Sunday Supper August 30, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

Here are some of John Pipers’ personal Reflections on a Planned Parenthood Protest.

Children, Race and the Gospel considers how we can equip our children to overcome racial tensions through honest conversation and a better understanding of the gospel.

“If we assume that there is, to a certain degree, a fixed amount of work necessary for society to function, how can we at once be more productive, have more workers, and yet still be working more hours? Something else must be going on.” – You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much

Is There Any Actual Demand for Same-Sex Marriage? This is an interesting statistical assessment of just how many same-sex marriages there are and are likely to be.

Paul House has written a compelling critique of modern theological education and a case for pastoral training that’s best described as “life together.” Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision: A Case for Costly Discipleship and Life Together

A Biblical Perspective on Time – “What mattered to the patriarchs was the calling at hand, not the next bend in the road.  They lived within the present reality of the covenant relationship, enjoying it and responding to its development. What mattered was right in front of them – faith, life, and family – and to these things they gave themselves with timeless focus.”

“…the power of lust and desire for sexual gratification, even through brief visual stimulation, is compulsive and controlling. It is the most immediate and powerful impulse. Everything else, for that moment or two, becomes unimportant, in order to get a hit. Sin is addictive. And the worst part? This sin resides deep in the heart of each and every one of us. ” –  A Note to Christian Men

Congregationalism Doesn’t Stop at 8 p.m. – great thoughts on church membership. You should read this even if you don’t like the word “congregationalism.”

 

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

Jesus Loves Me (Despite Knowing Me)

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As kids, most of us sang the words “Jesus loves me this I know…” Perhaps we didn’t fully understand the depth of what we were singing, but we sang it. And we believed it.

The knowledge that God loves me is a tremendous comfort. It brings peace and joy and elicits faith. And though it is often relegated to children’s lessons and songs, it is one of the most profound and amazing truths about God. What makes it so incredible is the fact that He loves me despite the fact that He knows me perfectly.

In his book, Knowing God, Packer says “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me…and quench His determination to bless me.” Packer continues to say that despite the fact that “…He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow men do not see and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see myself…He wants me as His friend…and has given His son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? So often we approach relationships with the fear that if they only knew me they wouldn’t love me. However, we can rest in the knowledge that God loves us fully and completely despite knowing us fully and completely. I am both known and loved. I need not fear rejection by God because of who I am or what I’ve done. He knows me, faults and all. And loves me anyway.

When I consider this great gift of love, I feel compelled to worship Him. I cannot help but love Him in return. I also recognize that this is the truest and best way to love. As He has loved me despite knowing the worst of me, so I too should love others when I have seen or heard or felt their worst.

This is true love. This is the love that God has for us and it leaves me humbled and overwhelmed. I pray that you will join me in rejoicing over the fact that Jesus loves me even though He knows me.

Choose Wisely

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I recently heard Dan Le Batard of ESPN Radio talking about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Though I’m growing a little tired of all the attention being given to the talented but injury prone young star that has yet to prove himself on the field, I listened as Le Batard asked if the Washington Redskins organization was to blame for his lack of development as a player.

As Le Batard and his cohorts argued about whether Griffin or the organization is to blame for Griffin’s relative lack of success, I found myself thinking about Proverbs 13:20 – “the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Regardless of what is at the root of Griffin’s football problems, it is true in life that our environment can have a great impact on our lives.

I know there are circumstances beyond our control such as the family we are born into, tragic accidents, unexpected illnesses, etc. that we can do nothing about. I also know that no matter what our circumstances are, we are still responsible for our own actions. However, there can be no denying that our environment has significant influence upon who we are. Because of this fact, we should be very careful of the choices we make.

Every choice has the potential for long-lasting impact. You never know how your life will be affected by your friends, your job, your entertainment, your church or any other factor. We should not live in fear of what might be, but we should certainly use wisdom as to what we allow to impact us.

Choose friends that encourage your spiritual growth. Choose a job that allows you to work hard at bringing God glory. Choose entertainment that is edifying. Choose a church that equips you for your spiritual life. Make choices that reflect your desire to live a successful Christian life because hard work and faithfulness in Spiritual disciplines can be counteracted by foolish choices in regard to the circumstances we place ourselves in.

We may never know the true answer to Robert Griffin’s football woes, just as we may never know the full implications of our choices on the rest of our lives. What we can know for sure is that the path to a successful spiritual life consists of many wise choices. I trust that you will place yourself today in situations that encourage your spiritual success rather than hinder it.

 

Photo by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Supper August 23, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

“… the invisible God, who once made himself visible in Christ, now makes himself visible in Christians, if we love one another. It is a breathtaking claim. The local church cannot evangelize, proclaiming the gospel of love, if it is not itself a community of love.” – The Together of Evangelism

Little Screens and Corporate Worship tackles the issue of personal technology in worship. H.B. Charles says, “I am becoming increasingly convinced that when we start sharing or recording the moment we are no longer worshiping God. Worship is our response to God’s intoxicating worthiness. Worship happens as we forget about ourselves and are consumed with the greatness of God. How do you stand in awe of God and share it on social media at the same time?” I’m not sure where I stand on this, but it’s worth thinking about and his thoughts are excellent.

“When we’re wronged, we can trust God who will someday make everything right. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?'” – When You Get the Raw End of the Deal

4 Verses that Transformed My Evangelism reminds us that “we need to believe God is in charge of which desk we sit at. We need to believe God has put particular persons around us because he wants them to hear about his Son. We need to grasp God’s sovereignty—and align our days with his mission.”

“So much of the Christian life comes down to this simple discipline: Taking God at his word. God speaks to me through the Bible and makes so many precious promises. The question is, will I believe, and will I obey? Will I take God at his word?” – Where Is God Asking You to Take Him at His Word?

Guardian Angels? – “While many other objections may be raised about any sort of biblical teaching regarding individual “guardian angels” entrusted by God to watch over individual believers, of this much we can be sure–God will not spare to send the entire host of heaven to the aid of His people if He so chooses.”

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

Celebrity Christians

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By now, you’ve probably heard that Josh Duggar was one of the many Ashley Madison account holders who were outed this week. To be honest, I had not heard of Ashley Madison (which, as it turns out- is a website and company devoted entirely to helping married people have affairs) and I had no idea who Josh Duggar was until a few months ago when it was revealed that he molested his sisters as a teenager. To many, though, he is a household name as a member of the Duggar family of TLC’s cancelled 19 Kids and Counting – a show of which I must admit I have never seen an entire episode. The only reason that any of this raises my interest now is that he and his family are professing Christians who have achieved celebrity status in churches across our nation.

As I read and listen to the reaction of believers to this news, I feel compelled to offer some thoughts about the general relationship of the average, ordinary believer (from the perspective of social, not spiritual, status) to the celebrity Christian. From Tim Tebow to the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty fame to Bono, there seems to be an endless supply of famous Christians who, more often than not end up causing controversy of some kind. In no particular order, here are some thoughts that I hope you consider before jumping into your next Twitter battle over something a famous Christian did or said.

  • Be wise. Remember that you don’t actually know these celebrities. Despite the seeming free and unlimited access, the image you have of these celebrity Christians has been carefully crafted for the public eye. I’m not saying they’re fakes, I’m just saying that we don’t really know them and should therefore use wisdom in how we support, promote and identify with them. Since you cannot verify their personal relationship with the Lord, be wise in how closely you identify with them. I urge you to take advantage of evangelistic opportunities that popular Christians might open up for you, but do not align so closely with them that your message becomes dependent on their faithfulness.
  • Be discerning. The self-applied label of Christian does not make someone a genuine Christ-follower. Show discernment in what you buy, listen to, watch, read and talk about – even if the source claims to be Christian. Also, show discernment in regard to who or what you defend. You don’t have to defend every celebrity that claims to be a Christian. (I’m sure there are many who regret defending Josh Duggar a few months ago.)
  • Be trusting. Though we should be wise and discerning, we also don’t want to become cynical. You don’t have to be skeptical of every celebrity who claims to be Christian. Though there are many imposters, there are celebrities who seem to have a genuine relationship with Christ. We should approach these celebrity Christians in the same manner that we ought to approach any believer – we hope they are genuine believers, look for fruit in their lives and trust God for their salvation and sanctification.
  • Be gracious. You can’t expect perfection from a celebrity Christian (or any Christian). Most of us acknowledge that we sin in some way on a regular basis. We repent; we try harder; we expect others to understand that we just might mess up from time to time. Then we turn around and say that Shia Labeouf can’t be a Christian because he swears. The Christian life is a process of growing more like Christ and also occasionally failing. Thankfully, most of us don’t have our sins publicized.
  • Be reasonable. You can appreciate the positives of a Christian celebrity without condoning the negatives. I see too many Christians unwilling to accept the fact that Christians have flaws. This leads to opposite but equally tragic extremes. One extreme is that they defend a sin in order to avoid admitting their hero is flawed. The other is that they abandon or deny their Christian brother because he sinned. We don’t have to condone Phil Robertson’s inappropriate comments nor do we quit watching his show or reading his books simply because he made a mistake. It’s ok to appreciate positives and condemn sin in the same celebrity.
  • Be focused on Jesus. You don’t need a popular celebrity to represent you. As believers, we are on the side of Almighty God and we are represented by His precious and holy Son Jesus Christ. While it may be nice on occasion to see our world accept and appreciate one of us, we do not need the world’s validation.

As you consider these various celebrity Christians, remember that Satan would like nothing more than to use a professing Christian to cause harm to the name of Christ. This certainly happens when there is a public sin committed, but it also happens when we allow a celebrity to become a point of contention in the body. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fame and success of a good Christian person, but do not get too high with their success or too low with their failures. Keep your eyes fixed always on Jesus. He should forever be our greatest Hero of the faith.

7 Reasons to Serve in Children’s Ministry

 

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You’ve probably noticed some of the tell-tale signs that fall is just around the corner. Temperatures are (kind of) cooling down, Halloween decorations are in the stores, kids are heading back to school and pumpkins everywhere are gearing up for their annual invasion of everything imaginable. In many churches, another sign of fall is the start-up of school-year children’s ministries.

As our church prepares for the start of our AWANA program, I’ve been thinking a lot about volunteer recruitment. I am so thankful for all of our wonderful volunteers at First Baptist, but for many churches it can really be a nightmare to fill all the needs in their children’s ministries. As an attempt to help in those recruiting efforts, I put together the following 7 reasons to serve in children’s ministry.

  • Children are important to God. Throughout His Word, God emphasizes His love and concern for children. He considers them a gift to parents and He uses them to describe His relationship to believers. Jesus upholds them as a model for saving faith and He commanded His disciples to allow the children to come to Him. Children are obviously important to God and we should adopt His priorities.
  • Children are the future. Just because it is cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true. We all desire to be used by God to have a great impact on our world. What better way than to minister to children? After all, they will have the longest lasting impact on our future.
  • Children are still developing. When you minister to children, you have an opportunity to shape them into the adults they will become. In mechanical terms, preventative maintenance is better than making repairs.
  • Children are a great mission field. Lots of research points to the idea that children are the most receptive to the Gospel. Every year after the age of 13 it becomes increasingly less likely that a person will place their faith in Christ. Children’s ministries provide a tremendous means of reaching children while they are still receptive.
  • Children are great missionaries. Children can often be the avenue for reaching an entire family. The child’s involvement usually increases the amount of interaction between churches and families. Children are also great at telling their friends and families about their favorite program, lessons, Bible verses and many will even share their faith.
  • Children need godly role models. In a culture that seems committed to modeling a selfish and morally ambiguous lifestyle, our children need to see adults living out their faith. Many children do not have these godly role models in their lives, but even those who do can use the positive reinforcement.
  • Children need you. Every believer should be serving in a local church and the simple fact is that children’s ministries provide lots of opportunities to serve. Just about every person can use their gifts to serve kids.

There are many children in your community that need to be reached for Christ and perhaps you could be the difference maker in their life. I know that every ministry is not for everyone, but I do hope that as your church makes its annual plea for volunteers you will at least prayerfully consider these reasons for serving in children’s ministry. Also, feel free to share with me other reasons to serve in children’s ministry.

Peace in the Storm

1024px-Storm_in_pacifica_6 Peace! It’s a simple word and an attractive ideal, but it often proves to be an elusive reality. In a world filled with trials and struggles of all kinds and magnitudes, it is easy to view peace as a state that replaces those negative circumstances. In other words, we often live in the assumption that we can have peace after this trial, after this illness, after this struggle. I was recently reminded, however, that this is not biblical peace.

The reminder came through a sermon about Jesus calming the storm for his disciples. The story is a familiar one, but my attention was grabbed by the question Jesus asked afterward: “where is your faith?” In thinking about that question, I realized that Jesus really performed this miracle as a concession to their lack of faith. While we take great comfort from His ability to calm the storm, He was actually disappointed that it was necessary. Jesus’ desire for his disciples was that they would trust Him through the storm, not beg Him to end it! As John Ortberg says, they needed to learn that “peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.”

That, in essence, is biblical peace. Peace is not the absence of trial, struggle or illness. Peace is the calm composure of one who is resting in God despite troubles and difficulties. One of the great and marvelous blessings of being a child of God it that we can have peace during the storm. Though you may be tempted to look forward to having peace once our storm has passed, I challenge you to trust in God and experience His peace right now.

Photo By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Supper August 9, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

What Should We Do When They Stray? – some pastoral thoughts on dealing with a rebellious child.

“God wants us to know that waiting is far from a passive activity in which we do nothing. In fact, Scripture teaches us that God wants us to actively participate in the work he desires to accomplish. Waiting strategically can cultivate good fruit in in our lives such as patience, perseverance, and endurance. It also draws us closer to our Savior and points those who are watching us to the gospel.” – What to Do While You’re Waiting on God

15 Wisdom Principles on Deciding When to Stop Having Children – This articles does not try to give an answer to the question of how many children a family should have. Instead, the author encourages readers to be sure they have a biblical decision making process in place.

In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions. Here’s a calm and well-informed voice in regard to the Zimbabwe Lion controversy.

Video Killed the Pulpit Star. Interesting perspective on the multi-site church phenomenon. Well written, even if I don’t agree with all of the conclusions of the author.

Repentance is a foundational element of the Christian life. However, repentance must be sincere and Jim Elliff offers insight on How to Repent Without Really Repenting.

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.

When Christians Attack

As a child I spent a lot time at church. In fact, we even lived in or at the church facility on at least two separate occasions. Needless to say, a lot of my early memories involve church. One such memory has had a lasting impression on me. As a child of seven or eight, I was in an evening church service and a gentleman from the congregation was asked to pray. There was nothing noteworthy about that and I have no idea to this day who he was, but I remember that his prayer turned into a rant against Billy Graham. When he was done, there was some lively discussion amongst the adults that quickly bored me and I still have no idea what happened after that. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that, for one reason or another, amidst all the other church moments of my childhood, that one stayed with me.

Though I didn’t realize it then, that was my first experience with a particular kind of religious infighting that plagues Christianity – attack of the public Christian figure. This is a common problem in churches, religious news outlets and especially social media where bits and pieces of information are twisted and shared in a fashion that is at best gossip and at worst outright slander. The information is often shared as a “warning”, but is generally nothing more than a disagreement over personal preference, methodology or ministry philosophy.

For those already protesting my comments, let me assure you that I am not talking about kind, scholarly and well informed works that fairly evaluate an issue or the actions of a public figure. I am not saying that there is never a time and a place to call out a false teacher or a sinning brother. I am also not saying that we should never warn fellow believers as to the particular dangers of certain teachings or teachers.

However, if we take these responsibilities upon ourselves it should be done within certain parameters. Here are some thoughts I have in regard to the public sharing of information about public figures (particularly as it relates to social media).

  • We should always speak out of love. Every word that comes out of a Christian’s mouth (or keyboard) should reflect the love of Christ. We must ensure that we are demonstrating Christ-like love toward our audience, as well as toward the one who is the topic of our comments.
  • We should always speak the truth. It is amazing how many times I have seen professing Christians sharing, posting or spreading information that is outright erroneous. At best, that is lazy and foolish because it is relatively easy to check the validity of stories that you hear. Be certain that you are communicating truthfully at all times. If you cannot be sure, than don’t share.
  • We should be sure that our comments are profitable. Am I just venting, or do I have something constructive to add? Will my comments lead to the correction of a problem? Many times the sins of public figures are unnecessarily shared publicly because they are interesting even though there is no real value in others knowing about the sin. Sometimes it is necessary to share publically in regard to a popular teacher’s error for the sake of preventing believers from being led astray, but even this should be done in a way that is instructive to the hearer without being malicious toward the public figure himself.
  • We should speak with humility. It would do us good to consider how difficult it must be to have every aspect of your spiritual life under a microscope for the world to see. Most of us would not last long under that scrutiny.

When a brother sins or fails, we should humbly acknowledge that we are just as capable of sinning and failing and never rejoice in their failings. If there is factual negative information that must be shared publically, we should do it with sadness that a fellow believer has failed.

We should also humbly admit the limitations of our own knowledge and understanding. Many times we mistakenly assume that we know how God views a certain person or activity, but the Bible often reminds us of how skewed our perspective can be. King David of the Old Testament committed adultery, orchestrated a murder and even blatantly disobeyed a direct order from God yet was by God’s own admission a man after His own heart. God certainly didn’t condone David’s sin, but He certainly viewed David from a different perspective.

  • We should prioritize the Gospel. In Philippians 1:18, Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was preached even though those preaching were also trying to do him harm. Though we may not always agree with or condone the minor beliefs or actions of a public religious figure, we should be cautious about doing harm to those who are sharing the Gospel and serving the Lord in a public capacity. The thing that matters most is the advancing of the kingdom, and our slanderous behavior often does more harm to the cause of the Gospel than the issue we’re upset about.

I believe that if we considered these principles before speaking, writing or sharing about a public figure we would eliminate a great deal of the “believer bashing” that takes place among Christians. We would be well advised to spend more time praying for our fellow believers who are in the spotlight than bashing them for every perceived flaw or mistake they have. As you evaluate your own behavior toward other Christians – especially those who are public figures – consider this tragic observation one man made of the Christian church: “the Christian army is the only army that shoots its own wounded.” I pray that we can change this perception and end this trend of tearing down our brothers rather than building them up.

Sunday Supper August 2, 2015

 In a feature reminiscent of my childhood in which Sunday supper consisted of a smorgasbord of leftovers and a random assortment of other foods, I bring you an assortment of random items of interest from the past week.

As Planned Parenthood continues to make headlines, here’s another article that talks about the dangers of Looking Away From Abortion.

H.B. Charles explains why he says I’m Jealous of the #HealthyPreacherMovement

Something for the sports fan! Tim Tebow, reinvented describes Tebow’s latest comeback attempt, but also offers some fascinating insight into the science of a throwing motion.

A Call to Teenagers to Be Free – John Piper says, “I am writing for the liberation of teenagers. I write to challenge teenagers to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16). Be wise and strong and free from the slavery of culture-conformity. ”

“Parents who expect failure, respond with grace, and set an example of repentance are “safe” parents. But they’re not super-hero parents. They’ve simply embraced the gospel for themselves: they know they are sinners, and they know Jesus is their safe-place.” – Raising Real Kids, Not Fakers

If you’ve ever tried and failed at family devotions, you should check out these reasons Why We Fail at Family Devotions.

“It takes work for marriage to work. It’s one thing to be in love; another to love someone for life. Marriage can be a great relationship of intimacy and companionship, but not when couples stop working at it.” – The Path to Great Relationships

Enjoy this random collection of stuff and be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading or watching that is interesting, enjoyable or helpful.