Category Archives: Christian living

Updates

Re. the Cancer 2 post — I realize that with a journey like this that people want different degrees of updates: None, acquaintances, friends, family, and mom/wife level. So instead of multiple blog posts, I’ll just put some updates and observations at the top of the original post and anyone interested can check at their convenience. No need to fill up your inbox or blog reader with small things. I’m not on any other social media so that seemed like the best place.

Be blessed, and thanks for all the encouragement and prayers!

Cancer 2

Note: Page down for the original post.  I realize that with a journey like this that people want different degrees of updates: none, acquaintance level, friend level, family level, and mom/wife level. So instead of multiple blog posts, I’ll just put some observations and updates here and anyone interested can check at their convenience. Be blessed, and thanks for all the encouragement and prayers!

OBSERVATIONS AND UPDATES

10/15 – Big update!  By the grace of God, the cancer is in complete  remission!  Will do the high dose chemo / stem cell transplant soon.  That will be an adventure but definitely worth it to put it in further remission.  Thanks so much for the prayers and encouragement!

9/13 – I’m glad to be home after round 6, the final one for this phase!  Hard to believe this part is over.  I went in for the first round on Memorial Day and started the last round on Labor Day.  What did I do on my summer vacation?  I went through 36 bags of IV chemo, 7 Covid tests, 6 spinal taps and a whole lot of pills.

This may be the steroid talking, but I’m feeling pretty good right now.  I’ll probably crash for 4-5 days later this week but I’m still working out and walking wherever possible. Then again, they did give me a couple units of blood this time that may help with the recovery, so we’ll see.

Next step is getting a scan next month.  If it comes back  clean, and we have optimism that it  will, then I’ll do the  high dose chemo / stem cell transplant later this year or early in 2021.  That should put it into further remission.  If there is still cancer on the scan then that’s a fairly sizable problem, as they would need to switch me to some other treatment such as a new clinical trial.  But we trust in the Lord for all that.

More importantly, this last week in the hospital had one great opportunity after another to encourage fellow believers and to share the Gospel.  That was a big answer to one of our main prayers.

Looking forward to a couple months, Lord willing, of being able to work out regularly without taking a week off every three weeks to go to Chemo Camp.  Exercise just does so much physically and mentally.

I had lots of spare time in the hospital, so I was able to memorize Revelation chapters 2 and 3 (see blog posts below).  That was a blessing.  And I binge-listened to about year’s worth of Stand to Reason podcasts, which were edifying as always.

Thanks so much for all the prayers.  Please pray for continued witness opportunities as we go through this.  I can assure you that we got great answers.  So many blessings I can hardly count them!

8/22 — Done with round 5!  Hard to believe there is only one more round of this cycle to go.  Just need to plow through the first week home, which is the hardest.  Then one more cycle, then a couple months off until the really hard high dose regimen late this year or early next year.  Had good opportunities to share the truth of Jesus this week – please pray for more of those, especially for the 6th round.

The time in the hospital goes slowly, as most of the time I’m just tethered to the IV pole 24×7.  I get totally caught up at work and have been able to redeem the time catching up on Stand to Reason podcasts, reading the Bible, and memorizing Revelation chapters 2 and 3 (what a blessing – just polishing it all off now!).

8/7 – No big news.  Slogging through side effects of round 4.  Glad the process is working.  Hope you all are well!

7/23 – Scan news: Thanks to Jesus and great medical caregivers and technology He has provided for, the results came back well.  Some parts were in complete remission and the largest one had reduced considerably and had less activity (whatever that means in cancer terms).  The doctor was very pleased, which means we are as well.  This means we’ll do these next three rounds of chemo and then the likelihood is high that I’ll do a high dose chemo / stem cell transplant after that.  Long road, but it provides the best odds of longer remission.  The high dose chemo thing includes a bone marrow biopsy, which was apparently something created by the spinal tap people because they didn’t like having the most painful procedure.  Thanks for all the prayers!

7/19 — Finished round 3 and had the predictable week of side effects.  Feeling a little better today.  Getting another scan late this week so I’ll update again then.  Pretty sure the tumor is down quite a bit but will be curious as to how the doctor interprets the status.  Good week for work.  Nice morning of worship and online community group today.  Still doing normal prayer / Bible reading / memorization pattern.  Really enjoying Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and will have a few blog posts on those later.  Hope you all are well.  Feel free to email or text me with any prayer requests.  I have time!

7/6/20 – Round 2 side effects much more than expected, but had a few good days.  Was able to work out enough that I’m started to get strength back for round 3.  Praying for no spinal tap complications again and for witness opportunities.  Hope you all are well!

6/21/20 – Made it through round 2 of chemo – 6 full days plus another spinal tap. By the grace of God and many answered prayers there were no side effects from the tap this time, which will make all the difference for this recovery period.  I’ll crash for a couple days but will work out hard from there to build back strength.  So much to be thankful for!  Most of all, had many great conversations in the hospital about Jesus.

6/12/20 – Good news! Chemo is working. Eating better, working out and starting to gain back a little weight for the next round. Very long road ahead but extremely grateful for the progress and all of your prayers.  Alternative treatments exist had this chemo combo not worked, but I’m not sure I would have had time.  Thanking Jesus for this progress.

6/7/20 — Apologies for the lack of updates.  It turns out that while the spinal tap procedure itself isn’t that bad, it is a problem when it doesn’t seal properly and you get headaches and are somewhat immobilized for a week until they decide to fix the patch.  Long story, but it made for a darker week.  I’m pleased to say that it seems to be better now.

#1 prayer request: I need to be able to eat more. Seriously.  I’ve lost 23 lbs., and nearly a pound a day since being in the hospital for chemo.  I think we’ve stopped the slide but that obviously can’t continue.  My focus for the next week is to regain some weight and strength before the next round of chemo in the hospital.

Enjoying being at home.  Mrs. Eternity Matters is being her usual amazing self and taking care of every little thing.  I’ve learned to listen better and let her do things for me.  Win-win.  She is great at researching things (retired librarian + excellent discernment) and has helped immensely when looking into drug interactions, side effects, questions for the doctor I hadn’t thought of, etc.

And we continue to be blessed by all the family and friends supporting us and praying for us.  Blessings to you all!

5/29/20 – One thing I’ve been trying to thank people about for their prayers is that they are already getting answered. Yes, we obviously want complete and permanent remission, but it’ll be a long time until we know if and how that was answered! But we’ve had a lot of very specific prayers answered already: very clear decisions, rapid progress in getting tests and treatment started, great caregiving teams and more. I want people to know that the prayers are working and deeply appreciated.  And let us know how we can pray for you. It isn’t  a one way street!

5/28/20 – It is humbling when you think about the millions of things that had to take place to end up with the medical personnel having and knowing how to use all these different machines, chemicals and preventatives and so many other things to make all this work. The amount of trial and error and suffering had to be staggering, and here I sit getting to benefit from it. Feeling blessed. Was there a profit motive for some of it or most of it? Sure, and I’m OK with that. Yea for capitalism! But I never forget that these people could be doing a lot of different jobs. Oncology must be extra demanding because of the technology and how you can often lose patients despite your best efforts.

5/27/20 – I have found that my habit to respond to “How are you” with “I’m blessed” is a good conversation starter / “faith flag.” I don’t say it in a dramatic way, just matter of factly and sincerely. As I like to say, it has the added value of being true. But when saying it in settings like the oncology floor people do notice and appreciate it. It usually brings a smile and an “amen” from Christians. It works in regular settings, too. And it is an easy segue to explain how in the midst of things like this that I really am blessed beyond measure.

5/26/20 — I had my first spinal tap, so I can take that off my bucket list . . . right after I put it on. One nurse said, “Some people get very anxious about them.” I wanted to say – but fortunately didn’t – that maybe if she didn’t cringe the whole time she talked about them that it might help. She’s actually a wonderful nurse, just not a poker face :-). But it was way better than I expected. Just a couple numbing shots and a little pressure. Nothing to fear.  They must have come a long way with those, because I know they used to be much more painful.  And yes, the Dr. had seen and enjoyed This is Spinal Tap.  He noted the “this goes up to 11” line and I said my second favorite was, “There is a fine line between stupid and clever.”

5/25/20 – I just heard from a dear friend who has suffered mightily for years but has served the Lord wholeheartedly during that time. He just found out that he has leukemia and only has 2 to 3 months to live, but he’s still sharing the gospel and led to people to Jesus last week. A lot of people would like to have my problems.


ORIGINAL POST

It is always a good day to be a Christian. In good times or bad, his salvation, peace, truth and more are priceless.

That is even more true on the day when your oncologist tells you that not only has your cancer returned much more quickly than expected but that it transformed to a very aggressive form.  I’m really hoping that this sequel is the last in the franchise.

Random thoughts . . .

As before, by his grace alone we are at complete spiritual peace with this.  We are task-completers and are always eager to know the next steps and to get on with the program, but with respect to matters of eternity things are as solid as could be.  Praise God for that, because it is absolutely not my nature. It is purely a supernatural thing provided by his grace.

We pray that it leads to many opportunities to glorify his name and share his truths with others.  We’ve already had several significant opportunities.  Our outlook is pretty much the same as with the first cancer plot twist.


We are extremely grateful for the health care available to us, especially in light of the Covid-19 restrictions and pent-up demand for services.  I went from initial scan to treatment in three weeks.  I’m really glad we don’t have socialized medicine.


This will be a big burden on Mrs. Eternity Matters, the best of wives and best of women.  This treatment is much more severe – 6 cycles, 21 days each. The first 5 days of the cycle are 5 different chemotherapies, then a spinal tap of a different chemo in between each cycle.  Oh, and another Covid-19 test each time.  If all that puts it into remission – and it should – then I may do a high intensity chemo series where they take my stem cells out and then put them back in and re-do my childhood vaccinations.  That would increase the odds of eradicating it.

So we both have to be super-isolated as much as possible, and for quite a while.  Covid-19 makes it worse.  I think my body can fight Covid-19 or cancer, but not both.

But it is good that as aggressive as this type is, it is also well known with a distinct – albeit challenging – treatment plan.  One of my goals in life is not to have a disease named after me, so I’m glad to keep that streak going.


The outpouring from friends and family has been amazing once again.  We are blessed beyond measure.  Such a blessing to be close to the girls and their husbands and their families.

The work situation is great.  I already worked from home, and now much of the rest of the company has joined me in that.  My supervisor and my team are phenomenal.  I obviously won’t be going anywhere this year, so I have plenty of vacation days to cover anything.  What are you doing for vacation this year?  Trying to stay alive :-).


I got a comment from someone I really like and respect, but who said something that wouldn’t have occurred to me:  He said it is OK to be angry at God.  Believe me, I’m the chief of sinners (with apologies to Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15), but I can honestly say it never occurred to me to be angry at God.  He has blessed me mightily for so long that it is laughable to me to question him now.  It isn’t like He did it all to set me up and pull up the drawbridge on me.  Live or die, I’m his.  Him forgiving my sins was more than I would have dared ask for and all I really needed, but He has done so much more.

Like I’ve said, the end of the book of Job is in the Bible for a reason, in that we don’t get all the answers to everything in this life and God is fine with that.  But the rest of the Bible is there for a reason as well, so that we can learn everything God does want us to know, such as how Jesus is the only way to salvation.

I often think of what Pastor Kevin DeYoung said about how Christians should think: Jesus loves me and He knows what He is doing.  In tough times we can rest in that simple, timeless truth.  He is sovereign and we can trust him completely.


It was a blessing to have already been in a great relationship with God when this came up.  I was already in the habit of My favorite Bible reading / prayer / memorization routine, so it wasn’t like I had to say, “Oh no!  Cancer has returned! Better get back to God!”  I wouldn’t fault anyone who turns to the real Jesus for any reason at any time, but it was so nice to already be there.


Everything is already shut down for a while, but even as things open it will probably be a year before I can go to church or do prison ministry.  Our favorite hobby, ballroom dancing, is out – except for dancing in the dining room when we move the table and when I’m physically able.  So no more of this for a bit . . . but our goal is to get healthy again and be able to compete in late 2021, God willing.

I found that it helps to have things to aim at when working your way back into shape.  Last time I’d lift a lot between cycles.  The first few days were really tough, having to give myself pep talks for every brief set.  The warm up sets felt like heavy sets, just like they do these days.  But it gets better quickly and really helps long-term.  Dancing helped as well as it was a great for energy and a nice mental diversion.


I’ll probably blog quite a bit less but hope to still follow all of you.  Dialing back on the news cycles probably won’t hurt, either.


The odds of survival seem good, but it was a good catalyst to update my screen capture videos and other documentation of all of our financial, insurance, etc. matters in case I die.  You really do your loved ones a great service if you line things out for them.  Things are miserable enough when someone dies without having to go through lots of extra high stress searching and paperwork.  My Dad was very organized and things like being able to export information from his password software to mine saved countless hours when I was setting things up for my Mom.  If you don’t have a will, get one right away.


The chemos I had last time didn’t cause me to lose my hair, but this batch definitely comes with a free haircut. A wonderful follically-challenged friend/relative already sent some lightweight headwear and we have some bandanas ready to go. I think the world will get by just fine for a while without my chronic bed head. And the doctor already prescribed three anti-nausea options, so I think she is hinting at something there.  And there are a “few” others meds to take . . . the doctor basically said, “Go to Walgreens and get one of everything.”


Prayers for healing are appreciated, of course, and I covet prayers for the peace and comfort of Mrs. Eternity Matters, and also for my 85 yr. old Mom.  She’s a very committed believer but this really worries her.

But please also pray for endless opportunities to glorify God and share Jesus through this.  Having something like this always focuses me like a laser on the things of God.  I’m comfortable with any discussion about Jesus and his word once it gets started, but I’m terrible at starting conversations.  But this disease gives unique opportunities to share with non-believers and to encourage believers.  No one seems to mind if the cancer patient brings up Jesus, so I shamelessly exploit that :-).  Seriously, I use my usual Stand to Reason tactics in conversations, but the talks do open up much more quickly and easily.


We got Daisy just before my last chemo treatments (she was a rescue dog, 6 years old at the time).  She was a great chemo napping buddy, and now she’s back in business.  (OK, she never really stopped.)

2020-05-17 17.59.24-3


We will all die someday.  I pray that anyone who reads this makes sure he is right with Jesus.   We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and He is the only Savior.  His terms are indescribably generous, but you must come to him based on them and not your own made-up terms.  The latter will land you in Hell for eternity.

I praise and thank God for his salvation and his assurance.  I am enjoying his word as much as ever.

Be blessed.


Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

1 John 5:12–13 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

Jude 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

And about 30,000+ other verses . . .

About those open and closed doors . . .

Many Christians get borderline  – or over the line – superstitious* when it comes to “open” and “closed” doors and making important decisions.  They should be using the wisdom model of decision making, as the Bible teaches it, because there are zero Bible verses even hinting that God drops us little clues that have to decipher less we mess up his plans.  Not only does the wisdom model result in better decisions, but you get to enjoy your freedom in Christ and stop second-guessing everything.

If something looks easy, people sometimes think of that as an open door that they should go through, or if it looks hard it means that God has closed the door.  Maybe, but maybe not.  Consider these two passages.

1 Corinthians 16:8–9 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

One might think that if there are “many adversaries” that it would be a closed door.  Yet Paul explicitly calls the door wide, so he plans to persevere through the opportunity.  But sometimes God does close doors – at least temporarily — such as when Jesus commands us not to throw pearls before pigs.  The key is discernment and knowing when to start and when to stop.

I realize the books were written at different times, but note how just two chapters later in the Bible later we get this:

2 Corinthians 2:12–13 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

So you’re the Apostle Paul and you know that the real Lord Jesus has opened a door for you in Troas — but you go on to Macedonia because you miss your friend Titus!  Could it be that the Lord opened multiple doors for Paul and he used his freedom in Christ to choose a different one?  Note that there is no hint that Paul was being disobedient here.

Remember that while we don’t have access to God’s sovereign will for individual decisions, He has clearly revealed his moral will to us and has promised to give us wisdom if we ask.  So as long as you aren’t violating his moral will, then ask for wisdom, read the Bible, talk to wise people, consider your personal preferences (i.e., don’t be a martyr) and then choose with freedom. 

 

 

 

 

 

If God has a sovereign plan to do something in your life then you can trust that will happen.  In the mean time, don’t be paralyzed or make bad decisions because you reverse-engineered some decision based on what you thought God was saying when it was really just you rationalizing what you wanted.


*The word superstitious reminds me of this (I’m not even a little stitious).

The Office Michael Scott GIF - TheOffice MichaelScott NotSuperstitious GIFs

Want to help race relations? Get involved in prison or pregnancy center ministries.

                  

Race had nothing to do with why I got involved in those ministries.  I’ll share the Gospel with anyone, whether you are a black convicted murderer or the best-behaved white pagan in the free world.  And I want to help save unborn children from murder regardless of their skin color.

But the nature of these ministries is such that it is mostly whites serving mostly minorities.  And as a fantastic by-product of sharing the love and truth of Christ with these folks it does marvelous things for race relations.  It pushes a giant reset button on those who have been wounded because of their race and/or steeped in their own racism.

It has changed countless prison environments, where skinheads and Black Panther-types have become friends and led their respective gangs to change.

I’ve seen countless inmates and even volunteers note how the ministries radically changed how they view others, and how they repented of their racism.

Here’s the story of a guy I know from prison ministry who was in the Aryan Brotherhood.   I saw him in action many times as a leader of the Christian groups inside prison and in the ways he is giving back now that he’s out of prison.  Let’s just say that he wasn’t transformed by the power of virtue-signaling social media posts.   

I realize that the race-baiting professionals of the Left — including the “Christian” Left — want to improve race relations as much as McDonald’s wants to sell less hamburgers.  If your movement demands tax-funded abortions to the child’s 1st breath that kill blacks at a rate three times that of whites and Hispanics at twice the rate, then you’ll have a tough time convincing me you really care about them.  But authentic Christians really do want to see improvements.   And ministries like these make it happen.

It is remarkably safe to say “Nazis are bad!” on Facebook in 2017 in the U.S.  If you really want to do something about race relations — and more importantly, the Gospel — try something more substantial.  Look into your local pregnancy resource center or prison ministries, or anything similar that shares the love and truth of Christ with minorities.

Cancer treatment update: So far, so good. Thanks for the prayers!

Some updates and random thoughts as a follow up to Plot twist: I’ve got cancer.

The treatment process is going smoothly.  I’ve finished two rounds of chemotherapy, with four more to go (one every 28 days).  Mrs. Eternity Matters calls it Chemo Day Camp, because I show up with a cooler of food, a jacket and my laptop bag.  I suppose it is the camp you settle for if you sign up too late for the basketball / volleyball / archery / etc. camps.  They just set up the IV, then I can eat, use my laptop and phone or even take a nap.  The nurses are super-friendly and great at explaining things.

After treatments I feel like I am ready for the All-Drug Olympics, as I have as many as 8-9 things flowing through my body at once: chemotherapy, immunotherapy, a steroid, Benadryl, Tylenol, anti-nausea, shingles prevention, uric acid prevention, Flintstones Chewable Vitamins, etc.

  • Me: This first round of chemotherapy wasn’t bad. I feel pretty energetic!
  • Also me: You forgot that they gave you a steroid in the chemo mix. The exhaustion will hit in a couple days.
  • Me: D’oh!

Our main prayers have been for healing (I assume the tumor is being killed, and will have a mid-treatment scan next month to confirm progress), minimal side effects (answered!) and that we not waste any of the experience (answered!).

The challenge in something like this is to:

Strive to point to and glorify Jesus  . . .

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

. . . without photobombing him

Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

I pray often that we will stay on the right side of that.  I have had countless opportunities to live it out.  In my flesh I know I’d be deeply scared throughout this, but by focusing on Jesus I can honestly say I’ve slept well every night — even in the early days when I knew I had cancer but had no idea about the severity or treatment plans.  I’ve had friends note that the positive approach is “oozing” out of me.  It isn’t like I’m trying to do it, it is just there.  I’ve been able to share with believers and non-believers in all sorts of ways.  I know it is 100% by the grace of God that we’ve lived what we believe, and that has made this process better regardless of the eventual outcome.

Many thanks to everyone who has offered prayers and encouragement to me and my family throughout this.  You have no idea how much every comment meant.

Be blessed!

So sheep food grows churches better than goat food? Who knew?

God, apparently.  But glad to see that some churches have caught on. The Hot ‘New’ Church Growth Method notes  that more conservative churches are growing faster than Leftist ones.

We must remember that religions can grow or shrink with bad doctrines or good.  If growth was the sole arbiter of soundness then Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Mormons, Muslims, etc. would be good people to go to.  But in our culture today, the “Christian” Left churches are doomed to shrink because they are indistinguishable from the world.  Why go to them for “doctrine” that is indistinguishable from the perversions, radical feminism and political correctness of college campuses, the mainstream media, and entertainment industries?  People can get God-mocking heresies for free 24×7.  Why waste time and money going to the “Christian” Left for more of the same?

Never forget that churchgoers who support “same-sex marriage”  — i.e., the “Christian” Left — have nearly identical views to the world on a host of issues such as abortion, adultery, porn, etc.  It shows who their real father is.
1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Jude 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

James 4:4 You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So there is good news here: Just preach from the Bible and you will probably grow.  And even if you don’t, you can be sure you’ve done the right thing.  Remember that preaching the Gospel honors Christ regardless of whether the hearers convert. It is always good to speak his truths.
Don’t worry about gimmicks to draw in the goats, especially when those tactics will starve or run off the sheep.  Don’t try to make the world love you.  It dishonors God and it won’t work.
Trust that the sovereign God will do just what He promised.  He is going to save those whose names He wrote in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the world began.   The question is whether you and your church will be faithful to him in the mean time.

Revelation 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Video: The Bible, Decision Making and Hearing from God

This is one of the most practical lessons you can ever learn.  Everyone makes decisions every day and lives with the good and bad consequences of prior decisions, and they help guide others to do the same. How can you make sure you doing that in the right way? Does God tell you how to make each decision, or has He given a different method? And is it normal for Christians to get messages from God outside the Bible?

This is especially important when considering how popular books like Jesus Calling and its sequel are.

 

The Bible, Decision Making and Hearing from God from Eternity Matters on Vimeo.

Oops.

Are people — young and old — who hang out at church really saved, or is their defining characteristic that they mimic those around them?

Years ago, before I knew the finer points of how Facebook works, someone I went to church with when growing up posted a picture from the Godspell play that the youth had put on.  I was tagged in the picture, so it showed up in my timeline.  For clarity, I added this comment:

Just for the record, I am not in this picture. It from a play my church’s youth group did (I wasn’t in the play). Sadly, out of all the people I’ve seen on FB from those years I’ve only come across one who appears to be a Bible-believing, orthodox Christian. Ironically, I was Super Pagan then and became a real Christian later.

Then I realized that my comment didn’t just post to my page, but to the entire thread where people were having fun reminiscing. Then I added this:
Sorry, didn’t realize my comment would be on the main thread. I thought it would just be on my page. Didn’t mean to be a buzzkill.  😉
While I didn’t realize it would be seen by all, I decided to leave it.  I hope it convicted some of the readers to think about what they really believed then and now.  Hanging out at a lukewarm (at best) church when you are a kid and doing all sorts of youth group activities does not save you.  Eternity is a mighty long time to be wrong on the Bible, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, sin, salvation, etc.  It is truly sad seeing the worldliness and New Age type of things most of those people post.  They are far from God.
I thank God for the clarity that I was a rebel then (example: it is theoretically possible that some of us smoked pot at church camp . . . what was that statute of limitations again?!) and knew the difference when I was saved as an adult.
I saw the same thing at the Methodist church we used to attend.  Many kids seemed very committed to the faith, but their real commitment was to behaving like those around them.  When they went off to college many morphed into typical Leftist sound-bite machines (pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-“tolerance”).  By the grace of God, some did not.

I highly encourage parents and church leaders to ensure that your kids know how to think carefully and to have an apologetics background.  Otherwise it is just a matter of time until they morph into the world.

On Christian Celebrities

Of course I want celebrities to be authentically saved and serve the kingdom (e.g., Kirk Cameron), and if authentic Christians become famous that’s great, too (e.g., Tim Tebow).  But far too often these aren’t authentic conversions, and even if they are, the growth of the Christians is stunted because fans want to cling to the celebrity part.  But just because you memorize and act out scripts well or are a good athlete doesn’t mean you get a free pass on the hard work of discipleship.

Great points about the lack of discernment for many on this topic: Embracing Christian Celebrities

When will we stop acting like teenaged girls who just received the latest edition of Tiger Beat? Maybe, just maybe we could learn to put the brakes on our desire to shriek, “Mark Wahlburg goes to church.” He sure does; a Roman Catholic church. When it was discovered that Carrie Underwood attends an Evangelical Church, the Christian news sites were agog. It was months later we discovered she supports gay marriage. At the very least, can we proceed with caution before we give our public endorsement of the latest celebrity conversion? • Let’s find out what church or denomination they belong to. If it is wonky, stop the presses. • If they have no accountability, they should not have our endorsement. • Let’s give them time to mature. If they endure in the faith for more than five minutes without tarnishing their profession, then perhaps we can make a big deal out of it. • Let’s give them time to bear fruit and not bare themselves. • Let’s vet them as much as we vet our pastors. Granted, a celebrity spokesperson is not the same as a local elder, but he or she has a higher visibility than a preacher. Let’s make sure they don’t bring shame to the name of Jesus because we have standards that are lower than Lil’ Wayne’s pants. Should our born-again celebrity brothers and sisters make it through the vetting process, let’s make sure that we are more enamored with Jesus than with Hollywood stars. After all, we are Christians, not groupies. Embracing celebrity Christians has to stop.

 

I love to see churches that end up multi-ethnic, but not those that aim at it

Alternate title: Just. Preach. The Gospel.

I have deeply appreciated the opportunity to worship in different cultures in Bible believing churches: the Methodist church in Singapore, a few churches in Kenya, black churches in the U.S. (mainly for funerals), a multi-ethnic church in Ohio, multi-ethnic worship with prisoners, and more.  I love how preaching the real Gospel will break down barriers like skin color and income.

But I really don’t like the idea of putting multi-ethnicity first.  These apparently Gospel-believing people seem well-intentioned but are missing the point.  Via Mosaix Leaders Summit Sets Ambitious Goal of Planting 1,000 Multi-Ethnic Churches in 10 Years.

A first-of-its-kind gathering of over 25 different influential Christian organizations and leaders, including the Southern Baptist Convention and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), convened this week to discuss and trade ideas on how to plant and grow multi-ethnic churches throughout North America, including strategies to establish 1,000 such churches over the next seven to ten years.

The Christian Post obtained the program of the closed-door, two-day meeting titled the 2015 Multi-Ethnic Church Planting Leaders Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event, from Wednesday to Thursday, was organized by Mosaix Global Network along with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for the Development of Evangelical Leadership in Charlotte.

In addition to discussion on strategic partnerships to establish 1,000 multi-ethnic churches within the next decade, attendees also discussed how to facilitate the process of 20 percent of the churches in North America, having 20 percent racial diversity by 2020.

. . .

The Mosaix website underscores that “according to research, more than 86 percent of all churches in the United States are segregated, with more than 80 percent of their membership representing a single race or ethnic group.”

So are they telling the black churches I’ve visited that they are racist for having nearly 100% black members?  Do they propose quotas?  Do they not see that some cultures prefer to worship in different ways?  Do they not see that most people like to worship close to home, which typically means a more homogeneous congregation?

They seem to ignore worship preferences.  For example, I’m not a hand-waver in church.  If I did that it wouldn’t be sincere.  But if other cultures can do that with sincerity I wouldn’t want to them to change on my account.  I’m pretty liberal that way.

I hope these churches focus on sharing the real Gospel with anyone who will listen and let God sort out who worships in what building.  Of course we should welcome anyone with a sincere interest in following Jesus, but all you need for that is the Gospel.

“Let’s just say that fame was like a drug. But what was even more like a drug was the drugs.”

The title is from an episode of The Simpsons that was a great parody of the VH1 Behind the Music series.  I thought of Homer’s quote recently when reading about a fictional work that covered the fame “drug.”

The point was that when people achieve fame it indeed works like a drug.  They need more and more to get the same satisfaction.  Worse yet, they can’t really enjoy the fame they have, because after the initial high the emotions shift to fear of losing the fame.

Our desire for recognition (i.e., fame) can come in many forms, and are almost all self-destructive.  Whether it is the traditional kind of worldwide fame or just the craving of “likes” on Facebook, these will ultimately not give us lasting fulfillment.  Only what we do in and through Christ will last.  We are nearly all better off not being famous!

I don’t recommend books often, but . . .

I can’t recommend these two highly enough.  I happened to be reading them at the same time and it was perfect to alternate between them.  They offer thoroughly sound, practical and timeless guidance on how to live the Christian life.

The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin: Kris Lundgaard – great reminders about the reality of indwelling sin and how we need to fight it until we die.

Drawing from Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin by Puritan John Owen, Lundgaard aims for the heart with a battle plan for radical spiritual transformation! His biblically sound principles on breaking the cycle of sin will help you live a victorious and fulfilling Christian life. Includes study questions.

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist: John Piper – a classic that really gets you focused on the joy that is our birthright in Christ.

 Satisfaction…Happiness…Joy. According to John Piper, the pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible, it’s essential.

Desiring God is a paradigm-shattering work that dramatically alters common perspectives on relating to God.  Piper reveals that there really is no need to choose between duty and delight in the Christian life. In fact, for the follower of Jesus, delight is the duty as Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him.

Constantly drawing on Scripture to build his case, Piper shows why pursuing maximum joy is essential to glorifying God. He discusses the implications of this for conversion, worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering.

Piper beckons us to approach God with the hedonist’s abandon. Finally, we are freed to enjoy Jesus—not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our all-surpassing, soul-satisfying Treasure.

Desiring God may turn your Christian world upside down. And that will be a good thing, for the glory of God, and for your deepest joy.

Decision, decisions

My favorite apologist linked to this so I thought I’d re-run it.  Still the most practical biblical lesson I know of for daily living.  As Greg Koukl says, we are constantly either making decisions or living with their consequences.  I use this method and share it regularly.  I just used it with the high school kids at church to talk about careers, dating, marriage, college, etc.  

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to teach others.

And here is a new video of this lesson!

—–

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life — dating, marriage, college, careers, purchases, giving, ministry and more.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Jump start your prayers

prayer2.jpgIf you struggle with how to pray then I encourage you to find a devotional or something to get you started.  I get a daily prayer in my email each day that I really enjoy (click the link to subscribe).  I love how he prays scripture back to God.  It is a great way to get my mind in the right place.

Here’s a sample:

Daily Prayer Day 144

I DRAW NEAR TO YOU, GOD

As I approach Your throne of grace today, I am grateful that You care about the things that concern me and that You want me to offer them up to You.

May I be strong and courageous, being careful to obey Your word; may I not turn from it to the right or to the left, that I may act wisely wherever I go.  (Joshua 1:7)

Take a moment to share your personal needs with God, including your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual concerns.

THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE

I know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.  (Psalm 83:18)

God placed all things under Christ’s feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:22-23)

I LISTEN TO YOUR WORDS OF TRUTH

We have known and have believed the love God has for us.  God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  In this way, love has been perfected among us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears has not been perfected in love.  (1 John 4:16-18)

MY RESPONSE TO YOU, LORD

I will be strong and courageous, being careful to obey Your word; I will not turn from it to the right or to the left, that I may act wisely wherever I go.  (Joshua 1:7)

I want to be above reproach, blameless as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not fond of dishonest gain, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sensible, just, holy, and self-controlled.  (Titus 1:6-8)


Lord, I thank You that You are the Most High over all the earth and that You placed all things under Christ’ feet.  I ask fir the grace to abide in Your love, to obey Your word, and to be above reproach.

Decision, decisions

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read the Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.