We must be open to the possibility that we are wrong, that we have been misled, that we’ve selected a harmful road, or else we may never grow, never live, never see our joy at the end of this path.
At the very least we must remember where we came from: complete darkness, a world of swirling pain, a cesspool of death and self-centered ego. When we know the depth of our sin, there’s no way we cannot be compassionate towards the lost. When we know the cost of our rescue, it’s impossible not to love with the same love.
Three things, number one: Your blog is great, you have an anointing that not many pastors have today. No. 2: My dad died about a month ago and i am really struggling, i could use prayer. # III: Being a former atheist, how would you say is the best way to witness to them. I have a friend who was raised in the christian church an decided to stop believing.
Thank you so much for that. And I will certainly pray for you.
I’m not sure there’s an exact science in talking to atheists that would be different than talking to any other human being. No matter how much you tell people there’s an incredibly awesome party next door, there are always a few who won’t believe you. They might call themselves atheists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindu, Wiccan, or Jedi, but stubbornness runs through all of us.
“The Internet has co-opted the word “browse” for its own purposes, but it’s worth pointing out the difference between browsing in a virtual realm and browsing in the actual world. Depending on the terms entered, an Internet search engine will usually come up with hundreds, thousands, or millions of hits, which a person can then skate through, clicking when she sees something that most closely echoes her interest. It is a curious quality of the Internet that it can be composed of an unfathomable multitude and, at the same time, almost always deliver to the user the bits that feed her already-held interests and confirm her already-held beliefs.
It points to a paradox that is, perhaps, one of the most critical of our time: To have access to everything may be to have nothing in particular. After all, what good does this access do if we can only find our way back to ourselves, the same selves, the same interests, the same beliefs over and over? Is what we really want to be solidified, or changed? If solidified, then the Internet is well-designed for that need.
But, if we wish to be changed, to be challenged and undone, then we need a means of placing ourselves in the path of an accident. For this reason, the plenitude may narrow the mind. Amazon may curate the world for you, but only by sifting through your interests and delivering back to you variations on your well-rehearsed themes: Yes, I do love Handke! Yes, I had been meaning to read that obscure play by Thomas Bernhard! A bookstore, by contrast, asks you to scan the shelves on your way to looking for the thing you had in mind. You go in meaning to buy Hemingway, but you end up with Homer instead. What you think you like or want is not always what you need. A bookstore search inspires serendipity and surprise.”
“Didn’t think I’d be in the hospital tonight,” and so said our dear friend Pastor Han last night when he needed immediate surgery for his appendix.
It was quick and easy, about forty-five minutes, seven of us in the waiting room, a little detour of life unexpected.
On the way home I thought, What was that all about, God?
I’m trying to think of all the reasons.
As awful as it sounds, if it was life-threatening I’d probably understand a little better. Because it was such an inconvenience.
Fame, fortune, and adulation are generally based on measurements that serve only to disfigure reality and make the imagination king over common sense. Common sense ought to tell us that there is no guarantee that a person with a gifted voice and musical genius is any better a person than someone who cannot sing or write music. Common sense ought to tell us that a world without heaven or hell in the future generally leads to one or the other in this world. But a gifted voice and an errant imagination can angle a lie to fit into the worldview one wants to believe.
— Ravi Zacharias
Lets say, you have a young friend who is in the church, but has been making REALLY bad decisions. And at least from appearance, they are doing so with not a bit of remorse or thought or care. And this friend isn’t even open to being talked to about it or honest, if you try you will get either a laugh or a “it doesn’t matter”. And, you feel both angry and confused because a while ago they showed signs of faith growing, and also sad and scared for them. Whats the godliest way to handle this friend
The godliest way to handle your friend is to handle yourself.
I’m not being cute. Your desire to love on your friend is admirable and noble, but it will quickly become about control and results if your expectations escalate.
No one can ever, ever, ever make someone fall in love with Jesus. You already know that, but because the default mode of our heart is self-righteous pride, we make our influence more sovereign than God. This results in disappointment, frustration, anger, manipulation, pressure, and all around discomfort for both you and your friend.
Of course you have good motives, but they’re buried under a lot of religious standards. You want your friend to repent, to care, to be honest, but even if you held a gun at their head, what will that do? God wants your friend’s repentance more than you do and is endlessly more patient.
Pastor Bill Clem of Mars Hill Church writes a work on defining a disciple of Jesus Christ, an ultimately disappointing book that is far too American and seldom convicting. While there are brilliant sections strewn throughout, the book is neither groundbreaking nor wholly biblical. A missed opportunity for a much needed discussion.
Despite my best efforts and Bill Clem’s best intentions, this is the definition of disciple that I gleaned from his work:
A disciple is someone who looks like Jesus and joins a small group community.
Of course, I doubt this is Clem’s goal. Yet the book is so American that I could never see it working in an urban or third world context. With an almost abstract, self-help style, Clem writes in largely conceptual strokes about mind-molding and relational-sharing, but hardly ever touches on the Great Commission to Go and to Make.
It might be unfair that I expected a book like Radical. David Platt’s seminal work on discipleship felt much closer to the biblical reality of carrying the cross, denying the flesh, and giving your all for Christ. When I read a book about disciples, I expect urgency and adventure, not megachurch-style small groups isolated in an upper-class neighborhood.
While Clem gives a nod to the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — the great anti-Nazi preacher who authored The Cost of Discipleship and was hung for plotting against Hitler — in Clem’s work there was never any sense of risk or rejoicing. He instead makes discipleship appear like a nagging grandmother’s task of checklisting spiritual progress and attending church to copy the “stoic” personality of Jesus.
‘Enlightenment’ has a whole new meaning now, each person in front of his or her own screen deciding for himself what is truth and what is fancy. … The end result is spirituality without dogma, religion without God, argument without substance, rationalization without rationality, and tranquility by transfer of funds from the seeker’s bank account to the company that makes the best offer of nirvana, at the same time producing dogmatism about relativism in matters of ultimate meaning.
— Ravi Zacharias
All men will hate you because of me,
but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
— Matthew 10:22
Don’t give up, brothers and sisters. Stand firm. Persevere.
The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.
— Robert M. McCheyne
I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains, but I pray God earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases.
I did not pray for any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and love.
— Brother Lawrence
“Don’t bother too much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them; when they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters is your intentions and your behavior.”
— C.S. Lewis
Anonymous asked (edited for length):
What’s your attitude towards sleep paralysis and the supernatural/spiritual warfare involved with that? … Most nights I’m fine with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is protecting me … but some nights (like tonight) it’s really hard to make myself sleep. … Do you think there’s a reason that it happens, aside from the fact that Satan pretty much likes attacking the children of God? Just thoughts.
It’s a bit crazy you’re asking me this since I’ve suffered from “sleep paralysis” for about twenty years. It’s the basis for the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies and in the olden days was called the incubus or succubus, which are male and female demons. It’s also called night hag or night terrors, and in Korea it’s called gawi, which was also a Korean horror movie.
It’s apparently hereditary since family members are more likely to suffer together. I had a cousin I never met until I was 18, and her whole family has it. I only found out a few years ago that my brother has had it since he was little.
Recent studies have shown that your body in sleep-mode locks up so you don’t act out your dreams, so that sleep paralysis is your lock-up mechanism occurring early while you’re falling asleep. To get out of it, most people have to fight to move, breathe, or scream to reverse the lock-down.
I understand the psychological reasoning here, but it doesn’t explain the hallucinations, voices, and general feelings of terror. All which I’m sure some scientist will discover is “neurons firing randomly” or “oxygen intoxication” or something else.
But as always, I agree there’s a spiritual element here.
“What many of us need to repent of is a cold, pragmatic heart that loves ministry and barely loves the King of Glory. … When I read the Bible, all I see in there is men who are tormented … There’s this angst and pain in men of God where their glory, their excitement, their fervor is not in the acts that God has allowed them to do, but in God Himself. … There’s this angst, this awe, this weird holy pain where it appears they want to scream, cry, and laugh all at the same time.
But that seems foreign to me. And what I mean is, I just don’t hear much about God being taught this way anymore. It seems like everything’s built on pragmatism. A plus B equals C. If you want C, do A, do B, you’ll get C. Here’s what “we do.” It’s going well there, let me do what they do. … I’m not saying planning is wrong. But where is that man whose heart is aflame for God, that God is enough?”
— Matt Chandler
Our convictions must always be communicated in principle-based rather than personality- or preference-based terms. Our resolve must always be tempered by gentle humility. And it’s always wise to filter your tenaciously held position through the wisdom of someone who will tell us if we’re wrong. We must find ways to be firm without being obnoxious, to be steadfast without being stubborn, and to be committed without being arrogant.
— Marv Penner