How to Overcome Temptation

Temptation is a daily reality for every Christian. For some, it is an overwhelming lure back into sinful habits we seem unable to escape; for others, it is a nagging invitation to participate in “acceptable sins” that subtly and slowly erode one’s integrity and intimacy with God.

Much more can be said than these four simple helps, but these are offered as ways for you to be strengthened in the midst of temptation. You can read another post I’ve written that cover some of this, but mostly focuses on how temptation workschess Continue reading

The Danger of Deceptive Godliness: Learning From Ananias & Sapphira

As other wealthier Christians were selling their land and donating the money to the church, Ananias and Sapphira saw their opportunity. They wanted to be a power couple in the early life of the church, and this would be how to get there. Perhaps their faith in Christ started off with better motives and they lost their way, but it seems their involvement in the church had become about themselves – not about God, and not about serving others. In the end, they were judged and put to death by God for their deceptive godliness.

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I am convinced every church has modern-day Ananias and Sapphiras. Their example reminds us that God cares about motives. It is good to give generously of your time, money, and talents in order to build up the church. However, it is evil to give those things because you want to be seen doing them. The Christian is called to self-forgetfulness, not self-promotion.

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How to Not be a Heretic

What you believe matters. Your beliefs about the world, yourself, and God are always operating in the background of your mind, shaping your decisions and passions. Especially today, where tolerance is often talked about but little practiced, talking about religious belief is difficult and tricky.

Being a Christian means you believe certain theological statements are true while rejecting other claims about God and religion are not true. Of course, that’s not unique to Christianity. Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Atheism have their own “theological walls” that set the boundaries… and if you pass those boundaries then you can no longer be considered a part of that theological camp.

For example,

  • An Atheist cannot believe in intelligent design.
  • A Buddhist cannot believe the Jesus is the only way to heaven.
  • A Christian cannot believe there are multiple paths to heaven.

While some people throw the word “Heretic” at anyone with whom they have a strong disagreement, that doesn’t capture what heresy is. Heresy is a teaching that undercuts and contradicts the essential teachings of a religion. This is why Christians may disagree regarding Baptism or the Lord’s Supper, but Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered cults who are outside the bounds of true Christianity. airplane-wreck Continue reading

God Uses Normal People

God doesn’t need first-round draft picks. He uses completely ordinary, ho-hum, sinful people to accomplish his purposes.

You are not so incredible God thought, “I need him on my team” or “What would I do without her?” You don’t need to be great for God. He is great enough. What we need is faith to trust him.

The incredible thing about God’s kingdom is this: it’s a gift of grace. We are unworthy and undeserving, but we receive it anyway.

Consider Abraham and Moses. Their names probably bring up the idea of great men who had great faith… men who are not like you. But here’s the thing: they were totally normal guys who imperfectly trusted God. The Bible doesn’t tell their stories as if they’re spiritual-superstars. Their failures are listed in black and white because their story isn’t about them… it’s about a sovereign God who works through normal people.

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How Busyness Chokes out Faith

When I was interviewing for my current position as a youth pastor someone asked me, “What do you think is the greatest challenge facing teenagers today?”

It’s a great question. I remember giving some answer about postmodernism and the challenge of living in a relativistic culture. Blah blah blah. I’m sure my answer was brilliant… but let me take another crack at it.

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Busyness. Without a doubt, I’d answer, “Busyness.” And I’m not alone.

The Barna Research Group and Youth Specialties have conducted a “State of Youth Ministry” and found that 74% of youth pastors say teen busyness is the main obstacle to ministry while only 11% of parents claim their teenagers are too busy.

Let that sink in. 89% of parents are ok with their teenager’s busyness but only 26% of youth pastors agree. I think that qualifies as a discussion point between youth pastors and parents!

As a youth pastor, you can guess where I fall, but I think it would be helpful to clarify why busyness is so spiritually dangerous that so many church leaders point to it as the primary challenge they face in their ministries. (note: this is not a unique challenge to those of us who serve in youth ministry… teenagers have learned it from someone!)

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Suffering is the Furnace of Godliness

 

How can you trust a God who lets you suffer?

That’s a question many people simply cannot get over, and frankly… it’s a good question! The problem of suffering is legit and real and difficult. Rather than  attempting to “solve” the question, I hope to share what may be a fresh perspective.

If we approach the question of suffering with the expectation that God owes us happiness and comfort, then we need to admit we’re holding God to promises he never made. The “American Dream” is never promised anywhere in Scripture. In fact, there are many places where God promises his people they will suffer because of their righteousness. 

Romans 8:28-29 is a much-quoted verse to bring comfort in the midst of suffering. Often it is shared in a way that says, “God will make it all ok. It will turn out good for you.” But that isn’t what this passage says. In fact, it says something much better…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son….”

Like the silversmith who purifies silver in a furnace or with a blowtorch, the impurities come to the surface in the heat. When they are wiped away, the purified silver will reflect the silversmith’s face when he looks into it.

Suffering is the furnace of our godliness. It is the way God purifies his children so they reflect him more clearly in a sinful world. 

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