Dear Young Woman

Dear Young Woman,
 
We see you. We see the two worlds that you seem to be trapped between. We see that there are so many trying to tell you who you should be, what you should value, and how you find your worth. Unfortunately, the “right” voice is seldom the loudest, and it is pretty easy to drift off track and find yourself in a place where you don’t want to be.
 
So I wanted to pass on some wisdom to you that I have learned as I have moved from youth to adulthood that may help you stay the course.
 
1.  Give God His Due

Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

This is everything. Please understand that your purpose is not to have a perfect career, a perfect family, a perfect life. Your purpose is to worship God, and encourage others to do the same. Make God a true priority (not just on Sundays) and jobs, careers, and families will come at the right time. Which leads me to my next thought…

2.  Be Patient
 
Psalm 37:7 also says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way…”

Don’t rush to grow up, meet “the one,” get married, have kids. Take time to be you. Wait on God’s timing, and God’s man for you. Better to wait longer and make the right choice than run into something that isn’t right. Remember, God wants what’s best for you. Period.
 
3.  Be Sensible

In the New Testament we read, “…Encourage the young women… to be sensible…” (Titus 2:4-5)

Let your good sense guide you, not your emotions. Letting your heart be your guide isn’t Biblical. The heart is deceitful. It is time for godly women to use their brains. As you interact with others, whether they be friends, boyfriends, or anyone else, let your emotions be a thermometer, not a thermostat. Let your emotions tell you what you’re feeling, but don’t let them define your actions and reactions. Stop. Think. Be kind, seek to understand before passing judgement, and don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance. Don’t assume someone is attacking you, but be gracious and forgiving.

4.  Be willing to work hard

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.” (Col 3:23)

Whether it is schoolwork, a part time job, or your first “real job,” give what you are doing the same effort you’d give if God was watching. Because He is.

As we read about the wise women in Proverbs 31, we find, “ She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.” This includes church… you are a valuable worker in your church, you have the freedom and autonomy to serve and serve well. Use it! You will grow more serving than sitting in a pew, and the blessings will multiply.

5.  Stay Pure

The author of Hebrews says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” (13:4)
 
It’s worth it. Keep your mind clear enough to look at relationships accurately (see #3). Look for someone who will make a good partner in a life that honors God. Don’t dally with guys that aren’t worthy because you want them to change or think you can change them. Don’t be fooled by shiny and good-looking, but place a high value on your heart. Maintain a high priority on integrity, commitment, and the fear of God, and insist that your partner does the same.
 
Young woman, none of this is easy. You will make mistakes along the way. Just because you do, don’t for a second think that you are unworthy. God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you! No matter how many victories or defeats you face as you grow up; know that you are precious in God’s eyes and loved as a daughter of the King. That is your worth, given to you by the greatest Father you could have, not dependent on anything or anyone on Earth.
 
We see you. There are dozens of women watching and walking alongside you. We care about you. We are here for you!
 
In Christ,
 
Liz Looten

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Dear Young Man…

Dear Young Man,
 
I see you. I know that you have been struggling.
 
Struggling seems to be a significant part of life as a young man moves from childhood to adulthood. It is hard. It seems like life is full of change, uncertainty, challenges, and setbacks. One day you know what you want and you are moving in that direction. The next day your world is turned upside down and you discover that you must start over.
 
In times of uncertainty, we all wish we could have a map or guide to help us take the next step. God has provided us that guide through His Word. I want to share with you today a few words on how to navigate this season of your life.
 
1.  Fear the Lord

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

I have no doubt that throughout your days as a youth that you were told about God’s love and our need to respond with love towards HIm. This certainly is true, but it may not fully prepare you to walk with God in hard times. God is love (1 John 4:8), but He is also just. (Deut 32:4)

This means that we are supposed to love God, but we are also supposed to fear Him. To fear God means to understand that He is powerful and should be respected as such. There are many things in life that may not strike terror in our hearts, but we know are dangerous. Therefore, we handle them with care and seek to understand them so we do not bring harm upon ourselves. Items like fire, guns, sharp items, and hazardous materials are all reminders of what it means to fear the Lord. We must acknowledge that God is our powerful, just Creator and approach Him with reverence and fear.

2.  Be Teachable

Proverbs also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)

This proverb serves as a couplet, which means they go together as opposites. While the wise and intelligent fear God, the person who does not fear God (fool) will not take any form of instruction. It is a reminder that we should always be willing to learn and be corrected.

There is no question that you are smarter and wiser than you were just a few short years ago, but you also have a long way to go. Being teachable means admitting that you don’t know everything, and be willing to let someone else show you what they do know. It requires a lot of patience and humility. It is also the best way to learn to be a better employee, student, follower of Jesus, and man.

3.  Be Diligent

Going right along with the previous proverb, we read, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” (21:5)

It is good to be teachable and with that work hard. Going back all the way to Creation we read that God placed man in the Garden of Eden and told him, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” (Gen 1:28)

God intended man to work the land even before the Fall. We were created to do something with the world that God had given us! Even now, you are learning and growing in some sort of trade. You may be in school, working, or serving as an apprentice, but in every situation God is calling you to work hard and do your best.

However, diligence is not just found in your profession. Be diligent in your pursuit of God & His will. Be diligent in fulfilling the Great Commission. Be diligent to love your neighbor.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)
 
4.  Words Matter

“He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Prov 17:27)

Social media has been a tremendous blessing to young generations, but also a dangerous place. Young people can connect with friends all over the world and keep relationships going even when distance is a problem. However we have also seen how a comment made in anger or an immature joke made years ago can ruin a person’s career or relationship.

We must be very careful with our words because words matter. It is often much better to leave something unsaid, than to say it and have it twisted against you. This is not to say that we should not share our opinions, but we should reflect on our words and ask if they bring peace or conflict or if there is some way they could be misunderstood.

Choose your words carefully, and do not allow them to be a stumbling block for anyone as they seek the Lord.

5.  Stay Pure

Finally, Solomon says, “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself If his conduct is pure and right.” (Prov 20:11)

More than ever our culture pushes the idea that relationships should be casual, uncommitted, and sexual. We create apps that encourage “hooking up” and we chastise anyone who takes relationships seriously. The result of this has been a huge number of young people who battle depression, rejection, and feelings of worthlessness.

Even in “Christian” circles, there are far too many young people who want all the benefits of marriage without the commitment of marriage. This lack of commitment cheapens everything and encourages the disposable society that has caused so much pain.

But God has called us to take our relationships and our own purity seriously. As you date, remember that you are looking for a lifelong help-mate. Seek the one with whom you can build a life, and when you find her, make a commitment before God to live that life together.

“Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (Prov 5:18)
 
Young man, I see you. I know you will not be perfect. I was not perfect either. This is why the grace of God is so amazing. Walk, run, fall, and rise up. There are men around you walking with you; there to give you a hand.
 
We see you. We love you. Don’t give up.
 
Next week: Dear Young Woman

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Hiding in the Kitchen

Recently, I watched a reality television show where a successful restaurant owner went into businesses that were struggling in order to help them get back on their feet and become profitable.

In every episode, the host would place cameras around the building in order to see how the business functioned.  He would watch the leadership, keep track of customer service, and make sure the food that was served was safe.  The host would also arrange for the business to get busy to see how they handled stressful situations.

As I watched multiple episodes, I began to notice a theme.  Often these struggling businesses would have an owner/operator who would go back to help in the kitchen when things got crazy.  The problem was that may not have been where he/she needed to be.  When he/she did so, their hosts & waitstaff would start to panic, customer service declined, and people grew unhappy.

The host often made this observation, “He/She is hiding!!!”

What did he mean by that?  These people were supposed to be leading their business.  They should have been organizing, encouraging, and helping everyone do their very best.  Instead, they slipped off to the kitchen where they would be safe and avoid problems, while still looking busy.

This led me to consider my own leadership.  How often do I slip away when the going gets tough?  How often do I do things that make me look busy, but do not help the mission of the church?  How often do I seek safety when I should be meeting challenges head on?

I also thought of the church.  How often does the church retreat to the safety of the sanctuary, worship service, or Bible study?  Do we avoid problems around us?  Are we satisfied with just looking busy instead of fulfilling our mission?

So how do we get out of the Kitchen?

Here are three ways that we as the church can face challenges head on…


1.  Keep our behavior excellent… where it can be seen!
 

Peter wrote to the church these words, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 
(1 Peter 2:12)
This means more than just “virtue signaling”.  This is a call to do what is right every time & not just when no one is watching, but also when everyone is watching; even if that means standing alone!  Christian are called to be different; trailblazers when it comes to justice & righteousness.  We do not do what everyone else does.  We do what is right… every time & every day.

2.  Actively do good.
 

Wait, how is this any different than the first point?
They are certainly in the same camp!  Not only should our behavior be excellent, but we should strive, as the church, to improve the lives of people around us.  We “do good” by loving people; caring when they are hurting, giving them a hand up when they fall, even providing shelter when they are in danger.
Jesus said it this way, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”  
(Matt 5:43-45a)
When Jesus calls us to love both our neighbor & our enemy, He is calling us to actively seek the betterment of EVERYONE around us!!

3.  Boldly share Christ

There is no area in which the American church is more timid than the sharing of the good news.

Sure, we like to learn how to share the good news.  We like to pray about it.  Some may even be okay with sending people to the pastor to hear it, but very few are willing to daily, boldly share the Gospel.
Church, we are hiding in the kitchen instead of facing the situation.  There is a lost & dying world all around us.  One more Bible study will not make a difference, but the church telling people about Jesus will!!!
Talk about Jesus as you go through your day.  Talk about your salvation as you encourage others.  Talk about how a Christ-led life has made the difference in you!!!

And pray!!!  One last thing to remember is this:  Prayer is never hiding in the kitchen, but be sure to put your prayers in action!!!


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Creating a Road

Now that our homecoming revival services are over, how do we move forward?
I was struck by this statement from the book of Isaiah:
 
“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19
 
We are now moving into the latter months of 2020, and I firmly believe that God is doing something amazing right now!! We just need to wake up and experience it.
 
What does this passage say God is doing?
 
1.  He is making a roadway in the wilderness

Roadways were very important in biblical times. They allowed for people to travel quickly and safely from one place to another. If a person needed to move from one place to another without a roadway, they knew that their trip would take longer and they would likely meet peril along the way.
However, roadways made things easier and faster. This meant that people were more willing to travel, which expanded their ability to do just about everything.
Have you ever thought that God has been opening up a roadway for the lost to hear the Gospel? As people have gone through this pandemic, they are longing for good news, for hope, for comfort. People are more willing to listen; especially to someone who brings good news!!!
So bring the good news to those who may have just a few months ago been unable to receive it. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:15)
 
2.  He is making rivers in the desert.

The idea of a river in the desert would have been a sort of oxymoron. A desert is defined by a place with no water, and God is promising to bring a limitless water supply to a place known for its lack of water.
This means God is making fundamental changes in the world. Do you know people who are in a spiritual desert? They are without God, without hope, without comfort. God has made a way to change them completely!!!
Through the Gospel, God is giving people living water that will renew them and restore them to a right relationship with Him & with his fellow man!!!
“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
 
God is doing all these things RIGHT NOW!!!! It is time for the church to start bringing people to the roadway and leading them to the river.
 
In other words, it’s time for US to start telling people about JESUS!!!!
 
Will you help me???

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The Introvert, The Extrovert, & The Church

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer:  I am not a psychologist.  This blog post is based on observation and my own opinions based on those observations.  Please do not attempt to self-diagnose based on this blog post alone.

Great.  Now let’s define the terms:

Introvert – 

An introvert is a person who seeks solitude in order to rest, recharge mentally, and become refreshed.  This solitude can include immediate family members, but rarely includes people outside of one’s own family.  Restful activities may include sleeping, reading, watching TV at home, housework, home projects, or any other activity that can be done independently.

Extrovert – 

An extrovert is a person who seeks community in order to rest, recharge mentally, and become refreshed.  They do so by engaging with groups of people whether they be friends or strangers.  They will look beyond their immediate family unit for such interaction.  Restful activities may include going to a busy restaurant, attending a concert or sporting event, attending festivals, or participating in group projects.

Now, these terms are not the same as…

Shy / Cautious – 

Shyness is defined as being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people.

Outgoing / Confident – 

Outgoing is defined as friendly and socially confident.

Often we associate introversion with being shy and cautious, and we associate extroversion with being outgoing and confident.  However, this is not always the case.  In fact, you can find people who are a mixture of any of these two pairs.  These people all come with different needs and they express those needs in different ways.

As the church, we need to be able to identify and understand each group in order to minister to individuals effectively as well as care for the flock as a whole.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…”  As we do this, let us learn how to love well by understanding ourselves and the people God has called us to love.

So what do these combinations look like?  Let us start with the obvious:

The Outgoing Extrovert

The outgoing extrovert loves being around people and has no problem getting the conversation going.  They enjoy the spotlight and they are quick to put themselves in situations that require lots of social interaction. 

In church life, the OE will be quick to volunteer and they have no problem being front and center.  They view everything at the church as a party.  When visiting a new church, they will be quick to make connections and plug into groups

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  Don’t hesitate to take the lead, but leave room for others.  Please understand that teaching means studying & preparation.  You can probably get by with confidence, but only for so long.  Bring enthusiasm to all that you do, and be careful to not let your “gift of gab” turn into gossip.

How to love them:  The OE loves & craves social groups.  Invite them to things, especially gatherings around the Bible.  Encourage them to use their gifts to greet and get to know visitors.  Don’t be in a hurry with OEs; take the time to have a meaningful conversation even when it might be inconvenient.  When communicating with an OE, a text is good, but a call is usually better.


The Shy Introvert

The shy introvert prefers being by themselves.  To the SI, starting a conversation is a terrifying thing.  They do enjoy tasks that can be done solo.  Even extremely complicated & skilled jobs are no match for an SI who is able to concentrate.  SIs tend to be very empathetic and deep thinkers.

In church life, they are more than willing to help but being in front of people is scary.  SIs typically do not like being in the midst of a large group.  Fellowships, concerts, and morning worship are not their favorite time, but they do enjoy small groups and accountability groups if they do not have to initiate the conversation.  SIs are often the backbone of the church, unseen but indispensable. 

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  When you look around the church, you may feel like only the outgoing people are important, but that cannot be further from the truth.  There are so many roles in the church, some of which are probably being overlooked.  If you are not sure how you can serve & you do not want to ask, attend a business meeting and see where you might fit.  Your empathy and awareness of other people’s emotions are crucial to unity within the church.  Find a person who will speak for you (like Moses did) and help others see the bigger picture.

How to love them:  Please understand that for an SI to even come through the door is an act of courage.  Always take time to notice them, but do not overwhelm them with lots of people.  The SI will not fight to be heard.  Even in a one-on-one conversation, the SI will not speak up.   If the other person interrupts and dominates the conversation, they will shut down and cease to converse.  Seek above all else to be a listening ear and occasionally a voice for their great ideas.  Be a consistent presence without being an overwhelming force, reassure them that they belong and help them find that place.


Now, let us take a look at the less obvious pairs:


The Outgoing Introvert

Yes, this is a thing  This is often called an “extroverted introvert” or an “ambivert”.  The OI looks like an outgoing extrovert, but they eventually burn out.  The OI can “turn on” their outgoing personality for social events.  They know how to work a crowd, start a conversation, and make friends.  However, all of these activities leave them exhausted.  They may enjoy it, but it is definitely work for them.  OIs will occasionally disappear for rest & relaxation away from people.  If an OI is forced to be “on” for too long, they will crash; shutting down for several days or longer in order to recover.

In church life, they are more willing to be up front, but they may be less quick to volunteer.  An OI will usually say things like, “If you need me, I’ll help.”  Often, they will do just about anything, but long-term commitments are stressful.  Like a shy introvert, they prefer small groups and accountability partners, but it may be hard to tell since they navigate a crowd well.  

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  You are a bridge builder.  You can start the conversation but then move things on to another person.  Don’t feel bad when you need to rest, rest is a good thing!  It’s okay to turn down opportunities, but don’t get too comfortable saying no.  Seek out a few meaningful relationships in the church and invest in those. 

How to love them:  You will probably think an OI is an OE until they disappear.  Please don’t read their absence as anger or disapproval.  They will be back when they are ready.  It is important with an OI to keep communication lines open even when they are not responding.  Keep them in the loop, assure them that they are not forgotten, and be ready when they reemerge.  Like the shy introvert, be a listening ear and seek to know the person even when their outgoing personality is not turned on.


The Shy Extrovert

The shy extrovert is often mistaken for an introvert; even by themselves.  The SE craves human interaction, and like the outgoing extrovert, they can struggle if they are isolated for too long.  However, the SE prefers not to initiate conversation.  This means they enjoy being a part of the group, but not necessarily in the spotlight.  They enjoy festivals, concerts, and crowds, but they prefer to be just another face in the crowd.  They will speak up in a group situation, and they will assert their position, but they may not seek out the conversation.

In church life, the SE is a faithful attender who likes to see people and be a part of any group.  They want to be included in the conversation without being put on the spot.  They are happy to serve, especially with friends.  They are great on committees because they can speak their mind without being intimidated.  

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  Your presence contributes so much to the warm, friendly atmosphere of the church.  The church is a relational place and you help facilitate those relationships.  You encourage talks to go deeper and you bring great insight into all that you do.  I know there is a temptation to just stay home because it is easier.  However, this is not what is best for you.  Much like exercise, what may be hard to start will actually make you feel better when it is over.  Also, be careful with expectations.  There will be times you feel let down because a relationship did not live up to your expectations, show grace in every situation.

How to love them:  The SE wants to be included.  They may not say it, but they do.  Sometimes you have to push them out the door, but do so with a lot of love and understanding.  Invite them to everything you can.  If they do not come, then follow up with them.  Text messages and emails are okay, but they actually do better when it’s face-to-face.  Do your best to keep them from isolating.  Isolation is not good for them.  Be gracious when they slip into it and when they come out of it.  They need caring people around them.


My prayer is that we can use a list like this to learn how to love each other; not label each other.  In the end, all of us need to be quick to show grace to others regardless of our personality.

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


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Go to Church

If you don’t know what to do…

Go to Church.

If you cannot stand all the bad news…

Go to Church.

If you feel like your life is out of control…

Go to Church.

If you are looking for purpose…

Go to Church.

Go to church and let the Word of God wash over you through the music, the reading of Scripture and the teaching time.  Let God speak to you directly from his book, the Bible.  He will give you direction and purpose.  He will remind you that He is in control even if you may feel like you are not.  He will give you good news of good things.  That is what the gospel is, good news that Jesus came to save us all!!!


If you are confused…

Go to Church.

If you are in suffering…

Go to Church.

If you feel like a failure…

Go to Church.

If you feel like you are all alone…

Go to Church

Go to church and share with others what you are going through.  They may not be able to fix it, but they can walk with you through it.  As you share, you will soon discover that you are not alone.  Others have gone through similar things, and many may still be going through similar things.  Lean on one another, encourage one another, pray with one another.


If you are grateful…

Go to Church.

If you just need to celebrate…

Go to Church.

Go to church and praise God for all the good things that He is still doing in your life.  Celebrate with others.  Celebrate what God is doing in other people’s lives.  Give thanks because everything good that we experience comes from God.  Make much of the God who loves you!  He loves you so much that He gave you eternal life through Christ Jesus.

So, go to church.  Not just because it’s the “right thing to do”, but because of what you do while you are there!  Go when you are hurting.  Go when you need help.  Go when you want to thank God for all that He has done.

And go all the times between, because you never know when one Sunday will change your life!


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Defending the Faith

This morning I opened up my computer to read the news that Ravi Zacharias had passed away.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dr. Zacharia’s work, he was a very well known apologist who spoke at college campuses and throughout the world regarding the Christian faith.

Often, Dr. Zacharias would take questions from the crowd as part of his lectures.  My fondest memory of his lectures comes from this time.  A young man approached the microphone with a question regarding original sin and the depravity of man.  He asked, “Why do Christians believe that people are evil and incapable of doing good?  I feel like I am a good person and I think most people are good.  Why doesn’t Christianity focus on helping people be better instead of telling them they need saving?”

Ravi Zacharias grinned and slowly approached the microphone.  “Let me ask you a question,” he responded, “Do you lock your doors at night?”

A roll of laughter went over the crowd and his point was made.  The young man at the microphone said that he believed people were good, but his actions contradicted his words.  Dr. Zacharias went on to explain his theological standpoint and how it could be seen in humanity.

Dr. Zacharias’ life is a powerful reminder that the church needs to know what she believes and be able to defend those beliefs.  Here are a few things that I have learned from Zacharias’ ministry that I hope you will take away from it as well.

1.  Defending your faith means knowing what you believe.  

If there is one undeniable truth about Zacharias, it was that he knew his stuff.  If we go back 70 years it was easy to go through life as a Christian without being challenged.  Today Christians have their beliefs challenged daily.  We are challenged by our peers, challenged by our leaders, and challenged by our culture.  If we do not have a strong grasp of what we believe and WHY, then we are going to be set up for some major challenges.

Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to knowing your stuff.  Yes, the Holy Spirit works in and through us to make the Gospel known (Mark 13:11) However, this is no excuse to be ignorant of our faith.  We need to read, even study, our Bible.  We need training and discipleship in order to stand firm when we are challenged.  Paul said it this way to Timothy, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.  Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.”

Notice that Paul commanded Timothy to trust in the Spirit, but do the work also!

2.  Defending your faith means knowing what they believe.

Dr. Zacharias also was very diligent to understand the viewpoint of the opposition.  Zacharias was well known for his ability to field any question that the crowd would throw at him.  This meant that he had to know the viewpoints of his opposition and speak knowledgeably of them.  He sought to not merely create a “straw-man” argument but to honestly engage with their ideas & show why Christianity was superior with a more consistent worldview.

Every Christian should be able to do the same or at least be willing to learn.  This means we need to listen to others; their concerns and their beliefs.  It also means that we cannot put ourselves in a safe little Christian bubble where our beliefs are never challenged.  Many have done so and future generations suffer when we stick our heads in the sand.  Instead, engage with opposing viewpoints.  Take the time to learn their beliefs, and ask questions to make sure there is understanding.  Be willing to postpone the conversation while you go to Scripture and other resources to make a case.

We will discover that many people want to have an honest conversation.  Peter said, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15a)

3.  Defending your faith means doing so with love

Peter 3:15 finishes with these words, “yet with gentleness and reverence.”  Peter wanted the Church to understand that the goal of “making a defense” was to win the person to Christ; not just win the argument.
Dr. Zacharias understood this as well.  His gentle voice and even temper did much to show people the love of Christ.  He did not lose his temper.  He did not insult his opponents.  He did not attack people on a personal level.  Instead, he loved people and he wanted to see them leave every conversation closer to Christ than when they began.

As we carry on, we should also seek to love first.  Let us graciously engage the culture with love and a strong argument.  It should be our goal to win souls; not arguments.  If we keep this in the front of our minds, then there is nothing we cannot do for the Kingdom of God.


Thank you, Ravi Zacharias.  You have had an impact on my life and many more.  I rejoice in knowing that you are rejoicing at the throne of the Father as we speak.  

Until that day…


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But Be Careful What you Learn

A day without learning is a day wasted.”

Unknown

 

This post is a follow up to my last post “But Did We Learn Anything?”

As I wrote in my last post, Kentucky is on the way to recovery and that means that society, including churches, are starting to open back up.

I will be honest and tell you that this has caused me a little anxiety as the day draws near.  For one, I am concerned for the safety of our members.  It would break my heart to know that one of my brothers or sisters in Christ got sick, hospitalized, or even lost their life because we allowed the virus to spread at our services.

But my other concern exists on the spiritual level.  I have a deep fear that when this pandemic is finally behind us and we are back together, that things will just go back to the way they were.

Let me explain…

I am afraid that when all is said and done, we will have not learned anything from the experience, or worse, what we have learned that will actually be harmful to us.  So I want to give you the opposite of my previous post and show you 3 things I do not want you to take away from this pandemic.

 

1.  Wanting everything to just go back to normal

Do you remember how great and perfect everything was before the pandemic hit?  No?  Me neither.  Everyone I know was stressed, overworked, and frustrated.  Going into March I had a calendar so full that I did not know when I would be able to keep up with the maintenance of my own home.  At church we were extremely worried that the few volunteers that we did have were going to disappear as their spring/summer calendar took them out of church almost every weekend.  All of us were tired, running on fumes, with very little hope of relief.

Do you honestly want to go back to that?

If this pandemic has done one thing, it has brought me closer to my family.  We have been allowed to stay home, enjoy time with each other, and rest.  I don’t want that to go away.  Yes, I hate that my daughters have missed opportunities to compete.  I am saddened that they did not get to celebrate the end of the school year.  But I am not sad that I have enjoyed more meals around the dinner table.  I have loved getting to cook with my eldest and play games with my middle daughter.  It hasn’t been perfect, but I realize that busyness does not make me a good parent nor a good person.

And I will not forget that lesson when everything opens back up.  It is time to say “no” to being busy and “yes’ to being with family & setting our own priorities.  (which should include the church!)

 

2.  The church is here to entertain me

The pandemic has caused church leadership to seek out new ways to engage the congregation and share the Gospel.  Overall, this has been a great thing that has allowed the gospel to go forth like it never before.  Many churches are doing everything they can to get the message on the radio, television & internet, but can there be unexpected consequences to this?

A drawback to putting all of our services on a screen is that it can become just another form of entertainment.  We live in the age of Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.  There is always something to watch; always something to listen to.  There is always something to distract us.  If something is not holding my interest, then I can just switch over to something else or allow it to continue while I look at my phone.  But what happens when church services get lumped into the rest of the distractions?

If I don’t like what I am hearing from my pastor or music leader, then I can just switch to another church to see if they are doing a better job.  Suddenly “church” becomes all about me and my entertainment.  My preferences take precedence and I can hop around until I find what I like.

Make no mistake, the churches themselves have to take part of the blame because we chose to play this game.  Many churches have invested a lot of time, energy, and money in order to create professional “shows” that will keep the viewer engaged.  But the church was never intended to become some sort of media outlet, and we cannot reduce the church to entertainment when we gather together again.

Look at the description of the church that we find in the book of Acts, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (2:42) None of this includes entertainment and all of it involves the participation of the disciples.

The church has to shake off the notion that we have become the “audience”.  Instead, we are the body (Rom 12:5) and as the body we have to work together!

 

3.  I am doing just fine.

“Wait, pastor…  Don’t you want us to be going fine?”

Well, yes, in the sense that I don’t want you suffering, but I do not want you to be deceived into believing “fine” is the best you can be.  

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent questioned Eve regarding the commands of God.  When Eve told the serpent that they would die if they disobeyed God’s command, he responded, “Surely, you will not die!” (Gen 3:4) The serpent convinced Eve that she (and Adam, who was with her) would be “fine” if they disobeyed God.  He convinces us of the same thing now.

I have no doubt that there have been many who have not watched a single online service or worshipped God in any way since we began social distancing; others have slowly drifted away as other things took their attention.  The Enemy is going to try and convince us that we too are doing “just fine” without God, worship, or the church in our lives.  He wants us to believe that we do not need all that stuff to live a fulfilling life and that God wants us to be happy above all else.

But this is a bold-faced life!  Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 7 what happens when we walk away from a close relationship with God.  He says, “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (v. 27)  Eventually, we will not be doing “fine”, and if our lives are not built upon the rock that is Christ then we will fall and fall hard.

Please don’t allow the Enemy to lull you into thinking you are “fine”.  Instead, seek to be like Christ, and He will do amazing things in your life!

 

So what have you learned from this whole event?  Has it made you to be more dependent on Christ or less?  Are you longing to be a part of the body or are you comfortable being entertained?  Are you ready to take control of your priorities and your home, or will you allow things to just go back to “normal”?

It’s up to you, but I’m praying for you!


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But Careful What you Learn!

“A day without learning is a day wasted.”

Unknown

This post is a follow up to my last post “But Did We Learn Anything?”

As I wrote in my last post, Kentucky is on the way to recovery and that means that society, including churches, are starting to open back up.

I will be honest and tell you that this has caused me a little anxiety as the day draws near.  For one, I am concerned for the safety of our members.  It would break my heart to know that one of my brothers or sisters in Christ got sick, hospitalized, or even lost their life because we allowed the virus to spread at our services.

But my other concern exists on the spiritual level.  I have a deep fear that when this pandemic is finally behind us and we are back together, that things will just go back to the way they were.

Let me explain…

I am afraid that when all is said and done, we will have not learned anything from the experience, or worse, what we have learned that will actually be harmful to us.  So I want to give you the opposite of my previous post and show you 3 things I do not want you to take away from this pandemic.

1.  Wanting everything to just go back to normal

Do you remember how great and perfect everything was before the pandemic hit?  No?  Me neither.  Everyone I know was stressed, overworked, and frustrated.  Going into March I had a calendar so full that I did not know when I would be able to keep up with the maintenance of my own home.  At church we were extremely worried that the few volunteers that we did have were going to disappear as their spring/summer calendar took them out of church almost every weekend.  All of us were tired, running on fumes, with very little hope of relief.

Do you honestly want to go back to that?

If this pandemic has done one thing, it has brought me closer to my family.  We have been allowed to stay home, enjoy time with each other, and rest.  I don’t want that to go away.  Yes, I hate that my daughters have missed opportunities to compete.  I am saddened that they did not get to celebrate the end of the school year.  But I am not sad that I have enjoyed more meals around the dinner table.  I have loved getting to cook with my eldest and play games with my middle daughter.  It hasn’t been perfect, but I realize that busyness does not make me a good parent nor a good person.

And I will not forget that lesson when everything opens back up.  It is time to say “no” to being busy and “yes’ to being with family & setting our own priorities.  (which should include the church!)


2.  The church is here to entertain me

The pandemic has caused church leadership to seek out new ways to engage the congregation and share the Gospel.  Overall, this has been a great thing that has allowed the gospel to go forth like it never before.  Many churches are doing everything they can to get the message on the radio, television & internet, but can there be unexpected consequences to this?

A drawback to putting all of our services on a screen is that it can become just another form of entertainment.  We live in the age of Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.  There is always something to watch; always something to listen to.  There is always something to distract us.  If something is not holding my interest, then I can just switch over to something else or allow it to continue while I look at my phone.  But what happens when church services get lumped into the rest of the distractions?

If I don’t like what I am hearing from my pastor or music leader, then I can just switch to another church to see if they are doing a better job.  Suddenly “church” becomes all about me and my entertainment.  My preferences take precedence and I can hop around until I find what I like.

Make no mistake, the churches themselves have to take part of the blame because we chose to play this game.  Many churches have invested a lot of time, energy, and money in order to create professional “shows” that will keep the viewer engaged.  But the church was never intended to become some sort of media outlet, and we cannot reduce the church to entertainment when we gather together again.

Look at the description of the church that we find in the book of Acts, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (2:42) None of this includes entertainment and all of it involves the participation of the disciples.

The church has to shake off the notion that we have become the “audience”.  Instead, we are the body (Rom 12:5) and as the body we have to work together!


3.  I am doing just fine.

“Wait, pastor…  Don’t you want us to be going fine?”

Well, yes, in the sense that I don’t want you suffering, but I do not want you to be deceived into believing “fine” is the best you can be.  

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent questioned Eve regarding the commands of God.  When Eve told the serpent that they would die if they disobeyed God’s command, he responded, “Surely, you will not die!” (Gen 3:4) The serpent convinced Eve that she (and Adam, who was with her) would be “fine” if they disobeyed God.  He convinces us of the same thing now.

I have no doubt that there have been many who have not watched a single online service or worshipped God in any way since we began social distancing; others have slowly drifted away as other things took their attention.  The Enemy is going to try and convince us that we too are doing “just fine” without God, worship, or the church in our lives.  He wants us to believe that we do not need all that stuff to live a fulfilling life and that God wants us to be happy above all else.

But this is a bold-faced life!  Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 7 what happens when we walk away from a close relationship with God.  He says, “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (v. 27)  Eventually, we will not be doing “fine”, and if our lives are not built upon the rock that is Christ then we will fall and fall hard.

Please don’t allow the Enemy to lull you into thinking you are “fine”.  Instead, seek to be like Christ, and He will do amazing things in your life!

So what have you learned from this whole event?  Has it made you to be more dependent on Christ or less?  Are you longing to be a part of the body or are you comfortable being entertained?  Are you ready to take control of your priorities and your home, or will you allow things to just go back to “normal”?

It’s up to you, but I’m praying for you!


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But Did We Learn Anything?

Always Desire to Learn Something Useful.”

-Sophocles


On April 29, 2020, Governor Beshear laid out his plan to start reopening our state and getting everything back to normal.

As part of that plan, the governor recommended that churches would be safe to open on May 20th.  This created a light at the end of the tunnel for many who were ready to return to in-person worship services.  If this does mean that our time of social distancing is (slowly) coming to a close, then now is a good time to reflect on what we should have learned from all this time away.

Solomon says these words in the book of Proverbs, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (18:15)  

So what knowledge should we find during these unusual times?


  1. The Church is more than a Building.  

If there is one thing that we should have learned from our time away it should be that the church is so much more than a building we visit.

Our church has been empty for the past 8 weeks and yet our church has done more to reach our community with the gospel than ever before.  We have adapted and adjusted the way we get the message out.  In doing so, more people than ever are turning on and tuning into our services to hear the message of Jesus Christ.  On top of this, our members have a powerful tool at their fingertips.  Many are sharing, sending, and inviting their friends to listen in as well.

On top of that, we are hitting the internet and the phone lines to call & care for each other more than ever before.  Just because we cannot be with each other, does not mean that we cannot communicate, pray, and encourage one another during these hard times.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

While we may not be able to assemble right now, we can still encourage, and motivate one another to pursue Christ and do what is right!

2. We still need Community.

While it has been a tremendous blessing to see the church serve during this pandemic, I think we can all agree that we miss our time together!

This time away has shown us that our church family consists of more than just our friends.  We don’t just miss the people in our little circles.  We miss the whole body!  We miss the people who greet us.  We miss the people who check in on us.  We miss the people that challenge us to be better.  It is a true statement that we only appreciate things once they are gone.  We have all discovered that some of the people we miss are not necessarily the people we were expecting to miss.  It should serve as a reminder that the church is made up of many different people and ALL of them are important to the Kingdom & to us!

Paul writes, “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  (Romans 12:5)  Once we are able to gather together again, let us remember that every member is important and treat them with the love and care that they deserve!

3.  Where our Treasures are…

Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (6:21) In this passage, Jesus is instructing the crowd to store up treasures that are in heaven instead of on earth.  

Many of us have discovered that we have a lot more free time these days.  Even the few of us that still go to work every day realize that our evenings have been cleared because of this virus.  Our kids do not have all their functions.  The church does not have services nor meetings.  Our hobbies & clubs are put on hold.  Even our trips have been cancelled because of this virus!  So what are you doing with all this free time?

Be mindful of your answer.  How you have chosen to fill your free time says a great deal about where your treasure is.  This pandemic has caused all of us to get to know ourselves a little better.  One way in which we can know ourselves better is by noticing what we do when we don’t have anything to do.

Now, there is nothing wrong with starting a new hobby, learning a new skill, or even just catching up on some much needed rest.  However, we do need to ask ourselves, “Am I drawing closer to God during this time or further away?”  Are you using your time wisely and investing in eternity or are you just investing in yourself and the things of this world?

Either way, a load of free-time makes our priorities pretty obvious, and that’s a good thing!  The clarity that it brings can bring us to our knees in repentance and lift up our hands in thanksgiving.  It can help put us back on the right track so our hearts will be with Christ, our true treasure!!!

Soon enough we will be together again.  I will rejoice in that day like did when the ark arrived in Jerusalem.  Until then, I pray that God continues to reveal His will to you & that you will serve Him with reckless obedience!


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