Sunday Main 10-14-12



Freed to Love XII.mp3

 Stir it up! – PDF

 Key Texts: Deut. 30:6; II Thess. 3:5; Rom. 14; I Cor. 8


As Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 and Luke 17:1, it is impossible to avoid offenses, but woe to those through whom they come, “It would be better for them if a millstone were tied around their neck and they were drowned in the depth of the sea…”. These are words which are uncharacteristic of Jesus’ typical teaching, which should cause all who love Him and take His words with the gravity they deserve – to consider closely their walk, that they not offend their brother or the world.

As we addressed over the past few weeks the word offend is rather stronger a term than it appears in English. It actually means to encourage towards stumbling into sin. Therefore the offense is in itself – sin, at least it is in Matthew 18 and Luke 17.

This week we are looking at walking in love and without offense towards our brother. In this case an offense would not necessarily be sin in and of itself, but due to the conscience of your brother it may be sin to you, if you know your brother is made weak or is encouraged towards stumbling by your walk.

Let’s offer two examples:

If a wife were to pressure her husband to go to a water park when she knows that he struggles with lust. This would be sin. It is NOT a sin to be weak in an area – we all have what Hebrew’s calls “besetting” sins. These are sins to which you are more easily ensnared. The word beset in Hebrews 12:1 simply means to “hinder your progress”. So, everyone has a sin (or sins) which more easily beset their progress in towards the goal of Christ in us than others. Again, this weakness is not sin, it is a weakness in which we need Christ’s power to strengthen us beyond our own ability.

In this scenario, going to a water park is arguably not sin. I say that because there are many men and women who have trouble being around scantly clad members of the opposite sex. Notably, not everyone who goes to a water park is attractive, but enough are that at the VERY LEAST it warrants caution. To extend this first analogy, I will say that it was for this very reason that I (when I was a “youth pastor”) never took my youth group to a water park. Not only did I as a male not need to be around that sort of temptation, I had several young men in their early teen who I KNEW had NO BUSINESS at a water theme park. If I had taken them, I would not have been walking in love, because I would have been willingly placing a cause of stumbling in my brother’s way.

A second, and perhaps more traditional example would be with alcohol. Alcohol is in no way condemned in scripture. Jesus made it and drank it – enough so that the Pharisees felt justified in calling Him a wine-bibber. I say that, because even though I am suspicious that they knew better, the pharisees were not stupid enough to accuse Jesus of something that had immediate and obvious deniability. It was due to there desire to not be discredited like that, that Jesus was able to often silence them for they knew if they answered some of His questions in any direction it would incriminate them. So it is unlikely they would accuse Jesus of something which was obviously untrue.

So in our example, if you have a brother who has been an alcoholic and you were to order a beer or a glass of wine in their presence – you are most likely not walking in love. There is NO NEED to place a temptation or anything before your brother by which they could be made weak or tempted to fall into sin! As Paul said, “if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love”. The word grieved here means to make heavy, sad or to distress. The legalist, (like the Pharisee) will simply erect a fence -law and say, “I will not drink”. While this is fine for them if they so desire, but this same passage tells us that the one who takes this approach should not despise nor condemn the brother who does NOT take this approach. Jesus Himself didn’t even take this approach.

The point being, if you know that what you are doing is setting a cause of stumbling into sin before your brother – you are not walking in love, you are failing to be your brother’s keeper and you are therefore walking in active sin against Christ and towards your brother. THIS is something the Lord takes seriously!

From the beginning, mankind has attempted to avoid their interdependencies and their inter-responsibilties, but their avoidance does not remove from them the expectations God has placed upon them. When God came to Cain and asked him, “Where is you brother?” Cain’s reply was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen. 4:9.

It is interesting that Cain let slip out of his mouth a small morsel of his bitterness against his brother by using this phrase. For his brother was a “keeper” of the sheep, as it says in Gen. 4:2.

While the word “keeper” used in both cases is different, the general meaning is the same. It means:

to watch

to keep

to preserve

to guard

to be careful

to watch over carefully

The fact that God asked Cain this question, makes the answer to Cain’s question and obvious  – YES! You ARE to watch out for, guard and protect your brother. Cain on the other hand let his selfishness trump his familial care and murdered his brother as a result.

The parallels in this story to the passages in Rom. 14 & I Cor. 8 are astonishing, because the result of not watching out for your brother by guarding them against offenses you could perpetrate is – they may be utterly destroyed.

“Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” ~ Rom 14:15

When listening to this message keep in mind that the offense we are responsible for are those which we KNOW. God is NOT holding you responsible for actions done in ignorance. This is not an encouragement to not know your brother’s weakness, for James encourages us to confess our faults, weaknesses and shortcomings to one another. Never the less, it would equally be sin for you to constantly be wearing the weight and anxiety of offending your brother over every little thing. Some people are simply touchy and easily offended. This is NOT the meaning of “offend” in these verses. In those cases the “touchy” brother is the one who needs to walk in love by not being so touchy.

Ultimately, there is in every Christian the responsibility to rely entirely upon Christ for there support in bearing His image. Remember the encouragement Paul offers in Romans – “…To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” ~ Rom. 14:4.




Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!