IF I WERE UNBIASED, THEN I would be able to make proper judgments in life without any thought of personal gain. A predetermined outcome would not be colored by desired results. If I were unbiased, then I would always work from the context of what is true and not what I want to be true. I would see all situations that demand me to make a decision as not being influenced by personality, people, friendships, personal benefit, political leanings, or the fact that I live in America. Rationalization says, “Let’s get serious. Who could possibly live under such constraints?” No doubt, being unbiased will be a threat to our character as long as we live.
If I were unbiased, I would want to make sure that I don’t use excuses for my personal prejudices but weigh all matters on the scales of biblical justice. If I love hymns, am I biased to the point that any songs written in the past twenty years must be shallow and lack doctrinal content? If I love praise songs, am I biased to the point that anything written prior to this century must be stodgy, unexciting, and boring? If Scripture is silent on such issues, then preference may rule what I like – but I should never allow bias to rule out what I don’t like. Do I ever find myself interpreting Scripture through the lens of my favorite theological system rather than letting the Scripture speak for itself? Such bias is rude, as I am interrupting God when He is speaking to me, and if not careful I will find myself telling God what He should be saying to me rather than what He is saying to me.
If I were unbiased, then I would work from a level playing field and not from the rocky soil of prejudice. But I don’t even know when I am being biased because my bias overrules any thought that I could ever stoop so low as being controlled by such a demon. I am so thankful that there is one in which “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). It was said of Jesus in John 1:47 that “Here is an Israelite in whom there is nothing false.” He leveled the playing field and helps us have our minds renewed day by day through His unbiased word.
IF I WERE DISCERNING, THEN I would know the difference between Law and Grace. I would certainly know that the law can’t save me, but my discernment would need to go much deeper than that because my entire Christian life is based on keeping these two in balance. Balance, however, has never been the Christian norm, so in order to make myself feel good, I lean on my trusted friend Rationalization to come to the rescue. It helps me feel good about keeping the law because it appeals to my self-righteousness. It convinces me that by keeping God’s law I will move up the ladder of righteousness a few rungs and can then look down on the rest of the motley bunch below me. It tells me that grace is my ticket to do whatever I please.
If I were discerning, then I would know that I am not under the law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). I would also know that Jesus said He did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17). The law is also holy and just and good according to Paul (Rom. 7:12). So how do I put these together? Not being under the law does not mean I am free to break the law, but should I do so, it can no longer condemn me. It is not a means by which I obtain God’s approval. God’s grace is the power to live the life that he has called me to live (I Cor. 15:10).
If I were discerning, then I would know I need to have a right relationship to the law and to grace which is provided in the person of Christ. However, if you are like me, then you realize we all lack discernment to fully understand all there is to know about law and grace. But there is one thing I am confident in: I am rightly related to the law and rightly related to grace because I am rightly related to Christ who kept the law for me and by his grace gave me the righteousness that the law demands.
Joe and Heidi share the story of their struggle with infertility as part of our teaching series called Fearfully & Wonderfully Made.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:15-16
After many years of praying and planning, Sunday, May 2nd was the first church-wide event at the new building. RBCers were invited to tour our new buildings then grab a sharpie and leave messages of gratitude to the Lord and thanks for the construction workers on the cement floors of our new church home.
Underneath the carpet and tiles of the floors of our church are now written many verses, prayers of petition and thanksgiving to God for His blessings to us.
Walking around the building, you could almost feel the pleasure of the Lord while reading the graffiti-laid floors as children and adults alike wrote notes of thanks to the faithful men who are working so hard to build this building. Prayers for guests, the leadership, the congregation, and all who will enter through the doors of RBC were written everywhere, often in significant places throughout the building. Verses of thanksgiving, requests for wisdom, commands, and the Gospel mark the floors of our building as prayers for RBC and reminders of what God has called us to at Reston Bible Church.
The Sharpie Party was a great joy as our congregation united together to celebrate what God has done and will do in this place.
IF I DELIGHT IN THE LORD, THEN according to Psalm 37:4, I will be given the desires of my heart.
Rationalization has a field day with this verse. We consider this to be carte blanche, and whatever we ask we will be given if we delight in the Lord. So let’s analyze this for a moment. I want a new BMW and since I am delighting in the Lord He will give it to me. Since when is someone delighting in the Lord when material possessions become the main focus? Their delight is in stuff and not the Lord. “Love not the world neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15).
There is another more troubling way to look at this verse. “I really want children” or “I really desire to be married” is the cry of many who have delighted in the Lord, yet these desires have not been fulfilled. But these are normal desires and are not necessarily the result of delighting in Him.
A third understanding is that God places strong desires on our hearts when we delight in Him that cannot be fulfilled in any other way but by supernatural grace.
So if I am delighting in the Lord, then I might expect that He will give me an overwhelming desire to advance the Kingdom in ways that are beyond my normal desires and capabilities. A missionary call or a deep desire to start a Bible study at work may well fall into this category. After I came to know the Lord, I had a passion to plant a church which at the time made no sense at all (and was well out of my comfort zone and training.) But God’s calling is His enabling: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1Thess. 5:24).
If I delight in the Lord then I can expect Him to move in ways that I am not familiar with. Such ways are exciting and have no human explanation attached to them. None of us, however, fully delights in the Lord, yet we have this record of Jesus: “…. for I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). When we are in Christ, then what Jesus has done in total obedience to the Father is credited to our account. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov.3:5-6)
I love hearing stories of how God is at work in His church. Such stories remind me that it is normative for Jesus to be active in the lives and hearts of His people, and they remind me of the greater context in which we “do” church.
If you’ve been around RBC much at all, you already know that each year for the past six years we have hosted a stage production called Conversations the week before Easter. Through hospitality, music, real life stories, and dramatic vignettes, we seek to communicate the power of the Gospel of Jesus in a loving, practical and relevant way. There are many stories that can be shared about how Christ has used Conversations as a means to reach hearts for His glory, and I wanted to take time to share one with you in the form of an email that one of our staff received after this year’s production:
Thanks so much for your emails and for the personal card and gift in the mail. I really appreciate you reaching out, and have been meaning to write back to you for a while because I wanted to share an encouraging story with you. I hope that you will share this with others who may also be encouraged.
I have been looking for a new church recently, and Ali has recently joined me in my search over the last month or so. Ali has a mixed-faith background and described herself to me as a “seeker” when I broached the subject when we first became friends (just a few months ago). We came to visit RBC on Palm Sunday, and heard about Conversations. God has most certainly been pursuing Ali through various circumstances that have come together in just the right timing.
Although I consider myself a strong Christian, the last two years have been the toughest of my life. My faith and my motivation for evangelism has waned lower than ever. However, despite my recent brokenness and struggles, God used RBC and me to draw Ali to himself. When we attended Conversations that Tuesday night, we were both incredibly impressed and moved to tears. Afterward, I invited Ali in to chat, and I had the privilege of leading her in a prayer to give her life to Christ, just before Easter. I wanted to share this with you because I know that those involved in Conversations will be greatly encouraged to know that they were a key role in Ali’s decision. Conversations also greatly encouraged and softened my somewhat hardened heart – praise God!
Ali and I are signed up for the Starting Point class that begins this coming Sunday, and she is eagerly reading her bible daily, always excited to pray and worship and attend church. I not only praise God for bringing Ali into an eternal relationship with Him, but also the incredible encouragement she is to me!
Thanks again for the warm welcome to RBC.
For His Glory,
While church productions and programs come and go, the work of Jesus remains steadfast and strong and will endure for eternity. What a humbling thought that He would use so small a thing as a stage production to do a great and lasting work in the hearts of those who saw and heard what Jesus has done in the lives of others. Be encouraged – God is at work in His church.
Have a story to tell from your experience at Conversations this year? I’d love to hear about it.
To register for the 2010 RBC Marriage Conference featuring Paul Goodnight (May 7-8, 2010), go to www.restonbible.org/marriage.
Praise the Lord for His great blessing this year with Spring Clean 2010. Spring Clean is one of the major ways that RBC youth raise funds each year for summer mission trips. The Spring Clean 2010 was Saturday, April 24th, and we had 190 volunteers come out to work on 57 jobs doing everything from spreading mulch, mowing grass, raking leaves, repairing fences, hauling wood, planting flowers, washing windows, staining decks, cleaning out garages, and even some interior painting. Together, the teams raised $20,000 for their mission trips to Brazil, Croatia, Chicago, and East Asia. Despite a wet forecast, the Lord also provided cover from the sun and held off the rain until after the teams were back.
We are so thankful for the Lord’s perfect provision and for the many volunteers who were used to bless both families in our area and the 71 team members going on mission trips this summer. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
IF I WERE EMPATHETIC, THEN I would feel the pain of others. Their poverty would be my poverty, their divorce would be my divorce, their cancer would be my cancer. Rationalization, however, is quick on the draw in such situations. How can I possibly be expected to carry such a load? I have enough problems of my own. But such rationale is soon to fade when we consider how desperate we are in similar situations and wonder where the encouraging word will come from. Where are all the believers when you need them? Have I been forsaken? Why hasn’t anyone called to see how I am doing?
Being empathetic does not mean that I am to carry the weight of the world’s problems. This is not reasonable and certainly not practical for one simple reason – all the world is hurting. The context of life is a world of pain and need. This does not, however, excuse me from being empathetic. Empathy has boundaries, and two things come into play for it to be carried out. First is proximity and second is familiarity. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians we find in the first chapter that we are to comfort others the same way we have been comforted by the Lord (1 Cor. 1:4). This implies that two conditions must be met if empathy is to transpire. First, I have to be in the vicinity of the one I am to give comfort to, and secondly, I am best equipped to minister if I have been through a similar heartache. So as you can see, I can easily get off the hook if these two don’t line up. However, if I am truly empathetic there is another way to do this. I can find someone who does qualify and encourage them to come alongside the wounded party. “Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts” (Eph. 6:22). In such cases, I am showing the love of Christ.
I will never care the way I should for those who are hurting. The Good Samaritan is not realistic. We will never pull over for every stranded motorist. It just isn’t going to happen. There is, however, someone who did more than just pull over. There is someone who has been touched with the feelings of our infirmities. There is someone who has suffered spiritual, emotional, and physical wounding. Where I have failed, He has triumphed and in this triumph I am moved to be like Him. When I am like Him, I will truly be empathetic.
IF I WERE HONEST, THEN I would be honest enough to admit that I’m not, for scripture lays claim to the proper assessment of my heart when it says “let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).
However, the scriptures also tell us of honest people who are upright and have integrity. So which is it? If God is the measuring stick, then the assessment in Romans is correct; but if man is the measuring stick, then certain people can be referred to as honest with respect to others. Rationalization, however, will keep me focused on the latter rather than the former. If I am honest, I will allow scripture to keep these two in proper balance. If I put too much weight on one side of the scale, then I will become self-absorbed and overly introspective about my sin. If I put too much weight on the other side, then I become self exalting, “I thank God that I am not as other men…” (Lk.18:11).
So how am I to see my honesty? Let’s first understand that it is quite possible to be honest and yet at the same time lack integrity. How can this be? Because we can compartmentalize our honesty but not our integrity. Integrity deals with the whole person. The word integrity comes from the same source as the word integer which means “whole number.” A man can be meticulously honest in filling out his income tax while at the same time cheating on his wife. His honesty is compartmentalized. He is an honest man who lacks integrity. So if I were honest, then I would see the need to be a person of integrity, otherwise I will rationalize and think I am honest because I don’t cheat on my income tax.
Jesus was never known for telling the truth, but for claiming to BE the truth (John 14:6). My failure to tell the truth is forgiven by the one who is the truth. He sought the Father on our behalf when he said “Father, sanctify them by your word for your word is truth” (John 17:17).
The word of God is the training ground for truth-telling. I will always be growing in this area if I allow the word to sanctify me. The balance? I have been forgiven for not living up to the holy standard which says I am not to “bear false witness.” Honesty moves me to integrity and I can now see myself the way he sees me: “And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (Col. 2:10).
“Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)
In International Connection, the English as a Second Language program at RBC, it is only occasionally that we have the blessing of walking a student through the doors of salvation (for a variety of reasons – various faith backgrounds, cultures, linguistic challenges, etc.) This past year, however, one of our teachers had that very privilege with a woman brand-new to our program in September 2009. B., though entry-level in her understanding of the English language, nevertheless managed to grasp the truth of the gospel very early on with the help of her teacher and other believers to whom she was introduced.
B. had other issues to surmount in her life. She lives in a women’s shelter due to a domestic abuse situation. However, she was extremely motivated to make this country her home and to get to the point in her language ability to make a living for herself and her family. She attended our program twice a week faithfully as well as that of another church-based English program. She was promoted to our Beginner-level class from Pre-Beginner quickly. She began to attend church every week and got into a Shepherd group. In time, she had a devoted “family” of believers whom she could count on for love and support.
A friend of B.’s told her about her plan to go on the Brazil mission trip and asked B. to pray for her, including asking the Lord for financial provision. The needs in Brazil are familiar to B. because, sadly, there are women and children who live on dumps in her home country too. In addition to praying, B. wanted to contribute $100. The only problem is that B. does not have a job because she does not have her green card yet. She is limited to only working an occasional personal job, like babysitting. Another friend of B.’s knew she was a certified beautician in her home country. That friend asked B. if she would come to her house and cut, color and style the hair of yet another friend. B. accepted and was delighted to earn the $100 she needed for her gift!
She emphatically and joyfully gave that income to the person signed up for the mission to Brazil this summer! A whole host of people who know her were touched by this generous and sincere gift – and the blessing will be extended to another group of people far more destitute than B., thousands of miles away in Brazil.
We are in awe of the lessons God has shown us in this situation – that financial support can come from completely unexpected places and that He can use even brand-new, cross-cultural believers in the faith to inspire the rest of us.
IF I BELIEVED IN THE GOLDEN RULE, THEN I would see others as more important than I see myself. “…But in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Phil. 2:3)
This is such a hard truth to accept. Rationalization can readily get the upper hand in this one. Why should I treat others with such sacrificial love when they don’t treat me that way? It’s the old “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” deal. But that philosophy simply doesn’t play out very well on the stage of life. This is why the world is in the condition that it is in. It is why families are dysfunctional. It is why there is friction in business and in the church. I don’t know how many times in sharing my faith that the person I am talking to tells me they will go to heaven because they live by the Golden Rule. Has anyone ever lived by the Golden Rule? I mean, really? How many times have you passed by someone who is obviously stranded on the highway and were too busy to help? You didn’t even want to look them in the eye for fear of feeling more guilty than you already felt.
IF I believed in the Golden Rule, THEN I would actually do what I would want done for me in the same situation. For instance, if I were driving along the highway minding my own business and saw someone who looked just like me, I would slow down and take a second look. Suppose it turned out to be me? Would I pull over for me? You bet your booties I would. I would most definitely pull over for me because I really like me. In fact, “like” is not a good enough word for how much I think of me. I am crazy about me. I am my number one fan. Mike is numero uno and deserves to be rescued because he is the greatest. At least, Mike thinks so.
If I lived by the Golden Rule I would not get through the day. I would not make it to work because I would be stopping along the way to help out people the way I would want them to help me. I could not make enough hospital visits or bake enough food to meet every need of the poor. So let’s all agree that none of us lives by the Golden Rule. So why does the Lord tell us to conduct our lives this way? Have you ever noticed that the Lord never says “to the best of your ability, pray when you get a chance,” but rather “pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17)? Have you ever noticed He doesn’t say “meditate if there is time in your schedule,” but rather “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2)? The Lord doesn’t say “try your best,” but rather “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:8) or “be holy as I am holy” (I Pet. 1:16). God’s standard could never be anything but perfection, thus the Golden Rule.
This is the heart of the Gospel. Christ lived out what I couldn’t. He didn’t have to meditate day and night because he is the living word. He is the answer to prayer. He is the embodiment of the Golden Rule. So to be in Christ is to have carried out all of these impossible demands. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us that we have become the righteousness of God in Christ. The righteousness that we could not achieve he achieved for us. Do we now decide never to pray or live by the Golden Rule? To quote the apostle Paul, “may it never be.”
Instead of the impossible standard of the Golden Rule, this is now our motivation – the power of the Gospel. “….and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20b).
IF I WERE TEACHABLE, THEN I would not be defensive when criticized.
Rationalization is sure to find its way into this discussion. “But what they said was not completely true,” or “what they said was not given in a kind manner.” So? The question on the table is not the degree of truth in the criticism or how it was delivered, but whether or not there something for me to learn from it. After all, God was not taken by surprise in what was said or how it was delivered, but knew that this was part of being conformed to His image. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully (1Pet. 2:19). You might get defensive at this point and argue that a half-truth is a lie, and thus the criticism leveled against you is rendered invalid. Not so fast. Half-truths are invalid in the world of objective reality but not subjective reality. A half-truth regarding what your product can deliver will later be brought to your attention as a lie, but a half-truth regarding your character is a different matter.
IF I were teachable THEN I would sift through all that was said and see if there is an element of truth. If I were teachable, I might seek out a good friend and run by them the criticism to see if they have perceived this in me. I don’t like it when I get home from being with friends only to find that I was sporting spinach between my teeth throughout the evening. Why didn’t someone say something? Sporting spinach is a far cry from sporting bad character. Tell me, please! I want to know, even if it is not said in a kind fashion.
Let’s try something on for size. Over the years I have learned a great deal about people and a great deal about me. Let me give you two categories and see if you don’t fit into one or the other. I believe that most people, Christians included, have a fear of man. I realize this is not an original thought, but I suspect some of you recoil at this and are quick to say that you don’t fear anyone. You just exposed your fear. You fear that people won’t see you as not fearing anyone. You want to be seen as tough and self-sufficient.
You may even like to display your success by material possessions or letting others know of your success in business. The thought of people seeing you as a failure is more than you can handle, but whether or not they like you never comes across your radar. And then there are those of us that fear people won’t like us and find it difficult to confront. If teachable, we can probably see ourselves in one camp or the other. This, more than we know, directs the traffic of our lives. What we avoid and what we seek out is dictated by one of these.
So IF I am teachable THEN I will seek the counsel of the most teachable one of all of whom it was said “that he learned obedience through suffering” (Heb. 5:8). We will suffer in learning to be teachable, but we will be far more Christ-like when it is learned. Any spinach showing?
Earlier this month, the Jr. High held one event “to rule the them all”: Friday Night Live – Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings. At this epic event, we enjoyed Yoda Soda and Eye of Sauron Cookies, played games with light sabers and Legolas’ bow, thought we were in the “Cantina” with our cool Star Wars Band (Pollock), reviewed lots of trivia from the movie, and watched a few exciting scenes from the movies, all in crazy costumes.
As part of the evening, we also looked at some Biblical truth we can clearly see in the movies. First, sin promises to solve all of our problems, but in the end just destroys us. Just like Adam and Eve were seduced to eat the fruit by the temptation to become like God (Genesis 3:5) which led to our spiritual and physical death, Anakin was drawn to the Dark Side by his lust for power and the promise to save his beloved Padme, but in the end he burns in lava and becomes the more machine than man (Vader). Similarly, the Ring leaves in its wake a path of deception and destruction, as Smeagol is drawn by the beauty of the Ring and the identity he finds in “my precious”, and Boromir desires the power of the Ring to defend Gondor. However, in the end, the seduction of the Ring leads to both of their deaths. We see this same truth in the world around us and in our own lives. We must be keenly aware that sin is constantly lying to us and promising solutions while really bringing destruction. The wages of sin is truly death (Romans 6:23).
Second, we looked at how sin corrupts and tempts us all. We read in the Bible, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and clearly see this truth with the Ring. All characters who come in contact with the Ring are drawn to and seduced by its power. The whole “Fellowship” starts because they each know that they cannot be trusted with sole possession of the Ring; however, it breaks up because they each know their behaviors are not safe around the Ring. Even Gandalf turns away in fear when he is offered the Ring because he knows he cannot handle its temptation. As we look into our own lives, it is clear that sin is something we each face daily and will continue to face until eternity.
Finally, while the first two truths are kind of depressing, we have seen the end of the movies and know that a Savior always comes. When it looks like Vader will blow up Luke’s X-Wing, in comes Han Solo in the Millennial Falcon. When the Battle of Helm’s Deep seems lost, Gandalf comes in with the Riders of Rohan. After Obi-wan and Anakin have been defeated by Count Dooku, Yoda pulls out his light saber. And even though Sam can’t carry the Ring, he can carry Frodo. In the same way, “just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) Especially as we reflect on Easter, praise be to God for sending His Son, because without Him we would be hopeless.
At the end of the evening, we voted which series was more epic. In a vote even closer than the 2000 Presidential election, Star Wars won by two votes, even after a full recount. So if you are ever in a debate as to which is better, the decision has been made.
Many thanks to Pollock (Jesse Trask’s Band), Jason VanDorsten, Aaron Reed, Catherine Wilson, Sarah Jarvis, Elizabeth Johnstone, Kelly Hack, Mason Nalle, John Lyver, Denna Zimmerman, and the many others who helped. Please be in prayer for the six Jr. Highers who indicated decisions for Christ that night.