history of the symphony and the variety of instruments utilized to play the masses and hallmarks of our faith – like the tympani!  Is repetition brainless?  Please read Psalm 118.  Are the hymns and traditional southern gospel closest to God’s heart?  Please tell me one person in today’s culture who can sing, without giggling, “Nobody can do me like Jesus”.

I do believe that God desires and deserves our best, even when it comes to music.  He did, after all, create music.  All of His instructions for the tabernacle and temple were to do be done skillfully.  But that is another topic for another place.  Here.

Let’s die to ourselves.  Let’s love one another.  Let’s consider our brothers and sisters and the music that engages their hearts and facilitates an expression of their hearts to God in worship.  Do you have a music leader at your church?  Trust his leadership to have a finger on the heartbeat of the church, and praise God.  In spirit and in truth.  In love.  In music.  In honoring one another.  And in so glorifying God.

Natural Degradation

dna

My Bachelor’s degree is in Biology.  I enjoyed the molecular level of study and took most of my courses focusing on DNA and life at its most intricate levels.  In my first Molecular Biology class, the professor made a statement that has stuck with me over the years.  Sexual reproduction requires two gametes (reproductive cells – a sperm and an egg) from a male and female that both are haploid (having only half the number of chromosomes of a normal cell).   During fertilization (when these two cells pair up) they form a zygote (a new cell with the full number of chromosomes).  Each chromosome is composed of a coiled up strand of DNA.  So when two people make a baby, the baby is receiving half of its DNA from its mother and half from its father. The DNA is what holds all of our genetic makeup, dictating our appearance, our allergies, our disabilities and our strengths.  Mutations and disorders are carried in our DNA and the more similar our DNA with our mate, the higher the likelihood of deformities.  That is one foundational reason that incest is discouraged, and while marriage to a cousin is legal in some states, it heightens the potentiality of birth defects in offspring.  

My professor stated that every time DNA replicates itself (be it through mitosis or meiosis:  within an individual or in sexual reproduction), mutations [can] occur.  DNA is getting less pure and more mutated with every generation.  

This, of course, made me realize that Adam and Eve were created with the purest of DNA and this is one reason incest was not forbidden until the time of Moses and the Law (approximately 2300 years after creation, or roughly 1450 BC) and also one reason people lived so long in the Old Testament.  

This physical example of the natural break down of our genetic makeup led me to ponder the spiritual break down that we experience generationally.  Sometimes we give the Hebrew people a hard time for forgetting God’s provision as they left Egypt, roamed in the wilderness and settled in Canaan.  I wonder, though, if we are not all falling victim to shortsightedness.

           What parents allow in moderation
                                    Children will excuse in excess. 

When God led the Hebrews into the promised land, He instructed them to kill or kick out every inhabitant of the land so that they would not be tempted to worship their gods or turn to their lifestyles.  In some situations they were obedient, but in others they did not fully remove the inhabitants.  The parents took the people of the land as slaves.  The children married them.  The grandchildren adopted their lifestyles, gods and culture.  Two generations and they no longer remembered the things God had done.  Sometimes it did not take even two generations!

Now let’s get personal.  My grandmother will not go to a movie.  Her church will not condone playing with cards because they are used in gambling and can give the appearance of evil.  I cannot fathom a curse word coming out of her mouth.  And turning 90 this year, I am confident that she upholds these standards for her life to glorify God, not for legalism’s sake.  She has a rich testimony of caring for abandoned women, witnessing to her neighbors and family and loving God.  

My dad went to a movie when he went off to college (and he went to a Christian college!).  Can you imagine the nerve?  He also ate a restaurants that served alcohol.  Growing up our standards of movies were high:  we did not want strong language, and my dad held the remote control to function as the “TV Police” if inappropriate scenes came on.  We could enjoy the movie without the bad parts.  

When I think about movies to see, language is rarely a deterrent.  I want to know if the story-line is good, and I can cover my boyfriend’s eyes if something too provocative comes on.  We did have to walk out of a movie recently, however, because it was just too debased.  But if I have children, where will their line be?  If their music and movies use profanity, will they?  

The question of movie watching is rarely a topic of conversation within our churches.  But the trend is the same for alcohol, binge spending, materialism, education, entertainment, etc.  What we tolerate, our children will accept.  What we excuse our children will justify.  What our parents excused, we justify.  Movies are not evil in and of themselves.  I like movies.  Don’t tell me I can’t go see movies.  You might say the same about alcohol.  “Jesus drank alcohol”, right?  Or materialism.  God gave me the smarts to make a lot of money.  Or God blessed me, He wants me to be happy, and this house or that car will make me happy.  This is God’s blessing, and I’m going to enjoy it!

The very moment we get defensive and want to call the prohibition of what we want legalism, our hearts are in a dangerous position.  

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 – 1 Cor 10.31

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

 – Col 3.17

Everything that we do should be done in the name of Jesus.  In the name of Jesus!  Am I going to watch that movie in the name of Jesus?  Are you drinking your alcohol in the name of Jesus?  Are we working, buying houses and toys in the name of Jesus?  In the name of Jesus does not mean that you are claiming your religious freedom.  It does not mean, “Jesus gives us grace, we do not live under the Law, I am not a legalist and therefore I can do ___________.”  It means, I am walking with Jesus, and I believe that it would honor Him and empower my testimony and cause me to fall more in love with Him if I _____________.  If you can do those morally undefinable things that fill that blank to God’s glory, then it is not my place to judge you.  And if I can do things that are in that line to God’s glory, it is between me and God.  

However, Paul is extremely clear that it is best to live in such a way that if by doing those things I cause you to stumble, then I am sinning.  And vise versa. 

It is good practice and habit to set up boundaries for ourselves.  If we know our sin of temptation, let us set up the boundary miles away from it so that it never becomes an option.  But let us also know our friends, family, neighbors and church.  If we know their struggles, let us set up boundaries for ourselves to protect them.  This is most glorifying to God.  But those boundaries cannot become our method of earning favor with God.  We set those boundaries because we love Him and because He loves us.  Our hearts should be, “God, I love you so much that I do not want to watch a movie that dishonors you, and I only want to go see a movie in the name of Christ – to His glory, and if it does not or cannot honor you, I will not go see movies.”  

Our standard is Christ and His glory.  Not our freedom, not our laws.  If you set out to love God in everything you do, our children will learn the same.  We will pass on a heritage of faith, not excuses.  Our children will exemplify our DNA.  Do you want to pass along mutations that develop into birth defects?  Or do you want to pass along healthy genes that honor God?

Are we all [supposed to be] missionaries?

Be a missionary every day,
Tell the world that Jesus is the way.
Be it in a town or country,
Or a busy avenue,
Africa or Asia,
The task is up to you!
So be a missionary every day.
Tell the world that Jesus is the way.
The Lord is soon returning,
There is no time to lose.
So be a missionary,
God’s own emissary,
Be a missionary today!

I grew up singing this song, did you?  I apologize for it consequently running through your head the for rest of the day if you know the catchy little tune.  The Church I attended while growing up was very “mission-minded”.  We had big mission conferences, we hosted missionaries regularly, we had a book of prayer cards for all the missionaries that we supported with three or four different ones to pray for every day of the year.  They took the Great Commission seriously.  I had (and still have) heroes like Hudson Taylor, John Wycliffe and Jim Elliott.

But the reality is that we are trivializing the role of missionary and fundamentally misunderstanding the call of Christianity when we make broad, inaccurate statements like “We are all missionaries” and “Be a missionary today”.  A (Christian) missionary is one who is sent, by a local Church, to a foreign country to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ vocationally.  He leaves family and he leaves culture.

The very call of Christianity is to firstly:

“…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

– Matt 22.37

And secondly:

“…love your neighbor as yourself.”

– Matt 22.39

It is very clearly understood that to love another (your neighbor) as yourself is to seek his eternal salvation first and foremost.  You would not want to go to Hell, and you would not want to live a life on Earth without God, and if you are loving him as yourself – if you are seeking his best and well being – you will be pleading with him unto salvation.

Jesus instructed the disciples, the “first church” if you will, to:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.19-20

This is the “Great Commission”.  This is Jesus’ heart for the church and for the world; that His truth would bring about the salvation of every tribe, tongue and nation!  And the church needs to equip and mobilize its best and brightest to get out there doing exactly that.  But it is a broad command.  There has to be a supporting and sending church to facilitate and mobilize vocational missionaries around the world.  There are some who are physically unable to go, and there are some who are unwilling to leave family or comfort.

The call of Christianity is to make disciples.  Every day.  Wherever you are.  Loving Jesus, talking about Him, pushing others towards Him is the life of the believer.  When you are crazy in love with someone, you cannot help but talk about that person, and that is the outflow of a regenerated heart:  to talk about Jesus.  It is not obligation or forced, it is natural.  This is not missionary work.  It is being a Christian.  We are all called to this task!

Missionary work is doing this in a foreign culture.  Crossing all sorts of borders to the end of furthering the Kingdom of God.

Now, to be clear, missionaries are by no means super-Christians.  Jim Elliot, one of my aforementioned heroes who was killed by the Indians he sought to serve made this statement:

“Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.”

God gives us faith.  He gives us abilities.  He gives us passions.  And He expects us to utilize those according to that ability:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

– Rom 12.3

And it is according to the measure of faith and ability He has granted us that we will be held accountable.  Your measure is unique to you.  You will not be judged by your pastor’s measure, your coworker’s measure, your parents’ measure or any one else’s.

That being said, Jesus left us with one task.  And that is to make believers of the world.  Often times we over-spiritualize the missionary calling:  we want a passion or a personal encounter with God.  We want a sign or a direct word that is extra-Biblical and personal to affirm that God’s desire to transform the world includes us.  If you have faith, you have been called.  The real question should be, “Why would I not go?”  And if you do not go, then let’s get busy being obedient in our daily life, making disciples where we are planted.  Just be a Christian.

“Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire.”

– J. Hudson Taylor

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