Thursday, November 18, 2010

God provides a way

I have been away from this for several weeks now and I apologize for the absence. I have had quite a few contracting production jobs that I really needed in the last couple of weeks. These jobs on top of my job search has made blogging take a back seat. Rest assured I really enjoy bringing the gospel to bear on the day to day of life and will be blogging as often as I can for the sake of directing my heart and others to the great glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

The last time I blogged I promised to talk about a fourth thing to consider when it comes to Halloween. Many would call this an alternative or a substitute but I believe that God in His great grace and mercy ordained that there be a great thing for Christians to celebrate on this day. October 31st is reformation day. It is considered the beginning of the protestant break from Roman Catholicism. Every single church that exist apart from the Orthodox, Anglicans and the Roman Catholics owes its existence to the break that began on this day. It was this moment in history when Martin Luther pounded the 95 Thesis on the door of the church in Wittenberg. It was this action that began the separation that became protestantism and ultimately has birthed evangelicalism. For modern Christianity this is perhaps one of the most important days on our calendar. Why? Well we need to remember the things that caused this separation.
We need to keep before us the points that many of these reformers gave their lives to make. Because without these basic things kept before us we are prone to repeat the errors, that led to the problems, that caused a need for reformation. These are the sort of things that can help to fortify our children's hearts and faith. Reformation day is a really great time to celebrate the lives and the issues that birthed the vibrant rich Bible saturated churches that we have today. We need to remember these things lest we lose them.

I am all for remembering the birth the death and the resurrection of Jesus. But keep in mind we would not have the opportunity to know and enter into an unmediated relationship with Jesus were it not for the reformation. I am not really arguing for an alternative to halloween I am advocating that we embrace something that God in His grace ordained to happen on this very same day. I believe God gave us this so that we could be engaged in something that was God glorifying. Something that could completely crowd out the worldly pagan celebration that we call halloween. I hope that this gives you food for thought as you consider what you do in the future so that you and your families might live a more God focused life.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween before the face of God?

Every time this season rolls around I kinda cringe. The halloween season is upon us. What is a Christian to do. There are three main ways that I think Christians respond.

  1. Abandon the holiday all together
  2. Don't participate personally but use the opportunity to hand out tracts or give the gospel message to people that knock on their door
  3. Embrace it and participate
  4. (There is a fourth option that I will discuss in a later blog)
I think that any discussion about halloween needs to consider where it comes from and thus what it represents. There are a multitude of sites that claim to trace its history. Here is one as an example

The problem for the Christian is that to embrace this is to embrace a pagan holiday that is focused on evil. Now I know that some of you might say that its just clean fun. Some people play with Ouija boards and claim that it is just fun as well. I don't think most Christians have any confusion about Ouija boards. But what if the maker of Ouija boards gave you chocolate every time you played? Would we suddenly want to Christianize it. I think that the main reason most Christians get involved is that they don't want their kids to miss out on all of the fun and the candy. Yet is fun and candy a reason to get involved with something that is ostensibly a descent into things that are dark and fearful?

If Jesus stood before you and asked you to teach your children to think about things that are good and beautiful (Philippians 4:8) would you respond with halloween as an example of that? It seems like quite often the reasons that we engage in an activity are directed more out of a desire for fun than out of a serious consideration of how this impacts our life before Christ. What at first blush may seem innocuous has a seriously corrupt core. This day is centered on celebrating things that are a result of sin. Would we have any of the things that halloween celebrates if there were no sin in the world? If the answer is no then we must ask, "Should we join in such a celebration?"

Just look at the decorations that people put up if you have any questions about what the holiday is focused on. In the midst of such base things there is real opportunity. That opportunity is found in the people that come to your door. Here are kids that may need the gospel. They might want candy but a gospel tract or a simple gospel presentation might be exactly what those kids need to hear. We are called to be in the world but we are also called to not be of the world (1 John 2:15-16). This season of the year is an incredible opportunity to share the gospel and to teach our children to focus on God and all the great and glorious things that He has created.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When words speak louder than...words

A discussion with a friend reminded me of one of those things that pagans do that reveals a tacit admission that they know there is a God. This acknowledgement means that they are without excuse and are actively suppressing the truth (Romans 1:18-19).

What is this acknowledgment? It is found in the words that they say. When someone gets angry at someone or something they quite often declare that God should enter into the situation and bring damnation upon it. They will declare this at inanimate objects if they happen to produce physical pain for them i.e. dropping a box on ones foot or smashing a finger in a door. What I find remarkable about their request for God's damnation is that it will even be shortened to just His name, or just Jesus Christ name. So what? Well I have yet to hear any other name under heaven used in this way. I have never heard anyone asking Buddha or Mohammed to damn anything. Why?

Let's think about it. When someone is in a situation like this they are looking for some means of mental satisfaction. The average pagan innately hates God. They usually claim that there is no God or that they cannot know there is a God. Yet these very same people will readily call on His judgment on something in their pain and anger. I propose that calling on God in this manner gives the pagan a mental satisfaction that calling on Buddha or Mohammed cannot give.

Our pagan is angry or in pain. They want something to salve them mentally. They have usually already judged God declaring that He cannot be good and all powerful by allowing so much pain and suffering in the world. So they trot out the use of His name in a frivolous and blasphemous manner. In a sense they say if you won't take care of eliminating the pain and suffering then damn the pain and suffering. This frivolous use of God's name or Jesus name makes them feel powerful because for a moment they have verbally shaken their fist at the God that they hate. They have defied this God that they hate by breaking His law of not blaspheming His name. The mental satisfaction that they derive from this activity can only exist because there really is a God and His Son's name really is Jesus the Christ. Buddha and Mohammed simply will not satisfy because neither of them are truly God. So the next time you hear someone swear with God's name or Jesus name realize that their reference to God is damning. Their words are self satisfying because there really is a God for them to be angry with, and no matter what they declare to the contrary their use of His name shows that they know He exists. Their blasphemous words speak so loudly of God's existence that their denials of His existence are mere whispers of irrationality. So instead of getting offended by them, recognize their self condemnation evident in the very words that they use. Allow their personally damning actions to drive you to pray for them and perhaps share the gospel with them. The best example of grace they may ever see may issue from the love of a person living a God focused life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Bullying Reveals a Recognition of God

As I finished up the topic of bullying yesterday I realized that there was one thing I had not covered that could be a comfort to those who are being bullied.

This has to do with bullying that is verbal in nature. If someone is making fun of you or calling you names their intention is to make you feel bad. Think about it. If we are nothing more than animals at the end of a long process of evolution name calling should have no impact. It should not hurt if our existence is merely accidental. But it does hurt. It is an attack on our dignity. The very fact that verbal bullying hurts should remind us of why it hurts. You see verbal bullying hurts because it assaults our dignity. Our dignity exist because we were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Man often ends up acknowledging the creator in backhanded ways. Verbal bullying attacks a person with the intent of tearing them down. It matters because we are made in God's image. If the person being bullied could just realize this then they might realize also that if we are made in His image there is no better place to be then in His hands. If you are one of those being bullied today, turn to Jesus, repent of your sins against Him and seek Him as your Lord and master. The only life worth living is the life that is lived focused on the one in whose image we are made.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Real Needs Bullying Reveals

In the grocery store, on the news, almost everywhere you turn you find the topic of, "Bullying" is getting big coverage. It seems to come in waves. Usually the topic comes up when someone is killed or commits suicide because they have been bullied. It is such a big deal the U.S. Government has gotten in on addressing the issue with a web site,

Bullying is really an issue of the heart. None of the web sites I looked at was able to give real answers. Why? Because people can only impose physical restrictions on other people. The issue of bullying can arise from a variety of sources, but at the end of the day someone is becoming more popular or powerful at someone else's expense. In a society that has largely turned its back on God it is no wonder that bullying and other issues like it will be on the rise. Bullying grows when pride grows in our hearts and we think more highly of ourselves than we aught to think.

This happened very early on in the Bible when Joseph was bullied by his brothers for his dreams and his favored status. How did Joseph handle such mistreatment? He recognized that God is sovereign and He must have allowed it for a reason (Genesis 50:20). Without a relationship with a sovereign God there would have been no way for Joseph to see things through the way that he did. He embraced what God placed before Him and in the end He was used mightily by God to save many people's lives. God used His brother's bullying and evil intent to move Joseph to Egypt and put him in a position of power.

The most effective means of dealing with bullying is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. For the one being bullied they can run to Jesus and find in Him a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Often in the context of a Christian home or Christian community of believers the bullied person can find others who really care about them and will love them.

For the bully the most effective way to overcome the pride that often drives bullying is to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus as their Lord and God. The movie, "To Save a Life" deals with passive bullying. It recognizes that the only way to effectively deal with bullying is to deal with the heart. The most effective way to deal with the heart is to introduce someone to Jesus Christ. He takes out our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Anything short of this sort of transformation is simply a band-aid on something that’s broken. Become an agent of change. Get your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and reach out in love to the those who are hurting others and those who are being hurt. Introducing them to Jesus is the best and most effective means of real heart change.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bright Spot on the Horizon

I love to come across articles like the one I found on CNN's Belief blog. It is called, "Rabbi: Why evangelical Christians give millions to Israel". It is completely refreshing to hear a Rabbi state that the main reason he sees Christians reaching out to Israel is because of their genuine love for them. WOW!!! What a great testimony to the power of our Lord Jesus to change lives (1 John 3:10). Join me in thanking God for the work He is doing. Pray that it will continue until we are known by our love by everyone in the world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How do you make a marriage work?

According to an article on Yahoo today titled, "10 Ways to Make Your Marriage Divorceproof" it just takes some simple rules and reminders. What I find interesting about the article is that it reflects a desire among people in general. They want to have a successful meaningful committed relationship with someone. People want this because down deep inside there is something telling us that there really is something to be found in a relationship like that.

I think that this longing reflects God's command to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:24). There is a desire within all of us to become one flesh with another. I believe it is this longing that inspires movie themes where people share a body or live out their lives in another body (think Avatar). This longing is deep seated in us and yet we are fallen, prideful and selfish. This trifecta of sins brings disarray to almost any relationship and especially marriage. And while the rules and reminders may strike a cord with you and be cute in their own way marriage problems are not this simple. Tony Robbins for all of his work in performing well in multiple levels of multiple relationships in life failed in the most intimate of relationships himself. Now I am no big Tony Robbins fan but the point is that here is someone the secular world considers to be a pinnacle performance guy. He could utilize all of the research He wanted and as long as he relies on the wisdom of men he is bound ultimately to fail.

How do you make a marriage work? All marriages need the Lord Jesus if they want real success. It is only in Him and His grace that we are given the tools of real success. On our own we are bound to fail. We will fail each other. We will bring disappointment. We will cause hurt. But when we realize the great grace that is ours in Jesus it gives us a framework for extending that grace to another. We can begin to live our marriages not just for personal fulfillment but for cosmic fulfillment in bringing glory to God. Moving our eyes from our spouse to our God and seeking to live out the role He has called us to, will make for a better marriage for anyone (Ephesians 5:31-33). Do you really want your marriage to work then the place to start is sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning of Him. He will show you grace and give you love that will lay a foundation for doing the same with your spouse.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Necessary Church Body Actions Show Pastors are Depending on the Wrong Things

An article on today caught my attention. It is titled, "Churches, other groups do more background checks". They are doing these checks with good reason. A number of pastors and church workers have a criminal history. This becomes especially egregious when the history includes sex abuse. A situation involving sexual indiscretions arose recently in a local denomination. This is the third scandal like this that has arisen in the last ten years. I find this situation to be a sad reflection on where the hearts of church leaders are. I wish that I could give congregations a clear signal that would help them to determine if the man they are evaluating has a heart set upon God. There are however some things that I think congregations can look at that could help them to have a better idea about the heart of the man God has placed before them.
  • Try to determine without asking outright if the person being considered would do the work of ministry whether they are paid or not. In other words is this a calling on their life that they cannot escape.
  • Look at the persons conversations. Are they naturally drawn to talk about their Lord Jesus. Is there a natural ease to their conversations about God.
  • Do these conversations come from their heart or their head? Are they heartfelt or are they cerebral?
  • Do you see evidence of discipleship reflected in his family? Is he leading his family toward God.
There are also some things that churches depend on that could give them a false sense of security. I would recommend John Pipers book, "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry". It will help churches to look for men who are living in dependence on God. But since pastors have often stopped depending on God then it is no surprise when the churches stop as well. When the church has moved from depending on prayer and the direction of the Holy Spirit to depending on professional pastoral placement agencies there is something wrong. Pastors are under shepherds. They are tasked with helping to point the people to God. To help them to grow in relationship with Jesus. Seminary training can only go so far in helping a man to accomplish this. Pastoral placement agencies can only look to external evidences. Ultimately it is a pastor's heart and their dependence or lack thereof upon the God that will make or break them (Psalm 127:1). Churches need to look for men who cannot do what they do without God (Psalm 20:7). Men that need him desperately. Men that don't trust in the flesh.

This is the single biggest reason that background checks are necessary. Pastors are not living in dependence upon God. They trust too much in their own ability. The flesh is weak and unfit for the task. We desperately need the Lord's help. If the church is to regain her vitality and strength (which can only come from God) then her under shepherds need to be needy. If we cannot show people that we need the Lord then how can the people ever learn how important it is to need Him. In a success oriented society like ours, the servant leader must learn that true success is when Christ increases and we decrease. If this were the focus of the hearts of pastors then background checks would become unnecessary because He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Cohabitation Conundrum

Marriage is declining and cohabitation is on the rise. How has this come to be? A God focused perspective can point to only one thing. "There is no fear of God before their eyes."(Romans 3:18) It was God who created marriage. It was God who made it between one man and one woman for one's lifetime. It was God who in His law said we should not commit adultery. It was God who created this marriage union to symbolize His Son's relationship to His bride (the redeemed) (Ephesians 5:31-32). As the world drifts from believing in the God of the Bible they drift from what He has said and why its important. This does not mean that we just give up and go against God. What this means is that we must be more burdened for the lost people of this world than ever before. They glibly store up God's wrath against themselves with reckless abandon. They encourage one another in public by publishing articles like the one that sparked this blog (Going Cohab? 8 survival tips for staying together). Jonathan Edwards said once in a sermon, "When someone has suffered in the fires of God's wrath in hell for 10,000 years they will not be one day closer to the end than the day that they entered." This is a terrible fate. People are choosing it without a thought by simply following their hearts, which are in natural rebellion against God. Be heart broken for them. Pray for them. Seek to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep the fires of compassion for them alive by living with your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Never forget that Jesus can save them because we know He has saved us from the same fate.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Holiness and Happiness

An article appeared on today. It is called, "Don't Worry: Happiness Levels Not Set in Stone". The main point of the article is that happiness is not genetically prewired. Happiness can change for all of us throughout our lives. They point to things that really happy people have in common. One of those things is going to church. I find this interesting for a very good reason. In my interactions with people who call themselves Christians I have often heard a comment about happiness. It usually comes from someone facing a challenge in their lives. It goes something like this, "God wants me to be happy doesn't He?"

What always strikes me as interesting about these comments is that they usually come from people going through situations where they are being pushed by the circumstances to lean more on God. God will place us in situations that strip away the earthly things that we depend upon. He does this to bring us into a greater dependence on Him and to help us to know Him better. Job went through this very thing. God led Job to a place where he looked back on what he went through and declares that he has seen things too wonderful for him (Job 42:3). What Job went through stripped him of everything that he had to enjoy and depend on except for God. Yet Job appears to count it as all worth it because He has come to know God better. James says a similar thing in James 1:2-4,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
It appears that James point is that God wants us to be holy or set apart to Himself more than He want us to be happy. But here is the great irony for those who come to embrace knowing God. In coming to know and depend upon God we will find that there is greater peace and joy in knowing God than in not knowing Him. You see when we are depending on Him we know that the things our heavenly Father takes us through are for our benefit. When we realize that even the challenges are there to help to shape us we can rejoice in them (Philippians 4:4). Does God want us to be happy? No God wants us to be Holy, but in the midst of embracing the holiness that He is producing in us we will find true and lasting happiness and joy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Is it really the recessions fault?

An AP article posted on Yahoo news blames the recession for a marked decline in marriages. The article, "Recession rips at US marriages, expands income gap" imagines a link between the recession and lack of marital commitment. This is a false equivalency. During this same recessionary period people are spending money on things that they want. They make iPads one of the best product intro's ever for Apple. They make the iPhone 4 its fastest selling phone ever. They are continuing to go to movies (we are just finishing September and total box office for this year is approaching last years total ticket numbers). Wine sales are up this year over last. All of this to say that as a people we are doing what we want to do.

The primary reason that people are not getting married is because they do not want to. In our society we seem to realize that this might not be a good thing over all. Certainly it can't be our fault. Let's blame it on the recession. The fact that we don't want to make the commitment of marriage can't be the reason.

The real problem is that people no longer seem to have an aversion to adultery. The atheistic philosophies of our schools and universities have successfully eradicated any sense of moral commitment to marriage. This aversion to marriage is paraded across our TV and movie screens as well. The entire society is beating a drumbeat of me, me, me, me. When our focus is what is in it for me a commitment to someone else fails the "me" test. With no morally compelling reason to commit it is no wonder that marriage is in decline. This should be alarming to us because it signals a real failure of the christian community to be salt and light in our society (Matthew 5:13-16). When you look at the Matthew passage salt and light is not something that we become. Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In other words without us the world has no salt to bring flavor to life and without us the world has no light to truly see by. God has called us to Himself and placed us where He has placed us for a reason. We must see this and embrace the reality that is before us. Do you know someone who claims to be a Christian that is living with someone else or considering doing so? This might be one of the most difficult things you have ever done, but you should reach out to them in love. Don't condemn but point them to Christ. Help them to realize their need of repentance. Help them to see that to actively engage in pursuing sinful actions against God is to hold the cross of Christ in contempt. Be broken for them because this is where the hardest of hearts come from. Make sure that they know they are loved and that their heart and life should be focused on the Lord Jesus. Do we want to see our society regain its moral bearings? It must begin with individuals caring enough about others to help them catch a vision for pursuing Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Atheist just don't get it

Dave Silverman the president of American Atheist, inc. posted an article on called, "It's No Surprise That Atheists Know More About Religion Than Most Americans." In his article he points to the article that I blogged about yesterday. The study from the Pew forum that showed atheist knew more about religion in general then the people who are actually part of the different religions in America. What is surprising to me is the same old rhetoric that gets trotted out by these guys. Silverman says:
The simple truth is this; the more someone knows about religion, the more likely they will reject it as mythology.
He then goes on to point out books like Leviticus, Job or Revelation as examples of books that are filled with barbaric rules, ruthless torture, and threats from a petty and bloodthirsty God.

Atheist like Silverman have just enough exposure to religion and faith to inoculate them from the truth behind it.

  • Leviticus is where God gives to His people the guidelines for the sacrificial system. That system points the Israelites and those who joined them to the ultimate sacrifice that was completed in Jesus Christ. The people of Israel made these sacrifices for sins on a regular basis because the sacrifices of men were not sufficient to cover their sins. They looked forward in faith to the sufficient sacrifice that is found through faith in Christ. We are the ones that sinned and rebelled against God. That rebellion deserved death. The book of Leviticus shows us a God who is pointing His people to have faith in a reconciliation that is coming in Christ Jesus.
  • Job is one of my favorite books because of what we see Job declaring in the end (Job 42:2-6). After all that he went through (and it was a lot) Job points out essentially that it was all worth it. Why? Because he has seen things too wonderful for him. Things that he did not understand. He had heard of God before but now His eye had seen Him. You see everything that he went through in his mind paled in comparison to the greatness of what he learned about God. Is this a God bent on torture? or a God bent on doing whatever it takes to bring His people into a greater relationship with Himself. I think Job would join me in declaring the later.
  • Revelation is God declaring that His Son will return and put down the rebellious fallen kingdom. He declares that He will establish a kingdom of peace and joy for His people. I guess Silverman and the other atheist would not like this book because they stand squarely on the rebellious losing side.
You see the truth of the matter is that the more one knows about the God of the Bible the more one sees God's grace being poured out in abundance. I would argue with Silverman against the other religions. Why? Because none of them is filled with the grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ. The problem in the pulpits today is very real but its not an attempt to keep people in the dark. It is more an attempt to address people's felt needs. As long as we continue to support ministers that teach in a man centered way then we will continue on this spiritual decline. I would encourage you to read your Bible. If you need some help getting focused get my book, "The God Focused Life." It is geared at helping you identify and sweep away cultural barriers to loving and pursuing a passionate relationship with God.

Silverman is missing the one important part that He needs (John 14:16-17). Silverman needs a real relationship with God brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Pray for Dave Silverman (John 10:25-29). He may be an atheist but if God has set His love on Him he won't be one for long (John 6:37).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What we don't know might kill us

There is an AP article posted on Yahoo news today that caught my eye. It's titled, "Survey: Americans don't know much about religion." There is a video on CNN covering the some article here. It is interesting to note that overall atheist and agnostics have the greatest general knowledge about religions. In the video the the CNN anchor asked if we are taking faith on faith. It is a good question when Christians score lower than atheist.

The greatest problem that this article implies but does not analyze is that Biblical illiteracy cannot be good for a persons relationship with God. Christianity has been so co-opted by our culture, that church services have become very oriented around the perceived needs of the people in the audience. We cater to addressing "how" questions rather than "why" questions.
  • How can I be a better neighbor?
  • How can I have a better marriage?
  • How can I be a better parent?
  • How can I apply God's word to my life?
What is wrong with this is that these questions and others like them may make us feel like we are making headway. In reality they are focusing on us and the world around us. These questions are similar to the questions being addressed by secular psychologist every day (except the God's word question). When I come to meet with other believers my goal should be to worship God, and I am not just talking about singing here. Worship is an outward focus on God with the goal of glorifying Him and knowing Him better. It would be healthier for the church body if we were intent on seeking out answers to the why questions.
  • Why has God made me a neighbor and given me neighbors? 
  • Why did God create marriage?
  • Why did God create children and by extension parents?
  • Why did God give us this explicit verbal revelation of Himself that we call the Bible?
  • Was it simply to help me live a better life or was there something higher and greater?
In a general sense we could answer most of these questions with a simple phrase, "For the sake of His glory". But the impact of a why question is far reaching because it leads us to more questions. These additional questions have a real Kingdom of God focus.
  • If God made me a neighbor and gave me neighbors for the sake of His glory. Then how is He being glorified by me in the neighborhood?
  • If God created marriage for the sake of His glory. Then how am I doing at bringing glory to Him in my marriage?
  • If children and parenting was God's idea. Then how am I doing at bringing glory to God through my parenting and in the lives of the children that He has given to us?
  • If the Bible is God's explicit revelation of Himself for the sake of His glory. Then how am I doing at seeking knowing Him in the midst of reading it?
  • Ultimately am I going to a church meeting for me or so that I might know God better and glorify Him more?
Biblical illiteracy has its roots in bankrupt teaching and preaching (Proverbs 29:18). It also exist because we have stopped reading our Bibles and seeking to really know God. You can't come to really know God if you do not know His Word. The Bible is God's self revelation without it we are lost. Without it, relationship with God degenerates into religious ritual that holds less and less meaning for each generation that follows. Without it faith will ultimately die. Just look at Europe as an example. What we don't know will ultimately kill our faith and our relationship with God.

If there is no really good preaching and teaching in your area then open your Bible and begin to seek to know God in it. Perhaps you can be an agent of change in your church by encouraging your pastor to really preach and teach a God centered Jesus focused message. This will change the Biblical illiteracy factor. This is what our souls need more than anything else (Psalm 34:8).

Monday, September 27, 2010

When it comes to the next generation...

We could use a little less talk and a lot more action.

There seems to be a lot of talk about how to reach the next generation. There are a lot of different ideas out there. Many are good steps in the right direction. But in the middle of it all there is one thing that keeps getting tagged on almost as an afterthought. That these kids don't have a real commitment to their faith. Perhaps the faith is more the faith of their parents.

In case you have not noticed a lot of kids are growing up, leaving the church and never returning. We can lay the blame for this result at lots of feet with lots of different reasons. But at the end of the day lets face it, they are mostly lost kids who never really came to know Jesus. What the next generation needs is for this generation to get serious about living out their faith. If our kids never see us approaching our faith like it is a desperate life or death struggle for our very souls then they are never going to see this as something worth living for much less dying for...if it should come to that.

Fundamentally we need to have a passionate pursuit of God as a characteristic of our lives (John 4:23-24). If our kids don't see us living life bent on pursuing God how can we ever expect them to do that? So join me in pursuing living a God focused life for the next generation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not seeing the big point because of all the little points

There is a great article by Steven Crowder on about, "Why NOT Having Sex Might be Good for You". I really like the article. He makes some great points. But (and for me this is a really big but) he misses the main reason why not having sex before marriage is good for you. Are you ready...its because that is the way that God designed it to work. God is not a cosmic killjoy (as many believe). After all He is the one who created sex in the first place. It was His idea. It was such an awesome thing that He designed the best way for it to be used so that it would be beneficial in multiple ways to both men and women. When we deviate from God's plan we are saying that we know better than the creator of these things what it is for and how to use it. Newsflash...the designer of something knows more about it than most users. In this case God gave us guidelines for the best use of sex and that best and proper use of sex within the sanctity of marriage should cause us to truly marvel at the greatness of our Lord Jesus the creator of all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). A proper perspective on all of God's creation will continually drive us to live a more God focused life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guarding Against the State god of Evangelism

I want to clarify up front that I do believe that street preaching done right with a real gospel message can be effective. However, we have a group of people that show up in our town to street preach that are marked by their condemnation. They seek to condemn almost anyone that walks past them and I have yet to hear them speak of the marvelous grace that is ours in Jesus. There is something these street preachers do that is a form of idolatry. They use video cameras for legal protection, and they make sure to mention that they are free to preach, because of the the free speech protections provided by the constitution.

Lets think about this for a moment in the light of scripture. Paul was a roman citizen (Acts 16:37, 22:25). By law he had the right to not be arrested and beaten. He may have had protected freedom of speech. We never see Paul exercise his Roman rights when he is out preaching to the masses. Paul only brings up his rights when he is in close contact with his Roman guards. Why? Well it seems pretty clear that the gospel does not need the protection of man. We should not depend upon the state to be our guardian before the world. The gospel and the gospel alone should be presented. To present the gospel along with a message that we bow the knee to the state in order to preach the gospel is confusing. What marks effective street evangelism?

First the world needs to know that the thing that drives us is care and concern for their eternal destiny. This love for them is driven by the unmerited love we have received from God (1 John 4:10).

Second they need to understand that there is a sin problem that separates them from God and eternal life (Romans 3:23, 6:23).

Third they need to know that grace is available to all of those who will repent of their sin and accept Jesus as Lord and God (2 Corinthians 12:9).

This is the core of the gospel. It starts in the love we have received from God and ends in the love that can be received by any repentant sinner. To add anything man made like freedoms or rights to this gospel message just confuses it, muddies it and weighs it down. So keep your eyes focused on the King of our future Kingdom when you step out into the kingdoms of this world. If we are aliens and strangers with God focused minds and hearts then we will return bearing God focused sheaves with us (Ephesians 2:17-19, Hebrews 11:13-16).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where are you?

Tonight we read through a passage with our kids where Adam and Eve sinned and God came calling to them. I love the part where God comes calling (Genesis 3:8-9). Adam and Eve attempt to hide but of course no one can hide from God (Psalm 139:7). God knows all things (John 16:30). He knew they had sinned and eaten of the tree. He knew where they were. God shows us a remarkable and important aspect of Himself. He could have come in judgment only and squashed the beginnings of the rebellion. No! God comes calling not accusing. Where are you? What kind of a question is that? It is a question loaded with acceptance where Adam probably expected condemnation. Our all knowing all powerful God came to Adam and Eve in their rebellion and extended the call. Where are you? Implied in a call like this is an expected response. Over here hiding because I'm ashamed of what I have become. God knew what Adam had become but He came calling anyway. He came calling because that is what God does to those that He has set His love upon. He comes calling. How do we respond. Like Adam -- accusing God of giving him a wife that led him astray. Or more like Peter -- going to God walking on water when Jesus calls him. Instead of making accusations he calls out Lord save me (Matthew 14:28-30). What do we do when God comes calling? Strive to live a God focused life because God is always there calling us to step forward and meet Him.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Hitch in the day

Today is Monday and it is the official pray for Christopher Hitchens day. I would encourage anyone to pray for Christopher Hitchens. I personally hope that the Lord convicts him of his sin and changes his heart on his deathbed just before he dies.

I don't want other Christians to know if Christopher Hitchens came to Christ in the end. Why? Because too many of us cannot be trusted with that information. There would be smear campaigns geared at discrediting his books and his atheistic thinking. Far too much time would be spent on discussions of Mr. Hitchens deathbed conversion. No instead we should be taking the time that we would spend on something like that and spend it on sharing the gospel with other atheist and unbelievers that need to know Jesus.

The other reason I don't want us to know if he ultimately comes to know Jesus is that his logic is already faulty. In an article on today's prayer vigil for Christopher called, "Atheist Christopher Hitchens to Skip Prayer Day in His Honor" there are several quotes that point to the reality of what is missing from his base arguments. The article says:

As for his work, Hitchens says he would be happy to be recalled simply as one of those "who are attempting to uphold reason and science against superstition."
Where his logic breaks down is that I too would like to uphold reason as well as logic against superstition. You see we both look at each others belief as superstition. He would denigrate my belief in God. I would point to his belief in evolution and faith in the infallibility of science and say that that belief is faulty.

As late as the 16th and 17th century spontaneous generation of living things from non living things was believed by all scientist of any merit. One scientist even published directions for creating mice from dirty underwear and wheat in 21 days. This idea of spontaneous generation of life from non living matter had been in existence from the time of Aristotle. Oh yea I almost forgot Evolutionist still believe this one. I guess I need to find another superstition that they no longer hold to.

While this might bring a chuckle from some and groans from others the point is that this is what Hitchens and others like him do. They set Christians up to look superstitious or like nut cases and then they lampoon them in the name of science. What I am wanting you all to see here is that they think that they are doing the world a service. The reality is that they are living out what Paul said in Romans 1. They suppress the truth and become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are darkened (Romans 1:18, 21). We must have grace toward them just like God had toward us when we were like them.

Right now Christopher Hitchens is moving very rapidly into an eternity of bearing the wrath of God. This is something that I do not wish on anyone. Even if you missed praying for Hitchens on the official prayer day, pray for him now. We have an irresistible almighty God who can overcome and save even the hardest of hearts. Keep your eyes on Jesus and trust Him because He can save Christopher from the wrath to come.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moral code is like bedrock

Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate have published an article on called, "Our moral code is out of date". This is one of the first times that I have seen someone propose a basis of morality that is not ultimately rooted in the Bible and Christianity.

The article begins by pointing out that modern science has changed our world. Interestingly the authors point to 4 scientist as some of the great minds that ushered in our modern world. Apparently our authors do not know their history. They applaud Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and Charles Darwin. Sir Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur were both committed Christians. It could be rightly argued that Charles Darwin's hypothesis of evolution has yet to be formally proven and was the engine upon which the genocides of Hitler were built. It could be argued that modern science would not exist if it were not for Christians who were influenced to explore their world so that they might discover more about it and thus know their God better. A great list of these Christians in science can be found on the, "Christian influences in Science" page.

The second thing they point out in the article is that the "rights of men" was the next great development. They point to the industrialist and all the commercial advancements that they have made that have revolutionized our lives. Arguably none of us would want to live without cars, refrigeration, air conditioning, etc..

Then the authors make an irrational leap. They say:
"But as far as we've come because of these two ideas, human progress demands implementation of a third idea to complete the scientific and political revolutions. We're still beholden to the past in ethics."
They argue that we turn to the Bible, the Quran or secular copies of these as authorities on morality. I would argue that we turn to the Bible predominantly. They argue that seeing the Bible as a moral authority distorts our conception of moral ideals. They go on to argue that instead of seeing Jesus Christ or Mother Teresa as moral heros we should extol the virtues of Galileo, Darwin, Thomas Edison or John D. Rockefeller. They declare that we should strive to be like these guys not the Mother Teresa's of the world.

Why is this an irrational leap? First science is always changing based on discoveries. Second the rights of men which are in flux based on whose political philosophy is controlling the country or region where one lives. But science and the rights of men does not imply by extension that moralities basis needs to change. It is an irrational inference because the one does not imply the other. Quite the opposite. I would argue that the morality falls in the category of transcendent universals that are at their core the same around the world. Other transcendent universals are logic and mathematics. Rather than being in flux they are more of a reference point we use to establish a basis for argument, commerce and from morality comes law.

To get back to what they say. We see them point out that the world applauds Bill Gates and Warren Buffet when they give their money away but that they should be applauding them for making it to begin with. Continuing they say that, "...morality should be about the pursuit of our own success and happiness". They then follow that, " money away to strangers is, in comparison not a morally significant act." These writers see the pursuit of our own happiness as the highest ethical goal. The problem with this should be speak for itself.

The reason that the world applauds Bill Gates and Warren Buffet when they give their money away is that it resonates with the moral code of God that is written on the hearts of men. It is completely irrational to suppose that we can construct a new moral code and dispense with the Bible. The government can make laws against adultery but they cannot keep a person from lusting. They can make you swear to tell the truth but they cannot keep you from lying. All governments and societies can do is enforce external actions. The only way to truly deal with the corruption in a man's heart is to introduce them to Jesus. In doing this we turn to what is essentially as solid and unmovable as bedrock, the moral law of God.

The irony here is that they see the pursuit of our own happiness as the highest goal. Generally the happiest people I have ever met in my life have been those who have come to know and worship Jesus Christ as their Lord. The rejoinders in the Bible that speak to the joy we can have in Jesus are throughout  God's word. David finds God's law as sweeter than honey and more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10). Paul charges the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 3:1, 4:4).

These guys have not borrowed from the Christian faith in order to make their moral claims. They have instead postulated the antithesis of the servanthood held up in scripture, that we should pursue our own benefit in everything. I can't begin to imagine a world where everyones highest value is their own advancement. This ends up being close to if it feels good do it. That would ultimately be a cut-throat and evil environment to live in. No, I will continue to pursue living a God focused life. It brings true joy to my heart. It seeks to care for the fatherless and the widows. It seeks to be a servant to those it encounters. This creates an environment where peace prospers and God is glorified.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sad reminders of the worlds need for Jesus Christ

There was an article online about a child prostitution ring that was being sentenced yesterday in England. What was interesting is that while all of their names seemed to be Islamic there was no mention of their nationality in most of the articles. I finally tracked down an article titled, "Iranian Traffickers Sold Underage ‘Virgin’ Prostitutes to Rich Arabs Visiting UK". Apparently the perpetrators were all from Iran. The article went on to say:

The facts and evidence are incontrovertible – although we will inevitably be subjected to the tired, misdirected accusations of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ for reporting them – Islam places a special focus and value on sex with children.
From the ‘Bacha Bazi’ boys of Afghanistan to the underage brides of Pakistan, Nigeria and Malyasia and elsewhere. From the sexual grooming of non-Muslim underage girls in Northern England, to the the ‘virginity repair’ and FGM surgery industry that is seemingly being allowed to take root even in developed countries; case after case has emerged of the wholesale abuse of non-Muslim and Muslim children by Muslim men and their apparent obsession with sex with virgins.
Not all Muslim men indulge in this disgusting practice, of course, but there can be no denying – even from the most fervent leftist Useful Idiots – that these practices are intrinsic to and supported by the religious scriptures and jurisprudence of Islam.
Even worse, they are effectively facilitated and enabled by the blind eyes turned by the ‘laissez-faire’ multiculturalist movement and liberal western politicians, with keen eyes on the Muslim vote and their addiction to Saudi petrodollars – particularly galling considering their tendency to proclaim the rights of children at every given opportunity.
It’s time for some very long sentences indeed and/or some swift deportations. It’s time to stop the dilution of Western values and the importation of criminals.
The article is incredibly sad because the harm that is done to young girls and boys by perverse men. What is the answer? Jesus Christ. Without Him all we can do is pass laws that change actions. But for men to stop engaging in perverse acts they need changed hearts. The only way that their hearts will be really changed is by Jesus Christ. It should be patently clear that Islam has not changed the hearts of men. It is Christ alone that brings true transformation. So what should we do? A member of our church said to me the other day that she has only shared her faith with probably 20 people this summer so how can that make a difference. It makes a difference for the 20 who heard and just think what a difference could be made in the hearts of people across our nation if every Christian could say that they have effectively shared their faith with 20 people in the last 3 or 4 months. What kind of change would that bring? The kind of change that will only happen when we begin to live a God focused life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting priorities straight

I read an article on by Phyllis Chesler called, "Where's the Outrage?". In the article she highlights how the muslim community gets up in arms over a proposed burning of the Koran. She then contrast this with the Muslim world's complete silence when it comes to the treatment of women. She talks about a woman who is scheduled for stoning and has been imprisoned in Iran for adultery since 2006. According to Phyllis the accusation of adultery can mean,
"...anything from she was raped or dared report it, or that she dared to leave a husband against his will."
The Christian community is often classified as pro-life and when we study scripture we see that God is against those who harm the fatherless and the widow (Isaiah 10:1-3). This is essentially a pro-life position. When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, He confounded the Pharisees accusation and granted her grace (John 8:3-11). Once again the position is pro-life. The main thing that stands out to me here is that our news media has been almost completely silent about this woman in comparison to the uproar over the proposed Koran burning. What is ultimately more important: The life of the woman or the Koran? For the Christian would you have felt differently about the proposed Koran burning if it was being done to push Iran to release the woman accused of adultery? I would venture to guess that the vast majority of Christians are more plugged in and concerned about the politics of what is happening this November then the woman in Iran. Yet if we look at this from the perspective of what a God focused life demands we should value, I think it changes what is important. When potentially injustice against children and women are before us what are we willing to do?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The glorious reminders of aches and pains

An amazing thing happens when you reach forty. Your body begins to lose some of its ability to bounce back. What this means is that pulled muscles seem to happen easier and last longer. Yesterday afternoon I was kicking a soccer ball with my boys and well today I am still pondering that soccer ball as a muscle in my hip protest with every step I take. There are a couple of things this can do for me. It can drive me to distraction or it can remind me of my mortality. As I ponder my mortality I am inevitably drawn to think about my Lord Jesus and the home that He is preparing for me (John 14:2-3). In that home He will wipe away all pain (Revelation 21:4). My heart looks forward with greater longing to the day when I will see Him, all because of some little aches and pains. On reflection I can truly thank God for blessing me with these aches and pains. May God bless you with a focus on Him that allows you too to rejoice in ALL the gifts that He gives us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Confronting our brother

This is probably one of the most-ignored tenets of Scripture because obeying it forces us out of our comfort zone. As Americans, we naturally gravitate toward the easy path whether it’s diet gimmicks which promise weight loss without exercise and healthy eating, get-rich-quick schemes or sexual “freedom” without acknowledging the consequences.

While the mandate to confront a brother seems pretty clear, I have managed to come up with all kinds of creative excuses not to obey this command. Usually the thought process goes something like this: well, I’m not really sure he did such-and-such, or, it’s really too vague to know if what he did was specifically unscriptural, or, it’s just going to turn him off if I confront him—all convenient excuses which ignore God’s intent. The reason for this disobedience stems from same reason as any other sin: we decide that we’re the ultimate arbiters of truth and redefine God’s law to fit our desires.

I recently had to confront a Christian brother. In my case, this person owed my wife money for a business service she provided, and he failed to pay after numerous reminders. I was aware of what Matthew 18 says about confronting a brother and brought another person with me as I he had not responded after my one-on-one confrontation. When I decided to review the Matthew 18 passage prior to the meeting, I noticed something I had not considered before. The second part of Matthew 18:15 states, “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” While I wanted justice, God wanted me to gain a brother.

A selfish outlook on life looks out for our own interests, but a God focused life, like Elijah, is jealous for God’s glory and therefore doesn’t focus on our individual reputation or comfort level. If our deepest desire is God’s glory, then we will not only be willing to confront our brother, but we’ll do it for the right reason.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The power of God focused words

Yesterday I called a ministry that we have supported for many years. Unfortunately we had to stop our monthly support at the beginning of this year due to my being laid off. I called them because I know that they have regular prayer meetings and I wanted to let them know that we are still looking for work. I really take God seriously when He calls us to pray, and so I look for partners who will pray with us just as I partner to pray for others.

If we are not on your prayer list please add us and keep us before the throne of grace. The leader of this ministry spent some time on the phone with me and then he prayed with me. During his prayer he talked to God about how David in the Psalms says, "I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread" (Psalm 37:25). Wow! What an incredible promise from God through David. These simple words were such an encouragement. Why? Because they put my mind and heart and hope where it needs to be, on my Lord. If you are going through a tough time. Remember there is no better place to be than resting in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The religion of the non-religious

There is an article on today that is well worth reading. It is by a columnist named Steven Crowder and it is titled, "Think Religious Extremists Are Scary -- How About Secular Extremists?" In the article Crowder talks about the marks of religious extremism. He then compares those marks of extremism with the Discovery channel hostage situation created by James Lee and his commitment to save the planet. You see Lee was really a religious extremist too. His religion was the planet earth. He sacrificed his life to make a statement about the earth. The problem is not really extremism itself. The problem is the focus of our extremism. Crowder rightly points out that people try and fill the void in their lives with something.

Paul talked about this in his letter to the Romans. He said that, "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When that component of our lives was removed at Adams fall it took a huge part of mans reason for living away. Since we are now rebels against God we will embrace anything other than God in order to try to fill that part of us that was made for glory. Anytime anyone's focus of their faith (no matter what that faith is in) is horizontal in nature (i.e. focused on the people and world around us) there is a tendency toward abuses. The only time that extremism is good is when it is focused on the God of the Bible. Why? Because that God focused life is one that is shaped by the love and grace of God. I don't think anyone will ever object to an extreme pouring out of love and grace. The secular and the sacred worshipper can't give a grace they have never experienced. May God grant you the grace to pursue Him in the extreme so that you too might be an agent of His love and grace.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are we burning the Koran or the Cross?

The news media has been heating up over a proposed Koran burning. It is planned to be held on 9/11 at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fl. In a article published on August 19th Pastor Terry Jones talked about the threats they have received and the reasons that they continue to move forward with the event. He cites things "like 9/11, Fort Hood, and the honor killings" as a reason for them to continue with their plans. The following is a quote from the article:
"We have thought about it, about the danger in holding the controversial event, and we realize that whenever we made this step, that this kind of thing could happen," he said. "But we feel it's that important, and the times call for some kind of radical measure in standing up."
New York Mayor Bloomberg made a statement today defending the right of the church to hold the burning. His reasoning is based on the first amendment right to freedom of speech. He compares this to the freedom of the Muslim community to build a mosque near ground zero. He said:
If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them.
While on the one hand I agree with the freedom of speech position, I must look at this from the perspective of how someone leading a God focused life should look at this. To begin with Pastor Terry's position strikes me as being clearly focused on making a stand. But a stand for what? The kingdom of God or the kingdoms of this world. Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). That if His kingdom was of this world His servants would fight for Him. Should we fight for anything? You could make the case that we should be the defender of the defenseless and the helper of the helpless. But is the church called to be the defender of freedom of speech or personal rights? This seems to be the God given responsibility of the state, not the church (Rom. 13:1-4).

We should ask ourselves this question:

  • Will this action cause Muslims to be more open to the gospel?
If it does not advance the kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of other people is it really an activity we should pursue or support? I think not. In reality Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for your persecutors (Matt. 5:43-44). How is Dove World Outreach Center doing this? Looking at another interview posted on Pastor Jones seems intent on pointing out the wrongs that he would like to see righted. While I think we all would like to see Muslim women treated better, it seems a far cry from the calling of the church, to demand Christian actions from Non-Christians. Jesus told his followers to deny themselves take up their cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). Jesus essentially told us to forget about our personal rights.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:35-36
Is the existence of the Koran a real threat to the gospel? NO! The very gates of hell cannot prevail against the rock of the church (Matt. 16:18). What will make the biggest difference in the life of muslims around the world is grace filled God focused lives. When Muslims see Christians really embracing and living the love of God and demonstrating God's grace toward them then we will see hearts change. When we burn Koran's are we really burning our Christian witness to the grace we have received? Are we laying down the cross in that fire and picking up our rights instead? If we would see Muslim women treated better it must begin with changed hearts and that begins with a gospel presentation, given by a grace filled vessel.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Presumed Guilty

That very phrase rubs us the wrong way—especially since our legal system assumes that a person is “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” That assumption is appropriate in man’s court of law. No doubt most people you meet on the street wouldn’t happy with the assumption of guilt. After all, isn’t it wrong to “judge” another person? I would have to agree, and I take my cue from the apostle Paul who stated, “. . . it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” (I Corinthians 4:3) So there you have it: judging another human being is wrong. In fact, God is a God of love and sent Jesus to express His love to us. The most famous verse in all of the Bible confirms God’s love for the world and is followed by a verse with Jesus telling Nicodemus that he didn’t come to condemn the world. What a comforting thought. It just confirms how wrong so many Christians are for being so judgmental and almost makes me want to go watch a Joel Osteen sermon to be reminded again that I really am a special person and was created to live a victorious life.

But alas, there’s bad news in all of this—really bad. Jesus continued talking. The bad news surfaces when He explains why He didn’t come to condemn the world. It’s because—ready for this?—we’re already condemned. Uh oh. Now I’m offended. You see, I have the same problem every other human being has. I like making my own rules (e.g., I want to be my own god) and therefore, I’m not going to allow anyone else to “condemn” or “judge” me. After all, aren’t I a good person by nature? The last thing I need is to be sent on a guilt trip.

Herein lies the problem. Despite our determination to play by our own rules, we all have different rules. Don Richardson explains in his book, Peace Child, that the cannibalistic Sawi people of Irian Jaya esteemed deception to be virtuous. It goes without saying that our western economy wouldn’t work real well under that kind of system. Like it or not, someone has to be the final authority and make the rules, and according to God’s rules, we’re condemned if we don’t believe in the name of the only Son of God.

This notion of condemnation (or, as Charles Spurgeon explained, damnation is a more accurate term) doesn’t jive with the popular view of God as a loving God. Or does it? When you read the Bible, you come to find out just how great God’s love is for us, and the price He chose to pay to remove our condemnation was the condemnation of His own Son. Chris Tomlin correctly wrote,

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted; you were condemned

As it turns out, the bad news that I’m condemned turns out to be good news if I believe in the Son of God, because God not only placed my condemnation on Him; He gives me His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

So, the next time someone tells you not to judge, simply agree with them. After all, they’re already condemned and don’t need you to pile it on. Just make sure to follow it up with the good news that they can stand justified from all condemnation if they play by the right rules.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Man can't even understand himself

Sometimes I file articles away and stew on them for a while. In the middle of July CNN posted an article titled, "How can a smart species be so dumb?". Richard Galant reflects on a couple of questions asked by Laurie Santos in Oxford, England.
Was last year's financial crisis a chance event? Or was it the product of 35 million years of evolution?
These questions are posed in an either or type of presentation. Yet the answer to both of these questions from the perspective of a Christian would be decidedly different from the author of the article. First of all, "Was last year's financial crisis a chance event?" No, it was brought about by God for the sake of His glory.

Was it the product of 35 million years of evolution? No, it was part of God's plan and we have yet to see how it will play out entirely. You see man makes bad decisions because man has a fallen nature. He is prone to do evil (Genesis 6:5). Secondly there is no 35 million years of evolution Genesis 1:1 clearly tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. We serve a God who has the entire world in His hands. He has made plans that will bring about the establishment of His kingdom and the glorification of Jesus. Because these plans are certain, the things leading up to these plans are orchestrated and certain as well. The financial crisis should not shake a God fearing God focused Christian. Why? Because the God focused Christian will see the financial crisis as a means of depending on God more and as one more step toward the final revealing of Jesus Christ. For the questions raised by CNN there really ought to be one more, "Was last years financial crisis an act of God?" If they asked this they might be getting a little closer to the truth.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why followers of God know peace

In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul bears witness to the fact that God has given him the grace to be content in any situation. What is the key to that contentment? A clear focus and dependence upon God. Paul faced times of plenty and abundance and realized that they were a gift to him from God. Paul faced hunger and need and realized that these too were a gift from God. How can hunger and need be a gift from God? Hunger and need are a gift to the believer who like Paul has a clear focus and dependence on God. Hunger and need are blessed reminders of how much we truly need God to sustain us. By thrusting us into the barren desert of need God helps us to let go of our dependence on things of this earth. We are put in a place where we truly must depend on God. When Paul says, "that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him" he is talking about being able to walk through adversity as well as plenty.

Paul's admonition earlier in the same chapter rings with greater force when we understand his personal heartbeat that follows it (Philippians 4:4-7). Paul started that earlier section with a call to rejoice in the Lord always. The only way you can rejoice ALWAYS is if you see everything that is coming to you as a gift. These are all gifts given to us by God for our own benefit. Paul continues with a call to be gentle with everyone. Even those who are not good to us? In a word yes! Why? Because the Lord is at hand.

He tells us not to worry. What should we do with the things that come our way? We communicate everything to God by prayer and supplication with one unusual thing thrown in - Thanksgiving. Paul wants us to make our request but in the midst of making them to be thankful for these same things because they are truly a gift from God. When your heart is tuned to being thankful and rejoicing in all the things that come our way we will gain something that is astounding. Peace! Not just any peace but the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

  1. Rejoice always - because you see everything coming to you as a gift
  2. Be gentle with everyone - because the Lord is at hand and He will make things right
  3. Don't worry - take everything to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
Do these things and rivet your eyes on the Lord Jesus and an amazing peace from God that passes understanding will fill our hearts. Not only that but He will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. As we rejoice in Him He will secure our hearts so that they can continue to rejoice in Him. This is why the true followers of Jesus in the midst of persecution and a life devoid of external peace will exhibit a heart filled with supernatural peace that cannot be taken away. Join me as I try to follow Paul's plan for living a life completely focused on God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why no peace for followers of God

There is an article on titled, "Obama Condemns 'Senseless Slaughter' of Israelis, Vows to Sustain Peace Talks". There have been almost countless attempts at peace in the middle east. Go back to the Romans in the time of Christ for the first versions, or perhaps we need to go back earlier then that. But the fact remains that there is no peace in the middle east. Why? Fundamentally the issue is spiritual in nature. The Jews claim a divine right to the land that they believe was granted to them by God. There is language that supports this view in the Old Testament. But even Jeremiah talked about how there would be no peace (Jeremiah 8:11). There will not be peace in this world until the Prince of Peace finally sets up His Kingdom here on Earth.

I bring this issue up because tonight while out street witnessing we encountered some opposition. Some people did not want to hear the truth about the pending judgment we all face if we do not know and accept Jesus as our Lord. Jesus knew that when we took a stand in the public square for Him we would no doubt face opposition (Matthew 5:11). The unsaved man has no interest in spiritual things because he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). We all were before we were made alive in Christ. If we realize what a great gift we have been given in Christ then we will begin to see the dilemma that faces all of those who do not know Jesus. This eternal damnation that awaits them should burden our hearts for them. We must realize that the utter terribleness of a never ending eternity suffering God's wrath is what awaits all unbelievers. Do we care? Is there a burden in our hearts for their salvation. If there is you will soon begin to see the persecution and reviling that comes to those who stand for Christ and reach out in love to the lost and dying world. May God grant us all a clearer vision of that which is coming so that we will be more diligent to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:9-10).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The gift of sleeplessness

We read the Bible, stories from Christian history and usually a good book to our children each evening. We are currently reading a book titled, "Prisoners of the Sea" by Florence M. Kingsley. It was initially published in 1897 and it is an exciting cast away and adventure on the high seas story. Tonight chapter thirty-eight held our attention as an escaped convict planned to kill some of the stories heros while they slept. One of our heros is a Huguenot Pastor. In the story he could not sleep. What he says was a really great perspective on sleeplessness.
But the Huguenot pastor, Constantin Dinant, was not asleep. He had not slept during the night; he had beguiled the long hours with prayers, none the less fervent because they were inaudible.
"Why bemoan a sleepless night?" he was wont to say. "These are the hours that God snatches for us out of the thirsty waste of our lives, wherein to give us the living water. Rejoice then, when sleep forsakes thine eyes, for it is a sign of favor. Surely communion with the King of king is better than the unconsciousness of sleep."
To see sleeplessness as a gift from God (James 1:17). A gift of sweet communion with Jesus the King of kings. Now there is a perspective that strikes at the very core of living a life focused on our great God, Jesus the Christ.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Inception: a reflection of longing for more

I saw the movie "Inception" a few weeks ago. The movie is a reflection of our post modern sensibility. Essentially we like to believe that reality is what we make it out to be. Inception turns that inside out and asks us if reality is really all its cracked up to be. Perhaps the reality in our minds is a better place to be.

What really struck me though was how the dream state in the movie was the thing that people longed for. There is a point where we see people lying in beds hooked up to drugs that allow them to dream. We are told that they have gotten to the point where they can no longer dream without the drugs. Supposedly this heightened dream reality is so great that it is worth giving up more and more of real life to live in the dream world. One of the students that is introduced to this world says that they are going to quit because of some things that were going on. Decaprio's character says with confidence that she will be back basically because the experience is too compelling. Sure enough she comes back.

Each person is enamored with what can be in the dream world. The characters reflect a dissatisfaction with how things are in reality. This is a true reflection of the heart of man. We all know that something is missing (Romans 8:19). We all feel the pain that tells us to long for something more something better. The problem for the unsaved man is that his longing looks like this:
I want something to satisfy. I will embrace anything that promises satisfaction with the hope that it will somehow make me fulfilled. I will accept anything that is except the all Sovereign God of the Bible that demands my soul, my life, my all. I will maintain my autonomy thank you (or at least what I believe is my own semblance of that autonomy). Romans 1:20, 24-25
 The true follower of Jesus has discovered that the longings they had prior to meeting Christ have been fulfilled. The true follower has been made whole and can testify to the satisfaction that is theirs in God. We were made for Him and our hearts are truly in a state of longing until they are satisfied in Him. If you believe you have committed your life to Jesus and yet you still feel the emptiness and longing that you always did then perhaps your pursuit of God has been corrupted by our culture. To really grapple with this I would point you toward my book, "The God Focused Life". There is a lot of help here for pointing you toward the God who will truly satisfy your soul. So if you have not yet done so, join me on the journey to live a God focused life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

True women's rights flow out of a God focused life

I ran across an article on CNN's Opinion part of their web site titled, "Will Afghan women's rights be bargained away?". Gayle Lemmon ponders what the future holds for Afgan women after the advances they have made in the last 8 years. The fact that there is even a threat to the freedom of women should be abhorrent to anyone, but especially to a Christian.

One of the favorite topics for agnostics, atheist and feminist to pick on when it comes to religion is the oppression of women. So lets throw out religion and see what that would get you. When you consider an evolutionary perspective of survival of the fittest -- you inevitably conclude that might makes right. In that scenario there is nothing but oppression awaiting women. Just because some of the religions of the world oppress women it does not follow that all religions of the world do. There may have been some people in the past that have misinterpreted scripture but the Bible clearly teaches that women are to be valued. Genesis 1:27-28 describes the creation of man and woman and in that description they are presented as equals. In verse 28 in God's eyes they are both given the cultural mandate. Before God, men and women are on an equal footing. Do they have different jobs and responsibilities before God? Yes. But even though they have differing responsibilities before God they are still held as equals in Christ (Galatians 3:25-28). Culturally there is no better safeguard for women then Christianity. It is a guardian of their equality and should cause anyone seeking to live a God focused life to cherish the wife He has been given. After all she will be a co-heir with Him of the promise that is theirs in Christ (Ephesians 3:6).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why no alien life forms exist other than demons

There is an article on called, "Proof of Aliens Could Come Within 25 Years, Scientist Says". Every time I see one of these articles I think of the myriad of alien movies I have seen in my lifetime. They all have some things in common as basic assumptions.

  1. There are other planets with life on them
  2. The life on those other planets have a sense of moral right and wrong
    1. We see this in their defensiveness and deceptiveness (think V)
    2. We see this in their aggressiveness and disregard for all life but their own (Think War of the Worlds)
    3. We see this in our attempts to communicate with them or negotiate with them (Think ET, Close Encounters or Men in Black)
  3. Man has the ability and responsibility to bring peace or resolution
The first assumption in the list above must be accepted in order to have a meaningful discussion about the potential of alien life. How does the first assumption on the list stack up in the light of scripture?

When does the Bible tell us that the sun, moon and stars were created? Genesis 1:14-19 tells us that it happened on the 4th day of creation.

Why did God create them? He created them to separate the day from the night and to be for signs and seasons, days and years. In other words they were all created for the earth.

Hebrews 2:10 tells us that all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus. This means that even the sun, moon and stars were created by Him and for Him. They were all created for God's glory. They do not have to be populated with life in order to magnify God. The shear size and expanse is enough to magnify His power and His infinite greatness.

The problem with a life on other planets conclusion is that the fall was part of God's plan. In Romans 9:22-24 Paul tells us that God is able to reveal His power, His patience and wrath to the vessels of His mercy because He has vessels of wrath on which these aspects of His nature can be displayed. Since the fall helps to reveal more about God and since the supposed life on other planets have a sense of moral right and wrong, then God would have to allow similar falls into sin to happen on other planets. A fall on another planet would require a similar sacrifice for another sentient non-human race. Yet Peter declares in 1 Peter 3:18 that Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. To believe in alien life is to crucify Christ all over again. Scripture tells us that He died once for sins. So what are all these alien sightings? If there is any validity to them they are probably demonic in origin. There are others who have studied this extensively that have come to this very conclusion. You can find their books on The central and most important thing about this discussion is to remember that Jesus is the reason for which all things were created. Man is not at the center, God is. Keep your eyes on Him and seek His face and you will find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:29).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who's to blame?

Lindsey Lohan was big in the news a few weeks back as they sent her off to spend some time behind bars. One of the articles that caught my eye was on her father called, "Michael Lohan: I blame myself for Lindsey's demise". In our culture just about everything is justifiable and not the fault of the person that actually did it. As a matter of fact it is ok to be the cause of someone else's problems as long is it was unintentional and you can blame something else (Michael Lohan blamed stupidity and drunk driving).
Why do we do this? It goes back to the Garden of Eden. The very first man and woman shifted the blame for their actions as they stood condemned before God for their pride and rebellion against Him (Genesis 3:11-13). They went from being God's vice-regents ruling the Earth to the cursed rebels responsible for bringing the effects of sin upon creation. The blame game started because of the shame a pride filled being experiences when he sees his fallen state on display. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God and saw the evil of their rebellion in the light of our gracious God's glory. Shame is an understatement for what they must have felt.
This propensity to shame and excuse has been the all too normal response of fallen man since creation. There is an answer. That answer is found in the work of Jesus on the cross. He did not play the blame game. He did quite the opposite of Adam and Eve. He was without sin and blameless but He took our blame on Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because He became the blame bearer we can stand without blame before God. The astonishing truth is that we are truly without guilt in God's presence because of Jesus. Fallen man's actions amplify our fallenness. In the midst of the deplorable state of man Jesus glory as our substitute shines even more greatly. He is truly deserving of all our love and affection.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do you know legalism when you see it? (Part 2)

The reason I did this post in two parts from the out set is that there are two aspects to legalism. The one we touched on yesterday is the hypocrisy of self-righteousness. This form of legalism can creep into a Christian's life through the pride of the flesh. The second form of legalism has to do with salvation and can literally corrupt it and keep one from truly knowing Jesus. Because this second form can condemn people to an eternity under the wrath of God it is important to be able to distinguish it.
What is it? This form of legalism is like the legalistic righteousness of the Pharisees. It is external in its form and lacks any internal structure. A passage that comes to mind is Luke 11:42. Here Jesus affirms that tithing their spices was right but out of balance. Jesus is addressing their legalism He is pointing out that their physical actions are not sufficient to earn them salvation. It comes back to the focus of the heart. In the case of the Pharisee their heart was looking for the adoration of men. They did their deeds for the people but clearly thought that jumping through external hoops was their ticket to paradise. This is no different than any of the man-focused works-based divisions of Christianity today. The people caught up in these sects do things in order to be right with God. They might say a certain number of hail Marys or go to confession. They might be found knocking on your door putting in time as part of their required good works. You will find these people doing lots of good things. Often they do more good things than the people who are truly following Christ (which is tragic). But the problem they have is found in their dependence upon their actions to be part of their justification before God. We are justified before God because of the work of Christ on the cross alone. When we add any work to that dependence on Christ alone it no longer remains a dependence on Christ alone. By making a frail human work part of the requirement of salvation we make salvation ultimately dependent upon the work of man. If salvation depends on man in any way there is no longer any assurance of salvation available. You can never be sure in this case because what you are depending on may change because it is rooted in man and man is ultimately mutable (changeable). The other problem with this is it places a love for man's ability alongside of a love for God's ability. This is placing a love for man's ability on par with God, which is pure idolatry. It is idolatry to divide a hearts affection. No man can serve to masters (Matthew 6:24). We must realize that the appeal to include a dependence on something within man is spoken of in the Bible. Repeatedly the Biblical authors point out that the heart of man is corrupt (Genesis 6:5, Psalm 14:1, Hebrews 3:12). We must realize that what we view about salvation must be shaped by scripture alone. When God and a desire for Him grips your heart you will see only Him as being the author and finisher of your faith. This heart for God would want to do all that it can to embrace with all energy the relationship with God. At the same time this heart will realize that the only reason it does these things is because of the work of God in it. Even John Wesley acknowledged this truth. In an interview with Charles Simeon when asked if he depended on an works in addition to Christ he said, "No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last." (Entire interview can be found here). It is with full confidence in the reforming power of the Holy Spirit to shape our hearts that I say the God focused heart will see Christ as the only means by which we are saved. Don't allow legalistic righteousness to fool you. Press on with friends depending on legalistic righteousness (Matthew 23:15). They need desperately to come to depend on Christ alone.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do you know legalism when you see it? (Part 1)

I have been accused of legalism often. Why? Because I seek to drive the speed limit. As far as I can tell there are three reasons that you could drive the speed limit.

  1. You could drive the speed limit because you feel it is your duty as a Christian to do this. This would not make you any different then any other religion that places man made restraints on its followers. Obedience out of duty is ultimately cold and does not engage the heart.
  2. You could drive the speed limit because you feel more spiritual if you do. In order to do this you are judging yourself as better than those that are passing you on the freeway. This would make you no better than the Pharisees of Jesus day. Are you more spiritual because you followed the speed limit? You might be but not if you think that you are. Because if you are doing it to be more spiritual you have just adopted legalistic righteousness as your guide.
  3. You could drive the speed limit for the sake of bringing your heart into submission to the authority over you recognizing that Jesus is the ultimate authority. It is Jesus that has given the state its authority and as long as there is no conflict with my calling in scripture then I should submit to them. This only works if we recognize our fallen sinful state and are using this as a means of practicing bringing our flesh under the authority of Christ. In this case the action does not make us more spiritual. The action points out in practice the ultimate authority that we are seeking to know better, namely Jesus. This only remains free of legalism as long as I don't start judging others for not doing what I do. Why? Because this is clearly not stated explicitly in the Bible.

This is similar to Paul confronting Peter about refusing to eat with gentiles (Galatians 2:12-14). This was an issue of hypocrisy. Peter and Paul were wrestling with the issue of true Biblical righteousness and Peter was becoming legalistic. Making judgments based on his actions.

It seems in this case that legalism there and even now can be when we see ourselves as more pleasing to God because of something we do or don't do. Anytime our eyes are focused horizontally (i.e. man) instead of vertically (i.e. Jesus) we run the risk of becoming legalistic. I have an acquaintance out here that heard me speak on tithing and afterward confronted me about legalism. He said that there is no requirement to tithe. While I agree that there is no verbatim (and said as much in my talk) the bigger issue for me is that, if the people under the old covenant which had not seen the completed pouring out of God's grace could tithe then why would I who has witnessed the full impact of God's amazing grace not want to tithe (See my blog post on tithing from 8-9-10). This particular acquaintance has gone on to say that not only do we not need to tithe because of grace but that to tithe (even out of a joyful and grateful heart) is sin. He also told me that asking God to forgive our sins after our initial salvation is a lack of faith in God's completeness of forgiveness granted on the cross and thus to ask for forgiveness of sins is sin. So this acquaintance has separated himself from other believers like myself that simply want a vibrant relationship with God. We want it so much, that we take our sins before His throne and seek His forgiveness and help in eradicating them from our lives so that we might know Him better. This kind of demand where grace is used as a club to condemn the actions of fellow Christians is a form of legalism. In this case he sees himself as more right in God's eyes then me and so he condemns me and separates himself from me (and from a whole host of other Christians I might add). Can tithing become legalistic? Absolutely! Almost anything can. Helping the poor, wearing certain clothes, even evangelism can all become legalistic if the focus of our heart is not right. If we are doing it for appearance sake (i.e. being a man pleaser) then it is probably legalistic. There is only one person that we should care about ultimately pleasing and that is Jesus. The reason for doing things to please Him is simple. We do what we do for the sake of the love that He has placed in our hearts. It is the relationship with God that drives us to live a life that reflects a love for the things that He loves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Emotional reminders of our insufficiency

Today was an admittedly challenging day. I looked at our bank account. (When your unemployed this can be a discouraging thing to do.) While I know that it is God that supplies our needs sometimes I get hit with a tsunami of emotion when I contemplate the gravity of it all. After applying for what seems like hundreds of jobs one begins to feel a bit rejected. My pride quickly kicks in and begins to feel injured. Thoughts like "No one wants me", "I'm just not good enough" and "Perhaps if I had just contacted this person or that one". All of this is really an emotional roller coaster that takes off from the platform of self, climbs the mountain of pride and quickly plunges into the maddening spiral of self in the pit of pity. Thank God for His grace, and the examples that we have in His precious word. Paul talked about being buffeted by a messenger of Satan. He requested that it be taken away. God's responded that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). God's grace is just as sufficient today. These times of my failing are valuable reminders of my insufficiency. They cause me to depend even more on Jesus. Without Him this time of challenge would be truly overwhelming. Because He has so graciously granted me a heart that desires to focus on Him, He saves me from myself. The Holy Spirit draws my eyes to my magnificent God and plants my feet on the solid rock of Jesus. If you find the trials overwhelming turn to our Lord and use our insufficiency to embrace the sufficiency that can only be found in Him.

Prop 8 - Winning battles and losing the war

Last week the news was falling all over itself to report on the overturn of proposition 8. I am not sure how this is being reported in the rest of the country so if you need to get up to speed here is an article from the San Jose Mercury News titled, "Federal judge strikes down California's ban on same-sex marriage". 50 years ago we would have said universally that homosexuality is sin and it was viewed by most people as morally reprehensible. Today this is no longer the case. Today people see pedophilia as morally reprehensible and sin. Will this still be the case 50 years from today? It is a legitimate question in the light of how our culture has changed in the last 50 years. What has happened that has brought about the changes that we see today. 50 years ago the 1960's were kicking in and free love with a strong dose of independence was the siren call many could not resist. The moral walls of our society began to crumble. What caused the walls to be so weak in the face of the immoral tide that struck it? I did not live then but I think that the roots of the problem can be traced to the church of the early twentieth century. From what I can tell in church history there was a strong reaction to the neo-orthadoxy coming out of Germany's seminaries and universities. Two things happened. Neo-orthadoxy called into question the literal inspiration of scripture and saw inspiration as being something more personal that happens when the word of God becomes inspired for me (This is a broad simplification because of space. E-mail me if you want to discuss this.). The second thing is the conservative church over-reacted to what they saw as a liberal take on inspiration. Another thing was coupled with this. The church was hit with a widely distributed set of books called, "The Fundamentals". This produced a conservative swing that put up code of conduct fences and condemnation fences. Phrases like, "I don't smoke, I don't chew and I don't run with boys that do" were byproducts of this conservative swing. I think it was during this time that some denominations developed the theology of secondary separation. In a nutshell they separated themselves from anyone that did not adhere to their brand of doctrine. Some denominations still hold this view to this day. What happened is, we added a whole bunch of things to the Christian life and walk that were not scripture, but were held in the same regard. This did not have the intended effect of strengthening the church. Quite the opposite happened. The young people growing up in this environment in these churches saw right through the hypocrisy of it. Essentially the moral strength of the word of God was gutted by man insisting on adding his two bits to the pot. Since the churches moral base seemed to many to be arbitrary the next logical decision was that anything goes. People started crossing lines that were clearly spelled out in scripture. Line after line was crossed. The church retreated from this onslaught. Usually she demanded more and more that her position on all these added things was the right one. When she seemed to be losing the culture she resorted to politics. The church began to be seen as political -- seeking to legislate her version of morality. This brings us to today with a society that is rapidly sliding toward an ancient Roman style of life. Rome was marked by open pedophilia, gladiatorial games and meaningless marriage. The church as it appears to the world is a moral mess. She has very little integrity left. She pats herself on the back when a bunch of conservatives in California rallied the people to make a state constitutional amendment even in the face of great opposition. We won that social battle but we lost the court battle at this point, and it looks like we could lose the war.
And yet there is still hope. I see a fresh desire for God, a renewed embrace of God's word and a greater compassion for the lost. God is moving in people everywhere to ignite a passionate fire for Him in their hearts. The only way that this war will be won is in the hearts and minds of people. They have to meet the awesome God of the Bible Jesus the Christ (Psalm 24:1-5). Their moral foundation needs to be in the bedrock of His word and His word alone (Hebrews 4:12). Is this a daunting challenge? NO! God used 12 men to turn the world upside down. With God anything is possible (Mark 10:27). Be encouraged. Don't be ashamed (2 Timothy 1:12, 2:15). Keep your eyes on Jesus and show the world around you the magnificent God that you serve. Helping others to embrace a God focused life will bring them freedom from slavery to sin and give them the greatest possible future they could ever hope for. So seek the Lord and take Him with you into the world.