Square Peg, Round Hole

When our kids were babies, we had this little wooden toy with shapes cut of in the middle. The boys could remove the shapes, and put them back in place. This gave an all new meaning to the phrase, “Putting a square peg into a round hole.” This was a great instrument for the boys to learn their shapes, but I also noticed that they would become easily frustrated. They would pick up the square peg and begin to try to place it in the circle cut out, twisting and turning it every which way in order to try and fit it in.

But no matter how hard they tried, that square peg just wouldn’t go into a round hole. It wasn’t made for that.

As their parents, Lacy and I would come along beside them and show them the proper fittings for the pegs. They didn’t always get it immediately, but over time the light began to come on, and they got it. We went through this process with Andy and Lincoln, our two oldest boys. And when their younger baby brothers, Abel and Luke came along, Andy and Linc were able to teach them the proper placement of the wooden pegs just as they were once taught.

I opened up with this little analogy because that is how I’ve been feeling in my own walk with the Lord per the last few years. Particularly in how we do ministry. Something just doesn’t seem to fit. I read the scriptures, and then I see how the American church does evangelism. We have our neatly organized weekly Bible studies, our Sunday morning service that is cleanly tapered to a sixty minute time slot, and we take a few yearly trips to missions. And there is nothing wrong with any of this! In fact, these things are great tools we use to proclaim the Gospel and live on mission for Jesus!

But my soul has still been restless in the past few years. And Ive not been able to pin point why that is until recently. I look at the square peg that is scripture, and grow frustrated that our sphere shaped ways of doing ministry dont see to look at all like what is seen in the Bible.

Square peg, round hole.

We have organized the events of the church so very much that I fear that the routine may be keeping us from living the reality of what Jesus has called us to do.

Take Jesus for example. He never walked through Jerusalem advertising that on Sunday morning, He would be holding a church service and would love for everyone to join Him. Evangelism was not based around a single event or even a building. Jesus did ministry by building relationship. And He built relationships by going outside of what we would call a comfort zone and reaching out to those that He didn’t yet know.

Jesus reached out to people not to invite them, but to genuinely get to know them personally.

Jesus took it upon Himself to go out and meet His future disciples! Again, He didn’t pass out flyers or merely invite them in passing to a service. He literally invaded their lives! He met them on their turf, and joined in activities that we’re important to them in order to relate to them.

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” Luke 5:4-11.

Jesus met the disciples in their own back yard. And they followed Him not just because He told them to do it. Rather, they followed because they could see that Jesus really cared about them, and wanted to get to know them.

Who could forget the story of the wee little tax collector Zacchaeus was a greedy tax collector who got rich off of taking more from people than necessary. That being said, Zacchaeus was not very popular, and probably not a person you would want to be seen associating with. But Jesus didn’t care what people thought of Him. In fact, when Jesus did begin to speak to Zacchaeus, others in the crowd began to gossip.

“And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Luke 19:7.

Jesus, unaffected by the quiet jeers of the self righteous people around Him, took it a step farther. Not only did He seek out Zaccheaus in the town, but He actually went to his house to get to know him!! This is huge! Who does this, even in our world today? Jesus could have merely invited Zaccheaus to come and listen to Him preach. But Jesus wanted more than just another groupie. He wanted more than just another face in the crowd that followed Him.  He wanted a relationship. It was not about adding one more warm body to the list of people He had listening to His sermons. His ministry was done in the midst of real life situations, not from the comforts of a Sunday school class.

Samaria was a Gentile town, and the Jews hated the Gentiles. In fact, they even refused to travel through Samaria because they didn’t want to interact with these people. Yet Jesus, a Jew, chose to travel through Samaria. And in the process, He met a Samaritan woman at a drinking well. Not only that, Jesus began to talk to her by asking her for a drink! This blew her mind! Jews didn’t talk to Gentiles! Wasn’t He afraid of who might see Him? This interaction could greatly damage His reputation!

“The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” John 4:9.

Jesus went on to have a discussion with her. But it wasn’t a “hows the weather”, superficial discussion. Jesus addressed the areas of her life where she was hurting. She was an outcast of her town that none of the other women wanted to associate with because she was known as the town whore. In fact, she’d had five husbands, and currently she was involved in a relationship with a man outside of marriage. Because of her reputation, she had to come and draw her water at noon. Most of the other women drew their daily water early in the morning, before the heat of the day had come upon them. But this woman had to go draw her water in the hottest part of the day due to her shame.

Again, Jesus didn’t just invite her to an upcoming church function. Jesus built a relationship with her. And the effect on her was epic! After meeting Jesus, this woman, who’d once been shamed to be seen in town, ran back to her town and began to tell everyone about Jesus. And the Gospel was advanced that day because a relationship was built.

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” John 4:39.

There are so many more instances of Jesus doing relational ministry throughout the Gospels. He didn’t base His ministry on a weekly schedule or a church calendar of events.

He was driven daily to seek out people and love them.

Even after His resurrection,  we see Jesus followers mimicking His example of how to do ministry. Take Paul for instance. Paul and Silas were severely beaten and thrown in prison for preaching the gospel. Things were hard at this point in his life. They could have been worried about their circumstances and said, “We don’t have time for ministry, we are in a pickle!” But that is not what happened.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” Acts 16:25-34.

Heres the take away. No matter where they were, regardless of the circumstances, they viewed the people God had placed in front of them as an opportunity to build relationships! Trials in life were viewed as an opportunity to love even their enemies and build relationships!

They preached the Gospel to this guard who’s job it was to keep them in chains, and He was saved! Now once God had freed them, they could have said, “Alright, now we need to get as far away from here as possible so we don’t get caught again.” But that was not what they did. Instead, they chose to go to the house of this guard and build relationships with his family.

The blueprint for reaching the lost was never to be predominantly in an organized setting. Ministry was to be sought as we go along our daily lives!

“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:7.

Ministry is not about trying to invite as many people as we can to attend a church service. It never was!  It is sacrificing our time to build relationships with people that are outside of our comfort zones. Although inviting people to church is always a good thing, I think many of us have neglected the “as you go” part of doing ministry!

We have so neatly organized and sanded off the sides of our squared church calendar, that it no longer fits the circular mold of the original way Christ called His followers to do ministry. Look at the people Jesus has placed in your life. Look at the poor areas of town that you drive past every day. Look at the community that you live in.

Are you actively seeking to daily develop new relationships with people? Who among us would be brave enough to take time out of their day to just drive to a poor area of town and ask the people living there if they would be interested in doing a weekly Bible study where they live. Maybe just show up with a grill and burgers to being to cook for them.

Who among us would invite your co worker who no one really likes or associates with to have dinner with you and your family? Mothers who would seek out weekly play dates with mothers who are struggling or single in a hard area of town in order to build relationships.

My fear is that we are not being the church that Jesus had intended. I read the scriptures and see this intentionality towards people in Jesus and his followers, yet today, church is a twice a week event. And in a great majority of Christians eyes, being missional is maybe inviting someone to church if they can muster up the courage.

No relationship building, no Gospel sharing, just inviting people to church. That is not ministry, thats advertising. Ministry is about relationships. Ministry is about Gospel proclamation.

My fear is that we have become too self reliant on a building, a church calendar, and even ministerial staff and have therefore become complacent and ineffective in being true Gospel agents of reconciliation.

My fear is that in our current programatic way of doing ministry, we have become too civilized for the Jesus of the Bible.

The square peg will never fit the round hole unless we begin to listen to the words of our Heavenly Father through scripture. Listening is different than just reading or memorizing a verse. Listening is really putting yourself into what scripture is saying and taking to heart the actions of His followers. The beauty of listening is, once the light comes on and we realize the proper placement of these ministry pegs, then we can go to other believers to allow God to bring their ministries to life.

It’s Called Making Disciples.

I don’t want to play church. I don’t care about fitting into the mold of what is socially acceptable or how the world thinks the church should operate. I just want us to look at the Bible and follow the examples we have been given. We will all stand before God one day to give an account of what we did with the breath that we were given. We will not be able to use the excuse that, “I thought that was the way ministry was done because thats how all other Christians did it.”

“But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” 2 Corinthians 10:12.

We weren’t called to be like other Christians. We are called to be like Christ.

Standing before God, we will be pointed to the words of the Lord through scripture and asked, “Did you really know me, or just know what you were told about me.” If we say we truly love Jesus, we cannot afford to be wrong about this! We’ve been given the model. The question is, are we using it? Much of current Christianity has ceased to fit the mold of scripture, and its because we’ve stopped listening and grown bored in the routine.

Are you seeking out new relationships daily in hopes of personally sharing Jesus with them?

Like an infant who grows frustrated trying to fit that square peg into a round hole, so many Christians are bored and frustrated with the routine of church. And its because this routine ministry that is much of American Christianity was never the mold given to us by Jesus. We have forgotten that mission is not just something to be talked about on Sundays, its a lifestyle to be lived! And Gospel centered mission cannot be had until genuine relationships occur. We must begin to develop a love for people outside of our comfort zones daily. Search the scriptures, pray, and let God define your ministry. The call from Christ was to make disciples. And making disciples begins at the point of personal relationship.

Seasonal Idolatry

We use phrases in Christianity that really have no meaning behind them, because they have not impacted us personally. These phrases are just things we say to fit into the Christian mold. One of these phrases I’ve always heard is the war cry, “Stand up for Jesus!” It’s easy to merely say stand up for Jesus, but if your heart has not been personally impacted by the Gospel, these words are empty.

Standing up for Jesus is a great thing to the average believer, just as long as it doesn’t upset any apple carts so to speak. Standing up for Jesus is fine, as long as it doesn’t fly in the face of any man-made traditions. You see we place price tags on standing up for Jesus.

American Christianity says, “Amen to standing up for Jesus, as long as what Jesus says doesn’t offend me or threaten to alter the way I live my life.” What we are really saying is “God not offending me is more important than me not being offensive to God.”

It is a sad day indeed when the Gospel begins to penetrate darkness in our world, but we slink back into the shadows because the darkness was more of a comfort to us than the radiant truth of the light. I don’t understand why so many people in our world today profess Jesus as their Lord, yet fight so hard to not let the Gospel change anything about them. This is seen especially in our current Christmas season.  During Christmas, many professing believers will use the phrase, “It’s is all about Jesus.”

But in reality, if Christmas were a beautiful steak dinner with all the fixings, Jesus would just be the garnish on the side.

Our world puts so much emphasis on the glitz and glamour of the season and making sure that all the age-old traditions that accompany Christmas are in place, and Jesus just becomes sort of something we feel obligated to mention sprinkled throughout the month. Kind of like the green kale on the side of a fancy dinner or that pink ginger substance on the side of a plate of sushi.

Jesus is not the main course, and not even a part of the meal that is looked forward to. He just makes the plate look nice.

Standing up for Jesus is a radical thing. It’s a dangerous concept. Its scandalous. Because when the Gospel collides with modern-day culture, it literally changes everything. When a person has been truly impacted by Christ, they cannot help but see the world through a different lens. Every aspect of life is filtered through the Gospel. Its more than just memorizing scripture. It’s so much more than church attendance. Gospel transformation is actually taking to heart what the word of God says and then applying it to every area of our lives, even if it threatens to disrupt the way we’ve always done things.

Here is an example from scripture of what happens when the Gospel collides with tradition. Paul and his disciples had been preaching the gospel, which was contrary to a lot of Macedonia’s tradition. And this Gospel that Paul preached caused a big disturbance in the culture.

“About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.  For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.  These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.  And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” Acts 19:23-26.

Demetrius made his living by making statues that some people worshipped, and Paul had come to Macedonia preaching against worshipping any other God or making an idol into a God. But this was the way they had always done things! Who was Paul to come in and disrupt their way of life? Demetrius gathered together some of his buddies and began to gossip and slander Paul for how serious he was taking the Gospel.

When the Gospel collides with our traditions and our idols, it disrupts everything. Because everything we thought we knew by the worlds standards proves to be wrong. And we are a people that doesn’t like to be told we’re wrong.

Demetrius had always made idols, and they were more important to him than the Gospel. And like Demetrius, we have idols that we’ve always had and may seem as innocent as statue making seemed to Demetrius. But in reality they stifle the gospel.

“And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition.” Mark 7:13.

Read the above verse once more. Then read it again. Let it sink in. Is there something in your life that you’ve been holding higher than God? Notice the verse mentions tradition. A tradition is something that has been passed down through the years. We have many traditions in our world today. And many of them are seasonal. Granted, not all traditions are bad. But when tradition collides with the truth of the Gospel in your life, which one wins?  Is the word of God canceled out in your life by a love of holiday tradition?

All the great things that come along with the Christmas season are great, but if they steal any of the focus off of Jesus, then they are merely idols that we’ve made into Gods.

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21.

Christmas can become an idol if we are not careful. Idols are seemingly good things in our world that have become more important than God and His word in our life. Idolatry is when a good thing in your life becomes a God thing. So how do you know if Christmas has become an idol for you?

Examine yourself. When traditions are exposed for stealing glory away from God, do you fight and rationalize in your mind how it’s really not a bad thing? Or do you simply submit to the word of God, repent, and turn back to the Lord?

Human nature is that when our idols and traditions are confronted with the Gospel, we begin to try and speak up for them and in some way justify them. We defend our idols passionately. But look at what Isaiah would say of those who speak up in defense of their idols.

“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.” Isaiah 44:9.

What bold truth there is in that verse. We are naturally blind to our idols. Because to us, they are harmless and have been just something that everyone does. But how often do we actually stop and examine what we are doing laid up against scripture? Isaiah says if we are unwilling to do that, then we are ignorant people. In standing up for our idols, we take a stance against the Gospel.

“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.” Isaiah 2:8.

Some would say I’m taking God too seriously. Perhaps. However, I would rather stand before the Lord on judgement day and Him say to me that I was taking Him too seriously rather than Christ say that I had not taken Him seriously enough. 

I’m a literalist. I think the Bible means exactly what it says. When Jesus said to turn from sin, I literally believe He meant for us to flee from sin. When Jesus said that a person who lies is an abomination to God, I literally believe that God cannot stand a liar, and that we should not lie, even if it is just a little white lie.

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!” Psalm 135:15.

Like silver and gold, many of the idols we have in our world were created by man. But the thing about man made idols is that they have no life in them. And according to scripture, when we put our trust and give importance to any idol, we become just like them…lifeless. We have so many idols in our world from how we live our daily lives, to how we do church, even how we do holidays, that are built on untruths. Yet we continue to pass them down throughout the generations for the sake of honoring tradition! Read once more the verse above and think about what it is saying.

God pointing out our idols is not Him trying to hinder our fun, but rather it is God saving our life.

Therefore, when God through Christ and the writers of scripture continually warns me to be on look out for idols, I do not take offense, because I see the serious nature at hand. The example I use quite often is of my child playing in the street. If I scream at him to get out of the street, Im not trying to hinder what seems fun to him or hurt him in any way. I see the seriousness of the situation even when all he may see is daddy ruining his fun. I love my child enough to chance ruining his fun in order to save his life.

Why is Jesus so urgent in warning us of the dangers of material and traditional idolatry?

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ” 1 Corinthians 6:9.

These are damnable sins mentioned that if practiced as a regular way of our lives, without any turning from them, will restrict us from entering the kingdom of God. Notice the second sin mentioned is idolatry. And Jesus warns us over and over about the dangers of idolatry because it is one of those sins that can come in the guise of seemingly good, ordinary things that all people do.

“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Jonah 2:8.

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:44.

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.” Galatians 4:8.

Christmas is a joyous time full of special moments with family and friends. The stripping away of our traditions and idols that have become so cozy and comfortable to us is hard and at times painful. But here is the beauty. Once we submit to the Gospel, the blinders come off, and we are set free to experience an even greater joy than the traditions of our world could ever offer. There is an unexplainable, supernatural joy that accompanies deeply knowing Christ and making it your life’s pursuit to glorify His great name! This joy supersedes all the great holiday food, all the presents, and yes, even the age-old Christmas traditions that have been passed down through the generations. There is no greater joy than Jesus. This Christmas season, don’t miss the beauty of Jesus due to being blinded by seasonal idols.

The Reason For The Season

They say that confession is good for the soul. I have a secret. One that has made many people gasp at just the thought of it. This secret is extremely scandalous, especially during the Christmas holiday season. Are you ready for my secret? Brace yourselves, here it is;

We don’t tell our kids that Santa is real!

This was a decision my wife and I made even before our first child was born. It wasn’t a popular decision with those closest to us. And I heard some great rebuttals to this decision from close friends. They would say things like, “You’ll ruin Christmas for them” and “Taking Santa out of Christmas is almost un-American!” No doubt it was a tough call. But we didn’t base this decision on the happiness of our children or on what other people might think.

We pulled Santa from Christmas due to scripture.

Many people say they feel so uplifted reading the Bible. Although this is true, Ive felt more convicted in my time in the word than anything else. I read the scripture about Jesus and His disciples, how they faced bitter persecution. How they left the comforts of home and sought the approval of God rather than man. I read of men like the apostle Paul, who actually counted suffering as a blessing and material things as garbage all for the utter joy of knowing Christ. And I see in the Bible I’m not the point of the story but rather Jesus Christ is the point of everything.

And then I look at Christianity in America today. And I don’t see the same commitment. I don’t see the self denial that were characteristic of the great men of the faith in scripture. Instead, we have become a consumeristic culture, and Christianity has become molded into a weekly routine and a seasonal event that makes us feel good. Our society is not built around downsizing for Christ, but upsizing for self.

This is especially obvious during Christmas. Sure, we have our Christmas themed church services, and we sing about the baby Jesus, but ultimately, Christmas in our country has become more about presents, the Christmas tree, and a mythical fat man than it is about Jesus.

The decision not to do Santa with our kids was a decision that didn’t come easy. But the more I read the Bible, the more convicted I became that Santa was overshadowing Jesus. Here are some things to consider regarding Santa.

1.) We tell our kids, “Santa sees you when your sleeping and knows when your awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good as well!” So from this, we can take away that Santa is omnipresent, or able to be everywhere and see everything at one time.

“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord..” Jeremiah 23:24.

Jesus is omnipresent as well. In fact, while we tell our kids the myth that Santa makes all the toys, the truth is even more amazing that God made everything!

2.) We tell our kids that they will be rewarded for their obedience with toys and if they are bad, punished for their rebellion.

The Bible says that the obedient children of God will be rewarded as well by Jesus Himself, while those who rebel to His Lordship will be eternally punished. Jesus is the true giver of all good things, not Santa.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

3.) We tell our kids that Santa is eternal.

So is Jesus.

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17.

We’ve taken the attributes of God and placed them on an imaginary figure named Santa.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22.

A person who lies is an abomination to God according to the scriptures. Think about this for a moment. When we tell our children that a man dressed in red, riding high in the sky with flying reindeer will bring them gifts if they are good, what are we doing?

We are lying to them.

We are lying to our children. I’ve had people try to rationalize this one way or another, but as nice as we try to make it sound, the truth of the matter is we are telling our children something that we know is not true.

No doubt this bothers some who are reading. And the fact that you are disturbed is totally understandable. This is how backwards our society has become in terms of Christianity! We are more comfortable with a lie and would rather do things like they’ve been done for hundreds of years rather than really look at scripture and come to the conclusion that just because we’ve done things one way for a long time doesn’t mean its right.

When I was in first grade, the other boys and myself would play fight. I would ball up my fist and pretend to throw punches as if I was a superhero. However, when I made a fist, I would always tuck my thumb inside of my fingers instead of wrapping it across the top. I did this for years until someone finally told me the proper way to make a fist. At first I thought my way had to be right because I had been doing it that way for years. But then I began to see that if I would have gotten in an actual fight and threw a punch with my thumb tucked in my fist, I would probably break it.

Im not saying that doing Santa is sinful or wrong. Im just asking that we would begin to filter everything through scripture and not tradition. If taking Santa out of Christmas ruins the holiday season, then that should show us that our focus has been severely wrong all along. Ive found that for the most part, people are more offended by the thought of Santa not being in Christmas than the thought of Jesus not being glorified during this season. Some would say we are taking this too seriously. Then again, Jesus took me pretty seriously when He exchanged His life for mine on the tree of Calvary.

Lacy and I gather the kids together like everyone else and decorate our tree as a family. We hang stockings from our chimney. We get our boys reasonable presents. But we don’t make it all about the presents. Instead, we use this time to point everything to Jesus. If we truly claim to be followers of Christ, it is imperative that we take His word seriously.

We always hear during this time the phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” If that is true, then why do we make so many others things the point of Christmas? Enjoy the Christmas season, the presents, the tree, and all the captivating things that accompany this time of year. Just don’t make them the point. And in regards to our kids, whether you do Santa at your household or not, be sure to use Christmas as an opportunity to teach them the Gospel. That Jesus was sent from God, born into flesh just to die for our sins, rising again victorious having defeated the evil one eternally so that we might be saved. That is the greatest gift of all.

Don’t Live For The Moment, Live For Eternity

This year has made it official. I’m no longer a young man anymore. The white hairs began appearing first just beside my temples, right above my ears. First so scarcely I could hardly notice. Then as the weeks began to pass more and more of their little friends began to join them. Now they have moved on from the sides of my head and have begun sprouting on my face in certain areas. “How can this be happening?” The inner voice inside my head began to ask. “I’m not even thirty-nine years old yet!”

I turned on the television last week to see my all time favorite movie, Rocky on the screen. Sly Stallone was always my hero growing up. Later during a commercial break, they had a current interview with Sly as he talked about the making of Rocky. And looking at the current Sylvester Stallone, I asked myself the question, “When did Rocky get so old? It seems like last week I saw him training in snow and doing jumping jacks for the first time to the tune of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger.”

I can still remember graduating from high school. It seems like only yesterday that I was living off of Raman Noodles and midnight Taco Bell runs in college! I can vividly remember the very first time I laid eyes on my wife, exactly what she was wearing, and the goofing pick up lines I tried on her! I looked yesterday at my oldest child Andy, who is eight years old, and felt almost perplexed at how he’d gotten so big! I mean, wasn’t it just last week that we were teaching him how to walk?

Have you ever just stopped and marveled at just how quickly life passes by? Today I’m 38 years old. And when I’m 78, today will seem like yesterday! And the older I get, the faster the years seem to pass by. This realization has greatly begun to impact me in many areas of my life.

Our two oldest boys, Andy age 8 and Lincoln age 5, always want to be held at night. More than anything, I pretty sure its just an excuse not to go to sleep. It’s so easy as a parent to grow numb to this nightly request and tell them to close their eyes. Rather than looking at this as a brief moment in time that will too soon be gone. My oldest is eight. How much longer until he begins to think hugs and kisses from daddy are gross? How many more nights will I have that he would allow me to snuggle up to him? Even though they are getting so big, I still see them as those little babies in the delivery room. We bypass the gifts of God thinking that they will be here forever, when in reality, they are gone in an instant.

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14.

In the span of eternity, our lives are like the disappearing morning mist. The question is not, “Are you living your best life now?” The question we should ask ourselves is, “With the brevity of life that we have, what are we living for?”

One summer when I was in college, a friend of my parents offered me a job doing construction type labor in his warehouse for one week. The job would end after that week, because the construction would be over. I accepted the job, even though it was short. It was one of the hardest working weeks of my life. From sun up to sun down, I was lifting, stacking, and moving heavy metal pipes and platforms around a musty old warehouse. My body ached all over each night. And every night as I lay in bed, I contemplated quitting. “Surely there were more fun things I could be doing with my time.” But I kept reminding myself of two things. First, I kept telling myself that it was only one week. Before I knew it, the week would be over. And secondly, I respected the man who gave me the job, and knew that if I worked hard this week, he would give me his stamp of approval. And a recommendation from this man, on my resume, would open many doors in my future.

Our lives are much like a one week job. We could easily have the mindset that, “We only live once, so live for the moment.” But our Father in Heaven has created us, and offered us a one week job that is this mist we call life. And the measure of our hearts in this task will determine our eternities future.  We were created to live for Him. To filter each breath we take through glorifying Christ.

There is one difference between the analogy I gave of a week of construction work and doing a lifetime of Gods work. I never really grew to love construction. I did it because I had to. However, if you are a child of God, the Lord’s work is what you were created, I dare say WIRED, to do. And in seeking and living a life for Him, you will find your deepest joys in serving Christ. Because again, it’s what you were created to do. And it’s never a burden to do the things that bring you joy.

“Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3.

A big problem with the human condition is that we tend to think we are the center of the universe. It is our nature to put ourselves in a place of importance, at least in our minds, and think that God desperately needs us. I remember my first job in ministry as a youth pastor in Florida. What an awesome church it was. And we had an amazing youth ministry of great kids who genuinely loved the Lord! When the time came for me to leave the church in order to take a lead pastor position elsewhere, I remember worrying and thinking, “I hope that this group stays strong for Christ when I leave.”

Looking back, how arrogant minded this was of me. To think that this great youth group had in some part been accredited to my leadership. How quickly I had forgotten that God had spoken in Numbers 22 through Balaam’s donkey. The Corinthians said this of the Apostle Paul;

“For some say, “Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” 2 Corinthians 10:10.

Basically they were left in awe and wonder by the powerful, Gospel centered words that Paul could write, but in person, the Apostle’s speech and appearance was weak and feeble! God receives all the glory and credit for our good works. And just like cuddling with my kids, we get the great privilege of being a part of that brief moment in time. To to be in that moment, we have to be available, and we must realize that we are not the center of the universe. We are, as scripture says, only a mist that is quickly evaporating.

Have you ever noticed how funerals happen in scripture? In Deuteronomy 24, the scriptures spend only two or three verses stating that Moses died. The next paragraph reads in verse 9, “And then Joshua…” As great a leader as Moses was, he is no longer a focal point in the biblical narrative. How humbling this is in a world where we want plaques and memorials built for us after we are dead. Even in thinking of death, we still want to be noticed. But God humbles us and reminds us that we are but a footnote in HIS story. He reminds us that the story is not, nor has it ever been about us.

I had the opportunity to be an extra in a movie that shot in Atlanta a few years back. I had my part as a cop, and I got to dress up and even throw a punch. I was told that I would have no lines, and that Id literally be on-screen less than five second, and even then you’d have to look for me to really see me. But that didn’t matter to me. It was such an honor to be asked and to play the part Id been given. I didn’t care that it wasnt about me, I just wanted to hear the director tell me I did a good job. I wanted to be the best inconsequential, no talking, five second appearing cop in that movie that I could be.

In this grand movie we call life, we are on-screen for a second as an extra in the background. No lines. No importance. In fact, if we were not in the movie at all, it would not change a thing. We are not the stars of the show. How silly I would have looked if I would have gone to my friends and bragged that I was a major player in this movie. They would have said, “Who do you think you are?” Our role in God’s timeline is so brief. And we have nothing to boast in but only the fact that He allowed us to participate. It may be just a bit part, but what a privilege it is to be chosen by God our Father, and given even the tiniest role in His story.

“But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:24

If you are a child of God, you’ve been given a script. And that script is not the starring role that you might want. It’s very small in the scope of the big picture. We have been called to live our lives for Christ. Sacrificing a self-deluded existence where we live life thinking that our happiness is the point. Those white hairs will come quicker than you may think. There are many things that a person on their death-bed will regret. Many wasted moments and passed by opportunities. But as the last vapors of mist exit their lives, no one will ever regret the hours they prayed, the moments they served, or the material things that they sacrificed so that Jesus would be more glorified. Standing before the Heavenly director on that day, many of the wasteful things we thought we so important here on this earth, we will regret that we spent so much time on them. Standing before the Lord, everyone will wish they had prayed more, served more, and given up more in light of the beauty of Jesus.

John Piper once told of a time that his father was preaching in church and a very old man who had been attending for years finally walked down the aisle to give his life to Christ. The old man was crying uncontrollably after Jesus became Lord of His life. The pastor asked the old man, “Sir, you have just been saved! Why on earth are you so upset.” The old man look up at the pastor through streaming tears and said, “My life…Ive wasted all of it!” How heartbreaking to realize that we wasted our lives on fleeting, inconsequential things and missed out on the great adventure of serving Christ!

So think of your life and this moment right now. Today you may be in your twenties or thirties. Tomorrow you will be in your seventies or eighties. It will go that quickly. Ask yourself, how radically are you living for Jesus now? How passionately are you leading and discipling your family for Jesus now? How fervently are you seeking to know Him through scripture now? It’s easy to make empty promises to yourself.

“I’ll begin leading my wife tomorrow.”

“I’ll start going to church next week.”

“I’ll start praying with my kids tomorrow.”

“I’ll start thinking about serving Christ on mission one day.”

Empty promises and professions to make ourselves feel better turn into wasted years and regretful memories of what might have been. Life is short. Do not waste the life and breathe you have been given on living for yourself. In this you will only find temporary highs that are based on circumstances. This opportunity to serve Him is short, but it sets the stage for eternity. Live for Christ in all that you do now!

Gathering Together as Believers

There is a verse that has occupied my every thought as of late. One of the most asked questions I receive as a pastor is, “How do I truly know that I am saved?” Some may answer this question by saying back to the person asking, “Was there ever a time in your life that you professed Jesus as Lord? If so, you’re saved!” But if this were so, then to be a Christian all one must do is to repeat a boy scout like pledge, and that would be that. Jesus says that there are certain signs of a true Christian. The apostle Paul urged believers to constantly examine their lives.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5.

The verse which God has placed on my heart as of late is indeed one of these tests of faith.

“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:4-6.

Its more than just keeping his commandments. Cue in on the last sentence of the verse above. “...whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

This is a major indicator of true faith. Don’t just read this verse. Meditate on what John is saying to us. If we claim to know Jesus, as most people in the Bible belt do, then the fruit of this profession is that we will begin to walk like Him! Please don’t miss this! For anyone who has doubted their salvation and wondered how to tell if they truly believe, here it is. True faith begins a process of sanctification in the life of the Christian, where in they begin to take on the characteristics of their Heavenly Father!

When I was a child, I looked up to my dad so much. My father is an amazing man and was a great dad. I can remember as a child wanting to be just like him. I remember one afternoon watching him shoot a game of pool. He knocked everyone of those balls in the pocket he was aiming for flawlessly. I recall attempting to do it like dad, and I couldn’t reach a perfect game like he did. But I always kept striving for perfection. When I messed up, it broke my heart and I tried even harder, as my dad continued to encourage me.

This is much like our relationship with Christ. We will never reach perfection like our Heavenly Father. However, the true believer strives for this in every aspect of life, and it breaks his heart when he fails in sin. And in light of that failure, the true child of God tries even harder.

They don’t strive for perfection so that God will love them. The true believer strives for perfection because God already loves them, and is their Father.

The true believer strives to walk like Jesus, because they truly want to be like their dad.

Are you asking “Am I truly saved?” Let me answer your question with a question. Are you striving to walk like your Heavenly Father? Are you heartbroken when you fail? I pray you examine yourself in light of scripture. Salvation is something we cannot afford to be wrong about.

So very briefly, I want to take some time to take a small glimpse into how Jesus walked. One of the most distinguishing marks of how Christ walked was his love for people. Specifically, his love for fellowshipping and gathering with the saints.

Yes, Jesus also fellowshipped with the lost. But fellowshipping with the lost really isn’t a problem in our world today. In fact, most folks know more lost people through interactions at their workplaces and lives outside of the church than they do saved people. Church people struggle to make fellowshipping with brothers and sisters inside of the church a priority. We fall into the trap of thinking that if we just make it to the main Sunday morning service, then the other activities of the church are not that important.

Activities such as Sunday school, or a fellowship time before Sunday School are staples in many churches today. However, it is so easy to make excuses as to why we don’t attend. The biggest excuse we come up with centers around a Sunday morning schedule. Years ago, the church I was a member of had a early Sunday morning gathering and fellowship time. I hardly ever attended. When asked by my pastor why I didn’t attend, I began to point to my schedule, saying, “Well I just cant get the family ready by then.” Even saying this I knew how paper thin my argument was.  We had our kids and ourselves dressed for school and out the door by 7:30 AM every weekday, but when it comes to God’s day I can’t do the same?

Another excuse I used was, “Well I just don’t get anything out of early morning fellowship.” But I failed to realize that God’s day is not always about my preferences. And more than that, I failed to realize the importance of gathering with my church family. I failed to realize the importance of deepening my relationships with my spiritual brothers and sisters. I failed to realize that in Christ, these people in the church are my eternal family. So why on earth would I want only a casual, superficial relationship with them where we nod to each other before and after service?

 “We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.” Hebrews 10:25.

This verse couldn’t be any clearer. It is apparent the writer of Hebrews was seeing that some believers were neglecting to fellowship and gather. And he was writing out against this.

Jesus Himself was constantly going to the lost, but always surrounded by his brothers and sisters in the faith. Developing relationships with others was important to Him. Gathering with believers was just one of the ways in which Jesus walked.

Examine yourself. Do you enjoy the fellowship of other believers? Or do excuses come easily as to avoid such gatherings? Again, if we are seeking to walk like Jesus, then this is a major heart check that we must all take.

“Therefore, encourage each other and strengthen one another as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Gathering to fellowship with our church families is not always convenient, but sometimes we must deny ourselves and realize that fellowship is not always about us. Its about an opportunity to gather and encourage and strengthen others in Christ.

 “All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other.  From time to time, they sold their property and other possessions and distributed the money to anyone who needed it.  The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food.  At the same time, they praised God and had the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group.” Acts 2:44-47.

What an amazing picture of what the true church is to look like. Notice it says they were joyful and humble, and they desire to share things with one another. This attitude is a byproduct of what we see in the beginning of the verse.

“All the believers kept meeting together.”

Building strong relationships takes work, sacrifice, and at times, self denial. Sometimes that means not sleeping in so late on Sunday mornings. Sometimes that means missing a certain television program. But over time, this intentional gathering of believers leads to deep, meaningful relationship that is ultimately glorifying to God.

As a parent, there is nothing more joyous than to see our four boys actually playing and getting along together. More than that, it warms our hearts that our boys actually want to be around each other! We are but images and shadows of Almighty God. For we are made in His image. How much more true that it should please the heart of God to see His children desire to love one another?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” 1 John 4:11-13.

There you see the image of God in man. For if God so loved us, then if we are his image, we should also love one another. Notice the verse mentions no one has ever seen God, but His love and image can be seen in us through our fellowship! Here is the test again, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us.” By what? By our love shown for one another!!

“..complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2.

Paul had this love as a father watching his children fellowship. He wrote to the Philippian church and said that it would bring him much joy to hear that they had a deep love for one another, and that they were of one mind. How do you get to be of one mind? In a world where everyone has a different opinion on all things. What Paul was saying is that in spite of our personality differences, the Christian would have one thing in common that made every other difference pale in comparison, that being their unity in Christ. And this can only come about by the gathering of the saints in fellowship.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7.

There are many things that defined the walk of Christ. And if we say we know Him, we must evaluate ourselves by comparing our walks to His. Jesus walked in a manner of constant fellowship and love. Church was never meant to be just an institution on par with the school PTA meeting or the Town Hall assembly. Church was meant to be a family. Do you have a genuine love for your church family? Do you desire to surround and encourage them? If not, you are missing out on an enormous blessing, and missing the point of what it means to be the body of Christ. I pray that we would all seek to walk as Christ walked, and begin to put aside our flesh in order to be a picture of God through to the outside world by expressing our love for gathering together as brothers and sisters in Christ. A love for the saints is a mark of true love for God.

One Pastor’s Burden; Reckless Abandonment

What is this calling that the true Christian gives their lives to? After we have pledged our lives and our allegiance to Jesus, what then? Do we come to Christ in order to receive grace and mercy? Or do we come to Christ because we have already received grace and mercy? Examine these questions in your heart of hearts. I beg you to meditate on and think about this. If the Bible speaks truth, particularly Romans chapter 3, then it is apparent that we cannot come to Christ to receive grace and mercy, because in our basic human nature, we don’t want it. By nature, we are haters of God, every one of us. God must first ignite our hearts with a passion for Him.

We’re called to reckless abandonment.

In college, in order to graduate it was required that I take Algebra. I have no love for algebra. It would be safe to say that I strongly dislike anything math related. But I went to Algebra class and never skipped out. I was faithful to attend algebra class. Why? Not because I was so passionate about the subject, but because I wanted something from the class, which was a diploma. Once I got my diploma, I have never looked back at algebra nor have I missed it.

Sadly there are many people who view church like I viewed algebra. They really have no interest in it and no true love for Jesus. They come because in some way, they think their attendance equates a passing grade, equating a diploma that will grant them eternal life and escape from Hell. But unlike college, where even the haters of algebra like myself can squeeze by, those that have no love for Christ will be judged by their hearts, not their external actions.

If we do not delight in Jesus now, then we wont delight in Him in eternity.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the lamb of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2.

Only those who delight and are passionate for Jesus on this earth will be counted as righteous. Passion will not all the sudden be birthed within us upon entering the Heavenly realm.

We must ask ourselves, “Do I truly love Jesus?” Because its more than simple lip service. Love is passion. I love my wife and my children. Every decision I make, ultimately is made with them in mind. I want the best for my family. I want them to be safe and cared for. I would gladly do without to keep them safe. Thats passion. Thats love. Love is sacrifice.

When it comes to Jesus, is he priority? Not in your profession or in your church attendance, but in every aspect of your life?

“No matter if you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Don’t just read verses like this, put yourself in the shoes of Paul. Feel the passion behind his plea. The term Christian was never to be just a mental nod or a title we check in a voting booth. It is literally to define everything we do in life. Every decision we make should be gleaned through glorifying God. Even down to praising His name for a simple glass of water we drink down.

This life we live in the flesh is so very short in the span of eternity. Today I’m 38 years old. Tomorrow I’ll be 78. It will seemingly go that quick. Here is the question we must concern ourselves with this side of Heaven;

“Am I living life for myself, or in light of eternity?”

Is Jesus more to you than just a Sunday morning God? Have you ever found yourself awake long into the early morning hours, searching the scriptures because you must know Him? This was the traits such men as King David possessed, when he compared himself to a dehydrated animal, that only God could quench his thirst. Do you look at the material possessions you have in your life and consider yourself blessed? Or do you, as the apostle Paul, look upon the trinkets and toys of this world and count them all as garbage in comparison to knowing Christ? Would you rather suffer persecution if it meant Jesus receiving glory rather than have your best life now living in comfort?

Reckless abandonment.

Talk such as this is considered mad by the world, and even by the majority of professing Christians. But again, I submit to you that these reckless passions were the result of the men of scripture who walked with Christ the most closely. We read about this passion throughout scripture. And then compare it to modern-day Christianity. Where Jesus is praised for who He is, but we would rather ignore the parts of scripture that command us to go and make disciples. We read about Jesus calling us to go to the ends of the earth for His glory and leave the comforts the world behind, but we easily pass it off as being someone elses job.

I am becoming more and more burdened for our world and for myself. I am not comforted by the scripture as much as I am convicted. And lately, the more I read the Bible, the more I am convicted. That our culture of professing believers looks nothing like the church of scripture. Our passions are misplaced, and we make Gods of comfort. I feel my flesh draw to the materialism of our world as a child would be drawn to the neon glow of a hot stove, and I hate it. Do we notice how easily our affections are drawn away from Him, where we like Paul would say,

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15.

What is this thing called Christianity? If we try to obey Christ in order to be saved, we will fail miserably. The truth is that we cannot make anyone obey Jesus by simply telling them, although we are to tell all creation. Obedience comes from knowing Him. Obedience comes from loving Him. Obedience comes from having a changed heart that only Christ can do in a person.

Before I met my wife, I couldn’t stand running. It just wasnt fun to me. In fact, you would be hard pressed to ever find me on a track running circles for the joy of it. My wife Lacy is a runner and loves the sport. And thirteen years ago, I fell passionately in love with my wife. And as a result, I grew to love running. Because I was doing what she loved. I was a participant in what brought her joy. And in running, I had the chance to be near to one I loved so much. I grew to love what I once hated because of passion. True passion changes everything.

In the same way, when you truly fall in love with Jesus, your desires change. Because to be near Him, to please Him, to draw closer in relationship to Him makes everything else pale in comparison. Christ calls us to mission so that we will know more deeply this God who left the comforts of Heaven as a missionary to come give Himself for we who are so unworthy.

I write this not in condemnation of anyone. I write this from an overflow of my own heart, and the area God is currently dealing with me right now. If anyone stands condemned or guilty of these charges and must ask these questions of himself, it is I. But is it not true of all of us? Standing before the Lord, there are many things we will regret. But no one will ever say they regretted praying more, serving more, and seeking Christ more. The book of Revelation says that there will be tears wiped away in Heaven. I believe many of those tears will be shed when we realize how beautiful Jesus is in light of how sinful we are. Tears of regret that we didn’t pray and serve Him more diligently while we drew breath.

So great is our salvation. Such a high price our savior paid for us. So in the words of Francis Schaeffer, I ask the question, “How then shall we live?” In light of shed blood of Jesus Christ, how then shall we live?

With such a passion and zeal for Him, that to the outside world, our dedication would seem strange.

My fear is that we have been lulled to sleep by the enemy. My fear is that we have become so mesmerized by the things of this world that we are numb to what it truly means to follow Jesus. Much of current Christian culture has boiled Christianity down to a neat little formula. Reciting a prayer, being baptized, and then just trying to live your life as a good person. But when we realize that Jesus never asked anyone to pray Him into their hearts, and that the scriptures attest that no one in their human flesh can be good in and of themselves, we are left with a problem. If a prayer doesn’t save us, and merely being a moral person doesn’t make us Christian, then what are the marks of a true believer?

“You will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:16.

Apples spring forth from an apple tree. They cannot help but produce apples, because that is what the tree is. The apple tree would not be able to produce thorns due to the nature of its make up. An apple tree cannot help but produce apples. Now apply this simple teaching to the marks of a true believer. A true Christian does good works. But it goes far beyond works. The true believer is burdened for others to know Christ. They view the world through an eternal lens. Everything is filtered through living on mission for Christ, and glorifying their God is more important than the breath they breath.

And like the apple tree, the Christian cannot change their nature. They live for Jesus because they cannot help but live any other way due to what they are. They cannot rid themselves of this burden for the lost because they are just a branch that is connected to the true vine, which is Christ. And we, the branches, produce the fruit of the vine.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.

This is what Jesus was telling the disciples. You will know a true believer by the fruit they bear! You will know them by the overflow of their regenerated nature in Christ! We have so watered down the scriptures in our culture that we have forgotten that salvation is not a work or decision of man, but a supernatural work of God! Jesus teaching on knowing a believer by their fruits, and His teaching in John regarding the vine and the branches are intertwined! They go together. The nature of the true Christian is different. And it goes far beyond morality. They begin to take on the very nature of Christ Himself. And they become drawn to missional living and sacrifice like a moth to a flame. Because it is their new nature.

If you were a tree, and someone were to examine your fruits, would they be bent more towards your own comforts and worldly desires? Or is your life marked by a reckless abandonment of the comforts and things of this world? If we truly believe the Gospel, then we do not have time to waste our lives on ourselves.

The apostle Paul, John the Baptist, the disciples, the prophets, even the evil tax collector Zacchaeus, who upon meeting Christ practically began giving the majority of his money to the poor….all of these men were radically changed after an encounter with Christ. Their life was marked by this radical level of sacrifice. Where is this reckless abandonment in our modern day church?

This is the consistent pattern that we see in those who follow Christ throughout scripture. How can we say today that this half-hearted, self focused, view of Christianity that is so prevalent today is even the same thing as what we see in scripture? You see we read stories about these great men of faith, but I’m afraid we have neglected to closely examine their lives and actually realize how very different they were.

This is just one pastors burden. And I pray that this burden will grow stronger. As sinful and as flawed as I am, I feel as though God is opening my eyes to a greater reality of what it is to know Christ. And the more I seek Him, the more I see that knowing Him surpasses all worldly comforts. Knowing Jesus is not simple a moral nod. To know Jesus in truth is to have every aspect of your life effected. This is how the disciples turned the ancient world upside down. They didn’t go through the motions of church as an organization. They lived it, even if it cost them everything. Recklessly abandoning the desires of their flesh, because the desire of their spirit in Christ was greater than the flesh. Genuine revival will not spring forth from an event. Genuine revival will only happen when we as the people of God begin to see Him as more precious than anything.

Church Dress Code

To dress up, or not to dress up; that is the question! At least in evangelical church circles today it is. There are so many great theological deep wells to dive into and discuss in God’s Word. Topics such as Eschatology, Ecclesiology, the Trinity, Soteriology, the Lordship of Christ, and many more. But none have been more heavily discussed within the Bible belt than the church dress code. As believers, we should be willing to discuss any topic; under one condition. This condition being that opinions and personal preferences are left at the door, and we can filter our conversation through scripture alone.

The problem with discussions regarding things inside of the church is that by nature, we look more towards personal preference or what has been done rather than going to the true authority of God’s Word. Our preferences do not matter. So regarding the Biblical doctrine of church dress code, lets see what God’s word has to say about the matter.

Before we dive in, let’s be clear that there are two sides to every story. Two opposing opinions. And each side deserves a fair representation. But again, the word of God needs to be what we base our opinions upon. When discussing this matter of dress in church, those that are in favor of a dressy dress code almost always quote something like this…….

“The Bible says we are to give God our best in all we do.”

When pressed to validate their claim with scripture, most will begin to quote Ecclesiastes.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” Ecclesiastes 9:10.

However, if we read the full context of this chapter, we realize that Solomon was writing about our work and toil, not the church. It would take a great deal of stretching, bending, and theological gymnastics to get a dress code out of that verse. As the saying goes in the South, “That dog won’t hunt.” Do we need to give God our best? Absolutely. But that best should come out of an overflow of our hearts, not our wardrobe. When it comes to dress code, it gets down to an issue of intense semantics.

We would need to ask the question, “What is considered dressed up?

Coat or no coat? Tie or suspenders? Dress slacks or khakis? And if khakis, pleats or no pleats? Dress shoes or Dockers? And if dress shoes, tassels or no tassels? Cuff links or plain buttons? Solid color shirts or mixed?

You see, one persons idea of dressed up may not be another’s. And then, with all these factors, a simple decision ends up turning into legalism. The pharisees in scripture always had to be wearing the nicest clothes and hats, and they were the ones getting rebuked by Jesus the most.

So what is the verdict? Which is the right way to come to church? Dressed up or dressed comfortably and modestly? The answer is both. Neither way of dressing is wrong. If dressing up is your preference, dress up to the glory of God. Just don’t tell others that they should dress like you, because your way is right. Again, that is the same mud hole the pharisees kept stepping into. So again, lets consider what God’s word says on this issue of dress.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

God is not concerned with us honoring Him with externals. We so often forget that God is not like man. We can clean up the outside of our appearances and look like we have it all together while our hearts are in darkness. But God sees inside. Some may say, “Well thats an Old Testament passage, not Jesus.” Which on a side note, honestly makes no sense seeing that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New, Jesus. But just for kicks, lets see what Jesus in the New Testament would say about clothing preferences.

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Luke 12:22-23.

To contextualize His point, Jesus tells us not to make issue of these things such as clothing. Because life, death, and the implications of the Gospel reaching the lost world are far more pressing concerns than what we will wear. So based on this text, what if someone were to ask Jesus, “Slacks or blue jeans?” His answer to them might sound something like this, “I don’t care, eternal life doesn’t hinge on this.”

Think about John the Baptist. Many of the religious despised him because of his bold preaching, and also because of his external appearance. Look at what Christ said of his cousin.

“When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?  But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.  But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.  This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:24-29.

Jesus points out that John the Baptist wasn’t clothed in the finest things. But Christ goes on to call him the greatest of all prophets. Jesus didn’t see Johns outward appearance. He looked much deeper into his heart.

Consider the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. In the verse below, Paul describes his poor conditions.

“To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless,” 1 Corinthians 4:11.

Many churches today would sooner bar the doors than let a “poorly dressed” person inside. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul being banned from entering a church due to the dress code? I have actually met and invited people to church before who have never stepped foot into a sanctuary. Do you know what their number one reason for not coming is the majority of the time?

“I cannot come to church, because I don’t have nice dress clothes.”

This is the impression much of our modern church culture has given off to the outside world that we are suppose to be reaching! Now lets be clear about something. When Paul states in the verse above that he was “poorly dressed” this is not talking about being immodest with dress. Paul is talking about not being able to wear the nice robes and hats that the pharisees had made so fashionable in his day. Paul was saying he didn’t have a nice Louis Vuitton suit. He couldn’t afford it! If it were today, Paul may have been saying, “All Ive got is an old pair of cargo pants and a polo.”

When it comes to how we should dress, Paul gives us just a few guidelines.

1 Timothy 2:9 says ” Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,”

Modesty and discretion. In short, we are not do dress in a way that would draw attention to our bodies. This could be dressing so casually as to draw attention to our flesh, or dressing so fancy that we want to impress others with how proper we are. Paul mentions not dressing in “costly garments.” So if anything, Paul is saying don’t go all out and get the most fancy clothes for church, and don’t dress immodestly. Why would he say this? Because when we do this, we are saying without saying, “Look at how nice I look” or “Look at my body.” Church becomes more about putting the focus on us rather than Christ.

Sadly, many can hardly hear the message on Sunday mornings all around the globe because they are more concerned with the church dress code rather than God’s word being spoken.

There was a story circulation on the internet a while back about a new pastor being hired on at a church. None of the congregants had met him, and they anticipated the upcoming Sunday morning in which he was to preach. During Sunday school before the Sunday service, a poorly dressed man entered and sat at the back of the room. Everyone in the class whispered and complained about his poor dress. When the class was over, some were even irate that a person would dare come to church without a dress coat. No one so much as spoke to the poorly dressed man.

After Sunday school, everyone filed into church to hear the new pastor. The chairman of the Elders walked up to the pulpit and said, “I would like to introduce our new pastor.” With that, the poorly dressed gentleman made his way up to the pulpit. He had proved his point, and the congregants knew it. Our dress is a poor indicator of what really lies in our hearts. In fact, Jesus said the same thing to the pharisees in the verse below.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:25-28.

The Pharisees were great at setting rules and telling others what to do based on their preferences. They appeared to wear all of the most fancy clothing and looked so amazing. But Jesus wasn’t impressed or honored by their extravagant dress. He was more concerned with their hearts, which were filthy.

Consider Peter’s words on the matter below.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 “

Again, Peter echo’s Paul’s letter to Timothy in saying,”Don’t get hung up on your outward appearance.” What matters to God is what is inside our hearts. Yet so often we tend to put more emphasis on the outward because of decades of man made traditions that over time, we have made religion.

Church dress is a matter of preference. Some people like to feel more dressed up and others more casual. And both styles are fine and acceptable forms of dress in church. We  just need to be cautioned not to make our clothing preferences Gospel. The nature of our hearts will drive every aspect of our lives. Modesty and humility are our guidelines for dress, nothing else. Don’t make worship and living for Jesus about secondary matters. Because its the little things that tend to divide churches. And if you find yourself offended by the dress of others within the church, let this verse speak to your soul.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24.

We honor Christ with the purity of our hearts, not with the external.

Do You Truly Know God?

Have you ever looked at modern day Christianity in comparison to the Bible and thought to yourself, “I must be missing something.” Such was the case with A.W Tozer. A relatively unknown preacher early in his ministry, Tozer became increasingly aware of the radical joy he saw in great men of God such as the Apostle Paul and the disciples. But when he looked upon professing Christians in his own congregation, he saw a religious faithfulness with a lack of passion. He saw a legalistic approach to worship, as if they came to church just because it was the thing to do.

The result was religiously obedient people who were lacking in joy.

In the late 1940’s, Tozer was under an incredible burden due to this realization. Tozer wrote, “The sight of the languishing church around me, and the operation of a new spiritual power within me, have set up a pressure impossible to resist.”

Tozer received an invitation to preach in McAllen Texas and had to take a long train ride in order to get there. Alone on the train, he had ample time to put his thoughts and concerns down on paper. Tozer wrote all day long, ate a single piece of toast for dinner, and then continued writing throughout the night. He said that the words sprung forth in his mind almost quicker than he could write them down because of this burden of his heart. When Tozer arrived in Texas the next morning, the rough draft of what would become his infamous book, “The Pursuit of God” was complete.

This burden over the lack of passion within the church became the heart cry of Tozer’s ministry. He wrote, “The gravest question before the church is God Himself, and the most critical fact of man is not what he, at a given time, may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. Always the most revealing thing about the church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him, or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.”

From a very young age, Tozer saw the riches that would lie in fellowshipping with God. He described himself as being “a thirst for God.” When Pastor Tozer would enter his office at the church each morning, the first thing he would do is lie face down on the floor in prayer. Prayer was so precious to Tozer. In fact, one time he was scheduled to speak at a conference and he forgot to show up, missing the conference all together. A.W Tozer had gotten so caught up in his prayer time with God that he completely lost track of time. When asked why he missed, Tozer replied, “I had a more important appointment.”

What made A.W Tozer’s heart aflame with such a burning passion for God? What birthed this insatable hunger for God that is all but foreign to many professing believers in our world today? Tozer wrote, “I am convinced that the lack of great saints in this day is due, at least in part, to our unwillingness to give sufficient time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.” Tozer once wrote in a prayer, “Oh God, I have tasted thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. Show me thy glory, I pray thee, that I may know Thee indeed.”

A.W Tozer possessed a different kind of faith. It was faith that is alien to the great majority of people that attend churches today. Today’s Christians have a religious obedience, much like a person would show up to a job they find no joy in. The employee shows up to work because in his mind, it is what must be done. But internally, there is no joy, no satisfaction, and no hunger for more knowledge within his toil.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it that we are missing?”

In the book of Exodus, Moses had gone up upon the mountain to receive the law of God, and when he descended, he found that the people were worshipping a golden calf. Ultimately, God was merciful to His idolatrous people. And Moses goes on to make a startling request of God.

“Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” Exodus 33:18

Now Moses had already seen the glory of God aplenty. He was witness to God speaking through the burning bush, he was privy to seeing the Red Sea parted for the people, and Moses was there when God afflicted Pharaoh and his kingdom with the plagues. Yet Moses wanted more of God.

Years later, it was King David who wrote in Psalm 27,

“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord”

David’s one desire was not more wealth, or more power. His one passion was that he would hunger to seek more of God and in that begin to behold the beauty of God. In Psalm 27:8, David went on to say, “When you said, “Seek my face”, my heart said to you “Your face Lord, I will seek.”

Notice seeking the face of God was not a burden or a duty for King David. It was something his heart cried for. It was a passion. King David also described his yearning for God as a deer panting for water. In the same way, he thirsted for God. Paul had this same passion for God even decades after God had shown Himself on the road to Damascus.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Philippians 3:7-8.

Notice Paul echo’s the words written by A.W Tozer, King David, and Moses in regards to knowing God. There was, within their faith, a thirst that could not be quenched. A fire that would not be smite to know more of God.

We can look back to the Puritans and see this same thirst for God. John Bunyan was persecuted and imprisoned for preaching Christ. Bunyan stated, “God is the only desirable good. Nothing without Him is worthy of our hearts. The life, the glory, the blessedness, the soul satisfying goodness that is in God is beyond expression.”

This was a man who had lost his freedom for preaching Christ. He was not rewarded for his faithfulness, at least on this side of Heaven, as many believe God owes us today. Yet in his prison cell, John Bunyan was completely satisfied, feeling entitled to nothing, and instead feeling as if he had everything in the surpassing joys of simply knowing Christ.

Saint Augustine battled his lust of the flesh for years. But after he had come to know the Lord, he called the sins he once desired “fruitless joy” in comparison to knowing God. Much in the same way, German reformer Martin Luther literally agonized over the book of Galatians and the epistles of Paul because he so desperately wanted to know the true God of scripture.

So in looking at the desire for the knowledge of God in these men, why is it that this is such a far cry from what we see in the typical church in our society today? What is it that these men of God possessed that we are missing in contemporary Christian circles? We live in a culture where our prayers to God are centered more around giving us something, be it healing or prosperity, rather than praying as our top request that God would give us more of Himself.

Why is it no one today prays, “Lord, show me your glory?” Why did men in scripture and lovers of God throughout history have such a passion to know God, yet we are so indifferent? Was it because they just knew God better than we do today? Or is it because that this idea of God that we hold in our minds today is so far beneath the true God of scripture? Are we following a God of our own imaginations? Are many of todays professing believers worshipping a God that they have merely inherited from past generations?

If it has been proven that the end result of truly knowing God is a radical, passionate, hunger for more of Him, then we are forced to look at the stagnant state of many churches today and ask…..

Do we really know the God of the Bible?

Because if we truly knew Him, according to the men of scripture and the theologians who walked before us in history, we should have a hunger to know Him and constantly desire more of Him.

Could it be that we really don’t know the God of the Bible?

To answer this question, we must individually ask ourselves, “What do you believe about God?” Not what your church, or parents, or Sunday School teacher say you should believe. But personally, ask yourself what you believe about God. Ask yourself what is the greatest prize in Christianity. Many Christians would say that it is eternal life. Others would quip that the joys of Heaven would be the treasure. But according to scripture, the greatest treasure of the Christian life is to possess the knowledge of God.

The typical picture of knowing God today looks something like this. A person walks an aisle under conviction, says a prayer, and commits being a part of the body life of the church when possible. But there is no further hunger, no desire within to wrestle with and pursue the knowledge of God through prayer and personal study. Its merely a spoon fed faith. The scary part of this picture it is void of the one thing that Jesus desires as proof of salvation, a personal relationship.

This would be much like a husband and wife desiring to commit to one another in marriage, and after the ceremony, seeing each other only a few times a week. Only getting to know each other through what others said about them, and never personally engaging with each other in private. We would say that a marriage such as this would be void of relationship and that although they may say they loved one another, their actions proved otherwise. So how is it that we can justify this same behavior as relationship worthy when it comes to God? So many take no pleasure in a relationship with God. We actually joke about sermons on Sunday morning and their length. We are at times more concerned about getting out on time than desiring more of God.

Going back to the marriage example, try telling your spouse that your time with them is bound to a clock. And when that time is up, you don’t want to hear anymore from them. So again, my question is, with an attitude like this, can we honestly claim that we love and even desire to know Him? We have formed having a relationship with God into an image that makes us comfortable, and in so doing, many have deceived themselves into believing that they know God when instead, they may be strangers that know some things about Him.

Are we so casual with God in our world today because we just know Him so well? Or is it because contrary to what we may believe, we hardly know Him at all?

John 17: says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Notice the last sentence of that verse. Eternal life is not the joys of Heaven or even eternal life itself. Eternal life is knowing God. That is our joy, and if we are truly followers of Christ, knowing God is our passion. According to Jesus, this is a mark of those that have been given to Jesus. Where on earth did we fall into this once a week customer mentality that our world has come to embrace? This is a false salvation if anyone would think this certifies a true relationship with God.

Much of modern evangelical culture has become flippant about worship, bored by God, and distorted what it Biblically means to KNOW God. In a collection of hymns and prayers, the book “The Valley of Vision” says this; “If your mercy to me Oh God is poverty and strife, blessed be your name.”

To properly understand this, we must think about what is being said. Mercy is a punishment that we as sinners deserve, but God has saved us from. What do we deserve? Eternal Hell. So if to save me from this eternal punishment, God’s mercy towards me is to simply make me a pauper and have a tough life, according to the Puritans, we should praise His name. Why? Because anything this side of Hell given to us is grace. And grace is a gift we receive but do not deserve. But again, our world doesnt view God like this. We become enraged and even begin to doubt God when things are not going well in our lives.

In short, God saving us from Hell is just not good enough. Modern day church culture feels God owes them for merely being on His team. But if we have a right understanding of the Hell that we were saved from, then we view life differently. Be it cancer, the loss of a loved one, or financial strife, if I truly know God and who He is in light of who I am, then I can say through the hardest of times, echoing Paul, “To live is Christ, to die is gain!” Anything better than eternal torment Hell is viewed as mercy.

“Lord I have cancer, but blessed be your name for your mercy in saving my soul.”

“Lord, my loved one has died, but in my mourning, I blessed be your name, you are too good to me for saving my soul.”

“God I have lost everything, but oh, the riches I have found in just knowing you. Tis more than is more than I deserve.”

The grace and mercy of God towards sinners should never be overshadowed by the hardships of our lives. This is not to say that we don’t mourn in loss or grieve in trials. But rather, though it all instead of raging against God for what we don’t have, we remember how good He has already been towards us in giving us the gift of His son Jesus. Through trials, if we truly know Christ, we can say as Job;

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him;” Job 13:15.

We have a mentality, even in the church, that says ‘I serve God, and in return He owes it to me to give certain things.” This only proves that in this thinking, we really don’t know God. In truth, nothing is more satisfying than knowing our God. There are many counter fit ways of knowing God. For starters there is knowing God by hear say. For example, this is someone who would say, “My preacher says….” Or “Well my father says this about God….” or “I read in a book about God…” This is second hand knowledge of knowing God, but not first hand knowledge. If we only have second hand knowledge or spoon fed knowledge and no knowledge reaming from our own intimate time in the word, then we truly don’t know God. And sadly, this is a false type of knowledge that many professing Christians stake their faith on today.

Textual knowledge is also a false knowledge of God. This is someone who would say, “I believe everything in the Bible….I just don’t know much about it.”  Or saying, “I love the Lord and believe in the Bible, I just don’t seek him for myself. “This is mistaking an allegiance to the Bible for an actual relationship with God. People will make excuses by saying things like, “Im just not good at reading my Bible”, but in actuality they are just exposing that there is a lack of passion in their lives because they’ve yet to realize the beauty of our savior.

Consider the passion of Paul, David, Moses, and men who walked with God all throughout history. There is a constant pattern in their lives that is marked by an obsession with God. They have come to know Him…truly know Him. And due to this, they desire to know more about Him.

This was the result of true knowledge of God.

“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24.

This is what delights the Lord. Not our church attendance, and not our attempts at good deeds. The one things that God delights in and says we can actually boast in is knowing Him. Do you know God, or just know some things about Him? Do you have a personal intimate time of building a relationship with Him, or do you rely on second hand knowledge only from a Pastor or teacher? Can you, as Jeremiah said, boast in the fact that you truly know Him and have found His deep mercies towards you more precious than the air you breath, or do you feel God owes you?

God’s great mercy and grace towards His children is more than we deserve. And if His mercy towards me be poverty and strife, blessed be His Holy name. Though He slay me, my hope is in Him. I pray sovereign God, show us your glory. As the Apostle Paul said, let us count all things, good and bad, as loss…garbage…when compared to the innumerable riches and joys of knowing you. You are more than enough to satisfy my soul. Amen.

Dropping Our Stones

Mark Driscoll, who is the mega-church Lead Pastor of Mar Hill Church in Seattle Washington was removed from The Acts 29 Church Planting Network of which he helped start due to “un-Christian like” behavior. Some of these allegations have been brought to light, and some are shrouded in secrecy. Some of these allegations stem from an edgy past of which at times Driscoll has pushed the envelope too far at times in his sermons. Pastor Mark did not deny any allegations and agreed to step down from Acts 29. He has admitted that there are things in his life that he is currently seeking repentance.

I personally have always enjoyed listening via podcast to Mark Driscoll’s sermons. Although I do not agree with everything he says or does at times, I have found that when you get down to examining what he is preaching, it matches the teaching of scripture. However in light of these events, I totally agree with the Acts 29’s decision to cut ties with Driscoll. And I will add that I believe that Mark Driscoll is a man who loves God with a passion, he just fell into sin.

Although I agree with the decision of Acts 29, I am saddened and heartbroken at the reaction that many professing believers in the main stream have shown in light of these events. Countless articles and blog post are flooding the internet, demonizing Mark Driscoll as if he were Satan himself. I want us to consider a couple of things.

We All Have Fallen.

In John chapter 8, a woman who has committed adultery is dragged out of her home by a mob of angry people. Adultery was a crime back then that was punishable by death. As the crowd stood accusing and condemning the woman, Jesus addressed them. And this is what He said to them;

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7.

In the 22 Chapter of Luke, Jesus said this to Simon Peter;

“Simon Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to have you so he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32.

Notice a few things from this verse. Jesus didn’t imply that Peter “might” fail. Jesus said, “WHEN you turn again”, meaning when you finally come to your senses, use what you learned from the fall that is coming to strengthen your brothers. In the same way, its not a matter of if we will fail at times, the question is when. Paul says in Romans that we all fall short, every one of us.

The only difference between us and Mark Driscoll is that he has the world watching his every move. He is a mega-church pastor and best selling author. Where as when we fall, our sins reverberate like a pin dropping. But when someone in the spotlight sins, it is heard like a nuclear bomb. In Matthew, Jesus was quite clear that we are not to be plank eyed Christian, looking to rejoice in a brother when he falls. Rather, we are to be prayer warriors in hopes that reconciliation may take place after the fall, much like most of the men in the Bible.

Imagine the shock if social media had gotten a hold of the fact that the Lord called King David a man after Gods own heart. I can just imagine the tweets now. “Thats impossible!!! He committed adultery and murder!!” “No way!! He cant even control his own family! His son raped his daughter and his other son tried to overthrow him!”  

But thankfully, God sees past our failures and  uses them to strengthen us if we would only repent. Can you imagine how viral things would get if  Paul had a Facebook account and posted that he was now an Apostle? Paul killed and persecuted Christians but now God was willing to call Paul His chosen tool in Acts chapter 9? God told Ananias to go and heal Paul’s blindness. Ananias was a Christian but only knew Paul as a killer of Christians. Naturally, he had concerns. But God eased Ananias mind by saying this;

“But God said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument.” Acts 9:15.

This is beautiful to me, because this tells us that even in our failures, God still is in control. And He can make good out of what Satan meant for evil.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20.

Mark Driscoll has sinned because he is a sinner by nature. He fell, because he is fallen by nature.

And he needs to repent of his actions daily and turn back to Christ…… just like every one of us. I do not claim to know all of what has caused this downfall, because at this time not everything is being released. But one thing I know for sure is that my God has a track record of breathing new life into individuals who have done far worse than Mark Driscoll. God saved murders like the Apostle Paul, men who worshipped false Gods like Abram, adulterers like David, liars like Peter, and countless others from their sins and called them righteous. If God can redeem men like these in the scriptures, I have no doubt God can do the same with Mark Driscoll if He so chooses.

Instead of attempting to tally up all of Mark Driscoll’s sins in order to point a judgmental finger, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to simply pray for him? It is not our place to judge. Rather it is the Christians place to point out the error in love, and pray that by the grace of God Mark would repent and turn from his sins. Mark is a pastor that fell into sin  and has at times said some things that he shouldn’t have. But so have other Godly leaders of men. Even those who are seemingly closest to God are not immune to the attacks of the enemy.

So how are we to react to this situation with the fall of Mark Driscoll? It would be very easy and human of us to act as ravenous vultures, and attack Driscoll with pointing fingers and accusing words. But lets step back off of our soap boxes for just a moment and examine how the scriptures advise us to handle a situation when a brother or sister falls into sin.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourselves, lest you be tempted too.” Galatians 6:1.

The original Greek speaks of a brother that would be entrapped or tangled up in a sin. I see no where in this verse that we are to take joy in a fall or to chastisingly say, “I told you so!”  Rather, Paul writes that we should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. And look how Paul follows this up, “Watch yourselves, because you are just as suseptible to fall as anyone else.”

I write this blog not to defend Mark Driscoll in anyway. There is no doubt he has many areas of his life in which he has fallen short and needs to repent. But again, such is the case with everyone of us. Matthew 15:18 says that if a brother sins, that those sins should be pointed out to them in love. And if he repents, then we rejoice as we have won them back from straying. Acts 29 and the Elders of Mars Hill are pointing out the areas where Driscoll has strayed. They are exemplify Matthew 15:18. With that being said, it is not our job as outsiders to this situation to look on from afar and cast stones.

The fall of a brother or sister should break our hearts. And we should pray that Mark would indeed see the error of his ways and turn back in repentance.  Once again, if God can change the heart of a murderous hater of God like Saul, I have no doubt God can do the same with Mark Driscoll. Put your stones down, and pray for Mark Driscoll’s restoration through repentance. Pray for the grace of God that He may keep us from sin, lest we fall into the same sinful entanglements that we once chastised others for.

Teachers and Students

Today is the first day of school for many parents, students, and teachers. Boys and girls are filled with a nervous excitement to see old friends and as well as new ones. Teachers wait with anticipation to meet their new students. And parents will experience a wide range of emotions. But a new school year comes with a heavy responsibility, especially for parents and teachers. It is my prayer that we all choose to go above and beyond the norm for the sake of the Gospel.

“Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like their teacher.” Luke 6:40.

I pray that our teachers would point everything back to Jesus.

“No matter if you eat, or drink, or do whatever; do all things to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

In this society we live in where many of our schools teach more of a secular humanism or moralistic deism concept of the world, teachers who would set themselves apart from the rest for the sake of the Gospel are greatly needed. I pray that our teachers would choose to be that city on a hill, separate from what is the norm, as to point our kids to the light of the world.

“You are the light of the world, a city on a hill top that cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14.

I thank God for the many teachers who are molding our children for a brighter future. Teachers I pray that as you teach, you yourself are constantly being taught, fed, and nourished by God’s precious Word in your own lives. Because what you feed yourself will be an overflow into those whom you teach. And the impact you will have upon our children is eternal, because again,  no student is greater than his teacher, but the student who is fully trained will become like their teacher.

Now the  folly in our culture can be for the parents to place this heavy responsibility fully and totally upon the school systems. However, for a parent to depend more on the school system to train up their children rather than to place most of this mantle upon themselves is not only foolish, but it is un-biblical. Speaking of parents duties in training their children in the ways of the world, Deuteronomy says;

“You shall teach them to your children, talking with them as you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11:19.

Deuteronomy points out that we are to constantly use every opportunity to point all things back to Christ. It is important that we engage our children daily as to what they are learning in school, so that we may use these conversations as opportunities to show them that everything points back to God.

Fathers, we have the largest portion of responsibilities. It is not primarily our wives job nor is it the school systems job to see that our children are being trained for the future, it is ours as men. This is especially true pertaining to parents who have boys. We have four boys. And it is my job as their father to teach them all things. It is my privilege to mold my boys, and to teach them how to become men. Again, this is not my wife’s job to shepherd our sons into manhood, it is mine. In the same way, mothers have the great privilege of teaching their girls how to become women of God, while fathers teach their daughters how ladies are to be discipled and led, beginning with their mother. Because again, a student will become like their teacher.

Men, as leaders of our house, I cannot stress how very important it is to have a time of family worship daily. If we are not making an effort to make God priority in our families, then we should not be surprise when our children do not see God as priority in their lives. Its very easy to deceive ourselves into thinking there is no time, yet we make time for other things. After school and work, we make time for team sports for our kids, television, and lounging around after a long day. It is a matter of making a decision and following through with it. If you are new to family worship or have never done something like this, here are some tips in how to implement this into your family routines:

1. Family Worship Must Be Born Out of Conviction

As parents, you must be convicted this is something you need. Without this conviction, you will be unable to follow through with the following steps. Pray that God would burden your heart for your family to know Jesus not just on Sundays, but in a real daily relationship. Lead them.

2. Family Worship Begins With the Head of the House

Wives, do not demand that your husband start doing family worship. It needs to come from him. Instead, begin by asking, not demanding, if he would pray with you at night for your family. Then begin to pray that God would open his eyes to the beauty of Christ and for him to see his great need for the Gospel.

3. Family Worship Must Be Simple

There is no need to stress or over complicate family worship. Begin by singing a praise song that everyone knows. It can be as simple as Jesus loves me. Choose something that the children will enjoy. One of the songs we love in our house is “My God is So BIg.” You can find hand motions online as well. Then simply begin to read from Gods word. With our kids being young, we use “The Jesus Storybook” to read from. The stories are short with pictures and easy for younger ones to understand. Not only does this book present stories of the Bible, but it teaches basic Biblical doctrines to our kids and points everything in each story back to Jesus. After the story we usually talk and ask the boys questions pertaining to what we read. Then we will go around and let everyone pray in closing. Another great book for teaching is The Shorter Catechism. Our family worship usually ranges from 5-15 minutes depending on how interactive the boys are on any given night. Again, keep it simple.

4. Family Worship is Mandatory

There will be days when toys and TV are going to fight for your child’s affections when its time for family worship. You must make this as mandatory as doing their homework. Eventually, family worship will become an expected, even cherished part of their day. But as it is with anything, in order to create a lasting routine, you must stick with it, especially in the beginning. Put it on your schedule just as you would baskeball practice, TV time, or anything else.

5. Family Worship Must Be Participatory

Family worship is not meant to be a preaching session. Invite your family to participate. Allow your family to sing, discuss, ask questions, pray, and read scripture. This will not only draw your family closer to God, but closer to one another as well.

Again I thank God for the many great teachers in our world. Kings and Presidents do not have as an important job as you do. For the weight of eternity hangs upon your every word. I pray that we as parents would partner along side school teachers in grooming our kids for the future, that mothers would be models of pray and Gospel proclamation in their homes, and that fathers would emulate THE GREAT teacher Christ Jesus, as they are compelled to shepard their families after our Lord. Because every student will become like his teacher.