By Lori Beard
By Lori Beard
I recently finished reading a book titled Follow by Floyd McClung. The author has served as a missionary church planter in Afghanistan, Amsterdam, America and now South Africa. While I may not be precisely in line with him on all points of doctrine, I found his book both edifying and convicting, challenging and encouraging. Brother McClung is serious about following Jesus and making followers of Jesus!
To peak your interest, I wanted to post a lengthy quote here, taken from Chapter 11, “A Committed Community.” These words challenged me. They’re worth pondering in light of the absolute truth of Scripture:
Jesus did not die on the cross to empower a hierarchical system of religious duties . . . Jesus came to unleash an irresistible revolution on the earth, not a predictable new religion.
Most churches are boring! They promote conformity, the exact opposite of what Jesus stood for. We are called to nonconformity. It is sad that church and conformity go together in most people’s minds: Wear ‘decent’ clothes, worship in a ‘respectful’ manner, and believe ‘balanced’ doctrine. Boring! When church takes the edge off being radical and the risk out of the adventure of following Jesus, church has died. It is no longer the irresistible revolution Jesus intended it to be.
This raises the question about the purpose of any form of church that does not call people to radical obedience. The Bible challenges the anemic idea people have of ‘fellowship,’ or ‘hanging out,’ or worse, being part of a weekly ‘home group’ that has no vision beyond itself. If you are part of a small group, by whatever name you call it, and you are not committed to personal, radical nonconformity, transparency, and obedience to Jesus’ commands to love the poor and lost, you are playacting at church. The Bible present church as familylike communities of people deeply committed to loving God passionately and loving one another with ruthless honesty – as they empower and encourage one another to live their lives for the poor and broken. When we read Acts, we don’t find people gathering in cozy home groups to merely ‘support one another,’ or just ‘hang out’ as many postmoderns try to do. We find the disciples of Jesus in Acts sharing their lives and a revolutionary commitment to the cause of the gospel.
The first disciples did not just attend meetings that they tried to ‘juggle’ or ‘fit’ into their busy schedules; gospel intentionality was their life. They didn’t try to ‘apply’ the teaching of Jesus to their lives; His teaching was their life. Christian community was the very center of their lives because they knew it was the center of God’s purposes on the earth.
Wow. God forgive us for what we’ve made it. I’ve got a lot of reforming work to do as a pastor. And we’ve got a lot of reforming work to do as a church. God give us the grace and ability to grow into a more radically committed community of Christ-followers. For Jesus’ glory. Amen.
Well…i have not blogged in a while. Okay okay, i have not blogged in forever. There are some valid reasons. My pastor (his name is Keith McWhorter…in case anybody wants to send complaints to him) told me I had to use this new forum and start editing my own blog. Can u believe it? He got tired of fixing my mistakes. What is that about?? Well…my system was just recovering from that when I BECAME A NANA TO TWO TINY BABIES. i now have four sweet grandbabies. My life is overrun with grandkids and new mommas needing help and support. And so…this blog. Well.. you know.
That being said, I cannot contain the thinking inside my head and so here it is.
Schedules…orderly living…having an idea of what is happening next have all mattered to me over the years. When I had my own kids, I had a schedule and I kept that schedule fairly faithfully. I don’t feel like my schedule was an idol to me. I was willing to flex it and bend it when the season demanded that I do that. But I was really serious about keeping a schedule and knowkng what I was doing week to week and sometimes even month to month. And I don’t necessarily think that that was simple. I think that that season of my life taught me much about the character of Christ. It taught me to make my yea yea and my Nay nay. It taught me to respect other people’s time and resources and energy. It taught me to use my time and resources and energy wisely and to be a good steward of them. I didn’t have time to waste. It taught me to be accountable for what I did and did not do during the day and why I didn’t do it. And I practice that accountability to my husband. It was a good season full of joy and busy and learning.
But I am in this new season and its called Nana. This season has no schedule. It has no movement from day to day that is consistent and continues. It has no knowledge of what will happen from day to day. The only thing that stays the same from day to day to day to day is that I have no time to plan…to think… to clean. This has been a different world for me. I find myself floundering…trying to find my feet all the time. I no longer plan my days..weeks..months. I just get up in the morning and trust God every single day. New season…new lessons. Here are a few. God is really in control. He is faithful to do his work and complete it. He does not depend on my faithfulness or hard work to continue. He loves me even though my life has changed up drastically. And God has a right to do what he wants with me when he wants to do it.
Different seasons require different things and teach different lessons. What has this meant to me? New sanctification…new life in Christ. I find myself changing to thr glory of God during this new season. Wish i could say it has all been gracious and wise on my part but most of it has been kicking and screaming in defiance. Until…now. I thank God for this new place. A place of no control…a place of submission. It has been..it is sweet. And if this sounds jumbled. Well it is because while i was writing this new season has been yelling my name. So gotta go. Planned for writing time..
But well. God has a better plan. 🙂
So….I just recently downloaded a lingo game on my kindle. I flipped through all the screens that gave instructions. I mean i have watched it on tv. So…who needs instructions. Well, four games later, all in the loser column, I read the instructions. Glory. .I have won a few.
Just recently, I was counseling with Pastor Keith when he opened the Bible to read. (We actually do that when we counsel). He went to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 It says this:
“And we urge you brothers..warn those who are idle. Encourage the fainthearted. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone.” A set of instructions. A set of instructions so easy but so often overlooked in the area of relationship.
Over the past several weeks, I have had occasion to hear many women making relational connections. This happens everyday. And with the advent of social media, it is even more regular than face to face or phone. That being said the way we relate to one another Should be just as biblical as God expected the young church to be, no matter what medium.
So..what instructions does he give. Warn the idle. Encourage the fainthearted..help the weak. Clearly good communication starts with identifying what is happening in the life of the lady you are communicating with. For example, let’s say you see a post on facebook that is talking about a self help book or a pschyatrist doctor or psychic and the post is made by a christian lady. First tendency i have is to shut that down. Warn her about the dangers of that stuff. Tell her to trust in Jesus alone. Say I do that and she resists…tells me she was just looking for hope. What do i know now that 1 Thess. Clearly tells me. I know i need to encourage her. She is fainthearted. There will be a time for that warning but right now I must encourage her. Give her the hope of Jesus who is her only hope. Teach her how to apply the gospel again to her hurt.
What about a momma who posts that she has had it. She is fed up with mothering…wants to do something that matters. How do we address that? Well, sounds like she is pretty fainthearted. .tired..discouraged…beat up. Probably doesn’t need me to beat her. I wonder if i could help her. Can I do something to relieve her load because correcting her without any practical help will not ease her burden and will likely add to it. She is weak…fainthearted. She needs practcal hands on help.
How do I know when to admonish then? Look and listen. Listen for patterns of behaviour. Are they consistently sinkng in this particular way without remorse? Are they proud and arrogant in their sin? If you can honestly answer yes to these two questions…you may want to approach with warning. I suggest you go prepared to share the bible with them. The Bible is a two edged sword and pierces all the way to the marrow. Perhaps if we would use it in correction more…we would be heard more.
Another thing to check before you admonish or warn is simply asking if that lady is in accountability with another christian already. If she is..trust the Holy Spirit to work through her and wait.
Another cautiin is this…if you are in the habit of only obeying that first instruction of warning the idle but you never encourage and never help…you are out of balance. When I say this to women I hear back..” well, God just made me that way. I say what I mean. I am ditect and forthright. God understands that.” I hear this and similar statements as reasons why women are hurting other women with harsh correction. Think on this…Galatians says to say all things with gentleness. No exceptions or excuses. Do you correct with gentleness? Would God ask you to do sonething he would not empower you to do? Speak truth..by all means. But do it in love and gentleness. And walk this in balance. Correction should be a very small part of everyday relationship. Encouragement and help are the main bulk of how we should be communicating with each other.
The last but most importabt thing i must say is this: to correct before you pray is sinful. The only perfect person is God. He is the only one with no agenda…no heart issues…no selfishness. To correct without praying first suggests that you do not need God or his wisdom. You do not need him to search your own heart or to clean the log out of your own eye first. That is pride and pride.. ladies..goes before a fall. If you are correcting each other without praying..do not be surprised when relationships fail. I am guilty of this. So guilty. And it causes so much harm. I beg you seek God’s face BEFORE you admonish.
So…admonish the idle…encourage the fainthearted…help the weak and BE PATIENT WITH EVERYONE. i have much praying to do about how i relate. Thank God for amazing grace.
As a Pastor, I really do try hard not to publicly endorse any specific candidates, nor publicly denounce any specific candidates for political office. No church I have ever been a part of has ever held a political rally in its sanctuary, nor invited a candidate to climb into the pulpit. I find American Christians typically fall into one of two camps regarding these matters:
I witnessed the first attitude last month at a conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. After a tremendous sermon by Dr. Russell Moore (President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC), we got to witness personal interviews with two presidential candidates – Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Hillary Clinton was invited but turned the opportunity down. Mr. Rubio was streamed in via internet, while Mr. Bush was there in person to answer questions from Dr. Moore. My wife later over-heard a middle-aged woman on the phone complaining that the conference got “too political” so she walked out on it. The sad part of it all is that the lady obviously had missed the whole point of Dr. Moore’s sermon. He was showing us from the Bible that we can never place our hope and trust in any government, but at the same time we should engage in the process to do all we can to ensure leaders of character are elected. We must use these freedoms while we have them, dear Christians! We can dialogue and protest peacefully and write letters and post blogs and call elected officials and publicly debate and the list goes on. Christians can and should be involved in the political process to do our best to ensure we can live at peace and continue to freely proclaim the gospel of Christ (1 Tim 2:1-4).
I witness the second attitude almost daily. I see friends and family and Christians pouring far greater time and energy into getting someone elected or debating every issue on the political agenda than they do sharing the good news of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s sad. It makes me wonder where their faith really is? Do we Christians really think the ultimate answer to our nation’s woes is in an elected official? A President? A Congressman or woman? A party platform? Do we think America is ultimate? If believers spent as much time, money and energy spreading the gospel as they do stumping for parties and candidates, not to mention bickering over temporal matters, the empty church buildings all over this land might fill up once again! We must return to seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first, foremost, and always. Our loyalty is only to One Eternal King ruling over One Eternal Kingdom. As Dr. Moore said so well in the sermon mentioned previously, “We Christians are Americans best when we are not Americans first.” Amen. Far too many believers seem more devoted to the US Constitution than they are to the Bible.
God help us find the balance.
Now, with all that said, I want to urge any readers who are followers of Jesus to stop and seriously ponder who they are stumping for in the Presidential election and why. I am growing very concerned at the number of professing Christians who are stumping for a candidate who may very well know economics, but has also said it has never even occurred to him to ask forgiveness from God! His friends say he never says, “I’m sorry.” His rhetoric is mean-spirited and obnoxious. Rather than “Walk softly and carry a big stick” he prefers to “Stomp around and insult everyone.” Christians, read your Bibles. Character matters most in leaders. And in the Bible, a nation’s collapse is nearly always associated with prideful, haughty, stubborn leadership. Economy follows character.
So rather than vote your pocketbooks, which belong to God anyway dear brothers and sisters, ask yourselves which candidate(s) displays true, Christ-like character. In which candidate(s) do you see fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? Which candidate is likely to show aptitude for promoting the good and discouraging the evil, in accordance with God’s design (Rom 13:1-7)? What standard is the candidate(s) using to define good and evil?
Yes, I know a President is not a Pastor, nor is a President leading a church or The Church. But when it comes to leadership, wherever it is found, character matters most. I dare say our American economy and culture is collapsing and will continue to do so not because of economic policies in and of themselves, but because of corrupt character. The policies, after all, were enacted out of principles, whether good or evil. And principles are derived from human hearts and minds.
Vote character. For God’s glory and the good of our nation.
“The Most High is Ruler over the realm of mankind, and He bestows it on whom He wishes . . . I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:17, 34).