Halloween

Happy Halloween/Reformation Day/All Hallow’s Eve/Whatever you’re celebrating today! As someone who grew up hiding in our basement with the lights off, I have continued to have mixed feelings about this holiday. What should Christians do in response to this “pagan” holiday?

Thanks to Tim Challies, I found a wonderful article on why a family will be trick-or-treating today which you can read here. He prefaces the article by saying 2 things. First, you should not violate your conscience so if you cannot celebrate Halloween without it feeling like sin, don’t participate. Secondly, he says that no days are different than the other so if something is demonic today, it would be demonic on other days as well.

Personally, I can only think of good things happening by people in the church opening their doors and welcoming their neighborhood kids in with open arms. We are to be the salt and light of the world showing people what God looks like on every day, and today, when people will literally be walking up to your door, it gives us a great opportunity to begin building some connections with those who may not have another opportunity to see Christ working in our lives.

So what will I be doing tonight? Well tonight is the night my small group from church meets. We’re going to be getting together with all the lights on, giving candy to any of the kids who come knocking on our door, to the glory of God! Stay safe and have fun tonight!

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The Meaning of Marriage

As someone who is not yet married, I’ve been trying to do my best to figure out what a biblical view of marriage is so that I can, Lord willing, be ready for it when that day comes. My thoughts and views of marriage have continually been shaped and molded and continue to change as I continue to learn and grow. Through all the books I’ve read, the best book I’ve read on this incredibly important topic is Tim Keller’s ‘The Meaning of Marriage’. One of the key lines in the book is that you always marry the wrong person. How does that work when people are continually looking for “the one”? Well honestly, that person doesn’t exist. Now let me clarify that a little bit. God, ultimately has a plan for our lives, but so many people wait forever looking for that one person who perfectly completes them. That person doesn’t and never will exist. When two sinners come together it doesn’t equate perfection, but even more sin as your selfishness and sins are more easily exposed. So “the one” is the person that you eventually marry. Plain and simple. Walk with God, surround yourself with a supportive body and then get married. Whoever that person is is your “one”.

Don’t Judge Me

One of the passages I hear quoted most often (and out of context) is Matthew 7:1 which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” So many people use this when confronted about an issue or when referring to someone who has fallen into a grievous sin (“well he’s human too”). Yet despite what simply that verse says, Jesus isn’t saying we should never judge someone. If you continue on into verse 2, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” So ultimately, whatever standard of measurement you’re using to determine an offense of someone else is the same standard of measure God will use to determine your offense. What a scary thought! This is why it continues to become incredibly important to continually investigate and wrestle with Scripture and to continue to put to death the sin that so easily entangles us. So already, with just 2 verses in, we can see the reasoning to why we should not be judged, because ultimately we will give an account to God for our own judging. Does your life match up to the sins you call out to others, either to their face or behind their back?

Jesus continues in Matthew, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” We again see that Jesus isn’t commanding us to ignore the speck in our brothers eye, but to first stop and evaluate our own life. Is this an issue in my own life that I need to deal with before I come to my brother or sister and try to help them deal with the issue in their life?

Interestingly we also see Jesus’ instructions for confronting a brother or sister who sins against you in Matthew 18:15-20. It looks to me like Jesus is instructing us to “judge” those who are in the body (but not those who are not believers, they’re hearts have not yet been conformed into the image of Christ). We even have another one of the more misunderstood phrases in Christendom, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Looking at the context this is within the issues of confronting sin, maybe I’ll deal with that one in a later blog post.

Another instance we see of “judging” is Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 where he says, “I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” Whoa Paul! Back off man, no judging here! Paul continues to say that we should not even associate with anyone who claims to be a believer and is living in sexual sin, or is greedy or is an idolator, reviler, drunkard or swindler. Did he hit all of you in that list? Only in a life marked by repentance is God truly glorified and are we able to continue to pursue Christ. Going on into the next chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul says, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” Wow! So there SHOULD be judging going on! However, we need to carefully heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 7, first let us prayerfully reflect on our own life, laying down our offenses at the cross, accepting Christ’s forgiveness and living a new life set apart for God before we confront our brothers and sisters. But don’t judge me! I’m still trying to work this out.

Misquoting Historians

One of the biggest misquotes and misunderstandings I heard often in college and even out of college was the quote:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.

This was supposedly penned by St. Francis of Assisi who lived in the 1100s AD. A long time ago. While that statement is helpful for telling believers that, as James says, faith without works is dead, it paints an incomplete picture of the Gospel but was also never said by St. Francis. The Gospel can’t be painted simply by actions, believe it or not there are some unbelievers I’ve met who are far nicer than some believers I’ve met. I also am hard pressed to think of some places besides the church where there is more animosity toward those who are supposed to be your family. Yet it is still Christ’s imperfect bride. Romans 10:14 gets to the very heart of this issue, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? ANd how are they to hear without someone preaching?” So we should preach the Gospel at all times using both words and actions. The fact that this is so often quoted shows just how biblically illiterate our culture is. No one wants to actually spend time searching the Scripture for the answers, they want cute little tweetable phrases that they can throw out at random times. Spend time reading and wrestling through the text and then apply it to your life.

The Gospel Coalition has begun a series called FactChecker that has some helpful information on this topic.

I’d also encourage you to check out this article by Duane Litfin.

What Does It Mean to Lead?

So many people today have so many different ideas about what it means to be a leader. Some people say that to be a leader is to be successful. Others say that you simply need to be a man. Still others say that it means you can take charge. And someone else says it’s someone who has followers. Yet what does the Bible tell us about leaders?

If you look in your Bible at John 13 you’ll see the account of Jesus washing the Disciples feet. Just as a quick side note, I love Peter’s response to Jesus. First he tells Jesus there’s no way he’ll let him wash his feet, then when Jesus tells Peter he won’t have a share with him then Peter gets too excited and asks Jesus to give him a bath! I’d encourage you to read this whole passage, but where I’m going to focus is verses 14-17, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

This flies right in the face of many of the world’s view of leadership today. Jesus said that to be a leader means to wash the feet of those who follow you. What does this look like on a practical level today? This means caring about the gross little details about every day life of those in your local church body. This means you’re continuing to rub shoulders and encourage your brothers and sisters who need encouragement (Hebrews 10). This might even mean that for a time you need to volunteer to clean the bathroom at the church. What are some ways that you can show true leadership at your church this week?

This came about from a blog on honorable leadership, specifically related to the Vice President debates in which Biden was incredibly rude to Paul Ryan. You can read that blog here.

Reading the Bible ‘Literally’

I found a very interesting blog today on whether or not Christians read the Bible literally. It’s a question I’ve been asked before as well, and the answer is a resounding NO! I do not read the Bible literally (now, as Gru said, “Pause, for dramatic effect…”) Christians do not, and should not, read the Bible literally. Many of the things Jesus said should not and can not be taken literally (I am the vine, I am the gate for the sheep, etc). Glenn Stanton wrote a very helpful blog on this issue at The Gospel Coalition website. I’d encourage you to check it out. I’ll end the same way he did:

Francis Schaeffer, “said the faithful hold a “full” or “strong, uncompromising view of Scripture.” He never said “literal view” because to say so is literally not true.” Do you hold the same view of Scripture?

The “Perfect” Church

Many people today like to talk about how great things USED to be. Even my little sister, who has a slight obsession with books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, continually wishes she could go back to being a pioneer on the prairie. Many people regularly do the same thing with the church, continually complaining that the church today should just get back to the way things used to be. After all, the early church had it right, didn’t they? WRONG! So many people seem to forget about all the epistles written after Acts. There Paul and Peter warn about selfishness, pride, sexual immorality and a host of other sins. Even Peter, the “Rock” of the church was confronted by Paul for favoring the Jews over the Gentiles.

Marc Cortez, a professor at Western Seminary in Portland, OR has written a wonderful blog about this very issue, titled “There Was No Golden Age”. You can read his personal blog here. Ultimately, when we look at Church history, there has never been a “golden” time where the church was as “good as it’s gonna get”. This is similar to a post I wrote a couple weeks ago on Propaganda asking why do Pastors continually quote the Puritans when they owned slaves? As I said there, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, every generation has certain sins they’re blind to, even our generation today will eventually be critiqued for the areas we fell short in.

One of the best lines from Marc’s blog is when he says, “I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Our Age isn’t as bad as we think it is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this generation is perfect, or even great. It’s not hard to look around and see all the problems and challenges we face. But, as we’ve seen, that’s been true of every generation.” What areas do you see us being blind to right now? What areas are we doing well that previous generations didn’t do as well?

(HT: Challies)

Do Not Neglect Meeting Together

We’re currently going through a preaching series on Hebrews at the church I have the immense privilege of serving in, and this next Sunday we’re going to be in Hebrews 10 and discussing an often quoted verse on why we continue to have church, Hebrews 10:24-25. The text reads, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

We also are going through the fantastic book on worship through music by Bob Kauflin titled ‘Worship Matters.’ This past week we talked about the purpose of church. Looking at this text in Hebrews, we see that the purpose of getting together as the church is to “encourage one another” and to “stir up one another to love and good works.” So many times we approach church with the attitude of, “What can I get from church this weel?” We’ve completely turned the purpose of church around. I hate to break it to you, but the world doesn’t revolve around you. So who did you encourage at church this past Sunday and who can you encourage this coming Sunday?

For more Scripture on this topic, see 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Ultimately, let’s “outdo one another in showing honor.” (Rom 12:10)

God Working In Our Sin

I’m so often frustrated by what I consider to be a very slow sanctification process. I so often feel like Paul in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I came across a blog that talks about this very issue which you can read here. It talks about a man who came to Christ after many years of rebellion and was frustrated by the slow process of sanctification. The thing we so often forget is that we have so many different layers of sin that need to be dealt with! And at the very heart of these issues is pride and idolatry.

At the heart of every sin is ultimately thinking that something else is going to bring us more pleasure than God. How often do we try to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting them to God? How many times to we think that we have all the right answers instead of trusting what God has already done and said? As Calvin said, our hearts are idol factories. We are always looking for something else to put on God’s throne and worship.

Tied to idolatry is the issue of pride. I wrote a little blog about this earlier this week but want to add some more thoughts to that. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity “It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” Ultimately what believers need to do, as I said earlier is not think less of themselves, but think of themselves less. That is the key to true humility.

Finally, sanctification may be a slow gradual process, but it is a process. I can look back on my life and be frustrated by what I’ve determined is too slow, but then looking back over a longer period of time I can see how much I’ve grown. For example, last year when I was working as a hospital software support guy, I had to be incredible patient with people, which is something I had been praying for for a very long time. Many of the people I was helping would comment on how patient I was with them (externally at least). After 8 months of doing that job I realized how much more patient I truly had become, not just externally. God uses so many different circumstances in order to bring about our personal holiness.

God Answers Prayer

Growing up, one of my favorite missionaries was a man named Hudson Taylor. Hudson was the first Christian inland missionary to China who’s efforts, I think, have led to the incredible growth of the church we see there today. In fact, I was so touched by his story, that at the age of 5, I was convinced that someday I was going to be a missionary to China. As of now that hasn’t happened, but I’m not ruling out that possibility!

Today I came across a blogpost on a story in Hudson Taylor’s life before he became a missionary to China. In this story, Hudson is working as a medical assistant to a very passionate atheist and his job is to change this atheists bandages every day. Hudson prays for him every day and eventually begins to share the Gospel message with him. The man won’t listen and soon Hudson wonders if he’s doing more harm than good. Finally, Hudson decides to not share and as he’s walking out the door he looks back at the man with tears in his eyes and tells him that he can’t leave without sharing with him the Good News that has changed his life. (You can read the story in more detail here) The man accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord over his life.

How many of you continue to pray and share with someone like this, despite what seems like insurmountable odds? I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” But at the same time, God will not honor our own selfish motivations. James 4:7 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded.” We need to continually honor God with our lives, it’s not enough to simply pray and then expect God to fix all our problems, we need to live a life “worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1)

(HT: Challies)