Monday, January 27, 2014

11 Warning Signs of Immaturity

When I was 15 years old I went to the DMV to get my learners permit. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I failed the exam the first time I took it. The section of the test that did me in was the one on road signs. I failed the exam because I couldn’t read the signs. When it comes to friendship, dating, and marriage there are signs that we must learn to recognize. These signs point out traces of immaturity that must be dealt with in order to be a good friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, and/or spouse. If you never learn to recognize these warning signs, you’re headed for trouble relationally. Just like we’re expected to know what road signs mean in order to drive a car, we must also be prepared to recognize certain warning signs in life in order for our relationships to be fruitful.

Here are 11 warning signs to help us recognize immaturity and ultimately grow up. These come from Clayton & Charie King’s book “12 Questions to Ask Before You Marry” (whether single or married, I highly recommend it). See if any of these look familiar:

1. You have yet to keep a job for more than six months.

2. You lack self-control in your life (eating, drinking, drugs, video games, porn/sex, etc.)

3. Your relationships look more like a roller coaster than a marathon.

4. You always play the victim.

5. You tend to speak negatively of other people.

6. You are plagued by jealousy.

7. You don’t finish what you start.

8. You can’t say no.

9. You fall in love too fast.

10. Your dating relationships are too physical.

11. You have a problem with authority.

The Apostle Paul said this:

I Cor. 13:11 – “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child. I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

Framed within a chapter that emphasizes love as its central theme, Paul is making the case that the appropriate time to act like a child is when one is a child. In essence, Paul is declaring that if you want to show true love to others, you have to grow up. There must come a point where we acknowledge warning signs such as these by repenting of childish ways and growing up. If not, we run the risk of destroying our futures, damaging relationships, and dishonoring God.

So exactly how do you grow up? As in all things, God’s word is our guide and Jesus is our example. When you’re confused on how to live, look to and learn from the Master. Personal maturity will flow naturally from a life that is surrendered to God. This will include, but is not limited to, a God-empowered resolve to cultivate Godly convictions and embrace responsibility.

That being said, are you willing to grow up?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

God's Will (Series Recap)

Since June of this year, God has opened my eyes and heart to numerous realities about His will. These truths have served to both strengthen and deepen my love for Him. I wanted to share some of those truths as well as a recap of the series we just wrapped up on God’s will at our BBC@WCU and UNCA venues. Before I do that, I must give credit to some mighty men that God has used to help shape my theology of His will: Bruce Frank (my pastor), Stuart Henslee, Clayton King, Steven Furtick, J.D. Greear and Kevin DeYoung. I’m grateful to God for each of these men.

Here are the highlights:

Before we can know God’s will we must first know God. The first crucial step in discovering God’s will for your life isn’t to know what He knows but to know and trust who he is. Many mistake the two by putting them in reverse order. Instead of seeking to know God first, they seek to know what he knows and as a result, become frustrated when life seems to be spinning out of control. Ultimately, when we trust God’s heart we won’t feel compelled to trace His hand.

When we walk in God’s ways we will be in God’s will. God’s ways are synonymous with the revealed will of God (the black and white will of God that is clearly stated within the pages of His word). To walk in God’s ways is to align the patterns of your life with the purposes of God.

Here are four unmistakable examples of God’s ways that we touched on during this series:

God’s will is that you have a relationship with him (I Timothy 2:3-4; II Peter 3:9). In no uncertain terms, God wants you to know Him. We can’t know what a person desires when we don’t know who a person is. Knowing God is what enables you to do His will. Our ability to act on what God desires flows from a relationship with Him. That was the case with Zaccahaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and can be the case for you.

God’s will is that you be sanctified (I Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification is “a progressive work of both God and man that increases our freedom from sin’s power and that makes us more like Christ” (Grudem). Sanctification unfolds when we submit to the lordship of Jesus by living lives of purity and integrity. The specific example we focused on was God’s will for our sexuality. As a college student, one of the practical ways you can honor God in this area is by knowing and respecting your sexual limits. To know your sexual limits is to admit that that you can’t face certain temptations without falling; to respect your sexual limits is to avoid situations where you would have to try. Coincidentally, our attendance increased by 25% the week after I preached on this. Apparently college students like hearing and talking about sex…

God’s will is that you live a Spirit-filled life (Ephesians 5:15-21). To be spirit-filled is to live your life with the assurance that the Spirit of Jesus is with you, in you, and for you. It's more of a rhythm than it is a routine. The rhythm goes like this: God speaks; we obey. Galatians 5:22-23 describes what our lives look like when we do this. But before you can walk in the power of the Spirit you must be willing to do three things: turn from sin by trusting in Christ; listen for God’s voice; do what He says. Those who do this are like walking dynamite in the hands of God!

God’s will is that you glorify Him in the midst of suffering (I Peter 1:6-7). God doesn’t waste any pain on His people. This is why it is more important that we recognize that our pain serves a purpose than it is for us to always know what that purpose is. The Bible is clear: God allows “various trials” so that our faith might be proved genuine. Conflict resolution is an essential part of any lasting relationship.  Those who enjoy lasting relationships are those who have learned to work through, not run from, conflict. There’s not a meaningful relationship in my life today that has yet to experience conflict. Actually, what makes these relationships so meaningful is not the absence of conflict but that they have survived conflict. Our relationship with God is no different. God doesn’t test our faith for the sole purpose of harming us but for the ultimate purpose of restoring us. Had God never allowed my faith to be tested, it would’ve been much harder for me to acknowledge the severity of my sin and in so doing come to appreciate the grace of my Savior. It is only when we view suffering through this lens that we will start echoing the words of Job, “though he slay me, I will hope in him” (13:15).

I am grateful to God for each and every college student who isn’t content with simply hearing about God’s will but who is resolved to apply God’s will. You’re faith challenges me to be more like Jesus! Know that I’m with you heart and soul.

My goal throughout this series and prayer for you today is that you would find yourself saying more and more Psalm 40:18“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Each time I sin, I ask God to save me... Really?

Assurance of salvation is one of the most common struggles I see in the American Church today. While the aim of this post is not to address this struggle fully, I do want to address it truly by clarifying a foundational truth about salvation: Jesus is ENOUGH. When we confuse this truth, we find ourselves in an enslaving cycle of works based righteousness. When we embrace this truth, we enjoy the liberating effects the Gospel is supposed to have both in and through our lives.

The Bible teaches that those who are in Christ are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1). That is to say that those who have been rescued by the saving grace of Jesus are secured eternally by the very same. Paul went so far as to say that our spirits are seated with Christ in heaven upon being raised to life in him (Ephesians 2:6). Those verses simply could not and would not hold water if the penalty of sin still lingered over the lives of those who have trusted in Christ "by grace" and "through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). 

Furthermore, to think that God would reserve the right to administer eternal punishment over believer's lives is to also say that the death of Jesus was powerless to appease His wrath. Romans 3:24-26 clearly shows us that the blood of Jesus was poured out as a "propitiation" for our sins. The basic meaning of propitiation is to "appease" or "satisfy." When Jesus went to the cross, He satisfied the wrath of God once and for all. The Christian who continually approaches God for salvation after each and every time they sin is like a power company who approaches my wife to pay for a bill that I took care of years ago. Legitimate power companies don't work that way and neither does the one true God. Those who do this have either not been saved or have drastically misunderstood the Gospel. Sometimes both. 

What is more, this approach to salvation argues against the power of the cross as well as the testimony of scripture. Such reasoning confuses gift righteousness with works righteousness. The Bible teaches the former not the latter.  Hear me on this: God frees, forgives, and restores us to himself NOT based off of what we do for him but based on what He did for us (II Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5). Although grace is not opposed to effort it is opposed to earning. The reason the Gospel is so beautiful is because we could never earn the benefits God freely offers to us therein. The Gospel declares that the only resume God will accept is that of Jesus. Were that not the case, we would still need to observe the sacrificial laws the of the Old Testament. When Jesus declared "It is finished," it was finished! Thanks to the finished work of Jesus, when God looks upon those who are in Christ, He no longer sees the dysfunction of our sin but rather the perfection of His Son. Thus explaining why Jesus is enough.

An extremely helpful book on this topic is "Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart" by J.D. Greear. You can pick up a copy pretty much anywhere books are sold or online here:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Supporting and Motivating College Students in the Church

The Millennial generation (ages 18-29) is hurting spiritually. The Barna Group conducted a 2011 study on how Millennials with a Christian background would describe their spiritual journeys. Here’s what they learned: 59% have dropped out of church after going regularly; 50% are significantly frustrated about their faith; 57% are less active in church today than they were at 15; and 38% have experienced periods of time where they significantly doubted their faith (For more info on why, check out the book "You Lost Me" by David Kinnaman).

With this in mind, how can the Church effectively support, motivate, and disciple what seems to be a spiritually indifferent generation? Here are three suggestions:

Build relationships: one of the primary ways the Church can uphold this generation of college students is by spending time with them and investing in their lives. Here are a few practical examples of how this can be done: have them over for dinner; offer to do their laundry (detergent and fabric softener aren’t included in tuition); bless them with a gift card (Wal-Mart/gas cards are in high demand). At the end of the day, they simply want to know that we care. Much of why the disciples were so bought in to Jesus was simply because he cared about them. College students are no different. They are far more likely to buy in to Jesus when they see the Church making efforts to pour into them.

Model authenticity: the expressed desire for authenticity is pretty well unanimous among college students. Many are likely to view authenticity as today’s highest virtue. Without visibility, words like life-change, grace, and discipleship become nothing more than a theoretical “pie in the sky” sales pitch. In order to be effective in reaching them, we must be transparent with our own struggles and graceful in how we respond to theirs. Your typical college student will feel ostracized by the Christian who acts as if they have it all together. Quite frankly, they are appalled by pretense. If we want to reach them, we must be real with them.

Prioritize service: college students want to make a difference.  Simply hearing about life change isn’t really enough; they want to be involved in it. This is why they find missional initiatives such as “Love Loud” to be so appealing. College students are much more likely to go all in with the Church that is intentional about displaying the love of Jesus in their community through service and outreach.

The commitment that is required to reach this generation is nothing new. Discipleship always has and always will demand sacrifice. Here’s one of the many reasons that I believe the sacrifice is worth it: when I reflect on the eternal impact that many college students are having on their campus communities in WNC alone, I become more and more convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ is and will continue to be in good hands for many years to come. This may even be the generation that finishes the mission of God’s great Kingdom by spreading the Gospel “to the end of the earth.” Consider this as an invitation to join me in praying for such a good and glorious end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Through Gates of Splendor (Book Review)

Matthew 19:29 – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life (ESV).”

“Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliot has had a significant impact on my understanding of God’s will.  The book chronicles a vivid illustration of what Matthew 19:29 looks like in action. In short, Elliot tells the story of five young missionaries: Jim Elliot (Elisabeth’s husband at the time), Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, Ed McCulley, and Nate Saint. “September 1955 was the month in which the Lord began to weave five separate threads into a single glowing fabric for His own glory.” It was then that each of these men resolved to reach a stone-age tribe in a remote region of Ecuador known as the “Waoranis” with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of danger and uncertainty, they bravely stepped out in faith, naming the mission “Operation Auca.”

While reading this heroic account of self-abandonment, one sobering truth kept stoking the furnace of my heart, mind, and soul: God’s will requires sacrifice.

“Operation Auca” was entirely inconvenient. Before the Waoranis would as much as hear the name of Jesus, three large obstacles had to be addressed. The first obstacle being that the Waorani language was both unknown and unwritten. This meant that each missionary would have to learn and help structure an obscure foreign language. Doing so meant sacrificing great amounts of time and mental energy. This didn’t stop them.

The second looming obstacle dealt with geographical access. Located in a remote eastern region of the jungles of Ecuador, the only way to access Waorani settlements was by foot or a fifteen-minute plane ride from a nearby missionary outpost. Nate Saint’s piloting experience with the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (whose aim was to transport evangelical missionaries, their supplies and their sick to and from remote missionary outposts) helped to swing the tiny window of access to Waorani civilization wide open. The men pressed forward with great zeal and enthusiasm. In the weeks leading up to their initial face-to-face encounter, Saint and the others were deliberate about building a bridge into the Waorani world and culture. As hard as it was, Saint would fly his bright yellow piper over Waorani territory, dropping them gifts in the clearings below. All the while, each of the five men maintained the conviction that if the Waoranis were worth reaching they were also worth knowing. Limited access didn’t stop them.

The third and most frightening obstacle of all was the violent reputation of the Waoranis towards outsiders. Especially white men. Previous expeditions into Waorani territory were typified by surprise attacks and bloody outcomes. No speculation surrounded this fact: outsiders were not welcome. Despite insurmountable odds, God was on their side. These audacious soul winners embraced the reality that in order to obtain God’s objective in this mission, they “had to be willing to be expendable” for Christ. This life-threatening obstacle didn’t stop them.

On January 8, 1956 each of the five men were killed in a spearing raid after an initial and seemingly friendly encounter with the Waoranis. Jim, Roger, Pete, Ed, and Nate paid the highest price in order to share the Gospel with those who had never heard it. Their sacrifice was not in vain. What began with the willingness to die to self resulted in the God-breathed life of many. Is this not how Jesus said it would be? Shortly after the death of her husband, Jim, God opened doors that only he could. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Elisabeth proceeded to convert the majority of the Waoranis to Christianity. Two of the men involved in the spearing raid are now Christians and the New Testament has been translated into their language.

Bottom line: living out God’s will is going to cost you something. You may find yourself asking the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” Based off of the authority of God’s word, I can tell you this much: His will involves personal sacrifice. Although the sacrifice packages itself in various forms through various people, it should always be clearly identifiable as just that, sacrifice. While I wouldn’t mind being wrong, most who read this blog are not called to frontier missions (engaging unreached people groups with the Gospel). That is okay. However, we must all realize that the call to sacrifice for God’s glory is indiscriminate among those who would call Him “Father.” For this much is true: those who sacrifice for His “name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

With the scriptures plainly before us and this example of great sacrifice in mind, I want to ask my brothers and sisters in Christ the very question God is challenging me with: What sacrifices could you start, or continue making that would most glorify Christ’s name? Regardless of what they may be, this is God’s will for our lives.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
~Jim Elliot~

You can order a copy of "Through Gates of Splendor" through the BBC Arden bookstore:

 Elliot, E. (1996). Through Gates of Splendor. Massachussetts. Hendrickson Publishers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The ONE - Do you know Him?

The lines below are are an excerpt from one of Malcolm Muggeridge's writings in the early 1970's (1903-1990). Muggeridge was a British journalist who, later in life, became a relentless defender of the Christian faith. I was confronted with Muggeridge's words in a sermon on Colossians by Pastor Tullian Tchvidjian ( My soul was immediately stirred by the poetic nature of Muggeridge's thoughts on the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ in all things. I believe the substance of these words are worth re-visiting time and time again. Enjoy!

"We look back upon history, and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counterrevolutions, wealth accumulated and wealth disbursed. Shakespeare has written of the rise and fall of great ones, that ebb and flow with the moon.
I look back upon my own fellow countrymen (Great Britain), once upon a time dominating a quarter of the world, most of them convinced, in the words of what is still a popular song, that ‘the God who made them mighty, shall make them mightier yet.’
I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian (Hitler) announce to the world the establishment of a Reich that would last a thousand years. I have seen an Italian clown (Mussolini) say he was going to stop and restart the calendar with his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin (Stalin), acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as being wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.
I have seen America wealthier and, in terms of military weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together–so that had the American people so desired, they could have outdone a Caesar, or an Alexander in the range and scale of their conquests.
All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone! Gone with the wind!
England, now part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixote’s of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.
All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone! Gone with the wind!
Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of One: because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace–the person of Jesus Christ.
I present him as the way, the truth, and the life. Do you know Him?"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Leave the Boat... It's Sinking

Luke 5:10b-11 – “Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

Have you ever made plans that you were fully convinced you would follow through with but didn’t? I think most of us have. The funny thing about planning is that what we plan on in life is often subject to change.

Before Jesus began performing miraculous signs in the presence of the people, the three men named in Luke 5, Peter, James and John, probably weren’t second-guessing their life plans. For each of these men, fishing was a means of survival. It helped pay the bills and put food on the table for the families that depended on them. Despite all this, Luke asserts that each made a bold move after witnessing the unparalleled power and authority of Jesus… They “left everything and followed him.”  Consider the implications of leaving everything in your life for the purpose of following after another: imagine quitting college 3.5 years into your major, walking away from the job that puts gas in your car, or even worse! Putting down your cell phone and disconnecting all forms of social media in response to the realization that there is something far better awaiting you once you do. The point here is not for you to aimlessly go and do the latter but rather to put yourself in the shoes of the men who did and consider whether or not they were crazy or actually onto something. The text tells us that they gave up “everything” in order to be with Jesus. In the original language, the word ‘everything’ actually means… everything.

The implication is short and sweet: the disciples resolved to put everything on the line, including their life plans (which the fishing boats represent) in order to pursue something that was greater. Their obedience to God’s initial call led them to discover their highest purpose in life. The same is true for you and I. My personal ambitions prior to knowing Jesus looked very different than what they shaped into after I truly met Jesus. For instance, I always envisioned myself being a college basketball player that would go on to be a Physical Therapist; not a Psychology student that would go on to be in full-time ministry. You see, the script of my life was dramatically flipped once I began walking with God. The irony of such a course correction is that I now experience a deeper sense of fulfillment in life doing what I said I would never do in contrast to what I thought I would always do. True story, at the age of 11, my Dad said to me: “Jeremy, don’t be surprised if you end up in full-time ministry.” My response went something like this: “fat chance” (Sarcasm intended). Thankfully, I was wrong. The day I left the fishing boats that housed my own selfish ambitions was the same day my innermost passions were awakened. Not to mention I also met my beautiful wife, Victoria, because of it. This never would’ve happened had I chosen to accompany fishing boats. My heart breaks over the countless lives who have done just that and chosen their way over God's way. I am so deeply burdened over this because I can now see, coming out of trying to do it my own way, God's way is far better.

The example initiated by Jesus and obeyed by three simple fishermen changed my life and has the capacity to change yours. In order for it to do just that, an important question should be raised: what fishing boats do you need to leave behind? Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship that is currently draining you of the joy you are entitled to when you are in Christ. It could even be a self-centered pursuit of money and power. Could jealousy have something to do with it? Maybe it’s a lingering feeling of bitterness towards the Father that walked out on you. Regardless of what the boats may be, they’ll end up sinking both you and the people you take with you in it one day. Therefore, I would unashamedly challenge you to leave your boats behind and walk with Jesus. You won’t have all the answers when you do, but you will experience something that is far better; assurance of who you are. A forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), accepted (II Corinthians 5:21), and loved (Romans 5:8) child of God (Ephesians 1:5). Those who are in Christ are entitled to purpose in life. If you feel as if you have none then maybe, just maybe, its because your still holding onto something God intended for you to let go of a long time ago.

Leave the boats behind and follow Jesus. And don’t be surprised if when you do, your nets begin to overflow with passion and purpose.