Major Issues

Major Issues

The Christian family in America, (and I suspect abroad), has major issues! I do not say this in a judgmental way, but rather to point out something that I have observed.

When I started preaching, I knew there were families out there who had been touched by things like divorce, death, chronic illness, lost children, etc. But I assumed those families were relatively rare and that most people in the audience were “normal.”

issues problems

Lives are not as simple as a picture.

The more I’ve traveled and have gotten to know people, the more I realize there is no such thing as “normal.” The Norman Rockwell family featured in pictures does not exist. After almost twenty years of preaching I’ve discovered basically every single family has issues.

Maybe it is a spouse who is not a Christian.

Maybe it is a spouse who is verbally abusive.

Maybe it is a spouse who is a workaholic.

Maybe it is a spouse who no longer loves you.

Maybe it is a spouse who is addicted to pornography.

Maybe it is a child who is rebellious.

Maybe it is a child who got pregnant out of wed-lock.

Maybe it is a child who is chronically sick.

Maybe it is a child who suffers a mental illness.

Maybe it is an older child who has never obeyed the Gospel.

Maybe it is a sibling that is unable to take care of himself/herself.

Maybe it is a sibling who is causing your parents mental anguish.

Maybe it is a sibling who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Maybe it is a sibling who died at a relatively young age.

Maybe it is a parent who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Maybe it is a parent who committed adultery.

Maybe it is a parent who suffers from dementia.

Maybe it is a parent who is unable to pay their bills.

And the list could go on and on and on. These are not theoretical “issues” that a few people have. These are very real scenarios that individuals sitting in the pews around you are suffering. And many of these issues affect the physical and emotional well-being of those around us.

Here’s the problem as I see it: Satan has convinced us that we must have perfect families—families without blemishes. Social media like Facebook and Instagram have fed this lie, encouraging Christians to only display pictures of a beautiful happy family. As a result, we never share what is really going on at home and in many cases, we are left to suffer all alone through our issues.

I don’t believe this is what God wants and I don’t believe this is how the church in Acts 2 behaved. I believe in times past church families were closer. People spent more time with one another in their homes. I suspect being in one another’s homes and having all things in common allowed these individuals to have real conversations about what was really going on at home. This was a church family that saw one another more than just an hour or two per week. I believe there was great comfort in knowing you were not the only one struggling. Did they have issues back then? Absolutely. But their stress and emotional health were much better because they had Christian family to talk to and lean on.

Today, pride causes us to hide behind the façade that everything is “fine.” We are too busy to have brothers and sisters over for a meal. We settle for fast-food Christianity and believe that 1-2 hours on a Sunday is enough. And Christians all around us suffer silently, thinking they are the only ones who have issues.

How refreshing would it be if we were closer to one another and could be real with each other? How liberating would it be to know you do not have to have the perfect family? How thankful would you be to know that others are going through similar trials? How amazing would it be to have an entire church family that truly rejoices and weeps together?!

I believe it could happen. I think it needs to happen. Deep down I think people want it to happen. But there is one final “issue” that would need to be exposed before this problem can be fixed—and that “issue” is for Christians to have the courage to admit they have issues and are not perfect. We have to feel comfortable getting our hands dirty with our church family, as we all share in the reality that we have issues. We have to have the strength to admit we are not perfect, and therefore we need Jesus Christ!

Can you picture it? Can you imagine walking in to an auditorium full of people with issues who openly acknowledge they have problems and need Jesus? What a beautiful sight that would be…

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Broken Hearts Like Jeremiah

Broken Hearts Like Jeremiah

In the five lamentations of Jeremiah one is struck with how personally the prophet takes the punishment of Judah and Jerusalem. They have been removed due to their sin, sin which Jeremiah pleaded with them to repent of and turn to God. But they refused. Jeremiah’s heart is broken over the desolation of the once great city of David and the derision that is spewed forth toward its remains. But in the midst of his wailing he reminds himself and the people of God of the wonderful mercies of the Lord and His impending judgment upon His enemies.

Jeremiah Grief

What causes your heart to Grieve?

When the church falls into sin do we mourn over her destruction? Do we weep over the ridicule hurled at her by her enemies? Do we seek the mercy of the Lord, His judgment upon His enemies, and a restoration of the old paths? Do we weep over the sins of our day? Do we care for the lost and dying?

If every Christian grieved like Jeremiah consider just how strong and glorious the kingdom on earth would be. How Christ would be exalted. How God would be glorified. It starts with me! Be faithful.

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Difference between a Disciple and an Apostle?

Difference between a Disciple and an Apostle?

Disciple comes from the Greek word mathetes, which means “learner, pupil, disciple.”  Apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.”

Apostle Disciple

What is the difference?

The term apostle is used in two different ways in the New Testament.  Normally it’s used to describe a church leadership office in the early church in which the 12 apostles and Paul had inspired authority and the ability to perform miracles (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; 2:42; 6:1ff; Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; 2 Cor. 12:12).  In order to be chosen for this office, one had to have been an eyewitness of all Jesus did from his baptism to his ascension (Acts 1:21-26).  However, it’s also used in a broader sense to refer to Christian missionaries sent forth on mission trips by churches (Acts 14:14; Rom. 16:7; 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25).

All apostles were disciples, but not all disciples were apostles, either in the sense that they were in the church office nor in the sense that not all were sent out by churches to do missionary work.

Interestingly, Jesus was also called an apostle in that he was a messenger, one sent by God (Heb. 3:1).

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Slow Down! Don’t Read Too Fast!

Slow Down! Don’t Read Too Fast!

Sometimes we read the Bible too fast and then form conclusions which hinder our ability to fully see the message of God. Read the passage below to see if you may have overlooked what others have overlooked and thus reached wrong conclusions.

read to learn

Read with purpose and with care or you will miss the important things which are there.

On Paul’s second missionary journey he received the Macedonian call and went to Philippi. After the conversion of the households of Lydia and the jailor, persecution arose, and he left Philippi and traveled to Thessalonica and then to Berea. Luke described the reception of the apostle’s preaching in Berea.

The Beginning of the Church in Berea

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were true” (Acts 17:11). They were honest and fair-minded and respected the Bible. What does this imply about the church in Thessalonica? As we read these words, we may wrongly conclude that the church in Berea  was more fair-minded and more spiritual than the one in Thessalonica. Such was not the case.

The Preaching in Thessalonica As the Church Began

Paul relates the experience he had as he preached in Thessalonica. In the second chapter of his first epistle to that church, he uses several phrases to describe what happened. First, he said that the word was boldly preached (v. 2). It involved exhortation (v. 3). It was based on a realization that he had been entrusted with the gospel, and he preached it exactly as he had received it (v. 4). It was not designed to please men but God (v. 4). It was imparted to the church (v. 8). It involved exhortation, comfort and a charge from God (v. 11). There is no doubt that this was also the kind of preaching he did in Berea.

The Reception of the Gospel in Thessalonica

How did the church react to this preaching? Look at all that is said about this.  (1) They received the word.  (2) They welcomed the word as they heard it.  (3) They had a clear understanding that it was not the words of men.  (4) They honored it as truth.  (5) They realized the message was truly from God.  (6) They allowed it to effectively work in them. It was truly a great church which respected the Bible.

How do we reconcile what Luke seems to imply about the church in Thessalonica not being as noble and fair-minded as the one in Berea? Read it slowly and carefully and notice that Luke is not describing the church in Thessalonica, but the people in that city. We may have failed to see great truths because we sometimes read too fast and jump to conclusions.

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Study and Practice

Study and Practice

There are very few areas of expertise achieved by men apart from diligent study and practice.

Olympic athletes and other individuals considered to be at the peak of physical human ability are not born that way. They have a regime they have followed, and most of them practice, and practice, and practice, devoting hours a day to improving themselves. Our physicians and surgeons are not considered competent to take us apart and put us back together again without first undergoing years of study and training. There are many more examples that could be given.

practice preach

A life of godliness doesn’t occur through osmosis.

There are not many activities where constant practice does not improve ability. And there are few activities where, with enough practice, most people can not achieve some competence. Generally, when an individual says, “I could never do that,” what they really mean is that they don’t want to spend the time and energy to learn how to do a thing. Sometimes such thinking is borne out of fear, but if we were to be honest with ourselves, frequently it’s just laziness or a lack of proper motivation on our part.

Why should we think that it is any different in matters of spiritual achievement?

The Bible reminds us concerning spiritual ability, maturity, and our ability to understand the Bible: “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14; NKJV).”

Let us first notice that it is possible to be “unskilled” in God’s word; implying that it is fully possible to be “skilled.” This skill is achieved, not through the passage of time, but through, “reason of use,” and, “exercising” the senses to discern good and evil. In other words, spiritual ability and spiritual talents get better with practice and exercise, just like any other skill.

Have you considered the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made like us in every way, and partaking of the full human experience, had to study to get better with God’s word? We find Him engaged in a Bible study at the age of 12, and when found doing so, He identified the study as His Father’s will (cf. Luke 2:46-49). Thereafter we read that Jesus, “increased in Wisdom and Stature (Luke 2:52).” Jesus grew to be a wise man, because, from a very young age, He applied Himself to obtaining that wisdom. He became good at doing the right thing because he practiced constantly doing the right thing, so that He could say of His relationship with God, “I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:29)

But someone will say, “Well Jesus was God in the flesh, I could never be like Him.” As in so many other things, however, such a statement is more of an excuse not to try than it is a valid argument.

God wants us to try to be more like Jesus. The term “Christian” means, “Christ-like.” The Scriptures encourage us, telling us that we should look to the example of Jesus as our model for love, forgiveness and many other things (cf. Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 2:21; etc.) In fact, God very clearly tells us in His word that the goal is to grow spiritually, to reach the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). You might want to declare that you can’t grow spiritually, but God says you can, and that you should, even if such an endeavor is going to take effort on your part.

Sure, chances are pretty good that if you begin the process of spiritual growth, at some point you are going to falter. But it is only when we stop practicing that we stop improving. Don’t sell yourself short. God sees great potential in you. Don’t let laziness, fear, or indifference prevent you from achieving that potential. It takes practice, but the more you practice, the easier it gets.

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