Archive for December, 2007

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Planning for God

December 29, 2007

A friend of mine is continually making the appeal that he can’t plan for the future. He refuses to plan for anything beyond the following week.

I originally wrote this but did not publish it because of laziness. Then two weeks ago I heard yet another Christian in an entirely different state (KY vs. RI) say the same thing. Again yesterday I heard it. Each time it was directly related to planning for future church involvement.

I find this attitude to be rising in Christianity. It seems to stem from two things. One is an awareness of our inability to keep our word. The other is the diminishing of the importance of Christ and His church in our priorities, which could be stated as an increase in our desire to be entertained instead of responsible.

We grow more aware of breaking our word when we become Christians. The Holy Spirit convicts us of breaking our word. We respond, incorrectly, by decreasing the frequency of declaring future plans. We say, “I don’t know what I’ll be doing in a month” instead of saying, “I will make time next month and, Lord willing, be there”. We figure that if fewer declarations are made, we will fail less frequently. And if something better comes along, what are we to do then? Are we to keep our word? Yes, but if we can plan for that by inserting words like maybe, might, hope, possibly, etc. then we still have the option to opt out. Or, like my friend, if we are completely against making any statement at all then we can wait to see what best suits us at the time.

Is this the correct response, i. e. is this what God commands?

Some may argue that other more important things may arise. What if my uncle goes into the hospital the day of our meeting/service and I cannot make it? Does the Lord want me to void my promise? If the Lord does not understand our inability to plan for everything then He would reveal everything to us. Instead there is risk taken in all future planning. James 4:15 tells us that we should be dependent on the Lord, the circumstances He sees fit for – “if the Lord wills we will live and do this or that”. The Lord is included because the Lord’s will may not be in accord with your current plans. James includes, “we shall do”. The conviction and intention of fulfilling our word is still present. The addition of the Lord’s willingness is for circumstances the Lord may bring up that avert our future plans. We are to be none the less convicted of what we believe the Lord is calling us to do in the future. But we must also consider that our lives may be changed by the Lord in such a way as to alter our well laid plans. As these more important things arise, defined by the magnitude of glory they give to the Lord, we are obligated to alter our plans. The Lord is sovereign, bringing more important events in the expectation of us discerning and deciding on the higher priority.

Concerning the second, the diminishing of the importance of Christ and His church in our priorities, there are many examples to draw from. The above mentioned friend is seeking a degree of higher education. Schooling occuppies 12 or 16 or 18 or 22 years with more frequency. Many plan out 30 year mortgages. Marriage is commanded for life. All of these are considerable life investments. How much higher of a priority should our planning for eternity be set apart from our plans of this life?

When we plan schooling, mortgages, marriage, ski trips, theater performances and so on with great excitement and anticipation but refuse to plan for church activities, meetings and worship, we are doing evil.

Plans that do not devote us to future service for God are disappointing and contrary to the daily cross bearing Jesus mandated for us (Luke 9:23). Paul planned out entire trips, such as to Bithynia and Spain (Acts 16:7, Romans 15:24). Though he was redirected from the former and perhaps never completed the latter, he made plans and kept his word while anchoring them both in accord with God’s perfect will (Romans 1:10).

We should do the same. Christ and His church must be a priority and we cannot show that without purposeful plans around which other activities must bend.

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Truth about the prosperity gospel

December 27, 2007

A good friend posted the following video from John Piper. He expresses what needs to be said about the Prosperity gospel – it’s heresy.

It’s also important for us because it not only steers us away from evil but toward God:

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Thoughts on forgiveness, 1

December 21, 2007

Over this last semester I heard two sermons having to do with forgiveness. I was trying to determine from these and previous conversations what a proper structure would be for forgiveness. I decided to do a few posts about it.

There seem to be two propagated teachings. One is to “let it go” whenever someone sins against you, regardless of the person’s repentance. The Second is to hold on to it but to do so loosely, waiting for the person to repent.

Whether you “let it go” or “hold it loosely”, I formulated this structure to better understand how these might be understood:
By the power of Jesus, I fully give up any imagined right to personal retaliation or retribution toward this person or these people in recognition that this situation either was already handled justly and violently in Jesus Christ while on the cross or will be handled justly and violently by Jesus Christ’s infliction on this person or these people in hell forever. In either way, God has made full provision for this situation and calls me to pray and act in love toward this person or these people.

I included “violently” to describe the perfect punishment exacted by God against those who die in sin.

It is important to pull a few things out of the above statement before closing this post. First, God handles punishment, not us (Romans 12:19, Matthew 5:38-39, 43-44). Second, every person we encounter will live forever, either in God’s joy or in His wrath (Matthew 25:21, 30). Third, we are not able to see where they will spend eternity. So regardless of who they are, we must obey God’s command in the same way for all – love and prayer (Matthew 5:39-42, 44-48).

In the following two posts we’ll explore: 1) which view of forgiveness is right – “let it go” or “hold it loosely”?; 2) how do we love someone who we have not forgiven?

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Christmas cuts and Scripture musts

December 11, 2007

The Christmas season is a busy time for many people, especially churches. The desire to incorporate more into a worship service can leave the service lacking in other things. I was reading through a church bulletin recently when I saw, or rather didn’t see, something that I expected.

We learned in my Personal Spiritual Disciplines class the importance of 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching”. In part, it was brought to our attention that the public reading of Scripture is commanded. Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, giving him instruction on how to conduct himself, especially concerning the worship service. Both pastors and those they are accountable to should remember this command when busy Christmas services call for “cuts” in the normal bulletin schedule.

May we not be too busy to remember our Lord’s instructions and obey them.