Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"When Has My Career Become an Idol?"

I view this blog as a place to occasionally post fresh thoughts, but I also view it as a place to curate some good things I stumble on that I think are helpful for young adults.

I listened to this episode of "Ask Pastor John" on the topic of work and idolatry. It is almost 12 minutes long (you can get it on your favorite podcast app and listen to it while you drive around).

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Don't Overlook Fellowship Opportunities in College

This is the third post in the series "Your College Years Will Fly By".

I am continuing my series on not wasting your opportunities. Today’s post is on fellowship. Before I exhort you not to waste your opportunity, I should mention what fellowship is.

Fellowship involves Christians seeking to do spiritual good to one another and sharing life’s joys and struggles with one another. It is different than socializing in that it has a spiritual aim and foundation. It aims to spur each believer on to love, good deeds, and faithfulness. Its foundation is our common unity in Christ (which is why a Christian can and should love unbelieving neighbors, but there is no Christian fellowship there). I should point out that socializing works with fellowship in that socializing (talking about general and common life experiences) usually facilitates fellowship. It isn’t a replacement for fellowship (as if talking about who won the game is the same thing as fellowship). However, socializing isn’t unimportant either.

As young, unmarried adults, you have opportunities for a greater breadth of fellowship during this season of life. You will likely have more discretionary time than the “married with kids” demographic. I don’t mean to imply that you aren’t busy or that you don’t have serious work to do which consumes time and energy. You are likely very busy. All I mean is that your “free time” (however much you have) is likely discretionary (will you join this club, will you go to the football game, etc.). Whereas, a person who is married with kids has almost all of his or her free-time allocated. You might indeed stay up late working on papers, but you won’t have young kids waking up the next morning at the first sliver of dawning light to demand your attention. Perhaps you don’t have much discretionary time, but you likely have more energy than you will have in the future.

My point is that you should evaluate your opportunities to fellowship and maximize them for your good as well as that of others. Be broad in those you fellowship with. Try to be intentional at church to speak with older and younger people and to do them spiritual good. Hang out with the young families on the playground after Sunday evening service. Go to a Bible study to learn the Word with fellow believers and to pray with one another. Make time to socialize with fellow Christians so that you can more easily and naturally have spiritual fellowship.

Every stage of life should be marked by Christian fellowship. And in every stage of life there will always appear to be good reasons why you don’t have time for it. The temptation, especially in a Bible-centered church, is to see fellowship as simply a nice add-on. In otherwords, I come and hear the Bible, but I don’t have time to socialize and fellowship. Fight against this way of thinking. Develop the habit (the discipline) of fellowship now while you have a bit more energy and (perhaps) time. And when you grow older, don’t forsake it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Don't Waste Your Evangelism Opportunities in College

This is the second post in the series "Your College Years Will Fly By"

Here is my syllogism:
·       Every Christian must be involved in “making disciples,” which includes sharing the gospel with unbelievers.
·       Each stage of life brings some unique evangelistic opportunities. 
·       Therefore, be a good steward with your opportunities, for they will never be exactly the same in the future

Every Christian should evangelize

Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all the nations. They “make disciples” (or followers of Jesus) by sharing the gospel message (Mark 1:15), exemplifying Christian love for fellow Christians (John 13:35), and letting the Lord give new life (John 3). The point is, every believer has a role to play. We know that this is true because the promise in the Great Commission is that Jesus will be with his followers until the end of the age to empower them in ministry. Therefore the ministry must endure past the original disciples to the end of the age.

Each stage of life brings some unique (and some similar) opportunities

For example, a young mom who is at home with her kids will have opportunities to evangelize her children, other moms she spends time around, her hairstylist, etc. Some of these are unique opportunities (her children) while others are more common (hairstylist).

You, as a young and single adult, will likely not have as many opportunities in the realm of evangelizing your children (but you could evangelize children through a ministry).  All I am saying is that there is usually a unique “people group” you can reach now that you will likely not have as direct access to in the future.

So, don’t waste the particular opportunities you have now. What doors are open for young adults? For those who are students, you have more direct contact with college students. These young men and women are at a phase of life in which they are trying to formulate convictions about their purpose, why the world is as it is, and where everything is going. That is a unique opportunity in terms of evangelism. 

Beyond that, young, unmarried adults often have a greater number of exchanges with people during the day. Between work and school, you are around large numbers of different folks. Being around more people, especially at a secular university, means you also have contact with a wider variety of people. Not merely in terms of numbers but in terms of worldviews and nationalities. You in a stage in life in which it takes less extra and intentional effort to break out of the silos of being around people that are mostly “just like you.”

Therefore, be a good steward

What a tremendous set of circumstances to minister in! What opportunities to make Jesus Lordship and grace known. So, don’t waste these unique opportunities. The same goes for “the rest of us.” We have unique opportunities that are unique if we open our eyes and love our neighbors.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Your College Years Will Fly by: Don't Waste the Opportunities

Each stage of life has unique opportunities and challenges. Our fallen human nature often leads us to always look forward or backward rather than to enjoy and use what we have in the here and now. Your college or young adult years are no exception.

Wise is the person who takes stock in each season of life. Evaluating the opportunities and adjusting things in your life to accommodate new responsibilities is essential but often overlooked. If you don't evaluate how to play to each season's opportunities and responsibilities, you will likely look back with extra regret as you get older.

These are the years in which your ability to think and reason is blooming. Your body is usually healthy and full of energy (despite how tired you often are). Your schedule is full, but you have fewer responsibilities than you will have in the future if you get married and have kids. You likely have a broader array of relationships through your connections at school, work, and social engagements. The question is, how can you maximize the opportunities you have to foster your own growth in Christ, the good of the church family, and the good of unsaved neighbors.

So, I want to spend a few posts on this topic. I specifically want to encourage you to think of the opportunities you have in the areas of (1) evangelism, (2) discipleship, and (3) spiritual growth. Take some time to think of your unique opportunities in your current stage of life (this exercise works well no matter what stage you are at).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

For Your Own Soul, Plan to Join a Church in College

A LifeWay Research study showed that 66% young adults who regularly attended church in high school stopped regularly attending church for at least 1 year between the ages of 18-22.1 Many factors might contribute to that trend.  For my purpose, I want to address the issue of those who are genuine believers and heading off to college who are a bit neutral on the importance of being regularly with the church.  There are two main things I want to say to those in that category.

First, joining a church body is healthy for your soul.  

One reason is that it is how the Lord will work to keep you trusting in him.  Hebrews 3:12-14 states, 
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
What is the way we avoid being hardened by the lies of sin?  How do we recognize that the allure of the flesh and world are dead-ends when they look so promising?  By exhorting one another every day.  In other words, the means by which God sovereignly preserves us from spiritual destruction is by giving us a desire to regularly be with the family of God.  Don't resist that desire, instead cultivate it.

Another reason it is healthy for your soul is that you were made to function in the family and body of Jesus.  Think of how often the New Testament speaks of Christians as "brothers and sisters."  This is not just a verbal tick.  It is a reminder that we have a bond with fellow believers that requires family loyalty and love towards one another.  It is in this social context that we do the work of Christian love and community.  We meet needs. We encourage one another.  We correct one another. We rejoice with one another.  We weep with one another.  This all happens as we are around one another and in the body with Jesus as our head. 

All of this entails membership in the family or body of Christ.  Just as no family member or body part is only loosely connected, so, too, no believer is to remain loosely connected to the church (i.e., anonymous, uninvolved, or uncommitted).  What if your liver suddenly decided it didn't want to be connected to the rest of the body or that it was too busy to do its part?  Each member is made to function together.

Second, make a plan to attend and join a church.

This is the second main thing I want to say.  Many genuine Christians come to college with ideas of joining a church, but then life happens.  They get busy, and they establish new habits which don't include regularly gathering with the church family.  It is not unusual for me to meet a college student who is a senior, and who tells me that he had planned to join a church.  Here it is 3 years later, and he is just now following through.  He regrets the wasted time.  How many corrections, encouragements, and family meals (communion) he missed?  How many opportunities to do good to the household of faith were announced that he never heard?  I am glad these students desire to reunite with their spiritual family, even it is a bit late in the game.  So, if you are in this category, it's not too late, even if it is later than you planned. As they say, "better late than never."

A quick word on habits.  Habits are intentional and regular practices used to direct our lives to the things we value most.  They are more than good intentions.  When you move for school or find that you can set up new habits, be thoughtful.  List what God wants your life directed towards.  Then add other things that you desire.  After that, plan practices which will lead your life towards these goals.  This takes mental effort and self-discipline.  You won't coast into good habits.  If you want to be an excellent musician, you must plan and discipline yourself.  You must develop practices to direct your life towards that end.  As a Christian, you will want to be like Christ and to love and serve his church - the ones he loves.  So, make gathering with the church a regular habit!

1. The question was asked, "Did you stop attending church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22?"  (This was asked to young adults age 23-30 who attend protest church consistently for at least 1 year in high school).

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Responsibilities of a Church Member: Exercise Humility to Maintain Unity

In Philippians chapter 2, Paul writes
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Paul is happy if the church at Phillipi is unified in their thinking and love. He does not mean that they would be cookie-cutter Christians. He doesn't intend for all of them to think the exact same way about everything. What does he mean?
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus... (Philippians 2:3-5)

He wants them to have a mindset of humility. The thinking that unites them is a humble mindset - a Christlike mindset. 

As church members, we are responsible to exercise humility.  Humility is like a muscle.  You apply it every time you put the interests of others ahead of yourself.  So, if you want to grow in humility, you need to look for opportunities to serve others and prefer them. 

Practically, when the church has an event that you'd prefer not to attend, perhaps you should see it as an opportunity to exercise humility.  Prefer the other believers who you will be able to see, encourage, and serve.  When another believer talks about something you are not interested in at a fellowship dinner, after service, or at a Bible study, you can exercise your humility muscles by disciplining yourself to listen.   You can attend a Bible study or fellowship event even if your best friend won't be there because you aren't thinking first of yourself, but primarily of how you can encourage others.

How do you motivate such thinking, though?  The best way to facilitate humility is to put on Christ's mindset as your own.  Philippians 2:5-8 tells us to do this.  It mentions that Christ put himself below others to bring them up.  He did not hold on to his rights and prerogatives.  He was willing to lay them aside to serve others.  You might think you have the right to avoid relating to difficult people.  But the mindset of Christ doesn't leave room for that.  So, think about Christ and his humbling himself by becoming a man and then dying on the cross for you.  Then incorporate that mindset into your thoughts towards the church. If Christ wasn't too good for it, then neither are we.

Related to this, you can make progress in this sort of unifying humility by thinking of the church as your family.  You can remind yourself that this is your brother or sister in Christ, one for whom Christ died.  Just think of how often the Scripture speaks of Christians as "brothers and sisters."  Just like a family, we don't put our own needs and desires ahead of others.  Instead, we look to serve the interests of others.

I'll bring this to a close, but think of how many areas of church life this principle affects.  Song selection (the older like this...the young like this...both prefer the other), what type of events are planned, how we use our time, etc. Humility promotes unity in every area of church life.  So, let's exercise humility. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Free Ebook - "12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You"

Crossway is offering Tony Reinke's book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You for free (well, you have to do a brief online survey - there is no such thing as a free lunch).  Here is the link to the survey.

If you haven't read this book, I encourage you to make time to read it.  It is insightful, helpful, and full of wisdom.  Reinke applies biblical principles to technology usage in a way that is humble and not legalistic.