Don’t you know?

Don’t you know there are consequences to every choice you make? If you choose to eat junk food all the time you will find your energy level and your weight will bear the consequences of that choice. If you choose to love alcohol, your liver will show it. If you choose to smoke, your lungs will show the results.

I see a couple men who are reaping the results of their life choices. One is dying slowly of AIDS. He is not at death’s door yet, but his energy and strength are low and he cannot do a whole lot. He made many bad choices in life. One choice was to marry a second wife whose first husband had died of AIDS.  What was he thinking?  Now his family is suffering taking care of him. He is not worth a whole lot to anyone right now because he cannot work and needs people to give him food to eat.

Another man left his wife and kids for another woman. She was young a beautiful. They decided not to have kids since he already had children from his first marriage. Now he is at death’s door and the kids whom he left are leery to help him. His wife will be alone and her step-kids are loyal to their mother. Some may visit but not often.

Another man decided to love alcohol and came home daily drunk. He began to abuse his wife and kids. He quit working and would steal food from the house which his wife and children had gathered in order to buy more drink.  Eventually his wife had enough of the abuse and left. His kids talk to him only cordially, but he has no one and no home. He is living on the floor at a friend’s home but he has nothing to call his own.

These men had some years of joy, but in the end what do they have. They are cared for by those they hurt because these loved ones are obeying God. But they made wrong choices and they eventually caught up to them.

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Single and ignorant

  Are you single?  Are you in ministry at your church or an organization, either at home or overseas?  Are you dedicating your time to serving God? Are you involved in your local church?

  We should be all that and more. We need to be part of community. We need to be helping out when we see a need. We need to be dedicating our time to serving God in various ways.

  If you are self-seeking, looking for friends and a good time, then you are ignorant.  As a Christian we need to seek the Lord.  Not only singles but everyone, needs to be seeking the Lord and how to serve Him. 

  There is another ignorance that I want to discuss here.  Are you aware of your surroundings?  Are you aware of who are you influencing?  Are you aware of who you may be hindering? Are you listening to authority in your spiritual walk?

  We sometimes understand the first point and throw ourselves whole-heartedly into serving the Lord. Helping in our churches. But then we forget the second part.  We are blind to the fact that we are hurting families. We are blind to the fact that we are hurting marriages. We will work hard in a ministry right alongside the pastor, youth pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor, or whomever may be in charge of the ministry. We are ignorant to the looks we receive from others. We need to be careful.  We can cause rumors to be spread about these men in leadership. We can even cause them to stumble. We must be aware. 

  Yes, throw yourself into ministry. But don’t be alone in the same office with a man. No matter how old or in love he is with his wife.  Don’t joke with him as a brother, no matter how much you have no intentions for him.  Many ministries are hurt by single women not being aware of how it looks.  They don’t mean to hurt a marriage. They don’t mean to break up a church. They never mean to fall in love with someone else’s husband.  But then it happens.  Being alone together, working on the same goal, you like each other. You depend on each other, and then you fall for each other. 

  Single women: Don’t be ignorant of this potential pitfall.  You may have pure intentions, but in the end it causes pain on so many levels.

  I have seen missionaries leave the field, divorce, church leaders crash, churches split, and families hurt, all because of single women not being careful about boundaries.

Where do you draw the line?

  I’ve seen some recent posts about movies that Christians shouldn’t watch.  They raised a lot of discussions both for and against. Being in Africa, I haven’t seen or heard anything about these movies until the discussions began.  images (2)line

  But it made me think.  What are my standards? Where do I draw the line? What compromises am I willing to make? What things have I allowed to numb my spiritual senses?

  We all know that certain music, tv shows, and movies are sin.  Let me be blunt.  We know that as Christians we are to avoid the appearance of evil. We know that we are to avoid those who promote sin. We know that we are to think about certain things.  These choices of entertainment definitely go against God’s Word.

  You can give me all your excuses, but in the end you and I both know that they are sin.  There are other areas of our lives that are not so cut and dry–areas that seem grey. We know that Scriptures tell us not to cause our brother to stumble. Yet we do it all the time in the name of FREEDOM.

  Are you free to drink alcohol? Yes, but Scripture is clear about not getting drunk.  So we may enjoy a drink or two. Yet we have no concern for the new Christian in the restaurant who is recovering from Alcoholism. For that guy that came out of a sinful life where alcohol was very much a part of that old lifestyle. We ignore policies of organizations or institutions that say no alcohol.  We say we are free and we try to do it on the sly.  But in the end, is it worth it?  Even if you never get caught, was it worth the risk of hurting a brother or being seen as a hypocrite?

  What about the movies you watch? We rarely look at the ratings anymore unless it is for our kids.  We just ignore the sex scenes or horrible language and lifestyle choices in the entertainment we watch and listen to.  Once I had a standard. I limited my tv time and reading material and music. Now, I just don’t care.  I am numbing the Spirit. I have too many Christian friends that do it, so why not. I don’t have anyone to judge me. So why not?

  Would you walk out of a theatre? Would you ask someone to change the channel/station?  Would you delete music files?  Would you turn off a show?  Would you throw away the thing that hinders others? Would you change your clothing so as not to offend?

  You see this isn’t about your rights, it is about obey God. It is about pleasing Him versus pleasing the flesh.

Where will you draw the line?

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Gossip

In the village of Africa, it doesn’t take time for word to spread.  In a very short time everyone knows about a funeral and comes to mourn. That is a plus side of the village grape vine.   The negative side is that in a couple days, everyone knows that someone had an affair, or is expecting, or has AIDS, or had a fight with their wife, etc…

In the church, we must handle discipline situations.  There are times when someone sins and they must be disciplined.  The pastor and elders usually deal with such things and very little is done publicly. But too often the congregation wants to gossip. We love to talk about fellow siblings who have fallen into sin. 

Too often, when the issue has been dealt with and finished by the elders, the gossip keeps it fresh.  Shame on us for not letting things drop. For not trusting the elders to handle the situations. We are all nosey little busy-bodies. We want to know more, we want to be informed of every little detail.

Rather than letting a situation work itself out and healing take place, we keep digging into the wound over and over again.

Visiting Churches

splitOne of the jobs that we have as missionaries is to visit churches in our home countries. Furlough, Home Assignment, Deputation, Support Raising, Ministry Reporting, etc…

We are privileged to travel to many congregations and fellowship with them. We meet so many fellow members or the Body of Christ. We encourage local leaders and saints. We build up a great army of prayer warriors who back us up. We share with kids about being a missionary and ministry.  We eat with different people and encourage them to take that leap of faith toward ministry at home and abroad.

We recruit short and long term missionaries. We build interest in missions which have long-lasting effects.  Many of my fellow missionaries were first interested in missions because of someone visiting their church and sharing a meal with them. Others started the path toward full-time mission work because of short term mission trips they had taken. 

We see the good and bad in so many congregations. We get to see large and small churches, healthy and dying churches. We can encourage or discourage local leaders. We can promote missions or scare people away from them.

Recently I met with someone who had visited an unhealthy church. He was so judgmental and critical of the leadership there. It struck me in a painful way.  I hope that I never judge the local churches I visit. I hope that I never judge the people I meet.

I also remember a Sunday when the church I was visiting split. I stayed with a family who wasn’t going to church that day or any other day after that. I woke up and went to church. I greeted all involved and tried to encourage and not ask questions.  

We pop in briefly can never know all the circumstances. Even if we try to help fix an issue, we can not know the years of history that have lead to such a problem. We must be careful not to take sides and to pray for all involved. 

The False Teachers among us

I have been working in Africa for more than 10 years. A big goal of mine is to teach the Word of God.  Recently I was in a new region and teaching a conference. I was surprised to hear about all the false teachers in the area.  The attendees of the conference were asking some deep theological questions. They wanted real answers. They shared stories of other preachers and evangelists that had come to town.  How they would collect valuables and money from sick people promising to heal them. They would promise that if they did xyz they would suddenly become rich.

These teachers travelled in big fancy cars and wore expensive suits. They stayed in expensive hotels and ate and nice restaurants. They knew how to speak well and entertain the crowd.  They could raise their voices and jump up and down until people began cheering for them. 

They preachers and teachers make a lot of money from offerings. They preach another Gospel and lie to very sick people.  How can we fight against them? How can we show the lies for what they are?

Be Faithful

Be faithful to your God.  He has called you to serve Him. He has called you to live a holy life. He sent His only Son to die for you. He loves you. He gives you mercy instead of the justice you deserve. He gives you grace.

If you are in full time ministry, be faithful. If you are a pastor, be faithful to that call. If you are an elder in the church, be faithful. If you are a Sunday School Teacher, be faithful.  and the list of ministries goes on and on.  We are faithful when we spend the time needed to prepare for these ministries instead of just “winging it”.  We are faithful when we take our ministries seriously and attempt to minister to the Body of Christ rather than just entertain. We are faithful when we genuinely care for those to whom we are sent to minister rather than just going through the motions.

No matter what your job is, as a Christian we are called to be honest in all our dealings. Be honest in word, in deed, in money, in time, in property, etc…  Be a good steward of what God has given you whether it belongs to you or you are overseeing its use.

Recently I’ve heard of several in ministry who have fallen into sin. Some have mishandled funds. Some have actually stolen church property. Some of had emotional affairs. Some have had physical affairs. Some have lied. Some of been overtaken by pride. Some of taken over a ministry and run it into the ground because they don’t prepare well or manage their help well. 

Some of had difficult situations in life and no one has come to encourage them or to counsel them so they have given up. Some have burned out and left. Some have been pushed out by ungracious boards. Some have not taken time to listen to the needs of those around them, others have ignored truths that are right before them

Oh, how it hurts the Body of Christ. Oh, how it causes immature Christians to fall. Oh, how it hurts the testimony of the entire congregation.  Be careful, be faithful