Saturday, August 30, 2014

Being Proactive in Taking Thoughts Captive

Have you ever wondered why some people think they know you? Why some are so quick to assume they got you all figured out…or know what’s best for you?

‘Cause honestly, it’s kinda crazy…
…how knowing everything about someone can be so easily accomplished these days…whether a sneak peek on Facebook, a quick glance at a résumé …or even a few rounds of small talk.

Granted, I’m exaggerating for sake of emphasis…

…but seriously, how did we ever get so shallow…not to mention, complacent about being so? 

Or better yet, why...?

I mean…why is it we rather critique others based on faulty opinions rather than believe the best in people? Why is it we rather slap a superficial label on someone based on their past than believe in how God sees them today? Why is it we rather buy into gossip than stand against a vain assumption or a broken truth?

Is it because we’re afraid what we want to believe and what actually is won’t line up? Is it because we’re afraid of accepting a truth that won’t justify a hurt we’re trying to conceal? Or is it because we don’t want to forfeit our sense of control by a genuine display of grace (especially when we feel worthy of receiving it)?

‘Cause truth is: It’s much easier to think we know, than to know. Whatever the case may be, the fact of the matter is most would rather accept a lie that draws a smile, than a truth that yields anything else…especially when ideas like “what doesn’t kill you makesyou stronger” and “shaking it off” serve as default solutions for anything related to heartbreak.

But what if more people started accepting the fact they don’t know everything? That it’s meaningless to judge when only the tip of the iceberg can be known?

What if…more people replaced time spent cutting others down with thoughts of them reaching their potential…of being better than however they're assumed to be?

Imagine how the world would change if more people dropped theirs stones…

… replacing the urge to condescend with a desire to encourage? Imagine what would happen if more people stopped manufacturing validation and instead, started to unpackage others out of the boxes they’ve been wrongly placed in.

The results would, no doubt, alter the course of thousands, if not, millions of lives…

‘Cause truth is: we were created to be dependent on Christ as our truth filter*…to know not only what to think, but also how to think…and how to live it; hence, why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought (every notion, impression and brainwave) captive and subject it to Christ.

The problem is it’s very hard to do this consistently. And unfortunately, for someone’s reputation, all it takes is one lie to spread into a destructive force.

However, as people created in the image and likeness of God, we can stand against the lies of the enemy by extending the truth of God’s word and love into the broken hearts we encounter.

All we gotta do is be intentional and obedient.

So my encouragement to you is take internal inventory (i.e. examine your hearts) and see if there are any deceptions harboring within you. Then once you’ve composed a list, be proactive in taking those thoughts captive by surrendering every ounce of wasted honor, every little past frustration and every so-called problem to the Lord…asking him to fill those areas with everything that is true, pure, loving, etc (Philippians 4:8) in the process. 

And fear not if you feel victimized by the haters and fakers who think they know you…and patronize you based on their falsely cemented ideologies.

'Cause at the end of the day, all that matters is knowing you're loved by a God who does.


*Or ultimate ambassador of absolute truth
**Graphics from Upsidedown Bee & Biblical Personhood

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What Pastors & Superman Have in Common

We see our pastors as many things.

Counselor, motivator, preacher, scholar…the list goes on.

But let’s be honest: sometimes, it’s easy to imagine them as something far greater than they really are…

…like a super-hero straight out of a Marvel comic, loaded with heavy artillery, always on guard to defeat the darkest forces of evil.

However, regardless of what we like to think, pastors aren’t superheroes.

They don't shoot lasers out of their eyes, webs out of their wrists or leap buildings in a single bound. They don’t possess Asgardian power, cyberpathic links…or the ability to save the world with
incredible displays of Bible trivia and prophetic insight.

On the contrary, what pastors share with our dream heroes are much less enviable.

But though they may not possess earth-shattering superpowers or battle alongside valiant sidekicks, they still carry enormous responsibility.

For instance, not only must pastors fearlessly lead while warring behind closed doors, but they also must demonstrate consistent self-sacrifice, willing to die for not only what they stand for, but whom they stand for.

Sound, familiar?

So while we may think our pastors are protective guardians living largely in extravagant estates complete with lavish interiors and ritzy paraphernalia, the reality is our pastors are silent sufferers…dirty shepherds wrestling with the same ups and downs as everybody else.

They aren’t any more perfect.

They aren’t any less weak.

Yet, all the while, it’s one emergency after another: a hospital call, a parishioner’s broken marriage or an untimely death…their life and desires put on hold as they faithfully tend the needs of the flock.

Thus, the idea of pastors having it easy…couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘Cause when we go behind the scenes, we don’t find clean-cut lives saturated with serenity, but rather ones messy and muddled….filled with desperate tears and inherited heartbreak.

Sure, the world may think pastors have to have it all together in order to be effective…in order to be qualified...that somehow, it's up to them to do the "saving". But sometimes, we forget how important it is for our pastors to struggle…to battle…to contend…to model by way of vulnerable action…all the while operating as the living embodiment of Galatians 6:2.


So as a young pastor, learning this firsthand, I encourage you to pray supernatural strength and endurance (Romans 5:3-4, James 1:2-4, James 1:12-18, Colossians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 10:13) over your church leaders, understanding no matter how heavy the load, they’ll almost always carry a greater bullseye on their back.

And if you're in a place of leadership, I challenge you to pray for your staff and team members to stay the keep trusting God even when you feel invisible.

'Cause when we talk about our pastors and ministers, there will be inevitable down days when they feel like anything but a superhero.

Yet, we don't have to be indifferent bystanders, disengaged from supportive action.

But rather, we can be empowered by praying for our leaders to be empowered...and we can be encouraged by encouraging the people who make it their mission to encourage us...remembering even when we feel alone and misunderstood, there's a God inspiring pastors and non-pastors alike to war for one other.

‘Til then, rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).

Image from Kevin DeYoung

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

LEGACYouth: The Apostles' Creed

Part 1

Today we're going to talk about the Apostles' Creed...what is it, what it's saying, why it's important, why it's relevant.

First...what is a creed? 

creed is a statement of beliefs...that guide a person's action.

In the case of the early church, a creed was more than a summarized set of beliefs, but also a representation of what they had in common (Acts 2:44, 4:32).

Historical Context: As the Christian church spread throughout the first century Roman world, there was a practical need for local churches to have a basic statement of beliefs. As false teachers began to bring in strange ideas, Christians needed to know: "Just what is it that we believe?"
Some of these churches only a few books of the New Testament, perhaps some of Paul's letters or one of the four Gospels. But none of the churches had all the New Testament. They needed a standard to judge whether a teaching was truth, or heresy.
Furthermore, the early Christians realized that new people didn't have to know everything before they could be baptized and accepted as believers, prompting the question: How much should they know and accept before being admitted into the church? This was yet another reason why early churches pursued the drafting of a creed.
Ultimately, the change in times and religious direction led to the creation of the Apostles' Creed.

What is the Apostles' Creed?
Essentially, the Apostles' Creed is a summary of Christian doctrine, a record of what the apostles taught. And
 although it's not directly mentioned in the Bible, it's content certainly is (see right image).

So today, we're going to focus on the first statement of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth." 

As echoed in the video, this statement is all about Oneness, the truth that there's only one way to heaven and it starts and ends with God. It's not saying, "There is a God that exists" but rather, "There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist...and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV)

Also, note how the video points out another important distinction: the difference between believing there is a God and believing in God.

Let's face it: It doesn't take much faith to believe in the idea of God. As James 2:19 says, even demonic principalities believe God exists. And I don't know about you, but I really want to have more faith than a demon!

Truly, it's take greater faith to believe in God. But maybe you're wondering what it really means to believe "in" God?

What do you think believing in God looks like? 

As stated by renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, the word “believe” in the Bible means more than simply agreeing in our minds that something might be true. It means “trust”—that we believe so strongly in God that we are willing to commit our lives to Him and live the way we know He wants us to live.
Suppose you were walking along a path and you came to a bridge which crossed a deep canyon. You might look at it and believe that it would hold you, and you might even see other people walking across it so you know it would hold your weight. But so far, your “belief” in the bridge is only in your head. When do you really believe the bridge will hold you? You only really believe it when you are willing to commit your life to it and actually walk across it.
It is the same way with Christ. Yes, we can believe that God exists, but God wants us to come to know Him personally. And He has bridged the gap between us by sending His Son to remove the barrier of sin and become that “bridge.” To believe in Christ is to commit our lives by faith to Christ—to trust Him personally as our Lord and Savior. Our prayer is that you will come to truly believe in Christ.
With this in mind, now what do you think believing in God looks like? 

How do you think believing in God affects a person's life (whether thought or action) as opposed to cavalierly admitting God exists?

Also, why you think this opening statement emphasizes the fact God is the Maker of the heaven and earth...and how does this apply to us (or how can this be an encouragement to us) now?

For starters, it edifies our call to trust God. 

Think about it: God created everything we see...and if when we look at the big picture, we find how God not only knows what's best for us, but how He's still working for our good. He not only has infused the earth with steadfast love (Psalm 33) in the beginning, but is continually renewing His love into our lives. 

So why do so many let small things get in the way?

God is being a Creator is not a past tense notion, but a past, present & future man would ultimately be drawn into a relationship with Him.

Part 2

What we believe about Jesus is the backbone of what we believe as, well, believers.

Let's start by asking ourselves: Who is Jesus?

When we say we believe in Jesus, from a Christian perspective, it is a faith declaration. 
"I believe in Jesus" may be four simple words, but it contains the very core of our faith. When we confess Jesus, we are continuing the Apostles' Creed

We are saying we believe:

1) He is God's ONLY Son.
Question: Why is it important that Jesus was God's only son? 
  • It tells us he is, indeed, divine. He is of God and from God. It's really important we accept and believe both of these statements...because when we do, we can understand the unique relationship he had with the Father.
  • It validates the nature & Word of God (John 1:1 - Jesus = The Word, true Logos of God, the Living Word of God, fully God and yet fully man, who came to reveal God to man and redeem all who believe in Him from their sin.
  • Isn't it cool that God had perfect relational community with His Son & the Holy Spirit, yet still wanted to create mankind in His image so He could demonstrate His amazing love for us. His Son, Jesus, is not only a right hand man, but the central way His love could be shown to everyone.
  • Furthermore, no one else can make that claim. It's important to accept Jesus as set apart from any other religious leader in history.
2) Jesus was born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit.
Question: Why is it important that he was born of a virgin? 
  • His origin is a miracle (evidence of God sending him to earth)
  • It fulfills a prophecy: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall  conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14 ESV)
  • He is Immanuel, which means 'God with us'.
  • If we don't believe this, we are essentially saying God is a liar and Jesus is not who he said.    Why would we follow a liar? Or as Bono said, a "nutter"!
  • Most importantly-it showed redemption was not of man-it was something that could only be achieved by God's intervention. We are not capable of saving ourselves.
  • Not to mention, in Romans, Paul talks about sin entering through one man and salvation coming through another, a second Adam so to speak. What Adam failed to do in a perfect environment as directly birthed from God, Jesus did in an imperfect environment, thus fulfilling God's original intent.
  • Just as he was God, this shows he was also man. Although Jesus never lost touch his divinity, he was limited and subjected by his humanity in same way we are. 

3      3)  Jesus suffered and was crucified.
  • Just as he was God, this shows he was also man. Although Jesus never lost touch his divinity, he was limited and subjected by his humanity in same way we are.
  • Additionally, it was not an easy purchase, but was bought at a price.
        4)  Jesus died and was buried.
  • He really died - he was a sacrifice In the truest sense of the word (Isaiah 53).
  • Jesus was really dead-no miracle max was going to bring him back. He was dead and buried.
  • Historical context - They used to break the criminals legs so that they would suffocate and die on the cross. They didn't do that with Jesus because he was already dead. They could tell by stabbing him in the side. The blood had begun to break down and the cells and plasma had already begun to separate. Plasma is 90% water, so when he was pierced, the blood cells and separated plasma both came out.

Part 3

Question: Do you think the Holy Spirit is somewhere out there? Or in your heart?

Holy Spirit – a Spirit of grace, mercy & truth, our Helper/Counselor, a person who bears witness (testifies) about Christ, giver of joy. He has a mind, will, emotions like us. He teaches, convicts, leads, reveals truth, strengthens and encourages, comforts, intercedes, helps us in our weakness and sanctifies. One thing to remember is he can be resisted & quenched. He is not going to force himself in-we have to allow and partner with him.

Question: With this in mind, now what do you think? Is the Holy Spirit just floating somewhere out in space? Or is a divine presence dwelling in your heart?

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19

The holy Christian (catholic* & apostolic) Church – As the video above mentioned, the church is more than a building. It’s the unified people of God, the body of Christ, which is the communion of saints, and you…are a part of this communion! Whether we’re Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatic…the point is we’re called to be unified…to be one. And it’s this spirit of oneness that captures Paul’s attention in Ephesians 4:1-5, where he urges the church to.

“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

In addition to being one, we’re also called to be holy. Yet, it’s important to remember that the church can’t be holy apart from Christ...and from what God has declared. In fact, the Word says we are declared holy (“…the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:17) by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (which is all the more why we should want to know who He is).

*Catholic = universal, apostolic – related to the Apostles and their teachings-those sent and who the message continues to be sent to.

What is sanctification? What does it mean to be sanctified? Sanctification is the process by which we are made holy…by being cleansed by the washing of water with the word (i.e. washed by the reality of Christ loving the church…giving Himself up for her…saving us from our sins by dying on the cross (the evidence of His love) and giving us new life). It’s a process where we can live a life of perpetual meekness, as it says in Psalm 22:26: “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

In three words, sanctification is: separation (to be set apart as holy by grace), dedication (to purity & the holiness we’re called to) and perfection (being completed in Christ).

Note: We don’t make ourselves perfect, but we are perfected by Christ. It’s not about never messing up, but about being redeemed and transformed and in that transformation…walking in obedience.

The forgiveness of sins – By believing in who God is…who Christ is…we are receiving forgiveness of sins through His name. Imagine if you didn’t believe in this part of the Creed? What would the effects be? It would create a “faith logjam”, right? If our transgressions aren’t covered…if we don’t believe we’re truly forgiven…then we’re making God out to be a liar”…and suddenly, the cross becomes a powerless force in our lives.

The life everlasting – We believe in the eternal future God has promised us, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heave for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Many times, we are aware of where we’re ultimately going…but we don’t always live with it in mind. But what connects this temporary home to the one we’ll spend in eternity? It’s as the Psalmist declares in Psalm 16:11, “…a path of life, where there is fullness of joy…” where in His presence, there are pleasures forevermore.

So regardless of what we believe about what happens to our earthly bodies after the second coming of Christ and a new earth is established, the bottom line is: the life everlasting is more than a future experience, but a present possession.

Amen - Question: Why do we say Amen? What does it mean?

It means, “Let it be so.” It is a declaration and a prayer at the same time.
Bottom line: At the end of the day, the creed is more than a proclamation; it’s a prayer that saints have made in faith, where sinners find their hope, where God shows His love.

Make it real. Don’t just say it. Live it by loving it and praying it in.

Creative Commons License