Thursday, November 15, 2012

When You're In Conflict, It’s Always Your Move

Drama.  You’ve heard of it.  You’ve been it.  It’s not just a TV show.  It’s real life.  At various times in your life you have been cast in the leading roll of a real life drama.  It’s usually a war flick.  The intensity ranges from minor skirmishes to all out nuclear exchanges.  And it’s not always or even usually with our official enemies, rather it's usually with spouses, siblings, friends, neighbors, parents, co-workers, etc. 

Now, if you're anything like me, you’ve probably have said, “I’m not budging!” “It’s up to them to make this right.”  “They need to make the first move.” And guess what, the person we’re contending with is probably saying the same thing.  In most war dramas, each combatant in the dispute thinks they are in the right, or are "more right" than the other person.  And we take this to mean that the other person is obligated to make the first step of groveling.  Until then, we’ll keep our space, maintain our distance, and hold back the normal benefits our relationship.   As a result, no one makes a move and each person’s evaluation of the problem becomes energized with more drama.  Usually such conflicts become either cold-shoulders or cold wars.   Have you ever been there?  Are you there now?

Jesus gives us a principle that helps us to love our sometimes unlovely neighbors, and helps our neighbors love us when we’re being unlovely (yes, you can be unlovely). 

On the one hand, Jesus says,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him…” (Matt. 18:15).  He says to do this so that you may "win"or "gain" your brother.     

On the other hand,

“if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Isn’t that curious.  One the one hand, Jesus says that if someone has offended you, you make the first move and make it right.   And don’t put it off!  On the other hand, if you know you’ve offended someone, you make the first move to make it right.  And don’t put it off!  In other words, when it comes to conflict resolution, whether you are the offended or the offender, it’s always your move.  No matter what side you are on in the conflict, no matter how right you think you are and might be, it is always your move.  

I’m tempted to believe that when we fail to handle conflict well, that is, when we disobey Jesus and dig in, refuse to budge, expect people to grovel, allow drama to continue, we actually forfeit our rights to be offended.  I’m tempted to believe that if you can’t handle conflict and offense in righteous ways, you have removed any and all claims of being right in the conflict, no matter how right you have been.  This last point is a little less obvious than the former.  But here’s the big idea, if you want to “win” in drama, diffuse it.  Better yet, be the first to do so.        

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


“They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade was good.  Therefore your daughters play the whore…” (Hosea 4:13).

The whoring that Hosea speaks of is spiritual in nature.  Israel is married to the true God but is cheating on Him with local false gods (which are no gods).  God has taken Israel as his wife, moved her into a new neighborhood and into a new home, and Israel now has eyes for some of the handsome, adventurous, and overly friendly neighbors.  She finds them enticing and exotic.  She is smitten.  Instead of sneaking to run down motels on the bad side of town to meet her lovers, Israel climbs hills and mountains marked out by the indigenous people as the places to worship indigenous gods.  As she makes her way up the mountains away from the temple, the devout ask, “Why are you worshipping there and not in the temple?”  Israel responds, “The shade is good. And as you know, there’s no shade in the temple.  It’s way too hot; too much direct sunlight.  There’s no breeze and no scenery.  But I have found a better place.”   And so Hosea says,  “They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade was good.  Therefore your daughters play the whore…”

Let’s be honest.  It’s way too easy for our comforts and preferences to conceal idols.  The “shade” becomes a cover for an alternative worship, an easy worship.  In reality, anything that we add to, omit from, or dilute in God’s word about our response to him is shady worship.  How often have we rationalized not giving, not loving, and not serving because of the discomfort? Oh, how it might distract me from serving God in other areas! How often have we rationalized something less than a pure and undivided devotion because something less was more pleasurable, and we all know that God is most glorified when we have the most pleasure…right?  I think I read that somewhere.  So, we’ll take a little Son, but not too much Son.  Too much Son will cause discomfort, and he just might bid me to pick up my cross, deny myself, and follow him.   So, we put on Sonscreen, that is, we take into our lives a toned down version of what it means to follow Christ that both assuages our conscience (a little) and yet keeps us well within the borders of the faith.   

Hosea’s message is to leave our shady religion (our refinements and abridgments of Christianity) and to bask, tan, and yes even burn if need be, in true devotion to Christ.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

You Know You’re Becoming a Religious Christian When… | Pastor Jake

There is both a positive and neutral way to use the word “religion” or “religious.” But it’s certainly no secret that the term can also represent that which obscures truth, ruins people, and grieves God; and all this done "in the name of Jesus."  As such we have to fight against it in our hearts, homes, churches, and culture.  But before we take on the world, let’s start with you…with us.  How do you know you’re becoming religious Christian?  Here are 10 indicators: You know you’re becoming religious Christian when…

  1. You find yourself increasingly bending Scripture to fit you rather than bending yourself to fit Scripture. 
  2. You find yourself excusing sin in one area of your life because you serve God in other areas. 
  3. You find yourself becoming more and more distressed that you don’t look better than someone else when you sin rather than experiencing more and more distress at disappointing God.
  4. You secretly take pleasure in people’s sin because it makes you feel better about how you’re doing spiritually. 
  5. You secretly hate it when other people do great things for God because that tends to take attention off of you. Or, it highlights what you’re not doing.
  6. You find yourself so busy serving God that you don’t have time to love your neighbor.
  7. You major on the minors and minor on the majors when it comes to matters of theology and ethics.
  8. You are becoming confused about rituals and relationship; rituals for God are thought of more and more as a relationship with God.  Hammer is mistaken as house, instrument as what the instrument serves.
  9. You are becoming an expert in spotting sin in others and a master at rationalizing your own.
  10.  Your acts of “repentance” aren’t meant so much to mourn personal sin as they are to gain approval and notoriety from people around you; this is your way of showing people you have what it takes to confess sin.

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Get Well | Pastor Jake

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Get Well 

In John 5 Jesus is walking through Jerusalem’s skid row, a placed filled with men and women crippled physically and emotionally.  Jesus was drawn to one particular man who had been an invalid for 38 years.  Jesus asked, “Do you want to be healed” (vs.6)?  This seems like a profoundly silly question.  Or course he wanted to be made well!  Right?  Well, maybe not.  If all sick people want to be healed, why ask the question? Why press the point?  I want to suggest that sometimes people don’t want to be made well.  Whether that was the case of this guy, we don’t know.  Nevertheless, this question is not profoundly silly; rather it is simply profound, especially when we apply it to sickness of the soul.  It has been my personal experience that there are many folks who don’t want to be healed. Here five reasons why:

1. Sometimes people love the thing that makes them sick more then they hate the pain of their sickness.  They’ll take the highs of their drug, even if it comes with significant lows. 

2. Sometimes people fear the responsibility of being healthy more than they hate the disability of the sickness.  With a new set of legs, they would be expected to walk and work. 

3. Sometimes people are resigned to their sickness.  After thirty-years of disability, health had become a non-issue for this man.  To entertain it is to set oneself up to the pain of disappointment.   

4. Sometimes people derive their identity from their sickness.  They deep down want the attention of others and find that it is secured when they are constantly in need.  To get well is to be lonely.  To be healthy is to be ignored. 

5. Sometimes people don’t recognize that they need to be healed.  “Do you want to get healed?”  “Yeah, if I were sick.”  “But I’m fine.”  For these, their sickness is the norm; their unhealthy is health.         

Remember when Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes that he came as a physician of the soul for folks like the tax-collectors and prostitutes, he certainly didn’t imply the health of these religious leaders.   Rather he was implicating their ignorance and/or unwillingness to say “yes” to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be healed?”  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Lone-Commandment: Are Christians Inconsistent in not Observing the Sabbath?

The Charge of Inconsistency

It has been argued that since the commandment to keep the Sabbath is placed in the middle of nine other commandments which are manifestly universal and perpetually binding, it is simply inconsistent for people to obey nine of the commandments and to ignore this one. To be consistent, it is asserted, we would do better to regard the Sabbath as we do the others - as being equally binding to all people.

I contend that this argument, considered apart from both New Testament declarations about the Sabbath, as well as the clear testimony of the early church, is unconvincing.

An Argument From Analogy

It appears that this argument is an argument from analogy. An argument from analogy states that if object x has properties A, B, C, and D, and object y has properties A, B, and C, then chances are that y also has property D. For example, let’s say that water has the properties of wetness, phase-changeability, drink ability, and is a molecule of two hydrogen atoms to one oxygen atom. Imagine that we landed on some obscure planet and observed something that looks like water. It is wet, undergoes changes into gas at the same temperature as water, and is drinkable. Given that this liquid is similar to water in these three properties, then chances are that this stuff on this planet also has a two hydrogen to one oxygen atom ratio.

As it applies to the discussion on the 10 commandments, those who argue for the perpetuity of the 4th commandment seem to be saying something like this. Since the nine other commandments are

(1) divinely authoritative

(2) related to one another (i.e., part of the same family of commands)

(3) absolutely binding (i.e., perpetual, not reducible to spiritualization or culture)


(4) it is most probable that the 4th commandment, which is divinely authoritative and related to the other nine, is also absolute and perpetual.

Now the strength of any argument from analogy is rooted in the genuine commonality of properties in two objects compared. So, if we find out that the liquid on this supposed planet doesn’t freeze at the temperature that water does (though it does change into gas at the same temperature as water), is drinkable but doesn’t hydrate our bodies, then we have good reason to be suspect as to whether it is a molecule of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

As this applies to the 4th commandment, to be really secure that Sabbath-observing is transcultural or absolute, it would require that the other commandments are truly very similar to one another and all equally absolute. I contend that there’s plenty of dissimilarity with the nine other commandments that makes it perfectly allowable for the forth commandment to be revised in the way it has by most Christian churches.

Commandments That Are Situation-Specific

We observe in Scripture that there are some commandments that do not apply to all people at all times.

Take the commandment which says that we should not bear false witness. Now, is this commandment binding to all people in all circumstances? The scriptural answer is no. For instance, Rahab is praised for an action at the core of which was a violation of the 9th commandment (Josh 2:1-7; James 2:25; Hebrews 11:31). A modern day case in which the 9th commandment isn’t absolute was dramatically played out over and over again in places like Poland in World War 2. People were forced to either lie to Nazi soldiers or disclose that they had families of Jews hiding in their homes. It seems clear that the prohibition of bearing false witness gave way to a greater good of preserving peoples lives.

Take also the prohibition of murdering. Does Moses mean that it is always wrong in all occasions to take someone’s life? I think the answer is clear when the Lord commands Israel to slaughter various people groups throughout the Old Testament. God seems to command people to do in one circumstance something that he doesn’t in another. Now, we often make the distinction between murder and killing. Although I think this distinction is true, it’s not one given clearly in the actual commandment. Elsewhere in Scripture, the word is used for both justified and unjustifiable murder.

NAU Numbers 35:27 and the blood avenger finds him outside the border of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger kills the manslayer, he will not be guilty of blood

Here we have an instance where the same Hebrew word is used of both justifiable and unjustifiable murder. This passage refers to a city (cities) of refuge where a person who inadvertently killed someone could flee and find protection from avengers. In other words, if Bob desired to kill Larry for killing his brother, Bob wouldn’t be justified in killing Larry when Larry is within the borders of this city. However, if Larry ventures outside of the city limits and Bob slays him, Bob has committed justified homicide. To sum up, there are some circumstances that permit murder. As such, its not absolute and perpetually binding.

Commandments That Are Absolute

We also observe in Scripture that there are other commands that are binding to all people in all circumstances. For instance,

Exodus 20:3 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

This first commandment is clearly an edict that should never be violated. It doesn’t matter if lives are at stake, there is no circumstance in which idolatry is permissible.

The tenth commandment is also one that seems difficult to justifiably disobey. For example, we can’t even imagine a circumstance in which it would be permissible for a person to covet another person’s spouse. That is, it is always wrong to covet another’s spouse.

Commandments That Allow For Changing Details

There are certain commandments that were designed specifically for the promotion of people’s well-being such that if there was ever a circumstance when these commandments obstructed human good or didn’t conform to a person’s calling (vocation), the details of these commandments were subject to alteration. As an example, let’s take the activities of the Sabbath without considering the specific day it is to be observed. Jesus states in Mark 2:27,

"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

This statement was made after Jesus gave Old Testament examples of circumstances in which it was permissible to deviate from the normal activities that were commanded in the Law. The first example Jesus gives in this passage is David who takes the bread that was to be eaten only by the priests and feeds both himself and his men. This certainly was a violation of prescribed activities. However, the adherence to these specific activities was not superior to preserving the lives of David and his men. As such, this deviation was permissible. The second example Jesus gives is of the temple workers who were exempt from the Mosaic prescription of relative inactivity. Not only was this exemption permitted, but it was commanded. That is to say, they were considered disobedient to God if they weren’t disobedient to the Law.

Now notice that we can’t make the same kind of declaration that Jesus made concerning the Sabbath about worshipping God. We can’t say,

“Worshipping Jehovah was made for man, and man was not made for worshipping Jehovah.”

It is manifest that all creatures are obligated, from the moment they come into being, to worship the true God. The activity of Jehovah-worship should never be suspended or deviated from.

Some Conclusions

We’ve observed that the proposition that Saturday worship should be observed because it is found in the midst of nine other commandments that are absolute and perpetually binding is an argument from analogy. But I have argued that this analogy is bad because there are different kinds of commandments. There are

(1) commandments that one must always obey no matter what.

(2) commandments that one shouldn’t obey given certain circumstances

(3) commandments that are specifically designed to promote human well-being such that the observances of these commandments are flexible.

As such, it may be the case that

(1) the Sabbath is a commandment that one doesn’t have to obey.

(2) the Sabbath has been altered to fit new historical circumstances (I.e. resurrection).

(3) just as certain Sabbath-day activities commanded by the law proved to be flexible, it may be the case that the day these activities were to be performed on is also flexible, such that Sunday worship is now appropriate.