All In

Mar 29

All In

We are all into so many different things: sports, music, hobbies, money, career, family, video games, TV shows, education, politics, gadgets, celebrities, food–you name it! I’ve been wondering today why so few of us “church people” are all into Jesus. It seems to me that by definition, faith in a god is an all-or-nothing thing. Out of all the things one should be “all in” to, if there is a god, shouldn’t we be “all in” to Him? There is nothing greater outside of God himself to be seriously involved with. Yet so many of us who profess faith in Jesus seem to think it perfectly acceptable to be uninvolved. All our other obligations or facets of life take priority over Him. And we see nothing wrong with that. To me, it makes no sense. It’s like going up to someone and saying, “Hey, just received word your house is on fire.” And then they reply, “Wow, that’s nuts. Let me finish taking care of this project at work, pick up the dry cleaning, sneak in a weekend away, and hopefully, if I have enough time, I’ll get around to seeing what I can do for that situation.” If that really was someone’s response, I’d come to one of two conclusions: the guy really doesn’t believe me, or his house really isn’t that important to him. I am forced to conclude that this how it is with so many “people of faith”: either we really don’t believe in Jesus, or He is not that important to us. And how much difference really is there between those two possibilities? Can we really say that we believe that Jesus really is who the Bible says He is? How can this at all be acceptable? I am challenged today, and hope to challenge you today, to become “all in” with...

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Why Do We Fear The Gifts Of The Spirit?

Oct 27

I think the short answer to that question is that we fear the supernatural. We fear having to confront the possibility that God actually does something. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a church prayer meeting where people pray for someone who is sick or in the hospital, etc. We all pray that God would “heal” them. We all pray that God would guide the hands of the doctors, etc. We are comfortable with those kinds of prayers. And we are comfortable to attribute to God the success of the surgery: He answered our prayers–He guided that surgeon’s hands! The problem with the gifts of the Spirit, or anything else that is supernatural, is that it removes a comfortable, ambiguous faith in God. For example, when surgery is successful, some attribute the success to the doctor, but we “believers” attribute it to God. Those who believe in God see the situation differently than those who don’t. Yet, nothing circumstantially can be attributed as a miracle. The surgery was anticipated by doctors to be successful. The matter is convoluted more, however, when the surgery has 50/50 chance of success. If the person comes through, we say it’s because of a miracle of God! Was it? For a believer, yes. For a non-believer, no. After all, things turn out favorably 50% of the time. If they don’t pull through, however, we believers still affirm God was working there just the same. In other words, with all of these things, it’s all very muddy. To what extent was God actively involved in the process? It is very hard to tell, and we are comfortable in such ambiguity. Whether God was working in the situation is a matter of personal interpretation. It makes us believers comfortable to believe God was involved when He couldn’t be seen. But what about believing God to do something more demonstrative? Many Christians believe that praying for such things is inappropriate. God should remain in the shadows. He should be a matter of interpretation. The idea of God revealing specific information to someone, or healing someone instantaneously, or causing someone to speak in a language they do not understand…now we get nervous. “God doesn’t work...

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Why Fear Speaking In Tongues?

Oct 20

When you start talking about the gifts of the Spirit, many people start to freak out. And if they’re honest, it’s mostly because they are afraid of the gift of tongues. But why fear the gift of tongues? I know the standard reasons given, but for fun, I want to offer five reasons why you should fear the gift of teaching more than the gift of tongues. The gift of teaching requires public speaking. That’s the second biggest fear for many people (death is #1, perhaps taxes is #3). On the other hand, the gift of tongues is primarily meant for your own personal prayer time, and the Apostle Paul even discourages its use in public (1 Corinthians 14:19). The gift of teaching requires a person to extensively study Scripture in order to be effective. Tongues, on the other hand, can be spoken regardless if you’ve been reading your Bible or not. According to James, you should be afraid of becoming a teacher, because teachers will be judged more strictly by God (James 3:1). Jesus even says that it would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck and to be cast into the sea than to lead a little one in the faith astray (Mark 9:42). There are no such warnings for those who possess the gift of tongues. When you teach, you must continually strive to ensure your audience understands what you’re trying to say–praying that the “light bulb” inside their head flashes on. Even if you do end up speaking in tongues publicly, the whole point is that no one understands. No pressure at all! You can totally fake speaking in tongues and no one will ever know. Just speak some gibberish and put a little passion behind it in your voice. People will be unable to prove whether you have the gift or not. Even if you’ve duped yourself into believing that you have the gift of tongues, no one will be the wiser. (That is, unless they have the gift of discernment…but that’s another blog post…) It’s a lot harder than that to fake people into believing that you have the gift of teaching! So there you have it. Five...

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In Defense of Youth Ministry

Aug 09

Many “Christian” parents do very little to disciple their children in the faith. It is a tragedy. One group thinks that the church has done a disservice to parents by developing youth ministries. In their opinion, youth ministry (as well as any age-related ministry) allows parents to shirk their responsibility as the primary spiritual leader of their children. They have produced a video called Divided. While I found several problems with the movie, I’ll point out two: 1. It is clearly fake. It pretends that some kid is on a journey, when he clearly has already come to these conclusions from the teaching of his parents and pastor. No problem that he has come to these opinions, but he pretends like he is still truth-searching. I am guessing this will be revolting to most thinking individuals. 2. It does not portray youth ministry for what it really is. It makes it look like youth ministry is all about entertainment or trying to usurp parental roles. Like most propaganda (and dare I say even conspiracy groups), it has a lot of truth in it, but throws in slight twists to bring the audience to conclusions which are illogical and unfounded. 80% of children/youth leave the church by the time they go to college. I’ve never been a fan of such a statistic. In fact, I want to see that percentage go to zero. But as bad as that number sounds, it may not be as “bad” as it appears on the surface. (Of course that number is bad, but let me explain.) I think this number has always been the case. Even in Jesus’ ministry, the vast majority who followed Him did so for only a time. Regardless of our ministry techniques, I think we have to be aware that most simply won’t follow Jesus all the way. If you have a drastically different number for your church, I question if you are truly following Him or have watered it down. It’s so easy to water down the Gospel. One way to water it down is to stop reaching the messy, hurting world out there–just take care of yourself and your family. Youth ministry says, “No, we will not isolate...

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When Idealism Gets In The Way Of Faith

Jul 23

Since I wrote my last blog post, the conclusion I came to in that post has stuck with me. I think I had a little epiphany when I wrote the last two paragraphs: I must strive to have enough faith in God to believe that He can work through all sorts of situations and people like me that aren’t ideal. Perhaps instead of striving to become a more ideal leader or to make situations more ideal/biblical/effective, I should strive more to place my faith and hope squarely in God, believing that He can do great things in very imperfect situations and through very imperfect people like me. I can’t get away from that thought. I strongly desire to see things become ideal in churches. That’s where my passion lies. It’s ideal if everyone in a local church is on-fire for God–I want to see that happen! It’s ideal if the leadership of a church is unified, passionate, and committed to the Gospel–I want to see that happen! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that God has put those feelings inside of me. The problem comes when I can’t see a way for God to have His way unless those things are in place. I forget that God merely spoke this world into existence–and that He considered that a full-day’s work. After six days of speaking, He felt the need to take a day off to rest, ha! God only has to speak the word, and He has His way. No matter how ideal or depressing a situation is, He squirms His way through and performs a miracle. Whether it is the miracle of life or the miracle of life from the dead, a simple faith in God is all it takes to move mountains. You don’t need this in place or that in place. All you need is God to show up. And He promises to show up where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name. Take a look at the stars at night and let them remind you of everything our God can...

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The Gospel (according to ______?)

Jun 07

Over the past year, many of my posts in this blog have been devoted to the Gospel. The Gospel (as given to us by Scripture) is the foundation of our faith, according to Ephesians 2:20. The problem is, it is easy to trade the Gospel that is given to us by the apostles and prophets in Scripture for a more contemporary one. We do this oftentimes without even realizing it. This is why it’s so important to keep reading the Bible. “We don’t worship the Bible; we worship Jesus.” This is true, but the Christian faith has been passed down to us from those who “saw and heard these things.” They continually warned us to not listen to others who think they know more or know better than the apostles or prophets of old. Even if they have claimed to receive something directly from Jesus. This has always been a problem, even in Old Testament times. It is easy to stray from what has already been given by God. We learn who Jesus was and is, based on those who actually knew Him and His apostles. As much as the Christian faith is about trusting Jesus and His message, it’s about trusting that those who wrote the Scriptures properly passed down Jesus’ message. As time goes on, however, the Church strays away from the original teachings of the apostles/prophets. It happens to all of us, including me. Recently, I came across an article that was written by Keith Green about thirty years ago. So much of what he said challenges me and confirms much of what I have been processing through for the past year on this blog. As you read the article, you might think, “I thought the Gospel was supposed to be easy to understand–why complicate it?” I don’t think Keith Green is complicating it. Yes, the Gospel is easy to understand, but it is also easy to twist. It is important that we continually re-examine what it is we are teaching others. Are we passing along the Good News from God? Or is it some tabloid gossip that’s coming from less credible sources? If you claim to be a Christian, but feel you cannot trust the...

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