Going forward there are some beliefs and convictions which Christians must not change, some practices and attitudes which we would do well to adjust and some principles we need to be reminded of if we intend to maintain our faith in Christ and serve as Light where the sun seems to be setting rapidly.
- The local Church has the authority to discipline its own members according to the revelation of Scripture.
- Believers who live inconsistently with the Scriptures should be confronted and the obstinate should be shunned.
- Unbelievers are not under the church’s authority and should not be shunned.
If we follow his pattern our response within the church will look differently than our response to the world.
- Within our own gates the church has a mandate from her founder to be faithful to righteousness taught in the Scriptures as well as correct and discipline it’s members. Let the Gospel standards and Lifestyle be:
- Clearly taught in our preaching. Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 4:17-5:15; Colossians 3:5-6; 1 Peter 4:3-7
- Widely modeled by our citizens. Romans 6:4, 12:1-2; 1 Cor 6:11.
- Lovingly enforced in our discipline. 1 Cor 5:9-13, Gal 6:1-2.
- Be gracious, courteous and respectful to the immoral. Avoid distasteful ugly encounters with or about them. 1 Corinthians 9-10; see also Daniel’s approach in Babylon and Persia. (He courageously spoke truth when summoned but we have no record of him initiating a scolding lecture on morality in Babylon.)
- Be clear in our understanding and bold in our presentation of the Gospel. 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Peter 3:15
- Remember that man’s heart is hungry for truth and meaning that only Jesus can supply.
- Deal with those we differ with by asking questions for reflection and self introspection as Jesus did so often. Matthew 22:20, 41-45; Avoid the lecture approach. Herein lies the secret of Matthew 10:16. See also Proverbs 17:28, 23:9, 25:8,11.
- Be prepared to suffer ignominious reproach from our enemies for the sake and glory of Christ. When persecution comes, accept it with thanksgiving to God 2 Peter 4:14 and patient gentleness toward our enemies 1 Peter 2:21-23.
- Keep the doors open so that if or when they “come to themselves” and experience the pain of sin, they will have a safe place to turn to for healing and salvation. Luke 15:17-24
- Ultimately release the responsibility of saving the world to Jesus. It’s not up to us to save the world or even enforce righteousness. He only expects us to shine His light, bear witness to His life and apply His love in our relationships with others. Matthew 5:13-16.
- Return to the Word of God frequently for perspective, review, refocus, and confirmation of the truth. The best and surest way to combat lies is with the truth. Read it, love it, soak it up.
- Limit our exposure to social media whose comments are seldom subject to the discipline of logic, the authority of Scripture, or the courtesy of face to face interaction.
- Remember that the Church has a rich history of suffering and martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus. The American Church has benefited for 238 years from her Christian Foundation but when culture crosses truth, expect pressure and accept it with grace. John 15:18-21; 2 Timothy 2:11-13, 19;
While the Supremes have spoken, in many ways the jury is still out on how the new protections for same sex couples will play out on Main street America. Will Christian owned companies be forced to provide benefits for same sex couples? That seems likely. Will churches be required to receive into their membership? Undecided. Will dissenting pastors have their arms twisted to force them to perform marriages against their convictions? My hope is that religious organizations will be exempted from performing ceremonies which violate their fundamental beliefs. Otherwise, we will likely have another showdown in the court system this time over the First Amendment. I can only imagine the contortions the First Amendment will endure in order for the government to coerce the church to comply with federal morality.
We will await the next round with grace and do our best to show our enemy what real love looks like.
Several weeks ago I began musing about the Christian discipline of a quiet time. My thoughts focused on removing obstacles which stifle our development of a quiet time. We thought about distractions, hurriedness, and unrealistic expectations. We laid four cornerstones for the foundation of a meaningful quiet time: Intentionality, Solitide, Focus, and Open heartedness. For a review of those vital cornerstones, I invite you to re-read The Discipline of Quiet Time Part 1.
In this offering, we would like to consider the creative of ways, methods, tools, and approaches we may utilize for a quiet time. God is a creative God. We need not think that there is only one right approach to quiet time.
Our first consideration in shaping our personal quiet time is how much time can we invest? During some seasons of my life I have been able to dedicate an hour or longer per day to my quiet time. In other seasons, my schedule has limited my quiet time to a smaller slice of the clock. What is critical is not the number of minutes spent but your openness to God during those minutes. So don’t become a slave to the clock.
The second consideration is that of content. Sometimes we benefit from devotionals written by others. Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest, Jesus Calling, and other classic devotionals can provide a quick meditation for rumination throughout the day. These are usually based upon a single verse or short passage. A few comments are made in the verse, perhaps a relevant story is attached and a suggested application is provided. There is an abundant supply of specialized devotionals available. Devotionals exist for men, women, teens, military, clergy, businessmen, athletes, teachers, parents, marrieds, singles, intellectuals, artists, musicians. Devotionals may have random topics or be concentrated on a single topic such as child rearing, suffering, finances, conflicts, forgiveness, dating, social issues, etc.
However, you may be the type which wants to discover truth for yourself and prefer reading strictly from the Scriptures with no commentary or thoughts of men to interfere with your communion with God. This approach often requires more time and can be frustrating if we are impatient. However, fruit from your own garden is savory. Such devotional content provides more personalized meditation.
Once you have chosen content for your quiet time you may wish to record the discoveries that the Holy Spirit shares with you. I have often found that journaling, either in electronic format or on paper, helps me track my growth, recall sacred visits with God, and catalog new ideas for further study. Journaling over a period of years will provide a rich autobiography of your spiritual journey.
Quiet time is about more than reading. It should include a time of prayer, or communicating with God about the truths he is pouring into you. There will be times when His revelation to your heart will flood you with joy and you will want to adore Him. At other times, His Word will be like a sharp sword piercing you with conviction, prompting you to prayers of repentance and humility. Still other encounters with God will leave you awestruck and you will only be able to whisper prayers of profound praise. When His Word brings timely counsel, your prayers will take on a spirit of thanksgiving and commitment.
One further observation is needed. There will be times when you find no epiphany of truth. What then?
We may respond to a spiritual drought by
1. Giving up (not recommended).
2. Going through the motions (Not recommended for very long)
3. Changing approaches (good idea)
Giving up leads to stunted growth and more spiritual defeat. You may be diacouraged, confused or disillusioned but this season will pass if you continue to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Some choose to keep going through the motions like clockwork when they experience a dry devotional season. While there is something to be said for perseverance through dry periods, just clocking time to check the quiet time box off your list of things on do creates a machine not a relationship.
Remember, God is creative. We are changing daily. Our needs change, our interests change, our quiet time needs to adjust too.
Using music in quiet time can provide a refreshing change of pace and renews spiritual growth.
One may meditate upon a single verse of Scripture for a week and find treasures for the mind and heart.
A hearty Christian biography may loosen up your dry ground. Illustrations of how other saints conquered the same giants which taunt you can invigorate your devotion and faith.
Taking a walk while you talk to Jesus may add a personal touch to your prayer life.
If you are a musician, your soul may be lifted up in worship by taking up your instrument for His glory.
Quiet time can be creative. Remember, the objective is not to complete a task but to get still and quiet so you can hear the whispering voice of God.