• How to Deal With Your Guilt

    The thing one pastoral conversation I seem to have more than any other is about a past sin that a person has committed that is still haunting them. What are we to do about that sin? What are we to think about that sin? Maybe you are reading this blog and you are haunted by past sin. Check out these wise words from Mark Driscoll’s book  Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ

    What deep regrets haunt you? What words have you spoken, deeds have you done, motives have you held, lies have you believed, harm have you caused, people have you grieved, and shame have you carried? What have you done to try to assuage your guilty conscience? Have you sought to deny your sin, blame others for it, minimalize it, hide it, pay God back, or punish yourself for it? How have your efforts failed? In Christ, you are totally, completely, and eternally forgiven. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or will do. Jesus died for it all and lives to forgive it all. You’re forgiven. God doesn’t hold your sin against you, isn’t going to punish you, and loves you in spite of your sin.

     

    Driscoll’s words are powerful and appropriate. Jesus has done it all, he forgives you of your sin and you need to rest in his forgiveness. Take your guilt to the cross and leave it there.

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  • The Great Porn Experiment

    Porn screws up guys lives and here is a very important video that all guys, pastors, coaches, teachers, etc. should watch. Trust me it is worth the 18 minutes of your time to watch.

    Gary Wilson has a webpage dealing with the content of his talk more fully. Access it here http://yourbrainonporn.com/

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  • How to Overcome the Fear of Man

    Am I more concerned with what God thinks of me or what people think of me?

    Fear of man grips us all at some time. We are all concerned to a certain extent with what other people think of us. Ed Welch in his great book that everyone should read “When People are Big and God is Small” gives the following steps for overcoming the fear of man:

    Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.

    Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.

    Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.

    Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.

    Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.

    Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.

    Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.

    Step 4 is the crucial one. We need to grow in the fear of God and I think Isaiah 6:1-8 is the passage we need to keep coming back to to get a right perspective on who God is. Because this passage shows God in all his holiness and greatness. If we truly get Isaiah 6 and let it minister to our hearts we will find our fear of man diminishing.

    Take some time and Read Isaiah 6:1-8 now:

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

    Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

    And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

    If we truly get how great God is man will seem very small and our fear of man will diminish significantly.

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  • Where did the Concept of Evil go?

    A few years ago I was chatting with a friend who once was a Christian. She told me her reason for rejecting the Christian faith and it wasn’t one of the usual suspects. Her reason for rejecting Christianity was sin. Not sin in the Church or sin in her own life. No, she rejected Christianity because the Bible speaks of people being sinful and yes evil. She thinks that we can’t label anyone evil anymore.  “What about Hitler I asked?” She pointed out that he probably had a troubled childhood and that it is wrong if us to judge him.

    My friend is taking to its logical conclusion the vibe that is out in our culture that is trying to lose the word evil. All too often we say the person is crazy or sick but we are reluctant to call anyone or anything evil except for the most heinous of people and or acts.We are to quick to to talk about a person’s upbringing and how that made them do what they did rather than describe some act or someone as evil.
    In the movie The Silence Of the Lambs the serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, says this to Clarice Starling when she asks what happened to him:

    “Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. Happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism… nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

    Lecter is denying that he is a result of his environment or his upbringing. He is saying that he himself is evil and this is the very thing that Agent Starling or our culture does not want to say. We don’t want to brand someone as evil we want to say that there were outside factors and they are responsible but this person is not evil.

    But the Bible gives a different picture. The Bible never downplays the fact that outside influence shape behaviours. But it does call people evil and behaviours sinful.

    When our culture denies that there is evil or tries to explain away sin and evil behaviours we have lost the ability to call things right and wrong. We have lost our moral compass. We live in an age where we should have the freedom to call behaviours/thoughts wrong or evil because evil is a word which has the most explanatory power in some situations

    .As a Christian I can also say that evil has an finish date. Evil’s time will be up when Jesus comes back and rids the world of the evil that is destroying it. The very evil that our world tries to argue away.

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  • Fight for your Holiness

    Christians believe that we are right with God, forgiven and cleansed by the death of Jesus. We also think that we are sanctified or made holy by what Jesus has done. These are things that no biblical Christian would want to deny.

    But as we rightly remember that Jesus sanctifies us through his death do we also remember on the other hand that we are to fight for our sanctification?  Take Paul in 1 Timothy 6 for example:

    11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12

    Notice the verbs Paul is using here. We have to pursue, fight, take hold. They are all active verbs. Meaning, that we are not to sit back on our laurels but we are to fight to be more holy, more Christ like.

    Or take Paul in Philippians 2 for example:

    12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

    Notice what he is saying. He is saying that God works in us and we are to work out salvation. Now what does it meant to work out our Salvation? I think it means that we are to strive to live as a Christian because a Christian is one who is saved. So I think Paul is saying work it out, live it out. Live life like you are saved.

    So Christians are meant to fight for our holiness. We are meant to battle sin. We are meant to walk away from the internet when we are tempted. We are meant to work hard at seeing the good in others so that we don’t gossip. We are meant to fight to read our Bible  and fight to be encouraged by it. We are to labour in prayer. But we do this all because we have the power from God to do it!

    Here is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones say about our fight for holiness:

    “The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. . . .We are in the ‘good fight of faith’, and we have to do the fighting. But, thank God, we are enabled to do it; for the moment we believe, and are justified by faith, and are born again of the Spirit of God, we have the ability. So the New Testament method of sanctification is to remind us of that; and having reminded us of it, it says, ‘Now then, go and do it’.”

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans:Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man, 76

    How do you fight for holiness?

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  • Do you make Jesus want to throw up?

    “You make me sick!!”

    Has someone ever said that to you? Only one person has but one is definitely enough! It is so confronting!

    Do you realize that you can make Jesus want to throw up? In the book of Revelation Jesus, through John, writes a letter to the church at Laodicea and the words he uses are stinging. He says: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 ESV)

    Near Laodicea there was a river which had lukewarm salty water that was couldn’t be used for anything. In fact if you tried to drink it you would throw up! Jesus is saying to the Laodcieans you are like this water useless and you make me want to throw up![1]

    But did you see why the Laodiceans make Jesus want to throw up? It was because they were lukewarm! They weren’t on fire for Jesus. This is a challenge for all of us because we all tend towards lukewarmness don’t we? We are all tempted to have just enough of Jesus so we are saved but not enough so that we are seen as on fire for Jesus.

    But what is the cure for lukewarmness? Well Jesus gives us the cure:

    Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 ESV)

    See what he says? Repent and be zealous!! Do you realize that lukewarmness is a sin to be repented of? Do you realize that Jesus wants you to live zealously for him? 

    How will you do that? How will you live every moment if every day for Jesus?

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    [1] On this point see Osborne, Grant R. Revelation (BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.) , 205

  • How should Christians respond to sin in their own life?

    When we sin in our own lives how should we respond? Jesus’ answer to this question in Matthew 5:29 are very graphic and confronting:

    “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” 

    But what does that mean? What does it mean to tear out your eye and throw it away? Read the sane application of these verses by John Stott:

    “What does this involve in practice? Let me elaborate and so interpret Jesus’ teaching: ‘If your eyes cause you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes (objects you see), then pluck out your eyes. That is, don’t look! Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes and flung them away, and were now blind and so couldnot see the objects which previously caused you to sin. Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin, because temptation come to you through your hands (things you do) or your feet (places you visit), then cut them off. That is: don’t do it! Don’t go! Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet, and had flung them away, and were now crippled and socould not do the things or visit the places which previously cause you to sin.’ This is the meaning of ‘mortification’.”

    John R.W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7 pgs.89-90

  • Keeping your Word

    “Is this done?” I was asked by a member of Resolved. The problem was that it wasn’t done and today was the day I said I would have it done. What was I going to do? I thought of so many rationalizations for why I haven’t got this thing done:

    • I had less sleep now that Kate and I have a small baby. (Not really true)
    • I have been too busy writing the sermon for this weekend or in other meetings that have come up. (Kind of true but still no excuse)
    • She hadn’t reminded me that I had to get it done. (But we hadn’t agreed that she would remind me either)

    I looked her in the eye and told her the truth “No, I haven’t done it. I am sorry.” Her words were kind and gracious. She and I agreed on the date I needed to have it done by. But there was still an issue. When I told her I didn’t have it done, for a split second, I saw in her eyes that I had let her down. I had disappointed her. I told her I would do something and I didn’t do what I said I would do.

    I didnt keep my word.

    I lacked integrity.

    Integrity is the key to leadership. In their famous book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner surveyed 1000’s of people around the world and found people wanted integrity in their leaders more than anything else.

    Get that, your people want you to do what you say you will do more than they want you to be dynamic leader or a visionary leader.

    But not only do your people want you to have integrity God values you keeping your word more than almost anything else.

    Ecclesiastes 4:4 says:

    When you vow a vow to God. do not delay in paying it for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 

    Did you see what God calls a person who doesn’t keep his word or his vow? That’s right a FOOL.

    Wow that hurts! But it is true, a fool is rash with their words and doesn’t  think about how to use them. A fool makes promises and doesn’t keep them.

    So do you keep your word?

    Do you have integrity?

    Keeping your word or integrity is the key to you being a biblical leader.

    Keeping your word or integrity is the first step in you becoming the best leader you can be.

    “According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character. It’s not about style, status, personal charisma, clout, or worldly measurements of success. Integrity is the main issue that makes the difference between a good leader and a bad one.”  ~ John MacArthur 

    How do you think you can have more integrity?

  • 9 things that Inform the way Christians Interact with the Gay Community

    Whether or not Gay people should be allowed to be married keeps getting splashed all over the media. It is a confusing time for all people especially Christians. Christians should love all gay people because God loves gay people and we are called to imitate God in his love. We also need to acknowledge that there are gay people in our churches. Some people are struggling with their orientation in silence, others are figuring out where they are at with Jesus while living as a practicing gay person and while others are open about their struggle and are seeking to conform to the image of Christ. The following are 9 things that I think Christians need to keep at the forefront of their mind when thinking about the current sexual climate. If you are reading this and you don’t call yourself a Christian the following is a summary of what (I think) Christians should believe about Gay people and being gay. My hope is that this belief that we Christians should have is worked out in love for the Gay community.
    1. All people are created in the image of God. Just because a person’s sexual orientation changes, it doesn’t change that they are made in the image of God. Therefore, Christians should treat homosexual people with love and respect knowing that, just like them, gay people are created in the image of God.
    2. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, are loved by God. When the Bible talks about the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom 5:6-8; etc.) we see that the love of God is open and knows no boundaries. Therefore, Christians need to biblically affirm that gay people are loved by God, and we, as Christians, should be known for our scandalous love for the Gay Community.
    3. The gospel says that gay people, just like straight people, can change. The Bible calls Christians ‘new creations’, which infers that people can be made new. This shows that through the power of the gospel all people, including gay people, can change. This does not mean gay people will automatically change their sexual orientation. That may change but just like a person who is arrogant will struggle with pride for the rest of their life we must not think that all gay people will change their orientation. This may change, but all people (married,single, gay, straight) are called to faithfulness to God. This is a tough pill to swallow but we all need to acknowledge that our humanity and identity is tied up with God and who he is and not our job, money, sexual orientation, etc.
    4. Biblical sexual ethics starts with Genesis 2:18-25 and this text is never superseded, but always remains foundational for biblical sexual ethics. This text affirms that the right context for sex is between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.
    5. Although Jesus did not talk about homosexuality specifically, he understood marriage as being between a man and a woman. In his conversation about divorce in Mark 10:1-12, Jesus uses Genesis 2:18-25 as foundational when he speaks of marriage. In using Genesis, Jesus is affirming biblical sexuality as being between one man and one woman in one relationship for one lifetime.  Also, in his teaching on divorce (Matt 5:31-32, 19:9; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:1-12) Jesus shows he is conservative on divorce, thus deconstructing the myth of the sexually-tolerant Jesus.
    6. People in the Roman world around the time of the New Testament had similar views on homosexuality, including long-term homosexual union, as the general population in the Western world has today. In Greco-roman literature[1] as well as art[2], homosexual activity was normal and sometimes was held up above heterosexual sex![3]
    7. We need to do careful word studies on the words the New Testament uses when speaking of Homosexual acts. We need to look at the Greek words ἀρσενοκοῖται and μαλακοὶ in their contexts in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Some scholars seek to show these words to have an extremely wide range of meaning and therefore render the words unusable because they lack specificity. But the overwhelming support from New Testament scholars is that ἀρσενοκοῖται should be translated something like ‘males who take other males to bed’[4] and μαλακοὶ should be translated something like ‘effeminate males who play the sexual role of females.’[5]
    8. The Bible is univocal in its condemnation of homosexual practice. Wink, a theologian who argues that Christians should fully accept all people regardless of their sexual orientation,[6] says this: ‘I have long insisted that the issue is one of hermeneutics, and that efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behaviour, and there is no getting around it. The issue is precisely what weight that judgment should have in the ethics of Christian life.’[7] Wink is saying that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behaviour but he asks what place the Bible has in speaking to Christian ethics. So, even a theologian who is agreeable to homosexual relationships recognises that the Bible clearly condemns all homosexual acts.
    9. Gay people, like straight people, need to hear the gospel first and foremost. Christians have a tendency to be moral warriors. But what the world needs to hear is the gospel. The world needs to hear the fact that God is there and he created them. The world needs to hear that we have all rejected God as our king. The world needs to hear that God, in his great love, sent Jesus to die and take the penalty for our rebellion. The world needs to hear  that Jesus has risen from the grave guaranteeing our Resurrection. The world needs to hear that God is inviting us all to know him and one day to be with him where  there is no more evil, pain or suffering. The world needs to know the gospel. Christians sometimes act like as if we get gay people to be straight we have won. But you don’t go to hell for being gay and you don’t go to heaven for being straight. You go to hell because you have rejected Jesus as the lord and saviour of your life. The world needs to hear the gospel from the lips of Christians who have their heart broken by the love of God for the world.
    What do you think?
    What would you add?
    What would you take away from this list?

    [1] See the discussion in Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 350-360 as well as Thomas K. Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: a Sourcebook of Basic Documents (University of California Press; 2003); and Marylin Skinner, Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture (Wiley-Blackwell 2005).

    [2] See John R. Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 B.C. – A.D. 250 (University of California Press, 2001)

    [3] See Plutarch Dial, Love 750B-751B, 752B-C

    [4] This is how Gagnon takes ἀρσενοκοῖται. Some alternative translations from other scholars include ‘Men who take the female role in sex.’ Victor Furnish, The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues (Abingdon Press; April 2009); ‘Men who assume a passive sexual role with other men.’ Bernadette J. Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (University Of Chicago Press; 1998).

    [5] This is how Gagnon translates μαλακοὶ.

    [6] Walter Wink, ‘Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality’, Christian Century, November 7, 1979, 1082

    [7] Walter Wink, ‘To Hell with Homosexuals: Sex and the Bible’,  The Christian Century, June 5-12, 2002, 32-34

  • How good things become sinful things

    “To make sin even more difficult to see, it often rides on the back of many good things. For example, work is a good thing , but sin can take it and exalt it to the point where it rules us. We become workaholics, we say we are doing it for the kids, but we are really doing it for ourselves. What about financial planning? Isn’t it wise to establish a nest egg for the future? This, too, is a good thing, but it can grow to ruling proportions and we forsake generosity. Most sins are ungodly exagerations of things that are good. As a result, we can supply proof texts to justify our behaviour long after it has become idolatrous.”

    Ed Welch When People are Big and God is Small pg. 101

    How have you seen good things become all encompassing things in your life?

    What things in your life might be an idol?