You’ve Been Set Free

set_freeAre you growing in holiness? Are you advancing in sanctification? Are you looking more like Jesus? So often the concept of sanctification discussed among believers sounds like a lot of work. What are you giving up? Have you walked away from that? How much time did you read your Bible this morning? How much TV are you watching?

Somehow we’ve equated sanctification (holiness) with prudishness and we’ve divorced the concept of holiness from the abundant Christian life that Jesus promised in John 10:10. We’ve made the Christian life about work and drudgery rather than joy. Service to Christ is salve for your soul. According to Paul, “you have been set free from sin.” According to Jesus he offers you an easy yoke and a light burden.

Christian, you have much for which to be joyful. You have eternal life. As if that wasn’t enough, you also have the privilege of joy in all circumstances and the full knowledge that you will never be alone. You are a child of the king.

Sanctification requires discipline, but you have been set free from the bondage of sin to grow in Christ. You’ve been set free to enjoy the person you were created to be as you advance in Christ-likeness. This is not drudgery, it is joy and privilege. The world will be served well by seeing Christians filled with joy because of their freedom in Christ.

Go forth!

Don’t Be A Mission Trip Hero

15_regionsAs a pastor, I love it when people “get it.” When the gospel finally clicks and people get saved, when parents figure out their responsibility to spiritually shepherd their children, when men begin to share the gospel regularly, all of these are examples of people “getting it” that thrill my soul.

Recently a young woman in our church “got it” on an international mission trip. As she talked about the excitement of sharing Jesus with others and the joy of worshipping with believers from another culture, she also talked about the disappointments of rejection. In addition, she found herself initially disappointed by the fact that they encountered a lot of Christians along their journey. Her response was typical of many people (including me at one time) on international mission trips, “We came here to share the gospel, not talk with Christians.”

But then, she finished her story. Though she was initially disappointed, she came to see that the Christians in the area where she was serving needed encouragement to continue in their work. “We are here short term,” she said, “but they are here long term.”

She got it. The gospel is bigger than her. She went to make a difference and she certainly will, but sometimes the greatest difference we make is by empowering other believers to minister where we cannot. Often those believers who are “long-termers” have a much greater opportunity to reap a harvest than those of us who are short term.

Go on mission. Go to all the places that God allows you to go. Do all that God gives you to do, but never forget that your short term trips cannot replace the long-term investment of resident believers. You are not staying, you are only supporting the mission … Continue reading

The Best Family Devotion

617vYV9yWrL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I try to get into the gym 3 to 4 times per week for at least an hour per visit, but my goals are not always met. Sometimes I’m only able to get in for half an hour or only make two days a week. Some weeks I spend much more time on our stationary bike than I do forcing out heavy reps in a squat rack. But I have come to realize that something is always better than nothing. 20 minutes of walking is not as beneficial as 90 minutes in the gym, but that 20 minute walk is better than 20 minutes in front of the TV. Family devotions are like my exercise routines, somedays are better than others but something is always better than nothing.

I get asked regularly about the best way to lead a family devotion. In fact, it was with this in mind that we developed our Family Worship Guide at Malvern Hill several years ago. But the truth is that there is no “best” way to teach the Bible in your home or lead family devotions. Some ways may be better than others, but the best devotion is the one that you do rather than the one you do not do. In addition to the Family Worship Guide, here are a few things that we have found beneficial in teaching our kids the Bible formally and informally.

  • Family Memory VerseI try to post these on my site every week. Memorizing a verse each week as a family enables us to put the Word of God into our hearts and into practice. Of course it is amazing to see the way that God sovereignly aligns our verses with the events of our lives … Continue reading

Preach So They Will Hear

BlackboardwithchalktrayLuke, one of the other pastors at Malvern Hill, and I argue often. We do not have the kind of arguments that lead to anger (usually), but the kind of healthy arguments that make us better and we hope help us to serve our church more faithfully. Recently we were discussing an upcoming round of small group studies (we call them equipping studies) at our church and I had some suggestions for things we could teach. He didn’t disagree with my ideas, but he was not on board with my methods. Ultimately he needed to remind me that everyone does not learn the way I learn and there are other ways for us to teach than the way that feels most comfortable to me.

I really do not like this. If we are going to teach theology, I want to sit down with Grudem and work through it systematically. Evangelism? Let’s work through Packer as we share the gospel with others. Apologetics? Well, you probably get the idea by now. I also like lectures and blackboards, but the reality is that many people learn in other ways. The world is increasingly mobile-video driven and as a result we are looking at ways to train our folks through apps and web-based modules.

The same principles that apply to our teaching must also apply to our preaching. Certainly we do not jettison preaching for an online gathering or an iPad app, but we must consider our audience when we preach. With what kind of illustration will our audience most readily connect? What are the particular applications that would be most beneficial? How might the way I dress help or hinder my communication (several years ago my wife pointed out that I was … Continue reading

Your Experiences Are Not God

experienceIt would be difficult to not appreciate and respect J. I. Packer for his contributions to God’s kingdom. I rarely read something from Packer that does not impact me. Today I read an article about Packer’s protest against the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in 2002 over the issue of blessing same-sex unions. Of course homosexuality has been prevalent in the news lately and I’m sure that was the reason for the article, but his defense against a pro-homosexual interpretation of Scripture spoke to me as much more broad than the issue of homosexuality.

Packer argues that one way to mis-interpret Paul is to “let experience judge the Bible.” In the case of homosexuality (or other sinful sexual expressions), experience suggests that the behavior is fulfilling to some and as a result of these experiences, the Bible’s prohibition must be viewed as wrong. Packer goes on to say, “The Bible is meant to judge our experience rather than the other way around.”

Experience driven interpretation that has paved the way for many Christians to re-interpret the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality. Among those who have recently changed their views on homosexuality, many cite a close relative or friend who has come out as their reason for changing their views (i.e. David Gushee).

Unfortunately, it is not only in the affirmation of homosexuality that Christians allow their experiences to shape their interpretation of the texts. For instance, sex outside of marriage is clearly regarded as sin in the Bible, but rarely regarded so among those who profess Christ and are sexually active.

Anytime we begin the process of biblical interpretation with our experiences and then move to God’s word, we are in danger of re-interpreting the Bible according to our own desires rather than … Continue reading