Wise and Foolish Christian

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares a parable comparing two builders: a wise one who builds his house on the rock, and a foolish one who builds his house on the sand. A storm ravages both houses but only one remains.

The entire parable contains just four sentences, yet contains a deep spiritual truth. This truth can be easily missed if we read it too fast. Notice we don’t read this as the parable of the smart and stupid builder. Both builders seem to know what they were doing in building a house. Jesus tells us nothing about how the house was built. The scriptures reveal the foundation as the only difference between the two homes.

In reading this passage, I noticed that this parable is not necessarily about Christians building their lives on Christ while those without Christ are building their lives on metaphorical sand, although one could certainly make that application. Notice the context around which Jesus shares this parable. In Matthew chapter 7:15, Jesus warns of false prophets. He tells the listeners to judge the false from the true by the fruit evidenced in a person’s life. In verse 21, Jesus  says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.” The same thought carries down to verse 24, which begins with “therefore.” A wise pastor once pointed out that when you see a “therefore” in the scripture, you should always find out what it is “there for.”

In this case, the “therefore” presents a logical flow from one idea to the next. Jesus makes the point that the wise build their lives by acting on His words. Calling yourself a Christian is not enough. Jesus wants us to hear what He is saying and act accordingly. In order to hear what Jesus says we must be continually reading, studying, and meditating on the scriptures. We must understand what God has to say in all respects and not just isolate feel-good scriptures. When we isolate scriptures, especially out of context, we run the risk of missing the full counsel of what God has to say and distorting His message. A Christian should develop a strong understanding of what the scriptures say and how they relate to all areas of life. Understanding the Bible is not just for the select few who attend Bible school or seminary.

The parable of the wise and foolish builder answers a question that has always bothered me. I would see some of my fellow Christians go through proverbial storms in their lives. As a young man, I remember a leader in our men’s ministry who had all the earmarks of a serious Christian. He attended church regularly with his family, taught Sunday school, and made friendships with the right Christian leaders. This man organized our men’s outing to the Promise Keepers event. He went through a deep personal trial and ended up leaving his wife and children for another woman. Of course, each situation contains its own nuance, but both stories share one common detail. In both cases a Christian who did know better chose a path radically different from what the teaching of Jesus would prescribe. I once thought all Christians were examples of the wise builder; I’ve since learned better. The storm exposes the foundation upon which a person has based his or her life decisions. Not all “Christians” base their choices on the words of God. These Christians might think they built on the solid rock but are shaken to the core when calamity hits. Let’s be wise and make our decisions based on the words of Jesus, His apostles, and His prophets. I speak to myself in this as much as I speak to anyone else.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Can Christians Celebrate Halloween?

As a Christian, can you celebrate Halloween?

Great question. Let’s start with a quick origin of the word ‘Halloween,’ from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM):

The word Halloween is derived from the term “All Hallows Eve” which occurred on Oct. 31, the end of summer in Northwestern Europe. “All Saints Day,” or “All Hallows Day” was the next Day, Nov. 1st. Therefore, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day.

From a Christian perspective, we have much to celebrate on October 31st and November 1st. October 31st is celebrated throughout much of the world as Reformation Day, which commemorates Martin Luther nailing his ‘95 Theses’ to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, in the year 1517. That event sparked the Reformation. Much of the Christian Church also recognizes November 1st as All Saints Day, a holiday meant to honor the saints in the Christian faith who have come before us. In the Biblical calendar, days start in the evening; so, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is the beginning of All Saints Day, which has roots that can be traced back to the 5th Century AD.

The contention some Christians have with Halloween comes from the fact that many people dress up as witches, ghosts and goblins – a tradition many historians believe is derived from ancient pagan festivals. Yet even if that origin has some truth to it, what would Jesus command us to do? I believe He would tell us to take back what is His. I believe He already told us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matt 28:19), not to shrink back from preaching the Gospel on the day when unbelievers need to hear it most. We are to be salt and light in this dark world, knowing that we have the authority to cast out demons (Mark 16:17) because Jesus has given it to us. Shrinking back from a chance to spread the Gospel on Halloween is avoiding our responsibility as Christians.

If we’re going to rule out Halloween as a day to preach the Gospel, we also have to rule out every other day that has ever been associated with pagan traditions. The word Sunday means ‘Sun-day’ (dies solis in Latin). Pagans tried to make it a day of the week to worship the sun, and Christians reclaimed it as a day devoted solely to worshiping the One True God. Does the fact that there are some possible ancient associations between Sunday and pagan traditions mean we should stop going to church every week? Absolutely not! Sunday, like every day, belongs to God. So does Halloween. It is our job to go out and take possession of it for Him.

At CityLight Church, we offer an alternative to traditional Halloween festivities. We have a Fall Festival, which gives us the chance to invite the entire neighborhood to church. We have games, prizes and fun activities for kids of all ages. And yes, we encourage kids and parents to dress up in costumes. Why? Because it’s fun. That’s it. When the kids who come to our Fall Festival grow up, we want them to remember church as the place they went every year around Halloween and had the time of their lives. If we don’t offer an alternative to Halloween as a church, who will? If our members don’t go out and preach the Gospel every day of the year, including Halloween, who will?

If we sit back and worry about whether or not we can participate in the most culturally active and relevant days of the year, we risk becoming irrelevant as Christians and passing up opportunities to share the Gospel. Our goal for every major holiday (Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Halloween) should be to turn those days back into what God intended for them to be: a chance to gather with our loved ones and honor Him.

So, here is what we recommend. If you have any serious reservations about Halloween, don’t participate. It’s your choice. If you know anyone who would be thrown off from his or her Christian walk because of your participation in Halloween, don’t participate. Plain and simple (see 1 Cor 10:23-33 for an analogous discussion from Paul on eating meat sacrificed to idols).

However, any holiday – regardless of origin – is defined by what it means to you, here and now. If you understand that complete freedom in Christ means you can dress up and go door-to-door asking for candy just for fun, then feel free to do it. But don’t forget to use every day – especially Halloween – as a chance to evangelize. Dress your kids up as angels instead of demons and send them around with CityLight Church postcards or Gospel tracts. They can go from house to house in your neighborhood and invite people to church as they receive candy. You’ll be training a bunch of pint-sized evangelists. When kids come to your house, hand them invitations to our Fall Festival along with a Snickers bar. That way, they can come to our Fall Festival on November 2nd and bring their parents. We promise to preach the Gospel to their whole family.

-by Pastor Mike White

Who’s In Control of Your Emotions?

How many times a day do you feel angry? Frustrated? Upset? We assume that these are emotions that we can manage, but ultimately cannot control. We remove ourselves from situations we don’t think we can handle, admitting that certain emotions are inevitable. But are they?

The question to ask yourself is this: who is really in control of my emotions? If I let someone upset me, I am granting them authority over my emotions. If I let someone drive me to anger, I am granting that person authority not only over my emotions, but also over my actions. They are now in control of my mind, will and emotions instead of God.

We have a choice to make when it comes to how we are going to feel. Someone is always in control of our emotions, but it is up to us just who that person will be. Will we let the people around us control how we feel? Or will we let God have control?

Giving other people charge over our emotions will result in anger, anxiety and frustration. Letting God fully control our emotions can only result in one outcome: joy.

The idea that we are in control of our own emotions is a myth. We say things like, “I don’t care what other people think about me,” without realizing what we mean. To say, “I don’t care what people think” is actually admitting that you care so much about what they think that you are willing to make the conscious decision to ignore them. You’re willing to live in denial because you know that if you even so much as consider what they think, you will allow their views to overwhelm your self-perception. We must be honest and admit that our self-perception is driven by what others think about us. Our emotions are driven by stimuli provided by external sources. The real choice is this: will we accept what other people think about us, or will we accept God’s opinion of us as the ultimate reality? Will the stimuli that drive our emotions come from the people around us, or will we only accept stimuli from God?

The Bible tells us to judge a tree by its fruit (Matt 7:20). If you want to know who is really controlling your emotions every day, put a thermometer in the level of joy you experience in your life.

-by Pastor Mike White

Hearing from God

How can I hear from God? How can I hear from God more often?

These are two of the most common questions we hear at CityLight Church. There are plenty of things you can do to position yourself to hear from God more often. Our senses are designed to receive stimuli from the Holy Spirit; many times we just have take the time to notice what He is telling us. Quite often, God may have already told you something, but you just didn’t realize it. Let me explain:

John 14:21: He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

For most people, ‘hearing from God’ means experiencing something tangible: a still small voice, a dream, a vision, or one of many other tacks the Lord can take when speaking to us. In the verse above, Jesus promises He will make himself manifest (real; tangible) to ‘he who has [His] commandments and keeps them.’ If we keep His commandments, He will make Himself real to us.

So, when someone asks me, ‘How can I hear from God,’ my response is usually, ‘What have you done with everything He has already told you?’ The Bible is full of truths – ways to pray, things to pray for, and situations over which the name of Jesus Christ already gives us full and complete authority – that we can take the time to fully appropriate when we don’t feel like we are hearing from God. Sometimes God will give us a fresh word, but sometimes He will wait for us to internalize what has already been distributed before He gives us more revelation. There is always Scripture that is relevant to whatever we are going through in our lives; it is our job to find it and use it, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all understanding.

If you want to hear more from God, ask yourself this: what was the last thing He told you? Maybe the Holy Spirit highlighted a verse of Scripture to you as you read. Maybe you had a dream a few years back but never followed through on it. Maybe a still, small voice told you to make a phone call but you never had the conversation.

Now go back and do whatever He told you to do, or memorize that Bible verse that really spoke to you. God will give you more information when you fully utilize that which He has already shown you.

-by Pastor Mike White

David’s Other Sin

The Bible not only tells us how to live but it also shows us examples of how not to live. One of these examples is the life of King David, the greatest king in the history of ancient Israel. David obviously accomplished many great things. David killed Goliath and rescued his people from Philistine oppression. David refused to harm his master, King Saul. David showed himself to be a great warrior and a great worshiper. David was known as a man after God’s own heart.

David also demonstrated some flaws–his indiscretion with Bathsheba being his most obvious. A less obvious flaw in David’s life is often overlooked. It would serve us all well, particularly us men, to understand this weakness and avoid it in our own lives.

The Apostle Paul tells Timothy, “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.”(1 Tim 5:24) My paraphrase: some car accidents you can see coming; others take you by surprise. What is this grievous error I am referring to? David, after winning his kingdom, succumbed to male passivity. I use the term “male passivity” because it is an actual psychological condition that affects mostly men. Male passivity, by definition, occurs when men abdicate their God-given role as leaders.  Let me clarify David’s error to better explain.

After David’s adultery and his subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband, the prophet Nathan visits him in dramatic fashion (this is one of my favorite stories and can be found in 2 Samuel 12). Nathan rebukes David and gives a prophecy concerning the punishment David would reap for his gross misconduct. Nathan’s prophecy declared that God would raise an enemy against him in his own household and that the sword would not depart from his household. Nathan also predicted that although David had taken another man’s wife in secret, someone else would take his wives openly.

Nathan’s prophecy unfolds through David’s own sons. Amnon, David’s eldest son, lured his half-sister Tamar into his quarters and raped her. The book of Second Samuel says that “[David] was very angry.” Surprisingly, David did nothing to punish Amnon, at least according to what is recorded in Scripture. Two years later, disgusted at his father’s inaction, Absalom commanded his servants to murder Amnon.  Absalom then flees the country to avoid his father’s wrath. Three years went by.  David wanted to go find his fugitive son and bring him back. He had lost one son; now David feared that he would lose two.

David finally sent for Absalom when prompted by Joab, the commander of the army. By this time, Absalom resented his father’s lack of leadership. Absalom gathered allies and mounted a coup against his father. Absalom fulfilled the prophecy of Nathan but died in battle against his father’s loyalists. Upon hearing of the death of Absalom, David wept bitterly, wishing that he had died rather than his son.

We see in this story two places where David abdicated his leadership role as a king and as a father. He let others make decisions that were clearly his responsibility. First, he did nothing to correct the injustice of Amnon toward his daughter Tamar. Second, David left Absalom in a legal limbo. David would have liked to bring Absalom home, forgive him, and be reconciled to him.  Instead, David remained trapped in indecision over Absalom.

Many men, including myself, struggle with passivity in light of our responsibilities.  I see this in three areas: relationships, fatherhood, and community.

1. In relationships, women want men to lead. Girlfriends want their man to think about where the relationship is going and to pursue her. These ladies do not want to drop hints about what their man should be doing. When a man waits too long to move the relationship forward, the woman loses interest. She may still remain in the relationship, but she loses the intensity she once had in the relationship. I have seen many couples, who might have had good marriages, end their relationship because it wasn’t progressing and the woman got tired of waiting.

My wife and I explain to our church’s married and engaged couples that wives want husbands who will lead without being domineering. What we mean by domineering is generally understood. Leading in a relationship is a more difficult concept to define. We have to describe what leading looks like because our culture has an aversion to authority, thinking authority only exists to accumulate benefits for itself.  Authority in the Biblical sense is for the benefit of those under authority. One of the examples I give our couples is getting ready for church on a Sunday morning. I tell them that my wife does not have to ask me if I am going to church. As the leader, I recognize my responsibility to attend to the spiritual needs of my wife, my children, and my community.  I get up without being asked and help get the children ready. I make sure we are out the door on time. In some households, the wife (mother) must take the responsibility to make many of the family decisions alone and the added task of enforcing the decision herself.  Men need to make a point not to abdicate responsibilities as a husband and leave the wife as the default decision maker. Men also must make a point not to abdicate responsibilities as a husband and leave the wife as the default enforcer of decisions they’ve made together.

2. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, children had the benefit of spending the bulk of their time with both parents during the day. Most children in the world grew up in some agricultural setting such as the family farm. Children worked alongside parents, learning how to manage the work of a farm. The Industrial Revolution transferred the father outside the home for work. The responsibility of parenting that was once shared shifted as the mother bore the brunt of child raising responsibility. Fathers working outside the home and mothers staying home to raise the children became so ingrained in our culture that today we speak of this as the “traditional” model of home life. Fathers went for work outside the home and left the mothers with the responsibility for the moral formation of their children. The Bible paints a different picture.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, puts the responsibility for training and instruction in the Lord squarely on the father’s shoulders. The children’s church workers, the public school teachers, the pastor, the youth pastor, or the children’s Christian television show only support raising godly children and can never replace the task of the parents. The responsibility falls on the father of those children with the support of the godly mother.

3. Men need to play an active role in our communities. As I look over the churches I have had the privilege to be a part of through my time as a Christian man, I notice that aside from the lead pastor and staff, there are very few men taking on the responsibilities of the church. I am certainly glad to see many women participating in the church. However, men bring a dynamic to the church community that women do not. As it would be a travesty to have a church with few involved women, so it is a devastating force when a church lacks involved men.

King David may have felt inadequate to correct a severe moral violation because of his own failure. There could be many reasons why we men abdicate our responsibilities. We do need to realize that this is a sin and that it has real consequences for our marriages, our children, and our communities. We must seek God’s help to overcome our feelings of inadequacy. We must step up as leaders in our marriages, in our families, and in our communities. We can’t shrink back from what God has given us stewardship over. Finally, we must encourage our brothers to live fully engaged as the leaders God intended us to be.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

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