Tag Archives: church

What Makes Jesus Mad?

What makes Jesus mad?

In John 2, we find Jesus cleansing the temple, driving out merchants, moneychangers and cattle. He must have shown real rage that day. By Himself, he drove out all of them with only a small whip. We find similar accounts in the other three gospels. Most of the time, we don’t think of this angry side of Jesus—nor do we like to.

In his book, “What Made Jesus Mad?”, Pastor Tim Harlow observes the recorded times when Jesus showed anger. Pastor Harlow notes that at no time does Jesus exhibit anger against “sinners,” but only against religious people and His own disciples.

In every case of Jesus’ recorded anger, we find him directing His wrath against those who claimed to know God but blocked others from God’s grace. When we examine the accounts of the temple cleansing in detail, we find that the Jewish religious people were blocking God’s grace from “the nations,” or Gentiles. He rebuked His disciples for blocking the children from seeing Him.

Jesus’ love does not permit anyone to turn away those who need Him. That is also the message of the torn veil in the temple—all peoples have access to a holy and loving Father.

How do we block others from God? We block them by judging them less than worthy when they don’t meet our standards. We create spiritual “elites.” We block others by legalism, by trivializing what is essential and making essential what is trivial. We block them by pretending to be holier than we are—the word is “hypocrites.” Jesus had a lot to say about that.

Do our own churches block others from hearing the gospel? Our churches should be filled with homosexuals, prostitutes and the homeless. Why do we so rarely find them? Our churches should be sharing the light and bringing people out of darkness, but most churches do not support missionaries to the unreached. Are we examining the reasons for this failure to win others?

Do we block the Good News from those who have never heard? “Unreached peoples” are “the nations” of our own day—those who cannot hear the gospel until someone goes to them (or are sent by those with kingdom vision). They cannot absorb the gospel by osmosis from neighboring cultures. According to Bethany Global University, 3.14 billion people remain “unreached.” Of the 400,000 missionaries worldwide, only about 13,000 focus upon reaching “unreached peoples.”

What about the churches? Bethany Global University finds that 99.99% of all church money goes to causes other than reaching the unreached. Here, Jesus’ people have dreadfully failed, and yes, Jesus has every right to be mad.

Isobel Kuhn, missionary to the unreached Lisu people of China, has written, “I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached people of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond.”

The Pharisees did not learn their lesson. Instead, they rejected the rebuke of Jesus, and the temple was destroyed. The disciples, slow to learn, finally learned their lesson. The Spirit-filled church expanded throughout the known world, and you and I are their legacy.

What will future generations—and our Lord Jesus—say about us in our generation?

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Subject to Many Trials

How are we as Christians to regard such a time as this?

Some of you may have the virus. Others of you have friends or loved ones who have suffered or even died from it. Others of you have lost or are about to lose your livelihoods. In some way, all of us have experienced inconveniences and discouragement we have never known before. None of us knows what the future holds.

Jesus warned His disciples that in this life we will have tribulations or trials (John 16:33). What was He talking about?

Most times, these are things we don’t like to think about. We have been conditioned to think that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, life will be rosy and sweet. What happens when life is not sweet?

Even the best of us experience trials. Jesus Himself was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. Paul the apostle experienced many tribulations (2 Cor. 11:16-33).

In his first letter, Peter portrays the ideal Christian as both a person of great joy and much sorrow and grief, subject to many trials in life. These are not just chance events, but things that are allowed, and even sent, “if necessary,” by God Himself. Why does God find it necessary?

First and foremost, God wants to build His church whose foundation is Jesus Christ. He saves us when we are still sinners. We enter the kingdom in an imperfect state. God allows trials for at least three different reasons:

  1. Sometimes He chastises us for our failures. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens,” we are told in Hebrews 12:6. If we do not know the chastening of the Lord, if all is sweetness and light in our lives, we are not Christians, it is as simple as that.
  2. Sometimes God allows trials in life to prepare us for a higher task, to make us more dependent upon Him. Think of Joseph and David who knew grievous trials of faith. God chose them for greater things, and they needed greater maturity to bear greater responsibilities.
  3. Even when we have not fallen into gross sin, we are still imperfect in our faith. We all have many areas of the flesh in our thinking and doing, however unconscious they may be, that interfere with our effective walk with Christ. Often, God sends trials our way to make us aware of these things and to bring out a greater faith.

When we bear these trials and learn from them to develop greater fellowship with our Heavenly Father, we certify that we are indeed His children. We learn to rejoice in our salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5) in ways we have never rejoiced before. As believers who rejoice in the midst of tribulation, we become testimonies to a watching world of a great and loving God.

Which of these kinds of trials have you experienced? When we learn from them, they last only for a season. The fruit we bear in our lives at such times glorifies our Lord Jesus. Such fruit lasts for eternity and affects not only us but the world around us.

During this time of trial and crisis, how ready are we to submit to God’s will and allow Him to work through our present troubles to bring about revival, healing and spiritual awakening?

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The Trouble with Tradition

We all have expectations of our families and friends, our society and government—and of God. We all have expectations of our church, how it should act and what it should teach and how it should govern. Some of these expectations are based upon customs and beliefs that pass down from generation to generation. These expectations are what we call “traditions.”

There is nothing good or bad about “traditions” in and of themselves. We get into trouble when we base our lives upon long-practiced and revered traditions that have questionable authority and keep people in bondage. We may give first priority to traditions, good in themselves, but of second priority to things more important to God.

Jesus had strong words for those that substituted divine revelation with human tradition. When the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands, he told them they had left God’s Word to favor their own way. To be fair, the Pharisees were trying to avoid breaking God’s law, but they used their own way to do it, not God’s way. Tradition is still something that divides the church in our own day.

Paul tells us we are to adhere to “apostolic traditions” (1 Corinthians 11:1,2). The apostles were men chosen by Jesus. For three years, He taught them the revelations of God.

After Paul’s conversion, he went to the desert where he was taught by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 1:11-24, Paul tells us that later, he went to Jerusalem to meet Peter and compare notes and found that Peter and Paul’s teachings matched perfectly though the two men had never before met until that time.

This strongly confirms that apostolic traditions do not come from men but from God, from Jesus Christ Himself. We find these traditions, these teachings, in the gospels and in the writings of the apostles in the New Testament. Throughout the gospels, Jesus frequently refers to Old Testament scriptures, giving His stamp of approval to the Old Testament as well. Both the Old Testament and New Testament make up our Bible.

We must base our own traditions and experiences upon the traditions of the apostles which come from Jesus Christ Himself. Wherever the two come into conflict, our traditions and experiences and preferences must give way to the teachings of scripture.

Our traditions and practices must enable our relationship with Christ and one another, not detract. Too often, our traditions win the day, even as it did with the Pharisees 2,000 years ago.

Many disputes in families, churches and society result from elevating human teaching and tradition above the Word of God. Too often, we treat our beloved traditions and experiences as sacred writ. When we face these disputes, will we go back to the scriptures with teachable and humble spirits, ready to change if need be?

Let us remember the words of Paul to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; to that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

Let us remember that our faithfulness to the apostles’ teachings in scripture will give us good traditions that will enable us to free others in India and elsewhere with the same gospel that has given us freedom.

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Set Back

adventure-ancient-antique-697662Years ago, the late Billy Graham, held one of his large evangelistic crusades in a certain city. A prominent minister of that city was approached by a reporter who asked him how he thought the crusade was going.

The minister grumbled, “Billy Graham has set back the churches of this city fifty years!

Later, the reporter told Billy Graham what that minister said. Billy Graham replied with a smile, “I pray I will set back the churches of this city two thousand years!

Billy Graham was referring to those days immediately after the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit descended upon a group of 120 men and women in an upper room, and their lives (and ours) were changed forever. That day, the church was born.

On that day, Peter, the arrogant and cowardly fisherman from Galilee, found within himself a newfound ability to preach his first of many eloquent sermons before a crowd of thousands of people from all over the then-known world.

That day, the former coward, Peter, boldly preached a hard-hitting sermon, and when it was over, 3,000 people were added to the church. From that day, the gospel spread like wildfire throughout the known world, and within 30 years, the gospel had spread to Rome and even to Spain.

What were the marks of that first Spirit-filled church? Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-47 that the Jerusalem church was characterized by:

  • Teaching the Word of God
  • Worship, praise and prayer
  • Fellowship
  • Evangelism
  • Stewardship
  • Spirit-envisioned leadership
  • Care for the poor.

We are told that every day, the Lord was “adding to the church those who were being saved.”

Satan hates Spirit-filled churches. Such churches quickly fulfill the Great Commission, the one condition that must take place before Jesus comes again, sets up His kingdom and puts Satan out of business! Thus, Satan does all he can to quench the Spirit through persecution, corruption and distraction. He is a master at persuading churches to major in minors or avoid too much “fanaticism”, i.e., do nothing.

Has your church been “set back two thousand years”? Do you have a Spirit-filled church where the Lord is adding daily those who are being saved? Is your church marked by the same signs of the Jerusalem church that accomplished so much in so little time?

How many new believers (not church transfers) have been added to your church lately? Is your community transformed because of your church? What sacrifices do you and your church make to transform others by the gospel, both at home and abroad, especially where the gospel has never gone before?

In the life of every church, policy debates arise over the church’s function. Without a model other than our own feelings, the church always goes off course and fails at God’s mission for the church—to take the gospel to all peoples whom He loves and become salt and light, preparing the way for His glorious kingdom on earth.

We have a timeless biblical model in the church of Jerusalem. As we confront new challenges in the days ahead, let us keep this model before us. Any deviation from this model is less than satisfactory to God, however satisfied we may feel.

Pray that all our churches will be set back two thousand years!

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The First Mission Field

2017-03-slum-school-children-prayerOur children are our first mission field.

We live in a turbulent world inhabited by troubled youth and children, alienated from their families and society. Apart from a dramatic intervention by God, we face a troubled future whenever such troubled youth grow up, become parents themselves and take their places in seats of government, business, education, the arts, media and communication. How we raise our children today, influences our society for generations to come.

These things do not “just happen.” Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul identified a major cause for an alienated generation when he wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Too many parents stimulate rebellious spirits in their children when they resort to harsh discipline or fail to discipline them at all. Such extremes never work. What is needed is right discipline.

The key to right discipline is for parents to first discipline themselves, to submit themselves to their heavenly Father. Parents submitted to God know their children are not their personal possessions to treat as they please, but gifts of God. Parents are not to use children for their own purposes and ambitions, but to patiently help them to develop the unique personalities God gave each of them.

Like us, our children are born in sin. We depend upon God’s mercy and grace in our own lives, and we must treat our own children’s shortcomings with mercy and grace. Discipline is necessary, but to humiliate a child or inflict physical, verbal or emotional abuse have no place in a Christian home.

Paul tells us to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This means parents must learn to sacrifice their own interests to bring their children into emotional and spiritual maturity by instruction and example. Fathers and mothers must spend less time at the office or other activities to accomplish this God-given mission. Their own children are always their first priority.

Trying to force religion down their children’s throats or coerce a “decision for Christ” is never right. Going to church, Sunday school and youth group are good, but even better, children should see in their parents consistent character, integrity, and kindness that win their respect and motivate them to become like their parents.

They should see in their parents a worldview and lifestyle that sets them apart from parents of neighbors and friends. They should understand from their parents that this difference comes because of God’s gospel of grace in their lives.

Children should hear regularly from their parents how God has changed their lives, answered their prayers, and been faithful. Children should see in their parents the joy of the Lord, and know their parents pray for them every day.

Children should see and hear their parents read their Bibles and pray for those in need. They should hear their parents apply the scriptures to their lives, work and family. They should see their parents take a vital interest in those who still live in darkness without the gospel.

Yes, our children and grandchildren are our first mission field. If we have done our job right, our children will more likely become God’s ambassadors to their own children and a needy world around them.

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Mature Believers

As believers in the Great Commission, we must never become content just with winning people to Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to “make disciples,” not just make converts. Discipleship training must follow conversion or chaos will take place.

The church in Corinth is a good case study in how a new church should not run.

The new believers lived in a pagan city with a bad reputation. Throughout the Roman Empire, the stereotype of the typical Corinthian was a drunkard or a harlot. Many new Corinthian Christians came out of this mold. They were not use to self-discipline. They had multiple bad habits to overcome. Like young children, Corinthian Christians were divisive, loud, self-indulgent, disorderly, rude, selfish, manipulative and argumentative. They revealed a “me-first” attitude. They exhibited many impressive spiritual gifts, but they didn’t know how to use them wisely—like a ten-year-old boy behind the wheel of a car.

Paul indicates the Corinthian believers were truly Christ-followers, but they lacked maturity. Like a good father, Paul wrote to remind them that God is a God of order, not confusion. To remind them of their childish ways, Paul said, “Shall I come to you with a rod?”

The problem-filled Corinthian church was like many of our own churches today, and the new churches we plant in places where the gospel has never gone before. Whatever age or culture, many churches are often filled with disorder, threatening their ministries. In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul presents three metaphors to serve as models for a dynamic and orderly church:

  1. Mature-BelieversThe runner. Believers must train themselves like runners-in-training. Runners organize their diets, sleep, exercise and habits to prepare their bodies and minds for the coming race. The race becomes their chief priority, and all other things become secondary. Good pastors and elders serve as coaches to prepare their congregations for the coming race of life. Earthly races reward winners with perishable rewards. The final goal of the Christian’s race is resurrection and eternal life with an eternal God. This requires putting aside old habits of thought and action that distract us from effective preparation.
  2. The body of Christ. Just as the body has many parts that work together in unity, so the church is made up of many people with many gifts who must learn to work together in unity. Each person has a different but critical role to play. The Head of the Church is Jesus Christ. As we listen to our Head and respect each other’s role, we will accomplish much together for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom in the world around us.
  3. The virgin bride. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul likens the church to a virgin bride awaiting her husband (Jesus Christ), untainted by impure doctrines by false teachers. Pure doctrine is essential for a truly dynamic church that bears much fruit.

Whether we live in the West or India, we all face the challenge of immaturity and disorder in our churches. We have much to learn from the Corinthians. Thank God for His patience with us! Let us reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Him, and learn to run the race together in unity and purity of doctrine, and the whole world will look on in wonder at His grace.

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Men & Women Alike

MenWomenAlikeOrganized religion has tended to devalue women and deny them power and influence. This includes organized Christendom throughout much of its history.

Christendom is never as radical as the Bible. When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that God has always had different ideas about women from most religious leaders.

In the beginning, when God created woman to become the “helpmate” to man, He did not create an apprentice or an assistant for the man. The Hebrew word for “helpmate” implies that the woman is equal to the man, even if God created the man first.

The Fall separated man and woman from God and from one another. It brought a curse upon woman in which she became subordinate to the man.

The world into which Jesus came was the world of the curse. That world put little value upon a woman. They held little social importance. Their testimony counted for little if anything. Yet throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus shows an unprecedented respect for women.

The first persons to whom the risen Christ appeared were women. Their testimony to men of the empty tomb and His personal appearance brought Peter and John to the empty tomb and confirmed the truth of everything the women told them. This verification of a woman’s testimony is the first sign that Jesus’ resurrection broke the curse upon women that reigned from the Fall.

Because of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, we who put our trust in Him live in the Kingdom of the Second Adam that restores God’s original intent for women.

In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women alike, with no distinction. From the earliest days, before the 1st century church degenerated into “Christendom” and “religion,” women played important roles as leaders, teachers and prophets. The leaders of the early church included women such as Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Chloe, Nympha, all of whom Paul commends for their good and faithful work.

In Galatians 3:28, Paul says “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is, male and female share one purpose, one calling. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit belong to all.

In some circles, much is made of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 for women to keep silence in the church. We do not have the space to discuss this in detail, but in the light of everything else said by Jesus and Paul, it is clear that this passage deals with a special circumstance that does not negate the overall message of the New Testament—God has ended the curse of women’s subordination and chosen women to places of ministry and influence.

In other words, God’s special call upon women is part of the gospel message.

In India, where women and girls still play subservient roles, and suffer from inferiority and degradation, we make a powerful witness for the gospel when we treat our wives, girl children, female relatives and sisters in Christ with the respect that Jesus gave to all women.

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Purpose in Persecution

Purpose-in-PersecutionBenjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

For the Christian, we can add one more item: persecution.

In recent days, we have read and heard much about persecuted Christians around the world. In the Middle East, we hear about attacks by ISIS and Christians driven from their homes because of their faith. Even young children experience beatings, beheading and crucifixion because they refuse to give up their faith in Jesus.

This is not new in the history of Christ’s church. Persecution is inevitable for all who truly follow Christ and reflect His life and character. As Jesus faced His own crucifixion and death, He told His disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:21).

A truly godly person may even find himself rejected by religious people who call themselves “Christian.” They may be moral and upstanding citizens who have compromised with the standards of the world in some way. These are people who rely upon their own goodness to gain entry into heaven. Such people do not understand those who trust only the grace of God to save them.

When Jesus walked this earth, the religious people of the day were the Pharisees. John tells us that “even among the rulers, many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-44).

Persecution for Christians means to have a share in Jesus’ suffering and resurrection. Jesus suffered, died and rose again, bringing life to all who trust in Him. Our suffering echoes His. Christian suffering is not in vain. God uses persecution to bear much fruit for His kingdom. The gates of hell come against the believer, but in the end, cannot prevail.

Persecution often results in divided families. Some will follow Christ, others will not. Those who do not follow Christ will hate those who do. Families will disown, betray and even kill members who trust in Jesus.

Persecution does not mean shame and humiliation. Jesus tells us that those who experience persecution will receive words and wisdom from the Holy Spirit which will baffle their enemies (Luke 21:15).

How should the Christian respond to persecution? Jesus tells us we must love our persecutors, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who treat us with spite (Matthew 5:44). This makes us like God who shows His love to all, even those who hate Him. To follow the path of love and forgiveness has brought many others to Christ.

A good example of this is Elizabeth Elliot whose husband, Jim, died at the hands of savage Auca Indians to whom he tried to present the gospel. Instead of going home in defeat, Elizabeth Elliot and her young daughter went to the savages themselves, and today, most of these people have committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

We must choose now to suffer momentary affliction for the sake of eternal reward, trusting God who judges all people justly (1 Peter 2:24). We must keep in mind that God has later turned persecutors into messengers of the gospel. Paul, the greatest missionary of all, is witness to what God will do.

Not even persecution can stop the gospel from reaching all the peoples of the world, but God will use it to accomplish His holy purposes.

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