When We Disagree

Posted: June 24th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The Lord wants unity, but disagreements in discussions are also a fact of life. Sometimes discussions can fall apart pretty quickly, even before we really understand why. How should we react to this? How should we proceed in discussions when we are dealing with disagreements? Here are some suggestions:

1. Be generous. Assume the best first. Don’t assign evil motives to other parties. They may have intended something else.  Let the principles of love guide our discussions. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). This is simply an extension of the “golden rule”: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Matt 7:12).

2. Be respectful. Don’t begin a response by insulting and insinuating that the other parties are intellectually deficient. There should be no room for inflammatory comments. Just address the issue without resorting to ad hominem attacks. Kindness and respectfulness should mark all conversations. “What is desirable in a man is his kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar” (Prov 19:22; cf. Col 4:6; Eph 4:32).

3. Be Reasonable. It’s possible that we misunderstood something. Be willing to discuss and foster good communication through definition and clarification. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Prov 18:13). In the same way, be logical. It is one matter to just state, “I disagree,” or to just state a contrary proposition. It is another matter to state the disagreement along with reasons. Learn how to make actual arguments (in the good sense). If we want others to consider our positions, we need to be able to give the “because” for our positions. If we can’t state the “because,” then we don’t have adequate grounds for decent discussion and we are just pointlessly naysaying. This becomes just arguing our opinions and preferences, and this has little value in fostering understanding of truth.

4. Be open. It’s possible that we are wrong ourselves and haven’t thought something through as much as we should. Are we willing to change if we are shown to be in error? Consider the other position and make sure that we understand it before rejecting it outright. If we are still sure that we disagree, then proceed with the other principles in mind. Be a truth-seeker, and “understanding will watch over you” (Prov 2:11).

5. Be honorable. One of the most frustrating parts of a disagreement is when the other party misrepresents what we believe. We all make honest mistakes in our reasoning and conclusions, but if we purposefully twist or distort something in order to win an argument, we have crossed over into dishonesty. This is never honorable or right. When representing what others believe, be fair and accurate. If we find that we have not been accurate in how we represent a position, then be willing to listen and gain further understanding. Never intentionally misrepresent just to win an argument. “A trustworthy (i.e., honest) witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies” (Prov 14:5).

6. Be direct. We may often be frustrated in discussion because we cannot pinpoint the real problem. Being generous and kind does not mean that we have to beat around the bush when we address the issue. State clearly the objection and the reasons for the disagreement. What is the real problem? The principle of being direct, whether in rebuke or disagreement, is part of wisdom: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:6). We can be friendly, tactful, and kind while at the same time being straightforward and addressing the real issue.

7. Be committed. First, be committed to the Lord and His truth. Then be committed to the well-being of others. Be committed to souls and seek salvation for all. Winning an argument is pointless just for its own sake and can be a form of self-glory. God calls us to a higher standard. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:24-26).

You can probably think of more. Reason and persuasion are a part of being disciples (cf. Paul in Acts 17:17; 18:4; 19:8-9). Scripture gives us the principles by which we may proceed in discussions that are often bottlenecked by stubbornness and unreasonable posturing. We can do better. We can seek the Lord, seek truth, and seek for the greatest benefit for others. This must be intentional, bearing in mind the wisdom of God.

-Doy Moyer

 

 


Lest We Drift Away

Posted: June 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The scriptures include both admonitions to Christians to remain steadfast in the faith and warnings about drifting away from God’s word. An analysis of both thoughts will not only instruct but challenge brethren to set their minds on things above and prepare their hearts to be faithful to God.

Our English word “steadfast” translates in the New Testament at least three families of Greek words. All of them convey the idea of being “firm,” “fixed,” and “secure.” When the apostle Paul commanded the Corinthians to “be ye steadfast,” he added the word “unmovable” (1 Cor 15:58). This conveys clearly what the apostle meant.

When sinners come to the Lord by faith, they accept a set of principles by which life in Christ is to be lived. They commit themselves to put Jesus and His kingdom first and to focus on heavenly rather than earthly things (see Matt 6:33; Col 3:1-2). Their real treasures are in heaven and to reach for those things is what’s most important to them (Matt 6:19-24).

This commits them at the outset to assemble on the first day of the week to remember Jesus, His love, and His death for them (see Acts 20:7; Heb 10:24-25). This means also that they accept a life of purity and moral excellence by rejecting the passions of the flesh and the ways of the world (Gal 5:19-21; 1 John 2:15-17). And beyond this it includes the will to study, to pray, and to look to the needs of their fellow brethren (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess 5:17; Matt 25:34-40).

As an expression of this new way of life, “steadfastness” means that they do not vary from these principles and that they cling to them day by day by day. They are committed to and refuse to be moved away from a life of devotion to God as their Father and Jesus as their King.

The writer of Hebrews, on the other hand, tells brethren that if they do not give more earnest heed to the things they have learned as Christians, they put themselves in jeopardy of “drifting away” (Heb 2:1). He was writing to Jewish Christians who were in the throes of trampling under foot Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God, viewing as unholy the new covenant as God’s will and plan for sanctification, and doing despite unto the spirit of grace by which they had been saved from sin (Heb 10:26-29). This makes the point that disciples of Christ who do not cling to God’s word and their faith in it will in time “drift” from its divine principles.

The word “drift” often relates to and conveys the idea of a ship that is slowly moved by a flowing tide away from its moorings and place of anchor. A boat that is not securely anchored will gradually and slowly slip away from the dock. This, as experience demonstrates, is what happens to God’s people who are not fully grounded in truth by their love for God, their faith in Jesus, and their hope of God’s promise. Saints who are not anchored firmly will slowly and surely quit assembling with the saints, compromise their moral and ethical principles, and only in tough times think of God and feel a need to pray and turn to the Bible for comfort and encouragement.

The lack of any spiritual nourishment from the scriptures and the absence of any help from God in times of unfaithfulness leave God’s people to drift aimlessly in a sea of human wisdom, where they rationalize their indifference to the Lord, justify all kinds of evil conduct, and remain oblivious to their self-devotion.

-L. A.

 


Words and Example

Posted: June 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Words” are symbols of ideas and the vehicles by which God delivered His message and will to man. He created man with a mind that can receive, reason, understand, and speak words. Man himself can thus utter words and declare unto others what he has learned from God.

This, Christians are responsible to do. They have by reason and discernment learned the gospel of Christ and are to declare this message to the whole world (see Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19-20). They are likewise called to teach, reprove, and warn one another by words of truth. To reason and understand is an important ability they have, but there goes with it an important responsibility.

Christians must follow the example of the apostle Paul and not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God (see Acts 20:27). They must not be afraid, intimidated, or dissuaded from accepting and fulfilling this significant role. They must boldly yet kindly tell sinners that they cannot be saved by “faith only,” that baptism is necessary to salvation from sins, and that they after becoming Christians can fall from God’s grace.

Christians must likewise speak openly to one another as brethren and in reproof tell fellow saints who need it to put God’s kingdom first and assemble with the saints, to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against and defile their spirits, and to show sincerity and genuineness in serving their Master.

Yet “words,” as important as they are, in the absence of godliness, reverence, and holiness are not only insufficient but harmful. A Christian’s example and way of life when they are not true to God’s words speak volumes to those who know him and observe his conduct.

The Pharisees, whom Jesus consistently rebuked, were especially good with words. Although they were often controlled by and devoted to traditions of men, they knew much about God’s will and were vocal in declaring it to fellow Jews. Their lives, however, did not always back up and fulfill the truth they spoke to others. And this is a serious problem and hindrance to those who see this hypocrisy and are in search of excuses for their own disobedience.

If there is anything in this world that people despise, it is a hypocrite—a person who says and teaches one thing and does something different. Society, to this day, remembers with repulsion the Jim Bakers, the Jimmy Swaggerts, and other TV evangelists who spoke openly of spiritual values and moral conduct—yet secretly sought out prostitutes in violation of the fundamentals of holiness, and openly displayed their greed and love of money in search for treasures on earth (see 1 Pet 1:14-16 and Matt 6:19-21).

Jesus warned His own nation to beware of hypocrites and called out one example after another to highlight the insincerity of their evil hearts (see Matt 23). What they bid you do, this do, Jesus said. Follow their “words,” not their “example”—for they say and do not. They like to speak the truth and bind heavy burdens, but won’t lift one finger to do the things they say. To emphasize their vile and unseemly behavior and the reward that hypocrites receive, Jesus concluded: “Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?” (Matt 23:1-4, 33).

May these vile hypocrites be a reminder, brethren, to not only speak the words of truth and soberness, but to live consistently with and by these words. Nothing can frustrate and hinder the work of the Lord more severely than hypocritical brethren who love to speak the truth but fail to exemplify it in their lives. Words matter, but they must be accompanied by example.

-L. A.

 


Gratitude Not Grumbling

Posted: May 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

People who think life revolves around them or that the world owes them a living seldom say—“thanks.” Thanksgiving is a character quality—a heartfelt, soul-filled feeling of gratitude for what others, including God, have done for us. Whether it concerns an event or favor we can do for ourselves is beside the point.

Who can forget the nine lepers whom Jesus healed of a debilitating disease that separated them from their families and society (Luke 17:11-19)? Here were men who could not go home, kiss their wives or hug their children, yet when they were healed and could return to the synagogues for worship and to their homes to live with their families—they never even said thanks. Not a one of the nine returned to say thanks or show in some way appreciation to Jesus. Furthermore, we Christians must never forget the mindset of Gentiles in the first century who no longer glorified God and never gave thanks (Rom 1:21).

The apostle Paul urged brethren who make supplications and requests to God for their needs to do so with “thanksgiving” (Phil 4:6-7). He reminds God’s people who need God’s blessings and ask Him for help that they must also be mindful to thank Him for the abundance of blessings He provides for them daily. Paul when he commands brethren to sing psalms and hymns of praise to God tells them also to include offers of thanksgiving (Eph 5:19-20).

Brethren, when gratitude to God for life, health, family, earthly blessings, spiritual blessings, and an innumerable host of good things is missing from our hearts and lives, we lack a vital spiritual quality that opens our hearts to whining and grumbling about displeasures and disappointments in life.

Bible students are not left to guess about what God thinks of His people when they complain and gripe about life under the sun and the trials, troubles, and disappointments they face. Who can forget the accounts of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness and the amazing amount of complaints they uttered against God?

The nation saw the mighty works of God in His deliverance of them from Egyptian bondage and the provisions He made to feed them during their travels in the wilderness, yet they constantly complained about the hardships of life they faced. Surely, God had confirmed His love for them and His will to provide their needs. Yet they murmured against Him time after time.

First, there was a lack of water when they thought it ought to be provided; then there was the desire and demand for something besides manna; and finally the monotony of quail day after day after day. All of this, as life in general, was a test of their faith and trust in God. Life on a cursed earth and in a world of ungodliness has never been a utopian paradise. Life under the sun has its challenges and its struggles, including sickness, pain, deprivation, and heartaches.

Paul, of all men, faced these and many other hardships (see 2 Cor 11:16-28). Yet he was not consumed by them to the point of complaining to God. The apostle was in a prison cell awaiting trial when he wrote: “Do all things without murmuring and questioning” (Phil 2:14). His point is that despite life’s “uneasy pathway” we have hope in Christ that should express itself in “peace that passes all understanding” and “joy unspeakable” (Phil 4:7; 1 Pet 1:8).

So, brethren, as we offer prayers and make requests of God, let us do it with thanksgiving and eliminate the whining and complaining. Genuine gratitude will and must eliminate and replace grumbling. We have all things through Christ who strengthens us.

-L. A.

 


Are You Starving?

Posted: May 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Having local churches, having assemblies, and requiring specific things to be done in those assemblies was God’s idea, not man’s. And God warns us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb 10:25). Christians who choose not to assemble with other Christians are lacking in spiritual appetite, defying God, sinning willfully, and depriving themselves of the benefits that God intended to be derived from those assemblies. They will not grow spiritually; they cannot grow spiritually; they will begin to starve their souls until they become spiritually dead. Some are slowly dying; others have long since died. Do not let this happen to you; do not choose a course of neglect that will ultimately lead to the starvation of your precious and immortal soul. Put Christ first.

 -Bill  Crews

 


Things To Remember When In Worship

Posted: May 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles
  1. Remember the purpose of worship is not to entertain or amuse one another, but it is to pay homage, love and honor to God.
  2. Remember the people in worship; they are not perfect, neither are you. Those with imperfections are worshipping Him who is perfect. He who realizes his own imperfections most is better qualified to worship Him than he who imagines himself ‘perfect’.
  3. Come to the worship period thinking how great God is and how insignificant you are.
  4. Give due attention to the thoughts contained in the spiritual songs as well as in the harmony and melody of the singing of them.
  5. Remember that a sermon depends as much on the hearing of it as the presenting of it.
  6. Keep in mind that a critical, intolerant attitude is foreign to the spirit of Him whom you purpose to praise and to them that are gathered with you. You should be seeking to encourage those who are worshipping with you.

 -Jim Sasser

 


Parents: Be Consistent About Attendance

Posted: May 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

All godly parents are concerned about bringing up their children to be good, God-fearing people. Of course, we are commanded to do so (Ephesians 6:4). Consistency is an essential key in bringing up faithful children. An obvious area where this consistency needs to be seen is in the matter of attendance.

If you allow your kids to miss the worship services in order to be at a ball game, you are teaching them that the ball game is more important than the Lord. If you let them skip the assemblies for school functions, band trips, dramas or plays, or to go camping, fishing or hunting, in all at these ways you are demonstrating that there are things that are more important than God. If you fail to worship when you are traveling or on vacation, you are showing them that serving God is something you do only when it is convenient. If you let them take part-time jobs that interfere with their attendance, you are giving them a clear sign that work and career considerations are higher in priority than spiritual things.

Many parents who are violating the principles stated above will scoff at these warnings. Yet the personal experiences of many people, as well as the plain teachings of God’s Word indicate that this is the truth.

Joshua had it right when he said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24:15). There would be no compromise in his family. He would LEAD them in a consistent, faithful path. Let’s imitate his example of consistency!

 -Greg Gwin


Two Men Preach the Gospel

Posted: May 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Faithful preaching of the gospel demands a certain amount of negative teaching. The evils of immorality, doctrinal error, and division must be shown. Internal problems must be dealt with. But there is a difference between negative preaching and negativism. For instance…

Two men preach the gospel. The first man, however, is given to negativism. Practically all of his sermons are either an exposé of some false doctrine or a denunciation of the congregation for its weaknesses. Members attend worship periods wondering “what he’s going to fuss about today?” While he may not intend for it to be so, his basic message to the congregation is, “You aren’t! You can’t! You won’t!”

The second man recognizes the necessity of negative teaching, too, but his overall approach is positive. He looks ahead to the goals he believes the church can attain, and he plans his lesson with those goals in mind. He seeks to do his part in bringing every member to a closer relationship with God, to a greater faith in prayer, to a greater love for one another, to a greater desire for heaven. He also wants to bring each member to a hatred for sin and false teaching, and his negative teaching is presented with this in mind, When sin raises its ugly head in the congregation, he knows how to rebuke, even sharply. But his basic message to the congregation is, “You are! You can! I know you will!”

The first man just cannot understand why so many criticize his preaching. “They cannot endure the sound doctrine,” he thinks. And he argues his case well: “Wasn’t the Lord negative in His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23)?” he asks. “And what about His letters to the Ephesians (Rev 2:1-7) and to the Laodiceans (Rev 3:14-22)?” Having so reasoned, he is sure that his preaching is not the problem; that the problem lies elsewhere.

The second man recognizes that Jesus frequently spoke negatively (sometimes with a finality comparable to that which we might express concerning false teachers of our day—Matt 15:12-14; 21:28-46), but that His overall teaching was a sensitive combination of the negative with instruction, hope, concern, and reassurance. He hears the denunciations, too, but he also hears the lord’s appeals to the denounced, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” (Matt 23:37), “To him who overcomes…” (Rev 2:7), and “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” (Rev 3:20). Seeking to pattern his own teaching after the Lord’s he strives for the proper balance between the negative and the positive. He holds out hope to others. He constantly points them to a merciful Savior who forgives His true followers.

The first man discourages others, while the second man touches the lives of many for good. Both men are sincere, but the first merely tears down the evil, while the second tears down the evil and builds the good.

-Bill Hall

 


Is It God We Desire, or a Particular Path to Him?

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip” (Ps 17:5)

If we seek God sincerely, we’ll be willing to get to heaven by any path that He deems best for us. But this willingness is not always easy. When the way home begins to look uncomfortably different from the path that we’ve pictured in our minds, the result may be resentment, if not outright rebellion. At times like these, we must learn to love God for His own sake and not insist on any particular set of conditions as we journey toward Him.

The Psalmist prayed, “Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps 119:133). Such a prayer must be our own. And in our higher moments, we know that this is indeed what we desire: we want God to uphold our steps in His paths. We want His wisdom to supersede our own plans and preferences so that the greatest possible good is accomplished, not only for ourselves but for the world in which we live.

Certainly we must avoid any sort of demanding attitude toward God. If we have envisioned ourselves living and serving God within a particular set of circumstances, that may be well and good. But if life unfolds according to a different pattern, we must still maintain our reverence. Before we start acting as if our “rights” have been infringed, we need to do a reality check.

Long-term service to God requires flexibility, and most of us need to be more flexible in defining what our possibilities are. The good that God puts us here to accomplish can be accomplished in more ways than we might think. We need to accept that there are numerous scenarios through which God could be glorified in our lives, and we must not be so wedded to one or two of these that we can’t see the value in others. Is it not obvious from God’s created world that He delights in variety? Let us not be so shortsighted or attached to “the way we always thought it would be” that we can’t accept something else for the sake of His glory.

“My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God; ‘tis His to lead me there, not mine, but His—at any cost, dear Lord, by any road!” (F. Brook).

 -Gary Henry

 


When Tragedy Strikes

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

What exactly does one say to another when tragedy strikes? We all wish that we had the perfect words that will appropriately capture what everyone is feeling, words that will comfort and encourage even the most downtrodden. We want to come up with deep statements about how “this is life” and “here is what you should be thinking at this time.” The reality is that we feel at a loss, unable to speak what we are feeling deep inside, unable to communicate what we think those who are suffering need to hear when likely they don’t want to hear anything at all. Bumper sticker philosophy and theology hardly provides much comfort when our hearts have been torn by real tragedy. Likely, the silence before we speak is going to be the most profound and appropriate response, at least initially.

Job’s friends understood this at first. When Job suffered his astounding tragedies, one after the other and no break between, his three friends came to comfort him. For a full week they sat there with him in silence, unable to capture in words what they were witnessing and unwilling to say what they were thinking. Yet it was during this time that they were their wisest and the most comforting to Job, for after they began speaking, Job could only say that they were miserable comforters.

Silence is sometimes the best response. Once we have had time to reflect, however, we usually can find important lessons that will be embedded in our minds from then on. If we can learn those lessons, then we can be the better for it (…)

When tragedy strikes, we are forced to consider several important issues:

1. Why? It is not trite to say that sin has caused the tragic problems of this world. Once sin came into this world, everything changed. Everything became subject to futility (Rom 8:20). The mark left by sin is tragic and ugly. This is the reason the gospel is such an important part of our understanding.

2. The Relative Value of Material stuff. What does it profit us if we gain the whole world and lose our souls? (Matt 16:24-27) Losing stuff isn’t as much a problem when we put it into perspective.

3. The Value of Loved Ones. People are always more important than things. When tragedy strikes, we look for the people we love first. This is as it should be.

4. The Value of Time. Tragedy will force us to prioritize our time, reconsider how we are using it, and try to use it wisely from then on (Eph 5:15-17).

5. Our Relationship with God. Must we be reminded that there is no more important relationship than that with God? Will we use tragic events as an excuse to run from God, or will we use them to draw closer to Him? (Psalm 73)

6. The Importance of Eternity. What we can see is temporary; what we cannot see is eternal. Therefore, we must look to the eternal and recognize that our real goal is to please God because one day we will be brought to judgment (2 Cor 4:16-5:10).

7. Our Perspective on Everything. How will we react to difficult times? What will we say to others? What will we do to cope? Will we pray? Will we meditate on God’s word? Or will we be anxious, worried, and troubled? See what Jesus says about worry and anxiety in Matthew 6:24-33. How much we are wiling to trust God speaks volumes about how we deal with matters that cause anxiety. That may be “easier said than done,” but it is the perspective we are taught to embrace.

Terrorism. Natural disasters. Crimes. Heartaches at every turn. What does it take to wake us up and make sure that we are right with God?

Tell your family that you love them. Quit the quibbling and fighting. Who cares who started what? Let’s get over ourselves and seek the welfare of one another. Let us humble ourselves before God and make sure that our priorities are where they should be.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col 3:1-4).

-Doy Moyer