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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God's Will Does Not Have to Be a Mystery

There are certainly times God refuses to tell me what He is up to. Some things are on a need-to-know basis. There are times that He tells me what to do only when I need to know. However, God's will is available to any Christian who is willing to listen and do His will.

I have heard of some pretty strange ways that people are discerning God's will. They flip coins, read fortune cookies and wait for any number of events which they have prescribed to indicate the will of God. For example, I once heard of a couple who said that God's will for their life together would be determined by whether or not they could get married on a certain day. They go to the courthouse to get married and its closed for Columbus Day. Was this really God? Evidently not since they went back the next day and got married.

Random events are not good ways of discerning God's will. They are exactly what we call them: random events! This methods leads Christians to carry a pocket full of coins rather than the filling of the Holy Spirit. It leads them away from God because they blame and credit God for things He had nothing to do with. It ruins their witness as people see how many terrible decisions are being made simply because "the Lord told me." It removes responsibility and the sense that God has given the Christian.

No, the Scriptures are plain about God's will. In fact, we are foolish if we do not know God's will.

First, there is His undeniable declared will. Things like being faithful to your spouse, being honest, working hard and worshiping Him are written in His Word. No one should ask God whether or not there is a time to be unfaithful to his spouse or tell a lie or any of the things He has prohibited. These things are indisputable.

Second, there are things which are done in the spirit of His Word. A Christian has permission to drink alcohol but may refuse to do so because of his witness. He may take a job which pays less because of his witness to another. These are not prescribed or declared but they are within the spirit of the Word.

Third, there are those things which are clearly God's will but cannot be determined solely by the Word. These are the things that most Christians struggle with. Determining God's will requires that the Christian humble themselves before God, be filled with the Spirit and make a commitment to wait until God reveals His will.

I had done a couple of ministry jobs before I was called into the ministry. Many people told me that God was calling me but I had to know this for myself. I did not tell God how He would indicate His will to me. I just began to pray.

I was sitting in church taking notes when the pastor said, "What if it was the last time I was called into the ministry and I refused?" He was saying this of himself. However, the Spirit clearly, almost audibly, said, "I am calling you." It really scared me. I wanted to know whether or not this was the Lord. The pastor offered an altar call and I left the building.

That week I made an appointment with the pastor. He asked me if I liked what I was doing. I was teaching school and I loved it. The pastor knew that many people go into the ministry because they hate what they are doing. They just don't know what else to do.

He also asked if I could continue to teach school. Then, came the "aha" moment. I said what was in my heart. It had to have been placed there by the Spirit. I said, "Not as long as I know I am called to the ministry." I never doubted my calling from that moment. In fact, I always looked back at my calling when the ministry got tough. I can't do anything else. It is God's will.

Knowing God's will does not make you an exalted Christian. This would be like exalting a hammer or a screwdriver because they have completed what they were made to do. God's will should reside in the Christian because he has humbled himself, quit resisting the filling of the Spirit and diligently sought His God.

A Christian knows God's will through the Spirit. God may employ prayer, other believers, His Word and circumstances but it is the Spirit who  reveals His will.

God does not hide His will. He makes it clearly known to those who are willing to find it.

Ephesians 5:15-18 (ESV)
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Having Everything; Owning Nothing

A Christian who owns nothing is dangerous to the devil. He is able to go wherever God wants him to go. He is able to take any chance because he is not afraid of losing anything. He is completely able to drop what he is doing to follow hard after God.

Such is not the case of many Christians. They are hampered by what they own. They are afraid of losing the security their jobs give so they refuse to take the profession to which He has called. They are afraid of alienating their children so they refuse to go to the mission field. They want to have a new car so they borrow until they can't possibly tithe. Each thing they own ties them down. They have been made impotent with their possessions.

Many years ago I was part of a team which took a mission trip to Mexico. (I'll admit that we didn't know what we were doing.) We prayed and asked God what we should do. He told us to help in the construction of an orphanage. I went to a building supply to get an estimate as to what the cost would be.

The cost was $13,000. (This was 1978) We had nothing. It was one month before we were to go. Some pastors openly laughed at us when we explained what God had told us to do. These were pastors of churches that had a lot of big buildings and big budgets.

We prayed for twenty people to go on this trip. We prayed for $13,000 for building supplies. Neither of these happened.

One month later we had 104 people and over $40,000! Again, we didn't know what to do but we went. And God worked miracles.

Of course, we had a lot of money left over when we got back. Here came the wealthy church pastors to give us advice even though they had laughed at us when they thought we could never raise enough money. They told us that we should save the money until the next year as "seed money" for the next mission trip. We prayed and decided to spend it.

People had given this money to be used on missions. They did not expect it to merely sit in the bank. God had moved them to give. If God could do it once, He could do it again. We prayed hard and sent seventeen college students to do missions in Canada during the summer. And God did miracles again.

It was easy to follow after God because the money was really never ours to do with as we pleased. It always belonged to God. Even though we had everything we needed, we owned none of it.

The devil hates this. He can manipulate and control a person who owns things. He has very little control over someone who doesn't. He knows that God will supply everything a believer needs when he is doing God's will. He knows this person is extremely dangerous to him.

This concept is so foreign to most Christians that they cannot understand it. They can only see what can be lost.  But nothing can be lost when it doesn't belong to you.

Life is not in getting all you can; canning all you get and sitting on the can. Life is truly living for your Lord. In fact, He is not Lord if He is limited by what you possess.

Living is freedom. True freedom is to be able to do what the Lord requires of you at any moment.

It is having everything but owning nothing.

Matthew 10:37-39 (NIV) 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Obstacles to God's Glory

The very fact that you are reading this says something about you. You are seeking to know something of God. He has already sought you and you are very special to Him. You are now seeking Him. However, that changes everything in your relationship with Him. You have taken a step that has already produced some fruit of faith. God always prunes the tree that produces.

Sometimes people think that God's pruning means that He will promote some tragedy in their lives. They may even give a testimony of God's sustenance during a very difficult time. But God does not challenge us with difficult times so that He can watch us squirm. He purges us from the obstacles to His glory when we walk with Him. The degree of difficulty depends on the size of the limb that needs to be pruned.

For example, Abraham had waited for  a son who would be the child of his blessing. Isaac is born when Abraham and Sarah should not have been able to have children. The child became such a focus to Abraham that he became an obstacle between Abraham and God. God, therefore, told Abraham to sacrifice his son. The culmination of that command ended with God keeping Abraham from the sacrifice. Abraham had been purged of the obstacle between himself and God. He could now more fully give God glory.

Joseph was a braggart. He told his brothers and father that they would some day bow down to him. Yes, it was true but it did not need to be said in this way. He did it in such a way that it angered his brothers and astounded his father. Joseph was sold into slavery but slavery didn't remove his obstacle. He stopped to brag about his stature in the household and his virtue. He went to prison. He was forgotten in prison. Then, one day Pharoah called for Joseph because he heard that Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph told Pharoah that the answer was not in him but God would give Pharoah an answer. He was purged from his obstacle.

Each person who has taken a step toward giving God glory has been challenged to remove the obstacles between God and himself which prevent that glory from fully shining through. You will see it in Moses, David, Elijah, Peter and Paul. Each of these people had flaws in their character. Some of them had several flaws which needed to be purged.

I know nothing about you who read this blog but I don't imagine that you are perfect. I imagine that you too have been or will be or are being purged from the obstacles that keep you from fully giving God glory. This is not the path of the timid believer. It is one of courage, determination and faith.

A journey requires that you arrive in another place. Many Christians talk of their Christian faith without ever being changed. They are in the same place ten, twenty and thirty years later. Their faith is the same and they do not give God glory even if they go to church and sing all the praise songs. It is merely lip service. The Christian life is intended to be a journey of your faith in which you come closer to God. This requires that  His glory is restored in you. This glory is a different place. Each day it is different. Each day is part of the journey.

So, if you are reading this blog, I suspect that God has already put some significant challenges to purge you from the obstacles to His glory. So, what is it that keeps His glory from shining through you? Let it go when it is challenged.

Believe me, God will be relentless in your restoration.

The journey is worth it.

John 15:2 (ESV)
2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Do You Do When You Know What to Do?

Many times I say that I don't know what to do when I really do. What I need to do is difficult and I am looking for any other means of getting where I need to be. I desperately want another solution. I want something easy and convenient. I want something that won't cost as much.

So, I wait for the other solution that never comes. Meanwhile, lost opportunities pass by while I fold my hands and hope for something easy.

Let's face it: Life is not always easy. It is those who make the hard decisions and carry them out who are rewarded.

Of course that doesn't mean that I should act like a bull in a china closet either. Prudence has value but it isn't prudence when I already know what I need to do.

I must admit that I am not alone in avoiding the unpopular decisions. Congress knows that we can't sustain our spending but chooses to demonize anyone who comes up with a solution rather than coming up with their own solution. It is much more popular to increase spending than to cut spending but this is a decision which has already been made. The numbers will not add up no matter which side of the aisle members of congress reside. Each one should know what needs to be done but many refuse to do so. I guess peer pressure and popularity aren't just middle school problems.

I am relieved each time I do the difficult things. I spend way too much time worrying over the difficulties and forget the benefits of doing what I know I must do. The relief comes because the pressure to do what needed to be done has increased as I waited. The progression of many things in life depend upon carrying out difficult decisions.

It costs so much more to wait.

What do you do when you know what to do? You just do it.

Proverbs 6:10-11 (NIV) 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why Are God's Actions So Mysterious?

God doesn't always act like we think He should. He doesn't always stop tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis. In fact, we really don't have much of a record that He stops them at all. But, then again, we aren't really that observant when it comes to the things that didn't happen.

People are persecuted for their faith, strong believers are still dying from cancer and godly people bankrupt no matter what your preacher has told you. We are told to have faith . . . but faith in what? Faith that the disaster we fear is going to be exactly as we feared? Faith that God will sit still while we suffer? Faith that we are all alone in this matter? No! We are to have faith in God!

So, we say our prayers, give our tithes, read our Bibles and cross our fingers so that tomorrow will be better. All of these actions fail to have a money-back guarantee.

Why does God have to be so mysterious when He could just make me win the lottery? He could have made me better looking, made me taller, made me with a charismatic personality. He could have made my life smooth with no bumps in the road.

Let's admit it: We really don't fully grasp God. (Somebody call Guinness! This has to be the greatest understatement ever made.) We look only at the moment and cannot see the whole. We only look at one attribute of God without realizing that He is perfectly balanced in His attributes.

God's omnipotence is balanced with His omniscience. He doesn't always use His power because He knows what the full consequences are. His omniscience is balanced by His love. He does not coldly make decisions. His decisions include His love. His love is balanced with His justice. Love and justice are balanced or there will be neither. He will not let the guilty go unpunished. His justice is balanced by His mercy. He provides a way out for those who repent. His mercy is balanced by His holiness. He cannot and will not allow Himself to be made unholy. His mercy cannot extend to the acceptance of people who will not accept Jesus. His holiness is balanced by His omnipresence. He is taking care of the whole universe at a time. His mercy toward one person cannot make Him lose any of His other attributes toward another.

There are other attributes of God and they are all in balance with one another. It isn't that we merely don't have big enough brains to fully understand the ways of God; its that we are finite and He is infinite which is the real problem. We cannot imagine knowing all things at the same time no more than we can understand having our only Son die for people who didn't care about Him at all. We look at what we have called God's failure to act (like we think He should) and say it isn't fair without ever knowing the meaning of what fair really is.

So, we pray that we will accept His will. In fact, that is what our prayers become. We ask God to act in a specific way but we acknowledge that He is God and He will act like God and we may only have a glimpse of Him. If we had all the attributes of God, we would understand all that God does, however we would not need God if we had all of His attributes because we would actually be God.

So, God must remain mysterious in our eyes. His ways are far beyond us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) 8 "For my thoughts are not
         your thoughts,
neither are your ways my
              declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher
        than the earth,
so are my ways higher than
        your ways
and my thoughts than your 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Accommodating the Saved or Reaching the Lost?

Saved people do not like lost people that are not like them. The newly saved are expected to like what the established community of believers likes. They are expected to dress like the established church, like the same music, talk the same language and overlook the same sins. Those who will not comply with these "rules" are often left out of insider activities at the church.

Pastors are often faced with a dilemma: should the established congregation who finances the budget be accommodated with music, activities, sermons and programs they want or should saving the lost and making disciples of new believers be the priority in the church. The safe route is always to go with the ones with the money.

After all, the church would not exist without these established members. They have built the church. They have sacrificed their time to make sure their own children's programs were staffed. They sought a pastor who would pleasantly take them through their old age and do a bang-up funeral in the end. Surely, they have the right to expect these things they worked so hard for.

The best route is to demonize the activity of the people being reached. Call the music "Seven-Eleven" songs, say that the absence of a coat and tie is disrespectful and point out that Jesus didn't need screens to preach an effective gospel. This way accommodating really looks like a higher spiritual worship and those who agree with this are closer to God than those who would try to reach the lost.

If people are expected to clean up before they come to church, shouldn't they also clean up their lives before coming? Shouldn't they understand that this is the way church is done and if they really want to go to heaven they will have to learn to act like the people who have been in church for years? And make sure that you bring out the Leviticcal prohibition of tatoos but always leave out the sins of self-centered selfishness which requires that people go outside their comfort zone to reach others. Make sure that church is about making people comfortable.

The church that accommodates gets older and older. The members die off or just get so old that they can't make it to worship. Attendance continues to drop. The pastor of many years retires with a very few members left. His preaching falls mostly on wooden pews and wooden members because he is a wooden pastor.

Many people in church do not care if lost people get saved if they don't comply with the way things have always been done. They are truly perplexed why their church is dying. They are not willing to change anything even though the world has already changed around them.

So, is accommodating the saved really the safest position after all?

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spirit and Body Make the Person Like Christ

The Holy Spirit changes the believer. We are given faith to believe. Our spirit is made alive. The Holy Spirit works within our spirit to change us to new creations. We are changed as He who began the good work in us completes it until the day of Jesus Christ. We are truly changed by God.

Does that mean that I should simply wait until I am moved before I participate in this change or should I make a decision to work with the change before I am moved? There is no doubt what the Spirit wants for us. We are to be restored to God's glory. This means we will give God glory by who we become. Yet, we must also decide to participate with God in this change.

I am changed when I read God's word and pray, however I make a decision to open the Bible and to pray. This is more than simply refusing to resist the Spirit. I have decided to join Him in what He wants for me. I have faith but I also have works. I work because I am changed and I am changed because I work.

I think a lot of people come to church saying, "Go ahead, Preacher, change my life! Thrill me the morning. I will be different if you have the Spirit working in you. I'll sit still while you change me." Now, I believe I need to pray and seek God so that I can give a message that God has given me. I also believe that the congregation needs to set their minds on the Spirit so that they will carry out the desires of the Spirit. They need to arrive at the church. They need to pay attention to what is being said. They need to act on what they need to do to be changed. They may need to make a trip to the altar to tell make their commitments to God. They may need to give or apologize or confront. The command is given by the Spirit but the flesh carries it out. Knowing what needs to be done without doing it will leave the person in worse shape than the were before they listened to the Spirit.

Our works will never save us. Our works will prove our faith. Physical action both welcomes the Spirit and carries out the will of the Spirit.

My faith depends upon the Spirit speaking and working within me. My faith depends upon my actions to seek God and do exactly what the Spirit leads me to do. I can neither believe that it is all Spirit without works than I can believe that it is all works without the Spirit.

I realize their are those who believe that those who are saved could not have resisted the Spirit. God wanted them and He would not be denied. They believe that a saved person is regenerated before salvation so that God's grace was irresistible. In other words, God saved the person without any conscious action on his part. If this is true, why aren't all changes dependent upon God's action without any participation needed from the believer. How can God judge the actions of the believer to see if he has done right if it is God alone who made the change without any cooperation? (2 Corinthians 5:10)

No, it takes my participation with the Spirit to be changed to be like Christ.

James 1:22-25 (ESV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 2:14 (ESV)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

James 2:18-20 (ESV)
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!  20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

Monday, May 23, 2011

God's Wisdom Comes by Prayer When You Need It

Life is not a matter of formulas. Some things have no apparent solutions. The man who cannot find employment despairs over feeding and caring for his family. He sees that everything he has will be taken away from him and his family. He wants a solution yo his problem but none can be found.

The woman who has been told that her child is dead in her womb doesn't know what to do. Yes, there is no evidence of life but she wonders if it is right to end the pregnancy. She doesn't want to take the life of a little one if there is any chance that her child is still alive. The assurances of the doctors give her little comfort. What should she do?

A best friend confides that she is having an affair. Her confession is preceded by a promise that it cannot be told to anyone. How can you go to church with her knowing that she is living a lie? How can you keep silent while her husband is faithfully keeping his marriage vows? What can you do to make things straight? You have confronted your friend but she is fine with the status quo. What should you do?

Each of these scenarios are real. Each of these people have struggled through the decisions they needed to make. No human solution seemed to work. They needed something more.

There is no guarantee that things will turn out peachy even if you do the right thing. The result cannot be the only factor is doing what is right. Doing what is right will fall within the values that God has established. Doing what is right may be beyond your ability to think or even know what is right. Doing what is right in these perplexing circumstances will take genuine prayer and faith.

James said:

James 1:5 (ESV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Impossible situations are often presented to me as a pastor. I do not have the wisdom to know what to do for many of them. I am (truthfully) forced to pray for wisdom. God always answers and gives me exactly what I should do but the wisdom seldom comes instantly. I pray as a matter of faith for some time before I am given the solution. The solution that God gives is often beyond my control. Sometimes He tells me to sit quietly while He fixes things. Other times He tells me to get up and do something that is completely outside of my comfort zone.

There are even times when He makes the solution appear before my eyes. He finds the man a job, the lady spontaneously miscarries or the woman falls under conviction, ends the affair and confesses to her husband. I merely have to be there for the praise and tears.

Right now I have been praying for over two years for the wisdom to deal with a particular problem. The problem continues to get worse while I continue to pray. I really don't know what to do but I know that God will give me His wisdom at exactly the right moment.

Sometimes I wish that God would tell me things He wants from me in the future. I would love it if He would say, "In two years you will have a very difficult problem. Here is what you should do . . . " I have never heard from God in this way. He gives me the wisdom at the moment I need it.

All prayers are asking for God's grace. I certainly don't deserve His answer. It is simply His gift to me. That is what grace is. It is God's giving to His children what they don't deserve.

And such it is with wisdom. I don't deserve His wisdom but He has promised that I will receive it if I will ask for it. I would foolish to turn down such an offer. But God never wastes His grace. He only gives us the grace that we need for each day on the day that we need it. That is how we make it while we watch a loved one die of cancer. We get the grace for that day on that day to make it through that day. We get the wisdom (grace) on the day that we need it too.

And so I pray for wisdom when I don't know what to do. I know I will receive it. I also know I won't receive it until it is really needed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Duped by Religion

I am very sorry for the faithful followers of Harold Camping who believed fully in his prediction that the world would end on May 21. Many are reported to have spend their savings, quit their jobs and eliminated their belongings because they believed that Jesus would return and an earthquake would destroy the earth.

How does anyone keep from being duped by religion if they believe they already have a faith in God? How do they know what to believe? The Bible gives us guidelines.

Don't follow a person. A person is fallible. Anyone can do what is wrong and even believe it is right. I have seen people blindly follow televangelists. They give without question. They believe the person on the other side of the microphone or camera is completely sincere when he says, "God has told me." Many of these statements are merely manipulating those hearers. Many of them are skilled con men who know how to turn a phrase and elicit a response. Take a look at their finances before you give a dime. The way they spend their money will reveal where their hearts are.

Know the Bible for yourself. Some followers only know what a cult-like leader tells them. These leaders have carefully told the followers that there is no one giving the same information as the believers are hearing from them. They craft their words to make all other preachers look like apostates. A cause for alarm should go off when the preacher says, "I am the only one telling you the truth." They typically throw in statements about how they have been persecuted for their faith. A person who knows the Bible would have known that Harold Camping was wrong.

Test the spirit of the person who is preaching. Does this ministry revolve around this person? Does it truly point toward Jesus? The person preaching the truth will point only toward Jesus rather than toward himself.

Look carefully into the past. The Bible has a long history. Those who interpret it have a long line of teachers and preachers to follow. There will be nothing new in its interpretation. Even the heresies will be recycled. Therefore, look at what trusted saints of long ago have said about the scriptures. There will be a contingency of people who say essentially the same thing about any scripture. Look to them for confirmation of what is being said.

Pray for yourself. Scripture is understood when the Spirit of God speaks to your own spirit. Anything said must be spiritually discerned. It will not be fear of destruction nor the personal advantage that following may bring that will instruct you in the Word. It will be the Spirit who speaks to your spirit.

You will find that walking with the Lord will result in believing what is right. Make sure that each day is a part of that walk. Let the scriptures speak without bias. Let them instruct you without a predetermined outcome.

A few years ago a good friend told me that I needed to prepare my church for the turmoil that would be brought to our society because of the "millennial" bug. That was when all the computers were supposed to stop because the programing was only set to a two digit year. Some predicted that the utilities would shut down, people would not be able to buy things and the banks would close because none of the computers would work.

I went to some computer programmers at Compaq and asked what the possibility was. They told me that it was very slim. I prayed that God would tell me to do something if I needed to lead my church thus. God was silent. I told my friend that I wasn't going to do a thing. He responded with, "But what if it happens? Wouldn't you rather be prepared?" I told him that I was absolutely confident that it wouldn't. I didn't believe that my God would lead me astray.

I am sure there were some disruptions of which I never heard. However, I know I did the right thing. I know because I followed God and not those who were claiming doom.

Too many people are duped by religion when they could know for themselves what they need to do. I ask all who read this to pray for the followers of Harold Camping. They are wondering what they believe today.

1 John 4:1 (ESV)  
1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

God's most precious servants struggled through much of their lives. Noah struggled to build a big boat. Abraham struggled for a child. He struggled with his faith. He struggled to trust God during tough times. David was rejected by his king and lived as a homeless man for a period of his life. Elijah, Ruth, Esther, Job and all of the major and minor prophets have periods of their lives with struggling. Each of them had to wonder if they would be successful during their times of failure.

Is this because everyone goes through major struggles? Therefore, their struggles are publicized but not unusual. Or, is it because each of these servants of God is so special to Him? Thus, these struggles are part of God's strength training program?

Actually, I think the problem is with our "Expectation Theology." We simply expect that those who follow God will always be healthy, wealthy and wise. We are surprised at the hard times because they shouldn't happen. We think our faithfulness to God ought to purchase happiness and smooth sailing. Our expectations aren't met when God fails to make our lives easier because we have served Him.

God is more concerned for us than what we do for Him. Our responsibility is to give Him glory. We fail in our purpose when we do anything else. No servant of God will avoid very difficult times. Satan knew that there was no true testimony of glory as long as there were no bad times. He told God that that Job would stop giving Him glory the moment the bad things started. Don't think for a minute that Satan hasn't stood before God and asked for this same permission millions of times for other believers who are giving God glory. He has asked to sift you like wheat too if you have given God glory.

The greatest glory comes when the believer praises God as he walks through the valley of the shadow of death.

So, believer, how are you doing?

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk
through the valley of the
Shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vaccinated from the Gospel

I recently met with a man who had been one of the leaders in the church. He served as a teacher and held other leadership roles. He told me that he didn't believe any more. He wanted to get a prettier wife and go out drinking with his friends. I don't know why he told me these things. He had already made up his mind that he was through with church.

This man had been raised in the church. He made a "profession of faith" as a child. He was involved throughout his life. Suddenly, he calls it all a sham. He believes the problem is with the church. He may go to another church at some time in order to please his parents. I, however, believe him when he told me that he didn't believe. I don't think he ever did. I understand his condition thus:

When I was a child my parents took me to be vaccinated from smallpox. I didn't throw a fit when the nurse scratched my arm because I wanted to please my parents. I went along with it when it made me a little sick for a day or so. I didn't know exactly what was happening but all my friends also had to go through it. It was just something you had to do as a child.

I learned later that my smallpox vaccination was a weaker form of the virus which would allow my body to fight off true smallpox if I was ever exposed. I never got smallpox. I don't know if I was ever exposed. If I was, the vaccination worked.

Children want to please their parents. They want to do what the rest of their friends are doing. Many times the "profession of faith" of one child will result in many others doing the same thing. Their parents have told their children their desire to see all their children saved. They have told them that this is the only way to heaven. The desire of the parents and the peer pressure of friends urges children to believe. 
Initially, the children exhibit some of the characteristics of Christianity. They actually say the right words and seem to be repentant when they have done wrong. They come to church, get baptized and even have the right "Sunday School" answers about the faith. Later, however, they may continue to come to church but do not truly believe. 

They resemble people who have been vaccinated. They got a weaker form of the gospel which is no gospel at all just like getting a weaker form of the virus was not really smallpox. It seemed to take at first just like getting sick after the vaccination did but it prevented them from getting the full-blown disease. This tasting of the gospel but never swallowing is preventing many people from ever believing. They have known what it is and could even explain it to someone else. They have been infected but never got the full conversion of the gospel. They can't be brought again to repentance because they cannot understand what the gospel is. 

Don't get me wrong. Parents should bring their children to church and expose them to the gospel. They should pray for their children and tell their children the gospel story. However, they should also be very careful that they don't push their children into something that the children have not believed. The parents' faith cannot save the children. No one can give their faith to another. Each person must trust in Jesus for himself or herself.

It took a miracle for the resurrection to occur. It takes a miracle for a person to be saved. Salvation is becoming a new creation. It is not going through the motions. In fact, going through the motions will vaccinate someone from ever accepting the gospel. 

And how will they ever get the disease if we vaccinate them?

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV) 
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,  6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When Life Piles On

As children we liked to pile on someone who was on the ground. It was fun to trap someone by lying on top of him. And it was all done in fun so that the one being piled on wasn't angry. It was a childlike symbol of affection. We never piled on the people we didn't like.

In organized football penalties were given when we piled on. It was easy to get hurt at the bottom of a pile of guys who weighed much more than you. I'll admit that I sometimes hit people when they were down. I had plenty of penalties called on me. It was easy to land on someone who was already down.

We may have thought that piling on would never happen once we became adults. Adulthood looked so problem free from the outside. Now, as adults we think we never had problems when we were younger. As we get older life seems to pile on.

In the movie, The Replacements, Keanu Reeves makes a statement of what he fears. He says that he is afraid of quicksand. It seems that everything is going well when something goes wrong and then something else and then something else until there is no way to escape these things going wrong. I remember saying, "Yes, I am afraid of that quicksand too."

In church we are always asking for new teachers. We have so many preschoolers and children that we are constantly in need of people willing to help these children grow toward and in their relationship with Jesus. It is frustrating when you continue to ask potential teachers who keep refusing the responsibility. They say that they want to keep their weekends open or that they just want to come to church when they want to come without any responsibility. Then, when you are at the end of your rope, three of your teachers quit. Of course, the next Sunday morning four more teachers say they won't be at church because something came up.

So, Sunday begins with no new teachers, three who are quitting in a couple of weeks and four places that have to be filled on the spot. This is not the best situation for the children. These "fill in" teachers cannot possibly be prepared to teach the children what they should be receiving. In the midst of your frustration a parent decides that her disruptive child is not at fault. It is because the teachers aren't doing a good enough job in engaging her child. She tells you that this is your responsibility. The trouble is that you are angered because the parent doesn't know how hard you are working or how concerned you are for her child but you also believe she is saying out loud what you have thought in your heart. It feels like your fault.

I don't have this responsibility in my church but I have been there. I realize that it just doesn't happen only to those who are in church. It happens in every job and in every family. One bad thing is followed by several others. Someone will say, "You know, it comes in threes." My reply is, "Yes, and it sevens and eights too!"
Your finances are bad, your car is broken, your children require new clothes and your boss is talking about cutting back at work.

Life piles on so much that you can't move; you feel as if you can't breathe. You wonder if God cares or if there is a god at all. Anxiety turn to outright fear. You don't know where to turn. You just want some relief.

So, what do you do?

First, you need to get real honest with God. Quit using the flowery language that you are supposed to use and tell God exactly how you feel. It does no good to hide your frustrations. Pour out your heart to Him

Then, praise Him. I know that this makes very little sense at this point but God inhabits the praises of His people. The solution you need comes from Him. Praises provide you hope, strengthen your faith and place you in a position for God's solution.

Claim that God will deliver you. It may not be today or in the way you want His deliverance but He will deliver you if you are one of His children.

When life piles on you can know that your deliverance may not have arrived yet but it is on its way. Life will pile on but God will unpile it. He is in the deliverance business.

 Psalm 22:1-5 (ESV)
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5  To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grasping Grace

I wonder if the songs we sing really express what we know or if they are just good tunes that we like to sing. We sing about amazing grace but I wonder how well we truly grasp what we are singing.

Grace means nothing without understanding sin. Sin is falling short of God's glory.  Sin has separated us from God. It is so odious that God will not and cannot allow it into His presence. The estrangement we know would be permanent without God's action to remove that sin.

A singer in church sings a particularly moving song. The singer and many of the congregants are moved to tears. They claim that they have felt the presence of God. However, there is no sense of holiness. There is no sense of conviction. The sins which have been committed are continuing to be committed. This cannot be the true presence of God for God's presence brings us to our knees as it reveals sin. This brings conviction and changes us. We will never grasp grace as long as we think it comes from a moving song rather than the presence of God. We must be able to distinguish between the two.

Grace will never be grasped as long as sin is seen as inconsequential. Our society has justified sin with feelings. Thus, a man can shoot fellow workers with impunity because he is feeling bullied. A young woman can shoplift because she is feeling ostracized for her lack of fashionable clothing. Therefore, sin requires no payment for justification. The justification lies within the sin. No grace is necessary.

I have seen very few people weep over their sins who have not also been caught in their sins. The adulterer gives me crocodile tears because he has been caught. Those in jail have wailed behind the visitation glass. Those, who have never been caught, keep their sins silently tucked away without repentance or sorrow.

Grace is God's action to redeem a person and a people who cannot do anything to pay for their sins. Grasping grace is realizing that you cannot undo anything that you have done. It is knowing that you were permanently condemned by what you have done without regard to why it was done.  It is realizing God's great gift of love through the blood of Jesus which covers our sins. It is realizing the depth of sin and the hopelessness of living without God's grace.

Truly grasping grace means that you share that grace with others. You forgive everyone because you know your own forgiveness. God has implanted His forgiveness in you. You love the unlovely because He has loved you even though your sin is so odious that He will not and cannot allow it into His presence. Grasping grace reveals our calling to follow Him. It compels us to do so.

The Apostle Paul grasped grace.  Grace humbles us forever.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 (ESV)
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hard Times Make Strong Believers

Every trial we face is allowed by God. He could have kept us in perfect safety and perfect health while enjoying an abundance of resources to indulge in, yet He often allows the tragedies and hardships to fall upon us. He allows us to fail even when our hearts seek fully to follow Him. He is often silent when we desperately want to hear from Him.

Some people will think that God is not as loving as His reputation has reported Him to be. They think that a loving God must make sure that His children have everything that they ever want. They cannot understand that over indulgence results in childishness. They do not realize that struggles mature us.

Isn't it interesting that it was Satan who pointed that out? He stood before God and said that Job would curse God if His protection and provision was removed. Satan knew what few Christians seem to know. There is no mature faith like a faith under fire.

We should be able to realize this by the examples God has provided for us in the physical world. A muscle gets stronger if it is challenged often. Our minds get sharper when we are presented with problems which must be solved. Our resolve gets stronger when we work toward a goal. Thus, our spirits mature when we face trials in this world.

I read recently of a wealthy man who did not leave his vast wealth to his children or grandchildren. He passed it to what would become his many great-grandchildren. I suppose he was afraid that this wealth would corrupt his offspring and so spread it out to so many that no one of them could do nothing and be nothing because of this inheritance. He knew what has happened to so many people who lost everything because they have won huge lotteries. He knew that easily begotten gains remove all gratitude. He knew that hard work makes people strong. He knew that he would be destroying some of his loved ones if they suddenly came into such a fortune without any work.

The joy that James says we should have when we have such trials comes from the knowledge that these trials have come with God's permission. They, therefore, are there to grow us into maturity. They will reveal God as He works in our lives and our circumstances.

Some people apparently work harder than others to have the same success. Some people learn quicker than others. That is not always the reason that some have more hardship than others. Some of these will have grown so much with a challenge that God will give them greater challenges. Their trials may not come because of their unfaithfulness but because of their steadfast devotion and endurance.  They will have been given more because they have produced more. They will have learned to truly be full of joy when trials come their way.

I have met some people like this. They are so close to God that they carry their own atmosphere. They never lord over others their relationship with God nor do they claim to be better than any other person. They simply have a maturity in the faith that astounds the average believer.

There is some trepidation within me when I say that I want to be like one of these people. I know that my heart longs both for a maturity in my faith and an ease in my living. The two are simply incompatible. The idea that you can sit on the couch and get yourself in great physical shape is snake oil sold by unscrupulous ads on television. The only way to get in great shape is through challenging the muscles. The only way  to become spiritually mature is through faithful endurance of the trials God lays before us.

Yet, if this blog has any truth in it; if I am true to what I say, I must follow my purpose and give God glory. The glory that God would have me give is one of a spiritually mature man who is able to express his faith through the trials he has endured. Hard times make strong believers.

Be joyful for this.

James 1:2-4 (ESV)  
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Living with the Two Tyrannies of Life

Several years ago I got certified to teach the best management course I have ever seen. I read several business leadership and management books every year. This course is far superior to any one suggested in any of these books. The course is called Model-Netics. It was developed by Harold Hooks, the head of Main Event Management.

One of the models taught in the course is called "Two Tyrannies." Simply stated, there are two tyrannies in life: things will change and people will judge you. This is always true. Things will change even if you decide not to change with them. The world still goes around. You can decide to adapt to, improve and employ good changes or you can resist these changes. You can decide to go along with and participate in good changes or you can resist these changes. Either way, you cannot keep all things from changing.

People will judge you no matter what you do. They will judge you if you do the wrong thing. They will judge you if you do the right thing. They will judge you if you do nothing at all. You may be able to affect how some people will judge you but you won't be able to keep people from judging you.

Therefore, if things will change no matter what and people will judge you no matter what, you should do the right thing to make the best changes. This won't keep some people from judging you wrongly. Your greatest altruistic act will be judged as selfish by some. The same is true of your greatest sacrifice. You simply need to know the person that you are. You need to know that you are doing your best to make the greatest positive impact.

I can never really ask myself if I am making everyone happy. I can't even ask whether I am doing what everyone wants. Neither of these will allow me to have any peace in my life. I have to know that I have pleased my God.

Yes, I suppose you still have to listen to people's judgement but at least you can live with yourself. Hearing the criticism is just part of living with the two tyrannies.

Remember what people said of the Apostle Paul:

2 Corinthians 10:10 (ESV)
10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

I appears he had to live with the two tyrannies too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No, I Am Not Tolerant

It seems that we have made tolerance a virtue. In fact, it is a greater virtue than holding to the truth.

Years ago I taught a series on the common theologies which were infecting our faith. I quoted statements and gave the names of those who said them. I explained why these teachings were wrong and the evils they espoused. The problem was that each of the people I mentioned were well known televangelists who were well known. I suspect that many of those who heard my teaching were supporting these "preachers."

Onc of the deacons came to me and told me that this was the most evil thing he had ever heard in church. I said, "Yes, what these people is truly evil." I knew he meant that what I said was evil but I wanted him to know that I considered this "teaching" from televangelists for their own personal gain was the true evil. He thought we should all be tolerant of each other and accept any theology that calls itself Christian.

There is no virtue in tolerance over falsely teaching doctrine. Sure, there are some things that we may not agree on which we remain in fellowship but the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth,  the historicity of the miracles, the authority of the Bible, the resurrection and the substitutionary atonement of Christ blood for our sins are not debatable. Those who claim to be as much the son of God as Jesus, who add to Scripture and deny the Trinity are heretics. Their teaching must be exposed with the truth.

A friend once told me that people in front of him at a theater responded to his audible sigh at a depiction of homosexuality with, "Some people are just not tolerant!" I told him, "Next time respond by asking, 'Are you intolerant at my lack of tolerance?'" You see, those who claim to be tolerant are really not tolerant at all. They want to demonize those who confront their pseudo-values.

We need to gently correct other Christians who have gone astray. We need to sharply rebuke those who teach heresy.

No, I am not tolerant and neither is the Bible.

Titus 1:10-14 (ESV)
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.  12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,  14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Need for a Radical Revolution

Each generation emulated the generation before it for a very long time. Values remained static. Morality never changed. Most people knew the difference between right and wrong even if they chose to do what was wrong. They also knew that they had to take responsibility for their actions. 
I know the world is changing technologically but the parallel of these innovations and scientific discoveries is the change in humanity itself. We seem to think we have evolved into a higher form of ourselves by changing long established values. We think of ourselves as magnanimous when we do not hold others responsible for their actions or allow them to give flimsy excuses for their transgressions. We accept their sins as excusable and maybe laudable if their reason for sinning is deemed sufficient.
Poems encouraging murder are called art. Shooting someone who has gotten in your way is called self defense. Stealing has become a means of supporting your family. It has become wrong to deport illegal aliens, incarcerate enemy combatants or hold an unwed mother as partially responsible for her predicament. 
It seems that the morons are the new geniuses for the day. Pastors who bend and question God’s word are called great communicators. Politicians who spend into bankruptcy are said to have a grasp of the economy. Those who use an inordinate amount of energy and pollute the earth freely are called great ecologists. Does any of this make any sense?
What is going on? Why has the world rejected that which has been proven true for generations?
Maybe I am too simple. Maybe my answer reflects my own bias. I can’t be sure since it is my own bias and I don’t know how to think something else is right. It seems that the more we deviate from our faith, the more we  deviate from common sense. Our faith told us to honor our parents and listen to our elders. It said we should work hard, put our faith in God and expect His reward. It said that our lives would have no anchor if God allowed us to go our own way. Therefore, it told us to seek God while He can be found.
How long can a faithless society last? Maybe we should ask some of the past great civilizations. People will demand order when the chaos gets bad enough. They will support totalitarianism to ensure their safety. They will forfeit freedom for sustenance. The will cry for oppression in order to set things in order.
We need a revolution. It should not bring any violence to anyone other than the person who is revolting. The revolting must be done against ourselves. We must return to the God of our fathers. We must not allow things of insignificance to take the place of the vital. Taking our children to church and teaching them the fundamentals of faith must be more important than taking them to ball practice and teaching them how to catch. Holding them responsible for work around the house must be more important than taking them to Disneyland. Giving them rewards and teaching them honor must be more important than false self esteem generated from awards that mean nothing. Living out your own faith before others must be more important than getting what you want. Giving to God must take precedence over the desires this world generates.
This is not a message of doom and gloom. It is one of saying that we must wake up and return to our faith before we lose everything. Yes, I believe God will heal our land and even our own minds which have become believers in things contrary to His word. I also believe that He is calling me and you to commit ourselves to Him for that healing. it requires a revolution in our lives for we must rebel against the societal changes which are conforming us.
It will take an effort to be transformed. It will take a renewal. It will take a decision from me and you. 
It will be radical.
Romans 12:2 (ESV) 
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Would the Cause of Christ Be Helped If You No Longer Existed?

I guess I have seen too many cars with a fish on the back of them. The driver of this car doesn't get out of the lane that is closed and pushes in at the front of the line. Many others got out of the closed lane and waited their turn. Courtesy is often punished.

I wonder how many people look at that fish symbol and wonder what it means. Surely, it can't mean that this person is a Christian. After all, didn't Christ tell Christians to put others before themselves?

I have seen too many deacons found at bars hitting on married women. There have been too many pastors sexually involved with women they were supposed to be counseling. There have been far too many church members who have the reputation as a town gossip.

Are these people oblivious to the harm they are doing to the cause of Christ? Do they believe that their faith only exists at church? Do they have any faith at all?

This past week I told my congregation that honoring your mother meant making her proud of you all the days of your life. A mother told me that her little boy looked up at her and asked, "Mommy, are you proud of me?" I thought that was precious. This little boy was understanding the message better than many adults. I wonder if we should ask God the same question, "Father, are you proud of me?"

This has nothing to do with living a perfect life. I believe that trying to live a perfect life is a horrible way to live. It is never satisfied. I am talking about the journey we should be on to become like Christ. It is a life that exemplifies Christ and leads others to Him.

Now, I know that some want to ask: "Would the cause of Christ be hurt if I no longer existed?" The answer is generally "no." God picks up where another person ends. He brought the disciples along to take up the cause of Christ and it multiplied. He raised up the early church fathers to take up the cause of Christ and spread it around the world. Each faithful person was adequately replaced because others observed and emulated those faithful people.

Thai is not as true for those who call themselves Christians but live like the devil. There are those who are watching these people too. They either believe that Christ makes no difference in changing a person's life or they believe that this is what being a Christian really is. They may also emulate these "Christians" who hurt the cause of Christ.

So, would the cause of Christ be helped if you no longer existed? You can do something about it, you know.

 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (ESV)
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Heart of Heresy

Heresy is "doctrinal deviation from the fundamental truths taught by Scripture and the orthodox Christian church, with an active propagation of the same" according to New Dictionary of Theology. I have found that heresy may have begun with good intentions and even reflect some truth. It often begins with the overemphasis of a truth at the exclusion of all other truth.

For example, baptism is important in the Christian faith. It can be so emphasized that it becomes salvation itself. Grace is therefore defined as the gift of baptism. Faith can be left out in the cold with this heresy.

On the other hand, grace can be so emphasized that no one will ever go to hell. Universalism generally puts all of its emphasis on God's love. Human reasoning takes the place of Scripture when accepting universalism. People ask, "How could a loving God send people to hell?" They fail to understand that God does not send anyone to hell. People make a choice of rejecting Him.

This is true across the board. We can emphasize God's provision so strongly that we make tithing a way of receiving much more money from the Lord. We can emphasize God's blessings so much that we make the failure of a blessing a flaw in our own actions. We can become as superstitious as the witch doctor who dances to bring the rain. The failure of rain means he didn't do the dance correctly.

The truth of the Scripture must be taken wholly rather than piece by piece. We honor our parents and we have a full life. We give our hearts to Jesus for salvation and eternal life. We follow Him fully and we have an abundant life. We give generously and we are blessed with the understanding of God's provision. We seek righteousness and we are humbled.

I believe it all fits together. I believe we are always becoming like Jesus. I believe that our lives are always being changed and improved upon as we become like Jesus. I believe that God is actively bringing us to Himself always. He is always seeking to give us grace. That grace may be understood in tragedy or blessing.
God's desire is not only that we come to Him in salvation but that through that salvation we become like His Son.

The emphasis of any statement in Scripture to the exclusion of other statements becomes the heart of heresy. It takes all of Scripture to teach us to be complete. None of it should be excluded.

Romans 8:29-30 (NIV)  
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)  
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Problem with Reaching Young People

I am a baby-boomer. I am afraid that my generation didn't especially like the standards of the preceding generation. We rebelled because we wanted something different. We called it our freedom to express ourselves. We fooled ourselves so well that we didn't even know when we were lying to ourselves.
We grew our hair long, ignored most social more's and protested the things our parents held dear. We were drawn in my things that looked good and people who sounded good. We failed to challenge whether or not these things were true. We came up with the phrase, "if its right for you" and believed that was a good enough answer for anyone's behavior.

Time passed and we cut our hair and got jobs. We had children that we promised to raise differently than our parents raised us. We wanted things to look good but did not have the foundation for them to actually be good. So we worked on our image and went where we thought our image would be improved. We cared very little about whether that image was true.

A new generation grew up and realized what fakes we were. They didn't want to work in our businesses the way we did. They didn't want to go to our churches. They wanted something real. We thought we could entice them with glitz and they just weren't interested.

The generation that follows the boomers is not lazy or uninterested. They are unimpressed. They want someone to say something that isn't looking for show alone. They want someone they can trust. They would join us if we were trustworthy and could honestly give them something meaningful.

Our churches will reach young people if we will honestly admit that we don't have it all together. Our testimonies must be those that reflect a genuine spiritual change. We must admit our failures and confess our sins if we are to see that they will ever believe us.

The problem with reaching young people is not going to be in the music we offer on Sunday mornings. It will not be so much in the beauty of our facilities (that, of course, will determine if you will reach baby-boomers). It will be whether or not we are real.

Young adults are looking for people meaning in their lives like each generation before them. However, they are unwilling to settle for whitewashed tombs that look so good on the outside but are full of dead men's bones.

The problem with reaching young people is when I am just enough of a Christian to be one on the outside only. They want to see something deeper than that.

Matthew 23:27-28 (ESV)
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.