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What Drives You?

Something has been on my heart and mind for a while. It’s something I have prayed much about and now want to write about: unity. A desire for the unity of our church body burns deep within me. I want to see the body thrive, not divide! As Christians, we rarely end up losing unity over some black and white evil. Rather, we lose it to passions, opinions, convictions, and desires. They are often opinions about very good things, even important things. But are they the MOST important things? So I ask you, what drives you? What are you known for?

Those of you who know me, even just a little bit, know that I am a woman of passion and conviction. In fact, my 19-year-old informed me this past week that I am the most intensely passionate person she knows! A lot of passionate convictions come from truths that I have been exposed to that then become convictions in specific areas of life. However, that does not mean my convictions and passions themselves are THE TRUTH. God has spoken about the most important things and then leaves many areas for us to have to work out. Wouldn’t we love a handbook of exact rights and wrongs for every decision we will ever face?!? But haha! That isn’t how it works and that is a good thing. We would have another religion, but it wouldn’t be Christianity. The lack of this “handbook” helps us to keep our eyes and hearts fixed upon the most important things. So, I ask again, what are the most important things? Are the most important things what you are known for above all else? Or are you more driven by a passion for secondary issues? Now let me make myself clear, secondary issues can be WONDERFUL, NECESSARY, and SHOULD be discussed. However, they should never take a higher place than what God Himself has made a priority.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I am a homeschooling fan all the way. I love homeschooling. I’m fully committed to homeschool my children because of my convictions. I can give you a passionate rationale for homeschooling and YET, there is no command in God’s word to homeschool. I could look at another parent and say, “If you love your child you will spank them” (Prov 13:24), and I can confidently tell a parent, “You are called to be extremely involved in your child’s life, teaching them God’s ways constantly” (Deut. 11:19). But even though my passion for homeschooling is based on biblical convictions, I could not look at another parent and tell them “If you love your child you will homeschool them.” There is complete freedom to choose your child’s education as long as you are fully involved in their lives with discipline and training. I should be convinced about what I do or don’t do, enjoy or don’t enjoy, eat or don’t eat (Romans 14). Yet I cannot make it an extra-biblical truth that I then use to judge others or become the standard bearer for others. This applies to countless things. And just so you know, I am very passionate about most of these things! Sometimes I find myself on one side and then sometimes on the other. I have close friends on both sides of many issues whom I love dearly. I also value their opinions. However, I never want secondary things to come between me and my brothers and sisters in Christ when we don’t agree.

Let me name a few of the divisions I currently see out there…

  • A conviction to vaccinate or not vaccinate
  • Homeschool, private school, or public school
  • Traditional medicine or holistic
  • Organic/clean eating or being at peace with eating whatever
  • Vegan or meat
  • Breastfeed or formula
  • Political views
  • Starbucks or Caribou haha 😉

I could go on and on. People in our body will have opinions on all sides. Sometimes people form their opinions from a point of view or circumstance that we are unfamiliar with. So many of these topics can lead to great discussions.

Yet, while we should be convinced about what we do and don’t do, our opinions and personal convictions cannot define who we are. We are first and foremost “the called out ones.” We are followers of Christ. We are redeemed by His blood and are here on earth to make His gospel known. We are one family with a grave need to have what God deems the most important things flowing through our blood. His truth, love, and grace are what we need to be known for. When we encounter one another at church, people should be able to say of us, “There is a person who loves the Lord, His word, and stirs me to do the same.” The first thing that crosses their mind shouldn’t be, “There is the homeschool mom, the vaccine-pushing mom, or the breastfeeding only mom.” Let us never cause others to shy away because our passion has overshadowed our love.

God loves unity. He loves unity to the point His Son had to die for it. In Proverbs 6, God says there are six things He hates, seven that are an abomination. When I read through that chapter this past weekend it startled me to find the last attribute on that list along with the others. Do you know what God finds an abomination? It’s not eating meat, being vegan, using essential oils, getting vaccines or where your child is educated. What is abominable to the Lord is “the one who sows discord…” (v.19). This is pretty sobering. I had to take a hard look in the mirror and ask myself some hard questions. Do I make God’s truth or Sarah’s truth most important? I am so thankful for His truth and how it always brings me back to the most important things in life.

As you read this, I am praying for you. I pray that God’s word and gospel will be your driving force. I pray that you will be an imitator of your Lord and Savior. I pray that you will be pointing others to good works (Heb 10:24), love (Cor 13), unity (1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:13, Col 3:14, John 17:23, Psalm 133:1, Eph 4:3, Rom 12:16), self-control (2 Tim1:7, Gal 5:23 ), to discipline your children (Prov 23:13-14, Eph 6:4, Heb 12:5-11, Col 3:20), to be hospitable (1 Pet 4:9, Lev 19:33-34), and anything else God’s word is undoubtedly clear about. There are so very many truths of God that we can focus on and stir one another up to do the same. I am praying nothing else in your life burns within you more than stirring yourself and others to love in truth. I pray that your name, your Facebook page, your conversations, your Twitter account, yes— that in every single aspect of your life you will be known for your love of God’s word, the unity of His people, and His glory above all else.

Your Sister,

Sarah Bush

Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.

 

Posted in: Christian Living, Church life, Women's Ministry

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God Can Change How We Hear

Does this scenario sound familiar? You get out of bed. You shuffle over to the kitchen and make a bee-line for the coffee maker. Once you have your coffee, you head to the couch or kitchen table, and you pick up your Bible. You do this, because it’s what you do every morning. In your early morning stupor, you manage to mutter a few words in prayer, then you open up you Bible, because it’s what you do every morning. You take a few sips of coffee to wake yourself up a bit, and you start to read. Again, you do this every morning. But this morning, the words on the page seem to have the same effect on you as words on a billboard, or one of those inspirational posters. Nothing much more than, “That’s interesting. Time to go on with my day.” Or maybe it isn’t even interesting to you. It’s just nothing.

But maybe you don’t read your Bible in the morning, or your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily devotional time. Fair enough. Consider this scenario then: It’s a Sunday morning, and as you do every Sunday morning, you pile your family into the car and drive to church. You manage to find enough empty chairs to seat your family together. The music starts to play, you read the words on the screen, and you start to sing them, like you do every Sunday morning. You open your Bible to the passage being preached on. Pastor Tim is preaching his heart out. You hear his voice rise with intensity at the glorious truth that he is proclaiming. But the message simply doesn’t stir you nearly as much as he is being stirred. You know you probably should feel something, but you can’t feel anything.

Those are scary seasons. They are scary because the Bible warns about this. I have been reading in Luke about the effect the Gospel message has on its hearers. In chapter 8, Luke describes Jesus traveling with the accompaniment of his apostles and some women, and he is preaching about the kingdom of God everywhere he goes (Luke 8:1-4). Then Luke describes a parable that Jesus tells to a crowd of people, the familiar parable of the sower. The parable should be referred to as the parable of the soils. The seed gets scattered everywhere, but depending on the soil on which it lands, it yields different results (Luke 8:4-8). Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that the parable itself is intended to either impart revelation or harden the hearts of the hearers (Luke 8:9-10). And the content of the parable describes four different kinds of people who hear God’s word. The first kind doesn’t really “hear” anything, because the devil prevents them from hearing it. The second kind craves emotional experiences and get excited about the word of God at first, but then stop believing it when they realize that it brings unexpected trials into their lives. The third kind hear the Word, but it has no effect on them because their hearts are set on other things. And the fourth kind hear the Word, and it has a transformative effect on their lives, wherein they love God’s glory more, they love people more, and become more instrumental in the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11-15).

Jesus then tells them about the purpose of a lamp. No one lights a lamp just to hide it away. It’s put out in the open so that the whole house is illuminated (Luke 8:16-17). Many people use that illustration to encourage Christians to be more involved in evangelism and representing Christ. While that is a valid application of that text, I think that the primary purpose is to illustrate what God is doing. God’s message, His revelation to the world, is not something He is keeping hidden. His intention is to make the good news of the kingdom publicly known. That’s why Jesus says, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18). God has given direct revelation of himself in a very public way. So in light of having received that revelation, we are to be cognizant of how we “hear,” because we will be held accountable to how we respond to the truth we have received. The person who “has,” that is, who has a receptive, open-hearted, submissive attitude to God’s word, and an eagerness to hear it and respond to it… That person will bear fruit for God and experience an increasing amount of joy in Him. But the person who has a dead, cold, stubborn attitude towards the Word will become harder and harder the more they hear His Word.

Luke next describes the attempts of Jesus’ earthly family to get to him while he is teaching. And Jesus gives this response: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). The sign of having the closest, deepest, most intimate relationship with Jesus is in submitting to God’s word and allowing it to change you.

The way we hear the word of God is of utmost importance. If you can relate to the scenarios described at the beginning of this blog post, know that you are not alone. Some of the godliest people I know have experienced that at some point in their life. But also realize that you can’t afford to sit in this and “wait it out.” This isn’t “just a season.” It is up to you to make an intentional effort to get out of that state of mind. Your soul depends on it.

But you might be wondering, what can I do? How can I get myself out of this? And the short answer is that you can’t do anything. But God can. Once you have recognized the danger of your situation, and you’ve been shaken to the realization that you need help, start by asking God to reveal any unknown sin in your life. The Psalmist cries out, “See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:24) For example, there is a good chance that you have unknowingly elevated someone or something into a place of worship in your heart, where an idol has taken the place of God as the thing you look to for satisfaction and joy. Ask God to cleanse your heart from idolatry.

The Psalmist also cries out, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). If you can’t see wonderful things in the word of God, then this is what you need to ask God for. Ask that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of your heart to the Word of God. Ask Him to bring your heart a fresh sense of awe and amazement in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

And most importantly, be grateful for what God has done for you in Christ. Jesus died on the cross for your unbelief and idolatry. Jesus has set you free from the penalty of sin, but remember, he has also set you free from present enslavement to that sin. Lift your eyes to Him and live, love, and rejoice as someone who is free! And the next time you open your Bible in the morning, or come to church on Sunday, remember what it cost God to redeem you. Remember the love He chose to set on you before you were born. Remember who you are. And hopefully, maybe, there will be something, even if it’s just a flicker, when God’s Word is delivered to you.

 

Zach Ilten is a member of Faith Community Church. He is working on his M. Div. at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the grateful husband to Becca and dad to Lucy and Micah.

Posted in: Christian Living, Church life

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The Impossibility of Rogue Christianity

Rogue Christianity is a growing trend and problem in our culture. More and more people happily identify themselves as Christians without submitting their lives to a local church. The situation has a bit of irony in it since our society has produced more options for choosing a church than any other society in the history of the world. Somehow, the overwhelming amount of choices out there still have not met the fancy of millions who call themselves Christian. In contrast, Christians who are living in persecuted nations risk their lives to be a part of the one church that is within their reach. Personal preferences are not even a consideration. It seems they intuitively know something that is lost on our culture about the necessity of the church.

The problem is not that we need more flavors of churches to suit a wider variety of people. Rather, the problem is a fundamental misunderstanding that many of the basic commands of the Christian life assume membership to a local church. In other words, it is impossible to be obedient to all that Christ has commanded without being a member of a local church. There are many things that could be said about this but let’s look at just three areas of the Christian life that can only be carried out within the context of the local church.

  1. Submission to Authority

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. -Hebrews 13:17

Authority has become a dirty word in our culture – sometimes for good reason. A cursory glance at history will provide no shortage of cult leaders and tyrannical rulers who have wielded their authority to advance their own evil agendas. But authority is not an evil thing in and of itself. In fact, church authority is a gift from God by which we are lovingly protected and equipped to live out the Christian life. Leaders in the church have been tasked with the responsibility of keeping watch over our souls and they will have to give an account for how they carry out that task. The primary way that they do this is by teaching and instructing from the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Tim 4:2, 1 Tim 4:16). It is in being taught and instructed by the God-ordained authorities within the church that the saints are equipped for ministry, brought to maturity in their Christian life, and guarded from deception (Eph 4:11-16, Acts 20:28). Those who are rejecting the church are rejecting God’s means for their spiritual growth and protection.

  1. Mutual Accountability

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. -Galatians 6:1

Church is often thought of as the place in which you go to say hi to few people you hardly know, listen to a spiritual pep talk that will aid in getting you through the next week, and perhaps even give an obligatory donation in the offering box. Spiritual duties for the week – check.  However, Scripture does not allow for such a narrow understanding. Christians who are a part of the same local church have an obligation to look out for each other’s spiritual well-being. We are accountable to each other in discipleship and the mutual sharpening of our spiritual lives (Heb 10:24, Titus 2:4-6). Often, this will mean that we may have to bring correction to the ones we love to stop them from drifting in a wrong direction or restore them when they have sinned (Gal 6:1, Heb 12:15, Matt 18:15). Often, this will mean that we may be the recipients of loving and needed correction. Despite what the culture tells us, correcting someone in sin is not judgmental. On the contrary, correction can be one of the most loving things a person can do for another as it may be the thing that keeps them from their own destruction. As the writer of the book of Proverbs says, “Better is an open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov 27:5). Carrying out the commands to care for others in this way requires much more than mere attendance at a church, it requires involving ourselves in the lives of others and allowing others to involve themselves in our lives. Those who neglect the church altogether, neglect the accountability that Christ has designed and commanded for His people.

  1. Neighborly Responsibility

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. -Galatians 6:10

The third and final commandment that assumes church membership is the obligation to do good to those who are of the household of faith. The scriptures are replete with commandments for believers to sacrifice themselves, their time, possessions, and personal giftedness for the good of the church (Rom12:3-8). While some may protest that their efforts in the realm of social philanthropy fulfill these commands, the scripture’s primary burden, and thus the burden for every believer, is for those within the Body of Christ (Rom 12:13, 2 Cor 9:12, Heb 6:10). In fact, the apostle John goes so far as to say that those who shut their hearts to the brothers in need are void of the love of God (1 Jn 3:17). The reason for the emphasis of giving of ourselves to our brothers and sisters is simple: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 Jn 3:16). Those who neglect the church cannot fulfill these commands and therefore cannot and do not emulate the Lord they claim to love.

 When it comes down to it, the Christian life was not meant to be lived apart from the church. The very essence of what it means to be a Christian is wrapped up in our relationships to our fellow believers within the local church. This means that those who only attend church, like those who neglect church altogether, are not actually living out the Christian life. Christians are Christians because they claim to be followers of Christ and just as Christ came to serve His people and not to be served, so must we (Mark 10:45, Jn 10:15, 1 Jn 3:16). All three of these categories, (submission to authority, mutual accountability, and neighborly responsibility), function both as a means by which God demonstrates His love in our lives and a means by which we demonstrate our love for and obedience to Christ. In fact, how ever we treat Christ’s church, whether with engagement or apathy, is ultimately how we are treating Christ Himself (Acts 9:4).

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ -Matthew 25:33-40 (emphasis added)

Logan Cauthen is a member of FCC and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Lindsey and they have two daughters.

 

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