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.