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.
Do you have a friend or relative who is disgusted with the church "because it is full of hypocrites"? What do you say? What can you say? They ARE right, even though they are probably exaggerating to some extent.
And yet, sometimes those who accuse are guilty of the same hypocrisy! That makes it a rather difficult and delicate matter.
We should observe that Jesus is still Lord; still head of His church. He hasn’t quit because some so-called Christians were/are unfaithful or because some were/are playing church.
Hypocrisy makes me sad for two reasons: First, in ideal circumstances there should be no hypocrites. Second, Christians should not stand in judgment of one another.
I have misjudged plenty of people over the years only to realize that I knew very little about them. My perception was limited. I later discovered that they were not playing church, but were spiritually weak and doing their best. Some were young in the faith and immature. (For how long have you been perfect???) When I thought others should be more active, I discovered that they were. (Their good deeds were not done in front of me!) Still others were taking action on bended knee, behind closed doors, active in prayer. Leaders made decisions and I did not agree. Yet I later realized that I did not know all the facts that they knew.
All of that to say, I was terribly judgmental. So, I quit.
No, I did not quit the church; I quit being judgmental. What made me quit?
First, it was an exhausting task that left me disappointed and angry, and that was not good.
Second, I applied the words of the Apostle Paul to myself:
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
—Romans 14:4 (NASB95)
I also remembered that Paul quoted God:
“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”
Neither you nor I have been tasked with ensuring justice and equity and fairness while on this earth. That's God's job. I also remembered:
The Lord…is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. —2 Peter 3:9 (NASB95)
And I remembered that God is not new to hypocrisy. He even recognized that "they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants…." —Romans 9:5 (NASB95)
So, if you run into anyone who complains about hypocrites in the church, agree with them. Then ask if they have taken the time to approach their hypocritical brother or sister about their sin. Jesus was more interested in winning back a brother than pointing out fault:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
—Matthew 18:15 (NASB95)
The New Testament letters were written because the church is imperfect. We are naïve to think that God is not aware of hypocrisy in His church. Yet, He has instructed us how to deal with sin in His church. And while His instruction is strong, its application demands patience and gentleness. After all, the Great Shepherd does not want to lose any sheep, not even one.
January 3, 2021
Someone humorously suggested that “2020” will become a slang expression used like a curse word. Perhaps. I doubt, however, that the year 2020 will be connected to rejoicing. There was too much sickness, too much misinformation, too much confusion, too much economic and political unrest, too much hostility. I don’t know what future history books will tell about 2020, but it really was a year in which to rejoice! Let me explain by looking into Psalm 116.
The psalmist began with thanksgiving, but said that it was not always that way:
The cords of death encompassed me
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow. (v. 3)
He was describing his fear of death and the distress and sorrow experienced in his life.
I believed when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
I said in my alarm,
“All men are liars.” (v. 10)
Here, he described his perception of reality. He perceived himself suffering and perceived that all people were liars. Whether he really suffered or all people are liars is not the point. He perceived that to be true and it weighed on him.
So, what was his response to his fear of death and the things that dragged him down?
He “called upon the name of the Lord.” Then he told what he discovered and experienced:
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate. (4)
You have rescued my soul from death…. (8)
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me? (12)
In short, God answered his plea and blessed him. Yet, it’s important to notice that the psalmist didn’t praise God for wealth, health, world peace or economic strength. Rather, life!
Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His godly ones. (15)
Many years later the Apostle Paul would write:
“Rejoice in the Lord!”
Paul does not have us pinned down on our backs with his knee pressing against our chests, pointing down at our faces, commanding, “Rejoice!” He is trying to get us to see the reason and relevance for expressing joy every 2020 day of our lives. “Rejoice! In the Lord!” Without the phrase “in the Lord” we have no context. Our minds are sure to turn toward ourselves and our circumstances, perhaps to 2020.
What if Paul had made this a fill-in-the-blank, “Rejoice in __________”?
What would you put in the blank?
I think most people, including Christians, would reflect on something that made them especially happy or left them with a sense of fulfillment. Some might think of a special time of year or a special person. I think some would say that their job or career brought them joy. Surely someone would say...
- “Rejoice in your family.”
- “Rejoice in your financial security.”
- “Rejoice in our great nation.”
Yet, all of those things are personal and temporary. They are about you. Time and chance affects them all and they cannot be sustained.
So, as Paul encouraged and the psalmist described, it is in the Lord that we find real joy.
Only in the Lord is there hope.
Only in the Lord is there life!
Rejoice! In the Lord!
January 10, 2021
When a child misbehaves, a parent might give immediate correction, “Stop that.” The abrupt correction specifically targets behavior.
Of course, good discipline does not simply involve the mere change of behavior. Rather, good discipline targets the heart. Any parent knows that a change of heart will result in changed behavior. Yet, the converse is not always true. Changed behavior does not always result in a change of heart.
When a parent exclaims, “You need to change your face,” what is the real goal? Is the parent satisfied with a hypocritical grin pasted on the face of a child with a devious heart? Of course not! The heart is the real target.
When a parent exclaims, “You know better than to do that,” what is the expectation? Isn’t it an appeal to the mind and heart of the child, expecting him to remember the values and standard he has been taught?
Changed behavior offers the parent immediate satisfaction. Yet, changed behavior can be the result of terrible parenting. Parents that communicate primarily by yelling may get the behavioral results they want (in the moment), but such poor communication will be unable to sustain good behavior in a child. In addition, it is unlikely that the child will learn how to communicate properly. And we all know that good communication is vital in and out of the home.
Changed behavior can also be achieved by harsh discipline. I am thinking about discipline that doesn’t fit the offense, discipline carried out when the parent is angry, discipline accompanied by teasing or humiliation, or physical discipline that goes too far. Harsh discipline is likely to lead to anger in the child. Do you remember Paul’s instruction?
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Good discipline requires consequences and conversation. The younger the child, the more important the consequences. The older the child, the more important the instructional conversation. Smaller children do not have mature reasoning capabilities. They simply want to avoid pain regardless of their understanding of right and wrong. With maturity comes a greater ability to reason with the heart. With maturity a parental appeal can be made to the values within the heart of the child.
When a parent knows that their child is in agreement with good values and God’s standard, and that their child tries to do good, yet occasionally does not meet expectations, patience is shown. Yet, if the child is disagreeable and rebellious, consequences are warranted. Again, the emphasis is a child’s heart.
The goal of discipline is to develop a child’s perceptions that affect attitudes and decisions, and consequently, behavior and communication. Of course, the values and standard that are to be instilled in a child are found in the Bible. And the goal of discipline will only be met if parents follow those same values and standard.
Solomon addressed his son:
Let your father and mother be glad,
And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.
Parents, until your children are old enough to embrace this teaching on their own, it is your responsibility to instill it, not by forced behavioral change, but by developing the heart of the child through good instruction and discipline.
January 17, 2021