The Waters of Sin

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We recently took our kids on a day trip to a nearby beach. It was a nice, mild day and the beaches were closed to swimming, so we (quite optimistically) opted to not take the kid’s swimming clothes or beach towels. There was no need since they wouldn’t be getting in the water. We would just play in the sand, dip our toes in the water and enjoy a nice, dry day at the beach.

A few minutes after our arrival we realized that we had terribly misjudged how difficult it is for small children to be that close to the water and not get wet. In the blink of an eye they were all soaked from head to toe, though they insisted they never actually got in the water. A nice walk along the beach in the sun remedied the problem, but I have to admit that for a few moments I was frustrated with my kids. How could they disobey and get wet?!

As we walked and talked, I thought of how my kids’ actions reflect the casual approach most believers take toward sin. We know the expectations and dangers, but love to get close enough to sin that we can get splashed. In this day and age of comfortable Christianity, we take sin way too lightly. We are casual and apathetic in the face of temptation and do not take the avoidance of sin seriously.

As believers, we must be intentional about our approach to sin. We must commit to practicing obedience and pursuing holiness. It is vital that we acknowledge that despite the victory we have in Christ, our flesh is still very susceptible to sin and temptation. We must never forget that sin’s allure is strong. Never overestimate the momentary appeal of sin nor your own will power. Never assume that you are immune to the commission of certain sins. Never think that you can regularly associate yourself with a temptation without falling. The power of sin is strong.

Those of us who are parents should also keep this in mind as we lead and guide our children. Think back to the story of my children on the beach. If it was really a problem for them to get wet, than what in the world was I doing putting them right on the edge of the water? I put them in a position to face great temptation to do the very thing I didn’t want them to do. I know that not all temptation can be avoided, but as a parent I should be doing everything in my power to put my children in a position to do right. When it comes to sin, I should stack the odds in their favor instead of placing them on the precipice of failure and giving them a little nudge. As a parent, I want to make sure that I am teaching my children the danger of sin all the while accounting for it myself and positioning them to have victory rather than failure. To do otherwise is simply irresponsible.

This serious attitude toward sin should also manifest itself in my conversations, my entertainment, my choices, my friendships – essentially every aspect of my life. As a believer, there is no need to go through life afraid of temptation or paranoid about sin, but I should have a healthy appreciation for just how strong sin’s pull can be and have a predetermined plan of action for pursuing holiness. I urge you, don’t splash in the shallow waters of sin and fool yourself into thinking you’re still dry!

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Sunday Supper September 27, 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 4 Fake Grammar Rules You Don’t Need to Worry About

 

Private Sin, Public Fallout: “Treat sin as it will treat you; spare it not for it will not spare you; it is your murderer, and the murderer of the world; treat it therefore as a murderer should be treated. Kill it before it kills you.”

 

Tim Keller answers 3 Objections to the Doctrine of Election

 

How Social Media Can Hurt Your Church – “We’re living in a microwave culture. We all want it fast and we want it now. However, the best way to serve your church and your online audience is by slowing down, measuring the right things and delivering high value to your audience.”

 

Just for fun! 10 Surprising Facts About Lego

 

You are Wasting Your Weekly Staff Meeting If… – Some brief but helpful thoughts on weekly staff meetings

 

NBA player Landry Fields shares some thoughts on how Injury Interrupted My Idolatry

 

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.

Sunday Supper September 20, 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 point is, love is a verb, sure. But it’s an impossible verb. It’s the kind of verb that pulls us out of our Western enlightenment secularistic bubbles into the country of the supernatural.” – Love Is Not a Verb

 

10 Things You Can’t Expect from Church Volunteers provides some helpful insight to the challenge of volunteerism.

 

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death offers some helpful thoughts on discussing death with children.

 

For fear of being legalistic, we can rob ourselves of the benefits of a regular pattern (or “spiritual disciplines”) of walking with God. Is this biblical or beneficial? Not at all! – Don’t Lose Spiritual Disciplines for Fear of Legalism

 

Your Child Is Your Neighbor presents a case for the practical application of biblical “people” principles to parenting.

 

Here are some great lessons about legalistic churches, as a former member shares “5 Things I Learned in an Unhealthy Church.”

 

5 Pastoral Pet Peeves is funny and helpful.

 

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.

What a Broken GPS Taught Me about Counseling

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I was recently on a day trip with my family and I pulled out my phone to find directions to our next stop. We had a general idea of where we were going and knew it should only take us a few minutes to get there, but when I looked at the map on my phone it showed over 4 hours of driving time. A closer look showed that the destination was correct, but my location was being shown as several hundred miles from where I actually was. The instructions were accurate, but they were useless to me because the map did not know where I was. To give good directions, you must have an accurate understanding of both the destination and the starting point.

As frustrating as that mistake might have been while I was traveling, it is even more frustrating when it happens in other areas of my life. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had that one friend that freely passes out the one-size-fits-all advice without a proper understanding of the facts. Think of the young man struggling with pornography who is told “you just need to repent” or the depressed housewife who is told to “find joy in God.” What about the faith healer who tells the cancer patient to “have more faith” or the overwhelmed young mother who is told “treasure these years.” There’s nothing wrong with any of that advice except for the fact that it isn’t what those (real life) individuals needed. Many churches are filled with those who – like Job’s friends – have all the right answers to all the wrong questions. It can be frustrating and hurtful when someone tries to offer instruction or advice when they’ve obviously misunderstood where we are in our lives.

Fortunately, for those of us who are following God, He promises a different kind of guidance. In Psalm 32:8, God says “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel. God’s counsel is always given in perfect knowledge of both destination and starting point. He knows where He wants to take me, but He also has full knowledge of where I am. He doesn’t just paint a picture of a beautiful destination and wish us luck getting there on our own. He doesn’t pass out generic instruction that works for some. No, He formulates a plan for my life that has me in mind.

This fact should bring great comfort to me in my own life, but it should also challenge me as to my own counsel toward others. Just like God takes me into account when He is guiding me, I must take the specific person involved into account when I am advising or counseling. It takes more work and it is messier, but that’s what God models for us. As a church, we must be willing to get down into the messy reality of each other’s lives and do life together before we can propose useful solutions. I am so grateful that my Father in heaven knows me and guides me accordingly. His wise and gracious counsel challenges me to do the same for others. I don’t want to be like that dysfunctional GPS that passes out good directions from the wrong location.

 

Photo By {{{1}}} (Flickr: ♥ my NDrive GPS) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Supper September 13, 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 Best Ways to Spot a Liar – There is no fool-proof form of lie detection, but using a little tact, intelligence, and persuasion, you can hope that eventually, the truth will out.

“I’m convinced that inconvenience is often a gift. It feels counterintuitive, but it’s true. Inconvenience can be God’s way of slowing us down when we don’t want to.” – Learning to Linger in a Spotify Age

The Curse of a Godly Wife – Rejoice in your wife’s godliness, and thank God for such a precious gift. Celebrate it by pursuing godliness of your own.

“Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that what we do or think or feel matters less than whether we admit to doing and thinking and feeling those things. To act in a way that is right and proper, even when you feel something different, is not hypocrisy. It’s called maturity.” – Christian Virtue in the Age of Authenticity

Is the “Five Second Rule” Real? A food scientist explains about the amount of bacteria transferred to food when it is dropped on the floor.

“For many years, our public schools have been seen as battlefields. Nothing much grows on a battlefield, though. Instead, our schools should be viewed as gardens to cultivate.” – Planting Seeds of Truth in Your Public School

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.

On War Room and Prayer

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I recently had the opportunity to see War Room, the latest offering by the Christian film-making team Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Despite making $11,000,000.00 (in just over 1,000 theatres) on opening weekend and doing quite well since, the film is pretty much getting hammered by movie critics and reviewers. (Here is one of the kinder reviews.)

I, however, am not a movie critic and no one is interested in my amateur opinion of the film’s quality. For the record, I enjoyed the movie just as I have the others produced by this sibling team. I feel that the movie is certainly targeted to an exclusively Christian audience and prioritizes its message above all other considerations. Though this has led to much of the criticism, I think most people who go to see this movie know exactly what they’re going to get and are ok with that.

I, for one, am willing to overlook some of the professional inadequacies and enjoy the movie for what it is – a well made plea for Christians to engage in spiritual warfare through prayer. Though the discipline of prayer is somewhat oversimplified, the movie does a fantastic job of challenging viewers to evaluate their own prayer life.

I am convinced that this movie strikes upon a serious deficiency in the Christian church today. We do not pray as we should. Though we claim to value prayer, we do not put into prayer the time and energy necessary to validate that claim. As I watched this movie, I was deeply challenged about my own personal prayer life. Here are a couple of my personal take-a-ways from War Room.

  • Prayer is work. I’m sure there will be a ton of marketing based around the idea of prayer closets and journals, etc., but one thing that this movie conveyed well is that true prayer takes work. It is an intentional effort to remove distraction and approach God. Prayer is also work in the sense that our flesh opposes us as we attempt to pray. We must work to overcome the flesh and we must also work to engage in and overcome the spiritual warfare that is going on around us. Many believers lack a strong prayer life because they just won’t put in the work.
  • Prayer works. Another clear truth that War Room will remind you of and hammer home repeatedly is that prayer works. I’m not sure it always works the way it does in the movie, but it does work. Yes, God has a plan and He is sovereignly working that plan, but somehow in his sovereign and infinite power He also allows for our prayers to make a difference. Prayer is not just something we do or talk about doing. Prayer actually works and we need to reclaim our confidence in going before God with our prayers. He wants us to pray and He wants to use prayer to change things in our lives and the world around us. prayer works!
  • We don’t pray enough. I am sure that most believers feel as if they do not pray enough. There’s something about prayer that can make even the strongest saint feel inadequate, but for some of us it is actually true. In my opinion and experience, most Christians don’t pray enough. We talk to others far more than we talk to God. We seek help from other sources far more often than we seek it from God. We whine and complain far more often than we pray. If nothing else, this movie challenged me to look at all of life as an opportunity to pray.

Charles Spurgeon once said that “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.” I don’t exactly know how all of that works itself out theologically, but I do know that God is almighty and all powerful. I also know that He wants me to pray and he uses my prayers to make a difference in my life and in this world. I encourage you to take Him at His Word and begin to pray. Don’t worry about technique or location or verbiage – just pray! Pray and watch what God will do.

Photo credit to navalatanjjnn @ http://fav.me/d2n124t

Sunday Supper September 6, 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.

Though I don’t believe that sexual sin is limited to men, this Plea to Christian Men is a heartfelt cry for men to stand up and pursue holiness.

Hey Christian, Polity Matters is a well written piece primarily espousing the virtues of church membership. You may not agree with all he says, but it’s worth the read.

“I look to my newsfeed and see, ‘My body, my choice.’ I look to Judges 19 and watch a coward say, ‘My concubine, my choice.’  And then I look to John 19 where Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, makes the definitive statement: ‘My body, for your choices.’” – Your News Feed is Not New!

God, You’ve Got the Wrong Guy reminds us that that “the God who calls is the God who equips. Right there you will find your comfort and your confidence.”

“If the goal of every conversation is conversion, you’ll find yourself frustrated and ready to move on. So don’t try to ‘close the deal’ in every conversation. Instead, here’s a more realistic goal: put a stone in their shoe.” – My Goal in Every Conversation With Mormons

How Telephone Etiquette Has Changed – Understanding social norms for the phone means accepting the fact that the things we call “phones” are actually computers.

How Do I Talk to My Kids About Abortion? – As the video exposés about Planned Parenthood continue, those with children may be wondering how they can talk to them in age-appropriate ways about the value of life and the reality of abortion.

Sister Wives star cites gay marriage ruling in polygamy defense – The polygamous family starring in the hit TLC reality show Sister Wives believes the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage gives them grounds to live their lifestyle unpunished, according to an appeal filed last week.

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.

Religious Liberty and Civil Disobedience

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By now you have almost certainly heard that Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, was jailed Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses since the June supreme court decision back in June that legalized same-sex marriage. While she sits in jail because of her decision, people on both sides have taken to various forms of media to weigh in on her choice and the judge’s ruling. (Here and here you can find two opposing views that I believe are both well-written and reasonable.) In the last few days I have seen her painted as a bigot by some and a hero by others, though I am certain she is neither. She is, however, a woman that found herself in what she believed to be a moral dilemma and tried to do what she believed to be the right thing.

Though it is not up to you or me to determine whether or not she did the right thing, we can attempt to learn from her situation. We will all at one point or another find ourselves in a situation where we must take a stand for what we believe. Tragic and controversial as it is, Mrs. Davis’ situation does bring to mind serious questions in regard to religious liberty and civil disobedience. As I consider this dilemma, I’ve put together a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

  • Religious liberty does not give you the freedom to do whatever you want in the name of religion. Religious liberty is the freedom to believe as you choose, to worship as you choose and to act on your beliefs. However, religious freedom is still a freedom allowed by government and government has the right to moderate and limit it as they see fit. Most of those claiming the government has overstepped its bounds with Kim Davis are grateful that the government steps in to limit the religious freedom of Islamic radicals, the KKK and pedophiles like Warren Jeffs (all of whom are acting according to their religious beliefs). We have been blessed in America with religious freedom, but it is not a free pass to do whatever you want.
  • When faced with a moral dilemma, make sure it’s really a moral dilemma. As a Christian, the Bible should be your standard for what is right and wrong. Before you claim that you are taking a stand for God, please be absolutely certain that you are. There are many strongly held opinions and even some beliefs within Christianity that are not actually biblical. It wasn’t that long ago that conservative, southern evangelicals believed that they were standing up for God by opposing interracial marriage. In Mrs. Davis case, there is great disagreement as to whether or not she really faced a moral dilemma. Beyond the issue of whether or not same-sex marriage is okay, there are questions as to whether or not issuing a marriage license violates biblical commands. After all, she is not the one getting married. Regardless of your opinion on her decision, I suggest that we all make sure that we are basing our convictions on God’s Word and not tradition or opinion.
  • Civil disobedience should be a last resort. I have heard Mrs. Davis compared to the Apostle Peter and the Old Testament’s “three Hebrew children,” but we must understand that in those cases there were no alternatives to obedience. The government required something of them to which there was no alternative. Despite what many are saying, this is not what has happened to Mrs. Davis. Her employer required something of her and she refused to do it. Only then did government step in to require her to either fulfill her duties or face the consequences. Remember, you have the freedom to choose what you believe and where you work. You do not have the freedom to insist that your employer accommodate you. Imagine a recovering alcoholic accepting a position at a beer distributor and then insisting that they not force him to handle alcohol because of his condition. That seems silly, but in fact that is exactly what Mrs. Davis is doing. No one is being thrown in jail for believing that homosexual marriage is wrong. Mrs. Davis was jailed because she insisted upon being paid for a job that she refused to do. As Christians we must make sure that we are not selfishly demanding that the world accommodate us. There may come a time where you will be forced to “choose to obey God rather than man”, but I think those occasions are rare. Most of the time we can choose to sacrifice in a way that doesn’t require disobeying the authority over us. Though inconvenient, God will certainly honor this willingness to suffer for righteousness sake!
  • When choosing civil disobedience, graciously accept the consequences. If you believe God’s authority is requiring you to disobey a human authority, please quietly and graciously accept the consequences. In her defense, I believe that this has mostly been Mrs. Davis’ attitude and I respect that. Even when the government is allowing or condoning actions that violate God’s law, they are still His agents for order. We should respect our civil government even when we must violate its law for conscience sake.

Though there is a great deal of political and social confusion right now, one thing that seems clear is that the relationship of American culture to Christianity is in a new phase. It is yet to be determined how that relationship will turn out, but it should not surprise us if we do lose some of the freedoms we have enjoyed to this point. It is not my desire to stir up controversy or to discourage true Christians from acting upon their beliefs. It is only my desire that we would wisely choose our battles through the guidance of scripture and that we would make showing Christ’s love a priority even when we must disagree with or even oppose our culture. I am still learning as well, so your thoughts are appreciated. Please be kind and respectful in your comments.

 

photo by FJM88NL (Own 3D creation) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons