Enslaving behaviors are as old, and common to humanity, as sin itself. Since our fall at the dawn of time, we have been naturally enslavement to every destructive behavior possible. In response, various efforts have been made to deal with the problem.

One such effort is a packaged addictions program called Celebrate Recovery (CR). John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church created the program in 1991 to help people with various addictions. Rick Warren writes, “[D]uring the ten-week series that I preached to kick off this program, our attendance grew by over 1500!” (John Baker, Celebrate Recovery Leader’s Guide, 12). During the past 25 years, some 20,000 churches in the United States have reportedly used CR, with some 2.5 million people having completed the program. Needless to say, CR has had a major influence on the church.

CR’s stated purpose is “to encourage fellowship and to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives as we work our way along the road to recovery” (21). Further, Warren claims that CR is “more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of” (12).

Generally, the program runs on a one-year repeating schedule. Participants are taken through the material in 25 lessons and testimonies, meeting once per week for 52 weeks. Rick Warren writes that CR was born when “I began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about ‘recovery.’ To my amazement, I found the principles of recovery—in their logical order—given by Christ in His most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount” (12). More specifically, CR teaches that the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), which are said to be “eight ways to be happy,” contain the progressive path to addiction recovery.

The eight principles upon which CR is derived are as follows (the principle is stated, followed by the corresponding Beatitude):

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When I do campus evangelism, I often start the conversation this way: “What are two reasons you stopped going to church?” I’ve asked hundreds of students that question, and the most common responses make me think that church youth groups have failed dramatically.

I understand that every human being is responsible for their own sin, and that even the best of youth groups will have students that fall between the cracks. But the fact of the matter is that too many pastors have believed the lie that teenagers cannot handle certain truths. They have accepted the culture’s belief that today’s teenagers’ attention span has shortened, and that their ability to comprehend deep truths has dissipated.

Whether you’re a parent or a youth pastor, you have to understand that adapting to the culture is something that pagans do. The Church is called to be counter-culture, and we must, despite what the world tells us and sadly what many fellow Christians tell us, stay faithful to Scripture and teach the whole counsel of God. So here are five truths that most teenagers (christian or not) are not being taught, that we must teach, in order to have a Biblical youth group.

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It takes more thought than you’d think to figure out which years are leap. Years divisible by 4 are leap, except for the century, i.e. years ending in -00 are not leap years, unless the first 2 digits are also divisible by four. Got it?

So 1700 is not a leap year, but 1600 is. That’s why the year 1900 was not, but 2000 was. Don’t stress, you won’t have to worry about getting it wrong until 2100 (which is not leap).

When Pope Gregory XIII declared the first leap year to be 1588, the Protestants were ruling England and they rejected the law, saying it was too Catholic. The problem was that on the day after the 28th of February the rest of the world had calendars that acknowledged the 29th. So Protestant Brits just ignored the day, as if the law and custom didn’t apply to them. So a superstition arose that the other laws and customs didn’t apply either. Hence the name ‘leap year’ as it was the day that ‘leapt over the law.’ Sometimes non-conformity can be taken too far.

One such custom which was leapt over was that of marriage proposal etiquette. It was customary for a gentleman to propose by sending a glove to his true love. If she was seen wearing it at church the following Sunday, she had accepted the proposal.

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Island_of_Crete,_Greece (1)

Imagine the scene. A guy gets dropped off on a 140 by 30 mile island. With beautiful weather, rich agriculture, calm beaches, and mountainous landscape, it was, externally, a great place. However, as he spends time there, reality sets in. The island is inhabited by stiff-necked, unsaved religious people and liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons. There is no worse combination. The place is so debauched that even Greeks cringed at the thought of it. Later, he receives a letter which says, “I want a good church going in every town on the island.” And, at that time, it’s likely that there were about 100 towns.

This was the situation in which Titus found himself near A.D. 60 on the island of Crete, and for which Paul wrote the New Testament letter.

Though Crete prided itself on once having advanced societies such as the Minoans, history records it was so bad in Titus’ day, that to be called a “Cretan” was to be called something like a liar or drunk. Even so, and, perhaps, especially so, Paul and Titus did not see it as off-limits for evangelism and planting strong churches. The book of Titus was written, in part, to make this happen in Crete, and, places like Crete thereafter.

For this reason, I’ve found the book of Titus to be a helpful and strengthening study as a younger church plant. I suppose, also, it would be an equally helpful study for anyone in the throes of a church revitalization. In some sense, Titus is a God-breathed church planter’s and revitalizer’s manual. Why? Consider Titus’ task: among other things, he was to plant strong churches in the sense of gathering existing, unassimilated believers, into NT kind of churches in the midst of a godless, gluttonous, religious culture.

2013-04-14_12-45-42_11As I had the opportunity to stroll around the island of Crete a few springs ago, I was stunned and sobered at the daunting task facing Titus: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Sadly, today on Crete, there seems to be little of the book of Titus happening. In downtown Heraklion, there sits one of the larger “churches” (which was closed on Sunday!). Outside was a tiny plaque which gloried in the claim to possess the skull of Titus. And, while chatting with a guy at the Greek yogurt shop, instead of telling me about the Apostle Paul or Titus, he told me about Zeus.

In Titus’ day, things were likely worse. And to equip him for setting in order what remained, Paul handed him the short, 46-verse letter.

This is not an attempt to say all that there is to say regarding church ministry from Titus. Rather, these are a few observations simply from Titus 1:5 pertaining to church planting, revitalizing, and local church ministry in general.

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I love fishing. It’s a huge thrill when the fishing pole catches and instead of a shoe or algae, there’s finally a fish on the other end. It’s fascinating though to put yourself in the shoes of a fish, or I should say his fins. Fish after fish falls for the same lure and none of them learn from each others mistakes. It seems as if humans are the same. Human after human falls for the worlds lies, and despite the obvious fact that harm is on the way, we love the empty temporary pleasure that sin brings. This pattern of luring and enticement reminds me of Paul’s words in Galatians chapter 6 where we, as Christians, continue to sin like a fish bites the line.

fish on hookThe fish can pull as hard as it can, sometimes the fish can get away on its own but what it usually needs is for someone to come and cut the line or even better, to carefully take the hook out of their mouth.

Paul in Galatians 6:1-2 gives us guidelines for biblical confrontation. He tells us exactly what we need to know in order to properly help other believers who are caught in sin. Like a hopeless fish, Paul says, that as believers, we must take the time and care to help each other when we fall in sin. In fact he gives us 4 requirements before we would ever confront our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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quarantine oopsThe US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has on its website an article on what to do to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. I’m not making this up.

In a blog post titled “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” the director of the CDC wrote: “Take a zombie apocalypse for example…..You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

The rest of the article explains how the American people should prepare for hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires, outbreaks of infectious diseases, and yes, the spread of flesh-eating walking dead monsters.

This creative campaign to raise awareness about the need to prepare for any natural disaster was a huge success; it went viral, as it were. The zombie post caused the site’s traffic to spike from an unremarkable flatline of 3,000 views per week to a seismic 30,000 hits a day. The ingenuity of the campaign was lost on some curmudgeons who carped in the comments section about tax dollars being wasted on zombie preparedness. *Sigh*

Pastors are always on the alert to another viral threat, just as pernicious as any infectious outbreak. It lurks in the pews and lobbies of churches the world over. This disease spreads from person to person, draining churches of joy, unity, and holiness. An outbreak is hard to contain and the disease itself is difficult to cure.

I’m referring of course to the seditious sin of grumbling and complaining.

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One of the best books I’ve ever read on apologetics is Greg Bahnsen’s Always Ready. It is a great read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the theory and practice of defending the Christian faith biblically. Dr. Bahnsen—of the famous “Bahnsen-Stein Debate” (audio, transcript)—was a very sharp thinker and a very clear writer. One particular section of his book that I thought offered great clarification on an often-misunderstood issue was his discussion of the role of “reason” in the Christian’s apologetic.

The following is an extended quotation from pages 113–115 from that book (used with permission, see below). Enjoy this as a sort of guest post from Greg Bahnsen.

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February 18, 2016

Black and Reformed

by Jesse Johnson

A common push-back against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty (Calvinism/reformed soteriology) is: “What about a good person who doesn’t believe in Jesus? Did God want that person to go to hell?”

That is perhaps the most frequent objection that I’ve run into when talking about these doctrines with other Christians. But for many African-Americans that is not the most common question. The most common objection might be more along the lines of: “How can God be sovereign over a nation that practiced slavery, especially when many of the slave owners and traders claimed the name of Christ?”

In other words, if you think you have a hard time answering an objection about God’s sovereignty over the death of someone’s great-grandmother, try answering that objection when it touches someone’s entire culture.

This is why there is a need for a book written particularly about the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and how African-Americans should understand them. I’m grateful to Anthony Carter for writing Black and Reformed, because it is that book.   Continue Reading…

Screen-Shot-2013-11-01-at-4.22.50-PMThe big bang. Call me crazy, but it does not appear to me that explosions end in great order and design. As a young teenager (guess the moral direction of this story) we used to place these things called M80s into various apparatuses. Then, we would proceed to light the fuse of the M80s, run, witness extraordinary carnage, laugh, and then repeat (do not try this at home).

And there is something I noticed from those several years of pyro-depravity experimentations: the apparatus into which the M80 was placed never proceeded from a state of less order and design to more. It was quite the opposite. If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that impersonal big bangs never caused extraordinary order.

For this reason, the impersonal Big Bang theory has been confusing as an explanation for the existence of the universe. Things like the intense orderliness, organization, and design within the universe seem contrary. Now, I understand that the Big Bang theory is significantly more complex than depraved teenagers and M80s and there are intellectually brilliant individuals who believe in the theory. Even so, the wonder of things like our solar system, galaxy, and universe seem to defy an impersonal theory of explosion. And even more, Scripture presents a far more plausible explanation; that all things came into being through the eternally existing Lord Jesus Christ (Gen. 1:1, John 1:3, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2).

Consider with me for a moment some of the extraordinary glories of God in our universe:

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Kim Jong-Il really loved the people of North Korea. In an incredible documentary called “Inside North Korea” he shows how he cares about the health of his people so much that when they were suffering from poor vision and even blindness, he hired famous cataract surgeon Sanduk Ruit to come in and provide free eye surgery for many North Koreans.

Of course I hope you realize how stupid the title of this post is. The documentary does an incredible job of revealing how crazy this situation is. The people are suffering from blindness because of malnutrition – malnutrition caused by the evil North Korean regime. Maybe the most fascinating part of the documentary is when the people see for the first time post-surgery. None of them thank Dr. Ruit, but each and every one of the “healed” begins praising Kim Jong-Il.  You could even call it worship. One man even declared his desire to please Jong-Il by killing as many Americans as he could.

trump and clintonThe fact of the matter is that North Korea does not do wonderful things, it does evil things, and saying that it does wonderful things not only is laughable but it is to ignore and lie about common sense. And this is why I am so disgusted with Donald Trump’s answer about Planned Parenthood. When challenged by Cruz on the fact that he supports Planned Parenthood he said, “Planned Parenthood does wonderful things, but not when It comes to abortion”. That is the equivalent of saying that Kim Jong-Il did wonderful things, but not when it came to human rights. Of course no one knows why and when Trump changed his views on abortion, but he once stated that he was extremely pro-choice.

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