Category Archives: Christianity

The Church Still Matters

I’ve never seen the idea of the church so marginalized in all my lifetime. The secular world mocks the church and the Christian world devalues the church. The local church is seen, even by believers, as unnecessary and antiquated and optional.

You can kind of understand the issues perhaps. After all, churches are filled with imperfect people. Churches often have a well earned reputation for being argumentative. They frequently get side tracked by secondary issues. They sometimes lose sight of their purpose. Critics can accurately point out all the problems, failures and imperfections of the church.

But, with all of that said, the church still matters. There is great inherent value in the work of the local church. There is value and purpose and potential in this institution. Here are three reasons why the church still matters.

1. God made the church. If the church was man’s idea, we might rightfully ignore it. But it isn’t. God formed the church and he did it for his own reasons. He knew that the church would be made up of imperfect people. He knew every pastor and every small group leader would be “frail as dust and feeble as frail”. But he formed it anyway. We ought not easily turn our backs on something God created.

And, I note that God’s word admonishes us that we ought not be in the habit of “neglecting to gather together”. (See Hebrews 10:24-25) This isn’t the word of your pastor or your grandmother. God is the one who calls us to gather. God’s command is reason enough to connect with an imperfect church filled with imperfect people.

We might not understand why God formed the church, but we can’t escape the fact that he did. We may not see the value of the local church, but God apparently can. We need to remember this important truth: the church is a God idea.

2. We need each other. I don’t think every Christian believes that. I think many believe they can be just fine on their own- no need for fellowship or accountability or encouragement from other believers. But the longer I live, the more I see the importance of other believers in my life.

Don’t underestimate the enemy. He loves to divide and conquer. He wants you to be spiritually isolated. He knows the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another”. (Prov. 27:17) He tells you that you don’t need anyone else because he wants you to be vulnerable and ineffective.

But, the Spirit of the Living God reminds you of the value of other believers. We disciple others and are discipled by others. We benefit from the wisdom and zeal and encouragement that comes from worshiping and learning with others. Never have believers needed each other as we do now!

3. We are stronger together. I had a friend who lost his little finger in an accident. He told me how amazed he was at how much grip strength he lost just from that tiny digit.

The church is described as the body of Christ. We all have different gifts and backgrounds and personalities and perspectives. But, we function best when we work together. We are stronger in missions, evangelism, discipleship and worship when we are connected.

The church separated is weak and ineffective. The church connected is powerful beyond the sum of her parts. The church can prevail against the very gates of hell. You will benefit from others and others will benefit from you. You need the church and the church needs you.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy connection to a local church. God will use this institution made up of imperfect sinners who have found the perfect Savior to impact you and your world. Find a church, plug in fully and participate actively.

The church still matters.

Revival Still Matters

Perhaps the greatest need of our day is revival. I’m not talking about a series of revival meetings, though that might be needed as well. I’m talking about a genuine revival in the lives of Christians that brings spiritual renewal, vibrancy and power. What a difference it would make in our day if revival was stirring in individuals and churches and beyond!

I’ve experienced touches of revival in my own life and church and it whets my appetite for more. Christian, wouldn’t you like a fresh touch from God in your own life, your own church and your own ministry? Wouldn’t you like to see a move of God that changes the hearts of believers and impacts beyond to our culture?

Here are three reasons why revival still matters.

1. We tend to drift from God. I’m not much of a sailor, but I do know that drifting doesn’t take any special effort at all. It is easy to drift from the shore. And, it is easy to drift from God. We get busy, distracted or preoccupied and drift away. We get rebellious, sinful or selfish and move away from God. It is easy to do and can happen with us hardly noticing.

Note that we drift from God, not towards God. Getting closer to the Lord involves intentionality. Drifting away from God can happen without any recognition or premeditation at all.

In revival, believers come back into right relationship with the Lord. In revival, there is a recognition of our sloth or sin or self-centeredness. We need revival because we tend to forget about what matters most. We tend to lose sight of God’s perspective. We tend to grow stale in our religious activities. Revival draws us back to a close, intimate relationship with the Lord.

2. Revival brings new life, joy and effectiveness. Getting right with God is not to our detriment. Though there is sorrow in recognizing our sin, repentance doesn’t result in our loss. Revival involves the recognition of judgment but it leads us to restoration. Revival is in our best interest and leads us to the fruit of the Spirit and the joy and peace that comes with walking with the Lord. Though revival can start with pain, it leads to healing and purpose.

Many Christians have come to see the Christian life as drudgery. They see faith as good, but boring. They think of obedience as right, but tedious. Revival corrects that wrong thinking. It reminds us of the joy of our salvation. It gives us new meaning and purpose as we see God’s glory and goodness. Revival leads us to new effectiveness and enthusiasm. Revival is what our soul is longing for!

3. Revival impacts our churches, communities and culture. One of the reasons we need revival so much is because of the impact revived Christians have on those around them. When churches are revived, they are more effective and focused. The revived church is more committed to evangelism and discipleship and fellowship. But, revival has an impact beyond that.

We often decry the state of our culture, and rightly so. Our culture is increasingly coarse and crude and rebellious to the truth of God. But revival has an impact on the surrounding culture. Revived Christians and churches can be used by God to bring a spiritual awakening to the culture at large. It can open the eyes of the lost to the realities of sin and the priorities of faith. It can cause the lost world to see their need for the Lord. Often, revival has even resulted in large scale recognition of the need for biblical morality in the culture at large.

Perhaps you have recognized your own need for revival. Will you join me and others in praying for revival in our lives and churches in this generation? Ask the Lord to send revival to your own life and to change you where you need changing. Be willing to repent of any wrong activity, attitude or motive. Join with others in praying for a sweeping revival in our generation.

Revival still matters!

Inerrancy Still Matters

“Is the Bible inerrant?”, my professor wrote on the board, and a spirited discussion in my first Ph.D. seminar began. Some classmates said the Bible has errors, some said it doesn’t matter and I, and a few others, argued that the Bible is inerrant and it matters very much indeed. I am more convinced of the inerrancy of the Bible than ever and it has affected my personal life and ministry tasks greatly.

Every generation of theologians, pastors and Christians has to deal with this doctrine. Inerrancy, at it core, says “The Bible is without error or fault in all its teaching”. (Geisler) Is the Bible true or not? Is all of it true, or are only parts true? These questions must be grappled with in every age and by every serious Bible teacher.

Does inerrancy still matter and, if so, why does it matter? Here are three simple reasons why the doctrine of inerrancy still matters for this generation.

1. It describes the nature of the Bible. When we say the Bible is inerrant, we are recognizing that it comes from God and not just from man. While God used human authors, God himself is the ultimate author. Scripture is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and not just man conceived.

Inerrancy notes that the Bible is perfect and perfectly reliable and only perfect God can do that. God is able to use imperfect men to give us exactly what we need and to do this perfectly. God is by nature sovereign and perfect. He is able, therefore, to use imperfect people like Moses and Paul to accomplish his purposes and to give us his perfect word.

If the Bible is just the ideas of people, well the world is full of ideas from people. And social media often suggests that the ideas of people can be less than edifying- some of the things I see on social media seem downright crazy! But if the Bible is truly God’s word, then we can trust God to give us exactly what we need and to give us his perfect word. We have, in the Bible, the perfect thoughts of God and not the imperfect ideas of people.

2. It defines the importance of the Bible. If the Bible is just another imperfect book, we might be inspired from it, but we are unlikely to transformed by it. If it is just another imperfect book, we take the parts we like and leave the parts that we don’t much care for, like those old beets in the buffet line.

If, however, the Bible is inerrant, we see that it is the source of truth. It teaches us the truth that we need even if that truth may be unpopular or difficult.

Truth transcends culture. Popularity and public opinion is not what should guide or instruct us. Truth is what we need and God teaches us the truth by giving us the Bible so that we know how we ought to live and what we ought to do. The Bible becomes the arbiter or right and wrong, not elections, polls or pragmatism. We are reminded of how much we need to know God’s word and how valuable it is for us for life and eternity.

3. It delineates the arguments about the Bible. Arguing about the Bible, and pretty much everything else in life, seems to be a pastime for Christians these days. But what determines if our arguments are right or wrong? Is it determined by who talks the fastest or the loudest? Is is based on feelings or personal sensibilities? Is it determined by what is currently popular or acceptable?

Inerrancy suggests the argument is defined by what the Bible teaches, not what man says. We know whether the arguments made are accurate by how well they match the scripture and not by how winsome or influential the arguer may be. The world’s way of arguing is to shout louder. The Christian way should be to study scripture more deeply.

Inerrancy does not end the argument, but it does delineate how that argument should be made. Imperfect people can still disagree about what the perfect word of God says. But at least we begin to formulate the parameters for how we should seek to know the truth and to help others know the truth.

I’m glad I argued for the inerrancy of scripture all of those years ago. This doctrine has helped me to be more obedient to God’s word in my personal life and more faithful to God’s word in my ministry life. But every generation needs to reaffirm the importance of inerrancy because every generation has to grapple with what is good, right and true.

Inerrancy still matters.

Faith Over Fear

I coughed.

Allergies have been a part of my life for years. So, when I got a tickle in my throat while preaching, it was nothing new. I just needed to clear my throat and maybe cough it out just a bit.

But a simple cough in today’s world can be enough to induce fear and anxiety in others. Though I was yards from the nearest person, I knew my little cough, inevitable as it was, would cause some anxiety and worry and maybe even a bit of panic in the age of pandemic.

But is fear the right response? Should our anxiety climb at every sniff of a nose? While precaution is understandable, ought panic to be?

The Bible tells us “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and sound judgment.” (2 Tim. 1:7) God’s word says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

Faith is the Christian response to difficulites and problems. Fear is the enemies effort to keep you from trusting God and depending upon his power and peace.

We should, of course, exercise common sense and take necessary precautions. I’m not advocating for a lack of concern for others or of safety protocols. Remember, however, that God doesn’t want us to plunge into the pool of fear, worry and anxiety. Our culture is filled with people wallowing in that puddle. We Christians have something far greater than fear. We have faith.

We know God is bigger than our problems. God can be trusted with our future. God offers peace over panic. We don’t have to fear even sin and death because Jesus conquered those enemies on our behalf.

So, trust God in the middle of a pandemic. Live by faith instead of fear. Tell him your needs. Ask for his wisdom and protection. And always remember that “The peace of God which supasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

Faith over fear.

Even if someone coughs!

There is Hope

Hope is a powerful thing.

Without it, we sink into a chasm of despair and depression. But with it, we can overcome the most difficult and challenging circumstances of life.

And Christians have hope. Not wishful thinking hope. Not blind optimism hope. Not ignoring reality hope. Christians have genuine, God-given, obstacle-overcoming hope that comes from the throne room of heaven itself.

To the believers in Rome facing threats and problems, Paul spoke of hope. Though he himself dealt with persecution, trials and poverty, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write words of hope.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Powerful words!

There is hope in this fallen world. There is hope for your life and future. There is hope for our churches in these uncertain times.

Here are three reasons Continue reading

Thoughts on Politics

Here are some of my general thoughts on politics and the Christian. Maybe they will help you think clearly about this important, but divisive, subject.

1. Politics is a privilege. What a privilege it is for us to be able to speak, participate and vote. Freedom is a great gift and ought not be taken for granted. Many parts of our world have little freedom and those living in the United States (and other countries who enjoy these freedoms) should be grateful for this treasure. Christians should be at the forefront of participating in our political process and doing all we can to help our nation go in the right direction. And, remember on occasion to Continue reading

Asking People to Do the Hard Things

One of the most important jobs of Christian leaders is to ask people to do the hard things they don’t want to do. We ask people to take the narrow, uphill road when it is easier to go down. We ask them to die to self when it is easier to live for self. We ask them to give, serve and sacrifice though none of those things come easily.

Following Jesus is not about taking the easy road. It is about doing the right thing even though that is often the more difficult thing. If we are asking people to follow Jesus, we are asking them to take the harder path.

There is a reason we ask people to do the hard things. Not only do we ask them to do it because it is right. But we also know it is in their best interest to do so. Continue reading

Passionate About the Right Things

Maybe you’ve seen it. The guy is passionate about his football team. When he talks about them, he gushes with praise or bleeds with pain. He is all in! But when it comes to the things of God? Well, a yawn seems to be the leading response.

Reading the book of Acts does not give one the impression that the early church considered Christianity boring. Quite the opposite! Those believers had a passion for the gospel that drove them to purposeful engagement, meaningful worship and great sacrifice. They witnessed everywhere they went. They urged lost people to come to the Lord. They willingly gave their time, energy and even their lives. They were all in!

Here are some thoughts on how Christians today can become more passionate about the right things.

1. Remember who Jesus is and what he has done for you. Nothing affects your passion for the Lord more than Continue reading

Discipleship isn’t a Program

Let’s face it. If discipleship was simply finding and following a program, the discipleship dilemma would have been solved long ago. Programs we have. Effective disciplemaking? Not so much.

I appreciate the role of programs in discipleship. They provide needed resources and helpful direction. They can point us down the right path and keep us from theological ditches. But discipleship takes more than a program. Authentic, life changing discipleship needs relationships.

Jesus spent time with people. In particular, he spent time with the 12 disciples. He taught them. He modeled proper behavior for them. He challenged them. Jesus even rebuked them where necessary. His discipleship course was the course of his life lived together with these men.

Perhaps we should see discipleship more like this. It is best done through relationships with other followers of our Lord. Stronger Christ followers helping other Christ followers live the life of Christ could become our model. We could begin to see discipleship as being done best through relationships rather than programs. Programs can be a tool, but relationships are the means.

Here are three reasons to see relationships as more important than programs in discipleship.

1. We need examples. Information Continue reading

Why Connect with an Imperfect Local Church?

Perhaps you have noticed that your local church isn’t perfect. If you haven’t, many people will be happy to point that out to you. The lost world, disgruntled former members and even much of contemporary Christian culture delights in pointing out the many flaws and warts of the church. And, let’s face it, the church has earned portions of her criticism.

Some local churches have accepted or condoned aberrant theology, ungodly behavior and unbiblical practices. I would never ask you to connect with churches that willingly disobey God and his word. But what about the church that is trying but failing? What about that local church that wants to follow God fully but never fully succeeds?

Why in the world should Christians join local churches that are messed up and lacking? Why give, serve and worship in places that are so obviously flawed? Here are some reasons for you to connect with imperfect local churches. Continue reading