(PODCAST) DAVID’S STORY, ARRESTED FOR EVANGELIZING
SAYING YES WHEN WE SHOULD SAY NO
I guess you are a lot like me in at least one regard, and that is that you know of at least one person who has died within the past two or three years, not from disease, other natural causes, or even suicide, but from overdosing. Perhaps that person was in your immediate family context as it was in mine—hard stuff.
I have talked with various people throughout my workday who have told me their stories of addiction and how terrible it was, especially trying to get clean. The people I had talked with said how the journey down that dark road began with “prescribed” narcotics that were given to them for the pain they were dealing with due to surgery they just experienced.
They told me that the Vicodin or OxyContin worked great for a time, but then the prescription would have to be adjusted to a higher dose to achieve the same effect. Eventually, the doctors would want to stop the narcotic, but these people had now developed an addiction to it, and “quitting” wasn’t as easy a task as it sounded.
So bad became worse. Rather than saying no to what could eventually kill them, the pattern of saying yes had begun. Yes, to some other form of drug that would produce the same effect. Yes, to a behavior that would harm them.
But remember that using narcotics isn’t the only harmful activity or choice that can harm us, even kill us. Alcohol and pornography are up pretty high on the scale as well. Pornography may not kill us like a narcotic might, but it is “certainly lethal in its own way in that it kills relationships and deadens the soul.”
Hold on for a minute, just one minute, lest we begin to think this issue doesn’t relate to us. Sure it does. Our addictions may not be with a prescribed drug or an illegal one. It may not even be alcohol Or pornography, but ALL of us are dealing with some form of addiction: eating issues, social media, your particular brand of soda, coffee, etc. The list can quickly go on, but you get the gist. Like it or not-admit it or not, this problem of saying yes to what can kill you is more far-reaching than we’d like to admit.
“Saying yes to what can kill you” is the title of an article by Ed Welch. In it, he gives three aspects of our humanity that can help us with our addictive tendencies.
To be human is to say NO to temptation
“One of the first questions posed in Scripture is about temptation: When temptations come—and they will—will you trust in the words of the Lord and say no? The Wisdom Literature intends to help us with this question. The relentless message of the book of Proverbs is that our desires are not a reliable judge of which paths lead to life and which paths lead to death. In fact, our desires can suggest life is unexciting and that death can satisfy. Proverbs aims to sharpen our discernment. It helps us to consider the consequences of our decisions. We all need discernment and power to turn from temptations. We all need to see Christ as more beautiful than the beckoning trio of the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
- To be human is to turn to the Lord during suffering
“Temptations are more pronounced when we feel discomfort or pain. The pain is actual physical pain among those who fight against narcotics, yet this is joined by the pain of broken relationships, dashed expectations, and other miseries that create a jumbled mass of hopelessness.”
If you have been a Christian for any time, you have learned, perhaps the hard way, that being a Christian (in Christ) does not mean that you will have fewer struggles, trials, or hardships. We may have more of them because of our relationship with Christ and His kingdom. But, as Christians, we have something the world does not; we have Jesus and the certainty of all His promises for us!
Rather than turn away from Him amid our troubles, we need to be calling out to Him. He is the ONLY one that can manage all our struggles, fears, and despair in ways that will conform us more to His image! We don’t usually fare well when seeking to control them independently.
- To be human is to speak openly with each other about trouble and temptation
We struggle with this one, don’t we? I can write all I want to about it. Your pastor can preach many messages on the importance of it, but still, the thought of others knowing that we aren’t perfect, that we don’t have it all together, is just appalling to us, to our pride.
It’s hard to admit what we truly know about ourselves and everyone else-we are all broken! But God has instructed His people, His church, to be loving, compassionate, Christ-imitating people, which means that we need to open ourselves to God AND others. That truth is central to the scriptures (Romans 3:23, for example).
“We prefer to keep our struggles to ourselves, especially when they are shameful struggles. The kingdom of God, in contrast, invites us to be open before God and others. The challenge is that this is both alluring and impossible: to be known and accepted is peace, but who volunteers to talk about temptations and sins? And what if someone opens up to others and then is met with rebuke and unhelpful judgment?”
That is the challenge we face when being honest about ourselves with others. We need churches with pastoral leadership that understand these biblical teachings and work hard, with much prayer, to build an inviting and loving community of people who understand and care for the brokenhearted.
I hope this makes sense. I trust that if you are dealing with some form of addiction (saying yes to something that can kill you), you will follow God’s prescribed plan for overcoming it. Look to His Word. Call out to Him in prayer. Find a church where you can be open and honest with some mature Christians who understand brokenness and Christ’s compassion for the hurting.
(PODCAST)A TIME WHEN THERE WAS NO TEENAGER’S
THE NECESSITY OF WALKING BY FAITH AND NOT BY SIGHT
Many of you are aware that at 7waysfromsunday.com, I not only write a blog post each week, but I host the 7waysfromsunday podcast as well. I always end each podcast by saying, “we walk by faith and NOT by sight.” Why do I do that? Because you and I need a reminder that our Father in Heaven is BIGGER than the problems we face! Because amid our despair, we need to hope in God.
Psalm 42 is a beautiful example of this. This Psalm helps us understand that what our minds dwell on affects us spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially. One scripture that clearly illustrates this truth is Proverbs 12:25: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
I want to take us through a brief walk through Psalm 42 because we witness the psalmist, who is in distress, wavering between faith and sight, between a focus on God and a focus on himself. He longs deeply for the living God but is struggling with choosing to trust Him through faith. I think we can relate to him as well as learn from him.
As the Psalm begins, the writer expresses his deep longing (he pants) for God. “My soul pants,” “my soul thirsts for the living God.” He expresses this need while his enemies are taunting him “all day long” (v. 10). He compares this yearning for God to a deer panting for water. “*The animals need for water to sustain its life forms a fitting simile for a souls need of the living God the source of spiritual life.” In his longing, we are reminded of the truth that his soul expresses: Faith says hope!
Such faith and hope are not always easy to hold on to in times of affliction. In verses three and four, he shares how he cries all day long, longing for God’s presence and power to be revealed to his enemies. Constantly, they taunt him, “Where is your God” (v. 3). It appears that at this time, the writer was unable to be at OR worship in the “House of God” (v.4). He laments missing out on the joy and thanksgiving that always accompanied being in the house of God.
We notice that in verses three and four, his sight says despair. This is the first time we witness him wavering from faith to sight. We can relate to his suffering. Which of us has not walked through dark, uncertain, and lonely times without experiencing this tension? How did you handle that pull toward despair?
Thankfully we observe the psalmist returning to faith in verse five! He questions himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” And then, he encourages himself to continue to hope in God. Even though he is troubled, he expresses confidence that he would still be able to trust and hope in God. In verse five, we see again that faith says hope! This example is so essential for us to understand. We, generally, don’t like to examine ourselves. We don’t feel comfortable looking in the mirror because we fear the reflection. But I believe that realizing who we are and where we are spiritually is vital to a consistent walk of faith regardless of what is going on in our lives.
But still, that battle rages on. The pull away from faith to sight. This is what we read in verses six and seven. “O my God, my soul is in despair within me.” The writer is in deep depression. During that “dark night of the soul,” he prayed to God. He portrays his distress figuratively as “breakers and waves” because he feels this trouble has rolled over him like one wave after another. He is expressing how overwhelmed he is. This always happens to us when we take our eyes off our God; our sight says despair.
Yet again, kind of like a teeter-totter, he rises back to faith in verse eight. Notice how confident he sounds, “The Lord will command His loving kindness. . .” He is again optimistic in His love and song that they would comfort and protect him each day and night. We see faith rising to the top again in this verse! Over and over again, two facts stand out in this Psalm: Faith says hope, and sight expresses despair.
But once again, that teeter-totter dips down, and his mind focuses on the things going on around him and the emotions they excite inside him. In verses nine and ten, he expresses his sense of abandonment amid the “oppression “of his enemy. This persecution is very painful to him, “as a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me.” Perhaps the most painful to him is how his enemies constantly taunt him concerning the seemingly absent God this man worships.
This time sight not only says despair, but it also manifests doubt. Doubt in God’s promises. Doubt in His goodness, His power, and His compassion. This is such a dark, fearful, and lonely state of the soul. Is there any way out of this dark pit of despair?
I am so thankful that this Psalm did not end at verse ten. We are blessed to have this Psalm in our Bibles because we need hope to persevere. God, in His wisdom and compassion, included such writings for us because He knows us intimately. He knows we will struggle to hold on to faith and to be steadfast in hope when everything around us argues against it.
This Psalm ends on a powerful note of encouragement! Again we read of the writer’s challenge to his soul. “Why are you in despair, o my soul?” For a second time (v.5), he grabs hold of hope. He resolves to praise God, hopes in God, and have faith in God, no matter the struggle, because he knows that his only hope and help can be found in The living God. Once again, faith says hope! “The help of my countenance.”
Below I have added some scriptures to encourage us to walk by faith and NOT by sight.
Even though we may feel it’s so, He will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews. 13:5; Joshua. 1:5).
His love is an everlasting love (Psalm. 103:17).
He is our strength when we feel exhausted (Psalm . 28:7).
He knows what we are experiencing- “He knows your rising up and sitting down” (Psalm . 139:1–18).
“1As we meditate on the Scriptures, we will discover that hope is built on Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone (Romans. 5:1–5). Psalm 27:13–14 warns that we will despair unless we look for God’s goodness in our life circumstances. While we dwell on God’s goodness, attributes, and promises, He will strengthen, build, and mature us in our faith in Him.
Nothing is permitted in our life without purpose. Therefore, we can trust God’s goodness in all things, even death, because Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection shows us that He is the victory!
Ask God to help you walk by faith, not sight, today.”
For we walk by faith, NOT by sight.
*The Bible Knowledge Community, pg. 825
(PODCAST) APOLOGIES OR APOLOGETICS?
UNBIBLICAL AND UNHEALTHY COMPARISONS
I was listening to the news this past week, and something caught my attention, not in a good way! When I saw this headline below, my jaw dropped, and my eyes bulged slightly; not a pretty picture.
Trump arrest prompts Jesus comparisons:
Jesus Comparisons, how so? After all, they are nothing alike, so how will they play this out? That was my first question. The second question to enter my brain was, “Why does it matter?” I will seek to answer that question a bit later. I posted some of the articles below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — For the most devoted Trump conspiracy theorists, there are no coincidences, and timing is everything.
So when ex-President Donald Trump was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he falsified business records to obscure hush money payments in an effort to influence the 2016 election, some of his most ardent followers quickly noted the court appearance came during Christianity’s most sacred week, Holy Week, when many Christians commemorate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.”
“Seems there was someone else who was tortured and crucified this week,” read one post on Gab, a platform popular with Trump supporters. A similar post on Telegram put Trump’s case in apocalyptic terms: “Good vs Evil. Biblical times. Divine timing.”
SOMEONE ELSE? Is Donald Trump being “tortured and crucified” like Jesus? I don’t see the comparison. But these kinds of stretches and unfounded parallels are more and more common in our day, aren’t they? The article went on:
Comparisons likening Trump to Christ were among the top online narratives about the Republican former president and his criminal charges circulating in the last several days, according to an analysis of online and social media content conducted by Zignal Labs, a media intelligence firm, on behalf of The Associated Press.
But it didn’t stop there, not by a long shot.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, who traveled to New York City to protest Trump’s arraignment, noted the timing of the arraignment during a broadcast interview before bringing up the Christ comparison.
“Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government,” she said. “There have been many people throughout history that have been arrested and persecuted by radical corrupt governments, and it’s beginning today in New York City.”
As troubling as these statements are, it is even more disturbing that so few pastoral voices speak out against them. Ironically, one dissenting voice mentioned in the article was from an Episcopal Bishop.
“The comparison was denounced by Episcopal Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees more than 500 churches in Greene’s home state and called her comments blasphemous and disgusting.
“While Marjorie Taylor Greene may put her political loyalty ahead of God, Christians do not,” Jackson said. ‘Those of faith believe Christ always has, and always will, stand alone!'”
Another article takes the unnerving comparison to a more troubling place.
The Blasphemy of Comparing Trump to Jesus Christ
“Two millennia later, a nearly identical bond has been forged between conservative American Christians and MAGA Republican politicians like Trump, Greene, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Under the blessing of conspiracy-theory preachers like Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, and Paula White-Cain, these politicians use and abuse religious imagery to create a culture where disagreeing with them is no longer seen as civic discourse, but as an act of blasphemy. To them, indicting a corrupt Republican politician like Trump isn’t an example of a healthy democracy, but a demonic attack on a holy figure anointed by God.”
It shouldn’t take a lot of reading to realize that this writer is coming from a slightly different perspective, which should greatly concern those of us who are bible believing Christians. He goes on:
“This is part of what academic scholars and Christian activists alike mean by the term “Christian nationalism:” The heretical merging of American and far-right Christian identities to proclaim that only conservative Christians count as “true Americans” and that only right-wing Republicans can be considered true Christians. This authoritarian political ideology seeks to rewrite colonial history, erase the separation of church and state, and declare America a theocratic “Christian nation” where only conservative Christians hold power and other communities lose their legal rights.”
That label, “Christian Nationalism,” is an intense and broad label that is getting attached to Christians who don’t hold such a view or have even heard of it.
I want to dissect this in two ways:
- 1. Is such “typology” of Donald Trump acceptable? After all, we see various people throughout the Old Testament called “types of Christ?”
- 2. Why should biblically based Christians be concerned with being labeled as a “Christian nationalist?
To understand what typology is from a biblical perspective, we must define it.
“The idea of typology has to do with New Testament indications of patterns and people in the Old Testament who were, in a sense, created to serve as pre-figured shapes of what Christ would do” (Ligonier.org).
“Not only does the Old Testament reveal the coming messiah through prophecy, it also reveals Him through typology. Typology refers to historical people, places, objects, or events which foreshadow Christ and His work in the Old Testament.”
So, typology, as understood from a “biblical” frame of mind, has everything to do with a foreshadowing of patterns and people from the Old Testament that PRE (before) figured Jesus Christ, not future events or people that appear to be similar to Jesus Christ and what He went through.
Some examples of this would be:
Adam is a type of Christ. He is the head of the human race, our representative head before God. Adam fell into sin, and we all fell through him. But how is he connected to Christ? Jesus is the “head” of the new creation at salvation. He is our representative, and we are raised and redeemed through Him.
So also, it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:45
Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. Just as in Adam, all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
Abel is a type of Christ. Adam had two sons, Cain and Abel. Abel, the younger, was murdered by his older brother for being more righteous than him (Genesis 4:1-24). Likewise, Jesus was killed by his brethren (the Jews) for being righteous.
Here is some helpful advice for us to consider as we read or listen to pundits today seeking to apply typology to some political figure or if we are studying our Bibles. “My advice is to have good controls on the way you do typology. The best way is to begin with the clear teaching of the New Testament rather than to start making up types from the Old Testament.” I would add to that counsel not to fall into the error of implying that anyone in our day or days to come a type of Christ “Ex post facto,” making up Old Testament type such “types” throughout the Old Testament.
Now to my second point, Christian Nationalism
Why do we need to be aware of this?
Because this label is broadly defined from the KKK to a Christian that enjoyed saying the pledge of allegiance in school, you are now fitting into that label if you are somewhere within that spectrum. That means you are dangerous, out of your mind, and an enemy of the state and its ideologies and philosophies.
This “moniker” Christian nationalist has been automatically deemed a bad thing. The definition has changed often and will continue to change depending on the day of the week or month. The point is that we need to be aware of the danger of such a view and its moniker and the possibility of it being attached to us, personally, in the future.
The danger of such a moniker is that one group of people, political or otherwise, can paint with a broad brush and label large groups of people, from a broad spectrum, under that category, thereby making them all evil or enemies. This is what liberalism and Marxism always seek to do. Marginalize and then demoralize dissenting beliefs. And then brand them as “dangerous.”
I have included a linkhttps://youtu.be/C8SvP_O1fY8 to a YouTube video by Todd Friel on this topic. It’s only eleven minutes long but a good primer on this topic.
Wretched on YouTube (Todd Friel), What is a Christian Nationalist, and why you better know about it.
(PODCAST) TEEN DATING WISDOM
WHERE IS MY CHURCH FAMILY?
Feeling like you don’t belong.
“*I was just there to be with my friend.
As we grew older, we decided to move on to the youth service. It was during a youth camp that I had a personal encounter with God. A lady came up to me on the last night of camp and prayed for me. As she prayed, I felt God’s presence for the first time. At that moment, I decided to accept Christ. Since then, I have become more involved in serving at church.
Over time, I have experienced much spiritual growth, but there is something I continue to struggle with—feeling like a stranger in a place that was meant to provide a sense of belonging. For years, the feeling of loneliness never went away despite being surrounded by people. Often, I found myself thinking:
“Everyone seems to have a church family. Where is mine?”
Might this scenario describe how you are feeling today? Perhaps you have been attending a local church for a few months or have been a “member” for some time, and every Lord’s day is becoming harder and harder to justify even going through the effort to attend church. After all, “know one would even miss me.”
Most likely the sermons are very good and have played a role in your spiritual growth. The praise songs always seem to lift your heart in praise to God, but outside of those things, you constantly feel like you don’t belong; no one bothers, and no one cares whether you are sitting in your usual pew or not.
Oddly enough, it is the same feeling you experienced when you walked into that church for the first time. A new church, new surroundings, new order of worship, new people. Very intimidating.
In your discouragement, I want to encourage you and lay out some food for thought, if you will, along with some practical counsel to help you as you move forward. Sadly, you are not alone. Sometimes, I don’t feel “connected” at church either. Throughout the broad spectrum that we call the “church,” untold people are going through the same struggle as you are, so no, what you are experiencing is not abnormal, and neither are you!
That said, we need to recognize both sides of the coin, so to speak, and then be honest with ourselves regarding which side of that coin our situation fits into. So, let’s begin by focusing on why people don’t feel a sense of belonging in their local churches.
1. An unfriendly church
2. An unfriendly church attender
I know, it seems too simple, doesn’t it? But as we move forward you will quickly learn that there are many subgroups under each heading. Let s focus on the unfriendly church for now.
Some churches are just not friendly. Let’s be honest about that fact. I experienced some myself when looking for a new church home. I have been pulpit supply for one or two unfriendly churches over the years of my ministry. The church where no one engages you unless seemingly pressed to do so. When you finally work through the awkwardness of finding a place to sit, someone from the church tells you that you are in “their” seat. Even so, you put on a smile each Sunday and try to engage some people there. Time passes, perhaps a year, and not one friendship has been developed! A place where the overall environment is just not very welcoming to new people.
That’s one scenario, and the issues within that church body and leadership need to be acknowledged and dealt with prayerfully. But what about the type of church that is welcoming to you on your first weeks there? Greeters greet you at the door, and you are often engaged in superficial conversations as you enter and leave church each week. The environment seems friendly enough. The worship time is edifying, and the preaching is convicting and equipping. Yet, you do not “feel” a connection like you think you should. Relationships never seem to move beyond the superficial type, and the church “doesn’t even call or send me a ‘miss you’ note when I’m not there.” Could the problem possibly be with US more so than the church sometimes?
That leads us to the other side of the proverbial coin. What if our attitude is the problem? What if our “preconceived notions” about how the church ought to feel to us are getting in the way of actually experiencing the koinonia (the fellowship) we so desire?
The first simple fact we must consider is, what if the disconnect we feel, the problem we face, isn’t the church ministry or the people? What if it is the consequence of our selfishness and a persona of “isolation” that we exude from ourselves each Sunday? We must be honest with ourselves if we hope to continue experiencing the joy and fellowship we desire within our local churches.
I have known many “church people” like that. They would come in a bit late each Sunday and, therefore, not have any communication with others. They would sit down and go through the service but then get up and leave early (during the last hymn) before anyone could speak with them.
The Lord created us for community. The opportunity was there for them, but willingly or not, they seemed to isolate themselves from others. Yet, these same people would eventually leave the church without talking with the pastor or elders and tell others how unwelcoming or unloving that church was.
So, what are my words of counsel to anyone struggling with this issue? Below is some biblical guidance that I believe may be helpful:
- 1. Seriously consider why you feel like an outsider.
Honestly, there are many reasons that any one of us could feel this way. There could be one or two bad church experiences in your past that have gone unaddressed, and possibly the offenses you experienced have created a pessimistic or bitter spirit within your heart. Maybe you are experiencing some complicated and challenging life experience, and just getting by daily is trying enough, and that might make it even harder for you to feel like you’re a part of anything.
So, first, Make an intentional effort to recognize if a work of grace needs to be accomplished in your heart that will enable you to move forward with joy. Prayerfully lay out your plea to the Lord. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
2. Associate (be present)
Make every effort to be at church each Sunday. Regular attendance helps us feel more comfortable around people and them with us, opening doors for communication to happen! Just like anything else, the constant repetition of something makes it easier and more comfortable for us.
“Healthy and growing churches pay close attention to the people they count as members, as well as those who are not yet a part of the flock. These churches do not want to impair or cut off the flow of new people to the church.” New people are the “lifeblood” of a church and ensure its existence in the future.
But ironically, even though churches claim to be “friendly” on their signs or radio spots, many prove otherwise. The truth is that many church members are friendly to the people they already know but not to guests, so be prepared to make a conscious effort at consistent communication with others; eventually, the awkwardness fades, the walls come down, and friendships are established (Hebrews 10:24-25; Philippians 2:1-11).
- 3. Participate (be involved)
This point is vitally important for anyone wanting the sense of community the church should foster. Serve the church body! Ask the church deacons or elders what you can do to serve in the church, even while contemplating whether you will make this place your church home. The quickest way to “break the ice” and establish new and long-lasting relationships within the local church context is to serve alongside others.
Become a greeter, help serve meals to widows, help set up for VBS, and participate in VBS. Actively seek ways to serve Christ by serving your church, and you will find that the sense of isolation you are experiencing will fade away and be replaced with sweet fellowship (1 Peter 4:10-11; Mark 10:45).
- 4. Communicate (be vocal)
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). I mentioned earlier in this post about the sad reality of some people who don’t engage people at church and yet judge others for not engaging them. I remember the adage: “if you want to have friends, be friendly.”
If some people do not engage you, engage them. Be kind and gracious to others, and you might find out that they will be the same towards you (Proverbs 16:24). But remember that the church is a hospital for the broken and wounded, for sinners like you and me. Some people may not respond positively to you. First, that’s ok; that’s where grace comes in! “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
5. One more possibility needs to be contemplated: Does God want to place you somewhere else? This may be the hardest of all those mentioned to determine. This church may not feel right to you because God doesn’t want it to. Be honest with yourself and God, and double-check your motives for wanting to leave so you do not deceive yourself into thinking that you are doing the right thing when you aren’t.
Talk to the pastor; with other spiritually mature believers about what’s happening. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings. And if they prayerfully come to the same conclusion, leave with Grace and don’t burn any bridges.
“If you are struggling to belong in your church, the fact is, you already belong because of your identity in Christ. Being in church is not about being in your comfort zone, and sometimes disappointments with one another is inevitable. But it is also through these processes that we learn to love, forgive and build up each other, just as Christ did for us.”