Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'll Have the Stone with a Side of Serpent

Do you ever have one of those weeks where it's almost feels like the Holy Spirit just got tired of dropping subtle hints and decided to bring out the big guns? Well, this has been one of those weeks for me. There's a particular issue that's real been driven home to me lately.

This issue keeps popping up in my devotions, in my reading, in sermons and random videos I run into. Basically, I've been convicted about the fact that my actions doesn't complete match the God I claim to serve. I believe God to be omnipotent, sovereign and almighty. I also believe Him to be kind, generous and benevolent. Yet, it's recently occurred to me that my prayers don't match my beliefs.

Jesus said something very astonishing. In fact, His statement is so earth-shattering that many preachers spend most their time trying to look for the fine print. Christ said,

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

This is an awesome claim. It describes a generous Father who delights in giving good things to His children. But then I realized something tragic. I have a tendency to ask for serpents and stones because I trust God to handle those. Maybe if I'm feeling really spiritual I'll ask for a Ritz cracker or a little goldfish. But nothing too "ridiculous". After all, I don't want to ask too much from God.

I seem to only ask God for things that I'm pretty well convinced He would do anyway. Rarely will I pray for things that could only happen if God did them. I've realized that I need to make my prayers God-sized. I mean, if I really believe that God is so big and so generous, why don't my prayers match His character? So, why shouldn't I ask for more Christ-likeness? Why should I ask for greater things for my church and family? Why shouldn’t I plead more earnestly for people's souls?

The sad thing is that I just know my Daddy's so very eager to give good things. Isn't that what the passage says? Because God is infinitely powerful and infinitely generous, we can never exhaust the riches of His gifts. There’s nothing I could ask for that is outside of my Father’s limits to give. Oh, that our prayers would better reflect the greatness of our God!

Granted, this doesn't mean that He'll give us anything we want, but He will always give us what's best. Another problem is that we're so carnally minded that we sometimes can't recognize bread when we see it. We ask for serpents and then get upset when He gives us fish.

But my point is that we should be bolder in asking our Daddy for good things. Why should we hesitate to ask for things that only He can give? As Jesus said, even earthly fathers are diligent to give their children the very best that they can. Our Daddy delights giving us good things. Let’s purpose to give Him the delight of hearing us ask for God-size gifts.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In Praise of Dead Englishmen Who Wrote Fairy Tales

or A Brief Hagiography of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

G.K. Chesterton said, “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." It's because of this that I have become immeasurably grateful to a couple of dead Englishmen who wrote such fairy tales.

These men, of course, are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm extremely grateful to these two men because they did what few theologians or preachers have been able to accomplish. Through speculative fiction they used the imagination to unite the heart and the mind. C.S. Lewis spoke of the "disarming" effect that such literature has on people. He should know. Though he wrote many works on theology and reality, he never really came into his own until he wrote a children's book for his goddaughter Lucy.

But for me, Tolkien was really my introduction into such literature. Now, I must confess that I watched Peter Jackson's movies before I read the books. However, I quickly fell in love with Tolkien's style and content. But, for me, The Lord of the Rings is more than just classic literature. It's theology in 3D. An author's work is always an expression of his soul. And Professor Tolkien's worldview comes through bright and clear in his works. I never really understood total depravity until I read about the damning effects of the Ring. Philio love didn't "click" until I was taken by the friendship of Frodo and Sam. Courage and self-sacrifice came to life for me when I first read The Return of the King.

Some Christians will complain about how dark Tolkien's works are. But, it's important to understand what he was getting at. Through the darkness there are always maintained a slim glimmer of hope and those who grabbed onto that hope made it to the other side. Like all good fairy tales, Tolkien showed us that the dragons of a fallen world could be beaten. In The Silmarillion, he says, "Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid the weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."

But perhaps the reason I love Tolkien the most is because of the impact he had on Lewis. When Lewis and Tolkien met at Oxford, Lewis was a devote atheist. His mother had died at a young age and he had seen many horrors while fighting in World War I (something Tolkien could relate to). Lewis taught medieval literature and wanted to believe that the Bible was just another myth. But, because of his intellect, he simply couldn't. He knew that there was something about Christianity that didn't match the stuff he lectured students about.

One day, Lewis and Tolkien spent all evening walking around a pond, arguing about the truthfulness of Christ's claims. During the course of the exchange, Tolkien commented that Christianity was the "true myth". For some reason, that phrase spoke to Lewis and by the next day we was, in his own words, a reluctant convert.

I cannot even begin to tell you of the impact Lewis has had on my life. To this day, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the only book I've finished in a single day (though I love to read, I'm rather slow at it). Again, the ability to put biblical truths in "3D" had a profound impact on me when I was younger.

Lately, I've become fasinated with his other writings. Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves and Mere Christainity are books that, in my not-so-humble opinion, every human being should read. His logical manner of examining truth and wittily then applying it to practical living is phenomenal. Through Lewis, I learned many practical things, such as the nature of humility and chastity.

But perhaps the thing I'm most grateful for is that he taught me that I need never be afraid of truth. Because, to the Christian, Truth is a Person and a Person whose not ashamed to call us brethren (Hebrews 2:10-12). Therefore, we can always go deeper and deeper into Truth and find fulfillment and satisfaction. He brought into profound light that God is the chief end of all things.

And that's why I wrote this piece. Not just to come out of the closet as a fantasy nerd, but to express thankfulness to two dead guys who helped draw me into a deeper relationship with the God of universe in a way that no lecture could.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

4 Reasons Preaching Humbles Me

This morning I had the honor of preaching at my local church. While preparing and delivering the message, I was reminded of my helplessness in many issues. Here are some reasons that preaching humbles me.

1. It reminds me of my dependance on the Holy Spirit.

I can do everything right. I have the perfect outline, the best illustrations, elegant form and flawless execution. But I can't change hearts. My preaching is useless chatter without the work of the Holy Spirit. He can overcome my flaws and add potency to my otherwise powerless words.

2. It draws my attention to power of prayer.

Related to that, I can always tell the difference between sermons that are bathed in prayer and sermons that aren't. When I and others pray for the fruitfulness of a sermon, I've never found our prayers to be unanswered. Again, it causes me to realize that I'm just a single, relatively helpless player in something much larger.

3. It makes me realize that I don't have it all figured out.

I don't know how many times I'll prepare to preach from a certain text, only to discover that I'm completely clueless on so many related issues. I often come away from sermon preparation with more questions than answers. And yet, God is always faithful to show me what I need to know and how to communicate it.

4. It makes me grateful for other scholars.

When I don't know something, I often turn to others for help. I'm very grateful for so many wonderful men who studied the Word of God and provide me with insights from it. This includes "famous" people who write books and commentaries. But it also includes people I know personally and are willing to help me understand the Bible.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Ghost of Martin Luther

To most of us it's called Halloween. A few know it as All-Saints Day. But on October, 31st, 1517, an event happened which would change the course of history.

Castle Church in Wittenberg housed the massive relic collection of Fredrick the Wise, the elector of Saxony. Such relics included a cut of fabric from the swaddling cloth of baby Jesus, 13 pieces from his crib, a strand of straw from the manger, a piece of gold from a Wise Man, three pieces of myrrh, a morsel of bread from the Last Supper and a thorn from the crown Jesus wore when crucified just to name a few. And there was a lot riding on these relics. Veneration of these relics was said to be accompanied by indulgences reducing time in Purgatory by 1,902,202 years and 270 days. These indulgences were made possible, it was claimed, by the above-and-beyond obedience of the Saints.

And so it was, that on the day that honored these Saints and relics, one of Fredrick's subjects, an obscure monk named Martin Luther, hammered his 95 Theses to the door of the church. And the world would never be the same.

Luther's act sparked the Protestant Reformation, transformed Western civilization and, more importantly, brought Christians back to the defiantly simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The message that it is not by works or ceremony that we win the favor of God. The message that only through faith in Jesus could a man have access to the Father.

Contrast the befuddled and rigorous Roman soteriology with the Christ-directed boast of Luther: "So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where he is there I shall be also!'"

So, this Halloween take a moment and remember the simple Gospel that Martin Luther helped draw the Church back to. The message that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Is God A "He"?

So, lately I've been thinking a lot about this particular issue. It's come up in several of the books I've had to read for school. But the tipping point was this video with Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson*:

So, this does raise the question: Why is that - The Shack not withstanding - God is consistently referenced as male in the Scriptures? It's God the Father and God the Son. Likewise, male pronouns are always used to describe God the Spirit. For our family members who believe that gender is merely biological this makes absolutely no sense. After all, God is a spirit. He doesn't have an anatomical structure and therefore speaking of God in terms of male or female is ludicrous. Right? Well, apparently the Holy Spirit doesn't think so, because He inspired the holy men to portray God in male terms.

So, how do we explain this? Well, it becomes a lot easier when recognize that gender is a symbol for something greater. After all, God loves matter, as C.S. Lewis said, and He uses matter to convey truths about Himself.

Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot and one of the greatest writers and speakers of her generation, does an excellent job of arguing this position in her classic The Mark of a Man:

"Psychologists sometimes describe belief in God as a father as nothing more than a projection of the sterotyped father. It never seems to occur to them that if two things are alike, one ought to ask whether the first is copied from the second or the second from the first. Why should it not be at least as logical to assume that human fathers are copies of the Original? Those who take the Bible as their rule see God as the archetype. From Him are derived all ideas of what fathers ought to be."
The argument goes that the genders are symbols of something much greater than biology. The functions of the genders actually reflects the nature of God. Within the Trinity there is equality, love, unity and other-centrality but there is also structure, order, submission and, yes, authority (I know, that's a naughty word in our culture but just bare with me). Therefore, this same dichotomy is mirrored in the relationships between the genders.

Those who hold to this view
also recognize that consistently throughout Scripture - literally from Genesis to Revelation - men are given the responsibility of initiation. That brings us back to original question of why God is always portrayed as male.

C.S. Lewis said, "God is so masculine that all creation is feminine by comparison." What could he possibly mean by that? He meant that God is the Ultimate Initiator. He initiates our salvation, our sanctification - shoot! - He initiated our very existence. The fate of every human being is decided by how we respond the initiation of God. Therefore, we are all feminine (responders) in comparison to the Initiating God.

But I can almost hear people saying, "What a chauvinist! He actually thinks that men are like God!" No, no, no! Sure, lots of men think they're God, but God knows better. This isn't about men, this is about God. My goal in this post is not to spark a debate over gender roles. If I wanted to do that I would have started off with loads of bible passages and quotes from Greek experts. What I want to do is point you to marvelous design of God.

When men act like men and women act like women, we're actually displaying the very nature of God. It's a like a painting, showing the majesty of the Real Thing. Or a song that causes emotions to rise up unbidden. Or a monument which testifies to the greatness of an awesome God. Gender is a work of art, giving us hints at the beautiful character of the Artist. Praise His name!

I know that this has been a very quick summary of very deep and intense issue, but if you get nothing else out of this, pay attention to this: Gender isn't about biology. Like everything else, it's about God.

*I always feel the need to say that just because I link to someone doesn't mean I necessarily endorse everything about that person.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heroes I Spend Sundays With

You want to know who my biggest heroes are? It's not some great preacher like Spurgeon or Moody. It's not a great writer like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. It's not a great theologian like Jonathan Edwards or Martin Luther. Nor is it even a great missionary like William Carey or Hudson Taylor.

Rather, my heroes are...

-The ten year old girl who makes a point of saying "Good luck, Josh" before every time I preach.
-The woman sitting behind me who sings like she actually means what she's saying.
-The man sitting in front of me who often can't finish the hymns because the truthful words are too powerful.
-The newly saved man who (being unaware of all the "rules" we've associated with prayer) simply talks to his Daddy.
-The 80+ year old who has more energy than I do.
-All the people who know me so well but love me anyway.
-The "old folk" who are willing to hangout with the teens.
-The teens who don't act like teens.
-The young men who act like men.
-The young women who act like women.
-The young lady who always knows and cares about what's going on in my life.
-The "kindred spirits" that help me see myself honestly.
-Young people are not only willing but eager to discuss spiritual things.
-A pastor who loves the Word and love people.
-People courageous and loving enough to point out my faults.
-The older woman how knows everyone's name.
-The lady who embodies servanthood.
-The man who can always be counted on to do anything.
-The older men who make a point of passing on the torch.
-The people I spend Sundays with.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need the local church.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were You?

Ten years ago today, a nine year old boy woke up anticipating a rather dull day of school and dentist visits. Intent on not letting the day be a total waste, he decided to get some fresh air and play around outside before the trip to the dentist and subsequent school day. To his disappointment, he found the weather to be cloudy and dreary. Still, he made the most of it playing with his favorite toy. A stick.

Then came the dreadful moment when his mother called him inside. He assumed that it was time for them to leave for the dentist and that his fun for the day had ended. He was actually a little relieved to discover that it was not time to leave but that his mom felt it was important for him to see something.

He looked at the TV and saw two buildings draped in smoke. He didn't understand. His mom had called him inside to watch an action movie? "Terrorists captured planes and flew them into two buildings in New York." His mother explained. A sinking feeling came over the boy, as if someone were dragging him into the floor.

For the rest of the day, the boy was glued to the TV set. He heard the news anchors speculate over who was responsible. He saw a picture of a man they called Osama bin Laden. He heard words like "Afghanistan" and "jihad" and "Islam" for the very first time. When he heard the news of the Pentagon being attacked he felt as though the world was spinning out of control. He wished that someone would pay for all this.

He still had to go to the dentist, but he spent every moment thinking about burning buildings in New York. By the time he got home, those buildings had collapsed. They never did get around to doing school.

He spent the rest of the day with his neighbor friends, trying to make sense of the whole thing. That night went to bed but he couldn't sleep. It was a while before he was able to sleep.


So, where were you ten years ago?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Polls, Pawlenty, Perry and Prayer

Okay, so today I'm going to do something that I said I would never do on here. Ramble. I really don't want to write something just for the sake of writing something. If I'm going to take the time to write a blog post I want it to be because I actually have something do say...except for today.

You see, yesterday I went to the Ames Straw Poll. It was my first time to go and I had a fun talking with people, meeting candidates and getting to be very "political". Therefore, I have a bunch of random thoughts concerning the poll that I shall now subject you to. [insert evil laugh]

1. I personally the whole thing is over done. As far as I know, George W. Bush is the only one to ever win the Straw Poll and the nomination. Why? Because the only people who come to it are generally conservative, evangelical diehards. So does it matter? Well, yes and no. No, in that it's not a good indicator of how one will do in the caucus or general election. Yes, because if a conservative candidate can't do well in the Straw Poll with his/her own base, there's no way they will do well in the general election. Case-in-point: Pawlenty dropped out after finishing third.

2. Speaking of which, I'm a bit disappointed to see Pawlenty drop out. While he didn't get my vote, I'd prefer him to a lot of the other guys.

3. I really don't get the buzz about Michele Bauchmann. Sorry.

4. I'm glad to see Rick Santorum do better than expected. While I rather doubt he'll win, I appreciate that he's keeping some important issues from being overlooked.

5. Ron Paul can only win fake polls.

6. Thaddeus McCotter got 35 votes. Can you say, 'epic fail'? Plus, he looks like a James Bond villain.

7. Rick Perry's well positioned. As a write-in, he still finished with a solid sixth. I think the nomination will come down to him and Romney.

8. Every time I get into one of my 'political moods' I have a tendency to become a bit pessimistic. Then I remember that I serve the President of presidents. "The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will." (Proverbs 21:1 ESV) Please join me in praying that our Sovereign would put a God-fearing man in the Oval Office. But more than that, that He might use this election to draw our nation back to Himself.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Heart's A Dirty Carpet

As most of you probably know, I currently work for a carpet cleaning company. Some of the carpets that I clean are pretty nasty. Last week I helped clean a particularly nasty carpet. When we walked into the room, the smell was almost overwhelming. Imagine a port-a-poddy exploding in a tobacco factory and that's a pretty good picture of the stench.

If that's not bad enough, the carpet itself was even more repugnant. I'm still not exactly sure what color the carpet was originally, but when we got there it was a lovely assortment of reds, greens, blues, blacks and browns. There were dozens of pieces of gum smeared into the fibers. The stains were so deep that our first attempt to clean (which usually blasts out pretty much anything) barely even touched it. Disgusting smelling red stains were splattered everywhere. And to top it all off, there was a fine collection of cigarette burns, random black spots and an unidentified greenish-brown substance (use your imagination).

About an hour into the job with little progress to show for, I was overcome with a touch of hopelessness. I knew that no matter how much sweat, toil and labor we invested into this carpet it was still going to look trashed out. The whole thing was beginning to gross me out (and, as a big brother to four, I don't get grossed out very easily). What's the point? I thought. Why work so hard and exhaustively for something so disgusting and revolting?

Then, the Holy Spirit hammered something into me. How must God look at my heart? Suddenly, sins began to come into my mind. Disgusting, repulse sins that no doubt offended and hurt my perfect God. Oh, how nasty I must seem to God!

Yet, how tirelessly He labors to clean and purify me, with all my repulsiveness. Sometimes, I can't help but wonder if God gets as frustrated with me as I did with that carpet. It seems that no matter how hard He labors to cleanse me of my filth, I still insist on rolling in the mud.

But I know that, unlike me, God does not grow weary of as He lovingly cleans my sin-stained heart. In love, He claims that disgusting carpet as His own and is transforming it into something worthy of His very presence.

Keep laboring, Great Cleanser!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why My Father's A Paradox (And Why I Love It)

I’m the type of guy who likes to figure people out. I like knowing what motivates people to do what they do. But there’s one person I’ve never been able to put into any sort of box. It’s my father.

I’m told that when my parents were engaged, my mother made the comment that she just couldn’t figure Dad out. My grandpa, was present, said that they’d been trying unsuccessfully for nineteen years. And while I can’t quite figure him out, I’ve come to love, admire and respect the God-honoring paradoxy of my father.
Here’s a brief examination of that paradox:

Hands-on scholar: The same person who gave a huge stack of commentaries for my graduation barely reads at all. If I see my dad reading anything other than the Bible I know it must be a pretty amazing book.

In one sense, Dad’s not a scholar. He doesn’t like systematic theology, books by Doctor Reverend _____, PhD hold no interest to him and “much study is weariness” is his education motto. But he’s very much the theologian. While he would never use these terms, my father was the first to introduce me to soteriology, eschatology, anthropology and so on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen my dad start every morning with long, intense study in the Word. In short, he’s a Proverbs theologian. He likes things that are practical and real. No fancy hypotheticals or long winded speeches about stuff that’ll never help you in life.

What it’s taught me: As someone who does like systematic theology and books by Doctor Reverend ________, PhD, my dad has helped keep me balanced. He taught that it’s all about the Bible. He taught me to reverence, love and apply God’s Word in a way that really mattered.

Laidback perfectionist: My dad’s a very laidback person. He’s the type that’ll do things at the last minute and then even if things don’t go quite right he’s not one to get upset about. But, he’s certainly not some chair rocking ho-hum couch potato.

My father likes things to be done right. For him, right doesn’t necessarily mean by the book. Right means that it works and works well. He’s practical remember. As a kid, making something dad approvable was one of the biggest motivates for excellence. Yet, Dad’s not one get all bent out of shape if something isn’t perfect.

What it’s taught me: Unlike the first paradox, this is a trait I shall with my dad. Follow his footsteps in this area has taught to do the best with what I have; to strive for excellence without fretting about the results.

Romantic rationalist: There’s been very few times that I’ve seen my dad display a large amount of emotion. He’ll chuckle rather than roar with laughter; smile rather than giddily grin; frown rather than yell; tear-up rather than sob. Remember, I’ve already established that he’s laidback and practical.

Yet, he’s very passionate about certain things. He’s passionate about God and how awesome He is. He’s passionate about righteousness and justice. He’s passionate about seeing God exalted and the Bible lived out in every areas of life, from work to politics. He’s passionate about serving other and teaching people the Truth.

The only times I’ve ever seen my dad cry was when he was talking about the love of God. So, while he can be reserved and non-sentimental, my dad still gets excited about good and holy things. The result is a passionate devotion to godly thing without the weight of emotionalism and sentimentalism.

What it’s taught me: I’ve learned that there are things that should excite and thrill me. These like the Gospel and God’s character ought to initiate an emotional response. But this thrilling doesn’t have to be about feelings and emotionalism. Rather, these emotions are about a deep and devouring love for God.

In short, I love my father and I’m so very grateful that God gave me dad who loves Him and was devoted to teaching me from the Word. My prayer is that one day I will be such a father.

Happy Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

3 Reasons Not to Go to Church

1. Because there's good preaching, music and fellowship.

So, it's Sunday morning. You've had your coffee; you're dressed up with your Bible in hand. You're ready to go. But what exactly is that you're looking forward to?

Lately, I've been rather convicted about my own attitude toward church. Though I don't normally think of it this way, my motives are really quite selfish. It certainly sounds spiritual to love good preaching, good music and good fellowship. After all, aren't we supposed to like those things?

But what's at the heart of this attitude? A consumer mindset. An idea that the local church is about what I can get out of it and how it helps me. It's about what I can get out of it rather than what I can put into it. But is this really the biblical function of the local church? To be a spiritual filling station where believers come to get fueled, washed and pampered? Hardly. The local church is where the mission of the universal Church and the mission of the individual believer come together and work themselves out practically. In short, it is at the epicenter of the Christian life and mission.

2. To be blessed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe that if our approach is proper we will be blessed and spiritually nourished. However, I don't think that should be our primary goal. Scripturally, we are continually commanded to look out for the spiritual wellbeing of our brothers and sisters.

When we go to church, our goal should be to see to it that others are spiritually blessed, become closer to God and are edified. I believe that if we make that our goal and priority then we too will be blessed, edified and brought closer to God. The main difference is emphasis. On the one hand it's about what I can get out of church. On the other hands, it's about glorifying God by serving other in the context of the local church.

3. To listen and leave.

But here's the most common one. We all have a tendency to come into church, listen to the sermon, shank a few hands and then peel out. The local church is seen as a Sunday (and maybe Wednesday) thing. But if you look at the Scripture you'll see that the Church, and therefore her local embodiments, are central to God's plan and mission. So shouldn't it be central to ours?

If the local church is primal to God's mission, should it also be a central theme of our prayers, efforts, ministry, time and energy?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rob Bell Is Not The Issue

The dust is beginning to clear on the whole Love Wins controversy. Not that the debate is over, mind you, but the lines have been drawn. The one team is convinced that Rob Bell is a heretic who has officially betrayed historical Christianity. The other team is convinced that Bell is a victim of pharisaical traditionalism. Likewise, all that can really be said about the theological debate has pretty much been said. I don't think we're going to see a lot more "discussion" on this issue. Everyone's pretty much had their say and we've officially arrive at the part of the debate where everyone just stares menacingly at each other.

However, in all this debate and fuss, I think it's important that we not lose sight of the main issue here. Whether or not Rob Bell is a true Christian really isn't the point. I think most on the orthodox team has failed to acknowledge that Bell and the other Emergent times have a tendency to both feed off of and feed into the current cultural mood. Bell is popular because he helps reconcile people's external religion (traditional Christianity) with their internal religion (anthrocentric postmodernism). This is just another attempt to make Christianity comply with postmodern thinking.

Bell is giving the people what they want to hear. This raises the question of why do they want to hear it? True, people don't like the idea of a God who sends people to Hell. I like what Randy Alcorn says to that, “Many imagine that it is civilized, humane, and compassionate to deny the existence of an eternal Hell, but in fact it is arrogant that we, as creatures, would dare to take what we think is the moral high ground in opposition to what God the Creator has clearly revealed. We don’t want to believe that any others deserve eternal punishment, because if they do, so do we. But if we understood God’s nature and ours, we would be shocked not that some people go to Hell (where else would sinners go?), but that any would be permitted into Heaven. Unholy as we are, we are disqualified from saying that infinite holiness doesn’t demand everlasting punishment.”

However, I think there's something else going on here to. Perhaps we don't want the responsibility that comes along with a belief in a literal, eternal Hell. Bell keeps telling people that this really isn't that big a deal. Maybe that's because, until Bell upset the fruit basket, we haven't treated it like a big deal. Isn't it true that we often live like functional Universalists? Lately, the Holy Spirit's been driving a hot iron through my conscience in this area (as a side note, please pray that I would have the courage to follow through on this conviction and the wisdom to do so effectively).

Condemning Rob Bell really isn't the issue. The issue is that people need Jesus and He's charged us with pointing people to Him. Does our lifestyle match our theology? Would my life be any different if I truly acted like I really believe billions of souls are a breath away from eternal, horrific torment? Am I living as though I've truly been commissioned with the making of disciples? Would I treat people differently if I were living with that truth in mind?

So, don't get distracted with Rob Bell. He's not important. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday: In Remembrance of Him

Having grown up in "Church culture" all my life, communion was one of those events that I always chalked up as "something we do just because." I never really got it. I mean, sure, I knew the correct Sunday school answer. We do this in remembrance of Christ. But, especially when I was younger, I always dreaded communion services. It seemed so dry and, well, religious.

But, the more I've begun to contemplate communion, the more it's beginning to make sense. Sure, we've reduced it a mere ritual, but it doesn't have to be that way. You see, God knows we're idiots and have a tendency to forget how good He is to us. So, whether it's the rainbow in the days of Noah, or the memorial feasts of the Old Testament, or the two ordinances of the Church age, God has given us little reminders of His faithfulness.

This week, people are going to talk about Good Friday and make a fuss about Resurrection Sunday - and rightly so. But I think it'd be unwise to forget what happened on Thursday. I encourage you to read Luke 22:7-53 today. It tells of what happened on that fateful Thursday before our Master's crucifixion.

I'll give you the highlights:

Jesus has a Passover meal with His disciples. There, He introduces the Lord's Supper. It is a testament to Christ's love and patience that He gave us a visual aid to help us remember all that He's done for us. The bread is His broken body, a testament that God became man; the Creator became a creature; a Spirit became flesh; the Holy One became sin for us.

The wine is His blood. To the Jews, there was something very sacred about blood. To have your blood spilled was a sign of God's wrath. Our Holy Brother was crushed in the winepress of God's anger for us.

But thankfully there's more. The sharing of the bread and cup is a foreshadowing of things to come. One day, when Christ comes, there will be no more need for communion for we shall share in the glorious Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Our communion with Christ and His Body, now imperfect, will be made all the more glorious.

Thursday is also a testament to humility. While the disciples were arguing about who should be the greatest, the King of kings wept before His Father and humbly proclaimed, "Not my will but Thine."

Thursday is a day to remember that Christ lived and died and lives forever more that we might be joint heir with Him. Take some time to thank Him for that today. :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"I Will Wait For You"

Someone showed me this a few days ago. And while I'm not really into this style of poetry, I'm definitely into the message. It expresses a lot of things that I've been thinking about lately, but from a different angle - a woman's angle.

This is a result of a generation of boys who don't want to grow up. For the guy's point of view, the first part of the poem is what not to be. But her beautiful description of "you" is an incredible challenge of what we are to be.

I hope that this is an encouragement to you.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Outward-Focused Introversion

Well, you might as well know: I'm a textbook introvert. An off-the-chart I in the Myers-Briggs test. It's amazing how one character trait - having a mind that naturally gravitates inward - can effect nearly everything. When I was younger I was as shy as all get out and had the hardest time communicating with people. But, thankfully, the Lord decided He didn't want me to be shy anymore and He kept putting situations in my life that forced me to grow up.

While I'm over the shyness, I've still had a bit of a love-hate relationship with introversion. It always frustrated me that my personality makes certain things difficult. For example, God calls us to be selfless and others-oriented. That's a bit harder when I'm always locked inside my own mind. Witnessing looks different in my life than it does a lot of other people. The whole thing with going up to a total stranger and saying, "Hey, want to know Jesus?" doesn't work well with me (nor do I think it's very effective in our culture, but that's another topic). I have enough trouble talking about the weather with stranger, much less matters of eternity. When I witness, I need to take the time to establish and build a relationship with the person.

So, this brings me to my main point. How do I, as an introvert, act in an others-oriented way? Is introversion and selflessness fundamentally opposed? Must I fight my introvert tendencies in order to serve others?

Well, there are certain introvert tendencies that need to be overcome in order to be others-oriented. But there are also traits of extroversion that must be conquered to accomplish the same thing. Sin will mess up any personality trait we have though that will look different on different people.

However, I also believe that certain introverted traits can be utilized, harnessed and redeemed in a manner that is glorifying to God and beneficial to others. Look at some these introverted traits and think about how they can be used in this manner.


Gain energy when they are alone, and lose energy when among many others.
Derive energy from the inner world, i.e., feelings, ideas, impressions.
Are good listeners.
Think carefully before doing or saying anything.
Maintain more eye contact while listening to someone than when speaking.
Have few interests, but any interest if present is high.
Consider only deep relationships with others as true "friendship".
Prefer to talk one on one than in a group.
Speak slowly, with pauses.
Need silence to concentrate, do not like it when they are interrupted.
Benefit from long-term memory, which often gives a feeling of "light-headedness" and may have trouble finding the right words during a conversation.
Are better than extroverts in coping with tasks requiring attention.
Perform better in studies than extroverts.
Find it easier to learn by reading than in a conversation with others.
Work at the same level regardless of whether they are praised or not.
May have difficulty remembering faces and names.

Now granted, some of these traits mean that introverts sometimes have problems interacting with others. However, I also believe that many of these traits can be channeled in a way that is actually beneficial to others. For example, while introverts don't necessarily feel the need to be the "life of the party" they do desire intimacy and the friends they do have they usually like to know very well. I many ways, introverts are therefore better prepared to help people in time of need because of that quest for intimacy and the tendency to be better listeners.

Likewise, because we process internally, we can often have a calming effect on others. During a stressful situation, a friend once told me how grateful he was that I had remained calm. The funny thing was, I was probably as stressed as he was. However, because that stressed worked itself out internally, I was able to help calm others and keep that stress from spreading.

So, here's my point to all my fellow introverts: God knows what's He's working with. He's big enough to work with anyone. Therefore, rely on His Spirit and, instead of using it as an excuse, use your personality in a way that points others to the incredible glory of God.

Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Roundup

Yesterday, like a good Irish redhead, I wore green and paid my respects to Saint Patrick. He was a great missionary with a passion for reaching the barbaric peoples of Ireland (my ancestors). I have a lot of respect for this man. So, I've compiled some of the best of the blogosphere's tributes to St. Patty.

The Baptist Bulletin makes the argument that St. Patrick was actually less of a Catholic than many people think and may have been one of those pre-Protestantism Protestants. Saint Patrick the "Baptist"?

Pastor Mark Driscoll wrote an interesting post on the Resurgence website, in which he argues that Saint Patrick's Day is really all about missions and that we should use it as an opportunity to spread the Gospel. St. Patrick: One of the Greatest Missionaries Who Ever Lived

Last but not least, Shane Vander Heart of Caffeinated Theology wrote an inspiring post recounting a prayer that is generally attributed to Saint Patrick. The Shield of St. Patrick

I hope you all enjoy the articles. I certainly enjoyed getting to know more about this inspiring man.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Woman's Day

Today is International Woman's Day. It's basically a feminist marketing campaign, but I figure if the Church Fathers can hijack pagan holidays and turn them into Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day, than I should be able to flip this holiday on it's head and take the opportunity to thank real women. As a young man, I'm very grateful for the amazing spiritual sisters God has placed in my life. They are a blessing and encouragement to me and this is my tribute to all of them.

  • Thank you, for not feeling the need to flaunt yourself but for being confident in the imperishable beauty of meekness and gentleness (1 Peter 3:4).
  • Thank you, for respecting the consciences of your brothers by dressing and acting modestly.
  • Thank you, for letting us guys open doors and carrying boxes for you.
  • Thank you, for encouraging us guys to be faithful to our responsibilities by being faithful to yours.
  • Thank you, for edifying us in a way that is true to both our callings.
  • Thank you, for allowing and encouraging the men to take the lead.
  • Thank you, for being neither usurpers nor pushovers.
  • Thank you, for being courageously feminine in a culture which sees that as a vice and not as the glorious virtue that it is.
  • Thank you, for functioning biblically, regardless of what others say.
  • Thank you, for the blessing and encouragement you are to me as a man. Few things help men act like men more than women who act like women.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rob Bell and Judgementalophobia

Good ol' drama. Not even Christianity can escape it. This drama came in three acts. Act 1: Rob Bell (pictured), the patron saint of the emergent church, releases a promo video for his upcoming book, Love Wins. In the video he "raises some questions" with some implied Universalist answers. Act 2: Justin Taylor of Crossway Publishing wrote a piece raising concerns about the potential heresy being promoted in the video. You can read it as well as watch Rob Bell's video here. Act 3: Those theologians within Taylor's circles (Piper, Driscoll and their whole gang) pass on his article and condemn Bell's book.

Enter the drama. The response has been incredible. We'll there is a good chunk of people who agree with Taylor and his supporters, there others who clearly don't. These people typically throw out two arguments. To me, these two arguments reveal an underlying phodia that the contemporary Church as.

Therefore, I've decided to create a new word just for kicks (hey, if Shakespeare and Tolkien can do, I should be able to too, right?).

Judgementalophobia: "The fear of initiating or receiving something perceived as indignation."

This is the most common argument being used in Bell's defense. "Don't judge him." "He's just asking questions." "Give him a chance." This, I believe, portrays a common sentiment among Christians. Granted, that sentiment does have some legitimacy. But I think we're so afraid of being one of those "judgmental Christians" (a very real concern) that we're afraid to call things what they are. Jesus was never afraid to call falsehood falsehood or sin sin. While God would never have us to act proud, arrogent or hateful, there is certainly a place for pointed out sin if our heart is right. Jesus said this is Matthew 7:5.

Also, there is a flawed idea of what judgment is. Today, we think any criticism or moral assessment is judgmental. But that's not the case. We are told to be wise, discerning and to expose wickedness and falsehood. Being judgmental is when we take the place of God and condemn the person rather than the falsehood.

There is a balance to be had, but really it's not as complicated as we might think. The answer is to simply be as wise as serpents and as peaceful as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Honor Of A Real Man

I just want to share with you how my heart has been encourage by the stance taken by a young man named Joel Northrup. You may very well have already heard of him because his conviction is so rare that the story is apparently worthy of national headlines. Joel was a favorite in the Iowa state wrestling tournament until he refused to fight a female opponent saying, "As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner,"

Naturally, the unbiased media and liberal commentators have been very tolerant and respectful of his person decision. Or not. Actually, they've been trying to twist this in anyway they possibly can to make Joel look bad. Some have even said that he was afraid to get beat by a girl. Never mind that he was favored to win.

Then they through out the old sexist and chauvinist labels. Beside the fact that most people have no idea what those words actually mean, just look at what he said and tell me if it sounds the least bit sexist.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan [the two girls in the tournament] and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. ... It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most of the high school sports in Iowa."

This is a young man who has enough respect for women not to fight them in a very physical sport. Really, of all the sports that should remain gender-separated, wrestling should be on the top of the list. There's no way that kind of interaction can be good for a young man's mental purity. Just trust me on this: it would be very hard for even a moral young man to have decent and respectful thoughts about a girl he's pinning to a mat.

Our culture is weird. Don't think that just because it's modern it's normal. Any society that has no qualms with sending women into a fight is sick. It's just that simple. Just the other day, I was reading a study about the rapid increase of abuse, rape and sexual trafficking.

Yet, in the midst of this perverted culture, one young man had the courage to stand on his convictions and remain true to his conscience. My hats off to you, Joel.

John Piper summarized it very well: "This student won a match he never wrestled. He conquered a sick system. Real men don't fight girls."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is God An Individualist?

That's a rather odd question, isn't it? Is God an individualist? Well, there seems to be no question that we are. After all, good old, all-American individualism is a staple of Western thought. But is it in line with the Way God thinks?

Some would heartily answer in the affirmative. After all, individualism arose, at least in part, because of the emphasis of the Protestant Reformation on Scriptural sufficiency. The Reformers correctly taught that God has a personal relationship with individuals and that that relationship is not dependent on family or church affiliation. Later, the Baptists championed something called individual soul liberty or soul competency which basically taught that each person was individually accountable before God.

I've never had a problem with any of this (I still don't actually) until I began noticing many passages of Scripture that seem to be coming from corporate mindset, rather than an individual one. The Old Testament, in particular, is loaded with these sorts of passages. There are many times in which God judges nations and families as a unit rather than as individuals. Our Western minds try to explain away references to entire families being stoned and civilizations being judged. For example, after Solomon turned from God, how did God punish him? By punishing Solomon's son. He didn't punish Solomon because God loved David. Instead, He punished Solomon's son. So, in God's eyes, it is just to reward a father by rewarding his son and to punish a father by punishing his son. This doesn't seem very individualistic.

And this is not strictly an Old Testament phenomenon. The Church is repeatedly referred to as a Body. It's not just a collection of individuals. It's a single, corporate organism. Throughout the Bible, families, communities and churches are called upon to act as a unit, having the same heart and mind.

Likewise, I've noticed that having an overly individualistic mindset has been very detrimental to both churches and families. Our postmodern mindset tells us that no one can interfere in the affairs of others, even if it's for their own good. And yet, through the New Testament, there is a plea for unity and involvement in each other's lives.

Some people try to brush this aside as a cultural thing. Near Eastern philosophy is vastly different from Western philosophy. Whereas we see individuals, they see families, communities and nations. However, this interpretation basically says that the prophets and apostles had bad philosophy (which leads to bad theology) and that somehow the Holy Spirit (maybe He was taking a nap or something) let that bad philosophy make it into His holy Word. That just doesn't fly with me.

So, how do we balance these truths about the responsibility of the individual soul and corporate unity? A while back, Jay Lauser wrote a marvelous guest post which cleared up some these confusions. However, it still left me with some questions, until I asked myself, "How does God view this issue?" In other words, is God an individualist?

Think about this for a moment. Who is God? Or maybe I should say, what is God. God is something we have a hard time rapping our heads around. God is a Trinity. In other words, He is multiple persons and yet one person. So, is He an individual or a collective group? The answer is yes.

So, the question becomes, how would Someone who is multiple-yet-singular view things (and by the way, God's view is the right view)? Individually or corporately?

Well, look at the way He views Himself. When God decided to create humanity He said, "Let Us make man in Our image." (Genesis 1:26) God referred to Himself in the plural. But, God also says of Himself, "The LORD is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) So He also refers to Himself in the singular.

So, does God view Himself individually or corporately? Yes. He views Himself as multiple-yet-singular because that's the way He is. So, I'll ask the question again, how does multiple-yet-singular Person view humanity? As multiple-yet-singular. I believe, that God views us both individually and corporately. Throughout the Bible we see God interacting with people as both individuals and families, nations and churches.

Throughout Church history, theologians have always tried to undermine one of these truths. The results of this lopsided view have always been detrimental. The effects include Catholic atrocities, like indulgences, and Protestant snobbishness and hyper-seperationalism.

While we are individuals, we are also families, communities, churches and nations. It's important that we see ourselves as a part of unit and not just little islands. I believe that this is how God would have us to be. While we must make sure that our own affairs are in order, we must also look out for one another.

Paul summed it up nicely in Philippians 2:4, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (NASB)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Dance

Okay, this post is a little wierd for a couple of reason. One, I never thought I would write anything entitled "The Dance" but here it is. Two, this is stylistically very different from anything else I've done on here. Instead of solving all the world's problems (or all the Church's problems) or quote some old dead guy, I wrote up a little allegory about the character of God and how His attributes work together.

Like all "artists", I'm not completely satisfied with my creation. I wish I were capable of translating these incredible concepts about the nature of our God into a formate that we could all understand and marvel at. However, I do hope this does put things into perspective a little bit more. It's not a perfect metaphor but it is my prayer that it would still cause you to praise the God that is.

In the very heart of God there is a Dance so intricate that sages ponder it and so glorious that all who behold gaze in steadfast wonder. The dancers are so skilled and harmonious. They dance in perfect step and time.

Justice and Love take the lead, partnered in glorious balance. At time one leads and then the other, but both ever present, adding to the beauty of the other. While Love is the Dance’s most adored star, one without the other would be incomplete and all who behold their marvelous dance would never dare suggest that they be separated, so perfect is their harmony. There are no solos or wallflowers in this Dance, for all the dancers are ever present and ever active.

Then, for the pleasure of all spectators, the Lord of the Dance introduces Holiness and Grace, such a beautiful couple. Holiness, with his perfect form and matchless exoticness, leaves the crowd so awestruck with his marvelous grandeur that they curse their eyes for being unable to bear such a flawless sight. But with Grace in his arms, the dance is complete for ‘tis Grace’s empathetic step and benevolent form that draws the audience into the Dance and fills their hearts with gratitude at being witness to such a majestic pare.

But then the spectators rise to their feet for out comes the most fascinating couple of all. It is Wrath, Justice’s son, with fair Mercy. Theirs is the most intricate of dances. Each step in precise and each motion balanced. The leadership is traded off with such mastery that their movements become interwoven. For each motion of Wrath, Mercy counters. With each step of Mercy, Justice’s offspring answers. One misstep and the Dance would be violated. One wrong move and the balances is broken. But sweat does not deface the brow of the dancers. They know their steps and they know the rhythm.

All the dancers are so very skilled. Each so glorious and beautiful in its own respect. None of them could be dismissed or the Dance would be compromised. They never step on each other’s toes but dance in synchronized perfection. They complement and never contradict. Each is needed and each is marvelous.

All who gaze upon the Dance marvel at its beauty. The finest of minstrels sing their praises, unable to contain their admiration. While the willingly ignorant mock the Dance they refuse to behold, the poorest of urchins peer through the windows that by chance they might glimpse her glorious motions.

A few brash admirers try to join in the fling. But Justice’s steps are too fervent, Holiness’ form too flawless and Wrath’s tempo too swift. They are swept away, unable to experience the coveted Dance. It is then that the hearts of the spectators melt with sorrow. From outside of the Floor they get but glimpses and peeks but are unable to taste and see the glorious Dance in the heart of God.

It is then that the Choreographer prepares for His Climax, a chance to put all the dancers on full, unparelled display. The music intensified and the steps hastened. The crowd gasped in awe as the dancers, in flair and talent never seen before, prepared for the blazing Climax.

It is then, with tear-flooded eyes, that the Lord of the Dance makes a daring proclamation. “Come in!” He cries. “Come in! Come touch and taste the Dance in all its glory! Come and know the heart of God!”

What mystery is this? All who enter dance with Love, Grace and Mercy. The fury of their brothers does not trample the invited. For Justice, Holiness and Wrath dance with the Lord Himself and spares His guests their indignation. Their rage He claims as His own. The Lord’s Climax is the Cross, His most grievous treasure.

Now all who answer the call join in the uncompromised Dance. Oh what wonder! For we are no longer spectators but can experience the Dance itself. We can taste and see that its Lord is good.
It’s then that you hear the Lord cry out, “Come join the Dance! Come join the Dance in the very heart of God!”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Worshiping The God Of Our Heroes

Here's something ironic for you: I'm going to write a blog post in which I quote one of my heroes advising us not to quote our heroes. Yeah, so I feel a little hypocritical but I think he makes an excellent point.

I've been thinking lately about one of the intriguing things about living in an information age. For all the downsides of the Internet and the cultural transparency, one of the real positive things is that I can learn from some of the greatest theologians of our time. I can listen to sermons, read articles and even interact with great preacher that I otherwise would have only read about. Just imagine if Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley or Charles Spurgeon could have had access to stuff we have today. How cool would it have been to watch Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on YouTube or read the latest from the Sword and the Trowel on your iPhone?

However, there are some dangers that come with this opportunity. One is that we can start to compare our heroes to our local pastor. When we start wishing that our pastor was as articulate as John Piper or as passionate as Voddie Baucham, we're already at a loss. We need to appreciate of our spiritual leaders' individual gifts and not start comparing them to celebrities.

Another problem is that we start to heroize (that's a homeschool word, by the way) and idolize the great contemporary preachers. It gets to the point where they can do no wrong and if they say something then it must be right. While we condemn the Corinthians for claiming to be of Paul or of Apollos we have no qualms we saying that we're of Piper or of Driscoll. Rather then helping us grow closer to Christ they can actually be harmful to our relationship with Him.

I like what Francis Chan said when he was asked about this subject:

"These are things that I am trying to figure out right now, so I want to be careful not to speak too soon. What I will say is this . . .

I have benefitted greatly by hearing biblical preachers via podcast. I’m glad that there is so much solid teaching available. However, I am struggling with the celebrity status that comes from this kind of exposure. It’s not healthy for the preacher, nor is it healthy for those who talk about their ministry heroes so often (I am guilty of this).

In many ways, we are conforming to the pattern of the world. While it is good that people are talking about what they have learned from “Piper, Driscoll, Keller, Chan, etc,” I am concerned about how much we speak those names rather than the name of Jesus. It has gotten to the point where I believe we have taken glory away from Jesus. Personally, I am intentionally trying to mention human names less and speak often the matchless name of Jesus.

All believers have received the Holy Spirit. We must go forth in His power with confidence. God has placed people in your path. You are called to disciple them. We too quickly direct converts toward podcast preachers and neglect our God-given mandate to disciple. We must believe in the power of the Scriptures themselves, and we must trust in the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Let’s use the resources God has given to the church at large, but let’s not shirk our responsibility to the local church. Let’s not boast too much of others, and let’s not underestimate what the Spirit desires to do through us."

Basically, it comes down to utilizing our resources to grow closer to God without letting them distract us from Him. When it aids our spiritual growth and the work of the family and local church, it's a very good thing. When it distracts us and divides our loyalties. It's a very bad thing. We need to make sure we are worshiping the God our heroes and not the heroes themselves.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Addicted to Service

Recently, I came across a verse in Scripture which stood out to me. It isn't some great theological text. Nor is it of a memorable or important verse. In fact, the section in question is actually show in parenthesis by most translators as if it were an after thought that the Apostle Paul just kind of plugged in there. The passage is I Corinthians 16:15, which states: "I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints)" (KJV)

When I first read this passage in the good ol' King Jimmy Version, I had to laugh at the choice of words. Addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. The English Standard Version simply says "that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints".

But then I got to thinking about the powerful word picture that is painted by the word addicted. Our world is full of addicts. It seems nearly anything can be an addiction. Smoking, drinking, porn, food, media, sweets and even exercise. Some of my friends accuse of me being a coffee addict and their assessment is probably not entirely untrue. But here Paul describes a man and his family that had addicted themselves to service of the saints.

What is an addicted person like? By definition it means that their life is no longer their own. It is under the mastery of something else. An addict no longer calls the shots. He does what his master demands of him. He is bound to the object of his addiction to the point that is almost impossible to break that bond. Eventually, it gets to the point where the addict's life is completely and thoroughly controlled by something other them himself. Addiction is a powerful thing.

Most addictions are bad. They rob us of the loving lordship of Jesus Christ and bring us under the bondage of a spiritual idol. But what would it look like if we addicted ourselves to the service of the saints?

In his epistle, Paul commends Stephanas and his family for devoting themselves to serving the Body of Christ. Here was an entire family that had commit themselves to laboring for others. Paul uses some very strong language to describe their dedication of this ministry. He says that they addicted themselves. How addicted are you to serving and ministering to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you fit the profile of person addicted to serving others?

It always breaks my heart to see spiritual siblings strive against each other instead of laboring to serve each other. It also breaks my heart to hear people of talk of ministry as if it's something reserved for professionals. However, we see that in the early Church, ministering to others was something that average church-going laymen did.

Something I've been convicted about lately is my attitude when I go to church. Do I simply want to get blessed and ministered to spiritual or am devoted to blessing and ministering to others spiritually? Is service something others owe me or something I owe them?

In short, we all need to follow the example of Stephanas and his family. We need to addict ourselves to the service of the saints in a real and dedicated way.