Last week at Bay Area Christian School and in the student ministry of Bay Area First Baptist Church we saw an amazing out pouring of God’s Spirit and an amazing response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you know me you know I’m praying that the next generation of American Christians to become the greatest generation of American Christ-followers in U.S. history. That’s my big God, John 15 prayer for the next generation. Here is a glimpse of what God did last week in our little faith community with the next generation.
Our church is studying the book of James this summer on Sunday mornings. In studying the book we have found that it is written to Christians who struggle with double-mindedness and self-deception. Read if for yourself in James 1. This Sunday I preached a message titled “How to Stop Faking Religion” from James 1:26-27. We learned what James considered to be worthless religion and what James considered pure and undefiled religion. You can watch the sermon here.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. 
Religion in the James 1 context is devotion to God as exhibited by external, observable qualities of the life of faith in Christ. The problem in the first century was this external quality could be faked. The problem in the 21st century is this external, observable quality can be faked. People who fake “religion” in the positive sense as used in James 1:26-27 are self-deceived and idolatrous. When we fake religion we worship ourselves or the perception of others about who we are “religiously” and we tragically miss the freedom of the gospel. The only pure and undefiled religion is the kind that flows from the heart of a person who loves God and loves people. So what do you do if you are a believer and you have been faking your religion or practicing religion that is “worthless”? Since pure religion stems from the heart we must go to God for important heart work when we as Christian’s struggle with self-deception and a “faked” or “worthless” religion. I use Psalm 139:23-24 as a prayer pattern for this important heart work.
Let’s try it. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did. Find a quiet place alone. Grab your Bible, and something to write with (pen, journal, computer, iPad). Read Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my anxious thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way every lasting.” -Psalm 139:23-24
1. Beg God to search your heart and try you.
Ask God to search every thought and motive of your heart. This might feel a little scary but remember if you are a Christian, you are talking to your Father. You are his son or daughter according to the Bible. He is glad you are coming to him. You can trust him. Lay your heart bare before him. Ask him to sift you and refine you according to his design for your life. Verbalize to God your desire to be pure and holy and right with him, not to earn his love because in Christ you have it. Not to earn your salvation because in Christ you have it. Only because you love him and you want to live a life of faith and love and devotion to him. Only because you don’t want to be a Christian who has falling into self-deception, double-mindedness (loving God and loving sin and self at the same time), and worthless, faked religion or devotion to God. Give him permission to have his way with you.
2. Ask God to identify what grieves him about you. (Ephesians 4:25-5:20)
Even though as Christians we are saved and set free from sin and the eternal penalty of sin, we are still wrestling with our flesh and the temptation to sin. It is clear from the Scripture that believers can become stained with sin in their double-mindedness and self-deception and grieve God. Ask your Father what sin in your life grieves him. Allow him to speak to you. I like to use Ephesians 4:25-5:20 as a passage to pray through at this point. I ask God to reveal, in this list of grievous sin, how I am grieving him. As he reveals these things, write them down. Write all of them whether it is 2 things or 50 things. God will be faithful to reveal your sin. Take a few minutes and contemplate the list. Grieve over what grieves the Father and then… repent and receive his forgiveness and grace. Take time to repent for every grievous sin on your list. Repent specifically. Then embrace the gift of Christ. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:8-9 Wad up that list and throw it away as a symbol of turning away from your sin and toward Christ in love and devotion.
3. Trust God to lead you in a better way of living your faith. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Finally, trust and believe God to lead you in a better way of living your faith. When we struggle with self-deception and worthless religion we also begin to believe that God is less than capable to lead us in a better way of living today. Remember, Jesus came that we might have abundant life according to John 10:10. You trust him for a future in heaven. You can trust him for an abundant life with him today. Proverbs says it this way, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path’s straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6
He is the Good Shepherd and he knows the way. He will make your paths straight. Trust him. If you want to overcome self-deception, double-mindedness, and fake religion, go to God for some heart work. He will give you renewal and a singular mindset and a content soul. Only then will the external, observable evidence of your life in Christ be authentic, un-faked, and bubbling over from the inside out.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jas 1:26–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
I am the pastor of an awesome church. It is 125 years old and located in the Southern United States in Houston, Texas. It has been a very patriotic church in the past for great reasons. We are a church in transition in an American culture that is changing. Our theology has been the same for 125 years but our practices are morphing. Why? This is the first in a series of posts addressing common hallway questions. Welcome to the “Why Series.”
Recently I was asked a great question. Why don’t we sing patriotic songs in our worship gatherings especially around the 4th of July? It’s not a lack of patriotism on my part. I fly our flag in my yard each day and I think there’s no place like America on earth. We (my family) will gather with friends and watch the fireworks and celebrate our country’s freedom on the 4th of July. We (my family) choose to be missionaries in the country of our first love: America. There are however, two reasons for this shift in our approach to traditional expressions of patriotism in worship as a church.
First, we reserve Sunday for the worship of God and the exaltation of Christ and His Kingdom which, if you read the scriptures, includes all nations.
Secondly, and maybe the clearest reason, is that America is not the country of our past. It is impossible for me as Pastor to lead us to sing songs like “God bless America” in corporate worship when I realize that we are a culture that is much like Israel in King Hezekiah’s day. “So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children – as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” (2 Kings 17:41) As long as America continues to reject God and embrace idolatry we cannot hail a great America in the presence of God in corporate worship. We will thank God for our freedom. We will support the men and women who serve and protect our freedom. We will hope in our God whose gospel can change the American culture. We will pray for our nation and we will seek repentance in corporate worship times. We can’t confuse the America we remember that enjoyed God’s blessing and the America of today that is rejecting God completely. We will raise one banner in corporate worship. The banner of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. After all His kingdom is the hope for our nation.
Parents who accept the biblical mandate to be the primary faith trainers in the lives of their children often face a common obstacle. How do we impress the glory and complexity of such a great God on the hearts of our children? Can they even understand His glory? The short answer is yes, in a child like way.
General revelation: The skies declare your glory. (Psalm 19:1)
Theologically, God’s glory among the generations is His first priority. Though we will not yet grasp in fullness the depth, breadth, or width of God’s glory this side of heaven, we can all observe that He is glorious. This is also true of our children. Psalm 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” The concept of understanding the glory of God by observing His magnificent creation is called general revelation. Recently my family took a Sunday evening walk from our house to a local coffee shop. Along the way we stopped to take note of an extravagant sunset displayed with shades of orange, pink, purple, and yellow. Eden, our 5 year old, said, “Isn’t God a great artist.” In that single moment she acknowledged God’s general revelation of His glory. She understood His greatness because of the “great art” He made for us to enjoy that evening.
Special revelation: Let the little children come to me. (Matthew 19:14)
Jesus is God’s special revelation of Himself to the world. Jesus, being fully God and fully man, is incomprehensible on the one hand but understandable on the other. We glimpse God’s glory when we discover Jesus as a sinless man bringing complete glory to his Father. We see God’s glory when we learn Jesus is a miraculous healer demonstrating power over the flesh. We are drawn to God’s glory when we find Jesus is able to calm storms demonstrating control of the creation. We are submissive to God’s glory when we realize Jesus is able to cast out demons demonstrating Kingship in the spiritual realm. Finally, we are baffled at God’s glory when we learn of the crucifixion of the God-man wrought with earthquakes, darkness, a torn curtain, and amazing words of forgiveness. We worship our glorious God when we read that Jesus rose again, defeating death, fulfilling prophecy, and exercising complete victory over sin. Even as I write, I am worshipping. Our kids experience God’s glory by knowing Jesus as well. Jesus says in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” If you want your child to comprehend God’s glory, bring them to Jesus.
What can you do? God-moments and Scripture reading.
As a parent, be intentional about pointing out the glory of God with your children. Capture God-moments. They are those little moments along the way where God is clearly at work. Take a moment to point His glory out to your child just like the sunset we saw on our Sunday evening walk. God-moments happen all the time; A sunset, a torrential downpour, a baptism, communion, etc. Keep your eyes open and you will find God at work. As a parent, take the opportunity to reveal His glory to your child. Finally, read the Bible to your children. We love to read about Jesus from the Bible with our kids. Without sounding irreverent, Jesus is a kid-magnet. Jesus will reveal the glory of the Father to our children. Read them the biblical narrative. Let them hear how Jesus fed 5000, healed the blind, and conquered sin. Our children can discern the greatness of God especially when parents take time to demonstrate the glory of God.
My wife Angela and I were reviewing my blog several nights ago. We realized that the most commonly read post is one called “Christian Moms: Pursue Career or Stay at Home.” With so many comments and questions, Angela felt led to lend her own voice to the subject. In her first guest post on legacyblog, she describes her own journey as a Christian women who is a wife, mother, and professional. Here is Angela on motherhood, career, and the choice to stay at home.
I am a woman who has chosen to give up my career for a season to stay at home for my three daughters and husband. Who am I? My identity is that I am a loving, compassionate, gifted, intelligent, educated, woman created by God my Father. I am who I am because of Him. My gifts and talents are from Him and for Him.
You see, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, an accountant, and many other things. But, my identity is not in these things because at any moment these things can be taken away from me. I must know who I am, not by my relationships or associations or gifting and talents, but in my Creator. If I find my identity as a wife, mother, or accountant, I will fail because I am not, nor will ever be, perfect at any of these things.
As Christian women we need to support each other and realize we are all on the same team. Women are so important, powerful, loving, compassionate, intelligent, wise, and gifted. I am so blessed to have the choice to pursue a career or stay at home or both. I am so blessed to have women and mothers in my life that are and were my doctors, teachers, storeowners, nurses, and more. I am grateful for them and their gifts and choices.
I must say this. Whatever you feel convinced by the Holy Spirit of in your life and family, we as mothers must do some things. First, we must support each other, encourage each other, and pray for each other. We all love our children and want what is best.
We also must pursue our children more than anyone or anything else pursues them. We as mothers, no matter if we work or stay at home, have one of the most powerful influences over our children. We influence them no matter what, even if we intend to or not. We must succeed at our love pursuit of them or someone or something else will. We must make choices to spend time with our children when and however we can. Pursue them with love, time, and encouragement. Money and gifts are great but not the answer. Love and time and words of encouragement can not be substituted.
I know mothers who work for many reasons: to make ends meet, to send kids to a better school, or because they are gifted in a certain capacity. Whatever the reason, it is a choice and not unbiblical according to the example of women in Proverbs 31. The choice of a mother to work or stay home is between her and her husband if married, and God and it is not the right of others to judge. It is our job as Christian women to support and encourage each other. No more sideways energy about who is right; the stay at home mom or the working mom. We are on the same team.
To single mothers who do not have a choice about working or staying at home: You are heroes, especially to the children for which you put food on the table, clothes on their back, and offer the exhausted compassion of mom.
I love my choice to stay home. I have times and days that I miss my career. I loved working and receiving rewards and kudos and using my education and talents in that capacity. However, I made a choice for me and for my family. I am thankful that I was able to have that choice. I have three daughters whom we are raising to discover who they are in Christ and how they are gifted and talented. I am committed to encouraging their gifts and talents. I am also committed to pursuing them with my love, time, and encouragement. I tell them that they can do and be whatever they feel led by God to do and they they get to discover that plan. That could be anything: President of the United States, doctor, teacher, or stay at home mom. Mothers, thanks for all you do. I am excited to invest in the next generation alongside all of you women and mothers.
Palm Sunday is the day we as Christians remember Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Passion week; that is the week we meditate on the last days of Jesus life on earth filled with triumph, trial, persecution, crucifixion and glorious resurrection.
Just about 2000 years ago Jesus entered Jerusalem mounting an unridden colt as recorded in Luke 19:28-44 to fulfill the messianic prophecy of Zechariah. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he; humble and mounted on a donkey, on a calf, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9
On that day the Scripture says people began to rejoice and praise in a loud voice. They blessed the King. They cried “Hosanna,” meaning “Save us now!” I can only imagine the stirring in the hearts of people as Jesus rode from the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron valley and into Jerusalem. The excitement would have been unimaginable. Finally the “King who comes in the name of the Lord” had come as Luke 19:38 recalls.
I wonder why, after the excitement of such a triumphal entry, that Jesus found himself weeping over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41)? Jesus answers the question with this statement. “Would that you, even you had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” -Luke 19:42 Is it possible that the people who were excited about the entrance of the Prince of Peace didn’t understand who Jesus was or what kind of peace he came to bring? Most were looking for a king who would deliver the city of peace (Jerusalem) from Roman oppression. Jesus entered as a different kind of King to offer a different kind of peace. Peace with God.
The Bible teaches that all those who have faith in Christ for salvation have found peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1 Understanding our original position with God is important. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” – Colossians 1:21
Jesus rode into the city of peace (Jerusalem) to bring peace and salvation. This peace was much greater than peace with Rome or world peace, or peace in the middle east, or any other kind of peace. This was and is peace with God. The God whose wrath would crush us because of our sin (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) if it were not for the sinless Messiah that rode into Jerusalem and wept.
This week is a week of remembrance. Remember the triumphal entry this Palm Sunday and remember that he was, “Pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” -Isaiah 53:5