Author Archives: Pastor Chad

Discipleship and Holiness

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Recently, I was re-reading the Life and Diary of David Brainerd. The personal and intimate diary describes many accounts and stories from the life of the Brainerd, an American missionary to various New England Amerindian tribes in the 18th century. The part that gripped me most was Brainerd’s longings for personal piety and his consecration to holiness. He wrote:

 

Oh for holiness! Oh for more of God in my soul! Oh this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God; the language of it is, ‘Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in God’s likeness,’ (Ps 17:15) but never, never before: and consequently I am engaged to ‘press towards the mark’ day by day. O that I may feel this continual hunger, … to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment and possession of the heavenly inheritance! O that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey!”

 

Here we see a man who demonstrated in private and hidden pages of his journal an enormous appetite for holiness. The truth is that I hear few Christians who today still hunger for that kind of holiness and separation unto the Lord. Yet the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:15-16 “…just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘“Be holy, because I am holy.”’ According to this scripture the disciple of Jesus can attain holiness in “all” that they do. It seems reasonable that a disciple should become more like the one they follow – and Jesus is holy! Furthermore, because God is holy, every time we sin we do something that God despises. Consequently, we need to cultivate hearts that share the same hatred of sin that God possesses. When a person claims to be a disciple and remains comfortable with sin, we can be quite certain that they are not walking intimately with the Lord. Peter goes on to say, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Notice, God sees you as “a chosen person” a “Priest”, part of a “holy nation and His special possession.” As such, a follower of Jesus must not take sin lightly!

There is an old saying, “you are what you eat.” The idea is that in order to be healthy you need to take in good food. Contrarily, consuming bad food leads to detrimental effects on your body. Eating Twinkies 24/7 may not kill you directly, but it may contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and many other disorders in your body the will inhibit your from living a long and fruitful life. The same is true if we want to live healthy, holy lives. We need to be conscious about what we allow into our lives. While removing all ungodly influences from your life would require exiting the planet (see 1 Cor. 5:9-10), there are many things that we can purposefully avoid in order to promote a healthier spiritual life. Many spiritual “Twinkies” or even poison come from the influences of friends, what we look at on the internet, how we spend our time, and the entertainment we choose to consume. In order to attain holiness disciples must eradicate some of these influences from their lives, and remain very selective of the types of things they consume spiritually.

 

Do you crave holiness? Does your heart inwardly long to be more like Christ similar to those longings of David Brainerd? If no longings for holiness exist, we need to more deeply contemplate how serious we are in following Jesus because Christ followers naturally long for holiness.


The Dunning-Kruger Effect

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James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

In sociological studies the Dunning–Kruger effect represents “a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.” In more basic terms, there are people who clearly are not the most intelligent people but think they are brilliant. Other people might not be the most attractive, but they believe they are eye candy. There are individuals who believe they are the best on the team when everyone else knows that they’ve got no game at all. All of these people live in a false reality. The Dunning-Kruger effect is the blatant disregard of knowing yourself and the reality in which you live.

As I examine the lives of Christians across the nation, I think many suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect. They think they are more spiritual, more Godly, more religious than they think they are, but they are not living in the reality of what Scripture calls for Christians to embrace. Consequently, they deceive themselves about where they stand spiritually.

James tells us that this self-deception is not something new but something that he was dealing with in the church 2000 years ago. One thing that James wants his hearers to fully understand is that they must not be deceived into believing something about themselves that is not rooted in reality. In the first chapter he uses the term “deceived” three times (16, 22, 26).

James recognizes that Christians often don’t see their faith in the right lens. They believe everything is OK spiritually when they are really falling short. They think they are quite perfect when they are not. They think they live quite adequately, when, in fact their lives come nowhere close to the Biblical mandate for Christian living. Such was the self-deception that was unfolding in the Church of Laodicea in Rev 3:16-17.

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

The Laodicean Church thought everything was good and that they were quite hearty spiritually, but in reality they were on the verge of being spit out. Consequently, they were only deceiving themselves and needed a reality check.

Are you deceiving yourself about your faith, thinking it is something that it is not? You can end your self-deception by measuring your life to the standards in Scripture and making adjustments to model the kind of life that God requires for his followers. Stop deceiving yourself and start obeying.


Continually Offer a Sacrifice of Praise

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“Worship was great this morning!” Do you ever hear these words Sunday afternoon at the lunch table or see them on Facebook? As a former worship pastor, our church parishioners would enthusiastically share with me a steady stream of accolades surrounding our church’s “worship.” However, I have never been too comfortable with our modern perception of this understanding of worship. Too many times people associate worship with the first twenty minutes of a church service. During this part of the “program” musicians take the stage, the lights are lowered, and the congregation sings three or four songs. If the band played well, the people sang passionately, and we feel goose bumps, we respond by saying, “Worship was awesome!” However, if there is no band, and the singers are below average, we intuitively conclude, “the worship of this church needs help.” This limited view of worship I have just described is more about satisfying ourselves and our desires for what we want in “worship” rather than pleasing God. In this situation, everything has to be just right for us to make our worship “experience” good.

I contend that the word “worship” has been hijacked to mean something far less than what the Scripture intended it to mean. Although lifting our collective voices as a church congregation certainly constitutes one element of worship, “Sunday worship” represents only one small piece of a life that should embody glorifying God in everything it does. Biblical worship was never intended to be exclusively connected with the music programs in our churches. Consequently, many have the wrong impression of what worship should entail.

The word “worship” comes from the old English term “worth-ship”, which meant, “to attribute great worth and value to someone who merits it.” However, even this definition is incomplete based upon the Biblical examples of how God wants us to respond to Him. When we apply the above definition to God, we simply affirm that He is of worth. It doesn’t inherently suggest actions, only a state of mind – the belief that “God is of great worth.” Unfortunately, in this limited definition there is no interaction with God or a personal response to Him. However, upon examination of the Scriptures there are a myriad of examples used to describe the act of ascribing value to God:

  • Building an altar (Gen. 33:20, Gen 26:25)
  • Sacrificing (Leviticus 1-7)
  • Singing (Psalm 104: 33)
  • Praying (Psalm 5:3)
  • Vows and oath taking (Psalm 66:13-19)
  • Reading/Teaching God’s Law (Duet. 31:9-17)
  • Observing the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • Seasonal festivals (Lev. 23)
  • Penitential rites (Leviticus 16:2)
  • Pilgrimage festivals (Exodus 23:14-17)
  • Incense offerings/libations (Exodus 30:7-9)
  • Purification rites (Leviticus 12:1-8)
  • Tithing (Leviticus 27:30-32)
  • Playing music (2 Chronicles 5:11-14)
  • Dance (2 Samuel 6:14, Psalm 149:3)
  • Clap your hands (Psalm 41:7)
  • Shouting (Psalm 98:4)
  • Doing Good (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Worship had a physical, very active meaning that encompassed every category of life. In order to fulfill our responsibility to worship God, the Scripture didn’t just call us to metaphysical thoughts of, “God is of great worth” – we are told to worship in the ebb and flow of life, through our labor, our relationships with others, the use of our bodies, our finances, our time. Worship should fill and motivate our actions and pursuits. When God’s people forgot this principle, He reprimanded them saying, “I don’t just want your religious sacrifices – you need worship me by ‘acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God!’” (see Micah 6:7-8)

Adequate worship represents a way of life, not just a singular event. That is why Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1 that only through giving our entire bodies back to God will we achieve proper worship of Him. The Book of Hebrews tells us that we are to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” as evidenced through the fruit of our lips, our obedience, and concern for others (Hebrews 13:15-16). God created us to be creatures of continual worship. When you see a guitar you naturally assume it was formed by its maker to make music. Likewise, when you see a human body, you need to remember that it was created for the purpose of worshipping God. We often forget that our mouths, eyes, hands, feet, torso, head, and every fiber of our created flesh were formed as part of a great instrument of worship to be played continually.

The well-regarded Puritan pastor, George Swinnock once penned, “…Worship comprehends all that respect which man oweth and giveth to his Maker…..it is the tribute which we pay to the King of Kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him……All that inward reverence and respect, all that outward obedience and service to God… is included in this one word worship.” If we truly desire to worship God our lives will reflect “all the inward reverence” and “all the outward obedience” that Swinnock describes, not just by describing our “worship” to God with a twenty-minute time-slot on Sunday mornings. Worship is not an event – it is our chief purpose for which we were created. Worship is a way of life and should be exhibited in everything we do.

 


A prayer from a minor prophet

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Lord,
This week my heart has been heavy for those who have tasted your goodness, but have wandered. You have awakened me in the night. You have burdened my soul with a bitterness that makes me despise the clutches of this world. So many distractions pull our attention from the perfect plan you have prepared for us. So many promises of satisfaction lead us to empty reservoirs and barren deserts. So many allegiances keep us from the only one allegiance that leads us in the way of everlasting. I have seen too many shipwrecked lives allured by the deceptive overtones of the Sirens’ call. Lord, keep me and the people I shepherd from the myopic perspective that fills our belly for but a moment. Guard us from the weeds that choke the abundant life you have called us to. Let your blade sink down deep within us to soften the fallow ground of our hearts so that our roots may flourish in the rich soil of your Kingdom.


The Giver vs. the Gift

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1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Too often I find myself putting too much hope in my job, bank account, or my 401K for the certainty of my future rather than the one who has provided those things for my enjoyment. It is an easy trap to fall into when God has provided so abundantly for us. Yet, we need to daily recognize that our hope does not lie in the gift but the Giver of the gift. It doesn’t matter if we are part of the 1.3 billion people in this world who make less than $1.25 a day, if we are part of the top 1% of global population that make $35,000 or more a year, or even if we live in a lavish suburban mansion, our hope does not come from what we have but from the one who willingly gives it to us. In whatever circumstance we find ourselves God wants us to learn to depend upon him for our daily bread. Unfortunately, our prosperity often trains us to look to our stuff and take our eyes off of Him.

I have two plump and healthy dogs that come see me every morning around the same time to remind me to feed them. They growl, spin around in circles, even nudge me with their sturdy heads urging me to put food in their bowls. I have faithfully filled their bowls every morning for the last five years. I doubt that I have forgotten once during those years. If you were to look at their sagging mid-sections you would immediately recognize that they have received a hearty amount of food each of those mornings. Surely they know by now that I will wake up and be sure to provide them a tasty morning meal. Yet, every morning they don’t go out to their bowls to see if they are filled to the brim with food. Instead, they go through their elaborate routine recognizing the giver of their day’s bounty. They look to their master to fill their bowls rather than thinking the bowl itself hold key to their abundance.

What are you putting your hope in? Day by day we need to express our need for God and be reminded that no matter where we stand in the prosperity index our hope always remains in the Giver more than in His bountiful gifts.

 


Your Health and Forgiveness

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The Mayo Clinic performed a study several years back that determined that forgiveness could likely lead a person “down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.” The study pointed out that letting go of grudges and bitterness paved the way for peace, hope gratitude and joy. According to the research, people who were able to forgive possessed:

#1 Healthier relationships,

#2 Greater spiritual and psychological well-being

#3 Less anxiety, stress and hostility

#4 Lower blood pressure

#5 Fewer symptoms of depression

#6 Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

#7 Greater potential for a longer life.

It is interesting to note that forgiveness is one of Jesus’ central themes in his teaching. In fact, the subject is mentioned over fifty times in the gospels alone. Thus, forgiveness is part of living the abundant life that Jesus has designed for us. (John 10:10) We have been designed by God to be people of forgiveness. Yet we often live our daily lives outside of this central tenant of our faith. If we can’t forgive we actually bring harm to our lives and allowing the thief to “steal, kill, and destroy.” God has written into our DNA or programmed our hardware in such a way that we function more perfectly when we purge our system of bitterness and anger towards others. Like my computer that is frequently slowed down by spywares or viruses, many people are walking around with poorly performing systems because they have not received their antivirus that Jesus provides for them – forgiving others.

 

Fellow brother or sister, is there someone you need to forgive today? Don’t delay. When you delay you are delaying your abundant life that Jesus desires for you.


Willy Wonka and the Bible

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Psalm 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul….

My daughter just discovered the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 version). As I watched the movie with her I could not help but think how different the movie is from the book. The movie leaves out entire chapters, recreates figures that are entirely different from the book, and neglects a myriad of subtle details that make the reading experience immeasurably more satisfying than the movie. (Tragically, the movie leaves out one of my favorite parts: the entire description of life in Loompaland.) While the movie was mildly entertaining, I could not help but think, “The book blows the movie away!” The film substituted cheap movie props, inadequate summaries, smudged face paint, and terrible special effects to recreate what was so perfectly written. Now I know that it is hard for producers to include every detail and shortcuts have to be made in order to condense a book into a ninety-minute event. But in making shortcuts we often miss out on what makes a book so great. We miss the author’s original intent.

As I was watching this movie and thinking about the shortcuts the producers made in order to make the movie more palatable for the average viewer, I could not help but think that we do the same with the Book that God wrote. We cut, we slash, we skim, reinvent and reduce it to three-minute sound bites. Consequently, we miss so much of the original intent, the creativity of God, and the wonder of it all for our lives. In this re-editing of the Book, we are forced to create cheap replicas of life that remain distant from God’s original intent. The Bible was given for our pleasure so that we could live life to the fullest. When we revise or edit parts out because they are too long or complicated to implement we miss out on important details of life that God wants to give us. People who follow only parts of the Bible may partially benefit from doing so. But, if we want the fullest experience that God has for us, we need to love the entire book and as the Psalmist describes, “meditate on it day and night.” The Bible is perfect and refreshing! We simply need to stay committed to closely following the original script.


“…what has happened to me…”

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Phil. 1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

In his letter to the Philippian Church Paul recalls the “things that happened to him.” In this case Paul wasn’t pointing out his tremendous accomplishments, nor his dazzling adventures that might leave his audiences spellbound. What exactly had happened to the Apostle Paul? Some pretty horrific things had unfolded in Paul’s life leading up to the time he wrote this letter to the Philippian church; shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, exposure, imprisonment, and the list goes on (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

As a pastor, it seems as though I am constantly confronted with the “things that happen” to Godly people. My office is often a place of tears, worries and uncertainties that accompany the lives of good people, people I admire who have faithfully served the Lord for years. I am frequently reminded that bad things happen to some really wonderful and Godly people. Yet I am also reminded that the Bible teaches us that trials are an inevitable part of our Christian journey. Whether emotional, spiritual, financial, physical everyone will face difficulties in life. We live in a fallen world, in a world that is far from what it was originally intended to be. The fall has led to consequences that even we as Christians have to face. This means that, like Paul, we will all face significant trials.

There are some in the church today who suggest that if you have enough faith or if you are spiritual enough, you will never get sick, you will become prosperous and you will simply not have “things happen to you.” As best as I can understand my Bible this is simply not true! Jesus reminds us that, “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

The problem is that many believers have bought into a bad theology that asserts, “If I follow Christ closely and intimately, if I am a good Christian…..the wind will always be at my back, the sun will shine on my face, heavenly bliss will ubiquitously hover over me with good fortune, and all trials will bounce off of me because God will never allow these things to happen to his child.” And when these things don’t happen…..they ask, “Where is God? Christianity doesn’t work!” Their faith begins to flounder in the turbulent waters of real life.

In her biography, former First Lady, Laura Bush described an event that illustrates this approach to faith. When she was 17 years old she ran a stop sign, collided with little boy and killed him. Describing the aftermath of this event, she wrote, “I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years.” As I read the book and felt the agony of her suffering, I thought that she had articulated so perfectly what so many in the modern church believe about faith. When something terrible happens in life, we give up on faith or we look away from God. We suppose, “God is not working for me anymore, so I will try something else.” Consequently, some will walk away for years and eventually return. Others will walk away never to return. Yet this kind of “faith” is a misguided faith, not based on a biblical reality of our world because the Bible is quite clear that we live in the same fallen world as everyone else. It assures us that we will experience all kinds of trials.

After experiencing a series of trials, a church member once shared with me, the same sentiment that Laura Bush articulated in her biography, “Pastor Chad. I think I am not sure about God anymore, I might be losing my faith.” I replied, “Good! …because we need to replace your current faith with a rightly guided faith, a faith that recognizes that you will experience trials like everyone else. Let’s get rid of the wrong theology and replace your faith with one that is based upon the truth of Scriptures. Then you will no longer follow a faith that lives in a fantasy-land. Instead, you will possess a faith that gives you the tools to deal with the real pain of our world that you will invariably experience and then you can received the strength to overcome that pain.” Remember Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world.”
Beloved in Christ, are “things happening” to you today? I won’t tell you that a prayer will remove those things, visiting your pastor will solve everything, or a trip to church will ease your suffering. However, I do know that you will overcome through Jesus. He has promised it. Stand firm in Him. Don’t run away from your faith in Him. Instead, know that your suffering may persist, but that Jesus has a purpose for your pain and that he has empowered you and granted you the spiritual equipment to overcome anything that you will face.


Who I Am (Ephesians 1:1-14)

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In Ephesians 1:1-14 the preposition “in” is used over a dozen times, most of them connected to Christ. Paul repeats the phrases “In Christ,” “In Him,” “In the One he loves,” throughout the chapter. In doing so he wants to remind the Ephesian Church of who they are in Christ in order to strengthen and build them up.

At times I feel my own inadequacies, my failures, my shortcomings, and consequently, develop the wrong mental picture of who I am. I believe the enemy wants to make us forget about who we are in Christ so that he can steal the joy, confidence, hope overall blessing that Christ offers us when we understand our position of being “in Him.” A few weeks ago the accuser, satan, was again attempting to convince me to believe things about myself that were depressing, defeating and debilitating. After a several weeks of this battle, I had an Ephesians 1 moment and quickly wrote down how the Bible defined me as a person who is in Christ. This is what I came up with:

I am adopted, I am redeemed, I am loved, I am forgiven, I have been died for, I have been sung over, I have been given a calling to lead God’s people, I have a future that belongs to God, I am a new creation, I am being perfected, I am made complete in Him, I am free from oppression of sin, I am living forever, I am holy, I am a temple of the holy spirit, I have the mind of Christ, I am more than a conqueror, I have the peace that passes understanding, it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, I can resist the fiery darts of the devil, I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength, I am God’s workmanship, I am an overcomer by the blood of the lamb, I am delivered from the power of darkness, I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, I have hope, I eat the bread of life and drink from the well of living water, the yoke I carry is not burdensome, I am in God’s hands, His care, His protection, His love, His favor, I wear His armor, I bear His fruit, I have my name written in his book, I have more than I throne……I have the incomparable riches in Christ Jesus!!!

I recognize that this list is far from complete. Yet so often we define ourselves, let others define us, and believe the definition of how Satan tries to define us. These definitions are inadequate or even false. When we are “in Christ” God has already perfectly defined who we are…end of story!!! We need to start believing it. We need to take ownership of who God says we are in Christ Jesus. Until we do, we will always live under the cloud of doubt and inadequacy. You are in Christ. Start believing who He says you are!