Scoliosis of the Mind

When I was a child, I was diagnosed with adolescent scoliosis. My back had a slight curvature to it, which was causing some discomfort and difficulties for me. Thankfully, my condition was not severe and was caught early so that treatment could be given. I ended up going to the chiropractor for a series of regular adjustments. If you have ever been to a chiropractor, you know that there may be some initial pain when the doctothe-mindr “adjusts” your back, but it is meant to help bring healing over the course of time, and in my case, correct what could have developed into something worse.

My back was out of alignment and needed to be adjusted and corrected in order to provide better stability in my back and overall health. In a similar way, the mind of many Christians is out of alignment with God’s Word and needs to be adjusted and corrected as well.

We can think things about God that just are not true. We base these thoughts on our feelings, or what we think we would do in certain situations, but those thoughts are not in alignment with the truth of God as revealed in His Word.

We can believe certain things are true of God generally, but not true as they apply to our lives personally. But as Dr. Jim Berg points out in his study, “Quieting a Noisy Soul,” something cannot be both true and untrue. For instance, God cannot love the world, but not love me personally. Yet, often, our thoughts and beliefs of God can be out of alignment when we think these kinds of contradictory thoughts.

We can believe false notions of God, as taught by other people. While it is not sinful to listen to other preachers of God’s Word, our thoughts must remain captive to what the Bible teaches of God. If someone says something contradictory to the Scriptures, our allegiance to God’s Word must supersede our allegiance to a human being.

Our mind is an important part of our Christian lives. What we think about God is of vital importance.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” –A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 1.

The mind of a Christian must then be cultivated to think God’s thoughts after Him. In those times when our thoughts are out of alignment with God and His Word, we must allow God to adjust them through the means of preaching/teaching, through the means of loving chastening by other believers, through the means of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, or through whatever other means God chooses.

In your times of scoliosis of the mind, allow God to renew your mind, and adjust it to glorify Him more.

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The Routine of the Tabernacle Worship

This morning I finished reading through the book of Exodus. The latter part of that book is largely about the instructions for making the components of the tabernacle, as well as the actual making of those components. The people gave willingly of what they had, and the  people willingly worked to make the Tabernacle structure conform to God’s instructions. The end of Exodus has the Tabernacle completed, put together and the glory of the Lord descending upon it. Whenever the glory of God rested upon the Taberoutinernacle, the presence of God was there, but when the glory lifted, the people were to pack up the Tabernacle and follow the leading of the Lord to their next destination, and there to set up the Tabernacle again.

I got to thinking, there were a number of times when the Tabernacle had to be packed up, moved, and erected throughout the 40 years in the wilderness. There was no doubt a temptation to view the Tabernacle worship as tedious, monotonous, and routine. And yet, the people of God were instructed to faithfully and correctly erect the Tabernacle from place to place. They were also instructed to place the various pieces of furniture. They were not allowed to be innovative in placing the lamp stand, or the table of showbread, or the ark, or the other pieces wherever they wanted. They were bound to the instructions of God.

Could this kind of worship have gotten old to the people of God? Perhaps, if their minds and their hearts were not rightly thinking about what they were doing. It was not the fault of the instructions if they got bored in the routine of Tabernacle worship. It certainly was not God’s fault. Boredom in the routine of Tabernacle worship was the fault of the worshipper.

Put this into modern terms. Sometimes it might feel like our normal Lord’s Day services are routine, mundane, or monotonous. There is nothing wrong with routine. There is in fact something secure about the well-worn paths of worship that have been forged for us throughout Church history. Boredom in worship services is the fault of the worshipper, for worshipping Jehovah God is nothing short of a glorious event, no matter how long the message may be.

If we are going to worship God with vibrancy on the Lord’s Day, we must come already vibrant from our daily worship of God throughout the week. Having done so, our corporate singing will be filled with joy, our corporate prayers will be marked by humility, our corporate hearing of God’s Word will produce the response of obedience, and our corporate desire in all things will be for the glory of God alone.

Five Things Every Child Can Give Mom on Mother’s Day

The Bible commends honoring our mothers. Exodus 20 and Ephesians 6 are just two passages that highlight this idea. Here are five things that every child who is of a knowledgeable age can give his/her mother this Mother’s Day.Mothers_Day-1024x768

A hug. Hugs do not cost anything, but are worth more than a child can imagine. A hug brings the child close to mom, and closeness to her child is what a mom craves. I don’t know of too many moms who do not enjoy receiving big ol’ bear hugs from their kids, no matter how old their children are. I watch my 60-something year old mom and uncle give my 80-something year old grandma a hug, and she never tires of it.

A card. Cards do not have to cost a child anything. From the time our children were old enough to draw and write, they were making cards for their mother. Those precious works of art are treasured as simple tokens of affection from the children. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a card either, but my kids know that their hand-made cards are more than sufficient to bring my wife great joy on Mother’s Day.

Appreciation. Appreciation can come in a variety of forms. Whether it is verbally stated in some way around the dinner table, written in card form, or through various gifts or acts, it is good to train the children to appreciate all that their mothers do for them. Appreciation trains the children to be thankful, which is a virtue of Himalayan importance.

Respect. To respect one’s mother is to acknowledge the honor that God has placed upon her. God honors all women, yet there is a special honor given to godly mothers, as Proverbs 31 points out. Her children rise up and call her blessed. No child should be allowed to show disrespect to his/her mother. To do so is to disrespect God. Children should respect their mothers in their words, responses, attitudes, and obedience, just to name a few areas.

Rest. A very practical gift that children (and husbands) can give is the gift of rest. By this I mean that they should not make the wife/mother do all the work on Mother’s Day. Take her out to eat, or better yet, make her her favorite meal at home. Moms are busy ladies with much on their plates, and to help her in the kitchen and allow her a few moments of rest could be a gift of great significance. And by the way, this doesn’t have to be only a Mother’s Day treat, either.

So there are five ideas of what your child can do for his/her mom. Honor your mother, that it may go well with you, and that you may be blessed on this earth. In giving honor to your mother, you give honor to your God.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom! Being three thousand miles away is difficult, but I appreciate her, respect her, and hope that her card arrives on time. 🙂

The “Two Hands” of Ministry

In 2006 an approach to church ministry began to gain popularity. It was called a “two-handed” approach to ministry. One closed hand represented the theology of the church and its grasp of biblical truth and principles. The hand being closed symbolized the non-negotiable aspects of theology. One open hand represented tprayer11he methodology of the church. How a church communicates and practices biblical truth, how it worships, its appearance, etc. are all things that are negotiable and flexible and should therefore be culturally contextualized. This “two-handed” approach was also used to describe two extremes. It described the classic “fundamentalist” approach to ministry as viewing both its theology and practice as non-negotiables (symbolized by two closed hands). Conversely the classic “liberal” approach to ministry was described as viewing both its theology and practice as negotiables (symbolized by two open hands).

This approach to ministry leads churches into what could be described as theological conservativism, but practical or cultural progressivism. It has grown in popularity since 2006 and has been embraced more and more by church ministries today, even within historically “fundamental” churches here in America. However, this model of church ministry is not a biblical model, and therefore is not glorifying to the Lord.

This approach essentially has two aspects. One aspect could be described as theological conservatism. This is evidenced by things like an elevation of the gospel, a renewed thirst for doctrinal robustness, and greater carefulness in expositional preaching. There is also a greater awareness of reformational truth, confessional Christianity, and of the need for theological strength in Christian musical texts. In these things, we can rejoice.

However, the other aspect is a cultural progressivism. This is evidenced, for instance, by a progression from higher standards of holiness to more of a freedom of personal preference. Many cultural issues are viewed as being morally neutral, whereas in previous generations, they were viewed with sharper moral clarity and distinction. Issues such as the use of modern alcoholic beverages, pop music (in its multiple and various forms), dress and appearance, and worship methodology in corporate gatherings of the church are “hot-button” topics of discussion today. Cultural progressives view them as not addressed specifically (or at least as specifically as some propose) in the Scriptures and therefore fall under the umbrella of “personal preference.” This cultural progressivism stems ultimately from a belief that one’s culture is, by and large, neutral. Because this is so (the argument goes), methodology in church life necessarily changes in order to embrace and reflect the latest trends within one’s culture.

This kind of approach to ministry produces churches who believe the gospel, but who don’t view culture accurately. Culture is the product of humanity and therefore is tainted by sin. Because of this truth, no aspect of one’s culture is morally neutral because humans are moral beings. Therefore, in church life, how we do a certain thing is just as important as the thing itself. For instance, to say that we must worship God as a church family (a non-negotiable theological principle) but how we worship God (a negotiable thing) is a neutral issue reveals a lack of understanding of the biblical nature and teaching of worship. Cultural trendiness, which is what this leads to, by necessity rules the day in such a “two-handed” approach to ministry. This is often couched in language as being “incarnational” or “missional” or merely trying to “reach people where they are” with the gospel. While sounding noble, these terms are not appropriate. Only God can be (and has been) incarnated. God’s mission and the church’s mission are not identical. Reaching people is noble and good, but it must be done in ways that glorify God.

While the elevation of theology is noble, the current cultural progressivism in churches is troubling. This “two-handed” approach to ministry has been adopted by many churches today, believing that while theology matters, methodology does not. However, methodology, while it does change with cultures and time, is not a neutral issue.

Our theology should be held with a closed hand. Theology and biblical principles do not change. What must be understood, though, is that our theology dictates everything that we do as a church ministry. Our theology of worship will dictate and shape our methodologies of worship. Our theology of the Great Commission will dictate and shape our practice of the Great Commission. Our philosophy/theology always determines and shapes our practice.

Methodologies, therefore, are not out of the realm of God’s concern. For instance, it is not biblically sound to say that God does not care about how a church worships Him. A study of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, reveals to us that God absolutely does care about how we worship Him. The “how” of our worship is just as important as the “who” and “why” of our worship. God cares that we worship the right object (Him), in the right way, and with the right heart. Therefore, the methodologies of our corporate worship matter to God. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to do things in the same way, in the same order, or even with the same songs, but it does mean that God cares about our methodologies of worship just as much as He cares about our theology in worship.

This “two-handed” approach to ministry is not biblical, and therefore does not bring glory to God. God’s glory is the ultimate end of the church. We are to do all to the glory of God. This biblical absolute governs all that we do in life, both privately and corporately. Therefore, even our methodologies, while looking different from one culture to another, must be submitted under the authority of the glory of God rather than cultural relativism. Methodologies have changed and will continue to change with time. However, those methodologies should not change without careful consideration of theological truth. The two aspects of theology and methodology simply cannot be separated one from the other.

Rather than a “two-handed” approach that views one hand as being essentially separate from the other, let’s adopt a “hand-in-hand” approach to church ministry, realizing that our theology dictates and shapes our methodology, and our methodology reflects and reinforces our theology. Churches in every age, in every country, and in every culture, need to be both theologically and culturally conservative. This kind of approach to ministry is informed and shaped by the Bible and is also glorifying to God. To Him be glory in the church both now and forever. Amen.

Where is Christ in Easter?

Recently, I received in the mail a church flier concerning Easter. The flier is colorful and engaging, but one thing stuck out to me about it: there is nothing spoken of Christ or anything Christian. There are promises of things being given away, egg hunts for the children, and experiences to be had, but nothing about Christ or a message pointing people to a risen Savior.jesusresurrection8

Is this the pattern of many churches today? Has the most important event on the Christian calendar been commercialized and consumer driven to the point of being unrecognizable? Do churches today feel that they have to bait people into coming to church events in order to slip in some kind of gospel message?

Easter is not about eggs, rabbits, spring colors, pretty dresses, or candy. Christ is the central figure of Easter. He is the sole reason for Easter. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that makes the day Easter.

Keep Christ central to Easter.

Unintended Consequences

Decisions are made all the time. Individuals make them; politicians make them; religious leaders make them; everyone makes them. Our decisions have consequences – some good, and some not so good.decisions_mid

Sometimes decisions are made that are well-intentioned, but that bring with them unintended negative and sometimes devastating consequences.

Take, for example, King Jehoshaphat, in 2 Chronicles 17-20. Generally speaking, he was a good king of Judah, but he made some decisions that were not so good. One of those involved his son, Jehoram.

In 2 Chronicles 18:1 a passing comment is made that Jehoshaphat made a marriage alliance with King Ahab of Israel. Ahab was the wicked king who was married to Jezebel. She brought Baal worship into the kingdom of Israel.

That marriage alliance involved Jehoram marrying the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. Her name was Athaliah. Such a marriage was common. It offered political as well as economic and military benefits. However, this marriage would have some unintended, demonic, and nearly devastating consequences.

Jehoram took the throne after his father’s death (2 Chronicles 21). His wife, Athaliah, had influenced him to the point where he killed off all other rivals to his throne, which included many of his own siblings. For the entirety of his eight year reign, he was a wicked king, imitating wicked Ahab of Israel rather than his good father, Jehoshaphat, all because of his wicked wife’s influence over him.

After Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah took the throne. Though he only ruled for one year, he was also wickedly influenced Athaliah, his mother. Her demonic influence over Judah continued, even after her husband died.

When Ahaziah died, his mother Athaliah immediately seized the opportunity and usurped the throne, reigning in Judah for about 7 years. Her intention was to wipe out the line of kings over Judah. She murdered every royal seed of the house of Judah – except one. One baby was rescued from Athaliah’s evil plan, and he eventually became king, King Joash.

Jehoshaphat’s seemingly innocuous decision to marry his son to Ahab’s daughter had some serious and deadly unintended consequences. His intention was not to see Judah fall deeply into Baal worship, though it did. His intention was not to see his own children and grandchildren turn away from Jehovah, but they did. His intention was not for his own son and daughter-in-law to go on a killing spree within the family, but they did. Had it not been for God’s intervention through the means of a godly couple, the kingly line would have been destroyed (2 Chron. 22:10-12).

Our decisions, even well meaning ones, can have devastating consequences. Let’s make some applications of this.

In your family, the decisions you make today with regards to your children will have consequences. While it is still their choice as to whether they will serve the Lord or not, we as Christian parents must not cave in to worldly pressures and do things that are culturally acceptable, but not biblically acceptable.The decisions we make today can have an impact not only on our children’s lives, but even future generations.

Pastors, your decisions for your church are crucial. We are living in a time when pastors are facing an onslaught of cultural pressures to back down on issues of morality, worship, doctrine, and convictions. One seemingly insignificant concession or “alliance” can and often does lead to greater and greater problems. What kind of Christianity are we intending to leave our children and grandchildren? We must strive to preserve a theologically AND culturally conservative Christianity.

As Christians it is easy for us to point out ideas like this in the political world. We are quick to cry out against things that will lead to more and more religious intolerance. Yet we must be even more acutely aware of the potential of our spiritual choices in our homes and in our churches.

Don’t cave in; don’t give up; don’t lose ground.

God desires faithfulness to Him and to His Word, for His glory!

Honorable Manhood and Holy Culture

There is no godliness without holiness. And yet the Bible says that there is no one who is holy, except one. God is holy. He is majestically holy, completely separate from and far above His creation, sitting upon the throne of the universe as its Creator and Sovereign Majesty. God is also morally holy, completely separate from JB-Holiness-1-1280x768anything that is sinful, immoral, and against His character.

No human being is, nor can be majestically holy. However, the Bible provides a means of moral holiness before God. While ho human is morally holy on his own, when he receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he is pronounced to be a saint, or a holy one, before God. Our position as believers is that of holiness through the merits and authority of Jesus Christ alone. We stand before God, accepted in Christ, as holy, pure, and righteous. What wondrous grace this is!

But our position before God does not match the reality of everyday living. So 1 Peter 1:15 commands us to be holy, like God is holy, in all manner of our conduct. Our conduct is our manner of living, our way of life, our lifestyle, or our culture. As Christians who are already positionally holy before God, completely and forever accepted by God as sons, we are commanded to be holy in a moral sense. Our lifestyle as Christians must be holy.

The culture of the Christian must be distinct from the culture of the non-Christian. Our way of living, our lifestyle patterns, habits, thought processes, pleasures, aspirations, etc. must grow in holiness. Theologically, we call this progressive sanctification. It is the process whereby a Christian continues to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

For the Christian man, the more he grows in holiness, the more sinful he realizes himself to be, and the more distrustful of self he becomes. He recognizes that in his flesh there dwells nothing that is good. He realizes that his own perceptions of life and reality cannot be trusted. He understands more and more of what it means to be a pilgrim through this transient journey of earthly life. He longs more and more for the Celestial City and its King, and disdains more and more the City of Destruction and its empty allurements.

There is no area of a man’s life that should not be under the guiding principle of holiness, and yet men are well known for refusing to allow this truth and command to influence that which is close to their own hearts. Men, there is no godliness without holiness. Your TV habits must be holy; your internet viewing must be holy; your relationships must be holy, your language must be holy; your work ethic and relationships must be holy; your entertainment choices must be holy; your family life must be holy. Nothing is out of the bounds of the necessity of being holy as God is holy.

Your culture, as a Christian man, must be characterized by holiness in order to live honorably before God.