Category Archives: God

Not a Chance: A Review

Not-a-Chance

Can faith in God and science coexist? Does one contradict the other? Many opponents of Christianity attempt to use science to show that a god does not and cannot exist. Along with this, many believe that the supernatural does not exist. They believe people see or experience an illusion or a figment of their imagination, but nothing actually supernatural. Opponents of believing in God often claim that “chance” plays an integral part in the world. This is where Not a Chance makes its plea. Here is a brief synopsis of the book from the back cover:

Despite claiming unbelief in God or any higher power that may have designed or created the world, modern scientists often write and speak of chance as some kind of being or force that can actually cause things to happen.

In this book, Sproul and Mathison “call the scientific world to employ logic and clarity in their discourse, to leave the word chance as an abstract concept to describe mathematical possibilities rather than an ontological entity that can cause change.” How do they accomplish this? They accomplish their goal by presenting compelling and logical arguments that demand to be answered. Not a Chance touches on everything from chaos to reason, magic, contradictions, quantum physics and logic. This book is a great read for someone wanting to stretch their brain and learn more about how God and science cannot just coexist, but actually strengthen an individual’s faith.

Here are a couple quotes from the book:

“Chance is their magic wand to make not only rabbits but entire universes appear out of nothing” (p. 24).

“However, even in our wildest dreams, chance, which is nothing, cannot do something” (p. 24).

“Chance itself has no influence on the outcome of either the coin toss or the subsequent game” (p. 37).

“I do not allow for uncaused effects because uncaused effects represent a contradiction in terms” (p. 58).

“To be free of causality is to be free of logic, and license is given for making nonsense statements with impunity” (p. 61).

One of my favorite quotes from this book is this one: “For something to come from nothing it must, in effect, create itself” (p. 26). The authors respond to this statement with this thought: “For something to create itself it must be before it is. This is impossible” (p. 26). Everyone will agree that this is in fact impossible. And that is why a book like this is so important for Christians to read as it will educate us all with how to respond to arguments against the existence of a supreme being, God Himself.

There is much more that I could cover from this book in this review but let me bring this to a conclusion and share the conclusion as the authors wrote it:

Gravity is not nothing. Space is not nothing. A multiverse is not nothing. Scientists may be able to show mathematically consistent ways in which the existence of any of these somethings could lead to other somethings. But what are the odds that something can come from absolutely nothing? There is not a chance. (p. 223)

How could something come from absolutely nothing? That is a huge question that unfortunately science has never nor will ever be able to answer. Why? Because when science tries to make something out of nothing, in their very experiments they are using something. So they are not reproducing and reenacting the very beginning of the universe they claim to be trying to prove.

Want a book that will cause you to think deeply? Have you been looking for a book on God and science? Then Not a Chance is a book that you will enjoy. Written by author and theologian R.C. Sproul, this book will challenge your cognition. If you are just looking for light reading, keep looking as this book will leave you with a headache.

Disclaimer: In accordance with FTC regulations, I received this book from Baker Books in return for a review of the book.

 


Weekly Scoop 3/7

scoop

 

It’s Friday which means it is time for the Weekly Scoop. Here are a few links I believe you should check out.

A great look into the brevity of our lives and a proper perspective on it: You are going to die and so might your dreams.

The people at churchleaders.com always post encouraging and thoughtful articles. This one hits home with how many people leave the church: Why I quit the church, and what brought me back.

Another article from churchleaders.com. This article looks into how churches should react towards people who darken their doorsteps, and how those reactions can impact people: Two lesbians walk into a church.

Larry Poole quit tithing years ago. Here is why.

Why the bachelor is basically emotional porn. A great article by Debora Fileta: Emotional porn.
Have you wondered what your body language is saying? Here are some ways to improve your body language.
I have never heard of this blog before this week. Here are 9 things great leaders say every day.
If you subscribe to Relevant Magazine, here are some articles you should check out. If you do not subscribe to Relevant, you should, if only to read these two articles: Your calling isn’t meant to be easy and 5 Things you should never say to your wife.
Lastly, for those of you who like feel good stories, check out this video: He started something you know, but may not know the real story.
Thanks for checking out the weekly scoop. Feel free to share this with others who you feel would benefit from these articles.

Life Lessons from Kanye and J Biebs

This morning on my commute to Covington, I was listening to a local radio station. I do this regularly for a couple reasons.

  1. The radio is one of the easiest ways to stay up on current music and what is popular. As a youth pastor, I believe this is one way I can be prepared to understand youth and what is impacting them daily.
  2. It also helps me hear stories/current events I might not come across scanning news websites online. I read a lot of stories online but listening to the radio helps me come across different stories.

Now, this morning, as I was listening, the DJ’s shared two stories that I was just left shaking my head. The first story was about Kanye West. Kanye is currently on his most recent tour, the ‘Yeezus’ tour” and during a recent radio interview, he said basically his job on the tour is just as hard as “being a cop or being in a war.” Really? Traveling the world, singing songs on a stage in front of thousands of spectators is as hard as being a cop or being in a war? He went on to explain himself:

“I’m just giving of my body on the stage and putting my life at risk, literally,” West said. “When I think about when I’m on the ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing,’ and ‘Coldest Winter’ moment, like that mountain goes really, really high. And if I slipped… You never know. And I think about it. I think about my family and I’m like, wow, this is like being a police officer or something, in war or something.”

Man. Does Kanye have anyone in his life that will speak the truth to him or help him understand what war is about? But, he goes on to try to explain himself even more.

“Like you’re literally going out to do your job every day knowing that something could happen to you. Something could happen to you verbally from the press bashing you, something could happen to you from people not liking you anymore ’cause of your records— you could actually slip on that stage.”

So, being a concert performer is compared to people who put their lives on the line to serve others and keep their country safe and free. Not sure I understand exactly where Mr. West is coming from. He gets paid in the millions to travel and perform and entertain. Cops and soldiers get paid to risk their lives and most of the time it is hardly enough to provide for their families.

Second, Justin Bieber was also interviewed recently and made the statement that he believes he is an object of bullying, by the media and other people. Now, to his defense, I cannot imagine living with so much exposure to the world where every choice is noticed. However, JB hasn’t helped himself with some of his choices. He also mentions the fact he is only 19 and still trying to find out who he is. With that, I can partially understand because in today’s world, many 19 year olds have no idea who they are or who they want to be. But, at the same time, 19 year olds should know how to figure out who they are without making choices like he does. It seems Justin doesn’t understand the idea that there are consequences to your actions. If you go out and act a certain way, especially living in the public eye as he does, there will be a reaction and people will talk.

So what is my point? Lack of accountability and responsibility for actions can lead to unhealthy views of oneself. This is true of anyone. Living above the law, or living where there is no consequences, can do this as well. Unfortunately, this is what our young people are growing up seeing, celebrities making choices a “normal” citizen would get arrested for allowed to go free. What does this lead to? A bigger view of oneself than is healthy. If we want a responsible future generation, we need to hold everyone responsible in the same way. In the church, we need to do this as well. But how? Preach the Gospel. Teaching them to simply act right because God wants them to misses the point. The whole Gospel is the only thing powerful enough to change a future generation of responsible people.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.  You can also feel free to share this post with friends if you so desire.


Weekly Scoop 10/4

The Government has temporarily shutdown. The very well known Catalyst Conference is happening in Atlanta right now; maybe that is why the government has shut down, they are all in Atlanta to learn how to be better leaders. One can hope. Major League Baseball playoffs are here. The NHL season has just begun and the NBA season is right around the corner. There are a number of things that have begun since my last weekly scoop. And here is the next edition of “Weekly Scoop” with more links that you should check out.

The first one is kind of sad. BBC reports that adolescence has been extended so as to keep young people from developing an inferiority complex. I am not joking. Read for yourself: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2430573/An-adult-18-Not-Adolescence-ends-25-prevent-young-people-getting-inferiority-complex.html.

Next, this is an article that is a little surprising. The pope has made some very vague statements recently. Here are some quotes published in the Washington Post’s On Faith site. Read some of the comments at the bottom if you feel so inclined. Our faith is under attack: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/10/01/key-quotes-from-pope-francis-interview-with-atheist-journalist-stop-vatican-centric-thinking/.

The next two links are hard for me to post but since I became aware of them, I believe they are something the church needs to be able to respond to. I am not saying either of these writers is 100% correct in their response but I firmly believe the Bible is where we need to go for the answers.

First link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/15/conservative-christianity-and-the-transgender-question/?wprss=rss_on-faith&clsrd

Second link: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/08/19/transgender-issues-more-complicated-than-some-christians-portray/

Are we here in America really remaining silent? I know of many churches who will often mention the fact that our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are being killed for their faith. But, it still warrants mentioning here because here in America, we try to make it easy to be a disciple of Christ, whereas the early church preached it as it was: hard. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/27/a-global-slaughter-of-christians-but-america-s-churches-stay-silent.html

Lastly is a heart warming story of Ryan Leak and how he made it possible for him to propose to his wife AND get married on the SAME DAY! Not many men would want to go about the trouble of planning a wedding but that is what men should be willing to do, go above and beyond for their bride. Too often we make excuses such as “I’m not the romantic type” or “Men aren’t wired that way.” Men are wired to lead and to go above and beyond to show how much we love our wives because that is the example Christ gave us. Check out Ryan’s story and let it encourage you to go above and beyond in your relationship with your bride:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqgRaZIRHRI

 

Thanks again for checking out my weekly scoop. Feel free to comment and share any links to stories that might be worth sharing. Thanks for your time.


Weekly Scoop

It is Friday, which means I only had one more day to post my weekly scoop. I want to begin with a quote I saw on Twitter earlier this week.

In a hurting world, we need Christians prepared to commit to Christ wholeheartedly, think deeply, give dangerously, and live authentically. – RZIM Canada

This quote speaks for itself as to the content but I dare you to actually think about it and then take a look at your life and ask yourself if this is how your life as a follower of Christ could be defined.

Now, without further ado, here are the links you should take a minute and check out.

Are you busy? Wondering how to slow down or try to retain a sense of your sanity? Ann Voskamp’s blog will encourage you in a couple ways: 1, you are not alone; and 2, you can remain sane during life’s most insane moments: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/09/the-key-to-staying-sane-in-spinning-world/

I read this story the other day of a pastor’s first day on the job. Check it out: http://ireporterstv.co/church-members-mistreat-homeless-man-in-church-unaware-it-is-their-pastor-in-disguise/

For this one, I do not have a link to share but something I was made aware of through the internet this past week is something that will sicken you: sex-selective abortions. They are already being done in some areas of the world. Could this be the next thing to rock our country? Do a Google search to read up on this as there will come a time where you might need to be ready to share your opinion on this topic.

If you have an iPhone, make it work for you, not the other way around: http://adammclane.com/2013/09/23/7-ios-7-hacks-for-parents/

Finally, a link that I believe is a must read for any parent, youth worker, pastor, teacher, etc. When I read this, it was eye-opening and we need to have our eyes opened. So check it out: www.annemariemiller.com/2013/08/19/three-things-you-dont-know-about-your-children-and-sex/

That is all for this week. I pray that these links will serve to open your eyes to the world around you, help you manage your life in a better way or encourage you in your walk with the Lord. Are there any stories you would recommend I check out? Let me know in the comments section.

 


My heart is heavy

 

Through the last month, I have been reading Christine Cain’s book Undaunted. It has been a book I wish I could have read when I was in my early 20’s because of how powerful it has been to me. Christine is an Australian who has traveled the world speaking to various groups and her heart is to reach those who have been victims of human trafficking, or sex trafficking. Her and her husband started the organization A21 Campaign to help expose the problem of human trafficking and eventually and hopefully bring it to an end. The fact that it is even a problem in this world today tells an even bigger story of the depravity of humanity.

When you think of human trafficking, what first comes to mind is slavery and dealing with older people. However, the problem does not just involve older people, it involves people of all ages. The even more unfortunate part of human trafficking is the fact the biggest targets for those in human trafficking are little children through teenagers. When I say children, just being open and honest here of the severity of the problem, it can mean kids as young as infants. Let that sink in for a second. Romans 1:30 speaks of how humans can be “inventors of evil.” Little kids are taken from their homes and beaten and abused by others for their own pleasure and profit. How has the human race become so depraved as to actually do something so hideous and horrible? This breaks my heart even more now that I have an almost 3 year old daughter at home. Unfortunately, it does not break my heart like it should and as it no doubt breaks the heart of God.

Christine shares personal stories of how God brought her to the place of giving all she has to this cause and how He helped her overcome fears and feelings of inadequacy to actually begin doing something. She shared a powerful story of how her, her husband and a couple friends were lost in the Australian wilderness overnight and most of a day. Nick, Christine’s husband, left the other 3 to go try to find help and was gone for a number of hours before finally finding civilization and a helicopter to go back in and rescue the others. When she heard the helicopter, she say that God clearly spoke to her in a way that she has never forgotten. She remembers that when she first saw it, her thoughts were “We’re saved. We’re saved.” She shares what God spoke to her heart that day:

“Yes, Christine, you are saved. Remember what it is to be saved. Remember what it is to be lost. Remember the darkness and the difference between feeling carefree one morning and by evening sad and scared and sorry for being careless. Remember that I am here. Remember that I want to save every soul. And remember what it is to be unable on your own ability to get out of the dark. “

Too often, once we are saved, it is easy to forget what it is like to be lost, or caught in darkness. We forget what it is like to be scared and without hope. We do not like to think that there are people out there who have no hope unless we as Christ’s followers stand up and do something. We believe that since we are able to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” then these people should be able to also. But that just reveals how uninformed we are.

One of the most powerful stories she shares is when her and Nick took one of their daughters to get a flashlight at Wal-Mart. After picking one out, they gave it to her and she turned it on and because of how bright the store was, she could not truly see the flashlight working. So she asked them “Can we please go find some darkness.” This little girl spoke mountains of truth into their lives through that statement and even as I sit here thinking about it, is that my mindset? Do I realize that Christ in me is a light and through me, God wants to shine a light into the darkness all around me? Do I really want to seek out darkness so Christ can truly shine? Or am I content with being in so much light that I forget about the darkness all around me? Or, am I fearful of what it might mean to my life?

I have to admit, I have many fears in my life and many times, I find myself being more driven by them than by my faith in God. It’s amazing that even those of us who claim to have faith in the almighty, powerful God who saved us from death and darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son can still be driven by fear. Christine’s book truly challenges you to live undaunted in the world around us. We need to stop living so blindly and allow our eyes to be opened to the world around us, the hurt, the pain, the darkness; and then we need to run towards it because we have the light. We have the answer; we have God’s Spirit inside of us and His mission to make disciples as we are living this life. We are to be carriers of justice and hope and peace in this world. But we cannot do that while waiting for them to come to us. We need to go to them.

One final story for this post comes when Christine was able to meet face to face with some girls who had been trafficked. After talking with them for a while one of the girls asked why she was there. She was able to share with them the gospel and why she had come. The girl’s response was this:

“If what you are telling me is true,” she yelled, “if what you say about your God is true – then where were you? Where have you been? Why didn’t you come sooner?”

I cannot imagine the feeling in that room at that moment. But I can understand her question. God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If something were to happen to someone in your family or in mine, wouldn’t you stop everything and help them or search for them if they were lost? If something were to happen to my family, I would give up everything to search for them and would not stop until they were found. If that is the case, if we say we love God, how can we sit by and do nothing when those around us, those God calls our neighbors, are hurting and lost? This just makes me think even more about the part where they were lost in the wilderness and God told her to remember what it was like to be lost.

If we as Christians have this light to shine in the darkness, how can we just sit back and be ok with what is happening in the world around us? If you were sitting face to face with someone who had been trafficked, what would you say to them if they asked you why you didn’t come sooner? How would you respond? At that time, I really believe your life would be put in perspective and what you spent your time doing would be shown their true importance. Unfortunately, we are so easily distracted. I can honestly say this book has truly helped open my eyes and challenged me to not let fear drive me. I have God’s Spirit in my life and a mission from Him that He wants me to accomplish. And because of that, I can live undaunted. Because of the Gospel at work in my life, I can live without fear because the Gospel changes everything.

Before I close, I want to share a couple quotes that stood out to me:

“He does not ask, Are you capable? He asks are you willing?”

“The oppressed do not see too much difference between those who would keep them down and those who do nothing to help. There is no in-between.”

“Saving costs something. Rescuing risks everything.”

“When you’re not lost – when you’re safe – it’s hard to understand the urgency of needing to be found, needing to be rescued.”

If you are not sure where to begin, you can start by checking out organizations such as International Justice Mission, A21 Campaign, Freedom 4/24, End It Movement, Do Something Now, Liveyourdream.org and Polaris project. These are a few to start with but there are so many more out there working to the same end.

2 Timothy 1:7 says “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound judgment.” Let’s live that way and run towards the darkness with the light that we have. Thank you for taking the time to read this review. If you want a challenge, please go out and pick up the book, it will definitely challenge and change you.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.


A burning in my bones

 

I have been reading through the Bible using M’Cheyne’s One Year Bible reading plan on YouVersion. It has been a great accountability help with keeping up with regular reading besides what I study for upcoming lessons and sermons. For the past couple weeks we have been going through Jeremiah, who is also known as the “weeping prophet.” The “weeping prophet” is not a popular nickname for anyone. But, regardless, that is how Jeremiah is commonly referred to. Today’s reading plan called for chapter 20 of Jeremiah and one verse stood out to me:

Jeremiah 20:9 – But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name, then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.”

Read over the verse again and think on it. Let it ruminate in your mind. Put yourself in his shoes. He is given a mission that is anything but desirable. Even today, it would be hard to find someone who would want to do what Jeremiah did, especially if you based it on this chapter alone. Jeremiah was a prophet in Jerusalem for about 40 years right up to the time of the fall of Judah and their deportation to Babylon. He most often spoke towards people who had rejected the one true God for false idols. He warned them time and again right up to the point where the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. All of that to basically say no one would want to be Jeremiah. Jeremiah 20:10-18 share his emotions at this time:

10 For I hear many whispering.
Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
say all my close friends,
watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we can overcome him
and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
12 O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,
who sees the heart and the mind,[a]
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord;
praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hand of evildoers.

14 Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
“A son is born to you,”
making him very glad.
16 Let that man be like the cities
that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
and an alarm at noon,
17 because he did not kill me in the womb;
so my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb forever great.
18 Why did I come out from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame?

 Can you imagine coming to a time in your life where you cursed the day you were born? I have been through times where I have felt sad or depressed but I do not believe I have ever been at the point Jeremiah was where I cursed the day I was born. This provides a little insight as to why he was labeled the “weeping prophet.” However, as you read verse 9 about a “fire burning within” it brings you to a place where you need to ask if you have that fire within you? We have all been given a mission by God to take the Gospel to the world, and to share the love of God with everyone we come in contact with. We are to make disciples and to take His Word to the nations. Do we have a fire burning within us that keeps us from being silent? Or do we have no choice but to speak the message God has placed on our heart? Do we get tired from trying to hold the message inside of us? Why not?

I am praying that God will light this fire within me that will not allow me to be silent. Even though Jeremiah had a message no one wanted to hear, he did not let that keep him silent. He spoke unpopular words but they were necessary. Today, the Gospel message is unpopular, but it is necessary. May it light a fire in us that we cannot keep inside.


Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper

 

After finishing this book, it took me a couple days to actually begin writing this review. One reason is I was busy, but the other reason is I was so overwhelmed with everything this book said I was trying to let it soak in. Rhythms of Grace is a book that I would recommend every church leadership team read together. It is THAT powerful! Mike Cosper is a founding pastor at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky where he serves as pastor of worship and arts. He is also the founder of Sojourn Music. To put it in simple terms, this is his heart and he speaks with conviction, wisdom and understanding that we in the church should take the time to listen to.

The best thing about this book is all throughout it, Mike constantly points to the center of the Christian faith and the reason why we do what we do (or should be why): the Gospel. If the Gospel is not at the center of everything a church does, what is the center? Would that church really make a difference? Or will it become so self-centered that it transforms into some sort of spiritual country club where the gospel is hardly mentioned at all and it is simply a social hub. The way a church worships should be centered on the gospel. If how the church worships does not bring glory to God, it is bringing glory to something else, which is idolatry.

The back of the book makes this statement:

“Is it singing? A church service? All of life? Helping Christians think more theologically about the nature of true worship, Rhythms of Grace shows how the gospel is all about worship and worship is all about the gospel. Mike Cosper ultimately answers the question, What is worship?”

This is what makes this book so great. Mike does not just attack styles or methods but goes right to the heart and soul of worship. Why do we gather as a church? What is the purpose of the church gathered? How can the church gathered utilize its time for the greatest impact for the kingdom of God? Worship is more than just singing and he tackles that in a tactful manner that will get people thinking. Worship is everything we do throughout life, not just the songs we sing on Sunday morning. If we believe that worship is only what happens on Sunday morning, then we are truly missing the heart of worship and what the Christian life is all about. From the moment of creation to now, life has been about worship. All of creation was made for worship. We were made to worship God. Church was not instituted by God to all of a sudden be the only place people worshiped. God created people for the purpose of worship and fellowship. Unfortunately, we in the church have made it more about style and how we feel than about who God is and who we are singing to and about.

This book will challenge you and your church to worship God with all that you are and actually take a look at how you set up your worship service and why you do it that way. Worship is all about the gospel and if we do not have an understanding of the Gospel, we will not worship as we were created to worship. Because only in the Gospel can true worship take place. If the only time we think about the gospel is Sunday morning, then our hearts will not be ready to sing. If our lives Monday through Saturday do not match what we profess to believe, then our Sunday mornings will not bring a smile to God’s face either. Worship is so much more than what we the church have made it about. It encompasses all of life and that is the only way true worship happens, when it actually invades our lives. The world was created in a rhythm. Sin upset that rhythm. The Gospel helps us see the rhythm and move back towards it while restoring our hearts to the real reason for worship. From the very beginning, life has been about worship, and worship has been about the Gospel. If the church does not grasp this, then the church will not be truly worshiping.

Rhythms Of Grace was packed with quotes but I want to share a few that stood out to me as I read through this book. Maybe it will help pique your interest in this book.

“At it’s heart, worship is rooted in love.”

“Worship as an activity that’s somehow separate from the rest of life appears nonexistent and frankly, unnecessary. In the seamless perfection of that virgin world, it is all worship – a constant reflection of God’s love, glory, and brilliance.”

“When worship gets married to a particular style of music, the consequences are huge.”

“We need to lead worship in such a way that when people gather, they see Jesus.”

“Only someone with a deep background in the Scriptures and pastoral theology can make discerning decisions about songs, prayers and rhythms of grace in the life of the church.”

“A congregation is just as responsible to sing the gospel as the preachers are to preach it.”

“Because we tend to define worship as singing, we tend also to treat singing as an individualized encounter with God. Worship is a broader thing than music, and music’s purpose in the church is bigger than my personal experience. It’s not merely my song, but our song. We sing together, uniting our voices and our words.”

I sincerely loved this book and highly recommend every church leader read it. I would take that a little further and say that I believe every follower of Christ would benefit from this book as it is a refreshing look at worship and church and the Gospel in a way that is God-centered, not man-centered. May we learn from this and realize that worship is all about the gospel, the gospel is all about worship and it is a cycle that feeds off of itself and changes our lives from the inside out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


Does it matter how we live?

 

I have been thinking a lot recently about 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. This past Sunday I shared it with the youth and college students at Temple Baptist. It says:

“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (ESV)

The reason I have been thinking about this passage recently is I have noticed a trend moving in the church today, especially in younger people, where everyone can just live their lives the way they want to while professing to be a Christian. One can live however they want to and everything is fine because God loves everyone. We can do whatever we want all because God loves us and wants us to have a good time in this life. He is a God of grace and mercy so you can lie, steal, cheat, lust, etc. as long as your choices are not as poor as the next person.

However, this passage does not in any way give that impression. In fact, it says the exact opposite. First, as a follower of Christ, we should be controlled by the love of Christ. There are many times I have to remind myself about this. If the love of Christ is not controlling me as a follower of Christ, then what is controlling me? Nothing else should control me and have a tighter grip on my life than Jesus Christ. How can the love of Christ control me? It takes work and effort on our part. One does not become a follower of Christ and never have to work at living for God. Daily living for the Lord takes discipline and Bible reading and prayer and allowing God’s Spirit to guide you. This does not come easily to everyone. But that is what it truly takes to live a life controlled by the love of God.

Along the same lines, why should the love of Christ control us? Because of the Gospel. Verse 14 states the Gospel in a simple way, “One (Jesus) has died for all, therefore, all (followers of Christ) have died.” That is the Gospel clearly stated. We deserved to die the death Jesus died in our place, or on our behalf, or for our sake. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves. This is the essence of sin, living for ourselves. It is the very thing that caused Adam and Eve to sin. They wanted to live for themselves and fell for the lie of Satan that God was holding out on them and that their best life was right on the other side of eating the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat of. We are still trying to eat of that fruit even though God has given us His Word to show us the better way to live, His way. His is the way which leads to everlasting joy and peace, not temporary happiness and pleasure.

Moses chose to be with God in the wilderness than have the pleasures of Egypt without Him. By choosing to live for ourselves, we choose to live in the pleasures of Egypt apart from God while still trying to experience God in the wilderness. However, as you read through the Old Testament, we see that did not play out in the Israelites favor. Moses chose to let God lead Him and control his life.

This brings us to the end of the passage above: “might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” The part translated as “for their sake” in ESV, in the NASB is translated as “on their behalf.” When someone does something on your behalf, it is done in your place and no longer needs to be done. This means since Jesus died on the cross, we no longer need to pay for our sins because it is already done. Nothing we do can help pay more or less for our sins. Nothing we do can bring more grace to our lives and nothing can take grace away from our lives. God loves us all the same no matter what we choose to do with our lives. This means God loves the most faithful pastor of a mega church or small town church the same as He loves Osama Bin Laden. Thus, because all God did for us, we are to live our lives to Him. As followers of Christ we can no longer say “it is my life, I can do what I want.” Everything we do, from eating to how we dress to how we talk to what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio should all be done out of love for Christ.

But how is this possible? This seems pretty legalistic and rigid don’t you think? To say that God wants us to consider Him in everything we do is crazy. Two more passages:

Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It is not legalistic, it is what Christ desires from us as His followers. Read what Galatians 2:19-20 says:

“For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

These verses contain the same idea as 2 Corinthians 5. Lastly, look at Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What are the desires of the flesh? You can simply say it is the desire to live for ourselves. Can you imagine a world where followers of Christ truly had this mindset instead of the mindset that I can do what I want? If we are a follower of Christ, we cannot live the way we want because our lives are no longer our own, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Can it be any clearer?

To close, I don’t want this post to only sound negative and restrictive because that is not how God presents Himself. God tells us many times that life in Him is the abundant life. Life lived according to His Word brings life. The more we live for ourselves, the more we become slaves to it and to our own passions which is in direct contrast to what God desires for us. God wants our very best. Living for ourselves does not bring us the very best. It eventually leads to a less satisfying life for many reasons, more than I will take time to go into here. But I would urge you as a follower of Christ to look at your life. What is controlling you and guiding you? Only God’s love can lead to the most fulfilling life regardless of your current circumstances and situations.

When asked why we live how we live, may our response be “for the Love of Christ controls us.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is always my prayer that this encourages you and challenges you in your walk with the Lord. Feel free to pose any comments or thoughts.


Falling in and out of love…

This week, I started my new position as youth pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Covington, VA. As most of you know, I am currently living in Salem, VA as my wife and I have not been able to relocate our family to Covington as of now. This means for the last two days, I have driven back and forth from Salem to Covington. However, it does look like God might be opening the door for Marcie and I to move here in the near future as there is a house we both like and is within our price range. We are still praying though that God would lead us to the house He wants us to have that we can use for His glory.

With that said, I have taken to listen to the radio on my commute and I am surprised at the type of songs that are out there right now. I want to share a quick thought on one I heard the other day. Here is a brief snippet of the lyrics:

Sometimes I love ya

Sometimes you make me blue

Sometimes  I feel good, at times I feel used

Lovin’ you darlin’ makes me so confused

I keep on fallin’ In and out of love with you

I never loved someone

The way that I’m lovin’ you

This song is by Alicia Keys. It has a bluesy type sound to it which is a good fit for the words to the song. As I thought about the words, to me it just described so well the feelings and ideas the world seems to have adopted towards love, and in some cases, life in general. The world portrays love as something that people can fall into, and thus, something they can fall out of. But are our emotions or feelings strong enough to hold our love for someone else? Or do we need to give love a stronger foundation? One that comes from sacrifice and hard work? I have come to realize love is a choice. When I make the choice to love, my emotions follow the choice. I read a quote one time that said “It is easier to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action.” I believe this is definitely true. I also believe this is what we as followers of Christ need to be teaching young people. A life based on emotions and feelings will always let you down in the end.

The greatest act of love ever is when God made the choice to send His Son to die for us. He did not have to do this but He did to show His love for us. He made a choice. The Gospel is what it is because of the choice God made. God did not base this choice on emotions or we would never have known grace. So why do we try to base our life on emotions?

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts or comments.