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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

“Let’s just be honest and admit right up front that the Bible pulls no punches and leaves no room for a public relations effort to clean up the dust storm.” (Al Mohler)

One objection to the previous post is that the Bible contains history. Real history. It doesn’t sweep sin under the carpet. In the Bible real people commit heinous sins. There is crime, racial prejudice, sexual immorality, lies, and the list goes on. And so someone might object,

“Isn’t it better to watch movies or listen to songs that are more in touch with reality, that show what the Bible actually teaches about human depravity, or the redemptive qualities of authentic heroes in movies? Aren’t these more worthwhile examples of art and culture?”

Maybe. It kind of depends.

Indeed there are movies, songs, TV shows not made by Christians that are genuine works of art, portraying redemptive themes in plots, characters, stories, and lyrics. They contain heroic characters that point to God. Honestly, such examples are few and far between; but they do exist. But let me say this: the Bible is better! It is true, the Bible does not gloss over sin in its overall message of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. And without human history depicting the realness of the fall, we wouldn’t get a complete picture of the importance of each part of the story.

Nevertheless, the Bible, in the wisdom of God, protects us from temptations to sin in ways that most uninspired movies or songs probably won’t. When David commits adultery with Bathsheba, I don’t know of anyone who is tempted to lust as a result. When I read and learn from other parts of the Bible, it’s the same thing. Simply put, God’s Word will not tempt you to sin. It is a greater revelation of truth than anything you will find in popular culture. It teaches you. And it protects you.

Does that mean you should completely disengage from popular culture? I don’t think so. That is certainly not what I’m saying. Instead I’m saying that your heart for Jesus is more important than your love for entertainment. Your time spent in the Word is safer and more valuable than trying to learn all you know about God, man and salvation from popular culture.

In the next post, we will briefly discuss culture-creating.

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God’s words are described in Psalm 119:105 as a “lamp” and a “light” to the life we live. The whole chapter (the longest in the Bible) is a big praise for the words God has given to us to read and know.

I love that. But sometimes it is hard to stick to a plan and read God’s word. Some of you might wonder what to read and when to read it. One of the best ways for me to stick to it and read all of the Bible is to start with a Bible reading plan. So that is what this note is for.

There are many different Bible reading plans available online today. Some will even email the daily reading to your inbox! Some will allow you to choose which translation you would like to receive. So there are many options! God just wants you to read his Word and this can help! Here are some of my favorite Bible reading plans. Feel free to try one out on your own. The plans vary. I actually like donig one for a year and then switching to a different plan the next year. If you want to know what I’m planning to use this year, the 2011 Compositional Bible Reading Plan developed by Treasuring Christ Church in Raleigh gets my vote. So without further ado:

30 Day Plans

  1. 30 Days For New Christians
  2. 30 Stories You’ve Probably Never Heard

Survey Bible Reading Plans

  1. Biographical Bible Reading Plan (121 Days)
  2. Survey Bible Reading Plan (61 Days)

365 Day Plans

  1. Daily Bible Reading Plan
  2. ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan
  3. M’Cheyne One Year Bible Reading Plan
  4. Canonical Bible Reading Plan

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Question: As a Christian, is Satan afraid of me?

I think this is a fascinating question. A youth in our student ministry asked this question recently, so this post is the written version of my response to him. The answer has two parts. I hope you enjoy!

(1) I believe there is a sense in which Satan is terrified of Christians, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the ability of Christians to stand against Satan. Instead it has everything to do with Jesus’ power to send Satan to flight.

Satan’s fear is locked-in on Jesus, because Jesus will destroy him in the end. Where we stand toe-to-toe with the forces of evil as infantry in Jesus’ army, Satan is fighting a losing battle — and it’s because of our captain, Jesus, not simply because of us.

James 4:7 teaches, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The picture is similar to the standoff between Satan and Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus’ temptation is the antitype of Adam’s in the book of Genesis, where Adam and Eve both crumbled under Satan’s simple argument. We must not think ourselves better than they, or we will set ourselves up to fall just as hard! Instead, we bank on God’s strength for resisting the devil, “and he will flee from you.”

So the wise Christian hears the Word of God and does not boast foolishly that Satan is too weak to hurt believers. He stands and agrees with Rev. 12:9 — that Satan is the “ancient serpent” and one “who leads the whole world astray.” He remembers that Satan even “rose up against Israel and incited” David, Israel’s great king, to sin (1 Chron. 21:1). He remembers that Satan’s ways can fill even the hearts of believers and lead to destruction, as with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3). He wisely remembers that the devil “himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:4). He cautiously knows that Satan, as he did with Paul, can even try to stop you from doing what you want to do for God (1 Thess. 2:18). Then, perhaps most dangerously, the Bible warns that some turn away from Jesus to follow Satan (1 Tim. 5:15).

I list those verses to help us keep our heads on our shoulders. Satan is a formidable enemy! He hates the people of God, and he will do whatever he can to stop the advance of the gospel, most obviously, by destroying one’s testimony. So, my caution to you is not that you can’t face Satan with Jesus’ help and see him flee, but more that you humbly take to heart that this is a serious fight, not a simple-answer-fight against the devil.

And here is the second part.

(2) Here are some verses that should give us a rush of exhilaration knowing that Satan is no match for Jesus!

In Zech. 3:2, God himself rebukes Satan — imagine that scene! In Luke 10:18, when the disciples returned from the nearby towns after preaching the Good News there, they returned in excitement; and Jesus described it this way, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven!” In Acts 26:18, Paul says that the gospel has the power to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” And, I love this: Romans 16:20 teaches, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

I would like to encourage you to note that wherever there is victory over Satan, it is because of what God does. It’s his power over Satan, not ours. Notice that it is God who will crush Satan under your feet. So, I believe that is a biblically accurate way to say that Satan is not happy with you!

Satan is not happy with you, because you are now a light in a dark world, who is commissioned by King Jesus to share the gospel, and snatch others out of the grasp of the ancient serpent. Satan would have a much easier time deceiving people if there weren’t Christians onward marching, telling the world what the Word of God says! Satan would have a much easier time directing peoples’ paths to destruction, especially since that is their natural path anyway, if it weren’t for born-again Christians thwarting his plans by the power of God!

As Russ Moore says, “Tremble, O Proud Snake King” . . . for

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!” (Rom. 16:20).

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I will never forget the first time I sat down with my great uncle to “talk theology.”  My uncle was a Methodist pastor for many years, the only time I got to see him was at family reunions, but I always had a great deal of respect for him—he was a kind and patient man.  So when he asked me if I would like to talk theology with him at a family reunion not long after I had decided to go to seminary, I was very excited. 

We were in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we sat down on the porch of the cabin that my family had rented to do one of my favorite things—talk about the Lord, but in an instant, my joy turned to remorse and deep concern.  The first thing my uncle said was “Drew, I don’t believe in the atonement.” 

I wasn’t sure if I heard him right because I was pretty young in my faith, but I thought surely he couldn’t be a pastor and not believe in the atonement of Christ!  So I asked, “What did you say?”  My uncle responded, “I don’t believe in the atonement, I don’t believe that Jesus had to die to pay the penalty for my sins.”  Perhaps my response was a little lacking in tact but looking back on it, I don’t regret what I said to him.  I said, “if you don’t believe in the atonement you aren’t saved.”  I was young in my faith but I firmly believed that Jesus died for my sins and that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  I believed that Christ redeemed me from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for me (Gal. 3:13).  I believed the gospel that proclaims while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me and whoever would believe in Him will be saved (Rom. 5:8; Acts 16:31).

My uncle went on to tell me about how he went to a seminary in north Texas when he was close to my age and while there his whole foundation for theology was shaken.  He had professors who questioned the authority and inerrancy of Scripture which led him to follow a group of scholars who would later come together as “The Jesus Seminar” (Tyler wrote on this group a long time ago).  They were hoping to “rediscover” the historical Jesus and behind this attempt at rediscovery was the assumption that the Jesus of the Bible couldn’t possibly be the real Jesus.  This group claims to love Jesus and to believe in Him, just not everything he said and did.  In order to determine what Jesus really said and did, these scholars got together and read portions of the four gospels and then voted on how Jesus-like the passage was (I am not making this up).  They voted using colored marbles, as follows:

  1. Red marbles – Jesus actually said or did it.
  2. Pink – Jesus probably said or did something similar.
  3. Grey – Jesus didn’t do or say it, but the saying or action lines up with his ideals.
  4. Black – Jesus did not do or say it –the passage was added by translators years after Jesus’ death.

The Jesus Seminar even followed this meeting up with a color coded Bible, based on the votes cast.  Do you see what this does?  This makes man the ultimate determiner of who Jesus is and what he said.  Furthermore, it should be noted the all Scripture makes the claim of itself that it is divine and authoritative—Scripture is from God not from man (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). 

Charles Spurgeon said this of some of the more “liberal” Bible scholars of his day, “The new religion practically sets ‘thought’ above revelation, and constitutes man the supreme judge of what ought to be true.”  This is the perpetual sin of man—to exalt himself over and against the Lord or at least make yourself the final arbiter of His truth . . . a god in our own image.

The Jesus Seminar was not taking the Bible seriously, but not only that, they were setting themselves above it.  If Scripture claims to be divine and authoritative and you immediately claim to have the authority and power to deem some of it human—you are contradicting yourself. 

If you follow the logic of The Jesus Seminar, you can see how my uncle ended up saying that he didn’t believe in the atonement, because if it is up to man to determine truth, man is immediately going to eliminate anything that makes him even the slightest bit uncomfortable.  The first to go are the portions that deal with issues of sin, judgment, and punishment.  Thus Jesus Seminar essentially landed itself in universalism and under their influence, folks like my uncle began preaching “another gospel” altogether (Gal. 1:6-8).  Though my uncle knew the gospel, by his own theology I feared that he did not know Jesus as Lord.  I told my uncle that I feared for his soul, I preached the gospel to him that day and plead with him to come to Christ and live—to me that was the only loving thing to do.

Read the Bible on its own terms before you fall to the temptation to exalt yourself over it.  The gospel and consequently the salvation of souls is at stake if you don’t.

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From start to finish, Scripture claims to be the Word of God.  We see this in a number of places.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is “breathed out by God” and works in the life of the believer to make him “competent, equipped for every good work.”  2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that Scripture is not the product of human opinion but the men who wrote it were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Furthermore, this is the testimony of the Biblical authors themselves.  When we read the creation account in Genesis, we read one phrase over and over and over–”God said.”  The writer (Moses) is not reporting to us his theorys about creation–he is reporting what God has said–the Word of the LORD.  This same idea is repeated again and again throughout the rest of the Bible–what the Apostles and prophets report to us is what the Lord has said.  Over and over again we read the phrase “Thus says the LORD” because the Bible is not a collection of stories but a report of what God has graciously given us through the hands of his servants who wrote exactly what He intended.

This is why Paul could say, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8) because Paul knew that what he had delivered to the Galatians was not mere opinion but the infallible, eternal, unchanging Word of God.

So if this is true, that the Bible is God’s Word, then what do we do with it?

You have two options.  Either accept it as the Word of God and give your life to studying it, knowing it, and applying it diligently to every aspect of your life or reject as God’s Word and face the consequences.

Most people, even many who profess faith in Christ, want to pick a third option that really isn’t an option at all.  Most people want to regard the Bible warmly but spend little time or effort studying it, knowing it, and applying it.  This can be seen in the lives of many in the church who treat the Bible as a burden–something that takes away from their TV time.  Or perhaps another wearisome duty on your “Christian” to-do list.

Consider the Words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. -Jeremiah 15:16

Indifference is not an option in response to God’s Word.  If you treat the Bible as a burden you don’t rejoice in it, you don’t love God’s Word.  God’s Word lays forth for us who God is, therefore if you are indifferent toward God’s Word, you are indifferent toward God.

Consider John’s revelation from God concerning the Church at Laodicea:

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:15-16

To be indifferent toward the Bible, God’s Word, is to hate it.  To hate God’s Word is consummate with hating God himself.  This is a terrifying place to be–not because I have said so but because of what God promises in Revelation concerning those who are lukewarm or “indifferent.”  He will spit you out of His mouth!  But it is not to late.  If this is you, cry out to God for mercy and do it now!  Repent, turn from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!

Maybe you love God’s Word but you know that your love for it needs to be kindled, you know it needs to grow.  Because we are talking about the perfect, inspired Word of God, your relationship to this Word must change.  It must grow.  God’s Word must become more and more of a delight.  What are you doing to treasure God’s Word more.  Maybe you don’t understand much of it–perhaps you need to seek out an older brother or sister in the Lord and ask for help.  There is nothing wrong with needing help, what is not an option is indifference.  God promises terrible things to those who do nothing.

Pour into God’s Word, ask a brother or sister for some accountability in doing so because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mat. 26:41).  Satan and your flesh are working feverishly to keep you out of God’s Word.  Every child of God needs help, we need help from each other and we need help from the Lord to make us like Jeremiah who delights in God’s Word.  We need the Word of God like a newborn baby needs milk (1 Peter 2:2).  The Word of God is not a helpful additive in the life of a believer, it is THE vital nutrient without which we will die.

If all this is true of God’s Word, the scariest thing you can do in response to this blog post is . . .  nothing.

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Oh Preacher, will you not preach God’s Word?  Why do you trust in your gimmicks, your games, and your personality?  Why will you not preach God’s Word.  Let your name be slandered, let your programs fail, but NEVER neglect the ministry of God’s Word.  You may be able to woo many by the cleverness of your programs, but your programs will not transform the heart.

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

2 Timothy 1:13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  Woe to any man who claims to be a preacher but preaches not the Word of God.  If your ministry is not centered around the preaching of God’s Word and communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is time to reevaluate.

If your ministry is not one of the Word–I will tell you right now, your ministry lacks power.  And if you are not preaching the Word but are experiencing “power” it is not power of the Holy Spirit.  Preacher, why will you not preach God’s Word?

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Dear Secular American,

I know what you have heard, that evangelicals are trying to force their religion down the throats of our country’s citizens by teaching creationism in the schools, fighting against gay marriage, and illegalizing abortion.  I know how evil you think those agendas are.  Fair enough, you are free to think that such agendas are evil and no doubt you have bought into the idea that is being proposed by the secular media that such agendas stem from people who take the Bible seriously and believe it to the Word of God.  And I know how the media and silly documentaries like Jesus Camp and Religulous have told you that evangelical Christians are dangerous nut jobs who actually believe the Bible.  If the goal of evangelicals is to force their religion upon secular American society, then I would agree, what evangelicals are doing is evil.

First, your thinking about the Bible needs to be challenged.  If evangelicals are really utilizing the Bible to force their religion down other American’s throats, then those evangelicals are NOT taking the Bible seriously.  Let me just challenge you to read the New Testament a little.  Nowhere in the Bible do Jesus or any of the Apostles command Christians to force their religion on anyone or usher in a theocracy.  Jesus tells his followers to preach the good news, to call people to repentance, and to give to the needy.  Any “Christian” movement that attempted to force people to become Christians did NOT do so because the Bible told them to.  In fact Jesus taught that His kingdom is not of this world, otherwise His servants would be fighting (John 18:36).  “For this purpose” Christ came into the world, “to bear witness to the truth.”  That is what the Bible calls Christians to do–to bear witness, not to make people, who don’t want to be, Christians.

If evangelical Christians would take the Bible seriously–you, secular American, would have little to fear.  You know what Jesus told his disciples to do when people would not receive them or their message?  Jesus told them to shake the dust off their feet and leave (Matthew 10:14)–scary huh?  If you choose to reject the gospel, the Biblical Christian will simply pray for you, he may persist in speaking the truth to you in love, but he will never force you to accept the gospel because the Bible-believing Christian knows he cannot force you to do anything.  So when you persist in unbelief, the Biblical Christian will simply move on and preach the gospel to other people and pray that some seed was planted that God will cause to grow (1 Cor. 3:6).

The Bible teaches that it is God who draws lost people to Himself–”no one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  Again, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3-6).  A Christian who really believes the Bible knows that she/he is utterly incapable of causing you or anyone else to be born again.  Biblically-minded Christians know that it is the “Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6).  So all you have to fear from a Bible-believing Christian is a gospel presentation that you are free to reject.  No doubt, a true Christian will try to persuade you (2 Cor. 5:11, 20) and implore you to be reconciled to God through Christ, but they will NEVER force your hand.

The goal of Biblical Christianity is to worship God and the testimony of the Bible tells us that we do that, not primarily in the political sphere but in the spiritual sphere (2 Cor. 10:4-5).  Our war is fought in the marketplace of ideas and in the hearts of those to whom we preach the gospel and because conversion is the work of God we WILL NOT force it anyone, we will simply speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  We live out our mission as Bible believing Christians by preaching, teaching, and proclaiming, never by forcing you to submit to the truth–one Day God will do that (Rom. 12:9).  I believe the Bible is true and that in the end every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue will confess Him as Lord, whether to one’s eternal glory or to one’s eternal shame in Hell.  I know I can’t make you appreciate that and I won’t try to make you, but I will tell you the truth and pray that God would open your eyes so that you can see it!  I apologize for those “Christians” who have made you think that the Bible teaches that our job is to force the world to bow the knee to Christ and shove our Christian morality down your throat.  If that is your perspective, my guess, however, is that you learned to perceive Christians in such a way more from the media and perhaps from a few Biblically-uniformed “Christians” rather than from the Bible itself.

If evangelical Americans owe you an apology, it is this–”sorry for not taking the Bible seriously, because if we had, our primary agenda would not be abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution in the schools but rather preaching the gospel.  I am sorry that many evangelicals (myself included) are far too uninformed on the Bible. We do not think those issues are unimportant, but they pale in comparison to how desperately you need to hear the gospel of Christ.  We apologize that our politcal agendas have distracted us from what is most important–the gospel.”  I will admit upfront that I believe abortion is wrong and that God created marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, but before we talk at any length about those issues, I want to talk to you about something far more urgent–I want to talk to you about the gospel:

God created the universe and is the greatest being.  Before the universe was, God simply was–God is, was, and always will be.  God is holy–He is perfect in every way, in love, in justice, goodness, and power.  God created the World and He created it good.  God created people in His own image, He created women and men to be in fellowship with him.  He created them to love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him (Isaiah 43:6-7).  There is a problem though, men and women freely chose not to worship God, in fact they rebelled against God’s holiness and tried to take His place despite how good and gracious God had been to them.  Because God is holy and perfect in justice, He could not overlook such a heinous act of insurrection against Him or He would not be just.  So the penalty of sin is death (Gen 2:17; Romans 6:23) and not just physical death but spiritual death, death cut off from the goodness and mercy of God (Isaiah 59:2).  Every single one of us have sinned in the same way that the Adam and Eve did.  We have sinned in that we have broken God’s laws (10 Commandments: we lie, we steal, we commit adultery–Jesus said you lust after a woman not your wife, you have committed adultery, Matthew 5:28), but more than just breaking the rules we have rebelled against God (Joshua 22:19, Rom. 1:18-20) by worshiping things other than God, who alone is worthy of worship.  We have worshiped, valued, delighted in many things that are not worthy of worship.  And God being ultimate and perfectly just, must punish us for our insurrection and that punishment is Hell.  Which is a real place that Jesus talks about extensively (Matthew 10:28) and because no one is righteous before God and no one seeks for Him or worships Him, we all deserve to go to Hell (Romans 3:10-18).

That is the bad news of the gospel, but the gospel is profoundly good news, so here is the good news:

Though God is just and must punish us in our sin and rebellion against Him, He made a way for us to be forgiven and restored to the purpose for which He created us.  We can be restored to a right relationship with Him in which we value Him supremely through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.  On the cross Jesus was bearing on his own shoulders the punishment that sin deserves for all who believe in Him (2 Cor. 5:21; Romans 3:23-25; 1 Peter 3:18).  If you will believe in Christ and turn from sin to Him, then Christ has died for you as a substitute.  He died in your place that you would forgiven from sin.  But more than that, Jesus conquered the curse of sin–death.  He rose again from the dead to show that what sin has power to do, he has power to overcome.  In His death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death for all who would believe.

If that makes sense to you and you sense you need to come to grips with the God of the gospel, then I encourage you to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).  Pray to God that He would make His Son real to you and that you would turn away from sin to God and embrace Jesus as Lord over everything in your life.  That doesn’t mean you won’t sin anymore, you will, but you will then be free to begin living in a way that values God supremely and in valuing God supremely there is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Get a Bible (I recommend starting with the ESV or the NIV), read it, I recommend starting in the New Testament perhaps with the book of Mark or John.  Find a church that preaches and teaches the Bible faithfully.  Look for a church that does more than just tell you how to have a full life, look for a church that equips you with the Bible and encourages you to grow in fellowship with God and in conformity to Christ.  Find a mature Christian who is willing to talk through your questions about the Bible and will hold you accountable to study and to grow in community with others at church.

Christianity is not so scary if you really believe in the God of the Bible.

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One of the greatest temptations I face as a pastor is putting the success of my ministry on my shoulders and defining the success of my ministry on world’s standards rather than the Lord’s.  Simply put, it gets to you a little when you hear about how many people another student ministry is “reaching” and the thought creeps in, maybe I need to change my approach or maybe I need to be more aggressive, more likeable, more seeker-sensitive, more anything to reach more people, right?

Well, interestingly enough, the Bible never tells us that the ministry of the church is on my shoulders.  The conversion of the lost and the spiritual growth of Christians are the work of God.  And praise God, I don’t have to be cool enough or outgoing enough to do what God has called me to do.  I just need to seek by God’s grace to be faithful.  The great commission is a command–”go and make disciples” but it is a command with a precious promise, Jesus says, “I will be with you” (Matt 28:18-20).  So the strength, courage, and wisdom I need–God will provide!  And further, the means by which we make disciples is not up to us either–God sets forth the appropriate means.  The means we are to utilize in making disciples is “teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] has commanded” (Matt 28:20).

So if there is anything that I must do consistently as a pastor, it is to teach what Christ has commanded.  That is discipleship, teaching others what Christ has commanded.  That doesn’t always look glamorous and certainly does not meet the “success requirements” of the world, but doing so makes a difference unto eternity.  And lets be honest, there are so many shortcuts that could potentially lead to “success” in the eyes of the world but would fall short of fulfilling the great commission and being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ.  For instance, I could stop hosting student Bible studies on Wednesday night and instead we could just play games and watch movies all night and throw in a little prayer or devotion at the end to say we have made the night about Jesus.  Doing so might bring more students to our ministry, but would we be making disciples?  Biblical discipleship is a messy business, real sin must be dealt with, genuine repentance called for, and courageous steps of faith must be taken, but we have a mighty God who gives us strength to face all of Discipleship’s challenges (Phil 4:13).

There are always going to be things I could do better as a pastor, and I am not completely opposed to trying to be relevant.  I just think that nothing is more relevant than the Word of God which speaks the glorious, timeless truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  My job, not just as a pastor, but as a Christian is to make disciples by teaching them the Word of God.  When I teach young people to be disciples-they will tell their friends about Christ, God will work in their friends lives and radically change them from the inside out, so that in the end I will all say with Paul, “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).  In other words, when we are faithful, God blesses that, works through it, and yields fruit in our lives to His glory!

So what does this have to do with you as a member of a local church?  As a Christian?  Well, as a follower of Jesus, you will face the same temptations to cut corners in your ministry in the home or at your workplace.  For instance, it is a lot easier to just put in a Veggie Tales movie or enroll your children in VBS each summer than it is to consistently pray with them and read the Bible to them daily.  But which is more faithful?  Or at work, it’s probably a lot easier to invite your friends to a big event or to forward them an evangelistic email than it is to get to know them personally so that you can begin to talk to them about the gospel and can address the gospel to their lives and invite them to church in a more meaningful way.  But which is more faithful?

God’s plan for discipleship involves teaching everything He has commanded (Matt. 28:20) . . . does that sound too difficult to you?  It should.  But do not fall into despair, “because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).  Discipleship is the great task God has given you as a Christian in your family, your workplace and our church, but its end is completely in God’s hands–He merely calls you to be faithful to the task and trust Him in midst of it.

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I have a confession to make-I got way behind on the Old Testament portion of my Bible reading plan last month.  I crammed in 15 chapters of Leviticus yesterday to catch up!  Today and tomorrow I plan to cram 8-10 chapters of Numbers each day to get back on track.  Everything else I am on schedule with, but Levitcus was tough for me and I think I know why.

My generation is a generation of information.  We have access to more information than any other previous generation and at lightning speeds too.  I can learn just about anything I want/need to know in a matter of seconds on my computer and even if I am not at my computer, I can pull up what I am looking for on my phone.  I think, however, that the type of information that my generation hungers for is not all that important. My generation hungers for the trivial, the insignificant, and the laughable tid-bits of life, pop culture, and media.  If you don’t believe me, just spend 15 minutes on Facebook!  If you didn’t know, Facebook is a social networking site, where people can interact and connect with “friends” online.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Facebook is  the “newsfeed” section.  In the newsfeed section, you are introduced to the latest updates to your various friend’s facebook pages.  You find out which of your friends have added new photo albums, changed their profile picture, and which are attending various social events being advertised by other facebook users.  You also become privy to how compatible your various friends are in their movie tastes and you learn that one of your friends changed his “relationship status” to “single” (seriously, I am not making this up!).  Perhaps the most interesting development in the world of Facebook are “status updates.”  In one’s “status update” section of your profile, you can let all your facebook “friends” know what you are doing, thinking, or feeling at any given moment.  From reading my “friends” status updates I can learn that John Doe is “starving because he didn’t eat lunch or breakfast” and that Jane Doe “is feeling lousy” and that Bob Doe “is glad its almost Spring!”

The Facebook generation is no doubt, a generation of information seekers.  However, I fear that the Facebook generation is seeking rather trivial information and I say that as one who uses Facebook and even updates my status fairly regularly.  But its not just facebook users that hunger for trivial things–its all of us as we become glued to the TV when we hear the latest news about movie stars and their relationship woes!

So back to my being behind in my Bible Reading-here is the problem with me and what my generation values.  We love the trivial, but don’t have time for the weighty things of life.  As I was reading yesterday in the latter chapters of Leviticus, I was struck by how deep God’s hatred is for idolatry and blasphemy.

At one point, the LORD says, after promising blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, “but if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins . . . And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you” (Leviticus 26:27-30).

What that says to me is that the heaviest thing in the world for me to understand is God as He is perfect, holy, and righteous and rebellion against Him results in severe consequences.  And my point in talking so much about Facebook is to point out how much I love trivial things and how little time and attention I am willing to give to meditating on God’s holy character.  We could spend all day entrenched in the trivialities of our Facebook newsfeeds and status updates and all the while, 15-20 minutes in God’s holy Word could bring us to our knees in repentance and worship!

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What does it mean to be looking for God?  Or searching for truth?  And is it a vain pursuit?

I believe a lot of people are honest about looking for truth and wanting to encounter God, but I also believe that much of our God-talk today is stuck in a self-defeating pattern.  We start from our perspective and then work from there to see if God makes sense to us.  

When we see what the Bible says about things, we shy away from affirming what the Bible affirms because we’re afraid to come off sounding like we’re saying, “Thus saith the Lord!!”

We’re afraid of sounding cocky or narrow-minded, as if we have some monopoly on reality and truth.

So we couch our doubts, insecurities, and embarrassment under the abused guise of humility and revel in the questions without the ‘ickiness’ of the answers.

But this doesn’t make sense in and of itself.  If God is who the Bible says He is, then I think He gives us answers that we can understand and should trust.  I don’t think shying away from this protects us from pride.

To paraphrase Dorothy Emmet, pride is a human failure which neither philosophy nor theology are impervious to, since they are both human disciplines.  It’s kind of like saying, “Cars kill people.”  No, people kill people and they were disturbingly efficient at it long before they had cars.

If the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is there, and He is a personal being who desires a relationship with His children, then it only makes sense that we would focus on how He communicates with us.  This requires that we start from God’s perspective and work from there to see if we’re making any sense.

How has He communicated with us?  Through Scripture and His Son.  At least that’s the Bible’s take on it.

When we get bogged down with trying to reconcile some abstract theological hang-up with the latest wisdom of our world, God has to be shaking His head – if He’s there.  And if He is, then you won’t find Him with science.  You won’t find Him with experience and sense observation.  You won’t find Him through intuition – whether rational or super-rational.  No matter how many books you read, lectures you attend, papers you write, experiments you conduct, degrees you hold . . . you won’t find Him there.

A pastor friend of mine recently told me how he always wonders what Moses must’ve been thinking when God was telling him about the first few chapters of Genesis.  Moses was a smart guy, educated in Pharoah’s court – so he wasn’t just any state school chump like me.  God tells him, “So . . . then, two kinds of every animal boarded Noah’s boat.”  To which Moses might have said, “Wait up, seriously?”  God probably told Moses, “You’re talking too much again, be quiet.  I AM, remember?  Trust me, I have created you to believe what I tell you, not to understand it all.”

That’s what we have to do if we’re thinking about the Christian God at all.  It’s already a foregone conclusion that scientists, philosophers, and mystical gurus are going to come up empty.  Science, philosophy, and mysticism are not God’s appointed means of communicating Himself to us.

So stop looking for Him there and stop being disappointed that you can’t find enough evidence for Him there.  Stop doubting that He’s there and wondering if He loves you simply because some scientist can’t step out of his own bubble and admit that God is beyond his science.  Stop getting hung up on the fact that some of it sounds a bit other-worldly.  If God’s there, then it all makes sense.  God is, after all, a bit other-worldly.

You’ll only find Him through His appointed means:  His Word + faith.  God’s not making any apologies about the matter.  I wouldn’t hold my breath either.

Stop talking so much.  

Be quiet . . . listen.

Trust Him.

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