I Believe in Christian Teens

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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

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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

Living in Babylon

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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.

Piers Morgan’s Amendment to the Bible

A good friend sent me this link yesterday (watch the short video at the bottom of the page). It is an exchange between CNN’s Piers Morgan and Pastor Rick Warren (author of The Purpose Driven Life) of Saddleback Church. In this interview, while discussing homosexual marriage, Mr. Morgan posited that it is time for an amendment to not only the US Constitution, but also to the Bible in support of same-sex marriage. His comments include the indictment that the Bible is “basically, inherently flawed” and out dated.

Pastor Warren’s rebuttal is honorably true to Biblical inspiration. He says it is not the Bible that’s flawed, but rather, human opinion, because it is in a constant state of change. That’s the right answer. If there is no timeless, set standard of truth, then each society is free to assume or decide what is true and what is not. The slipperiness of this slope is devastating. By this standard one would claim that slavery was morally “right” when it was agreed upon by the majority of our society. But when the majority shifted, slavery became “wrong.”

Or maybe it’s not society that decides, but rather, some higher truth that reigns within us. Perhaps it is the good of the common man, or the overarching process of human evolution. By this standard, one would claim that if an individual is acting in a manner that is supportive of the common good of man or advancement of the evolutionary process, then the action is “right.” The difficulty with this standard is obvious: Who gets to decide? If each individual is left to decide for himself or herself what is morally or ethically “right,” then all human agents can justify any act of violence by appealing to their own reigning moral compass. I’m sure that the sick minds who committed the mass murders in our country over the past few decades had justified their acts of violence in this manner; they felt justified according to their own moral compass. If it is the evolutionary process that drives morality and/or ethicality, then we end up with eugenics. This worshipping of the evolutionary process is what drove Hitler’s Naziism in the early part of the last century.

The interesting thing about Morgan’s argument is that by suggesting an amendment to the Bible, he is not doing away with the problem of a higher standard of morality. He is simply redirecting worship of the Eternal God (made known through the Bible) to worship of self (made known through the human conscience)…

  • Morgan says the Bible is fundamentally flawed. But the Bible says human conscience is fundamentally flawed (Rom. 3:11).
  • Morgan says the Bible is outdated and current human conscience should set the standard for morality and ethicality. But the Bible says God’s Word is inspired by God and infallible (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pt. 1:20-21), “eternal, fixed in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89) and that human conscience throughout the generations is scarred by degrading passions (Ro. 1:26).

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So here’s the thing: Piers Morgan is 47 years old and socially accepted homosexuality in our culture is even younger. But the Bible was penned over the course of 2000 years using 40 different authors from varying social statuses and ethnic backgrounds and it has been protected and preserved for almost 2000 years since its final words were recorded. Amending the Bible to fit our current cultural passions is a sin against God (Rev. 22:19) and a crime against history. 

On a more logical note, amending the Bible would not solve our problem. For there are those who appeal to the “higher authority” of nature to argue against homosexuality. There are those who appeal to the “higher authority” of evolution, inward conscience, or even longterm societal good to argue against homosexuality. All of these arguments are arguments from below, so to speak. They begin with humanity’s understanding and feelings and proceed from there. But the Bible constantly warns of such faulty, shifty reasoning (Jer. 17:9, Ps. 14:12, 16:25, Ro. 1:18-32, etc.).

There is a more dependable, more constant argument, though – it is the argument from above. It is not a standard that will always appeal to our feelings and desires because it, unlike our consciences, is not flawed. This is the standard of God’s eternal authority – revealed to us in His Word, the Bible, and preserved and protected for thousands of years. God inspired the biblical author James to write, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (Ja. 4:1). He continues in vs. 2-10:

You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Submitting to God means acknowledging His authority and the eternal truthfulness of His revealed Word. James says that at first this feels like grief – mourning and wailing. The message of the gospel is offensive: You do not have what it takes to be righteous enough to earn heaven. You must trust Jesus as Savior to accept the gracious gift of life He offers. Otherwise, you will remain lost and dead in your sins, eternally separated from God. That is humility. But when we humble ourselves in this way, God lifts us up.

The pridefulness of human conscience tells us that homosexuality is okay – because “this is what makes me happy.” But the Bible tells us that homosexuality – just like the long list of other sins (murder, lying, adultery, theft, idolatry, etc.) – is a sin against God and can never produce true happiness. In fact, what parades as happiness while satisfying the degrading cries of our flawed, sinful conscience will end up being our destruction in the end… both individually and societally.

Piers Morgan is wrong. The Bible does not need an amendment. It needs advocates.

Grace and Peace,

Tony