2Dec
gift

Gift Guide for the Average Dude – 2016

Most gift guides aren’t really created for normal guys. The items are usually too trendy, expensive or impractical.

If you’re lucky enough to have an average dude in your life who doesn’t need a $300 leather bag or a $75 bottle of beard oil, this is the guide for you. Here’s my second annual Average Dude Gift Guide. (See: 2015 Edition of Average Dude Guide Gift Guide). Just click the pictures or titles to purchase.

 

Qalo Men’s Silicone Wedding Ring – $20

The average dude doesn’t have a private, personal trainer. The average dude does push-ups and burpees in a parking lot before fancy guys get out of bed. The ring allows your dude to let everyone know he’s happy to be your guy and not interested in anyone else, no  matter how much they spent on their Lulemon workout clothes.

(If you’re shopping for me, I’d like the black athletic one, size 9) 🙂

 

The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Foods for People Who Eat Dirty – $17

125 delicious recipes that taste like real food with really big pictures.

Here come flattened beer bellies and fewer meat sweats!

And unlike some of our vegan, organic friends, the average guy can cook and eat this food without telling everyone about it.

 

Outdoor Exercise Mat – $65 

I started doing Camp Gladiator, an outdoor fitness group exercise, a few months ago. I thought I could get by with my yoga mat but it’s almost shredded through in a few places. The average dude needs an exercise mat that’s durable with water-resistant material that’s tough but comfortable. Strap included.

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2-Pack Apple Earpods OEM Original Stereo Headphones – $12

The average dude doesn’t have room or use for a $200 pair of name-brand “studio” headphones. Pick up this unbelievable deal on a 2-pack of the best headphones out there. They’re genuine Apple products that resist sweat, have a microphone that actually works and volume control.

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Amazon gift cards – $25 – $200+

I love getting Amazon gift cards because I’m not always best at coming up with lists like these. Nobody matches their combination of inventory, price, shipping speed, and service.

 

Apple Watch Sport 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Band (Certified Refurbished) – $247

This one’s definitely on the pricey side but it’s the best if your guy is looking for a fitness tracker/smart watch, etc. All the others (FitBits, Garmens, etc.) definitely have pros but they also all have glaring weaknesses. The Apple Watch Sport is excellent at everything.

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – $16

 

The Underground Railroad: A Novel, $16

16Nov
6

6 Marks of Good Evangelism

This post first appeared as a sermon I preached at The Table: a Christ-centered, outward-focused, community of friends (20’s and 30’s) in Austin, TX. You can watch or listen to that sermon by clicking here

When you hear the word “evangelism” what comes to mind?

  • TV preachers?
  • Emotionally manipulative end-of-sermon invitations?
  • Intrusive door-to-door visitors?
  • angry street preachers?

Evangelism done poorly by some does not negate evangelism as a command for all.

Evangelism is also not a spiritual gift that only some are good at.

Some Christ-followers have also criticized specific methods of evangelism, which is fine, as long as you’re actually telling people about Jesus as well. My hunch is that most of us realize that evangelism is just a churchy word for telling others about Jesus. However, I also have a hunch that most of us simply are not doing it.

Some Christ-followers have labelled things like evangelism as legalistic but it’s not legalistic to insist Christians obey the commands of Christ. 

Evangelism is among the final commands given to us by Jesus before he ascends into heaven. (See: Matthew 28:18-20)

When people we love speak their final words, we lean in to hear them and hang on to them. Why have we done the opposite with Jesus’ final words to us?

With all the confusion swirling around evangelism, what does good evangelism look like?

6 Marks of Good Evangelism

1. Friendship

1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”The 1st century Greco-Roman idea of self was all encompassing. It meant something similar to what we mean now when we say “soul” – the very core of who you are.

Notice, too, that Paul notes that he didn’t just want to share a list of beliefs for the intellectual assent of the Thessalonians people. Even before they believed, they had become very dear to Paul and his team.

Do you have friends that don’t follow Jesus? If you don’t, find some new friends!

If you do have friends that don’t follow Jesus, don’t give up on them because they don’t believe at first. Allow them to become dear to you.

 

2. Personal Proof

You know who doesn’t care that you know a few verses from Romans? People who don’t follow Jesus. 

But if they care about you, they’ll be much more likely to listen to how Jesus ha changed your life. Furthermore, they’ll know you’re telling the truth because they’ll see the proof in your life, especially if they may have known you before you started following Jesus.

When describing how Jesus has changed you, speak in positives instead of negatives.

  • Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by trying to think of others as more important than myself.
  • BAD Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by not going to drinking parties.

Both statements should be true of people who follow Jesus but only one is primarily helpful in evangelism. It’s simply a matter of emphasis.

 

3. Saying “Jesus”

Times have changed. When sharing about your faith, if all you say is, “I believe in God” most of America will agree with you even though most of America does not in fact follow Jesus. But you say the name of Jesus – and it becomes more clear who and what you’re talking about.

When then topic of evangelism comes up many Christ-followers cite a quote that many have attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (although there’s rampant skepticism around the source), “Share the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.

That makes zero sense.

Let’s say a Christian, a Muslim, and a Mormon go on the same mission trip. They work on the same roof, pain the same house, help the same person – but none of them ever say a word. If they all looked about the same, how would you know who believed what? – YOU WOULDN’T!

To share the Gospel, you must use words and you must say “Jesus.”

4. Being prepared

The first part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew the conversation was turning toward faith but you weren’t ready? Have you ever felt like God was pushing you to bring him up in a conversation but didn’t? We have to be ready!

Prepare now for a conversation you’ll have SOON. 

 

5. Humility

The second part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

“Bad evangelism says, ‘I’m right; you’re wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.’” – Tim Keller

Good evangelism says, “Jesus is right; we’re all wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.”

When you remember that before Christ, you were “dead in your sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1) you remember just how much God has saved you from. You remember how you did nothing to deserve grace so the only proper response to someone who has not yet experienced saving grace is not arrogance but humility.

 

6. Bible

Like we said before, a lot of times you can’t start here. However, you can never accurately share the truth about God if you don’t open the Word of God.

Click here to see 10 Gospel Passages that are great for evangelism conversations. I would suggest committing a few to memory so that you are always ready (see #4 above: be prepared).

 

What are other marks of good evangelism?

When’s the last time you told someone about Jesus?

12Oct
4-waysto-pray

4 Ways to Pray

I had a brief stint as a Kids Pastor. It was both wonderful and frustrating.  See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry

When I was teaching 3rd-5th graders how to pray, I used the prayers below. They’re simple, one sentence prayers.

I had a hunch awhile back that a lot of adults in church may not be super comfortable with prayer. Prayer can be one of those tricky things in the Church that you know you should do but once you’re around long enough you feel like it might be too late to ask someone to teach you how to pray. See: On Prayer: Pews & Plastic Tables

My hunch was proven right and I started introducing these prayers to adults a few years ago with remarkable results. They are simple yet profound. You can pray these prayers with a community, in a group of 2-3, or just by yourself.

If prayer is confusing to you, new to you, or you’re just ready to try something new, try these 4 ways to pray.

 

1.) God, you are __________________.

(Prayers of Adoration) – telling God how awesome He is.

Examples:

  • God, you are so gracious.
  • God, you are so faithful, even when we’re not…especially when we’re not.
  • God, you are always with us.

Notice: you can finish the prayer with just one word!

Some Biblical examples of prayers of adoration: Psalm 8, 19, 29, 33, 66, 100, 103, 104, 145

 

2.) God, thank you for _________________.

(Prayers of Thanksgiving) – recognizing that every good and perfect thing comes from our unchanging God (James 1:17).

Does your family do this around the table over Thanksgiving holiday? Mine often does and this prayer is simply turning that practice toward God.

Examples:

  • God, thank you for your beautiful creation.
  • God, thank you for family.
  • God, thank you for being willing to discipline your children when we wander from you. 

Biblical examples of prayers of thanksgiving: Psalm 18, 30, 32, 34, 40, 66, 92, 116, 118, 138

 

3.) God, forgive me for ________________.

(Prayers of Confession/Individual Lament)

These are the most under-utilized prayers in my life yet easily the most beneficial.

Examples:

  • God, forgive me for trying to control everything. I know that means I’m not trusting you. 
  • God, forgive me for thinking I deserve better than what you have deemed best for me.
  • God, forgive me for not seeing people how you do, as people equally created in your image.

Biblical examples of prayers of confession/individual lament: Psalm 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

A note: try and be specific. Don’t say, “God, forgive me for my sin.” Name the sin. Be specific. Because of Jesus that sin has no power of you anymore and you walk in freedom!

 

4.) God, please ________________.

(Prayers of Supplication/Trust)

These are probably most of our default prayers. We don’t spend time adoring God, thanking Him, or confessing sin. We often treat God no different than Santa. We swoop in, read off our list of requests, and go on our merry way firmly expecting every request to be granted just as we asked.

These can be prayers for others or yourself. (It’s not bad to pray for yourself!)

Examples:

  • God, please comfort my Mom in her battle with cancer.
  • God, please show me how to make my life count for You.
  • God, please help me trust you even when my emotions say something different than your Word. 

Biblical examples of prayers of supplication/trust: Psalm 86, 143

 

What type(s) of prayer have been beneficial for you?

Has someone ever taught you how to pray?

2Oct
4-reasons-youdont-need-a-sign-from-god

4 Reasons You Don’t Need a Sign from God

Surely I’m not the only one…

Have you ever asked God for a sign? Maybe to prove He exists or that He actually loves you.

Or maybe you believe but just needed some guidance or help out of a tough situation.

Whatever the reason, this is a common request from the people of God and there are at least 4 reasons we don’t need that which we often think we need most.

1. You’ll just need another sign…and another…and another…

In the book of Exodus, the people of God were delivered from slavery and oppression under the corrupt hand of Pharaoh. As the people of God began to walk in freedom, they realized how unfamiliar it was because of how used they had become to their past state of slavery.

Over the course of their wandering journey, they quickly lost faith…in God and in their leader, Moses, who God appointed.

Over and over again, God showed up in miraculous ways that these people saw with their own eyes.

  • They saw God keep His promise to bring 10 plagues against Egypt as long as His people were enslaved.
  • They saw God miraculously save His people once the Egyptians tried to chase them down.
  • They saw God provide bread each morning and meat each evening for them to eat.
  • They saw God guide them by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud in the morning,

Even though they saw these incredible signs, signs that if we were honest we would love to see, they still doubted.

It’s easy for us to forget that even in 2016, we are the forgetful people of God.

We were delivered from slavery to sin and shame and as we began to walk in freedom, we realized how unfamiliar it was because of how accustomed we had become to our past state of slavery to sin.

 

2. You have the Bible.

Let’s say you did receive a sign from God, for the sake of argument. The Bible is the benchmark by which you would discern if that sign actually came from God, anyway. Consider this: how often have you, or someone you know, received a sign that didn’t confirm what they really wanted anyway. Far too often we ask God for signs and then “name and claim” anything that furthers our pre-existing confirmation bias.

Why not just stick to the sufficient revelation of God in the Scriptures? See: Bibles and Newspapers

Don’t ask God for a sign when you don’t read the one you have.

 

3. Hope that is seen is not real hope.

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” – Romans 8:24

I love my iPhone. It’s remarkable how simple the design is for such an incredibly complex tool. From what I understand, they’re quite easy to take apart, with just a few parts making up the whole. If you desired, you could take an iPhone apart and examine the pieces from every angle and then put it back together again, deciding to love it because now you fully understand it.

But that’s not why I love my iPhone. I love it because I can book a vacation and fire off 3 baseball-related tweets nobody cares about all before the stoplight turns green. I love it because I’ve experienced it. 

The 11th century theologian, Anselm, famously defined life with Jesus as “faith seeking understanding.”

Faith is not something you understand fully before you experience it. You have a genuine encounter with Jesus which gives you hope, then you spend the rest of your life seeking to fully understand that hope, a hope which is unseen. Some mis-categorize that as “blind faith” but the Bible points us to real hope, hope unseen.

4. Jesus is the only sign you need.

In Matthew 12, a group of people demand a sign from Jesus.

First off, anytime you see people demanding things from the only One who has the power to demand things…red flag.

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:39-40

You don’t need a sign from Jesus because Jesus is the only sign you need. 

At the cross, we’re reminded who God is, what He’s done for us, and who we are in Him.

That’s always enough. 

28Sep
weakness-strength

3 Times Weakness is Strength

One of my favorite things about Jesus is how often he completely flips the script on people. It’s one of my favorite things when it happens to some of the “bad guys” in Scripture (i.e. the religious elite, the corrupt, and the power-hungry) but it’s one of my least favorite things when he does it to me.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s favorite move was the sky hook shot.

Jesus’ favorite move might have been this stunning role reversal, the Sixth Sense-esque twist at the end of the story where you discover everything you thought up until that point has been wrong.

This upside-down nature is how Jesus led his life and how He’s commanded us to live ours.

  • To gain our life, we must lose it. (Matthew 16:25)
  • When we die one day, it will be seen as a gain, not a loss. (Philippians 1:21)
  • One day, those who are last now will be first, and vice versa. (Mark 10:31)

As followers of Jesus, our lives should imitate this upside-down nature of the kingdom of God. This primarily expresses itself when the world calls our way of life weak, yet Jesus calls it strong.

 

When Weakness is Actually Strength

1. Love

Shortly after the Christmas decorations disappear from the store shelves each year, pink hearts and Cupid’s arrows take their place. Far too often, our culture sends the message that love is a mostly feminine, passive emotion.

In many ways, culture paints love as a very weak thing. The Bible, however, paints love as an incredibly strong decision, not a weak emotion.

The image of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is anything but weak or passive.

  • selfless
  • ever-enduring
  • hopeful no matter what

We’re also called to love our enemies, the very people who hate us. It takes incredible strength to love people like Jesus.

See: Loving Your Enemies (In a Drop the Mic Culture)

 

2. Humility

Today’s culture often sees humility as lack of ambition at best, and foolishness at worst.

To be humble means you must stop constantly promoting yourself and posturing for better and grander positions. True humility means that when your friends succeed, at times instead of you, you can genuinely rejoice with them instead of writhing in envy.

Humility and contentedness fly in the face of a culture that never stops screaming, “More!” Our upside-down Savior simultaneously screams, “Enough!”

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12

See: No Capes! Serving in Secret

See: The Most Important Person in the World

 

3. Desperation

Have you ever seen a truly desperate person? Maybe you’ve been a truly desperate person.

There’s not much room in today’s “everything is fine” world for true desperation. It’s seen as embarrassing. Yet desperation is the one necessary precursor to genuine faith.

“Blessed are the rich, ones-who-have-it-all-together, successfulpoor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

To ever gain the kingdom of heaven, you must first realize that you’re poor in spirit, spiritually bankrupt, desperate for God to move, save, and reconcile.

If you think you have everything together, one day everything will fall apart.

 

Today, let’s be people of love, humility, and desperation.

Some will find us weak. Jesus calls us strong. 

27Sep
diem

Proverbs and Politics

Lately, it seems like we’ve bought into a lie that our words don’t matter, or at least that’s the only way I can explain how some of my friends, as well as myself, are acting on social media. Election season puts all of us in a bit of a frenzy but it seems like we’re furiously typing things on social media we would never have the courage to say/scream at someone’s face.

Below are 23 verses from Proverbs – a book all about wisdom in practical life. They’re broken up into 5 general categories – don’t miss the last one. It’s the most prevalent and possibly the most dangerous. 

See: How to Read Proverbs

I’m committing to read through all 23 verses before I post something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Would you join me? Our words matter. Jesus says that what we saw reveals what’s in our heart. Remember, our first allegiance as Christians is to King Jesus. See: God Doesn’t Need America

 

On Putting Trust in Politics, a Party, and/or a Politician

“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” – Prv. 1:19

“but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Prv. 1:33

“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” – Prv. 29:26

 

On Engaging Political Opponents

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Prv. 9:7-8

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Prv. 10:12

“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” – Prv. 14:7

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” – Prv. 15:18

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.: – Prv. 18:2

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” – Prv. 24:17

 

On Thinking/Knowing You’re Right and Humility

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Prv. 3:7

“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Prv. 3:34

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Prv. 14:12

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Prv. 21:2

 

On the Power of Words

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Prv. 10:19

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Prv. 13:3

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Prv. 15:1

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Prv. 17:28

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Prv. 18:21

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prv. 27:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Prv. 29:20

 

On Lying 

This is by far the most pernicious. Think about it – every time you share an article that you’re not sure is really true but you like because it furthers your own opinion while pushing down your opponent, you’re lying. The Bible often calls that “bearing false witness” and it’s the 9th commandment.

See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prv. 6:16-19

“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” – Prv. 8:6

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” – Prv. 19:9

 

What verse(s) would you add to this list?

18Jul
8 BOOKS FOR WHITE CHRISTIANS

8 Books for White Christians on Race

#BlackLivesMatter…#BlueLivesMatter…#AllLivesMatter

Tragically, this is about more than hashtags. People are dying and the rest of us are divided.

I started down a journey a few years ago when I unexpectedly found myself mostly unaware of the experience of the average African-American, especially in the South, and especially in my predominantly white suburban church setting.

I remember feeling terrible when a tornado warning went through our town. As the sirens blasted all across the neighborhood, my wife and I headed down the street to our local tornado shelter and we quickly realized we, as white people, were the minority. I felt so ashamed because my church, my community of friends, and my life experience, looked so unlike the life that was happening all around me.

So I started having conversations with some of my minority friends, specifically my black friends. I wish I could tell you I had hundreds to pick from, but I didn’t. My friends mostly looked, thought, and lived about like me. But God graced me with a few black friends that were patient with my ignorance. I hope they know I saw them then, and even more so now, as much more than my token “black friends” from which to learn.

Out of those conversations came a realization that I needed to learn much more before I asked much more. The books listed below are recommended, in no particular order, because they have all helped to shape my journey toward racial reconciliation and understanding over the last several years. Some have helped more than others. I disagree with something in every one of them but that’s not the point.

Parts of these books might get under your skin. Good. I vented to one of my black friends one day after I was feeling discouraged and frustrated in the middle of one of these books. He simply replied, “You’re frustrated while reading for a few months? Imagine how frustrated we’ve been living it for years and years.” 

Make no mistake, race is not a political conversation; it’s a Gospel conversation. To consider others more significant than yourself, to refuse to look exclusively to your own interests but also to the interests of others, is exactly what Jesus did and exactly what Jesus commands us to do (Philippians 2:3-4).

If Jesus did not count equality with God something to be grasped, maybe we should not count white privilege as something to be grasped.

If you’re willing to humble yourself, and learn in quietness before you ask too many questions, allow me to recommend the following books. (FYI: I don’t get any sort of payment/reward if you buy these books, but you can click on any title/cover to purchase from Amazon. If you live in the Austin area, you’re more than welcome to come borrow one of these from me). 

 

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep us Apart, by Christina Cleveland 

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Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity, by Edward Gilbreath

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Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith

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Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, by Soong-Chan Rah

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Bridging the Diversity Gap: Leading Toward God’s Multi-Ethnic Kingdom, by Alvin Sanders

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

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The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah

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Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We’re Stronger Together, by Tony Evans

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After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10

23May
When Being Still Isn't Enough

When Being Still Isn’t Enough

We all know it. You can feel it. Even Darth Vader knows it.

We all know that our pace of life is simply out of control. In an effort to do more and be better we’re doing less that matters and becoming worse. (See: Do More Better)

It seems like every bit of our time is spoken for and a never-ending bidding war ensues from all sides. Some of this chaos is simply a product of our culture today. For many, the 40-hour work week is a figment of past imagination, like waking up from a really good dream you can’t quite remember.

However, most of this chaos is self-imposed.

Maybe you’re a people-pleaser and struggle with telling people “no.” You end you end up helping someone move every weekend and take on projects at work that are outside of your normal scope simply because someone asked.

Maybe you’re a parent and your kids are all involved in 3-4 activities at a time…each! I have regularly witnessed the anxiety this produces in teenagers as school starts to get more challenging and college looms a mere few years away. I worry that we’re teaching the next generation to live life at even more frantic and chaotic pace than we are.

Maybe you’re a procastinator and your unwillingness to stick to a schedule is constantly leaving you scrambling to finish tasks at the last minute.

 

In short, we all feel stressed, hurried, and a bit overwhelmed at times. You don’t have to follow Jesus to know that.

A popular solution: meditation

Recently, meditation has experienced an undeniable resurgence as a solution to our unbridled hurriedness, an addiction to production.

The world is recognizing our need to be still.

I love when our culture catches up with the Bible. 

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

For thousands of years, the people of God have practiced meditation as an integral part of prayer. This is not primarily an Eastern Buddhist practice, but a distinctly Christian practice.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” – Joshua 1:8

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 119:15

…and many more.

 

The world is learning in part what God has always fully known. 

The world knows we need to be still, but that’s not the full solution.

Slowing down isn’t good enough. We need something else on which to fix our gaze, away from ourselves and our busy schedules and our endless striving.

The world knows the first half of Psalm 46:10 but not the 2nd. 

Being still isn’t enough. The solution to our obsession with ourselves is an obsession with God. 

Once we actually slow down, we need to remind ourselves who’s really in charge of our lives. 

Spending time with God isn’t complicated, but it’s also not easy. See: What a Dentist Knows about Faith

It takes time. See: It Takes Time to Take Heed 

But once you get started, it can become an obsession, one that will actually save you from yourself. See: What Christians Can Learn From Cross-Fit.

If you don’t know where to start, click here for a free 10-day study called Jump Start through the book of James.

This week, be still, but remember that being still isn’t enough. Be still and know that he is God!

1Mar
Biblical Dating Part 2

7 Biblical Principles for Dating, Part 2

This is the 2nd post in a series on how to date as a Christian. Click here to read the first post containing the 1st four principles.

 

5. Their identity is in Christ, too. So act like it.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This one was a game changer for me. When you begin to see members of the opposite sex as equal bearers of the image of God, equal temples in which the Spirit of God dwells and equally ones for whom Christ died, it changes everything.

You no longer see girls as a collection of body parts or guys as the key to acceptance and worth.

This changes how/if you flirt and it changes what you do on dates. This is ultimately the heart of the Gospel: before anyone is your boyfriend or girlfriend, they are first and foremost a child of God and God cares deeply about how his kids treat one another.

 6. Sexual sin damages in a unique way.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. – 1 Cor. 6:18

Paul is writing to a culture in 1st century Corinth not unlike 21st century America. It is a very distracted city with lots of different worldviews and religious thoughts all mixing together. Notice the way Paul starts the second sentence in v. 18, every other sin.”

Paul is explaining that sexual sin has a different set of consequences than other categories of sin. This is not to say that it separates us more or less from God; all sin is equal in that regard. Instead, Paul is explaining how sexual sin damages and creates baggage that we must deal with long after that sin has been forgiven by God.

It is not hard to see this play out both inside and outside the Church. How many times have you seen a 2nd marriage not stick so a 3rd and 4th are attempted with similar results? Porn addiction has been linked again and again to lower sex drives and less intimate sex lives. Those sins have already been forgiven and fully paid for by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection, but that does not mean we get to avoid the consequences of bad decisions.

 

7. Jesus redeems ALL our mistakes.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. – John 8:10-11

At first glance, this principle might seem to contradict #6 but this encounter in John 8 will help explain. John 8 begins with a group of religious hypocrites who were tired of hearing about the less than respectable reputation of a promiscuous woman in town. One day they decided they had heard enough of this 1st century reality show and decided to do something drastic.

They Bible says they caught her in the act of adultery which means they laid in wait for her, like a bunch of self-righteous peeping toms, as if there could ever be such a thing.

They literally ripped her out of bed and threw her, naked and ashamed, at the feet of Jesus and demanded Jesus to tell them what to do, since the law said they should stone her to death.

Jesus then uttered some of my favorite words in the New Testament, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Jesus dropped the mic and the religious haters dropped their stones and walked away.

Even if you haven’t had sex before marriage, everyone knows the burden of sexual sin. The reality of redemption is that you’re not doomed to have a bad sex life inside marriage if you’ve had sex outside marriage.

Jesus said two things to the woman and every single one of us always needs to hear at least one of them:

  1. “Go and sin no more.” – Jesus has reminded this woman who she truly is, who he created her to be. Far too often, Christians can label all the ethical teachings of Scripture we don’t like as “legalistic” but here Jesus gives her a clear, loving command to simply go and live out that identity. But we can’t live out that identity and never let it affect the decisions we make, people or ways we date, and ultimately where our hope lies.
  2. “Neither do I condemn you.” – These words are necessary because principle #6 is true. Sexual sin produces a unique shame that can spiritually cripple you and allow you to start to believe lies about your acceptance in Christ. Since God, who knows everything about you, more than you even know yourself, refuses to condemn you we can go out in celebration and live like it! Live like you belong to a God who created you, loves you, and knows all your secrets and still refuses to condemn you.

 

Can you think of any other Biblical principle(s) for dating?

29Feb
Biblical Dating Part 1

7 Biblical Principles for Dating, Part 1

Dating is hard.

For the Christian, dating is like every other area of life in that we should be deeply concerned with how following Jesus informs the way we think and act and love.

If you did a Bible search for the word “dating” you know what you come up with? NOTHING.

There are some that feel the Bible prescribes a courtship form of dating because that was the cultural norm in that time. Using that same logic you can make the argument that we should all be polygamous because that was the cultural norm in that time as well.

Instead of direct, explicit instructions, the Bible teaches us several  principles that we can apply to dating and ultimately, the pursuit of marriage.

 

7 Biblical Principles of Dating

 

1. Walk with Jesus.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7

Far too often the first step a Christian takes in thinking about how to date God’s way is to sit down and make a list of all the qualities their future spouse needs to have. Then, they only date people who fit the list.

While the forethought is admirable, our first step in trying to date in a way that honors God is to BE someone worth dating. Our faith in Jesus should be active and meaningful as Paul described in Colossians. We should be rooted and built up in Jesus. Lists are just fine but we should make a list for who we need to be first.

 

2. Only date people who walk with Jesus.

The second principle is where you can use your list! In looking for someone to date, you’re really looking for the type of person you will marry. That person needs to have the same active faith you’re living out.

They need to be more than cultural Christians who attend church. They need to be able to explain the Gospel out loud. They need to be able to talk about what Jesus means to them and describe what Jesus has done for them. They should be able to point out ways they are more like Jesus this year compared to last year and be able to share what God is currently teaching them.

 

3. Keep physical boundaries.

Flee from sexual immorality. – 1 Corinthians 6:18

You know what this verse says in Greek? Flee from sexual immorality. Literally run away from it. Since sex is a good gift from God but a gift meant to be enjoyed only in the covenant marriage relationship, sex outside of marriage falls under the category of sexual immorality.

So does pornography, homosexuality, lust, objectification, and crossing physical lines even if you don’t “go all the way.”

If the Bible calls us to run away from something, why are so many of us trying to get as close as possible to the line without stepping over? We are fundamentally misunderstanding God’s heart for us to live a pure life walking with him and honoring others.

Setting and keeping firm physical boundaries helps you flee from sexual sin instead of flirting with it.

If you’re an unmarried Christian I would suggest you consider boundaries that keep you from:

  • sex outside of marriage.
  • living with someone before marriage. (co-habitation)
  • being alone in a private place (apartment, dorm, parked car, etc.)
  • being alone in a room with your computer/phone late at night.
  • sending pictures, Snapchats, etc. that you would not want others to see/know about.
  • laying down (even in an Eno!) with someone you’re not married to.
  • Isolating yourself from godly friends who can hold you accountable.

 

4. No marriage. No commitment.

One of the reasons the Bible doesn’t talk explicitly about dating is there is absolutely zero commitment in dating. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “I love you” or how long you’ve been together or how many promise toe rings you’ve exchanged.

The covenant relationship of marriage is the only place to find real commitment. Dating can be a wonderful experience but don’t deceive yourself into crossing physical boundaries you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable crossing under the guise of a commitment that simply does not exist.

 

Check back tomorrow for the last 3 principles.

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