Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Neglected Relationships?

I'm a very goals oriented person.  From a human perspective, it's both a gift and a curse...but from God's perspective it's His gift to me, that I often allow to control my whole life and it really makes me ineffective.  Allow me to explain...

I'm often on a mission...I move very quickly throughout my day, always with the next step in my mind.  When I'm at lunch, I'm thinking about what I need to get done afterward...when I'm in class I'm thinking about the nap I'm going to take afterward...etc.  This kind of mindset often causes me to neglect the here and now, and the blessing God can use me to be to those around me.

God has revealed this flaw in myself recently, and by His grace, I've been working at not being this way.  He has been enabling me to be a blessing to those around me, and walk moment by moment with Him.

Because you see...when you're always focused on the future, you often are ineffective in the here and now.  This struggle is even seen when it comes to sin...because I'm so focused on the fact that I need to overcome it in the future, that I fail to realize that in order to be victorious in the future, I need to work on being victorious in the now!  I don't like that word "victorious" for overcoming sin...but it's the only word I can think of right now.

Anywho...God's been working on me about this recently, and I just want to give this charge to my readers.  There is a certain amount of planning we should do for the future, but this should never be to the neglect of the here and now...God has many opportunities for us in the present (for example:  sharing the gospel with people we interact with, investing in and encouraging other believers, etc.) and we should take advantage of these!

I'm going to be leaving to go home tomorrow for break, and I know last year during the break I mostly stayed in my room and read for the break...but I DO NOT want to do that for this break.  I'm planning on getting a month-long membership to the YMCA during the break, and I'd like to use that as an opportunity to share Christ with people in the community where I live.  If you could be praying with me that God would give me opportunities for the gospel through that, I would greatly appreciate it!

Well, that's all for today...Merry Christmas friends!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pursue Her

Christian guys:  Please read this article!  These are ideas I've been working through lately, and have been wanting to blog about.  Click here to read!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Trials are a Gift?

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
(Genesis 50:15-21, ESV)

Can I look back on everything, even those things that seem to bad to me, and thank God for them? Can I thank Him for struggles that have crippled me for years? Can I thank Him for things that so often discourage me and cause me to despair? Yes...I believe I can...

Many of my readers probably know about the context of the Biblical passage that I posted above.  Joseph was definitely put through things that he probably would have had a hard time imagining that he would one day thank God for them...but God did have a purpose in it.

While my struggles have never been as "bad" as Joseph's were...I definitely know that I've had my share of heartache and struggle.  Many of the struggles bear scars that will probably never go away while I'm on this earth...struggles that continuously cause me to doubt and become discouraged.  However...God's grace has been evident through it all...

God has helped me to even thank Him for giving me these things...they're a gift from Him...He has opened so many opportunities for ministry through my struggles.

At the time that I was enduring those struggles...could I have brought myself to thank Him?  Definitely not...but over time, as God helps us see His purposes in it, He enables us to be thankful.

So...if you're going through a struggle that you don't understand...and you are discouraged...take heart!  God doesn't waste a single trial!  You can trust that He is shaping you into the image of His Son through it!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Am I really a Veteran?

When we think of a veteran we normally think of the guy on the front lines...the guy who's on the front lines with guns blazing all around him...the guy who knows the pain of seeing many of his comrades die around him.  I cannot identify with these experiences...

The only guy we had die on our boat while I was on it was a guy who died by falling out of the window of an apartment complex (I don't think they ever found out why).  We did our patrols around the Pacific and stopped to do enjoy the sights and experiences of different ports.  The closest we ever came to danger while I was on board was when the earthquake/tsunami hit Japan, and when there were major tensions between us and Korea.

I got up for work on the boat, and did my job...which usually entailed doing maintenance on one piece of electrical equipment or another...

But, would the soldier not thank the ones who support him?  Would the Marine not thank the one who transported him into battle?  The one who cooks his food?

Do I feel like a veteran?  No...not at all...the greatest danger I faced each day was the danger of being electrocuted or burned by scalding water (while cleaning salinity cells).

However, if veteran is defined as anyone who served in the military during a time of war, than that is what I am...regardless of how unworthy I feel of receiving that title.

Thank you so much to all my military brothers who will serve, are serving, or have served!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Worn

by:  Tenth Avenue North

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn


Every Thursday here at Northland we have Student Body Chapel.  It's a day when the faculty has a staff meeting in place of their chapel, so we have our own chapel run by the student council.  This morning I didn't really want to go.  I was toying with the idea of using a chapel cut and staying in my room to work on homework.

I'm so glad I went...

At the beginning of chapel they played this video that I posted above.  Then the student body president got up and talked about how the student council wanted to do a chapel that's just focused on finding our contentment in Christ...because he said that he and the council noticed that the students seemed to just be worn down and tired.  Boy was he right...after this went spent the rest of chapel singing through a bunch of really encouraging songs, with scripture readings read every few songs.

I guess you could say I didn't realize how tired and discouraged I was until chapel.  I've been feel super tired and overwhelmed with all my homework lately, but instead of running of Christ, I turned inward and started seeking to find pleasure in things outside of Him.  God used this chapel to remind me that only in Christ will I find the strength I need to face what lies ahead.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
(Psalm 16, ESV)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Captured this picture this morning...


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” 
(Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
(Luther, 95 Theses)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Musings on Calvinism...

Am I a Calvinist?  The truth is...I don't know...

I was raised in an environment that at times adamantly opposed Calvinist ideas.  Often times it was said that Calvinists were heretics, but that as long as their heretical ideas didn't affect their teaching/preaching, they were okay.  I assumed that statements such as this were true.  I was also told that often times Calvinists can be cold and distant because their Calvinist ideas caused them to have a view of God's sovereignty that caused them to feel like since God is in control of everything, they don't have many responsibilities (evangelism/loving the brothers).  There were even some experiences I had that seemed to validate this last view.

It wasn't till I went to college that I started to realize that what I had been taught might not be entirely accurate.  I started hearing about John Piper and about how he was a 5 point Calvinist, and everything I was hearing about the things he taught sounded really good.  I even found out that he was extremely passionate about world missions, and he seemed like an extremely loving and awesome man of God.

I continued to muse on these things I was being exposed to.  I was reading books for classes that explained some of the ideas like "Total Depravity" that really made sense.  I started realizing that even among Calvinists there was a wide variety of beliefs, and to make broad brush statements about them in general is not fair.  Many of them defined the points in different ways than I had been taught growing up.

Also, many of my professor's were/are "Calvinistic" in their beliefs, and they seemed so passionate for the Word and for Evangelism and the growth of the Church.

Even with all this exposure, I still wasn't quite sure I could say for certain where I stood, and I still don't...but today I was reading in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book for my Systematic Theology 3 Class (this class discusses the Doctrines of Anthropology, Hamartiology, and Soteriology) and he was discussing the sovereignty of God, and the things he was saying got me thinking about this...and I figured I would share some of the thoughts I had, and some things that he said...

First of all, my own musings on the reason why I was taught as I was when I was younger.  Many Fundamentalists Churches, in a reaction against perceived and possibly even valid problems with Calvinists, have swung so far away to the point of denying God's sovereignty in the election by God of believers.  To deny the election of the saints is to completely disregard a plethora of NT scriptures that support it.  I recall when I was younger that preachers/teachers would try to explain away these passages by saying that it was talking about being predestined for sanctification (which would follow that if you believe it means people are predestined for sanctification that God would also choose them for salvation, but I don't know what their answer would be to this argument), or that it is giving us assurance of our salvation.  I don't think these can be truly argued from the text...this is trying to impose presuppositions on the text...they're presupposing that God does not choose people for salvation, so they explain the meaning of the passage so that it fits their presupposition.  But we must be faithful to the Word of God...and not compromise the truths found in it!

Now, onto what Mr. Grudem says.  I was going to explain why each quote was significant to shaping my beliefs on this matter...but a commentary would make this post far too long...so I'll just post these quotes and then give some concluding comments (all quotes are taken from Grudem's book:  "Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine").

Election is Paul's guarantee that there will be some success for his evangelism, for he knows that some of the people he speaks to will be the elect, and they will believe the gospel and be saved.  It is as if someone invited us to come fishing and said, "I guarantee that you will catch some fish -- they are hungry and waiting." (pg. 674)

God's act of election was neither impersonal nor mechanistic, but was permeated with personal love for those whom he chose. (pg. 674)

If the ultimate determining factor in whether we will be saved or not is our own decision to accept Christ, then we shall be more inclined to think that we deserve some credit for the fact that we were saved:  in distinction from other people who will continue to reject Christ, we were wise enough in our own judgment or good enough in our moral tendencies or perceptive enough in our spiritual capacities to decide to believe in Christ.  But once we begin to think this way then we seriously diminish the glory that is to be given to God for our salvation.  (pg. 678)

The doctrine of election tells us that I am a Christian simply because God in eternity past decided to set his love on me.  But why did he decide to set his love on me?  Not for anything good in me, but simply because he decided to love me.  There is no more ultimate reason than that.  It humbles us before God to think in this way.  It makes us realize that we have no claim on God's grace whatsoever.  Our salvation is totally due to grace alone.  Our only appropriate response is to give God eternal praise. (pg. 687)

There were many more things that Grudem said as well, that I didn't include in these quotes, and that's the fact that even though God sovereignly chooses us for salvation...from our perspective, we choose to believe, but this is only because God sovereignly ordained it to happen.

So...where am I on this?  I really don't know...I think I'm too uneducated to say for certain what I believe yet.  We're going to be discussing the Calvinism vs. Arminian debate in class, so I'm looking forward to looking more closely at the Biblical Arguments for both.  I hope and pray, though, that whatever I decide to believe, or "lean toward"...I will attempt to, by God's abundant grace, be humble and gracious and faithful to the Word in the midst of it all...and that I will be more faithful to the Word, than the traditions of man.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When we walk down a street and see houses and gardens and families dwelling in security, or when we do business in the marketplace and see the abundant results of technological progress, or when we walk through the woods and see the beauty of nature, or when we are protected by government, or when we are educated from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, we should realize not only that God in his sovereignty is ultimately responsible for all of these blessings, but also that God has granted them all to sinners who are totally undeserving of them! These blessings in the world are not only evidence of God's power and wisdom, they are also continually a manifestation of his abundant grace. The realization of this fact should cause our hearts to swell with thanksgiving to God in every activity of life.
-Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: And Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, pg. 665

Friday, October 18, 2013

Yes, this is another post on singleness...

Well, you can probably guess what this is going to be about based on the title...

This feels like a never ending struggle for me.  26 years old...my sister is married and has a baby whom I adore and would love to have my own...my friends who are younger than me are getting engaged and getting married...and here I am...just floating along...

I've had many friends tell me things like, "Just make sure your walk with God is right before you pursue any relationship" or "God will bring the right one along when you are content with only Him."  I've had periods within the last couple of years where I thought these could be said of me...at least to a degree...but looking back I know now that I only thought I was because I was tired of hurting girls so I wanted to be single...so I was not wanting the relationship out of fear, rather than because God was directing.

Then, more recently I started going the other direction where I was seeking it out like I have in the past, and I knew this was wrong...

So...there's the predicament I'm in...have I come to any conclusion?

This evening I was reminded of the sermon by David Platt that I had posted about in the past...the sermon is called "The Gospel and Singleness."  He speaks in the sermon of the fact that we view the gift of singleness and the gift of marriage as if some people have one, and some people have the other (and while this may be true, we don't know for sure, because we're not God, which one we have)...and this causes us to think that we are destined for a lack of contentment until we fulfill the needs of our gift.  Mr. Platt suggests that if we're single, God has gifted us with singleness...while we're single we shouldn't waste the freedom we have...if we're married, we're gifted with the gift of marriage...we shouldn't waste the opportunities this gives us to minister to our family.

This was really encouraging to me at the time that I heard it, but I feel like God has shown me how this truth plays out even more.  God has gifted me with singleness...why waste it in feeling sorry for myself?  Now, this realization shouldn't cause me to have the attitude of trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps...this is never helpful...for I can do nothing apart from Christ.

So...what does not wasting my singleness look like?  Well, that's what I'm going to seek, with God's help, to figure out...but I have some ideas that I believe God has given me right now.  First and foremost...I need the Word!  I need to seek Christ daily, and seek Him as my ultimate source of contentment.  He is the only one who can give me the fulfillment I desire.

Secondly...I need community...the body of believers.  Reaching out to them and discipling them, and even of course seeking to make disciples of unbelievers.  This way I'm pouring out the things God has taught me to others, and not just holding it all in and becoming stagnant (for this has happened for far too long for me).

So, by God's grace, I would seek to go forward with the Lord...seeking Him in His Word and seeking opportunities to disciple and make disciples.

So, I pray:
"Oh Lord, help me to be content with you and you alone.  Help me Lord to embrace opportunities to disciple and be discipled.  If it be your will that I get married in the future, may it happen in your perfect timing...and if it be your will that I be single till you take me home, help me to be content with that.  Help me to run to you every day for strength, and not try to do this on my own.  Enable me, by your grace, to go forward in the strength that only you can give me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Confidence in the Midst of Confusion

Encouraging truth in the midst of much confusion:

Confidence in the Midst of Confusion

How to lead young men



To read the article click on the image above. Great article from Resurgence! Reading it made me thankful that I have been receiving this kind of discipleship here at Northland lately...

Going to be praying that God would give me an opportunity to disciple someone else...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Renewing the mind with truth, image bearing, and restored relationships...

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 
(Colossians 3:1-4, ESV)

Today in Systematic Theology III class the professor was talking about us being made in the image of God.  I could talk about the implications of this truth, and I would like to in the future...but one thing the professor brought up really hit me.  It's a truth that I have often heard, but God opened my eyes to the truth of it's implications a little more...

The idea the professor presented is the idea presented in the verses above. What you feed your mind, will fuel your affections, and fix your will.  The idea of what I think about affects what I desire and what I seek after.  This has proven so true in my life...


When I'm constantly thinking about possessions, I will and do want more things.  When I focus on my anger about a particular situation, this causes me to treat people badly and causes my anger to increase.  When I'm thinking about myself, and feeling sorry for myself...I don't want to talk to anyone or be around anyone.

On the other hand, I find that when my thought's are focused on Christ and I'm meditating on what I know to be true about Him, this ends up coming out in my actions...I love people more, I am more patient, I desire to be around people and to be a blessing, rather than wanting to escape from them...

There's a particular relationship in my life that has been a great struggle lately. I've gone back and forth in my mind between pity for this person and anger at this person...but it occurred to me this morning...why don't I pray for her?  Why don't I try to see this person through God's eyes?  Why don't I see this person as someone who's made in the image of God?

God can heal broken relationships...but this doesn't happen by dwelling on our anger toward them...this happens by renewing our mind with what is true, and seeking to love them through our prayers...then I think God changes the heart to where we find ourselves loving them instead of being angry at them.

That was kind of me talking to myself as much as I'm talking to my readers...I pray that this post will be a blessing to those who read it...and that God will use it in your life as much as He did in mine.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Here I raise mine Ebenezer...

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.      Selah 

(Psalm 77:11-15, ESV)

Today in chapel President Patz spoke on this passage...he encouraged us as a student body to mediate on the works of God in our lives, and he encouraged us to share these works of God...and raise our Ebenezer (this is a reference to 1 Samuel 7:12 when Samuel set up this "stone of help" to remember how God had delivered them in the past).  So...I would like to raise mine Ebenezer...God did a great work in my life this summer...

As great as God worked in my life during my missions trip to N. Africa, God did an even greater work in my life during my internship after the trip.  Throughout the internship I was struggling with a "private sin" in my life that had been a struggle for a long time.  I couldn't understand why I couldn't beat it.  I wanted help, but I was too afraid to ask for it...I was too afraid of being judged for this struggle...

This is where God's work came in (although, I know in letting me sin He's working as well, but His work became more clear to me).  He caused me to be faced with an opportunity to confess...I was specifically asked if there was something I was struggling with...and I couldn't hold it back.  I confessed...I was ashamed, I was afraid, I wanted to hide under something...but I was also relieved that I didn't have to bear the burden without some help...

God could have let me continue to sin, and He could have let me continue going after seeking pleasure in myself instead of seeking pleasure in Him...but He proved to me that I was His child in that He lovingly chastened me.

Through some time of counseling over this struggle...God revealed to me that at the root of my sin was anger at Him for things that I perceived to be injustices...

I was like Job...presuming to question God for the things He does...but just like Job couldn't see all the vast things that God was doing, I don't see everything God is doing...I may see what appears to be a disaster...but to God is a part of a beautiful tapestry that He is making...He is using circumstances in my life to shape me more into the image of His Son...I do not need all the answers...I can trust God, for He is faithful!

I was counseled that I need to meditate on the Faithfulness of God...so that is what I've been doing...meditating on His faithfulness...in the Word...

God is faithful...He's faithful in the times of great joy, He's faithful in times of suffering...He's faithful in my infirmities, He's faithful in my healing...His faithfulness has no end...and I will make His faithfulness known!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Things at Northland...


Fresh Friday last week...this is only the students who actually participated...

Well, classes have been in session here at Northland for about 5 weeks now.  I just figured out that that means we're almost at the 1/3rd mark.  Crazy!  Hard to believe we're that far already...

So, how are things here?  Many people probably have wondered considering what happened last year.  It's actually been a really awesome semester so far!  My friendships with people I already knew here are deepening, and I'm making new friends as well.  God is using friends, both older and newer to encourage me in my walk with God, and I'm so thankful for it.

There's almost a "settled" feeling about the campus this year.  Most of the controversy and struggle is past...everyone who's here seems to want to be here, and the new faculty members are great!  I really like our new president too, Mr. Daniel Patz.  He's really a down to earth guy who loves the Lord, and loves Northland (it helps that he grew up here as the grandson of the founder).

I'm looking forward to seeing what God does in my life this year, and in the lives of my fellow students!

Please continue to pray for Northland!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

26, unmarried, childless...

Great article with some great thoughts!  I can definitely identify because I'm in the same boat.  Click here to read the article!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Jesus in the middle?

There's a song by Chris August that I really like...it's called "Restore."  In the song he talks about how God can help restore relationships...specifically it's talking about with a marriage relationship.  One line of the song says, "They finally figured out they needed Jesus in the middle, now I'm watching God rebuild their home."

I've often heard this as a theme among Christian married and dating couples...they say that in order to have a good godly relationship, God must be at the center of the relationship.  Now...I'm 26 and single, and I would like to ask my Christian dating and married followers and friends if you could answer a question I have.  What does putting "Jesus in the middle" look like?  I'm looking for practical examples if you can give them.  If not, just any godly relationship advice would be appreciated.

Please comment below with your advice.  I moderate comments, so I'll view them and post them as I get them.

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Francis Bacon


This semester at Northland I'm taking a class called "Introduction to Philosophy"...as a part of the class we have to write a paper on a philosopher.  I chose to do mine on Francis Bacon, as I had heard about him in the movie, Amazing Grace.  As I am reading through his work, "The Great Instauration", I came across a paragraph wherein Bacon prays a prayer...I thought I'd share it, as it has made me very excited to study Bacon more...here it is:

Wherefore, seeing that these things do not depend upon myself, at the outset of the work I most humbly and fervently pray to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, that remembering the sorrows of mankind and the pilgrimage of this our life wherein we wear out days few and evil, they will vouchsafe through my hands to endow the human family with new mercies. This likewise I humbly pray, that things human may not interfere with things divine, and that from the opening of the ways of sense and the increase of natural light there may arise in our minds no incredulity or darkness with regard to the divine mysteries; but rather that the understanding being thereby purified and purged of fancies and vanity, and yet not the less subject and entirely submissive to the divine oracles, may give to faith that which is faith’s. Lastly, that knowledge being now discharged of that venom which the serpent infused into it, and which makes the mind of man to swell, we may not be wise above measure and sobriety, but cultivate truth in charity.
-Francis Bacon

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Preach On Booze, Adultery, and Dancing!

When it comes to declarations of right and wrong, each of us face two temptations. The first temptation is to be too soft on sin, and not take a stand for what’s right. The second temptation is to swing too far the other way, and to draw lines where God never draws lines.
-Stephen Altrogge
- See more at: Preach On Booze, Adultery, and Dancing!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Patterns of Self-Indulgence



How many of my readers have heard the song "Slow Fade" (Casting Crowns) before?  I know I've posted about the song before, but I feel the need to reiterate something God has been teaching me lately, and it's related to the message of that song.

I've noticed in my life a pattern of self-indulgence that often leads to me falling into sin in a big way.  It's in the little, subtle decisions I make that I make the descent towards these "bigger sins."

I'll give an example from my life.  Often times I get into the habit of pulling out my iPod Touch whenever I have nothing to do.  There's this feeling within me that I want to please myself by playing this game.  This mindset causes me to want to please myself in more and more areas, because I'm never satisfied...

Is playing with my iPod Touch a bad thing?  Or is doing anything because it's fun a bad thing?  No, not necessarily.  These things can be good, but when they take over my life, and steal my affections...they pull me away from God, and inevitably cause me to indulge in sinful practices.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24, ESV)

God designed me to only be able to serve one thing at a time.  I have a choice...will I serve myself and my own desires, or will I serve the one and only God of the universe?

I need to keep a close watch on my life.  I need to pay close attention to what I'm serving.  Do I greatly desire my God and His Word, or do I desire to please myself?

This can be a hard thing to see...because the world, the flesh and the devil are subtle in their tricks.  We need to keep a watchful eye on our life, and seek to serve the God of the Universe rather than "lesser lights and fleeting shadows."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Talk About Mental Illness

I follow a man by the name of Stephen Altrogge on Twitter. He is a songwriter, author, blogger and pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Indiana, PA. Yesterday he tweeted the link for an article he wrote about mental illness.

Many of you may have read a post of mine about this topic about 2 years ago. This is a topic that desperately needs to be addressed among Christians. I urge my followers to read Stephen's blog post by clicking here.

If you want to read the post I wrote two years ago, click here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

5 Ways to Cultivate Your Faith in a Christian College

Whether you're a Christian College Student, or a faculty member at a Christian College...this is a great read!  Click here to read the article.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Words of caution for the recovering "Cultural Fundamentalist"...

I know Northland students know what "Cultural Fundamentalism" means, but I don't know if it's a well known description outside of Northland.  So...allow me to explain before I continue.

Cultural Fundamentalism is the conservative culture of Christianity that has come out of the Fundamentalist movement.  The Fundamentalist movement was good...it caused the church to return to the Word of God as the compass for every part of their life.  Those who were a part of it were marked by a zeal for the Word of God and a commitment to follow it.  However, out of that movement there were created a lot of ideas that are not found in the Bible.  The idea that the KJV is the inspired word of God in the English language, movie theaters are bad, dancing is bad, any kind of music that had drums was bad, girls must wear long skirts down to their ankles and have long hair, Christians should only homeschool or Christian school their kids...etc.  I think you get the idea.

There were many people who followed these ideas to varying degrees.  Some held them more strictly than others.  For my family I often felt like we were swept along by these ideas at times (although we were never KJV only) and we didn't really know why.  So...over time we began to stretch these "rules" because we didn't have a good explanation as to why they were bad...but we kept our "rebellion" quiet, because we didn't want to be judged by people from the church.  While my upbringing might have been more "laxed"...I know many people who grew up in homes where these ideas created a tremendously oppressive home-life.  Many people I know fled Christianity completely when they got out of the house, because they figured if their upbringing was what Christianity was about, they didn't want it.

While my upbringing might have been more laxed, I still had a lot of these ideas etched into my life.  When I went to college I began to discover that there was more freedom in Christ than I realized there was.  Nowhere in the Bible did it say that movie theaters were bad...while modesty was important, it did not mean that we had to reject fashion...while there are some kinds of dancing that are bad, it's not all bad...etc.  I discovered that 1 Thess. 5:22 had been grossly misused (this is one of the only verses we were given to back up why we avoided all the things we did).  This verse says in the KJV, "avoid all appearance of evil"...a command that is nearly impossible to follow because there will always be people who think you're doing evil...this verse is more accurately translated in the ESV as "Abstain from every form of evil" (emphasis mine).

These discoveries made me feel free!  I began to know joy in Christ that I never knew.  I searched the scriptures to find out what it truly taught instead of believing all these things I had been taught.  Overtime, however, I began to realize that there some pitfalls that I fell into because of this discovery...and I've taken all of this post to build up to this...so I would like to discuss these pitfalls and caution others who are in the same place as I am.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:13-15, ESV)

We must not, as this verse above presents, use our freedom for an opportunity for the flesh.  We can dangerously flirt with a rebellious attitude.  We might start indulging in things that are not wise to indulge in just for the sake of the fact that we can...because the Bible does not explicitly tells us to not do them.  We can flirt too closely with sinful things because it "feels good" to be close to them.  Just because the Bible doesn't say, "thou shalt not drink alcohol" doesn't mean it's wise for us to do so.  While the Bible doesn't say we shouldn't drink it...it doesn't have much good to say about it...there are far more passages that say bad things about it than there are that say good things about it.  If one can drink it and not be tempted to drink to excess, by all means...but we need to be wise.  This idea can apply to lots of things.  We do have freedom, but we need to be careful.

Another caution I have is that we can allow our new found freedom to cause us to have a haughty attitude toward those who are still clinging to cultural fundamentalist ideas.  Many of us may have parents and pastors who hold to these ideas...we must show them the respect that God commands us to show them.  As this passage above calls us to do...we must love them.  When we look down on them, and treat them with disdain...we are in danger of biting and devouring one another, as the verse above also states.  If we try to forcibly get them to see things the way we see them, they're probably going to dig in their heels and fight back.  We must present our ideas with grace, and show them by our life that even if we have looser standards than them, we are just as committed to living for God's glory, if not more than before.  We need to pray for them and ask God to work in their lives.  God is going to be the one who affects the change in them...just as God was the one who affected the change in us.

Ultimately recovering cultural fundamentalists need to be humbly committed to following the Word of God and showing Christlike love to those around us.  Serving in our churches in a God honoring way...submitting to our authorities and loving our God more supremely than anything or anyone else.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Do we serve a boring God?

Pastors, if you are content to preach boring sermons you need to spend more time getting to know our infinitely interesting God.
-Stephen Altrogge

Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but do you ever feel like people think God is boring?  When you talk to them about God the drawl on with a monotone voice about how great God is.  You hear preachers preach in a way that could put the most hyper-active kid to sleep.  I know that I've even felt this way at times.  I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every time the doors were open...and I went through periods of boredom.  I had heard the story of David and Goliath so many times, and I was sick of hearing it.

One day God used a message to get a hold of my heart, and showed me that I could always learn something new about my God from the Word.

When we are confronted with the truth from the Word about our awesome God, how could we ever be bored with Him?  He formed the universe and everything in it with his words, except for man, which he lovingly created with His hands.  Colossians speaks of the fact that God holds things together even.

I find the way that I get the most excited about God and what He does is by letting my imagination picture something that I read.  For example...David and Goliath...I close my eyes and try to picture the scene...little tiny probably red-headed David standing up against a huge ugly giant...and God delivers Goliath into David's hand by causing him to kill him with a stone and a sling...the stories really about God, not about David's courage.

Or maybe letting my imagination go with the idea that God holds everything together...imagine everything in the universe...from the biggest star, to the smallest cell being held together...our body is made up of an innumerable number of cells, and God knows the number of them, and holds them all together.  Wow...how can we be bored with our God when we consider that?

So...Pastors...Teachers...Christians...study the Word and get to know our interesting God better...when we get a glimpse of what our God is like based on what we read of Him in the scriptures...we can't help but be excited about Him.

Known for Christlikeness...

In our Christian version of the American dream, our plan ends up disinfecting Christians from the world more than discipling Christians in the world...Disinfecting Christians from the world involves isolating followers of Christ in a spiritual safe-deposit box called the church building and teaching them to be good.  In this strategy, success in the church is defined by how big a building you have to house all the Christians, and the goal is to gather as many people as possible for a couple of hours each week in that place where we are isolated and insulated from the realities of the world around us.  When someone asks, "Where is your church?" we point them to a building or give them an address, and everything centers around what happens at that location.  When we gather at the building we learn how to be good.  Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world.  We are holy because of what we don't participate in (and at this point we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don't do).
-David Platt, from his book "Radical" pages 104-105

This is an extremely sad, but true statement.  If you haven't read this book...I highly recommend it.

The issues these words bring up have been a huge issue in the church for far too long.  We live in our "Christian" boxes and stand as far away from the world as possible.  We listen to the right music...wear the right clothes...talk the right way...don't go to the movie theater...etc, and we look down our noses at those who do not do the same.  We communicate by our actions that if you want me to talk to you you need to fix up your life first.

Is this what Jesus taught and lived, though?

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee,standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off,would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

When we live in the way I spoke about above...are we not behaving like this Pharisee?  He defined himself as being right before God because of all the things he did and didn't do...but we should all be broken before God knowing that we are wicked sinners before our God...worthy of no pride in ourselves!

All throughout His ministry, Jesus did not spend time with the religious ones, but with the sinners.  He went to those that were rejected by the religious ones.  Don't think this means that I'm preaching an acceptance gospel.  People argue that because Jesus ate with sinners, that meant he was accepting of their sin...but that is not what Jesus taught...

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
John 7:53-8:11 (ESV)

Jesus does not condone the sins of the woman, he tells her to go and sin no more.  He loved them and fellowshipped with them, but he did not tell them that their sin was okay.

Now...does this mean that I think Christians should go into the bar on Friday night to share the gospel with people?  No, I don't think so.  This is flirting too closely with dangerous temptations.  But it does mean that as we go throughout our day we should reach out in love to whomever we meet, no matter how "bad" they might look.

So...what should we believers be known for, if it's not to be known by what we don't do?
We should be known for Christlikeness!  A Christlikeness that comes from an intimate fellowship with our Lord...not through external changes.  It's a work that God does in our life, not a work we do for ourselves.  We read the Word and allow God to use it in our lives to make us more like Him.

We need to see ourselves rightly before God...sinful people saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul said of himself that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)...we should view ourselves before God as being the chief of sinners as well.  When we view ourselves like this...how could we ever look down our noses at the "sinners" around us?  The man who is hooked on drugs, we should not look down on...because, but for the grace of God, we could be right where they are.

So Christians...humble yourself before God...reach out in love to those around you...share Christ with people, and do it with zeal, because we serve an awesome God...

Friday, August 9, 2013

What or whom do you worship?

What or whom do you worship?  I would argue that what or whom you worship is evidenced in many ways.  What do you talk about all the time?  What do you think about when your not doing anything?  What is your all consuming desire?  Be honest with yourself...if we're the "professional Christian" who was raised hearing the jargon we know how to answer those questions with a "Christian" answer.  But really...if we're honest with ourselves...how would we answer?

I know that in my life it's a constant struggle..."lesser lights and fleeting shadows" steal my affections all the time.  A good gift given by God, turns into an idol.

We try to juggle God and the things that please us in this life...but, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other..."(Matthew 6:24, ESV)

I've tasted and seen that the Lord is good...and yet I forget...and run after what pleases me.

These idols are subtle too...they take many forms.  Even music...a wonderful gift from God, can either pull me closer to Him, or draw me away...I can worship the music instead of Him.  My iPod Touch has great apps that can help me increase in the knowledge of my God (Logos, ESV Study Bible, Accordance)...but it also holds great power to steal my affections, and draw me away to sin.

I can even look like I'm a dedicated Christian, trying to serve God...but if I'm doing it in my own strength and absorbing all the praise for myself...I'm not worshipping my God...I'm worshipping myself.  This one is hard too...because it feels so right...we like it because it feels like we're doing so well with our God...we look so good...and we do all the "right" things...but our affections are not for God.  This is what the Jews did in the Old Testament...they were going through the motions...doing all the right things...expecting God to bless them and protect them...but they were not worshipping Him...they were worshipping themselves...and God punishes them for it.  They even tried to worship idols along with God...just like we do...but God is a jealous God...who wants us to worship Him alone!

When I run after these idols, they never satisfy...in fact I often find myself hating them...but my flesh enjoys them so much...I can't resist...in me exists no power to overcome the temptation...I need Christ...

God is the all powerful Lord of the universe...He is YAHWEH...Jehova God!  He deserves all our praise and worship...

My prayer is that I could say with the Psalmist:

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole beingrejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:5-11, ESV)