“Let’s just say that fame was like a drug. But what was even more like a drug was the drugs.”

The title is from an episode of The Simpsons that was a great parody of the VH1 Behind the Music series.  I thought of Homer’s quote recently when reading about a fictional work that covered the fame “drug.”

The point was that when people achieve fame it indeed works like a drug.  They need more and more to get the same satisfaction.  Worse yet, they can’t really enjoy the fame they have, because after the initial high the emotions shift to fear of losing the fame.

Our desire for recognition (i.e., fame) can come in many forms, and are almost all self-destructive.  Whether it is the traditional kind of worldwide fame or just the craving of “likes” on Facebook, these will ultimately not give us lasting fulfillment.  Only what we do in and through Christ will last.  We are nearly all better off not being famous!

I don’t recommend books often, but . . .

I can’t recommend these two highly enough.  I happened to be reading them at the same time and it was perfect to alternate between them.  They offer thoroughly sound, practical and timeless guidance on how to live the Christian life.

The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin: Kris Lundgaard – great reminders about the reality of indwelling sin and how we need to fight it until we die.

Drawing from Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin by Puritan John Owen, Lundgaard aims for the heart with a battle plan for radical spiritual transformation! His biblically sound principles on breaking the cycle of sin will help you live a victorious and fulfilling Christian life. Includes study questions.

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist: John Piper – a classic that really gets you focused on the joy that is our birthright in Christ.

 Satisfaction…Happiness…Joy. According to John Piper, the pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible, it’s essential.

Desiring God is a paradigm-shattering work that dramatically alters common perspectives on relating to God.  Piper reveals that there really is no need to choose between duty and delight in the Christian life. In fact, for the follower of Jesus, delight is the duty as Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him.

Constantly drawing on Scripture to build his case, Piper shows why pursuing maximum joy is essential to glorifying God. He discusses the implications of this for conversion, worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering.

Piper beckons us to approach God with the hedonist’s abandon. Finally, we are freed to enjoy Jesus—not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our all-surpassing, soul-satisfying Treasure.

Desiring God may turn your Christian world upside down. And that will be a good thing, for the glory of God, and for your deepest joy.

Decision, decisions

My favorite apologist linked to this so I thought I’d re-run it.  Still the most practical biblical lesson I know of for daily living.  As Greg Koukl says, we are constantly either making decisions or living with their consequences.  I use this method and share it regularly.  I just used it with the high school kids at church to talk about careers, dating, marriage, college, etc.  

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to teach others.

—–

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life — dating, marriage, college, careers, purchases, giving, ministry and more.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Jump start your prayers

prayer2.jpgIf you struggle with how to pray then I encourage you to find a devotional or something to get you started.  I get a daily prayer in my email each day that I really enjoy (click the link to subscribe).  I love how he prays scripture back to God.  It is a great way to get my mind in the right place.

Here’s a sample:

Daily Prayer Day 144

I DRAW NEAR TO YOU, GOD

As I approach Your throne of grace today, I am grateful that You care about the things that concern me and that You want me to offer them up to You.

May I be strong and courageous, being careful to obey Your word; may I not turn from it to the right or to the left, that I may act wisely wherever I go.  (Joshua 1:7)

Take a moment to share your personal needs with God, including your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual concerns.

THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE

I know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.  (Psalm 83:18)

God placed all things under Christ’s feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:22-23)

I LISTEN TO YOUR WORDS OF TRUTH

We have known and have believed the love God has for us.  God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  In this way, love has been perfected among us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears has not been perfected in love.  (1 John 4:16-18)

MY RESPONSE TO YOU, LORD

I will be strong and courageous, being careful to obey Your word; I will not turn from it to the right or to the left, that I may act wisely wherever I go.  (Joshua 1:7)

I want to be above reproach, blameless as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not fond of dishonest gain, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sensible, just, holy, and self-controlled.  (Titus 1:6-8)


Lord, I thank You that You are the Most High over all the earth and that You placed all things under Christ’ feet.  I ask fir the grace to abide in Your love, to obey Your word, and to be above reproach.

Decision, decisions

Uber-apologist Wintery Knight linked to this last week so I thought I’d re-run it.

—–

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read the Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Beware of Christian bookstores

And that goes double for newer Christians.

Why?  Because the more popular the book, the more likely it has lousy theology and the more likely they will sell it.  Lifeway, etc. are businesses.  They are sort-of Christian in that they sell Bibles and some good books, but mostly they’ll see anything with a Jesus veneer.  People gobble up the “I went to Heaven” books and other fads, not noticing that they disagree with the Bible and with each other.

Another example: Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, which I’ve written about previously, is a wildly popular book.  Here is the type of content that book has (the author is claiming to quote Jesus here, putting her book on a par with scripture).  Via Book Review and Serious Warning: Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus Calling’

When you are with other people, you often lose sight of My Presence. . . When you realize this has happened, whisper My Name; this tiny act of trust brings Me to the forefront of your consciousness, where I belong. (May 2)

Let Me infuse My Presence into your thoughts. As your mind stops racing, your body relaxes and you regain awareness of Me. . . . There are actually more than four dimensions in this world where you live. In addition to the three dimensions of space and the one of time, there is the dimension of openness to My presence. (May 24)

For years you swam around in a sea of meaninglessness, searching for Love, hoping for hope. All that time I was pursuing you, aching to embrace you in My compassionate arms. . . I sang you a Love song, whose beginning and end are veiled in eternity. (June 14)

That sure doesn’t sound like Jesus.  If you read the Bible much at all you should recognize how made-up her claims are.

While she tries to deny that she is putting her words on a par with scripture, the accusation stands. The title itself claims that Jesus himself contacted her.  How can she then deny that she was claiming to quote him?  Does the King of the universe make contact and then not speak clearly?  And just look at the quotes above.  They are unusually specific, telling Young about the number of dimensions in the universe.  So Jesus either really told her those things, or she made them up (or a demon told them to her).

As the link explains, there is one entry after another with New Age nonsense like that.  Any resemblance to the Bible is coincidental, but there is a strong correlation to what Young writes and what New Age mystic Eckhart Tolle writes (Oprah loves Eckhart’s teachings, if that tells you anything).

This is why understanding Decision making and the will of God is so important.  Those who claim special revelation from God are making the same type of statements that Young does, namely that God spoke to them directly with a personalized message.  While He could do that, it isn’t normative, and the burden of proof is on those who claim to have received his messages.

Avoid that book, warn others, and pretty much avoid any best-sellers at Christian bookstores (if you must go there).  Try to read more older, established books than the trendy ones.

The Acts 29 Network

Our church is part of the Acts 29 Network, which, among other things, is keen on church planting.  Here is a good article about Sojourn* Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky — How to Start and Persevere with Inner-City Ministry.  As you may know, the Book of Acts is a history of the early church and has 28 chapters, so Acts 29 symbolizes where we are today.

My oldest daughter was a member when she lived there and we loved visiting it.  My youngest daughter attends an Acts 29 Network church as well.  I visited it last Fall and loved it.  When the first verse of the first song mentions the wrath of God you know you are in a place that doesn’t sugarcoat things!

While no church is perfect (at least not while I’m in it!), these are the best churches I’ve ever been in.  The balance of grace and truth, verse-by-verse preaching of sound doctrine, meaningful and scriptural lyrics, the right approach to the sacraments of baptism and communion, a passion for evangelism, a commitment to avoid trendiness, church-planting in all parts of town, the courage to tackle unpopular topics, the emphasis on small groups and living life together, meaningful study topics for men, women and combined groups, and more.  I feel so blessed that it not only aligns with my “have to haves” but with my preferences.  If you are looking for a church home I encourage you to search for one in your area.

* Not affiliated with false teacher Jim “the Gospel is all about wealth redistribution” Wallis and his Sojourners organization!