Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Spiritual Person

It has been said that he who has the most need of righteousness wants it least. Some would excuse that and say that maybe they are not aware of the need. But if we really cut to the chase and get real, I think that true Christians are always aware of the need for righteousness. The question is, do we pursue it? If you think, "I am really doing well, and I don't really know that I need more righteousness", then you are in greater need than you realize.

The great apostle Paul, after years of walking with the Lord, said, "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me" (Philippians 3:12).

A real mark of a spiritual person is they are always hungry and thirsty for more and more and more of God. But there are certain things that spoil our appetite. Sometimes we feed on spiritual junk food and diminish our spiritual appetites. Health, wealth, and prosperity teaching, seeking a man-centered theology that asks, "What can God do for me?" instead of "What can I do for God?" can fill you up...but it's a bad thing to feast on. It's not healthy. In the end it will leave you hungry...and hungry for more junk food (i.e. false teaching). Careful what you consume because you are what you eat spiritually (I know this because I've even in this church). Some things just take the edge off our appetite for the true things of God.

So periodically we need to ask ourselves a question: Is this thing I am engaged in—this relationship, this pursuit, this activity—making me more or less hungry for spiritual things? Does it draw me closer to God, or does it in some way keep me away from Him more? Is it a turbo booster or a weight in the race of life? Does it speed me on my way, or does it slow me down?

Hebrews 12:1 tells us, "Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." If you are really hungry and thirsty for righteousness, you will find it. Because if you really want something, then you will put yourself in that place where you will get it. Pray and ask God to help you hunger and thirst and go after what He wants for you. Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Your Children and Cell Phones

I've had a couple parents call me in the last few weeks asking me about issues that they are having with their teens. All of these issues stem from the temptations that come with technology. Pornography on the web (and on the phone), texting or "sexting" as they call it now. Parents of teens and preteens need to wake up to the temptations that we are throwing our kids into, unintentionally of course, with the technology that makes immorality easily accessible. Let's be honest, some of our kids are just not ready for it (and as parents, you are not ready either). So before you go buy your 12 year old (or 7 year old) their own cell phone and netbook, consider this article written by Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Pray about it and talk to your spouse of what your course of action should be. Know that as a pastor, I'm praying for this whole generation of parents as they face these issues.

Does Your Child’s Cell Phone Preach Another Gospel?
I’m afraid I’m not the most popular pastor with the ten to fourteen-year-old demographic in my church right now. I took on an issue, parenthetically, yesterday that caused frenzied looks and agape mouths. I dared to question the theology of text-messaging.

Rifling through some things the other day I found some church bulletins from my home congregation from the 1980s. All over the back of them I can see my teenage handwriting, interspersed with that of my youth group friends. There’s some tic-tac-toe there, and some plans being made for after-church Capture the Flag games, and so on.

I realized that the pre-teens and teenagers in my congregation won’t ever have such things, not because they’re too holy to ever pass a note in church, but because cell-phone technology has made it as easy, and as temporal, as a text-message.

Text-messaging is easy, and can easily break the boredom of a classroom or a family dinner, and it can put one in touch with people one’s parents never know one is “talking” to. That’s easily enough remedied by Christ-following parents, but I wonder if the cellphone isn’t being used as just one more opportunity to preach a misleading gospel to our kids.

The formation and discipline of children, after all, is built on the pattern of God’s fatherly discipline of his people (Heb 12:3-11), seen in his discipline of Israel (Deut 8:1-20) and, ultimately, in his discipleship of the incarnate Christ (Luke 2:20, John 5:19-20; Heb 2:10). Our discipline of our families is rooted, then, in the Fatherhood “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14).

I wonder, then, when it comes to cell phones, how many parents do precisely what our Father never does, and never will do. James tell us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:14). The Apostle Paul tells us that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

That’s why our God, through the Law of Moses, treats his people as a tightly-governed child “under guardians and managers until the date set by his father” (Gal 4:2). He carefully works us toward maturity, seeing that we’re faithful in small things before putting us over many things. That’s what a good and loving Father does.

A pre-teen or a teenager with unrestricted cell-phone usage (or Internet or television consumption) is being placed in a very, very difficult place of temptation. The company of that young man or woman is now away from the scrutiny of parents, and is now left only to his or her discretion or conscience. Are there some young Christians who can handle such? Of course. Should you assume your child is one of them? Your Father is more careful of you than that.

First of all, pre-teens and teenagers, simply, brace yourself, don’t need cellphones. I know you’re immediately responding with safety issues, etc. Nonetheless, for thousands of years pre-teens and teenagers have safely grown to adulthood without having communication devices in their pockets. Pre-teens and teenagers all over the world do it right now, and they survive.

Second, if your child does have a cellphone, this means you have a cellphone. Your responsibility is to know about every call, and the identity of every person text-messaging your son or daughter. You don’t have time to monitor this? Then you don’t have time for your child to have a cellphone.

This doesn’t mean you have to turn your house into an Inquisition hall. It simply means your child knows that you love him or her enough to check in frequently to see what’s going on in life. It also means that you communicate clearly that the child doesn’t have a personal cellphone, autonomous of your authority. It’s your cellphone, and your child is using it.

Communicating your love to your child means communicating your involvement. The gospel message is one of Fatherhood and sonship, of a Father who knows the hairs on our head (Luke 12:7), who fights for his children when they’re tested, tempted, or mistreated. Picture that kind of God to your children, even if they grumble and complain at first. So did we, and all those before us, when we were first delivered from our respective Pharaohs into a Father’s house.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Help Me Pray

One of the things the Holy Spirit does in our lives is to help us with our prayers.
Why? Because if we are honest with ourselves, there are times when we don't really know what or how to pray. Maybe you are overwhelmed by a burden. You find yourself discouraged, depressed, and overwhelmed. Maybe the weight of the world is bearing you down and you are feeling like there's no hope. It is at that point that the Holy Spirit intercedes for the believer.

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a "Counselor." In John 14:16, He said, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever." The Holy Spirit is also referenced as the "Helper" and "Comforter" in that same verse in other translations.

We have lost the meaning of the word "comforter" or "counselor", I believe. It comes from the Greek word paracletos, which means "called alongside to help," as a helper, aide, or assistant. This gives us the idea that the Holy Spirit of God is right there, pulling for us, helping guide our minds and actions in Christ Jesus. Some versions translate paracletos as the word "advocate," which is applied to Jesus in 1 John 2:1: "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous". The purpose of an advocate is to plead the cause of another—to be an intercessor. This is part of the work that the Holy Spirit has come to do in our lives.

Here's the good news: sometimes just a sigh or thought will do. Why? Because we don't always have to put words to our prayers. The Holy Spirit knows our thoughts and feelings and worries. And the Holy Spirit will do the rest for us in intercession. Trust me; I have done this many times myself. I don't know what to say, or how to say it. I just know that I am in pain or anguish, that I'm under the stress and weight of the world; so I sigh, I think, I surrender, and sometimes I might even cry. God hears and understands my plight. That's where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Romans 8:26–27 tells us, "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will."(NLT)

Having trouble praying? Quit trying to find words and just yearn for God. His Spirit will take care of the rest.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Whoa, 20K

It was just 2 years ago that I started the blog and it just crossed 20,000 hits yesterday. Wow. Seems crazy. I appreciate all of you who read and I pray that you are challenged to move toward God in your life as you see me unpack my brain. I'm humbled by the responses I get. Thanks so much for the readership!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I've got an H.S.O. (hot sports opinion, I'll explain what that means someday...or ask me!) that I need to let out. Don't burn the koran. It won't help anything. It will just tick the Muslims off. I don't agree with their book or their religion-based animosity and jihadism just as much as anyone else. They are a false religion, but let's remember that Satan is the father of lies! Their deceived, people!!! I've got hurt feelings about 9/11 just like anyone else, but burning the koran isn't going to help. I just got invited on Facebook from someone to join them in the movement "burn the Koran day". I mean, come on! Really? Is that what we're called to do?! Let's do something valuable like pray for these people! Wasn't it Jesus (the Son of God) that said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." & "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...". The good that Jesus was talking about was not burning their book. W.W.J.D.? Probably pray for them and try to talk to them about God's love for them and show them the way to life that is truly life!

Glad that I could get that off my chest. Thanks for letting me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Holy Spirit...a Planner?

As a preacher who's in the pulpit every week, I want to express how encouraging it is when people share with me what God has done in their life. I preached a message today called Good & Angry. I shared the passage about Moses and Aaron in Numbers 20:2-13 where Moses snaps and loses the ability to enter the Promise Land. After the service today, there were many that shared how practical the message was and how it had spoken to them. Apparently there are many who are dealing with anger right now!

It never ceases to amaze me how God and His Spirit can work in the planning. I didn't just come up with the message this week. This message and the passage were planned at least 2 months ago. But God's timing on His preaching calendar for me must have been just right. I was both overwhelmed and humbled when I talked to person after person who said that they had received just what they needed from the message. Some of them needed the steps to self-control. Others were convicted. Others were just needing to own up to their anger and explosions. Still others just needed to hear the message for preventive maintenance, I guess.

Many preachers today pride themselves in "letting the Holy Spirit guide them". All spiritual leaders should strive for this. But I find more often than not, that preachers who are not planners claim that the Holy Spirit is somehow more at work in their spontaneity, if you will, than those who plan ahead. It's a cheap way to act spiritual if you ask me. Sometimes I think that preachers who are throwing together messages on Friday night and Saturday aren't waiting on the Holy Spirit to guide them. They are just procrastinating and trying to make it look as if it's something spiritual. I know this because I used to work for someone who wasn't good at planning anything ahead because they "wanted to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work." Whatever! What I am finding is that the Holy Spirit is in the planning. He was obviously in every part of the service today. I am open to God's changes at the last minute and have done that before, but more often than not I find that He's been guiding me all along, yes, even several months ago. I just pray as I plan that His will be done and that He would guide us every step of the way as we look to future service planning and teaching series.

I'm thankful for the comments and stories because they do encourage me. I feel God's accomplished what He's desired through me. I'm simply His slave. I'm committed to do what I feel that God is leading me to do regardless of how people respond, encouraging or not. But today was a special day that God orchestrated at just the right time for so many people that needed it. And to have the affirmation that God is using I'm humbled, amazed, and so glad in my heart.

Now I'm just it again, God! Do it again! (Maybe even next Sunday!)