Archive - June, 2012

Prayer- The only power a powerless person possesses.

Three Reasons Not to Go to Church

People have all kinds of reasons for why they go to church. Here are three of the worst:

1. It’s Cool.

Please don’t misunderstand me… cool is cool. I love the “wow” factor as much as anyone. But, cool has a couple major faults.

First, cool as a motivator produces consumer-driven Christians. We start to view churches like we do restaurants and clothing stores… “What do they have to offer me?” If I’m dissatisfied with something, I take my business elsewhere. As soon as another church offers something “more cool,” I bail and move on.

Second, when churches major on and prioritize the cool factor, it feels like they have to compensate for Jesus. Like He can’t stand on His own merit. It reveals an underlying doubt about whether Christ is enough and if Christ is not enough, people always get sold something far less that pales in comparison.

2. It’s Comfortable.

While Jesus wants us to experience comfort (2 Cor. 1:5), he never intended for us to be comfortable. In fact, he said just the opposite, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23. The whole “taking up the cross” part means rejection, humiliation and possibly even death… all the antithesis of comfort.

Any church that makes you feel like you can settle in and take it easy has lost the plot. Worse yet, it will keep you from experiencing the kind of bold, desperate, adventurous faith Jesus intended you to have.

3. It Makes Me Feel Good.

Church should occasionally make us feel good. Good that God is sovereign. Good that Christ defeated sin and death. Good that salvation is free. But, if it only makes us feel good, something’s wrong.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 offers the following warning: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth…” Sometimes the truth hurts, so “itching ears” will find teachers who only tell them what they want to hear.

But, church should occasionally make us squirm. It should make us feel convicted as we confront our depravity and sin. It should make us feel discomfort as we face our self-centeredness compared to other’s unmet needs.

Do you agree or disagree with these reasons? What would you add to the list?

Warning: Performance Standards Could be Destroying your Relationships

I was disturbed recently after hearing a fellow Christian share some less than favorable opinions about our ministry. The gist of the criticism was that we are not as concerned as we should be about “right living.” (An accusation I would wholeheartedly deny.)

It wasn’t just disturbing because we were on the receiving end of the accusation. I was disturbed in a good way, because it forced me to deal with my tendency to do the same thing.

An unfortunate reality of people is that we love to compare performance.

Why do we struggle with this so much?

It starts early in life. Study hard, get good grades. If you get good grades, you get promoted. Perform at the top level among your peers and be offered nice scholarships and get into the best schools. Get an impressive education… get an impressive job. Impressive jobs lead to an impressive resume which leads to even more advancement. And so the story continues.

What do all of these have in common? Performance and self-merit. “I worked for something, therefore I deserve something.”

While Scripture is completely in favor of hard work and doing your best, we should be careful not to allow the ethic of hard work and merit creep into our understanding of the gospel. We have to resist and destroy any notion of a performance based faith that says, “If I do the right things, I will be accepted.”

The beauty of the gospel tells us that even though we are still sinners, in Christ, we are perfectly accepted and righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” On the cross, God treated our sin as if it belonged to Christ. Christ took our sin on himself, taking the punishment we deserve. Why? So we might become righteous, so the righteousness of Christ would be given to us.

So, the gospel doesn’t tell us how to live so we can deserve something. It’s just the opposite. It tells us that we could never perform well enough to ever deserve anything at all. As Tim Keller says, God’s grace is for people “who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.”

The implications for our relationships are staggering.

A healthy understanding of the gospel prevents us from ever feeling “morally superior.” The more we become aware of our own sin and imperfections, the more we appreciate grace. The more we appreciate grace, the more we can chill out about other people’s imperfections. We will stop the spiritual comparisons. Our pride will decrease and our attitudes towards others become more gracious. Our tendency to look down on others will diminish. We will no longer think or act as though we are self-righteous (righteous because of my behavior/performance.) Most importantly, Christ will be exalted because we recognize that our righteousness comes through Him and Him alone.

How have you seen this in your own life? Either on the giving or receiving end or performance based religion?

The Parenting Secret Every Dad Needs to Know

All children are born with a powerful desire to please their fathers… they want to make him happy. But this natural-born desire can be lost if fathers are not careful with how they lead their children.

This is why God gives the admonition in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…”

The reason we need the caution is clear. Dads are naturally in positions of authority. They are physically bigger and stronger than their children. They have superior intellect over their children. They are the pack-leaders of the home.

While these are not bad in themselves, the slightest lapse can result in a misuse, or even abuse of their position.

Provocation takes many forms: saying one thing and doing another, always criticizing and never praising, being inconsistent or unfair, having unrealistic expectations, not admitting mistakes, ridiculing, being sarcastic or cutting with words, being rigid or harsh.

If it happens consistently, children will begin to resent their father’s leadership and resentment always leads to rebellion. Provoking to anger numbs a child’s natural affection for their father. A father loses his children’s “want to” motivation. His son or daughter’s natural inclination to please their dad crumbles and the most powerful motive for obedience, the desire to please, is gone.

We’ve all been in relationships with a coach or a teacher or a supervisor where we actually wanted to make them happy. One fact is clear, “Want to” is always a better motivator than “have to.” “Have to” motivation is shallow and vulnerable. “Want to” motivation is deep and strong.

Because of this, fathers should do everything within their power to lead their children in a way that keeps them in a “want to” relationship and away from a “have to” relationship. There may be a point where it’s appropriate to pull out the dad card and say, “Because I’m your father,” but that shouldn’t be our default setting.

So fathers, God has placed you in a vitally important position. Your children desperately want to make you happy and proud, be careful not to lead them in a way that would jeopardize that motivation.

How have you seen this in your own family, either as a parent or a child?

Six Signs your Dating Relationship is Unhealthy

Who we date is extremely important. Few relationships have the same power to influence a person, shaping who they are and who they will become. There are always immediate and long-term consequences to who we date, so healthy dating relationships are vital.

Here are six signs your dating relationship might be unhealthy:

1. Other people say it is.

The saying “love is blind” is unfortunately true when it comes to people not being able to see that their own relationship is unhealthy. If people around you (friends, family, ministry leaders) are expressing concern… listen. And don’t think silence means everything is okay. If you’re not hearing anything, you need to ask. But, don’t just ask anyone. Ask people who have spiritual wisdom and a proven history of health in their own relationships.

2. You Disappeared.

People in unhealthy dating relationships often drop off the face of the planet. Their friends and family see so little of them, they consider making a missing persons report. If you find that you’re no longer associating with the same people you used to before the relationship, that should be of concern. Healthy couples have high levels of interaction with family and friends.

3. You’re Stuck (to each other.)

One of the best compliments I received while dating my wife is that we didn’t always have to be together. It’s not that we ignored each other, we just didn’t have to be attached at the hip. We had balance. We both had other friends (male and female) and spent time with them. If you have trouble spending time with people other than your boyfriend/girlfriend, your relationship has health issues.

4. Drama.

While every relationship (even healthy ones) will have occasional disagreements, some couples have an endless supply. It seems like they’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of strife. An argument or a fight is always simmering. Healthy relationships should have significant periods of peace and calm between occasional quarrels, not the other way around.

5. You’re Pretending.

The purpose of marriage is to bring two people into a permanent commitment to one another. Pretenders want the benefits or marriage without the commitment and that’s never healthy. It’s a shaky foundation for any relationship, even if it does eventually result in marriage. If the only thing that would change if you got married is a license, a ring and maybe a joint bank account, you have health issues. (Hebrews 13:4)

6. Spiritual Incompatibility.

I was surprised to hear a young Christian woman recently describe her boyfriend as being “a nice guy, just not a Christian.” In terms of a dating relationship, that’s like saying “I’m a vegetarian, but I love a good steak.” There is a serious incompatibility issue when a follower of Jesus enters into a close-intimate relationship with someone who is not a follower of Jesus. They just don’t go together. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

If any of these describe your own relationship, take whatever steps are necessary to correct them. Unhealthy dating issues never go away when people get more serious in the relationship, the “unhealth” just gets more serious.

How have you seen these affect relationships? What other things have you seen that might be a sign that someone’s dating relationship is unhealthy?

Tall Black Socks

(Picture shown not the writer!)

Twenty years ago, the only people who wore tall black socks with shorts were sixty-plus year old men.

Some were vacationers accessorizing with clip-on sunglasses, fanny pack, and a large camera hanging from their neck. Others were sample junkies wandering Costco mid-afternoon like golden-age zombies feeding on promotional products served in tiny white paper cups.

But, as often happens, the fashion winds changed and began blowing in a new direction.

I was at a party recently with a group of high school/college aged students and noticed each of them wearing shorts with tall black socks. But, unlike the afore-mentioned persons, they were cool.

So I don’t sound like a complete fashion idiot, I understand this is not new. The trend has been fully accepted for some time. The issue is more of a personal one, specifically, when or if I adopt it as my own.

When the trend first emerged I considered joining in, but did not. When it was picking up steam, I thought about it once again, but resisted. Now that it is well-accepted, I still haven’t made the leap.

Here’s my reason. As much as I hate to admit it, I am a middle-aged man. (Though it’s no surprise to others, it’s still a shock to me.) I don’t know how it happened and I still can’t quite wrap my brain around it but, nevertheless, I am no longer young.

The practical ramifications of such a sobering reality is that I am half-way between the older men who are “black sock mocked” and the young men who are “black sock cool.” I know that if I try to be fashion-savvy by wearing tall black socks with my shorts, I run the danger of being one of “those guys.”

You know the ones I’m talking about. We’ve all seen them. You probably know one. They try so hard to be hip that it screams “desperate.” Desperate to be young again. Desperate to be cool. Desperate to fit in. It’s the fashion version of scratching your fingernails on the chalkboard and I don’t want to be one.

I’ve yet to decide whether I will start wearing tall black socks with shorts, but I have reached a conclusion on something greater. 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” While we may be obsessed with how we look and what we wear, God is far more concerned with something no one can see… our hearts.

I can’t help getting older. I can’t reverse time and be young again. I won’t be able to keep up with all the latest styles and trends, but what I can do is work on my heart. Instead of being desperate to be young, cool or to fit in, I can be desperate to have a heart that honors and please the Lord. And that, never goes out of style.