Hackers, Hypocrisy, and Hidden Sins

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. - Luke 12:1b-2

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. – Luke 12:1b-2

There’s nothing like yet another news story about a hacked database to remind us that what is done in secret will come to light. It seems that hackers occupy this space in the modern narrative as the whistle-blower and exposer of corruption. And yet, it is not the mythical hacker that ultimately exposes hypocrisy or reveals hidden sins but the will of Someone much greater. So, how do we avoid the hacker’s snare? [Read more…]

The Heart Follows What It Treasures Most

Have you ever been flipping through the channels or scrolling through Netflix only to find yourself caught up in a show or movie that you’ve seen a thousand times before? What makes our old standbys compelling? There’s a plethora of new content out there. Familiarity? Maybe, but I suspect it’s something more subtle — the payoff. We know exactly what we’re going to get: tension, drama, resolution. It’s cathartic. In other words, we go back to familiar stories because they satisfy something in our hearts. So, what’s the connection between story and the heart?
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Reflections on Send 2015

IMG_20150804_190654Mrs. J and I attended the Send Conference presented by the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The conference was sold out and well-attended. Overall, I was encouraged by what I saw and heard.

(Affiliate links in play.)

In no particular order, here are my Reflections on Send 2015:

Embrace training up and sending out leadership. J. D. Greear described the need to let go of our best and brightest as God calls them. He reminded us all of God’s faithfulness to empower and replace leadership that is sent out. He spoke anecdotally about how God raised up new leadership threefold for each one that left Summit Church. Greear recently published Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send. Mrs. J and I are both looking forward to reading it.

Unquenchable Life Permeates the Gospel. Life springs forth wherever the Gospel takes root. The Gospel transforms lives because that is its nature — it brings life to the lifeless. What was once dead lives.Removing the Gospel from our words and actions strips them of meaningful, eternal value. They are lifeless. That old nature nullifies our activities when they aren’t focused on Jesus and building up His Kingdom. Meditating on the Gospel quickens our hearts and hands. We remember again the unquenchable life that flows from Jesus.The preaching seemed electrified. I’m not talking about a frenzy of emotionalism; the crowd was calm and confident. The preaching was zeroed in on the Gospel, and it was compelling. As a preacher and minister, I found myself challenged to recognize how the Gospel actively saturates each corner and crevice of our lives, and then to preach about the activity of the Holy Spirit and how nothing is untouched by the effects of new life.

We Don’t Like Taking the Gospel to Samaria. I sat in on a breakout session about Christianity in the city. It was like drinking from a fire hydrant. I had so many thoughts and feelings — some good, some tense, all edifying. It was the first time in a long time that I could not identify with the speakers on stage from the same cultural vantage point, but I could identify with them in a spirit of oneness. I could dedicate an entire post on thoughts from this session alone. But for now, I want to rest in one place: Samaria.The Jews hated Samaria and Samaritans. To paraphrase the session, the call to spread the Gospel into Samaria meant going to a place that the evangelists hated and offering the gift of eternal life to a people they hated. We can identify and work in our Jerusalems and Judeas — they are like us. We have no problem with the uttermost parts of the earth, because we’re not around them. But Samaria? But the people around us who are not like us and we despise them for it?I sat. And I listened. The message was clear and compelling.We don’t like taking the Gospel to Samaria. In cities, where the majority of people are or will be living, Samaria is right next door. It’s time to figure it out.

The Glory of God Cannot Be Impeded. Our obedience to the Great Commission is our prime directive. Making disciples marries the two great commandments of Scripture to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others as ourselves. If we fail to follow God, He is not frustrated. However, He may move on to other, more obedient servants, or drag us along kicking and screaming into the present reality. We can no more frustrate God’s glory or His plan than a vapor can stop an elephant. As Russell Moore reminded us, we are not relics from the past — we are pilgrims from the future where the Kingdom is fully realized.

Fervent Prayer Works. Vance Pitman told a story of a woman who emigrated to the US as a housekeeper for an American family. This woman grew up in the Philippines, and did not truly know Christ until she heard the Gospel preached by Johnny Hunt. When her family moved to Las Vegas, she prayed fervently for years that God would send someone from Woodstock Baptist to Las Vegas. When she first met Pitman, she came up to him to specifically ask what church sent him… I’ll give you one guess who sent him.

Thousands of people are coming to Christ in Las Vegas.
Prayer Matters. Prayer Works.

Which leads me to…

I Need To Pray More. Specifically, I need to pray more in faith. One speaker challenged us to run towards the tension in our lives and society with the Gospel. Only the Gospel can truly permeate our broken relationships and the tensions in our society and infuse them with new life.

New life should lead to a new perspective which makes all the difference in our responses. Hitherto, I fear that my prayers are mostly an advanced form of spiritual whining. However, prayer is like a long game: the effects aren’t usually immediate. And yet, eternally speaking, prayer and waiting on God are extraordinarily expedient — we shall not have to wait forever to for God to act. Praying in faith will turn our frustration into expectation, but only if we remember the truth: The Gospel is active. The Kingdom of Heaven advances. God fulfills His promises.


The Path to Growth

pathwayEver get stuck in a rut? Maybe a pattern of self-repeating, self-defeating behavior? Nah, I didn’t think so. All kidding aside, getting to that place where you can’t see the forest for the trees (or is it the trees for the forest… I can never remember) is frustrating. When I get to that place, I think “I just need a change.” But what do I change? Thankfully, God will lead us in what to change if we’re willing to follow Him.

The Recent Path

Three things have happened to me this past month that have made me realize that I’m walking a bit down the path to growth:

First, my trusty Nexus 5 is in the shop. The seriousness of being phoneless is only surpassed by the hilarity that said state is even a problem. I wasn’t expecting a faulty power switch, but God has funny ways of giving us what we need — a chance to refresh in real life.

Second, it has been painfully, but necessarily brought to my attention that I have a habit of wasting people’s time by talking too much. Now, I know that I talk a lot. But I never realized how bad it was. For the first time, I truly saw how people were avoiding me because I can be an insufferable motormouth who corners people. I am prone to blather on to my own satisfaction without regard to those around me. Honestly, I realized that this character flaw was a symptom of another problem: I had become lax in too many things, especially my time management.

Which leads me to the third thing: moderation. Specifically, caffeine. As I was thinking through my motormouth tendencies, I realized that self-control wasn’t a strong feature in my life. I knew that tended to chatter when well-caffeinated, but somewhere along the way I had stopped paying attention. I sharply reduced my intake to the point just above a caffeine headache. I should’ve done it sooner; the coffee at work isn’t worth drinking all day long anyways.

A lack of a smartphone has also contributed to other moderations. My media consumption has decreased, my concentration has increased, and the quality of my sleep is going up. For me, moderation is usually the beginning of balance.

So, if you’re still here after this whole growth moments report, thanks!

What Are You Doing on Your Path to Growth?

The path to growth requires us to seek a proper view of reality. A wise man seeks after God to define his view of reality. My smartphone is always a threat to my perception of reality. I have to manage how and why I use it according its usefulness — not all of its features. Wrestle with the role of technology (or whatever threatens your view of reality) in your life as one who is breaking a horse; it is only useful when it is under your full control. Likewise, we are most useful when we submit to God’s control.

The path to growth requires us to confront our faults as God reveals them, and repent. I was being selfish, prideful, and pedantic in my speech. Though I had hoped to edify, I was wearing people down. One of my goals is to use what God has given me to add richness to people’s lives, and I wasn’t doing that. Reality can sometimes be as hard as granite.

The path to growth requires us to discard some things. We don’t have time to do everything. We must decide what is important to nurture, then discard the rest. Anything that distracts us from God and His mission should be viewed with an eye towards excision or diminishment. They’re just not worth it in the long run.

So, may I ask you: what are you doing on your path? Are you walking it in faith? Are you sitting or stuck? Are you off in the woods somewhere?

You can trust that God will lead His children in the paths of righteousness. He will point out areas to grow, and then help you grow. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s painful. But maturity is possible.

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you.
If you are wise, you are wise for yourself,
And if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

-Proverbs 9:7-12

The Undesignated Gift | 5 Reasons To Give Freely

"FRANKLIN, Benjamin (signed check)" by National Museum of American History - Image by Godot13. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FRANKLIN,_Benjamin_(signed_check).jpg#/media/File:FRANKLIN,_Benjamin_(signed_check).jpg

“FRANKLIN, Benjamin (signed check)” by National Museum of American History – Image by Godot13. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important lessons from the Bible is how we give is just as important as what and why we give. Motivations, means, and methods are all equally important aspects to Stewardship. This post is about one of methods: the undesignated gift. I admit this may not be your cup of tea, but bear with me. Understanding when to give freely and/or specifically is an important aspect in our walk with God.

In Defense of the Undesignated Gift

Undesignated gifts may be the most important gifts we can give to our churches and other ministries. These gifts keep the lights on and the staff fed, and they are often the first to drop in times of trouble and tight belts. I believe that the undesignated gift is important for our spiritual health for the following reasons:

  1. Undesignated Gifts prompt us to pray that God’s will is done through our churches.
  2. Undesignated Gifts are an act of faith that God will direct his people to steward his resources according to his will.
  3. Undesignated Gifts create latitude for pastors and elders to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Undesignated Gifts often take care of salaries, utilities, and other vital, but less-than-glamorous needs.
  5. Undesignated Gifts allow churches to minister in special, targeted ways that most of us would never guess.

Undesignated giving opens the door to prayer, faith, wisdom, goodness, and obedience in the lives of pastors and the congregation.

This isn’t to say that undesignated gifts are better than designated gifts. There is a time and place for designated gifts, too. Designated gifts are often used to specifically fund missions, benevolence, relief, and other targeted goals of church activity (hopefully, all going towards the mission of the Great Commission).

Knowing what type of gift to give and how to give humbly takes wisdom. Giving is an act of submission, not only to God, but to the church, and when designated giving shifts away from supporting specific ministry goals to retaining control over gifts, then the spiritual health of the church is in danger — Spirit-led, sacrificial giving has broken down.

Sacrificial giving is that: a sacrifice. Letting go is difficult, especially when we see our gifts misused or not applied towards our personal passion. Disappointment should be an opportunity for reconciliation, not power-plays.

Here’s the takeaway: let’s give freely whenever possible, then give specifically as directed by the Holy Spirit. This attitude looks to the Lord as the director of our worship and gifts.