20Feb

You May Never Get Married

“There is no more lovely, friendly or charming relationship, communion or company, than a good marriage.” – Martin Luther

“Love is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit…”- C.S. Lewis

“Ladies, a real man does more than pay for you, he prays for you.” -Jarrid Wilson

While all these quotes contain various degrees of truth, they can also help foster an incredibly harmful thought process among single Christians, one that I have recently heard more and more frequently.

The thought process is seemingly logical and goes like this:

  • Premise A: God loves me and wants me to be happy.
  • Premise B: Marriage would make me happy.
  • Conclusion: God wants me to be married.

This thought process is affirmed with one verse more than any other in all of Scripture:

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

At first glance, this seems to completely validate the thought process formula mentioned above…except in Scripture God gives us a new benchmark by which we measure our happiness. 

A Biblical Thought Process of our Happiness

  • Premise A: God loves me and wants me to be happy.
  • Premise B: The way I get “the desires of my heart” is by delighting myself in God above all else.
  • Conclusion: When I truly delight myself in God, I want more of HIM than anything else (marriage, etc). In other words, GOD becomes the truest and highest desire of my heart and he promises to satisfy our longing to know him and to BE known BY him.

 This thought process changes things for married and single Christians alike:

To the married Christian: This means your spouse does not complete you. They do not make you whole and your life would go on without them (as hard as that would be) because Jesus alone makes you whole and completes you. To claim otherwise would be to claim your spouse is a functional Savior.

To the single Christian: This means you may never get married. It may not be God’s will for you, or it may just never happen for an infinite number of reasons or circumstances. You may never get married, but you’ll always be loved. You’ll always be radically loved by a God wants to open your eyes to his grace. He really is all you need. Grace really is that good.

I don’t know if you’re single, dating, engaged, or married. But no matter what your relationship status is, Jesus is enough. It’s JESUS ALONE that saves us and JESUS ALONE that sustains us in the abundant life he offers (John 10:10) by giving us the desires of our heart as we delight in JESUS above all else.

18Feb

Fight Club Decision-Making

 

There’s this great scene in the movie Fight Club where the unnamed Narrator/protagonist (played by Edward Norton) meets Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt).

Durden is opposed to the typical airline chit-chat the Narrator is offering until Norton’s character cracks a joke about Durden being the most interesting “single serving friend I’ve ever meet…you know, cause everything on a plane is single-serving.”

Durden responds simply, “No I get it. It’s clever…How’s that working out for you? Being clever. Good? Well keep it up!

“How’s that working for you?”

That question is brilliant…and it’s one of two questions you should ask yourself before making any decision.

1.) How will this work for me?

How will it affect me and my life? How will this change my present-day circumstances as well as my future possibilities in life? Far too often people end up making decisions they quickly regret simply because they acted rashly instead of slowing down and thinking through how this decision will actually affect them.

Yet another question is necessary in wise decision-making. Scripture commands us in Philippians 2:4,

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

2.) How will this work for others?

It’s important to think about how this decision will potentially impact those around you, specifically the following two groups of people:

  • Loved ones – family and friends that you deeply care about. These are the people we have the highest potential to help or harm with our decisions.
  • Those who don’t know Jesus – Cards on the table…this assumes you’re a follower of Jesus. If you’re not, you already know the following to be true. An unbelieving world needs to see Christians become wise decision-makers. The world needs to see Christians live their lives fully aware of how it affects those around them, not just their immediate circle of loved ones but all people they encounter, especially those who are not believers.

You can also use these questions to evaluate a past decision’s present effectiveness to determine if a new course is needed or if you simply need to plow ahead.

Imagine what the Church could accomplish all over the world if all Christians would ask these two questions before, or while, making a decision…no matter how big or small!

 

 

 

 

13Feb

Nobody Wants Us Today

Today, everyone seems wanted….except us.

Today, it seems like everyone is being showered with love and attention. Except us.

No candy. No flowers. No love letters. Not for us. We’re the unwanted.

We’re the unlovable. Broken by the world, others, and our own bad decisions.

Watch the 2-minute video below for the only hope we have today:

Share this with a friend who needs hope today.

9Feb

6 Questions Every Christian Needs to Answer

I’m a pastor and I’m crazy about the local church.

I love how messy, beautiful, broken, and encouraging life is when messed up, imperfect people attempt to point other messed up, imperfect people to an eternally perfect Savior, JESUS.

But I wonder if we as the Church have somewhat lost our way.

So much of our concern seems to be wrapped up into “buildings, bodies, and bucks.”

Yet Jesus went around making disciples out of a small group of people who he then unleashed to change the world.

For so long in church life I was told to make disciples. Make disciples. It was even the mission statement of the church I worked at in college, plastered on the side of church vehicles. “Make disciples.”

Yet we never really knew HOW or WHERE to start. When pursuing new people with the Gospel, our end goal seemed to be salvation and then you were kinda on your own.

Growing up in the church myself, I remember being saved by God, then being told to read my Bible, pray, and go to church. But nobody ever TAUGHT me how to do those things until later in life. Furthermore, nobody ever taught me WHY we do those things or WHY it was so important that we pass them on to the next generation, as we’re commanded by God to do!

So…are you making disciples? Do you even know what that means?

If you don’t have an intentional plan on how you’re obeying the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), let me suggest a starting point. Find someone who’s trying to follow Jesus. They don’t need to be a seasoned believer that has books of the Bible memorized but they also don’t have to still be wet from the baptistry, or the trough if you go to my church.

Share these 6 statements/questions with them. Give them time to work on their answers and you do the same. Then, meet for coffee. Or lunch. Or Facetime. Or whatever works for you both.

And SHARE. Be honest and vulnerable and watch what God does. You’ll be amazed at what God has done in the life of someone you know only casually at church. This little practice will help break down the barriers of complacency and false senses of community and possibly lay the groundwork for beginning a discipleship relationship down the road.

These 6 statements form the Spiritual Journey Inventory from Robert Gallaty’s discipleship book, Growing Up: How to be a Disciple that Makes Disciples.

1.) After coming to the Lord, I finally understood _____________________________.

2.) The closest I have felt to God in my life was ______________________________.

3.) The farthest I felt from God was _________________________________.

4.) If I could change one incident in my life it would be _________________. Why?

5.) One incident in my life I would never change would be _______________. Why?

6.) The turning point in my relationship with God was __________________. Why?

I hope these questions help you grow deeper in your relationship with a friend, but more importantly, I pray God uses them in YOUR life to allow you to reflect on your own spiritual journey.

Would you mind leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail and let me know how you used these questions?

I’d love to hear from you: hillcsteven@gmail.com

 

 

4Feb

If Christians Cared More: Facebook and the Gospel

Facebook turned 10 years old yesterday.

In 10 years Facebook has grown from a fledgling website meant to connect Harvard students across campus to a global social media network with 1.23 billion users.

In 10 years Mark Zuckerberg went from a Harvard dropout to the chairman/CEO of a company worth more than $134 billion with his personal net worth estimated at over $19 billion.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary, Zuckerberg posted a letter on Facebook detailing his perspective on the incredible and surprising of Facebook. His reflections were compelling:

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.

That phrase leaped off the screen, we just cared more.”

When nobody thought what they were doing was possible, “we just cared more.”                                                  When nobody wanted to join up in their cause, “we just cared more.”                                                                                 When people wrote off their lofty goals as youthful naivete, “we just cared more.”

Mark Zuckerberg and his team were willing to risk time, money, and social status to see if their dream could become a reality…and it made me wonder why we as Christians frequently aren’t willing to risk that much to live out the Gospel. And I do mean “we” myself included.

Except there’s a MAJOR difference in Zuckerberg’s riskiness and ours. His dream was just that…a dream. An idea. A ludicrous concept. Yet OUR dream…to live out our faith in such a real way that people come to know and grow in Jesus because of how we spend our time, money, and social status…or to borrow a more succinct mission statement from my church, “transformed lives transforming the world” comes with a guaranteed success rate.

Jesus doesn’t suggest or hope that we’ll make an impact if we live “transformed lives transforming the world.” He GUARANTEES it. PROMISES it.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Jesus promises if we live our lives with a Zuckerberg boldness the world WILL know we’re on his team. They WILL see and take notice. Our risk WILL equal others’ reward as they find and follow Jesus.

But it takes risk. It takes us caring more than we currently do, if we’re honest.

3 Ways to Care More

1.) Do a heart inventory.

Before you can act outward, you need to see what’s going on in your own life first. Often we get blinded by our own pride or bad habits. King David knew this feeling as well. Yet he still prayed for God to show him what needed to be changed in his own life before he could better care for others,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24
2.) Make one small financial change this week.
Can you even imagine what an incredible impact the Church could make if it were full of people who were debt-free? People, unlike me for a lot of my life, who refused to paid for today with tomorrow. Maybe you need to stop the credit cards from snowballing out of control. Your small change could be cutting up one card and signing up for Financial Peace University to learn how to manage money God’s way. 
– Maybe your one small change is to start giving to your local church. – Maybe your one small change is giving a $5 Starbucks/Sonic gift card to someone you appreciate.
– Maybe your one small change is taking someone out to lunch because they really just need someone to listen.
3.) Share your Jesus story with someone. 
I know it’s scary. And historically, Christians have manufactured some really creative ways to get around verbally telling someone about the hope we have in Christ. We have misquoted St. Francis of Assisi as once saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary…” That’s like saying, “Be fit all the time. Go to the gym if necessary…”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     While we definitely need to live out our faith with actions, we’re also called to be ready with an answer for the hope we have in Jesus. That takes words. Not eloquent words. Not a lot of words. Not even necessary Bible words. Just YOUR words about what Jesus has done in YOUR life. Share your story. Because you CARE.
Christians, we need to care more. When people think you’re weird because you have a financial plan that glorifies God, just look at them and say, “We just cared more.” About people. About God. About advancing the kingdom. We just cared more about that than about our own desires.
When people seem turned off at your outspoken joy for what Christ has done, just say, “We just cared more.” About people. About God. About the incredible Gospel story. We just cared more about using every breath we had to tell as many people about the only thing that really matters than we did about our own desires for comfort or our social status.
Will you care more today?

 

30Jan

What the Church Can Learn from Facebook

Earlier this month Facebook announced a massive exodus of 3 million teenagers who have left Facebook because they felt it’s overrun by adults and no longer cool. That’s over 25% of their teenage population base, a loss that is obviously significant yet caused only a minimal hit to Facebook’s overall stock price.

Facebook also announced another 3 million member loss in the 18-24 age range.

Even with all this loss, Facebook’s overall membership numbers have risen with more and more older adults joining Facebook.

Church of FB

The Church has been facing a similar problem for years. And the response to the young exodus from the Church has been tragically similar to that of Facebook.

Facebook, and to an extent the Church, have unfortunately concluded that teenagers don’t really matter enough to try and keep around.

For Facebook, teenagers leaving for Twitter doesn’t matter because they don’t produce any revenue. For the Church, teenagers are often incorrectly viewed as nothing more than chair warmers as they generally don’t contribute financially to the Church.

And we wonder why so many Christians approach the Church from a consumer-mindset, which eventually stops being fulfilling, causing them to leave and consume elsewhere.

What the Church Can Learn from Facebook’s Failures

  • Teenagers leave when they’re not valued. You want to know what Facebook’s response to the 3-million teenager exodus? Nothing. They haven’t made an effort to change because their overall adult numbers are rising and they’re the ones that sell the creepy sidebar ads that somehow know everything about your life. The Church needs to see teenagers as more than a missing tithe and a drain on the budget. While it’s true that teenagers don’t normally contribute to the “bottom line” of the Church, that’s not their job! Their job is to grow in Christ and serve. It’s the Church’s job to realize that in many ways, we are investing in someone else’s church as many teenagers will group up and make their own life somewhere else. That’s the beauty of being kingdom-minded instead of my-specific-local-church-minded.
  • Teenagers who leave turn into adults who don’t come back. (I’m not sure what Facebook’s long-term strategy is for regaining these lost consumers but if they don’t figure it out, they’re just like the Church…only a generation away from extinction).
  • Teenagers respect relevancy. There’s a reason Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, and ask.fm are so popular among teenagers in the post-Facebook world of social media: they’ve all made a significant effort to adapt to the changing adolescent landscape without altering their original identity. The Church will do well to continue adapting and changing ministry methods while refusing to alter its original identity as the body of Christ.

I loved my time in youth group as a student. I’ve been a Student Pastor since I began seminary but am currently in the middle of a transition. I will begin serving as the Pastor to our Greenwood campus on Sunday where I’ll still have a leadership role in the student ministry. Long story short, I love teenagers and their families.

While I can proudly say that our Church believes in, equips, and empowers teenagers to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, I know plenty of churches that treat teenagers like Facebook does, which will only lead to a bigger, faster mass exit.

Don’t allow this to happen. Plug in and serve in your local church’s student ministry. Seek out a teenager you normally look past. Be a part of the changing the perception. The Church can learn from Facebook and you can be a part of that change…or else they’re both only a generation away from becoming extinct.

29Jan

Free iPhone Porn Filter

When faith collides with culture, you can either see the intersections as opportunities or obstacles.

The iPhone has made pornography more easily accessible than any other time in human history. However, now it also provides an opportunity to embrace its incredible technological advances while maintaining and even pursuing purity.

The iOS7 software (present on all iPhones 4 and greater) comes with a built-in free porn filter. This filter catches adult content from the Safari web browser as well as all in-app browsers that use the Internet (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Instagram, etc).

In Matthew 5:8, Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Want accountability? Want online protection for your eyes AND your heart? Parents, want to help teach your kids digital responsibility and purity?

This is how you install it:

Click “Settings”

iPhone1

Click “General”

iPhone2

Click “Restrictions”

iPhone3

Enter Your Passcode (if you have one)

iPhone4

Click “Websites”

iPhone6

Click “Limit Adult Content”

iPhone7

Share this post and let a friend know!

Special shout to fellow Arkansas transplant pastor Frank Gil for the screenshots. Check out his blog here.

26Jan

Sin Happens: Justin Bieber and God’s Question

When exactly does God’s love comes to us? At what point does Jesus decide to love us? Romans 5 says that Christ’s love comes to us WHILE…

  • “we were still weak” (v.6)
  • “we were still sinners” (v.8)
  • “we were enemies of God” (v.10)

I don’t understand this kind of love.

This would be like if right after Justin Bieber is arrested for drag racing while drunk in Miami, you chose THAT time to step out and say, “Justin Bieber is a serious, mature musician.” Nobody really thinks like that! Except 7th grade girls.

biebs

When the whole country is going, “I told you that guy was a loser.” 7th grade girls across the universe are banding together as one to support poor Justin Bieber, who they are convinced is a serious, mature musician. Nobody thinks like that.

And NOBODY loves like that, except Jesus.

And while God’s love is ABSOLUTELY unconditional, relentless, and never-ending, it’s also…

Perfect. Righteous. Just. Holy. Pure.

You know…all the things that we’re not apart from Jesus, right?

Sin has so twisted my heart and yours that we can’t even BEGIN to understand much less put into practice the awesome love of Jesus without grace stepping in and invading the darkness of our hearts.

We need to look at our spiritual parents, Adam and Eve, to see where sin begun, how it was passed down to us and how God can on one hand be unconditionally loving and inviting us to know Him yet all the while refusing to ignore sin.

Notice where sin begins for Adam and Eve. With a question, “Did God really say that?” (Genesis 3:1)

Here it’s a question asked by the serpent.

But it’s a question you and I ask in our hearts every day…

It’s the question I asked myself in high school when…

  • I made sports my God.
  • I cheated on that test – because that’s a little sin that doesn’t really count, right?
  • I sought all my self-worth in acceptance from others.
  • I went to that porn website because I knew I could just clear the search history and nobody would know.
  • I played this two-face game where I was one way at church and another way at school.

Did God really say that?

Because surely if God is good, then he would do whatever I wanted him to do. Love the kind of people I love. Hate the kind of people I hate.

Then we sin. And this is where it gets surprising. Growing up in an old-school church, I remember going to revivals and hearing about how much God hated me because of my sin. When Adam and Eve screw up, I expect God to scream at them, “What happened?!? You IDIOTS! You screwed up EVERYTHING! I hate you!”

But that’s not at all what happens. The angry revival God disappears when we actually…read the Bible. Whoa.

God’s response to Adam, Eve, and us when we’re found in our sin comes in the form of a question, “Where are you?”

It’s the question of a God who refuses to rain down hate on us because we screwed up his creation but it’s ALSO the question of a God who REFUSES to ignore sin.

Refusing to ignore sin is the MOST loving thing God can do for us.

How will you respond to God’s love today? Where are you?

19Jan

Just Stop Talking

Richard Sherman is a loudmouth football player. He’s also arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and it’s an easy argument to make. Last night, he made the game-clinching play to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. In case you missed his ridiculous rant, check it out below (30 seconds)

I wish I could say Sherman’s reaction is totally different from mine when I win the occasional game of jungle pong…but it’s not. Yet as great of a jungle pong player as I am and as great of a football player as he is, Richard Sherman needs to shut up. You might need to as well. I know I do at times.

Some Initial Thoughts:

  • A criticism of Richard Sherman based on race has zero merit. Just don’t go there. The Internet is ablaze with them already. Sherman isn’t a “thug from tha streets.” He was salutatorian of his high school and graduated from Stanford. Reality check: He’s probably smarter than you and is definitely smarter than me. – What Does a White Man Know About Racism? Nothing.
  • Sherman’s free to make whatever comments he wants – Erin Andrews asked a question without asking a question and Fox decided to put a microphone in his face seconds after he made the play of his career. Was his behavior the wisest choice? Of course not, but we’ve elevated football players to god-like status so unfortunately, he can do whatever he wants.
  • Don’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians should act. – I have no idea if Richard Sherman follows Jesus. If he does, my interpretation of his actions is more severe. If he’s not, then why are we surprised?

Silence is Golden

Every week I get to sit in meetings with some of my favorite people. My favorite meeting of the week is preaching meeting, Tuesdays at 9 AM. Our preaching team (9 of us) get together and talk through the next week’s sermon.

Picture 9 preachers trying to preach over each other…for an hour.

After my first preaching meeting almost a year ago, one of my friends on staff asked me what I thought. “It’s awful,” I responded, to my friend’s surprise. “Nobody ever stops talking and they’re all terrible listeners.”

What I couldn’t understand was that this is simply what happens when you get 9 people together who are passionate about leading people and preaching. Now I love noticing the people who don’t speak as much…who sit back and listen. Sometimes it’s wiser to listen to the ideas around us before speaking. Richard Sherman needed to listen more and talk less. At least scream less.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19

While Jesus loves loudmouth people (which is really good news for me), that’s not exactly how God tells us to live life.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul and his friends write that the Christian should “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

The guy I interned for in college had these verses taped to his computer. Even though I’ve never talked about them with him, I’ve seen him live them out daily in the 6 years I’ve known him. Wise people follow wise words, God’s words.

Just stop talking…and listen.

17Jan

Muslims, Hipsters, & Women

A Muslim, a hipster, and a woman walk into a bar…and they’re the same person.

A rising new movement of Muslim women whose wardrobe consists of a mixture of hipster duds and traditional Muslim head coverings are seeking equality in their mosques. They call themselves “Mipsters” and their cause is fascinating. In traditional Muslim mosques, it is custom to limit women’s right in at least 3 main ways.

  • Muslim women are not allowed to use the main entrance to the mosque. They must enter by a side entrance.
  • Muslim women have less access to the imam (teacher) during worship services, including an obstructed view of him during the teaching time.
  • Muslim women are not allowed to pray in the same space as men in the mosque.

If you’re still confused about what a “mipster” is, join the club. Some info from their official (if that’s possible) Facebook account helps:

“A Mipster is someone at the forefront of the latest music, fashion, art, critical thought, food, imagination, creativity, and all forms of obscure everything. A Mipster is someone who seeks inspiration from the Islamic tradition of divine scriptures, volumes of knowledge, mystical poets, bold prophets, inspirational politicians, esoteric Imams, and our fellow human beings searching for transcendental states of consciousness.  A Mipster has a social mind, and yearning for a more just order, a more inclusive community. The Mipster is a bold, yet humble mind, open to disparate ideas and firm enough in conviction to act, speak out and drop the hammer when the time is right.”

Their group has received mixed reactions from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Some traditionalists are convinced they’re losing the way of Islam, being sacrilegious.

Some progressives believe their message of reform and equality is exactly what Islam needs to succeed.

mipsterz

Their youth-culture-driven message reached a group of Muslim women who were inspired to call for a significant change to the less than accommodating prayer spaces to which Muslim women are unfortunately relegated.

Their group launched a tumblr account called The Side Entrance in which Muslim women can post pictures of their mosque’s prayer spaces in hopes that a movement will arise and mobilize to call for change.

So far the results have been overwhelming. Hundreds of women have sent in pictures of their prayer spaces as compared to their mosque’s men’s spaces. As the group states, they “show the beautiful, the adequate, and the pathetic.”

 

Check out some of the most striking images from The Side Entrance:

Cairo mosqueTwo women in a mosque at Cairo who were not allowed to enter and this, forced to pray outside.

chicago mosque      The mosque in downtown Chicago. See that awful accordion room divider? The women have to pray in the corner on the other side while the men take their seats in the main area.

You know what’s tragic about the mipster movement? It won’t really go anywhere or change anything. Nothing will ultimately get better and no significant change will take place.

Because unfortunately, the oppressed young Muslim women as well as their male oppressors are on the wrong team. What I want them to know so desperately is that movements only start when God ignites them and real change only occurs when God authors it.

More than that, the change they’re seeking has already been fully accomplished by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, no male and female,  for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

What the Muslim doesn’t know, the Christian does: That through Jesus God has now thrown open the door to His presence!

  • We all enter the same door to God’s presence, only through JESUS.
  • We all pray to God equally. Nobody shoved in the corner, only through JESUS.
  • We are ALL invited to be recipients of God’s grace, regardless of our past, only through JESUS.

May this truth radically change our lives today as we walk in the undeserved grace of God, only through JESUS.

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