The Deadly Mistake Of Minding Your Own Business

He was the rock. He was a foundational leader of the church. But he wasn’t above being called out when he was wrong.

 

Peter was eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). At first, that doesn’t seem like much to me because, well, I’m a Gentile. But Peter had spent his entire life living by the strict dietary restrictions we find in the Old Testament. Things changed in Acts 10 when God gave Peter a vision of several unclean animals in a sheet and said every hunter’s favorite Bible verse, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-13). My friend calls this the first pig in a blanket.

So a little while later Peter finds himself doing the unthinkable. Eating with Gentiles. And I’m sure that he loved the taste of those pulled pork sandwiches and catfish. Something like that. You get the picture.

But then some of the Jewish elites showed up. And when they did, Peter was caught. Should he stay at the Gentile table at that proverbial New Testament high school cafeteria or should he go back to sit with his old friends. Peter went back to his old friends. But it was more than just nostalgia that pulled Peter away from the Gentile table. It was fear.

The message was clear from Peter. “Gentiles, I’m with you and this new covenant until my people show up and then it’s back to the old way. It’s been real.”

Thankfully, Paul was there and his message to Peter was even clearer. He opposed Peter publicly.

[14] But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas (Peter) before them all, “If you, though a Jew, llive like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14 (ESV)

Here’s a translation of what Paul said. “Peter, why do you hold the Gentiles to standards that you can’t even keep?”

This was a pivotal time for the church. Peter was influential and his hypocrisy could have led the young movement back into the self-righteousness that they had been delivered from. Paul’s open confrontation could have caused a major split between he and Peter and, by extension, the church as a whole.

But it didn’t. And for that, we have Peter to thank.

Paul doesn’t tell us how Peter responded to being held accountable by the former murderer turned missionary to the Gentiles. Did he storm out of the room? Did he post a vague Facebook status in all caps about people needing to, “Mind their own business?”

One of Peter’s letters, written years after this incident gives us a good clue.

[15]  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

Peter refers to Paul, the one who rebuked him years earlier, as, “Our beloved brother” and speaks of him having God-given wisdom. He acknowledges that Paul’s words can be hard to understand and easy to to distort but he finishes with a very important assessment of Paul’s letters. They are part of the Scriptures. That is, they carry the authority of God’s word.

We need Paul’s in our life. We need people who care enough about us and the gospel to lovingly correct us when we are wrong. The very worst thing that could happen to the church or to you as an individual is for everyone around you to, “Mind their own business.”

And when those people do step in to lovingly hold you accountable, it does no good unless you respond like Peter and accept their authority and wisdom. Use their words as an opportunity to examine your life.

My growth in my walk with Christ has little to nothing to do with my own individual perseverance. It has much more to do with God putting people in my life who love me too much to, “Mind their own business.” I pray that he does the same for you.

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We Need Pastors Who Bleed The Gospel

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We need pastors who bleed the gospel. We don’t need pastors who are pawns of some political party. We don’t need pastors who get their marching orders from their favorite political websites and TV stations. We don’t need pastors who are too afraid of getting fired.

We need pastors who, when beaten and bruised by their opponents, bleed the gospel.

That means that we need pastors who are more interested in following the examples of the Old Testament prophets than they are in turning a profit at next week’s offering. These are the pastors who will say the hard things, the things that were once obvious but no longer are.

A funny thing happened after Sunday night’s presidential debate. The people at Fox News and the Drudge Report were telling me that Trump won. Meanwhile, the folks at CNN and MSNBC were saying that Hillary won. That’s the thing about our current political climate. Love it or hate it, it does have a way of exposing allegiances. Sadly, on both sides of the aisle, there are those churches and pastors who have been exposed for being more aligned to a presidential candidate than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as a result, those pastors who are supposed to be speaking against evil end up swimming against the stream of scripture and common sense in order to keep their presidential hopeful propped up.

We don’t need pastors who act like pimps prostituting out their churches in order to give Hillary Clinton another campaign stop.

We don’t need pastors who consider it their duty to defend Donald Trump no matter what because, after all, his sins aren’t as bad as Hillary’s.

No, we need pastors who bleed the gospel.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton was your church secretary and she deleted a few thousand e-mails a week or so before being questioned by the police about some shady Internet dealings she’d been involved in. Most likely, she would be fired. But, for some reason, in the eyes of a lot of pastors, such actions do not disqualify her from being the president of the United States.

Imagine if your wife or daughter worked for Donald Trump. Imagine if she was the one he was talking to Billy Bush about assaulting all of those years ago. Would you still call it “locker room banter”? Would you still say it was just words? Not likely. What is more likely is that you would try to have him fired. But, for some reason, in the eyes of a lot of pastors, such conduct doesn’t disqualify him from being our next president. We’re not hiring a pastor-in-chief, they tell us.

One of the most disturbing things I have seen in my 41 years on this earth is the degree to which some church leaders will distort or even ignore scripture just to see their candidate elected.

For some, the fact that Hillary is a woman gives her the right to sanction the murder of babies under the banner of a woman’s right to choose.

For others, the fact that Donald isn’t Hillary gives him a free pass to do or say whatever he wants under the banner of making America great again.

Pastors, we have to be above this. We can’t scream, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” when one candidate blows it and call down fire from heaven to punish the sins of the candidate with whom we don’t agree. We must remain true to the scriptures. We must be consistent. But that’s hard to do when the blood of a political party runs through our veins.

We need pastors who bleed the gospel.

People won’t like it when you refuse to jump on one candidates bandwagon. I’ve been told that I’m what’s wrong with America. I’ve been told to stick to the Bible. It’s likely that we’ll hear worse. Don’t let that get you down. Never forget that preaching the word isn’t just done one day a week behind a pulpit.

We need pastors who bleed the gospel. Every day of the week.

That means that we need pastors who love the Trump supporters and the Clinton supporters while simultaneously opposing the godless policies and actions of both candidates. That’s easier said than done. Refusing to just play along and wave the flag of a political party or candidate might get you run out of town. It might lose you a few church members. Offerings may go down.

But that’s okay. Jesus called you to be a shepherd, not a hireling. A shepherd risks everything to protect the sheep. A hireling only looks out for his own interests and takes off running when the heat gets too thick.

Pastor, one day you will stand before Jesus to give an account for your life and ministry. You will not be questioned about whether or not your were liked? You will not be questioned about how appreciated you felt. You will not be questioned about what you did to swing the balance of the Supreme Court.

In so may words, you will get a question sort of like this one.

Did you bleed the gospel?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 (ESV)

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Bad Mistakes, I’ve Made A Few

A while back I got an e-mail from a friend. It was quick and to the point. I blew it and he was letting me know. He does this kind of thing a lot.

I couldn’t live without those e-mails.

I like to write. I try to do it everyday. That’s why I have this blog. It gives me a good place to say what’s on my mind, be it college football, Judge Judy or theology. Hence the name Pastoral Ramblings.

When I first started Pastoral Ramblings I would only write when I had some grand thought come into my mind. I was waiting for my masterpiece. That means I was usually waiting a long time. Two friends told me to stop doing that. My friend Marty told me to try to write almost everyday. My friend Keith quoted Seth Godin to me.

“No one ever gets talkers block.”

And so I started writing everyday. A lot of days, I get an e-mail from a friend. One of those e-mails I was telling you about. One that calls me out on a mistake.

Keith has written me quite a few times.

“Typo. The should be they.”

And Marty.

“I think it’s Lego. Not Leggo. Not sure how you check that to find out for sure.”

And Casey.

Irregardless isn’t a word.”

And Scott.

You’re. Not your.”

My friends aren’t being jerks or grammar Nazis. It’s not like they’re searching everything I write to find their own little gotcha moment on me. But when they see a glaring mistake, they let me know.

These are some of the most encouraging e-mails I get. I know that sounds weird. But they serve as reminders that I’m not alone. I have other people with me. Other people who care. People who care enough not to be yes men. People who show me how the church is supposed to work.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Jesus isn’t the head of a show or a program. He’s the head of the Church. The Bible calls it the Body. Jesus even identifies it with himself. The different organs and parts of a body, if that body is healthy, do not function on their own and they certainly do not function against each other. Jesus himself is a member of the Trinity, one Divine Being made up of three equal and distinct persons; Father, Son and Spirit. They work together.

So why should those who profess to follow Jesus expect to be different? What gives us the idea that it’s okay to be spiritual Rambos or Lone Rangers, fighting sin and Satan on our own? God designed the Church to be a living organism where each member looks out for the other.

We would do ourselves a lot of good if we stopped trying to convince our friends that we are perfect and stopped always looking past their imperfections. Otherwise, our friendships will become nothing more than vehicles for finding more self-affirmation or boosting our Twitter followers and Facebook friends. After all, it is possible to have a ton of friends while not really having any friends at all.

What we need are friends, even if it’s just a few of them, who really care. Friends who care enough to let us know when there’s a typo, be it the grammatical kind or the spiritual kind. If you’ve got that, you’ve got a lot.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (ESV)

Editor’s Note: Dont start sending me abunch of e-mails leting me no about a typo. I really dont have them any more.Maybe once are twice butt not that much.   Its really not a problem for a righter of my calibur so dont worry about me. Thax!,,,,

Lessons from Notre Dame

If my memory serves me correctly, Alabama was a ten point favorite heading in to Monday night’s BCS Championship game.

Alabama won by 28 points.

Nice try Vegas.

No matter who you cheer for or if you even like football, there are at least two lessons to be learned from last night’s game.

The first lesson is that you can’t live off of past accomplishments.

Notre Dame has a very rich football history.  They’ve won a lot of championships, they have a powerful and influential base of fans and former students and they have even had a few movies made about them.  Not too shabby.

But none of that matters today.  On Monday night, Alabama wasn’t influenced by the fact that Rudy was a cinematic masterpiece that moved millions to tears.  Most of the players on the field last night weren’t even born the last time that Notre Dame football was relevant.

I’ve seen a lot of pastors and other leaders who have built a nice platform because of something that they accomplished in the past.  While that can be important, it’s not as important as what’s happening now.  The pastor with a story about the time that he spent the summer with Elvis Presley will see that the audience of people who care about those stories gets smaller every year.  The pastor with a story about what God is doing in his life right now will always be relevant, no matter how he’s dressed or what kind of music he likes.

The other lesson is that accountability matters.

This morning at breakfast my six-year-old asked me a very profound question.

“Dad, if Notre Dame got beat so bad, why were they ranked number one?”

I explained to him that Notre Dame did not belong to a conference and not belonging to a conference afforded them the opportunity to play an easier schedule.  My example for him was that it was sort of like his soccer team only scheduling games against a team of three-year-olds and then feeling like they’ve done something when they’re undefeated at the end of the season.

The point is that individuals, churches and organizations need people to challenge them.  Even when those challenges aren’t grounded in reality, they can still help you by making you firmer in your position or vision.  But sometimes those challenges will be of substance and, if you take heed, you will be better because of them.

When I was first starting out in ministry I would spend Sunday mornings before church talking with a man that I respected very much.  We talked about the Bible, sports and everything in between.  One day I told him a joke.  I thought that the joke was a bit crude but still funny.

He just thought that it was crude.

Instead of laughing, he told me something that I still carry with me.

“Jay, you can do better than that.”

Churches, organizations, individuals and yes, even football teams, don’t need yes men.  They need people that care enough to call them out when it’s needed.

Notre Dame had yes men.  Most of them are employed by ESPN.

I had a man who held me accountable and a few years after I told that joke, I named my son after that man.