Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crazy Comments

In reading through Chapter 5 in Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love, I was faced with many questions. Chan does not play around in Chapter 4 (about lukewarm Christians) or Chapter 5 (about giving God our "leftovers"). I felt like I had gone 12 rounds with a prized fighter after reading these chapters!

While Chan's writing is compelling, I'd have to say it's also somewhat controversial. There's no way I can really go into all of it right here, but here is a sampling of the quotes from this chapter:

  • To put it plainly, churchgoers who are lukewarm are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven. (p. 84)
  • The thought of a person calling himself a “Christian” without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd. (p. 85)
  • Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily being disciples. (p. 87)
  • To call somebody a Christian simply because he does some Christian-y things is giving false comfort to the unsaved. (p. 88)
  • God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. (p. 91)
  • Many of us believe we have as much of God as we want right now, a reasonable portion of God among all the other things in our lives. (p. 96)
But, here's the question that had me reeling...and the one we discussed at length this morning in my guys' study:
  • “Can I go to heaven without truly and faithfully loving Jesus?” Chan says this is the unthinkable question that most of us ask ourselves.
I agree with much of what Chan writes. But, I think through it all we must remember that we have a loving, merciful Father who pours out His grace on us - and it's never because we deserve it!

I think it's dangerous to make people begin to question their salvation. None of us are worthy of God's love...but He gives it freely anyway. I agree that a Christ-follower who has a thriving relationship with God will have have evidence of fruit in his life, while those who only live for themselves have a "dead faith."

And, I do think a lot of people who profess to be Christians are not necessarily followers of the Way (his disciples).

But, I cannot say that "lukewarm Christians" will not be in heaven. Last I checked, we all fall short of the mark, and the only requirement to be included among God's children is to accept the gift of His son, and invite him to be a part of our lives.

I doesn't excuse sin by any means. But, I would much prefer to err on the side of God's grace rather than God's disappointment with His children.

Thank goodness I'm not God. I'll leave the judging to Him.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Be a Great Dad

Don’t let the title fool you. I haven’t mastered fatherhood by any stretch. My kids will vouch for that. But, over the past decade, I have learned some things - mostly through making mistakes - that have aided in my paternal development. So, in honor of Father’s Day– here are five ways you can be a better dad to your kids.
  1. Love their mom. When you love your wife and show your affection to her, your children are much more secure. Flowers and diamonds are nice, but that isn’t exactly what I am talking about. Flirt with her. Hug and kiss her. Go out on date nights together, so your kids can see you have a thriving relationship. Great dads love their kids’ moms.

  2. Embrace your role as Leader. The man is appointed as the spiritual head of the household. That is not up for debate. Even if you never go to church, read your Bible, say prayers, or think of anyone but yourself, you (the dad) are the spiritual leader in your home. Just because you are the leader doesn’t mean you are an effective one, or that you are making the wise choice every time. But, you are the leader nonetheless.

    True male role models are scarce these days, and many guys simply hand the reigns over to their wives to raise the kids and be the spiritual influence. Research has shown that if the father is an active believer (in Christ), his kids have a 75 percent chance to also come to know Christ. If only the mother has an active relationship with Jesus, that percentage plummets to a mere 15 percent. Big deal. A dad’s influence continues to be more powerful than we imagine.

  3. Discipline your children. Proverbs 13:24 says, A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. (MSG) It’s easy to identify children who have little or no parental discipline. Now, discipline doesn’t mean “a whoopin’.” It means correction. It means privileges FOLLOW responsibility. It means making unpopular decisions that are in your kids’ best interest. And, it must start before they can talk. Almost always, a parent who attempts to begin to discipline their kids after age 5 or 6 will give up the fight because of the resistance with which they are met. Provide loving discipline at an early age, and watch your kids thrive.

  4. Get away. Not FROM your kids; WITH your kids. There will always be enough work to keep you busy. But, precious time with your family is something you won’t get back. Dads are divided. They have an obligation to their jobs, but a yearning to spend time with their families. Sadly, most choose work first and put off family time until later, “after I complete this business deal…or merger…or earn ‘this much’ money.”

    In his book, When the Game is Over, it All Goes Back in the Box, John Ortberg lists four regrets people have in their finals years on earth. Three of these regrets are profoundly affected by the amount of time one spends with family: I would have loved more deeply; I would have laughed more often; and I would have lived more boldly. It’s tough to avoid these areas of regret if your family plays second-fiddle. Work can wait. Believe me…it can.

  5. Be kind. This is probably the toughest one for me. When I spend all day working, I can sometimes come home in a rotten mood. The truth of the matter is that the best part of our day is often spent at work. For me, my best time of day is mid-morning. I’m at work, and the kids are at school. So, I have to work extra-hard to adjust my mind and heart to be kind and affirming to my kids when I see them each evening. Kids are excited to get to spend time with dad after he’s been gone all day. Don’t thwart that enthusiasm because you “had a long day.” Your kids love you, and can help you forget the stress and distractions of work, if you’ll focus on their needs.

    Second, we as dads need to be kind to others. Our kids’ character depends on it. If they witness you being kind to others, they are likely to treat people the same way. When parents have a short fuse or are overly critical, you can bet the kids will adopt a similar attitude. In the end, the apple will not fall far from the tree. Children will learn behavior from their parents – and their dads in particular. They are ALWAYS paying attention – whether you realize it or not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This is Gonna Hurt

I was preparing for my guys' small group, and just felt compelled to share the insights Francis Chan shares in his book Crazy Love. This week's discussion is entitled Profile of the Lukewarm. Chan throws down the gauntlet on believers who talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

I gotta admit that this stuff isn't easy to read. It'll convict you and make you squirm a little. It did me. I'd like to challenge you to read through it and let it linger a little bit. Think about it, pray about it, and do something about it. That's the challenge I have as well!

In Chan's words, LUKEWARM PEOPLE...

· Attend church regularly. Is what “good Christians do,” so they go.
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

· Give money and to the church…as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:3-4 (NIV)

· Choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside the church.
"I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone-dead. Rev. 3:1 (MSG)

· Don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)

· Are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 (NLT)

· Rarely share their faith with their neighbors, co-workers or friends for fear of rejection.
“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (NLT)

· Gauge their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world. We’re not as “hard core” as so-and-so, but nowhere near as horrible as the guy down the street.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ Luke 18:11-12 (NLT)

· Say they love Jesus and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part.
Read Luke 9:57-62

· Love God, but not with all their heart, sould, and strength. They say they “try to,” but is only possible for pastors, missionaries, and other super-spiritual people.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT)

· Love others, but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return.
Read Matthew 5:43-47

· Will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go, or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give.
When Jesus heard this, he said, "There is one thing you still need to do. Go and sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower." When the man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich. Jesus saw how sad the man was. So he said, "It's terribly hard for rich people to get into God's kingdom! In fact, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God's kingdom." Luke 18:22-25 (CEV)

· Think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. – C.S. Lewis

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:2 (21st Cen. KJV)

· Are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider giving as much as possible to the poor. Few feel “called” to minister to the poor.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

· Do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 1 Chronicles 29:14 (NLT)

· Are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NIV)

· Feel secure because they attend church, make a profession of faith at age 12, were baptized, vote Republican…etc…
"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. Matthew 7:21 (MSG)

· Do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.
Read Luke 12:16-21

· Really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever.
Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:28 (NLT)

“Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away.” Luke 14:34-35 (NLT)

Jesus…is saying that lukewarm, half-hearted following is useless, that it sickens our soul. How would you like the Son of God to say to you, “You would ruin manure?”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's the Deal with Dinos?

I've always had a fascination with dinosaurs. There's something very mysterious about that subject that has always been very thought-provoking.

Recently, I asked some fellow staff members about "dinosaurs and the Bible," and got some interesting responses. The bottom line is that none of us really know when (in terms of the Bible) dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Scientific evidence shows that dinosaurs existed between 65 and 150 million years ago. Evidence also points to a meteorite smashing into the earth around 65 million years ago (coincidence? hmmm) that wiped out almost the entire dinosaur population. Changes in the climate as a result of this catastrophic event likely eliminated the rest of them over time, as they were unable to adapt quickly enough to survive.

However, some staunch Bible "literalists" don't think that is true, despite virtually foolproof methods of dating fossils. This line of thinking holds that dinosaurs co-existed with man only four or five thousand years ago, before the Flood (yes - the one with Noah).

If scientific evidence shows that the earth is billions of years old, I tend to believe that. I don't think that our God - the Creator - would deceive us into believing that the earth is only a few thousand years old, when all evidence shows that adaptations, climate changes, and geologic changes in the earth have been transpiring for hundreds of millions of years.

Again, I could be wrong. It's just my opinion. But, either way, I wouldn't claim to know all the answers. God gave us minds to think, to ponder, to ask questions, and to dig deeper for answers. Some questions have been answered over time, and many others remain great mysteries. And, I have no problem with that.

My problem lies with groups on both sides of the coin who say it MUST be "this way" or "that way." It's either totally a literal interpretation of scripture, or it's 100% scientific explanation. God and science - like it or not - DO co-exist.

Could God have created everything in the bat of an eye? Yes! He could have! But, time - to God - is likely much different that what our feeble minds can fathom. The Bible says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." So, who can really know what "the beginning" means? If God has always been (YHWH - "I AM") then what signifies the beginning?

OK, this could go on forever. Suffice it to say that we don't have all the answers, and we never will. God left many blanks in His creation. Why? Because, "without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). Having it all figured out would require no faith on our part.

I believe God takes great pleasure in our discoveries of His creation. Little by little, He allows us to catch another glimpse of His awesome creativity.

But, He's not going to play His entire hand. Not just yet. That will come when He shows us once again what His creation was supposed to be like. Until then, we'll just have to wait - and debate - and trust - that God has it all under control. His control.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Is Cussing Really Cool?

I've shared my thoughts about using profanity on many occasions. Bottom line is that I hate it, and it disturbs me greatly. Cussers, generally speaking, are self-absorbed and - in my opinion - ignorant people.

Many people cuss because they think it's cool. Or, they want to fit in. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into the church world in recent years, as many pastors have begun to use words like "sucks, pissed off, and crap" (among others) from the pulpit during their sermons.

Recently, Ed Young Jr., founding pastor of Fellowship Church in the Dallas, Texas area, posted a video blog about this. I thought it was worth sharing here. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!