Do You Understand The Words Coming Out of My Mouth?

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As Christians, we throw out “faith jargon,” assuming everyone knows what we mean by them. Truth is I think we sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to many… wa wa wa wa wa. The words either don’t compute or they mean something completely different to them than we intended. We are flippant in our words, not thinking about the harm we might be doing if misunderstood. I hope you have come to realize the power of words and their ability to both help and harm:

Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day. -Unknown

We need to think through very carefully how we speak our faith. People who are not of the faith won’t get what we are trying to say unless we are careful and patient to explain it well. Of course this means we must understand our own words enough to explain them. If I use words I don’t really comprehend then I probably cannot explain their meaning to others! We tend to use doctrinal terms (sanctification, saved, lost) in our conversations with those outside our faith that can be misunderstood or even offensive. Before you say the gospel offends, realize the problem is not when the gospel offends but when you do! Yes the truth can be confrontational but we often don’t present the truth clearly, but rather a mixture of words and cliches that leave people wondering what we are really trying to say. Some things we say sound plain weird to one who is not in the know (eat my body). One of the biggest challenges facing Christians today is to understand that in a postmodern world our words can be taken several different ways.

Let me give an example: Ask someone if they believe in God and most will say yes. Not everyone will but a high percentage of people still believe in some higher power. If they say yes does that really tell you anything? My professor used to say, “the worst distance between two people is miscommunication.” Someone says they believe in “God,” they might mean that tree is god, or maybe they have a generic understanding of god as some transcendent other that has no connection with his creation, or he might even believe that he is, in fact, a god. “God” can mean so many things and that has never been more true than it it today. When I say I believe in God is it a monotheistic (one god) understanding or is it a polytheistic (many gods) understanding? Do I believe God is personal or distant? Do I see him as sovereign or limited? You see, asking if someone believes in God tells you very little about what they really believe.

We need to learn to speak differently if we want to engage others in our faith. This starts first with us not speaking at all but rather being willing to listen to what they have to say. Too many times we are guilty of wanting to be heard but not showing the slightest interest in listening to them. The Bible tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are often the opposite,  If we want to engage others in our beliefs we should be open to hearing first what they believe.

When you think about it, it is truly arrogant to come at someone using jargon they probably will not understand and to do so in a way that gives the impression what they have to say doesn’t matter; they just need to listen to the truth and buy into it!

My friends, that was not the way of Jesus. He met people where they were and instead of telling them a bunch of obscure doctrine he listened and spoke to where they were. He could only do this by observing and knowing who they were and what they were about. This meant he had to listen and care enough to find out. We could learn a lot from Jesus on how to talk to people about our faith.

Jesus listened and he cared. When he saw the people of Israel it says he had compassion. That word means to “hurt in the gut.” His care was so deep it pained Him to see their travail. If all we want is to hammer them with words, while failing to listen and to care, then we should be shunned and ignored as heartless bullies.

Jesus listened; he cared; he was also bold. I don’t think we lose our boldness to call out sin or to speak challenge to others by being sensitive to them. Jesus definitely did not hold back! He called the Samaritan woman out; he laid into the Pharisees; he showed the adulteress woman grace but told her to sin no more. Jesus did not mince words. If we are willing to listen and to care, we will find others more open to letting us speak into their lives. We need to earn the right.

Flip that around. You would be same way. If someone came at you with words you didn’t know and made it clear they didn’t want to hear what you had to say but wanted you to just listen and then they spoke strong challenges to you, you would close your ears and have none of it! How dare they!?

We need to dialogue with others about our faith but this means thinking through the jargon we use, listening better, caring more, and speaking boldly for their good and not out of frustration or judgment.

Peter said it best: “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Celebrating Reformation Day


500 years ago, a young, passionate, and somewhat eccentric theologian took a hammer and nailed his 95 Declarations onto the church at Wittenberg’s Castle Church, sending a shock-wave to the Catholic Church. This began a movement that would lead to reformation of the church and a renewal of faith in the Gospel. It was a timely move, one where God’s word and message became the guiding principle again for His Church.

This is a crucial day in the history of many churches who uphold the Scriptures as supreme and its message as the guiding authority. It was a movement to dethrone human wisdom and power and to re-establish the truth of the Gospel. Standing bravely against corrupt practices, such as indulgences, it called for biblical grounding of the church and clergy practices. It truly was a revival, and God used it as seed to be planted all across our country two hundred years later.

Several important things launched from the Reformation, but perhaps nothing captures it more than the five Solas:

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

Today, we need to proclaim our commitment to these five biblical truths and continue to fight corruption and power-hungry motives. It is “Christ alone” that is, and always will be, our victory chant.

Five Things Every Christian Parent Should Ponder

1) God has given you charge over not only their bodies, but also their souls.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 implores us as parents to guide our children into spiritual truth. If you leave this to the “experts” at church, they may begin to see their faith as a Sunday thing and not something lived out during the week. After all, if parents don’t talk about “God-things” with them during the week, they won’t see it as important for their daily lives either.

2) Model for your children how a wife and husband should treat one another. 

My kids “gross” out when Christi and I show any PDA. You would think we were putting hot coals in their eyeballs! Yet, I know that behind their disgust are happy children who feel safe and secure having a mother and father who love each other. A young man needs to see how to treat a woman by the way his daddy treats his mom. A young woman needs to know how to respect and love a man by the way her mom respects and loves her dad. I hope my daughter will want to marry a guy one day who treats her like I try to treat Christi. There is a good chance that will be her standard and expectation.

3) Don’t just focus on their behavior, but focus on their hearts. 

Our goal as parents is not just to get our kids to act right in public. It’s not even to get them to act right at home. We want to go deeper with them. God desires for us to show them the importance of right motive behind their actions. Why do they do what they do? How does the Gospel motivate their thoughts and behaviors? If we just drill into our kids the need to do right things without teaching them the importance of proper motive then, at best, we make them legalists — at worst, hypocrites.

4) Train your children to be measured by grace and not by their performance.

In Exodus 34, God reversed Himself to His people as a God who is compassionate and slow to anger. Yet, God also punished the wicked. His approach is balanced between grace and discipline. Your children need to see you love them for who they are and not what they do. Our kids don’t need to feel we care for them less if they don’t “perform” properly. We give them grace not because they deserve it, but because God has given grace to us. If our kids think we care more for them when they are less of a bother to us then we teach them their value is earned. This flies in the face of what the Gospel teaches.

5) Teach your children to be sensitive to the effects of sin and not desensitized to them.

Everywhere we turn our eyes are filled with immorality. Whether it be commercials, shows, Internet, news, magazines, or billboards, we are inundated with sex, violence, and all kinds of debauchery. Unless we are extremely intentional, we will become desensitized to the effects of these images on our souls. The effect on our children should scare us. If our children become desensitized then sin will become commonplace, and they will live lives of compromise and justification. This is an epidemic in our world today.

Don’t Look Inside Because I Don’t Like What I Will See

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“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”   Matthew 23:25-26

Real change requires a look inside. An infected saint knows this all too well. I have tried in every other way, but my own journey says in order to make lasting change in your life, it starts with an honest look at your insides.

What does it mean to change? You know God desires it. You know there are things hindering you that He wants removed. But if you are like me, the struggle is real, and change is extremely difficult. When you are forced to look within, you know something needs addressing. You know there is something dreadfully wrong. It creeps up when we are put on the spot or someone dislikes us or we feel foolish. Something in us feels really broken, and we want to quit thinking about it as quickly as possible. We make ourselves busy, or we shift our thinking so we don’t have to deal with the unpleasantry of the wound within.

When we take time to look on the inside, to go deeper than what is at surface level, we find that things are complicated. It only takes a moment to realize, while there are good things happening, we have a really long way to go. Our garden is not without weeds. We wish we were better than we are, but we are not. And what is the result of this? It brings strong feelings of shame to our life. Shame makes us want to hide. Sometimes, it can be strong enough to make us want to curl up in the fetal position, hide in the closet or run with all our might to escape.

We want to feel whole. We want to feel like things are good and in order. We don’t want to feel empty or rejected. We avoid it at all costs. Yet, without an honest look at what is going on inside, how can we ever really change? How can we ever become like Christ? How can we ever experience the joy that is ours in Him?

Looking inside brings real fear. We are not sure we can face it and make it. It requires loads of courage to investigate deeper into our soul. If we want to change, we have to face our own sin and insecurities. We can’t be like the Pharisees who put out an image to everyone that was not consistent with who they really were in their souls. We have to face the pain, the shame, the guilt, the weakness. We have to face it in confidence that Christ’s grace is greater than our sin. That He will not leave us exposed and condemned.

How do we receive this great grace? We face courageously the depth of our sinfulness and we repent. Repentance moves us from deceiving ourselves that everything is okay to trusting in Christ’s work. Repentance produces a growing strength and stability in our inner core. It produces a change of character. It is the Gospel at work in us.

Let your complacency be disrupted by looking within. Change can only happen when we are first unsettled at our core. When we take the time to face our demons and get the help we need. Once we do, change is possible with the work of Christ and the accountability and support of others. God wants to do a mighty work in you – so have the courage to trust Him as He reveals the depths of your soul to you and changes you from the inside out.

 

Sometimes They Will Hate Us


“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”  Romans 1:21-23

Over the past few months, I have engaged in dialogue with those who deem themselves atheists. Consider there are two types of atheists you will encounter if you share your faith. There are atheists who don’t give any credence to faith but are not necessarily looking to proselytize Christians to their side. They do not believe in Jesus but can recognize benefits Christianity has in the world. There are also atheists who see it as their mission to attack Christianity.

This is the group I have encountered lately. They cannot stand the idea that Christians would “judge” them as someone needing to hear the Gospel. Filled with much pride, they despise being seen as a target of our evangelism. They get very defensive and spit out vile attacks. Why? Because they have to constantly defend their view. There can be no possibility they might be wrong. The very idea the Gospel is true is condemning, so they attack it vigorously. I have been called every name imaginable in trying to dialogue with them. They get personal quickly.  They hate easily.

But it’s not me they hate. It’s Jesus. Like Romans 1 predicted, they claim to be wise but are fools in their thinking. They are deceived.

Here are some things to consider if you find yourself speaking to those who attack your faith:

1) Don’t Get Defensive– As Christians, attacking back is not the answer. We have to give a solid defense of what we believe and not back down from the truth, but our conversation must be seasoned with grace and respect. I have failed in this often. It is hard to stay kind when being attacked.

2) God Will Have the Final Word- They will blaspheme God and insult Him with poisonous vile. God doesn’t need us to be His defender, though. When they attack God, don’t feel pressured to change their minds. I know all too well I cannot. I am confident God will have the final word. He will call all men to account. “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

3) Your Calling is to Love– It’s easy to love someone who responds well to us. Not so easy when they attack us. Yet, God tells us to love those who persecute us. Our kindness reaps hot coals on their heads with hope it will lead to repentance. Love is the only  way. First Corinthians tells us love is patient and kind. They need to see that from us. When they do, we are a living display of the Gospel to them. One of the most loving acts you can do is pray for them by name. Lift them up to the Lord, and ask Him to move in their hearts. He alone can transform them.

When we share the faith, there are going to be those who attack us. We should not be surprised. Jesus was attacked and killed for speaking the truth. So were the apostles. We should expect no different when we are faithful to share. Let’s not hate those who speak against us but love them. Nor let fear or anything else shut our mouths from proclaiming the Gospel.  ~Dax

10 Signs You Might Be A Lukewarm Christian

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 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  Revelation 3:15-16

Inspired by Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, I set out to write my own top 10 list of indicators you might be living a lukewarm Christianity. Be warned toes will hurt if you read. Be honest with yourself. Read above and see the Lord’s warning for living lukewarm. And remember if you are not guilty of one or two of these it doesn’t make you hot for the Lord.

  1. You think mostly about how to be comfortable and happy on this earth with little thought of Heaven and eternal life.

  2. You give God the leftovers rather than the first fruits of yourself.

  3. You seek God but usually only if you are in a bind.

  4. You don’t share you faith with the lost but you have really good excuses why this is.

  5. You say you believe in God but if we were to record your Monday-Saturday it would reveal that you live as if God doesn’t even exist.

  6. You spend more on your cell phone bill than you give to God.

  7. Someone outside of who you see on Sundays asks you what you love most and Jesus doesn’t get mentioned.

  8. You would rather your kids be happy and popular rather than holy and devoted to God.

  9. You are quick to volunteer at your kids school or sporting event but make excuses why you cannot volunteer at church.

  10. You know you practice sin but justify by saying “doesn’t everyone?”

When One Hurts, We Rally

picture taken by Josh Amyx.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Good friends of mine lost their house in a fire this week. They lost everything but pot holders, a signed basketball, and a few pictures salvaged. Fortunately, their lives were spared. And of course that is really what matters. Nevertheless,  I am hurting for them and the loss of not only their valuables but those things that cannot be replaced… pictures and awards and certificates that are precious to us as families.

Their loss ignited an outpouring. Our church rallied. The amount of prayers and support would inspire the greatest doubter that people can really care. It was inspiring to see. It reminded me of an absolute truth… We need each other.  You really do need your church. You might think you don’t but I assure you God never intended you to go it alone. We don’t need the church only to receive but for us to give as well.

We need each other. The body of Christ was meant to be a group of people that do life together. That love each other and rally around its members when they are hurting. The body is not always perfect in this. There are times where people slip through the cracks and feel neglected. Sometimes it is because they Attend the church but are not connected to the church. There is a difference. God intended the church body to be a close, connected community that loves each other.

We need each other. We were never meant to do this life alone. We need those outside of our immediate family to love us. So often when something happens it effects our family and those outside of it are the ones who can comfort us and love on us in our greatest time of need. It shows us how much God loves us when church people rally to show us support. It is supernatural. It is God’s will for His body.

We need each other. We need each other to share our burdens with; to celebrate our joyous moments; to grow together in the Lord; to raise our kids together; to serve with one another. To come together as a community that we can be real with. It is an authentic community. I am accepted and loved just as I accept and love others in return.

We need each other. When life throws us a curveball, we need others to help hold us up; to help us find perspective; to hold us while we grieve; to help us pick up the pieces and move forward. God wants His body to take care of each other. Christ would have us reach the world with the gospel but if the church doesn’t care for its own, how will our message be received?

The church is not the church if it doesn’t care for its own in the name of Jesus.

Dax