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What Beauty and the Beast Reminded Me About Christianity

Yes, I’m disappointed there are homosexual implications in Disney’s upcoming release of this classic. No, I do not turn a blind eye to the sin that culture subtly and occasionally not-so-subtly attempts to normalize.

Here’s the deal, though, I’m here to talk about Christians and our sin, not culture and its sin. Throughout the uproar of Beauty and the Beast, I observed a few things. Allow me to share them with you.

  1. We react first and do our homework later- How many of you did a thorough study of the background, what truly occurs, and then examined it in light of Scripture? Now, the natural reaction will understandably be, “It’s sin! Why does it matter what’s really in the movie?” Valid question. It matters, for this reason, believers should be the most rationally disciplined and reservedly reactionary people in the world. Even if our reaction is correct, we are held to the highest standard of disciplined and balanced thought. When the world pushes back on our worldview, they should see a church full of rational people, not reactionary people, because it says something about our God when God’s people jump to conclusions without examining facts. I’m not defending the movie. I would not. I’m advocating for disciplined Christian thought. I’m asking us to think first and react later.
  2. We may say we think of all sins as the same, but we really don’t- Most of us like to think we have an accurate view of sin. I’m going to suggest, however, that most do not. Here’s how I know that many Christians are more sensitive to homosexuality than they would like to admit. When the blogs, anti-Beauty and the Beast articles, and boycotts began, I saw people who I know for a fact watch movies with gratuitous violence, profanity, and immorality, active in fighting against Disney and Beauty and the Beast. Look, if you think you should boycott, it’s not my prerogative to tell you not to, but it is your responsibility to at least think and act consistently. Don’t turn a blind eye to the adultery and simply use the mute button in some of your entertainment choices, and decide that you should rise up against homosexuality. It says something about how you view sin.

    If the main issue, as I’ve heard, is that it twists a children’s story, get used to it. It’s the world we live in. And again, you will teach your children a double-standard when you freak out about exposure to homosexuality, but simply state “that’s not funny, kids” after one of the many innuendos you may here in any other PG movie. Be consistent. This isn’t on Disney, Christian, it’s on you.

  3. We are pilgrims, on our way to a better country- Don’t be shocked when the world does what the world does. Sin exists in this the world, after all. Realize that this isn’t the believers’ ultimate reality. We are not going to fit in here. Therefore, we mustn’t attempt to force the world to fit in with us. The gospel is enough to transform the culture one sinner at a time. Boycotting is not. Take comfort in the reality that home is ahead. Yet, take action, realizing that many around us are spiritually homeless. Don’t expect slaves of sin to act like sons of God.
    We must let the gospel transform us daily. We must preach Christ in our churches. We must show the world the fulfillment that is in living for the glory of God. Using a magnifying glass on the issues of the world, rather than a mirror for the issues of ourselves and our churches only perpetuates Christianity’s ineffectiveness. Think through this decision Biblically, and exhibit to the world the change that Christ brings.
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Pastor-To-Parent: I’ve Got the World on A Screen- Some Biblical Perspectives Regarding Technology and Social Media

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As I mentioned yesterday, I will be posting a simplified version of my sermon notes, hoping it will help our GBC parents, or parents in general, maintain practical Bible dialogue with their kids.

By way of introduction, our recent Wednesday night time has centered around common issues teens of today encounter. We have been in our Truth In A World of Grey series now for about two months, and are currently discussing issues of entertainment and discernment.

This is important, don’t skip.
Without further ado. Teens of today, have the world on a screen. That being said, there are certain things and concepts that must be considered when we think about how teens interact with technology.

1. They have never known a world without speed, instant information, and electronic social interaction. I’m a millennial, so I was there for the evolution of the iPhone and the advances of Facebook, Twitter, and the birth of Instagram. My point? The oldest teenager that I pastor was 7 when the first iPhone was introduced to the market and by the time she was 13, the world was using the iPhone 5C or 5S.

2. Therefore, it does nothing, except maybe some rapport damage to constantly criticize the tech age your teens are a part of. They honestly don’t understand your issue, because they know nothing else. You can imagine the good ol’ days and reminisce of the time when people wrote letters, but they cannot. This is the only world and culture they know. That’s what I have to say to you as parents, now, here’s what said to the teenagers.

3. We must approach technology and social media principally. There is obviously no text that outlines for us proper use of technology and social media. Therefore, I prayed and taught through some Scriptural principles that I hope provides a solid framework for using technology and social media in a way that pleases Christ. The principles are below, clear and simple.

Truth in a World of Grey- How to Keep Your Technology in Check

Message Theme: Your social media is a portrayal of your internal identity.

Parent, if you want to know what’s in your kid’s heart, keep tabs on his Facebook. Check up on her Instagram. You should be doing those things, anyway. The point here is simple, teenagers today wrap up who they are in their social media and technology. If they’re embracing who they are in Christ, it will show in how they exhibit themselves through social media. If they’re wrapped up in themselves, it will be equally clear.

I. The temptation consideration – Romans 13:14

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Simply put, are you helping your teens make it hard to sin, and easy to do right?  There are some tremendous benefits of social media, but there are also some inherent dangers. Just for application, I included the ways I see technology and social media most misused.

  • Speech- Eph 4:6, 29
    6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
    29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.Sinning with words is no longer spoken, only. It can be Tweeted, texted, posted, or IMed. Observe in the verses above, there are two universal statements made, (1) Let your speech always be gracious, and (2) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up. Make sure your teenagers know these principles of communicating grace always and only, absolutely always applies to social media. Question, are you leading in this? Do you complain about your life, family, or anything via your social media? You teach them what’s right.
  • PurityPsa 101:3
    I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.

    This text doesn’t only refer to what is clearly evil, but what is useless, empty, and fake. The clearly evil stuff is easy to enforce with our youth, but what about the stuff that is simply, totally empty? Like, who is dating who in Hollywood? Or, how Pinterest is telling them to dress? Don’t only teach them what is clearly wrong, teach them to pursue what is excellent. Your kids probably know better than you do how accessible inappropriate visual media and entertainment is today. Porn is extreme and it’s heinous, but there are so many other outlets available to teenagers hidden within apps and sites that cheapen their view of image-bearing and the seriousness of their purity. Please let me know if you need specific information here.
  • Dishonesty- Prov. 6:16-19
    16  There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19  a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.Social media makes lying too easy. Observe the text above. Out of the six things God states that He hates (or, literally, is sickened by) three of them specifically pertain to dishonesty. Gossip, talebearing, and construing truth have never been easier. Again, are you leading here?

    It’s all important, but seriously, this is important.
    A more subtle way that social media tempts to lie is the false world that it creates for your teens. They can get on the Book all about their Face and pick and choose who is worthy to be their friend. They can fabricate information about their life, likes, dislikes, and even spirituality. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter center around who likes you and how many likes you get. It teaches us we can create a world of which we are the center, and people aspire to be like us. We can control people’s perceptions, all the while ignoring our actual character. At this point, you may say, “well, your message theme said that social media portrays what’s really in their heart.” Yes, it does, and when you couple that concept with the concept I am suggesting in this paragraph, the reality, is that social media can reveal how hypocritical a heart may truly be.

II. The time aspect- Colossians 4:5
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Second, encourage your kids to log how they spend their time 24 hours. Are you helping them make the best use of their time? Here are a few fun facts for you, brought to you by MSN.

  1. The average person spends almost 4 years of his life looking a phone screen
  2. A child born in 2013 will have spent an entire year of his/her life in front of a screen by the time he/she turns seven.
  3. The average person spends almost 11 years of life watching TV
  4. The average male teen spends 6.3 hours a week playing video games. That’s 2 weeks a year.

Anything you practice, you will get good at. Teens are good with technology. Make them practice other things. Make them read their Bibles. Make them talk to older people. Teach them that technology is a tool, a ministry item. And that they have too little time on this earth to live in their alternate techno-reality.


The relation consideration- Rom. 12:16
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Paul tells us in this text to dwell in joyful unity with one another, not to judge, and to be humble. This is all in context of what a sacrificed life and growing Christian mentality look like.

Technology and social media make it not only possible, but easy to be with people physically, but be emotionally and mentally alone. Teens grumble about being bored and lonely, so they download another app and miss out on real connections that are surrounding them. Again, don’t criticize the reality, utilize it. Teach them that their social and spiritual interactions will improve as their literal, true, physical and emotional interactions improve.

In terms of humility, social media isn’t an outlet for showing off. A Facebook friends list and a keyboard do not make one an expert on anything. Social media is the ultimate outlet for personal diatribes, rants, and self-promotion. When we submitted to Christ, we agreed to be a signpost to His glory. Ask yourself before every text, Tweet, post, or Snapchat, “who is this for?”

IV. The missional aspect- Matt. 5:13-16

13  “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Now, Jesus obviously wasn’t referring to Twitter when He was preaching the Sermon on the Mount. Again, we are utilizing Biblical principles here. Ask yourself, and your teenagers, do you think about how you can shine the light of the gospel with social media? Have you ever shared the light and impact of the gospel with a post or text message?

Again, don’t denigrate the tech age, jump on board and start making disciples with it. Post what God is teaching you. Get a texting-accountability partner. Get an app that helps you memorize Scripture. Explore the opportunities, and communicate with your teens about them.

It’s just a tool. It’s a tool that’s getting bigger, faster, and more pervasive every day. So, instead of resenting it, think about the potential for Gospel- service it offers. Social media is a public portrayal of our hearts, so put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and your followers will see who your Leader is.

Back from a Break- From Pastor to Parent Kickoff

Hello, friends!

I’m pleased to announce that stewardofthetruth.com is back from a brief sabbatical. Like most pastors, I map out my preaching and teaching agenda at the beginning of the year. It’s not by any means carved in stone, it changes often, but it’s a start. As I’ve been thinking ahead for my preaching ministry, I’ve established several new initiatives for myself.

One of those initiatives is to better inform parents of what their teens are hearing in my teaching ministry. As it is my ultimate goal to equip parents to disciple, and not to be the primary discipler, I hope to provide another outlet for Biblical discussion and ministry accountability through my blog.

So, I will occasionally post my sermon notes with some commentary and devotional thoughts. I pray it will provide biblical encouragement for my readers and be a valuable ministry item for our GBC parents.

You can expect the first installment tomorrow after our time in youth group this evening. We are still in our Truth in a World of Grey series, discussing everyday issues. We will devote ourselves tonight to a Biblical view of technology, its benefits, dangers, and discipleship potential.

I look forward to this new opportunity, and am glad to be back!

Why CEO Christians Confuse Me- Some Considerations for Christmas and Easter Only Christians

CEO Christian– One who shows special devotion to church, twice a year.

You can count on these people to show up on inherently religious holidays. I mean, it’s not like there’s an inherently religious day that comes around once a week or after all, so those two days a year are really exciting.

If you’re going to attend church this Sunday, and the last time you were there was Easter, may I encourage you with a few things?

We celebrate the humanity of Christ every Sunday.

If you feel that you should be in church this Sunday because of Christ’s birth, realize that every Sunday at a gospel-proclaiming assembly is a celebration of the man, Jesus. His birth is absolutely significant, I’m not detracting from that, but when the only major event in the humanity of Christ you celebrate is His birth, and maybe His resurrection, you are detracting from the miracle that is His humanity. Don’t show up for Jesus on the highlights of His life and think that’s sufficient. His entire life is a highlight.

Every season of your life is a season of giving.

When you are God’s, you are constantly the object of His good graces. And, if you are God’s, you are constantly to be giving. Yes, I know this is a season of giving, but if believers lived like they should, giving would be second nature, not seasonal. Our lives are made up of countless moments filled with countless gifts. If we had a correct view of God, we wouldn’t stop for reflection and an extra measure of spiritual commitment only when holidays come around.

You might not fully understand the holiday.

The reason you attend church at all is because Christ was born, because Christ died, and because Christ rose again. You don’t attend the service for the holiday, you attend the service because of the holiday. Duh, you say. Well, if you went because of Christmas instead of for Christmas, you would go because of Christ and not a particular day, which would likely result in attending church more than a few times a year. Don’t say you go because of Christ if you only go on Christmas. You can love the sentiment of a holiday without loving the Centerpiece of it.

You are in church because you are in Christ. You go to church because of Christmas, and if you’re a CEO in your attendance habits, you might prove to be sporadic in your Christian discipline habits as well. They both center around your commitment to Christ.

Enjoy Christmas, enjoy church, because you enjoy Christ.

Sing for the Right Reason

I’m one of those who has Bing and Buble Christmas on the week of Thanksgiving. I love Christmas music as much as anyone. Don’t though, do what I find myself doing inadvertently during the Christmas season, sing Christmas hymns for the sentiment and miss the theology. Here are a few theological treasures from the realm of Christmas hymnody.

“He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found.”
Joy to the World- 
The reaches of the Fall’s infection is overcome only by the limitless reaches of God’s mercy.

“That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with his blood mankind hath bought.”
The First
Noel- This hymn, my personal favorite, tells the entire story of the nativity and ends with the completion of the God’s redemption story. God, who made all things from nothing, sacrificially redeems broken people with His own Manifested Perfection. 

“Good will henceforth from Heaven to men,
Begin and never cease.”
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night- 
Mankind may now know endless goodness, because they may now know their endless God. His goodness will never cease, for He never will.

“Son of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing;”
O Come All Ye Faithful- 
The incarnation of Christ made possible the salvation of man.

“Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation.
God’s salvation now unfurled,
Hope for every nation.”
Joy Has Dawned-
 Thankfully, our Christmas hymnody continues to expand. This is a wondrous new hymn from Getty and Townend. It reminds us of the threads of deliverance, hope, and kingship that are traced through Scripture. This modern hymn reminds us that Christmas is proof of the promises that what man made wrong, Jesus will make right.

As you sing your favorites this season, be certain you’re dwelling on the best things about what you sing. Christmas hymns, at the end of the day, are reminders that you are born again because He was born to die, that you are made an heir to an eternal and Heavenly reality because He was made low and brought into a filthy and broken one, that since He was brought into our world, we may dwell in His.

Sing for the Right Reason.

Freed to be a Slave

Being a good Christian is a duty, but being a Christian is also a privilege. It is a binding contract, but it is also ultimate freedom. It is release from the law, but a restrictive lifestyle. What is the balance? How do we walk this tight-line? Well, I’ll tell you how not to. Don’t be:

The Hyper- Legalist

Did you know that a legalist is more than just an immature Christian’s favorite insult? Yes, there’s more to it than that. Legalism is the attempt to earn God’s favor through one’s activity. This is an immensely frustrating and lonely choice of lifestyle. These people emphasize doing, rather than being. It’s theologically flawed because God’s favor isn’t earned, it’s graciously given. And, it’s logically flawed, because it assumes you actually can do enough to be good enough. You can’t.

Let me get offensive for just a minute. These people show up in church once monthly, and they’re children are a total mess, but they believe themselves to be excellent Christians because they “read the right Bible.” These people “don’t dabble with that devilish new Christian music,” but they’ll gossip and slander everyone they know who does. These people get angry at the sin if unbelievers and complain about the culture, but believe themselves to be evangelistic because they give faithfully to the missions fund.

They get the duty part, but not completely, and not for the correct reasons. They do alright, but they do it for themselves. They do so because their system is reliant upon their own concept of goodness, rather than God’s definition of Biblical sanctification, which is a result of Christ’s goodness alone.

You’ve been freed to do for Christ alone, and you will only do things for the right reasons when you do them for Christ alone. We must subscribe to His system, so that we do Christlike things for a Christlike reason, not for His favor, but because He’s already given it to us. Christlike action should be motivated by His love for us, and our love for Him, not for  an attempt to gain His love. How self-idolizing we must be to think that enough activity could increase a love for us that is already ultimately intimate.

The Hyper-Libertine

Hyper-libertines are typically more outspoken about their spiritual immaturity. They’re proud of their “freedom.” They want everyone to know why they should be able to______. After all, Jesus died to free me from legalism, so stop judging! They leave out the duties because only legalists serve Jesus out of duty.

After all, it’s a relationship, right? Jesus doesn’t judge me. I can watch what I want. I can wear what I want. I can listen to what I want. I can do what I want to my body. I can hang out with who I want. Jesus gives me that right because of grace, right?

Bad question. How about these questions concerning your liberty?

  1. Who owns your body (2 Cor. 9:10-11)?
  2. Does Jesus care what you put in your mind (Phil. 4:8)?
  3. Is this ______ acceptable, or actually profitable for my spirituality (Phil. 1:9-11)?

Jesus does care about the duties. You should go to church. You should spend time in the Word. You should give back what He gives you.You should pray consistently. Don’t obssess over what you think you should be able to do, when what you should be doing is clearly laid out for you in Scripture.

 My wife loves when I get her flowers, I mean, more than even the typical lady. She loves flowers. So, if I went home with flowers, gave them to her, and inevitably she asks with a smile, “what are these for?” I reply, “well, it’s my duty as a husband.”

Moment gone. Most of you would call that loveless because it is. My love for her, for which both I’m freed by, and bound to, motivated an act of love. That’s normal folks. Don’t ditch duty.

It’s a fine line, but it’s a line we must walk. Jesus freed you, to be a slave. What we must then do, is become like our Master, and this confusing tension will truly take care of itself. When we love Him as our victor, we will love Him as our Master, and both will motivate truly heartfelt service. This is not difficult if you simply love Jesus.

 

NeverTrumpers, Those Not With Her, Anyone Who Votes, Prepare Yourselves.

It’s November 7th, tomorrow is election day, and we’re going to keep this short, sweet, and to the point.

1 Timothy 2: 1-2
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

You are not commanded to fix America. You are not commanded to convince everyone why someone is less moral, more racist, less progressive, or more qualified than someone else. Of course, you are also not prohibited.

You are, however, Biblically exhorted to do something, no matter how much you may loathe a particular candidate (we’ll talk about that in just a minute), you are exhorted from God’s Word to say prayers for your earthly ruler, and thank God for your earthly ruler. No excuses. Period.

Whatever you need to do to get your heart ready to thank God, in His perfect sovereignty, for making Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump our next president, you had better do it. As I’ve observed social media and interacted with individuals, American Christians are not yet ready to be thankful for God’s perfect will. How do I know this?

They spend their time building a case against a candidate, rather than fortifying their own heart. They spend time obsessing and ranting over the flaws of our spiritually lost candidates, rather than praying that the gospel would touch and transform the souls of our spiritually lost candidates.

They are not living peaceable, quiet, dignified lives. They are passive-aggressively attacking what they hate and masking it in Christian language. They are resounding the noise and chaos of worry in their hearts.

Pray.

  1. For our candidates- That God would call them to Himself. They are souls, not just politicians. And they are crooked because they are sinful souls, not because they are politicians.
  2. A prayer of commitment to God’s sovereignty- Do it now. It will be harder when the time comes.

Get ready. One of these candidates will win, and you are commanded to be thankful for him, or for her; no matter who you’re with.

Jesus is our King, and we need not trust men. God is our judge, and we need not desire a perfect Supreme Court Justice. America is not our country, we long for a better one, and we have it, for He has prepared for us a city.

It will be ok. In the meantime, be thankful.

Just a Few Harsh Truths, to Be Encouraging

I know a girl, she is inwardly terrified of how people perceive her. She doesn’t speak a syllable without immediately critiquing her statement, assuming everyone thought it was “stupid.” She is afraid to be herself, because she feels it might not be good enough, for herself, or for anyone else. Really, though, she’s ok, just a little “insecure.”

I know a guy, he is deeply fearful that he will never marry. He knows God ordains singleness for some, but he just can’t tell anyone, that his heart sinks at even the thought. He knows God could be enough, but he doesn’t know how. He is afraid to be honest because he feels it would reveal a lack of faith, and confirm his lack of joy.

I know a couple, and they worry that life will kick them while they’re already down, again. One disappointment after another, another pain to add to the last, and more compounded temptation to quit.

These people are all around you. You probably talked to one Sunday, or at work today, or at school last week. You know them, or you are one yourself. If you are, remember:

God never made an ugly image-bearer.

You are beautiful, not because you are good, but because God is. He looked at His creation after He put the stamp of Himself upon the frail shoulders of humanity, and deemed it good. If you are insecure, you likely consume yourself with how talented, attracted, charismatic, or popular another individual is. God didn’t make them out of better dust. Before you call me Joel, let me explain, I’m not trying to help you feel better about yourself. I’m trying to help you believe better about God. You have ultimate worth in Jesus, because of His ultimate redemption for you. Don’t live in fear that you are not enough, Jesus is, and your identity is found irrevocably in Him. Don’t fear man.

Don’t fear man.

God never wrote a bad story.

God’s plan for you is perfect. It’s not perfect because it’s easy. It’s not perfect because it’s what you asked for. It’s perfect because God is. He leads individuals down different roads, through different valleys, and up different peaks. Your story does not define you. How you would write your story wouldn’t satisfy you. God wrote your story and made you a character in the deepest love-story, the most shocking drama, the narrative in which the Perfect King dies for the puny subjects. The Author didn’t confuse the pages of your life. The God who holds the frames of the universe will not hold your dreams with fragile fingers. If your story doesn’t include the elements, characters, and resolution you think it should, remember that you should’ve never been included in God’s story. Remember at the heart of the pain that God’s mission is not behavior modification, but to exhibit Himself through you. Your pain is not needless, quite the contrary really, it has great worth, because the great worth of the Author may be seen in your story. Don’t fear life.

Don’t fear life.

Now remember, the above realities do not free you to pride, nor exempt you from the ongoing struggle of change. They intensify your need bear God’s image well and squelch your flesh’s desire to write your own pages. It makes you an active steward, not a passive saint. If there are ways you could bear the image of God better (there are) then do. If there are ways you try to reign your own life, or battle discontentment (there are) look unto Him, the Author and denouement, where you put your confidence.

Live today. Live like you have worth in Jesus, and like His plan for you is the utmost desire of your inmost person. There are few things more tragic than potential trapped in fear.

Don’t fear. He’s conquered all.

Why Church is Optional, and Why it’s Terrifying.

Warning: The content of this blog is in no way intended to offend. You are about to read observations made humbly and carefully from God’s Word. Don’t shoot the messenger. The thoughts and views expressed by the author don’t matter, unless, he is speaking for Someone who does matter.

Please, read to the end. I have had to confess much lately. Our youth ministry is currently studying the doctrine of the church. It’s beautiful, and it’s scary. Now, I’m about to ask a question, and then I’m going to attempt to answer that question with basic conclusions from a text Scripture.

Why does it seem like church is optional? “It’s not!” you say. Well, unless you choose sports over it. Unless you talk like Lord’s Day is another day to plan family events. Unless you are tempted to skip out because life was busy that week, and God will understand, and anyway, you could just read your Bible at home (right after Good Morning America, of course). Come on, look around you this Sunday morning, note who’s there occasionally, note your own consistency. In America, church commitment is absolutely undeniably an option.

Acts 2:42
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Let me give context. This is a description of the people who were converted when Peter preached at Pentecost under the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came upon the apostles (Acts 2:4) just as Jesus had predicted (Acts 1:8), and Peter preached. Pentecost was the fuse that lit the explosion of the church throughout all the regions Jesus predicted. These people who were converted at Pentecost, the members of the first church, prioritized certain things. Why, in the American church, is church optional? Because unlike the first church, we don’t:

Love the Word and Doctrine

they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…
These people assembled because the Word and doctrine were preached. This doctrine of the apostles could be summarized very simply: Jesus is the Christ, Jesus died to fulfill a righteous requirement, Jesus rose again to give life to those dead in their sins. The gospel. We don’t commit ourselves to the preaching of the gospel because we don’t commit ourselves to preaching at all. And, if we don’t commit ourselves to where the Word is preached, we will not commit ourselves to the church. If we love the Word we will love the church.

Love the brotherhood and the body

And they devoted themselves to… fellowship,
If I say I love my wife and I make 3 hours for her a week, once Sunday, once Wednesday, I mean, on a good week, you would call that a recipe for divorce. I love her, though! Stop judging me. I mean I give her 3 hours, do I really have to show up and see her every time she’s home? I love her! Seriously, I even show up occasionally when she asks me for a work-day. I love her. I bring her all my troubles, and then I criticize her to my friends every once in a while, but I mean, who doesn’t? No spouse is perfect. I love her!

That’s ridiculous. And that’s exactly how we treat church. It’s a recipe for separation. Don’t say you love the people there if they’re not worth your time, effort, and investment. If you love the church, you’re invested, it’s pretty simple actually. I’m not saying “there all the time,” I’m saying all there when you’re there, and all there with people outside it. Stop equating high expectations for church commitment to legalism. Jesus has pretty high expectation. He died for it.

People in the church spend time with people in the church. Acts 2 people anticipate gathering, not dread it.

Tangent Alert, ignore if you wish: Everyone says they want an Acts 2 church, remarkably few of those people sell what they have in order to give to those who are less fortunate. Most Christians today call activity like that “reckless.” Be careful what you wish for, or what you say you wish for. You might just be held accountable, and maybe you should be.

 Love Spiritual disciplines and Fellowship

And they devoted themselves…to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
The point here is not that they were devoted eating meals together, and made sure that they prayed before every potluck. The implication is that they devoted themselves to disciplined methods of worship. They were devoted to intentional public prayer, as well as assembled seasons of prayer. They also committed themselves to remembering Christ, either by means of communion or meeting together just to be together. 

Acts 2 people love being with other Acts 2 people so that they can do Acts 2 things.

Question: Why is church optional?

Answer: It’s pretty simple, if you’re not full of the Spirit, you’re full of the flesh, and Spirit things aren’t alive in you. These things take place when people are embracing the power of the Spirit.

Therefore, churches that don’t do these things for these reasons, are full of people who aren’t full of the Spirit. Embrace the Spirit, because only then will we experience the limitless potential of the gospel, and of the church.

 

How to Teach Your Teenagers to Leave Church and Not Even Know it.

The numbers are truly staggering. Churches, religious organizations, and parents spend countless hours and dollars trying to answer this question, “how can we keep students committed to church after they leave the home?”

I believe this is the wrong question, and in many cases, it’s being asked by the wrong people. What we should ask instead, is “how can we keep students committed to church before they leave the home?” And that issue is not to be presumed upon the church. The issue of your teenager’s commitment to Christ’s church, is primarily up to you, parents. I’m going to suggest a few simple concepts that are certain to tempt your teen to abandon the church.

Teach them to pay close attention to externals.
If you teach your teens to consider everything except the heart and spirit of a person or practice in your church, you might just make a bunch of little Pharisees, instead of a bunch of little Christs. We mustn’t obsess over what’s outside a person, or our standard or opinion on such-and-such and so-and-so. God forbid we rob teenagers of the joy of inward change because they have been programmed to see only what is outward.

Cultivate your teens everywhere except in church.
My son is a great athlete! My daughter is a great pianist! I don’t want them wasting the talent God has given them! Interestingly enough, if your teen’s gift is not being used for service and ministry, you are wasting their talent. I played baseball, and my parents made me see it as a tool for ministry. We just got to enjoy it along the way. My family went to practices, spent money at the batting cages, were taught to give it our all on the field, just like any family committed to sports. So that, we could be the greatest testimony and servant possible on the field. And, in case you are wondering, no, we never missed church for athletics. From our baseball team, we made connections, saw a Buddhist man saved, and his family added to the church. It doesn’t have to be that you either serve the church or be committed to your kid’s gifts, it should be both. Teach them they can have the greatest pleasure while enjoying and utilizing their talents, serving Christ.

Criticize your pastors in front of them.
Your teens probably haven’t mastered the theology of the church and understand what all a pastor is and does. To them, they’re human representatives of this institution. They’re the human leaders. Therefore, anything  you dislike, or they dislike, they will attribute to your pastors. It probably doesn’t occur to your teenagers (as it may not to you) that your pastors labor to love and disciple people who may not even realize they need love and change. It probably doesn’t occur to them (as it may not to you) the incredible weight your pastors feel to preach the words of God and minister to God’s sheep, knowing they will give an account to God for how they labored. If you are constantly denigrating the man God appointed to lead your flock, you will teach your teenagers to think negatively of the flock, not just the shepherd.

Church-Hop
Settle down, plant your feet, and grow. If you can’t stay in one local body, you will detract from the universal one. If one church doesn’t “meet your needs” or “have everything you want” your teenagers will wonder if any church ever will.

Let your teen dictate when and why you go to church.
My father was a church-planter in the Atlanta area, and I can’t tell you how many times we were told something to the effect of “we would stay if you had more…teenagers…college students…this program…that program.” In that statement, that family actually told us why they went to church. They didn’t go to church because the Word was preached faithfully, or because they could be loved and love there, or because there was a place they could serve, but because they required a certain program in which they would be served. Your teenagers will not choose to commit to church themselves if everything about a church is their choice. It’s a sad day when the family is worshiped with such devotion that church is seen as an obstacle to family time, rather than the climax of family time. Parents are the spiritual thermostats in the home, and when they turn the standard down to the level of what the teen wants, they will teach their teen that church is primarily for self-accommodation, not spirit-filled worship.

Finally, never forget the simple and profound reality that if you love the Body of Christ, your teenagers will assuredly notice. No, you can’t make your kids love Christ and His church, but you can show them every joy of why they should.

So, the question remains, and still points back to us, do we love Christ and His Church?