Living for Jesus

When you can’t catch a break

[Egypt] shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore. No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord God.

Ezekiel 29:15-16

There are seasons we go through in life where God ensures that we do not learn to rely on others, or even his own blessing and provision, as a crutch or a place of help.  He wants our trust in him.

This is especially concerning when the thing we trust in is our job, our skills, and ability in ourselves to provide an income and provide for our families.  When God began judging Israel, he also began to strike down places Israel had relied on and depended in.

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been following God for years. A faithful tither. Faithful to help, teach, and volunteer in your church.  You pray and study the Bible daily.  In return, you have personally seen the hand of God blessing you. At work, you do your best to live as a witness of Jesus. You work hard, and try to show Jesus in how you work.  The attitude of bosses and supervisors toward you clearly testify that God has placed His favor on you.  You receive raises, and regularly are recognized as a primary contributor to success.

And then something changes.  Like Elijah with the ravens, your brook has dried up.  What was a blessing and a help, has now turned on you.  The places you looked to…the way you have served God…the blessings that have always been there…absent.  If you’re like me in this situation, you just try harder.  You pray more, give more, do more.  You try to squeeze more out of the places that have always been there.  The harder you press on, the more around you turns to dust. You may even see your employers finances turn bad. No raises – maybe even a layoff! Your spiritual mentors may even be incapable of guiding you in the right way.

Israel was in the same boat – the prophets they had trusted in told them to stay and fight.  They had always been able to rely on Egypt as an ally and partner in business and battle.  But in the scripture above, God actually began prophesying destruction on Egypt.

Can you imagine?  Where could they turn? The prophets were no help. Allies were dropping like flies.  They were helpless. Alone.  But God had clearly given them instructions.  They just were unwilling to follow them, because all that God had provided felt so much more stable.

And there was their sin… God will destroy even the work of his own hands if we rely on that instead of Him.  From my own experience, I encourage you – trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit. Don’t trust in all the things God has blessed you with.  He will judge it.  And He will win.  Make the jump to run after God.

How do you know?  If you’re trusting in the things, it’ll be extremely hard and scary.  Go for it.  Don’t take all of Egypt down with you, just because they had the misfortune of being the place you relied on.  

Church, Living for Jesus, Uncategorized

Where Are All the Kids Going?

I recently read a great article at the Christian Post relating the findings of a survey studying how many young people we’re losing from our churches, and the possible reasons behind it.  I have to say, I agree mostly with what is being said, but I think they only skim across some of the most important issues.  Things that a survey may not be able to find.  As one of the rare 20-somethings in church (although I’m only 20-something for one more year 🙁 ) I think I have a pretty decent understanding of where my generation has fallen away, because I’ve seen my friends among the fallen.

The fact is, we are bleeding.  Most mainstream denominations have shown a decrease in membership over the last decade, or so.  It’s a problem across evangelical Christianity.  With the exception of Non-Denominational Pentecostal / Charismatic churches, who seem to show slight growth, the body of Christ is growing older and older.  A few problems we can see evident from the survey:

According to ARG’s survey, 95 percent of 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.

We’ll discount the 5% of children not attending church regularly, for now, because we must also assume that their parents don’t attend church regularly, and since 10 year olds can’t drive . . . well, enough said.  Only 55% of teens attend church regularly during high school?  Problem #1 is evident: the parents have failed, and failed miserably, in raising their children to serve God.  In my upbringing, I wasn’t allowed to not attend church.  When I started looking for a part-time job at 16, I wasn’t allowed to get a job that interfered with church.  My parents, following a Biblical principle, trained me to put God and church first, and that God would bless and honor that sacrifice, and when I was older, I did not depart from that.  If the Bible is always true, and we must assume that it is, we have that promise from God.  Simply “giving up” on your kids’ souls and allowing them to stay at home and not attend church as teens (still children) is tantamount to burning the scriptures in front of them.  We reinforce a wordly and sinful mindset: “If salvation was as necessary, God as good, Heaven as sweet, and Hell as real as the Bible says it is, then why would Mom and Dad just let me stay at home?  It must be just some good moral teachings, and not real.”  Who wouldn’t think that if raised up that way?  We make them take baths, brush their teeth, study, get good grades, don’t eat too much junk food, etc etc. . . all great lessons that are necessary for life and health and wellbeing, but we shy away from making them attend church?  We’ve started the problem there.

The article rightly goes into poor teaching in Sunday School, and the concept of teaching Bible “Stories” . . . a term I’ve always had a problem with.  Sunday School is a great place to teach the foundations of faith, apologetics, why we believe what we believe.  But instead it focuses on the seeker sensitive trends of relationships, emotional issues, morality, and “stories from the Bible.”

All of these are great pieces of the puzzle, the the parental lack of concern for their children’s souls is the largest piece, but I think the article misses the largest over-arching problem – our kids have never had an EXPERIENCE with God.  It’s my experiences with God that I turn to when I go through seasons of doubt, trial, and even disbelief.  There are tons of theories questioning everything about the Bible – if I’m going through a bad situation in life, and feel discouraged, there are plenty of people telling me that I can turn from God, because he may not even be there anyway.  But it’s the experiences I had, and many of the most important ones were as a teenager, that keep me in the body of Christ.  I was blessed enough to attend a church that moved its youth group from a fun / game -centered experience to a place for teens to encounter God, and have Him work in their lives.  But the trend is the opposite.  I see youth “ministries” with X-Boxes, Playstations, sports, games, and FUN FUN FUN, but very little Jesus.  They don’t want to “turn kids off,” and want to give them a “positive” place to come and have fun and fellowship.  Fun and fellowship is great, but should be a secondary concern.  Will youth groups shrink if the focus shifts from super fun awesome times to Jesus?  Sure.  But if 50 kids leave, and 1 child comes to Jesus as a result, I think it’s worth it.

I feel that Youth Pastors’ success is judged on the size of their youth groups, many times, instead of things like how many kids get saved, or how many kids are involved in ministry.  That’s such a tragic mistake.  And I’ve met tons of youth pastors who have the spiritual depth and Biblical knowledge of a Lebanese child who has only heard the name of Jesus as a by-word in conversation.  They’re focused on nurting emotions, at best, and on just playing games, and being a kid for the next 10 years, at worst.  They are far from spiritual role models who exude holiness and righteousness as a lifestyle to look up.  Quick question:  Have any of you met a youth pastor (or pastor for that matter) who can come close to being able to say, as Paul did, “Follow me as I follow Christ?”  Me either.

While the responsibility for raising Godly children rests on parents, ultimately, I believe a major shift can happen to reverse this trend if churches would change their youth ministries to focus on giving teens an experience with God, instead of just a fun time.  Those experiences will guide them back to the faith, if they leave.  God called it the incorruptible seed, which gets planted in them.  The games, rock concert services, and worldly mentalities are just turning kids off to Jesus, if not the youth group.  Jesus said if he is exalted, he will draw all men unto him.

Problem solved.

Living for Jesus, Ramblings, Uncategorized

Practical Marriage Counselling

If you’re a church-going person (and even if you’re not), chances are you got some form of marriage counselling from your pastor before he/she agreed to join you in matrimony.  And if you’re much like me, you look back and find that marriage counselling session to be woefuilly inadequate for the great challenges you began facing . . . oh . . . about a day after you got back from your honeymoon.  I feel like my session was much better than most people get, and really did equip us for some of the struggles we faced, with very practical, if simple, tools.  My favorite among them, is the deceptively simple, “The way you don’t end up getting a divorce is simple: don’t get a divorce.”

I’m not sure what most churches do, but most that I’ve seen around here have one conselling session with a pastor, who typically discusses the importance of following God together, and living a biblical life.  Then it’s down the aisle you go.  These brief sessions don’t scratch the surface of the many issues you will face together.  To remedy this situation, I am proposing a series of Marriage Counselling Sessions, that I hope many of you will adopt in your churches.

  1. Session 1 will be held individually with each person, and will be entitled “Men/Women are actually much crazier than you previously thought.”  Topics in this session will include what to do with an angry and hormonal wife.  How wives should approach a husband who wants to play video games/ watch sports all the time, and not spend time with them.  Bonus topics will include defensive postures for protecting yourself against flying remote controls and cordless phones.
  2. Session 2 brings the couple together to discuss finances, the single greatest cause of marital problems, in a lesson entitled “Women Are Expensive.”  Men are very unprepared on their wedding day for the expense of frequent gynecological exams and mall shopping trips.  This lesson aims to familiarize men with what they will face as provider for the family, and help women understand that men rarely have any of these expenses.  Topics include the ridiculous regularity with which women:
    1. Go to the doctor
    2. Buy shoes
    3. Buy Makeup
    4. Buy more clothes to match their new shoes
    5. Buy more shoes to match the new clothes
    6. Get medical tests run
  3. Session 3 delves deeper into financial issues surrounding marriage with a lesson entitled, “No Really . . . Women are Really Very Expensive.”  The shady ways in which hospitals and clinics bill multiple times for the same things will be discussed, as long as financial planning help for men to begin early to prepare their budgets for their new-found debt bliss.
  4. Session 4 entitled “And just wait until you have . . .” is a relatively short lesson, due to budget constraints of the counsellor.  He didn’t have the money to finish this topic on having children.  But the point should be easy to articulate by this time in the limited amount of time you have before your interview for a second job.
  5. Session 5 has been cancelled, in order for the counsellor to take on a second job to better pay for his own children and wife.

At this point, the betrothed couple should be marginally better prepared for the circumstances they will soon be facing.  “Oh!” you may say, “but this will discourage young people from getting married!”  Why yes, good friend, I believe you have the point exactly.  If someone gets married after these effective lessons, they are either A) Wealthy enough to circumnavigate most marital problems, or B) Very committed to becoming a Godly couple, and working hard together through touch times.  Either way, you should have no problems marrying them.

This valuable addition to any Pastor’s counselling plans is available for the affordable price of 2 pairs of shoes, 1 Doctor’s Visit, and 2 Outfits for young children.