Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Our Brother’s Keeper

Life Lesson #14: Your gift of salvation is not a private affair.  We are to be our brother’s keeper.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save 
others by snatching them from the fire; 
to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating 
even the clothing stained by corrupted 
flesh. 
Jude 1:22-23

When I first started going to church, I had two other friends who were also exploring their faith.  It was a great time when we gathered with our families and openly shared our questions and concerns about religion and our beliefs.  One friend became a devout Catholic – the faith of her husband’s family.  Another followed me into the Presbyterian church – which was my husband’s background.  At one point my fellow traveler baptized her youngest and we were honored to be his God parents.

Shortly after joining the church the horrifying event of 9-11 happened.  It drew many of us to church each week.  But as the months went by, my fellow faith traveler began to drift away.  As a new Christian I wasn’t skilled or knowledgeable enough to help draw her back in.  I felt it was none of my business.

And there lies one of the great debates of the Bible.  Are we our brother’s keeper or not?  Before we got to the message in 1 Thessalonians of caring for our fellow Christian’s state of faith we heard from Cain.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is 
your brother Abel?” 
“I don’t know,” he replied. 
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” 
Genesis 4:9

Setting aside the audacity of Cain speaking so flippantly to God, we see the immediate need to shrink from our duty to care for our fellow man.  Of course, in Cain’s situation, it was to cover for a great sin.  This is the “I have my own problems so why should I be concerned about anyone else’s?” way of looking at the question of are we our brother’s keeper.

God does not ask or require of us to take on all the burdens of our fellow man.  In fact, throughout the Bible it’s made clear that a heart change and therefore a behavior change is a very personal responsibility.  Something that can only be accomplished between an individual and God.  

No man can be his brother’s keeper in the sense of taking upon himself another man’s responsibilities.  

Charles Spurgeon

A friend once told me that after a long, difficult day of being a school counselor, in a particularly troubled area of town, she would go home and eat an entire pint of ice cream.  The stress of responsibility she felt was physically taking its toll.  God does not require us to be this heavily burdened with a person’s faith conversion.  But what if we took it at least as seriously as we do so many other things in our lives?  

Our responsibility is heavy enough without our exaggerating it; we are not men’s sponsors, and if they reject our Saviour whom we faithfully preach their blood must be upon their own heads.

Charles Spurgeon

So what of our verse from Jude today?  What is our responsibility to being our brother’s keeper?  So often, I believe, when we hear this phrase, we imagine ourselves constantly correcting and judging someone.  But a careful study of the Bible’s message about this topic leads to one conclusion – speaking the truth of the Gospel and nothing more.

My brothers and sisters, if one of you 
should wander from the truth and someone 
should bring that person back, remember 
this: Whoever turns a sinner from the 
error of their way will save them from 
death and cover over a multitude of sins. 
James 5:19-20

Wandering from the truth.  Remember my fellow faith traveler?  She is the person mentioned first in the verse today – “one who doubts.”  She wasn’t sure she believed in all that Christians teach.  She was being called back into the world daily.  What she and all new Christians need from their fellow believers and churches is special care and compassion.  

I love how my younger daughter’s church places new members (and even non-members) immediately into a small faith family.  That’s where they can share their questions without judgment.  They are welcomed weekly with open arms and open hearts.  On the opposite end, I’ve been in churches where small groups are barely mentioned and seem to be a place only for mature, involved Christians.

“It is much easier to instruct new Christians and keep them away from the false teachers than it is to snatch them from the fire.”  

Warren Wiersbe

Jude then goes on to admonish us to snatch others from the fire.  According to Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, these are people who have left our Christian fellowship and are now part of an apostate, or false teaching, group.  What is our responsibility to them?

We might be led to think we have no responsibility at all.  “Who am I to tell them what they think is wrong?”  It’s a refrain I’ve heard from quite a few long-time Christians.  But who are we?  We are the recipients of the greatest sacrifice of all eternity.  A gift that has always been meant to be shared.

I tell you a cold-hearted Christian makes worldlings think that Christianity is a lie.  

Charles Spurgeon

I have friends who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.”  What I’ve come to understand is the word “religious” is actually a substitute for believing that Jesus is the one and only Savior.  Usually in the same conversation I hear “who am I to say there’s only one path to God?” 

If we are not secure enough in our own faith and the Word of God, we won’t have an answer.  We may not be responsible for someone’s heart decision but it is clear that we are responsible for knowing that Jesus is the Way.  And that knowledge is not to be held in a lockbox.  Jesus isn’t for some people.  He is for all people – every race, creed, and nationality.

With truth plus love we can stand for God in the face of our “spiritual” friends.  When the opportunity arises in conversation, we must see it as God’s open door.  And if we refuse to take the step through the door, we must then accept some responsibility for that person’s place in eternity.

If you want to destroy a man you need not teach him to drink or swear: keep back the gospel from him. Be in his company and never say a word for Christ. Be where you ought to speak and be sinfully silent, and who knows how much blood will be laid to your door. 

Charles Spurgeon

Our burden is to do God’s bidding.  Not for God to do ours.  How many times have you had the opportunity to speak God’s truth yet shrunk back in fear of reprisal or embarrassment?  

And so, we come to the last person described by Jude.  The person or people to whom we should show mercy mixed with fear.  Not many of us are equipped to deal with false teachers or with their ardent followers.  These days people have turned from the religion of God to the religions of the environment, of self-love, of wokeness, of the state, and so on.  And their followers are admirably zealous.  To stick a Christian toe into the mind of one of these believers can be quite dangerous.  But that doesn’t mean God wants us to forget about them.

The very fact that there is a Christ at all means that there was one who cared for others, and that our Lord became a man means that he loved his enemies and came here to rescue those who rebelled against his authority. 

Charles Spurgeon

I was praying the other day for something I realized later was wrong thinking.  I prayed that this blog would have a larger audience.  That same day I watched a video by a pastor from Colorado titled, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality.”  It was a great deep dive into related scripture.  And then came the comments.  I will summarize them by saying his responses to the vitriol were very Christ-like.  Notice the title wasn’t, “What I think about homosexuality.”  And yet the personal attacks were disturbing.  In reading his responses I realized that in no way am I prepared to dive into that pool.  

So, what is our responsibility in situations like these?  Again, if God opens the door, He will also have your back.  But if He doesn’t, He always asks us to pray for others.  Knowing who and what we need to pray requires us to be mature in our faith.  We need to pray fervently for the saving of souls.

And, you saved ones, you owe much to God, but do not think that you are saved for your own especial benefit alone. 

Charles Spurgeon

The gathering of souls for God should be every, single Christian’s mission in life.  Starting first in our homes, then amongst our friends, our neighbors and then the world.  We may not always have a one-on-one conversation but we can always pray.  We can give with open hands to mission programs.  Most importantly, we should always be asking God, “who can I help you save today?” And then walk through that door.

The Charles Spurgeon quotes used in this blog come from the sermon titled, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper.” Check it out and be energized for our mission of sharing the gospel!

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Truth + Love

Life Lesson # 6: Truth and love must go hand in hand in our lives

If anyone comes to you and does 
not bring this teaching, do not 
take them into your house or welcome 
them. Anyone who welcomes them 
shares in their wicked work. 
2 John 10-11

Throughout the text in these five smallest books in the Bible I keep hearing the lessons about facing sin and specifically facing false teachers.  It’s a topic that makes many of us uncomfortable.  We’ve come to be a Christian world that has accepted the idea of “get alongism.”  If we hear a fellow Christian professing wrong doctrine or openly sinning, we feel so uncomfortable questioning them.  Unless, of course, we take to social media and all kid gloves fall off.  Our inner Pharisee then rears its ugly turban sheltered behind an anonymous computer screen.

So, what’s the solution when a false teacher comes knocking or a Christian friend encourages us to sin alongside them?  John tells the lady of the house to not take them into our homes because doing so spreads their words and ways.  That seems a bit unkind doesn’t?  I mean, Jesus sat with sinners, didn’t he?  Ah, if only we were so strong as Jesus to withstand the wily ways of the devil. 

Bad company corrupts good character.  
1 Corinthians 15:33 

Notice the use of the word, “welcome” in our verse in 2 John today.  That implies a joyful and eager acceptance of someone.  If I invited a person whom I knew to be a false teacher into my Bible study my group would surely think I endorsed what they were teaching.  However, if I approached that same person separately, with God’s urging, and spoke the truth to them that’s a different story.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, 
we will grow to become in every 
respect the mature body of him who 
is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4:15

Truth in love.  Love with truth.  They are like twins conjoined at all major organs.  One without the other fails.   There’s a great song by For King and Country that uses the teachings from 1 Corinthians 13.

If I give to a needy soul but don’t have love then who is poor? It seems all the poverty is  found in me.  

For King & Country, Proof of Your Love

In other words, if I expose a sin in a friend, fellow Christian, pastor, etc, but do it without Jesus-type love then I am no better than the Bible’s Pharisees.  And if there was one group of people that Jesus admonished the most it was the Pharisees.

When I think of a group of self-professed, non-loving “Christians” who fall into this category I picture the faces of the Westboro Baptist church.  For those unfamiliar with this group, their targets are primarily homosexuals.  On the face of their mission, they want to tell people of the dangers of this sin.  They have been known to attend and protest at the funerals of gay young men who have been brutally murdered.  They harass their families and friends.  I would hope that we can all agree this method of “preaching” will not convert one single soul to Jesus.  There may be some Biblical truth in their message.  But their hate-filled voices are completely void of love.  These are the folks we should not “welcome” into our homes, rather meet them outside the gates and share the message of truth surrounded with love.  They are the “almost rights” which are therefore always wrong.

And what of love without truth?

“Ships are safer in harbors.  But ships are made for the stormy seas.”

Vance Havner

Meaning when we Christians fall into the false teaching of “Jesus wants us to just love everyone no matter what” or we slap the “coexist” sticker on our car, we water down our God-ordained separateness from the world.  We become just another person on the street trying not to upset anyone.  We join the club of “I’m ok you’re ok” and the sword of the spirit becomes as dull as a plastic knife. We allow, even welcome, the darkness to enter our homes because we are afraid to be seen as judgmental, rude or just plain weird.

“When we seek only to love but never proclaim a better way, we short-circuit God’s plan.  As believers in Christ, we need to be known for both truth and love.”  

Matt Brown, Truth Plus Love — the Jesus Way to Influence

We are warned throughout the New Testament of false prophets and false teachers using all manner of evil to lead the faithful astray.

But there were also false prophets 
among the people, just as there will 
be false teachers among you. They 
will secretly introduce destructive 
heresies, even denying the sovereign 
Lord who bought them—bringing swift 
destruction on themselves. Many will 
follow their depraved conduct and 
will bring the way of truth into 
disrepute. In their greed these 
teachers will exploit you with 
fabricated stories.
2 Peter 1-3 

When we fear “rocking the boat” and don’t rely on the Lord to help us speak truth to these situations we have separated those conjoined twins – truth and love.

“To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.”

Charles Spurgeon

There are few lessons I have taken as much to heart as this concept of conjoined truth and love.  It guides my fervor to be tempered with compassion.  It helps me to stand up for God when I fear recrimination.  It has led me to draw Jesus-centered lines in the sand.  And it has released me from guilt for positions I take because I know I have done so in love.  This lesson has brought me to a good place in my relationship with my parents – something I had failed to do on my own.

Our faith is not intended to be a private matter.  Yes, we work out our sanctification one-on-one with God.  But our obedience in faith is what sets us apart from this world.  And when we step out our doors we need to be armed with truth plus love and love plus truth. 

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

A Promised Return

The desert and the parched land 
will be glad;the wilderness will 
rejoice and blossom. 
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35:1-2

It was only just recently that I heard the concept of a “return to the Garden.”  I mean I’m quite familiar with the promise of eternity but I just never made the full circle of an opening of the guarded Eden gates.

These past few weeks as myself, Todd and Madison have been reminded of the many promises of God, I keep hearing the word I have heard for more than a year – “obey.”  With each promise there is a covenant agreement.  God is sure and trustworthy about His side of the covenant.  But we “mule-like” humans struggle to hold on to God tightly and sign at the bottom line.  I wonder if it really just boils down to that little bit inside of us that doesn’t fully believe.

On March 26, 1997, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group, Heaven’s Gate.  The home where the bodies were found is just a stone’s throw from my own home.  If you don’t recall their beliefs, I’ll give you a brief summary.  The leaders, using the Bible and science fiction works by Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke convinced their followers that extraterrestrial beings were clearly mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  And the comet Hale-Bopp, was the sign for them to give up their early bodies and hitch a ride to the heavens.  They twisted a lot of theology to meet their beliefs.

Sometimes when I’m talking about the concept of Jesus, salvation and eternity I think about those Heaven’s Gate souls and wonder if I sound just as crazy to non-believers.  I shy away from talking about God and loosen my grip on Him. Of course, one of the large differences is that God never asks us to speed up the date and time of the end of our days here on Earth.  And we have been constantly assured that we cannot know the hour of Jesus’ return.

But that return is definitely promised.  And if we believe that God is the creator, the sovereign LORD overall, then we must also believe in our return to the Garden. 

The prophecy from Isaiah in 35:1-2 was written as a message of hope for the people of Jerusalem.  It’s likely the Assyrians had ravaged all the nearby cities and had made the roads too dangerous on which to travel.  The people, as Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary, “Were cooped up in Jerusalem, wondering what would happen next.”  Sound familiar?

He goes on to write that the faithful were praying continuously to God for hope and relief.  And God answered their prayers.  As He had done so many times before and since. 

“The time has come,” he said. 
“The kingdom of God has come near. 
Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:15

How many jokes have we seen and heard related to this verse?  And yet it is surely true.  Jesus himself makes this statement.  I heard an evangelist pastor say once, “I don’t know when Jesus is returning and we will see the Garden again, but the time is certainly nearer than it was yesterday!”

It’s said that the new Garden will be even more magnificent than the first.  And although that sounds wonderful, I’ll be joy-filled just to be able to have my name written on the list to enter any type of garden God has for me.  

Each day I am here on this Earth is another day to hold on tightly to God’s promises and obey and believe.  Each day we are here is another gift God gives us to step out of our comfort zones, out of our cooped up lives and work on putting just one more name on that list. 

I hope you have enjoyed these 25 Promises of God through the Book of Isaiah.  Please join me for our next series titled, “Pray It Till You Make It!”  It’s a focus on praying to be the people we know God wants us to be and watching the transformation work He does in us!