Tag Archives: doctrine

Alternative Facts


We are coming to the end of an era in our generations called the “postmodern age”. This is a cultural response to the modern era which sought to solve the world’s problems through science and reasoning. During the modern era, great advancements were made in technology and medicine that will forever change the world, but the postmoderns saw that the philosophy of the physical sciences could not entirely solve problems like war, poverty, and even interpersonal relationships.

So the mindset shifted in a bit of a reaction to the ideals of the modern era to what we now call the postmodern era. In this reaction, truth became questionable and relative. No longer were there any absolutes. Now, all truth is relative and dependent on each individual’s perspective which is shaped by their cultural influences.

Does this frustrate you? To an extent it should.

Because of the shift of postmodern thinking we now have phrases like the one commonly being used by new sources all over: alternative facts.

Instead of calling something a half-truth or a whole lie, because of political correctness we now refer to misleading someone by using only the convenient facts as using “alternative facts”. Your truth is valid, and so is mine, and don’t you dare judge my truth with yours.

This is maddening in the political realm. It is exhausting in the spectrum of news sources available today. It is exactly what we teach our children not to do.

Maybe you were taught as I was: a half-truth is a whole lie.

Contrary to current thinking, there is truth that is not relative. Jesus is truth. The gospel is truth.  The consequences of sin is truth. The love of God is truth.

Even in society there still exists truth that is not relative. One needs merely to look for it.

In order to find truth in any circumstance, you must consider all sides of a situation – you must consider the context.

What we don’t want to admit is that the church has been functioning with partial truths for nearly the entirety of its existence. Even the concept of denominationalism is founded on the idea that you can read the bible through one lense and me another, and we can come to differing conclusions on the same topic.   When I focus on one set of scriptures concerning a topic, and you focus on another set concerning the same topic, we may disagree.

Our goal, then, as followers of Jesus, should not be to read the bible with a preconceived lense, rather we should read the entirety of scripture in context in order to derive our conclusions from the text instead of inserting them into it. When we insert our ideas and refuse to look at passages that don’t jive with our desired conclusion, we invite division and discord into the church.

I pray that the church doesn’t imitate our current culture in claiming “alternative facts”. I pray we are humble enough to accept correction where we have been ignorant. I pray that the church can lead the way in standing for truth as it is written in the Word of God. I pray that our desire for contextual understanding brings grace and unity rather an excuse to further divide.

What’s the upcoming generation going to be called? I don’t know – maybe the post-postmodern era. In any case, I pray it is a returning to truth that is NOT relative while maintaining spiritual fervor.

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Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 


James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Hats Off Please!

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I recently shaved my head…again. I’ve been bald several times over the last few years, and I like it. It is wonderful to not have to worry about bed head or the wind messing up my hair. I like to wear hats, so no hat hair, but I do have to watch the rings on my head after wearing hats.

It’s easy to maintain. There are no barber fees just the cost of shaving cream and razors. It’s almost therapeutic to shave each day. But I DO have to worry about sunburn.

I don’t like to wear sunscreen. There’s something about that lotion that makes my skin feeling oily, and I’ve never liked the feeling. The ones that don’t leave my skin oily leave it feeling silky smooth. I don’t like that either – I’ve always associated skin like that with women. Plus, I tan normally and don’t burn, so it’s ok, right? I know I should wear sunscreen, and now that I’m bald I am very careful about how I take care of my exposed scalp. When I’m not wearing sunscreen I make sure I’m wearing a hat.

There is one time, though that wearing a hat is a bit confusing. It is when I pray. Do I take it off or not? Why do people take their hats off during prayer? Where does this idea come from?

I’m pretty sure it comes from 1 Corinthians 11:4

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

On the outset it looks like this is exactly speaking of wearing hats during prayer or not. However, verse three gives a bit of context that is necessary for understanding verse four.

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Here in verse 3 the writer, Paul, defines who/what the head is. The head of man is Christ. Then he talks about covering the head. If verse three was written elsewhere then verse 4 could be easily explained as speaking of physical head coverings. But Paul gave a definition then used the terminology he just defined in the next verses. Verse 4 could read that “every man who prays or prophesies with Christ covered dishonors Christ.”

So, are we to pray without our hats or not? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us we should “pray without ceasing”. Seems to me that prayer time is not determined by our physical circumstances. God lives in us and not a temple. Therefore physical environments such as removing a hat cannot keep our prayers from reaching the Father.

Even though it may not be a problem to take off our hats during prayer time, there is still a large part of Christian culture that believes this should be done. Many people are taught in military and in other cultural circumstances that there are times to take off your hat to show respect. Even though taking your hat off during prayer is probably not what 1 Corinthians 11 is talking about, when with a group it is best to do it out of respect for those around you.

We have freedom in Christ. God is everywhere – especially in our hearts. Hats don’t stop that, but in all things respect for those around you shows love for them.

1 Corinthians 10:23
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.


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