Category Archives: Hoffmaster
In Search of Purpose
Young people today are looking for their purpose in life. The world offers external stimuli that caters to the feelings and emotions of the younger generation. The problem with the secular approach is the ever changing satisfaction level of the recipient. When the level of acceptance begins to diminish, something new and exciting must be offered to fend off complacency. The world strives to feed the hungry seekers with high energy experiences that it hopes will fill the void in their lives. The problem with these approaches is they are temporary and ever changing. Apologist Ravi Zacharias once said, “People listen with their eyes and think with their feelings.” So many people are influenced by what they read and hear. Whatever goes through the air waves seems to carry an hypnotic affect on the hearers. If it is presented through the media outlets, many believe it must be right. Television and its cohorts, the news, and social media, all carry an invitation to experience truth through opinionated editorials. The evidence of this is the post election exchanges. To hear people’s reactions to the election evidences the biased rhetoric they have adopted from their selected sources. Young people are swayed to a large degree by what they see and hear. The world’s invitation to personal fulfillment is only a temporary fix to a permanent need.
What is the Church doing to counter the world’s offers? What can the Church do to attract young people from the wilderness of endless wanderings? Young people are looking for honesty, truthfulness, and integrity. They are tired of trying different things that continue to change seasonally. Young people listen to what they see and if it doesn’t fulfill their void, they will reject it for something else. Since the Church is made up of people, the younger generation will judge the validity of its claim by Christians themselves. If they see hypocrisy, they will dismiss the Church as just another movement that is trying to enlist their involvement. The Church is failing to understand what the younger generation is saying.
The Church seems to be caught up in the world’s methodology. Music is changed to cater to the emotions of the hearers. If you were to take the words out of Christian contemporary music, you could not tell the difference from the world’s music. Many churches are having two Sunday morning services; one a traditional worship, the other a contemporary gathering. Instead of keeping the unity of the Believers, there is a division. Family worship was just that, but today many young people never sit with their parents due to competing services or programs. One local church advertised a second service with an invitation that if they felt uncomfortable with worshiping in their sanctuary, they could come to their alternate service that meets in their gym. Pastors are shedding their suits and ties for jeans and sandals. The efforts that the Church is taking to reach the unchurched is meeting with little or no success. Yet the Church charges on with the hope that somehow they will find an answer for numerical growth.
The biggest problem facing the Church today is Christians who are not complementing Biblical teachings. It is not the type of worship that draws people to the Church, it is the One whom we promote. The younger generation wants unfaltering Truth. The kind of Truth that will set them free! They don’t want a cleaned up worldly approach. They want Truth with integrity.
In these changing times, it is not time for the Church to change from what has worked for generations. It is the proclaimed Word, not the logistics that makes the difference. It seems we sing “more like the world, we shall ever be,” instead of singing, “more like the Master I will ever be.” When we stay faithful to His Word, God will add to the Church!
Faith With Secular Evidence
Faith is the flag ship of the Christian movement. Faith is believing and seeing the reality of God’s Kingdom without the benefit of any “outside stimuli.” Faith left to itself is simply a word in the dictionary. The faith that is exhibited by Believers today is more like hope, which Webster defines as “A feeling that what is wanted will happen.” This secular definition of hope is what has been substituted by Believers for faith. Many believe that feelings will not only jump start their faith, but will also give them the help they need in fulfilling their hopeful desires. Feelings tend to dilute faith. All of us have been propelled and decelerated by feelings. Feelings tend to decide how we respond to life. “I don’t feel like going to church today.” “I don’t feel like reading my Bible.” “I don’t feel like praying,” etc… Feeling is the antidote to faith. When Believers use feelings to nudge along their faith, they will experience limited spiritual accomplishments. So many Christians limit their faith by their feelings. They will take a Scripture and initially accept its intent, but as time passes and the Word does not seem to work in their lives, they begin to question whether they correctly understood the verses. The “can of feelings” opens and everything from sadness, disappointment, depression, anger, and confusion push against the truthful reality of God’s Word.
Faith rests in the integrity of the Scriptures. God means what He says and says what He means. There is no need for secular evidence or prompting by feelings to bring about the reality of God’s Word. What is needed is faith upon faith, faith to believe in faith. We must have faith that the Bible is the Word of God, and faith to believe the fulfillment of the Word. A Syrophenician woman came to Jesus to seek healing for her daughter. After a challenging statement from Jesus and her response, she left for her home with faith in His words that her daughter was delivered. (Mark 7:25-30) Feelings had nothing to do with her faith. She simply believed and responded in faith. I can imagine that as she returned home, she walked with a confidence that was not attached to feelings, but with an assurance that her daughter was healed.
A Christian must never allow feelings to interfere with their faithful obedience. There should never be a time when feelings determine the degree of one’s faith. Feelings can compliment faith, but never question faith. Whenever feelings dominate our reaction to the Word, the Word will be limited in its action. A number of times, Jesus confronted His disciples for not exhibiting faith. The reason for their faithless behavior was they were operating on feelings and emotions. On the Sea of Galilee, they saw the boisterous waves and wind and feared for their lives. Feelings snuffed out their faith. (Matthew 8:23-27) When are we going to stop letting feelings challenge our faith? Feelings should be subject to the Word, not the Word subject to our feelings. One of my favorite songs is, “The Word Is Working Mightily In Me.” David Ingles composed this little tune that simply says, “No matter what I feel or see, the Word is working mightily in me.” The Word takes precedence over every emotion or feeling that our mind wants to exhibit. We don’t need any evidence to help secure our faith. Faith is simply believing and acting on what God says, no matter what our eyes and emotions tell us!
If you were to ask the average Christian (whatever that means) how many people they have led to Jesus Christ, the number would be alarmingly small. The majority ofChristians know they have a spiritual obligation to share the Gospel, but how to do it is an entirely different question.
I remember early in my ministry I promoted “soul winning” programs that would help the bashful saint present the GOOD NEWS. I tried everything from James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion to producing our church’s own tracts (pamphlets). Bumper stickers plastered the cars with spiritual gems with the hope that the simple message would draw the unsaved to the nearest salvation station. In one city where I pastored, I had the youth of our church meet every Thursday to hit the streets to present our salvation tracts. For over two months, they distributed the pamphlets to over 1,000 homes with the hope that the recipients would respond to the written invitations. Instead of jubilation at the responses, discouragement laced their minds. There were a number who made the decision, and for that we were thankful, but the toll it took on our youth weighed heavily on the leadership of our church. It was not only in our body of Believers, but many other evangelistic churches also experienced the same disappointments.
Within the next few years, the “soul winning movement” moved from the streets into the houses of worship. Altar invitations became the way of bringing the lost to Jesus. People were released from “one on one” evangelism. Their calling was to bring people to the church. It was there that the pastor would take over the “soul winning” duties. What happened was the salvation message took center stage, and soon the saved begin to starve for meat that would help them grow and become effective Christians. People failed to realize that pastors don’t reproduce sheep, the sheep do!
- Today, it seems the evangelical church is slowly coming out of its citadels of worship to once again bring the Gospel message to the lost. I am thankful for those who understand their Biblical calling and are willing to share the wonderful message of God’s love. We must be careful though, not to adopt man made techniques to present the Gospel. The Church tried that before and it did not work.
Much of the discouragement that faces Believers today is based on not knowing what is expected of them. Instead of attending seminars and course instruction on “soul winning,” Christians need to simply share their story. Every day there will be opportunities to present the Truth that has been instilled in us. When we see people going through similar life-altering experiences, we must be ready to present our story. Simply share how the Lord helped you through your crisis or situation. People will not challenge your presentation, because you are the living proof of that victory. Share how you came to know Jesus Christ. Maybe that individual will not respond to your sharing, but you planted the seed. That planting will pave the way for another Believer to water that seed with his story and, through the Holy Spirit, that person may experience the miracle of rebirth. (I Corinthians 3:6-9)
How many people have you led to Jesus Christ? Maybe we don’t have a definitive number, but if the Lord would reveal to us how many came into the Kingdom by way of our seed planting or watering, we would be amazed! Maybe your joy was the sunshine that helped the seed to grow.
Share your story! Be a Planter! Be a Waterer! Let your SON shine! It is a team effort! God gives the increase.
In our political quagmire, rhetoric has evolved that has added to the division of our Country. Immigration has been front and center to a continuing volcanic eruption of opinions. The vacillating of viewpoints has driven our divide into a chasm that widens everyday. On one side, there are the open arms of acceptance to anyone who wants to be part of this great land. On the other side are those with folded arms of immigration restraint. One group conveys an open door way, while the other group offers a door that can only be opened by meeting certain criteria.
Parallel to the political landscape is the Church and its immigration policy. There are basically two viewpoints to the accepting of individuals who are seeking Christian citizenship. One is an open door policy that offers acceptance to anyone occupying a pew. The other offers citizenship by the person’s acceptance of Jesus Christ. The oversimplification of these two approaches has led to a corrupted and ineffective Church.
Our Country is concerned about people entering it who seek to destroy our liberties. The Church needs to be equally aware of people who are entering the Christian community with the intent to destroy the standards of Biblical integrity. The attack on Biblical inerrancy is not so much an external challenge as it is an internal threat. There are those within the Church who have assumed leadership roles with the intent to misdirect the “very elect” on issues that challenge the basic core of Biblical truths. The open door policy of the Church has been a gateway for “Biblical Terrorist” to enter the confines of the elected. As we read the Scriptures, we find continual warnings about the internal assaults against the Church, yet we turn a blind eye to its reality. Until the Church understands what it is facing, perilous times will continue to rock its foundation.
When you look at what has been happening in the Church today, we will readily conclude that something is out of kilter. Have those who have truly been Born Again suddenly decided to question the authority of God’s Word? Would they challenge the Bible’s stand on homosexuality? Would they redefine what constitutes marriage? Would they condone same sex marriages? The true Believer would never entertain anything that would question God’s Word. Who then would pursue such a humanistic approach?
The Bible makes it clear that no one can come to Christ except God draws him. It is also emphatically clear that no one comes to God except through Jesus Christ. The drawing is implemented by the Holy Spirit. The problem is “soul winners” try to do it on their own. Programs are initiated on how to lead someone to Christ. The intent is good, but sometimes they supersede the working of the Holy Spirit. The initial response could be favorable, but in many cases the result of their salvation bares no evidence. This is also where sheep in wolves clothing can enter the commune of Believers.
Difficult days lie ahead for both the Church and the Country. As there is a path for those who want to pursue citizenship in the United States, shouldn’t there also be a directive for those interested in being part of the Kingdom of God? The Church needs to take seriously its role in preparing people for their life changing experience, so when the Holy Spirit presents the Son, they will be prepared to receive Jesus not only as Savior, but also as Lord.
I am asking that we examine the Scripture and see the warnings that have been issued to the Church. The sheep in wolves clothing is not something new, but has been revealed throughout the Word. The Church is facing steady decline of its constituency. Pew Research just released statistics showing that between 2007 and 2014 there was a drop of almost 8% by those who had identified themselves as Christians. There is an assault against the Church as well as our Country. It is time to wake up and realize what is happening. It is time to draw a definitive line and say enough is enough. When our Constitution and the Bible are not defended, evil will triumph. May God help us!
Seek and Set
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to stay focused on God? Think for a moment how many times the things of the world take center stage in our lives. Take a situation with which you have been struggling. Just when you think the challenge is under control, it reappears with its ingredients of doubt, anxiety, worry, and the “what ifs.” Mixing these thoughts into our consciousness will tend to affect our spiritual life. We know that we are to cast, throw down, and place all our cares on Him who cares so much for us. (I Peter 5:7) But for some reason, we feel we need to use our human resources to combat life’s challenges. It is true we have the human capacity to respond to all the aspects of life, but when the situations control our time and energy, we must reach beyond our own abilities and let God handle them. Timing is so important. If we hold on to the problem too long, it will make it harder and harder to disconnect from the situation. Satan loves to have Believers second guess their actions. The more the problem dominates our thoughts, the greater the challenge to our spiritual stability. Thoughts like, “You should have…”, “Why didn’t you?”, “If only…”, will enter our thought compartment. We must understand the limits to our human resources. The sooner we do, the quicker we will learn to cast all our cares on Him!
One of the most neglected verses in the Bible is Colossians 3:1, 2. Here Paul stresses two words that should be in every Christian’s vocabulary: Seek and Set. We are to SEEK the things that are above, and to set our affection on Heavenly things. To seek is to desire and enquire. The things of the world are temporal, while the things of Heaven are eternal. The foundation of our faith rests in the things “above,” not on the things “below.” Would it not seem that our interests and desires should be about God and His Kingdom? Jesus said to seek and we will find. (Matthew 7:7) As we seek the things of God, we will find His Truths and will exhibit them in our daily lives. We are also called to SET our affections on the eternal. Set is to put in a specified place. Affection is to exercise the mind, to interest oneself, to regard, and to think. We are to set our interests on Heavenly principles. Our interest should be in achieving the directives of our Heavenly Father.
When we seek and set our ways in the Heavenlies, we will learn quickly what His ways are. How much of our day is spent dwelling on the negatives of life? How much of our time is spent in self-centeredness? How much of our prayer time is around our needs and wants? How much of our life is around problems? How much of our life dwells on things that are not really that important? Let us learn to reverse our thought patterns and center on what is really important.
The Fruit of the Spirit is an example of seeking the things that originate from above. The Holy Spirit reveals to us what He hears in the Heavenlies. (John 16:13) The nine fruits mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23 originate from God. When we seek after the things of the Kingdom, we are putting our problems on notice that they will be short lived. When we set our minds on the Heavenly, the earthly matters will be opportunities to bring glory to God.
THE SHROUDED TRUTH
The Bible contains the greatest collection of written words ever assembled. There has never been, and there never will be, anything that can parallel its power and authority. The problem is the Scripture has been shrouded from the minds of so many readers. To help assist the inquiring minds are commentaries and Biblical helps that consist of “cliff notes,” CD’s, and interpretative books and study guides, as well as a plethora of translations. Still, the difficulty meter continues to red line. Bibles are handed out to the “whomsoever” with the hopeful intent that the reader will be led into a spiritual epiphany. But so many times the potential believer becomes confused as to the implication of its content. Soon the Bible becomes a dust catcher. It is true that there have been people that were so moved by what they read that it led them to a life changing encounter with their Creator, but those are the exceptions instead of the norm.
The Disciples experienced the Word by hearing and seeing, yet they failed multiple times in illustrating its reality. As we go through the Scriptures, we see a continuity of misunderstanding by His followers. Time and time again, Jesus would expose their shallowness in implementing His truth. From the Sea of Galilee to the hills of Judea, the Disciples lacked understanding of the things Jesus taught and did. There were times when they introduced their own spiritual ignorance by their actions and statements. Many of their questions were intended for their own self promotion. As we read the Gospels, we need to be more aware of the actions of the Disciples. As we do, we will soon be sympathetic to what Jesus faced in preparing them to carry on His ministry.
To simply read the Bible with the hope that the spiritual mysteries of life will be answered is to face disappointment. The Bible is a closed book to the unsaved. They will never understand Its truth until the Holy Spirit opens their heart. The Ethiopian Eunuch, who had acquired a copy of the Scroll of Isaiah, was on his way back to his country when he stopped his chariot and tried reading from the Scroll. A layman by the name of Philip was led by the Spirit to approach the Eunuch and ask him if he understood what he was reading. The Eunuch simply said, “How can I, accept some man would guide me?” (Acts 8:31) Philip, under the power of the Holy Spirit, led him into such an understanding of the Scripture that he turned his life over to Jesus Christ and was baptized in a stream not far from where they were. After Jesus resurrection, He appeared to two confused and unbelieving disciples as they journeyed toward their home in Emmaus. They had heard rumors that Jesus was alive, but there was no proof. Jesus then gently led them through the Old Testament, beginning with Moses and then through the Prophets, showing how it applied to Him. It was shortly after this revealing that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. As quickly as He appeared, He vanished. They shared, “Did not our heart burn within us…while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) The two disciples immediately ran back to Jerusalem to the locked upper room to tell their story. While they shared their excitement, Jesus suddenly appeared to His assembled disciples and proceeded to fine tune His previous teachings. The Bible says that “He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45)
Chastisement Part 2
When a Believer experiences Biblical chastisement, either by the written Word or verbal admonishment, there is a tendency to respond with a number of reactions. Some assume a defensive posture which is supported by self-justification or denial. Others will accept admonishment and are quick to level self-imposed punishment for their actions; in fact, they are harder on themselves than the situation merits. There are also those that feel so ashamed that a mild depression surrounds them. Finally, there is the group that rejoices in the chastisement, for they see how much God loves them and, through this encounter with Truth, they learn from their failures.
The real issue to be considered is what we do after we have been chastised. If we respond with a quick repentance, and continue to sporadically indulge ourselves in the same behavior, our faith walk will become unstable. If we simply reason that one strike will not throw us out of the game, we shake the chastisement off and wait for an “uplifting” message. We look forward to the “sermon” that will highlight the blessings we have grown to expect from God’s Biblical treasure chest. Why is it that Believers take sin so lightly? The attitude of some is that God is not going to do anything about it, so why worry! It is almost like a challenge to God’s authority. Maybe they need to look at it from a different perspective. The concern should be what is sin doing to me? How is it affecting my spiritual walk and talk? Every time we sin, it affects our relationship with God. Maybe God will not reach down from Heaven and physically draw attention to sinful behavior, but it hurts Him when we willing walk away from chastisement with an unchanged attitude. Think for a minute how Jesus was nailed to a cross because of man’s sinful behavior. There on Calvary, He experienced the wrath of God. How can we look at sin so casually when, because of it, Jesus paid the ultimate price? God turned His face from Jesus as He suffered for the sinfulness of man. (Matthew 27:46) Today, God’s face is turned toward the Believer and He sees sin being so casually addressed by His followers. How can this be? How can we so flagrantly turn our backs on God by failing to respond to His chastisements that are meant to correct our wayward direction?
I believe that God’s chastisements are directly related to Jesus’ intercession for the Believer. (Hebrews 7:25) When Jesus sees our slip ups, He intercedes to God on our behalf. God then chastises the forgiven Believer so as to correct his momentary relapse. When we do not understand this, chastisement will not be appreciated, but resented and even ignored.
Chastisement Part 1
One of the subjects that many Believers ignore, either inadvertently or on purpose, is the area of Chastisement. What exactly is Chastisement and how is it administered? The New Testament, of which the theme is Grace, mentions this word or a form of the word 12 times. It is discovered two times each in Luke and the Corinthian letters, once in Revelation, and seven times in Hebrews. Hebrews 12:5-11 gives the reader an excursion into understanding the full implication of this word.
Basically, chastisement comes under three categories: 1) training; 2) correcting with words; 3) discipline enforced by physical means. When one enters residency in the Kingdom of God, there are many things to learn and understand. The growth process can be both a rewarding and at the same time a discouraging experience. Some of the Believers’ early mistakes can be overlooked as basically a learning experience. But, if no progress begins to show in their ongoing spiritual education, there will be words of chastisement that will land on the eyes and ears of the disciple. This is experienced through the reading of the Word or spoken through those in ministerial offices. In the Old Testament, God’s chastisement was administered by visual means, such as physical ailments, military oppressions, famines, atmospheric phenomena, as well as geographical influences. Under the Law, God’s response to disobedience was dealt with quickly. Under Grace, His Word plays center stage in the lives of the Believers. So many Christians look to the Bible as a treasure chest of blessings, and it certainly does contain a wealth of Truth, but it is also meant to be for “…reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16) So many times God has used His Word to chastise His followers, but when the Holy Spirit, witnessing our disobedience, attempts to lead us to Scriptures of correction, our human mind ignores the prompting and the Bible remains closed, or a search for blessings ensues. We must always remember that God chastens us because He loves us and wants us to experience the fullness of His Kingdom.
God also uses Pastors to bring correction to the body of Believers. Sadly, some Pastors are more concerned with pleasing their “employers” rather than God. I remember preaching chastising messages that did not exclude me, and had members of the church chastise me for being so negative. I have always wanted to be liked and accepted by the people whom God had chosen me to lead, but because of my commitment to God, I was willing to bring His message of correction whenever it was called for. Many times as a pastor I was chastised by God’s Word. The Scripture came to me as a two-edged sword, cutting away errors in my life as well as clearing away obstacles that stood before me. I have to admit that God’s chastisements were challenging and even painful, but through the acknowledging of my errors and seeking His forgiveness, I was able to experience the fullness of His joy.
One of the reasons people neglect reading their Bibles is the anxiety of what will be found, especially if it exposes sin in their lives. Neglected Sunday worship also is framed around the potential embarrassment of sinful exposure.
When we are on the wrong road, evidenced by our unsettled peace, we need to receive His chastisement. Thank God He cares enough about us to be interested in our lives. Let us welcome His chastening as an evidence of His love for us. Don’t blame your pastor for messages that expose the mistakes of the Saints, but encourage him to tell it like it is. After all, it may save our lives!
To understand the Word of God, one must grasp the reality that the Holy Spirit is the revealer of Truth and without His leading the Bible simply becomes words of historical relevance. The Holy Spirit not only empowers the believer, but directs the Christian through the illuminating of God’s Word. (John 16:13a) Whenever there is no divine revealing of the Scripture, a manipulating of the Word to satisfy the human questing of the individual will evolve. Much of the Scripture is shrouded or veiled and must be revealed through the Holy Spirit. So much Biblical misunderstanding is a direct result of carnal reading motivated by individual priorities. As one listens to the plethora of doctrines one can see that the Holy Spirit is not involved in many of the interpretations. Some of the teachings that come out of Scriptural manipulation give fuel to the critics who continue to make sport of the Christian’s beliefs.
The Holy Spirit will help us begin our Biblical journey, but it will be our responsibility to accept and act upon the revealed Word. How we respond to the Word will determine what kind of Christian experience we will have. Revelation reveals the Word. Reason dilutes the Word. Faith experiences the Word. When conflicts arise in the Christian’s life, it is not time to revert to carnal man but to face the problem with the faith that God will guide us through His Word to the victory.
The Apostle Paul was called into the ministry not by self determination, but by “Jesus Christ and God the Father.” (Gal. 1:1) He stated that no human being was instrumental in his decision to follow Jesus. He further proclaimed that the message he brought was not something he learned, but rather that he received it by “revelation.” (v. 12) Success in one’s life is achieved by acting upon the revelation that is conveyed to us through the Holy Spirit. Blessings come when we stop leaning on our own understanding and start acknowledging the Truth that is shown to us. The Christian life is a journey of affirmative action. The Word “Go” is the catapult to not only spreading, but living, the Gospel. You can’t spell “good” or “Gospel” without it. When you the take the “Go” out of Gospel you have a “spell” and that is what some Christians seem to be in. When the Holy Spirit opens our understanding to His Word, we must respond as if our life depended upon it.
When we open the Word of God our expectancy level should be high, for we anticipate that the living God is going to speak to us. Reading the Word any other way is to make the Bible simply “literature.” When we read the Scripture, it is either LOGOS (God’s unspecified Word), or RHEMA (God’s revealed Word.) In John 1:1, it is declared that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the living Word and the Bible is the written Word. How we treat the written Word is how we will treat the Living Word. To say we love Jesus and at the same time neglect the Bible will expose a flaw in our Christian walk. Let the Holy Spirit reveal to us the hidden treasures of God’s Word and then let us learn to say as Mary did, “be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke1:38)