Random Thoughts

I love preaching and our people, but I wonder if I’m missing something if the only thing people come away saying is, “OK, now I understand that passage.” Is the point of preaching merely to accurately teach information? I don’t think so. Certainly preaching must have teaching information from the text, but it must urge application of the text. Something must change in our lives because of God’s Word. Like @mattferd said, yes it’s the Spirit’s job to prod and work in ways I can’t. But is the Spirit prone to apply a sermon that is basically a historical lesson that doesn’t urge life-change? Just asking.

My meetup softball group is almost done meeting. I was standing in left field on Saturday thinking, “You know, is the way I live my life really that much different than these people?” Yeah, their sexual ethics are likely different, and many of them have poor language, but when I get up in the morning, do I have different motives than them that lead to different actions? Am I living distinct enough to really show that following Jesus really does impact someone’s life? I want to.

The playoffs start tomorrow. Baseball is a great sport because its so different than any other one. Everything is so precise. The difference between being paid millions more every year is the difference between batting .280 and .250. That’s 3 hundredths of a difference. And now after 162 games, the Reds’ season comes down to one against the Pirates in a one and done game tomorrow night. Looking forward to seeing what happens!

We love our daughter. She has a one month checkup today. A week or so ago I was thinking out loud to Lynsey: “She’s not going to leave the house for a substantial amount of time until 5 years from now.” FIVE YEARS!! And she won’t talk until about a year from now. It seems so slow right now. (I know, all you parents with older kids are going to give me the “But before you know it . . .”)

 

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Like a Grizzly Bear Riding a Tricycle

434855-bigthumbnailYes, Christians sin. But when a Christian sins, there’s something that’s very . . . strange about it. It’s out of character. It’s not living according to how they are. It’s not being true to themselves.

When a Christian sins its like a big Grizzly Bear riding a tricycle. You can teach one to do it, sure. But as you watch it happen you just know, “Man, you were made for more than this.”

So it is with Christians when they sin. Sure, it can happen, and it does. But when it does, I wonder if God is thinking, “I redeemed you for more than this.”

After all, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17).

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*Thanks to Dr. Mark Coppenger from Southern Seminary for this analogy.

Why “How Far is Too Far” Is a Really Bad Question

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You’ve heard it asked before. “OK, so sex before marriage is wrong, but how much can we do and still be good with God?”

I’m not sure if there’s a worse question a dating couple can ask.

There are two reasons this is a bad question:

1. It assumes God’s promises aren’t good for you.

That question has an underlying mindset that God is out to keep us from having fun. So yeah, we’ll give Him lip service because we don’t want to get struck with a lightning bolt or go to hell, but lets still have as much fun as He’ll let us before that happens. After all, God is out to get us, and everyone knows that it is satisfying to have as much fun with as many different partners as possible. Sex in a faithful, lifelong monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is no fun. (BTW, the numbers prove otherwise.)

2. It doesn’t come from a heart of love for God.

If I were to tell you that I love you as a friend, but right after that, ask what would be the minimum requirements to maintain our friendship, what would your response be?

What if I did the same thing to my wife? “Babe, I love you. Now, what is the absolute least I have to do in order for you to not divorce me?”

Rightfully, you would question whether or not I really loved you or loved my wife. A true heart of love seeks to do whatever it can to make the one he loves happy. And if someone seeks the minimum, it is likely a sign that his allegiance lies elsewhere.

When we ask the question, “How far is too far,” let’s be honest with ourselves. It does not reflect a heart that wants to love and serve God. It reflects a heart that wants the benefits that God gives without actually giving God anything of value. In the same way a guy wants to use his girl to satisfy his flesh (or vice versa!), it shows he wants to use God to do the same thing.

A Better Question

There isn’t one person in Scripture that was viewed as positive who wanted to do the minimum requirements to serve God. There is also not one command for Christians to go as close to sin as they can without “crossing the line.”

In fact, Scripture says Christians should “flee” unrighteousness.

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things (1 Tim 6:11).

Flee sexual immorality . . . (1 Cor 6:18).

Flee from idolatry . . . (1 Cor 10:14).

Flee youthful passions . . . (2 Tim 2:22).

When Joseph was drawn by Potiphar’s wife to sleep with her, he didn’t get as close to intercourse as he possibly could and still maintain he was free from guilt. No. He ran away as fast as he could. He fled.

The question men and women of God must ask ourselves when it comes to dating isn’t “How far is too far in being physical?” The question to ask is, “By God’s grace, how far will He empower me to pursue righteousness?”

Asking this question seeks God’s best and encourages a loving response to God instead of trying to manipulate Him. Let’s start with asking how we can please God, not how much we can get away with.

A Danger for Church Revitalizers

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. Proverbs 21:5

red_rectangle_danger_sign_lRevitalizing a church carries certain dangers, especially for a rookie pastor. One that keeps creeping up on me is the need to look for a magic bullet. I feel the urgency and burden of needing to see our church change, but the rate of change doesn’t match my level of urgency. So I look for that program. That volunteer. That amount of money. That style of music. That new purchase. That new design. “There has to be something pastors in the past haven’t thought of yet that will fix everything,” I think.

I’m sure there is something to be said for these kinds of things, but there is also something very unhealthy and dangerous about being hasty when it comes to church revitalization.

If a church is like a ship, then trying to turn too sharply will actually lead to capsizing the vessel instead of moving in a different direction. So too will being hasty in decisions.

There are things to change. There are old habits that need to die. There are new things God is doing in hearts. But the hasty do not see these things happen. The diligent do.

And so I remind myself of God’s Word on this. Then we turn the wheel not sharply, but slightly, looking to where God is moving us, trusting Him to be enough when the burden of ministry isn’t satisfied by circumstance.

How Satan Tempts Us

19350The father of all lies hates us. He’d love to see us burn in an eternal hell, and he’ll do anything he can to make it happen.

Here are three ways he might try:

1. Get us to doubt God’s Word. 

Satan’s words to Eve in the Garden were “Has God really said . . . ?” (Gen 3:1). The first step he takes is to undermine the authority of the Word of God in our lives. God clearly told Adam and Eve His Word, and the first thing Satan did was try to cast a little doubt on it.The deceiver’s doubts might come to us a little differently, but with basically the same intent. “Maybe this just wasn’t translated well.” “Well, God couldn’t really mean we should actually love our enemies.” “There’s no way God could really hate divorce. That’s such a strong word!”Once we have doubted God’s Word, we’re right where Satan wants us–unstable, and ready to be tossed to and fro by another wind of false doctrine.

2. Create a false reality.

“You will not surely die . . .” (Gen 3:4). This is the part that’s a flat out lie. Satan loves denying the truth of God and encouraging people to “exchange the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 2).Satan will do whatever it takes to convince you that the consequences of sin aren’t as bad as God has said they would be. The pain won’t be that bad. There isn’t anything after this life, so live it up! Sex before marriage doesn’t cause distance and emptiness! You won’t feel remorse or have life-long issues after you abort your baby! Hell isn’t real!A false reality results in faulty actions. If the tempter can get you to dilute the consequences for your actions, then you’re pretty close to hooked.

3. Cast doubt on God’s good intentions for you.

“God knows that when you eat of it, you will be like God . . . ” (Gen 3:5). Here Satan convinced Eve that God didn’t have her best intentions at heart. She believed there was something she was missing out on; something God was holding from her that would have made her life better.This is exactly what happens when Satan tempts us. When we hear a command of God and are tempted to disobey Him, we think, “I’m missing out on all the fun!” In this moment what we’re really telling God is, “You don’t really care for me. You’re holding out. You don’t have my best intentions at heart.”What we don’t realize is that fullness of joy is in the presence of God. He is a well that does not run dry, and everything that could ever satisfy us is God Himself. God’s ways are for our good! Not exactly like medicine (although His good discipline is painful), but because they actually result in our happiness and flourishing!

Detroit: the most segregated city in America

I came across this map last night over at Wired. It is fascinating.

As it relates to Detroit, the dividing line between the African American community and the white community is astounding. North of 8 mile road is white people, and south of 8-mile road is black people. And the two pretty much don’t mix . . . at all.

Not sure what it means, other than the obvious segregation. I hope it doesn’t mean we’re racist, although I have my doubts. I’m certain this is not reflective of what heaven will be like.

Praying for the day when our church is so integrated that the only thing we have in common is the gospel.

Caroline Marie Riggs

Lynsey and I had our first child a week ago Wednesday. She came out at 8lbs 6oz, and 21in long. Needless to say, we are loving her so much already.

We’re thankful to have had both my parents and Lynsey’s here shortly after the birth so she could meet her wonderful grandparents. Lynsey’s Mom has been with us since then and has been a lifesaver. My Mom is coming on Sunday to help as well, we’re looking forward to that.

A few pictures, for those of you that like that kind of thing. 🙂

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Oh, you know, just chillin . . . alive!!

Yes, that IS a dimple!

Yes, that IS a dimple!

Mom and Dad with their 7th grandchild.

Mom and Dad with their 7th grandchild.

 

 

DeYoung on the Best in Preaching

Kevin DeYoung has a good post with a particular application for preachers. He encourages us to make the best things we say in the pulpit be our exegesis, not our humor or antics.

The best part of the blog reads:

The congregation should be most aflame with gospel zeal when they are beholding new things in the chapters and verses at the end of their noses. God uses all of the preacher–personality, humor, gestures–all of us. But the indelible impression left on our people must be a sense of the presence of God arising from careful attention to the word of God. If the best stuff we have every Sunday is disconnected from our hard won exegetical work, our people will learn to trust us and not the Book. They will look forward to our new antics, not our new discoveries in the text.

Here’s the entire post. Worth your time.

Why We Should Talk About Sex and Sexuality at Church

men-and-women-symbolsThere’s a certain stigma at many churches that we shouldn’t talk about things that are sensitive or super personal–especially to students.

The problem with that is students are forming their worldview about sensitive and super personal topics whether not we’re talking about them at church.

We need to match the candor of the truth of God’s Word with the candor from the media.

Part of my responsibilities at Central are to teach on Wednesdays to students–high schoolers and college students. Next Wednesday we’ll be starting a series about everything related to sexuality.

I’m going to shoot straight and be very challenging with them. Why? Because they’re thinking about it and are being shaped by our culture. And I’m guessing they haven’t heard much of anything about sex at church other than “Don’t do it until you’re married, and even when you’re married, don’t enjoy it.”

Neglecting to talk about these issues is sending a loud message to those grappling with them: God’s Word is irrelevant to your real life. It’s telling our students that the Bible it cool for knowing where Paul went on his missionary journeys, but for the nitty gritty stuff of life, nah. We’d rather not talk about that here.

Guess what, if we can’t answer intelligibly, truthfully, and compassionately from God’s Word, then people will get answers elsewhere.

*Rant over*

I’ll probably share some of what we’ll discuss here on the blog. Until then, here’s a few topics we’ll be covering, all from Scripture:

  • Sexuality 101–what does it mean that God made us as sexual beings, what happens when people have sex?
  • Why is sex before marriage such a big deal?
  • Homosexuality 1–if God makes people, how could the way I am be wrong?
  • Homosexuality 2–is there any hope for gay people?
  • Homosexuality 3–practical questions and answers
  • Physical Affection for Dating Couples–what is or isn’t appropriate?
  • Sex in marriage–are there lines to cross or not cross?

Are there any particular aspects of this you think high schoolers and college students need to hear about that I haven’t mentioned?