One of the unique roles of a father in your life is to provide definition, and to guard you from the wolves that want to define you. When you separate from your father, or when he fails to perform this role, you become susceptible to false fathers. A false father is someone who gains power over you and takes advantage of you, and then, through this abuse defines who you are. False fathers can only operate when your real father is not there to guard and define you.
This danger is especially Read more [...]
God has recently been helping me to find the path to healthy relationships. I have discovered that I have a tendency to enter into codependent relationships as the helper. A codependent relationship is one where the love flow is when the bond is based on one person providing assistance and the other person receiving assistance. In the world, this term is often used to refer to a relationship that involves an addict or an abuser, but what I want to talk about here is the “benevolent” Read more [...]
Some people set a standard for prophetic people that they always be 100% accurate or they should be stoned. What is ironic about this is that the same people who suggest this standard often consider real prophecy and prophets to be people who interpret the Book of Revelation and those people are almost always wrong! Yet you don't hear them saying that these people should be put to death, or are not false prophets because of it. Last year, Godly people who I respect got all worked up about the Read more [...]
The instruments of the Academy have been designed to promote discovery of a factual and authoritative view of the world, and we should recognize that many of its members are working hard to do just that, recognizing the limitations of human knowledge.
Unfortunately the traditional ideas of academic discourse and freedom have come under some attack of late, while a growing minority who believe that their cause warrants them breaking the rules, will actually intentionally mislead you. Most are simply Read more [...]
If you watch the news a lot, you might want to hide in a bunker. I remember when, as a young Christian, I first became aware that our society was headed in a bad direction. A good friend and I concluded that this was part of our lot as Christians approaching the end. Although we as Christians could expect good things from God, for society itself, things would get worse and worse. This led me to focus on being a good Christian, and a good witness in the midst of a decaying generation.
I have have Read more [...]
There are a mountain of resources available today to help you learn how to study the Bible, the only problem is that most of them are built on incorrect assumptions. In fact, I would go so far as to say, a lot of the training that is out there, it would be better if you had no training at all.
Where to Start The first and most important faulty assumption is that Bible study begins with the Bible. Bible study, begins with you. The Bible is not an artifact. If you study it like an artifact, Read more [...]
In the circles I move in, I often encounter women who are decidedly more spiritual than their husbands. This leads to a very common problem of "how do I get my husband to 'get it'" Men of course experience this same problem, but in general feel less constrained when it occurs. For a woman, however, it can really be a huge burden. Because I encounter this so much I wanted to take a few minutes to give some practical advice.
First, Not all 'unspiritual' Husbands are the same. Here are a few of the Read more [...]
A lot of people blame religion for their problems. I've had a pretty good share of negative experiences in church, but I can't say that it ever occurred to me to blame "the church" for them or religion in general. I pretty much had to learn about God on my own with some very general help from my Dad who was also finding God at the same time, other random people around me, and reading the Bible. Eventually, however, even after trying in all honesty to follow it, I hit the train wreck. Or multiple Read more [...]
One of the most common issues that you will encounter in Christian counseling is people that have boundary issues -- as in that let themselves get walked on. In the world, the entire basis of your counseling is different -- it's based on selfishness: "How do I meet my needs?" but in Christianity, counseling is based on the idea that you should be pleasing God and loving others. Now this definitely does not mean that everyone you counsel will be selfless or oriented toward love, but that there is Read more [...]
One of the most potent lies in America today is that men and women are the same. I don't just mean equal, I mean the same. Feminism is based on this idea that gender is socially constructed -- you act female just because you were raised in an oppressive male-dominated environment. If we can overthrow this, all of the world's problems, including violence and war will be solved. This was widely believed in our culture for nearly 40 years, and is only recently starting to be seen as the completely ridiculous Read more [...]
Family is the context in which every person comes to understand human relationships and by extension human identity. If something is wrong in your family, something is wrong in you. And vice versa -- if something is wrong in you, almost certainly, you can find its roots in your family.
Before I launch too deeply into this topic, I want to make clear that what I believe is distinct from Freudian psychology -- which finds all pathologies in childhoood, and it's also distinct from popular Charismatic Read more [...]
In order to have any kind of stable and successful walk in Christ, every person must first experience God's unconditional love. I was driving home this week and God was showing me how when Jesus tore the veil, that was exciting for God... We think it's about us having access to the Father, and it is, but even more than that, it's about the Father having access to us. He can come to your sinful self and not have to condemn you because of your sin, but he can come in his intense unconditional love.
Until Read more [...]
Anyone who has read the New Testament knows that Jesus used a lot of stories and analogies. In fact, it was so bad that the disciples complained that he was not being plainspoken enough. It makes you imagine a kind of eastern scene where some guy trying to get wisdom from the master and the master says something about a lotus blossom.
There is a method to this madness. It has to do with the fact that people are deaf. Sin causes us to be unable to hear. I mean we can physically hear the words, but Read more [...]
Giving correction, especially in our contemporary "live and let live" American culture may seem extremely difficult -- especially if you have the "I really love you" pastor's heart that I talked about earlier. In the first church I was in, they definitely gave correction, and the stories seemed astonishing to me. I thought to myself "How do you know when to correct someone? And how do you do it in love?" The church culture I was in, however was high on correction, and low on love. The pastors would Read more [...]
If you are any good at pastoring, you will quickly have more people to help than you have time to help them with. So the question becomes who do you help, and when? The simple Biblical answer is that you help each according to his faith. But what does that mean? In translation to the pastoral context, you help those who are hungry. I do not help those who will not help themselves. The reason is because helping these people is actually counter-productive. One of the core concepts you need as a pastor Read more [...]
Emotions are not naturally and easily understood. In fact, you have to learn to understand them. Your parents and friends give you the vocabulary for them as you experience them. When you are a little baby and you cry you mom might say to you "oh, are you sad?" or when you laugh she might say "oh, you're so happy!" When she does this, she is helping you develop an emotional vocabulary. Really understanding what is going on in your heart and what to do about it is a skill learned over a lifetime -- Read more [...]
When you read the title of this post, if you know anything about counseling, your red flags are probably going off because you're thinking "codependency" but I want to explain more specifically what I mean. The theory of pastoral care that I am operating under is the pastor is like the "friend who sticks closer than a brother" Proverbs 18:24. He is a person who walks along side you and tries to model the love of Christ. A friend who provides wisdom, who helps you see what is going on in your heart Read more [...]
Jesus explains in Matthew 12:34 that it is "out of the abundance of a man's heart he speaks" When someone begins to talk, they reveal much more than what they say, they reveal the condition of their heart, something about who they are, and how they relate to God. When I was younger, I used to think that I could change people by talking to them, but the more that I have worked with people, the more I have learned that the exact opposite is mostly true: what the person hears is what matters. Information Read more [...]
What do you think of when you think of a "pastor"? The leader of a church? A preacher? Someone with a friendly personality? A pastor may be all of those things, but fundamentally, Biblically speaking, the essence of a pastor is something else: a shepherd. This shepherd keeps watch, over a flock, and if you are part of that flock, the shepherd keeps watch over your soul.
Being a pastor, therefore is not about the ability to teach or build big things, or draw a crowd, it's about the ability to care Read more [...]
If anything has become clear to me of late it is that all problems are emotional problems. Whatever your moral, spiritual, relational or even sexual problem is, it’s an emotional problem. What you feel or don’t’ feel makes decisions for you.
This is a new angle for me to look at things through, and I think this angle is so appealing to me because I’m so emotional myself. I’m sometimes refer to myself as “emo” because of it. I’m sensitive, dramatic, and emotionally aware, and it Read more [...]
In a prior post, I wrote about how to approach prophecy, but in this post, I want to take it to a different level: the psychological processes that receiving a prophecy releases in those who take prophecy seriously. I received a word recently, and have finally come to a place in my walk where I can reflect on it a bit more objectively.
I remember when I was younger, when I would receive words, I could get really messed up. I remember one time the prophet told Jaime (when we were engaged) that Read more [...]
We are in discussion about helping some friends start their church, and so I am writing this post as a way of getting my thoughts together as a set of basic instructions. In my other posts, I covered a lot of perspectives and pitfalls which I would be of interest to those who are in the middle of it, but in this post, I am going to cover things you would want to know from the “ground up.” This is different from a church plant that you start with a group from another church. This is a church that Read more [...]
Today I was driving in the car, and started thinking more about what it means to live as the incarnation. About two months ago I had this thought: "What if you were who God sent to save the world?" What if you thought of the entirety of God's mission as depending on you? How would it change your mindset? What if you thought of yourself like Jesus thought of himself: as a man on a mission. A man sent by God, to bring God's presence to the earth. Not just as a contributor to something larger, but as Read more [...]
God has been speaking to our team more and more about the incarnation.
Jesus was God, in created form. He was incarnated. He was God on earth, and his mission was to bring God on earth. "Your Kingdom come, as it is in heaven." Jesus was bringing the kingdom by being here, first by being the Kingdom, and second by creating it in others.
Now there is really a lot to this if you think about it. The direction of movement is from heaven to earth. God is bringing something to be real here on the earth. Read more [...]
Anyone who has spent time with God knows there is so much more in store for us than we currently experience. We all want to move forward in our relationship capacity for God and others, and yet there seems to be times that we feel like we are at a dead end. One reason we feel this way is we don't see the possibilities because we have already crossed out options in the subconscious. I'm trying to use nice words and give a deeper understanding to what we call excuses. "I can't do this because of ‘x’." Read more [...]
Recently, I was reflecting on the impact of our ministry compared to the impact of other ministries. Like everyone else in a ministry context, I want to have a bigger impact than I am having. However, I don't want to have it by compromising, and yet as I pursue truth, I keep getting farther away from the mainstream positions that allow you to have a large following. And as I was sort of putting this thought before God and reflecting on those who were on the margins in terms of their beliefs and yet Read more [...]
Read pages 150-163 in Free at Last (2nd Edition)
Now that you have learned about repentance, write a comment below reflecting on the long term nature of freedom and that habits that you personally need to develop in order to move deeper with God.
The idea of romance with God has been mainstream for probably 15 years now and I have heard the term many times, however it never really made any sense to me. This is not because I didn't believe in the idea of a romance with God, but it just wasn't a very real concept to me. Of course, this could be because some concepts in the Christian life really don't make much sense at all until you are mature enough in your walk and life experience to understand their full significance. Think of explaining Read more [...]
In the Garden of Eden, God created one man and one woman and told them to have offspring. In other words, the very first form of human relationship was the family. Out of the union of the one man and one woman, everything else would come, so that Eve would become the "mother of all life."
Since the fall, a number of different "family" structures have come into being. Some of the major alternatives are:
Polygamy -- One man and several women. This also includes the Harem -- a king and many women
The Read more [...]
When we think about emotions what we normally think of it in terms of a single person. How am I feeling? How are you feeling? But actually emotions are highly relational in nature. First of all, most emotions that you experience in your life come from a relationship. Secondly, regardless of the source, when you experience an emotion, it has an impact on other people around you. What I am highlighting here is that emotions are communicative. They do not exist in a vacuum. They impact everyone around Read more [...]
Continuing my series on the emotional life, this is a post on the importance of emotional reciprocation. This is actually one the most fundamental human skills but most people have trouble doing it in at least one situation or role.
The principle here is that expression is the fundamental building block of relationship. If you do not express it, it is as if it never happened. If you are happy and you don't express it, then people will think you were not. If you are thankful and you don't express Read more [...]
I'm continuing working out my thoughts for a teaching on the healthy emotional life. Regular readers, please be patient as church topics will return when this series is complete.
Everyone of us goes through hurt and pain in our lives. Some more than others, but it is impossible to live this life without it. What amazes me is how differently similar circumstances affect different people. There are many ways this is true, but today I want to discuss just one: the vulnerability spectrum.
When someone Read more [...]
I’m going to be continuing my thoughts on emotional life and health as we are doing preparatory work for a course on emotional and pastoral life. This stuff is all very rough-cut, as I am trying to put together some concepts from a lot of experiences. So your feedback and refinement appreciated.
Relationship balancing is a strange phenomenon. I’m sure that psychologists have a name for it, but I don’t know it. I welcome your input for a better term as well. Relationship balancing is primarily Read more [...]
The past 4 years of ministry and marriage have drawn a lot of attention to the idea of introversion and extraversion. These are concepts invented by psychologists to help identify different kinds of people, how they process and relate to the world. And they are good because they start a very helpful discussion about the fact that different people process things differently. It helps to be aware of this dynamic and to relate to other people using this awareness But, since the world does not believe Read more [...]
We like to throw the term "religious" around a lot. It's super popular in American Christianity right now to accuse everyone of being religious. I am here to tell you that if you like to call people religious, you are religious.
We think that religion is whether or not you relate to God through a set of rules, and it's true that this is one manifestation of religion, but you can religiously relate to God by no rules at all. Religion is not a system, although it is often enforced by a system. Religion Read more [...]
Read pages 138-149 Free at Last (2nd Edition)
--Bring it to God
Do each of the exercises explained in the book:
Visualization: Imagine the moment of temptation.
Heart Ping: Bounce the truth off your heart and see what comes back.
Compare what you like about sin to the consequences of sin.
False Belief Exercise
Build up the case for your false belief. Explain all the reasons why you believe it.
Now refute your own Read more [...]
Read pages 122-137 Free at Last (2nd Edition)
–What is Repentance
–How Sin Works
Read pages 103-111 of Free At Last (2nd Edition)
Read Pages 96-102, 112-120 of Free At Last (2nd Edition)
–The Love of God
–You Must Believe
Read Pages 78-94 of Free at Last (2nd Edition)
–God or Entertainment?
–Die to Yourself
Read pages 62-76 of Free at Last (2nd Edition)
–Don’t be a punching bag
–End Victim Thinking
Read pages 50-61 of Free at Last (2nd edition)
1. What does it mean to “get real” and why is it so important?
Read pages 19-49 of Free At Last (2nd Edition)
--But It Wasn't Me
--The End of Mysticism
1. Name several ways that people blame God for their problems. What popular theologies are actually 'code' for this?
2. Name ways that we blame others. What responsibility do you have when someone victimizes you? What popular theologies are actually 'code' for this?
3. Name ways what people blame the devil. What popular theologies are actually 'code' for this?
4. Which one of these are you most Read more [...]
Read pages 1-18 of Free at Last (2nd Edition)
--Dealing with the Root Cause
1. How is the Go Narrow teaching going to be different than two major teachings in the body of Christ
2. How long does it take to really change your identity?
1. What is the main cause of suffering?
2. Why is desire important to knowing God?
3. Is there anything that you are not wililng to let go? A doctrine? A relationship? A dream? Read more [...]
1. What is good about being a man? What are the things that God has designed men specially to do?
2. Describe a healthy relationship between a husband and wife. When men do not act like men, how does this impact women and children?
3. Are you secure in your manhood?
1. What are some things that substitute for manhood? Do any of these apply to you?
2. Describe in your own words what it means to be a real man.
1. Why do bad things happen to good people?
2. What is the reason why you are where you are in your life and in your walk with God right now? What kind of person do you need to be to to advance in God?
For these two it is very important that you actually do the exercise discussed on the tape. Directions here below:
Many people, who have been Christians even for a long time, have difficulty really encountering God's love through Worship. This exercise is designed Read more [...]
1. What is God’s mission?
2. What is the sign of the end of the world? What things are not signs, that people often look for?
3. Is persecution good for the church? Should we allow ourselves to be persecuted?
4. Name the major areas of life where Christians must engage. Give a brief explanation of why each is important.
1. In what ways is being a part of a church like being a part of a team? Name ways that people exhibit non-teaming behavior in church.
2. In what ways could you improve your team behavior in church
3. What is the New Testament basis for tithing?
4. How is corporate worship different than private worship?
1. What are the marks of pride?
2. Ask someone else close to you if you exhibit pride or humility. Do you have any signs pride in your life?
3. Why is being transparent important?
4. What is the connection between pride and doctrine?
This lecture covers the foundation of being a Christian.
Questions for each session are designed to help you reflect on what you learned in the session. We do not want you to answer these questions like a fill in the blank test at school. We want you to talk about whatever God spoke to you or convicted you of in the message. Tell us what you are actually getting out of it.
1. In your own words, summarize what it means to be a Christian
2. Why must Jesus be the only way of Read more [...]
This course is designed to put you on the right footing for everything else we do. It starts from the basic concepts in Christianity, but instead of building doctrines, we focus on building character.
People often want to skip foundations because they feel like it is review, but these very foundational things are exactly why many people never develop their supernatural potential in God.
For this course your assignment is to
1. Review the Prophetic Discipleship instructions. For Read more [...]
The goal of this course is to help you shift the focus of your relationship with God:
-- From Doctrine to the Heart
-- From Externals to Internals
After some time under these teachings, it is not uncommon for people to experience a minor life crisis, because they are dealing with and addressing issues that have been hidden for their entire lives. Do not panic. This is normal. When we do these sessions in real life, people experience spontaneous deliverance from demons and the filling of the Holy Read more [...]
As I explained in an earlier post, Mordecai understood the proper posture for his time. He intentionally raised his niece to be a woman of influence, and he himself trained to be a person of influence as well. Every Christian in America should be doing both of these things – aspiring to be as influential as possible, and training children to be influential for Christ as well. I mean that literally: aspiring to be as influential as possible. Becoming influential takes years and years of work where Read more [...]
Christians love platitudes. We love to tell each other things like “God doesn’t reward success, he rewards faithfulness.” We say this so we can feel better when we are not succeeding, or when we don’t feel important. The problem with these kinds of sayings is that they keep you from re-examining what you are doing so you can actually be successful. And by success I don’t mean praised, by the world, I mean successful in doing God’s mission.
Take a look at the Great Commission. This is Read more [...]
From the time of Exodus down to the exile, the Jews had their own land and their own government, but beginning in the exile, they existed among the nations as a people set apart. God’s people among the wicked. In other words, they lived just like us.
During the time of Israel’s independence, the stories are primarily about their leaders – the Priests, Kings, and Judges. But both before and after their independence, we have completely different stories: stories about Jewish influence among Read more [...]
When I was a young man, my father took me aside and told me that masturbation was not something to feel guilty about. This was not because he was an overly permissive man or was encouraging it, it was because he clearly didn't want me to go through a long adolescence of guilt. The funny thing about this talk was that something about it actually convinced me that masturbation was wrong. Which, I'd be sorry for my dad to know led to, well, a long adolescence of guilt. I kept making the leap between Read more [...]
It is very popular in some circles to criticize the institutional church. What's funny is which circles it's most popular with: radical Christians, some pastors, unhealthy Christians, and unbelievers. Three circles that would seem to have little in common.
First, let's take pastors. Not all pastors are critics of the "church" -- many are on the opposite end, but I must say that I have been in more than one service in more than one place where the pastor starts rolling out the Barna statistics explaining Read more [...]
I'd like to present the story of what God is doing in history with a slightly different angle than you may have heard before.
Phase 1 - The Return.
Jesus did not simply go to heaven when he died. He could have just been up there just sitting with God the Father but he did more -- He returned to earth in a resurrected body. It was in this resurrected body that he gave the disciples the great commission, saying that "all authority" had been given to him and they were "disciple all the Read more [...]
As far as I can tell from a brief search online there is no list of the most influential Charismatic churches in America. Therefore, I'm going to give it a shot. There is a whole lot that I don't know about, so I look forward to input from people out there. Also, size and influence are different. Think about things like:
How much they are a leader in defining a certain aspect or vision of Christianity?
How many many followers or copycats you have?
Is the pastor on the circuit of conference Read more [...]
One of the things that has become increasingly clear to me is that idolatry is the basic condition of mankind. We love darkness (John 3:19). I was discussing this recently with my ministry partner because we’ve both had the experience repeatedly where you give someone a good book, that might have something that’s just a little bit off in it. Instead of getting the really good meat out of it, they latch on to the one thing that is really off in the book. I was telling my wife about this and Read more [...]
In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is given a dream of a giant statue. It has a head of gold, a chest of silver, a core of bronze, and feet of iron mixed with clay. Daniel interprets this dream as four great empires which were coming to rule over the earth.
Gold -- The Babylonians
Silver -- The Persians
Bronze -- Alexander and the Greeks
Iron and Clay -- The Romans
All of this happened exactly as Daniel prophesied. The last event, however Read more [...]
I'll give you a hint. This is a trick question. Just like the word "love" the word "test" has multiple dimensions of meaning. Many ministries want to answer this question "yes" or "no" but because of these multiple dimensions of meaning, you can't just give a simple answer. You have to separate out the meanings to get a true Biblical teaching out.
First, right out of the gate we know that God does not test anyone in the sense of "tempting" them with evil. The Bible is explicit in saying this in Read more [...]
One strategy of the enemy in academic argumentation is the false dichotomy: two choices exist, at either end of the spectrum, and you are forced to choose one. But what if neither one is right? Or what if both are right? Consider these examples:
1. Philosophy - empiricist or rationalist?
2. Economics - capitalist or socialist?
3. Psychology - nature or nurture?
"I'd like Both, Please."
Most academic disciplines have false dichotomies throughout the discipline. Certain topics have existed Read more [...]
The canon of Western Philosophy is interesting because it forms a pretty clear story. The early Western philosophers, the ancient Greeks, were rationalistic and deductive. The medieval/renaissance philosophers were basically Catholic theologians. The modern philosophers were empirical, skeptical, and secular. The late modern philosophers were atheist and starting to toy with relativism. The most recent philosophers are postmodern, which means they are hard to categorize but are generally relativist, Read more [...]
College students are often frustrated by professors and textbooks that seem to be speaking in a foreign language. This "foreign language" has both positive and negative aspects. First, it is important to recognize that it is necessary. Each academic discipline has its own vocabulary because it is trying to discuss a different part of the intellectual world. Terms are developed as ways of encapsulating ideas. In this way, such terms are useful because once understood, they simplify the debate because Read more [...]
In psychological circles, "humanism" refers to man's innate goodness. In contrast to Christian theology, which posits man as a naturally depraved, sinful creature, secular psychology prefers to assume that man is essentially good. Data interpretation, then, is carefully gerrymandered to protect this claim.
Why secular psychology has taken this route is interesting, since historically psychologists did not generally believe this way. From the foundation of Freud, psychologists believed man was inherently Read more [...]
Psychology, as a science, is built upon methodological naturalism. Challenge the naturalism, and you can't be a psychologist. At least, not in the Academy. Methodological naturalism means that only empirical data is admissible to support a scientific hypothesis, and that only naturalistic (sensory, visible, testable) conclusions are viable science. No supernatural allowed. And no untestable hypotheses, unfalsifiable ideas.
In practice, this sounds good. Nobody wants the study of human beings, individuals, Read more [...]
Cultural Anthropology is getting more popular these days, especially as globalism prompts the Western world to open up more to the Non-West. We are getting to be smarter world citizens, and seeing that very important histories parallel our own. And not only are there good stories, but there are tragic ones too… stories of people who have been exploited, enslaved, or just forgotten by the industrialized world. Cultural Anthropology aims to insert some justice into this situation, and bring world Read more [...]
It has become more clear to me recently how tightly the the mode of baptism ties to your view of Christian cultural engagement, and how both of these are correlated to where you live on the high or low church spectrum. Here is the simplified version.
For most of Christian history baptism was practiced on infants. Now, from a Reformed viewpoint, this is a debate about covenant theology -- are the children members of the covenant or not. From a Catholic viewpoint, its about something similar, but Read more [...]
I was part of a church once that had a post-millennial flavor to their teaching. In a nutshell, the people who say Jesus is not returning until we take over everything. And that there really won't be any tribulation, basically in the long view, things will get better and better and better until we win. I couldn't swallow this down because it seemed to need to dispatch with too much of the Bible. For example that Revelation was written before 70 A.D. and was mostly all about that. In other words, Read more [...]
The universe is an astounding thing. The more insight we get into it, the more we all marvel. Physics is responsible for our glimpse into the universe, and for our knowledge about natural laws and forces. It is considered the ground of "hard sciences" because the laws and forces uncovered influence systems involved in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and ecology. The intrigue of physics, then, is its connectedness to data and mathematics.... highly provable and certain discoveries. The sad part, Read more [...]