3 Reasons to Respond Graciously When your Theology is Challenged

“I would recommend to all my brethren, as the most necessary thing to the Church’s peace, that you unite in necessary truths, and tolerate tolerable failings; and bear with one another in things that may be borne with; and do not make a larger creed and more necessaries than God has done.” – Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

As means of communication becomes easier and social media gives just about anyone a platform it’s easy to take shots at other camps based off of sound bites and clips. In all honesty, this is painful for me and I see this occurring all over Facebook and Twitter. On the one hand, its important to have the ability to voice concern but it becomes scary when it turns into a monster fight via social media.

When people find their identity in a theological position, denomination, or conviction and not in Jesus there’s a serious problem. And when Christians make the minors majors it’s a serious problem.

The moment of truth. If you ask me what camp I’m in the easiest answer is to say I’m reformed. But my identity is in Christ. My hope, faith, source of life, is in Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, as a stereotypical “reformed” type I’m absolutely into theology and my favorite books revolve around theology and doctrine. And at times I read blogs and articles that pin point the “reformed tradition” as being ego and intellectually driven, just a fad, or more committed to tradition than Jesus. Regardless of if this is true or not, what matters is my response. I have two choices.

1. Get defensive and attack the other camp
2. Respond graciously

Here are three reasons why I believe the gracious response is always the best option.

1. The scriptures tell us too – Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity”. David helps us to illustrate the importance of unity by giving us two examples.

  • Precious oil anointing Aaron – In this imagery we find Aaron who served as high priest being anointed with precious oil. The oil would eventually flow down on his beard and over his chest which would have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Essentially, a consecrated, unified, and holy people of God would serve as an example to the rest of the world.
  • Falling dew – Dew served as symbol of refreshing, quickening, and invigoration. Likewise, brotherly unity should cause a resurgence, renewal, and refreshing for the believer.[1]

When responding in these situations we should consider how it will affect the unity of the church universal. If our response destroys unity, it’s not helpful or edifying for the church.

2. It fosters reconciliation not destruction – A gracious response may be the difference in a long and positive relationship. An un gracious response may be the catalyst for a destroyed and lost relationship. A family has fights and arguments. There are often different perspectives and opinions. However, each conversation should be aimed toward reconciliation, the same can and should be said between Christians.

3. It provides a bridge for honest conversations – If we are able to do the first two, the benefit could be an honest dialogue where both parties are heard. Its not about who wins, rather about understanding each others perspective. Our value and ability to live in unity in spite of different perspective on the minors is a thing that honors and edifies the church.

Please don’t misunderstand me. If something is said that falls blatantly outside the framework of the orthodox Christianity, we must address it. In fact, as pastors it is our responsibility to address such matters as we lovingly lead our people. This is not about being passive and not holding to convictions. It’s about holding to convictions while still representing Christ well.

 

 


[1] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 133:3.

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Authentic Friendship

As a child friendship came easy. I remember moving into a new neighborhood and riding my bike down the street listening for the distinctive sound of a basketball bouncing. Once I dialed in on the sound, and found those that were playing, It was instant friendship.

As I get older I realize that friendships, real authentic friendships, don’t come as easy as they used to. There are a variety of reasons for this. We’re older. Were married. We have kids. We have kids (did I say we have kids?).

As I look back at the authentic true friendships that have sustained time, distance, and hardships I can see that there is a common factor that helped to foster such relationships.

living life together

My childhood friends, family, and cousins all have stories we tell and remind ourselves of. When we used to play power rangers and fight over who would be red ranger (Havil). When shadow attacked cecil while he was sleeping (shadow was a puppy and licked Cecil’s face). Spending long hours and night playing music and laughing (Pierre).

In my post college years it was doing an internship with a group of guys and girls. I can’t even tell some of the stories during that internship. But feel free to ask Eric, Ryan, Edwin, Carlos, Julio, or Caleb. A favorite story is Eric breaking Caleb’s headlight by throwing a chair at it. Ohh..and an X-box…(probably still to soon). One of those girls became my wife and mother of my three children.

Church planting with an incredible pastor (Steve) and some of my best friends. Leading worship for kids camp and drowning Borris with water on stage (Sean). Late night talks on the porch talking theology, life, and ministry (Steve, Levi, Vincent).

There are hundreds more stories like these. I’ve come to the realization that some of these early friendships will always hold a special place. They were forged out of experience, challenge, love, and laughter.

As we get older these moments seem to get shorter. We get caught up in life, work, and family. All these things are good but it means it takes more work to build authentic friendships. Here are a few things I suggest that may help build authentic friendships as you get older.

1. Be intentional about living life together
2. Look for shared likes, hobbies, that you can build around
3. Share your story. What has God done in your life and why are you where you are?

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Would you preach till your vocal chords gave out?

40 years of passionately loving a church and faithfully preaching the Gospel.

I get to travel a lot for work (Logos Bible Software) and this week I’m at Hillside Christian Church for the Jud Wilhite God of Yes tour.

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Best part, my dear friend from college Erik is the tech director. As he gave me a tour of the facility I got to hear the story of the church. The story that stuck out was about the last senior pastor who transitioned out after 40 years preaching from the pulpit. In fact, today, he has to get injections in his vocal cords to be able to whisper. It makes me consider the amount of passion and drive that motivates someone to such lengths.

What motivates you? Do you believe in something so passionately?

Ohh, as we were touring that same pastor was walking around the office loving on the staff at the church. Really makes me consider what kind of legacy I will leave…

Who really cares about your value if….

…your family doesn’t even know you anymore.

If you follow me at all on social media you probably know a couple things about me.

  1. I am always posting pictures of my sons
  2. I love pizza
  3. I travel a lot

This past week I had the opportunity to speak at a conference called Hydrate in Augusta, GA. The Hydrateconference had a couple hundred pastors and I had privilege of sharing Logos Bible Software and how Logos can really revolutionize sermon and teaching preparation for ministry leaders. The morning before my session Pete Wilson (Lead Pastor at Crosspoint church, Nashville) spoke. He did a great job but the one thing that he said in a Q/A has been running through my mind constantly.

“Your company or church could find a replacement for you in an instant, but your kids have only one dad”

Initially, this was a bit offensive. In my mind I began to justify the immense value that I bring to my job and the church and then instantly it hit me. Who cares about the value I bring to my job or church if my two boys don’t know dad. If you are like me, the motivation to excel in all areas of life is driven by a deep desire to honor God and provide for my family. But in pursuit of good things, if we are not careful, we can single handedly bring significant damage to the relationships and areas of our life that we cherish the most.

For me, the resolution to this challenge is simply priorities. It would be easy to list them out and feel satisfied like something massive was just accomplished. But unless it is lived out we will continue in a very dangerous cycle.

Transparency and action is key in breaking the cycle.

Jesus – Grieving Over the Religious..

Was Jesus ever angry?

Mark 3:5

“And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart,”

One of the most important things to me is that my boys know who Jesus is. Part of knowing who Jesus is requires us to study and dive into what he did in the scriptures. What we find is a Jesus who is committed to the work of the Father. In Mark 3:5 we also see Jesus responding to the Pharisees that highlights his humanity. One of the great mysteries of theology is that Jesus is both fully man and God. This mystery should lead us into worship of our great God. In Mark 3:5 we see that Jesus feels two common human emotions “anger” and grief”. Jesus has human emotions, and feels deeply. Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 7.39.57 PMDiving into the Greek text (thanks to Logos 5 for the research help!) we see that the Greek word “Syllypeo” is being translated as the word “grieved”. This word literally means to feel sympathy. When referring to anger, the greek word “Orge” is being used which refers to relatively strong displeasure with a focus on the emotion anger.

In this one sentence we see Jesus expressing two seemingly opposite emotions. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for their insensitivity to suffering while also grieving over the condition of their hearts. Jesus’ anger and grief teaches me the following.

  1. Don’t forget the Gospel – While these religious leaders are consumed with hatred for Christ and waiting for the opportune moment attack, they miss their calling. As the religious leaders it is their responsibility to represent God. To do His will and care for others. It’s easy for us to get consumed with things that pull us away from Gospel.
  2. Do good – Jesus asks if its right to do good or harm, to save or to kill. In the very next verses Jesus answers this question with an action. He restores the mans hand. It’s simple, do good. Start with your family, your wife, husband, children, mom, dad, and siblings. Do good in your community (including the neighbors you try to avoid cause they annoy you). Be a reflection of the Gospel of Christ.

When Your Son Says, “No, Dad” and He’s Right…

One of the most tragic things I’ve heard as a youth pastor are the countless stories of parents who are not active in the life of their children. While the story is different for each student the end result is the same..a child who feels that they are not loved by their parent. I’ve always wondered how this happen’s? How can a parent not care about their child, not be involved in their life? Where does it start?

And then it happened. I came home from work, changed into some shorts and took my almost two year old son outside to play “ball”. Liam loves to play ball. He loves anything that looks like a ball. In fact, he loves apples and oranges, mostly because they are Liam, Dad, and footballshaped in the form of a ball. His passion and love for sports and ball’s in general probably started when I would lay him on my chest and throw a football in the air when he was just 2 months old.

While tossing Liam the ball I felt the familiar buzz of my iPhone in my pocket notifying me of a text message or work email. I thought that I could quickly peek at my email in between tossing the ball. Liam saw me pull out my phone and quickly walked over to me and simply said “No, dad”. At first I thought he was referring to the ball that I was holding. A few minutes later I felt the buzz again and checked my email. This time Liam walked over to me, held my hand, and said, “No, dad. dadda, please, no”.

And then it hit me. This is where it starts. Liam wanted my attention. Not 95% of my attention but all of my attention. Somewhere over the course of 19 month’s Liam made a correlation between my iPhone and the amount of attention he gets from Dad. Simply, when there is no iPhone he gets all of Dads attention. In the presence of an iPhone he does not get dads attention.

This is where it starts. When Liam said, “No, Dad” he brought to attention the beginning roots of what could result in me becoming the very parent that would leave my son telling the very story that I hated to hear, to his youth pastor. It’s because of this very reason that I try my best to do the following things. While I’m not perfect with these, it has already made a huge difference.

  1. Have a designated “off the radar” time – While some jobs practically don’t allow for this, If your job does, I would highly recommend doing so. I try to disconnect from my phone around 6pm. This helps me to give my full attention to my wife and kids
  2. Get to work on time or earlier – I find that when I get into the office early I get a lot more done. When I am more productive and efficient at work, I don’t have to worry about taking work home with me.
  3. Listen to your wife – My best gauge of how I am doing in balancing work and home is my wife. If you think you can do this on your own, your either amazing and on superman status, or your lying to yourself.

A great resource that has been an encouragement to me is Pastor Mark Driscoll’s book, Pastor DadI have a long way to go in this area but I’d rather get a head start on this!

Failures, Success, and Humility

As far back as I can remember, I have always been competitive. Losing at anything was incredibly difficult regardless of if it was a sport, game, debate, or heated discussion. In fact, I would rather not play if I wasn’t confident that I could win. Possibly one of the biggest  mistakes I made was not realizing that failures play a crucial role in future success. It took a significant amount of time for me learn this lesson and now that I have, I’d rather my two boys learn it early.

A great example of early failures and future success is the story of George Washington. I am currently reading an advanced readers copy of “7 Great Men And The Secret To Their Greatness” by Eric Metaxas. When mentioning the name George Washington, many instantly envision a mighty, brave, and fearless General. However, as MetaxaMetaxass points out, many do not realize that George Washington faced a significant failure early on as a newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel. On May 1754, Washington gave the command to fire on 32 French Soldiers that were eating breakfast and did not engage Washington or his men. The result of this decision would result in what we now call the “French and Indian War” which laster over five years and resulted in a significant amount of casualties.  While some would crumble under the pressure of such a significant failure,  Washington remained resilient, steadfast, and humble. Learning from his mistake he went on to lead his troops courageously through significant trials and hardships. He become famous with his men, and when he resigned his commission he thanked them stating,

“true affection for the honor you have done me, for if I have acquired any reputation, it is from you I derive it.”

What may be the most significant marks of greatness that George Washington left us with, is his humility that he displayed in two remarkable ways.

  1. He declined to become a functional King after the American Revolution – There was a moment after the Revolution that George Washington could have become the most powerful man in the newly formed America. However, he declined, in humility, recognizing that he would not become the very thing he fought against. In fact, by declining power, George Washington became the first military leader to win a war and then voluntarily step down from leadership.
  2. He declined a 3rd term in office – This precedent that Washington set has lasted hundreds of years. Washington’s determination to step down from leadership is an example of incredible humility and personal conviction.

When George Washington died on December 14th, 1799, out of respect, more than sixty British ships lowered their flags to half-mast. One British soldier stated that this was done out of respect for the man who, “out generaled” them.

Washington’s response to his first major failure on May 1754 played a crucial role in his life.There is certainty that we will all experience failures in our lives. The most important decision is what we do with our failures. My hope and prayer would be that my boys would become stronger and learn from their failures. That the failures they experience would instill in them a sense of humility.