Archives For Shepherding

The Shack

In the previous post, I introduced the topic of professing Christians “shacking up”, or cohabiting before marriage. I brought up a few common arguments for why professing believers may think about “the shack up”, and then I laid the foundation on which there can be some sort of positive resolution to the issue: the authoritative word of God.

So if we can meet on that foundation, let’s spend a little time in the scripture.  We’re going to address some specific questions that will fence us in for arriving at an answer to the question of whether or not Christians should we move in together.

Q 1 – Does the Bible mention cohabitation?

A 1 – Not in the contemporary sense, no.

If we’re being honest, we don’t want to read anything into or out of the silence of the Bible on the issue, since arguments from silence aren’t actually arguments.

Now one could attempt to stretch the text in some places to attempt to speak to the issue, like Ruth 3:13. In Ruth 3:13, when Boaz wakes up and finds Ruth at his feet, he tells her to stay the night. Still, in Ruth 3:14 it reads “So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’ ” So, if one were trying to stretch that passage, one cannot miss that both Ruth and Boaz knew how it would look if she was seen coming out of his threshing floor early in the morning. That recognition of appearances is, in itself, suggestive, but not exactly a firm statement on the topic at hand.

There are a few other texts that a person could attempt to stretch, but the result is the same. The harder you stretch a text, the more the text is disfigured.

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The Shack

“The Shack Up”?  Is that the sequel to “The Shack”?

Not quite.

I’m talking about the idea of cohabitation before marriage.

I’m talking about “moving in” with your boyfriend/girlfriend before you actually get married.

I’m talking about the “try before you buy” idea.

Now, I’m not writing for non-Christians here (as if too many will end up here or care what I say), but rather those people who profess Christ and still think that “moving in together” is a legitimate option for professing Christians.  I’m addressing those men and women who attend a church and would call themselves “Christians”.  I’m addressing people out there who at least claim, at some level, to believe the Bible and follow Christ. Continue Reading…

SkiSchoolMeetingPlaceFrom work, to education, to recreation, much of our lives revolve around discovering our faults so as to develop ourselves. We pay professors to identify our errors in math, science, and writing. We pay individuals to identify flaws in our golf swing, fitness routine, and our skiing. If I want to know how to eat better, I can get a nutritionist consultation for $100/hr. In all, we approach individuals, even complete strangers, with a teachable demeanor, and pay them to identify and correct faults.

I wonder if we are as eager to take that approach with some of the more important things of our lives. Are we as welcoming to input into our marriage and ministry as we are our golf swing and crossfit routine? Do we demonstrate the same teachability with our fitness lessons as we do with our christlikeness? Are we as open to receiving reproof about our character as we are our investment strategies?

When we enter into God’s family by faith in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ, we enter into a life of change. God loves his children so much that he will not leave us as we are. Shaping us into the image of Christ is his unfailable goal. Among other things, this necessitates that we maintain a teachable spirit until God takes us to heaven.

The following is a brief refresher on why we need to maintain a humble, teachable demeanor:

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Hamlet said it eloquently:doubting the truth

Doubt thou the stars are fire,

Doubt that the sun doth move,

Doubt truth to be a liar,

But never doubt I love.”

 

It’s not great theology, but makes a pretty rhyme. And the poem touches on a universal theme: what can we really believe for certain?

Doubt is a haunting reality in the lives of many churchgoers. Perhaps they are uncertain of  their salvation, or they question the veracity of Scripture, or maybe even at times doubt that there is a God. Are these doubters saved? Isn’t the definition of a Christian one who trusts in Jesus? Can a person be a believer while maintaining disbelief or unbelief?

I find it helpful to distinguish between the variegated species of doubt that lurk in our hearts. B. B. Warfield acknowledged that when discussing doubt there are…

…shades of meaning expressed by our words: perplexity, suspense, distractions, hesitation, questioning, skepticism, shading down into unbelief.”

Let’s meet five doubters.

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nowOpening up the news this week was like being on the receiving end of a quadruple gut-punch. Across the global and national landscape are wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, people proceeding from bad to worse, and the love of pleasure over the love of God.

And then, as many of you can relate, opening up my email was no more soothing. Locally, many of us are witnessing people shipwreck their faith, making their belly their god, glorying in their shame, and holding to a form of godliness, but denying its power, to name a few things. Pile on that the personal trials many of us are experiencing right now, and it’s almost too much.

“Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).

Certainly these are times when sparks are soaring.

But how do we keep our minds from going off the deep-end? Here are a few reminders to tether our thoughts in times of profuse spark-ascending:

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“For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears;
not so that you would be made sorrowful,
but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.”
– 2 Corinthians 2:4 –

SharpeningWhen Paul wrote this verse, false teachers claiming to be apostles had infiltrated the church of Corinth and aimed to discredit Paul’s legitimacy as an apostle. The controversy led Paul to change his travel plans and visit the Corinthians ahead of schedule, as he hoped he could put the matter to rest by being there personally. But when Paul arrived in Corinth, one of the men in the church openly flouted Paul’s authority and insulted him before the whole church. To make matters worse, rather than coming to Paul’s defense and defending the Gospel that he preached, the Corinthians were taken in by this false teaching, and allowed this man’s sin to go unchecked.

After this “sorrowful visit,” Paul returned immediately to Ephesus and wrote them a severe letter, sternly rebuking them for failing to deal with sin in the church properly, and for straying from his apostolic teaching and message. In the verse quoted above, Paul explains the circumstances in which and the motivation for why he wrote the Corinthians his severe letter. And there is a pastoral lesson for all of us in the church who give and receive correction to our brothers and sisters.

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yoke1Hardship comes to us via every avenue of life, from beginning to end. Affliction is no more avoidable than air. And thankfully, Scripture has much to say about it. But one passage that has often redemptively grabbed me is from Lamentations 3.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope.” (Lam 3:27-29). Now, the degree of hardship faced during the time of this verse exceeds what many of us will face. Even so, the verse illustrates a timeless principle on the topic of affliction: it is good for us young men (“young” could refer to under 40ish +/-) to experience a measure of hardship’s yoke.

But why? What is it about us young men such that affliction is particularly profitable? For the most part, it’s simply because we are young. We lack the full seasoning of sanctification. Our spiritual development is many stages from completion. The flesh has undergone less mortification. So, in God’s good sovereignty, affliction’s yoke in youth is a necessity which can move us along in the school of Christ. There’s nothing easy about it. But when our loving God grooms us with hardship, we young men can profit greatly. As a friend and mentor, Ray Mehringer, once said to me, “It’s the ‘ABC’s’ of Christianity: Adversity Builds Character.” And character building is the need of the hour for many of us young men.

Oak-sapling-Quercus-robur-001By God’s grace, some are well-trained in hardship’s academy. For others of us, we may need to simply enter the school or re-take a few classes. For those like me who have often flunked in the school of struggle, here are a few reminders on the necessity of hardship, especially for us younger guys:

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there they are“I’m blessed!” “That was such a blessing!” “Wow, you are blessed!”

Whether some financial profit, a good meal, an ideal day, or finding our lost keys, we’ve all said it. And those things are blessings. But, too often we risk throwing around benedictory phrases with a shallow, man-centered carelessness.

What does it mean to be “blessed”? What does God consider “blessing”? God’s definitions of blessing might not always fit the pop-definitions. One in particular, perhaps, counter-intuitive blessing is described from what is considered the greatest sermon ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount. Christ opened it with the declarative blessing, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). What is the essence of this blessing?

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letterIt was pretty early on in my ministry when this guy, John, arrived at our fledgling church. With the addition of one person, our church grew by about 5%. Needless to say, I was excited. But what John did when I first met him fascinated me. We met for coffee the following week. After some small talk and getting to know him a bit, he handed me a manila folder with a letter in it. “This is from my previous pastor,” he said. “He thought that the leadership here would want this.”

That week, I opened up the letter and read it. John’s immediate elder had written to our leadership team, describing him to us. He unpacked things like John’s ministry involvement, training and equipping classes he went through, and his overall character. As a leadership team, we still needed to get to know John, but it made transitioning him into our fellowship much smoother than if he had come without the letter.

I had heard of church transfer and recommendation letters before, but had not seen it in meaningful action. This was different. Though the letter itself does not guarantee all will be fine and dandy with the individual, if done meaningfully, it’s a huge blessing to both the individual and receiving church.

In light of that, here are a few reasons for local church leadership teams to keep the practice of meaningful recommendation letters alive and well:

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true_successWhat does it mean to successful?

That is a vital question for anyone to ask – one that determines a person’s priorities and direction in life.

Whether you are a pastor, an accountant, a school teacher, a stay-at-home mom, an office manager, a construction worker, an engineer, or any other occupation – if you are a believer in Jesus Christ – this question pertains to you. What does it mean to be successful?

What does true success look like, not in terms of getting a new promotion or a raise, but in the highest and loftiest sense of that word?

Consider the “heroes of the faith” listed in Hebrews 11. From a worldly perspective, these individuals would hardly be regarded as successful. Continue Reading…