Monday, April 18, 2016

Own Your Mistakes!

Yesterday, during Sunday School at our church, I walked into my office to find a mixed up Rubik's cube on my desk and a note. The thing is my Rubik's cube was a completed puzzle with all 6 sides showing only one color. My first thought was the cube I saw wasn't mine and someone was trying to prank me. Then I saw mine was missing from my desk and started to read the note. The note said, "I am sorry. Me and Cooper were playing with it. It was my turn and I did it. Sorry dad." It was signed by my oldest son Dru. Now for most people they'd say, "Big deal! It's a toy!" For years though I've told my boys not to mess with that Rubik's cube. I learned several years ago how to solve it and once I finally did I've kept it as something of a trophy. Again, "Big deal!" Honestly I'm not bothered by the fact he messed up my Rubik's cube. I can fix it. What I am amazed at is the fact that he owned up to his mistake and didn't try to blame his brother for it. 

In the past, Misty and I have been regularly challenged as parents to get our oldest son to own up to his mistakes and not blame his younger brother. It has driven us crazy sometimes trying to get the truth of a situation out of him. But after some recent heart-to-heart talks with him, our son seems to have turned a corner and is starting to own his mistakes. To us that is huge. As a father, I am pleased that my child is owning his mistakes.

No one likes to mess up. We all want to do things right and not mess up. No one likes to be blamed or reprimanded for mistakes. That is human nature. So what do we sometimes do to keep the blame off of us? We "pass the buck". We shift the blame. In the worst of situations, we lie about what happened. The best thing you can do is to own your mistakes, seek forgiveness, seek restoration, and use it as a learning experience. The real lesson to learn from your mistakes is forgiveness, primarily how to seek it and how to extend it. It's hard to ask someone for forgiveness, regardless if its a boss, co-worker, spouse, or friend. But if we mess up, we need to ask for it. When we do our Heavenly Father will be pleased with us. It's even more difficult to extend forgiveness. We too often want to hold onto the pain and harbor a grudge. But that isn't the Christ-like response we ought to have when someone has messed up and hurt us. Jesus said in Luke 17:3 that if someone sins against you and they repent, then you are to forgive them. Paul advised us in Colossians 3:13 (NIV), "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." The right response to the hurt is to forgive as God has forgiven you. When we do we will really please our Heavenly Father because we will be acting like Him.

It is difficult to own up to your mistakes. No one likes to do it. But when we do we find the opportunity to seek forgiveness and repentance. When others seek our forgiveness for their mistakes, then we have the opportunity to be more like Christ and extend forgiveness like it was extended to us.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

The Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth!

Yesterday afternoon I sat in my office checking my email. One of the emails I received was a newsletter from the website, The main article was titled, "Joel Osteen just explained why he refuses to preach on hell." You can read the entire article here. Of course being a pastor that title caught my attention and I clicked through to read the article. The basis of the article is a statement Osteen made when interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning that aired on Easter Sunday. When asked about why he didn't preach on hell, Osteen said, "[People] already feel guilty enough. They're not doing what they should, raising their kids--we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, 'You know what? I may not be perfect, but I'm moving forward. I'm doing better.' And I think that motivates you to do better." When a preacher, one called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, does not preach the entire Gospel message, then the message isn't the Gospel.

When I was growing up, I had a saintly grandmother who would sometimes pull one over on you. She wouldn't tell you a lie, but she might not tell you all of the truth either. Her actions were always done in fun and with no serious consequences. It's no laughing matter when ministers of the Gospel do not preach the full message of the Gospel. Don't hear me bashing Joel Osteen or any other minister who doesn't preach the Gospel as it is presented in the scriptures. They will have to answer for their actions, just like I will, and just like you will. As a pastor that does preach the uplifting parts and the hard parts of the Gospel message, I encourage you to reconsider the message and the messenger if you aren't getting both the uplifting and the hard to swallow parts.

The whole truth of the Gospel message is shared through the pages of the Bible. You find it most concisely in Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. The message is simple: Humans are sinful beings separated spiritually from God. Because of that spiritual separation you are destined to spend eternity in hell. The only way to fix that spiritual separation was for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to die on a cross for the sins of humanity. Through belief in Jesus Christ, that He is who He says He is, you can have your sins forgiven. When you put your faith in Jesus you receive salvation from God, a right relationship with Him, and you will spend eternity in heaven with Him.

Any preacher who does not share the entire truth of the Gospel message, hell included, is only sharing half of the truth. Without an understanding of the penalty for your sins (eternal separation from God in hell), you never truly understand your need for salvation or a relationship with God. Yes, God wants to bless you and do wonderful things in your life (John 10:10), but that isn't the entire view that God wants us to have of Him. He wants us to love Him, serve Him, and have faith in Him, all because He sent His Son to die for us. He did it so we could avoid hell and experience His love.

Few things rile me up as a pastor like someone teaching heresy or omitting to teach Biblical truths as the Bible teaches them. My encouragement to you today is this. If you ever find that your preacher is not preaching the full message of sin, hell, grace, and redemption, then talk to him about it. If he isn't willing to teach the entire message of the Gospel, then you need to find a new preacher.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Be careful what you post on Facebook!

There are an estimated 7.4 billion people on earth. More than 1 billion of those people use the social media site called Facebook. That is amazing when you really think about it. Like anything, Facebook has the potential to be used for good, but it can also be used for the not so good. I sat in a church committee meeting once where a lady in our church spoke profound words of wisdom concerning the negative side of Facebook posts. She said, using Bobby Boucher's mother from The Waterboy as inspiration, "Facebook is the devil." Unfortunately there is plenty on Facebook and many other sites on the internet that isn't exactly wholesome or edifying.

As you watch things (drama, if you will) unfold on your Facebook Newsfeed, you will find that there are generally two things that should never make it into a Facebook post. Many people don't post these things but too often you'll see it creep up from time to time. When you stop and think about it common sense will tell you not to post these things but our emotions get the better of us and we "just have to vent." Putting the excuses aside that we use to rationalize our posts, let's look at the two types of posts we have to be careful about putting on Facebook.

Negative Relationship Comments
When I say relationship, let's just assume that means marriage, but it can definitely apply to any type of relationship. Nothing good can come from sharing your personal family problems on social media. You force friends, real and virtual, to watch an uncomfortable scene unfold before their eyes. What it does is paint a one-sided view of an argument that clearly has two sides. We seek support in the form of Likes, Comments, and Shares but in the end it only causes others to gossip and paint your significant other in a negative light. Regardless of how angry, upset, or frustrated you are with your spouse, posting your relationship problems for the world to see never helped anyone. Ever. To help see it from a biblical perspective consider what we read in Ephesians 5. Verses 15-16 say, "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Paul goes on a few verses later to tell husbands to love their wives like Christ loves the church and that wives should respect their husbands. We aren't living wise, showing love to our spouse, or respecting them if we're posting negative comments about them or the issues in our marriage. We should deal with our relationship issues like adults, not middle school kids. That means if you need outside help, seek out a counselor. Facebook friends who have no vested interest in the success of your marriage are the least qualified people to be giving you relationship advice.

Slander is MUCH more prevalent than other issues on Facebook. We find it very easy to sit behind a PC, tablet, or smartphone and type our opinion for the world to see. We see it as harmless because we aren't face to face with the person and he who types fastest and receives the most likes "wins." Yeah...right! So there is no confusion as to what we're talking about here, slander is "an accusation maliciously uttered, with the purpose or effect of damaging the reputation of another." When we post something on Facebook with the intent to damage a person's reputation, whether it is true or not, we're slandering them. (Not to mention if it is false, since it is in print it is now libel and you can be sued over it!) Forget the damage to a person's reputation or the broken relationship between you and them. The real damage is spiritual. Not only is slander prohibited by the 9th commandment (Exodus 20:16) but there are numerous warnings against the sin of slander in the New Testament (Romans 1:29-30; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3). We need to follow the wise counsel from the Book of James and learn to guard our tongues, which have a direct impact on what we post.

The best thing we can do is to make sure that what we post doesn't come close to slander or sharing relationship problems that should stay private. The best advice might be the simple advice many of us learned from our mothers. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

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(Definition of Slander is from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)