The Church, Technology, and CODIV-19

The ever-changing and improving technology is nothing new to the church. Martin Luther and his 95 theses caught the fire of communication in Europe because of technology. Between 1517 and 1520, his writings sold over 300,000 copies which were something new for differing religious mindsets. Wycliff who was on the cusp of this new technology was unable to use it the same way. (Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Kindle Ed., location 7511). Luther was born at the right time as technology advanced. On one hand, this was thrust upon him as others took his writing to be printed and on the other, he saw how it was advantageous of getting the truth out.

Here we are five centuries later and we see how technology has advanced. We have digital books, not just the printed book! We are now able to communicate with more people faster than ever. Many churches use technology to communicate but COVID-19 has forced the church to communicate in these different ways more than ever.

Some churches have wrestled more with this over their convictions of streaming their service compromises on what it means to be the church and some churches already stream their services online. I understand both sides and am thankful for both views. A church that is strong in its convictions and one that utilizes the tools on hand. A couple of thoughts regarding this:

Motivation:

Costi W. Hinn responded to the recent debate of church’s moving to do church “online” on Instagram and said, “Friends, let us spend time this week whether traditionalists think of our online efforts and spend more time proclaiming truth through whatever medium we can: Pound the airwaves, Post to IGTV, go ‘Live’, Light up phone lines, and fill up mailboxes. Unleash the hope in Christ.”

Costi showed the bigger picture. We have an opportunity to get the gospel out so as a church let’s do just that. If we write a letter (old school way with a pen, paper, and a stamp) you are using a form of technology. If you call someone you are using technology. When you use a microphone to make it so people can hear you at church is a form of technology. Using a camera and the internet to share God’s Word with your church is a form of technology. So, let us use the current tool of technology to share the gospel message.

There may be some churches that are unable to stream as it is work upon pastors and staff that probably are already stretched. One must not judge them based on conviction or abilities. I think all Christians would agree that we must live with a sense of urgency (Eph. 5:15-16). I know some pastors, though are not streaming a Sunday service, are busier than ever reaching out to the congregation through texts, phone calls, and video meetings. They are doing what they can!

The Church:

There should be a clarification of what is the church? Does doing church this way constitute “doing church?” No, the church is the gathering of God’s people together living within a community with each other. But, here is a time that people are more open to listening to the gospel. This is the time that this world has many questions and fears and the church can point them to the Savior, Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death. The one who made it possible for us to have peace with God so we can have the peace of God.

This is a tool to get the message out and we are longing to be able to meet in person one day again. This is a longing that is a good longing to have. This is something that should be on the heart of every believer, to gather with other believers, to give hugs, handshakes, and high fives as the local congregation assemble together. There is longing to sit next to other believers singing to God out loud through the poor pitch and deaf tone singers along with those that sing elegantly. I long for that day to come again to be able to place my hand on the shoulder of the brother in Christ as I pray for him. This is the church which is more than just listening to a sermon, it is the living out of God’s word. We have been given the gospel doctrine which lived out which makes a gospel culture.

Though we are called to keep distant from one another, we know that because of Christ we are one and united together. Though we have social distancing for protection and to help curb this invisible enemy, we look to Jesus who defeated the invisible enemy sin, death, and the devil through life sinless life, sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection.

The Invisible Enemy

This is a phrase that you probably have heard by now as what the CODIV-19 is being called. This invisible enemy has derailed families, causing chaos and confusion among nations, closed governments, fear and panic in the hearts of millions. This invisible enemy is a threat to all. No one seems prone to the dangers not even the rich and powerful, world leaders, the ones who are nice

But to the Christian, this is nothing new. Yes, the CODIV-19 is something new and serious, but there is something that is way more serious than has stained mankind throughout history. This threat or invisible enemy is called sin, death, and the devil (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy sin has infected everyone. The devil robs and steals joy from everyone. This enemy has broken up families and led people down a horrible path. Sin has separated man from God which is the worst part of the problem of sin.

The psalmist writes:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday (Psalm 91:1-6).

Throughout history that has always been the danger of pestilence. A little over a hundred years ago we faced the Spanish Flu which wreaked havoc on humanity. This is something that has been a threat to humanity. But as the psalmist points out that pestilence is an enemy that stalks in darkness, the invisible enemy, we can have rest because God is our refuge and fortress. Let me encourage you that same truth, we can rest in the shadow of the Almighty, God is our refuge and fortress!

The Invisible Enemy is Defeated

This virus has impacted all of humanity, and the same is true with the invisible enemy sin, death, and the devil. The Christian is reminded that only God can deliver and save and heal the sin-sick person (Luke 5:31). That is why we look to the cross because sin is something that every single human has sinned against God. But God has provided a way through God the Son, Jesus Christ. The one who knew no sin, the only one who conquered sin and death, the only one who could satisfy the payment for our sin-Jesus Christ.

Remember that though these are interesting times, these are scary times, these are unfamiliar times but I am hopeful because the Bible says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, 37-39). Remember not even this virus can separate the Christian from the love of God!

Turn our Worry into Worship

The future seems unknown and volatile and that can be scary but not for the Christian. The prophet Habakkuk was called by God to proclaim warnings to Jerusalem during a scary, unknown, and volatile time as well. God was warning Judah to turn from their sin of idolatry and to rest in the living God but they were not listening. So, God had Habakkuk warn them of the nation Babylon coming as a result of God’s judgment. Habakkuk was wrestling with this because they were way more wicked nation than Judah and it was going to take place in his lifetime which meant he would be suffering along with everyone in Judah. God responded to Habakkuk’s hesitations with a reminder of his sovereignty. What stands out is how Habakkuk then responds to God. He says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17—19).

He turns his worry and hesitations to worship of God. We can say, “though the toilet paper is gone and the stores are bare, though the water bottles are limited and there is no food, though we may be quarantined and all the restaurants shut down, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

God is in charge of the smallest atom. Jesus has been given authority over everything and that even means the Coronavirus (Matt. 28:18). Let us turn our worry into worship. Let us turn our fear into faith and though our faith may be weak, it is about the object of our faith, our precious Savior Jesus Christ. He has conquered sin and death and that is far greater than the threat of any virus. He is able!

The Overwhelming Love of God

Do you ever wonder why does God love me? As a Christian we hear that phrase a lot, “God loves you!” Have you ever thought why? We may not understand why certain things happen, but we can say God loves me. When suffer and go through trials God still loves (Rom. 8:35-39). The beloved disciple of Jesus, John, writes in 1 John why the love of God is so important. He is answering and defending who Jesus is. He is fully man and fully God. This matters because God loves you!

Tina Turner asked this question in her song “What’s Love God to Do With It?” In regards to God’s love it has everything to do with it. God is love, and He loves us, so we can love one another (1 John 4:7-8). Here are four aspects to God’s love for us to reflect on.

God’s Love Is A Mark Of A Christian.

The born-again believer is made distinct from the world based on what? in 1 John we see that it is by how they love. Christian, there should be something different about you. There should be something that stands out from you, and that is how you love others.

We can love one another because love is from God. This love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). His love shapes us and defines us as Christians.  Jesus even said, everyone will know that you are my disciples by how you love (John 13:35).

God’s Love Is Manifested Through Christ.

The beloved disciple John writes, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 9-10).

God is love! God as his divine attribute and characteristic is love. All of God’s activity is a loving activity. Everything we know about God teaches us that he is love. Every encounter we have with God expresses that He is love.

The highest, greatest example of how God loves is shown in Christ! God who is love and is loving is shows his love through and in Jesus Christ. The Bible reminds us that we know love because Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16).

The famous love passage in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, gives us a description of what love looks like. It is a tangible approach to love that is demonstrated by Jesus.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

We sometimes want to read that and then challenge ourselves by replacing the word love with our names.  The description that Paul is giving is that of Jesus Christ, who perfectly loved.  We need to read this passage as Jesus is patient and kind and so on. You and I will fail to love perfectly but Jesus loves perfectly. We then rest in Jesus who loves perfectly as we can reflect this love to one another.

The Love Of God Is Our Mission And Message Of The Believer To The World.

Because God loves me, I can love God (1 John 4:19). Because God loves me, and can also love others, including those who are hard to love. It has been said, “The unseen God reveals himself through the visible love of believers.” We are a reflection of God who loves! 

How does this happen. There is a word that John uses in 1 John 4, it is abide. He writes, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:12, 13, 15-16).

The word abide also means to dwell in, remain in, or to live in. I like the term live in because it shows the depth of the relationship. There is a difference between a house and a home. A house can be a temporary dwelling place to keep you safe from the elements. But a home as the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Home is where you have roots. Home is where you are invested and committed. Whenever I may be out traveling and staying in hotels, I can’t wait to get home. It is because that is where I abide.A

Many may approach their relationship with God like a house. It serves them a purpose but temporary. If we abide in God, He abides in us, because He has given us His Spirit (1 John 4:13). We are committed, in union with, live in with God; we abide!

Jesus was asked what are the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:36-40)? Jesus responded by the saying the first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. When we abide in God, we love God with our whole being. It is a result of abiding is loving him. We love Him because He first loves us (1 John 4:19).  

The second command Jesus said is like the first which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Oswald Chambers answered the question of who is my neighbor? He said, “If my heart is right with God, every human being is my neighbor. When we abide in God, we love God and we love others. This is God’s love which is made visible in Christian love for one another.

We Can Love Those That Are Hard To Love!

How do we love other people? Love Jesus more than them. When you love Jesus more than your spouse, you actually love your spouse better. The same is true when you love Jesus more than children you love them better. When you love Jesus more than others you actually care and share the Gospel of love with them. When we love Jesus more, we are able to speak truth in love. Because we love Jesus and love other people. 

When we abide in God and He in us, we can love our enemies. Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).  We need to remember that we were once an enemy of God, someone hard to love and yet God loved me still. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

To summarize:

  • God loves you! He demonstrated in the most glorious and greatest way through Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
  • How do we love God in return? It is when the believer demonstrates God’s love to one another!

When God Says No

Anyone who has children knows that children have a hard time when the parents may say “No” to their request. Parents who love their children curb their children’s wishes to teach them to resist indulgence, to protect them, and to train them. No is not always a bad thing but can be a good thing. Hearing no as the answer to a request is not just hard for children but also for adults. God responds to our prayer requests at times with a no, why?

What about the real requests? I am not talking about those ridiculous prayer requests like wanting a mansion or a sports car, but why do we get a “no” from God still? What if our intentions are pure and good and we still get a no, why?

He Loves Us

The theme of God’s love is interwoven throughout the Bible. A defining characteristic of God is that He is love (1 John 4:8, 16). God is not only loving but is love. God’s love for His children, the Christian is special and unique. God who has this special and unique love for His child will answer “no” to our requests at times because He loves us.

In Matthew 7 Jesus gives this illustration of how an earthly father knows how to give good gifts so how much more your Father who is in heaven knows how to give good things to those who ask (Matt. 7:11). We can look at it almost the same way but with not getting what we ask, why because he who is in heaven, knows what we need or what we don’t need.

The overwhelming love of God is manifested through the Son (1 John 4:9). We know God loves us. So, when we receive a “no” from God with one of our requests remember it is because He loves us.

He Is Protecting Us

Another reason we receive a “no” which stems from His love for us may be because He is protecting us from something that we are unaware of that good be harmful or not good for us. I

In Matthew 7 we are encouraged by Jesus to approach God the Father like a child seeking their earthly father. We ask, seek, and knock with confidence that God hears us but also that He will answer us. Jesus gives the example of a child asking for a fish receives a poisonous snake instead or asking for bread receives rocks. God doesn’t do mean or spiteful responses. But what if what we are asking for is more like the rocks or the poisonous snakes? God knows those would be harmful to us and does not give them.

Just like a parent tells their toddler no when they may be doing something potentially dangerous out of their protective love for their child. The toddler may not know that putting their finger in the light socket is dangerous, the parents do and want to protect their children. The same way, God in His perfect love protects His children from things that may not be good for us.

He is Perfect in His Timing

We may receive a “no-not yet” response from God about our prayer request too. The Apostle Paul dealt with no from God. He wanted to share the Gospel in an area of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) but God said no (Acts 16:6-10). At first glance this may seem brash of God to respond with no. He was not telling Paul that the Gospel would not be shared there. He was telling him that he wasn’t going there to share the Gospel. If you continue to read the passage Paul was directed to another place where God wanted him to go, Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10).

God cared for those of that area so it wasn’t where God preferred a place or people above the other. It was based on God’s perfect timing and placing of Paul. Later that area that Paul would want to go to were mission fields for other disciples to go to and were fruitful places of ministry.

God will say no because we may have our eyes in the wrong place and it may not be the right time. Just like the promises of God to Abraham, Joseph, or David to be used in a great way took time.

When you receive a “no” from God on something you were asking of Him let me encourage you (and me) to respond humbly. Reflect and remember on what the Bible says, God loves you and is good. He protects and directs us. We want to be in His perfect will and that means even in His perfect timing!

What Does it Mean for the Christian to Be Dead to Sin?

The Apostle Paul in the letter to the believers in Rome, addresses what the God has done through Gospel in us and what does it look like the Gospel through us. He clearly points out that the Christian is not saved by works or can earn favor from God. It is a work of Christ on the cross (Rom. 3:20, 23-24).

In Romans 6, Paul asks a rhetorical question. He asks, “If we are saved not by our works but by Christ’s perfect record then how we can live however we want because it won’t change our standing before God” (6:10)?

Paul’s answer is, “Absolutely it does matter how we live!” We don’t sin so grace can keep on be dished out. No, as one who is in Christ (the believer), it does matter how we live. We do not live based upon works, we go forward based upon grace. It is not out of obligation but out of joy and wanting to please God because we are not the same that we used to be. 

The Apostle Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). He also mentions this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

In Romans 6 Paul asks this question then, “How can we who are dead to sin still live in it” (vs 2)? The believer has been changed, they are no longer living in sin but dead to sin. What does is mean to be dead to sin?

Dead to Sin

As a believer you are dead to sin. Sin no longer has bondage or power over you. Jesus broke the chains of sin and death through his death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54–57).

I had an opportunity in college to go to Cambodia and while I was in there I rode an elephant. It is a massive animal that has so much power. This massive animal ripped a tree from the ground like it was nothing while I was on it! I was truly impressed and in awe of the strength of this animal.

Yet, these massive animals can be trained in a circus. In an article from the Huffington Post we read that when the calf is still small a strong rope is tied around their necks and attach to a secure pole. The baby elephants naturally try to walk away but are stopped by the rope. They try to break free but are conditioned to being secure. The elephant will grow and become strong yet is accustomed to being held back by the rope. That rope, which they can easily break because of their mere size and power but are held in bondage because of being conditioned to think they can not break free.

Many believers still live as if the “rope of sin” has never been broken. But we are free and “dead to sin” because of Jesus Christ! Timothy Keller does an excellent job explaining what it does not mean to be dead to sin in his commentary on Romans. In order for us to properly understand what it does mean to be dead to sin, let us look at what it does not mean. I listed them below.

Dead to Sin does not mean that we no longer have sinful desires.

Sin does not have power over us, but we still struggle with sinful desires. That is why we are warned about temptation in 1 Cor. 10:30, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Jesus himself was tempted but never gave into temptation but to show us that we can endure and fight temptation as he is the way out! We are saved by God’s grace but it doesn’t mean that you and I will be sinless. We will be battling sin until the day we die. 

Dead to sin does not mean we no longer ought to sin.

No, we died to sin not that we “ought” to die to sin. Paul is not suggesting that the believer should die to sin but the action of Christ and the union we share with Christ means we have died to sin. So it is is not a suggestion but looking to what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf.

Dead to sin does not mean that we are slowly moving away from sin.

When Paul writes you are dead in sin which means it was once and done action not a continual process. When Christ was hanging on the cross he uttered these words- “It is finished” (John 19:30)! We are daily being sanctified which means more into the image of Christ but we are dead in sin. We are not dying or moving away from sin, we are dead to sin.

Dead to sin does not mean we have renounced sin.

We should fight against sin and the things that God hates we in ourselves cannot do this. Just like we cannot save ourselves, being dead to sin is done to us.  We are one with Christ because we are dead to sin and and intertwined with him in what he has done through his life, death, and resurrection. We have shared in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).

Dead to sin means- A Christian is no longer is in bondage to the power of sin.

You are not sinless. The Christian will still struggle and battle with the flesh. There will be temptation, but the ruling power of sin has no claim on you Christian. Jesus is our victorious King who conquered sin and death! Be reminded, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13). As a believer in Jesus Christ, let us go forward in the victory of Jesus.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media For a Teenager

With the rise of smartphones that are out there now and the advancement of technology, we are greeted with a plethora of apps to enhance the connectivity we have with one another. But with this rise of connectivity via a screen, in the long run, does it help or hurt the user? Recent data has surfaced that though we are more connected than ever before, we are actually more alone than ever before too.

My wife Alyssa and I do not have any teenagers yet but our daughter is approaching that age quickly. Today she even asked if she could create Youtube videos! I am excited about her creativity and ambition, but I am nervous too. What are the pros and cons of social media for a teenager? As a parent, we need to think about the use of social media and the effect it as on us before we are so quick to answer with a yes or no.

Pro #1- Connectivity

“The world is flat” as David Friedman declared in his book of the history of the 21st century. He was using this statement to show that we are more connected with the world than ever before. We can communicate instantaneously with others around the world. This is amazing instead of waiting for a letter which takes days, weeks, and even months; we wait seconds.

Teenagers today can communicate with family and friends who live in other states and even different countries. They can see pictures of those loved ones, comment on them, and share their own pictures with others.

Pro #2- Awareness

Not only can we connect with the world faster than ever we also receive news faster than ever before. The major news conglomerates now utilize social media as the main source of reporting news. The news is not only produced quickly but is rapidly being shared. We can know more of what is going on around the world than ever before, faster than ever before.

One can easily see a live car chase happening by just going on Facebook rather than turning on the T.V. and trying finding the right news channel covering it. We can hear the news to be more aware of what is going on and be more mindful of others because of this awareness.

Pro #3- God Glorifying

With all the technological advances that has happened throughout history such as the roads that Romans built, the printing press, and now the internet there is so much potential to share the Gospel with the world with whom we are connected with.

We can and should use technology for the sake of God’s glory. I have written in the past about how we can do this here. The believer uses the tools at his disposal to share the Gospel and point to God’s glory. A post can be used to share an encouraging Bible verse or share the Gospel.

These are a few of the pro’s but what about the con’s?

Con #1- False Reality

The danger with social media is the idea of what you see is the reality. The truth is most of social media is a partial reality or an enhanced reality. The user can manipulate what others see. I would suggest girls would struggle with this more than boys. The images that are being portrayed is not real but enhanced by filters.

When image is already a sensitive subject for teenagers, social media can pour gas on the fire of comparison. The danger of coveting comes into the heart. What you see is not what you get, but an enhanced version. One may be tempted to compare to that reality and then look at their own life in despair and discontentment.

Con #2- FOMO

FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a real thing that has been studied because of the rise of social media. I have written a little more extensively on FOMO.

Because of the connectivity and the awareness that social media offers there is also the fear of missing out on something. This can be when one was invited to something but unable to attend because of other obligations so they miss out. There is also the fear of missing out because one was just not invited. This is when you feel left out or not part of the group. You missed out!

There was still the fear of missing out before social media existed, it can not be used intentionally or unintentionally to celebrate what was one part of and bragged about what you missed out on. Social media has now magnified this as we can see the highlight reel of everyone’s life.

Con #3- Loneliness

Though we are more connected than ever before research has shown that we are also more lonely than ever before. Giles Slade shares in his book The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness, that with the rise of different technological advances that make life easier, we have not moved away from personal connectivity. Talking in person is less and less while screen communication is expected more.

With the rise of social media there is an interesting link between the rise of depression among teenagers. Jean Twenge, author if iGen offers a correlation with the rise of social media there is a rise of depression and suicide. This rise has impacted boys but significantly girls. From 2011 is has grown rapidly where one out of every five girls reported symptoms of a major depressive episode.

Con #4- Danger

There is also the danger of pedophiles and cyberbullying. Teenagers who can be suspectible to these predators online. That is why it is important for parents need to be involved in their teenagers social media lives.

The rise of cyberbullying is a serious threat. The autonomy of being able to hide behind a screen and yet threaten someone without any regard is disturbing. These are realities that come with social media.

The Bigger Picture

Before we storm into the rooms of every teenager and delete their accounts it is important for parents to teach through this. There is a proper balance where we protect children from danger and malicious behavior but we also want to teach children how to handle these con’s to social media.

The best way to teach a teenager in response to all of this would be to remind them and show them that a believer’s identity is founded in Christ (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2; 1 Peter 2:9). Remind them that a Christian’s worth and purpose is defined by Jesus and not by us or others. This reassures them that they do not need to compare nor worry about missing out. Yes, that happens but how do we respond when those moments occur? We run to the Lord!

A parent is a disciples their children. The best way to help our children who are growing up with screens as part of life is to teach them how to handle them safely, mindfully, and God glorifying. Again, be involved, have those conversations, have access to their accounts, be their friend on their account to monitor.

Lead With…

Photo by Tom Grimbert on Unsplash

A pastor is a leader. A pastor is a shepherd who is called to lead a group of people in growth with the Lord. He is to equip them for good works, and to live out the Gospel in their communities.

There are many great resources regarding Christian leadership. Pastor Craig Groeschel has a wonderful podcast on it. The President of Gateway Seminary, Jeff Iorg also has books and a podcast on leadership. Both I highly recommend. I do by no means have all the answers but wanted to share a new blog series called “Lead With.” I will describe important leadership convictions that I have learned through the years of pastoral ministry.

1)    Teach change to make change

I am convinced that the Biblical model of church which is shared in Acts 2 reflects this. The early church was faced with some insurmountable odds. The culture was against them, the Jewish religious leaders were against them. Despite the resistance, what mattered was the Word of God being taught.

When we worship the Lord through the corporate reading and teaching of God’s word something happens; there is unity of hearts and minds. We stir one another up for good works as we meet on the Lord’s Day (Hebrews 10:25). Teaching change leads to change. True and lasting change takes time. The Lord does a change in the heart when the “why” is biblically taught.

2)    The Gospel is attractive enough

We do not need to add more to this great truth! There is enough competing to get their attention of the people in your church. Pastor Dustin Benge tweeted recently, “Your people have been entertained to death this week. 27 hours of television, 24 hours of computer, 15 hours of cell phone, and 12 hours of radio.” The church has Jesus, the risen Savior who loves the church, died for the church, is for the church. We have that message to share with the community that Christ came to save sinners. This news out weighs, is greater than, and better than anything they will eve here. Jesus is enough!

Remember, what you win them with you win them to. This means you may get a crowd but you will constantly live in this cycle of having to outdo yourself each time to keep them. Yes, you may get people at the church but most events do not keep people at the church. What keeps them is the life-giving message of the Gospel taught and then shared through relationship. This fuels the flames of evangelism.

Jesus is and the one who builds His church (Matthew 16:13—26). Seek this great truth as you love one another and those in the community. As you live out the Gospel and are changed by the Gospel that is attractive to others (and can be offensive to some, Matthew 13:57).

4)    Trust takes time to build, can easily be lost, and shouldn’t be taken for granted

I have been placed in new situations with new people before and I know trust is not always given quickly. It must be earned and proven. Trust develops through relationships of honesty and transparency. The serious role of a pastor comes with great responsibilities that should not be taken lightly. The pastor is the under-shepherd to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. The pastor is to steward of the flock that God has given him. I am reminded that I am held accountable to God for not only handling the word of God but with how I shepherd the flock God has given me. 

Trust is built and takes time; it can quickly be lost. Surround yourself with those who hold you accountable and encourage you to go forward. The message of the Gospel does not need to be given a black eye. The world is watching and we strive together for God’s glory through the relationship that the church has with one another. The bride of Christ is the church (Ephesians 5:32).  

What’s Your Resolution?

Photo by KEITH WONG on Unsplash

It is a new year and with that comes a time of excitement for what lies ahead and thankful for what is behind you. At the beginning of every year I try to look at goals and resolutions that I may have. I reflect on the ones I made the year before and look at how well I kept or failed with those resolutions.

What is it with a new year and thinking of a new start? The most common resolutions are to lose weight, quit some kind of addiction/habit like smoking, and getting out of debt. These are not bad but I try to focus more even on the root of the problem such as idolatry and a misguided heart.

Jonathan Edwards, the famous New England pastor and Theologian of the eighteenth century would always write and add to his resolutions. He ended with 99 different resolutions that he lived his life by.

I have chosen a few of his resolutions to focus in on for this year. (The numbers represent the order they appeared on his list).

#19-Resolved, never to do anything that I should be afraid to do if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trumpet.

Personally, I have never been physically close to death’s door but as a pastor, I have had my fair share of experiences of the death of others. At times it was expected because of their age or health. But, then there are the unexpected moments that an accident or unforeseen event took place. Either way, it is hard and when you are around death you can’t help but contemplate your life and purpose. Here Jonathan Edwards thought is not only about death but living in the moment of death. Would this be acceptable to God if I were to do this, talk this way, or think this way?

I want to live in such a way, every moment, where God will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)!

#34 Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except if I have some particular good call for it. 

The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). 

I never thought of slander as speaking ill of someone which comes from a bitter heart. I thought of it as making a false allegation about someone. But as Paul points out, it is speaking ill from a bitter heart. There are times that I complain about someone or something they did. That is slander. And, sometimes my complaint is not just to myself but to other people. At that moment I not only slandered but also gossiped when it wasn’t necessarily needed.

This doesn’t mean that I assume that everyone is good nor calling someone out is wrong. What it does mean is that I will need to choose what I say more carefully. And, most importantly look within about the motive of why I am saying what I am saying. Does what I am saying glorify God? Does it help that person? Does it bring that person closer to the Lord? Will the person hearing this news be brought to glorify God?

#28 Resolved, to study Scripture so steadily and constantly and frequently as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. 

God’s word is Holy and inspired. It reveals to us the character of God and what He desires. The Bible shows us God’s heart for mankind. God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path (Psa. 119:105).

Not only as a pastor but as a Christian I desire to know God more and the best way to do that is to study the Bible. As a Christian, I also desire to grow in understanding which comes by the Holy Spirit illuminating the Bible.

Do you spend time each day to read and study the Bible? I am thankful that this habit has been instilled in me early on in my Christian life.

#43 Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were on my own, but to act entirely and altogether God’s.

Our lives are in the hands of God. I can try to live independently of God but regardless of that, He is still in charge. As Jonathan Edwards wrote this resolution to live and act knowing that God is sovereign so should I. I am God’s child, His servant, and friend (Galatians 4:6; Mark 10:45; John 15:14).

Every breath I take is from God and he is aware of it. With every step I take, God knows. When we walk circumspectly as a Christian we are knowing that we are God’s and He has us in His hands.

These are just a few of the resolutions that I have written down for this year. I want to reflect on these often and then inwardly watch how I have followed or grown complacent in these areas.