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I have a good friend who is from the local community in South Africa near my home. He organizes a number of after school programs to create hope in the young people.

He regularly tells me stores of how he receives cookie donations from older (insert the race which is economically better off) for his young, poor (insert economically worse off race) kids.

“These folks feel so good about helping these poor kids!”

This friend is an honest voice in my life to point out the sometimes misguided attempts to help people. I’m so grateful for this refreshingly honest voice.

He can tell when people really love those they are serving or if they are merely looking for photo ops or feel good moments.

Improving on Perfection

August 11, 2015

When you merge something with impurities into something pure, it brings corruption.

In mathematics, we know a negative and a positive equals a negative.

As broken and flawed humans, we cannot improve the work of Christ by something we do, say, feel, or think.

Many times we are told the way to be a good Christian is “Jesus + (insert something we do or don’t do, an attitude, or a Christian discipline.)”

Consider some of the Christian activities we insert into this equation…

  • Prayer
  • Church attendance
  • Missions
  • Tithing
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Bible reading
  • Obedience

The list could go on and on. Notice the things listed above are all good things. We could easily attach a Scripture reference to each one.

The enemy would never think of convincing us that we need “Jesus + fornication or drugs” in order to be pleasing to God.

I hate checklists for spiritual growth.

They lead towards a works orientation and a focus on being performance-based.

When a recent church service message started with a “Checklist for Spiritual Zeal” I was concerned.

6 commands from Ephesians 5 were restated as questions.

Each one had an emphasis on not having a “hint” of such and such bad thing and of “never” acting another way. It was a list of do’s and don’ts which were totally and completely unrealistic.

When “never’s and always” are included for spiritual behavior, my legalism alarm begins to ring.

“So how are you doing?”, asked the speaker.

The church expected to be hammered into submission and guilt.

What followed next shocked me.

He went on to overview chapters 1-3 saying that all these commands are a response to what God has done.

The relationship between grace and obedience can seem tenuous at times.

An over-emphasis on grace with no thought to obedience can lead to antinomianism, hyper grace, or as some would say “free, cheap grace.”

Focusing on rules and commands as a means to gain the favor of God can lead to rule keeping, law, and legalism. The thinking of “God has done His part, now we do ours” is equally out of balance.

But it is clear the Bible promotes a balance or blend of these two truths.

In his book, Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us, Preston Sprinkle shares a third way which comes from New Testament scholar John Barclay.

This view is called Energism. It stems from the Greek word “energeo” found Galatians 2:8.

“for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles”

On Absolutes and Change

September 20, 2014

When do actions which are tied to our faith become absolutes? Are there times when culture changes, we can accept or even embrace some of these changes in the church?

Let me tell you what I observed recently.

I was at a restaurant in the United States. Sitting at an outdoor patio was the young man pictured.

beerdude

What do you see in this picture?

He was dressed in work clothes, seemingly relaxing after a day of work.

He pulled out his Bible along with some form of study guide. He would pause often to jot insights down in a journal. He sat engaging in these studies for over an hour.

And he was drinking a beer.

What things comes to your mind at this point?

In many nations where I work, abstaining from alcohol is a cultural absolute for Christians.