Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Perspective on Dating...

We have spent a lot of time discussing the modern American idea of dating. We have discussed this in classes, from the pulpit and we have incredible resources on our book table. The heart of the issue is not dating, the heart of the issue is why the relationships of students in the average church look absolutely no different than their peers who do not call themselves believers.   Why is it that parents believe it is cute “puppy love” until they find out that their child is sexually active? In the past we have discussed sexual purity at length, but we have completely forgotten about the purity of the heart - and this is where our problems lie! I just thought this short clip below helps put things in perspective---I hope it is food for thought:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why Accountability Groups are Stupid

There are a couple of addresses that you can send the hate mail if all you read is the headline of this blog. I am sure there are multiple ways that I could have entitled this, but to be honest this seemed the most direct and typically, that is the path I take. In being a pastor for almost 17 years, I have never followed the idea of, “you must set up accountability groups” in order to have accountability. I have met with countless men who were involved in accountability groups who got involved in all kinds of sin, as well as men who were never involved in accountability groups who got involved in all kinds of sin. I say that because my thoughts have always been: “If a guy is watching porn or running around on his wife, how difficult would it be for him to say ‘no’ and lie to one of the 7 questions asked of him as my weekly duty.” Now, I need you read and understand what I am writing - the Word of God makes it crystal clear that I should be engaged in the confession of sin with other believers…generally speaking, the purpose of “accountability groups” is to ask questions and focus in on sin or prevent it. Certainly every believer should have a passion to avoid sin, but the focus of my life should be the impact of the gospel and love which blossoms from a relationship with Christ. The idea of getting together and focusing on my 3 or 30 failures from the week before tends to push performance over passion for Christ.  What I need is not 4 men in a room asking me 10 questions, what I need is a community of believers in my life that are loving me, walking with me, and getting in my life on the day to day basis. There is accountability but it is not with a group of 4 men, but with a community of believers that my life intersects with on multiple levels and interests.  There are some men in my life that I stay in touch with, that when we get together our conversation covers sports, hunting, finances or children etc…. I love my wife, we don’t have to meet each week and ask three questions to make sure our love is going in the right direction. However, we do need an on-going RELATIONSHIP, we do need on-going fellowship and intimacy, and when those things are not right, I don’t need a list of questions to ask her - I need real life on life, heart to heart communication.    

Hear me when I say that we need accountability, and as men we need accountability from other men. We need accountability when we surf the net, there are great resources out there like http://www.x3watch.com/    or this http://www.internetsafety.com/safe-eyes-parental-control-software.php , but the focus of my relationships should not be to ask questions that actually focus on sin rather than the gospel.  

Heb. 3:13 tells me not be become hardened to the deceitfulness of sin. I think the problem with a traditional accountability group can be much like the idea of a chastity belt---I may squelch the conduct but it can do so without ever engaging the heart. I have actually heard more than one guy say: “I am always careful what I look at on TV because I know that someone is going to ask me at the end of the week what I have been watching.” Is this any different than the young person that doesn’t have sex because they may get pregnant? Is the goal behavioral modification or heart transformation?   

If the church were Scriptural and we were living lives in relationships, being accountable to one another the church would serve as group to help stoke my love for Christ and confront me when I get involved with sin. The confrontation doesn’t simply come through a list of 9 questions with the last one being “Have you lied to me in any of these answers.” Hint:  if I am watching porn while my wife is in bed there is a slight possibility I may lie to you.  A white hot passion for Christ is what develops a hatred for sin, and a hatred for sin will lead me to take drastic steps to put that sin to death, including the call to other brothers to come beside me and help. Christ set up a natural organic accountability group called the church, and it is cultivated not by questions but by time and relationships.  What is amazing is that in many circles the title of this blog will cause furor, but there are countless youtube and blogs out there denouncing the one thing the Christ died for, the one thing that He set up that by its very nature, if it functions biblically, sets up accountability and breathes life, encouragement and brings a ever deepening love for the gospel…that is the local church. The church is the one thing that the Word explicitly states we should be involved in. He died for her!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heart Transplants and Life

Just a few days ago it was national headlines that informed us that former Vice President Dick Cheney received a heart transplant. There are several points regarding this incredible procedure that should cause us to shake our heads in amazement:  the fact that we can take any organ out of another person and put it in someone else to enable them to live is nothing short of amazing. The fact that God created men and women with the ability to reason this way, is a tribute to His power and glory. It should also encourage us that we live in such a day that has remarkable medical technology and anytime this type of procedure is accomplished, we should celebrate such wonderful skill that God has given doctors who can treat us so effectively.
In all of these wonderful reports on how incredible we are as medical elites, I have yet to hear a single news report about how this technology never gets old, or even how far science has come along since the first heart transplant…all I hear about is if the 70+year old Cheney should have been given a heart transplant in the first place. Most news outlets never explain that he was on the waiting list a bit longer than the average person waiting for a heart - the key question that continually surfaces is “should a person his age receive a transplant.” And this is where we are as a society, is it not? We look at the value of life by the age and value a person brings to the world. This is the reason many of these same “medical ethicists” who say Mr. Cheney should have been deprived a heart transplant, would encourage a woman to abort a baby with Down Syndrome or some other defect that people would deem them to be “less valuable” than another person. I could care less if Mr. Cheney was Republican or Democrat; this has nothing to do with the man’s politics. But it has everything with how we should value a life, regardless of their age, regardless of their disability. Sadly, I would guess there are believers in our society that actually may think “should a 70 year old receive a heart when there is a 50 year old who needs it?” I guess to answer that question in an effective manner, it would depend on who the 70 year old is and who the 50 year old is, correct? I mean if the 70 year old is my dad, I would fight for his right to have a new heart, but if the 70 year old is someone I have never met, I may rule that the 50 year old would be a better choice.
I say all of this to simply point out that we can’t let the media fool us into believing one life is of more value than the other. The reason we even question things like this, is because as believers we have bought into the lie of the enemy to genuinely believe that the quality of life and what the person can do for the world, is all that matters. The truth is, Dick Cheney may be able to contribute to this world more in five years than the mentally handicapped child could in 50 years, but the mentally handicapped child’s life is just as valuable and should be just as cherished as a 70 year former Vice President or a 40 year old CEO of a major company. What gives us value is not what we bring to the table for mankind - what brings us value is the fact that we are created in the image of God. God did not only give us life, God providentially has given us our health, mental capacity and anything else we have. If you ask Mr. Cheney, I am sure when he was in his 30’s, 70 years seemed pretty old… but, not so much today. I remember thinking 40 was ancient, now it’s young and vibrant! I mean 40 for me IS the new 20…ok, maybe the new 38. Regardless, the point is that we as believers need to embrace that life is valuable not because of one’s ability to bless the world with their talents, but because God is the giver and taker of life!  He is the life giver - He is where value is found, not our age or our IQ.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Attention Parents!!! Just the Facts.....

I ran a few posts recently on the survey that showed the number of students that leave church, never to return after graduation. I shared with you that the real problem was that somewhere the gospel had been missed. When scripture is not highly regarded or shown in our churches or in our families, it sends the message that Christ and His Word are simply an addendum to life – a void to be filled at your convenience.  Rather, if Scripture becomes central to our everyday decision making and critical in every area of our daily life, it demonstrates that Christ and His Word ARE our life. It is very easy for students to walk away if church is just an “add on” to the rest of their good activities. This is one of the reasons that, at Trinity, we reject the modern day student ministry philosophy and, as Pastors we feel that the greatest thing we can do is equip our parents to disciple those under their authority. Of course we want to build relationships with our students, but not at the expense of isolating the family or the parent.

Let me give you a statistic that will blow your mind! Outside of parenting and genuine conversion, one of best things you can do that will assure your children stay active in the body of Christ after they graduate is…AWANA. This is not some statistic made up by your Pastor. Look---http://www3.awana.org/about/default.aspx?id=2888     

Some highlights from this study:
  • Church attendance – 92.7 percent of our alumni continue to regularly attend church as adults. Only 1.8 percent said they had dropped out of church since high school. By contrast, 36 percent of Americans surveyed by Baylor who attended church at age 12 said they are now unchurched as adults.
  • Jesus and salvation – 98.6 percent of our alumni believe Jesus is God’s Son compared to 70 percent of Americans and 85 percent of Protestants. 93 percent of our alumni believe Christ is the only way to salvation. 69.6 percent of Americans do not.
  • Belief about the Bible – 94 percent of our alumni believe the Bible is God’s Word compared to 58 percent of Americans and 73 percent of Protestants. Our alumni are also 3.6 times more likely to read in virtually every case the Bible several times a week.
  • Church service – At 74 percent, alumni were five times more likely than Americans polled by Baylor to serve their church 11 hours or more a month.
  • Personal evangelism – 70 percent of alumni said they share their faith with friends at least once a month compared to 35.7 percent of the national average, 48.7 percent of Protestants and 59 percent of the most devoted churchgoers.
Now, I can present an argument that this has more to do with parents spending time with their children around the Word of God, or children being in churches that have a high regard for the Word and passion for the true gospel. You can give me the “which comes first” argument. But with statisticians freaking out about the number of graduates leaving the church, maybe there is a pretty simple answer. Maybe parents who value the Word, in a church that values the Word, and together they passionately work to make sure the children hide the Word of God in their hearts...maybe THAT makes a difference!   Maybe the Word is sufficient…hmmm…that just sound too easy doesn’t it?  (Sarcasm strongly implied)

So, a GIANT “THANK YOU” to all our AWANA workers! You are doing eternal work!