the Christian Mold

matt chandler, speaking from Ecclesiastes, admonished the believer to remember the gospel at the Wednesday night session at the Gospel Coalition.  in pure 1 timothy 4 style, we were reminded to continually go back to, be submerged in, and be renewed by the gospel truth of Christ, God’s grace in the cross, the Hope for all.

chandler briefly touched on the deadly assumption that all pastors and ministers are believers.  he made reference to Romans 12- Do Not CONFORM to the Pattern of this World but be TRANSFORMED.  the Christian life requires a transformation that God alone initiates and completes.  too often young people grow up in the church and, being fully immersed in the church culture, blindly believe that if they simply CONFORM to the pattern of the religious culture, they will be saved.

they learn the talk.  even, perhaps, pursue the ministry.  they covet their church membership and may even be willing to cheerfully remain at church when the sermon goes a few minutes late.  they make much of Christ- so that much will be made of them.

they receive praise when they make a confession of faith.  praise when they preach a sermon.  praise when they share about the darkness of their sin and their need for the cross.  and the praise of man drives their religious passion.

oh how easy it is for us to rely on a religious pattern, a christian mold instead of true transformation.

Church may we, ever so urgently, preach christ crucified to save sinners.  may we admonish our members to make much of Christ out of pure intentions of a regenerated heart.  may we, with the authority of the scripture, prayerfully dependent on the Spirit, divide the soul and shine a light on the intentions and motives of the heart.

i am often asked ‘why do so many teens leave the church after they graduate.’  perhaps the issue of the christian mold can give us some insight.  too many children have been told that they need to join the crowd, become a member, pray they prayer and avoid secular culture.  too many have done so out of the motive of self glory.  to earn approval: the approval of family.  the approval of friends.  the approval of a pastor.  even the approval of God.  their desire is the approval of men.  a righteousness rooted in their good works- that which conformed them to the pattern church member.  because their motive is approval, then their step away from the church is simply a stop along that same pursuit.  they joined the church for the approval of man and they leave the church in search of that continued approval.

their proclamation of Christ was never about his glory nor of god’s grace.  it was only a means of receiving personal praise.  so is their rejection of the gospel among a culture that views the church as judgmental and irrelevant.

in the end.  the unregenerate church member who speaks right and lives right but dies without Christ is no different than the teen who ran from the church and immersed himself in the idols of this life.

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Counseling and the Church

there are many terms that are thrown around and often misunderstood in church life.  ‘COUNSELING’ is one of those words.

the truth is that counseling has never been foreign to the Word of God or the people of God and was common in the new testament church community.  one of the reasons that we struggle to view counseling and church life is because we have so many definitions and presuppositions concerning counseling.

when we think counseling, our thoughts tend to drift to the stereotypes of psychology: a stiff, monotone professional (in a white dress shirt, usually wearing glasses) asking an introspective, nearly lost in their own story, individual who is laying on a couch staring at the ceiling.  now, it is no surprise that psychology dominates our thoughts on counseling (specifically the way it is portrayed on movies or tv).  but, we need to broaden our understanding and consider that although psychology shapes our understanding of counseling, it does not define it.  after all, psychology has only been around since the end of the 19th century and has really only been prominent or mainstream since the 1960s.  counseling, on the other hand, has been a part of human history since the beginning.

counseling is defined as ” instruction directing the judgement or behavior of another.”

why has counseling been around since human origin?  simple. because we have always needed wisdom in our thinking and behaving.   [insert sarcastic  joke on men and women here]

now, we don’t have time and i dont have the knowhow to discuss the development of counseling nor the source of counsel from every culture throughout history.  whether it be a deity, a priest, a spouse, a witchdoctor, the stars, or a professional psychiatrist, mankind has always sought wisdom and counsel for the purpose of guidance, revelation and change.  The only thing that has differed throughout history is the source of the counsel that is sought.

with that in mind, lets take a quick dip in the counseling pool of scripture.

Since the beginning (Gen. 1) God has spoken his Word into creation, directing, sustaining, and counseling.

‘Counseling?’  you say.  Yes.  Counseling.  in fact, scripture goes so far as to say that God is the fountain from which all wisdom and all true counsel flows.  (Job 12:13)  After all, if God’s very nature is the fullness of wisdom and knowledge, why wouldn’t He be the best counselor of all time?

Surely this is what the scripture declares.  the Lord is spoken of as the counselor . . . infinite in wisdom, he leads his people according to his Word.  (ps. 32:8, 73:24)  He counsels those he loves, instructs their souls with His Word daily.  (Ps. 16:7, 119:24)

the kings of Israel sought the Lord’s counsel as the managed a people and led a nation. (1 Kings 22:5)

Christ promised that a Counselor would come to all who believe, to all who are included in the universal church, and that He would teach them all things concerning life and godliness. (Jn 14:26)

Counseling is not only what God does, it is part of who He is.

As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, ‘for to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . . and He will be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace.

The scripture reveals that God is not only the greatest counselor of all time- whose counsel is available for those who seek it- it also tells us that every person who believes in Christ is called and equipped to engage other believers in counseling.  (please take captive any temptation to envision a psych. office or mental institution, church-facility redesign.)

Seriously- The New Testament calls believers to be Counselors.

7 times we are called to counsel.  the Greek word used by Paul and Luke is noutheteo.  it is most often translated in our modern english versions of the Bible as , ‘warn,’ ‘instruct,’ ‘counsel’ or ‘admonish.’

in secular (that is, non christian) greek literature, the word noutheteo means ‘to exert influence upon the mind.  the use of advice, warning, teaching or admonition to redirect the ways and behavior of another.’

noutheteo means ‘to provide instruction for the purpose of correcting the thoughts and behavior of another.’ (yes, this is very similar to our English definition of the word counseling or counsel)

So what should we conclude.

  1. Counseling has been a part of human history since the dawn of human existence.
  2. There are many forms of counseling and many sources of counsel.
  3. Psychology should shape our understanding of counseling, but, since it is just one form(and one of the newest at that) and one source of counseling, it should not define it.
  4. Counseling is part of the work and nature of God.  All who call on him for His many wonderful names- ‘prince of peace,’ ‘everlasting Father,’ should also call on Him as their ‘Wonderful Counselor.’
  5. Counseling has been an essential part of the church since Christ commissioned it.
  6. Counseling from scripture should be understood as the practical application of scripture to correct and shape thinking, attitudes and behavior.
  7. Church life devoid of intentional counseling in the midst of community and discipleship is missing a critical part of biblical community.

 

some great links on counseling and the church:
http://www.competentcounseling.com/

http://www.ccef.org/

 

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‘Secret Sin’ and Marriage

this morning i found a short blog post that i wanted to share.

a short excerpt is below along with the link to the site.

although this post is specifically about marriage and pornography- it exposes the pattern that secret sin takes, that of the comforts of our idols that promise us release or happiness and lead an ever growing breakdown of our relationships.

“I was never taught why loving others more than myself was important. (Matthew 22:36-40) Though I worked a job, it was not so much about pleasing my employer or my wife as it was about pleasing myself. My entire world has been set-up to please me first. If my world was not meeting my expectations, I always had an out: I found relief and entertainment in my safe sex zone. It was perfect.

It cost nothing and no one had to know. I could work, provide for my family, and be a friend, but when things got tough, I could get my fix and then re-enter life again.

My wife, however, had higher expectations from me. Prior to marriage I basically used my friends. After I got married my wife was not as accommodating. It got even worse when we had kids. Being a responsible husband and dad, while loving and serving others only intensified my desire for my secret drug.

After all of these years my wife is worn down. Truth be told I’ve never really loved her. Though I don’t want a divorce, I can’t give up my addiction. I don’t know what to do. I’m a selfish pig and I know it. It would probably be more accurate to say I am an addicted, selfish pig.

I don’t want to give up my “precious” sin. I don’t want to lose my family. I have this driving, insatiable need to be affirmed. What do I do?”

 

 

http://www.competentcounseling.com/2011/03/14/safe-sex-nearly-destroyed-my-marriage/

 

 

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Distracted Parenting

the Huffingpost published an article today about technology and distracted parents.  basic push of the article- too many moms and dads are separating themselves from the lives of their children as they immerse themselves in the world of the iphone. . .

before we go too far, lets remember, technology is not evil and the iphone is not of the devil.

technology can, and does for many, help connect parents to children.  many parents have utilized facebook or twitter to interact with their teen.  oreo commercials show traveling dads who, via internet video chat talk with their young boys while dueling over the white icing.  yep, technology can be used to connect loved ones.

unfortunately, too  many parents, dads and moms, find themselves peering into the lives of their families via facebook photos or status updates.  too many use technology to connect with their family because, unfortunately, their schedules keep them from being with their family on a daily basis.

parents have, for thousands of years, been tempted to wander from their children. . . the question for us today is, ‘what is the motive pushing the absent parent?’ 

for such families, the promise of work or the promise of what it provides, has ripped the parent from the life of their child and their spouse.  for many, this is unwanted and unplanned.  but the disconnected becomes distant and separation becomes the norm.

not too long ago journalist coined the term ‘turn key kids.’ referring to the thousands of children and teens who came home to and empty house and often lived there without sight or sound of parents until late into the night.

other parents aren’t being pulled from their families, instead they find ways to gently step away, push their kids on others for a little ‘me time.’  they  utilize sports, churches, or friendly next door neighbors to entertain or distract their children long enough to get away for a few hours.

there is no doubt- parenting has its challenges-  and, of course, we all need a little time to rest.  But too many parents treat their kids the way they should treat their jobs.  they neglect their families to focus in on success at work while constantly looking for way s to vacate from family life instead of neglecting their office to pursue success at home while looking for ways to vacate, with their families, from the demands of the routine. 

our world demands so much of our time.  some of us need to attempt, desperately, to balance work and family in a way that honors God and serves the ones we love.

we need to reorder our priorities- valuing our responsibility to guide and teach our children instead of vacating their responsibility or delegating it to others. 

for others the reordering of such priorities will come only when they evaluate the motives of their souls.  is it the promise of success or recognition in the office that drives us?  is it the promise comfort and therefore the need to vacate family to find relaxation that prompts our time away?  Is it the pursuit of personal aims that leads us to conclude that family time is inconvenient on our schedules?  Regardless, the ultimate question is not of vacation, schedules and technology but motives of our hearts that direct our values and behavior.

today, the temptation to disengage from our family is around every corner, at every event and every meal. thanks to technology, we, like so many teens, can be near to our family but not with our family.   we can be in the same room but unreachable, lost in our own pursuits and desires, distracted, distant, as though we were a world away.

technology can be used for many wonderful things.  let us make sure we are using it to connect, love and lead those under our care. . . instead of as a means of escape from the responsibilities of parenting.

may family bring you joy.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
   children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
   are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   whose quiver is full of them.
Ps. 127:3-5

H.Post Artcile:
the New Distracted Parenting
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-h-winters/distracted-parenting_b_827858.html?ref=fb&src=sp

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Christian Community, Prt III

so we are working through the biblical view of ‘fellowship’ and its implications on christian community.

the last post looked at one of the most common ways that the greek word  koinonia is translated-  ‘communion,’ that is,  to ‘have in common.’  it is an intimate sharing, referring to the sharing of beliefs, possessions, emotions, thoughts, etc.

1 John 1:3 predsents koinonia in this manner, proclaiming that we have COMMUNION with God and with one another.
we should understand this phrase to mean that we have an intimate sharing of a common life.

the First definitiion of biblical fellwoship designates a RELATIONSHIP.

When we become believers, the Bible says we have COMMUNION with God, we are ONE with God. And, at the same time, we are brought into COMMUNION with Others, the church. This intimate relationship is a result in our POSITION in Christ.

We now move to the second most common usuage of the word koinonia. 

Paul the apostle uses this word to designate a ‘PARTNERSHIP.’  (Phil. 1:5, Gal. 2:9)  That is, koinonia can be understood as a join pursuit towards a common aim.

 Biblical Fellowship is
an intimate sharing of a
COMMON LIFE
in pursuit of a COMMON AIM.

Applying this two part definition to biblical fellowship helps us understand that gospel implications for a church community that the scritpure presents as one of the most beautiful relationships that is possible in the human experience.

implications of a common life and a common aim to come. . . .

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Christian Community, prt II

a few weeks ago i started a new post series on christian community.  the first post centered around Christ’s prayer in John 17, the call to Christian unity.  The unity of the church is of eternal importance, as, according to Christ, it is the unity of the church that affirms the validity of the gospel message, the coming of Christ and of God’s abounding love, to a lost and hopeless world.

i want to begin to think through what Christian Community is, starting with the all too trendy word, ‘FELLOWSHIP.’

shelves of books have been written about Christian fellowship.  many have made known to us that fellowship is more than just hamburgers and volleyball, starbucks and an eldredge book, or christmas parties and caroling.  the church has thrown this word around for years, ‘join us for food, fun and fellowship.’  unfortunately, too few understand what it means and too  many think it is simply a part of an activity.

most often preachers turn to Acts 2 in discussing fellowship.

in Acts 2:42-46, the early believers were described as being DEVOTED: they were first and foremost zealously committed to the teachings of Christ, that which the apostles labored to share with them. It is important to note that this devotion (and all that follows in v. 42-46) was a corporate devotion. The truth we need to see is that the NT clearly teaches that the Christian Life is lived out in community with the Church.
the second thing we need to see, which is the focal point of this post, is that they were zealously committed to the FELLOWSHIP. there is often a distinct difference between our use of the term ‘fellowship’ and the biblical use of the term as we see it in Acts 2.

the greek word is koinonia.   it has not one but TWO common translations in scripture. both will help us undestand the meaning of ‘the fellowship’ that these beleivers were so sold out to.

FIRST:  koinonia means ‘communion.’

the basic definition of this word is to ‘have in common.’  it is a sharing, and intimate sharing,
usually referring to the sharing of beliefs, possessions, emotions, thoughts, etc.

This is the way koinonia is understood in other areas of scripture,
such as 1 John 1:3.
1 John tells us that the gospel brings us into COMMUNION with God and with one another.
it is an intimate sharing of a common life.

Communion then, is not a word designating an ACTIVITY, it is a beautiful word that symbolizes an intimate RELATIONSHIP.

It is a relationship of unity, of oneness, perhaps, in many ways, more intimate than we can understand. When we become believers, the Bible says we have COMMUNION with God, we are ONE with God. And, at the same time, we are brought into COMMUNION with Others, the church. This intimate relationship is a result in our POSITION in Christ. All who believe in Christ, are ‘in him’, united with Him in COMMUNION.

Therefore, as a Believer, we are ONE with GOD and ONE with Christ’s Church. This, is Fellowship.
Definition Part ONE: Fellowship is COMMUNION: a SHARED LIFE.

In or next post we will begin to shed light on how ‘a shared life’ redefines the church.  we will also begin to look at the second most common translation of the word koinonia to give us a fuller understanding of Christian Fellowship.

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Setting Captives Free

There is a great curriculum called ‘setting captives free’ that takes the student through the scriptures to understand the reality of our enslavement to sin and the hope that the gospel brings to free us all from our captivity.

this morning CNN promoted a new article called ‘Modern-Day Slavery, a Problem that cannot be Ignored.’ 

i may be going out on a limb- but i believe the church should model the truths of the gospel in how we live.  That is to say, that we should live in such a way as to bring the doctrinal truths of scripture into real life, showing the gospel to all. 

examples of this would include:  the Church is to be the model of family, as a picture of the gospel truth of our being brought into God’s family.  the Church is to be a community where orphans find care and comfort, as a picture of the gospel truth that we, as spiritual orphans are adopted by God. 

if the church is be a picture of the gospel reality, modeling for the world the deep theological truths of gospel hope, then how are we to respond to modern-day slavery?

the Church’s mission in joining God on His redemptive pursuit must address the spiritual captivity of all people- pointing to the Hope of the Gospel.  but we cannot do this and remain silent toward the issue of slavery in our world. . i am speaking here of physical captivity.

for hundreds of years many within the church have fought passionately against the tyranny of slavery.  Christian politicians like William Wilberforce, pastors like Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley and Charles Finney, catholic, baptist, presbyterian and methodist congregations all pursued the abolition of slavery.

Today, however, there are more slaves than every before.  the number is not known.  it is estimated that at least 10 million slaves exist today. . . as many as 30 million. 

As a body of believers we should appreciate the efforts of cnn and others working to make this evil known.  those of us who have Hope, for today and eternity, for lives and their soles, how should we respond?

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