Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Planning for the Future

Every second you’re alive, you’re older than you were before. As you grow older in the church it can be tempting to enter Christian retirement. Your body limits your level of physical activity and so you move into the background, thinking you aren’t as useful as you once were. 

Instead of retiring from Christian work, consider changing the type of work in which you are involved. Older members, you are filled with experience and wisdom that is begging to be shared with younger Christians. Older members, you have been blessed with longevity, and in your life you have studied and learned and gained much insight concerning life and how to live for God. Share your wisdom. Mentor younger Christians. Help us to see life more clearly through your hindsight. 

Mentoring can be a daunting task, and you may be wondering about how to be a good mentor. Learn from the apostle Paul. He was a mentor especially to Timothy, and you can learn how to mentor effectively from watching that relationship. Here are three steps toward effective mentoring from the life of Paul and Timothy:

  • Praise Publicly (Philippians 2:19-22)
    When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he praised Timothy to them for his genuine concern for their welfare and that he sought the interests of Christ Jesus, not his own. Paul was singing Timothy’s praises to other Christians. An effective mentor sings the spiritual praises of his protégé to others openly and publicly.

  • Correct Privately (2 Timothy 1:6-7ff)
    Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, and in this second letter he reminds Timothy to “kindle afresh” or “fan into flame” the gift of God which he had received from the laying on of Paul’s hands. That implies Timothy had let his gift die down, and was neglecting his mission in Ephesus. Paul is correcting Timothy’s course as privately as he could, in this letter written to him personally. Effective mentors will keep correction honest and kind, and as private as possible. 

  • Trust Completely (1 Timothy 1:3)
    Paul spent time training Timothy personally in his travels, but there came a time when Timothy needed to work on his own. Paul left him in Ephesus with a mission to complete, and trusted he could accomplish it. Paul didn’t stay in the dock to swoop in the moment trouble arose. He trusted in Timothy to do the work. 

As Paul closed his final letter to Timothy, he charged him once again to remain faithful and complete the mission set before him (2 Timothy 4:1-5). And if Timothy wondered why so much was being placed on his shoulders, he only had to read a couple more verses. Paul explains that his own death is very near, and Timothy will be left to continue the work. 

Older members, you have precious little time to share with younger members the wealth of wisdom you have gathered. Younger members, you have precious little time to gain that wisdom before you are left on your own to continue the work. Let’s work together to strengthen the church!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Marriage Apocalypse?

CNN recently shared an interview with several millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) titled, “Ready for the marriage apocalypse?” The interview focused on their goals and future plans. While other subjects came up, the interview fixated on marriage and the fact that some of these millennials saw it as unnecessary, undesirable, and even irresponsible. Why would they view such a wonderful union in such a distorted way, you ask? Just think about what they have lived through! Current divorce rates are staggering, and after seeing the fallout that follows divorce (child support and custody battles, parents manipulating their children for personal gain, etc.) it is easy to see how a generation would want to steer clear of that horror show.

Is this the marriage apocalypse? I hope not, as marriage is the only way the human race can persist under God (Mt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:2). However, we are being presented with an opportunity to radically  reexamine what marriage ought to be. This generation has seen the problems that arise when two people marry without truly committing their lives to each other and God. They have seen, and often experienced, the emotional and psychological damage of divorce. The generations who have gone before have often presented a mangled and distorted view of what marriage was designed to be. When God designed and created it, marriage was very good (Gen. 1:31). But like so many things God created, we have abused it and turned it into something painful. If marriage is to persist, it must return to God’s design.

  • God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman, and it is to last for the rest of their lives (Mt. 19:4-6).
  • God designed marriage to provide companionship and aid (Gen. 2:18; 1 Pet. 3:7).
  • God designed marriage with sexual fulfillment for the man and woman in mind (1 Cor. 7:2-5)
  • God designed marriage to produce children (Gen. 1:28)
  • God designed marriage with spiritual growth and eternal life in mind (1 Cor. 7:16)

For many millennials, marriage has been seen through selfish eyes. What do I get from this relationship? How does my economic or social status rise based on my husband/wife? Is she a gold digger? Is he a dead-beat? We have seen the effects of such selfish motivations, haven’t we? They produce a “marriage apocalypse”.

Some in this new generation are realizing these self-centered goals do not end in marriage at all! They know a self-centered life will never produce a healthy marriage, and so they abandon marriage altogether.

Let me offer a different solution: Instead of abandoning marriage altogether, reexamine it, and let God show you its purpose. When you do, your understanding of marriage may be changed forever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just People In Pews?

For years, Christians have been encouraged to invite friends to worship with them. In that encouragement, the question “Why?” is often left unconsidered and ultimately unanswered. In response, many members conclude that the invitation of a friend to worship is the entire goal. That conclusion may even be reinforced by the announcement of attendance numbers the Sunday following a “Friends and Family Day”.

While inviting friends and family to worship is a good practice, the end goal must consist of more than people in pews. Christians have been called to make disciples (Mt. 28:19-20), and accomplishing that goal requires more than sitting in a pew together. When a friend visits the Lord’s church, consider what they see and take the opportunity to make a disciple.

What will they see? If we are the church Jesus purchased with His blood, they will see a great deal.

  • They will see true, pure love between members (Jn. 13:35). 
  • They will see imperfect people who help each other with their struggles (Gal. 6:1-2). 
  • They will see worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24)
  • They will see people listening to and seriously contemplating the Scriptures together (1 Tim. 4:13).

Now take the opportunity to make a disciple. These sights may well be enough to spark a visitor’s curiosity concerning the Lord’s church. In that curiosity rests an opportunity to make a disciple of Christ. A curious mind is fertile ground for the truth of the gospel. When that curiosity presents itself, listen and show them passages like these:

  • “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4)
  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)
  • “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16:15-16)

Invite a friend to worship, yes, but realize that sitting in a pew together does not a disciple make. When they see the love, patience, and dedication to the Scriptures that is found in the Lord’s church, their curiosity may be sparked. And if they are unfamiliar with the gospel, you, Christian, must show them. Talk about what they saw, listen to their thoughts, and offer them the Scriptures so that they might be saved.

Remember our mission, brothers and sisters! Let’s teach the world, starting with the people we already know.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

No Man's Sky

A few months ago, June 2014 to be exact, a company called Hello Games released a video showcasing their new game called, “No Man’s Sky”. By the time the 3 minute video ended most who watched were utterly astounded. Wonder and amazement have followed this team of developers ever since that video was shown. Why? Because the game itself contains an entire (make-believe) universe, with so many planets that it would take you 5 billion years to explore each one for one second. There has never been a game quite like No Man’s Sky before.

When onlookers started to understand the vast nature of this game, one question was continually asked: How did you do it? You know, I wonder what people would think if they said, “We just started up our computers one day, and there it was!” Nobody would believe that, right? It’s absurd to think that such a complex and massive game could possibly exist simply by chance, right? 

And yet, that’s exactly what people believe about the REAL universe in which we live. Theories like the Big Bang and Evolution have many believing in the absurd idea that an infinitely complex and expansive universe could exist completely by chance, without a Creator of any kind. I’m sorry, but that logic doesn’t track. If a video game, with relatively few moving parts, MUST have a creator, then the universe, with infinitely many moving parts, MUST ALSO have a Creator. The Bible says that’s exactly what our Creator wants us to see:
...that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:19–20, NASB95)
Part of the reason our planet and universe are so complex is so that we will realize that it wasn’t created by chance, it was created by the all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal God, who deserves our honor and obedient submission. 

Tonight, take a step outside or look out your window at the stars and be amazed, because that’s no man’s sky. We could never create something so massive and beautiful. God has created it for our amazement, and so that we would understand that He is God and worship Him. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Axe

The axe swung hard into the trunk of the massive oak tree, and with each consecutive chop the axe thought to itself, “My, how sharp I am, how well balanced, why, I’m even mightier than this great oak! I don’t need this lumberjack at all!” And with that, the axe flew from the lumberjack’s hands far out into the forest, and though the lumberjack searched night and day, he could not find the axe.

The axe remembered fondly the time it spent soaring through the air, not knowing where it might land and all the while pitying whatever tree it would find nearest. The axe was overjoyed upon landing, for next to it, only inches away, was a tree larger than any it had ever encountered in all its swings.

Eager to start the work, the axe prepared for a mighty chop. But, to the axe’s terror, it could not move at all. The axe tried again, hoping that perhaps the first failure was a fluke. Nothing. The axe tried again and again, and with each consecutive failure the axe began to realize that it was not as strong as it had once thought. The axe was not so well balanced that it could swing itself, nor the blade so sharp that it could cut without momentum. And so the axe sat, through rain and snow, silently mourning its foolishness.

You see it was the lumberjack, not the axe, in whom the power resided. Unfortunately for the axe, it realized that truth when it was far too late. Some years later, a small child came across the old broken pieces that were once so mighty and gathered them up, considering them worthless for anything other than firewood.
“Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.” -Isaiah 10:15 (NASB95)
We must always remember: We are but tools in the mighty hands of God, and as sharp and well balanced as we may be, we need His strength and wisdom to accomplish anything at all in this life. Oh what a sad day when one of us says to ourselves, “I do not need God!”