Posts You Should Read

Maybe this will become a semi-regular feature on this blog, maybe it won’t… but here’s a list of blog posts and articles I’ve read (some carefully, some quickly) and found helpful, insightful, convicting, etc.

The Message of the Bible in 221 Words – Here’s an excellent and brief explanation of what the Bible is all about by DA Carson.  If we could all learn how to explain the Story of the Bible in an understandable way that connects the OT & NT I think we’d all be better off… this article will help you begin to do that.

A Call to Remember –  I love Church History, here’s Kevin DeYoung’s explanation why we need to remember our history as Christians.

4 Reasons to Keep Bikini Pictures off FaceBook – This one’s for teen girls and their parents.  The Summer is coming… that means a whole bunch of teen girls will be posting pictures of themselves and their friends in their bathingsuits online for the world to see.  Here are four reasons why that’s not such a good idea.  This one’s worth sharing (probably via private message, posting it on someone’s profile page might come off as a bit judgmental).

Middle School: A Crucial Parenting Moment – This one’s from the Boston Globe, and I’m really thankful for the post.  I often refer to Middle School as the time to fire-proof teenagers, and High School as the time when you need to put fires out.  If teens are fireproofed well in Middle School there will be way fewer fires.  This article says something similar and relates it to sexual behavior and other risky behaviors.  Gone are the days when we can assume Middle Schoolers are too young and innocent to be discussing sex, drugs, etc. with… if we avoid those conversations we all lose.

Parents’ Guide to Kids and Cell Phones – The tagline here is “Everything you need to know before you buy your kid a cell phone.”  This article addresses some really good questions/issues to consider before getting your son/daughter their first cell phone.

The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents – This is a PDF produced by McAffee (the internet security program) to help inform parents about their teens’ online behavior.  Wow, there’s a TON of information in here that could be overwhelming, but if we want to know what teenagers are really doing online then we should pay attention!

Is This Love?!

I saw this online yesterday and couldn’t believe that this is what is being taught about love.  Now before you go off and tell me I’m exaggerating, I want you to seriously read this and just imagine what life would look like if the image below really painted a picture about love.  In many ways, this really is the image of love people would see if they watch a lot of TV and movies and don’t have any healthy examples to observe in their real lives.

Now compare that portrait of “love” to what the Apostle Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

Tim Challies provides a really helpful blog post the other day that’s relevant here: 8 Bullet Points on Marriage.  Love and Marriage are not toys to play with, but deep and rich longings that must not be made cheap and easy.

Finally, I’d like to recommend you to read Jared Wilson’s post here named: “10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know.”  Here’s a little taste of what he writes:

1. It’s not bad to want to have sex with your significant other. It’d be another sort of worry if you didn’t. The key is to want to glorify Christ more than you want to have sex with each other.

4. Nearly every Christian I know who is married to an unbeliever loves their spouse and does not necessarily regret marrying them, but has experienced deep pain and discontent in their marriage because of this unequal yoking and would now never advise a believer to marry an unbeliever.

8. Pre-marital sex wounds a young woman’s heart, perhaps imperceptibly at first but undeniably over time, as she trades in covenant benefits without covenant security. This is not the way God designed sex to fulfill us.

10. You are loved by God with abundant grace in Christ’s atoning work, and an embrace of this love by faith in Jesus provides Holy Spiritual power and satisfaction to pursue relationships that honor God and thereby maximize your joy.

Get Grounded

If you haven’t checked out the Summer Calendar yet, I want to encourage you to do that.  We’re switching things up a bit, and with that comes our new program: GROUNDED!

GROUNDED is an opportunity for you to dig deeper into your faith and to be equipped to understand what Scripture says and how it connects to your daily life.  It’s a time where our goal is definitely to study the Bible, but in a way that helps you be grounded in your faith as you walk out the door.

Grounded means:

  1. Your roots are dug down deep into the solid ground of God’s eternal Word.
  2. Your faith is firm, because you know what you believe and why you believe it.
  3. Your faith will last, because you’re not only learning what the Bible teaches, but you’re wrestling with how you need to think differently and live differently because of Jesus.

Who is grounded for?

  1. If you believe in Jesus Christ, and you want to follow him each day but you’re not sure what that really means.
  2. If you want to learn more about the Bible and how to understand it when you read it on your own.
  3. If you have some questions about your faith and you want to discuss them with others.

Grounded will be meeting on Thursday nights from 7:00-8:30pm at EBC in July & August.  Both Junior High and High School students are invited to come, the guys and girls groups will mostly be meeting separately.

Over the course of the Summer we’ll be exploring the 8 Vital Signs of spiritual health we regularly refer to in our Youth Ministry: Authentic Faith, Spiritual Disciplines, Moral Boundaries, Healthy Friendships, Wise Choices, Ultimate Authority, Others First, A Heart for the Lost.

Contact Pastor Mike in the church office or via email if you have any questions!

Religion Among the Millennials

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released “Religion Among the Millennials” back in February, but I just came across the study this morning.  I haven’t had time to read through the full report yet, but there’s a very helpful 1-page overview I’ve embedded below (also available at the link above).

Here a few observations that I’m noticing off the bat:

  1. More people are “Unaffiliated” and yet the same amount attend a worship service “nearly weekly” as in the 90’s… but more people pray on a daily basis than ever!
  2. I’m not too concerned about the statistical change in those who say they are “certain God exists.”  Yes, the number has gone down since the 90’s, but it’s about the same as in the 80’s.  I could easily imagine someone answering this question differently depending on the day or week you ask them, since faith among Millennials is so subjective (rather than objective).  If anything, I’m surprised the number of those who are certain God exists is as high as 53%!
  3. So 53% of people are certain God exists… yet 82% believe in life after death?  This tells me that people are desperate for hope.  This is pure conjecture, but I imagine someone’s inner dialogue saying this: “Nothing I see or experience today tells me there is a God.  There might be, there might not be… but I believe things will somehow get better than this someday, even if it’s after I die.”  What a giant inroad to holding out the hope of salvation to a generation in search of hope!
  4. The Bible has held up pretty consistently despite everything else.  I hesitate on this question’s use of the word “literal.”  Honestly, I’m not sure how I’d answer this question.  I would probably answer “Yes,” because I’d assume that the question isn’t intended to have precise theological accuracy.  While I fully believe the Bible is the fully-inspired Word of God, there are many portions of Scripture that are intended to be read metaphorically or symbolically.  I’m not pointing this out to nit-pick details over the question, but the option “The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word” sounds to me like it could be taken either as I have state above or to insinuate that the Bible as a whole is inspired, but not every part of it is inspired.  This is a theological issue, and I’m not so sure it’s right or fair to lump this crowd in with those who say the Bible is “a book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men.”  These are two very different groups being lumped in together.

I hope to write a followup post next week after giving time to work through the full report.  Until then, what are the ministry implications that flow out of this study that you see?

The Drama of Redemption: Perfect Restoration

Think about your favorite story (book, movie, whatever…) and ask yourself why you really like it so much.  The stories we tell and fall in love with reflect the Story of the Bible.  This “Drama of Redemption” we’ve been looking at is the big story that all our stories are pointing towards:

  • We love stories that tell us where we came from (Creation)
  • We are drawn towards stories that make it painfully obvious that something has gone terribly wrong… we aren’t in paradise anymore (Fall)
  • We resonate with stories of redemption, where a character in the story is the one who fixes what has gone wrong (Redemption)
  • We dream of stories where paradise has been perfectly restored, everything that went wrong has been made right, and there’s no risk of losing paradise again (Restoration)

Tim Keller (a pastor & author) has said, “The way you live now is completely controlled by the way you think about your future. … The now is controlled by the then.”  This sounds confusing until you think about it this way – Imagine you have the guaranteed promise of love and wealth coming to you after graduating from High School so long as you finish with a B average.  Do you think that would change your study habits and whether or not you pay attention during class?!  What you believe will happen in the future greatly changes what you do today.

The Apostle John received a vision from God about the Perfect Restoration of all creation.  Here’s what he saw:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

Here’s the big picture of what the Bible teaches about eternity:

  1. “Heaven” is a physical place, not a ghost-town.  You will have a body and walk on the ground.  I remember growing up always thinking that “Heaven” meant I would be a ghost who lives on the clouds.  Not so much…
  2. God has made all things new!  There’s continuity with this life, but since everything we know in this world has suffered from The Fall, in eternity they will be perfected.  That means my body will be perfect: No physical or mental or emotional disabilities, no more sickness or death.  Since we were created to be full of life, I believe we’ll be whatever “age” our body is most full of life, not whatever age we were when we died.  Cool, huh?
  3. No more curse, the “Fall” is GONE.  We will have perfect intimacy with God, with each other, and with all creation/nature.  The peace and love we all so desire will be perfectly fulfilled by our restored intimacy with God, our maker and savior and restorer.
  4. There is Eternal Life & Eternal Death.  So far, we’ve only talked about eternal life, but the Bible talks an awful lot of eternal death, too.  It’s not a popular stance (never has been!), but when we remember that sin is evil because of who it is directed against rather than because of the deed that was done, then we see why sin must be judged eternally.  Sin is an eternal offense against the Holy God.

Here are the next few verses of Revelation 21, continuing where v.5 left off:

Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:5-9)

One of the most amazing parts of this passage is verse 8, where God lists who will be sent to judgment.  I need to be constantly amazed that I have somehow escaped judgment, because I know that by the standards listed in v.8 I’m guilty and deserve hell.  In fact, v.8 could simply say “But as for the idolaters, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur…” and I’d be done with!  (Remember, and “idol” is anything that is loved and honored more than God is loved and honored.)

There are 4 ways eternity needs to shape today for Christians:

  1. We have hope in the middle of suffering.  Because we see the big picture, we don’t lose heart when the going gets tough.  Legitimate suffering and pain is never easy to live through, even for Christians… but we fight through it because we know that perfect restoration is coming.
  2. We take sin seriously.  We take our own sin seriously and we take other people’s sin seriously because God took sin so seriously that it cost him the life of his Son!  When we say that sin is “no big deal,” we’re saying that Jesus was stupid for suffering and dying on the cross!  Let’s not get rid of the word “Sin” by simply calling it “mistakes” or “bad things” or “offenses.”
  3. We take God’s love seriously.  God takes sin seriously, but His love is so great that there was nothing that would stop him from defeating it!  Celebrate the love of God that is most clearly seen through Christ on the cross… and tell your friends.  Do you love God so much that you really desire to see your friends receive the love of Christ?  God’s love is not just a good idea, it’s the very source of eternal life!
  4. We live today to the fullest, because today will carry into eternity.  What you do today matters.  Don’t take today for granted, tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.  Plus, who you are today will help determine who you are into eternity!  Do you realize that what you believe about the future controls what you do today?