“Unfriending” Your Brother

March 30, 2017

By Brian G. Bettes

For those who are on Facebook, we know what it means to “unfriend” someone. On occasion, you will accept someone into your “inner circle” by accepting their friend request, only to find out that they are a person that you have little or nothing in common with. Maybe you knew them in college, but since you saw them last, 20-plus years ago, time and circumstances have led you down different paths. As such, your views on marriage, children, morality, politics, or just life in general are polar opposite. After reading their posts on your feed, you realize that, not only do you have nothing in common, but, you really don’t have the time or the energy to read their “ridiculousness.” The typical response? Simply “unfriend” them!

I understand that we all must be responsible with our time as it is indeed the most precious commodity we have. Few of us have the energy to waste on meaningless things that are constantly competing to consume it. I also understand there is a time to “unfriend” someone who continues to be vulgar, rude, offensive, or abrasive, even after asking them to not be so. However, I have couple of questions:

First, how quickly do we “unfriend” someone just because we don’t like the way they say things, and because it is easy? Do we at least try to engage them in a healthy manner first?

Next, do we take our “unfriend”ly Facebook attitude into our church congregations? Are we willing to “unfriend” our brother quickly and easily over petty misunderstandings, or even worse, because their personality is different than ours? Do we display that same attitude with others who are in a different church organization, or even denomination, than we are?

Let’s face it. Not everyone we go to church with is someone we enjoy investing time in. Yet Jesus left us a command to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). Jesus loves all the disciples His Father calls and gives to Him to work with (John 17:20).

There is no indication in Scripture that, of those who were at that final meal before His death and heard Him give the commandment to love one another, He was “just putting up with them.” No, Jesus loved all His disciples when He walked this earth, and He loves all His disciples today. Remember, He gave His life for us (John 15:13)! Do we follow His example, or do we pick and choose whom we will show love to, and whom we will not (1John 3:16)?

God calls a lot of different personalities. This is clearly shown by the disciples who were chosen to become apostles. It is an interesting study to delve into the background of each apostle as a guide to help see “what made them tick.” There is not the space here to do a full bio on each of them. However, here is an abbreviated look at some of the men the Father gave to Jesus to work with as His “advance leadership team.”

Peter’s legacy is one of being passionate, bold, impetuous, very protective, and sometimes outright unpredictable (Matthew 14:28; John 18:10). On the other hand, Andrew his brother seemed to be more balanced and thought driven. He was a disciple of John the Baptist before being called by Jesus, but was early to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:40-41). Both were fishermen.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, named by Jesus the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), seem to have been quick-tempered, fiercely loyal, yet very personable. Jesus appeared to have a particular affinity toward John’s personality as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26). They too were fishermen.

Thomas, who was thought to be a twin, was stated to be one who needed to see before believing (John 20:25). I have often wondered (jokingly) whether Missourians are descended from Thomas since it is named the “Show Me” state. Jesus identified Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, as “having no guile” (John1:47). In today’s parlance, we would say he was straightforward, openly “tells things as he sees them,” and “pulls no punches.”

Matthew was a tax collector, which was looked down upon by the Jews of the day (Matthew 9:9). Tax collectors were Jews who did the bidding of the Roman government by collecting taxes for them from their own people. Think about the kind of personality he must have had, and the abuse he must have been used to taking, to do that job.

Then there was Simon the Canaanite, also known as Simon Zelotes, or, the Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Zealots were a special breed of Jews. The Zealots looked at Roman rulership in Israel as an occupation of their land; therefore, they tried to incite the Jews to revolt against them and eradicate them. A Zealot would just as soon stab a Roman soldier in a dark ally and leave him for dead as look at him. This is the mentality that Simon Zelotes “brought to the party.” You can only imagine how well he and Matthew, the tax collector, got along at first.

I will not say much about the other apostles, other than to say, given the rest of the crew, I am sure each had his own special personality “quirks” that he brought to the mix.

My point is, God calls all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of different personalities into His Church. I suppose it would be nice if everyone thought like I do, or at least agreed that everything I say and do is right and wonderful. Umm…yeah…! I can’t even get my wife to agree to that, and she actually likes and loves me. Good luck with getting everyone in the Church to agree to that!

When we go to Church and fellowship with our spiritually bonded family, aren’t we being a bit unrealistic to ask that everyone be made in an image that is comfortable for us? If someone has different ideas, is too bombastic, too expressive, too serious, too dogmatic, or too quiet and demure for our taste, isn’t it a bit unrealistic to expect them to not be themselves anymore, just to please us? Is it too much to ask that we try to at least look at things from their perspective, and see if there is value in what God is teaching them, just as He is us through our own life experiences?

Are we so selfish, and do we think so highly of ourselves, that when we “don’t like them” because of who they are, we simply “unfriend” them mentally, and avoid them physically (Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3-4)? Or do we look at them as our Father who called them does, realizing they are a work in progress too, just as we are.

It is important to humble ourselves before God, recognizing what an incredible weight of debt was forgiven us, and what it took for that forgiveness to happen (Romans 5:8). Our Brother lost his life because of YOU, and because of ME! If we are willing to honest with ourselves, and most of us struggle to be this honest, but, we aren’t such a “hot item” ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

I once read a statement that said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” How true! Why? It would be very discouraging if we knew what other people really thought of us most of the time. If we frame our actions around what other people think of us, doesn’t that lessen the focus of what we know about what God thinks of us and is trying to accomplish in us (1 John 3:1-3)? Have you ever found out what someone else thinks of you and realized that, because of something you said or did that they didn’t like, they, without knowing your heart, judged you as a person, imputing motives and intentions that were never there; and they did so in a way that really has nothing to do with who you are? I have had that happen to me recently, and it hurts—a lot!

Have we ever judged someone else’s character based on what we heard about them (it’s called gossip, folks, and God hates it! Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 18:8, 26:22)? Maybe what we heard is true; maybe it isn’t. If it is true, do we know whether that person repented whole-heartedly before God or not? If they have, they are clean before Him (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 103:12), yet we are still sitting in self-righteous judgment of them when He is not. Have I done that to others in my lifetime? I am embarrassed to say, I know I have. Shame on me!

I would like to recommend that we pay close attention to our thoughts and attitudes toward one another. Let’s be kindly affectionate to one another as the Scripture says (Romans 12:10). Let’s make sure we are not usurping Christ’s authority as the only One to have been given judgment by the Father (John 5:22). It is pretty easy, and much more comfortable, to judge another Man’s servant than to judge ourselves, isn’t it (Romans 14:4)?

It doesn’t take much to fall into the trap of looking down our noses at others with “the stink-eye,” evaluating every step they take and every word they speak, measuring it against our own understanding of what we think a Christian should look like. Chances are, if that same ruler were applied to us, we wouldn’t measure up to our own standard (Matthew 7:2).

It is imperative we learn how to love one another with kindness, patience, gentleness, sincerity, and honesty, as Jesus does us (John 15:12). Do we think we will be a member of the Family of God, or a part of the Bride of Jesus, if we can’t even get along with our human brothers and sisters now in this life? Wouldn’t it be horrible if, because we have so easily “unfriended” our brothers and sisters today, that when Jesus returns, we are the ones to be “unfriended” by our Elder Brother (Matthew 7:23)?

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Leaning Out Into The Wind

By Brian G. Bettes

The smoke stacks at the power plant I worked at were over 600 feet tall. We were building the coal-fired plant and we had to line the inside of both stacks with brick. There was a cable drawn elevator for hauling people, bricks, and mortar that went all the way to the top on the inside of the stack. One of the workers told me, “If you stand out on the edge of the stack on top, the wind is so strong that you can lean out into the wind and not fall.” Visions of what would happen if the wind stopped raced through my mind, but, I guess there was no real danger of that happening in Wyoming. I never tried it because I was not allowed on the elevator. But, crazy as it may seem, I always wanted to. As a young man, I was a risk-taker. It is amazing I have lived as long as I have.

I was thinking about that the other day and asking myself, “How often do we do dangerous things with regard to sin, and think it is kind of fun, or get a thrill out of it?” Do we like to get as close to the edge of sinning as possible “without sinning” (or so we think), then “lean out into the wind,” hoping nothing will happen? Are we spiritual risk-takers? Or do we try to stay as far away from “the edge” of sin as we can get?

During this time of year, as I prepare for taking the Passover symbols established by our Savior, I have been focusing on sin and its effects in my life. Sin caused my Elder Brother and Savior, Jesus the Messiah, to have to die. Even one single sin by any human being was enough for Him to have to die as the sinless sacrifice, if that human was to be given eternal life. That gives me pause for thought. How cavalier am I with sin? Do I sometimes take the approach of, “Well, I know I am human, but Jesus died, so God will forgive me?” It hurts my heart to realize that I have made that statement all too often in my life. What about you? Are you casual with sin?

Many times, I have heard people say (one of those people saying it was me), “Of course, we will never be perfect in this life.” That statement is offered up almost as if it is an excuse to not really put that much effort into fighting sin. Do we really want to eradicate sin from our lives? Or do we just “accept” that, because we are human, we don’t have to struggle mightily against Satan or overcome the world around us that is under his influence or our own human nature? Yet, are we not told to not love this world (1 John 2:15-17), and to come out of it so as not to partake of its sins (Revelation 18:4)?

Let’s talk about 1 John 2:16, which says, “Because everything that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pretentious pride of physical life—is not from the Father, but is from the world” (Coulter, emphasis mine). Most translations use the word “all” where this one uses “everything.” Same essential meaning, but I just like the emphasis that it places on everything; not some things, not a few things, not most things, but e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that is of this world that is not of the Father. It is all encompassing and total. Nothing is left out. Then John goes on to identify, in three basic groups, what everything includes: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

What we must ask ourselves is, are we in tune with our Father’s and Brother’s idea of what this means. We should be examining every area of our lives, asking ourselves whether we are striving to be righteous as They are righteous (1 John 3:7), or are we trying to get as close to the world, or sin, as we can without falling into the abyss?

What about our words? Does our speech reflect Jesus and our Father when we talk to others, or is it laced with profanity, course jesting, or maybe even sexual innuendo? Is our language clean and pure as Jesus’ was, or do we make excuse for, or even worse, not care much about what comes out of our mouths? I am embarrassed to say, as the old adage goes, “Been there done that.” There are no excuses one can legitimately give God as to why that kind of behavior is okay!

What about how we dress? Do we like, or even wear, tight-fitting or revealing clothing that leaves little or nothing to the imagination? Do we wear suggestive clothes that would cause members of the opposite sex to use their imagination? Have we bought into the influence of Satan regarding dress to where we think showing a lot of skin is okay? Have we bought into the societal thinking that, if we wear clothes that are suggestive, and members of the opposite sex have to avert their eyes, that the problem is with them; that we have no responsibility in that situation? This applies to both men and women. We have to ask ourselves whether Jesus Christ approves of what we are wearing, not what our friends or society around us thinks. Basing our thinking on what anyone but God thinks is what got this world in to the mess it is in.

We should apply this mindset to every part of our lives; what we eat, how we interact with each other, how we drive…again, everything! Second Corinthians 10:5 says we are to cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Again—every thought. Not just a few, or some, but every thought!

Did Jesus play with sin? Did He try to get as close as possible to sin? When dealing with Satan during His temptation, though Satan was quoting Scripture and the words he used were true, Jesus did not buy into any part of Satan’s proposals, staying as close to the real meaning and intent of His Father’s word, and as far away as possible from sin (Matthew 4:4,7,10). No, I think the example we see is that He stayed as far away from it as He could. He left us a clear example of how we are to use God’s Word to live our lives (Hebrews 4:12). Satan is the father of lies, and is a master at twisting God’s words from truth into something that sounds good, but leads to death (Genesis 3:4-5).

When it comes to sin, if Jesus was not willing to stand on the edge and lean out into the wind, neither should we.

Showing The Face Of Our Father

By Brian G. Bettes

Every boy looks up to his father, and when he is young, wants to be just like him. I believe that is something that God placed into boys. Boys want to be like their father, and girls want to be like their mother. Unfortunately, as boys become young men, and girls become young ladies, all too often they don’t want to emulate their parents. Why is that? Because Satan is trying to destroy the family, and because as humans we are imperfect.

Many parents today aren’t good role models, or are the role models of the wrong things, and thus emulating our parents may or may not help us. But like it or not, we still turn out to be a lot like our parents. In today’s world, which belongs to Satan, this can be either good or bad. But from a Biblical perspective, God intends that, once we become one of His children, we are to emulate Him.

Consider these words from Jesus who said, “If you had known me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” When pressed further to see the Father by Philip, He said, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (John 14:7-9)?

Jesus made it clear that He and the Father were one during His stay here on earth. He also requested of the Father that His followers, including us, would be one with Them during our stay here on earth (John 17:20-21). But notice why He wanted us to be one with Him and our Father, “…that the world may know that You have sent Me, and loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23).

One of Jesus’ responsibilities while walking among men was to reveal to the world the Father (Luke 10:22); which He did (John 17:4, 6-8). If that was Jesus’ responsibility while on earth, and we now have the same Father, and we are to follow in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21), what do you suppose our responsibility is now that we know the Father (John 17:18)?

When silver is refined to its purest state it produces a perfect image of the refiner on the surface. This is how the refiner knows that there are no longer any impurities, called dross, left in the silver. We are told that, because we are the sons of God, we are to purify ourselves as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3). The apostle Peter admonishes us to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Jesus told us that we are to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

All of this indicates that we are to reflect the same holiness, the same righteousness that our Father is…note I did not say has, but IS! Our Father is righteousness and holiness. That is the “stuff” that He is made of. It is not just something that he has, like a possession that one owns. There is a difference. Is this what we are becoming? Are we becoming pure as He is pure?

At creation, God did not give animals any responsibility except to multiply (Genesis 1:22). On the other hand, mankind was given three responsibilities:

be fruitful, multiply, replenish, and subdue the earth;
have dominion over the animal life (Genesis 1:28);
dress and keep the Garden (Genesis 2:15).

Animals were not given these responsibilities. Though they were to multiply, they were not given the responsibility, or even the capability, to subdue (tread down, subjugate), have dominion over (rule), or “dress and keep” (maintain) the earth. That is because animals were created for a different purpose than man.

We were created in God’s image, or resemblance (Genesis 1:26-27). But “looking like” Him (head, hair, eyes, mouth, arms, hands, chest, torso, legs, feet) is not the only likeness we bear of Him (Revelation 1:13-16 and many verses in Daniel and Ezekiel give a description of God’s form.) In addition, we were given a spirit that no other created creature on earth has—the power of intellect, or as some call it, the spirit in man (Job 32:8). This spirit gives us the ability to think, reason, gather information, evaluate that information, make decisions, plan, design, and build. In short, we were given, on a limited physical basis, God’s ability to create.

No animal on earth can design a house, or a building, or a city, much less build it once it has been designed. No animal can think and reason the way man can. That ability—that power of intellect—is unique to mankind, and it is a part of what it means to be made “in the image of God.” However, even with that special capability, we are not complete.

Mankind was created to become the very Sons of God, just as Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 8:16-17; 1 John 3:2). But for that to happen, man needed yet another Spirit. When God created man, He gave him the spirit of intellect, and along with it, free will. What does that mean? It means man can make his own decisions on how to live. However, God also gave him a choice. Adam and Eve could choose to live God’s way, or they could choose to follow Satan (Genesis 2:16-17). We all know that story, and we all know what they chose to do, don’t we?

God never at any point gave mankind the authority to determine what is right and what is wrong. Those determinations have been left solely in the realm of God. However, man, influenced by Satan, decided to try to take that authority upon himself (Genesis 3:17), just as Satan tried to do once before (Isaiah 14:13). The result of that one bad decision has caused innumerable mountains of grief for mankind ever since.

But God, knowing mankind would make that mistake, had created a way out for him (1 Peter 1:18-20). Once Jesus Christ came, through repentance from living a life against God, acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice in place of the death penalty that is the sentence for sin, baptism as a symbol of burying the old way of life (“the old/former, man”), and the laying on of hands (Hebrews 6:1-2), mankind could receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Upon these conditions, God places His Spirit within a repentant believer (Acts 2:37-39).

That Spirit is a part of God Himself. Just like a human male sperm cell is a part of the father from whom it came, the Holy Spirit is a tiny part of God Himself (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). It is then, and only then, that the believer can start to understand, think, and little-by-little, act like God (1 Corinthians 2:9-14). The Holy Spirit begins to transfer to us the Divine Nature of the one and only Holy God (2 Peter 1:3-4). Over a lifetime of surrender, as God begins to test the heart through fiery trials, the continuously repentant believer can be more and more refined to think and act like our Father, just as Jesus did in the flesh (1 Peter 4:12-13). As God refines us, eradicating the “dross” of sin from our lives by surrendering to Him more and more, like the silver, we become purer and purer each day (Psalm 66:10).

For us to be a part of His Family, God must be satisfied that we will want to only live as He lives, with no thought or desire for anything else. He must be satisfied that pure righteousness, which is what He is, is what we want for all of eternity (1 John 3:3). So only when He can “see His own reflection” in us, will we be ready to take on that incredibly awesome position of responsibility in His Family. God is composed of pure righteousness, and anyone who will be a part of His Family must also be composed of pure righteousness. As the Refiner, He is the only One who knows for certain when we are “finished.”

The Bible says that Jesus is the “brightness of glory,” and, “the express image” of the Father (Hebrews 1:3). He is our example and we are to follow in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21). As we become closer to our Father through Jesus our brother; and as we are refined by God to become more like Him, others should be able to see Him emanating out from us more each day. As Jesus said about Himself, we should be getting closer to being able to say, “If you have seen me, you have seen my Father.” As we draw closer to God by allowing His Spirit to live in and through us, we should be showing the face our Father!

The Giving and The Being

by Brian G. Bettes

This coming Sunday evening at sunset, many of us will memorialize the death of our Savior by taking the symbols of the New Testament Passover. We will meet, quietly and reflectively, to review the meaning of these symbols, and participate, by washing one another’s feet (John 13:3-17), eating unleavened bread, and drinking what amounts to a sip of wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), to commemorate the killing of Jesus Christ as the perfect, sinless sacrificial Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 3:5), slain for the sins of mankind (John 1:29; Revelation 5:9). It is the celebration of a very sobering, yet triumphant event. Jesus died so that the rest of us might have life – real life – eternal life (1 John 2:2; John 6:40)! Continue reading

FOX’s Book of Martyrs

Fox's Book of MartyrsJohn Fox’s famous book detailing the lives, sufferings and triumphant deaths of the early Christian as well as Protestant Martyrs. Edited by William Byron Forbush This is a book that will never die — one of the great English classics. . . .

Fox’s Book of Martyrs is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when “a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,” “climbed the steep ascent of heaven, ‘mid peril, toil, and pain.” “After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.”

Are You a Tolerant Christian?

Gay_friendly_churchDOWN THROUGH TIME, MAN HAS BEEN HELL-BENT TO CREATE GODS AFTER HIS OWN IMAGE. TODAY, JESUS IS COMMONLY PORTRAYED AS A PACIFIST, A WELL-MEANING BUT DOCILE TEACHER, STRIKING A FICKLE—EVEN A PATHETIC— POSE IN PEOPLE’S MINDS. BUT IS THIS REALLY THE JESUS OF YOUR BIBLE?

BY LLOYD W. CARY

We hear a lot today about “tolerance.” Tolerance has become a buzzword in newscasts, entertainment, educational institutions, and casual conversation. You can hardly open a newspaper or turn on your TV without being confronted with calls for a more tolerant society. The pressure is also on individuals to push the limits of personal tolerance to unprecedented heights. We are conditioned to feel guilty if we do not tolerate the latest fad or social change. Continue reading

90 Facts About God

Bible

GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN HIS WORD. BUT DO WE BELIEVE

WHAT HE SAYS?

BY LLOYD W. CARY

The first recorded question in all the Bible was asked by the Adversary in Genesis 3:1 where he asked simply, “Yea, hath God said…?” His purpose was to cast doubt upon God’s WORDS. Today the same adversary continues to cast doubt upon God’s Word, but through more sophisticated means and through human agents. In modern times he has raised up “scholars” and theologians who “interpret” God’s Word in pedantic nomenclature. Every trade or profession invents a vocabulary to set it apart from other trades and professions. Doctors, lawyers, scientists and, yes, modern–day Pharisees invent words that shut out “outsiders,” who must then come to them and pay exorbitant fees and years of time to learn their trade to be accepted into that field. After all, it is reasoned, if a Biblical “scholar” uses terminology like hypostasis, the hypostatic union of Christ, or the hypostatic theory of the nature of God, he must be“exceedingly godly and knowledgeable” and one is immediately placed in an immediate psychological disadvantage and is often hard pressed to cope. The natural reaction is to just throw up one’s hands in confusion and reason that such scholarship is too far above him and to close one’s mind down and blindly accept whatever such “scholars” spoon feed them. Hence the phrase, “Just smile and check your brain in at the door.” Additionally, there is the peer pressure of “everybody else is going along with it and who am I?” Continue reading

Twelve Things God Cannot Do

milky-wayYOUR BIBLE SAYS THAT “WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.” AND YET, THERE ARE SOME THINGS GOD CANNOT DO.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE…AND HOW THEY AFFECT YOU?

BY LLOYD W. CARY

 

Just believe, and you shall be saved,” the blustering, huffing, puffing, perspiring preacher bawled at his audience. “With God, all things are possible,” he urged as he launched into a sermon alleging that God’s laws were “done away”—“nailed to the cross,” and that “God is love,” and that we all abide in “eternal security” as long as we “just love one another.” Sound familiar? Continue reading