Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Book Worthy of a Pre-Order

This book looks like it’s going to be a true gift to anyone who reads it.  With so many people growing up in the church and only getting bits and pieces of the gospel, we need to make it our goal to permeate our lives with the gospel story so that it seeps out in all our words, actions, and ministry.  May the Lord use this book to create churches full of people speaking and living out the explicit gospel.

 


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Our Kids Need to Know that Sin is More than Being Wrong

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).  Christian parents have repeated these words to their kids countless times because their kids have failed to heed these words countless times.  So, we parents use this verse to expose the wrongness of our children’s choices.  This verse cuts it straight – for children, the right choice is to obey their parents… period.  Therefore, we ask our kids, “Did you obey Daddy when you I told you to stop pummeling your brother?” “No”, they say, “Then according to God, you made the wrong choice because God tells us obeying our parents is right.”

The above is an aspect of good parenting.  We need to reveal to our kids their disobedience so that they see they are not righteous before God (this sets us up to point them to the Savior).  But there’s more to their sin on these occasions than simply being wrong.  As parents, we must also help them understand that their failure to obey is an act of unbelief.  Each time they disobey, our kids are making a wrong choice because they refuse to believe that God’s way is the right way and the best way; the way of truth, goodness and blessing.  We need to take our kids back to Eden and explain to them the reality that when God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and told Adam and Eve not to eat from it, he was not holding out on them.  He was not playing games with them as if to say, “Here’s what you really want, but you can’t eat it or you’ll die.”  May it never be!  Rather, God was communicating to Adam and Eve, “I made you and I know what brings you perfect joy… it’s Me, and I’m not going to deny you that joy!  So trust me when I say, ‘Don’t eat from that tree.'”

Our kids need to know that sin is the same today, it comes from an unbelieving heart that thinks God’s way is not what is right and best for us.  This primes the pump for gospel conversation with our children, because while we ruined the way of perfect joy in the garden by disbelieving God, he has made another way for us to have that joy through the life, death and resurrection of his only Son, Jesus.  But here’s the rub… as it was in the garden, so it is with Jesus: we must believe God.  Since we blew it in the garden, the way for us and our kids to get back to perfect joy in God is through believing that his Son died in the place of sinners and rose again conquering death and sin.
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To Worship Idols is to Worship Yourself

“The human heart is a factory of idols”  These famous words, written by John Calvin, capture the true condition of our nature as humans: like a economy line, our hearts are cranking out new things, people, and experiences to worship in the place of God.  On any given day our hearts will start and stop production on a long list of idols that include things like approval, comfort, getting a husband or wife, physical pleasure, the next techno gadget, wealth, security, control, freedom and power.

There’s nothing incorrect about what Calvin said, but there’s another level to it that we must be aware of.  So, let me ask, what do all of the above idols have in common?  They are all things, people, or experiences that you want to fulfill your desires.  You will know these things have become idols when you are willing to sin to get them or sin if you do not get them, but what they all have in common is you.  You make sacrifices of time, energy and money to things like comfort and security in order to please yourself.  Therefore, in reality, it is not as much that we are putting things like comfort and security on the the throne of our hearts (where only God belongs), but rather, we are putting ourselves on that throne instead.  When we worship idols we are, essentially, worshiping ourselves.  When you get down to the bare bones of each decision we make, there are really only two options: worshiping God or worshiping self.

This is why Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  Notice he did not say, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny his idols.”  It’s not that this statement would have been wrong, but Jesus knows the reason why we worship things other than God is because we want what we want.  We are at the root of all the idols we serve.  So, the heart of the matter is that we must humbly step down from the throne of our hearts to and return its seat to the only One to whom it rightly belongs.

 

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What to Preach to Yourself on Your Birthday

Today I turn 31, and I gotta tell ya, 31 feels a lot like 30 but without the orderliness of being divisible by 10.  I will receive  phone calls, cards, texts, and posts on my Facebook wall today from caring people who God has given me the privilege of knowing.  I will receive gifts from some of these same people and a birthday dinner at the restaurant of my choice with my family tonight.  At the thought of all this I must admit I’m excited, but I want to make sure that this excitement comes from the right heart and points to the right end.  So, here’s a list of truths I’m going to preach to myself today to keep my eyes fixed on God:

  1. Today is not my day – I know this is contrary to popular belief, but the idea that my birthday is a day when I get to indulge myself, do what I want, and essentially abuse God’s grace because it marks the day I was born is a form of popularity I want my heart to fight against.  God made me and caused me to be born on this day 31 years ago, and he has given me every day and every breath since then by his grace.  Therefore, just like every other day, this is God’s day and I want to celebrate the love he has poured out on me.
  2. There is another birthday that is more important than this one – Although I cannot tell you the exact day that God converted me through faith in Jesus, I know that day is more important than the day of my physical birth. God’s creation of physical life is most certainly to be celebrated, but Scripture tells us that God’s creation of spiritual life is what causes the angels in heaven to rejoice before him (Luke 15:10).  This life is fleeting, but eternal life with Jesus is… well… Eternal!
  3. There is a gift that is better than all other gifts – I am humbled and blessed that God has put people in my life that will take the time and money to purchase a gift for me… or give me money to spend on books at Together for the Gospel.  But all of those gifts are shadows of the gift God has given me in sending Jesus to die in my place for my sins.  The gifts I receive today should point me to that gift and I should use them to worship Christ and serve him more joyfully.
  4. Today marks another year closer to eternity with my Savior – The older we get the more it seems that birthdays become days we wish would sneak past us so we don’t have to think about getting older, the reality of getting closer to the grave, and all the opportunities we’ve missed along the way.  But for the Christ-follower birthdays should be marked by more celebration and excitement because getting closer to death means getting closer to life without sin in the full presence of our King in a perfect world with brand new bodies.

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So… You Want to Give Better Counsel?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Is “Counseling” Just Another Word for “Discipleship”?  In it I addressed the reality that because we have the Holy Spirit and God’s Word,  all Christians are counselors regardless of whether we make formal appointments with people or hold counseling office hours.  The truth is that if you are a follower of Christ, you have everything you need to counsel people biblically.

Today, I want to suggest a simple practice that will enable you to wield the truth of God’s word with more precision in the counsel you give to others.  The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) has published a series of booklets (which they are continuously adding to) that give biblical counsel to a variety of specific issues people often struggle with.  The booklets are about 20 to 35 pages long and CCEF currently has 75 of them in print.  My suggestion for you is to read these booklets one at a time, marking them up and making note of the Scripture texts that are used.  In doing this, you will begin to hone your skills as a counselor and more readily make connections from God’s Word to your heart and the hearts of those you are seeking to help.

You can order the booklets individually or in variety packs of 17, 27, or 43.  Here are some of the different titles available:

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Helping the Way the World Sees Christians

This morning while driving to the office I was listening to an old episode of The White Horse Inn in which Michael Horton and Co. were discussing the reality that Christians will always be perceived as arrogant for claiming that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.  Due to the nature of the human heart and the love for tolerance that is so prevalent in western culture, our claiming that there is only one way to be saved and all other ways are false will repeatedly be met with claims that Christians sit atop the apex of pride… and we like it.  The content of God’s redemptive message in Christ creates this effect, but believers often contribute to the perception of arrogance unnecessarily.

According to the guys on The White Horse Inn, one way we do this is by pointing to ourselves as a reason for why unbelievers should believe, so as to say, “Look what God has done in me through Jesus… therefore, you need to repent and believe.”  So many of us, myself included, have done this with good intentions without thinking of how it might be viewed through the eyes of the unbelievers we share with.  I realize that when we do this we are not taking credit for the change in us (we are attributing it to Christ), but it will be hard for an unbeliever to hear anything beyond, “Look to me for why you should believe in Jesus”.

A better approach would be for us to bear witness to the truth claims of Christianity (i.e. – God made us, we rebelled, God sent Jesus to die in the place of rebels, Jesus is fully man and fully God, Jesus rose from the dead, etc.) and tell the unbeliever, “This is something both you and I must respond to”.  We need to put ourselves on the level ground of humanity with the unbelievers we are sharing with – “We have all gone astray and God has made us a way to escape the judgment we have earned through his Son Jesus.”

Church, we’ll always be looked upon as arrogant because of the message we proclaim, but let’s make sure in our proclaiming that we leave it at that.

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12 Things That Usually Accompany a Self-Righteous Spirit

On Sunday I was given the privilege of filling the pulpit while our senior pastor went camping with some of his boys.  Each time I get an opportunity to preach at Calvary Bible Church, I take the next passage in the Sermon on the Mount, and this past week had me in Matthew 7:1-6: the “judge not, lest ye be judged” passage.

While this text is often used as a death blow defense against someone’s moral judgment on our lives, it is obvious from the context that Jesus spoke these words as a weapon not to protect our self-righteousness, but rather to attack it.

One point of the sermon was meant to help us determine when we have a self-righteous spirit, so we can take that sin to the cross, remember that it’s forgiven and lean on God for the grace to repent.  To help us with this exposure, I listed twelve things that usually accompany a self-righteous spirit.  Last week Trevin Wax posted a list of 11 Questions to Discern a Judgmental Heart, so you’ll see a bit of overlap, but there’s enough that’s different to benefit from both.

  1. Seeking to judge the motives of others.
  2. Holding others to your own personal convictions in addition to the standard in the Bible.
  3. Judging people before asking questions and getting the details.
  4. Judging by appearance alone.
  5. Looking for evidences of failure in others before looking for evidences of grace.
  6. A tendency toward being hypercritical and nit-picky.
  7. Delight at finding fault in others.
  8. Disappointment when you don’t find fault in others.
  9. When it comes to others, making mountains out of mole hills (i.e. – exaggerating their issues).
  10. Sensitivity to the sins of others, but blindness to your own.
  11. A failure to receive correction with humility.
  12. A desire to expose the sin, but not to help address it.

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