Category Archives: VIP

Very Important Posts: This is a category to store my most important posts.

What if God chooses not to “elect” my children?

Front Page Tough Questions VIP

During the Summer, I worked through the book of Romans in my Sunday messages at Lafayette Community Church. To hear the messages, visit the Great News II page.

One of the topics that Romans raises is the notion of election vs. free will. I took a rather strong position from Romans 9-11 that God chooses who will be saved. I taught that everyone has the freedom to choose God, but because of sin’s deceitfulness no one does unless God makes the first move to choose them and draw them to himself.

This has raised some very interesting questions in our church’s “CONNECT” cards over the past couple of months, and one that came in this past week really got me thinking. Tonight, I wrote a long response to the couple that asked the question, and I thought it would make sense to post the answer here as well. Continue reading

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Thoughts on the Problem of Evil

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It seems so capricious and uncaring that a God would allow his own son to suffer, until you get the bigger picture that God loved the sinful world so much that he sacrificed one son, for three days, to gain billions of children for a sinless eternity.

We look at all pain and suffering from the human side of the cross, from the perspective of the disciples on Friday. From that angle, the crucifixion is the most terrifying work of evil ever done. Evil got Jesus, and it might get me too. God sacrificed his son, and he might sacrifice me too.

However, if we wait around just three days, we can gain a glimpse of the cross from God’s side, and in light of the resurrection, we see that the worst possible evil, was only temporary. The apparently careless God was working out an eternal plan.

Evil is temporary. Good is forever. The most apparently evil moment in history was simultaneously the moment of the greatest good.

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Why does God let us face trials?

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James 1:2-3 gives the standard Christian answer to this question:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…

Of course, knowing the Sunday school answer and being okay with it are two different things entirely, but this week, I have gained a new perspective on the question that I thought I would share with you. Here are some significant verses from my devotional reading this week:
Continue reading

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Quick Study on the Rapture

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This week at my Life Group, we looked at the clearest teaching in the Bible regarding the rapture, and I’ve become even more convicted about one particular position. This post is intended to guide you through the same study we considered this week and to give an inside track on what I’m currently thinking about the matter.

What is the Rapture?

Before I talk about anything else, I should probably define what I mean by the rapture and why I want to talk about it now.

The Rapture refers to the event described in the Bible of Christ returning to earth and his followers being “caught up” to meet him in the air.

The major biblical controversy is twofold:

  1. Do the biblical statements on the rapture event indicate a literal and physical departure from the surface of the earth?
  2. When does the rapture event happen in relation to the rest of prophesied end-time events? Continue reading
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Helping People Resolve Conflict

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When two people are in conflict with each other, bringing about resolution can be difficult. However, when two Christians are in conflict, the process of reconciliation should not be as hard as it is.

In conflict situations, I like to ask a few questions:

  • Describe all the sin in this conflict. Who has committed sin and what is the exact nature of each sin? (the goal is to seek reconciliation with God and forgiveness from each other over sins committed)

  • Describe all the pain in this conflict NOT CAUSED BY SIN. What actions caused your pain and why were they so painful? (the goal is to get people to explore their own inner life not blame others or air dirty laundry. The WHY is powerful.)

  • Describe the goals and desired outcomes on both sides. What is the bigger picture, the vision, and how do we get there now? (the goal is to establish a plan of action and guidelines for future relationship through listening to each other’s joys, hopes, needs, and dreams)

After all, as believers in Christ, we know the power of forgiveness, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, and we have a purpose that goes far beyond our petty differences.

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What’s wrong with premarital sex?

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What’s wrong with premarital sex?

One of the questions I get a lot is the question about sexual morality as it relates to the Bible, and it’s one I have thought a lot about as well considering that I do quite a bit of marital counseling and also considering that I’m a guy and I think about these issues myself!

Of course, the biggest question about sexual morality is whether the Bible actually prohibits premarital sex, and if it does prohibit it, why?

I’m going to try to answer that question simply from three angles: What does the Bible teach about sex? What effect does sex have on people? Where should the limits be drawn (i.e. what is the Biblical definition of “sex”)?

Continue reading

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What I believe about God’s Revelation

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I know that some people are especially interested in the bigger details of faith, so I decided to post here my full “Doctrinal Statement.” This is the first post in this series, and it reflects the “short form” of my Doctrinal Statement. If you wish to download my entire Doctrinal Statement in either short form or its more detailed version, I will have those links posted soon. The rest of the posts in this series will be filed under the “What I Believe” category. Continue reading

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How to be a wise blogging pastor?

Church Planting Front Page Geekery Leadership Tough Questions VIP

Colossians 4:5 says this:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

As a pastor who’s got a blog, I’ve been thinking about how this verse relates to blogging. I’ve been blogging for over a year, and I don’t yet have a “manifesto” like this guy on what my blogging policy should be. However, I’ve been prompted this week by some friends to consider it, so I’m thinking through the issues.

As I see it, there are three ways for a pastor (or anyone for that matter) to do a blog.

  1. Use the blog as a personal journal where you “get naked” (according to a book on blogging by Robert Scoble the guy I linked to above.) in front of your virtual audience and basically share anything and everything. Of course, there is some room for discretion, but in general, it’s your personal journal viewable by the world.
  2. Use the blog as a “content management system” which basically means you maintain your own online magazine with articles essays and whatnot and use a blog mechanism to manage your content and people’s comments on your content. One example of that is The Resurgence.
  3. Use the blog as a hodge-podge mix of the two—blogging about whatever seems to come to mind. (I’m not sure it fits, but I’ll link to it anyway.) See Tim Challies’ blog for an example of a blog that attempts to be personal & academic though it weighs more toward the academic side.

As I’ve been around the net a while, it seems to me that the majority of “Gen X” church planters who blog opt for version 3 with a heavy leaning on option 1.

I’ve been using this site as mostly #3 so far. As you can see from my categories on the sidebar, I’ve got sermons, Bible studies, personal journal entries, exposing my own spiritual life, computer issues, and even some posts on internet fraud. You can see it is all over the map like a Christmas tree with every kind of ornament ever invented showing up on it.

In fact, it seems that my posts on self examination and internet fraud are my most popular. Are people even reading my blog to grow spiritually?

So the question I’m asking myself now is this: What kind of web presence should I have? If you have any comments on this, I’d like to read them. Or you can give me a call on my cell at 765-404-0807 to tell me what you think personally. If you want to think this through with me, check out the links I placed above or my links in the sidebar of my .

What kind of blog helps people grow spiritually?
X
transparent academic

Where would the X fall for you?

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Explaining the Whole Bible

Explaining the Bible Front Page VIP

As I have spoken with people about the Bible, I find more and more that people aren’t really familiar with the “plot” or the overall story of the Bible. Therefore, I’m going to try to go through the entire story of the Bible in a very brief overview fashion. The challenge is that I don’t want to leave anything out, but I want to make sure I’m not spending too much time on less essential things. To that end. I hope to actually split this up into two projects. One will be my brief commentary on each book of the Bible—that will help me feel like I’m covering everything in enough detail. The second will be my narrative summary of the whole Bible. Read More on this Topic

I’m not sure how this is going to work, so I’ll just get started.

If you subscribe to my blog by email, this is the only post you’ll be getting about this project. If you want to read my posts on the Bible, you will need to visit my site regularly, subscribe by rss, or update your email settings through the link in your email.

God bless.

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Is there “Recovery” for the homosexual?

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In the living room of my in-laws’ home I watched an episode of Law and Order that I haven’t seen before, and it bothered me quite a bit.

The victim was a young man who had tried unsuccessfully to “recover” from homosexuality through the counseling and support of a religious group called Regenesis. One of the supporters of the organization was a local doctor who had been promoting research that homosexuality was a reversible condition.

Along the way, the show took a few cheap shots at moral conservatives. Here are the two things that offended me the most:

  1. They connected the concepts of “Regenesis” and homosexual “recovery” to the attitudes of the vicious anti-gay religious protesters such as the infamous “God Hates Fags” pastor Fred Phelps. In so doing, they were trying to say that whether your methods are “acceptable” or not, a negative perspective of homosexuality in any sense is “unacceptable.” It’s the basic TV belief that tolerance is paramount (of course, the exception to this rule is that we must be intolerant of the intolerant).
  2. They directly attacked the efforts (not the research or the results as much) of the homosexual recovery agencies. In fact, they basically said that it was stupid for anyone to think a homosexual could “change.” I think they presented the “Regenesis” group in a good light but then quickly tore them down as being just as unaccepting, bigoted, and irrational as the Fred Phelps types.

I’m offended by these things because I feel they are dealing with a religious / moral issue as if it were a rational one. They are downplaying the heart of love many Christians have for homosexuals if it is ever combined with a belief that homosexuality is, as the Bible claims, an unnatural behavior. They are basically saying that people have to be idiots, bigots, or something worse to think that homosexuals can change or even control themselves.

I for one, have a higher view of both God and people than that. Yes, I unashamedly believe that people can change. I am a sin-aholic. My body is addicted to so many sins that I can’t even get into it all here. But I am undoubtedly addicted to sin. However, an amazing thing is true for me. My love for God oftens outpaces my desire to sin. There have been times in my life when I have been strongly tempted to sin but have instead resisted and claimed the promise God gives me—resist the devil and he will flee from you!

My point is simply this: We are all sinners. Each of us struggles with different sins with different levels of consequences in this present world. So what if the jury is still out on the present-day consequences of homosexual behavior? The jury is still out on the present-day consequences of coveting too! But that’s why God didn’t tell us to decide these things based on a jury. He’s simply told us what he wants, and we need to find our place in his will as we are set free from sin by the power of the cross and bound to righteousness by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I’d love to hear your comments on this one. Is there recovery for homosexual people? Do you know anyone? Have you experienced it yourself? Please write some thoughts and help me make this blog entry a helpful one for others too.

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My honor depends on God

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My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.—Psalm 62:7

I was reading Psalm 62 this morning for my quiet time, and this verse popped out to me. Reading it sparked a little “wow” moment somewhere inside me.

Everything about this verse is almost cliche to me. Sure, my salvation depends on God. Sure, he is my mighty rock. Sure, he is my refuge. All those things are “old hat” to someone who has been in the church since he was born.

However, there is that extra little word thrown in there—honor. My honor depends on God.

It just got me thinking. How much time do I waste during my day trying to preserve or earn “honor” for myself? I imagine that 90% of my day is about gaining honor in some way.

When I do my todo list, my motivation is usually to impress someone. I want to impress my wife who really values getting things done in a timely way. I want to impress the people I know in Lafayette, so they will trust me more as their pastor. I want to impress unbelievers so they will listen to my message. Whenever I do anything, on some level, I’m trying to earn honor from others.

But my honor depends on God.

That’s a new thought for me. I have always thought that my honor depends on me and my performance. Sure, people tell me all the time that “It doesn’t matter what you do as much as it matters what kind of person you are,” but when it comes to honor or reputation it really seems to depend on what I do, doesn’t it?

Well, according to King David. Our honor doesn’t depend on what we do before people. Our honor depends on God. My honor—how I am evaluated by others—doesn’t depend on me or on the fickle nature of other people. My honor depends on God.

Now that is a refreshing thought!

Suddenly, I feel more empowered to focus my energies on pleasing God rather than people. If it is true that my honor really depends on God, then he should be my only concern. I should invest myself in pleasing him, and if he so desires to honor me in the eyes of others, that is his prerogative. If my honor really depends on God, then my attempts to please others will always yield lackluster results.


Lord, I just want to thank you for teaching me this lesson today. I want you to please you. I want to concern myself more with how I stand before you than with anything else. And I want to know what means to stand before you robed in Christ. I want to know your grace.

Thank you for showing your grace to me this morning by teaching me something new. Help me to always remember that my honor isn’t about how well I can impress people. My honor depends on you.

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Make the Right Things Easy

Front Page Leadership VIP

I read
this
article
recently where the author is talking about how to make users
of your product or service happy. The basic premise of the article is
that you should make the right things easy and the
wrong things hard.

A great illustration of this is a three pronged electrical plug. There is
only one way that the plug can go into the wall safely, and the plug is
designed in such a way that the safe way to plug it in is the only
way to plug it in. In that case, the “right” thing is also the “easy”
thing.

However, the author also describes that car dashboards, being long and
flat, are designed to make the wrong thing easy-putting stuff on them. In
an accident, all those things put on dashboards become projectiles ready
to wound anyone in their path not to mention the visibility problems and
distraction problems of things moving around on that dashboard!

I guess the question for church leadership is how to make the right
things easy.

What are the right things?

Despite the popular demands for customized programs and the innumerable
things that churches could be doing, there really are only a few things
that churches should be doing. Here is my (non-exhaustive) list:

  • Spurring people on toward a deeper walk with God.
  • Teaching and coaching people to understand and take their next steps
    of faith.

  • Putting people into healthy, loving, supportive relationships.
  • Commissioning people into ministry to a lost and dying world.

From the standpoint of an individual in the church, the right things
are:

  • A deep walk with God
  • Taking next steps of understanding and faith
  • Supportive, loving relationships
  • Ministering

Make them easy

So if those are the right things to be doing, how can we make them
easier?

Well, churches have for many years been making these very things the most
difficult things to be doing. We have had services of worship that are
based on following traditions more than on helping people to go deeper
with God. We have had classes that focus on learning some truth rather
than changing our lives. We have had programs that put people in
antagonistic relationships (volunteer committees to name but one), and we
have put high restrictions on who is qualified to be in
ministry.

To make these easy, I suggest these things.

Make worship accessible.

the church needs to focus on making worship accessible to people (service
times, styles, locations, etc.) so that everyone can have an experience
that helps them go deeper with God while at the same time making the
practice of personal devotions easier (I’m still working on that). Now,
of course that means that services can’t be all fluff and feel good
stuff. They have to really take people to the deeper realities both
emotionally and intellectually to see the truth of who God really
is.

Make loving relationships cultural.

Churches talk about small groups and whatnot being a part of what they do
as a church. However, small groups don’t work unless they are part of the
underlying culture of the church. Something cultural is something that
everyone knows is expected of them and they are fine with it. It’s
cultural in Brazil for people to speak Portuguese. People in Brazil
expect that other people will speak their language and people who live
there are okay with that.

The thing is that we Christians in North America have lost the sense that
relationships are part of our culture. It isn’t expected of us that we
will have strong relationships with other believers. What is expected in
many cases is that the pastor will meet our needs if we have them
or that the church’s benevolent fund will come to our rescue if
needed.

I advocate churches that require small group relationships instead of
“membership.” In fact, I advocate a church whose membership consists
entirely and only of those who are in a small group of some
kind.

Make change fun.

At the core of Christianity is the concept of “conversion” or being “born
again.” In other words, the fundamental starting point for any individual
believer is radical life change. Beyond that, the Bible consistently
stresses that believers are in a process of continual change to become
more and more like Jesus all the time.

Why is it, then, that the single most unchanging organization in the
world is the church? I’m serious; there are churches that have traditions
going back to the dark ages! Literally. If we are to be people undergoing
constant change, then why can’t we be part of an organization that is
undergoing constant change? Because change is threatening for most of us.
In response, I think we need to change our attitude toward change. We
need to make change fun. Why can’t we rejoice with every change that
happens?

Now, I know that for spiritual growth, there needs to be some kind of
stability in our lives and especially in our churches, but that doesn’t
mean we can’t have parties now and then. I think the church should throw
a party every time something changes.

I recently heard of a church where every time the pastor finishes a
series of messages, they throw a party to celebrate the completion of
that season of learning!

Make ministry earth-shattering.

Aha! You thought I was going to say something like make ministry
available to everyone, huh? Yeah, many churches have limited ministry to
the seminary trained elite or others who have a specific skill set, but
the solution isn’t simply to open up ministry to everyone.

To open up ministry to everyone does nothing more than cheapen what
ministry is all about. Instead, we need to propel ministry into the
position of being absolutely essential to the church. And to do that, we
need to talk about the real, big ministries of the church not the little
tiny ministries of the church.

If your church has a sound team, don’t talk about working on the sound
team. Instead, talk about the incredible impact the worship service has
on people’s hearts and lives and then mention that people who are
interested in sound equipment can serve on the worship sound team or
something like that.

People need to hear that they can make an eternal
difference in someone’s life.

Perhaps there is nothing as important as simply helping people to realize
that they themselves are as qualified as they need to be to share the
truth of Jesus with others they know. A couple weeks ago, I taught my
congregation that Jesus plants a seed in our hearts that he wants to grow
and produce fruit, and though we often think it is our job to produce
fruit, we need to realize that the fruit of our lives is really found in
the spreading of the seed to others. The bottom line is that we need to
take the seed Jesus gave us and pass that to others.

How did Jesus save you? That’s the gospel that someone needs to hear. You
don’t have to take them through a tract or something artificial, you only
need to tell them how Jesus saved you!

Conclusion

We can allow ourselves to get distracted by many things, but at the end
of the day, there are only a few things that Jesus has called the church
to be doing. As church leaders, we can lead and make decisions that make
those things natural and easy for those in our churches. If we do that
well, we won’t just have happy “customers” we will have a church that
consistently brings greater glory to God as people get closer to him, get
closer to each other, take steps of personal growth, and minister to
others.

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