Living an Undivided Life

A photo by Dietmar Becker. unsplash.com/photos/8Zt0xOOK4nI

It’s easy for people to pick on teenagers for having such a clear distinction between who they are with their different friendship groups. We all know someone who is totally different person depending on who else is around.

While it might be most obvious with teenagers, aren’t we all like that to some degree? Think about it…

  • If your church friends saw you at work/school, what would they think?
  • If your work/school friends heard you at church, would they be surprised?

God calls us to whole-hearted and undivided people who love and honor him. If that’s what we want, then it’s good to take a moment from time to time and recalibrate.

We can easily allow our “Christian life” to be expressed here and our “normal life” to be lived over there. Instead, what would it look like for us to live one faithful life?  Continue reading

Christian Views on Creation: A Short Summary

Time for another reader question. You can submit your question HERE:

Hi Mike! I have always struggled with the topic of creationism, as I know there are many different types. I don’t know were to start with researching them, but I feel like I should know a lot more about it than I do (especially where I’m taking lots of science classes at college). Any suggestions on what to do? I’m a little lost.

earth

Thanks for your question, it’s an important (and common) one. As we consider the glory of creation and the complexity of understanding HOW God created, I want us to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Science is Good: Unfortunately, the stereotype of religious folk is that we are unscientific. Most of Western history’s greatest scientists were faithful Christians who practiced science as a way to explore God’s good creation. Many of these people were actually funded and sponsored by the Church. Today, however, people have replaced faith in God with naturalism, which says, “If I can’t physically and scientifically prove it, then it isn’t real.” Science is good, Naturalism is not. The scientific method is the creed of the naturalist, just as the Bible is the authority for the Christian.
  2. Multiple Interpretations: Scientific data is often debated. There isn’t always one clear and obvious conclusion. Multiple scientists often draw different interpretations and conclusions from the same information. The popular voice isn’t always correct. Without room to debate interpretations, the best-funded voice will always prevail. This cuts both ways, and we need to be willing to learn from those with whom we disagree.
  3. Science is Limited: Obviously, a Naturalist will disagree with this statement, but it’s important to put up front. If you believe there’s more to reality than what we can empirically test, then you will draw different conclusions from the scientist who believes “it’s only true if you can scientifically prove it.” We will never understand everything. We aren’t supposed to. However, that’s not an excuse to disregard science. Science teaches us amazing things about our world, so take it seriously, but remember it cannot answer all questions.
  4. Adaption & Evolution: No one denies adaptation. Even the most literal 24-hour day creationist confidently agrees with significant amounts of adaptation within species (see HERE for an example). Adaptation and evolution within species makes good scientific sense to everyone. The debate revolves around whether or not one species can evolve into a new species, especially regarding the origin of humanity.

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When Doubt is Good for You

I vividly recall looking at my hand and bending my fingers, and being amazed at the simplicity and complexity of that movement. All the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, etc. working together to do what my brain was telling them to do. Amazing.

As a teenager I wrestled with doubt.

What if we did “just happen” and if we evolved from primordial ooze?
What if Jesus didn’t really say or do the things the Bible says he did?
How do I know God is even real? 

Thankfully, I was free to embrace my doubt and to ask my hard questions. Many teenagers who grow up in the church feel the pressure to keep their questions to themselves. If they do ask hard questions, they feel looked down on.

An increasing amount of books are recognizing the good things that come from allowing ourselves (and others) to doubt. Teenagers who grow up in Christian families often report a lack of freedom to voice their doubts. Instead, I try to encourage people (especially younger people) to ask their hard questions and to wrestle with their doubts.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospel comes when Jesus interacts with a man whose son is demon-possessed. Here’s the key interaction. We need to encourage this kind of honesty in the church.

But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out[a] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:22-24, ESV)

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What is “Sin that Leads to Death” in 1 John 5:16-17?

question mark on sticky noteOne of my favorite features on this site
is the reader questions, because I want this site to serve you. If there is something you’ve been wondering, please submit your questions HERE. You can search some of the other reader questions.

I would like to hear your insightful comment on 1 John 5:16 – 17 regarding sin that does not bring death and sin that does bring death. I welcome your perspective and clarification.

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” (1 John 5:16-17, ESV)

Context is King
As always, the best way to interpret Scripture is through understanding the context where the confusing passage occurs.

General Context: Faithfulness in the life of the Believer
Throughout the entire book of 1 John there is a strong emphasis on sin, confession, and faithfulness of believers. Over and over again Christians are described as those who do not sin. It’s important to realize in original languages, these verses use a grammatical structure which clearly implies a continual, ongoing habit of sinning. Some of these passages emphasizing the faithful Christian life are listed below.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1:5)

Everyone who make a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness…. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. (3:4 & 6)

If anyone says, ‘I love god,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (4:20)

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (5:18)

Upon reading through 1 John it should be clear that it was written to a church who enduring conflict and division. The members are wandering away and arguing with each other. The fellowship is broken. John is encouraging the believers to walk in the truth by loving one another as an expression of their love for God. True Christians endure – they don’t walk in habitual sinfulness, and they don’t abandon the family of God. This is a clear and consistent call throughout the book of 1 John, and this sets the context for 1 John 5:16-17.

A photo by Cristian Newman. unsplash.com/photos/zFnk_bTLApo

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How You Say It Matters: Thoughts on Form & Function

There was competition for my kids’ attention as we were reading the Bible last night. But I couldn’t get rid of the competition. Instead, I needed to embrace it. Because the competition came from the Bible App for Kids… the very app we were using to read the Bible in the first place!

You see, the Bible App for Kids takes the Bible stories and animates into interactive stories for your kids as the story is read out loud to them. My kids love it. I’m a little torn… because they half listen and half play.

They love the many Bible stories to choose from, the animation is great, and they especially enjoy touching the screen to see what the characters are going to do next. But are they listening to the story? Are they actually learning what the Bible says? To me… that’s not totally clear. There have been moments when the form (making the Bible stories fun and interactive) has overshadowed the function (teaching the Bible stories to children).

 

potters-wheel

Why the Church Must Prioritize Function Over Form 
It raises the question of which matters most: Form or Function?

  • Form is the shape of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
  • Function is what you’re trying to accomplish.

Form and Function should never compete. When they do, you lose. Without good For
m, the Function isn’t accomplished. The mission fails. The message was sent, but no one was paying attention. And without prioritizing Function, the Form received more attention than the thing it was trying to accomplish. For this reason, Function needs to have priority while valuing Form enough to give it the skill and attention necessary that the mission is accomplished.

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Suffering and the Problem of Evil

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attack on New York City and the Pentagon. In the midst of such commemorations, it’s important to ask ourselves (and to allow others to ask) hard questions. The Problem of Evil is among the most difficult topics to address.

Traditionally, the problem of evil is stated in three sentences, of which one supposedly cannot be true:

Suffering exists in the world

God is sovereign and in control of the world

God is good and loving.

Even some Christians attempt to “let God off the hook” by minimizing the pain of suffering. Hope gives strength to endure, but it does not mean suffering isn’t painful. Minimizing the legitimacy of suffering as a cause for doubt is intellectually dishonest and emotionally callous.

Yet, some defend God’s goodness by saying that he would stop all suffering and pain if he could. They determine any number of reasons why God can’t, but in the end, he would stop it if he could but he can’t. This version of God is kind and gentle, but powerless to save and unworthy of reverent worship.

Another response upholds God’s holiness but seems to minimize his compassion for the people who endure such suffering and pain. This God is holy and worthy of worship, but he is difficult to love.

One of the best Christian responses to the problem of evil comes through Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. At this point in the book/movie, all hope seems lost as the Dark Lord Sauron is growing in power and hope seems to be fading in Frodo and his team’s quest to destroy the ring of power. As Frodo is overwhelmed by the impossibility of success, he has the following dialogue with his friend and compatriot, Sam:

(I know you’re probably tempted to skip over this video. Don’t. It’s 2:30 long, and brilliant. If you’re somewhere public so you can’t listen, read the text HERE and watch it later, this scene is really just that good.) 

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5 Good Reasons Tithing Matters

My parents never taught me to tithe. That was something adults did. I was a kid, so I could keep my allowance and spend it on myself without feeling guilty. Since they’re good parents, I wasn’t allowed to be self-centered and they taught me the importance of caring for others. But I wasn’t taught about tithing and giving back a portion of my money to God as an expression of thanks and joyful dependance.

When I started working part-time, it was really hard to start giving 10%. Because I only had a little money, so I needed all of it. Instead, I gave a few dollars here and a few dollars there. Then I started working more and earning more, and if I actually tithed I’d be giving a lot more money than I was comfortable with. So what would I do?

Now that I’m a dad, I look for opportunities to teach my kids to give as an expression of our family’s joyful dependance on God’s provision. Whether your a teenager or a parent, it’s important for us to put our money where our faith is. Parents, teach your kids about tithing when they’re younger.

God doesn’t call us to give out of our wealth. Instead, we give out of our sense of need. Christians serve a generous God. How could we honor him by being so stingy that we wonder how little we can get away with giving?

Eventually, I’ve learned to tithe (and to enjoy it). God truly does love a cheerful giver, because a cheerful giver reflects God’s generosity to the world. Here are five reasons you should grow towards tithing to your local church, regardless of your age:

in-god-we-trust

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