Have you ever thought about someone you consider to be beyond the reach of God and said, “That person will never become a Christian”? Well, God’s life-changing love isn’t just for the people you happen to think are “somewhat good.”
The Bible gives us a vivid example of someone who considered himself the least qualified and most undeserving recipient of God’s mercy and love—the Apostle Paul. The book of Acts tells us that Paul (formerly called Saul) was at one point an enemy of Jesus Christ, and devout persecutor of the Christian faith. He was known for ravaging the church, entering house after house and dragging off believing men and women and throwing them in prison (Acts 8:3).
This is a sentence I’ve heard uttered to me many times in my adult life. And early on as a young single man in my twenties, I’d often retort with, “I’m five-foot-six when I’m wearing shoes—I am not intimidating!”
But after getting married and continually being told that I’m intimidating by the people in my circle of influence, along with my actual wife admitting the same, I started to wonder, “Maybe I am intimidating to other people…but why?”
Let’s start with the Mike Pence rule, an interesting approach married men have taken to prevent the workplace affair. Basically, these men and their wives have decided that the husband isn’t allowed to spend one-on-one time with another woman. Even in the office. Other popular names who have ascribed to this rule in the past were Christian giant Billy Graham and Bill Bright, founder of Cru.
This strict boundary avoids the appearance of evil and nips any kind of temptation in the bud before it has an opportunity to wreak havoc in a marriage. But it brings to light an interesting dialogue that has been circulating lately about the topic of purity and the workplace affair.
A quick glimpse of the news or your social media feed shows why our culture is deemed a hate culture. From the small issues in a hometown all the way up to the political scene in Washington, D.C., most of America seems angry for one reason or another.
And to an even more complex degree, Christians are often characterized and stereotyped as the most hateful of all. The culture says Christians are close-minded, unaccepting, and judgmental toward anyone who doesn’t share our standard of biblical morality. Many in our society are comfortable pointing the finger at Christians. They label us as the most hateful people of all in a world fighting for love to win.
This is obviously problematic. This accusation requires Christians to navigate our culture with great sensitivity and shrewdness. We have to figure out a way to live in the world but not ascribe to its anti-biblical ways.
Showing love and care for others while standing up for biblical principles isn’t easy. Christians often fail by leaning too far in one direction or the other. Turning them into people of worldly acceptance or religious legalism. To be in the world but not of it can be difficult indeed.
In many ways, when conflict arises in our lives, we can be bent toward winning the argument instead of reconciling the relationship. What if, however, our main goal in the face of conflict was to unify with the opposing side rather than destroy it?
In Acts 15, the Apostle Peter gives us a good example of using the truth of the gospel to unify a group of Jewish believers and Gentile believers. A “sharp dispute and debate had arisen” between the two camps (v. 2), with Paul and Barnabas on one side and certain believers on the other. These believers insisted that the non-Jewish Christians had to adhere to the custom of Moses (the Law), or they could not be saved (v. 1).
Every single May, my wife and I pack up our family to move to Ocean City, Maryland for the summer. We move into our spot on the coast for six weeks in order to run one of the most influential, life-changing events Cru has to offer a college student.
Photo by Unsplash
We host 35 students and 15 staff for a Summer Mission. The best part is that my two young kids get to be a part of it too.
Summer Mission is a lot like spiritual boot camp for college students who want to grow in their faith and learn how to more effectively share the gospel. At the beginning of the Mission, I often tell the students that we have five weeks to prepare them for the next 50 years. We take that responsibility very seriously.
We ask the students to step out in faith. To be willing to grow in ways that may feel quite uncomfortable, because while they’re in Ocean City, we’re not going to do life “business as usual.” Practically, this breaks down into weekly prayer times, Bible study, large group meetings, corporate worship, ministry activities, organized evangelism, men’s/women’s times, and social events, along with a few surprises thrown in for their development.
The past 20 years in college campus ministry have given me much opportunity to observe the choices made by recently graduated newlywed couples. Most of these couples live in that interesting stage of life commonly called “Married-With-No-Kids.”
Sure, some couples make the choice to immediately start having kids after they get married. And some start the adoption process early into their marriage. But from what I’ve seen, a lot of married Christian couples wait anywhere between one to six years before pressing questions about children enter the picture. My wife and I waited around five years before we had our first daughter. Most of the couple friends around our age waited about the same time.
I have two daughters in elementary school, which means my perspective of the world has taken on a drastically different viewpoint in comparison to how it used to see things pre-children. In fact, it might sound somewhat silly, but before I had kids, I had no idea who Daniel Tiger was. Can you believe that? I also didn’t know about the delightful Curious George Swings Into Spring movie special on PBS. Weird, huh?
Before I had kids, I would never have been so ridiculously excited for the Frozen 2 movie trailer. And I never would have listened to multiple Sofia the First soundtrack albums on repeat in my car. What a sheltered life I used to live.
But as a result of my consistent kid-themed entertainment intake, I’ve become well-versed in the repeated message it routinely drips with—namely, to be a good human, you need a robust self-esteem.
What should preachers wear or not wear for a Sunday morning sermon? Modest clothes? A suit? Stylish outfits to mirror culture? Plain clothes to avoid appearing overly flashy?
Pastor fashion is an interesting topic recently thrust into the limelight by the popular Instagram account PreachersNSneakers. Over 155,000 followers find humor in the way the account gently pokes fun at celebrity preachers for their wildly expensive footwear and attire. By posting pictures, often in split screen, showing the hefty price tag attached to the pastor’s trendy clothes and designer footwear, followers see the irony of these outfit choices.
But some have balked at the not-so-subtle judgmental tone PreachersNSneakers has taken. And as with practically everything on the internet, strong opinions have formed on either side of the subject. Which begs the question, “Does it really matter if preachers of the gospel wear hip clothes or live expensive lifestyles?”
It’s been a long time from start to finish, but Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress is finally available! You can purchase it directly from New Growth Press for a reduced price, or find it on Amazon.
If you’re a college student, high school student, or young professional (or know someone who is), I wrote this for you. Covering the pressures of life purpose, relationships with others, and difficulties, Pressure Points aims to focus you on gospel-centered solutions when life’s bumps get tough. I’d love it if you’d buy a copy and leave me a (hopefully positive) review.
Thanks so much.