Culture

8Mar

Is the Bible Trustworthy? 5 Thoughts

Is the Bible trustworthy? Is it a reliable source? If so, reliable for what? In today’s culture, do we really still believe this ancient book (assembled over the course of 1,500 years from dozens of different writers) is completely true?

1. The Bible claims to be perfectly authoritative. 

“All Scripture is God-breathed¬†and is useful for teaching,¬†rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,¬†so that the servant of God¬†may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Far too often, those making claims (for or against) about the Bible’s authority or reliability haven’t actually read much of the Bible. When we seek to answer the question of the Bible’s reliability and usefulness, the Bible’s actually a good place to start. Is the Bible perfectly true? It claims to be.

I understand the dialogue, especially with those who don’t follow Jesus, needs to be more than, “The Bible says¬†so” BUT that does not negate the fact that¬†within the Bible are claims¬†about the Bible to which we must lend our serious attention.

2. The Bible claims to show the path to eternal life.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God¬†so that you may know that you have eternal life.” – 1 John 5:13

Here, John clearly lays out the purpose of the Bible: that you may know you have eternal life by believing in the name of the Son of God.

The Bible does not claim to be a science textbook. The Bible does not claim to be a book of neat stories or fables filled with tidbits of morality. The Bible claims to be much more than that!

An important note: the Bible never claims to BE the path to eternal life. Jesus consistently scolds people for treating it as such (Luke 23:27, John 5:39). Rather, like John Piper notes in his book Peculiar Glory, the Bible is much more like a window than a masterpiece. The Bible is the window that points us toward the masterpiece that is Jesus!

3. The Bible is the baseline for the real Gospel.

(See: Galatians 1:6-10) РIn Galatians 1, Paul is writing to a church that has quickly deserted the Gospel they received without even knowing they were doing so because they were adding to it.

The Bible serves as the baseline for the real Gospel, the real message of God toward and for humanity. Without it, we can spin off new religions, cults, spiritual ideas or revelations, etc.

4. It’s possible to know a lot of Bible and not know Jesus. 

In Luke 24:13-34, Jesus is walking on the road to Emmaus post-resurrection and comes cross these two travelers. Noticing their sadness, Jesus asks them why they’re so bummed. They don’t recognize Jesus but tell them they’re sad because they were putting all their hope in this Jesus guy who just ended up getting killed by Rome like so many others before him and even two others that same day.

Jesus (whose not recognized by these guys) asks them to tell them about this Jesus fella. These two guys end up sharing all these stories and facts about Jesus to Jesus all the while never recognizing that JESUS WAS RIGHT THERE WITH THEM.

Its’ possible to know a lot of facts about the Bible but completely miss Jesus when he’s right there among you.

5. It’s impossible to take the parts of the Bible you like (salvation from sin, etc.) and ignore what you don’t (the commands on how we live).

This one is simple to understand yet difficult to live.

I would argue that it’s not hard to validate the Biblical worldview. Take sin, for example. Sin is easy to spot in our world. The fact that the world is broken and standing in need of redemption is not hard to see. And I don’t need to check the latest news cycle to confirm the Bible’s claims about sin and our need for redemption, I merely look in the mirror.

So I love the parts of the Bible that mention God’s plan for redeeming us from the brokenness of sin, even thought it meant the sacrifice of the One who never sinned.

But go back and read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the same one who saves us (Jesus) starts telling us how to live in our day-to-day life and it causes noticeable friction in my self-centered life.

It’s reasonable to not believe the Bible. It’s also reasonable to believe the Bible.

It’s not, however, reasonable to believe, and even¬†love, certain parts of the Bible that show us how to be right with God again, and ignore or reject other passages because they point out our sin and command us to a way of life that flies in the face of our sinful desires to put self above all else.

Once a young student asked the great theologian Karl Barth if he could sum up what was most important about his life’s work and theology in just a few words. Barth just thought for a moment and then smiled,

‚ÄúYes, in the words of a song my mother used to sing me, ‚ÄėJesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’‚ÄĚ

2Oct

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. РMatthew 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

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, successful,¬†poor 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. 

23May

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!

10Dec

Can You Ignore Jesus?

“In the corporate psychology of every city, there is a threshold of non-ignorability.” – Ray Ortlund

It was in a breakout session a few years back at a conference when I heard Ray Ortlund say those words.

The threshold of non-ignorability is an invisible line, in the cultural atmosphere of any given place. Most things (sub-cultures, groups, movements, passions, etc.) live and operate below that line. They fly under the collective radar of the city. They are important, no doubt. They are just very important to a specific group of people or a rather small amount of people.

In my hometown of Waco, TX, the Baylor Bears are no longer ignorable. They were extremely easy to ignore my entire childhood. You can like them. You can hate them. You can be indifferent. But you simply cannot ignore Baylor in Waco today. They currently live above the line of non-ignorability.

What is impossible to ignore in your city?

It’s impossible to ignore country music in Nashville or hipsters in Austin. Or food trucks in Austin. Or naked people in Austin. Austin’s weird.

It’s impossible to ignore the Razorbacks in Arkansas or the Pacific in southern California.

In the South, it’s impossible to ignore college football, sweet tea and religion.

It doesn’t matter if you like college football or not, it’s everywhere here in the fall, on every TV in every restaurant in town.

Last week I overheard a woman in a local restaurant ask why everyone drank sweet tea down here. The waitress was baffled at why this woman, clearly not from ’round here, would ask such a ludicrous question.

There’s also religion everywhere. Religion is impossible to ignore in my town with a church on every corner and most major world religions represented.

But sometimes I wonder if Jesus is impossible to ignore in my city.

I am not one of these “relationship-not-religion” people. I understand what that movement is trying to accomplish but I think they unintentionally drag through the mud valuable traditions and the foundation of faith built by 2,000 years of committed Christians.

However, a genuine need exists to separate genuine faith from rote religious activity.

This is my biggest prayer for my city – that Jesus would rise above the threshold of non-ignorability so that every person living here notices all the evidence of Jesus in our city.

They won’t all follow him, but that’s nothing new. “And some were convinced by what he [Paul] said, but others disbelieved.” (Acts 28:24). My hope is they simply can’t ignore him because of the collective work of the churches here and more importantly, the collective life change and joy on display in the lives of my city’s Christians.

True life change will make Jesus impossible to ignore in our city.

The New Testament book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome. He gathered the local Jewish leaders together and shared his experiences with them. Paul was respected by them and they asked him to tell them about Jesus and this new movement of his followers causing a stir across the empire.

While they did not know much about Christianity, they knew one thing, it ellicted a response.

“But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” – Acts 28:22

Christianity has been spoken against since its inception. It could be argued today that the biggest fear of many Christians in America is being spoken against. Yet historically, Christianity has grown the most when it has been pushed to the margins, away from the majority, away from the center of public acceptance.

Maybe Jesus is ignorable in my city because I am.

Maybe Jesus is ignorable in your city because you are.

Are people speaking against you as a direct result of the way in which you live out your faith?

Are you taking risks for the kingdom of God that seem foolish in the kingdom of this world?

Are you radically generous in a way that makes non-Christians scratch their heads in confusion?

Or are we simply living life exactly like people who don’t believe but we just wake up earlier on Sunday?

Is Jesus ignorable in your city?

2Dec

The One Regret You Never Have to Feel

It was 3 A.M. and he would not stop beating on my door.

I stumbled toward the door, simultaneously stubbing all my toes on the trappings of a college dorm room along the way, and flung it open.

His face was as red as his hair. He had  just sprinted all the way down the hall.

Our rooms could not be farther away and still be on the same wing  yet our friendship was closer than most.

We were in a group together, a small group of college boys trying to become the men we felt God calling us to be. That calling meant a lot of things to all of us but one thing was the same: our desire for purity.

We had all struggled with it as various levels. Some struggled with moving too fast with girlfriends. Others struggled with how fast you could see any type of girl you wanted on the Internet. All of us felt the longing to be better than we currently were and through several years of mostly failure we had collectively realized we needed one another.

We met once a week to encourage and pray for one another. As we ended our meeting each week in the cramped common room upstairs we reminded each other of one of the pillars of our group: If any one of us felt a temptation coming that we did not feel strong enough to resist on our own, we could always…always go to another person in the group and that person would stop whatever they were doing to be with the one fighting off temptation.

Over the years we met there were dates cut short, workouts missed, papers not completed. Whatever it took; it didn’t matter. We were there for one another. Anytime, day or nightt.

The whole concept was centered around four simple words:

“Flee from sexual immorality.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18

I love when the Bible’s simple. You don’t need to know Greek to know exactly what this verse means.

On this particular night, one of the guys was struggling with the temptation of pornography. His roommate had unexpectedly gone home for the weekend and he knew that temptation is magnified in isolation.

So at his greatest moment of need, he didn’t just try to resist for awhile and ask for forgiveness later. He literally (and I hate when people say that word but don’t actually mean it) literally ran down the hall and started beating down my door at 3 A.M.

I didn’t greet him with anger or a lecture. That wasn’t how the group worked. We supported one another with the gifts of time and presence, two things that are even more valuable to me now.

Nothing super spiritual happened except everything.

We didn’t have a Bible study on purity right then and there. That’s what we did to prepare to flee. I let my friend in and we made popcorn and watched the Sandlot until morning when we crashed.

My friend woke up after lunch the next day with…no regrets.

He didn’t care that he woke up half the hall, at least not enough to fall into sin. He didn’t care that his hallway dash was caught on the security cameras and the RA’s probably watched it back later laughing. He didn’t care about giving into a temptation only he would have ever know about.

He cared about becoming a man of God. He cared about purity. He cared about our future wives that we were already praying for but hadn’t met yet.

Nobody in the group was or is perfect and of course we all have regrets but none of us have ever regretted resisting temptation.

In a world that is bombarding us with the message that we should never say no to a new experience or a thrilling rush, our group helped each other do just that. The ethic of the kingdom of God, humble self-denial, flies in the face of the rampant “you deserve it” “treat yourself” culture that’s especially being marketed to millennials.

You might miss out on a thing or two but speaking from my experience, those things aren’t worth the baggage or pain they cause, if not immediately then soon there after.

What helps you resist temptation?

1Dec

How to Connect With a Younger Generation

It’s one of the biggest paradoxes in my world: often the most qualified adult volunteers in student ministry feel like the least qualified because they think they’ll have trouble connecting with students. Additionally, the younger college students that are typically seen as the best youth volunteers may connect well with students on a relational level but have little maturity or experience to guide them once they do.¬† See: What the Next Generation Needs from the Church

Maybe it’s not teenagers you’d like to understand. Maybe it’s 20-somethings. Millennials. We might be the most talked about generation except so few of the people talking about millennials regularly spend time with millennials. See: 5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

Maybe you’ve added someone new to your family and you’re trying to figure each other out. It doesn’t really matter who the person is.

So how do you connect? What does it take to build meaningful relationships with people decades younger than yourself?

Two simple things:

1.) Love

11059600_10153456077491001_6317721647227367480_oMy Grandpa is over 50 years older than me and our lives are very different. Outside of a general love for Jesus, sports, and family, we have very little in common yet I’ve never had trouble connecting with him because I’ve never wondered how he felt about me.

He has always made it abundantly clear that he loves me. He made a consistent effort when I was growing up to be a part of my life. He attended endless baseball games over my illustrious baseball career…and he hates baseball. When we moved 6 hours away almost three years ago he has made it a point to come visit on a regular basis.

He doesn’t need to know what the latest apps on my phone are or who Adele is to love me and connect with me.

2.) Authenticity

This is where older generations most often make mistakes in their efforts at connecting with a younger generation. They try too hard, which younger people see right through and it’s embarrassing for everyone.

One of the things I consistently try and thank my mom for is not being my friend when I was a teenager. She was constantly there for me, but always a parent first. I never confused who was in charge. It’s heart-breaking watching some parents try so desperately to win the approval of their kids or their kids’ friends that they start being a friend first and ditch their job as parents. My mom knew that being a parent was more important than connecting as a friend.

A few months ago, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was trying to connect with a younger generation. You could argue that Barack Obama’s success in doing so was one of the keys that propelled him to the White House. She sent a series of tweets specifically targeted at recent college graduates (early 20s) asking them to…get this…describe in 3 emojis or less how they feel about the national student crisis.

hilary-clinton-emoji-tweet

 

 

 

 

Predictably, the move backfired.

She got thousands of tweets criticizing her woeful attempt at connecting with a younger generation. Several people even compared her to a mom trying to look cool in front of her daughter’s friends.

Here’s the big drawback to this approach: several members of her key target audience were offended they weren’t simply asked the question. Why the emojis? Are college graduates incapable of using words and forming full sentences? Hillary should have simply asked the question like she would have to any other demographic.

To connect with a younger generation, you need to do more than just care for them. You need to be YOU. Be authentic. Don’t try so hard.

Try hard at love. Try hard to be the version of you God made you to be. THAT will always work.

19Oct

41 Questions/Doubts Teenagers Have about God & Faith

Research indicates that about 5 out of every 10 high schoolers will walk away from the church and their faith after graduation. There are a variety of reasons a student might leave their faith behind:

  • Other things simply become more important (driver’s license, dating relationship, etc.)
  • Acquire a new group of friends that don’t desire to be a part of the church.
  • Some simply experiment with straying from every opinion their parents hold in the quest for their own independence.
  • Some never felt like they belonged to the church to begin with.

The Fuller Youth Institute, in their exhaustive, nationwide studies discovered the number one reason young people leave church and faith behind: the Church’s failure to engage difficult questions.

From the research, “Specifically, these young people cited the church’s failure to wrestle with issues like the reliability of the biblical text, sexuality, evolution versus creation, and the exclusivity of Jesus. But notice these students did not say they left the faith because of the stance of their church took on the issues above. They left because the church failed to address them at all. When tough questions were addressed, the answers were found to be vague and superficial.

Last week I gave 41 students a pen and a blank note card. I told them that as a church and as caring Christian adults we wanted to listen, validate, and attempt to answer any and all questions they had about faith, God, etc.

Our group comes from pretty diverse church backgrounds (wide-ranging denominational upbringings). We have a few students who are the only Christians in their family. We also have several atheists in our group as well as some who aren’t sure what they believe or why what one believes even matters.

These are their questions: (the last two were especially tough to read)

  1. Why are there poor, hungry, and thirsty people if God is real?
  2. Why do we not get what we need when we need it?
  3. Why do we have to struggle with things over and over again? Sometimes it feels like we have no help from God.
  4. How do we know someone didn’t just write down whatever they felt like in the Bible?
  5. Why does God let such bad things happen to good people?
  6. How can God be good if people who follow him get so down that they commit suicide?
  7. If God really wants us to follow him, why doesn’t he just make us? Why do we want other things more than him and why do some people never want to follow God?
  8. Why isn’t there more proof? It would be so much easier to believe if we had physical proof like the people in the Bible did.
  9. What do I have to do to go to heaven?
  10. How do I love people who are bad influences for me? I love my friends but I don’t love what they do and I worry about how that affects me.
  11. Why does God seem to punish people who don’t deserve it?
  12. I feel like I only believe in God because I’m scared of hell. Is that wrong?
  13. When you get saved, is there a chance you can still go to hell? P.S. I don’t want to go to hell.
  14. Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?
  15. Why doesn’t God help when you’re going through a rough patch and you pray and pray and nothing happens, nothing gets easier?
  16. Can you have faith in more than one thing, more than one god?
  17. How come Christians are able to forgive so easily?
  18. How do I know my faith is true and real? How can someone restore their faith?
  19. I have heard that God is with me but why does it sometimes feel like I’m all alone?
  20. Does God stay in your life even if you do a really bad sin?
  21. How do I get away from pornography?
  22. Why can’t God simply speak when we need him the most? How are we supposed to know what we wants us to do?
  23. Is sex outside marriage really wrong? If so, why?
  24. Can you go to heaven if you are not baptized?
  25. What happens when you die? Like right after you die, when your brain stops, what do you see or think or remember?
  26. Is it possible to grow your faith, to get stronger in your relationship with God?
  27. How can I get better at spreading the word in my school?
  28. Do people always have doubts about God? I believe in him but I sometimes feel guilty about doubting.
  29. Why did God not just make everything perfect?
  30. How did different races exist if everyone came from God?
  31. Can people believe in God and be gay at the same time?
  32. Why do some people who claim to believe in God not ever go to church?
  33. Does faith in God require me to be a good person?
  34. Why is lust bad?
  35. Why don’t we ever have to be physically punished for our sin? The pain Jesus went through on the cross seems so unfair.
  36. What do I do when it feels like Jesus shouldn’t forgive me? I know he does but it sometimes feels like I don’t deserve it.
  37. Why did God make us?
  38. Do you need to ask Jesus for forgiveness more than once?
  39. If God wanted us to choose his way, why did he make it so difficult?
  40. Why would someone pay attention to the Christians when there’s so many different groups of them and they hardly seem to agree on anything?
  41. Why do some people hide behind religious cliches instead of trying to wrestle with real questions?

Which questions surprised you?

What questions would you add to the list?

14Jul

Being Honest in a Hypocritical World

In a recent article in the Atlantic, The Hypocrisy of Professional Ethicists, Emma Green compiled years of data mined from studies done on the ethical implications of various professions. She sought to discover if people who, at least in part, give advice for a living were practicing what they preached.

Some of the conclusions were what one might expect in a study like this.

  • One study of 500 doctors found 38% to be overweight. The national average is only 33%, although doctors rate of obesity is lower than the national average.
  • Nearly 4,000 police officers in Florida were surveyed and almost 800 of them had been found to be driving 90-130 mph on toll roads, many while off duty.
  • According to a security company’s study, most of the shoplifting that occurs in the retail stores is committed by employees, not shoppers.

Yet the main point of the article was fascinating. It discovered that ethicists, people who think, write, and teach what is right and wrong for a living are noticeably less ethical than both the general population as well as other non-ethics professors. Not only that, but on many occasions their behavior directly contradicted their stated beliefs. 

  • 60% of ethicists surveyed said they found eating red meat to be morally wrong, yet only 27% do not regularly eat it.
  • Ethicists are not more likely to vote donate blood, or register as organ donors.
  • Books on ethics checked out of the library are more than 50% likely to be permanently missing as compared to other books.

But if you’re reading this, you are most likely¬†not an ethicist. Frankly, I do not know any that I like.

So what about the rest of us?

 

What if the way we live our lives and make our daily decisions was analyzed? Would we be hypocrites or legit?

 

As a Christ-follower, I have a firm commitment to be as honest and open as possible. We, more than anyone, have nothing to hide because our failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings only make the God we serve look that much more glorious for loving us. See: Fake or Real?

I wonder…what would the statistics look like if we compared the lives of Christians to the lives of non-Christians? Could you tell a difference? Would there be a difference in your life? In mine?

Two arenas jumped into my mind where Christians can be legit and really make a difference.

Christians need to be legit in our marriages. 

SplitShire-8645

Our church wrapped up a series on marriages a few months ago and in one of our home group sessions, one of my friends said, “I’m not sure there’s a more consistent testimony to the faithfulness of God than a committed, loving marriage.”

She is absolutely right. While you in no way need to be married to bear witness to God’s faithfulness, marriage is a nearly universal experience in our culture, regardless of your particular belief system.

But marriage can be tough, and I think sometimes Christians tragically forget that they married an imperfect person. Much more often, they forget that they themselves are imperfect.

When two selfish sinners (all of us) are able to selflessly give themselves to one another in the¬†covenant (not contract) of marriage, and stick with it for six or seven decades, people will ask, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” They can answer simply that they spent their lives giving one another the love that God so richly gave to them through Jesus.

Christians need to be legit in the workplace. 

hardwork

One of my favorite articles ever written is entitled, “Today’s Lazy Youth Pastor.” In it, Jonathan McKee laments the state of many youth workers he comes into contact with, thinking they’re overloaded with work, stretched too thin, or burned out. While that is definitely true for some, it happens much more in other staff positions.

I wonder if that article could be written about you at your job. Today’s Lazy ________.

Christians send a loud message of the faithfulness of God when they work harder than their co-workers. When asked what gives them such drive and ambition, they can respond simply with Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I love those verses because while they include pastors, that is not the primary audience…“WHATEVER you do.”

  • If you’re a school teacher, when you work hard you’re serving the Lord.
  • If you’re a CEO, when you work hard you’re serving the Lord.
  • If you’re a plumber, when you work hard you’re serving the Lord.
  • If you’re a stay-at-home Mom, when you work hard, you’re serving the Lord.
  • If you’re a used-car salesman, or a lawyer, when you work hard you¬†might be serving the Lord. ūüôā

When Christians are lazy at work, we fail to be honest. We become hypocrites who make Jesus look like a fake if we are constantly give half-effort.

“If you show up on time, WORK while you are at WORK, and smile you will be noticed. Most people don’t even do that.” – Dave Ramsey

In what other areas do Christians need to be legit? 

29Jun

I Went to Church Anyway

We live in a broken world groaning for redemption (Romans 8:22).

Even though this is always true, it is evident some weeks more than others.

Over the last week or so our country has been engaged in nationwide debate, from inside the walls of the Supreme Court to the virtual walls of Facebook users.

The two arenas of discussion, race and sexuality, are obvious tinder for a digital firestorm because of their universal nature. It makes sense that everyone has an opinion even if some of their opinions do not make much sense.

While I was more pleased with the conversations I had in person last week surrounding these issues, I firmly believe in the purpose and value of engaging in these topics on the mediums we have available. Those mediums have changed and will continue to do so over time but right now, the Internet in general and social media in particular have connected the world in unprecedented ways.

Christians who leverage that opportunity and those mediums to discuss current issues through the lens of a Christian worldview can be missionaries like the apostle Paul, who reasoned with people in the marketplace for days upon entrance into a new city.

While there is definitely wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to be silent (See: Just Stop Talking), Christians should not fear engaging others with their various social media platforms as long as they are focused on getting it right more than being right. It’s true, Sometimes You Need a Facebook Timeout but sometimes you need to speak up.

“Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” – Proverbs 31:8

But what about when Christians cause problems by engaging others in conversations about current issues on social media?

The easy answer is something like, “The diversity of the Christians faith points to a diversity of opinions on various current issues.”

I guess…

But if we’re honest, doesn’t it feel more personal than that?

I wrote about my personal opinions regarding the Confederate Flag last week. The article took off, relatively speaking, as things that are written at the right time around hot button issues do.

I spent most of the next day responding to people’s questions and opinions (both supportive and critical). I didn’t necessarily care much what people felt about my opinions but I did care that people at least listen to the real opinions I gathered from black, Christian friends who are equally proud to be Southerners yet generally had very different experiences than the people I seemed to hear most loudly.

What was most frustrating was not people unwilling to listen to me but people unwilling to listen to them.

Some of these people were not just Christians but Christians in my city, and not just Christians in my city, but Christians at my church.

Most of the conversations went very well, and I was reminded how great the opportunity I have to pastor where I do really is. But some conversations did not go so well…my church might have shrunk last week, and I am okay with that because I honestly believe in what I wrote.

However, like it often does, Saturday night rolled around and my brain switched over to Sunday prep mode. I started running through the morning in my head. Logistics, set list, sermon, volunteers. etc.

One of my favorite parts of Sunday prep is praying for specific people to show up. It gives me chills to see people far from the Church and ever farther from God walk through the doors of our church on a regular basis.

Yet this last week I found myself struggling to want to pray, struggling to want to see some people I sincerely love but who also disagree(d) with me. Honestly, I think I’m right and I think they’re wrong but they feel the same way.

So Sunday morning comes, and I head to church. It would have been an easy weekend for me to miss. I was not scheduled to preach. I could have had a “stomach bug.”

But I went to church anyway. It had nothing to do with my job and everything to do with Jesus.

As I started to pray, even though I didn’t feel like it, a funny thing happened; I started to feel like it. I remembered that, for all the things that can divide us, Jesus is what unites us.

So I went to church. I shook hands and gave hugs and had a tremendous day. I was sincerely glad to see everyone, especially the people who disagreed with me most loudly because I know the list of essentials we must believe to be known and loved by the same God is small:

Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again.

When I said those words from stage during our welcome time, I meant them with every fiber of my being. That’s what makes us sons and daughters of God. That’s what unites us.

We don’t need to agree on everything. As much as we all wish everyone thought just like us, we actually don’t need to agree on most things but we must agree on the Jesus things.

Everything else is secondary.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

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