Saturday, March 30, 2013

Church reconciliation part 1

Tooth filling. Doctor appointment. Credit card bill. Church discipline. For many Christians, the subject of church discipline would fit in the list of undesirable subjects to approach. Even the term itself often brings up negative thoughts and memories.  Rather than deal with the challenges associated with church discipline, many churches chose not practice it, or at least practice it consistently. Church discipline does not sound loving or even like something the Christ would approve of. In reality, church discipline, if done biblically, is loving and is what Jesus has called the church to do. Rather than ignore it, Christians need to learn what church discipline is, the purpose of it, what the Bible says about it, and how it is to be carried out. Doing so will bring great benefit both to the church, and to those who could face it or who are in the process of this discipline. At some point, all churches will be faced with individuals who are engaged in open sin. What the church does and how it responds will reflect how faithfully it has determined to remain to Jesus and Scripture. There is a good reason why the Belgic Confession says that church discipline is the third mark of a true church.[1]
When the topic of church discipline emerges, a number of objections to practicing it are frequently given. These objections include: People will just go to another church if church discipline is taken against them, people will see the church as overly judgmental, church discipline is too difficult to implement in larger churches, and church discipline fails to reflect the love and grace of Jesus.[2] These objections seem logical, so how should church leadership challenge and correct these ideas? First, church membership as a covenant and with requirements needs to be communicated to church members. Chuck Colson notes:

Why should anyone join a church (which, after all, is a voluntary decision) and then expect to be able to refuse to abide by its authority. For failing to attend a few meetings, one can be thrown out of the Rotary Club. For failing to live up to a particular dress code, one can be dismissed from most private clubs. For failing to perform the required community service, one can be struck off the roles of the Junior League. Yet when the church imposes discipline-denying the benefits of membership to those who flout its standards-it is charged with everything short of fascism. But shouldn’t the church have at least the same right to set its standards as the Rotary Club? People who don’t like it can and should go elsewhere.[3]

The process may not be easy and can take considerable time, but there are steps that can be taken to help the church understand the importance and necessity of church discipline. To begin, church discipline may not be the best term to use, unless it is correctly understood. The goal is to show the church that church discipline is a loving act undergirded with grace, love, and the aim of glorifying God, carried out in the hope that the sinner will repent and be properly reconciled. While church discipline is a good term to use, the “discipline” aspect frightens off many people, who associate discipline with harshness. Instead of saying church discipline, it could be referred to as church reconciliation, which carries a more positive connotation.

[1]See the Belgic Confession, article 29, which says: “The marks, by which the true Church is known, are
these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church.”

[2]See Alfred Poirier, The Peace Making Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 226.
[3]Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn, Being the Body (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 113.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Where do you live?

Jeremiah 17 presents an interesting and capturing contrast. Here we read: 
Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:5-8 ESV)

The contrast is between those who trust in man, and those who trust in the Lord. Those who trust in man are like shrubs in a desert, while those who trust in the Lord are like trees planted by streams of water. Picture the sun beating down on this shrub in the desert. All of us have the sun, or pressures of our circumstances, beating down on us. Our soil is our heart. For the unsaved, they can be nothing more than a shrub in the desert. As much as lies within our power, we should seek to help them see how the gospel can change them and address their biggest problem. For the believer, they are trees. Some are trees with rather sparse foliage and fruit, and our goal is to show them how the gospel can move them forward to bearing greater fruit and flourishing, such as this tree in Jer. 17 and Ps. 1.

Where are you at? Are you a shrub in the desert? Or perhaps you are a tree, but feel as if you aren't very fruitful. The gospel is for both of you.

Friday, March 8, 2013


A phrase I've heard and seen a lot of lately...

"You mad?" or "You mad, bro?" left on fb and blog threads from trolls sensing someone is about to go over the edge.

I often find myself getting mad at the slightest things.  I was working on a project at the kitchen table while my wife and 4 year-old daughter were eating lunch.  I couldn't get the paper I was working on formatted right.  I had a 1pm deadline and was racing against the clock.  I was frustrated more than normal because I had allotted plenty of time to get the work done.  I was not expecting to have a problem formatting a WORD document!!!  After the sixth time of trying to get it right I slammed my hand on the table for the third time and shouted "WHAT IS THE PROBLEM!"  

My daughter stopped eating her yogurt, turned to her mom and said, "I don't like him."

My wife quickly corrected her by saying "You just don't like the way he is acting."

The truth of the matter is I don't like him either!

The other irony is I was preparing a handout for an after school club I lead.  The topic the kids wanted to discuss? SELF CONTROL.  Fitting.

So if your like me and yourself mad, bro, don't be discouraged.  After putting this together with my friend Rob, the kids said it really helped them get a handle on some things.

Lack of Self-Control begins in the mind

Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. James 1:14-15 (The Message)

Many times we blame our outbursts on others.  We say things like "If you had to deal with him/her you would lose it too!" We need to stop putting the blame on others and see it for what it is...our own sinful nature and desire for control.

Lack of Self-Control can lead to destructive messages…

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. James, the half-brother of Jesus (The Message, James 3:5-6)

This passage is so powerful. James says that misplace words can set destinies.  Think about how someone's negative comments or put downs have the ability to crush your spirit.  In the same way, think about how encouraging words from peers bring life.  Not controlling our tongue can have a devastating effect on those closest to us.

Lack of Self-Control can lead to destructive patterns    

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory. A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (King Solomon from Proverbs 25:27-28)

When we fail to control our emotions, we become unprotected and wrecked.

Lack of Self-Control can lead to wasted opportunities

Oh, how I prospered! I left all my predecessors in Jerusalem far behind, left them behind in the dust. What’s more, I kept a clear head through it all. Everything I wanted I took—I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task—my reward to myself for a hard day’s work! Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing. (Words of King Solomon-The Message) 

Solomon used little self-control.  He confessed that all it gained him was nothing but wasted opportunities.


Be alert...
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
a. Know what situations trigger you

b. Know there are people that bait you

c. Know the times and places where your most likely to lose your cool

d. Know that the devil is real and is trying to wreck your life!

Be part of a winning team
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
a. Surround yourself with people that sharpen you

b. Be bold enough to challenge each other when we let our emotions get the best of us

Be honest…
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:7)
a. Admit you need help

b. Don't beat yourself up when you blow it

c. Seek forgiveness

Be different…

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2 The Message)
a. Don't be like everyone else who shows their immaturity by losing control

b. Trust God to change you

Be ready to win…
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… (2 Peter 1:3)  

God created you with everything you need to win, trust Him and trust JESUS!!