The Sanctifying Work of Birthday Parties

Few things in life reveal my depravity like attending children’s birthday parties. I’m not sure what it is about them that brings out the worst in me. The chaos makes me irritated. The misbehaving children make me prideful for the way I discipline my own. The lavish money spent on the party itself makes me simultaneously jealous that I don’t have that kind of money and proud of the fact that even if I did I wouldn’t spend that as much on my child.

These responses clearly show areas where I need to grow. Who knew that children’s birthday parties could be a means of sanctification?


Fear of Suffering

I am afraid of suffering. There, I said it. (Admission is the first step right?) I came to this realization several months back. Deep down, everyone is afraid of something. For me that thing is suffering. It’s not that I haven’t faced hardships. And yet I still find myself afraid. Now why is that?

Am I afraid of what could happen to me or someone I love? Sure, but that’s not all there is to it. Am I afraid my faith will fail? To some extent, but I know that my ability to maintain faith does not ultimately rest on me. Is it my desire to maintain the illusion of control? That’s part of it but there’s something deeper. My fear shows a lack of complete and total trust in God. It’s not that I don’t want to trust him. Intellectually and experientially I know that I can trust him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. That doesn’t erase my fear like it should. Lord, help me to rest in whose I am, who you are, and how perfectly you work all things for the good of those who love you.

Jesus: Always Relevant

I’m growing weary of certain buzzwords in evangelical circles. Words like mission(al) and gospel. Not that these aren’t important and useful words when used in the appropriate context. But all too often they are overused and under-defined. We have gospel focused missional groups engaging in missional gospel activities for the cause of the gospel’s mission. These terms are used in books, blogs, conferences, and church websites. The nuanced uses are confusing at best. And contrary to what the people who use them think, there is a day coming when these words will no longer mean what they now mean. They will go out of style in favor of a new set of buzzwords. So let’s not get too focused on them. Because you know what isn’t going out of style? Jesus.

He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not a buzzword. He is always relevant. He will never go out of style. Let’s talk about Jesus and actually use his name when we do.

2,000 Years and Counting

There is no denying that certain passages of Scripture are unpopular. They go against the prevailing beliefs and opinions of our culture. You could argue they make Christianity less appealing – especially to non-believers. As a result, it’s temping to interpret Scripture in “new” ways. We look for any and every reason to demonstrate why beliefs that have been held for 2,000 years are wrong.

The problem with this is that we tend to blend culture with our interpretation of Scripture. We lower the bar and the standard required of us. This is vastly different than what Jesus did. When Jesus interpreted Scripture in “new” ways, it was counter-cultural. It raised the bar and standard even higher. It elevated the requirements for the listener. If our “new” interpretations don’t do the same, than we should probably stick to the old.

Discipleship > Decisions

At the risk of offending the Baptist roots that I love, here goes: I think we put too much emphasis on the moment of conversion (a.k.a. “the invitation”) in many Evangelical churches. I’m not saying it’s unimportant and I’m not debating whether people are legitimately saved in that setting. But let’s face it, with an engaging speaker, a strong emotional appeal, and the right set of circumstances in the hearer’s life, you can get quite a few people to respond to an invitation.

The thing is, Jesus didn’t command us to get decisions. He commanded us to make disciples. And that is much, much harder. That’s because discipleship starts with a decision (to trust Christ as Savior) but it’s followed by many decisions (to confess and repent of our sins, to surrender our idols, and to allow him to change us even when it’s painful). So praise God for decisions. May they lead to disciples who make disciples.

Slippery Slopes and the Bible

There’s a trap that all of us fall into from time to time. It’s called the “ancient people were stupid” trap. The basic premise is that we are far more enlightened now than they were then. Therefore, our opinions about various issues must be right. While it is true that the past contains perplexing (the earth is flat) and grotesque (slavery is normal and acceptable) viewpoints, this type of thinking is dangerous. Especially when Christians start to think that the Bible was written by and for people who had no idea about the issues we would face today.

That kind of thinking puts us on a slippery slope. If we pick and choose the parts of the Bible we think still apply based solely on what we like and don’t like, it shows that we don’t believe in biblical authority. We have made ourselves the final authority. We have set ourselves ahead of God. We are guilty of making God into an idol that serves our interests and needs. And if we do that, why would we bother to believe in God at all? Why not become our own god and live however we want?