Created in the Image of God

“How could you think that?”
 
“Don’t get me started!”
 
“Are you an idiot?”
 
“Aaaaargh!”
 
Our current political climate can make it difficult to communicate.  One must choose one’s words very carefully for fear of offending.  We live in an era where complete strangers dig through the archives of one’s life in order to find the smallest of antisocial morsels in order to be flaunted.  The tension in the public square is prone to make many clam-up.  Standing for what one believes is becoming harder than ever.
 
Of course, our stance on political issues reflects greatly on our worldview and what we believe.  There are certain topics that transcend the bounds of pure political rhetoric and spill over into the world of right and wrong.
 
Abortion is one such issue.
 
We can debate over the way in which government operates.  We can quibble about tax rates.  We can differ when it comes to immigration policy.  But to hash out the value of human life right at the outset?  This, to me, smacks of something unalienable, something basic, something self-evident. Of course, we ought to value life.  Of course, we ought to protect the most vulnerable among us…right?
 
Nobody claims to be pro-abortion.  It is seen as a last option.  A way out of a tough situation.  We re-categorize the child as a “fetus”.  We say it is not viable.  We question their quality of life. We say it is a woman’s choice.
 


Jesus Now What?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was the summer before fifth grade, in a small white chapel. I sat on a hard wood pew. My eyes were transfixed on the elderly man drawing at the front of the room. He was explaining the story of salvation in a way I had never heard  before. He used paints and markers of neon colors and in his grandfatherly way he made the story come alive. I knew then that Jesus was real. After class he asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as their savior. I immediately threw up my hand. Outside on a wooden bench, he prayed with me to allow Christ into my heart.
 
That day at summer camp still fills me with warmth. I made a decision that day that affected the rest of my life. But it took awhile, and I mean a long while, to understand what that decision really meant. For some, they would think that my road to being a Christian was done. In a way they would be right. I believe in one God, that He gave His son Jesus to die for us on a cross, and that after Jesus died, he rose again. Our sins our forgiven through this act. I also believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity. That belief secures my salvation, but my story doesn’t end there. Neither does yours.
 
We now need to start living the life we profess. We obey God outwardly to reflect inwardly what’s occurred.  The Bible lays out guidelines and rules for our lives. It also gives us clear instructions on what our main objective is as Christians. Read more…


Our World Needs You!

“We pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” -Romans 14:19
 
Our world needs you!
 
You are God’s front line against the hate that spreads. You, who have chosen Jesus, you are likewise chosen by Jesus, and sent into hostile territory. The hostile territory I’m talking about, is the moment you connect with someone else. It’s dangerous! Those other people: they don’t think like you do. They don’t believe like you do. They don’t have the same ideas, the same opinions, the same values. They don’t agree with you. And we are really struggling with how to get along with others who don’t agree.
 
Our reality is that we live in a divided and antagonistic society. Rather than trying to get along, we defiantly entrench in our stance. We vilify those who think differently. We place people who behave differently on a lower level of value. Our mind frames people with different views of the world as stupid, idiots, morons. We feel justified in insulting them, belittling them, wishing curses on them. And when we find people are wrong, we tear into them without mercy. Just follow any social media thread for more than three responses…there it is. This is the landscape of our society. And it is erupting into physical violence. Anger, hatred, pain, are spreading. And the drive beneath all of this is fear. Our society is wracked by a godless fear.  Read more…


The Art of Discipleship

 
Humans are creative.  We like design.  We like to express ourselves.  We like to make cool things.  Just take a stroll around your neighborhood.  Notice the way people decorate their lawns.  Notice the various uses of colors and shapes.  We even try to make our front doors look aesthetically pleasing. Even in a complex of town homes, each tenant has added their own flair somehow.  Why do we do this?  Why do we feel the need to create?
           
Personally, when it comes to decorating, I could function just fine in a cinder block room.  I have very little desire to “spruce up the place.”  At the same time, in such an environment, I would spend my time reading books and writing songs and be otherwise engaged in creating and enjoying the creations of others.
 
I believe this incessant drive to create is a direct reflection of the image of God within us.  We are created in the image of our Creator and therefore, we create!   
 
Certainly, God has gifted each of us with some amount of “natural” talent.  Some develop these talents and hone their skill to the point where they can make a career for themselves.  Others prefer to create as a hobby.  Wherever you might fall on this spectrum, it is important to keep one thing in mind: You are called to create.
        Read more…


Self-Help or Gospel

At the start of the new year it always makes me cringe to hear everyone talk about their newest resolution. Not that I think resolutions in and of themselves are bad, but in today’s society of personal betterment, most resolutions miss the mark. The U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.9 billion in 2016. It is forecast to post 5.6% average yearly gains from 2016 to 2022, when the market should be worth $13.2 billion.* Society is on a search to make themselves better, or as the old American sayings goes “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or maybe in today’s verbiage “girl, wash your face”. Now you are asking yourself why is that so bad? This focus on self and change only through one’s own works leads us to a place of selfishness. Even in the so-called Christian self-help books, I see a startling lack of Christian discipleship. First, there is little to no prayer mentioned. There is normally a lot of pages focused on meditation, but that meditation is completely focused on one’s self. Though it is good to have some introspective moments. There is very little focused on prayer or meditation on scripture. Second, our happiness is completely dependent on our own making. We must be on guard and avoid self-obsession. Our happiness is not the focus of the Bible. God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. For our joy comes from knowing Jesus and our relationship with him. We will find joy as we become more like him.

Most books talk about how we just need to try harder, do better, let go of negativity, all on our own. We start to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the most important thing in the world, that it is our own power that makes these changes. It assumes we have the power to change ourselves. We can change our habits, our food choices and maybe even our waistline but we cannot change our insides without the Holy Spirit. Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”


Sex and Marriage: Last Questions

As we come to the end of this year, I also will finish up my two-year-long blogging on the biblical teaching of sex and marriage. I have a couple of other questions I’ve been asked by youth, so I want to address them specifically, before I finish. Question: “Would the two of you and my two parents be happy together whether or not the choice to abstain [from sex before marriage] was made?” Yes. Of course. Couples who have sex before marriage can be very happily married. God forgives all sin, and God can create new life again. “With God all things are possible.” But take note: it requires a repairing and healing. It becomes part of the baggage each couple needs to work through together. The more there is, the harder it is. It is kind of like driving to a vacation spot. More detours along the way makes the trip harder, longer, more expensive, more grueling and more taxing. How much better to make the journey the best way possible. The journey of marriage is difficult enough the way it is, without adding further complications! Having sex before marriage makes the marriage more difficult–not impossible or even less meaningful–just harder. The couple must go through a process of repentance and re-commitment to following God in obedience. Many (but not all!) couples I have interacted with who had sex before marriage regret it and wish they could do it over again. Not that they are any less happy, they just wish they had done it right. The consequences can be overcome, and often are, thanks to the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Many couples have shared that their regret is greatest when they have to confess to their own children that they did not follow God’s plan as they ought. How they wish they could be a better example. It is also harder to encourage your children to trust God with their sexuality when your own example doesn’t reinforce it. Read more…



Holy Humiliation

 

Usually when we think of humiliation, we equate the experience with embarrassment.  Embarrassment is not typically something we would choose.  Unlucky circumstances or the ploy of another person conspire to make us the object of ridicule.  This is to be avoided.  In likewise fashion we do not want to become too acquainted with humility.  It is better to be assertive, to make our will known, to demand respect! And then Christmastime rolls around and we come face to face with the example of our Savior.

I love how Paul describes what is going on in Philippians 2:
 
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal
with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself
in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming
obedient to the point of death
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
so that at the name of Jesus, everyone
in heaven, on earth
and under the earth might bow
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


What does Christmas mean to you?

In the secular world, Christmas seems to be a largely commercial enterprise. At its best, Christmas is about generosity and the importance of family. At its worst, it is a credit card debit and angry fights at the dinner table.
 
For a Christian, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, here on earth some 2000 years ago. At its best, Christmas is a time of reflection and praise to a God who sent his son to be born. At its worst, it is a credit card debit and angry fights at the dinner table
 
We so often forget the importance of the holiday. Christmas is something that is relevant and real to our lives right now. Christmas is not just something that happened long ago. Christmas happens each year as a way for us to remember what happened when Jesus was born; that at Christmas, God became fully human and was born a weak infant in a lowly manger, in order to meet us where we were.
 
The Bible says that Jesus is like us in every way possible. “For this reason he had to be made like us, “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17a). Jesus’ complete humanity is important for us to understand what God is doing through  Christmas. By becoming man, Jesus affirms that we’re not just another creature; we are his beloved masterwork. Jesus came to model holiness, to show us what it really means to be holy. “Holy” in Hebrew means to be anointed or set apart. To be set apart and live a life pleasing to God. Jesus being human gave us an example to live by.  In becoming a human being, Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory to live among us. Read more…


Sex and Marriage: Try Before You Buy!

One of the most common beliefs I hear about new relationships is the “try before you buy” approach. Oftentimes, the reasoning goes, people have gotten married and then found out that they just couldn’t stand their spouse. Or, they found out that they just weren’t compatible. They ended up in divorce. So, to be smarter, live together first and see if it works. Then, if it seems to work, they consider marriage. In fact, I just read a recent article that the new trend is to get engaged, but never actually get married. Move in together, add a ring, but don’t get married. Same goes for sex. People say they want to experience all of the relationship (including sex) before marriage to see if they are compatible. Sex is separated from marriage. Right off the bat, this has nothing really to do with sex itself. All people are physically compatible sex partners. Every single sex expert says that bodies adapt to the partner. Read more…



It is Good to Tell the Truth

I love being a worship leader. I love to worship, I love God and I love music. It’s a triple win!  However, while I always love God, I do not always love all worship music. Sometimes the melody is so simplistic it can hardly be categorized as music. Sometimes the lyrics seem like the writers were just randomly flipping through the Bible to pick out “Christian” words.  And honestly, how many versions of the same song do we really need???
 
The modern-day worship music industry can be a frustrating trip down an aisle filled with cookie-cutter song structures and shallow lyrical content. However, do not give up hope! There will always be a new song just around the bend that touches the heart of God, that inspires the soul, that magnifies the Lord and that draws us deeper into the depths of his love.  You might say this is all subjective and you’d be right.  Certainly, two different people do not appreciate songs in the same way.  However, I believe that God is still at work inspiring his church to pen new, relevant songs that glorify His name while drawing us, His people, together.