By Tim McGrew
The Four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – provide us with a wealth of information regarding Jesus of Nazareth. But skeptics have long charged them with both internal contradictions and external historical blunders. How can we tell whether they can be trusted?
Merely answering criticisms, though that task is important, will not give us a reason to take these documents as reliable historical works. To build a positive case we need to look closely both at the documents and at our other sources of information about Palestine in the first century. And when we take that close look, several patterns emerge. First, the four evangelists get hard things right. They display an intimate knowledge of the physical geography and of the shifting political landscape. And we can tell how difficult that is by seeing how badly early forgeries fail that same test.
Second, we can test our four Gospels for consistency by looking at the way the character of Jesus comes out in the narratives. Each Evangelists has special interests and emphases. If they were merely relaying legends or making up myths, we would not expect any more similarity in their portraits than we could find between two fictional characters – between Legolas and Robin Hood, for example. But in fact, Jesus as the four Evangelists reveal him is the same character, with the same manner of teaching, the same habit of drawing examples from the physical surroundings, the same likes and dislikes, and the same way of driving home his key points. Where myth and legend would tell us to expect many different characters wearing the same name, the Gospels present us with only one.
Third, we can check our methodology by looking at how other religious books fare when we bring them to the test. The Book of Mormon affords a good point of comparison. It purports to give us accounts of historical events, and we can check to see whether our other historical evidence confirms or disconfirms those accounts. How will it fare when we evaluate it by the same standards we use for assessing the four Gospels?
This article and others like it can be found over on our good friends and partners website Growingdeeperroots.org.
Growing Deeper Roots was born in 2017 through observation of powerful synergy among three fields: Christian discipleship, theology, and apologetics. The Growing Deeper Roots conference has became an annual event in Western Michigan and Growing Deeper Roots now brings other life-changing events and content, attracting a growing and influential community from many different walks of life and disciplines united by their curiosity and passion for God, — and also by their shared discovery of an exciting secret to boldness.
They have some fantastic content on their website so be sure to check it out!!
I was born in the 80's. I grew up watching some of what I consider, the best cartoons ever made. Transformers, Voltron, M.A.S.K., Thunder Cats and of course, G.I. Joe. A phrase that seemed to stick with me was always found at the end of each episode of G.I. Joe. There would be some life lesson that a kid had to learn and one of the characters would say "Knowing is half the battle." As a kid I would often repeat that in the deepest voice I could and I thought it made me sound smart (don't judge me), I never really thought much about the phrase, I just thought it was cool. One day when I was reading the book of James the phrase popped back into my mind. I laughed at first but then it hit me. James is literally stating that knowing is only half the battle and that applying that knowledge is the other half. James chapter 1 verses 22-25 states; "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
It is one thing to read the word, hear the word and know the word, it's another thing to apply that which you are reading, hearing and know. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser (by the grace of God go I), I feel that G.I. Joe sort of let us down or if anything, left the quote incomplete causing us children to fill in the blanks based on the application of the end scene. I think the quote should have been "Knowing is half the battle, the other half is applying that knowledge." Now, that doesn't sound nearly as cool as the original and even in the most manly of voices it might come off as nerdy but it is no less true. This is often how we go about life though. In this day and age we have access to so much information and we are constantly bombarded with things seeking our attention.
I was at a mens retreat not to long ago and there was a quote shared by the speaker that leveled me. He said that he was talking to a Pastor of a church overseas and that Pastor's observation of the western church was that when it comes to knowledge we "are 3 years ahead of our obedience." It was as if the air was sucked out of the room. This caused me to immediately begin an introspective examination of my life. God used that moment to slow me down. I realized that I was on a quest for knowledge much more than I was on a quest for obedience. My Bible study method changed exponentially, I began simply meditating on one passage or one verse at a time and not moving on until I felt that I understood the verse(s) and have been actively seeking to apply what was being taught in my life. God is good at revealing what you need to deal with, what needs to go and areas where you walking in out right rebellion. James stated that if we hear the word but don't do what it says we are disillusion. The example he uses of the man looking at himself in the mirror, walking away and forgetting what kind of person he was is pretty powerful. The NLT translates this section by saying you look at yourself in the mirror and forget what you look like. The word of God is like a mirror in that when we read it, it is going to show us who we are. It is going to reveal to us that we are in desperate need of Jesus. Hebrews 4:12 states "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
God's word is going to draw out those areas that are wrong in our life, those things that need correcting. We have a choice, we can either simply know that they need to be dealt with and leave it at that or we can know and deal with them. May we be a people that dig into God's word not simply for knowledge but asking Him to draw the sin in our life out, to transform, shape and mold us. May we not simply be hearers of the word who delude ourselves but be effectual doers. May we look into the mirror of God's word and not forget what we have seen.
We are very much in this together. If you would like to chat more about this or have any thoughts you would like to add, please leave a comment. If you are struggling with something and you aren't comfortable sharing it publicly you can certainly email us at email@example.com (please note that we will likely direct you to your local church Pastor/body but we will reply and begin a dialogue as well as pray.
As always, thank you for taking the time! God bless!
by Jennings Riley
What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself. – Blaise Pascal, Pensee 435
Natural desires testify to “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Unlike most other theistic proofs, however, the argument from desire does not have the clear conclusion, “therefore God exists.” The argument from desire attempts to show that reality is not limited to the physical world we experience. In other words, desire provides evidence for the immaterial, which is the transcendent. Although transcendence attests to God’s existence, God’s existence is not proved directly by the argument from desire.
The argument from desire begins with the observation that for every natural desire an object exists to satisfy the desire. A natural desire cannot make us hopelessly discontent. Accordingly, if we can identify a natural desire that is fulfilled only by the existence of a particular object, we can prove the existence of that object. As Christians, we believe that every human desires God and can provide evidence to support the belief. Non-theists, however, will probably not accept that they have a natural desire for God. Pascal wrote, “there is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition” (Pensee 430). For the sake of persuasion, therefore, we ought to use a less controversial desire. C.S. Lewis maintained that human beings experience a natural desire, which cannot be fulfilled by earthly experience. He called the objective of this desire joy. Our pursuits of happiness, purpose, and the good life are attempts to find joy. We always want more of these things and are not content with the amount we currently possess. Great experiences always fall short and are less than hope makes them. We have moments of almost indescribable joy, which we cannot recapture at will. If we accept that every natural desire is satisfiable, however, we must suppose something exists that fulfills the natural desire for joy. Since nothing in this world can satisfy our desire for joy, something must transcend this world.
Although Lewis was undoubtedly a brilliant man, his reasoning is not immune from critique. The notion that human beings naturally have a desire that cannot be fulfilled by the natural world seems far from obvious and needs justification. Similarly, the contention that every natural desire is fulfillable might be criticized, since we plainly possess desires that cannot be fulfilled. For example, I desire to meet Gandalf from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. This does not imply, however, that Gandalf is a real person. Both objections center around the notion of natural desire. Accordingly, we should consider the question, “what is a natural desire?”
Two sorts of desire can be identified, natural and artificial. Artificial desires are based on our environment and society, for example, craving Chick-Fil-A or the newest smartphone. Because people live in different environments, they have different artificial desires. By contrast, natural desires are not produced by any specific culture, class, or experience but from the human condition. Accordingly, natural desires do not change from person to person. They are common to all humanity and arise because of our identity as human beings. We desire food and water because we have bodies. We desire pleasure because we have senses. We desire love because we are relational. We desire knowledge because we are rational. Although the strength of the desire for water might vary from person to person, the desire itself does not. For this reason, we can still appreciate the psalmist’s words “as the deer pants for water, so my soul pants for thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1). The suppression of a desire does not make it less natural. An individual in a desert might suck on a pebble to suppress the desire for water, but the desire for water is indisputably natural. By analogy, although a jaded person might suppress desires for love or joy, those desires remain natural. The suppression of desires because of circumstances does not prove they are artificial.
This article is just ramping up! Finish reading over at GrowingDeeperRoots.org
As always, thank you so much for taking the time, we hope it is a blessing!
Did you know… that the New Testament was written in the first century and not hundreds of years later, as some might argue?
The writings range from some letters of Paul written just a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion (3 to 7 years) to the Gospel of John written 60 some years after such event.
The New Testament was written by those who either knew Jesus personally and were direct eyewitnesses of His life, claims, and deeds, or were close companions to disciples of Jesus, testifying of what they had seen and experienced with their own eyes and writing to an audience who had also experienced the life, deeds, and claims of Jesus.
Although we do not have in our possession the original copies, what we have is an incredible abundance of early manuscripts that make the the New Testament incredibly pure and amazingly accurate, 99.6% accuracy that is according to scholars!
The 0.4% variances are insignificant in nature and have absolutely no bearing on the Christian doctrine.
The other amazing part that makes the New Testament so credible is that we have absolutely no manuscripts nor writings of the first century from opponents of Christianity that deny nor contest the claims the disciples of Jesus were making.
On the contrary, the writings we have attest of the events and claims of the New Testament (even if they denied the claims themselves–so for instance, no one would deny Jesus’ claims to deity or that he was viewed as deity by His followers and that His disciples believed they had seen Him risen from the dead. What they would reject are the claims themselves), making it the more credible.
Although the Gospel of John is the last writing, it is the earliest manuscript we have in our possession, dated from only 30 years after it was written.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are believed to have been written within 40 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We have over 24,000 manuscripts (5,600 in Greek alone) circulating around the world (and by the way, it is only in the late 2nd and 3rd century that we start seeing some pseudo-gospels such as the Gnostics which start giving a different view to Jesus, His claims, and the events around His life).
How does that compare to other events of antiquity?
The New Testament puts to shame any other writings and is second to none in its accuracy and purity.
Take for instance the work of Plato. What we have are only 7 manuscripts and the span between the actual writings and the earliest manuscripts is 1,200 years.
As far as Aristotle, number of manuscripts 49 and span 1,400 years.
Caesar, manuscripts 10 and span 1,000 years.
Finally, the second most abundant and accurate writing is Homer’s Iliad with 643 manuscripts and a span of 500 years.
And yet, no one denies such figures of antiquity and such writings.
Why do we then so stubbornly reject the accuracy of the New Testament?
Thanks for reading! Finish the article over at GrowingDeeperRoots.org
Finding a healthy balance is never easy.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
When I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God has a pretty clear order of how things should look in our life and we as fallen creatures sure do a good job of muddying the waters. All of us are guilty at times of having our priorities out of wack. We can get so caught up in different things that other important parts of our lives get lost in the shuffle and this can have detrimental consequences. We are all too familiar with the grind between work, family, our hobbies, our goals, our hopes to provide a better life for us and our family, etc... None of those things in and of themselves is bad, but how we manage them is where it can get tricky and sometimes turn a good thing into a bad thing quickly.
As believers in Jesus we know in our minds that we are to put Christ first always, He is to be the reason we do what we do. So many of us believe that we are called to certain things and so we pursue those things with great vigor, sometimes we pursue them so intensely that other things that God has directly called us to, suffer. I was very specific in naming this article as most who will read it are aspiring Christian artists. We can feel so deeply that God has called us to make music that we tend to rearrange the order of our life. I am going to be real honest here... Not everyone who makes music and thinks they are called to make music for Jesus are in fact called, and even if you are, it doesn't mean you are destined for the big stage. (Check out the article "You May Be Highly Successful and Not Even Know It." ) I feel very much called to make music for Jesus but I also know that my calling in that is not to be a CHH star, I am okay with that, in fact it is very welcomed. Do I strive to make the best possible music I can for Jesus, yes, you bet I do! Do I want people to listen to the music I make, absolutely! Am I going to sacrifice the other things God has called me to do in my life for the sake of the music I believe He has called me to, 1000% NO! I have seen it happen, and if I am honest, I have seen it happen in my own life, where people (myself included) get so caught up in one thing, that other vital pieces to their life/calling take a back seat. I have watched marriages falter because people are so wrapped in their musical calling that their spouse feels neglected and it causes nothing but problems.
My hope in writing this is to help.
If you believe you are called to music ministry, praise God, what you do with that calling and how you handle the other areas of your life that are equally (if not more) important (i.e. your wife, & kids is you have them), is vital. If you are married than your spouse is your number one priority. We can say this all day but is it reflected in how we live our lives? We can say we love our wife/husband all day but our actions are going to be what they see and hear. Those of us who are married need to be vigilant in this area, we must genuinely put our spouse first, always (Note: Your relationship with God should be first and if we are putting Him first we will take seriously the call to put our spouses first in the area of human relations). Read Ephesians 5. The next layer of this is if you have a child or children, they are next in line before anyone or anything else. I have learned all of this the hard way as I continue to wrestle with my own selfishness. I have seen my selfishness have such a negative impact on my family to the point where it was so clear that I was doing it wrong. This is why I take this so seriously, there is much at stake and the way we live matters. Love God, Love your Spouse, Love your Children.
The other piece to this puzzle is our work, our job, that which pays the bills. I am going to guess if you are reading this you have to work a job alongside making music in order to put food on the table. Praise God that if you have that job He has provided for you! So often we don't like what we do for work and we view it as a temporary situation until our music career picks up. This can be a super dangerous thought process. Here is the reality, it very well could be a temporary job that you are using to pay your bills until things pop off or a better opportunity comes along, that in and of itself is not a bad thing, but like anything else, how you handle this is crucial. A lot of times because the job we are working isn't and area of passion we begin to become bitter about it, we start to find everything wrong that we can and often we fantasize about when things are going to be different. What if things never change? Are you going to willingly be miserable? The Scriptures make it clear that we are to work unto the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3:23-25). How you work at a job you hate actually matters to God. Remember this is the provision He has given you whether that is temporary or not. There is nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself or find a better job that more aligns with your passions, as a matter of fact I suggest that. With that though, no matter what you are doing, do it unto the Lord and don't allow bitterness to rule you. I am very blessed to be doing what I love but it wasn't always that way and I learned Colossians 3:23-25 the hard way (God smacked me in my face with just how wrong I was doing things). We can even allow work to get in the way of our family life, we get so caught up in it that we barely spend time with the family we are trying to provide for. I work in a ministry based job and I have had to learn to balance work in the midst of everything else and learn when to say "No" and focus on my family.
My point in all of this is that we need to keep things in their proper order even if we believe that God has called us to certain things. Just because you are passionate about something doesn't mean you are called to it and so make sure that other people recognize that calling in your life as well. God will make things clear to those around you that you are truly doing what God has called you to do. If you are married and have kids they are your priority calling, no if's, and's or but's. Work hard, in all that you do as you work for the Lord and not men. Live above reproach and show people Jesus even if the job is temporary and you don't like it so much. If you feel called to make music for the Lord than do just that, just keep it in it's proper place as until music is your work and puts food on the table it is simply a hobby that you hope some day becomes what you do for a living. It is important that we learn proper priorities now because if God does call you to that big stage you better well know how to love your family in the midst of it.
This article is a call for us to examine our lives according to the Scripture. To take an honest look at our lives and see what needs to go or what needs to be adjusted. We are called to live in such away that brings glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31) so may we be a people that put God first and seek to glorify Him with our lives.
I would love to chat more about this so please feel free to leave a comment or a question. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, God bless!!
Struggles, this EP is about all sorts of struggles.
"Neon Signs" gets off to a fast and intense start with "We Are Under Attack". W.A.U.A. is speaking directly about how backwards things are in our world and how we are in the midst of a battle of epic proportions whether we know it or not. The song speaks to the fact that people think following Jesus is insane but AJ points out that the true insanity is in not following Jesus.
W.A.U.A. is followed up by "Identity". "Identity" deals with AJ's life pre-Christ as he was sorting a lot of life out and also wrestling with depression, suicidal thoughts and worthlessness. By the end of the song we come to understand that we can only walk in our true Identity by believing in and following Christ. "SwitchPoint" immediately follows and is about the struggles we can encounter as a believer as we wrestle with our flesh/sin. As believers we have a tendency to walk in our old identity, our old self, rather than our new identity, our new self. It is easy to find yourself lost in a cycle and begin to feel overwhelmed, defeated, depressed and confused. The great thing about this EP is that thematically AJ takes us from one place to the next as "SwitchPoint" is followed up "Take The Exit" which is related to 1 Cor 10:13, which states that God is faithful to provide us an exit so that we may endure the temptation we are facing. The thing is, we need to take the exit and flee from the temptation... This is where the battle is most intense... Praise God that we have an advocate in Christ Jesus, and that if we don't take the exit and fail, praise God for His grace that we are in desperate need of. The call here is purity, we are not to cheapen the grace of God but rather strive for holiness, and strive for Christ-likeness.
"Dimensions, Ep 2" is the second part of the saga which got it's start on A.K.A. Fisher's album "Otherworldly Weapons" (if you haven't heard that album you are greatly missing out and need to go check it out immediately... www.tentmakermusic.com/akafisher). Dimensions is following the life of a young man named Ulysses as he is bent on vengeance but God has placed people in his life that are pointing him to a greater end and that is Jesus. After the skit ends we are launched back into the music, AJ comes back in with "From The Dead" which features The Legend of Xero and is hard hitting both in lyrical content but also in beat and style. "From The Dead" makes the gospel clear and challenges people that don't know Jesus to make the decision to follow Him and to not wait as now is the time. This brings us to the final song on the EP "Each Passing Day" which features Jon Payne. "Each Passing Day" picks up right where "From The Dead" Leaves off and is a plea for people to turn from sin and turn to Jesus. "Each Passing Day" shares the reality that each day that passes brings us closer to death and that we need to make a decision about Jesus, that we need to not sleep on Christ but rather examine the claims and pray we see the signs that are all around us. Jon Payne reminds us that we are not to far gone and that we can turn to Jesus no matter what we have done, that we don't need to clean up first but rather we can come as we are scars and all. The EP ends with a powerful call to choose Jesus and to choose Him now.
"Neon Signs" is for sure a journey. Average Joe wants us all to be reminded and to know that there is a God and that through the death and resurrection of Christ we can walk in new life, we can walk in the victory that is only found in Jesus and experience true life. In the words of William Wallace "Every man dies, not every man really lives." True life is only found in Christ.
"Neon Signs" drops February, 26th and will be available on all major digital outlets.
If you’ve ever set out to do something special, something you believe God called you to do, and been disappointed when the result of your efforts fails to meet your expectations, the problem may be with your definition of “success.” This is quite common among Christians, especially Christian artists and ministers, in part because we’ve so often failed to define the word “good” correctly. Because we consider success to be something good, failure to properly define “good” can lead to a confusing conversation. So, let’s go back… back to the beginning…
(insert “flashback” harp here).
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and called them “good” according to the book of Genesis, perhaps we should have paid closer attention. The step-by-step account of the creation of matter and energy and space and animals and plants and humans described in chapter 1 is so fascinating that the seemingly minor detail of how God defines the word “good” is often overlooked. God, being the all-knowing, omnipresent designer and creator of the universe, would be the only one qualified to say for sure what is most beneficial for creation, so what could be more important for someone who seeks to honor and please God to know than what God considers good.
This is where I think we as Christians so often mess up and create for ourselves sources of disappointment unnecessarily. We take words like “useful” or “convenient” or “prosperous” or “popular” or “celebrated” and we treat these words as synonymous with “good.” And I understand that it is normal to use the word good very loosely in regular conversation. The food is “good,” my day was “good,” that TV show is “good,” that song was “good,” so on and so forth, and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you are doing anything sinful by using this word in that way. The problem, however, arises when we forget that this “good’ is not identical to God’s standard of or definition for “good” and begin confusing the two. You see, just because something is “useful” for a given purpose does not mean that the omniscient God, the God who created you and knows you better than you know you, considers that thing to be beneficial to you. It all starts with our motivation. Are we serving God’s purposes, or our own?
When God calls his creation “good,” this suggests that there is no part of the world at this point that is inherently “not good.” Nothing in this universe God has just created is bad in and of itself. This would mean that even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is right where it is supposed to be. This tree is “good,” but just like the snakes and bats God created which were likewise good, that didn’t mean it was good to eat, even if all three of those things are edible. When we step outside of God’s purpose, we step outside of what is good for us, and things which are not in and of themselves bad, such as money or a well-paying job or new opportunities, become bad things whether they appear to be on the surface or not simply because they are being misused or used by someone they were not meant for. Eve ate of the tree in Genesis chapter 3 not because she knew she should, but because on the surface the fruit looked “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable to eat.” Clearly, looks are deceiving. And the thing is, it technically was good for food IF your only concern is satisfying physical hunger, and it was pleasing to the eye IF you’re not looking at the consequences that come along with it, and it was desirable to eat IF you desire something tasty more than you desire to live. Would we say the words “desirable,” “pleasing,” and “good” here are synonymous with God’s definition of “good?” If we say “good,” in order to know if we mean that word the way God means it, we must ask, “good for what?”
In speaking with my good friend and Tentmaker Music collaborator Xero, I realized something about the nature of goodness. He reminded me of a film called In Time starring Justin Timberlake. The film is set in a dystopian future where nobody ages past 25 and years of life are used as currency. Run out of this money, and you run out of time and die. When Timberlake’s character is given a huge sum of this money/time, making him incredibly wealthy, he gives a portion of it to his friend Borel. Sounds good right? Money is good. Being given a bunch of money is good… right? Well, as it turns out, being given that much money at one time was simply too much for that friend to handle. This friend gives into temptation, goes on a bender and ends up drinking himself to death, something he would not have even had the opportunity to do if he hadn’t been in possession of so much money at once. This brings us back around to the idea of success. Would we be right to base Borel’s success on his bank account or regard the gift he received as a blessing? Was having a ton of money good? Again, we must ask, “good for what?” For tempting him, yes. For buying excessive amounts of alcohol, yes. But we don’t judge Timberlake too harshly because, he had GOOD intentions, right? He was trying to be helpful, and he couldn’t have possibly known how badly it would turn out for that friend, but God in His omniscience would have known exactly how bad it was for Borel.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “succeed” as “to turn out well” or “to attain a desired object or end.” By “well” we mean the end result is good, and Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about the “end” God has in mind for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In other words, God’s version of success means we follow His plan, and because God can never fail to do anything, that plan inevitably results in the end HE has in mind for us, and that end HE calls “good.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If we have followed His plan, no matter how things may look, the final product will be good as God defines “good,” and that means we have been successful. I want to really emphasize this point because I think that our tendency when things don’t turn out the way we expected is to assume we have not been successful and question whether or not it was really God’s plan we were following. We question whether or not we really heard from God, and on a sea of doubt, like Peter we begin sinking. But hold on a minute… How do you know you weren’t successful? Whose definition of success are you using?
Allow me to explain. Sometimes in our excitement about something God is doing in our lives, we begin to imagine and dream and fantasize about what the end result will be of the wonderful new thing God has started. And along the way, we sometimes make the mistake of mixing up what God ACTUALLY said, with what we IMAGINED was going to happen as a result. Now, all these words and ideas have become tangled together, almost inseparable in our flawed minds. 10 years into ministry when we still aren’t seeing what we imagined, we start to believe that we must not have really heard from God in the first place, or that we failed Him, or WORSE… that God has somehow failed. So, we’ve got to take it back to the start, just the facts… What did God ACTUALLY say? He called you to music ministry? Cool. Did HE say you’d be the music minister at a mega church, or is that how you imagined it would work out? Did HE say you’d go platinum and have a record deal and rock stages in sold-out arenas, or did seeing the experiences of others in music ministry lead you to believe that God had the same in mind for you? If you had all those things happen to you, would it make your purpose in life more important or more meaningful than the one God has for you simply because it would appear bigger and more noticeable to others?
You know who I never hear about? The guy who led Billy Graham to Christ. I don’t even know his name. I suspect that is because his ministry was nowhere NEAR as “big” as Billy Graham’s, and I doubt he was internationally known. Should we say that this man, whoever he was, was less successful than Billy Graham if both of them were simply doing what God asked them to do? Did he fail to live up to his potential then? Was the end God had in mind for both of them not equally “good?” If the ONLY reason God called this person to the ministry was so that they could lead Billy Graham to Christ (resulting in the Billy Graham crusades and thousands being saved), and this person we don’t know was obedient and did just that, he was just as “successful” as Billy Graham EVEN IF he never had a big congregation, EVEN IF he never gained any notoriety or fame as a result of his work, and EVEN IF he never lived to see the result of the Billy Graham crusades. We only fail to see this because we fail to apply God’s definition of success in determining value. We assume bigger means more successful, wealthier means more successful, more popular means more successful. We focus on all the wrong things. No wonder so many Christians so often feel inadequate. No wonder so many ministers become discouraged when everyone around them seems to be wondering why their ministry doesn’t look like so-and-so’s ministry.
Keep your focus where it needs to be, brothers and sisters, on God’s promises, not on what you thought He meant or on what others expect of you. Forget what man says about how “success” looks. You already know how things will end up for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It will turn out “well.” It will be ALL GOOD. You maybe just needed a reminder. If you are doing God’s will and following HIS plan for your ministry and not your own, however it looks, however God decides it should go, however long it is intended to continue, it is most assuredly a highly successful ministry.
For those of us that have been following Christ we should seek to know the Word, and strive to share the truth in love. Though this can be hard, we are called to share it and to not be an offense because the gospel is offense. Telling someone or a group of people that what they are doing or saying is wrong according to the Word of God is no easy task and it is to be done with the utmost care and love both outside the church and in the church (the body of Christ). The reality, you are likely going to upset people, they are likely to be offended, and something I have experienced in the past, they may resort to name calling and subtle yet evident character bashing. These are not uncommon responses. The key in these situations is to not allow your emotions to control or dictate your response. If this is happening on social media or email it is easy for people to assume and apply tone, motive and emotion to what they are reading, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly. We are all guilty of this and need to fight against the urge. It is important, especially when we disagree with someone that we demonstrate a Philippians 4:8 mindset and approach, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." It is vital that we think on what is true and assume the best of someone rather than ascribing motive or intent to them.
In the reckless love blog I took an extreme amount of care in not pretending to know the authors motives or bashing them as brothers in Christ. I took great care in making sure that the blog was simply dealing with the theology presented in the song as well as in their descriptions as to why they went with the word reckless. The unfortunate piece in this is that people took offense and assumed I was bashing the authors, this couldn't have been further from the truth. To ensure this I had the blog proof read and had a couple of people make sure that I was clearly dealing with the theology and not attacking the men. This is very important in sharing hard truths with people. We have a tendency to take things personal, and we hate to admit we might be wrong about something, so we seek to defend our stance rather than being teachable and humbling ourselves. It is very important in sharing hard truth that you check yourself first, you examine your motives, and most importantly, you must make sure your claims are true. In sharing hard truth, especially with people involved, you need to make sure you are not bearing false witness and that what you are saying is in complete alignment with the Word of God. It is vital that you make sure that you are teachable, that you are willing to concede if you are incorrect, and that you are willing to adjust if you are wrong, I can not stress this part enough, it is so very important!! When we find ourselves being argumentative it should be a sign that we are more concerned with proving our point and saving face. When we are allowing the Spirit of God to move, and we are submitted to God and His Word, we will operate in the fruits of the Spirit and point to Jesus. It is so essential for us as believers to be about pointing to Jesus and not our point. When you are trying to prove your point you are going to do so no matter the cost, you will shut down any possibility you may be wrong and you will make all sorts of assumptions about the person or people telling you otherwise. When being led by the Spirit of God, you will seek to honor others, hear them out, and put what they are saying up against the Word of God, this will determine if what they are saying is true or not and we need to be praying that God make it clear. Again, we all need to be teachable realizing we don't know everything and that maybe our brothers and sisters have something of value to add to the conversation.
Because it is seemingly so complicated to share hard truth as it pertains to the Word of God people either shy away from it or go to the other extreme and become angry and over zealous. There is compromise on both sides. One lands itself close to what I call graceism (all grace, no obedience or change required, confrontation free), and the other legalism (no grace, all law and judgement). Both of these in there extreme are incorrect according to the Scripture. Believe it or not, the line is smack dab in the middle. When we realize that we are to hold each other accountable and to confront fellow believers concerning sin, and doctrinal matters, we must also realize that we are to do so graciously and in love. Again, you are going to upset or offend someone, but it should be the Word that divides, not you or I. Again, the gospel, the Word of God is offensive to people and this is why we are not to be an offense. Stand firm on the truth, hide behind God's Word and allow Him to speak.
"Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left..." Joshua 23:6
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." 2 Thessalonians 2:15
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Galatians 1:6-8
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I spent a long time this week evaluating things after posting the reckless love blog due to the comments and various conversations. I spent time in prayer, in the Word, in conversation, more prayer, more study and more conversations. It was a draining few days for sure but the more I would study, pray, and talk with people the more energized and excited I would get. I was very blessed and encouraged by many people who came alongside me and held up my arms in this. God used the blog and the conversations in my life (and others it would seem) as an opportunity for growth and deeper dependence on Him. Praise God!
What has been your experience when sharing hard truths concerning God and what His Word has to say? I would love to continue the conversation, and as always, lets keep things Christ-Centered as we seek to bring glory and honor to God in all that we do!! God Bless!!
I have heard it said that a person has 2 worldviews, the one they say they hold, and the one they live out. It is so much easier for us to say we believe something than it is for us to actually live that belief out. I have said it often when I preach but it is one of the most convicting thoughts to me, and it is simply that your life will reflect what you truly believe. If we are being honest with ourselves, our lives don't always reflect what we say we believe. For me it is easier to say I trust God than it is to live that out when I am on an airplane as my fear of heights seems to over ride my trust. Even deeper still, it's not the flying that is the issue, it's lack of control, it's the "what if the plane crashes" thoughts, it unfortunately boils down to a fear of death. This is a bit of a conundrum for me as a believer in Jesus, wouldn't you agree? However, before you cast your stones at me please take a minute to examine your own life. What fears do you have? Maybe it's of spiders, or public speaking, or you are constantly worried about your children, etc... It is super easy for us to point fingers, it is also super easy to say we aren't afraid of things. The truth comes out when we are in situations that test that. I have gone back and forth with my fear of heights, of crossing high bridges, or of flying, and it keeps coming back to a lack of trust in God and belief that He is in control of my life and my death.
If it is true that everyone has 2 worldviews then we have an interesting conundrum to sort out as Christians. See it is easy to say you’re a Christian, but our lives will always reflect what we truly believe. I hope this convicts you as much as is does me… When I look at my life, I have to ask the question, am I worshiping God by how I am living? Sadly, more often than not, I find myself answering that question with a no. If I am being honest, when I examine my life I see disconnects all over. I examine my Word life, what I mean here is my quiet time of reading the Bible, my Word life, and I find that it isn’t as consistent as it needs to be, I have the weird gifting of memorization and a lot of time I use that gift to justify not studying or simply reading as much as a should because I can recall sections of Scripture, maybe not word for word but for sure the general idea/concept being presented. This is both a blessing and a curse for me, but when I look at giving God my undivided attention in His word, I am lacking. I examine my Prayer life, am I praying as I should? How often do you tell someone you are going to pray for them and then it becomes and after thought, or just simply praising God through prayer, or most importantly, the listening part of prayer… I examine my Service life, not necessarily what and how much I am doing but why am I doing what I’m doing, what is the heart behind my service, is it to bring glory to God or is it just to get it done or is it to get something out of it for my benefit? I examine my Home life, I look at how I am leading family because the way I see it as a husband and a father you are always leading the question is where. I also examine my Work life and my Evangelism life, and Fellowship and Community life & I examine my Discipleship life, my Faith life, etc... Please note that when I say I examine my life in these areas I am referring more to my heart than I am the tasks though the tasks have their importance and place.
Bottom line, I examine my life but I broke it down here on purpose, I think examining these things in a whole and individually begins to help us see how the worldview we say we have translates to the worldview we live out. We are to worship God with our lives, and our lives will reflect what we truly believe.
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:1-2