Two Questions to Ask Everyone
By: Pastor Lael Fenton
False teaching surrounds us daily. It infiltrates our thinking. And is even reiterated in our own words. Does this mean we are false teachers? I don't think so. A false teacher is one who is determined to teach something untrue or contrary to the truth of God's Word. But most of recommunicate false teaching not even knowing we are doing so. As Christian we are challenged to be like the Bereans who were considered more "noble-minded" than the Thessalonians, because they received the message of the Gospel with great eagerness, but also searched the Scriptures to find out if these things were so.
When you hear yourself or anyone else seeking to form your thinking on a particular subject there are two questions you must ask immediately. In I Timothy 1:7, Paul informs Timothy that there are certain teachers who are instructing others but "they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." Most of what is taught today is not taught out of sound study and research, but rather out of simple regurgitation of someone else's teaching. This is especially true in the church. We are tempted to buy into the "professionalism" mindset that communicates that the lay Christian is not qualified to question the vocationally trained minister. Yet as a vocationally trained minister I can testify to the fact that many vocationally trained ministers are simply regurgitating the teachings and sermons of others without doing serious self study of the subject.
My point is to help us all dig deeper when confronted with those who speak but do not understand what they are saying, even thought they sound so confident from their "pulpit". So next time you catch yourself or someone else teaching you anything, ask these two questions: 1.) "What are you saying?" 2.) "Where did you get that from?" If we would consistently use these two questions with ourselves and others, two things will immediately benefit us. First we will determine if they know what they are saying, and secondly, by what authority they use to make their claim. Let us be more "noble-minded" students in this world and of God's Word.
The Socialistic Minded Church
By: Pastor Lael Fenton
I believe one of the great dangers to the church, is the development of its functionality to mirror that of its political government. Do we really want to do that? Most times when I hear people speak of our government here in Maine, or in the United States, it is not in glowing terms. Rather I hear terms such as: bureaucracy, red tape, dysfunctional, personal agendas, political gain, lack of integrity, and the list continues.
So do we really want to mimic that form of our government? Some would argue that the form is legitimate, but its players or politicians that are corrupt. Others would argue that its a lot better than most of the rest of the world. But arguments aside, for a Christian church to determine its functionality, we must begin with a few foundational truths.
Truth 1: The church’s ultimate authority for form, function, and structure is found in Jesus Christ and His Word. No church worthy to be called the bride of Christ, will start with anything less.
Truth 2: The church is made up of redeemed believers declaring Jesus Christ as their Lord. To be a church, there must be a submission to an authority greater than can be constructed by human invention. Practically speaking we cannot call ourselves a democracy, a republic, or a monarchy. Ultimately we must call the church a Christarchy.
Truth 3: The church exists in a fallen world and has been called by its Lord to exercise itself in the wisdom of God. This simply means that sin affects the church both from redeemed sinners and from unsaved church goers. Well intentioned people are in the church, but those well intentions are not the standard by which we must operate. This is crucial to consider, for we must always be aware of the deceitfulness of sin’s influence in our decisions and the way we make our decisions.
One of the ways, I believe the church may be subtly accepting a contemporary government model is in its approach to need bearing. The government model of need bearing looks like this:
(If you question this conclusion, take a look at the general recipient of social welfare when government considers
taking away their benefits.)
Now you say, how is the church subtly accepting this government model. Look at several common thought processes within churches and Christian organizations. When substantial needs are presented, what hierarchy of need meeting is used? I am aware of at least one if not several Christian colleges that help students by advising them to get on social food programs, social health care programs, and sometimes even social housing programs. If this surprises you, realize college students, especially Christian college students often do not have a lot of money, and qualify for low income benefits provided in most states. This has the potential of being very deadly to the mindset of future church leaders.
Consider another typical approach to meeting needs in a church. Most social organizations solicit churches not for money normally, but with their information in meeting needs in the community. Why? There may be two reasons for this. Legitimately these organizations understand that churches are places people go to get their needs met, and churches don’t often have resources to meet all the needs that come. On another hand, charitable organizations spend grand amounts of time seeking grants. Grants are normally given based on past performance. So any charitable or social non-profit organization must seek to market itself if it desires to increase its grant opportunities.
So ask your church, not out of criticism, but out of curiosity. When a person comes with a need to the church, what are the first recommendations of resources it offers? Because government has taken over in many cases the role of social welfare responder, churches have lost both impact in their community and an awareness of the needs within their community, while their budgets have been temporarily preserved.
Now, I think it is wise to understand a personal conviction I have within the context of the church meeting needs. First and Biblically, when the church body responds to needs of an individual, that individual should be involved with the church. When you look at the pages of the New Testament starting in Acts, the Church only responded to material needs within context of those who were in the local or universal church. Consider, many churches feel this pressure to meet the needs of the local community, when the New Testament model was to meet the needs of fellow Christians.
Does that eliminate the Christian response to the poor? Not at all, but I would suggest that the Christian response to the poor should start outside the doors of the church. What I mean by this is that Christians should go into their community giving to the needs of the poor, and perhaps starting para-church ministries addressing the needs of the poor. But this is not to be the function of the church.
But church, let us consider another area of adopting a contemporary social government model of meeting needs. Let us once again go back to our government system of meeting needs and look at it through the way most of us look at church ministries:
(If you question this conclusion, ask the last person who asked for help how they felt when their need was not met by
the church family.)
As societies love their self benefiting social systems, so church’s love their social benefiting ministries. In fact most churches are valued based on the quantity of their outreach ministries, not necessarily the quality of the relational pursuit of pleasing the Lord. Why? Because we value things we can quantify, and it is nearly impossible to quantify your relationship with someone else.
The word “social” comes from the Latin, and originally meant an affiliate or a friend. Governments have instituted social benefit systems, out of good ideas of meeting those who are in need. Essentially the government is saying we will befriend the needy. But governments cannot be relational. While they may be meeting a physical need, they are befriending nobody. The church is made up of a diversity of spiritually gifted persons who can meet the needs of others through relationship, but I am afraid the church has become the “socialistic minded church”, seeking through its ministries to befriend the friendless.
I am not calling for the end of ministries, but I am asking the church to be careful not to adopt the social system of government that eliminates three attitudes that should be growing in every Christian: contentment, gratitude and humility.
Scorched Hair Syndrome
By: Pastor Lael Fenton
The sense of smell is an interesting gift. Last night this gift kicked into high gear when I could smell a burnt smell. It wasn't your typical burnt smell. It was off, not like the sweet smell of hardwood in a stove. Rather a discolored smell, which peaks your curiosity to find the source and remove it. After making a brief search, I simply accepted the smell, trusting that if it was trully a problem it would come to light. Well I am glad to say that it did!
As I was talking with my daughter, she looked up at me with those inquisitive eyes, and she said, "Dad.....what is wrong with your hair?" Upon her inquiry, I touched my forhead, and to my dismay observed a cascade of charred hair falling to the ground. In that brief moment of time three thoughts occurred to me.
1. Its my hair!
2. So that is what smelled!
3. Great, talk about instant thining hair!
What happened? A few minutes before getting home, I had been tending our neighbor's wood furnance. It wasn't a hard job, but much to my dismay, I had burnt my hair without even realizing what had happened.
Perhaps this is a good lesson for life on a few levels. First, don't stick your head in a wood furnance, even if it doesn't look too hot. Second, sin is often like that wood furnance. We know its potential for causing harm, but often neglect caution when it doesn't appear to be dangerous. The result? We walk away considering ourselves to be fine, when in reality we are carrying about on ourselves the stench of unrecognized harm. Hebrews 3:12-13 says it this way, "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart.......But encourage one another day after day......so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
Thanksgiving and Prayer
By: Pastor Lael Fenton
"Pray at all times....for all the saints!" (Ephesians 6:18). Did you hear that? Christians are called to pray for the saints. Not to the saints. Yes we are told to pray "on behalf of all men...for kings and all who are in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-2), but if we are to be effective Gospel bearers and proclaimers, we need to pray for the saints. The word "saint" in the Bible refers to those who have been set apart by God through salvation. They are the ones that God is sanctifying for His purposes. They are the ones that bear the Gospel Armor of God. And they are the ones that proclaim the Gospel to the world and the church. Christian you are a saint! Whether you live like one or not, God has called you a saint. Let it be our daily practice to pray for the saints.
Observations on Blogging
By: Pastor Lael Fenton
Blogs are so dangerous. I think that is why I have been so hesitant to write one. There are a few immediate dangers that one must confront. The first is the danger of boredom. Like parched earth to an earthworm, so are most blogs to the reader. The second danger it the danger of bashing. I have seen more blogs that seem to get notoriety by bashing others. Listen, just because there is a public place that we now have to vent our human self deprecating warped perspectives, doesn't mean that we should....especially at the cost of others and their ministries. Until we have walked in the shoes of another, we do not know where they have been. Until we know where they have been, let us not be so quick to invalidate their decisions. There is a third deficit that I see in many blogs - bonking. Ok, this will take a little explanation.
Over the past two years I have been learning how to road bike for endurance rides. Bonking is a term cyclist use to describe the physiological effects of energy depletion during or directly following an intense work out. What is actually happening is that we deplete all normal energy stores in the body, so that the body must react...normally in negative ways....by forcing non essential body functions to temporarily shut down. This is not good. But I see this phenomena happening in the plethora of man's opinions being propagated in places like Facebook, Twitter, Newsfeeds, and even Blogs. So know this, I believe blogs are dangerous.
So why am I now starting to write one? Because I know that words are powerful! As they can be used for destructive means so they can also be used for instructive means. When I consider those who have influenced the world the most, I often find their words inscribed in pages printed across the centuries. I am often fascinated with the verse in Matthew 13:52 which says,
In college, we as students were consistently exhorted to consider the ministry of authorship. So while I am not writing a book, here my hope is that as a fellow companion in this journey of life following Christ our Lord, that the words of this blog will inspire and lend focus to the One who deserves all glory and honor and power and praise.