Our preacher, Mark Stinnett, publishes articles for the church bulletin each week. These articles are designed to teach, encourage and challenge the members of our congregation. His latest articles can be found below with the most recent at the end of the list. Mark has archived all of his articles on his personal blog 'MicroMarks' which can be accessed at: micromarks.blogspot.com.
A guest preacher where my mother worships once emphasized that Christianity is a thinking religion. After the sermon a friend of my mom quipped something like, “I wish God could have just told us what to do so we wouldn’t have to do so much thinking.”
I want to show you a familiar passage of Scripture that illustrates God’s expectation for His people to engage in thought even when He has given simple and direct instruction. Jesus said:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Jesus did not teach anything new. He simply applied thinking, or discernment, to the letter of the law. Without discernment a person would merely obey the letter of the law.
Let’s be more specific. Suppose a friend accidentally injured one of your eyes. According to the law, justice demands that you injure his eye in the same way your eye was injured. How would you carry out that kind of justice? Can you picture yourself actually looking into his eye and planning a way to injure him just as you had been injured!?
Blind and thoughtless obedience to the letter of the law would result in a nation of people bearing the scars of the eye-for-an-eye legislation. Yet, giving thought to the law one would conclude that it is not practical to demand justice in every case. Rather than injuring my friend to obtain justice, it would be better to show mercy, forego justice and endure the injury.
It is true that the eye-for-an-eye system of justice insures justice, but do we really want justice in every case? Let’s answer by turning the circumstances around. What if you were the one to accidentally injure someone else’s eye. What does justice demand for you!?
Let’s change the circumstances once again. Imagine that one of your children injured another one of your children. (If you are not a parent, let me assure you that a parent’s heart is heaviest when one of his/her children is hurting.) What would you like to see in your children? Would you like to see strict justice so that the injured child injures your other child? Do you really want to have two injured children?
When Jesus taught concerning the eye-for-an-eye legislation, He revealed the mind and heart of God who regards us as His children. God doesn’t want injured children, but children who show mercy and love forgiveness. God wants His children to grow up to be like Him.
Are you in agreement with my mom’s friend? Would you prefer that God just tell you what to do? Or do you see the wisdom in developing discernment?
King David wrote: “O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97) Can you believe that he loved law!? Astounding! What do you think David saw in the law? By meditating on the law and discerning God’s instruction, David saw the very heart of God.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. —Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Discernment is about opening your mind and heart to God’s instruction so that it transforms your mind into the mind of God.
October 3, 2021
Where Is the Church Heading?
I hear preachers and church growth experts say that the church is in trouble.
I suppose you could look at things that way. But there are some things written in Scripture that tell me that the church, the kingdom of God is here to stay.
When the kingdom of God was prophesied in the book of Daniel (chapter 2), it was described as “a kingdom which will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 2:44)
When Jesus responded to Peter’s bold confession of faith, He said, “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades* will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)
The book of Acts records the beginning of the church and its spread during much of the first century A.D. Whether one considers the opposition and obstacles described in Scripture or secular history, it is clear that Christianity continued to spread during difficult circumstances.
It is evident that there has been and always will be opposition to God’s church. However, God is more powerful than man and His church will not die out or disappear.
Where Is the Bible Heading?
That’s a silly question, right? Not really.
How can the head of a church organization affiliated with Christ make religious decrees regarding doctrine and morality that conflict with the Bible? It is truly baffling that some churches that claim to be of the Christian faith have denied the Bible or, at least, parts of the Bible. After all, the church was not the product of a man or a religious organization. The church was of divine design and came about through fulfilled prophecy. The church was established by God in spite of the confusion of man. It is mystifying how churches deny God’s word.
How can individuals claim to be devoted to Christ yet crave the personal testimony (stories) of average people over the saving message of the gospel of Christ in the Bible? Surprisingly, this man-centered, emotion-driven thinking is rooted in a philosophical shift in thinking from only a few centuries ago; a departure from God’s word. It is mystifying how man has become the centerpiece in many Christian groups.
It would seem that churches and individuals have overlooked that Jesus relied on the Scriptures as did his apostles. Jesus never denied the written word of God. Jesus depended on the Scriptures, quoted the Scriptures and explained the Scriptures. The apostles did the same.
The Apostle Paul wrote that “all Scripture is inspired by God….” (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of Your word is truth….” (Psalm 119:160) Jesus echoed those very words in John 17:17.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35)
The Bible is not heading anywhere; it is here to stay. The real question is about faith in God’s word. There are many voices speaking against God and His word. Some are subtle and inviting. Others are bold. We are sure to be caught off guard when we listen to those voices.
Jesus spoke of the return of the Son of Man and asked, “will He find faith on the earth?” The question remains. Your answer is dependent on the voice(s) to whom you are listening.
Don’t be caught off guard.
October 10, 2021
* The “gates of Hades” was a metaphor for death.
I’ve always liked being an exception. And yet, I think always is too strong a word. It was nice when mom or dad or a teacher would single me out and give me special attention. I would feel like an exception compared to everyone else. Yet, sometimes that special attention was embarrassing, because I was in trouble!
You surely understand how I am using the word exception. It is not just being singled out, but being different from the usual. It is the reason why the words always and never should be used sparingly. They leave no room for exceptions.
Jesus said that Judas was an exception. He had lost none of his twelve apostles, except Judas, the son of perdition. Check it out in John 17:12.
I have discovered that there are some people who read the Bible with an exception attitude, not an exceptional attitude. What I mean by an exception attitude is that they read with the attitude that there are many exceptions to the instruction and revelation of God. Do you think that is a wise approach?
Here are a couple of examples:
- Solomon wrote: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) But someone responds saying, “I remember one instance when the angry person became angrier even though he was answered with a gentle response.” (Exception.)
- The Apostle Paul wrote: “Honor your father and mother...so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3) But someone observed, “That was written to the Israelites and it was about them living long in the land of Israel, not about us living a long life today.” (Exception.)
- By God’s power Moses parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites crossed on dry land to escape from Pharaoh and his army. (Exodus 14) But someone explained that “occasionally strong northwest winds drive the water at the northern extremity of the Gulf back so far that it is possible to wade across.” (Werner Keller, The Bible as History, 2nd Revised Ed., p. 126.) (Exception.)
Whenever someone voices an exception to the things written in the Bible, what are they really saying? Think about the three examples:
- If there is a legitimate exception to Solomon’s proverb, then maybe it is not true that a gentle answer turns away wrath.
- If it is true that Paul quoted from the Old Testament, maybe the promise did only apply to the Israelites and not to us today.
- If the author was right about the winds of Egypt blowing the waters back, maybe there wasn’t a miraculous event at all.
The exception attitude has the effect of discrediting the word of God. It views truths expressed in the Proverbs and suggests that they may not necessarily be true. It challenges the validity of promises made by God. And it casts doubt on miraculous events recorded in Scripture.
If you have developed an exception attitude you will place your reasoning over God’s revelation. You will define the standard by which God and the truth of His word are assessed. You will elevate yourself to the position of ‘god,’ or bring the God of heaven down to earth as your equal.
One of the most profound examples of an exception attitude was that of the Pharisees. They were so sure they were correct in their assessment of God’s word that they ended up rejecting the Son of God!
Jesus spoke about God’s revelation: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) He had an exceptional attitude toward God’s word.
What about you!?
October 17, 2021