The Church Consumer

I recently had a spat with my pharmacy. When they could not fill my prescription, I went somewhere else. When I upgrade my cell phone, I go to the store dressed for battle. I want to come away with the best possible deal. The church consumer is also looking for a deal. He needs to make sure he’s looking for the right thing.

The church consumer will, likewise, shop for what they perceive to be the best possible deal in churches. They may look for entertainment, friendship, or self-validation. People don’t want to change. They reject repentance. They are not looking for sanctification. Their desire for holiness is missing. Such shallow church consumerism is a colossal waste of time.

The church consumer should immediately jettison his foolish ideas about shopping for a church as he might shop for a new car. There is only one quality that a person should look for in a church. Seek and search for a church committed to the absolute truth of God’s word.

The Truth

Solomon said, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 22:23). In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke two brief parables about the value of finding the most important things. He told of a man who came across treasure and immediately went and bought the field. A second man found a pearl of exquisite beauty and great price. He sold everything he had to buy it (Matthew 13:44, 45).

The only things a church consumer should look for are the things that last an eternity. Entertainment brings joy for a few minutes. Self-validation brings about no change in the life of a sinner. These pursuits are not worthy of your time. Search for that which has true value.

Church leaders and preachers are responsible for doing their best to communicate God’s word to the listeners. The preacher should sharpen his skills of delivery and interpretation to deliver the pure truth in a way that his hearers can understand. Remember, the sermon is not a TED talk or standup comedy. The preacher does not take the stage to entertain but to encourage, evangelize, and inform.

Come for Worship, Not for Entertainment

The last time I attended a musical performance, the people on the stage did not invite me to sing with them. I am the object of the choreography and singing. I am entertained. Not so in the worship of the church. We do not come to worship for entertainment. We come to praise the God of creation and express our thanksgiving to him for all his blessings.

Let our worship be God-focused, not the other way around.

Let’s purge the idea of being a church consumer from our minds. Seek truth.

The Forgotten Sin

I get it. Nobody likes to talk about sin, but sometimes we need to. The turmoil of the 21st century has obscured our view of sin with the result that there is now The Forgotten Sin.

Some sins seem to reach out and grab us by the collar. The in-your-face wickedness makes us angry. But, in our rush to combat the assault of these wicked thoughts and ideas, we have created an unbiblical hierarchy of sins. We spend all of our time talking about the “bad sins” but fail to address the “lesser sins.”

Some years ago, a public health professional told me that the extraordinary emphasis on HIV-AIDS was hiding the serious nature of older sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. In her words, we have lost control of syphilis and gonorrhea and will never get it under control again. I wonder if we’re in the same situation with sexual sin.

We know sin separates us from God. But, what sin? Aren’t some sins worse? In Proverbs 6:16-19, Solomon says “hands that shed innocent blood” are an abomination to God. In that very same list, he says that “haughty eyes and a lying tongue” are also abominations to the Lord and are things that the Lord hates. But surely lying isn’t as bad as murder, is it?

Any sinful behavior, no matter how trivial it appears to us, is deadly serious to God.

In our rush to oppose homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion, we have forgotten “routine” fornication and adultery. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul begins his list of sins with sexual immorality; it’s right there in the same list with idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, and orgies. Paul says that people who do these things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

What exactly is “sexual immorality?” The underlying word, porneia, is a very broad word in Greek. It speaks to any illicit sexual activity. Sexual intimacies not ordained by God are sinful. This word includes fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. Yet today, our world assumes that people in a dating relationship are, in fact, having sex. Culture’s greatest concern is whether the sex is consensual and whether the couple has used protection against disease or unwanted pregnancies. There is no concern for the sinfulness of such a relationship. The forgotten sin is sexual immorality.

Let me be clear: sex outside of a God-approved marriage is sinful. Hebrews 13:4 says it is the “marriage bed” that is undefiled. Paul calls us to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Those words should speak to you, Christian. Let your life be a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Your Lord loves you more than you can ever imagine. He wants what is best for you. If we hear his words and abide in his teachings, our life now will be much better. Our lives in eternity will be indescribable.

The world is awash in every imaginable sexual sin. Let the Christian remain pure and holy before his maker.

Are People Good?

Are people good? Are they inherently virtuous? Why does it seem that some people are good and honorable while others are dishonorable and even evil? As expected, there is a Bible answer.

Beginnings

Humanity began in Eden. The Bible tells us that as part of God’s creation week, he created the human species. Most importantly, they were created in his divine image. They were image-bearers of the creator (Genesis 1:27). He told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:26-31). It is evident that they obeyed this command, for in Genesis 4, two sons have been born to the first couple. A third son is born at the end of the chapter. By the end of Genesis 5, 10 generations from Adam and Eve are recorded.

On the 6th day of creation, as God prepared to rest from his work, he looked upon the totality of his creation. He declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). According to the biblical record, only two humans were alive when God declared the goodness of his creation. There is no evidence of any evil in the world, and there was certainly no sin. This is critical. Mankind was very good when created. Inasmuch as there was no evil in the world, we may conclude that the original couple was pure, sinless, and thus very good.

Unfortunately, something very bad was about to happen in the very good world.

Disaster Strikes

We do not know how long this sinless state continued in Eden, but by the time Adam was 130 years old, sin had entered the world with catastrophic consequences (Genesis 5:3).

A choice was given. Adam and Eve could obey God, or they could disobey. Their choice? Disobedience. God had placed two unique trees in the Garden of Eden: the tree of life of which man could freely eat, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was this last tree that mankind was forbidden even to touch. The presence of those two trees provided a choice for Adam and Eve.

All was well in the garden until Satan entered in the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:1). He immediately questioned God’s authority and even called God a liar. He tempted Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. She surrendered to the temptation, as did her husband, Adam (Genesis 3:6). We must emphasize that neither Adam nor Eve was compelled to eat the forbidden fruit. It was their choice. Because they chose to disobey, they suffered the consequences of their action.

Much of this chapter focuses on the consequences of their sin. Adam must now work harder, Eve will suffer pain in childbearing, the serpent is cursed to crawl upon the ground and eat dust, and Satan will be crushed by one who is yet unborn (Genesis 3:15). But the greatest consequence is not revealed until the end of the chapter. God banished man from the presence of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). On that dark day in the long-ago, man’s spirit died when he was separated from God, and the process of physical death began as well. Because man could no longer eat from the tree of life, his body began to age and break down, leading to physical death.

The horrible aftermath of the sin in Eden is seen in Genesis 4. The very next generation, the son of Adam and Eve, Cain, worships improperly, then rises up against his brother Abel and kills him. Even more deadly violence is recorded in verses 23 and 24. The horrific picture of murderous rage is painted in the boldest of colors immediately after the sin in Eden.

What happened?

There was only one way to sin in the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve found it. All the joys and pleasures of a perfect world lay before them. But they threw it all away by succumbing to temptation.

Here is the problem for the modern world: Sin was once contained at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But once touched and consumed, sin was set loose in humanity. The very name of the tree explains its dangerous contagion. It opened their eyes and gave them knowledge of sin, thus making them guilty and subject to punishment (Genesis 3:7). The first parents would then spread the influence of sin to their children, who would spread it to their children, and so forth. Sin spreads when we are influenced to choose wrongly.

Sin is not in our DNA. We are not sinful because some ancient ancestor sinned (Ezekiel 18:20). We are sinful because of our choices. Now the upshot of this argument is that people are inherently good. We become evil when we surrender to evil influence.

The real man, the authentic man, is made in the image of God and is, therefore, very good. When we sully the image of God that we each bear, we become evil. Our goal, achieved through Jesus Christ alone, is to find and reclaim the holiness that once defined God’s creation.

Authenticity calls for a return to the original condition seen in Eden. It is not defined by what our corrupted hearts and minds tell us it is. The dark ruler of this world wants you to find pseudo authenticity in anything but the image of God.

We are like a people swimming in a putrid river of sewage. Our world and our culture are corrupt. Sin is everywhere. We are influenced to sin through others, the media, and especially social media. Like those swimming in the festering river, we must not grow weary and must press to reach the other side. To stop swimming means certain death. To surrender to evil temptation means certain death.

Do not give up but continue to search for the inherently good spirit God has placed in each of us. Yet, none of us are strong enough to reach the other side of that river without God’s help. God’s grace empowers us to reach the other side of the river and to return to the authenticity of an image-bearer of God

Yes, people are good.

The Most Dangerous Words of a Christian

I Think

Mankind is expected to think. God gave us the ability to observe, examine, analyze, and reason. Our mind is an amazing tool that can be trained and can even examine and heal itself when injured.  The human mind has allowed us to make stunning discoveries both on and off the planet. We continue to plumb the depths of the sea and soar into the Universe. Sometimes our minds get us into trouble but mostly our ability to think and reason has served humanity well. But when it comes to divine truth, the most dangerous words of a Christian are “I think.”

Our thinking and reasoning have produced innumerable denominations and have deepened the division with Christendom. In the meantime, we are losing the battle for men’s souls. Something is clearly wrong. It’s past time to stop spouting what we think and instead cling to what we can know from the Lord.

I Can Know Truth

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32

You would agree, I think, that truth is unchanging.  Truth does not shift because of changing beliefs or differing perspectives. 2 apples plus 2 more apples equal 4 apples in Daphne, Alabama, and in the Cocos Islands (opposite side of the earth). It’s still four apples if I am a Democrat or a Republican. Truth doesn’t change. The writer of Hebrews says Jesus is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8) which is not surprising given that God is truth (John 3:33) and truth doesn’t change.

While it is important to know truth in everyday life, the balance in your bank accounts, the medicines the doctor prescribes, etc. It is critical to know the truth about God and his plan to save mankind as he revealed it.

I Must Respect the Truth

Here’s the rub. When speaking of Biblical matters, we often say what we think instead of what God says.

“I know there is nothing about mechanical instruments of music in the New Testament church, but I think it’s ok because it uplifts me.” In this case, we have elevated our thinking above that of what the Bible says. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was called to rebuke the prophets of Israel for speaking what they thought instead of what God had said.

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.”

Ezekiel 13:2

These prophets spoke falsely but still expected the Lord to accept their corruption of truth. A few verses later he explains that they have been speaking from their own heart and not from God’s message (Ezekiel 13:17). In verse 8, the Lord declared “I am against you!”

The Most Dangerous Words of a Christian: Toward A Solution

Those who believe that Jesus is the son of God all affirm their reverence for and adherence to the Bible. It is God’s word delivered through the power of the Holy Spirit and confirmed with supernatural acts (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). That being the case, we can all agree on the following:

  1. I will stop telling people what I think and instead declare what the Bible says.
  2. I will derive all teaching and doctrine from the Bible. I will not add to nor take from it.
  3. I will reject any teaching or doctrine not found in the Bible.
  4. I commit to a thorough study of the Scriptures to understand and to apply it.
  5. When we speak, we will speak only as the oracles of God, never of mankind.

It’s time to hear again the voice of God as revealed in his “once for all” delivered word (Jude 3). No smooth-talking, well-dressed, well-coiffed, preacher will be tolerated who does not honor the truthfulness and completeness of Scripture.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a hard trait for anyone to master. It is most difficult when we try to forgive ourselves. Those who live in Christ must learn to forgive. Hear the words of Jesus:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, 15)

Jesus says that if I do not forgive others who have offended me, I will not be forgiven of my trespasses. A parallel verse is in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Personally, I crave both forgiveness and mercy. I need copious amounts of both; I suspect you do too.

If anyone in the Bible had a reason to hold a grudge, it would have been Jesus. The purest one ever born had come to earth for one reason: “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But despite his sole purpose of helping humanity, Jesus became the target of their wrath. He was arrested, maltreated, and crucified on an old rugged cross. Yet, as he hung on that cross, he uttered this immortal statement, “father forgive them (Luke 23:34).” As the ultimate example of a holy life, Jesus teaches us to forgive.

Christians don’t always live up to the master’s example. Christians can be just as petty and unforgiving as non-Christians. But our failure to exemplify Christ does not lessen the imperative of forgiveness.

Those outside of Christ are often amazed when they see acts of true forgiveness. For example, Georgia Congressman John Lewis’ public forgiveness of Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Or the beautiful image of Botham Jean’s brother embracing and forgiving convicted murderer Amber Guyger as she was being sentenced for the murder of his brother. True forgiveness is so rare in our world that it always turns heads when it happens.

Forgiveness and Hypocrisy

People occasionally blur the line between forgiveness and hypocrisy. They see or hear of a Christian doing something sinful. They immediately cry, “hypocrisy!” But what they overlook is that the Christian is struggling to overcome sin. Along the way, he stumbles. But God has forgiven him. 1 John 1:5-10 is enlightening. We know first the necessity of “walking in the light.” Second, even while walking in the light, the Christian needs forgiveness. And three, forgiveness is forthcoming from a loving God.

There is no hypocrisy. There is only a real struggle to overcome sin in daily life.

This is not to say that hypocrisy never occurs; it does. And sometimes, Christians deliberately act contrary to God’s holiness. In that case, they are hypocrites. But to assert that every stumble or error is an act of hypocrisy is just wrong. Certainly, you and I would not want to be judged that way.

Hiding behind Hypocrisy

Occasionally a person will use the perceived hypocrisy of someone else to justify their own misdeeds. Maybe they’re not really trying to justify themselves as much is there trying to raise their stature among other people. They point out the weaknesses in failings and other people and then conclude that their sin is no worse than the others. It is true that any sin separates a person from God. But it is also true that another person’s sin has no bearing on your standing before God. Another person’s sin does not justify you. We will be judged individually (Romans 14:12).

Hiding behind hypocrisy evidences an unwillingness to confront one’s own sins. It also suggests a desperation to be seen as righteous but without a penitent heart. If you are outside God’s kingdom and judging it by its citizens, you are missing the most important part. We are not and will not claim perfection. We rely on God’s promise of forgiveness as we strive to know Him and pattern our lives after Him each day.

In the beginning, we said forgiveness was a hard trait to master. It’s also a hard act to understand. No matter the depth or depravity of your sin, you can be cleansed and stand righteous before the Lord. After a laundry list of common sins, Paul said: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Come now for the healing and forgiveness found only in Jesus!

Sin

Of all the words that have fallen out of favor, sin is in the top spot.  No one wants to think about sin, especially the idea that they have sinned. Still, sin is real. It is part of the Bible and is prominent in the Gospel story of Jesus.

The origin of sin

Genesis 3 is the first account of sin in the Bible. The first couple, Adam and Eve, were given a very simple choice. They had to decide if they would eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or if they would avoid it as God commanded. Eve ate the fruit of the tree and gave it to her husband, Adam, who was with her (Genesis 3:6). At that moment, sin entered the world.

God warned them that if they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Even though Adam lived well over 900 years, he died. More importantly, Adam and Eve died spiritually. That is, they separated themselves from God through their sin. It is accurate to say that sin began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

What is sin?

Most basically, sin is disobedience to God. In Romans 3:23, Paul says sin is to “fall short of the glory of God.”  The ancient word, which we translate as sin, actually means to fail to meet a goal or to miss the mark. We might say that Christians aim to glorify God and become holy like He is holy. When we fail to do that, we miss the mark. Or, put another way, we sin.

While sin is certainly a mistake, it’s probably best if we don’t think of it that way. For most, sin is a deliberate act of disobedience. It may be that we choose to commit some sinful action. But often, sin is a failure to do what we know to be good (James 4:17). Like Adam and Eve before us, we are warned of the consequences of sin. Paul says the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23; Proverbs 10: 16). Death always follows sin.

Who is guilty?

But who is guilty of sin? Is it God’s fault for giving us a choice while knowing we would often choose wrongly? Is it Satan’s fault for wielding such evil influence? These are incredibly important questions because the person guilty of sin faces eternal consequences. Those consequences include a forever separation from the presence of God. It means the person will spend an eternity in a devil’s hell.

Perhaps it is simplistic, but the person guilty of sin is the person who actually sins. In other words, I am not guilty of sin because my father, or any other ancestor, was a sinner. I sin, and you sin; therefore, we are each individually guilty of our own sins. The inspired prophet Ezekiel reports God’s own words: “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The entirety of Ezekiel 18 makes plain that sin and its consequences are not inherited. A person must sin before he is guilty and before facing the consequences.

The harsh reality is that every one of us sins. Referring again to Romans 3:23, we see that all have sinned. John says in 1 John 1:8 that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” We choose to sin and are, therefore, appropriately guilty of sin and must suffer the consequences of sin unless someone intervenes for us.

What can I do about my sin?

You cannot fix your sin. If that statement is true, and it is, you are in a horrible predicament. God must require payment for sin else God would not be just. Before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus was selected as the payment for our sins. Jesus was chosen to be a propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25), that is, one who receives the penalty of sin in place of someone else, a substitute, if you will. The propitiation of Jesus demonstrates that God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21 – 26).

Your sin is removed because of the blood of Jesus. Redemption is found in Christ (Romans 3:24). Eternal life is in Jesus (Romans 6:23). In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). How do we come into Christ? We do so in obedience to his commands. Baptism, so often downplayed, is the essential moment when we enter Christ. (Romans 6:3). It is only the beginning, however. We grow and are being sanctified by and through His words.

Satan does not give up. He still pursues us and sometimes we fall. We still sin. However, John reminds us that the blood of Jesus keeps cleansing us while we walk in the light.

Sin is real. The consequences of sin are real. But so is deliverance and salvation in Jesus Christ. Let us thank God for the blessing of eternal life. Sin has no hold over the Christian. Jesus has broken those bonds. That’s the greatest news anyone could hear.

baptism is no work

When Should I Be Baptized?

when should I be baptized

Baptism is essential to salvation. You are not saved until you are baptized according to biblical teaching. I know these statements fly in the face of many denominational teaching. But I want to show you, from the Bible, the truth of baptism. I want to answer the question: When should I be baptized?

Baptism is a command.

Moments before Jesus ascended back into heaven he commanded his followers to baptize all people (Matthew 28:19). Notice that his disciples are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.” Next, Jesus teaches his followers to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Furthermore, they are to teach “them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The command is to make disciples. The method is to teach (Mark 16:15), baptize, and teach them again. If baptism is not essential, Jesus would not have commanded his followers to do it.

In Acts 2, Peter is preaching the first gospel sermon. The sermon’s climax comes when Peter tells the listeners that the man whom they crucified, Jesus of Nazareth, has been made both Lord and Christ by God the Father (Acts 2:36). In response, the people cried out, “brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) Peter’s response to their simple question was equally simple: “repent and be baptized every 1 of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

After Peter taught the family of Cornelius, he “commanded them to be baptized” (Acts 10:48). When the Philippian jailer realized he was lost, “he was baptized at once” (Acts 16:33).

A careful review of Scripture demonstrates that baptism is essential to salvation. Any teaching to the contrary should be rejected.

When should I be baptized?

A man should be baptized as soon as possible. He must know that he is a sinner and the object of God’s incredible love. He must turn from his sins (repent), move toward God’s holiness, and be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins.

Since a person is lost until he is baptized, he should not wait or schedule his baptism for some special time in the future. Let him be baptized immediately. For reference, note that the 3000 people baptized in Acts 2 were baptized the same day. Note that the Ethiopian was baptized in the middle of his trip as soon as he saw sufficient water (Acts 8:35-40). Cornelius and his family were baptized upon receiving Peter’s teaching (Acts 10:44-48). The Philippian jailer was baptized at the same hour of the night (Acts 16:30-34).

It is trendy to schedule baptisms for a special event or a special day; it is unwise and certainly not Biblical.

Who should be baptized?

Baptism is appropriate only for those able to understand the dark consequence of their sin (Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30-34). Children, who do not have the requisite understanding of sin and salvation, have no need to be baptized. Immersing such children does not save them later and may confuse them about their need for baptism once their understanding has developed.

Jesus declared that the kingdom of Heaven was like children (Matthew 18:3). How so? The kingdom is reflected in their innocence and trust, key attributes of the adult Christian. It was Jesus who called the little children to come to Him because the kingdom is of such (Matthew 19:14).

If faith (belief) is essential to salvation, and it is, how can an infant or small child believe? How can a babe-in-arms have faith in Jesus?

The person who is baptized must have faith (Hebrews 11:6) which comes from hearing the true gospel (Romans 10:17; c.f. Galatians 1:6-10). He must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 John 2:22). He confesses his belief (Romans 10:10). The believer then repents of any and all wrongdoing and submits to baptism (Acts 2:38).  To immerse one who does not believe, who is unwilling to confess, or unwilling to repent, is to make a mockery of God’s plan.

Conclusion

Given the simple truths above, it should be clear that baptism is a most serious decision and ought not be given to gimmickry or worldly interpretations of clear Bible teaching.

    There's Got to be a Better Way

    There’s Got to be a Better Way

    There's Got to be a Better Way

    I was sitting on a stone wall in front of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I watched the world pass by. Young, old, infants and grandparents, moms and dads. I watched people from Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and, of course, the US. Men and women in high-dollar suits raced between meetings trying to turn one more deal before the month ended. There’s got to be a better way!

    You could have been in that crowd.

    Solomon said,

    Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

    Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3

    What do we gain? We live, and then we die. There’s got to be a better way. Culture has no answers.

    Groucho Marx quipped from his deathbed, “This is no way to live!” He was right. Like mice on a running wheel inside a small cage, we say, this is no way to live.

    There’s Got to be a Better Way: The Problem.

    1.      Everything is Temporary

    We live in a briefly appearing world. We are born, and if extraordinarily fortunate, we will live for a hundred years and then vanish into an unseen world. Within those 100 years, we have maybe 50 years of real productivity. Our total contribution to the world is less than a century. We take our last breath, but the clock keeps on ticking.

    James described our life as “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). From my experience, and probably yours, that is a spot-on observation. There is no permanence to our lives. It’s just a run from one meeting to the next, go home and sleep, and then start again the next day.

    Solomon, an extraordinarily wise Israelite king, remarked, “I hated all my toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19). Why do we work so hard for things so temporary?

    2.    The Future is Dark

    As the news drones on and on, we are bombarded with dismal prophecies of failure. Crime is rising, and politicians are powerless to stop it. Test scores are dropping, and educators have no answers. If the experts are clueless, what are we to do?

    The Bible tells us that things will get worse. Paul said that “evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13).

    If you’re like me, you are afraid to read the headlines. What’s next? Supervillains and Superbugs rule the day! It’s not surprising that people are anxious and afraid. Is this as good as it gets?

    3.   There is no satisfaction

    Do you like your job? Really, do you get up every day excited about your work? What about your relationships? Do they satisfy? Does the other person “complete” you? Are your children a blessing or a chore?

    Lockdowns stopped many of our friendships, and even now, we’ve not found the time to refresh them. We get up, go to work, come home, and crash. We eventually drag our tired bodies to bed, sleep a few hours, then start again. Satisfaction is fleeting. We run like the little hamster on the wheel inside his cage but get nowhere.

    There’s Got to be a Better Way: There Is!

    1.   Find Real Peace

    In a letter to the Philippians (4:7), Paul speaks of a peace that “surpasses all understanding.” When was the last time you enjoyed a few minutes of real peace?  In Jesus, you can have peace that comes from a realignment of your priorities and a changing of your trust model.

    The first priority is Jesus and his work. Jesus spoke of worrying about what we acquire and consume in life. His advice is simple and straightforward: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). But, if you make that change in your priorities but do not also change who and what you place your trust in, you will be more anxious than ever!

    Trust must be placed in something trustworthy. If we’ve learned anything we have learned that we cannot trust anything. Our leaders shade the truth and often lie to us. Our financial accounts rise and then fall just as quickly. Like a flailing sailor tossed violently in the waves, we need something to cling to. We need something that will not sink in stormy weather. We need someone who is trustworthy. Jesus said:

    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)

    Would you know the peace that comes from Jesus? Come, learn of him, trust him, and give him your heart. You will not be disappointed.

    2.   Untangle the Knot

    Have you ever stopped to think about how entangled we are? We cannot say “no” at work because we want to be seen as a team player. We volunteer for projects at our child’s school because we want to be seen as good parents. Our front yard must be pristine because we fear a note from the neighborhood association. And, somewhere along the way, we need to find time for our spouses. There’s just too much going on!

    God’s faithful have always struggled. Hear the writers description of some great figures in the Bible:

    who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:33-38).

    They bore up under struggles and managed to find what was better. The two verses tell us that something better was waiting for them – just like it is waiting for you.

    Trust in Jesus will not untie the knot, but it will give you a fresh perspective on the truly important things in life.

    Look, there is something better. Life can be better. You can be a part of something that is bigger than yourself but also profoundly meaningful to people around you.

    3. Think Outside the Box

    Look, I get it. Spiritual things are not viewed well today. The decline of culture and the decline of the reputation of the church mirror one another. I’m not sure which came first. I do know that much of what has passed for “church” is little more than a traveling medicine show. It’s about entertainment – not worship. It’s about pop-level psychology – not holiness. You can almost feel the disconnect between churches and Jesus.

    There is no disconnect between Jesus and the church he established and died for. It’s still here and you can be a part of it regardless of your past.

      Culture has failed

      Culture Has Failed. Now What?

      culture has failed this man

      Culture promised so much but delivered nothing. We were told that happiness comes from faster internet, more entertainment options, the sexual revolution, changing pronouns, legalized drugs, more alcohol, more credit, less work, and so on. But despite the promises, we’re still stressed and bubbling with anxiety. Happiness is elusive and, when found, so brief. Like an endless train of zombies stumbling into a dark tunnel, we wander, hoping that fulfillment and satisfaction are just ahead. They’re not. Culture has failed. What now?

      There is a better way.

      1. Don’t trust what doesn’t deliver.

      Promises from cultural, political, and societal leaders haven’t delivered. Your station in life has changed little from where you stood ten years ago. Would you keep the same internet provider if they couldn’t meet their promises? Would you change your cell phone provider if you experienced spotty coverage despite their lovely blue and purple maps?

      Culture is saying that religion is bad, that there is no God, and it’s all a scam. Maybe their thoughts on faith are as useless as a pretty blue map with only a rare gap. It’s time to reconsider.

      2. Consider Jesus.

      Now, wait. Before you click away, read just a little further. The next 60 seconds could be life-changing.

      Jesus is the greatest teacher who ever walked. Initially, I am only asking that you consider his words. For the moment, let’s forget his miracles and his divine claims. Just focus on what he taught.

      In a single lesson (Matthew 5, 6, and 7), Jesus declared the “Golden Rule,” “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them… (Matthew 7:12). He declared the uselessness of worry and anxiety (Matthew 6:25-29) while reminding us to focus on the day, not tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). Jesus declared that we should not only love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39) but even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-47).

      By any measure, these teachings are world-changing! Culture has failed. Try something new.

      3. Focus on Jesus, not His disciples.

      You’ve seen hypocrites. Preachers who are greedy cheaters. Church leaders who are sexual abusers. Double-talking Christians who would embarrass a crusty old sailor. Hypocrites are real, and they are found in the church.

      There is a difference between Jesus and broken Christians.

      Peter, who struggled with his own set of sins, always pointed to Jesus and not to himself.

      “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”

      1 Peter 1:15, 16

      Should you take up the mantle of faith, you will follow Jesus and no one else. And, you will stumble.

      4. Expect from Jesus what culture has failed to deliver.

      Jesus changes our outlook and our thinking. He transforms our minds through his message (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). We come to know real and abiding peace. We think less about this world and focus on eternity. Your boss, bank, and neighbor become less irritating as you grow deeper in Christ.

      Despite what some money-grubbing preachers will tell you, prosperity is never assured. But that’s ok because our view of money is downgraded. It is no longer a goal but a tool to help others. You will not suddenly become rich. You won’t find “$56,000 in the mail.” But you will find peace and a release from the anxiety vexing you. It’s not instant, but it is real.

      I have one goal with this message. I hope you will turn to Jesus to find what culture failed to deliver.

      If this post was helpful to you, please consider subscribing to our site. We’ll never sell or distribute your information…never…I promise.

      making friends. two toddlers as friends

      5 Keys to Making Real Friends

      making friends. two toddlers as friends

      College student Mark Zuckerberg never intended to change the world, but he did. In 2004, Zuckerberg and a small group of college buddies launched Facebook. It introduced and defined “social media” to the world. Almost everyone has heard of Facebook, and a majority have an account there. What Facebook gets wrong is its definition of a friend. For 5 keys to making real friends, read on.

      The Facebook friendship model requires only a request and approval. Someone active on its pages may develop thousands of these friends, having never even met one of them. These are hardly friends in the traditional sense. It’s better to think of them as associates, although that may be stretching it too. Examine your own friend list. I suspect associates outnumber real friends 10 to 1.

      Let’s take a deep dive into how we can develop better friends.

      Stop Making Friends

      J. Boehm, a professional counselor, told me that he stopped making friends long ago. Now, instead of making friends, he grows friends. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

      Treat friendships like flowering plants in your garden. Plant the seed, cultivate it, and watch it grow. With time the seed becomes a beautiful flower. Yet, the flower cannot be rushed into existence. The best friends take time to grow. Two of Jesus’ closest friends were James and John. They are first introduced as “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17) but after months of Jesus’ cultivation, John becomes known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).

      Stop declaring friends and invest in a few. You will be rewarded with the best friends possible.

      Best Friends Come From The Best Seeds

      I love to thumb through the plant and seed catalogs that fill the mailbox in late winter. Information presents the seeds best suited for your climate and soil. You pick seeds and plants that will flourish.

      Choose your friends from the best stock. Look for high values of trustworthiness and loyalty. Seek seeds that will tell you the truth even when the truth hurts and may anger you.

      “Lay down with dogs and you’ll get up with fleas” is the way old timers described bad associations. The inspired Scripture says, “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV), and, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm”  (Proverbs 13:20)

      Cultivate Powerful Relationships

      LinkedIn is a specialized social media platform that promotes networking. I often receive requests to join someone’s network. Often, I have never heard of the person sending the invitation. These shallow associations are useless.

      Alternatively, in-person networks can be priceless. These connections, cultivated through endless trials and shared struggles, are deep, lasting, and profound. But they didn’t come overnight. The best friends are those you’ve worked to build.

      Buy Friendships with Gold

      No, don’t try to buy your friends. They’ll soon be gone and you’ll soon be broke. It won’t work. But use gold, that is, the Golden Rule, to build better friendships

      “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”

      Matthew 7:12

      The power of the Golden Rule cannot be overstated. Together with the greatest command (Love the Lord your God…) and the second command (Love your neighbor…) (Matthew 22:34-40), these compose a world-changing triad.  Today, it’s all about me, what I want and what I can get. But the Golden Rule shreds such attitudes and turns them upside down. The best friendships grow when we focus on the other person, not ourselves.

      Few Are Better Than Many

      Growing and cultivating real friendships requires hard work, and it requires time. You will end up with fewer friends but the ones you have will be far superior and far more satisfying. Aim for quality and depth in your friendships.

      Jesus was surrounded by disciples from throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but his close friends were his Twelve. Even within the apostolic band, it seems that only three, Peter, James, and John, were the closest to our Lord. Truly, if you find only one great friend in life, you have found it all!

      I hope you have many “friends” and followers on your social media pages because each one represents a soul that can be touched by your wise words and encouragements. But I pray that you will find a few real friends who will bless your life.