Category Archives: Christian living

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!

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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.