Christian Living

The Centrality of God in Youth Discipleship

The recent New York Times article, “Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers,” has stirred up a great deal of conversation among fundamentalists and evangelicals alike. While the article focused on broader Evangelicalism, many fundamentalists are wrestling with the same phenomenon. Upon graduation from high school, far too many teenagers follow the call of the wild, drift away from the church, and (in some cases) repudiate their faith in Christ.
teens1.jpgThere is a sense in which this development should not be surprising at all. Since World War II, youth ministry in the United States has taken on a life of its own. Parachurch organizations were founded to focus on evangelizing and serving teenagers. Pastoral positions were created for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of high school students. And the Christian school movement has deluded some parents into thinking that their children’s academic environment will inevitably produce a disciple of Christ.

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New Year’s Resolutions

Have you broken any of them yet?

How many of you have ever felt the searing frustration or grinding discouragement over lack of personal discipline or steadfastness to personal commitments? Even in February?

What is wrong with us?

Over 2,700 years ago, God clearly communicated to Judah through Isaiah their problem:

I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider (Isa. 1:2-3, KJV).

I am sure you have heard in the public arena the expression “Don’t be a pigheaded fool!” Well, I was at one time even worse than a stubborn mule. In fact, I still deal with the wretched tendencies of the sinful nature continually warring against everything that is good that I desire to do in 2007 for God’s glory.

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A "Mega-Acquisition" Every Believer Can Afford

A Study of Godliness and Contentment from the Pastoral Epistles

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6, KJV).

The last time I wrote for SI, I wrote about something big—mega-ministry. I tried to show that God can do great and mighty things in and through us, no matter the size of our congregation. Today, I write about something else that is big. In the passage I quoted above, the apostle Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The word great is the Greek word “megas,” and the word gain speaks of “an acquisition.” Most of us will never be able to participate in a multi-billion-dollar corporate acquisition, but according to this verse, godliness with contentment comprises a “mega-acquisition.” By God’s grace we can and must have godliness with contentment in our lives.

The Importance of Godliness

Godliness is a reverence and respect for God that manifests itself in a life that brings glory to His name. There’s hardly a week that goes by that we are not made aware of some case of moral collapse in the family of God. The practice of godliness is the need of the hour for every believer. Notice some things Paul said about godliness in his two letters to Timothy.

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Why Love? Part 1

I am by nature an angry person. Most people who know me well would deny that. In fact, my friend Jason Janz often tells people, “Brian’s a lover.” That statement is true now, but it is true only by the grace of God working in my life. Anger, incidentally, serves me well when it comes to the protection of the Gospel or to why_love1.jpgthe defense of those I love. I can harness that energy and express it under control, hopefully for the glory of God. Of course, I still fail in that area too … miserably sometimes. One of my seminary professors often said that his children had never seen him lose his temper. I wish I could say that. But again, by God’s grace, I have learned to control that sudden display of fierceness. I can say confidently that I am generally now “not soon angry” as my calling requires.

What does anger have to do with love? Those are both attitudes/emotions/actions that can be used by the flesh or by the Spirit. When I lash out in unbridled anger, I am living for myself. The same can be said of improper love—they are both lusts of the flesh. However, the proper use of anger and the proper demonstration of love both require something in common … death.

It is no mistake then that the ultimate expression of love required a sacrifice. Jesus died to self in His most noble act of love on the cross, where He traded our sin for His righteousness. Oh, brothers and sisters in the Lord, meditate on that thought!

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Resolved for 2007: Get the Wisdom from Above, Part 2

Having explored the “meekness of wisdom” in James 3:13 and drawn out the possible reasons wisdom should lead to meekness (Part 1), with James we now contrast the wisdom from below with the wisdom from above.
wisdom_part2.jpgJames singles out meekness as the chief external virtue that shows forth wisdom, and he immediately contrasts this godly meekness with self-seeking factionalism. “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory [boast] not, and lie not against the truth” (3:14, KJV). In other words, if on the inside you have self-seeking instead of wisdom, your modus operandi is going to include a lot of boasting, politicking, muscling, wheeling and dealing, and whatever it takes. This boastful bullheadedness is a tell-tale sign of bitter envy and strife. C’mon, says James. Who are you kidding? Don’t lie against the truth. Anyone who is boasting in his so-called “wisdom” only betrays the fact that he has no true wisdom. Mental acumen is not the same thing as wisdom; in the hands of a self-seeker, mental acumen is a dangerous, deceptive faculty. If you want to be taken seriously as a wise man, be meek. The alternative is ugly.

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The Testimony of Casey Foster

Note: This year at SI, we’d like to feature stories of life change. If you are aware of a story that is current and shows the power of Christ in the life, please email it to jasonjanz@sharperiron.org. The stories should be 1,500 to 2,000 words long and should include a photo. Also, we’d like to have a pastor’s recommendation sent along with the testimony. We trust these stories will be a blessing to you and will help us all to be reminded why we are here.

When you feel as though you have no right to live, or nothing to live for, you begin to act on the belief that nothing around you has that right either. There was a time in my life when I had no feeling, not even for myself. I was constantly creating and destroying life.

I had no understanding of how to live, and God refused to let me die. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to hear an angel speak, to feel my heart pierced, and to see my life forever changed.

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Resolved for 2007: Get the Wisdom from Above, Part 1

Who among the SharperIron readership is wise and understanding? By his good conduct, let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
wisdom_part1.jpgThe question I put to you now is the question that James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, put to his readership (“the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”) some several centuries ago (James 3:13, paraphrased). Wisdom still cries in the streets, offering to us simpletons an opportunity to learn her ways.

Who among the SharperIron readership is wise and understanding? Before you answer, beware! James already warned his readership in 3:1, “Be not many masters [teachers].” Why? “We shall receive the greater condemnation” (KJV). To set oneself up as a teacher is to make a claim of authority, to make a claim of wisdom, and to raise the bar for oneself. The role of teacher generally involves a lot of speaking, and speaking is perilous territory. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Prov. 10:19, ESV). It is so confoundedly easy to say something silly, erroneous, spiteful, equivocal, tactless, uncharitable, or vulgar. Go ahead: tame your tongue. Tame Leviathan for practice.

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