Thursday, January 26, 2012

Doctrinal Purity

I've recently been engaged in conversations with people who have expressed concerns about preserving doctrinal purity within their organizations (denominations as well as independent ministries). Some have even gone so far as to express concern about participating in community events with churches whose doctrines differ from their own. Many times the individuals in the local church are confused because they want to serve with believers from other congregations, but they are told by their leaders that they can't on the grounds of doctrinal concerns. This is not new. I've had dialogue for many years with those who take this position.

Before anyone says, "You have to stand for something or you don't stand for anything," let me state that I take my denomination's doctrinal distinctives very seriously. I am a Wesleyan because I believe that the Wesleyan-Arminian distinctives are both biblical and liberating. I do not look down on those who embrace a different theological background. I simply love the doctrine of my church.

That being said, I have to address the real issue: What's really important? When all is said and done, we who are Christ-followers will stand before the Lord Himself and be judged, not according to the organization or doctrine we embraced, but on what we did with Jesus. Did we receive the free gift of eternal life from the Savior? Or did we attempt to live a good life with the hopes that would be enough? I recently officiated a funeral for a man I barely knew and I have no idea of his stand with Christ. All I could do as I led the service was to share with his family and friends how they could know Jesus and why they needed to know Him. I didn't talk about my church; I talked about Jesus. I tried to offer them the hope of Jesus.

So what's my point? It's all about Jesus. The church at Corinth had a bunch of issues, rooted in their lack of understanding of salvation. In the first chapter of his letter to the believers there, Paul addressed their divisions: they were arguing over who it was they were following and who baptized who - I would call these doctrinal divisions within the Church. Paul's answer? "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1:18)

Let's not be divided over little things. All believers everywhere are one Church! I know the Wesleyans won't have a private corner in glory, and I'm sure your denomination or independent church won't either. Embrace your distinctives - they are what make you unique. But embrace other Christ-followers even more. Then the world will know real faith. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Birthday

Yep. Turned 54 today! Nothing to be overly excited about. Or is it just me?

Age is something that I don't think about, except for those times when I go to do something and can't do it as quickly as I used to. My mind tells me I'm in my early 30's. My body? Not so much. But I am very fortunate to be as healthy as I am for my age. I know a lot of people who are in much worse shape. I'm blessed to only take one pill a day (Metformin, for all my fellow diabetes friends).

Let's see what this next year will bring!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Last Sunday I began (notice I started - I didn't finish, yet!) a message on the Lord's Prayer in Luke 11:1-13. I broke the prayer down into three sections: an upward look, an outward look, and an inward look. In dealing with the outward look, I talked about what "your kingdom come" means for us today. I take the position that the Kingdom of God is here in the Church - the hearts and lives of His people. We are an expression of His Kingdom. We are to advance His Kingdom. (The following is taken from the message of January 8, 2012).

So what keeps us from advancing the Kingdom more effectively? I believe it is the fact that we allow many things to rival God's Kingdom. What kingdoms rival God’s? Thanks to the suggestion of my good friend Steve Forsyth, I began to look at the rivalry in light of the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. The temptations Jesus faced address kingdom rivalry in a succinct manner. Let me explain.

The first kingdom to concern ourselves with is self-wealth. The temptation to turn the stones to bread is simply greed / materialism. It’s a refusal to trust God to provide. This rivalry redirects our vision away from our dependence upon Him. That’s really the emphasis we see in 11:3 – “Give us each day our daily bread.” The emphasis on daily bread is on what is sufficient or necessary. In the OT (Exodus 16:4; Deut. 8:6), the Hebrews depended on the daily provision of manna as they wandered in the wilderness. In Jesus’ day, many of the workers were day laborers – they didn’t have permanent jobs. They had to depend on God to provide work on a daily basis (Matthew 20:1-5). We tend to depend upon the sweat of our brow (self-wealth) until we have our backs against the wall.

A second rivalry is self-importance. A friend of mine put it as self-lust. The temptation for Jesus to throw Himself off the temple and be rescued by a heavenly special forces unit was nothing more than Satan’s way of getting Jesus to be concerned more with image than about God’s will being done. Self-importance is polar opposite of humility. Pride and arrogance are the antithesis of a kingdom mentality. We are at great risk when we trust in our own wisdom and accomplishments. We are to have the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:5-11).

The final rivalry is self-power. This is a control issue. Satan challenged Jesus to bow and worship him, with the promise of rule over the world (its kingdoms). It wasn’t Satan’s to give. But he dangled this enticingly before the Messiah with the mistaken notion that he could distract Him from His mission. We get distracted when it comes to seeking power for ourselves. We want to be in control; and we don’t want anyone to have control over us. It’s a spirit of lawlessness. We want things on our own terms. We get so caught up in the day-to-day and we don’t want any interruptions. It’s all about our goals, our dreams, and our destinies. Embracing this mindset rivals God’s invitation for us to yield power and control to Him so that He can use us for the sake of His Kingdom. Our purposes take priority over His.