Posts Tagged ‘5 Things’

Jun
06
2013

Five Common Mistakes Christian Parents Make

My wife and I are in the throes of parenting and are surrounded, in our church and among friends, with other parents in the throes of parenting. So my parenting radar is hot. I’m learning, growing, repenting everyday as I ask the Lord to make me a faithful dad.

It’s often easier to learn how to get better at parenting by observing and owning our mistakes. So here is a list of five tendencies Christian parents have. I hope it helps you think through this journey:

1) We overexpose our kids to the culture. The Bible doesn’t use the term, “culture”, but there is a very similar word, “world.” This is a loose definition of the prevailing thinking in a given society. Typically the values of the culture run counter to the way of Christ. Not always. Sometimes a culture is shaped by Christian influence. Today, we parents should be cautious in what we allow our kids to imbibe. We can be passive in allowing them to form ungodly convictions based on what everyone else is thinking and saying. What’s more, there are corrosive images that can hurt their souls. This is why we have to be wise to monitor the media they consume, how much time they spend online, and the amount of time they spend with friends.

2) We underexpose our kids to the culture. This is an equal and and opposite danger to overexposure. It is easy to adopt a fortress mentality as parents, sheltering our kids so much from the world that they have no ability to discern truth from error, ugliness from beauty. There is a tendency to overprotect our kids so much so that we fail to prepare them for their mission in this world. Our kids will one day live as adults and will require the requisite skills, both spiritual and social, to make wise choices. If our only parenting mode is protection, we fail to teach them how to apply the Scriptures to the reality of life in a sinful world. What’s more we rob them of the God-glorifying act of enjoying, consuming, and creating the best of culture: art, beauty, and grace as expressed by artists whose talent points to a masterful Creator.

3) We mediate all of their petty disputes. I wonder if there is a more difficult thing to resist than the impulse to dive in and solve all of my kids interpersonal problems with their friends. But I’ve found that when I become my child’s defense attorney, all the time, it not only harms my child’s ability to make good choices, it destroys the fragile unity among Christian parents. At times there are issues that are serious that must be addressed and there are times when a parent has to step in if a child is being bullied or abused. I’m not talking about these moments. I’m talking about the every day, garden-variety squabbles that kids have. Let’s face it, our kids are sinners in a fallen world. They will, at times, say things and do things that surprise and shock and hurt. They will at times be the recipient of hurtful words and actions. If we step in and take it personally every single time a kid calls our kid a name, we’ll not train them for life in the real world. We’ll damage their ability to work out forgiveness and repentance. And when they grow to be adults and face life in the world, wow, they will be in for a big, huge, rude awakening. It is said often in Scripture that we demonstrate our love for God by the way we treat people. So we need to let our kids learn these lessons as they interact with their friends.

4) We focus only on short-term behaviors. I’m learning this lesson as my daughter Grace gets older. She’s eight now and we’ve given her some liberty to go a few houses down and visit with her friends. These are good families with whom we have relationships. At times, we’ve gotten upset with Grace because she made poor choices, such as going past the boundaries we’ve set because her friends encouraged her. Or maybe going into someone else’s house or backyard without our approval. Sometimes it’s a simple act of disobedience. But there are other times when, frankly, she was presented with quick choices and wasn’t sure how to respond. We’ve often just reprimanded her for not getting our permission, but we have realized that we didn’t always give her the tools to choose wisely. So we’re sitting her down and running through scenarios, trying to train her how to make wise choices in the moment. We parents have a tendency to allow the frustration of the moment or just pure laziness to set a pattern of simply punishing behaviors rather than trying to set our kids up with the right information and tools to make good choices. We have to remember that there will be a time in the future when they won’t have us around anymore. And so if we make every decision for them. If we give them no space to fail and come back and figure out what they did wrong, if we don’t equip them to discern, they will be helpless when the time comes for them to be on their own. In the back our minds we have remember that we’re not simply training our children to be good, we’re equipping them for God’s unique mission in their generation. Are we doing this?

5) We overcompensate for our perceived childhood gaps. Every generation tends to react to the mistakes (perceived or real) of the previous generation. You hear it in our talk. “My parents never gave me X, so I want to make sure my kids have Y.” What we don’t understand is that our parents were doing the same thing. So the imbalance we experience was likely a reaction to their parents. We want to avoid the reactive, seesaw parenting if we can. It’s good to hilight areas where we think our parents might have missed the mark, but let’s be careful of the pendulum. So if you grew up in a legalistic environment and didn’t like that, your tendency will be toward permissiveness. If you grew up in a loose household, you’ll tend toward legalism, especially if you became a Christian late in life. We are wise to recognize the extremes and avoid them. Furthermore, let’s let the Scriptures and the influence of the Spirit of God guide us. And let’s resist the temptation to reactionary parenting based on what we experienced in our own childhoods. Because, like our parents, we’re fallen sinners in need of God’s grace. Our parenting will have huge gaps. And in twenty years it may be our children sitting on someone’s couch, lamenting the failures of their mother and father. So let’s have some humility.

Feb
13
2013

5 Things Every Son Needs to Hear From His Dad

By God’s good grace, I’m the father of four beautiful children: three girls and one boy. Last week I wrote about the 5 things a daughter must hear from her dad. Today I want to talk about fathers and sons.

Just as there is something wonderful about being the father of daughters, there is something wonderful about being the father of a son. In my house, Daniel Jr (4) and I are outmatched four-to-one by girls, so we sort of stick together to make sure everything is not painted pink, some football gets watched on a regular basis, and that we watch as many superhero movies as Barbie movies.

Seriously though, the job of raising a son is a noble and important task. It is a job many men abdicate, leading to what is now a full-blown crisis in our country: a crisis of fatherhood. Look up the statistics when you have time and you will see that a very high percentage of young men in prison experienced little or no involvement from Dad. In my pastoral role, I’ve seen the devastating effects of a father’s absence or lack of leadership in the life of his son.

Fathering your sons is a serious job, men. And so in that spirit, I’d like to offer five things every son needs to hear from his father:

1) You are loved. Every boy needs to hear and know that his father loves him. Without this affirmation, a man carries deep wounds that affect his most important relationships. I’ve talked to men at all stages of life who yearn to hear those magic words that mean the most when they come from Dad: I love you. Today, my son is only four years old, so it’s easy for me to do this. I suspect as he gets older, it will become a bit more awkward. But I plan on doing it still. Behind the sometimes rough exterior of every young boy is a heart that longs to experience the love of his father. What you don’t realize is that the first image your boy will have of his Heavenly Father will be the image of the human father looking down on him. So tell your boy you love him.

2) I’m proud of you. I can’t tell you how many men I know who, to this day, are still living their lives in search of their fathers’ approval. Down deep in their hearts they wonder, Am I good enough? Did I make it? Is Dad proud? I’m learning that it’s important for us dads to be hard on our sons in many ways (see below), but we should never withhold our approval. They need to know, at periodic junctures in their lives, that they measure up, that there is nothing they have to do to earn our favor. Sure, at times they will disappoint and they should know and feel this. And yet we should not be taskmasters who, in trying to motivate our sons to greatness, withhold the very ingredient that will fuel their success: confidence. I’m reminded of God’s approval of Jesus as His Son was baptized by John the Baptist. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17; Mark 19:35). Yes, there are important theological ramifications to that phrase beyond mere approval, but still I can’t help see God’s approval for Jesus as a model for our relationship with our sons. If your son doesn’t make Division 1, if he gets accepted into a school other than Harvard, if he becomes a truck driver instead of a pastor, don’t ever give him the impression you like him less. Don’t damage his soul this way.

3) You are not a slacker, you’re a soldier. Today the culture presents such a confusing picture of manhood. What is a man supposed to be, anyways? Pop culture tells him he’s sort of unnecessary and the best he can do is idle away his adolescence by satisfying his sexual urges, simulating warfare with a joystick, and lacking any kind of noble ambition. But God did not make your son or my son to be a slacker, but a soldier. Now don’t get uptight about the word soldier. It’s okay to encourage our sons to be masculine. This doesn’t have to mean a deer hunting, truck driving survivalist. Plenty of real men sip lattes, drive minivans, and hate camouflage (guys like me). There is a vision of manhood in the Bible, one of nobility and strength, of sacrifice and courage. A real man fights for what he loves. A real man cherishes the woman God gives him. He doesn’t exploit her. A real man pursues that calling God has stamped upon his soul, one that is discovered through intimacy with God, identification with gifts and talents, and meeting the world’s deep needs (to paraphrase Buechner). Nobody can help guide our sons along their mission more than us fathers. Let’s not leave our sons’ futures to chance. Let’s stand beside them, modeling for them what it looks like to live on purpose.

4) Hard Work is a Gift, Not a Curse. Idleness, laziness, and indecision are the devil’s best tools for ruining the lives of young men. Guys, our sons needs to see us work hard and to be encouraged, made to work hard. They need to see that work is harder because of the Fall, but was actually given by God to experience His pleasure. Getting our hands dirty, straining, struggling, sweating–these are all good things, not bad. Sadly many young men have not seen what it actually looks like for a man to work. Let’s show them that work brings joy. Work honors God. Work done well brings glory to the creator. It may be done with fingers on a keyboard or by swinging an ax-head or by maneuvering a fork lift. It can be done in air-conditioned offices, muddy swamps, and underneath a car. But make no mistake: work matters and what we do with our hands, done well, is a testament to the Creator.

5) You are gifted, but you are not God. Let’s imbue our sons with a sense of confidence, of approval, of dignity. But let’s remind them that while they are gifted by the Creator, they are actually not God. Let’s teach them that genuine masculinity doesn’t strut. It bows. It picks up a towel and washes feet. A real man is as comfortable praying as he is preaching. He knows that his strength isn’t found in his exploits or what he thinks people think of him. His strength comes from God. This humility will fuel his compassion and will allow him to forgive those who deeply wound him. Let’s let our sons know that their lives really begin, not when they walk down the aisle at 18 or when they get their first employment contract or when they fall in love with a woman. Their lives began on a dusty hill 2,000 years ago, at the foot of a Roman cross, where justice and forgiveness met in the bloody sacrifice of their Savior. Let’s teach them that to live their whole lives without Jesus is like playing a concerto on the deck of the Titanic. It’s beautiful while it lasts, but it ultimately ends with sorrow. If we do anything at all with our sons, men, let’s point them to the Jesus we know.

Dec
18
2012

5 Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years of Marriage

Last month, on November 22nd, Angela and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. I’m not an expert on marriage and by some standards I’m still a rookie. But I have learned a few things in these ten wonderful years. Here they are, in no certain order:

1) I’m not naturally a good husband. Before I tied the knot, I was convinced I’d be a great husband. Some lucky girl would be praising the Lord daily that she nabbed me. How wrong I was, really. Rather, I was the blessed one, having snared a women as patient and loving as my wife Angela. What I’ve learned is that I am not naturally a good husband. I have to really, really work at it. Naturally I’m selfish, proud, and tend to see things only my way. To be a good husband I must do two things: I must work at loving my wife intentionally and I must rely on the Spirit of God to change my heart. If you’re not yet married, you won’t realize this until you do get married. And then this reality will hit you in waves.

2) It really isn’t good for men to be alone. Those words uttered by the Triune God in the Garden of Eden are actually true. Nothing changes a man quite like being married to a good, godly woman. I can say that for myself. When you commit to being and staying married for the long haul, you are committing to a relationship that will refine you as a man. It will shave off your worst instincts. It will domesticate you in a good way. It will mature you. Today I am dependent in many ways on my wife. Not simply for what she does for me, but the companionship, the togetherness. I don’t like it when she is out of town or away. I feel like half of my life is missing. God designed life to be this way.

3) Love grows deeper over time. There is a richness to long-lasting marital love that is hard to describe in words. When you are married, you go through tremendous highs and lows as a couple. You will endure crushing defeats. You will enjoy soaring heights. You will suffer pain together. And you will laugh together. All of these times only add muscle to your love, they build your relationship. If you are willing to hang in there and suffer and laugh and cry and forgive and repent together, you will, at the end, find a love that is far richer than the plastic, Hollywood, fake infatuation you think you desire.

4) The gospel is the indispensable key to your marriage. And when I say “gospel” I don’t simply mean, “Make sure you marry someone who shares your faith.” Yes, yes, and amen to that one. But it’s more than that. Marriage requires that each of you believe the gospel so deeply that you live it out. It means the husband is willing to die literally and figuratively for his wife. It means there is a oneness that is a small picture of the intimacy shared by the Trinity. It means you dig deep on forgiveness, extending grace to the one whose wounds can hurt you the most. And you quickly repent when it is you who is doing the wounding. It means you don’t projet some kind of impossible standard on your spouse, but accept him or her as a sinner being slowly sanctified by God’s grace. It means you, like Jesus, love your spouse at his or her worst because you will want him or her to love you at your worst. Believing the gospel means you don’t see your marriage as a happiness vehicle for your pleasure, but as a witness of the grand narrative of the Bible to a watching world.

5) Every day you spend with your spouse is a day for which you should praise God. If you are a husband, realize that your wife is a gift from God. If you are a wife, realize that your husband is a gift from God. Somedays it doesn’t seem like your spouse is a gift.  And some days you are not so much a gift to her. But the longer you are married, for as many years as you are gifted together, you will thank God for bringing her to you. I think this way often, when I see the way my wife enriches my life, cares for our children, and does so many things in the community. I’m grateful for God giving her to me. And if you are married, you too should be this grateful for the one to whom you are united by God.

Apr
18
2012

5 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned in 4 Years

I’m nearing my fourth years as Senior Pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church, which means I’m just beginning. I’m still learning. John Maxwell need not fear. I won’t be dethroning him from the position of Leadership Guru anytime soon.

However, being on the job has taught me a few things about leadership, especially for young guys. Some of these lessons I’ve learned the hard way, others through the wise mentoring of older men. Here are five:

1) Young Leaders Must Resist the “push-off” model of ministry. 

In their book, Sifted, Larry Osborne, Francis Chan, and Wayne Cordeiro talk about the tendency of young leaders to get their leadership energy by “pushing off” the perceived mistakes of other ministry models. They use the example of an Olympic Swimmer, who gains forward thrust by pushing off the pool wall. For leaders, it could be their legalistic, fundamentalist background that they despise, so every decision is made through the lens of how their parents or pastors or professors “got it wrong.” Or it could be the desire to be distinct in your community, so you’re going to sell yourself as the “only” version of your ministry in town. I’ve also seen the tendency to “pendulum-swing.” So if the staff culture you left was very lax, you’re tending to enforce a more rigid culture. Or if the staff culture you left was too rigid, you’re “the grace guy.”

The problem with a “push-off” model is that the forward thrust from the pool wall eventually loses energy. You need energy to sustain you in the race. I believe this must come from your own personal walk with the Lord and your own study. I have found that God may use a negative previous environment to push us toward something better, but ultimately our leadership must be based, not on what we don’t like elsewhere, but what God is teaching us in the present.

2) Young Leaders Need Old Guys

There is a fallacy in the world that younger is better. Young leaders have charisma, vision, energy. This is good and God uses this. But there is one vital component to leadership that we young guys lack: wisdom. Wisdom born from experience. And the only place to get this is by subordinating our ego and listening to older men. This means several things. First, we need to realize that we don’t have all the answers, that we are sometimes wrong, and that perhaps the previous generation had some wise and important things to say.

Young energetic leaders tend to think that the old guys are washed up, that they are out of touch with today’s generation. And maybe some of them are, but for the most part, older, experienced pastors are fonts of spiritual wisdom. Use them. I’ve made it a practice to cultivate relationships with some experienced pastors. Why? Because they know things I just don’t know. They know the Word. They’ve made difficult choices. They’ve wrestled with the discouragements and fears that come my way.

I think every young pastor should have at least one, if not two or three older pastors who are speaking into his life. He’s woefully under-equipped if he does not.

3) We Must Die to Our Messiah Complex

If you’re a young guy in ministry, somewhere along the line you felt you were the answer to what the world needs. Or at least the answer to what your church or your community needs. But the truth is that you are not the answer. Jesus is the answer and you and me are simply humble representatives. We may have gifts and talents, but those too were created and distributed by God.

And here’s what I’ve discovered: People sense when you have too high an opinion of yourself. It creates a frustrating and chaotic leadership environment. It shuts off your ability to listen, learn, grow, and apologize. The Scripture reminds us in many places that God “resists” the proud but “gives grace” to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 1:5). My friend, you and I need grace in our ministry. We don’t need God’s resistance.

The bottom line is that gospel ministry is a privilege, a stewardship. It was here long before we arrived on the planet and will be long after we are gone. I’ve learned that the sooner I get over myself, the easier and better it is for me to lead. You’ve got to die to yourself.

4) You are responsible for the culture you create

Someone once said that sons do in excess what fathers do in moderation. This is true in leadership. I recently preached through the book of James. What struck me as I studied James 3 is just how pointed this chapter is for Christian leaders. At the end of the chapter, James contrasts two different Christian cultures. One is characterized by chaos, dissension, fear, and strife. The other by peace, love, harmony, and joy. James is quick to remind us that the former is not a leadership culture that reflects Heaven, but earth. In other words, if you’re culture is constantly beset by strife, there is a leadership problem. Leaders set the tone. What we emphasize, what we celebrate, what gets us angry is what we are telling people we believe is most important.

I’ve seen this played out vividly. Faithful church members will act on those things we have told them are most important to God. So if we find that people our churches are overly legalistic, it’s not enough to say, “Well, that’s not what I meant or intended.” There’s a communication problem. They’re getting the wrong message. On the flipside, if we find people are casual about church or flippant about following God, it’s not enough to say, “People just don’t get it.” No, they do get it, we’re just delivering the wrong message.

I’m not saying a leader is responsible for every action of those who follow him. People make their own choices. But I am saying that the words we say, the emphases we make, the actions we model–have far greater impact than we realize.

5) You Must Put the Work In

There is no app, no download, no program that will enable us to circumvent hard work. Yes, we’re fueled by the Holy Spirit. Yes, our ministry is grace-driven. But God does not reward laziness. God honors hard work. This means we’ll have to study on some Saturdays when we’d rather be watching sports. We’ll have to travel to the hospital when we’d rather be reading a good book. This means we’ll need to get our hands dirty with some areas of ministry that are “not our gifting.” Good messages require lots of study and hard work. There is no shortcut. Discipleship requires time and effort and money and patience. A loving family means an investment of our best time and efforts. Prayer and Bible study require discipline.

The ministry requires late nights and sweat and toil. Paul said that he “worked harder than them all (1 Corinthians 15:10). I don’t think he was bragging, just letting people know that doing God’s work requires  . . . work. It’s not evil. It’s not belittling. Work honors God. Pastors can be workaholics, but pastors can also be lazy. We must fight both tendencies.

Key Quotes to Tweet

  • There is one vital component to leadership that we young guys lack: wisdom  Buffer
  • I've learned that the sooner I get over myself, the easier and better it is for me to lead.  Buffer
  • What we emphasize, what we celebrate, what gets us angry is what we are telling people is important  Buffer
Apr
10
2012

5 Favorite Christian Punching Bags

I’ve never boxed. I’ve only seen Rocky I. And I think Mike Tyson is crazy. But as a Christian I do have a punching bag. In fact, I have several of them and so do you. These are rhetorical targets, things we love to hate as preachers, writers, bloggers, etc. I’ve you read a bestselling Christian book, listen to a sermon, read blogs, scan your Twitter feed and/or Facebook timeline, you’ll be sure to encounter one or more of these. Here are my top five:

1) Most Evangelical Churches . . . .

Yes, we like to stereotype most evangelical churches, don’t we. I even wrote a post about this here. Even though we may have only personally visited seven other churches in our lives, we think we have authority to say, “Most churches . . . ” and it’s usually a negative thing. What’s funny about this is that almost every side of ever debate uses this. People who are more progressive say, “Most churches won’t allow  . . . .” while folks who are more conservative may say, “Most churches wouldn’t preach . . . ”

It’s a rhetorical crutch you will probably find in almost every book, sermon, etc you hear, including mine. We just can’t help ourselves. I’m not sure where it comes from, other than the need, I think to make ourselves feel better about what we’re doing. Our church/sermon/book/movement is better because we’re going against the bad grain of “what’s going on the church.” A good cousin to this is the “most pastors” crutch.

2) Christian bookstores

Man, we Christians hate Christian bookstores. The other day I posted a positive Tweet about one in my neighborhood and it received mostly negative feedback. This punching bag goes like this usually, “Walk into a Christian bookstore and you’ll find . . .” and it’s usually stuff that the person doesn’t want to see sold in a Christian bookstore. Again, this is a bipartisan punching bag, as progressive Christians want to see more risque language, etc in the books sold there and conservative Christians think that bookstores need to sell more solid doctrinal content. I’m not defending every item purchased on the shelves of Christian bookstores, but I do wonder how they might keep everyone happy? And I do know that it’s a really difficult business to sustain. And I also know that it seems virtually impossible to get anyone to say anything nice about a Christian bookstore these days.

3) Joel Olsteen

I’m not a big fan of Joel Olsteen’s ministry. I think the prosperity message is a false or, at best, misguided message. However, it’s interesting how easy it is for us to “push off” of Olsteen as a way of defining our ministry philosophy, as if “not being Joel Olsteen” is the only way to be. He’s a convenient punching bag, a mascot for “what’s wrong in our churches” (see above). What’s more subtle and less acknowledged is the way prosperity preaching has seeped into even conservative evangelical churches in the sense that we seem to implicitly teach that if we just do certain things, God will be happy and our lives will be trouble-free. Easy to blame Joel but it’s likely that we’ve imbibed some of the prosperity message in our own lives.

4) The Religious Right/Republicans/Jerry Falwell

This may be the punching bag of choice for millenials. Every year, many books are published in the evangelical market that decry the church’s selling out to power and/or Republicans. What’s funny is that each author acts like he’s stumbled onto some new theory. I resonate with some of this message, that at times the Church has become known more for what or who it is against than what it is for. I think the church should be wary of aligning itself too strongly with one party/movement. But I also think that this is overstated. Sometimes the acts of individual Christians are conflated with “the Church” itself. I also think Jerry Falwell gets blamed for a lot more than he should. Yes, he made some unfortunate comments that perhaps cast Christianity in a poor light. He also has done much work to advance the work of the Church. But, alas, I don’t think the flood of books blaming his generation for all of society’s social ills will cease anytime soon.

5) Obama/Democrats/Hollywood/Liberals/The Culture

I challenge you to find a book, sermon, etc that doesn’t start with, “And we live in a culture that . . .” I do this all the time. “They” is an easy mark. Why are our kids leaving the faith? It’s the Democrats fault or Hollywood’s fault or the Liberals fault. You’ll mostly hear this on conservative talk radio, but you’ll get a big dose of it from the evangelical world as well. Some of it is true. We do live in a world system that is increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity. But I also know from my own life experience that it’s easier to identify the enemies without than the enemies within. It’s easier to speak out against social sins than identify and repent of sins in my own heart. It’s easy to find the hate and ungodliness on the mean streets or the Drudge Report than the bad stuff lurking in me.

So, these are my five top punching bags. What are yours? Am I missing some?

 

Key Quotes to Tweet

  • It's a rhetorical crutch you will probably find in almost every book, sermon, or blog post:  Buffer
  • I challenge you to find a book, sermon, etc that doesn't start with this:  Buffer
  • This may be the punching bag of choice for millenials:  Buffer
Mar
28
2012

5 Attitudes for Christians in a Political Season

So another Presidential campaign season is upon us and Christians are engaged at all levels and on both sides of most debates. As a recovering political junkie, I realize how easily my time, my energy, my attitudes can get sucked into the life force of Presidential politics. So here are a few attitudes that we might consider as we engage:

1) An Attitude of Prayerfulness for the Politicians (1 Timothy 2:2)

This is hardest to do and least obeyed command when it comes to our political leaders. Its easier to fire off a nasty email/tweet/Facebook post/blog instead of actually committing to daily prayer for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not. I must admit that I’m consistently having to repent of this disobedience.

We should pray for President Obama and his wife and children during a grueling season. We should pray for the Republican opponent and his family during a grueling season. We should pray for Congressman and Governors and Mayors and local school board officials, etc. And we should not just pray with a grudging, “These guys are idiots, boy do they need prayer” mentality, but genuinely pray with concern for their well-being.

2) An Attitude of Humility (James 4:6)

Politics feeds sharp debate among people who disagree on issues. These are deeply held beliefs. On certain issues, we feel, genuinely, that we are right and must stand up. But we can and should do that with humility. We’re not right on every single argument. We don’t know everything. Despite how we talk, we probably wouldn’t do better than the guys in office. We’re sinners like they are. And God loves them as much as He loves us. So as we engage, let’s try to avoid the kind of chest-beating rhetoric that tempts those who seek power.

3) An Attitude of Faith (2 Timothy 1:7)

Let’s be honest. Much of what drives elections is fear. Both sides gin up fear about the other side. All you have to do is read some of the mailers you get. “Did you know that my opponent was in favor of ___ or was supported by ___ or hangs out with ___? Vote for me. I don’t do that.” Politics is not so much about the good qualities of the candiate, its about “driving up the negatives” of the other guy. Fear also drives much of the programming on cable news programs and talk radio.

That’s not to belittle or dismiss the real fears we might have. There is evil in the world. There are concerns about our nation and about the world. But Christians can’t and shouldn’t be driven by fear, but by confidence in the sovereignty of God. Christians should live with an eye to the next world, Heaven. That doesn’t mean we should ignore injustice or do nothing, but we shouldn’t be driven by fear, but by mission.

4) An Attitude of Love (Ephesians 4:15)

It’s all too tempting to engage politics and check our Christianity at the door. We justify snarkiness and insults and half-truths and gossip about folks with whom we disagree. We justify it because “we’re on the right side.” But even if we are on the right side of an issue, that doesn’t give us the right to treat our enemies with disdain. I’m amazed at the stuff Christians post on Facebook about people with whom they disagree. This isn’t right. We can be stand firm in our beliefs and still show respect. Jesus’s ministry was all about the balance of grace and truth (John 1:14). In fact, I think we gain an audience when we demonstrate clear, logical, fair, reasoned arguments, rather than falling prey to the nasty rhetoric that passes for political dialog these days.

5) An Attitude of Justice (Micah 6:8)

What should drive our political engagement is the mission of God. This means we should be discerning about issues we engage, rather than accepting the entire matrix of issues offered by “our side.” Christians should fight for justice, whether that’s defending the unborn, defending the poor, defending righteousness. We may differ on solutions, etc, but we should be more engaged in issues than personalities. Sometimes we approach politics like we do American Idol. We grew to love our favorite personality and defend them to the death, at the expense of the issues. Or we oppose a politician to the death, dismissing the areas where they may be good on some issues. Perhaps Christians should take a more ala carte approach, speaking out on a few important issues and voting accordingly.

In Summary: Above all, Christians must first remember that they are Christians, that even in the rough-and-tumble arena of politics, we represent Christ.

Mar
21
2012

Five Things to Consider When Looking for a Christian College

This time of year many Christian junior and senior high students are looking at their college options. Many are considering Christian institutions. I asked Whitney Reed, owner of ChristianColleges.org, to share five important things to consider, when looking at evangelical institutions: 

If you are a student who is interested in earning your degree in an atmosphere that serves the Lord, a Christian college may be perfect for you. There are several different Christian colleges out there that offer many different things, so there is much to consider when applying for admittance.

Before you apply to a Christian school, ask yourself the following questions:

1.     Is the school affiliated with a particular Christian denomination or is it non-denominational?

All Christian colleges will accept all qualifying students, no matter what their religious or denominational background. However, this is an important question for you as a student to ask, because if you feel very strongly about your particular denomination’s teachings and traditions, you will want to attend a school with a similar viewpoint. There are many different types of Christian colleges out there. Some are affiliated with a particular Christian denomination (such as Baptist, Catholic and Methodist), and some are non-denominational. Before you make a decision, it is best to find out each school’s specific perspective of the Christian faith and what it means to be servant of the Lord.

 

2.     What majors and certificate programs are offered, and does the college have a graduate school?

Why are you interested in attending a Christian college? Do you want to study the Bible and start a career in church work, or do you want to earn a bachelor’s degree in secular work? Or do you want both? All of these are possibilities, but because Christian colleges are typically smaller than most other colleges and universities, some only offer a select number of majors, certificates and graduate programs. You will need to make sure the college you choose offers the programs of study you are interested in before making a decision.

 

3.     Does the college offer a weekly church service on campus, and what other churches are located near the college?

Check out what options the college (and the town it is located in) has for worship and Bible study. You may expect a particular form of worship, study and service, so before making any decisions, make sure you first feel comfortable with either the weekly campus worship service or the worship service at a nearby church. Also, if you are interested in any other particular church activities outside of worship, make sure the college or a nearby church offers these activities for students.

 

4.     Does the school offer a study abroad program?

Are you interested in a semester abroad? Some smaller Christian colleges do not offer a study abroad program, so make sure to check out what schools do and do not offer this service before you apply. In addition, if you want to take part in mission work while in college, make sure either the college or a nearby church offers this before you apply.

 

5.     Does the school have an athletics program?

Are you an athlete who is interested in playing college sports, or are you interested in club sports? Some smaller Christian colleges do not have a formal athletics department or organized club sports teams, so make sure you choose a college that offers your sport of interest before you apply.

 

Mar
14
2012

5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Write

I’m a pastor who writes, but I know I’m not alone. In fact, many, many pastors around the world supplement their teaching ministry with a writing ministry. God blessed me with a writing ministry before I assumed the pulpit at Gages Lake Bible Church almost four years ago, but it has only been enhanced as I’ve now got the perspective of a pastor and increased time in the Word of God.

But not everyone is sure pastors should write books. There are legitimate reasons perhaps. Maybe it takes time away from the ministry (though it doesn’t have to). Maybe it confuses the vocational calling (are you a pastor or a writer?). I’ve had pastors tell me I shouldn’t write another book. I’ve had pastors tell me I shouldn’t stop writing.

I’m a bit biased, given my years in publishing prior to the pastorate, but I happen to think writing, in some form or another, is good for every pastor. Here’s five reasons why I think pastors should write:

1) You join a long traditional dating back to the early church. You could argue that the first pastors were writers. James, whom many believe was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, wrote the book of James. Obviously He was under the inspiration of the Spirit of God (and we are, most certainly, not). But perhaps James is a better book for us today because James wrote from the perspective of a pastor. Read Paul’s epistles. They echo the heart of a pastor/church planter. And then you just continue the line from the Apostles thru the Church Fathers and to the Reformation and continue on through today. If pastors never wrote anything, our theological libraries would be 90% empty. We’d have no commentaries, no classics, no great works. We’d have no sermon anthologies, no great quotes from men like Spurgeon and Tozer to supplement our preaching. Check the commentaries you frequently use in your study. Yep, most of those guys were pastors. So, yes, I’m glad pastors have always been writers. I’d be stuck if they weren’t.

2) You preserve God’s work in you beyond your generation. Perhaps you won’t be the next Wiersbe or MacArthur or Hughes. Maybe nobody would publish your exegetical thoughts as a commentary. Still, if you organize your writings and work, somebody in the next generation will benefit. It may be the intern whose notes you lend. It could be your grandchildren who will glean gospel truth from your study. You never know how God will use the work He did in you beyond your lifetime. Did Spurgeon know he’d be valuable resource, even in the 21st Century? Did Wesley and Luther and Calvin? Even though you’re preaching is not creating something new–you’re continuing the line of orthodoxy–you’re unique perspective and God’s unique shaping of your soul can inspire others in future years to pursue Christ. So write.

3) You inspire others in this generation

Again, not every pastor has the talent or time or desire to write full-length books or articles. But perhaps you might blog or even create a newsletter or something in which you can send short, Scripture-laden thoughts to inspire others. You never know how God may use you to inspire others in your generation. I have to say that I regularly read the blogs of several pastors and their work is valuable to my ministry. These are men who have some years in the ministry. They write with a keen sense of the calling that you can’t find outside of pulpit ministry. Men like Ray PritchardBrian CroftJared WilsonPaul Tautges, and others are helping this young preacher today. Most of the contributors to valuable content such as The Gospel Coalition or Leadership Journal are active pastors. Some young pastor or ministry leader might read a blog you wrote and find new direction. Some struggling young teen might be led to repentance and faith. Some single mother might find a dose of inspiration to get her through her day. Writing is a way you can use the study and prep you already do for ministry and extend it in such as way as to bless others in the body of Christ.

4) You find better clarity of thought

I find that writing helps me clarify my thoughts. In this way writing helps my preaching and preaching helps my writing. I happen to preach from a full manuscript (though I adlib and self-edit as I deliver). Completing a full manuscript takes extra time and much work every week, but it is rewarding because I feel that my thoughts are well organized before I get into the pulpit. Now that may not work for you, especially if you (unlike me) are good on your feet. However, you may consider doing what guys like Ray Pritchard have done and writing out your full sermon the week after you deliver it.

Getting words on paper really helps clarify your message and your thoughts.

5) You can better communicate with your own people

Let’s face it, you can’t say all you want to say to your people in a 30-45 minute sermon once a week. There are notes and research and study and application from every text that will stay on the cutting room floor. So something like a blog or newsletter is a way of communicating those ideas as well. Writing is also a great way to express ideas that may not fit into your message, but may be good for the life of your church. So you might consider starting a blog or using social networks like Facebook or Twitter or even creating a church newsletter.

There are a thousand other reasons why I write and why I think its a good idea for pastors. These were just the five that made the most sense to me.