Recently I had the opportunity to continue our series through the book of Luke at Redemption Chapel. As we have been going through this book we have seen how Jesus changes everything. In Luke 12:4-12 we see Jesus telling His followers to fear God and not man. In particular He is telling them to not fear man when it comes to verbally professing faith in Christ. The fear of God should motivate us to be bold in our profession of faith. You can watch the whole sermon on this passage below.
There isn’t a shortage of books on prayer. It’s safe to say prayer is one of the most popular topics among Christians books (as it should be). In his book The Prayer That Turns the World Update Down, Albert Mohler writes about prayer and in particular the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6. This books serves as a tool to help the reader not only understand the Lord’s Prayer but also how the model Jesus gave should impact the way they pray. Mohler goes through the Lord’s Prayer and spends a chapter on each statement or petition that Jesus made. It’s a book that includes rich theology but also practical application in regards to the Lord’s Prayer.
I’ve read my fair share of books on prayer but this is by far one of my favorites so far. It was not only one of my favorites but served as one of the most helpful in regards to shaping my view of prayer and how I go about practicing prayer in my own life. There are two things that stand out to me as to why I really liked this book. First, I liked how Mohler didn’t jump right into discussing the Lord’s Prayer but instead spent a chapter covering the section of Scripture right before the Lord’s Prayer. This section of Scripture (Matthew 6:5-8) sets up and includes important context when understanding the Lord’s Prayer. The chapter where Moheler discusses these verses is an excellent read. Second, I really enjoyed some of the nuggets Mohler shared about the Lord’s Prayer that I have never thought about or heard taught before. For example, Mohler points out the use of “our” and “we” throughout the prayer rather than words like “me” or “I.” Mohler rightly points out how Jesus is reminding us about the corporate nature of our Christian faith. He says, “To be Christian is to be part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. By God’s grace we are incorporated into the body of Christ so that our most fundamental spiritual identity is not an “I” but a “we.” This runs against the grain of fallen state. It also runs against the grain of American individualism-an individualism that has spread into many sections of evangelicalism. But we must be normed by Scripture. Jesus teaches us to drop the “I” and start with “our” (page 46-47). It was little things like this throughout the book that gave me a fresh look at the Lord’s Prayer.
I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand the Lord’s Prayer better and wants to allow the teaching of Jesus to shape the way they pray. Indeed this should be the desire of every Christian. This book is pretty short and is as a simple read but will I believe will make an impact on anyone who reads it. It will give you a fresh look at a commonly used prayer and will remind you of some of the basics of what Jesus taught in regards to prayer.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.
In the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.
God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”
God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.
God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. It’s a question all Christians, and many non-Christians, have asked, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” In this very timely book Kevin DeYoung answers that question. He correctly states that “the Bible says something about homosexuality” (page 10). God is not silent on this issue and DeYoung does an excellent job in this book of communicating what God has said in regards to homosexuality. The book is nicely broken up into two parts. Part one deals with what God, through His Word, says about homosexuality. DeYoung carefully walks the reader through the main passages of Scripture where God addresses homosexuality and clearly explains what God is communicating. In my opinion, this section contains some of the very best interpretation and explanation of the central passages of Scripture that deal with homosexuality. The second part of the book deals with the common objections many have to what God has said in His Word about homosexuality. I was very pleased with how DeYoung tackled some of the hardest questions regarding this topic with a balance of boldness and grace. Overall this is a book I believe every Christian should read. It will help the Christian understand what the Bible says about this issue and also equip them to have grace filled conversations with those who may not agree with what the Bible says.
The Reason for God by Tim Keller. This is a Keller book that has been around for a while now but I have never got around to reading it. I decided to pick it up and give it a read since at the time I was in the middle of an apologetics series with our students. With Keller’s background in preaching to and dialoguing with the skeptics in places like Manhattan, he tackles in this book the common objections to the Christian faith as well as the reasons one should instead believe in the truths of Christianity. Common questions like “There can’t be just one true religion?”, “How could a good God allow suffering?”, and How can a loving God send people to hell?” and many more are answered by Keller in this book. Then in response to all those questions Keller spends the rest of the book explaining the truths of Christianity and the reasons one should have faith in it. This is a book that’s perfect for both the person who is firm in their faith as well as for the person who is skeptical of the Christian faith all together.
Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur. This is a new edition of an older MacArthur book called Anxiety Attacked. I picked this book up to read in preparation for a sermon on the topic of worry. This book ended up being more than just a help for my sermon prep but was actually a game changer for me as a person who struggles with stress and anxiety. MacArthur covers a lot of ground in this book. Everything from key Scripture passages on anxiety are clearly explained to understanding how other people help or hurt you in the area of anxiety. What I loved about this book was MacArthur’s balance of theology and practicality. MacArthur helps the reader understand what God’s Word says about anxiety as well as how to apply what it says to their daily lives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with worry, stress, or anxiety. It will be a blessing.
Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Rx for Worry by James Gills. I am currently reading a few books on the topic of marriage, sex, and dating that I will review soon.
This past Sunday MTV held their 32nd VMAs (Video Music Awards). The VMAs is more than an awards show, it’s a cultural display of where we are as a society. If you want to see where are culture is, especially teens and young adults, than go no future than the VMAs. If you work with teens, young adults, or just want to know we are culture is and is going I’d encourage you to watch or follow the VMAs each year. It will teach you a lot. I didn’t watch the entire show this year but did go back and watch some of the highlights. On top of that I read a good amount of articles on the night. In the midst of Miley Cyrus antics, Taylor Swift winning a ton of awards, and Kayne West announcing that he will be running for president in 2020, there were three cultural trends that stood out to me.
Gender identity. Gender in our culture is now a decision left up to the individual. It no longer matters how you were born. If you want to be another gender you have the right to make that happen. Our culture has shifted to the acceptance and celebration of the transgender issue. This was clearly the case with this years VMAs. There were celebrations of transgenders as well as a stage full of drag queens joining Miley for her performance of “Dooo It.” Taylor Swift even threw a punch when she received the award for Best Video of the Year. She said, “I’m just happy that in 2015, we live in a world where boys can play princesses and girls can play soldiers.” Gender identity and manhood/womanhood is something our culture is changing and shifting on.
Faith disconnected from actions and lifestyle. Faith in our culture has become more of a slogan or addition life rather than a foundation of life. Faith no longer is connected to your actions or lifestyle. You can pick whatever faith you want but also live however you want. You can have both and they can be completely at odds. This was clearly seen during this years VMAs when Nicki Minaj received the award for Best Hip-Hop Video for her song “Anaconda” and said, “You know who I want to thank tonight? My pastor.” She then went you to say, “Thank you, Pastor Lydia. I love you so much.” Minaj is known for her sexual explicit content and this song, and it’s video, is no different. The song is all about sex and the video features barely clothed women twerking and dancing. After receiving the award and thanking her pastor, Minaj then goes on to blast Miley Cyrus when she turns the show back over to her. Minaj said, “And now, back to this b**** that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley what’s good?” Faith no longer dictates how one lives and behaves. In our culture we see many people play the “faith card” but rarely do we see them have a life of faith to back it up that is visible in their actions, attitudes, and character.
Drug use (especially marijuana). The use and normalization of marijuana doesn’t come to a surprise to me. It’s easily accessed and doesn’t have some of the same damaging effects other drugs have. However, there were some interesting references at the VMAs to marijuana this year. First, Kayne West admitted to smoking some before he came on stage to give his far too long 11 minute speech. He said, “The answer is YES. I rolled up a little something. I knocked the edge off.” Also, Miley Cyrus performed her song “Doo it,” which in it she boasts “Yeah, I smoke pot. Yeah, I love peace, but I don’t give a f***. I ain’t no hippie.” The point is marijuana use is on the rise, especially with teens, college students, young adults, and our cultural as a whole has become more accepting of it and will continue to be more and more.
These are just a few of the things that happened at the VMAs this year that show us where our culture is and is going. Much of these thoughts in this post come from Walt Mueller’s post on the VMAs. Read that post to get a better glimpse into what the VMAs showed about our culture.