Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Best Way To Handle Conflict

Have you ever wanted to know how to handle a situation when someone is upset at you? Have you wondered what you should do when people are saying things about you behind your back? Before I get to the answer, watch this video . . .



If anything, this teaches us one very important lesson. People will easily say something behind your back that they will not say to your face. And so, when you are trying to deal with conflict, bring the conversation out into the public. Don't allow it to stay in the dark, expose it to the light. That is why I would say, the best way to handle conflict is to . . .

Talk Face to Face Whenever Possible.

Isn't it amazing how the people responded when Robinson Cano came out of the box? Now, granted, he is one of the best baseball players in the world and the people were probably just excited about meeting him. But obviously, they didn't want to say things to his face they would say behind his back. 

When you are having problems with people, the best thing you can do is to sit down and talk face to face. If you possibly can, avoid communicating only through text messages. Don't try to have all your conversations through long emails. If it is impossible to sit down face to face, at least pick up the phone and call them. Talk to them, don't just text or email them. 

How to handle adversity? Don't run away and allow it to fester in the darkness. Run towards the problem and help be an agent of reconciliation. It's sort of like the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of sin, we are the problem and He ran towards us to expose us and bring it to the light. Model Jesus in how you deal with conflict.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Most Important Question You'll Ever Be Asked

All of us are asked questions everyday of our life. Some of them are important, others are not. But which are the most important?

  • "Where should I go to college?" 
  • "Where do I want to live?" 
  • "Will you accept this job?"
  • "Will you marry me?"
  • "Are we ready to have a baby?"
  • "How do you discipline children?"
  • "Should we start saving for retirement?"

We face questions everyday. They are always before us. Some, like these examples, are important. Others are not. But there is one question that is on a different level than every other question. There is one question we all have to answer at some point in our life that is completely different than any other question. This question is different because of the ramification of how we answer it. What is this most important question?

  • "Who is Jesus Christ?"

This is the question Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:15-16. He wants to know who people think He is. But then He wants to know who they think He is?

Peter's answer, on behalf of the disciples, is classic. Peter says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The crowds in Israel believe that Jesus is a prophet, but Peter knows He is no mere man. He believes that Jesus is the Anointed One of Israel. He believes Jesus is the One the Jewish people have long waited for. He thinks all the OT prophecies that talk about a son of David coming to rescue the nation of Israel all point toward Jesus Christ.

But His confession of Jesus is more than that. Peter sees the connection between the Messiah and God. And so Peter confesses that Jesus is the Son of God. He acknowledges that He believes Jesus is not simply a man. He believes Jesus is God Himself coming to save His people. There is no more important question in life than this and Peter nails it!

What about you? Who do you say Jesus Christ is? Who do you believe He is? I challenge you to not take this lightly. The Scriptures are clear that everyone is going to bow their knee before Jesus Christ. 
"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-10).
You will bow before Him. You will someday get the answer to this question correct. My prayer is that you do it before you die. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever by Thor Ramsey

I shared yesterday that I have had a problem recently doing just about anything, including reading. I've had little desire to read, which is really abnormal for me. And so as I've begun to shake out of the cocoon of my acedia, I wanted to force myself to read a book. Any book. And so I went to my "books-on-deck" pile and grabbed the shortest book there. It happened to be a book on hell. Ironic. But at least it's The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever.

Thor Ramsey writes a book on hell that is clear and concise. This is the not a theological treatise on the subject, but it does deal with several of the theological arguments against eternal conscious punishment. But there is one part of his book that makes it different from many other books on this subject I have read. He is funny.

I know, it sounds weird to me as well. A book on hell that is humorous. It almost seems to me that if any book should avoid humor, it would be a book on the eternal torment of conscious souls. Don't you think? I honestly do not know where I fall on it. For some reason, I liked his humor. But I feel as though I shouldn't because of the topic. But maybe the humor is what kept me reading without become overly depressed because of the topic. Either way, it is funny. But it deals with a very important subject that is under attack these days.

If you are looking for a book on the descriptions of hell, you need to keep looking. But if you are looking for a book that argues for the reality and existence and purpose of hell, feel free to grab a copy and sit down with your cup of coffee for a good lesson. At the beginning of the book, he shares his premise on hell. It's shockingly accurate.
"When I began studying the doctrine of eternal punishment, I had this thought but I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud. It sounded absurd. It was too shocking to think, let alone say out loud. The thought was this: Hell glorifies God. I know. Exactly. It's the halitosis of theological thinking, but it is truth nonetheless. And that is the simple premise for this book: hell glorifies God" (16).
Obviously, this thought is going to raise many questions. But the one he seeks to answer in detail is how that can happen. How can eternal punishment of people glorify God? He says, 
"Because belief in hell affirms the holiness of god and other such attributes of his, like truth, righteousness, justice, and grace. Why do you think superheroes steal their slogans from us? Truth. There is one true God; he is righteous in all he does and in who he is. God will bring justice to those who do not approve of him (which is the essence of sin) and who will not confess they have committed cosmic treason. There is justice for those who have been harmed by the unrepentant. And thanks be to  God, there is grace for all us moral failures who turn to him in reverence, fear, and repentance. Grace is not the elimination of hell, and any idea that comforts people in their unrepentant state can in no way be loving, truthful, or gracious, and should be rejected (and this includes annihilationism)" (11-12).
Throughout the book, he argues that if we get rid of hell, we lose the fear of God, the holiness of God, the gospel of God, and the love of God. Yes, if we get rid of hell, we lose understanding the love of God (you're going to have to buy the book to read why that is so).

Despite the humor (or because of it - still don't know how I feel about it), The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever is a book you may want to pick up to read. It's short, but packed full of helpful insights. He concludes with these thoughts:
"If my view of eternal punishment turns out to be wrong, then I'll be surprised and delighted upon entering the afterlife. 'Hey, look, it's my favorite uncle from prison!' But if you die dis-believing the saving gospel and die believing you'll have another chance...what happens then if you're wrong? Not only is there no purgatorial bus ride. You will have missed the bus, period. All hope gone forever" (92).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Struggling through Acedia

Maybe the one or two of you that happen by this blog from time to time have noticed something recently. Or a lack of something. For about the past month, I have sensed in my heart a growing desire for . . . nothing. And this lack of desire has displayed itself in not many blogs.

Yes, from time to time, I have posted a video or two or three about some song or movie that is coming out. But I haven't really cared much about anything and so I haven't written anything about anything. What once concerned me (keeping fresh content on this blog) hasn't really bothered me at all recently. I missed a day, which turned into two days, which turned into a week . . . then two. You get the point.

But honestly, it's been deeper than fresh content on a blog. There has been something in me that hasn't care much about anything. The best word I have heard that describes this feeling is . . .

Acedia 

It is a word that is foreign to most of our vocabularies. It means apathy or boredom. It is a word I have used and talked about with a few people the past year or so, but it hasn't really meant much to me until recently. I was reading a book the other day by Dr. Larry Crabb in which he describes his dealings with acedia. He described his feelings as . . .
"the inability to care deeply about anything, apathy toward opportunities for both pleasure and ministry that once excited me, boredom that drains the spirit of adventure out of life. Acedia greets me nearly every morning . . . Why do I feel so empty, so passionless? Am I afraid? Has some swamp of terror become the breeding ground for the devouring insects of futility? Does a strange fear that I have nothing to offer extinguish my desire to offer anything?" (Fully Alive, pg. 111)
A few weeks ago when I read those words, they resonated with my soul. That was me. That was my feeling. Apathy. Boredom. Drained of any spirit of life. I used to read all the time, but recently . . . no desire. I loved writing, but during this time . . . nothing. I enjoy studying the Bible, but now . . . not so much.

My guess is that not many people knew anything was wrong with me. I functioned as if nothing was wrong. It's not like I was debilitated with a form of depression that left me on the couch with the shades drawn all day. That's not what I'm talking about. I was able to function, I just didn't have any motivation to do much of anything.

I have no doubt that there are some people that would simply tell me to buck up and be joyful in the Lord. Such good advice. "Choose joy!" they would say. I know that's what some people would say because that's what I would say. I can choose joy. I want to choose joy. It's not like I didn't want it. And I certainly had moments in those weeks that were joyful. I was just drained of any adventure in life. I just didn't care much about anything.

After a few weeks of this feeling in my heart, I had to reach out to a few guys from the church. As I talked to them about it, there was one trigger that kept coming up in the conversation. I couldn't wait until my next week when I didn't have to preach. I began looking ahead and thinking, "three weeks until I don't have to preach; two more sermons and then I get a week off; I can't wait until next week." That is never a good sign. 

As I reflected back, I had preached for sixteen straight weeks. Many preachers excel in this, but it is not good for my soul. It's not good for my heart as the sermon becomes academic. When it becomes academic, it becomes something to do instead of something I am. I simply go through the motions. My recent words of counsel to a friend of mine haunted me as I had encouraged him to take more time out of the pulpit, for the sake of his church and for the good of his soul. Laymen might not get this; I think most preachers will.

And so I had a week off of preaching the week before Easter as our team from Cambodia shared about their trip. And it was amazing how much better I felt. I remember sitting there on Saturday night thinking, "I'm so glad I'm not preaching tomorrow." And since that week off, I have sensed more excitement in my heart to read, to write, to be curious about the lives of others. I have had more of a desire to study for my sermon; not for the sermon, but to learn about God. I have felt more a sense of community with the Lord. 

I know I have sort of rambled through this. But hopefully it will help someone who is struggling with Acedia. I have no doubt that Acedia (a lack of care) can be a direct result of sin in someones life. But I think it also can be a result of burnout. Tiredness. And so whether you need to repent or take some time away from the rigors of life, I pray you find hope. Even if the hope is found in the middle of your hopelessness. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

God's Love & Wrath

I have been reading Thor Ramsey's little book, The Most Encouraging Book On Hell Ever, the past week. I will write a full review of the book when I finish. But for now, I'd like to share a few thoughts he writes on the battle that is often seen in the love of God vs. the wrath of God.
"The love of God detached from the gospel communicates nothing. If God loves everyone just the way they are, what's the point of repenting (turning around and going the other way) and believing the gospel? . . . If God loves you just he way you are, there was no reason for Jesus to die on the cross for you. The point frequently missing from the gospel these days is that God doesn't love you just the way you are. Even if you are a Christian. And I mean a really, really great one. Instead, he loves Christ, and when you are found in Christ, then and only then do you find yourself in the absolute security of God's love. That's the glad tiding of great joy. But this can never happen apart from Christ. Apart from Christ, God's wrath abides on you (see John 3:36). Put that on a coffee mug" (64-66). 
"It would be inconsistent for a holy God to overlook sin in his creatures. That's why he cannot let the guilty go unpunished. And that's why he has a wrath against all unrighteousness and why his wrath upholds the glory of his name. A God who would forgive us without the cross would be a very different God from the one we see in Scripture. The God of the Bible has a love that has nothing to do with vague-ish thoughts of infinite hugs. His love is fierce, holy, and wrathful. The love of God honors his holy character by displaying the only right reaction toward evil: wrath" (73).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It is Well

I know I have posted several videos recently, but this, my friends, is spectacular. It is a rendition by Jimmy Needham of the classic song, It is Well. While his musical ability is good, what makes this song spectacular is the middle where John Piper retells the story of what moved Horatio Spafford to write this song (make sure and listen past the 3-minute mark). Listen and be moved!

Beautiful Terrible Cross

As I hope you know, it is Passion Week. It is the week the church has traditionally set aside to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One aspect I love of this week is the array of songs I am introduced to by different people. Beautiful Terrible Cross by Selah is one of them I heard this past week. Read the words and then listen to the song as you prepare your heart for the celebration of the death of Jesus Christ. 

There is a beautiful terrible cross
Where though you committed no sin
Savior you suffer the most wicked fate
On the cruelest creation of me,

Yet on that beautiful terrible cross
You did what only you could
Turning that dark inspired evil of hell
Into our souls greatest good.

We see the love that you showed us
We see the life that you lost
We bow wonder and praise you
At the beautiful terrible cross

There on that beautiful terrible cross
Though darkness was strong on that hill,
You remain sovereign Lord still in control
Your perfect plan was fulfilled

O, we gain the riches of heaven
Jesus, you paid the horrible cost
We stand forgiven and praise you
For the beautiful terrible cross

Friday, April 11, 2014

Heaven Is For Real . . . Thoughts by David Platt

So the movie, Heaven Is For Real, based on the book by the same title, is coming out soon. In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought I would share these wonderful thoughts from David Platt. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another Cambodia Team Update

As the team makes their way home, check out these other videos that they put together that helps explain their trip. I will try to write more next week once they are home.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cambodia Team Update

I have not had much time this week to write much on the blog. My wife left last Friday as part of the Cambodia Missions team our church sent to minister to military families of that country. Here are two short videos the team has put together the past few days, highlighting their ministry there.

If you are interested in more of these the rest of this week and other things they are saying about their trip, you can check out their daily blog at our church website.