Friday, April 29, 2011

Helping Men Spend Time with God

At our church we have "iron man groups." These are groups of 3-5 men who meet for encouragement, accountability, and support. Currently we have about 25 of these groups. I am in regular contact with the captains of these groups, and often they ask me about how to get their men to spend time with God. Here is what I tell them:

1. Be sure you are modeling this—leadership by example. The best way to motivate your men to spend time with God is to do so yourself and then to freely share with them what God shows you from His Word, how you are benefiting from it, how you pray, etc.

2. Almost every time you meet, talk about it. Ask them how their times with God are going! See if they want to be held accountable to this, and if so, do it with fierceness and love. Each time you meet simply ask, “So, how are your times with God going? Where are you in the Word? What is God teaching you from His Word? How many days this week did you spend some time alone with God?”

3. If they are not spending time with God, help them to identify what the barriers are: laziness, priority, conviction about its importance, not knowing how, etc.

4. Make a "pact" as a group to each have a Quiet Time for 21 consecutive days. Email them every day to remind them. Studies show that it takes 21 days to develop a true habit.

5. Don't be reading any other books for a "study" if the men are not spending time with God. In other words, if they are currently taking time to read another book, they can now substitute that time for time in the Word and prayer, which is more important! Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The best book is the one that makes you put it down for the Book of books.”

6. Teach your men how to have a Quite Time. Make it very "doable." Just ask them to read about 5-10 verses a day (going through a book like Ephesians, so that today I read Eph. 1:1-5 and tomorrow I read Eph. 1:6-10, etc.) and then spend about 5 minutes in prayer using the ACTS approach (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).

7. Agree as a group to each have your time with God in the same book of the Bible. For example, say "Hey, let's all be in the book of Ephesians this month. So, for next week, let's each bring something that stood out to us in the first chapter."

8. Last but not least: pray for them, that God will give them the desire and the power to do this (Phil. 2:12-13).

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Tattoo or not to Tattoo - Biblical Principles for a Godly Decision

Recently a young person asked me what I thought about him getting a tattoo. He wanted a nice Christian symbol permanently inked into his body. I greatly admired the fact that he was truly seeking Godly counsel before making this very important decision. Rather than give him an “I am for it or against it” answer, I provided him with the following biblical principles to use in his decision:

1. Ask your parents what they think. After all, one of the 10 Commandments is to “honor your father and mother” (Ex. 20:12).

2. Consider your influence on others, “for all things are lawful but not all things are profitable” (1 Cor. 10:23). Make a list of all the possible effects this might have on others, young and old alike.

3. Consider the permanence of this, and ask yourself, “Is this something I want on my body when I am 50, 60, 70, or 80 years old?” It may be “cool” now but what about then?

4. What will your present or future spouse think about it? After all, when married your body does not belong to you alone but also to him/her (see 1 Cor. 7:4). What would it be like to be married to someone who did not like your tattoo and always had a bit of resentment toward it?

5. What will your future boss think about it? If the tattoo is not visible, this is not an issue. However, if the tattoo is quite visible to others, it could cost you a job. I know of employers who have interviewed potential employees, and upon seeing their tattoo offered the job to someone else. Whether right or wrong, this does happen.

6. Think through your future counsel and influence upon your children one day. What if your future child wants to get a tattoo and it isn’t a Christian symbol, and after you say “no” he says, “But you have one. It just looks a little different than the one I want to get”?

7. Be sure to evaluate your motives. It is always a good question to ask ourselves, “Why do I really want this? Am I doing this to be cool, to fit in, or to get acceptance from others?”

8. Be willing to give it more time before deciding. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isa. 40:31). You never go wrong waiting, but you can go wrong rushing a decision like this. I give this same advice to those unsure of marriage!

9. Last, but certainly not least, is to ask the Lord what He thinks. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

One final thought: I know some will point to the following passage to say that all tattoos are sinful – “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:28). However, I think a careful study of this passage will reveal that tattoos at the time of this prohibition were clearly connected with pagan worship. While some tattoos today would certainly fit that context, not all do, and therefore, this passage cannot be used to forbid any and all tattoos.

We must be prayerful, biblical and wise and in all our decisions.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Critique of "Love Wins" by Rob Bell

Today I read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.” I had my Bible in front of me as I did so. Frequently I turned to passages he addressed as well as many he tragically neglected. About every five pages I have question marks in the margin of my book.

My conclusion is that this book is quite unbiblical, reductionistic, misleading, universalistic, and caters to our feel-good culture. It is outright dangerous.

Here are my comments and concerns about the book:
1. He takes God’s love at the expense of God’s holiness. We cannot pick and choose which attributes of God we like and discount the ones we don’t like. Here is a good example: “Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue. God has to punish sinners, because God is holy, but Jesus has paid the price for our sin, and so we can have eternal life. However true or untrue that is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God. Let’s be very clear, then: we do not need to be rescued from God” (p. 182). What does Bell do with Romans 5:9: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him”?
2. He is quite reductionistic (i.e. reducing the truths) about God’s character, heaven as a real place, hell as a real place, salvation as needing to “call on the name of the Lord” as Romans 10 says, and the Bible as God’s inerrant Word.
3. This statement pretty much summarizes the book and you can see how unbiblical this is: “At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God" (p. 109).
4. Though he never says he is a universalist, he pretty much is in that he says everyone (except those who outright deny God and say they want nothing to do with God) is in God’s family and will go to heaven. He says “Jesus forgives them all, without their asking for it” (p. 188). So we don’t have to “believe on the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31) … “repent and believe” (Mk. 1:15) … “call on the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13) … “confess with your mouth and believe in your heart” (Rom. 10:9) … “receive Him” (Jn. 1:12) … etc., etc.?
5. He completed overlooks passages like 2 Thess. 1:5-12 and Rev. 20-21 that would be very problematic to his teachings about hell.
6. He allows the many complexities of sin and people’s issues cloud his theology. I am all for being sensitive to people’s pain and abuse and questions about God, but people’s experience can never trump God’s Word.
7. Unfortunately this smells of classic liberalism – reducing God’s truth to that which we can more easily stomach and present to others without offending them.
8. It seems he has an ax to grind with Christians who have turned off people by their “turn or burn” approach.
9. Bell admitted in an interview that much of this book comes out of his own struggles with things in the evangelical movement. It is dangerous when our experience in this respect shapes our theology.
10. He makes the “all” in certain verses about the atonement apply to the whole world, regardless of their response to Jesus. Yes, Jesus died for all in one sense, but this doesn’t guarantee the “all” respond in faith.
11. This book again shows how important Systematic Theology is. Bell takes a few verses about a topic and builds a case that excludes so many other verses that speak of the same topic. Systematic Theology takes the whole of Scripture about various doctrines.

Are there any positives? Well, at least in the last chapter he talks about the time he prayed to receive Christ as a child and how life changing this was. This was very good to hear since everything up to that point had been critical of the typical evangelical way of doing evangelism.

In conclusion, once again this is a reminder that theology matters. We must be sharp in our biblical understanding, because as the time of Christ gets closer, many will fall away (Mt. 24:9), be seduced into the doctrine of demons (1 Tim. 4:1), and gather teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3). We better be like the Bereans who examined everything they heard (the teachings of Paul at that time!) to see if it is consistent with God’s Word (Acts 17:11)!

Oh Lord, we cry out to You for discernment and wisdom. Help us to stay true to Your Word in all we say, do, and teach others. And may we defend Your truth with love, in the power of Your Holy Spirit.

For a much more thorough critique of the book, I encourage you to check out the one by Kevin DeYoung found at the Gospel Coalition: