People Don’t Like Being Told They Are Going To Hell

We need to think about how we say things to others who disagree with us about God.

In speaking to those who don’t believe in Jesus, as the Savior of mankind, let me assure you they don’t take kindly to being called lost, ignorant, deceived, or hell-bound. They find it condescending, judgmental, and hateful. If I were a nonbeliever I would not like it either. As a Christian, we have to understand this. We need to “feel” what they are saying and understand that it’s a strong statement we make when we say they are lost or going to Hell. That kind of pronouncement carries with it a lot of emotion and judgment.

We can not be flippant with those words if we want to show that we care. If we are offering the grace of Jesus, we can’t do it from the approach that they are wretched in need of a massive makeover to appease God and really, to appease us. They are no less human and no more unworthy than any of us. We dehumanize people so often with our words all in the name of God. I have been guilty of this myself but I don’t want to continue to treat people as less than human.

That in no way means I don’t believe all people of every race and status are in need of the gospel. Everyone deserves to hear about Christ and needs Him for salvation. My error is insensitivity. I haven’t been as sensitive to them in the words I have used to convey what I believe to be true. We are fools if we think they are not going to struggle with our belief that they are sinners and will go to Hell for eternity in judgment. I mean who wants to hear that! Yet, if we believe that those without Christ are bound for eternity from God then it is the greatest act of love we can give to do everything we can to help them see the way of salvation. Think about it like this: if another person saw me doing something that was harmful to myself and thy intervened, I may not appreciate it in the moment but surely it is an act of mercy and care! I often try to help people who don’t want to admit or recognize their issue(s) but to do nothing feels cruel. No one, I mean no one, is going to shake your hand and thank you for telling them they are going to Hell. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. We have to think very carefully how we speak to those who are without a relationship with Christ. I suggest the following:1) Before you engage them remind yourself that you are no better than them and the same salvation you say they need, you needed yourself. Give grace because you surely needed grace yourself.

2) This goes with the first one but be humble. This is not about your pride or ego or another notch on your belt or winning an argument. You do this because you care about them so prove it in your words.

3) You should dialogue and debate with them but don’t let emotions or anger influence your words. I have been so guilty of this in my debates. There have been times where my ego got in the way or I let anger cloud my judgment. It undermines everything I am saying when that happens.

4) Be prepared for them to attack you. They are not going to like that you lean on faith and not reason. They are going to ridicule it and disrespect you. You need to be honest that you don’t have the proof they want to see and also that you don’t know all the answers. If they don’t believe then give them that right. Respect their decision. Your job is to share and not to convert. You cannot convert people because you do not have the ability to change their heart.

Let’s think through how we engage people with the gospel. Let’s treat them respectfully and lovingly. Let’s be patient with them just as others were patient with us. Hurting people in the name of truth is wrong. We should present the truth with sensitivity and care.

Top 5 Arguments Skeptics Give Against the Christian Faith

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Whenever you find someone who believes strongly in something, there will be those who also doubt it. As Christians, healthy questioning of what we believe is needed,  as holding to a set of beliefs only because they were passed down to us makes our faith shallow and weak. I have no respect for untested faith, where someone is unwilling to let their faith be questioned out of fear or laziness.

Now that doesn’t mean everyone who questions your faith deserves a voice. Apostates lurk the blog world, looking for Christians they can attack. Jesus spoke about these kinds of people. He told the disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” if the apostles encountered someone not willing to listen. It is not my responsibility to convince a bitter and angry skeptic to believe in the faith. Because they want you to enter their arena of attack, they will guilt you with words like “the burden of proof is on you” or “if you are a Christian then you will stay loving and humble,” while they have the freedom to curse, demean and berate you. They lure Christians to enter dialogue where their fellow antagonists wait to attack. They are not our targets to evangelize. We should heed Jesus’ words and feel no guilt for their faithlessness. The Lord will be their judge.

With that said, we should still be aware of what skeptics are saying, especially in the questions they raise. Not all skeptics are close-minded and antagonistic to the faith. Here are five questions I see skeptics raising:

If God is a good God, how can He allow so much suffering and evil in the world?

shutterstock_492404062.jpg    One thing we cannot deny is evil exists in our world. Atrocious things happen to people that are seemingly undeserved. Yet, God is working in suffering; some of the most powerful testimonies have come from those who have endured great tragedy. God often raises beauty from ashes. It is God that gives us the hope that things can be better. We also need to remember that sin entered the world through disobedience and tainted all of humanity and the world. Disease, pestilence, drought, natural disasters, murders, bigotry, and all other catalyst of suffering are the result of sin. Some shake their fists at God, but it is we who brought this upon ourselves.

How could I come to church or believe in what you say when the church is full of hypocrites?

shutterstock_388569646.jpg   This is not totally false. Many hypocrites come to church every Sunday. I would argue it comes with the way a church is set up. Church welcomes all to come, including hypocrites. I wonder if anyone has been a part of any gathering, social club, or civic group where some didn’t poorly represent the greater identity? Poor examples don’t necessarily undermine the core as being strong and faithful. While the church should preach against hypocrisy and hold those accountable who practice it, people choose how they will live. There will always be those who confess Christ and live opposite of Him. The problem with this argument against the faith is it fails to acknowledge those who do live out their faith well. Not all live hypocritically, and as long as there are faithful servants of Christ, then the church is not lost. This argument is simply an excuse to justify their own unwillingness to set foot in church and to deny the faith. God transcends His followers as He is perfect and they are flawed and broken. Every Christian will make mistakes and be hypocritical in some manner.

Isn’t Christianity a crutch for people to avoid facing the realities of this world?

shutterstock_327126659.jpg    Karl Marx claimed that religion is “an opiate of society.” Skeptics argue in the same vein that faith is “pie in the sky” thinking, an unwillingness to deal with injustices in the world honestly. For a Christian, hope is found in Christ. It is not wishful thinking but the only reality that we can cling to that is consistent, loving, and pure. It is not a crutch or an escape; rather it is hope. Claiming that Christians are weak because they cannot face the harsh realities is a skeptic’s way of denying hope. What is life without hope? Faith is believing there is hope beyond what you can see. Some the most courageous people who have ever lived have been so because they clung to there faith. They faced incredible obstacles because God gave them strength to do so. They were not in denial of their sufferings but found hope in them through Christ.

How can you claim that Jesus is the only way to God?

shutterstock_218152.jpg     This is a big one. If God exists, why do Christians see their way as the only true way to God. Truth is, we don’t claim it. We do not exclude other faiths or deny their access to the true God. Jesus did. He said that He was “the way, the truth,and the life, and that no person comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6). Jesus made Christianity exclusive, and, as His followers, we do the same. It is through Jesus that one can be saved. It is not a popular belief, but it is the Gospel. Popularity has never been our goal. Narrow is the way and few who find it, says our sacred text. Many get tripped up by this, but we trust in the word of our Lord that says He alone is the way to God.

If God is real and Jesus is alive, then why doesn’t He do a public broadcast across the globe telling who He is and His intentions for us?

shutterstock_559280869       Silence is deafening for skeptics. They can’t get past the fact that God would be so “aloof” with His creation. At one time, God did walk among us. But through man’s disobedience, humanity was banned from His garden and presence. Now through Christ, we are reunited with Him by faith to one day see Him “face to face” again. When Thomas touched the scars after the resurrection, Jesus told him that he believed because He saw with his own eyes but “blessed are those who have not yet seen and still believe.” Skeptics are unwilling to acknowledge faith, but it is faith that saves us and brings us into right relationship with God. One day, God’s presence will be overwhelmingly evident to all. There will be no more skeptics on that day. “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord”—from the most faithful to the vilest to the most bitter atheist.

This list is far from exhaustive, but these are questions I encounter often as I talk with those who doubt our faith. We will never be able to “talk” anyone into salvation, but that should not stop us from sharing our faith and doing all we can to answer their questions. Not to do so shows a lack of care and willingness to help them see. Yet, many skeptics have one agenda: to ridicule and belittle the faith. They do this because they must. They need to justify their doubt lest they are proved wrong and condemned. Show them grace, but do not waste your time. Instead, find those willing to listen and spread the Gospel!

Criticism is What You Need to Grow


If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Matthew 18:15

There are many things we love to receive: a gift, a pat on the back, a million dollars! Some things we never want to be given: a pink slip, toothache, shark bite, or criticism!

Please, no shark bites. But truth that is criticism can be just what you need to grow. Sure, it doesn’t feel good to have someone call your issues out. We try really hard to debunk what they have said because we don’t want to feel the shame that comes over us for being flawed. We do not like to have our issues called out, but truth is, criticism is good for us when it is given in the right spirit, coming from someone whose motive is pure and gracious.

Criticism gives great perspective. One person said, “Criticism polishes my mirror.” It makes things that are fuzzy in my perception of myself come into focus. We often have blind spots and don’t realize how we are perceived, what our facial expressions communicate, how what we say is taken, and many other things that we do not realize people are seeing as flaws in us.

When someone has the courage to reveal it to us in love, we would be foolish to disregard or discredit what they are saying. We should receive it humbly and thankfully. Some of my biggest moments of growth came when someone cared enough about me to tell me the truth, and I received it. Sure it stung, but I grew because they said it and I had the courage to receive it.

Here are some things to consider when receiving constructive criticism:

1) Do not take it personally. If they care about you, they are not attacking you personally or trying to hurt you. They want to help you.

2) Feedback makes you stronger. One of the most valuable gifts, and one given sparingly in complete honesty, is feedback. Feedback that is critical might hurt our pride, but ultimately, we should want to be better and not deceived into thinking we are better than we are. Hurt my pride before you let me keep making the same mistake over and over again!

3) It expands your perspective. You just can’t see things sometimes. They are just out of your peripheral vision. Until someone points it out, you don’t realize certain things about you. If you are hypersensitive and insecure, you will run from criticism because you can’t face the fact that you are flawed. This is tragic, though, as you miss opportunity to increase your range of sight and see yourself more clearly.

4) It challenges our people-pleasing. This is a big one for me, personally. When someone contradicts me, I do not need to see that as persecution. It is exhausting trying to live for the approval of everyone. Being able to give and receive criticism is a way of living healthier in your relationships.

5) It deepens your relationship and trust. When someone has the courage to approach you in love and critique you, and you respond correctly, I guarantee your relationship will grow to a deeper, more trusting level. That is a person you want to keep close to you. It is a rare find, a friend like that.

Let me sum it up: If you are not open to constructive criticism, then you are not open to growing as a person.

How To Deal With Difficult People

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For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3



Some people are, how should I say this, well they are… difficult to be around for us. We may work with them, go to church with them, see them at the ballpark, or might even be related to them. They have a special gift of annoying us. They make our blood pressure go up. We want to run from the room to get away from them. We might even want to punch them if we are honest!

Before we talk about “those” difficult people, we need to first look in the mirror at ourselves. Is it possible we can be difficult? If so it should immediately hit us here that the same grace we want from others we should extend to those we find difficult. We want people to be gracious to us even when it’s our fault. You better believe God demands we give that same grace to others.

What defines someone as difficult? A difficult person is someone who knows how to push our buttons, whether they know they are doing it or not. Their Facebook post annoys us. Every laugh is like nails on a chalkboard. They can be condescending, selfish, argumentative, or simply rude. We try to ignore them but instead it is like they are highlighted. They always find a way to get our attention. We know we are wrong to let it get under our skin but it still happens!

Jesus dealt with quite a few difficult people! When Jesus dealt with those people who were difficult, he never reacted with a sense that he was superior to them nor did he dismiss them out of pride. Superiority and dismissal can be subtle but don’t miss the harshness of the two. Both stem from pride. Most who have this attitude fail to see the very obvious sins in their life. They are annoyed by “difficult” people but many might see them as difficult! Ironic, huh? It just points to them not being self aware. And because they can be pretty harsh to those who they see as difficult, their friends are scared to be honest with them about their own annoying quirks. They don’t stand up because they don’t want to be tagged as one of those difficult people who get belittled.

Some of us are hypersensitive. We are easily annoyed. If that is you be careful. Be careful that you don’t surround yourself with like minded people who do the same thing. Or people who are scared to stand up to you and  agree with you so you will like them. They will justify you and join in as you speak condescendingly about those “difficult” people. Also be careful that you don’t start sentences with “I know I shouldn’t say this” or “I know I am wrong in what I am about to say.” Admitting it is wrong and then doing it does not make it better somehow. If you are hypersensitive then you are letting difficult people control you. Yep, they own you. They govern where you can sit, what groups you will be in, what ministries you will serve in.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was quite specific about dealing with difficult people in love and humility: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27–31). We must never give tit for tat: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

Watch out for pride. Don’t think so highly of yourself. What if instead you loved them like you loved yourself. What if you focuse din on those things that are healthy and beneficial about them? How would that change things?

This blog is most likely not a message you want to be confronted with but maybe it is exactly what Jesus wants you to hear today. Have the courage to check your spirit and repent of wrong attitude and hatefulness.

Last Week of Jesus- Tuesday

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36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

It is Tuesday of the last week of Jesus life on this earth. Jesus is departing Bethany and heading into the inner part of the city of Jerusalem for Passover. While He is starting the two mile journey from Bethany, Jesus engages in discussion with those on the road. At one point He encounters the Scribes. The Scribes, lawyers of the Pharisees, pose a question to Jesus. Their intent is not pure. They are not seeking to learn from Jesus’ wisdom nor are they just inquisitive. Rather, they want to trip Him up so that they can “catch” Him in a contradiction or blasphemy.

They ask him which is the greatest commandment. Instead of choosing one, Jesus brilliantly encapsulates all ten commandments by alluding to Deuteronomy 6:5 (Shema). By telling them to love God with their whole being, He captures the essence of the first five commandments. He then refers to loving your neighbor, which undergirds the second five commandments. These two commandments sum them all up. The scribes couldn’t disagree with His logic. They were unable to trip Jesus up and in turn He made a profound statement summing up what two pursuits are the most important for us in life… to love God and to love your neighbor.

We make our faith much more complicated than it should be. We make it about a list of do’s and do nots; about rules and regulations; traditions and rituals. It transcends that.

Here is how I suggest you should live.You might be shocked on my prescription but I think God would back me on it:  I have two things for you to do and from there do whatever you want. I mean it, no boundaries. Live like you want with no pressure. Don’t try and live in accordance with a bunch of rules and regulations. Do whatever you want to do. I am serious. I just want you to simply follow two principles. Just two. After that you are completely free to do what you want. Two things: Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. If you do these two things you don’t have to wonder if you are living right. You don’t have to wonder if you are doing enough. You don’t have to measure up to any other standard. Just love God with all you are and love others as much as you love yourself and from there do whatever you want.

Church if we take Jesus seriously and begin to live out these two principles it will transform not only us but the world around us. Your biggest obstacle here is yourself. The biggest threat to our obedience to these two greatest commandments is that we love self too much. I don’t want you to hate yourself. As Keller said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking about yourself less.” Jesus is not asking you to not enjoy life or to do nothing for yourself. He is asking us to think of self less so that we make room for what should be priority in our life as Christians, to love God and to love our neighbor.

If we don’t love , then who out there is going to take us seriously? If we live the same way they do then how can we say we have anything different worth taking notice of? They need to see our love for God and love for them as consistent and genuine. If not then we are guilty of being what they call us, hypocrites.  We show our faith to be ingenue and not worth considering. Love is the key.

We need to put more effort into responding to our God in love. We do this by praying to Him, worshipping Him, and obeying Him. Those three acts speak love to our God. Find time to do those outside of Sunday. As you love God more you will begin to care more and more about others. What could you do this week as an anonymous act for someone else that shows them love and care? There are hurting people all around you. Plenty of people need your care today. Take time to do an act of kindness for them in the name of Christ. Don’t do this on display so that you get the glory. Let your actions and words point them to Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

Should I Confess My Sins

I am a Christian. My sins are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. I stand completely blameless before the Father because of Christ’s sacrifice.  When God sees me He sees a perfect creation. That is not because of us. It is a complete work of Christ in me and not anything I have earned by my own effort or behavior (2 Cor 5:17-21).

So if I am blameless in his sight, completely pardoned before I even commit the act, then why bother confessing sins?

Does scripture actually tell us to confess sin or is that a church tradition? Let’s look:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.      1 John 1:9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.    James 5:16

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.    Psalm 32:5

A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.     Psalm 51:1-5

So confession is biblical and must be a part of your life as a believer.  You see it both in the Old And New Testament. Some would argue that confession was necessary before Christ only, but it is also commanded of believers in the New Testament too.

In  order to best understand confession, it is helpful to look closely at the word in its original language. It’s construction gives us insight into its importance for the spiritual life. The word confession in the Greek is ὁμολογέω (homologeo). It is created by two separate words: homo and logeo. Home means  “same,” like in homosapien (same species). Logeo means “word,” like its usage in John 1, the logos (word) became flesh and dwelt among us. So confession means to “say the same word.” Don’t miss the significance of that: confession is saying the “same word” about sin as God does. It is to be in agreement with God about the nature of sin. How does God see sin? He hates it. So we should confess the same thing to God by acknowledging that we also hate sin and see it as a destructive force in our life. Sin dishonors God and by confessing it we acknowledge that sin is unworthy of the gospel at work in us.

To confess or not to confess is not an option for a believer. We must acknowledge our sin. We don’t need to confess to a priest or any human agency but have direct access to the Father (Hebrews 4:16).

Should we confess our sin to each other?  We are to confess sin to each other but only so we can help each other carry that burden (Galatians 6:2). I would confess sin to other Christians  I trust to help carry the burden and to hold me accountable.

Confession does several things for us. When we confess sin we are living out the gospel. Confession shows our desperate need for grace in our lives. Confession also keeps us humble as we admit daily to our struggles with sin.

Perhaps the Lord’s Prayer gives us the best insight into our calling to confess:

4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.  Luke 11:4

Confession is good for your soul. You don’t need it to be forgiven but how can you call yourself His if you don’t despise what He despises. We must take sin seriously and confession is how we acknowledge its destructive force in us.

I suggest every night before you go to bed confessing your sins to the Lord. Thank Him for His forgiveness and grace and provision to overcome sin.

Love Your Church Or Leave It

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Perhaps there is nothing more encouraging than to hear people talk lovingly about their church. Perhaps there is nothing more discouraging than to hear people tear down their church. Both of these statements ring true. Sure your church is not perfect. If you think it is you are either unaware of some things or you are in denial. Church is the people of Christ and where there are people, you will have brokenness and sin. But that in no way excuses us to speak negatively of Christ’s body.

If you can’t speak highly of your church then you need to do some soul searching. Maybe you are the issue. Maybe you are overly critical or you have an issue with one or two people and are judging the whole church on that. Maybe you only have half the story on a situation. Or if you are not the issue maybe your church has strayed from Christ and what He is about. If that is the case then you need to decide can you love it through this as you pray and influence it towards Christ? If not then it is time for you to find another church home that you can fully support. Venting your critical opinions to those in your community is Satan’s will for you. No way Christ is honored by it. It is a selfish act and hurts the kingdom.

Love your church. God sure does. Many of you do this well and I think God is glorified in you for it.

Here are a few specific ways you can express your love for your church.

Be honest with yourself and others that your church is not perfect.

When someone comes to me and says I know people in your church who do this or that, I do not collapse to the floor in devastation or lash out at those sinners. It confirms what I already know… people are sinful, including those who go to church. Like me, they are in process. I don’t defend sinful actions in our people but I do not condemn them or lose perspective that God is at work in them. I too am a work in process and don’t want to condemn them, in fear I would be condemned too.

Support your Leadership.

You should be an encouragement to your pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. They too are not perfect and will make mistakes. Show them grace. Defend them to the community. Support them in their efforts to lead the church in the will of God. If you can’t then I bet you know what I am going to say… Check your heart and motive and then make a decision to support or leave.

Maintain Perspective. It is the body of Christ.

Christ loves His church. He died for it. There are no circumstances where he wants you judging it. As head off the church, Christ will hold His church accountable. We need to let Him do that. We do well to remember that this imperfect group of people is very valuable to Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

Focus on the redeeming qualities of your church

I am sure there are many things about your church that are commendable. Areas where God’s hand is evident. This should be a focus of ours. Paul said to the church in Philippi… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil. 4:8)

Buy fully into the vision of the church

Trust that your leadership has sought God and is following the vision He has given them through His word. If you are confident that this vision is not in accordance with His word then you should run from that church. I mean you are saying that they are not following God. The is a bold accusation! Be careful to make it.  Make sure you are not confusing worship style with vision or decor with vision or anything else that is not about the message.

When something happens that you can’t support then handle it biblically.

What if something happens at your church that you know is not biblical? If you have influence then approach the parties involved and directly speak to it. Don’t gossip about it or lash out in other ways. Go to that person(s) as we are instructed in Matthew 18. Bathe whatever action you are going to take in prayer. Make sure you go humbly and graciously. Trust God to lead you as you seek Him.

 

If we want the church to take notice of Christ then they must see that His body is healthy. Is there a greater witness to the lost than for them to hear you uplift your church? Love your church. They are your brothers and sisters. God demands that you love them if you are in the family.