Saturday, July 26, 2014

11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member

I am reposting this article by Thom Rainer... It does speak ....
Warning: The article below is a bit of sarcastic humor. I am speaking in hyperbole to make a point. The football fan noted represents a very rabid football fan. The church member represents some, but certainly not all, church members.
Disclosure: I tend to be a rabid college football fan. I see my allegiance as an area of devotion that needs significant adjustments downwardly. So I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. For example, even as I type these words, I am reminded that the kickoff for my team’s first game of the season is exactly five weeks from today.
Caution: While I do write these comparisons with some humor and a lot of hyperbole, you might get just a bit uncomfortable reading them. That may indicate there is some truth in each of them.
  1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
  2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
  3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
  4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
  5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
  6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
  7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
  8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
  9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
  10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
  11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.
Yes, I admit I do enjoy college football. But I really love Christ’s churches even more. I need to demonstrate that reality more readily. Do you?
So . . . what would you add to my somewhat sarcastic list? Do you see the humor? Do you see some truth?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When same-sex attraction hits home: How families can help

 

Posted on Jul 22, 2014 | by David Roach
NASHVILLE (BP) -- It's a moment many Christians have had to face: a family member's announcement that he or she is gay.

Amid feelings of sorrow, guilt, fear and anger that families may experience surrounding such an announcement, biblical counseling experts say believers must have hope and realize that Jesus always changes those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

The "lie" that "change is impossible" for people who experience same-sex attraction "is an offense against the Gospel because change is Jesus' gig," Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press. "We need to be infusing people with hope. We need to be infusing them with the deep conviction that Jesus has been changing people for 2,000 years and He will change you if you have faith in Him."

Lambert; John Babler, associate professor of counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested several ways Christians can help family members struggling with same-sex attraction.

Develop a culture of honesty where family members can confess their sins and ask for help.

"In view of the mercy of God, if there is a Gospel, it makes no sense to avoid, deny or minimize same-sex attraction," Williams, a member of the SBC Executive Committee's Mental Health Advisory Group, told BP in emailed comments. "I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of 'coming out of the closet.' Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly, and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships."

It's important for families not to act more "creeped out" by a confession of same-sex attraction than they are by confessions of other sins, Lambert said.

"Christians forget that sin is sin," he said. "We have to be really careful not to move someone beyond hope and beyond help or think that they have a higher 'ick' factor with their struggles than we do with ours."

Express love and explain that homosexual lust and behavior are sins.

Families must avoid the twin mistakes of either blowing up at a confession of same-sex attraction or avoiding conversation about the topic for fear of damaging relationships, the biblical counselors said.

A statement of unconditional love is a good starting point for any conversation about a family member's homosexuality, Babler told BP, but that must not be the only thing said.

"Say that homosexuality is clearly a sin issue, as the Bible teaches," Babler said, although it is not "some ultra-sin that is worse than anything else."

Speaking truth about homosexual sin is difficult, Babler conceded, but the consequences of being silent are far worse.

"Ultimately this loved one's eternal destiny may rest in" their family's willingness to confront sin, he said. "Even if they have made a profession of faith, they're at least blinded enough that they're not following godly counsel from Scripture."

Clarify that our identity is not determined by our sexual desires.

"We want to help people understand that while those same-sex desires -- just like opposite-sex desires -- can be strong, they don't define who you are," Lambert said. "God defines who you are, a person who's made in the image of God. And if you are a saved person, [you are] a person who is being redeemed into the image of Christ."

Babler noted that culture "frequently encourages people to find identity in something beyond themselves -- whether it's 'I'm gay' or it's 'I'm obsessive compulsive.'" But true identity "is in regards to being created in God's image and a person that God desires to have a relationship with."

Teach the Gospel truth that Jesus changes sinners.

"Real and substantive change can be expected for people with same-sex attraction and same-sex orientation, as it can and should be for all who have chosen to follow Christ," Williams said.

As with other sins though, God does not always change a believer's inclination to same-sex attraction overnight, Williams said. Much change involves "a long obedience of faith down a narrow and often difficult road."

"As it is with many root sins that are lodged deeply within us, change may or may not be associated with a complete elimination or reversal of same-sex attraction, for now," Williams said. "But make no mistake about it: under the cross and in Christ neither the past nor our desires determine our identity or our future. Paul's instruction in Romans 6 is to be who you are, in Christ."

Use the same ministry techniques you employ to help people struggling with other types of sin.

Accountability relationships with godly people of the same gender, confession of sins, trust in the Gospel, participation in a local church and meditation on Scripture all help individuals struggling with same-sex attraction, the biblical counselors agreed.

"As much of a problem as homosexuality is, it can be dealt with in the same way as if they had a family member who was dealing with heterosexual sin outside of a marriage relationship," Babler said. Ultimately a concerned family needs to "call their family member to the pages of Scripture."

It can be helpful to send a struggling individual brief Scripture messages through email and social media, Babler said. All of the Scripture shared should not focus on sexual sin but cover a variety of topics from God's character and the Gospel to the Great Commandment and personal purity.

Talk to a pastor or godly counselor if you find that helpful.

It's a myth that only professional counselors and clergy members are equipped to help people with same-sex attraction, Lambert said, although some biblical counselors and pastors can provide spiritual guidance.

"There are plenty of professionals who don't know how to appropriate the Gospel of Jesus in the change process," Lambert said. Such counselors "may have some helpful tips that somebody can use, but they're not going to be able to help someone change in a way that honors Jesus Christ."

The choice "isn't between a professional and a non-professional," he said. The key is to find a godly Christian "who knows the biblical dynamics of change and how Jesus uses His powerful grace in practical categories to see people be different than they were."

Even when families give the best help possible, the sad reality is that not all homosexuals repent and follow Jesus, the biblical counselors noted. Husbands sometimes leave their wives for other men. Wives sometimes leave their husbands for other women. And godly parents have children living a homosexual lifestyle.

In such cases, it's important for families not to blame themselves for their loved one's sin, Lambert said, adding that dealing with a homosexual spouse generally is more emotionally difficult than coping with a gay child or sibling.

"Sin doesn't happen in a simplistic way; it happens in a complex way. It could be the case that very faithful parents who love their kids and talk with them about the Gospel and were present with them and directed their behaviors and interests toward gender-appropriate things" still have a homosexual child, Lambert said. "In a world full of sin, people go off the rails and parents need to not have an instinct of blaming themselves."

Whatever the outcome of a family's ministry efforts, they must hold to God's truth and not let the experience of having a homosexual loved one distort their interpretation of God's Word, Babler said.

"One of my concerns in working with family members is that I want to encourage them to keep their theology and their biblical belief intact," Babler said, "and not accommodate due to the fact that it's one of their loved ones and say, 'Now I'm going to change the way I look at the Bible and I'm going to redefine my conclusion about what Scripture says in regards to homosexuality.' That's a big temptation."

Additional resources for families of those struggling with same-sex attraction include the Restored Hope Network, a group of ministries that address sexual and relational issues, and the books "Understanding Sexual Identity" by Mark Yarhouse and "Is God Anti-Gay" by Sam Allberry.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to be Unhappy with Your Church

1. Don’t participate, merely consume.
If I had to say the one thing holding the American church back today, it would be a consumeristic culture. We’ve come to expect that the latest technology comes standard in our cars. Our movie theaters should  have wide rows with extra padded seats and that lean way back.
Unfortunately, we think our church should be no different. Just like the movie theater, we come when the production starts, sit in our seats, are entertained, and think we should leave satisfied when it’s over.


The most unsatisfied in our body,are those who just show up on Sunday’s (sometimes). There is little to no participation in small groups, ministry projects or teaching and serving within the church.  Obviously there are those in most churches who are seekers, or young in the faith that just need to be taken care of for a season, but that should be a temporary state.
2. Criticize your leadership.
I once heard about a couple who didn’t like their pastor because he told stories about his family in the pulpit before beginning his sermons. Quirky? Yeah, kinda. Unbiblical, sinful, illegal, harmful?Definitely not. We’ve really got to understand the difference.
It’s also not fair to compare your pastor to the celebrity pastor on the other side of the country whose book we just read and now believe that every church everywhere should be run like that celebrity pastors church. Remember that celebrity pastor is in a completely different context. He doesn’t know your church, and he also doesn’t come to your home when you have a tragedy or celebrate with you when you have a baby or other joyous life event.
We’re hard on our pastors. Their job is a very public job. One that’s performed in front of an audience (by ‘performed’ & ‘audience’ I just mean that the duties of the job are undertaken in front of a crowd of people). We would do well to remember that our pastors/church leaders are human beings like us, full of quirks and wrestling with sin and struggles just like we do. Instead of seeing our pastors with targets on their backs, we should see them with love and compassion and as people who have dedicated their time to serve the body.
If you have a legitimate concern, approach your leader about it, and don’t talk about him behind this back. Be kind, be loving.
3. Don’t spend time with your church outside of the church building. 
Most of our churches corporate gatherings serve a great purpose. We worship together and we learn together. But most aren’t very conducive to getting to know each other on a deeper level. This isn’t a failure on the part of our leadership, it’s just the nature of a larger gathering. We need these small group gatherings (not just official ‘small groups’, but parties, coffee dates, men’s/women’s nights, etc.). I’ve found that I learn more about a person over 30 minutes of sharing coffee and a donut, than I did attending church with them for several months.
4. Believe that everything should be about you and for you, all the time.
 We need to understand – not everything is about/for us all the time.  Whether it is the music, the sermon topic, the planned approach for the day....  too many Church Members think that this is not for me so why should I participate? Maybe the service wasn’t aimed directly at you,  but even that can teach us something important, because the church that teaches you that everything is about you, all the time, is preaching a very different message than – lay down your lives for each other.
5. Be unhappy with the fact that it isn’t perfect. 
“There is no perfect church, and if you find one, don’t join it because you’ll ruin it.” I don’t know who first said that, but it’s true. All churches are strong in some areas and weak in others. Hopefully churches are always working on those weaknesses, but if we can’t settle for anything less than perfection, then we’re in real trouble.
In his book “Under the Unpredictable Tree,” Eugene Peterson helps pastors be content in the church they are in. Maybe there needs to be a version for church members. In the book Peterson coined the term “Ecclesiastical Pornography.” That is the perfect term to describe the problem that so many people have. We look at the church down the street, or the church in town that’s “doing really well,” or the celebrity pastor’s church and think – “they have it all together” or “they’re doing church right.”
Many people start attending those churches and after the honeymoon period wears off, they find that church has weaknesses of its own. Sadly many people go through life thinking the perfect church is just around the corner, or as many young evangelicals do, they decide that they don’t need church at all and embark on solo-Christianity.
Church is like marriage in a lot of ways. In the beginning it’s fun, and exciting, but eventually the honeymoon comes to an end and it’s work, real work, but we find that the work is rewarding and worthwhile, and it’s work that God meant for us to be doing.

To Serve or Not To Serve....

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28


A little boy went with his daddy to church one day. On their way into the service, the two stopped to admire a memorial plaque the church had just installed for all of the members who had died in the armed forces. The boy asked his father, “Daddy, what are all those names on the wall?” “Well, son, those are all the people who died in the service,” the dad responded.


  The boy took a look at the sanctuary doors and got a very frightened look on his face. “Daddy, did they die in the first service or the second service?”


What does “service” mean? We often use that word to describe our Sunday morning gatherings. But I think you’d agree with me that too many people come to church not to give service, but to be served. They want the music their way. They want the pastor to say everything just right. And they want to leave with a warm fuzzy feeling inside.


Our Father is seeking true worshippers… those who will be willing even to give their own lives in His service. And the genuine, committed believer in Christ will see him or herself in just that way. Don’t come to church to be served. Follow Jesus’ example of serving others!


DON’T JUST COME TO CHURCH TO BE SERVED. LIVE LIFE EACH DAY TO FOLLOW CHRIST’S EXAMPLE OF SERVING OTHERS.


(repost from Jack Graham)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love Lessons To Be a Valentine

Every year, men try to pony up at Valentine’s Day for their spouse, significant other or loved ones with the obligatory purchase of red roses, chocolates, jewelry, a card and perhaps a romantic dinner. Some men dutifully step up. Others go over the top, while others cross their fingers hoping they can do something right. But all men face the pressure of answering the conundrum that has alluded men for centuries, “what does she really want?”
 
Understanding women can seem like trying to solve a broken Rubik’s cube.
 
From historical accounts, and what we read from the wisest man’s “Songs of Solomon,” here’s a little love lesson on how to be the “Valentine” your sweetheart desires.
 
First, although there are various historical stories about the origin of Valentine’s Day, I found one that was interesting to note. It appears a St. Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned saint named Valentine sent a greeting to a young girl he fell in love with--possibly his jailor's daughter--who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine."
 
The question remains, however, what did his love interest think of the note? Did she really feel loved? Or was she merely flattered?
 
Now, turning to true story, written by Solomon with the help of his muse, a Shulamite girl named Naamah. Naamah gives what I believe is the secret to what women want for Valentine’s Day. And it’s not all your heart, money, trinkets, and over the top treatment. (What a relief, right?)
 
But before you get the secret, you have to recognize the difference between two types of love:
 
  • Emotional - This kind of love is based on feelings.
  • Sacrificial - This kind of love is based on actions.
 
Men often fall into the trap of getting caught up in emotional-based love. Their feelings, whether penned on paper, spoken or even sung, can be an effective short-term exercise in sharing what you think and feel about your loved one. But, I think this temporary expression of love pales in comparison to a long-lasting, sacrificial love.
 
In the Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs), 8:6-7, Naamah gives men the secret to being the ultimate Valentine in her note to Solomon. Here it is:
 
  • “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.  Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”
 
Here’s how I break down her note. “Place me like a seal over your heart…” tells me a few things.
 
  • Women want your love to be Permanent - The “seal” she refers to is what kings used to decree law, finalize judgement or make the records clear. This symbol means she wants to have a permanent place in your life.
 
  • Women want your Proximity - Where does she want to place the seal? Right, smack dab over your heart. She desires to have time with you and to be close to you. So close, in fact, you cannot separate a seal from the paper, and your very identity is fused together. The closer she is, the more secure she will be.
 
  • Women want to be your Priority - Naamah says she doesn’t want to be like everybody else in his life. Women don’t want the scraps of time you can muster, and compete with. They don’t want to feel low on your priority list. Women have a healthy jealousy for your time, affection and attention.
 
Notice what Naamah doesn’t want. “If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” In other words, her love can’t be bought. You can’t overwhelm her with wealth, because money is not meaningful.
 
To win her heart, you have to hear your heart. If you’re really listening to her, you won’t have to ask what she wants for Valentine’s Day. Take a tip from Naamah this year and give:
 
  • Pledge of Permanent Love -- Let your faithfulness to her be known, and your purity pass the test.
  • Pledge of Proximity -- Give her security and protection by being together, face to face. Not text to text.
  • Pledge of Priority -- Show her she’s like a “seal over your heart” with the gift of time, so you can show her you care, and listen to what is going on in her life, thoughts and feelings.
 
This pledge requires a sacrificial love, and will be better than chocolate shaped hearts…. although, those never hurt.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 Ways To Be Unsatisfied With Church

1. Don’t participate, merely consume. If I had to say the one thing holding the American church back today, it would be a consumeristic culture. We’ve come to expect that the latest technology comes standard in our cars. Our movie theaters should have wide rows with extra padded seats and that lean way back. Unfortunately, we think our church should be no different. Just like the movie theater, we come when the production starts, sit in our seats, are entertained, and think we should leave satisfied when it’s over. When I was a pastor, those most unsatisfied in our body, were those who just showed up on Sunday’s (sometimes). There was little to no participation in small groups, service projects or teaching and serving within the church. Obviously there are those in most churches who are seekers, or young in the faith that just need to be taken care of for a season, but that should be a temporary state. 2. Criticize your leadership. I once heard about a couple who didn’t like their pastor because he told stories about his family in the pulpit before beginning his sermons. Quirky? Yeah, kinda. Unbiblical, sinful, illegal, harmful?! Definitely not. We’ve really got understand the difference. It’s also not fair to compare your pastor to the celebrity pastor on the other side of the country whose book we just read and now believe that every church everywhere should be run like that celebrity pastors church. Remember that celebrity pastor is in a completely different context. He doesn’t know your church, and he also doesn’t come to your home when you have a tragedy or celebrate with you when you have a baby or other joyous life event. We’re hard on our pastors. Their job is a very public job. One that’s performed in front of an audience (by ‘performed’ & ‘audience’ I just mean that the duties of the job are undertaken in front of a crowd of people). We would do well to remember that our pastors/church leaders are human beings like us, full of quirks and wrestling with sin and struggles just like we do. Instead of seeing our pastors with targets on their backs, we should see them with love and compassion and as people who have dedicated their time to serve the body. If you have a legitimate concern, approach your leader about it, and don’t talk about the them behind their back. Be kind, be loving. 3. Don’t spend time with your church outside of the church building. Most of our churches corporate gatherings serve a great purpose. We worship together and we learn together. But most aren’t very conducive to getting to know each other on a deeper level. This isn’t a failure on the part of our leadership, it’s just the nature of a larger gathering. We need these small group gatherings (not just official ‘small groups’, but parties, coffee dates, men’s/women’s nights, etc.). I’ve found that I learn more about a person over 30 minutes of sharing coffee or a beer, than I did attending liturgy with them for several months. 4. Believe that everything should be about you and for you, all the time. Not long after Kate and I started attending our current church, they undertook a ‘season of kids’. There was additional time in liturgy given to teaching the children in the church. The kids participated in the service in various ways. Even the sermons were about child-like faith and other themes centered around children. Kate and I didn’t have children (we now have one on the way if you’re not keeping up), and we were not ourselves children. We had to understand – not everything is about/for us all the time. That’s not to say that we didn’t get anything from the season of kids, it just wasn’t aimed directly at us, but even that taught us something important, because the church that teaches you that everything is about you, all the time, is preaching a very different message than – lay down your lives for each other. We were also appreciative to be apart of a church that found value in children and went to great lengths to show it to them. 5. Be unhappy with the fact that it isn’t perfect. “There is no perfect church, and if you find one, don’t join it because you’ll ruin it.” I don’t know who first said that, but it’s true. All churches are strong in some areas and weak in others. Hopefully churches are always working on those weaknesses, but if we can’t settle for anything less than perfection, then we’re in real trouble. In his book “Under the Unpredictable Tree,” Eugene Peterson helps pastors be content in the church they are in. Maybe there needs to be a version for church members. In the book Peterson coined the term “Ecclesiastical Pornography.” That is the perfect term to describe the problem that so many people have. We look at the church down the street, or the church in town that’s “doing really well,” or the celebrity pastor’s church and think – “they have it all together” or “they’re doing church right.” Many people start attending those churches and after the honeymoon period wears off, they find that church has weaknesses of its own. Sadly many people go through life thinking the perfect church is just around the corner, or as many young evangelicals do, they decide that they don’t need church at all and embark on solo-Christianity. Church is like marriage in a lot of ways. In the beginning it’s fun, and exciting, but eventually the honeymoon comes to an end and it’s work, real work, but we find that the work is rewarding and worthwhile, and it’s work that God meant for us to be doing. Thanks to Shane blackshear...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

hello, my name is church


Hello, My Name Is Church

Hello my name is church,
I'm sure you've heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am...
Boring Shallow Cheap A waste of time
You've heard that I am full of:
Hypocrites Clowns Greedy people The self-righteous
Maybe you have visited me before and discovered:
Horrible music Passionless singing Dry preaching Rude congregants
Maybe you needed me and I was:
Too busy Too "righteous" Too broke Too blind
Maybe you joined me and found I was:
Distant Demanding Dull Preoccupied
Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by:
Business meetings Committees Teams Bureaucracy
Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody:
Called Cared Noticed Invited you back
Perhaps your experience has driven you to:
Speak negatively of me Swear to never come back to me Proclaim that no one needs me Believe you're better off without me
If this is true, I have something to say to you:
I'm sorry I was wrong I blew it I made a huge mistake
But remember, I never said my name was:
Perfect Flawless Complete Arrived
My name is church. I welcome the:
Hypocrite Dry Self-righteous Shallow
I welcome the
Sincere Passionate Forgiving Selfless
I cannot shut my doors to the people who make you:
Angry Uncomfortable Impatient Self-conscious
But I would remind you that we couldn't always worship in the same room. In the Old Testament there was a division between the:
Gentile Jew Man Woman
In order for us to all worship in the same room Christ was:
Shamed Beaten Killed Resurrected
Which is far worse than being:
Bored Uncomfortable Embarrassed Ignored
So why not come back to church and let all of these messed up people:
Challenge you Sharpen you Strengthen you Humble you
I can't promise you that the people will be great. This is church. It's not:
Heaven Paradise Beulah Land The Celestial city
Come back.
God wants you here. The body needs you here. The world needs your witness here. You belong here.
Hello, my name is church.
I miss you.
I love you.
I'm sorry.
Can't wait to see you.
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