Paul

Can Lust Send Me to Hell?

Can Lust Send Me to Hell?

Our culture toys with lust.[i] We know the power of lust so well that we use it to sell hamburgers and cars and beer. I mean, seriously. Step back and consider how crazy that is. We take things that are already attractive and then add sex to them to sell them better! Burgers, sports cars, and beer! We crave these things on their own! And yet advertisers are still compelled to add an ingredient in to make them even more desirous: sex. On the flip side, you never see sex requiring anything else to sell it. Your local strip club isn’t trying to lure people in with their mouthwatering hamburgers.

Last week we considered Jesus’ difficult words about lust. Jesus takes the Old Testament standard of sexual purity of not committing adultery to a radical place: the heart. Jesus says that we are called by God to not even entertain lustful desires in our heart.

Jesus takes lust seriously. He takes lust seriously because when we lust we reveal that our heart is aimed at gratifying ourselves, not honoring God.

We tend to fear the wrong things when it comes to lust. We fear what a life of unfulfilled desires might look like. We fear the relational consequences of getting caught looking at pornography. We fear having our reputation marred.

But there are things we should really fear: the state of our soul, for starters. And of course, we should fear our Maker, God himself.

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

One of my Christian heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I even asked my wife if we could name our son Dietrich. For some reason she didn’t like that idea. Go figure.

Bonhoeffer is a fascinating figure for all sorts of reasons, but one of those is that his ministry took place during the rise of Nazism in Germany. Born into an upper-middle class family in Germany and studying at some of finest schools, he ended up rejecting the German national church, which was controlled by the Nazi party. Instead he threw his energy behind the Confession Church, a church that resisted the Nazi party.

Ultimately Dietrich Bonhoeffer would do more than theologically resist the Nazi party; he would actively participate in helping Jews escape and would ultimately be party to an assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.[i]

Although, for obvious reasons, Bonhoeffer never discussed the plot nor his reasons for the decision, it is clear in his letters that he expended a lot of energy working through what his ethical responsibilities were throughout the war. Those who believe he participated in the assassination conspiracy point to his words in Ethics where he says, “the structure of responsible action includes both readiness to accept guilt and freedom.”[ii] Is Bonhoeffer saying that there are times where following Christ means that we might actually be called into guilt (and therefore to sin)?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Few Churched Teens are Devout as Young Adults: Aaron Earls has been unfolding this important LifeWay Research study recently. He shares, " Those who stopped attending church for at least a year are more likely to say they believe in God, but are uncertain about Christianity (17 to 8 percent); say they consider themselves spiritual, but not religious (13 to 5 percent); say they’re uncertain about their belief in God (7 to 3 percent); and say they don’t believe in God (6 to 1 percent)."

2.      4 Ways to Avoid the Church Dropout Danger Zone: Aaron Earls responds to the findings about young adults dropping out of church with some helpful advice: "Most parents don’t realize the impact their words and actions have on their teenagers. They wrongly assume their children aren’t listening and wouldn’t care. If parents make church a priority for the family, students will pick up on that. If parents treat church as if it is simply another activity to take or leave, students will pick up on that as well."

3.      Faithful with a Few: Jen Oshman with an important question for each of us, "How will you respond to the few? Every Christian must confront these questions because every Christian has a ministry, from the senior pastor to the children’s minister to the lay mentor who disciples young adults over coffee."

4.      The Importance of the Bible's Best Description of Salvation: Julie Canlis shares, " Paul says something far more often: He uses the phrase “in Christ” 165 timesThe Bible’s favorite way of describing our salvation is one we rarely use. For Paul, salvation was simple: It was being joined to Jesus Christ."

5.      5 Lessons Jordan Peterson Has Taught the Church: Esther O'Reilly has read Peterson deeply and has great insights on what the polarizing sociologist can teach us: "1. The Church must authentically meet men’s emotional needs… Peterson speaks with a voice that is at once authoritative and encouraging to men. He offers tough love that tells men they aren’t living up to their potential, without swinging to the other extreme and shaming them for it. He praises and exemplifies distinctively masculine virtues. And crucially, these virtues do not exclude emotion."

6. How PreachersNSneakers Exposes All Christians: Brady Shearer takes a look into the popular Instagram account that calls megachurch pastors out on their expensive shoe tastes. 

The Discipline of Today

The Discipline of Today

I love dreaming about and planning for tomorrow. Want to draw up a strategic plan? Count me in. Want to talk about which young NBA star will have the best career? Let’s go. Do you have predictions about the 2020 presidential election? Pull up a chair. Want to prognosticate about what the church is going to look like in 20 years? Sounds like a blast.

I’m wired for planning. Thoughtful forecasting can be powerful to the person who is willing to expend the energy preparing for their future. In fact, I wrote a series of blogs on how important it is to have a strategic plan for your spiritual life. But while planning has its place in the Christian life, it can also serve as a distraction or even fuel for sin.

The focus on tomorrow can feed discontentment, ingratitude, and laziness. If you’re like me, there is a danger that we can poorly steward the relationships and meetings that God has for us today if our eyes are too focused on the horizon. None of us like meeting with someone whose focus isn’t on us but past us: they tap their foot, look at the clock, and follow other (apparently more interesting people) with their eyes.

The Power of Encouragement

The Power of Encouragement

She started her statement casually, “I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before, but…” and then it came, one of the most encouraging things I had heard in weeks. She shared a thoughtful praise about how our Senior Pastor Greg and I complement each other as preachers. And no, I had never heard the encouragement quite that way before!

If I ask you to think of the most encouraging thing that was shared with you in your high school years you can probably think of that encouragement pretty quickly. Think about the impact that encouragement had on you. Think about how it shaped your life path. Pretty remarkable, right?

For me the encouragement that stands out to me was given to me as an eighteen year old by my Senior Pastor, Roger Barrier. He invited me to dinner and as we scooped spicy Albondigas into our mouths and chomped on Carne Asada burritos he shared that he believed that God would call me to be a senior pastor one day.

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Suns currently sit at dead last in the Western conference at 17-55. They are a full 12 games behind the next worst teams, the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, and 24.5 games (count ‘em!) out of playoff contention. They are in a fierce competition with the Knicks and Cavaliers to finish in last place. If they finished in last place in the entire league that would be their third year in a row finishing in last (four years ago, they finished second to last! Woo!). It’s not been a fun run as a Suns fan.

Between 2006-2010, the Suns appeared in the Western Conference finals three times, tantalizingly close to an elusive NBA championship. For the past nine seasons the team has slid further and further into the abyss with only one season where we won more games than we lost in that span. Our best players over that nine year stretch were such NBA legends as Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe (my tongue is firmly in cheek). We weren’t just bad; we were bad and our future was bleak.

But this year is different.

We’re every bit as bad as we’ve been the past three years, maybe worse, but this year we have hope. We have one of the best young players in the NBA: 22 year old Devin Booker[i], and the first pick of last year’s draft: 20 year old DeAndre Ayton, who has impressed in his first year.  We’ve actually gotten better as the year has gone on and we’ve even won 6 of our last 10 games (meaning a third of our victories have come in the last three weeks). And hey! We’re going to get yet another high draft pick!

You see, it’s not so bad to be awful if there is hope. You can endure a lot as a fan if you think that things are going to get better.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

Good News, Ladies! You’re Sons!

Good News, Ladies! You’re Sons!

Want to know something weird? Women are never referred to as “daughters of God” in the Bible. Kind of odd, especially given how often that phrase is used in evangelical circles. “Daughter of God” nets over 1,000 books on Amazon. In the Bible, however, the seemingly clumsy phrase “sons of God” is used for men and women alike.

What gives? Is this a linguistic fluke? No, unlike the Greek word for brothers, adelphoi, which often means “brothers and sisters,” the Greek word for sons, huioi, rarely means “sons and daughters” with the full phrase “huious kai thugateras” used instead.[i]  So, while we might be tempted to add “daughters” when we see “sons of God” in the Bible, it’s unlikely that is what the authors intended.[ii]

Is the lack of inclusion of daughters a patriarchal blind spot in the Bible that we ought to rectify? On the contrary: the use of only “sons of God” is a radical move by the authors of scripture that raises the status of women.

In Praise of To-Do Lists

In Praise of To-Do Lists

Happy New Year! I pray your 2018 was a good year: rich and full of God’s grace and mercy. And I pray that 2019 is better yet!

We cannot know what 2019 has in store for us, but I want to be prepared for what God has for me, and I’m sure you want to be ready for what he has for you. To that end, let me start the year by commending to you the humble to-do list. May we thoughtfully prepare ourselves for the good works God has for us, strategically readying ourselves for the tasks we are called to step into.

Without a doubt, people trump tasks. To paraphrase Paul[i], if I accomplish all the tasks in the world but have not love, I gain nothing.

And yet, organization can be a wonderful tool for a life organized around God’s good purposes for us.

One of the most important verses about our purpose is found in Ephesians 2. There, Paul says that we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[ii] What are the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you? Do you know? Do you have an inkling of what they are?

How to Get Married

How to Get Married

The Knot recently did a study and found that over the past seven years, weddings in churches have dropped from 41% to 26%.[i] Wow. Only a quarter of weddings now take place in a church.

This fact itself isn’t catastrophic. I don’t believe that one has to get married in the church for it to be a “real” wedding. But it does speak to a secularizing trend that has been pretty apparent. More disconcerting for me is the fact that 43% of weddings are now officiated by a friend, up from 29% seven years ago.[ii] The Bible doesn’t say you need a pastor to officiate your wedding, but choosing a (non-pastor) friend to officiate your wedding makes a statement.

You’re saying that your wedding is about celebrating your relationship with friends. That’s a wonderful part of what a wedding should be, but it shouldn’t be what your wedding is primarily about.

If you are considering marriage at some point in the future, let me urge you to consider making your marriage about something bigger and then doing some practical things to make sure your wedding points to that bigger truth.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Why Men and Women Can (and Must) Work Together: Faith Whatley with an important article on how to strike a healthy balance in workplace relationships, "It’s important—especially as seemingly more and more Christian leaders are caught in a scandal—to make sure the right boundaries are in place to protect your marriage, your ministry, and your soul. But in doing so, it’s easy to put up so many boundaries you alienate yourself or stifle the giftedness and friendship of the opposite gender."

2.       Why and How to Take the Risk of Opposite Gender Relationships: Tish Harrison Warren pushes back on those who, in light of recent misconduct, have responded to cutting off opposite gender relationships with this thoughtful piece, "Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin tweeted, “A valuable lesson we all can learn from this tragic situation: follow the @BillyGraham rule. If you are married, never be alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Never!” This rule, in its most pristine form, renders male-female friendships impossible. However unintentionally, it communicates to women that they are fundamentally dangerous. And it bars men from meaningful mentorship or pastoral care of women and vice-versa. I, for one, give thanks for the many men I knowwho broke the Billy Graham Rule."

3.       6 Relevant Things the Apostle Paul Never Said: Nicholas Davis unmasks the deception of our culture with this tongue in cheek article. His final is, "'Let your guard down and just relax a bit. Everything I’ve said is more like a guideline; just be young again and live a little. Let all that you do be done for you. You deserve it!' What Paul actually said: 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: 'Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.'

4.       Baby Boomers Turn to Faith As They Age: A new study finds that, "Most boomers (56 percent) said their religiosity stayed the same over the past 10 years, while 21 percent said they became more religious and 11 percent said they became less religious. Twelve percent said they were never religious."

5.       17 Ways Christians Say NoJohn Crist on our special Christian superpowers of saying no; "I don't think it's God's will; I just don't feel peace about it right now."