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Category Archives: Culture

I can do it myself!

From our earliest days, we learn the phrase, “I can do it myself.” Whether learning how to tie our shoes, coloring inside the lines, putting together a jigsaw puzzle, walking to school, learning to drive, heading off to college, and a host of other activities, self-sufficiency is the flag that we fly.

As parents, we want to raise confident, independent, self-sufficient children. We want them to be able to stand on their own two feet as they face the world. It is a character quality and a mindset that each one needs to develop.

When it comes to spiritual matters, however, that sense of independence and self-sufficiency can become our greatest weakness. We will avoid asking others for help because “I can do it myself.” My wife and I were in a small group years ago where one of the couples was moving to a new home. They refused to ask for help on moving day until one of the group members confronted the couple and said, “You are robbing me of the chance to serve and use my gifts.”

Our independent spirit will hinder us from developing a deep relationship with God. Rather than burden God with our needs, we will attempt to solve them in our own power. Our sense of self-sufficiency will cause us to live like functional atheists who confess faith in God but rely on our own abilities.

Our independent, self-sufficient spirit will prevent us from getting close to other people. “I can do it myself” will keep one from sharing prayer requests or telling another person what we are dealing with and how they can encourage us. It can foster a sense of pride that says “I don’t need you.”

Independence and self-sufficiency can be a tremendous strength. But it can also be a tremendous weakness. We need discernment to know when to stand alone and when to ask for help from God and other people.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2020 in Culture, Personal growth, Prayer

 

Cyber Church

Does a church’s online presence encourage people not to attend church? Does a cyber church contribute to the decline of church attendance?

That was the question posed by one of my Regent University students in her term paper for BIBL 230 Theological Research and Writing. Her conclusion is that a church’s online presence is one of the contributing factors to the decline in church attendance.

The benefits of a cyber church or a church’s online presence is that it can help promote the services, ministries, activities, and values of the church. Having sermons available online can minister to shut-ins and those who are physically unable to attend. A good church website can whet people’s appetite for coming events or make them feel like they missed something worthwhile.

The downside of a good church website is that it can make people feel like they don’t need to attend the church. They can substitute knowledge for relationships. By watching a video of the worship service or viewing the pictures from an event, a person could feel like they were present vicariously and did not need to be there in person.

In commenting on my students’ paper, I mentioned that I have seen both the good and bad of an online presence. On the positive side, I have had individuals mention recently that they listened to my sermons on the church website, liked what they heard, and were convinced they needed to attend the church. On the negative side, I have also had folks say that they read my sermon outline or the summary of my message which I posted on my blog and decided that it was enough and they didn’t need to be there in person to hear the entire message.

I am currently preaching through the book of Hebrews. A few weeks back, we examined Hebrews 10:24-25 which stresses the fact that we should not avoid meeting together as is the habit of some, but that we need to be present in order to encourage one another.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Don’t let a cyber church, pastor’s blog, podcast, Instagram photo, or anything else become a substitute for corporate worship. Join the people of God and worship Christ together. Practice the “one another” commands of the New Testament.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2019 in Church, Culture, Hebrews, Regent University, Scripture

 

What are you preaching?

When I was in seminary a hundred years ago, we were told to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Today, preachers are told to tell stories. Rather than listening to a sermon, people want to hear a 15-minute TED talk. Instead of expository preaching, people prefer to be entertained. Instead of hearing about sin, people want to feel good about their self-image.

Pastors struggle with the same issue that parents do. Do we give our people/children what they want or do we give them what they need? If we cater to their wants, where will they end up?

The apostle Paul was seemingly prophetic in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 when he described a culture that no longer longed for the truth of God’s word.

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers challenged his readers to focus on teaching scripture rather than experience.

Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). When we preach our own experiences, people may be interested, but it awakens no real sense of need. But once Jesus Christ is “lifted up,” the Spirit of God creates an awareness of the need for Him. The creative power of the redemption of God works in the souls of men only through the preaching of the gospel. It is never the sharing of personal experiences that saves people, but the truth of redemption. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

There is certainly a place for stories and illustrations in preaching. They serve as the raisins in the oatmeal to make the truth more interesting and palatable. There is a place for sharing personal experiences in a sermon. It serves to demonstrate how truth is lived out in real life. A bowl of raisins by themselves is less nourishing than a bowl of oatmeal. In the same way, telling stories about my personal experience might enlighten someone but it will not change their life. Only the word of God promises to transform a person’s life.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 explains that the word of God will complete us and equip us. Colossians 3:16-17 instructs us to allow the word of Christ to take up residence in our lives because it will teach us and encourage us.

As you plan your next lesson or sermon, don’t settle for Bible Lite. “Preach the word!” Let God’s word transform your life and the life of your listeners.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2019 in Culture, Preaching, Quotes, Scripture

 

Heaven’s entrance requirement

Occasionally, cartoonists speak the truth. The writer and artist of Non-Sequitur comes close to the truth of Scripture with this comic.

In one sense, the author is expressing what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 7:21–23 –  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

On the Day of Judgment, there might be many people who know the language but who never really knew the Savior.

In another sense, the author misses the point completely. Good works and a consistent lifestyle will NOT get anyone into heaven. Only faith in Jesus Christ will enable anyone to enter God’s presence.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Resolve the matter of faith and forgiveness today. Don’t wait until you stand before God.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2019 in Culture, Faith, Non-Sequitur, Scripture

 

Floaters

For several years now, I have seen spots before my eyes. In non-technical terms, they are “eye floaters.” My doctor said it was nothing to be worried about. He said that as we age, the fluid in our eyes can dry or harden and the small pieces begin to clump together and float. Generally, they are transparent, but occasionally they will catch the light and appear as shadows in your vision. Most of the time, I don’t see them, but depending on what type or color of background or wall I’m looking at, I will become aware of them.

As a pastor, I am aware of a different type of floater. These are people who float in and out of the church and never seem to attach or connect. One group of floaters are those who float in and out from week to week. Perhaps they attend once or twice a month and yet consider your place their church home. Another type is even more sporadic in their attendance, floating between your church and their cabin in the woods or camping at the lake. Still others are what are termed as CEOs—Christmas & Easter Only. They show up during the holidays and are gone for several weeks and months before turning up again.

Another group of floaters are those who come into the church excited and enthusiastic. They love the preaching and the music. They gush about the programs. They want to be discipled. They desire to serve. Over time, they may even become members. But then one day, you realize you haven’t seen them for several weeks. Apparently, their roots were too shallow and they drifted away. On very few occasions, they will say “goodbye” and explain why they are leaving. Perhaps it was a perceived slight or offense. Perhaps they didn’t have as much influence as they were hoping for. Maybe the pastor didn’t greet them or the worship leader didn’t incorporate their favorite song into the worship set. More often than not, they simply floated away without saying anything. It’s only later that you begin to notice their absence and wonder, “Whatever happened to so-and-so?”

Floaters in the eyes may be a natural part of aging. On occasion, however, it could be a sign of something more serious that needs to be checked and corrected. Floaters in the church may be a reflection of our culture and our lack of commitment and connection. On occasion, however, it could be a sign of a weakness in the church or the individual that needs to be checked or corrected.

If your eyes have floaters, talk to your doctor. If your church has floaters, ask the people graciously why they stopped attending. If there is something that needs to be corrected and/or healed, do what you can to fix the problem. If you are a floater, get counsel from a trusted friend as to what is holding you back from committing yourself to a church body.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2019 in Church, Culture

 

Insurance coverage

Having to do research on Medicare options, coverage networks, and insurance plans, I appreciate this week’s series in Brewster Rocket: Space Guy! I can certainly empathize with his dilemma.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2019 in Brewster Rocket, Culture, Fun

 

Don’t be an ugly American

Upon entering the Royal Yacht Britannia, harbored in Edinburgh, Scotland, we were asked what language we would like the self-guided tour in. We said, “English.” The person following us said, “American English.” She then said it again to the next person that asked. Granted, some British and Scottish accents are hard to understand, but to make a point and say, “American English”? That makes Americans look arrogant and foolish. Do you want it in New York City English? Boston English? Texas English? New Orleans English? Let’s face it, our pronunciation and accents can be just as hard to understand.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2019 in Culture