All in Discipleship

Why The Psalms Are Like The App Store

I have an app addiction. Anytime I come across an interesting app, I have to download it. Sure, I tend to only use said app for roughly 13 seconds before burying it in a folder somewhere deep within the recesses of my phone, but that’s beside the point. The genius of the “app explosion” is that there is an app for virtually everything you can imagine - money management, tracking calories, reading blogs, tracking tasks - you name it, and "there’s an app for that". 

I think the book of Psalms has a lot in common with the App Store.

Sin Is Like Fast Food

As a culture we have a strong affection for fast food and for good reason - fast food tastes great. I’ve heard health-conscious people smugly say, “Fast food tastes disgusting.” That is incorrect. Fast food is disgusting because of what it’s made out of, but it tastes amazing! That’s one of the main reasons our waist lines are growing faster than Justin Bieber’s rap sheet.  

While fast food tastes great in the moment, it takes a serious toll later on. You feel physically awful after you eat it. No one can claim ignorance - we all know fast food is essentially poison for our bodies. But there’s also an emotional toll. Maybe you’re familiar with what I would call “fast food guilt?” It’s the guilt that sets in immediately after eating something you know is bad for you - Big Mac, double quarter pounder with cheese, or in my case, a dozen donuts from Spunky Dunkers. Fast food tastes great in the moment, but takes a toll later on.  

This is why sin is like fast food.

Where We Go Wrong In Our Pursuit Of Happiness

Happiness is the preeminent pursuit in our culture. Everyone wants to be happy. We all want to be content and satisfied. We all want to add value and experience meaning. We all want to be happy. Happiness is even hardwired into the very fabric of our country.

When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he penned the following,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

More than maybe any point in history, we believe that we deserve to be happy and thus spend our lives pursuing it. In truth, happiness is not a right or something we deserve, but a gift given by God. Contrary to what we hear, God’s chief end is not our happiness, but His own glory (Isaiah 48:9-11). However, in God’s grace, he desires his people to experience the happiness he created us for. 

But here’s the problem…

Killing What's Killing You

I am terrified of snakes. Not just dangerous snakes, poisonous snakes, or large snakes. I hate all snakes. Before you write this off as a mere phobia, at least part of this fear is founded in the fact that some snakes are legitimately dangerous. The Humane Society reports that hundreds of people have been attacked and at least 12 people have been killed by pet pythons since 1990.  

Here's one sad example. In June of 2010 a Nebraska man took his 9 foot long, 25 pound red-tailed boa constrictor out to show his friend. Tragically, this man’s python attacked and killed him just as he took it from its cage. Can you imagine this? He had undoubtedly done this countless times before. He had raised this snake, handled it, and fed it, but on this day it turned on him and killed him.

There’s an important lesson in this:

6 Ways To Refill Your Tank After Easter (Or Any Other Big Day)

Another Easter has come and gone. If you work in ministry like I do, then you’re likely still feeling the effects of last weekend. At Redemption, we invested 120 hours of prayer, sent out 600 hand-written invites, held a church-wide prayer meeting, shot daily video devotionals, remembered Good Friday and celebrated Easter Sunday with record attendance. 

As a result, I’m tired, our staff is tired, and our teams are tired. Our hearts are full, but our tanks are empty. 

You may not be in ministry full time, but we all have certain days or seasons in which we have to invest far more energy than normal. Maybe you’re planning a wedding, a party, a graduation, or other event. There is often an immense letdown after whatever it is that you’ve invested so much in. 

How we steward these seasons is critical. If you ignore the fatigue, try to push through, or run on fumes, you will do great damage to your body, mind, emotions and soul. You have to replenish. Here are six ways to refill your tank after Easter (or any other big day)… 

No More SADSACK Christianity

Hey Christian, are you happy? 

Not sure? Happy people are content, satisfied and marked by joy. So, I wonder if you’re happy?

I know life can be difficult. I know this fallen world is a heavy place to live. I know we all experience trouble, trial, and tragedy. But, despite these realities, are you happy? Christians should be the happiest people on on the planet, even when, especially when, life is hard. 

Sadly, the Church is filled with too many sadsack Christians. Many of us are walking around as if our God is still dead. Too often we project that God is not good, that He is not satisfying, that He is not in control of everything that takes place in this world.

This is a problem.

One Quick Way To Become A Heretic

One of my favorite characteristics of the Bible is that it contains tension. 

Tension tends to make us uncomfortable, but it’s not always bad. For instance, tension is what draws sound from stringed instruments. It is the proper tension on the strings that makes a guitar produce sound. If you release the tension, you relinquish the sound. 

The same thing is true of the Bible. At times the Bible seems to assert two contradictory or competing truths. A large sum of the false teaching in the Church is the byproduct of declaring one part of God’s Word and downplaying another. Most heretics herald just enough truth to be harmful. We want to be able to comfortably conceive of everything God has constructed. But, the reality is, there’s tension. If we release the tension, we reject its message.

Prevailing Under Pressure To Compromise

This should come as no shock to you, but it’s increasingly difficult to be a Bible-believing Christian in our culture. There is constant pressure to compromise our faith. More and more Christians are being labeled as “bigots” for even voicing convictions contrary to the cultural norm.

 

Gone are the days when our culture held to at least some standard of Biblical morality. Gone are the days when when your faith may not lead to conflict. Gone are the days when being a Bible-believing Christian was socially acceptable. 

This pressure leaves us with two options: We can compromise our faith, or we can contend for it. Jude 3 calls all Christians to... 

How To Have A Confrontational Conversation

I don’t love confrontational conversations. When I have one coming down the chute it occupies a huge sum of mind-share. I worry about it going poorly. I worry about being misunderstood. I worry about my heart being unclear. I worry about hurting the person.  

In short, I’m not a fan of conflict. I actually don’t know any sane person who is. Regardless of my discomfort, conflict remains a part of relationship in a fallen world. If you’re going to relate with someone, a time will come when you have to confront them about something. It may be something they said or did that hurt you. It may be a blind spot in their lives that is a problem. The context will change, but the inevitability of conflict will not. 

Confronting someone is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It can easily go south if not taken seriously and prepared for properly. One redeeming factor in my discomfort with confrontation is that I’ve developed a process for confrontation that I've found helpful. If you have one of these uncomfortable but important conversations in your future, here’s how I have a confrontational conversation:

5 Prayer Requests For Those Listening To Preaching

Preachers aren’t the only people who need to pray prior to the preaching of God’s word. Every Christian should spend time in prayer before sitting under a sermon. If your pastor is a faithful Bible teacher then each week you have the opportunity to hear God speak in a heart-altering, life-changing manner. This should be taken seriously and prepared for properly. 

If you want the most out of the next sermon you listen to, here are five prayer requests for those listening to preaching:

Is Your Gospel Too Small?

There is no greater need in our world than more clear, more faithful, and more fervent proclamation of the one true gospel of Christ. We need to tell everyone about Jesus and what He has done. We should do this over coffee and meals. We should do this through books and blogs. We should do this through sermons and songs. 

We should use any and every means at our disposal to help more people know Jesus. 

Yet, in all our efforts to live in light of the one true gospel and share it with the world around us, we must guard against two tendencies to shrink the gospel…

Your gospel is too small if…

5 Rules For Family Devotions

This week I'm writing about family devotions. We've talked about a strategy, how to pick the right resources, and I want to conclude this short series with five simple rules for family worship. So here they are...

1. Keep It Simple

Read. Sing. Pray. It really doesn't need to be more complicated than that. I spent an entire year so overwhelmed about how to perfectly shepherd my kids that I largely wasn't shepherding my kids. I can't overemphasize how important it is that you don't get up in your head about this. Choose your resources carefully, but then keep it simple and get after it. 

2. Keep It Fun

The quickest way to kill momentum is make your kids dread devotions. Keep it fun. Get over yourself. Act out stories. Make a game out of it. Use voices. Put them in the story. I don't care how you do it, just keep it fun. Fun takes work, so put in the extra effort because it will be worth it. 

3 Factors To Consider When Choosing Resources For Family Devotions

Yesterday I wrote about a simple strategy for family devotions. In addition to the right strategy, we need the right resources. The right children's Bible, for instance, could make, or break the quality of your family devotions with little kids. In the same way, if your kids are older and you choose a Bible written for little kids...let's just say, they'll be less than jacked about feeling like they're in Sunday school again.  

Before I recommend a few things, here are three factors to consider when choosing which resources to use...

 

3 Rhythms for Family Devotions

Every parent has high hopes for their children. We all want our kids to be “well-adjusted” (whatever that means), healthy, successful, and most of us pray our kids marry somebody great. While I share all of these hopes for my kids, I have one desire for them towering above the rest: I want each of my kids to know and love Jesus.  

Sadly, many of us have abdicated this responsibility, delegating the shepherding of our children to the local church. Obviously, the local church has a crucial role to play in the spiritual formation of children, but God’s goal is for discipleship to start in the home. This demands the “God-talk” described in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. At breakfast, on the way to school, sitting around the house, playing games, watching TV, mealtimes - there is never a time we cannot and should not engage the hearts of our kids in spiritual matters. 

As a parent of three young kids (Ava 5, Ryder 3, Lincoln 1) I always want to look for these opportunities to talk about Jesus and we’ve found regular family devotions to be the best way to plant the seeds from which these everyday conversations can grow - especially while our kids are young. 

We’ve struggled to find the right manner and method. I’ve read a number of books, listened to some lectures, and asked lots of friends how they practice family devotions and finally we’re starting to feel like we’re figuring it out…I think…maybe…at least right now :-) It’s hard work and requires constant attention. In our house, we’ve found that effective family devotions are made up of three basic rhythms…

 

3 Keys To Engaging Those Struggling With Mental Illness

THIS IS PART TWO OF A TWO PART GUEST SERIES BY DR. ZACHARY SIKORA, PSY.D. HE'S A GODLY MAN, MY DEAR FRIEND & A GIFTED PSYCHOLOGIST.

The Christian Church has largely mishandled the care of individuals struggling with mental health illness. In doing so, an attitude of contempt and shame has been communicated. In an attempt to begin repairing this relationship, here are three essential ideas and directives Christians can begin contemplating to help bridge this gap.

Mental Illness - The New Leprosy

THIS IS PART ONE OF A TWO PART GUEST SERIES BY DR. ZACHARY SIKORA, PSY.D. HE'S A GODLY MAN, MY DEAR FRIEND & A GIFTED PSYCHOLOGIST. 

In a context where suffering and hurt should be welcomed, the Christian church has largely dealt with those suffering with mental health problems like modern day lepers: excluded from the camp and stigmatized. 

With suicide, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions making the front pages and lead stories of our media outlets, society is ripening to the idea that psychological malady is universal and in need of attention. The Christian church needs to follow. 

Jesus Christ directly called those who labor and are heavy laden to seek him for rest. As followers of Christ, it is therefore the responsibility of Christians to care for these souls and the Church’s obligation to cultivate an environment that welcomes this process. However, it must first be understood the missteps that have led the Church to separate themselves from this calling.

Here are three overarching mistakes that have led the Christian church to make outcasts of those with mental health problems.

3 Truths To Build Your Life On

The Old Testament book of Ruth is all about life, loss and the loving providence of God. It’s the story of two women, Naomi and Ruth, surrounded by loss and disappointment, and the one true God who is always at work in the ups and downs of their lives. 

I taught through this powerful short story at Redemption this fall (Click for sermon summaries - Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four). In each chapter I found myself walking away with the same three realities rattling around in my heart and I wanted to share them here…

12 Tips For Cultivating Your Own Love For Christ

If you’re a follower of Jesus then He has entrusted you with influence over the people around you. 

Some of these people are other Christians. We are called to encourage, edify, and build up our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Eph.4:29; 1 Thes. 5:11; Heb.10:25). We are also entrusted with influence over people in our lives who don’t yet know Christ. We have a responsibility to declare the gospel verbally and demonstrate the effects of the gospel through our service toward them (Matt.5:13-16; 28:19-20).

While the reality of our influence is not in question, the quality of it is. We can either influence others toward Christ, or away from Him. I would argue that the single most significant determiner in this is

God Actually LIKES You

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I’ve always loved that quote. It emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine. It reminds us that we can’t simply make up our own God, but must worship and serve the one true God as He’s revealed Himself in His Word. 

Yet, as important as our thoughts about God are, God’s thoughts about us are exponentially more important.