Why No Testimony is Boring

What’s your testimony?

I’ve been a Christian since Junior High and I’ve met many Christians over the years. I’ve heard many testimonies of faith, but I’ve seem to notice a common denominator with many: Many people think they have a “boring” testimony.

Let me say this: There is no such thing as a boring testimony. When God raises someone from the dead, it is always staggering.

I think I  know what people mean when they say “boring.” They mean to say, I think, that they’ve never done drugs, didn’t sleep around, didn’t have an alcohol problem, didn’t come to the end of themselves, and were born into a Christian family where God saved them at a young age. If this is the case, the testimony may not be as dramatic as some, but it certainly isn’t boring.

A testimony is what our life was like before we got saved, how we got saved, and how our life is now different because we are saved. The remedy to removing the word “boring” from our understanding of our testimony is a proper understanding of what our life was like before we got saved.

Remember what Paul said to the Ephesians?

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

According to Paul, before we met Jesus, we were:

  1. Dead in our sins.
  2. Following satan.
  3. Children of wrath.

Then God saves you. And makes you a Christian where you become adopted, forgiven, loved, sharing in Christ’s inheritance, and seated with him in the heavenly places. We go from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. Surely, there is no such thing as a boring testimony.

We can have testimonies that are more or less dramatic, but never one that is boring. When God raises someone from the dead, it is always staggering.

Post your comments below.

A Theological Answer To Your Anxiety

We all struggle or have struggled with anxiety. We might know why practically, but do we understand why theologically?

There are many different theological answers one might give for our anxious behaviors. But in this post, however, I’ll give one reason that I’ve noticed many Christians seem unhealthily preoccupied with: the hidden will of God for their life. 

The Bible speaks of the will of God in several ways. So when someone asks, “What’s the will of God for my life?” it’s not as easy to answer as one might think. We first have to define what we mean by will before answering the question. Though there are more, the most frequent usages of the word will in Scripture refer to (1) God’s decretive will, (2) God’s preceptive will, and (3) God’s will of disposition.

In his book, What is Reformed Theology?, R.C. Sproul defines the aforementioned wills in this way:

1) Decretive Will: Sometimes referred to as God’s sovereign, efficacious will, by which what he decrees must necessarily come to pass. If God decrees sovereignly that something will happen, it will certainly take place. The decretive will is irresistible.

2) Preceptive Will: Refers to God’s precepts or commands as outlined in Scripture. It’s the law he enjoins upon his creatures.

3) Will of Disposition (or desire): This describes God’s attitude. It refers to or means that which is pleasing or delightful to God.

But then there’s also the hidden will of God. Or some refer to it as God’s will of direction. What does this will entail? This entails what most of us are looking for: knowledge of every little detail of God’s specific, individual plan for our life.

It answer questions like: Will I get married? What city will I live in five years from now? Will I get the job? How will the meeting go next week? When will I die? How will I die? We want to know this because we’re trying to be God.

I don’t think that Christians who battle anxiety are fretfully anxious about God’s decretive and preceptive will, or his will of disposition. We know that God is sovereign, we trust the Bible, and we seek to please him. What I am arguing, however, is that when we do struggle with anxiety, it is primarily because we are anxious about God’s hidden will for life.

In practical language, we might say something like, “I’m having a hard time trusting that God will provide for my future, that everything is going to turn out okay.” If we were to translate this into theological language, we would say, “I’m having a hard time trusting in God’s hidden will for my future.”

Do you see how this creates anxiety?

We’re anxious because we want to know something God does not intend to reveal beforehand. To be preoccupied with God’s hidden will is a fool’s errand. God’s hidden will is just that: hidden. It’s a secret — he is not pleased to reveal it, nor is he pleased that we seek it. This, moreover, as Sproul puts it, is “an invasion of God’s privacy.” God’s hidden will for our life is none of our business, and it is not spiritual nor helpful to seek it. As Deuteronomy 29:29 puts it, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God . . .”

Martin Luther contributes by saying:

For thoughts of this kind (God’s hidden will), which we want to search out something more sublime, above, and outside that which has been revealed about God, are thoroughly diabolical. We accomplish nothing by them expect to hurl ourselves into destruction, because they propose an object to us that defies investigation, to wit, the unrevealed God. Let God rather keep His decrees and mysteries in hiding.

There is a great relief when we let God do his job. Yes, God has a specific plan for your life. Yes, all of God’s decrees will certainly come to pass for you. Yes, he is working all things out for good in Christ Jesus. And yes, in hindsight we’ll be able to trace his hand to see how and where he’s brought us. But, while we’re in the here and now, we don’t need to be anxious about stuff we don’t know. We don’t need to be anxious about every little decision we make. As Kevin DeYoung says, “Because we have radical confidence in God’s will of decree, we can commit ourselves to his will of desire, without fretting about his will of direction.”

Let God be God. To be preoccupied with God’s hidden will is not spiritual nor helpful. God does not burden us with the task with respect to figuring it out. Don’t self-inflict yourself with anxiety by fretting about something that God will not reveal to you. Instead, give your life to God’s revealed will trusting in God’s decrees for your life, knowing that our great God and King is both sovereign and good.

Post your comments below.

4 Questions to Consider When Choosing A Church

If you are in the process of choosing a church, or know someone who is, some sort of criteria for the decision-making process can be helpful. But there’s no reason to nit-pick until the cows come home. Every church has its flaws. If you find a church that’s perfect and then become a member it will, then, well, no longer be perfect.

So where do we start? In his book, Rescuing Ambition, Dave Harvey proposes four questions — to go along with follow-up questions — as a helpful guide. These questions are certainly not exhaustive nor comprehensive, but they do portray a healthy outline for what we should primarily look for.

Harvey suggests that we ask the following questions:

1) What are the church’s values and vision? What does the church teach? It is sound, biblical doctrine? Is the gospel at the heart of what the church is about? And how is this doctrine applied in the church’s values and vision? Does the church practice what it preaches?

2) How is the church pastored and governed? Is the governing structure of the church one that can be supported by the Scriptures? Are the leaders (elders and pastors) qualified to hold the positions they have, based on the biblical qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9? Are the teaching, pastoring, and pastor care of the church done with faithful and gracious application rooted in the hope of the gospel and consistent with God’s Word?

3) Is there true fellowship among the people? Do you see evidence that membership in the church goes beyond attendance at meetings and acts of service? Though these are important, church membership should lead to developing relationships and deepening fellowship. Each person should find a spiritual family and home in the church (Heb. 10:24-25).

4) Does the gospel move the church toward those outside the church? A great evidence of a good church is that they see beyond themselves. We don’t turn inward and construct church cocoons. Nope, the Great Commission is real, it’s potent, and it moves us toward the lost.

Harvey concludes by saying, “Those are the four ways we ask visitors to evaluate our church. Notice that a lot of things we might think are important — size, worship style, socioeconomic makeup, denominational affiliations don’t make it on the high list.” Indeed, it’s not that those things aren’t necessarily important, but that they’re simply not preeminent.

So, find a church. Become a member. Serve and sacrifice … and get ready to experience a lot of joy and annoyance.

Hey, it’s a family after all, right?

Post your comments below.

C.S. Lewis and John Stott on Ambition

Are your motives behind your ambitions selfish or godly? Are you doing what you’re doing so that Jesus may be made much of, or so that you would be made much of?

These can be tough questions. Especially for those of us that are highly ambitious. But we should find comfort in that ambitions for God are not just allowed, but commanded. We are not called to be passive. But still, it’s helpful to figure out the “why” behind our “what” for our ambitions.

Ambition Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Sky and Clouds.

In his less famous book, God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis describes ambition this way:

Ambition! We must be careful what we mean by it. If it means the desire to get ahead of other people . . . then it is bad. If it means simply wanting to do a thing well, then it is good. It isn’t wrong for an actor to want to act his part as well as it can possibly be acted, but the wish to have his name in bigger types than other actors is a bad one . . . What we call “ambition” usually means the wish to be more conspicuous or more successful than someone else. It is this competitive element in it that is bad. It is perfectly reasonable to want to dance well or look nice. But when the dominant wish is to dance better or look nicer than the others — when you begin to feel that if the others danced as well as you or looked as nice as you, that would take all the fun out of it — then you are going the wrong way.

John Stott is helpful here as well. From his well-known, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, Stott shows us that ambitions for God must be big:

Ambitions for self may be quite modest . . . Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world? No. Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honour, and accorded this true praise, which is the supreme place. We become ambitious for the spread of his kingdom and righteousness everywhere.

Don’t let less ambitious Christians make you feel bad for your dreams. But in the same token, be sure to regularly examine your heart, and truly get to the bottom of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The Day I Met Lecrae

“What’s up, fam?”

These were the words that Lecrae spoke to me when I introduced myself to him. I remember the day like it was yesterday. But it was 2008.

It was the beginning of my sophomore year and I attended a college in a town of about 10,000 people. All my life I had been a fan of Hip-Hop music, but never was able to attend a concert. Soon into the Fall semester, I started hearing rumors of a Christian Hip-Hop concert that would be held at a small Church in town. When I heard my favorite Artist was going to be there, I knew I had to find a way to attend.

The interesting thing about this whole story, though, was that Lecrae wasn’t “big” yet. He may be a household name now, but he wasn’t back then. He just dropped his third album, Rebel, and he was starting to blow up, but the bomb hadn’t quite ticked yet. Looking back on it, I think I met him right before he starting getting international notoriety.

At any rate, I showed up to the small Church building on a cool Friday evening in Maryville, Missouri. I was with some friends and our adrenaline was soaring. We weren’t the only ones who got the memo for the concert as there were probably about 500 hundred of us total packed in a tiny, quaint Church building. There was hardly any room to move let alone breathe. But nevertheless, the concert was incredible. It was electryfying. The energy was high, the beats were jamming, and my heart was encouraged.

But this wasn’t the best part.

After the concert, there was an opportunity – for those willing to wait in a very long line – to meet Lecrae. Knowing that I might never get this chance again, I decided to wait. I only waited in line for 30 minutes but it felt like three hours – I couldn’t wait to meet the guy.

In front of me in line was a boy who was eleven or twelve. Or maybe he was a teenager – I’m not quite sure, I just know that he was very young. The most amazing part of this story wasn’t when I talked to Lecrae, but when he did. As I waited in line, I couldn’t help but notice this young boy’s facial expression and body language– it was one of fear, of distress, of concern. I thought he might be very nervous to be near the presence of a guy like Lecrae’s stature.

I was wrong.

I’ll never forget the interaction between this young fellow and Lecrae. I thought he was going to ask for an autograph or request to take a picture. But he didn’t. When he finally got to meet Lecrae, their dialogue caught me off guard. Considering the nearness of both Lecrae and the young fellow in a small Church, I was able to hear their conversation, which went a little something like this:

Boy: “Hi, Lecrae.”

Lecrae: “What’s up, young man!”

Boy: “Umm. Umm. Nothing. I have a question for you.”

Lecrae: “What’s up?”

Boy: “My grandma is about to die. She is not a Christian. I want to share the gospel with her, but don’t know how. I’m very concerned about her. I don’t want her to die apart from knowing Jesus. Lecrae, what should I do?”

I was stunned.

Most kids his age — or mine, for that matter — would not have asked such a question when meeting someone they greatly admire. We typically want a photo to share on Social Media, an autograph to show our friends, a hug or hand shake that we’ll remember forever. But this kid was concerned for the salvation of someone he loved.

Lecrae’s reply was memorable, yet simple. He humbly and confidently opened his Bible to the book of Colossians. He quoted Paul in the last chapter: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word . . .” Lecrae emphasized the last part of a door being opened for the Word. He said to the kid, “Pray for an open door to share the gospel, share the gospel, keeping praying and trust God. And that’s all you can do.”

He thanked Lecrae and walked away. I never saw the young fellow again.

It was then my turn to meet my favorite rapper. But how would I respond after what just took place? What was I supposed to do? In a moment, the young fellow’s question put things back into perspective for me. There’s nothing wrong with having heroes, admiring loved ones, or even asking for an autograph from someone who’s inspired you. But this kid’s question reminded me of what’s truly important in life: Knowing Jesus, and introducing others to him.

In the end, I just simply thanked Lecrae for his music, laid my hands on him, and prayed for God’s blessing over his ministry and life. We shook hands, and then I left the Church.

I went home full of joy and deeply encouraged. I was very grateful that I got to meet Lecrae and pray for him. I had a lot of fond memories from the night, but what happened right before meeting Lecrae tops them all. I often think about that moment, even to this day.

I wonder if Grandma ever became a Christian.

11 Books Every Christian in College Should Read

 

I started becoming an avid reader during my college years. And now that I’m over three years out of college — and having read dozens and dozens of books — I think I have a grasp for what reading material would be helpful for a Christian during his or her college years. While there are a plenteous amount of books that could have made this list, I’ve chosen eleven. Outside of the Bible, of course, below are the eleven books every Christian in college should read and why.

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11) What is Reformed Theology?, by R.C. Sproul. In many ways, college is a formative time for developing what you really believe. This book will help you with the basics of classic Reformed theology, and show you why it is so important to adhere to sound doctrine.

10) Radical, by David Platt. I’m convinced that many Christians in college who live in America are asleep with respect to overseas missions and why it is so important. This book will wake you up.

9) Why We Love the Church, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. At your age, you might be struggling with a low view of the Church in light of your upbringing, theological ignorance, personal pride, or whatever. I was once there. This book will show you that your Christian walk is not just “you and Jesus,” and help you grow a love for God’s bride.

8) The Soul-Winner, by Charles Spurgeon. During college, you’ll have more time to spend with unbelievers than you probably will for the rest of your life. This book will teach you how to reach the lost and make you weep for the lost.

7) Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper. Become a doctor. Be a teacher. Go into the financial services industry. Get your degree and excel at your job. But don’t waste your life. By taking the reader through much Scripture and experience, Piper will show you how and why this matters. Because after all, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” (Charles Studd)

6) The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn. You might be a broke college student, but the two dollars in your bank account is still the Lord’s. Alcorn will show you how to steward your money to the glory of God — an important principle to learn at your age.

5) Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. Packer reveals the excellencies of God and will help you know him better with your mind, soul, and heart. When a theological book sells over one million copies, you should pay attention.

4) Prayer, by Tim Keller. Fewer things in the Christian life are more important than prayer. Developing a strong prayer life is essential in college and this book is simply outstanding. If there’s better book written on prayer, I haven’t read it.

3) Desiring God, by John Piper. Until I read this book, I didn’t know that God wanted me to be happy in him, and that he is happy in himself. Piper shows the reader that true pleasure and ultimate satisfaction comes not from parties, popularity, and prominence — but comes from God himself.

2) The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul. You are not cool; you are a Christian. At your age, you might be tempted to think too highly of yourself, and too lowly of God. I did. This book is by no means safe and will have you trembling in the presence of God.

1) Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung. This book is not the best on the list, but considering the strains of college, it might be the most helpful to read during college. Why? I don’t know a single college student who doesn’t struggle with answers to nagging questions like, “Who should I marry?” and “What city should I live in?” and “What is God’s will for my life?” These questions are probably more pressing, more prominent, during college than any other time in your life. This book will help you answer those questions, remove anxiety for your future, and increase your faith in God’s providential hand in all of your decisions in life.

I could have picked 50 but I was nice and picked 11. If any of the aforesaid books have not been read by you and you are out of college, they are still helpful reads! For another helpful resource on deciding which books to read, check out, “40 Books Every Christian Should Read from The Blazing Center. I refer to it often when deciding on my next read.

Any books you’d like to add to the list? Post your comments below.

5 Reasons Why I Created @JohnCalvinDaily on Twitter

“John Calvin? Wait, he’s the guy that had someone burned alive, right?”

Comments on Calvin — that’s what I usually got when I told various friends that I decided to create a Twitter account attributed to the Reformer’s words. I think this is because while Calvin is very influential, he is also controversial. More than being controversial, though, he is widely misunderstood — especially from those outside of the tribe, and entirely from people who have never read his work. I find that people who have read Calvin the least criticize him the most.

It was a Saturday evening, and I was reading Michael Horton’s,Calvin on the Christian Life. Almost every page was saturated with a copious amount of Calvin’s quotes. “These thoughts are brilliant,” I thought to myself. “I need to share this with someone! But how?”

That’s when the idea of a Twitter account entered my brain. I created the account — and haven’t looked back since. Why did I create the account?

Here are five reasons:

1) To point people to Jesus. Calvin’s work was ruthlessly and unapologetically biblical. Calvin understood the Christocentric nature of the Scriptures: “Every doctrine of the law, every command, every promise, always points to Christ.” Rightly understanding that the Bible is about Jesus, Calvin took pains to make sure his work would point us to him. Whether prayer, providence, or predestination — anyone who has read Calvin knows that his words are centered on Christ’s finished work.

2) To point people to Calvin’s Institutes. Steve Lawson says that Calvin’s, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” was the greatest work that came out of the Reformation. Some would go so far as to say that Calvin’s Institutes is the most influential book of all-time, outside of the Bible, of course. Either way, I’m always surprised to meet so many Christians who have never heard of the Institutes, let alone care to read it. This is probably because it is over 500 years old, and is over 1,500 pages long (pending on the version you get). Numbers like this can intimidate people and I get it. But this book is better than gold, and it is more than worth the time and energy and labor to read it. I’m hoping that some of the quotes that are 140 characters long would encourage people to read his book that is over 1,500 pages long.

3) To alleviate the caricatures. Notice I said alleviate, not eliminate. There’s no way I plan on ending all the negative things said about Calvin, and I don’t care to. Heck, some of those things are true. The man struggled with pride and anger. I’m not coming to his aid to defend him as much as I am trying to show people that not all the condescending content you read about him online is true. For example, Calvin is often criticized for his belief in the doctrine of double predestination. His critics would accuse him for rejoicing over the fact that God predestines people to hell. But this is not true. Calvin himself said, “I pray for the salvation of every person” and, ” … it is our duty to pray for all who trouble us; to desire the salvation of all people; and even to be careful for the welfare of every individual.” Some of the adverse things you read about him online are true. Most of them are not.

4) To encourage people to read more widely. Some of my favorite authors alive today are Tim Keller, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. I love reading them. But I think there is a problem if I’m only willing to read them. Many Christians either spend too much time reading the Puritans and Reformers or no time at all. There should be a balance. I think Christians should not just read wisely, but widely. Read C.S. Lewis. Read some fiction. Read some excellent secular books on leadership and business. Be especially sure to read Scripture and your favorite Reformed writers often. By revealing Calvin’s work on Twitter, I’m hoping this will spark more of an interest for people to not only go back and read other Reformers as well, but also to consider reading material outside of what they typically read. It take a brilliant thought to help spark this. And Calvin’s mind qualifies.

5) To encourage myself to read more Calvin. What better way to keep yourself honest than to have thousands of people looking for a Calvin quote everyday that you have to post? Creating this account has been a huge joy for multiple reasons. Mostly because other people are encouraged by Calvin’s words, but also because I myself gladly and willingly have to carve out regular time to read in order to post. There are so many books and sermons and letters to choose from — and the journey has just begun.

Post your comments below.