Saturday, December 08, 2018

An Overview of Growing Up Christian - Part 2


I think the most significant danger church kids face is false assurance of salvation—assuming we are saved even when we are not.

We grow up in a Christian culture with Christians all around us—family, church, and friends. Because we do the things Christians do and we are surrounded by Christians, we tend to assume we are Christians too. But just as standing in a wheat field doesn’t make someone wheat, being raised in a Christian environment doesn’t make someone a Christian.

We tend to believe we are Christians because . . .
- Our parents are Christians
- We believe God exists
- We faithfully attend church and youth meetings
- We pray
- We read and know much about the Bible
- We prayed the sinner’s prayer or went forward during an alter call
- We were baptized
- We sing worship songs
- We listen to Christian music
- We are basically good, moral people, especially compared to the world
- We attend a Christian school or Christian college

What gives you confidence that you are a Christian? The list above refers primarily to external actions. Each could in fact be a fruit of salvation—a good work or action of a believer. But each could also be nothing more than an unbeliever conforming to his environment (to please parents, fit in with peers, etc.) while there is no saving faith in his heart.

Don’t fall into the dangerous trap of false assurance. Take some time to examine your relationship with God. Search your heart. Pray. Don’t make the mistake of basing your salvation upon what you do or your environment. Genuine salvation is a matter of the heart. It is based on faith alone—faith in God’s character, his promises, and the work of his Son on the cross.

Scripture encourages us to examine ourselves, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (II Corinthians 13:5-6)

To do this we need to look at our actions, our motives, and the fruit in our lives. We need to pray, read the Bible, worship God, attend church, and confess sin. But it is possible to do all of these things and not be motivated from a heart that truly loves God and wants to live for him. There is a difference between saying a simply prayer over a meal and communing with your Lord and talking with your Heavenly Father. There is a difference between reading the Bible just like any other book and reading it as the genuine words of God which breath life and give clear direction to our lives. There is a difference between singing a song and truly worshiping your Sovereign Lord.

When you look at your actions, the motives behind your actions, and the fruit of your actions, what do you learn about your heart? Have you every asked one of your parents their thoughts? How about a friend whom you respect?

If you are saved, I hope this self-examination increases your faith all the more. God is at work in your life and will continue to help you grow in him.

If you are not saved, I want to urge you to pause and pray. Ask Christ to make himself real to you. Ask him to be Lord of your life, transform your heart, and enable you to live all out for him. This is a prayer he is eager to answer.

What a shame it would be for someone to grow up in a Christian home, attend church his whole life, assume he was a Christian, and yet not truly be saved. Sadly, this happens more often than we would like. Don’t let this happen to you.

Believe that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (I Corinthians 5:21)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

An Overview of Growing Up Christian – Part 1


Over the next few days, I will give an overview of my book Growing Up Christian.

I have a deep love and burden for young people growing up in the church today. I grew up in a strong Christian family and have personally experienced the blessings and challenges church kids face. I have worked closely with Christian teens over the past 24 years as I have worked in Christian schooling.

The aim of the book is to urge teens to develop a genuine faith and a walk of their own and seek to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. But, having Christian parents and attending church every week does not guarantee this.

Have you known anyone who seemed to be a Christian throughout his teenage years, but when he went off to college dropped his faith and stopped following God? Have you known anyone who actively participated in youth meetings and church missions trips, but after high school no longer pursued God or the things of God?

Sadly, I know too many people like this, and you can probably quickly list a few names yourself. Growing up around Christians does not make anyone a Christian. Nor do we inherit our Christianity from our parents. We need a faith and a walk of our own. We need to personally know and respond to the gospel message. We need to personally respond to the call of our Lord on our lives. And we need to personally live for Christ.

Growing up in a Christian home is an amazing privilege. We are taught so much – the stories and truths of Scripture, the basics of the gospel, the attributes of God, and so much more. We are also protected from much – immoral movies and television shows, ungodly friends, inappropriate music. Our parents demonstrate a love for God and us by teaching us and protecting us.

Being raised in a Christian environment – home, church, and often school – is a great blessing, but there are also some dangers that church kids face. Dangers? Yes, I really do mean dangers – tendencies that we need to watch out for and pitfalls to avoid.

I will be getting into the details in blogs over the next few days, but let me give you a preview.

Dangers we need to watch out for:
1. Believing we are saved when we are not
2. Lacking amazement of how God forgives our sins and saves us
3. Loving the world more than the things of God
4. Failing to develop personal, biblical convictions
5. Battling our sinful behavior but not our sinful heart

Let me end with one of my favorite quotes. It is from Holiness by J.C. Ryle,

“I ask the children of religious parents to mark well what I am saying. It is the highest privilege to be the child of a godly father and mother, and to be brought up in the midst of many prayers. It is a blessed thing indeed to be taught the gospel from our earliest infancy, and to hear of sin, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and holiness, and heaven, from the first moment we can remember anything. But, oh, take heed that you do not remain barren and unfruitful in the sunshine of all these privileges: beware lest your heart remains hard, impenitent, and worldly, notwithstanding the many advantages you enjoy. You cannot enter the kingdom of God on the credit of your parents’ religion. You must eat the bread of life for yourself, and have the witness of the Spirit in your own heart. You must have repentance of your own, faith of your own, and sanctification of your own.”

Please check back in over the next few days as we continue to discuss the blessings and dangers of growing up Christian.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Promise for the Weary (Isaiah 40:29-31)

Are you wiped out physically, emotionally, or spiritually? If you answer yes, Isaiah 40:29-31 is a prescription and a promise for you, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Our God gives strength to the weary and power to the weak. He knows our condition, understands our deficiencies, and comprehends our needs. Plus, He is capable of renewing us with physical strength, renewed focus, grace for the new day, and a fresh passion for living for Him.

Everyone becomes tired and weary. Young and old wear out physically, get to the end of their emotional strength, and go through spiritually dry seasons. This is the human condition. We each need rest, sleep, renewal, and physical healing.

What do we do? What is God’s prescription? It is to hope in Him. We many have limitations, but God does not. We may grow weary, but God does not. We may stumble and fall, but God does not. We may be overwhelmed by our circumstances, but God is not. And when we realize how strong, stable, and firm our God is, we will learn to trust Him and hope in Him all the more.

The result will be a renewal of our strength. We will still have our limitations, but there will be new grace for the new day head. We will be equipped to run again, to walk again. Trusting in God, we will be ready to face the challenges of every day life.

Jesus, help us to hope in you.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Parable of the Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus is surrounded by “tax collectors and ‘sinners’” (verse 1) and tells three consecutive parables: lost sheep, lost coin, and lost sons. We often know the third story as the parable of the “Lost Son” or the “Prodigal,” but really it is the story of two lost sons – the younger son and the older son.

Consider these questions as you read the parable anew:
- What was the longing of the younger son at the beginning of the parable?
- What was his longing in the second half of the parable?
- Why was the older son so upset?
- What was the heart of the father towards the younger son? Towards the older son?
- What would an ideal older brother have done in the first half of the parable? In the second half?
- How are you like the younger brother?
- How are you like the older brother?

Here is the parable:

“Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " (NIV)

Saturday, August 04, 2018

It’s Hard to Trust

Here is another section from chapter 9 of my book.

Standing on the edge of the five-foot high platform, Luke wondered if his teammates would catch him as he fell backwards off the platform and into their hands. His eyes were covered, but he could hear his teammates encouraging him to fall back. Although his arms were folded across his chest and his back was to the group, he knew that the eight of them could easily catch him. The real question was could he trust them?

Have you ever participated a team-building activity like this? Each member of the group has to depend on his teammates as he falls backwards into their arms. It builds trust and unity in a group, but it is extremely difficult, even if you are the last person to go and you have seen everyone else safely caught.

It is hard to trust others, whether it is our parents, siblings, teachers, pastors, or friends. It can be especially hard to trust God because we cannot see him or hear his voice, but it is essential that we learn to totally trust him and his promises. It isn’t enough to just know God or believe the gospel. To live the Christian life, we need to trust him; we need to rely on his character and power in every moment of every day. Whether we experience trials or blessings, we need to believe that God is wise, loving, and fully in control of our lives and our world.

I found it hard to trust God as I mourned Trevor’s death, but the more I did it the easier it got. Every day I felt God enable me to trust him and his ways more and more.

The more we choose to trust God instead of our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) and the more we understand that he is faithful, loving, kind, all-powerful and wise, the easier it is to trust him. As we trust him through difficult trials and important decisions, we will see his constant care, comfort, and guidance for us.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Lord Gives Strength and Peace - Psalm 29:11

In Psalm 29 the word “Lord” is used 18 times in 11 verses. This chapter shouts the majesty, power, glory, and praise of God. He is powerful. He is glorious. He is majestic. His voice thunders. His power is unmatched. His majesty stuns. 

The first 10 verses focus on the Lord, and in the final verse the Psalm turns to us.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)

Through the finished work of Jesus, we are adopted as children of God. He claims us as his children. He secures us as his own. He declares we are his people.

He gives us strength, and he blesses us with peace. We have limited energy and bounded strength, and the God of all power gives us strength. We worry and at times overflow with anxiety and fear, and the God of all glory grants us peace.

We praise you Father for your love. We thank you for strength and peace. Help us live as your people. Help us walk in your power. Help us rest in your peace.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Growing Up Christian -- Video

Imagine the potential of a generation of teens on fire for God!



Saturday, June 16, 2018

Holy Scripture

What is your view of Scripture?

Charles Spurgeon described it this way --

"This volume [the Bible] is the writing of the living God: each letter was penned with an almighty finger, each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips, each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit...everywhere I find God speaking; it is God's voice, not man's; the words are God's words, the worlds of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty, the Jehovah of the Earth."

God breathed life into every word of the Bible. He inspired the writers of sacred Scripture, guiding their thoughts and hands. Oh, what confidence we can have because of this! We can know that these are His words -- living and active words. We can anticipate God using them to transform our lives -- our every thought, word, and action.

Pick up your Bible today, asking "Lord, what do you want to say to me today?" He is pleased to answer!