Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fundamentalism Vs. Universalism

Over the next couple weeks, I'll be preparing for a persuasive speech in my speech class. I've chosen to speak about why Christian Universalism is wrong. It's a pretty hefty subject, especially for a 8-10 minute speech, but I'm going to go all out with this one. I'm pretty passionate about this subject so you'll probably see some posts over the next few weeks about it. Not a whole lot of people are familiar with what Christian Universalism believes- or what the opposing belief, Christian Fundamentalism, believes. In this post, I want to explain what Christian Universalism and Christian Fundamentalism each believe, and in future posts, I'll tell you about the problems I have with Christian Universalism. I think it'll be easier to explain Christian Fundamentalism before I explain what Christian Universalism is, and I would like to state early on that I am a Christian Fundamentalist. Let's get started!

What does Christian Fundamentalism believe? Christian Fundamentalism is the belief system the vast majority of Christians have. Fundamentalism believes the basics about Christianity, such as God created the world; God is the only God; God is three-in-one: Father, Son, and Spirit; there is a heaven and a @#!*% ; Jesus was the perfect Son of God who came to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins; Jesus rose again on the third day; every man is naturally sinful and will be eternally separated from God unless he repents of his sins and surrenders to Jesus; there is one way to the Father and that is through the Son; in order to be a Christian, the Spirit must be living inside you; the Bible is inspired by God and is inerrant... etc. I could go on and on. But you get me.

Christian Universalism believes essentially the same principles. But according to, there are two main differences. The first, and most infamous, is that Universalism believes all people will end up in heaven. They believe Christians and non-Christians will be in heaven ( They don't believe in eternal @#!*% and they cling to the idea that God is "too loving" to @#!*% people to @#!*% . The second difference is that they think "no human is totally bad" ( On the website, they state, "Since no human being is totally bad, no human will perish eternally. It is God's plan to take what is good in each individual and multiply it, and replace the bad within us with an infusion of His divine goodness, until only the good remains." 

As you surely can see, these two beliefs conflict with many of Christian Fundamentalists' beliefs. The Christian Fundamentalists believe only one people will be in heaven, and that people are the children of God. They also believe Jesus Christ is the only way and that those who follow anyone but Jesus will be in @#!*% forever. When Christian Universalists say that everyone will be in heaven, that obviously says the exact opposite of what the Christian Fundamentalists say. And not to mention that Christian Fundamentalists believe man is naturally sinful and evil. 

I'm really itching to share my side of the argument, but I want to save that for a later post. Until then, I encourage you to read your Bible and talk to your parents/youth pastor/pastor to find out more about heaven/ @#!*% and whether man is naturally sinful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Favorable Conditions

A couple weeks ago, I was in Lifeway and happened across a book called A Year with C.S. Lewis. It's a book that for each day of the year has a short excerpt from one of his many books. The Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles, The Weight of Glory, A Grief Observed, A Slip of the Tongue, and many others are included in my book. So each day, I read an excerpt from one of Lewis' classics.

This guy, Lewis, is a genius. I had already read all of the Narnia books, half of Mere Christianity, and half of The Abolition of Man. I knew he was sharp. But the problem I have with Lewis' writing style is that it is endless. It seems he takes pages and pages to make one small point, offering little place for the reader to escape or take a break. That's why this book is so cool: When I can read his writing as a single paragraph, it makes so much more sense. I can understand what he is saying and break it down in my mind. I don't have to sort through countless meaningless sentences to find the good, meaty ones.

I've been learning a lot. The past few passages have been really powerful. They hit me right between the eyes. Saturday's excerpt was especially meaningful. But before I share what it said, you'll need some context to understand why this was so convicting. On Saturday, I was sitting in Chick-fil-A for breakfast before the my sixth ACT. That's right. I've taken the ACT SIX times now (and the SAT once). I'm only taking it because I need to raise my score by one point to get the next level of scholarship at the college I want to go to. The problem is I don't like studying very much, so I haven't been fully prepared for three or four of these tests. The math section has been particularly humbling. The problem lies within my study habits. I get distracted easily and give up on my studying. I let things like work, TV, video games, friends, books, and other schoolwork distract me. But I've learned that I have to be willing to study and work hard in order to succeed on the ACT/SAT, in college, and in life. On Friday, this hit me really hard. I realized that if I do thirty minutes to an hour of math each day between now and the November SAT, that will be enough to get the score I need. I'm now motivated to study hard.

Now back to the story. As I sat in Chick-fil-A Saturday, I read this: "If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come." This was exactly what I needed to hear. It cut through all of my petty excuses as to why I didn't want to study and made me realize I'd never ever find a "good time" to study, a time where I just really was enthusiastic about studying, where I loved it, where I did it for fun. That day will never come. So I have to man up and study, even though I don't like it.

We can't only apply ourselves in favorable conditions. We must learn to work hard even in tough times. If we don't, we will become slack in our work. Proverbs 18:9 says, "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That's Not How I Want To Be Remembered

What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?

For the past few weeks in Sunday School, couples from the church will come in and give their testimonies. Each couple is asked to talk about how they each became Christians, what they went through growing up, and how they met and fell in love. It's really cool to hear their stories and get to know people in the church better. As a youth group we've had some really good fellowship by simply asking them questions and talking about their lives with them.

And it's left me thinking about my life and what I want to be remembered for. As a senior, I have a unique vantage point. It's weird knowing my high school days are almost over (I'll finish all my required HS credits this semester). I've done a lot of reflection, looking back at the past three years and wondering if the reputation I've built for myself as a high schooler is the one that I really desire. I've been asking, Is this what I want my legacy to be? Is this what I want to be remembered for? Probably not.

For all of the great things I've done and for all the ways I know I've followed Jesus, there's a lot of things I did that I regret. I've done things that have hurt my reputation. I know we all have because nobody is perfect. But I don't want my reputation in college to be the same as my reputation in high school. In the first two years of high school, I was known for being a flirt, loose with my mouth, and for being arrogant, mean, perverted, and immature. The past year, my junior year, I got a lot better, but my sarcasm is still a defining characteristic. What's weird is that I felt like I had put that mostly behind me. I mean, my humor is a part of me, and I love laughing and making people laugh, but I also enjoy pushing peoples' buttons and making situations awkward (and I have a writer's vocabulary and imagination), so I have to be extremely careful with what I say.

During my first summer working at Life Action, the Christian family camp I attend and volunteer at each summer, I acted exactly like I said I acted my first two years of high school: I flirted, I was loose with my mouth, I was arrogant, mean, perverted, and immature. The next year, I changed. I went to Life Action that next summer planning on using my mouth to encourage and uplift instead of using it to tear down and be mean. I did what I set out to do, and people were astonished at how much I had changed.

One night at a testimonial, I shared about how I had decided to use my mouth to encourage instead of for mean purposes. Afterwards, I had several people come up and admit they were afraid to see me again that summer because they didn't want to be around me and my mouth. You know what I mean, right? It's like when you hate going to your grandparents' house for Thanksgiving because there's that one annoying family member there, but you have to go. That's how everyone felt about me. But when they saw how I had changed, people liked me.

But somehow over the past few months, my old mouth came back. I've noticed that my humor has become hurtful and my close friends have told me I need to stop. So I've decided to stop. I don't want to be remembered as the guy who couldn't stop the sarcasm or be encouraging. I want to be an encourager; up-lifting, kind, polite, and enjoyable to be around. As I said earlier, that doesn't mean I'll stop being funny; it just means I won't go for cheap shots with my sarcasm or be a jerk. That's not how I want to be remembered.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Be A Trader

Have you ever thought about how you want people to remember you? What do you want your legacy to be?

That's a question I've been asking myself lately. As I've gotten near the end of high school, I've asked myself what I want my legacy to be. As you'll see in tomorrow's post, it's a dangerous question to ask. It may lead you to change who you are. But I encourage you to ask it: How do I want to be remembered?

What are the things about your reputation in high school you want to be most memorable? Your humor? Your smile, nice hair, and nice clothes? Your basketball skills? The cute guys you dated? Your ACT/SAT score? The car you drove? How nice you were to the lonely kids? How involved with church you were? The parties you went to? What do you want to define you? Because like it or not, the things you do the most will define you. If you joke around a lot, your friends will remember your humor, whether it's good or bad. If you volunteered each weekend at the local food bank, people will remember your humble attitude of servitude. If you played football for all four years, that's something that everyone knows about you. If you become a model employee at the place you work, people notice your hard work, dedication, and maturity.

Things like these become part of your identity and that's what people will remember you for. So ask yourself, Is what you're doing what you want to be remembered for? If not, I encourage you to change what you're doing.

Watch this video:

I encourage you to trade your life in. Find real life. Pursue Christ. Live out your faith. Be a Trader. Let that be your reputation. That that be your legacy.

I want my short time here to have an eternal impact. Will you be a Trader with me?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

His Loving Intimacy

It's amazing how intimate God is. I can talk to Him. I go everywhere with Him whenever I want to. He talks to me, encouraging me by reminding me of His love and showing me daily the right path to take. He's there to shoulder my burdens. He's there to comfort me when I need it. He's there all the time, waiting patiently to hear me talk to Him. He gives me His full attention early when I awake and late at night when all is calm and peaceful. He's there when I call in the middle of the day, and when I wake up scared in the middle of the night, He's there to protect me. He walks through life with me, never leaving my side. He has this amazing plan for me that only He could have thought of.

When I think about His loving intimacy, my spirits are lifted. I feel at peace. The storms in life cease. My faith and hope increase. Do you remember when you were a small kid and being held in your dad's arms was the most peaceful thing in the world? You felt safe in his arms because you knew you belonged to him and he would protect you. You knew he would give his life for you. That's the type of relationship we have with our Father. (And He did give His life for us.)

That's the God we serve. In the latest issue of the Voice of the Martyrs magazine, I read about a Muslim woman named Padina who served Allah passionately. Padina was a die-hard Muslim and everyone knew it. But for some reason, she just never felt close to Allah. The article says,

"From the time Padina was four years old, she followed every rule of Islam in an attempt to grow closer to Allah. But Padina could never reach Allah. 'I never felt peace,' she said. 'I would cry for hours to Allah, saying, 'I am so far from you. I can never go into your presence.' She felt depressed and hopeless." 

She wanted a personal, one-on-one relationship with her god. But she had a problem: her god didn't exist. Allah wasn't giving her what she wanted because he wasn't real.

Eventually, she gave up on Allah. She ended up choosing Jesus over Allah. One day, Padina and her mother heard a televangelist illegally preach about Jesus on TV, and Padina decided to try out this Jesus thing, not because she wanted Jesus, but because she wanted to honor Allah by embarrassing Jesus Christ. The next morning, Jesus healed her disabled mother and upon seeing her mother fully healed, Padina gave her life to Christ then and there. She is now one of the most wanted Christians in Iran because of how outspoken in her faith she is. But I want to focus on one thing: She chose Jesus over Allah because Jesus got involved in her life. That's something Allah never did, nor could he do. When Jesus showed up and got personally involved with Padina, she gave her life to Him.

We have full access to God's presence whenever we want to talk to Him. Can you even imagine how unbelievable that is?? God, the God, the great I AM, has given us, His children, all-access backstage passes to Himself. How cool is that! How humbling, how condescending of our God! We don't have to go through a priest, or cleanse ourselves by killing animals, or by entering a temple.

If this just isn't blowing your mind, let's put this into perspective. Think about your favorite celebrity, musician, or athlete. We could use anyone (Bono, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Kobe, etc), but we'll use one of mine: Peyton Manning. Imagine being on a first-name basis with Peyton. Cool, right? But Peyton probably knows thousands of people by name. So let's go further. Imagine having Peyton's personal cell phone number, a number I imagine only a few important people have. Ever cooler! But as busy as Peyton is and as "unimportant" as I am to such a star, we probably wouldn't spend a lot of time talking on the phone. So let's take it a step further. Imagine being best friends with him, eating dinner at his house, watching Monday Night Football with him, exchanging Christmas gifts, and going on hunting trips just the two of us. Now that would be cool! Awesome! Unbelievable! But that still falls short of the intimacy we have with God. For obvious reasons, Peyton and I couldn't spend every waking moment together. He wouldn't be able to be with me because he has family and because he has a very demanding job. But not God. God's there for us all the time. He's never unreachable, too busy, or not interested enough to talk to you.

We serve a personal, intimate God. We have a one-on-one relationship with the Creator of the universe. He's there. Always. And that will never change. He desires an intimate, personal relationship. That's what He created us for. He wants to be close. He wants to talk to you and listen to you talk to Him. He wants you to place all your hope and trust and plans and burdens and security in Him. He wants to walk with you every step you take and be with you everywhere you go. That's just how loving and intimate He is.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Letting Go of Friends

It's really hard to let go of friends. I'll never get used to it. I hate it when friendships end, but sometimes I just can't stop it from happening. As a senior in high school, I look back to all the friends I made in middle and high school. I'm not in contact with most of them now. I've stopped talking to most of the good friends I had the first three years of high school. What happened? We stopped going to the same events and we stopped inviting each other to parties. We just don't ever talk. The problem is that we just don't have much in common anymore.

Most of these friendships have ended peacefully, where we each mutually pulled away, in a sense. But not all ended that way. Some friendships end badly. In these situations, it was the other person who pulled away. I've had four really close friends do that to me in high school. Two ended fast and I was bitter for a long time. In the other two situations, the friend slowly cut off communication with me. Have you ever lost a friendship that way? At one time, you were best friends, but somewhere down the road, the other person stopped returning your calls, stopped replying to your texts, and stopped talking to you in person. This really stinks because you usually don't notice it until it's too late. That's how it happened with my friends. And I really miss those relationships. And sadly, a few of my old friendships ended in arguments or disagreements. We got into a fight and never made up.

I'm sorry to say it, but friends will leave you. Friends will betray you. Friends will hate you. People will slander you on Facebook, spread lies and rumors about you, and make your life miserable. That's a fact. It will happen and nothing you can do will stop it. You can respond maturely or immaturely. And I encourage you to respond maturely. Sometimes all you can say is, "God, thank you for showing me their true colors now and not later." Be grateful that you found out what they were really like before you invested more of your life into them.

Thankfully, we're not alone in our losses. There are many Biblical characters who lost most of their friends. Take Paul for example. He lost everyone when he converted to Christianity. Can you imagine his loneliness for the first few years? Let's translate his situation into relevant terms. Imagine yourself growing up in the same town your whole life, graduating high school with the same friends you attending kindergarten with. You've gone to elementary school, middle school, and high school with these guys. You've gone to church with, played sports with, and gone on vacations with your friends. You've shared in their good times and their bad. That's Paul. He had relationships that went back at least eighteen years, probably much longer depending on his age at the time of his conversion. And all those friendships were instantly ended when he became an apostate. His best friends became his enemies (not that he waged war on them, rather, they waged war on him and his religion).

But even as a Christian, he still experienced the loss of friendship. He addresses Timothy in 2 Timothy 4,

"Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus... Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them."

It looks like a lot of people abandoned him. And this is Paul we're talking about. The guy who wrote half the New Testament. Think of the Scriptures he wrote: Romans 3, Romans 8, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, Ephesians 6, 1 Timothy 4. And people abandoned him. If he were alive, I'd never leave Paul's side, trying to glean wisdom and understanding from the guy. Yet people left him. To me, that just says everyone will lose friends no matter what. Losing friends is a part of life. It's how you deal with it that can define you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Stop what you're doing and pray for baby Justice! They're trying to take him off ECMO this morning but the doctors are beginning to lose hope. Justice doesn't have long if they can't get him off the ECMO. But our hope isn't in Justice's strength or in the doctors; it's in Christ Jesus. I believe God is simply taking the chance that man can save him out of the equation so God can awesomely show off. Pray that with me! Pray for a miracle, pray for hope, pray for comfort for his family, and pray God will use this baby's life to show everyone that He alone is God.

And an update on Karla: She is supposed to go home today. She had open heart a few days ago to remove a massive clot in her heart. That has gone smoothly and well so far. But she is in a lot of pain and still has breast cancer to fight. But because of the open heart surgery, she can't resume chemo for a few months now. She really needs prayer. And if you could also pray for her family; she has several younger mischievous children who need to let Karla rest and who need to serve their sick mother and give her their attention; pray they will do so.

(If you're unfamiliar with Justice's or Karla's situation, please click here to view one of my posts to find out.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Satisfaction In Christ

Sex is great, or so I'm told. But the irony of sex is that it was specifically designed for marriage. If you have sex before or outside of marriage, it backfires. It becomes sin.

Drugs are similar. God deserves thanks for creating the plants that drugs come from because so much of our medication depends on them. Without drugs, diseases would be so much worse and death rates would be sky high. But if you take drugs the wrong way, it backfires. As good as a high may feel, where does it get you? Strung out on the floor and deep into sin.

Alcohol will do nothing for you except leave you puking into a toilet. And cigarettes won't help you unless you want to take fifteen years off your life. And fighting will only give you a beaten body and swollen pride. And stealing, cheating, and lying will only make you jumpy all the time and take away your peace of mind.

Nothing in this world brings true satisfaction. There are things that can be good, such as video games, friends, cool cars, winning the championship game, possessing a large paycheck, etc. But these things are so not worth living for. The only true thing in life worth living for is Jesus Christ. Only He brings true satisfaction. You've probably heard it said that Jesus wants to be the #1 priority in your life. He doesn't want to be #1. He wants to be your life. He wants to your your all, your everything, your Lord and Savior.

Christ came to give life. He didn't come to make it make our lives boring and miserable by keeping us from doing the "fun" stuff. He came to show us a better way to live. The things of this world are not of God. So don't live for things that are of the world, because 1 John 2 says, "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."

Don't live for desires that pass away, that bring death, that separate us from God. Don't live for the things of this world, because everything here will eventually be destroyed. Live for God. Live for love. Life for life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Matching Wisdom With Romance

God has been showing me some really cool things. I've been giving romance a lot of thought lately. I'm seventeen, a Senior in high school, already taking dual enrollment classes at the university I will attend after graduation. And I'm really beginning to wonder about the details of my love story. Of course, this is nothing new. I vented fully to my obsession with love in my post A Hopeless, Foolish Romantic. I'm a sucker for romance, so naturally, my own romance is of particular interest to me. And I'm now at the age where a lot of people often meet their spouse of begin to fall in love. My mom was eighteen and my dad was nineteen when they were wed. And many of my friends' parents were married in their late-teens to early-twenties.

I opened Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris again earlier this week. I love getting lost in the love stories he talks about. Those stories, and the wisdom Harris guides me to, are what keep me going when I get lonely. I read of such wonderful, Godly love that I can't help but dream of how my story will play out. And I by no means think it's wrong or a waste of time to do so. If I give my future marriage no thought, no hope, no planning now, it would never succeed. And so I've been taking it to God. I've been talking to God about it. And believe it or not...

God talked back.

I had been asking questions like, "God; when will I meet her?" and "Who is she?" and "When is your timing, God?" And God answered me. He didn't answer me directly, but Jesus hardly ever answered questions directly in His time on earth. Instead, this is how He talked to me: A few nights ago, I was sitting in my room praying for my future wife. I was asking God the same questions I mentioned just a few sentences ago. And out of nowhere, I had this sudden desire to read Boy Meets Girl. As I picked up the book, still unsure of what exactly to read, believe it or not, a voice in my head whispered that I should read page forty-eight. So what is on page forty-eight? The headline of the page is "Are You Ready for Courtship?" Cue the goosebumps. You bet God had my full attention. The page talked about matching wisdom with romance. Harris used the kite-and-string analogy to show how romance (the kite) always nosedives without wisdom the string). I took a mental note: If I want to get married, I'll need to be wiser first. But that isn't what shook me to my core. Right after the part about wisdom, Harris writes, "I talked to many couples... who ask, 'How do we know when it's the right time to start a courtship?' The basic answer to the question is that you're ready to start a courtship when you can match wisdom with romance." How incredible is that?! God showed me what I need to work on, and He encouraged me to stay strong in His name. I could hear Him saying, "You're so close. Don't give up now. I have a plan for you. It's a wonderful plan! And I can't wait for you to see it play out. But in order for that you happen, I need to you get ready. I need you to prepare. Because in order for Me to give away one of my daughters to you in a covenant of marriage, I'm going to need to see you prove yourself. To start, here is what I need you to work on: wisdom."

That was Wednesday. And God's been doing a lot of work in my heart since then. I've realized that I'm no longer itching to be in a relationship. In fact, I'll go even further to say that I know that right now isn't His timing. I know I'm not ready right now. It's still something I want really bad, and I get lonely a lot, but it's no longer an idol. I'm ready to follow Him and serve Him, even if He wants me to wait for ten years, or twenty years, or however many years. Luckily, I don't feel God calling me to wait that long, nor do I feel him calling me to a life of celibacy. I completely believe He has a Godly young lady out there for me, and that we will be united in marriage sooner than later. And I believe that in order for me to match romance with wisdom, I need to level up in wisdom. I've decided to study Proverbs. Where else would a guy look for wisdom? Proverbs oozes Godly wisdom and understanding. I believe God has commissioned me to seek His wisdom.

I believe there is a list of Godly characteristics every man should have before getting married. I'm still working on that list, but wisdom is definitely near the top, if not the top, of the list. If you please, pray for me in my path to wisdom. And please pray for Baby Justice and for Mrs. Karla (click here).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pray for baby Justice! Pray for Karla!

I need you to pray for baby Justice Micah Perry. The son of my youth pastor and his wife, Justice was born one week ago, on Friday, September 30th. The next day, he was rushed into open heart surgery. He comes from a line of people with major heart issues, and we all expected him to have problems as well. It turns out that his medical problems are worse that we ever imagined. Long story short, one side of his heart doesn't work. He's currently hooked up to dozens of tubes at Vanderbilt. They didn't close his chest after the surgery because they wanted to put a pacemaker in him after a few days. A couple days later, they tried and it didn't work, so they decided to just close him up. In the process, Justice's heart shut down and they had to do CPR to revive him. They hooked him up to a ECMO machine, a machine that basically is acting as Justice's heart right now. So they decided to wait two days before trying again. They tried again this morning and it didn't work. At the moment I'm writing this, the latest report his parents gave say that Justice is still on the ECMO. The thing is that the longer he is on the ECMO and the longer his chest is open, the more challenging it will be. Right now, the doctors don't know what to do. They asked us to pray for discernment and wisdom in decision-making, so I'm asking all of you to do that. And pray for Justice's heart, that it would get strong, and pray for Justice's family.

But that isn't the only member of that family in the hospital. Karla, my youth pastor's wife's cousin, was rushed to the ER yesterday. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has undergone chemo, lost her hair, and is struggling with being sick with cancer. But she has had several seizures unexpectedly this week, so they took her to the ER. They have since discovered either a tumor or giant blood clot in her heart. She is scheduled for open heart surgery at 7AM tomorrow (10/8). She's only in her 40s.

Satan's been at work. Our enemy never sleeps, and we're seeing the results of that. There's been a lot of spiritual warfare taking place this week. But our God is at work too.

There is just shy of 1,000 people who have joined a Facebook group for Justice. If each one of those persons tells their whole family and two friends about Justice, we're looking at upwards of 5,000 people who know of and are praying for Justice. I want to encourage you in that. The church of America may be a mess, but the Church of Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, is uniting right now for Justice and for Karla. Our hope is not lost as long as those two people draw breathe and as long as we pray! Join with the hundreds upon hundreds who are praying! Stand with us! Pick up your spiritual weapons and fight back!

Monday, October 3, 2011


One of the things I've been struggling with the past couple days is how to keep fellow Christians accountable when they are in the wrong, while trying to not come across as being judgmental or offensive. This is one area I've never really quite been able to get good at. My problem is I know the Truth, I'm passionate about the Truth, and in that passion for standing for the Truth, I can sometimes come across in a negative light. I get criticized by the person I'm trying to help for "being judgmental" or "holier-than-thou" or "making too big a deal out of it." My guess is that if you've been a Christian for a while, you know exactly what I mean. It's incredibly slippery ground.

When I see that one of my friends is about to make a bad decision, I naturally only want to keep them from doing that. It's like pointing out the snake that's about to bit them or the car that's about to hit them. I don't want to see them hurt. I'm a leader and a fixer-upper. I like setting things straight, organizing, and making sure that everything is running efficiently. It runs against my nature to let my brothers and sisters in Christ shoot themselves in the foot and do something they'll regret. But instead of letting my nature run its course, I choose instead to follow Scripture. And here is one very helpful Scripture:

Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17, "'If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

This is a very clever system. First, you confront the person. In private, let the other person know that what they're doing is wrong. If they agree and repent, "you have won them over." But if they are stubborn and won't listen, go back to the person with two or three others so that "matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." Jesus says to do this for a few reasons. One, to keep both parties accountable, and two, to have some witnesses to make sure nothing goes downhill (such as the two people getting into a fight, saying mean and terrible things, etc). And even if that doesn't work and they persist in their sin, Jesus says to take it to the church and to treat them as you would a non-Christian. (But before I move on, I want to make something very clear: you should only take something to the church if it's serious enough. Affairs, dishonesty in business, illegal issues, drugs, that type of stuff.)

Keeping each other accountable can be very tricky. I tend to be stubborn and hard-headed, so when a friend or family member tries to correct me, I usually get mad, upset, and bitter. But once I sober, I see that they were right. Over time, I've gotten a lot better at that. I've started to try to listen to people when they criticize me to see if there's merit to what they have to say. I may not like them, I may hate them for it, but generally, when a friend takes the time to tell me I'm doing something wrong, that means I probably am. So I listen with open ears. And good friends will do that for you: they'll keep you accountable. My three closest friends do that. One rarely fails to point out my pride or outlandish thoughts; he's always right, too. My other two friends do a good job of reminding me to keep a tighter reign on my mouth (sometimes my sarcasm and pokes and prods go too far). And my brother, bless his heart, never fails to point it out when I'm mean or unfair to him. Good, Godly friends do that. If a friend never points anything out to you, you'd do well to re-evaluate how much that person cares for you.

Granted, just being friends with someone doesn't mean you can point all their sins out to them. That's what Jesus was saying when He talked about removing the plank from your own eye before pointing out the speck in your brother's (Matt. 7:5). And in some circumstances, it isn't appropriate for me to be the one to point something out to a person. For instance, I can't tell my immodest sister in Christ she needs to put clothes on; a sister in Christ needs to do that. And my sister in Christ shouldn't tell our brother in Christ that he needs to stop ogling women; that would be my job, since I'm a guy. And in some relationships, it's wise to say nothing at all. For example, let's say my boss cusses and my teammate cusses (For the record, my boss doesn't cuss and I don't play sports anymore). I can approach my teammate about his foul language, but it wouldn't be smart to approach my boss. See what I'm saying?

Hopefully, the person who is doing wrong will heed your advice and turn from that sin. But it doesn't always happen. Sometimes, you have to let the other person make his or her own decisions. And that's hard. But it happens. And you can't force them to change. Jesus says this in Revelation 22:11, "Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy." In other words, you can't force people to change. You can try to keep them accountable. You can quote Scripture right and left. You can pray daily for them. Your closer Christian friends can try to persuade them to change their ways. You can love them to death. But they don't always repent. Some people are stubborn enough that they have to see for themselves why something is bad for them. Some people just learn things the hard way. I can be like that. When I was a kid, I learned the hard way why playing with matches is a bad idea. I learned the hard way why knives don't go in electrical outlets. I learned the hard way why you should treat girls with respect and honor. I learned the hard way that encouragement motivates people better than sarcasm. I learned the hard way that life is not all about me.

So yes, there are times when you have to let people make bad mistakes. My parents are obviously good examples of that. All you can really do is pray that when they do sin, their conscious will beat them up so bad over it that they'll never do it again. That's how I learned. And then you pray that they'll repent and turn to God for forgiveness and restoration, because He is the only one that truly provides that.