Lies We Tell Ourselves

liar

Are there lies that we tell ourselves?  If we are truthful, we know we are very good at lying to ourselves (Jer 17:9). We have become so good at this skill, that we believe our lies make good enough excuses to fool other people. Ironically, once we have believed our contortions of reality, we view those who do not agree as foolish for not entering our pseudo-world. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves in this pseudo-world is that spiritual things have a class of their own.

Since reality has a way of uncovering falsehood.  Let’s take a look at some of the arguments often given for spiritual apathy and see how well the same arguments would line up in reality.

  1. “I am too tired to read the Bible.” “I am too tired to eat food.”gym 2
  1. “I don’t go to church because it is filled with hypocrites.” “I don’t go to the gym because I’ve seen fat people there.”
  1. “I don’t go to church because it is all about money.” “I don’t go to Wal-mart, Target, or any business, because they are about making money.”

 

  1. “I don’t read the Bible because I don’t understand it.” “I don’t use computers because I don’t know binary code.”

 

  1. “The preacher preached directly at me.” “The doctor prescribed medication to fit my situation.”

 

  1. “I am against organized religion.” “I am against certified mechanics, carpenters, or USDA approved food.”

 

  1. “I am waiting to fix a few things in my life before joining a church.” “I think I need to lose 20 pounds before I join the gym.” doctor-563428__180.jpg
  1. “I have too much baggage.” “I am too sick to go to the hospital.”
  1. “My parents used to make me go to church.” “I will recant from potty training, nap taking, and eating solid foods.”
  1. “I felt too convicted at church.” “I quit looking at the mirror.”
  1. “My pastor won’t understand my problems.” “What would a mechanic know about fixing a car?”
  1. “They tried to convince me to change.” “The traffic controller wouldn’t let me pass.”
  1. “I don’t go to church because people judge.” “I will not watch any movies or read books that have had reviews.”
  1. “I cannot go to a place with such high expectations.” “I think the military should lower its standards.”
  1. “The church wasn’t there for my physical needs.” “I called all the bars, and they wouldn’t give me any money.”
  1. “I can’t go to a church that doesn’t care about my feelings.” “Please don’t operate on me doctor, it hurts when you cut out cancer.”

God has made it perfectly clear that the very purpose of a church is to help us see past our own lies and excuses, that we me be perfected by His truth.  So next time you are confronted with reality, be thankful for a church body or friend who is willing to grow with you in Christ-likeness.

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 

 

 

 

Super Hero Training Part 2

Last week we looked at some of the basic super powers God has given every believer. This is the default setting for all believers, yet to each church God gives special gifts to accomplish His Capttask and purpose (Eph 4:12). Sort of like the Avengers team, these gifts must all be used in the proper order. Hulk is good at smashing, Captain America is good at leading and to reverse these roles or trade gifts would be disastrous.

This team principle is exactly what happened in Acts 6:1-6. The Apostles were truly gifted at studying, preaching, and praying, but there were some serious physical needs in the church. So God brought up some men with “super powers” specific to the need of the church.

When our A-Team runs into problems is when we start working in areas that we have no super powers (Hulk starts thinking). We continually look at people through the lens of our own super power. “If they were spiritual they would teach a Sunday school class like me…. If they cared about church they would have people over more often….” And we forget that some have the gift of teaching while others the gift of hospitality.

That which upsets us most in our relationships is probably someone else’s gift shining through.

Another aspect that often happens in churches is the gift of God is never exercised (I Tim 1:6). If your gift is not used, it is impossible to stay attentive at church, and you will get restless and eventually frustrate others. Think about it, if God sent you to a church according to Ephesians 4:11-16 you are there to serve the A-Team. Anything else but service, is selfishness and the whole team suffers.

The team will suffer in many ways. First they will not have your specific talent, so either the important task will go undone or someone who is not qualified or gifted will have to fill your place, both are disastrous.

Secondly, you will start getting restless.  The Spirit that indwells you and gifts you will let you know that you are squandering His gifts.  There will be no peace for a believer that refuses to submit and serve (Eph 5:18, Phil 4:7).

As restlessness steps in, the very next step will be a spirit of criticism and disunity.  Instead of seeing the benefit of playing together, we will expect everyone to “pass us the ball.”  We become individuals instead of a team as we seek confirmation for our own abilities and perspective.

Finally, if the gift is not exercised, we will feel lost and out of place.  Instead of putting on our work boots and seeing the skills and talents we all posses, we will live in isolation.  Soon we will feel like nobody understands us, and find a need to justify our lack of service.

The worst side effect of isolation is that we cut ourselves off from the gifts of the body designed by God to help us grow, and doom ourselves to immaturity.

God has given us all gifts and talents and expects them to be used for Him and His glory.

So to make it personal, what tasks could you do at your specific local church?  What special talents do you have?  How could they meet the needs of your A-Team?

What Happened to My Church?

Awkward

Did you ever think you would feel awkward at church? Very few things surprise the college student more than leaving for college with dozens of cards and hundreds of dollars from church members, and then returning and feeling awkward at church. There are some easy ways to relieve that awkwardity at church.

First, engage. Get involved. Find a ministry that needs help and fill it. Ask the leadership about helping out in kids or youth ministries. Invest in the elderly. Purposely talk with them after services, and see if you could stop by and help or just visit some afternoon. Think of it, you just spent thousands of dollars to grow intellectually and spiritually at college, and many have never bothered tapping into 50-60 years of experience for free!

Second, interact. After 9 months at college things look the same, but they really have changed. Come to church prepared to ask questions. Ask about what God has been teaching them, ask about their joys/struggles. See if they have any special prayer requests or needs. Now is the greatest time to invest in people and get to know them on an adult level. Ask them how they met their spouse, or the steps they took when looking for a job or buying a house. After being gone, there will invariably be people at church who have never met you, go over and introduce yourself. Who knows if maybe you are one conversation away from making a lifetime friend?

Third, invest. Young people think college students are the bomb! (their word choice not mine) Do you remember how you felt as a junior higher when a college student took the time to talk with you? (If you never had that experience, then I am sorry the selfish, stuck up snobs robbed you of a very meaningful experience, don’t repeat their mistake.) You have an opportunity to shape moldable souls for eternity. You don’t have to teach a Sunday school class or do a weekly Bible study, to affect them eternally. Simply do what you do with a tag-along. If you are a race fan, kick out a few extra bucks and invite a younger kid to go with. If you like fishing, manicures, or whatever, invest in a young life. Remember, Paul’s admonition to be followers as he followed Christ. If you are a terrible role model, and an example of selfishness, then it is best that you stay selfish by yourself and not ruin a young soul for eternity.

Fourth, unveil. Church is meant to be a place where we share our burdens and take out our poky sticks and prompt each other to love and good works (Gal 6:1, Heb 10:24). When was the last time you helped someone carry a spiritual burden? When was the last time you agonized with someone else as they shared Scripture encouraging you to grow? Most people do not even realize that there is a spiritual battle raging in our souls. It is too dangerous to share and open up. The closest we may get to opening up is to share at prayer meeting, that we are struggling “with something”, or ask for an unspoken request. How many fellow warriors know about your battle with pornography? How many believers can raise their shields and help protect you from the assaults of depression, fear of failure, moral lapses, or the constant struggle with faithfulness? If I do not open up, church will become an archaic ritual, instead of a training ground for life.

Finally, pray. How often did you pray for your home church while you were away? HoMEDION DIGITAL CAMERAw often do you pray for your church right now? If I do not care enough about my church to pray for it, I have already left, and am just waiting for my body to catch up with my decision.

Awkwardity is a very good thing. It reminds us that there are some things that we need to change. If you are not engaging, interacting, unveiling, and or praying, then God’s gift to you at church will be the gift of awkwardity.

Get In The Game

Get In The Game

Have you ever sat in church and wondered, why am I here?

I would like to compare church going to a basketball game. In a game there are 4 types of people.

Those who are on the court, on the bench, in the stands, and those who hear about it from someone else. Said more succinctly: Those who do, those who sit, those who watch, and those who hear.

Regarding those who do, nobody experiences the game like a player. Those who do, get to see the wisdom of the coach. Those who do, get to experience the thrills of the game. The intensity of a play well executed, the focus of a unified team.

Those who do, also get to experience the joys of preparation. Their hard work pays off. Their discipline is shown. Those who do are motivated to train and grow, and are able to not only add to the team, but grow personally.

The next group of church goers are those who sit. This group makes themselves available but to a lesser extent. I am not talking about the 6th and 7th man but the third string, the ones who are sent in when it really doesn’t matter. Generally there is a dedication difference between 1st and 3rd string. (I do understand that in many schools there are extenuating circumstances such as politics, age, or position.) The starters, however, as a whole are focused on training on and off the court. The third string can “afford” an extra dessert or more time on the PlayStation instead of the gym.

When a coach looks at someone who is consistently late for practice or gives half effort during practice, his natural inclination is to reward them with the honor of watching the team dressed in their jerseys.

The third group are those who watch. Those who watch are bound to get tired, their buns are going to get sore, and they will get bored (that’s why they are eating.) When they are not stuffing their face with extra-large sodas and popcorn, audience members have the rather unique privilege of commentating and criticizing all from the comfort of their uninvolved perch. Audience members can join in the excitement, but cannot truly claim victory.

The final group are those we hear. This last group has no investment in the team or outcome, they simply hear about the game from another observer. Chances are after a few highlights the conversation drifts to other topics.

So the question remains, where are you today?

Let me know your thoughts, how can you determine the difference between a player and an observer? Is it fair to base commitment levels on actions? What changes have you noticed when you have been a player or observer?

What I Wish I Knew About Church

sinners

Choosing a new church particularly as a college student can be a monumental task.  Many times we treat churches like a McDonalds menu, we order what we like, and we expect it our way.   There are many things I wish I had known as a college student picking out a church.

I wish I had known that I was an answer to prayer. The first new church I went to, the Pastor had prayed for a college student. Many churches are tired and life has zapped them of the energy of youth. Your presence could herald the fact that God is not done working in their church.

I wish I had known that it wasn’t about me. I wanted a church that could minister to my needs and make me comfortable. Nowhere in Scripture will we find this philosophy blessed. In fact the opposite is true, church is not about me. You should be searching for ministries that stretch you and move you away from your current comfort zone. If you are attending a church where you don’t feel you fit keep reading.

I wish I had known the value of the assets I possessed. I did not understand the value of what I possessed as a college student. Even if you cannot sing or feel qualified to teach, there is an enormous amount of untapped potential for a church in every college student. You have:

Abilities: The most obvious abilities in a church would be singing and teaching, but the list goes so much deeper. If the thought of standing in front of a congregation is more terrifying to you than a herd of rabid monkeys, that’s OK, simply check out what you do well.   An ability is simply a skill that you possess and every person has them. If you are sports minded, maybe you could be involved in a weekend camp. Maybe you are gifted with media and know how to convert audio into MP3’s, most churches could use that. Maybe your skills lie in art. See if you could design a bulletin or brochure. If you are mechanically minded, bring your tools and start some repairs. Maybe you like to cook, find an elderly lady who needs encouragement and bake away! Whatever your skills, God wants you to use them, and the church will be more than happy to plug you in.

Energy: This can translate into, playing ball after church, shoveling the walk, cleaning the church, chaperoning youth activities (includes free pizza), giving rides, greeting people, pushing children on the swings, giving testimonies, passing out flyers, setting up for activities, decorating, hanging out with the youth, talking with different age groups, writing a letter to a young kid….

Prayer: If you are not praying specifically for your church, it is not your church.MEDION DIGITAL CAMERA

There are many more assets that people possess, but make sure you are proactive about finding needs.

 

I wish I had known that people wanted me involved. I wish I had proactively gotten involved in people’s lives. I wish I had taken a directory home and memorized people’s names, and then told them I was praying specifically for them. I wish I had asked about people’s needs and done what I could to meet them. I wish I had understood the value of a listening ear. Larry King once remarked, “I never learned anything new when I was the one talking.”

I wish I had known to have a conversation with the pastor. I wish I had asked him about Scripture and his thoughts on theology. If I am paying thousands of dollars to get an education, why not take advantage of a man with oodles of degrees and years of life experience, and it’s all free.  I would have asked him several questions. I would have asked: if he ever doubted his choice to go into ministry, what concerns did he have for the church, what is his passion in ministry, how could I free up his time, if there was any way I could specifically encourage someone, what areas would he like me to serve in?… Most pastors are looking for someone to invest in, there is nothing more energizing for a pastor than someone who is willing to be poured into.

I wish I knew that church is a place where sinners go. So I should not be surprised when things are not perfect, including me.

I wish I had read ahead. If the teacher is going through a study or a book of the Bible, if you take a little time to read about the topic being discussed or read the Bible passage, it will increase learning exponentially.  

I wish I had known about consistency. Sadly, I attended 5 different churches during my 4 years at school. A lot of that had to do with logistics (transportation, and travel time), but I was not able to build lasting relationships or a consistent ministry. I wish I had kept with a church ministry and seen it grow. I also wish I had sent off a letter or two during the summer to keep everyone in touch with my life. If you do have to leave a church for some reason, be sure to let the leadership know as they have begun to care about and count of you.

Your church experience will directly mirror what you put into it. If you are willing to apply some of these practical ideas, I guarantee it will transform your church experience.

I would love to hear about your experiences or other suggestions for making church going a more fruitful experience.

 

A Parable of the Modern Church

camel2

There is a story told of a well in the middle east. It was in the desert, and some travelers came across it. camel2They hadn’t put any work into it nor did they know where it came from, they just knew that it met their needs and so they stayed. It was the only place for miles were people could get water. So they set up their tents and made it home. After a while children were born and those children had children. The oasis grew until it became a small village.

And the well kept providing. It seemed to those in the village that the well had always been there and they gave little thought to the source of the water.  Soon desert nomads came to visit and brought with them exotic wears and expensive spices. As time passed Caravans laden with dainties and precious treasures, became more and more frequent.

But a problem arose and the clan leaders all got together and had consul in order to decide what to do. Someone had voiced concerns that with the size of the village and all the caravans that the well would dry up. “That is impossible!” One of the elders cried out. “It has been here since before we got here and it will continue.” But questions grew and it was concluded that no one really knew how long it would last.

So a decision was made to ration how much water was given to the visitors. Almost instantaneously the council reconvened to discuss another horrendous problem.

“The caravans have stopped and our trade carts lie empty and I fear we may never get them back.” One man said. “It is because we have selfishly horded our water.” An elderly founder said with a cracked age ridden voice.” “Nonsense, what do those with expensive jewels and leisure want with water, there is nothing special about our well, and besides they are used to the finest wines in all the land, they have no interest in our water. What we need is to offer them something that would attract them.” “We could build a bizarre under a great tent with all sorts of trading goods and music, and torches by night.” “Yes, Yes!” The council erupted.

And they began to build. Shortly before they finished the grand bizarre, they sent men on camels to all the major trade routes to alert the mighty sheiks of the completion of the bizarre.tent

What a day it was. There were animals from all four corners of the globe, and feasting and wine, the village had never made so much money before and the coffers were full to overflowing. But just as suddenly the village grew quiet as once again the caravans failed to come. And dust collected under the mighty shelter of the once bustling bizarre.

Then a fierce drought came to the land and the villagers were drawing water from the well to water their crops, and once the council found out, they quickly posted guards at the well to monitor the water. Stating, “We cannot have ordinary citizens using our well, for their best interests.”

With time the guards soon become the only ones to draw water from the well, and people started to leave the village until the only thing left in the village was the abandoned huts, and a well that had never run dry.

What is the symbolism?  List your thoughts in the comments above.    grass

How Hypocrites Point to God

 

There are many complaints and objections that unbelievers propose as legitimate arguments to a belief in God. A common argument is the inconsistency or hypocrisy of Christians. While this is sadly true of many that claim Christianity, the claim self-destructs because those that use hypocrisy are actually admitting a deity that is concerned about morality and consistency.  

First, those that use inconsistent examples of God as proof that He does not exist are affirming there is a consistent standard that has been violated. The atheist in calling out hypocrisy is adhering to a moral and logical system outside of himself. This idea is glaringly inconsistent on the part of the atheist as morality must come from a higher source. In order for an atheist to claim deviation from a standard, he must be admitting there is a standard to begin with. Atheist’s must borrow from a religious world view in order to have an argument in the first place. As Ken Ham states, “You cannot borrow lumber from my worldview, to build yours.” (1)

Second, those that use inconsistent examples are actually affirming the truth of the Bible. The atheist is agreeing with God, as God is against this sin and will judge the empty hypocrite (Mat 24:51). Most atheists would not care to hear that they are taking God’s side, but the fact is God is vehemently against hypocrisy even to the point of dispelling His chosen nation, Israel, because of their failure to acknowledge their sin (Mal 3:8). (2) Religious hypocrites even crucified God’s Son after Jesus made more than 20 references to the religious leader’s hypocrisy. Furthermore, God shows that hypocrisy is a sign of an unbeliever (Mat 7:14-16). God is very much concerned about the consistency of His people that large portions of Scripture and even books such as I John were written in order to teach people how to live a consistent godly life. In reality the atheist is ultimately arguing that believers follow the Bible.

Third, those that use inconsistent examples are still required to decide for themselves (Heb 9:27). The atheist cannot use other bad examples to exempt himself. In doing so, the atheist is setting himself up as the relative judge of concrete truth. If believing and following God where a matter of mere preference (i.e. does one like pepperoni or sausage pizza) the consequences would be negligible; however, the issue of believing God is not a matter of preference to be judged. Truly the atheist has set himself up as God (Rom 1:18-21) and become the determiner of truth. Sadly there are many hypocritical Christians, yet that fact does not remove the individual response of the atheist to truth.      “Biblical theology sees man as a responsible personal agent.” (3) Every individual is responsible to accept truth, regardless if those that claim truth are inconsistent.

In conclusion, imperfect examples do not prove that there is not a designer, especially when the examples are living in willful disobedience of an express command. This would be similar to driving a new car out of the lot without putting oil in the car, and then using the seized up engine to prove there is no manufacturer because the car is not working. If the guidelines are not followed, the broken car is actually a testament to the manufacturer’s wisdom and the owner operator’s foolishness (Psalm 53:1).

 

 

1   Ham Ken, Demolishing Strongholds

2.  Constable Thomas, Study Notes Micah, pg 33

3.  Davis John, Evangelical Ethics, 280