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Handling conflict like Christians

12 Jul

We tend to think of conflict in terms of warfare – when it’s REALLY bad.  The truth is that conflict comes in many forms and there are levels of conflict.  Has someone said something that “rubbed you the wrong way?”  That is a conflict.  Is there someone that you believe isn’t doing their job in your organization?  That’s a conflict.  Was there miscommunication that created frustration?  That’s a conflict.  Is someone talking about someone else?  That’s a conflict. Did you find out that someone is talking about you?  That’s a conflict. The truth is that every one of us deals with conflict every single day in various forms.  The real question is “How will we deal with it?”

How do we deal with conflict like Christians should?  Before I go further, I want to make a point crystal clear:  WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY DOES NOT APPLY TO INSTANCES OF ABUSE. Call the police in cases of sexual or physical abuse. Abuse isn’t a conflict; abuse is abuse.  Furthermore, I understand that we often operate where there are many people who aren’t believers and who aren’t the least bit interested in handling conflict like a Christian i.e. the workplace, the country club, the school.  What I am about to say applies first to conflict between Christians both in the church and as we interact with fellow Christians in a variety of settings.

How do we deal with conflict like Christians?

I CAN CONFRONT YOU.

It is Biblical to confront a conflict.  Scripture gives us the blueprint for dealing with a conflict among believers….

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15–17, NASB95)

Notice the three fold process outlined here.  First, there is an individual one-on-one face-to-face meeting.  If this doesn’t resolve the issue, then the offended party takes another person or two with them so that the issues can be made clear and worked through as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Finally, if these first steps fail, the issue is taken to the leadership of the church.  Please note, at every point along the way, the goal is reconciliation with our fellow Christian.  The point is never to be “right” or to “win.”

I CAN FORGIVE YOU.

It is just as Biblical to choose to forgive the person without a confrontation…

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NASB95)

Probably in the majority of instances, this is the best decision. Choose to forgive and move on.  Don’t confuse a lack of confrontation with forgiveness. Most of the time, we don’t confront AND we don’t forgive – resulting in unspoken bitterness, division, and anger.  Think of it this way:  If I choose not to confront, then I am making the decision to forgive and move on.

I CAN BEAR WITH YOU.

Sometimes a conflict happens and we say, “I guess they were having a bad day” or “They are a wonderful person but this happens sometimes.”  That communicates bearing with another person.  It’s Biblical to do that too.

bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:13, NASB95)

Bearing with a person means that we simply recognize they are a broken human being like we are and we give them some grace.  After all, each of us has been given much grace on many occasions by many people.  Bearing with a person says, “I give grace because I have been given much grace.”

I MUST LOVE YOU AND PRAY FOR YOU.

This is maybe the most difficult one, but it is absolutely necessary….

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43–44, NASB95)

Don’t tell everyone else, tell Jesus on them!  If there is a conflict between us, I don’t have to be your best friend, but I do have to love you and pray for you.  Over the years, I have found that it is extremely difficult to talk badly about someone I am praying for. Think about it.

Let me conclude this post with several observations and exhortations…

1.  As a Pastor, one of the greatest needs I see among Christians is to learn to handle conflict as Christians should. Conflict is inevitable in all churches. The difference in churches is how they handle their conflicts.  When a church member comes to me and they are offended at a staff member or another church member, I always ask “Have you talked with them before you came to me?”  In 25 years as a pastor, the answer to this question in 95% of the instances has been “No.”  Think about that statement and let it sink in.

2.  As Christian parents, we have an obligation to model for our children how to handle conflict. Our kids are learning from us. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who works at a Christian school.  She said, “When their kids are unhappy, people don’t act like Christians.”  Sad but true. When there is the inevitable teenage drama, many parents get involved and act worse than the kids. Make no mistake, our kids are learning from us. The question is what they are learning.

3.   Have a big “so what” box and use it every day.  You know what goes in the “so what” box? The stuff that’s not worth fighting over. The stuff that is not worth being upset over. By the way, that’s a lot of stuff. When something comes up, just learn to say “so what” because it really isn’t the end of the world.  A big “so what” box is a big key to a healthy home and healthy church.

4.  “It’s a mighty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides.”  Adrian Rogers said that one time, and I’ve never forgotten it. There are almost always two sides to every situation and that friend of yours only gave you one of them.  Be careful when engaging in conflict based on information from only one person or one side.

Finally, writing this blog post has been a reminder for me. Certainly, I have not always handled conflict in the best way. We have all made mistakes. We cannot go back and change how we have handled anything in the past. We can decide right now how we will handle the inevitable next conflict that will soon come. May each of us determine in our hearts that we will handle it according to scripture and in the spirit of Christ.

 

 

 

Which version of the Bible is best?

21 Jun

This question is one that pastors still get asked frequently.  At the risk of starting an argument, I want to give my personal answer to this question.

First of all, there are two equally bad extremes when it comes to the issue of Bible translations:

1.  Believing that only one translation is “the” one

2.  Believing that any translation is fine

Why do I say this?   For many readers of this blog, we grew up in churches where the King James Version was the only accepted version.  Some of us were taught that the KJV was the ONLY true translation and therefore the KJV alone was the Word of God.  The purpose of this post is not to debate that issue, but I will say that the first King James Bible was printed in 1611. I have seen a copy of that true 1611 version.  You would be hard pressed to read it due to the changes in the English language since then.  It is certainly much different than the KJV you can buy at your local LifeWay store today.  My point is that there are “versions” of the King James Version.  On the other hand, some religious groups have printed their own versions of the Bible that change key passages to suit their own heretical theology.  Just look up the history of the New World Translation to see an example of what I am talking about.  So, we want to avoid the two equally bad extremes. Our favorite translation isn’t the only good one, but every translation isn’t a good one either.

With the rise of computers and technology there are more Bible translations available today than ever before.  Why are there different versions of the Bible anyway? How do we sort through the maze of Bible translations today?   Let me help you.

When translating from one language to another there are two basic issues:   1.  Literally expressing the words of the original language in the new language.  2. Making the new translation readable and understandable.   There are always choices to make.  For instance, an absolutely literal translation of John 1:1 would read “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word.”   However, if you look at your favorite Bible version, it will read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”   Why is that? Because translators made the choice there to express the clear meaning of the language in a more understandable way in English.  Choices like this are made in almost every verse of the Bible in every version. Sometimes there isn’t an exact correlation between a Greek or Hebrew word and any word in the English language.

What does all of this have to do with versions of the Bible?  Some versions lean more toward being literal (meaning they aren’t as easy to read) and other versions place a greater emphasis on being readable (meaning they can’t be as much word for word).  It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong; it’s just that the translators made different choices for different reasons.  In my opinion, this is why it’s healthy to read from multiple versions of the Bible.

In light of this discussion, what are some good versions of the Bible on the market today?

The King James (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV)  Many of us were raised with the KJV and learned most of the Bible verses we know in the old KJV. If the KJV is your favorite, don’t feel bad. It is an excellent translation that is very literal in its approach.  Unfortunately, it is not the easiest to read. The NKJV attempted to smooth out much of this difficulty while keeping the distinctive voice of the KJV.   As a matter of fact, I preach from the NKJV for two reasons:  It is an excellent translation and it is still familiar to so many who have the KJV.

The 2011 New International Version (NIV)  A revision of the original 1984 NIV, this version favors readability over being literal.  As a result, it has received some criticism. The Southern Baptist Convention even convened a task force of SBC scholars to evaluate whether or not LifeWay stores should sell this translation. Their recommendation was unanimous that it should.  The very conservative and well known pastor/Bible teacher Dr. John MacArthur even offers the MacArthur Study Bible in this version.  I have read through it in its entirety. Bottom line for me:  it’s a good translation but far from the best.

The New American Standard 1995 (NASB) Long considered the “gold standard” in terms of being the most literal of the major translations.  However, it is not the easiest to read, which is likely one of the reasons why it never became the most popular. The NASB remains a favorite of many scholars, pastors, and serious Bible students – including yours truly.

The English Standard Version (ESV)  Published in 2001, the ESV is just as literal as the NASB but is somewhat easier to read. As a result, it has quickly earned a very large following across the board – both in the pews and in academia.

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Published in 2017, the CSB is the newest major translation, and it is an extremely good one that you should consider.  I personally know two of the scholars who led the translation oversight committee on this version and they are deeply conservative, faithful scholars.  I am reading through the CSB this year in my personal devotional time and I find it to be extremely strong and perhaps even on pace to supplant the NASB as my personal favorite.

So, there you have six good versions of the Bible that I personally have read and recommend to people. Are there other good versions out there? Yes, but these are six that I have the most personal experience with and use every week in my own study.  In fact, when I am preparing to preach on a passage, I usually read it in these six versions early on in the study process.

Drum roll please…now for the moment you have all been reading for!  The answer to my original question:  Which version of the Bible is best?

Within the parameters of these six versions I have listed, THE BEST VERSION OF THE BIBLE IS THE ONE YOU WILL READ.

 

 

 

 

Southern Baptist Convention 2018 – an honest evaluation.

16 Jun

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It was a blessing to be able to attend the 2018 SBC in Dallas.  Considering the well publicized issues and conflicts that were in the air heading into the convention, I am grateful that the convention ended with a minimum of open conflict and with a good deal of unity as we move forward. For those interested, here is my evaluation of what happened and where things stand now that the convention is over.

1.   J.D. Greear is our president and we should pray for and support him. J.D. won the election with 68% of the vote. At age 45 he is one of the youngest SBC presidents in history and his election certainly represents a new generation of SBC leadership. His election is the culmination of trends in SBC life that have occurred over the last 10 years. He represents a new style and new vision of SBC leadership. Personally, I don’t think this  is a bad thing. I believe J.D. Greear is sound theologically. His church baptizes hundreds and plants dozens of churches each year. Count me as one who will pray for him and give him a chance to lead.

2.   The SBC is becoming more diverse.  Each year at the convention, I am blessed to see evidence of this fact. As a denomination, we cannot reach a rapidly diversifying country if this isn’t a priority.  Recently, I read that 20% of our SBC churches are now predominately ethnic churches. Praise the Lord for progress in this area and may it continue.  The SBC is now leading the way in calling for churches and church leaders to make more tangible steps toward racial unity. It isn’t enough just “not to be racist.”  Count me as one who is grateful for this trend.

3.   The SBC is committed to solid, Biblical theology.  With the well publicized issues regarding handling of abuse, moral failure, and treatment of women, the SBC entities and churches are asking hard questions and taking a hard look in the mirror. It’s one thing to come to the convention and talk about the sins of people outside the church, but it is quite another thing when judgment begins at the house of God. As painful as this may be, it is much needed and healthy. However, some have attempted to link a Biblical, complementarian view of gender roles, marriage, and church leadership with abuse, misogyny, and poor attitudes toward women.  Many secular news outlets view our convictions on these issues as outdated and even dangerous.  It was good to see several of our entity heads reiterate a commitment to complementarian teaching on these issues – even in the face of great cultural pressure.  For those concerned, I don’t see any sign of compromise on these issues among our SBC leaders.

4.   Southwestern Seminary is hurting now, but better days are coming. The controversial firing of Paige Patterson was the most heated issue to come to the floor of the convention.  Bart Barber’s point of personal privilege and his remarks might just be the most dramatic moment I have personally ever witnessed at an SBC convention. Regardless of how anyone feels about Patterson’s firing, the seminary is hurting and new leadership is coming.  I believe that new leadership can help the seminary community heal and see better days.  The SBC needs a strong Southwestern for so many reasons.  Even though I am not a graduate, I have friends who attend and teach there. Count me as one who is believing God for a great turnaround at Southwestern.

5.  The generational divide in the SBC is real and its leaders need to make great efforts to avoid being out of touch with the majority of pastors and churches.
In my opinion, the points of division in the SBC aren’t theological as much as generational and methodological.  Nowhere was this more evident than the newly elected SBC president J.D. Greear on stage with outgoing president Steve Gaines. Gaines was wearing a nice suit and tie.  Greear was wearing jeans and sneakers with a jacket.  I am not being critical of J.D. on this point.  He dresses in keeping with who he is and his ministry context.  My point is the juxtaposition of that moment and what it represents. A new generation of Southern Baptist young leaders has risen – which is a very good thing for the future. They tend to lean more Reformed in their theology than previous generations. They tend to dress more casually in almost every setting. They came of age with social media and use it constantly and effectively.  They are extremely smart and theologically astute.  They bring a fresh (and needed) perspective to so many issues.  They are not content with the status quo. Beards and baby strollers are everywhere. The Millennials have come to faith in Christ and they have come to the SBC annual meeting!

However, SBC leaders would do well to realize that the majority of the room at the SBC annual meeting is a totally different thing than the majority of our SBC churches. For instance, I recently read that the majority of our SBC pastors are over 50 years of age. The average SBC church is a small church in a small place with a small budget, but it is doing BIG work by faithfully sharing the gospel and seeking to reach people each week. Its pastor isn’t writing books or speaking at conferences. He is preaching Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night at the church he pastors.  He makes visits almost daily to hospitals and nursing homes. He conducts multiple funerals each month. He counsels hurting people both within his church and in the community. He deals with benevolence needs. He relates to every age group in the church. He attends deacons meetings and committee meetings. His phone rings all the time. He seeks to win people to Jesus regularly.  This average SBC church gives almost 10% of its budget to the Cooperative Program (although that isn’t a lot of money) and faithfully collects both Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings in addition to CP.  For every Summit Church and City Church Tallahassee, there are literally hundreds of churches and pastors like I described. They don’t have a “brand” and they are not on the cutting edge, but they are on the front lines. They are the grassroots heart and soul of the SBC. Many of them feel that the national SBC is increasingly out of touch with them.

If we truly want to have a strong SBC going forward, then our leadership would be wise to put as much effort into including these largely forgotten churches and pastors as they have the younger leaders and new churches.  If they do, I truly believe that the next decade of SBC life can truly be characterized by unity and gospel advance across America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Legacy of Love

29 May

This week my good friend and a man I have long looked up to is celebrating 40 years of ministry and retiring as Senior Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville.

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“Bro. Jimmy” as most of us call him has been woven into the fabric of my life for many years.  The first time I knew of him was in the early 80’s on the rare occasions when my family was not at church on Sunday morning. We would watch the service of Whitesburg on one of the local Huntsville television channels. The first time I met him was in 1992, when a young pastor friend talked me into going with him to a service at one of Whitesburg’s Winter Bible Conferences.  Two young “preacher boys” evidently stood out to him from the platform and Jimmy made a beeline for us after the service.  He took a few minutes and greatly encouraged us when he did not have to.  In the years to come, as I served in ministry, I would make an appointment with him and he would graciously give me an hour of his time as I navigated life as a young husband, father, and pastor.  So, he was a mentor to me for a number of years. Then from 2007-2013, I had the privilege of serving on staff with him as Associate Pastor at Whitesburg.  After serving “up close and personal” with him for almost seven years, I had more respect for Jimmy Jackson than I did the day I started.  I make no apologies, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for Jimmy Jackson. In many ways, he is still my pastor.

He is one of the wisest people I know.  Etched in my mind and heart are many things I heard him say repeatedly. Here are a few examples…

  • “God blesses what is right; He does not bless what is wrong.”
  • “The Bible says to forgive people, and there are some people I have had to forgive lots of times.”
  • “Bloom where you’re planted.”
  • “Stay steady.”
  • “Nothing builds people up like love.”

Very often when facing a situation in my own leadership, I quote one of these to myself or to others. His impact on me and my leadership is profound.

In today’s world, it is almost unheard of for a man to lead the same church for forty years, yet Jimmy Jackson has done just that at Whitesburg.  He has been faithful. He has been faithful through years when the church grew and prospered in astounding ways. He has been faithful through years when the church faced challenges and hardships. He has been faithful through personal tragedy and set backs that would have made most men quit. Through it all, week after week, he stepped to the pulpit of Whitesburg, opened his Bible, and preached from it. Week after week, he shepherded people and walked with them through their own valleys. Week after week, he consistently shared the gospel and sought to win souls. He is an example of Godly, steady faithfulness over decades. This past Sunday in his final message before becoming Pastor Emeritus, Bro. Jimmy told the church “Stay in the battle, no matter what comes. Be a sticker!”  That’s Jimmy Jackson in his own words.

At his side every step of the way has been Bobbi Jackson, a faithful pastor’s wife.  Many times, I saw Bobbi meet needs in the church family in her behind the scenes way.  Only another pastor’s wife has any idea of the burdens and blessings involved in being the wife of the pastor. Maybe that is why my wife, Becky, loves Bobbi Jackson so much!  Like her husband, Bobbi Jackson has a legacy of faithfulness. I honor her as I honor him.

It’s hard to put into words what the Jacksons mean to the Corbin family.  Since leaving Whitesburg in the Fall of 2013, every time I have seen Jimmy or Bobbi Jackson each of them has asked about Becky and our boys. Every single time. They know our boys names. They love us and we love them. Literally thousands of people have the same story.  It’s no wonder that Whitesburg chose “A Legacy of Love” as the theme for the Jacksons’ 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday. It’s a fitting description.

Certainly, in forty years as pastor of Whitesburg, Jimmy Jackson has left a legacy of love in the lives of so many people. However, this legacy of love is only possible because of his own legacy of love. He has loved the Lord faithfully. He has loved his wife faithfully. He has loved his children and grandchildren faithfully. He has loved his church faithfully. He has loved his city faithfully. He has loved the Word of God faithfully. In a day when so many have fallen, he has stood. In a day when so many have quit, he has kept going.  In a day when so many are filled with anger, he is filled with love. He is a pastor I want to be like because he is a Christian I want to be like.

Unfortunately, Becky and I won’t be at the special service and reception on Sunday due to ministry responsibilities at the church we serve now. No doubt there will be a huge number there to express their love.  It’s a privilege to use this platform to express in a small way the love, respect, and appreciation we have for Jimmy and Bobbi Jackson.  “Bro. Jimmy and Bobbi” we love you, honor you, and celebrate with you. Congratulations. Well done. You are the best!

 

 

 

 

 

30 years ago – always an Ider Hornet

25 May

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As I saw social media posts from families who had graduates this week, I was reminded that it was 30 years ago this week when my classmates and I walked across the field at Wayne C. Hardman Stadium.  It’s hard to believe. Yes, I was part of the class of 1988 at Ider High School. There were 72 of us in our graduating class. As I look at this picture of my alma mater, I am filled with great memories and joy. I don’t remember the buildings; I remember the people. I remember my friends and classmates. I won’t even attempt to name them because I will leave someone out. There is a special sense of belonging among those you went to high school with. Occasionally, I run into one of my classmates and it’s always a joy. We are old enough now that it doesn’t matter who was in what group or who was popular. We are just glad to see one another – no matter who it is. Unfortunately some members of our class have passed away – some due to illness and some due to tragedy. The class of ’88 has been reminded to be thankful for every day of life.

As I look at this picture, I am reminded of just how much Ider High School has meant to my life. It was there that learned to do math and acquired critical thinking skills. It was there that I was taught to love writing. It was there that I played sports and learned the value of hard work and being on a team. It was there that I learned to respect authority – even if I didn’t understand or agree with it. It was there that I was taught to do my best and never settle for average. It was there that I learned to get along with people and function with others. It was there that I learned to type (yes they actually taught that!) It was there that I learned to be self-disciplined and study. In short, it was there that I grew up and came of age.

I will never forget Mr. Adams’ biology class or Mr. Fuller’s science class. History with Mr. Williams, drivers ed with Coach Allday and science with Coach Daniel will be forever etched in my mind. I can still see Mr. Hardman coming down the hall. I can still smell the locker room of the Gordon Scott Gymnasium, hear the cheers of the pep rallies, and feel the Fall breeze as I walked up to Hardman Stadium for Friday night football. I remember yearbook staff and AP English. I remember homecoming parades, scholars bowl, and 2nd in the state drama team! I remember the Hamricks and the Brooks families who opened their home (and their kitchen) to our entire class because they knew that teenagers needed a safe place to gather and hang out – but with adult supervision!

Were there negative things about high school. I am sure there were, but I choose to remember the best and forget the rest. I have often said that I am thankful I grew up on Sand Mountain. However, I want specifically and publicly to say that I am thankful I grew up in Ider, Alabama and went to Ider High School. I will always be an Ider Hornet. To any members of the class of ’88 who read this blog, I love each and every one of you, and I would love to hear from any and all of you!

A very real issue: STRESS among teenagers and young adults

24 Apr

Sometimes an issue hits you right between the eyes and you wonder why you haven’t seen it sooner.  This is one of those issues.  Yes, in recent months I had heard “bits and pieces” from multiple directions. I had read news reports of soaring rates of depression & suicide among teens & young adults.  I have talked with folks in the business world who talked about how managing their young adult employees is very different today.  I have heard from educators about how high school students are constantly stressed out.

To be candid, my feelings about this issue lined up with many others of my generation:  What do they have to be stressed out about?  They don’t know stress. They’ve got it easy and don’t know it.  Teenagers are always stressed out – and always have been! In short, I was pretty dismissive of most of it.  Until last week.

Listening to podcasts as I drive is one of my favorite things to do. It helps me learn and it helps me use dead time in a more productive way.  Occasionally, I listen to a leadership podcast from Carey Niewhouf, a pastor in Canada.  Here is a link to the show….

https://careynieuwhof.com/mypodcast/

I listened to episode #187 with Tim Elmore entitled “Anxiety in Young Leaders.”  Really, the episode is about the stress felt by two entire generations – the Millennials who are now in young adulthood and Generation Z, the generation presently in high school and younger – and why those feelings of stress are more intense than the stress of other generations.  One statement from this podcast rocked my world…

“The average 17 year old feels as much stress today as the average mental patient in the 1950’s.” 

That isn’t a joke. You read it right. Tim Elmore says that he has been told this by multiple physicians.  When I heard that statement, I was shaken to my core.   If you are reading this post and you are older than me, please resist the urge to begin spouting off about how hard our generation had it and how easy this generation has it.  Yes, our generation had stress.  Yes, our generation is in the throes of middle age stress – marriage, teenage kids, mortgage, career, aging parents, etc. We know stress.  That isn’t the point. The point is how our kids feel. Let that sink in.  Yes, our generation knows stress, but consider these points…

1.     We did not grow up with smartphones and social media.  Our generation gets on Facebook to keep up with old friends and post pictures of our family events, but our kids feel the WEIGHT of social media in a way that we don’t.

2.     We did not grow up feeling like our future depended on the ACT.   High schools today place a great emphasis on preparing for the ACT, scholarships, college visits, and getting ready for college.  I am not critical of this; I understand why they do it.  However, our kids get the message and feel the pressure.  Yes, I took the ACT, but I don’t remember taking the ACT feeling like the rest of my life was riding on it. That’s a fairly recent phenomenon.

3.   We did not grow up with constant pressure to perform and excel. When we grew up, you played little league baseball.  Now, you play little league baseball, your dad takes you to a hitting coach every week, and you play travel ball because you are a good player and you can become good enough to get a college scholarship one day.  Think about it. In many ways, our kids feel the pressure to perform and excel much earlier in life than we did.

4.   Everything is more complicated for our kids. Take going to the prom. When we grew up, the guy asked the girl to go to the prom. It was simple.  Now, it has to be a production. Creative. Unique.  Splashed all over social media so that everyone sees “the ask.”  If you have teenage kids, just stop and think about how much more complicated and stressful getting asked to go to the prom is today than it was a generation ago. The more I think about it, just about everything our kids navigate in their teenage and young adult years is more complicated than it was when we grew up.

5.    We did not grow up with information at our finger tips – both good and evil. We had to go to the library to do research.  Pornography was found in magazines or on video tapes. Today, people use their phones for both research and pornography.  It’s instant.  The affect of this on our culture cannot be overstated.  Our kids feel the effects of it most. We were dependent on our parents for much of our information. We had to ask our parents. Our kids don’t.

6.    We grew up with a greater understanding of failure and resilience. There were times our generation didn’t get a trophy.  We didn’t get an award on awards day. We didn’t get picked for the team at P.E. A teacher was unfair to us. A coach didn’t play us when we deserved it. Somehow our generation learned not to be crushed when things didn’t turn out the the way we hoped. Somehow our generation learned to get back up again.  For whatever reasons, many teenagers and young adults aren’t learning this same understanding of failure and resilience and they are stressed out because of it. As a result, many are emotionally crushed by the time they are in their 20’s.

There are more examples I could list.  Here is the bottom line:  our kids have grown up and are growing up in a vastly different world than we grew up in.  We must not dismiss their pain and their stress.  Yes, we could argue about why this is the case. Parenting styles have changed, and many argue that is the root cause.  Tim Elmore discusses this issue in the podcast I mentioned. He believes that today’s parenting styles are great contributors to the younger generations difficulty in handling stress.  The reasons why aren’t the real point of this blog post. Here is the point of this blog post…

Our kids and young adults are stressed and hurting far more than I realized.

It doesn’t matter why. It’s how they feel. It’s where they are.  My heart goes out to them. This week, I thought of my own sons and wondered if I have failed to understand the stress they feel.  I thought of the teenagers and college students in the church I pastor and wondered if I have not taken their pain as seriously as I should have.  I thought of the young adults in my church and in my neighborhood and wondered if I lacked the empathy I should have.

I am committed to seek to understand more, have more empathy, and seek to help where I can. Our kids and young adults need us to walk with them as they navigate life. Count me as one who is determined to be there for them.

 

 

 

 

What did Christ’s resurrection do?

29 Mar

As we prepare for Easter Sunday, I thought I would share some of my preaching notes from Easter Sunday 2017.  The title of the message was “What Did the Resurrection Do?” Here is a link to the video with the preaching notes below….

 

  1.  Christ’s resurrection made it possible for us to be born again.

Born again? What does that mean? How does that work? Well, really we are talking about a new kind of life that comes to us. A new kind of life that changes everything. So, it’s a new life!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3, NKJV)

I love what one of the great theologians of our day wrote about this fact…

In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his. We do not receive all of that new “resurrection life” when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death. But in our spirits we are made alive with new resurrection power. Thus it is through his resurrection that Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are “born again.” -Wayne Grudem

 Through His resurrection, Christ earned for us the new kind of life. Over in the book of Ephesians, the Bible speaks of this in terms of moving from death to life.

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5–6, ESV)

The resurrection of Jesus and the new life that He came forth from the grave with is the new life that we can have. Before we become a Christian, we are dead in our sins, but Christ has earned for us new life. So, Christ’s resurrection enabled us to be born again. Let’s see a 2nd result of the resurrection…

2. Christ’s resurrection ensures we will be forgiven forever.

Forgiven forever. That sounds so great doesn’t it? Do you know why? I am going to let you in on a BIG secret that everyone knows about, but no one talks about any more. It’s something that all of us carry around and we all feel but no one likes to talk about…

GUILT

People carry around guilt for all types of reasons. Guilt over things they have done – or not done. Guilt that comes from our family. Guilt that comes from…you name it. Some people say “Well it’s religion like you folks have at Lakeside that causes people to feel all of this guilt.” Well, if that were true, then guilt should be declining in America today, right? More people are not religious, more people are fine not going to church. And everywhere we turn people are told that whatever you want to do is great. However you want to live is fine and no one has the right to judge you. I mean, people SHOULD BE happier, right? And yet the counselors offices are booked solid, more people depressed, more people struggling than ever before. Do you know why? The world’s way doesn’t work.

In fact, out of all of the religions in the world, do you know how many of them have a cure for guilt? ONE. The Christian faith. Christ’s resurrection ensures we will be forgiven of all of our sin forever. THAT is a cure for guilt. How does it work?

but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:24–25, NKJV)

 Jesus was crucified “delivered up” for our offenses – not what offends us, but what offends God. The things we have done – and not done. That is why Christ died. For our offenses, our sins. But then did you notice it says that Christ was raised for our justification. That’s a big word, but there is an easy way to remember what it means…

Justification = “just as if I’d never sinned”

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5–6, ESV)

 The tenses of those verbs “raised” and “seated” show that it is immediate. When we are saved we are immediately raised spiritually. And when we are saved, we are immediately seated in the heavenly places. WAIT A MINUTE, PASTOR. I’ve got to go to work in the morning, and where I work is NOT a heavenly place. So, if I am a Christian, how am I seated in the heavenly places right now? YOU HAVE ACCESS TO EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST RIGHT NOW.

So, the first result of Christ’s resurrection is that it enabled us to be born again. The 2nd result is that it ensures we will be forgiven forever. Now, I want us to see a 3rd result…

3.   Christ’s resurrection ensures our resurrection.

 Have you ever lost someone you loved? Grief can be overwhelming. The worst can be the graveside. You gather there at the cemetery. It’s excruciating for the family. However, at every graveside service, I remind people of the great truth of the resurrection.

And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14, NKJV)

knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” (2 Corinthians 4:14, NKJV)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, NKJV)

 We bury the body, but when we die our spirit goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8 to be absent from the body to is be present with the Lord). But there is a coming a great resurrection day when all of the Christians who have EVER lived will be resurrected all at once and given new glorified bodies and their spirit will be reunited with their new body and they will live forever with the Lord.

Christ’s resurrection GUARANTEES our resurrection.

Now, I want us to see one more result of the resurrection…

 4.   Christ’s resurrection is proof that the Bible is true and our faith is real.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:12–15, ESV)

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–19, ESV)

 

 

 

Counting down to Easter Sunday – and every Sunday!

27 Mar

1 Corinthians 15 is one of the most famous chapters in the Bible. It is commonly referred to as the “Resurrection Chapter” not because it tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection but because it speaks of the necessity of it and how it applies to our lives today. As we approach Easter Sunday 2018, I encourage all of my readers to take some time and read through this great chapter.  I intend to do so with my own family during our family devotional times.  Let’s look at some key points of this chapter…

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19, NASB95)

Here we see the absolute necessity of the resurrection to our faith. If He is not victorious then there is no victory for us. However, Christ has risen from the dead, so there is victory for us.  In fact, Paul goes on to explain that Christ’s resurrection restores spiritual life to sinful humanity who had lost their spiritual life through Adam’s fall in the garden of Eden…

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22, NASB95)

Because Jesus is victorious over sin, death, and the grave we can have that same victory through faith in Him!  Furthermore, Paul explains that Christ’s resurrection ensures our resurrection – comparing Christ’s resurrection as the first one of many to come…

“But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:23–28, NASB95)

I hope that’s enough to get your Bible study juices flowing and encourage you to dig into 1 Corinthians 15 this week as we count down to Easter Sunday – resurrection Sunday!  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for the first time to visit the Biblical sites. Of course, one of the great highlights of any trip there was a visit to the Garden Tomb…

GardenTombexterior

We do not know for sure exactly where Jesus was buried.  The Garden Tomb is one of two locations that many Christians believe to be the place. The other is found just a short distance away in Jerusalem inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The Garden Tomb has a number of characteristics that coincide with what we know from the Bible, making it the location that is preferred by most evangelical scholars today, although we cannot be certain.

GardenTombinterior1

This is the burial chamber inside the Garden Tomb.  If Jesus was actually buried here, this is very likely the spot.  Take a moment and think about that. Every group that enters the Garden Tomb grows silent as this awesome thought sinks in. For me, it is a spiritually moving experience to be reminded in such a concrete way that I serve a risen Savior!  You see, the most important issue is not WHERE Jesus was buried, but rather THAT Jesus has risen!  Here is what you see above you as you exit the Garden Tomb…

GardenTombinterior2

Yes! That is what really matters! As the old hymn says, “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living whatever men may say…”  That is the message and the hope of Easter.  In fact, Easter Sunday is not the only Sunday that the Christian church celebrates the resurrection. Have you ever wondered why we worship on Sunday?  Because Jesus rose on Sunday.  The early Christians did not gather to worship on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) but gathered to worship on Sunday because that was the day their Savior rose.  So, every single time we gather for worship on Sunday, we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ.  Yes, Easter Sunday and every Sunday is resurrection Sunday!

The suicide question

22 Mar

Suicide. Just typing the word sends chills up my spine.  On a few occasions, I have ministered to families who had a family member take their own life and I have seen up close the enormous pain and despair that comes.  A few years ago, the son of well known pastor Rick Warren took his own life. In recent weeks, the community where I serve has once again been touched by suicide.  I read recently that the suicide rate for 15-25 year old’s has increased 70% in the last ten years.  It is at times like this when pastors get what I call “the suicide question.”  Most often, it comes in this way: “Can a person who has committed suicide go to Heaven?”  I really don’t know where it originated, but many Christians tell me they “have always heard” that a person who commits suicide cannot go to Heaven, no matter their spiritual commitment beforehand. It’s an issue that many Christians struggle with, and I decided to address it in the blog today.

I believe that the central issue in discussing this question is the Biblical teaching regarding justification – that is how lost sinners are forgiven of their sin and made right with God. The Bible clearly teaches that sinners are made right with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ…

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:23–24, NKJV)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1, NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NKJV)

Without delving into a host of Biblical and theological issues, suffice it to say that the Bible teaches that we are justified (forgiven of our sin and made right with God) at the moment we repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ.  Justification is not a feeling, but it is rather a standing before God. It is our standing before God that is His work, not ours. Romans 8:33 reminds us that “it is God who justifies.” Furthermore, the Bible teaches that justification is a fixed, final, eternal standing before God.  In other words, we are not justified today and unjustified tomorrow depending on our feelings or behavior.  In fact, the Bible teaches that a person who is justified will absolutely and finally be glorified (made like God to live with Him forever)

And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:30, HCSB)

The verb tenses in Romans 8:33 are telling as well. Where I grew up, people would say, “It’s a done deal.”  That’s what Romans 8:33 says. Just as sure as God has justified a person, He has already glorified that person. They will be glorified for certain, and it is so certain that God’s Word speaks of it as if it has already happened.  Therefore a person who has given their life to Christ cannot be justified one day and then do something to lose their justification the next. The Bible teaches that a person cannot do anything to deserve or earn their salvation. That only comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, since a person did nothing to earn or deserve their salvation, but received their justification as a free gift (Romans 6:23) then a person’s salvation is eternal and irrevocable (eternal security, “once saved always saved”). If we did nothing to earn or deserve our salvation, then we we can do nothing to lose our salvation.

What does all of this have to do with the suicide question?   I believe that once a person has sincerely trusted Christ alone for their salvation, then nothing they do can change that relationship. It’s like my own two sons. They might sin terribly and break my heart, but they will always be my sons.  Nothing they could ever do would stop them from being my sons. Why?  Because they are my sons and that is the nature of the relationship.  So it is with children of God.  Nothing a child of God can do will sever the relationship – even something as horrific as suicide.

That being said, please allow me to conclude with several important truths to help put all of this into some perspective…

1)  Suicide is NEVER a legitimate option for a believer.

The Christian worldview upholds the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death – including our own life.  While I do not believe that suicide is the “unpardonable sin” it is, nevertheless, a grievous sin.  It is a sin against God, ourselves, our family, and everyone who knows us.  While I do believe that it is possible for a true believer to reach a depth of pain and despair that is so great they take their own life, it is never right to do so.

2)  Suicide doesn’t end the pain; it just shifts the pain to others.

A person who takes their own life has fallen into the trap of believing that suicide will end their pain. That is a lie.  All of their pain simply moves to those who love them. The guilt felt by the family left behind is often unbearable.  While the person who commits suicide often does it to relieve their own pain, it is the beginning of years, decades, and generations of pain for those who are left.

3)  There is nothing you can say.  Just be there to cry and pray with them.

When I first started out in ministry, I used to think that I had to say something profound that would relieve a family’s hurt. Then I realized the most important thing I could do was be there. No words can ease the pain for the family that is touched by a suicide, but your presence and prayers can help greatly.

4)  Strong, faithful believers can struggle with depression and mental illness.

In fact, some of the greatest Christians who ever lived struggled mightily with depression.  Some of the greatest preachers, missionaries, and theologians in history have battled incredible mental health challenges.  Don’t think it can’t happen to you or your family. Take it seriously and take action.

Suicide is a complex issue that has no easy answers. It is my prayer that this post will help believers begin to think clearly about it and bring comfort to those who are struggling. The applications of the Bible truths we discussed apply to far more than just instances of suicide. Thanks for reading.

Renewing the Blog & the Power of Social Media

16 Mar

It’s great to be back writing a blog post again for the first time in almost a year and a half. Sorry that I let life and ministry crowd out this ministry. I have updated the photos and a couple of the sections on this blog. Hopefully, I can do a better job with updates and connecting with people in this way. Thanks for reading!  Now on to the blog post…

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NASB95)

This verse came to my mind this morning as I looked at the stats for our Lakeside Facebook page.  The Lord never changes. The gospel never changes. The faith once delivered to the saints never changes. The Word of God never changes.  However, the means by which we deliver the gospel and the Word of God changes constantly.  In reading a biography of Martin Luther this week, I learned it was the invention of the printing press that helped pave the way for so many to return to Biblical truth during the Protestant Reformation.  I am typing this post on my MacBook Pro and pasted the scripture quotation from Logos Bible Software.  The means change.  In 1 Corinthians 9:22, the Apostle Paul clearly states that we should use all means available to us in order to reach more people.  Keeping up with the times isn’t bad if you are keeping up with the times in order to reach people for Christ.

Social media arose in earnest only about ten years ago – coinciding with the rise of smart phones in every purse and pocket.  In a few short years, social media became far more than just a neat way to keep up with old high school friends and post pictures of the kids. As more and more people engaged on social media, it became where people connected and a powerful force in the world. If you want to go where people are, then you have to go to social media.

This fact brings me to our upcoming Easter services at Lakeside. For years, Lakeside has joined many other churches in spending big bucks to mail out a card to our neighbors inviting them to our Easter services.  This year, we learned an interesting fact:  there are 400,000+ people on Facebook who live within a 10-mile radius of our church facilities. Take a moment and think about the incredible implications of that fact alone.  So, we decided to try leveraging the power of social media to get the word out.

A few days ago, we rolled out a Facebook video ad that simply gives the times of our Easter services and points them to our church website where we have more details.  As of this morning, that ad has reached 35,250 people and the video has been viewed 4532 times already.  Oh, I forgot to tell you: the overwhelming majority of those people are within that pool of 400,000+ who live around our church.

We tried another experiment this week.  I shot the first of three short video devotional messages promoting our Easter services and we posted the video to our church Facebook page.  This video was posted yesterday morning – 23 hours ago.  As of this writing, that video has been viewed 740 times. As a pastor, I have connected with 740 people in a personal way, and it cost no money and only a few minutes of time. As a pastor who is old enough to remember pastors and evangelists encouraging people to “buy the tapes” and having done that myself, I am amazed at the possibilities that are available with social media.

Yes, I know the problems of social media. I know the negative impacts it has and the inherent issues with it.  However, social media isn’t going away. It’s where people are. I am praying that the Lord will help me use it in order to reach more people. It’s a tool. It’s a means.

Finally, I don’t know if we will have a single new guest at our Easter services due to this social media strategy.  I am praying that we have many.  Speaking of praying, social media is no substitute for prayer. I am still going to invite people personally.  I am still going to believe that the Lord is going to send us people we have never met before and who haven’t been touched by our social media.  At the end of the day, I am leveraging the power of social media, but I am totally depending on the power of the Holy Spirit.