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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need to discern between true and false repentance. Second Corinthians 7 teaches that not all tears of remorse flow from a truly repentant heart. Some cry because they were caught, and others cry because they offended God. Those two groups do not necessarily overlap.

In God’s providence there are a few examples given to us in Scripture that juxtapose these two types of repentance. The most obvious is Saul vs. David. Saul and David both sinned, were confronted by a prophet, and then acknowledged their sin. In fact, they both use almost the same words: “I have sinned against Yahweh” (1 Samuel 15:24; 2 Samuel 12:13).

But the narratives make clear that Saul’s “repentance” was superficial, while David’s was supernatural. The prophet did not extend forgiveness to Saul, while he did to David. Saul was concerned about what others thought, while David was concerned only with what Yahweh thought. And there are probably six or seven other contrasts as well.

A similar (but less known) juxtaposition is found in 2 Samuel 19. In that narrative, David had just been driven out of his kingdom by Absalom, who was latter dispatched by Joab. Now David was returning to Israel to retake his kingdom and to render justice. Certainly there were hundreds of people whom David dealt with in this process, but the narrator only focuses on two: Shimei and Mephibosheth.

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342491561_640It’s been said that we are either entering a conflict, in a conflict, or just coming out of a conflict. Often, it’s some combination of the three. And, when it comes to church leadership teams, the same can be true.

Church leadership teams experience conflict for many reasons. Those teams are made up of imperfect, sinful men. The pressures are great. Misunderstandings abound. Wisdom is lacking. And the work of the ministry is just difficult.

For these reasons and more, Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida held the first “Ekklesia Pre-Conference” this past week. The event dealt head-on with the complexities of church leadership conflict in the local church.

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sorrycoffeeIt happens often that there is a disagreement and two members of a family blow up at each other.  One storms into their room in anger, slams the door, and spends a couple of hours sulking and thinking terrible thoughts of the other person. After a while they will emerge from the room, either acting like nothing happened or mumbling a “I apologize if I offended you”, or even worse an “I’m sorry” that can only be answered with “that’s okay”.  The problem is that it’s not okay.  We should never justify sin in our lives and it simply doesn’t cut it to say we’re sorry.

We apologize or say we are sorry when we step on someone’s toes by mistake. What is needed when we commit an offense against someone is a transaction. When I sin against someone I must ask for forgiveness. I have sinned against them and caused pain in their life. It wasn’t by mistake. It wasn’t accidental, it was on purpose and just because it wasn’t premeditated or I hadn’t had my coffee yet does not mean that it was not sinful.

Unbelievers minimize sin. Go up to any random stranger and ask them if they are going to heaven and you will hear some form of minimization of sin. In just the last week we talked to a few dozen people about the Gospel, and all except for the one Christian we ran into believed that they were a good person. We are born thinking that sin is not that serious and that we are ultimately good people. Psychiatrists have become experts of minimizing your sin and blame shifting. The danger is that many believers, even though they believe differently theologically, in practice follow the course of the world.

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destinationSome time ago my wife and I flew to Europe from our home in South Africa. We first had to take a domestic flight from Durban to the international airport in Johannesburg. Everyone on that domestic flight was appropriately dressed for the blazing heat and oppressive humidity of midsummer—shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. We were wearing jeans, boots, long-sleeved tops, and were carrying sweaters and snow jackets.

We disembarked at the uncomfortably warm domestic terminal and we made our sticky, sweaty way to the international terminal. That’s when we started seeing more folk with the northern hemisphere in mind. It was easy to tell who was leaving and who was staying by their clothing. The travelers were not concerned about appearances at the airport because they would only be there for a few hours, and in a short while would be grateful for their warm clothes.

Why? Because they had set their minds on a European winter, not an African summer.

Can onlookers tell what your final destination is by the way you behave? Or do you live like this life is your final destination?

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A professing Christian was in a rough marriage for many years. It came to the point where they felt as if they could not take it anymore. Divorce entered the thoughts. They sought counsel from other Christians. Some opened Scripture, some didn’t, and some prayed. Though no biblical grounds for divorce, it came to the point where they could not see how God would want them to be unhappy in marriage. The marriage did not bring feelings of peace and comfort. So, they went through with the divorce on the grounds that both they and their close Christian friends “had a peace about it.”

Perhaps you’ve said it. “I have a peace about it.” Sometimes it takes on a different form. “I have prayed about it, so it’s God’s will.” Or, “I have a peace about it, so God is calling me to…” Those words are often-assumed gateways to what God wants me to do in the throes of life. But, is my “peace” God’s enthusiastic permission slip for my “it”? Is my prayer and peace heaven’s approval for whatever “it” may be in my life?

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This week the Foundry Bible Immersion began with seven new, courageous students who have left their homes and have moved to DC for 10 weeks of intense discipleship.

This year we are blessed with an international flavor. We have Scott and Ryle from Canada, Priscilla from Italy, Mikayla and Keanen from Arizona, and Ryan and Kathy from Virginia.

Young man reading small BibleThey have decided to come here because they want to grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord. They will be doing evangelism and learning in the classroom with our pastors, but perhaps the most important aspect of the school is the reading through the entire Bible in such a short amount of time.

At the age of 18, I went to a similar school in Italy. I was super depressed, unable to sleep at night, and with no direction in life when I began reading through the Bible.  It was exactly what I needed. The Lord completely changed my life thorugh it. In so many ways.

It changed my life because it caused me to understand that I exist for the purpose of glorifying God. Reading the Bible so quickly allowed me to see that God is the central focus of scripture. Sure, John 3:16 is one verse that focuses on God’s love for his children, but throughout Scripture I was exposed to the fact that God alone deserves the glory and that He shares it with no one. I was born selfish, thinking that my happiness was all that mattered. And reading the Scripture so quickly from start to finish exposed me to the folly of selfish, man-centered thinking, pushing me towards living for God.

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letterBefore e-mail it was rare to mistakenly send a missive to the wrong person. But these days it is a gaffe people make with great frequency and sometimes dire consequences.

In January 2014 Oxford University College accidentally sent a broadcast e-mail to all students, instead of just the academic staff, listing the names and grades of the 50 worst performers.

In 2000, 15-year-old Claire MacDonald in Devon UK began receiving classified e-mails from the Pentagon. Her address had erroneously been added to a list of security council officials with top secret clearance. One mail included New Zealand’s entire naval defense strategy. Another mail, ironically, was the American security council offering advice to the UK on how to prevent the leaking of sensitive documents.

Stipulating to whom your letter is addressed is as important as its content. This is a lesson we learn from Jude 1b. Here we discover in whose inbox Jude intended this mail to land. And it may shock you to learn that one of the addresses in his list may well be yours…

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September 9, 2016

The Blog in Our Eyes

by Nathan Busenitz

What principles should guide Christians who interact on blogs (and other social media)?

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This article was originally published several years ago on Pulpit as a multi-part series. I’ve updated it slightly and republished it here because I believe it is still a helpful reminder for those who regularly communicate online – either through blogs or other forms of social media.

At times, the blogosphere can be notoriously nasty — a breeding ground for slander, gossip, misinformation, bickering, name-calling, arrogance, and quick-temperedness. Even Christian blogs can sometimes deteriorate into something between a tabloid and a talk show, built on a few provocative tidbits of juicy news and the massing of ignorance in response. Armed with anonymity and eager for an audience, bloggers (meaning both those who post and those who comment) often shoot first and ask questions only after they’ve trashed other people and embarrassed themselves.

So how can we, as believers, stem the tide and honor the Lord in the way we interact online? In answer to that question, here are ten practical principles derived from God’s Word.

Let’s start with the most foundational . . .  Continue Reading…

September 8, 2016

3 forms of gospel unity

by Jesse Johnson

 

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Yesterday, I argued that Christians ought to demonstrate practical unity in this presidential election. I laid out three different views of the election (vote Clinton! vote Trump! vote nobody!), and while I obviously don’t agree with all of those views—after all, they contradict one another—none of them can be clearly said to break Christian unity.

What do I mean by “Christian unity”? That the true gospel and doctrines of our faith must transcend pragmatic disagreements over politics. We should have more in common with other believers based on our statements of faith than we do based on our political outlook.  Continue Reading…

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This American presidential election cycle has downsides too numerous to list, but it does offer Christians a few blessings in disguise: namely, it allows us to clarify what kind of unity the church should be expected to demonstrate in regards to politics.

The last election didn’t necessarily lend itself to that discussion. Four years ago we had, in one corner, a man who was obviously pro-abortion and pro-same sex marriage, and in the other corner someone who was not. Concerning religious liberty, this was about as clear-cut of an election as it comes. Of course there were those who said things like, “Christians shouldn’t vote for a Mormon,” but those arguments were flimsy and didn’t lend themselves to substantial ethical thinking.

This election, on the other hand, presents us something much more complicated. We—as Americans—get to choose between a woman who literally had the president of Planned Parenthood speak at her nomination, and a man whose sole political conviction seems to be racial division. We have two serial liars, either one of which would be the richest president the US has ever had, neither of whom made their money ethically. “God bless America,” as they say.   Continue Reading…