The Error of Narrow Exclusivism

What does constitute the true church or a true Christian, biblically speaking? Is it a matter of getting everything right? Does it mean you hold the proper position in all of the debates of the day? Are you only authentic if you have aced someone’s acid test?

         Two of the many letters the apostle Paul wrote were the letters of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Here were some of the problems the Christians in Corinth had: They were divisive, arrogant, worldly and lawsuit-happy. They were judgmental, unloving and unconcerned about their brethren. They had turned the worship assembly into a chaotic, prophetic free-for-all. They had made the Lord’s Supper into something unholy and selfish. Some were absolutely ignorant when it came to the resurrection. Some questioned whether Paul had any authority to be telling them what to do. Those are just some of the highlights of their error. But notice how Paul addressed them, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2,3). Evidently error, whether in doctrine or lifestyle does not invalidate a Christian or a church. Must these problems be repented of? Of course, that’s why Paul wrote the letters. May these problems put a person’s salvation in jeopardy? Absolutely. But teaching to correct error and warning of the dangers of apostasy are a far cry from thinking that we are capable judges of the eternal destinies of our brethren. No one has everything right (1 John 1:8). Otherwise we wouldn’t need God’s grace. Are you that sure of your performance? I’m not.

         But to ask again the question, isn’t there something that testifies as to whether or not one is a Christian? Indeed there is. At the very beginning of the church God told us what that is: “Now when they heard this [Peter’s preaching of the gospel], they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37,38, 41).

         That’s the church folks. Nothing more, nothing less. Always has been. Always will be. Do what they did and you’ll be what they were—a Christian.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 10:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Error of Popular Ecumenicalism

Webster’s Dictionary defines ecumenicalism as that which “promotes or tends toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation.” Jesus himself prayed for unity among his followers (John 17:20,21). Who would argue that division between those who profess a faith in Christ is a good thing? But unity at the sacrifice of truth is not a good thing. So while ecumenicalism itself is a godly desire, popular ecumenicalism as promoted and practiced today seeks to set aside doctrinal differences and find common ground on a simple and sincere profession of faith in Jesus. And that simply does not go far enough for those who believe that the Bible is authoritative in all areas of our lives.

         If the only thing God had to say to humanity was “Have faith in Jesus” he could have saved himself and others a lot of trouble, not to mention boatloads of paper and leather! But of course he had much more to say. And therein lies the error of popular ecumenicalism—the setting aside of biblical doctrines that will inherently divide. Jesus held no illusions as to the effect his teaching would have on people. In fact he said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). How’s that? The “Prince of peace” didn’t come to bring peace? That’s what he said. This is so because truth must take precedence over a veneer of “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.”. Peace between God and man is achieved when we believe in Jesus and are baptized into him (Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26,27). That is the starting point of biblical unity. That’s where we can know we have been saved by the blood of Jesus and been added by the grace of God to his church. Not only that, it’s also where we can know who our brothers and sisters in Christ are.

         As members of Christ’s church, God has a great deal to say about how we must then live as his people. Paul wrote to Timothy, “I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). He later told Timothy to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). Apparently doctrine does make a difference.

         Ecumenicalism is a nice idea. But it is sheer fantasy to believe that it can be achieved and maintained along with an adherence to Scripture.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lessons from Job

The book of Job is a fascinating story. It tells of a godly and wealthy family man who lost everything but his life. When his children and livestock are dead and his body is covered with painful sores there is this exchange between Job and his wife. She said, “’Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9,10)

         Then Job’s friends come along to comfort him. So far, so good. But then they make a big mistake. They start assuming and voicing their assumptions. Job wonders out loud what he has done to deserve this. So his friends, in their “righteous”, albeit ignorant indignation, give Job several sermons with a common answer: God’s mad at you because you’re sinning! Stop sinning and bad things will stop happening! This just makes Job angrier. He knows he’s done nothing to deserve this. And God agrees with him (1:1,8). This goes on for a while and Job demands that he wants an audience with God. It’s time for the Almighty to explain himself! Woops. Job gets what he asked for. (We’ve got to be careful about that.) But God turns the table on Job and asks him a “few” questions. The message comes out loud and clear: I’ll be God. You be Job. I don’t owe you any answers. Job humbly repents of his attitude. He hasn’t had a single one of his questions answered. But he has had an up close and personal demonstration of the greatness of God.

         Then God has this to say to Job’s friends, “You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (42:8) What was it they said about God that was not right? Hadn’t they defended God’s integrity? Here’s the problem. They assumed they knew what God was doing, why he was doing it and then blathered these things to Job. And they knew nothing of the kind.

         The book of Job teaches the greatness of God and the limitations of man. It teaches us that people suffer, sometimes terribly, in this world, even the best of people. It teaches us to trust God even when we don’t understand God. And it teaches us the danger of supposing we know what God is doing or why he is doing it.

         You and I can better get through the heartbreaks of life if we will learn a lesson from Job. It is our place to trust and obey. It is God’s place to be God.

 Brad Fry

Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm  Comments (4)  
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Wrestling With God

I think one of the most puzzling passages in the Old Testament to many people has to be Genesis 32:24-32. It is the record of Jacob’s wrestling with God.

         It is the eve of Jacob’s encounter with his brother Esau, his estranged brother whom he cheated out of his birthright. He’s worried sick that Esau is going to kill him and his fears are well founded. Esau’s coming his way with 400 men. Hardly an outing for a Sunday picnic. After making preparations to appease his brother, Jacob is left alone on the other side of the river. The text tells us that “a man wrestled with him until daybreak” and apparently this “man” was God himself or at the very least an angel of God. This goes on the rest of the night until finally the “man” tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob refuses until he is blessed. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel because, and here’s the curious part, “you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” What? A mamma’s boy who’s scared to death of his brother winning a wrestlin’ match with Jehovah? If he so chose, God could have left a greasy spot that once was Jacob. But God doesn’t always do what he can do; he does what he wants to do. And what he wants to do is preserve Jacob, not destroy him. Jacob prevails because God is merciful, not because God is a 98-pound weakling. God is impressing upon Jacob’s mind that, regardless of the odds, the strength of your foe or the bleakness of the outlook, God is for you and he doesn’t leave you to fight your battles alone.

         With the rising of the sun Jacob sees his brother and his army coming over the horizon. What had Esau’s intentions been during the march? To hang his brother from the highest tree and leave him for buzzard food? He had vowed before that he would kill him. But if that’s so, a strange thing happened on the way to Jacob’s date with death—Esau’s heart was changed. Where there was bitterness there was now brotherly love. And Jacob prevailed over man like he had prevailed over God. Not because he was bigger, tougher or stronger. But because of God’s tender mercy.

         God doesn’t want to destroy us. He wants to save us. But sometimes we have to wrestle first.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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Some Life Lessons from Baseball

What home field advantage? The Texas Rangers made major league baseball history by winning three road games in a five game play-off series. And the Tampa Bay Rays made the fifth game necessary by taking the two games in Arlington. Life doesn’t always happen like we expect or want it to. Sometimes we win when the odds are against us and sometimes we lose when we think we’re on a roll.

            That’s one of the great things about sports. It gives us such good analogies for life. What lessons can we learn about life from the past few days of baseball? Among others, here are a few.

            Where you are doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you do. We can make a mistake by giving too much credit to the externals. Sure a supportive crowd can be helpful but the game is played on the field. Do your job. Enjoy the cheers when they’re behind you. Endure the jeers when they’re in your face. But do your job.

            Take advantage of opportunities. In Tuesday night’s game, not only did Cliff Lee pitch an outstanding game, the Rangers put runs on the board partly because of smart base running. They took chances. They paid attention when the other guys were not. They made things happen. A man who doesn’t take advantage of opportunities seldom accomplishes anything. He hems, haws and hesitates until life has passed him by.

            When you do lose you don’t let it keep you down. We saw this in both the Rangers and the Rays. We will not always win. We will not always succeed. One of the more interesting things to me about this NFL season is that no team is undefeated only 5 weeks in. Sure, we’d like to win them all but we probably will not. So the sooner you can get rid of the idealism of the perfect season or the perfect life the sooner you can give yourself to the task at hand.

            No strategy is fool-proof. Try as hard as we might we’ll face our share of curve balls and bad bounces. We’ll strike out a lot and commit our share of errors. But you keep moving forward. Don’t rest on your success and don’t give in to your failures. And, if God grants it, you’ll live to play another day.

 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Cor.9:24)

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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Getting Out of the Pit

G. Campbell Morgan was once approached by a miner who said he would give anything to believe that God would forgive sins, “but I cannot believe he will forgive me if I just turn to him. It is too cheap.” Dr. Morgan said to him: “You were working in the mine today. How did you get out of the pit?” He answered, “The way I usually do; I got into the cage and was pulled to the top.” “How much did you pay to come out of the pit?” “I didn’t pay anything.” “Weren’t you afraid to trust yourself to that cage? Was it not too cheap?” The man replied, “Oh, no! It was cheap for me, but it cost the company a lot of money to sink that shaft.” Jesus pays the price for our salvation. You and I contribute nothing to the cost. We simply have a required response.

         There are many people today who are not saved because they refuse to believe God can forgive them so easily. But as the above story illustrates, God doesn’t forgive easily. But he does forgive willingly. Salvation comes cheaply to no one. The sinless Son of God essentially offers a trade of his sinlessness for your sinfulness (2 Corinthians 5:21) because of what he did on the cross. Cheap? I don’t think so.

         But the story also illustrates another important point. If the miner doesn’t get into the cage, he stays in the pit. Just today miners in Chile are being rescued from a pit that has been their would-be tomb for 69 days. Rescuers are pulling them up in a cage which has been lowered into the pit. If they don’t get into that cage, they stay put in the pit. The point is simple—if you don’t step into the place of deliverance, you perish. All the faith in the world that the miner has in the crew above will not save him until he gets into the cage. To get out of the pit of sin Jesus declares that we must believe and be baptized and that when we do so we will be saved (Mark 16:16).

         That biblical truth about baptism should be able to be presented with no further need for persuasion. Unfortunately there is much misinformation and misunderstanding about the subject. Look at it this way. We will hear nothing about any debate among the miners as to whether it’s necessary to get into the cage. They just do it. Baptism is “stepping into the cage” so to speak. No one would think that those miners saved themselves by stepping into the cage. It was clearly the work of “those above” who saved them. The same thing is true when one submits to God in baptism. It is the work of God that effects salvation (Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; Galatians 3:26,27; Romans 6:3-7). But he requires that we respond.

         God wants you out of the pit. He has made your rescue possible. Whether you respond is up to you.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 11:08 am  Comments (5)  
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The Other Side of the Fence

You’ve heard the old adage, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” And you’ve probably heard the add-on, “but you’ve still got to mow it.

         For many people that other side is always there, so much so that they have a hard time enjoying this side of the fence. Chances are good that at some time in the past this side of the fence was the other side of the fence. When it was the other side of the fence it seemed ideal and full of so many wonderful possibilities. Dreams and schemes began with a wistful “If only…” Finally the opportunity comes and you’re on the other side where you always wanted to be. At first life is brimming with excitement. It’s just like you thought it would be. But pretty soon reality starts to set in. You find yourself dealing with disappointing circumstances and difficult people. What was once your dream is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to the brown grass you left behind. So you start thinking about another other side of the fence. And so it goes.

         No situation is as idyllic as it seems when you’re on the outside looking in. Life will be one disillusionment after another when you spend your time daydreaming of where you’re not and what you don’t have. Learn to make things better where you are, with what you’ve got and whom you’re with. Learn to be content (Philippians 4:11). Do that over the long haul and you’ll come to see that the grass is pretty green right where you are.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 9:22 am  Comments (6)  
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Racists & The Rest of Us

Racist. It’s an ugly word and a stinging charge. Webster’s Dictionary defines racism as, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”. Unfortunately prejudice and racism are often viewed as synonymous. They are not. Prejudice, as the word obviously breaks down, is simply pre-judging a person, place or thing. That prejudgment may prove to be accurate or not. Prejudging is being too hasty. Racism is being hateful. The distrust, dislike and disdain some folks have for whole groups of society not like themselves is nothing new. People have been mistreating and misjudging each other ever since Cain clobbered Abel. But that doesn’t mean you and I have to be that way. Every man and woman, boy and girl who determines that they will personally treat all folks fairly moves society forward. How do we do that?

         See the image of God in each person. The Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Unlike God’s creation of animals and earth, the sun, moon and stars, God created people unique—in his image. That’s true of all people regardless of color, ethnicity or nationality. We all have God as our common denominator. “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God…” (Acts 17:26-27).

         Avoid stereotyping people. What is a typical white person? What is a typical black person? What is a typical Asian person? What is a typical Hispanic person? It is natural for all people to develop prejudices—prejudgments—about people, places and things with which they are unfamiliar. That happens when we process the information we receive and form an opinion before we have firsthand experience. While certainly imperfect there is nothing inherently evil in that. Sin comes in when we allow that prejudgment to lead us to think less of others and assume we know more than we do. The Bible says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). Don’t project on people what you think you know about them.

         Make character count. Probably the most quoted line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have A Dream” speech is this, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That is the true measure of a person, isn’t it? To prefer the company of people because they look like you is shallow and silly. It is also self-defeating. What great friendships are undiscovered because people prefer sameness over goodness? Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

         Get to know people. Now let’s be honest. Some people are mean and rotten. I don’t want to be friends with those people and I stand on solid ground. The Bible says, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). That “bad company” is found in all races and nationalities. But there’s also a lot of good company out there in all races and nationalities. Once we let down our guards and get to know people we may find many of our prejudices fall by the wayside. And maybe that’s secretly what some people are afraid of. They not only have their prejudices, they prefer them. They’ve grown rather fond of their walls, makes them feel secure and superior. Those walls will also keep the people they enclose quite small and suspicious.

         Think for yourself. The Bible says, “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Don’t let others spoon feed you their poison. Not only is that unsafe, it is intellectually lazy. Believe what you believe because you have tested, weighed and thought things through.

         We will always have to deal with small-minded people. It’s the path of least resistance and it’s the path that many people choose to follow. But you and I can do better than that.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Be Still

God calls his people to be doing people. We are commanded to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). James goes on to write, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). But what about those times when the right thing to do is to do nothing? You’ve heard someone say to the idle, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” But have you ever heard someone say to the hyperactive worrier, “Don’t just do something…stand there.” Whoever turned that phrase made a great point. We have a hard time leaving things in God’s hands. We want to be able to do something about everything. And anything we can do in obedience to God’s commands we must do. Often when we can’t do anything to achieve the result we’re looking for we busy ourselves with other things. That’s certainly preferable to sitting around or lying awake worrying. But it’s still not quite the place to which God wants to bring us.

         After Pharaoh finally let Israel go out from Egypt he soon had a change of heart. He gathered his army together and took off after them. Before long the people hear thundering hooves and see clouds of dust. As the Egyptians are approaching on one side the Israelites are closing in on the Red Sea on the other side. Neither option looks like a good one. So what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You find someone to blame, of course! They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12). They’ve gone from “Get us out of here!” to “Why didn’t you just leave us alone?” But Moses’ answer is not for them to start swimming, build a bridge or even turn and fight. Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14). Don’t just do something—stand there. Don’t complain—be quiet. Don’t cover your eyes in fear—see the salvation of the Lord.

         There may come a time in your life when you are faced with a crisis. It may be that there are a number of things you can do to affect the outcome. Or it may be that there is nothing you can do to affect the outcome, nothing but leave the thing in the hands of God. And when that happens, can you? Can you just do all that you can do and then just be still? In Psalm 46 the psalmist sees trouble in natural calamity—the earth gives way…the mountains move into the heart of the sea—and political upheaval—the nations rage, the kingdoms totter. Life seems shaky, chaotic and uncertain. But overriding all these frightful sights and scenarios he affirms, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v.1).

         Do yourself a favor and store the 46th Psalm deep in your heart. Pray over it. Meditate on it. Believe it. And the next time you’re faced with a challenging situation or even a soul shaking crisis and you’ve done all you know to do and maybe more than you should, hear then the words of the Lord, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:10-11)

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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About me and Texas Fryed…

My name is Brad Fry. I am a much blessed husband and father. I grew up in Tolar, Texas. I had my first experience writing for public consumption back in the early ’80’s when I covered the football games of the Tolar Rattlers for the Hood County News. In 1983 my wife and I moved to Lubbock where I enrolled in the Sunset School of Preaching, now Sunset International Bible Institute. I have preached for churches in Springlake, Texas; Stratford, Ontario, Canada; Mineral Wells, Texas and Columbia, South Carolina. Since August of 2008 we have been back in Tolar where I teach and preach for the Tolar Church of Christ. Texas Fryed is about my Lord, his Word and his church. But it’s also about all of life that strikes  my interest. I hope you find something here that interests you. Feel free to make a comment or drop me a line at texasfryed@gmail.com.

Published in: on October 5, 2010 at 4:12 pm  Comments (6)