Why You Don’t Have To Forgive To Be Forgiven (Part 2)

Forgive To Be Forgiven
In yesterday’s post I made a pretty bold statement: believing that God’s forgiveness is dependent upon our forgiving others is a lie spread by Christians.

Here’s what the Bible teaches that shows this is the case:

Judgment Is an Old Covenant Consequence For Not Forgiving

When Jesus taught that to be forgiven one must forgive, who was he talking to?

The Bible shows us God relating to people in two different ways at two different times. The first way is called the Old Covenant.

If the people of ancient Israel obeyed God’s commands, they received God’s blessing and favor. If they disobeyed God’s commands, they didn’t.

That’s really oversimplifying it, but basically that’s how it worked.

When God sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross, that event initiated a new way for God to relate to us. No longer is the status of our relationship with God based on commands we obey, but upon God’s grace and mercy. This new arrangement is called the New Covenant, and it is the way God relates to us now.

Most Christians don’t realize that Jesus lived under and taught from the perspective of the Old Covenant. [Read more…]

Why You Don’t Have To Forgive To Be Forgiven (Part 1)

forgive to be forgiven
Since most Christians never take time to study the Bible, they end up believing really dumb things.

Like the thing I heard a pastor once say in a sermon on forgiveness. His passage that day:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15

The pastor talked at length about the fact that God loves us so much he is willing to use the threat of hell to force us to wake up and forgive those who hurt us. With passion in his voice, he talked about how awful it would be not to go to heaven for all eternity because of some temporary, though painful event that happened to us on earth.

Pacing back and forth across the stage, he told story after emotional story to try to convince us to let go of the past and move on. Then, with tears in his eyes, he concluded his message with a heartfelt plea to forgive those who hurt us while we still had time.

After the service, I walked to my car and thought to myself, That guy’s an idiot.

I was shocked, for two reasons:

1. I couldn’t believe such a negative thing would come to mind so shortly after a church service; I expected more restraint.

2. More important, I was the guy who preached that sermon. [Read more…]

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

be a millionaire
A book that has had a tremendous influence on the way I think about money, especially debt and savings, is a book called, The Millionaire Next Door.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read it. It’s a bit dated, but it’s a fascinating read. The authors, Dr. Thomas Stanley and Dr. William Danko, wanted to discover who were the millionaires in the United States and how they become millionaires.

A startling realization

The authors began the book by sharing a surprising fact that they stumbled upon early in their research:

Twenty years ago we began by studying how people become wealthy. Initially, we did it just as you might have imagined — by surveying people in so-called upscale neighborhoods across the country. In time we discovered something odd. Many people who live in expensive homes and drive luxury cars do not actually have much wealth.

Then we discovered something even odder. Many people who have a great deal of wealth do not even live in upscale neighborhoods. Most people have it all wrong about wealth in America. Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you’re not getting any wealthier. You’re just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.

The  surprising characteristics of millionaires:

In their research the authors discovered aspects of the average millionaire lifestyle that surprised them: [Read more…]

How To Raise Kids That Hate Christianity

Dearly Beloved Are You Listening?
Every Christian parent should be required to listen to Green Day’s song Jesus of Suburbia.

Even though most evangelical parents will never hear it played on their radio stations, Jesus of Suburbia is one of the most prophetic rebukes of lukewarm Christian faith delivered in years.

Jesus of Suburbia begins,

I’m the son of rage and love
The Jesus of Suburbia
From the bible of “none of the above”
On a steady diet of soda-pop and Ritalin
No one ever died for my sins in hell
As far as I can tell
At least the ones I got away with

Green Day follows in the footsteps of legendary punk bands The Clash, The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, so you expect them to be anti-everything.

But there’s something deeper lurking behind the words: It’s the thoughts of grown-ups raised in homes sprinkled with a veneer of Christian sensibility – homes with just enough Jesus to keep them off drugs while growing up, but not enough to fully convert the self-centered suburban lifestyles of their parents.

Jesus veneer + unconverted lifestyles of parents = disciples of the Jesus of Suburbia.

Their creed? Their statement of faith? Jesus of Suburbia continues… [Read more…]

You Are Allowed To Hate God

angel crying

You are allowed to hate God.

If you don’t believe me I encourage you to read the “Psalms of Lament.”

Biblical scholars use that term for those psalms prayed by those living in immense pain. Our English word lament comes from the Latin word for weeping. Psalms 6, 13, 22, 35, 42, 43, 88, 102, 109, and 137 are examples of this type of psalm.

You’ll know you’ve come across one when you feel like you’ve turned the corner in a hallway and bumped into someone kicking, punching, and screaming at a locked door; the psalms of lament are that intense.

For quite some time, when I was troubled or angry with God, I never told him about it—I didn’t think I was allowed. This resulted in an inconsistency between what was in my heart and what came out of my mouth. The psalms of lament gave me the courage to be real.

If the psalms of lament teach us anything, it is this: Christians can love God and feel immense hatred toward him at the same time. God doesn’t want tamed down, sanitized, forcibly dishonest prayers. He wants us to talk to him from our hearts, and sometimes that involves screaming and using words we wouldn’t repeat in public.

Sometimes anything less than this is dishonest. [Read more…]

Don’t Pray Before Meals? Read This.

Praying before meals
3,743 Days.

That’s how many days I estimate our family prayed together at the dinner table when I was a kid.

Calculating that number was surprisingly easy.

I took out Friday nights because that was pizza night. Everyone was responsible for praying his or her own prayer on the way to sacking dad as he walked through the door with the warm Massey’s Pizza box under his arm.

Then I removed Saturdays and Sundays from the tally. Weekends were survival of the fittest. We ate between games, trips to the grandparents, etc. We prayed for sure, but it wasn’t routine. So no prayers counted for those days.

That left Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. On those days we prayed before dinner every night, without fail. Except for the time when I was 14 and tried to back the car down the driveway to shoot basketball and accidentally ran over the mailbox. We didn’t pray that night. But that was it.

Usually dad prayed, but we’d all take turns.

That means that all together we prayed:

4 days a week
x 52 weeks a year
x 18 years
= 3744 days
– the day I killed the mailbox
= 3743 total times we prayed as a family before dinner.

Some Christians don’t place a high value on praying before a meal. That’s a mistake. I believe that saying grace before dinnertime ranks second only behind going to church as the most important thing parents can do to impact their children spiritually.

Here are 5 things that happen when you pray together as a family before meals:

[Read more…]

You Don’t Have To Be A Scholar To Read The Bible With Confidence

bible study

Professor Tom Friskney’s first words to us in my undergraduate Biblical Interpretation class were,

God has communicated through his word and he expects to be understood.

Those words, and the man himself, made an indelible impression on me.

Internet Confusion

I’m mindful of what Professor Friskney said every time I watch people engage in discussions on the Internet about what certain passages in the Bible really mean.

One of the blessings of the World Wide Web is that we now have access to an unlimited number of opinions about any given subject. One of the curses of the World Wide Web is there is no search engine that screens for stupidity and poor judgment.

Google any biblical passage and one quickly finds so many conflicting opinions on what that passage means that a novice is led to believe that the true meaning of what God meant to say in that passage is simply unknowable.

This is ludicrous.

As Mr. Friskney said, “God has communicated through his word and he expects to be understood.”

The good news is that understanding the Bible is possible, even for a person who has never read it before.

My Top Ten Suggestions

Are you new to reading the Bible? Here are 10 suggestions that will help you study, interpret, and apply the Bible with confidence. [Read more…]

The Evangelistic Secret Of Maud L. Eastwood, Worldwide Doorknob Expert

Maud L. EastwoodI’ll never forget the day I asked Dr. LeRoy Lawson to speak to our staff at CCV about how to lead a church from 1,300 to 3,000.

What he shared was so counterintuitive, and so contrary to popular approaches to evangelism, that I thought every Christian who reads this blog would greatly benefit from hearing what he shared that day.

“You know, your pastor invited me to talk to you about how you can lead your church to grow from thirteen hundred to three thousand. I don’t know how much help I’ll be. I don’t think you can manufacture such things, even if you tried. Instead, what I’d like to do is help you think about how to become the kinds of leaders three thousand new converts would want to follow.”

Everyone on our staff leaned forward. We were hooked.

Boring Christians

“What makes you interesting?” he asked.

Silence.

“Think about that for a moment,” he said.

“Most Christians are incredibly boring, wouldn’t you agree?” Everyone nodded. [Read more…]

What You Really Want Is Distraction

Golf
A thought for my skeptical friends:

Based on my experience I’d have to guess what you want more than anything else in life is to be distracted.

Not in the sense that you want someone or something to take your eye off the ball regarding your priorities as, say, a father or mother, or to alleviate some supposed boredom you feel on the job. More than likely you’re very passionate about both.

What I’m referring to is that sense of resignation which grips you when you stare off into the distance while driving, or that brief flash of apprehension that wakes you suddenly.

More than likely you’ve become pretty good at not thinking about it, pushing it away and keeping it at arms length.

When I was in your shoes I actually thought what I was experiencing at those moments was depression. Little did I know that melancholy was only a symptom of something much deeper. [Read more…]

Stop Basing Your Beliefs On ANYTHING On The Red Letters Of Jesus Alone

red letter sayings of Jesus

One of the dumbest things I’ve done in a sermon lately was say, “Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Not one time.”

That’s second only to the time I decided to do a karaoke battle with my Associate Pastor in the middle of a sermon to make a point (I forget what that point was) and he schooled me in front of the entire church. I picked Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” forgetting the fact that he’s from Long Island – a classic karaoke blunder if there ever was one. New Yorkers love the Yankees, their pizza, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, and Jesus, in that order. But I digress…

I’m pretty sure I was talked into the karaoke battle, or quite possibly someone slipped me some LSD in my communion elements, I’m not sure. It’s still under investigation.

But for the “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality” comment, I only wish there was some such excuse.

I regret saying that. I was wrong. Period.

The fact is Jesus talked A LOT about homosexuality. [Read more…]