I Believe in Christian Teens

alexis-brown-85793.jpg

I believe that from within the church God is raising up an army of counter-cultural warriors for the faith. I believe that this generation of born again believers will be sold-out for Christ, not bending their intellect to the whims of cultural godlessness, but unreservedly living out a faith that is firmly grounded in biblical Christianity.

I believe that this coming generation of Christ followers will speak boldly where we have kept silent. I believe that their speech will be seasoned with salt, but unabashedly truthful in witness to the authority, inerrancy, and reliability of God’s Word. Their mouths will not only sing praises to God, but will actively tell future generations of the Gospel-grace of God that is found through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe their conduct will bear living testimony to the joy of doing life God’s way. They will walk worthy of their calling in Christ. They will put to death the cravings of the flesh, and bring to life those actions that are congruous with the holiness of God to which they have been redeemed. Their lifestyles will model the message of Christ that their lips proclaim.

I believe they will love people – all people – like we have failed to love them. Their self-sacrificing, Christlike love will not be bound either by old stereotypes or by current events. This love of theirs, fresh and deep, will be living proof of their loving God.

I believe this new generation of Christians will return to biblical purity – sexually, mentally, and relationally. I believe the curse of sinful sexual temptation, having spiraled out of control in recent generations, will be obliterated as they crawl out of the salacious cultural bed we have made for them, preferring instead to honor the marriage bed as holy unto God.

I believe in Christian Teens.

“Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, CSB)

Grace and Peace,
Tony

The End of God’s Blessings

animesh-bhattarai-72131

Why would God bless us? Why would He show us favor? Scripture reminds us often that apart from the salvific work of Jesus Christ, humanity is altogether vile, ungodly, self-centered, and short-lived. Why would the infinite, holy God of the universe see fit to pour out His blessings and His favor on us? Certainly we do not deserve it.

We pray for God’s blessings. We pray for healing. We pray for financial freedom. For effectiveness in our various endeavors. For grace toward our children and grandchildren. For God to show up in our circumstances as only He can do… And He does… He answers our prayers. In fact, the Bible teaches us that the prayer of the righteous effectively moves the heart of God.

But why? Why would God bless us and show us favor? Surely there is an end… a purpose… a goal. There’s a word used often in the Greek New Testament to describe the end or the ultimate purpose of something. The word is τέλειος. It describes the state of something when it has grown to its fullest potential – the end goal of something. James used the word in the context of Christian endurance (Ja. 1:4). John used it in the context of Christian love (1 Jn. 4:18). The writer of Hebrews, in the context of the Christian’s personal spiritual growth (Hb. 4:14). The Apostle Paul, in the context of the Christian church’s corporate growth in spiritual unity (Eph. 4:13).

But what is the end – the τέλειος – of the Christian’s blessings from God?

Vanessa and I read Scripture and pray together in the mornings. This morning, as she read Psalm 67 out loud I was reminded of why, ultimately, God chooses to bless those who love Him. And this reminder carries with it a bit of a wake-up call for the redeemed:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us; look on us with favor so that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.” Psalm 67:1-2.

Apparently, God chooses to bless us and show us favor not for our benefit, but for the benefit of “the nations.” God’s blessings poured out on us have for their end the spreading of the Gospel across the corner and around the globe. This seems to be an increasingly foreign concept in our Western Culture… we tend to understand God’s blessings and God’s favor as rewards for our faithfulness, or as His stamp of approval on our lives. But biblically speaking, the end of our blessings is not our satisfaction or our comfort. The end of God’s blessing and favor toward us is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would reach the ends of the earth.

How has God blessed you? How has He shown you favor? And how are you allowing Him to channel His blessings and favor through you, to the ends of the earth? Are your blessings growing to their fullest potential – to their τέλειος?

Christian, God has not blessed you so that you can sit and soak in your blessings. He has blessed you so that His love and His truth will overflow from you – financially, verbally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally – into the lives of others He has put around you… all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you are hoarding your blessings to yourself, Christian, you’re doing it wrong. But if the blessings of God are flowing through you regularly, faithfully, generously… then perhaps verse 7 will become true in/through your life: “God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.”

Grace and Peace, Tony

Church, POTUS, & Allegiance

trump-obama
Photo Credit: http://www.nytimes.com

“I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to comeAnd He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.” Ephesians 1:18-23 (HCSB, emphasis added)

It burdens me to see so many Christians (pastors, even) inciting and facilitating division among brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s get this straight. There is only One Name above every other name. There is only One Ruler who deserves our unquestioned allegiance. There is only One Lord over all, who rules and reigns at the right hand of God the Father. Every other name is only named for a fleeting moment. Every other title given is subject to the ultimate authority of the God of the Ages. Every other figure, no matter how iconic or powerful, still rules under the feet of the appointed One–Jesus Christ.

According to the Holy Spirit’s word through the Apostle Paul, if we forget this–if we fail to stake our allegiance in Christ alone–we have dulled our minds to the “hope of His calling,” the “glorious riches of His inheritance,” and “the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe” (vs.18-19 above). So I pray with Paul, that the “perception of our minds would be enlightened.”

Is Christ divided? Then why do we intentionally and rigidly divide His Body? Is such rigid allegiance really worth undermining the advancement of the gospel? “For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and living like unbelievers? . . . are you not unspiritual people?” (1 Cor. 3:3-4, HCSB). Understand this, Christian: every word spoken, every idea thought, every action taken… it all teaches the watching world something about the Christ we proclaim. How embarrassing it must be to our Lord when our open divisions and dissensions portray a divided Christ to the world He came to save.

So not in the spirit of unity for unity’s sake, but in the spirit of unity for Christ’s sake, I appeal to you, my brother or sister in Jesus. Be careful unilaterally staking your allegiance to anyone or anything other than Christ Himself. Before you type that post, make that phone call, compose that tweet, or speak your mind, be sure that every action and every word is submitted in humble allegiance to the Lordship of Jesus Christ alone. And for the love of Jesus (literally), spend your energy, time, voice, and resources making much of Jesus instead of making much of some temporary name named.

Grace and Peace, Tony

Living in Babylon

x5pwchbamms-freddie-marriage

Some mornings I wake up and silently ask myself, “Where am I?” The country I knew in my childhood is, in many ways, only a shadow of a memory. Racial bigotry, moral demise, political unrest, economic upheaval, and religious syncretism have become standard. Normal. Some of this change can be attributed to a widening perspective that comes with age, I admit. But there is no doubt that the world in which I live today is much different from the world I remember of my yesterdays. What is the follower of Jesus to do, when he finds himself thrust into a culture that is so far from God–a stranger in his own land?

The prophet Jeremiah records God’s instructions to Jewish exiles deported from their homes and thrust into the godless Babylonian culture at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar in the early 6th Century B.C. While this Word is uniquely directed to a specific group of people in a specific time period, it teaches us something about the heart of God and about His expectations toward His children who find themselves living in a godless culture.

“This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.’ For this is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: ‘Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and don’t listen to the dreams you elicit from them, for they are prophesying falsely to you in My name. I have not sent them.’ This is the Lord’s declaration.” (Jeremiah 29:4-9, HCSB)

How are we, God’s children, to live in Babylon?

  1. Live life among the people (vs.4-6). Don’t freak out. Don’t hunker down. Don’t isolate yourself from reality. Go about normal daily activities and trust the Lord’s design through it all. God’s people are not to be isolated from the culture in which they live; but they are to be different from the culture in which they live. When godly people reproduce godly people (evangelism & discipleship) in a godless culture, they are being light in darkness, salt in tastelessness. Do life with the people of the culture in which God has placed you. Influence them with God’s truth, for God’s glory, because this always works out for their good.
  2. Seek the welfare of your city (v.7). Pray. Work. Influence for righteousness. The presence of God’s people should influence a city for God’s glory. God holds the monopoly on justice, righteousness, economic abundance, and social welfare. When godly Christian principles and practices take root in the workplace, at the school, in the booster club meetings, and in the sports organizations of your city, the people will come to know the supremacy of life God’s way over life their own way. And as the city prospers under the blessings of God, so will you. How is your Christian presence affecting the social, spiritual, economic, and moral climate of your city?
  3. Be discerning about – and committed to – God’s revealed Word (vs.8-9). Amos prophesied that during the exile (the Intertestamental Period) there would be a “famine… [from] hearing the words of the Lord… People… will seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it,” (Amos 8:11-12, HCSB). The question would then come to those in exile, “Are the Words of God that I have enough?” Often in a wandering (or wilderness/exile) period of our lives, we ask the same question. Is God’s revealed Word trustworthy? Is it enough to get me through this? Or should I search for something more? God’s children who find themselves stranded in godless contexts should always hold fast to God’s revealed Word. No other word from God is needed. What you have is enough. When we start selling our itching ears to pseudo-spiritual gypsies, we become deceived dreamers, questioning God’s infinite goodness in light of our present wanderings. So, Christian in Babylon, know God’s revealed Word and be committed to it.

Godly people do not long to buy a condo in Babylon. But despite their best efforts, they often find themselves thrust into a Babylonian culture where conditions are not necessarily favorable for godly living. But take heart, Christian:

  • In Babylon, Hananiah’s, Mishael’s, and Azariah’s display to kings and peasants the benefits of living God’s way over man’s way.
  • In Babylon, Daniel’s prove that daily, personal intimacy with God shuts the mouths of lions and opens doors for godly influence.
  • In Babylon, Mordecai’s challenge Esthers to live with selfless abandonment to God’s plan.
  • In Babylon, Nehemiah’s, stirred with passion for God’s glory, lead the way in unprecedented spiritual awakening.
  • In Babylon, God stirs the ground in preparation for the deliverance of His people.
  • In Babylon, God’s children come to know His faithfulness and His vast strength in desperate ways.

Living in Babylon? Fear not, Christian. No matter who sits on the throne, “Your God reigns,” (Isaiah 52:7).

Grace and Peace, Tony.

Prayer for the President-Elect

trump-pence

Early this morning Americans received the official news that Donald Trump will become the 45th President of these United States, with Mike Pence by his side as VP. Whether you feel elated by this news or devastated by it, the truth remains that these two men will hold the two highest offices in our land beginning January 20, 2017. Over the next several weeks, they will be selecting men and women to serve with them as cabinet members and office-holders in positions of prominence. If you devoted yourself to prayer over the past week, please don’t stop now. Here are some ways you can pray for our President-Elect over the next few weeks as these important positions are being filled.

  1. Pray for a Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These four Hebrew boys determined themselves to honor God while in the court of a foreign king. They would not defile themselves with any act of disobedience to God. They spent time in prayer daily, even when that simple act landed them in a fiery furnace. The pre-incarnate Christ walked among them in the fire. Through their influence of unwavering devotion to the One True God, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon declared that “there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.” Daniel became the official interpreter for the king, and God blessed the land because of his faithful witness. President Trump will need the wisdom of godly men if he is to evaluate all things with Godly wisdom.
  2. Pray for an Esther and a Mordecai. God sovereignly placed Esther in the court of the Persian King Ahasuerus. When the king considered ordering the death of all Jews in his kingdom, by trickery from another advisor, Esther laid her own life on the line to stand for the right to life for those whose voices were not heard. Her uncle Mordecai gave her the encouragement and the challenge she needed to stand in confidence “for such a time as this.” President Trump’s Congress will likely entertain legislation, and he, Supreme Court appointments, that have the potential to change our culture from a culture of death to a culture of life concerning abortion and end-of-life practices. Let’s pray for an Esther who will lay her life on the line, if necessary, to plead with President Trump on behalf of the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves. And let’s pray for a Mordecai to give her encouragement and accountability toward this end.
  3. Pray for a Nehemiah. Nehemiah was heartbroken over the devastation of his people. Because the Lord was with him, he won the favor of King Artaxerxes who gave him provisions and protections to carry out the difficult work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah endured constant terroristic threats as he worked with one hand and held the spear with the other. His tireless efforts saw not only the safety of the city restored, but the spiritual vitality of his people returned. President Trump is elected in a day when terror/evil is on the rise and feelings of safety within our country are depleting. He will need to be surrounded with leaders who do not cower in fear when threatened by evil and who will put their hands to this difficult work with tireless commitment.
  4. Pray for a Joseph. Through a series of less-than-ideal circumstances, Joseph (an Israelite) was landed in the court of the Egyptian king. His faithfulness to God and upright character was finally rewarded in such a way that he became second in command over Egypt in a time period when the Israelites and Egyptians were living together in peace. God opened Joseph’s eyes to see impending economic failure. He wisely instituted policies and laws that would prepare the people of the land for the coming difficulty. Even as second in command, God used Joseph’s sensitivity to His will and leadership among the people to preserve the lives of two whole ethnic groups: the Egyptians and the Israelites. Let’s pray that President Trump will surround himself with people who are wise in economic policies, having the leadership skills necessary to implement policies and procedures that will lead our country toward economic vitality, from impending economic doom.
  5. Pray for a Jethro. When he was overwhelmed and burned-out, Moses’s father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, gave him some much needed wise council. The work was too much for one man to do alone. Jethro counseled Moses to find men who were trustworthy and upright, to whom he could delegate responsibility. The office of President of the United States of America is one with great responsibility and great burden. President Trump will be overwhelmed many times, and will stand in need of a wise older man who can pour wisdom into his dry vessel. Let’s pray that God would put that person into his path, and open the President’s heart to receive wise counsel with a humbled heart.

Don’t stop praying now. Remember still to place your hope in God alone:

“Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save. When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground. On that day his plans die. Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry. The Lord frees prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!” (Ps. 146:3-10)

Grace and Peace, Tony