Making Jesus “Findable” to the World!

Did you know that one of the most frequented internet sites for people wanting to know more about God and Jesus is hosted by Cru?

Since 2002, more than 4 million people have indicated a decision to trust Jesus as a result of visiting one of our evangelistic sites.

Back in February I wrote about how Cru is reaching millions of people through our digital websites everystudent.com and everyperson.com. By utilizing strategic google advertising, literally millions of people from around the world are visiting our sites to learn what it means to trust Jesus for salvation and experience His peace through the adversities of life.

I got involved earlier this year in helping to monitor our Facebook page, which has seen increased interaction as we’ve begun to utilize more advertising on that platform to attract seekers to our site.

A few months ago, Marilyn Adamson, the director of our everystudent.com site sent out a quick e-mail update to let people know how effective the site has been in recent months. I thought you might be encouraged to hear some of the results.

In July, nearly 6 million people visited one of our sites with over 80,000 people indicating a decision for Christ. That’s nearly 2600 people every day making a commitment to Jesus!

Everystudent.com has been translated into more than 40 different languages, giving people from nearly every country in the world an opportunity to access the information on the site in their own language.

Marilyn says, “Many of these people are in India, UK, Egypt, South Africa, Pakistan, China, Australia…all over the world, actually. Some come via a VPN because they live in difficult countries, under threats to them. Yet, in private, God is leading them to EveryStudent.com, then to himself, and revealing himself to them as they grow.”

It’s exciting to see so many lives being changed and it’s especially encouraging to hear from those whose lives have been impacted.

People like Adarkwah, who says, “I appreciate what you are doing for me and am very grateful. I hope by the end of this lesson, I will be the one to tell people how wonderful God is.”

Nikitha says simply, “Thank you so much…my new life has begun.”

Anne wrote, “Thank you for sharing your sites. I read everything you send and more on your sites. Finding this has opened my understanding of faith, grace, etc. It’s amazing! I mean amazing!! I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”

Many of those whose lives have changed by coming to the site and hearing the truth about God and Jesus, are in turn, sharing with others and becoming multiplying disciples.

It’s amazing to me how God uses every avenue at his disposal to reach those who are earnestly seeking him.

The great news is that you can use the site to reach those in your community and sphere of influence as well. To find out how you can make Jesus findable to those around you by utilizing the resources of these websites, go to http://www.everystudent.info. There, you’ll find a wealth of resources that will help you to see the various ways you can actively and passively point people to the site.

Thank you for your prayers and partnership as we seek to make Jesus Findable to Young Adults and the world!

Live Like Molly Day – 2021

NOTE: This is a revision of a post from August 2020. You can access the original post here


It may be the worst fear of every parent – to be awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call telling you your child has been in a car accident.

For my friends Doug and Doris Griffin, their worst fears became reality in the early morning hours of February 22nd, 2015 when they received news that their 23 year old daughter, Molly, had died earlier in a fatal car crash caused by a drunk driver.

I cannot even imagine the searing pain and unthinkable grief that one experiences as a result of such a tragedy.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m hurting and experiencing extreme emotional pain, I’m not a generally kind person. I remember a pastor once say that “a wounded animal is a dangerous animal.” It’s true of people too. When we’re wounded emotionally, we can be dangerously unkind, hurtful and even volatile to those around us.

Amazingly, my friends Doug and Doris, when first confronted by reporters regarding the tragic death of their daughter, did not respond as you might expect.

Doug wrote about his experience in the book Defining Moments: Coping With the Loss of a Child. In the chapter titled “Molly Day”, Doug wrote,

As word spread and people started showing up at our house, it came rather quickly to me that I had to forgive the driver. Even before knowing any details. I wish I could say that by my willpower and through some courageous act I made this decision. But that would be a lie. This time, perspective came quickly calling through the Holy Spirit: “Do you not remember driving as a young man while intoxicated yourself? Did you not come within an eyelash of dying in a car accident yourself when you were 22? Are you not commanded to forgive in order to be forgiven? And what is it that you hate more than anything? Hypocrisy.”

Later, when the first reporter showed up at their house, Doug said that the first words out of his mouth were, “I just want you to know that we have forgiven the driver.”

In this era of cancel culture and vigilante mobs who demand immediate and swift justice, what would compel a person to so quickly forgive a person they’ve never met, who’s committed an egregious crime and taken away one of the most precious things we love? This response does not seem natural, as evidenced by the reporter’s shocked expression.

Indeed, Doug and Doris’s response WASN’T natural….it was Supernatural!

Doug continued his explanation to the reporter:

“You see we are Christians and we are commanded to forgive. Did you know that Jesus forgave the very men who murdered him from the cross? If he can do that, I can forgive the driver.”

Doug also admitted that he “didn’t want to become known as the angry father who screamed for retribution or revenge.”

Later, when the time came for the driver to be sentenced, Doug and Doris were in the courtroom. California law requires that judges allow anyone who was impacted by a crime be allowed to speak at the time of sentencing. When it was Doris’s turn to speak, she pushed through the pain and the grief and expressed her forgiveness to the driver. Then Doug spoke. He writes,

…as I then rose to speak, I fought through the tears, I shared with
the drunk driver what I was sure Molly would say: “You took my life, you nearly killed my friends and you hurt every person I ever loved…And I forgive you.

(Side Note: You can read my related blog post about cancel culture and Forgiveness here.)

How does one move on after losing a loved one? As Doug asked, “how do we lean into this unceasing grief?”

Many people will do something to try to preserve the memory of their loved one. Some may set up a scholarship fund. Others may set up a charitable foundation. Doug and Doris opted for a different avenue to honor Molly’s memory and legacy.

Thursday, August 26 will be the 7th annual “Molly Day”!

Doug writes, “I told Doris that we needed to celebrate Molly’s life on her birthday and not focus on how she died. I said we needed to have an annual Molly Day. Doris, with a little help from her friends, took my idea and put it on steroids. She turned it into #LiveLikeMolly and came up with the perfect way to honor her: perform acts of kindness for others to establish her legacy as the kind, loving, wonderful person she was.”

And so every year in early August, we get a postcard from Doug and Doris that reminds us of Molly and her birthday. This Thursday, August 26th would have been Molly’s 30th birthday. Instead, it’s the 7th annual “Molly Day”, where those who knew Molly and those who have come to know her story are encouraged to #LiveLikeMolly by participating in random acts of kindness to those around them.

I wish I could say that I live EVERY day like Molly Day, but I don’t. I’m selfish and I often just think of my own needs instead of others. But this Thursday, I invite you to join me in “Molly Day 2021”. Use the hashtag #LiveLikeMolly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share your stories of something kind and unselfish that you were able to do for someone else.

Together, we can help honor the memory of Molly while at the same time providing small moments of cheer and joy, something I think we all could desperately use right about now!

 

#LiveLikeMolly

A Modern Day Version of an Ancient Heresy

John 1

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few years ago I received a knock on my front door early on a Saturday morning. There, on my porch to greet me were two friendly gentlemen from the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses who wanted to talk to me about my religious views and how I could experience eternal life.

They gave me a small red book entitled, “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth” and asked me to read it (see photo above). They promised to return the following week and get my thoughts on what I had read.

I was already familiar with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their teachings but I had not read the book they were offering so I agreed to take the book, read it and reconvene the following week for a discussion.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an offshoot organization of Biblical Christianity that traces its roots to a pastor named Charles Taze Russell, who, in the late 1870’s began printing a monthly magazine known as “Zion’s Watchtower”. A few years later, Russell formed the Watchtower Tract Society, which is the publishing arm of what is now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On a number of levels, the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs and teachings don’t seem much different from any other Christian church one might attend. However, when it comes to the person of Jesus, there is a huge difference in what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe compared to the traditional Christian view of Jesus.

I’ve written a number of times (here and here) on why our view and understanding of Jesus matters. The Jehovah’s Witnesses actually teach a view of Jesus that is known as Arianism, which takes its name from an Alexandrian priest from the 3rd century named Arius, who believed that Jesus was a created being, and thus did not possess a divine nature.

Arianism was condemned as heresy by the early church because it denied the divinity of Christ. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are the modern day torch-bearers of this ancient heresy known as Arianism.

What does any of this have to do with our passage today?

This first chapter of John is rich with imagery and insights into the true nature of Jesus.

Right away, in the first verse, John directly states several things very plainly:

    1. The Word existed in the beginning – implying that Jesus was in existence when nothing existed. This clearly alludes to his eternal nature.
    2. The Word was with God – implying that Jesus is distinct from the Father.
    3. The Word WAS God – implying that Jesus is essentially the same in nature as the Father.

These three ideas form the basis of two long-standing theological doctrines of the Christian church, namely, the divine nature of Jesus, as well as the triune nature of God, both of which the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny.

How do Jehovah’s Witnesses explain this verse (John 1:1)?

The answer is that they don’t. Instead, if you look at their own translation of the Bible (New World Translation), you will see John 1:1 stated this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (John 1:1, NWT)

The Jehovah’s Witnesses change the meaning of John 1:1 in order to fit their preconceived theological view that Jesus is a created being.

The truth is that a Jesus who is not divine is not able to save us. This is why it’s important to understand Jesus for who he really is.

In this passage, we learn quite a number of essential truths about the nature of Jesus.

In addition to the truths that Jesus is eternal and that Jesus is God (from verse 1), we learn from verse 3 that Jesus is the creator of everything:

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In verse 4, we learn that Jesus is the source of life:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

In verse 12, we learn that those who receive Jesus and believe in His name are granted the rights to become His children:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

And verse 14 tells us that this Jesus, who displays the glory of the One and Only (God) came to earth to dwell among us. This is what theologians refer to as the incarnation – God becoming man and living among us:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

If there is any doubt as to the meaning of this verse, that Jesus is indeed God and became a man to dwell among humanity, think about this prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, which describes the future Messiah:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

The word “Immanuel” literally means “God with us.” One of the names for the Messiah, according to the prophet Isaiah, would be “Immanuel” or “God with us.” That would be a pretty unfitting name if Jesus is not actually God as the Jehovah’s Witnesses assert.

Imagine – the God of the universe, the one who created EVERYTHING and has always existed, the one who is the source of life, this Jesus became a man and dwelt among us!

This concept was absolutely unthinkable to the average person living in the time of Jesus. And yet, the Old Testament prophets predicted it, and the apostle John not only witnessed it, but wrote about it so that we might come to believe in Jesus, receive Him and become His children!


NOTE: For those who might wonder how we know that the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation of John 1:1 is incorrect, first know that no reputable Greek scholar has translated the Greek text the way the Jehovah’s Witnesses do. For an explanation of why their view is not correct, check out this thorough, yet detailed blog post that explains why the traditional biblical translation (“the Word was God”) is the correct translation.


Reflection

What has been your view and understanding of the nature of Jesus?

In what ways does this verse demonstrate to you that Jesus is indeed divine?

In your view, what is the significance about the fact that God came and dwelt among us? 

How would you respond to someone who asserted that Jesus was not God but was a created being? What Scriptures would you use to demonstrate that Jesus is indeed divine?

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

Dealing with Gray Areas

1 Corinthians 10

23“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake — 29the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

When is the last time you wondered if the meat you were about to eat had been sacrificed to idols?

That’s probably never happened to you but in the New Testament culture, this was a big issue that created a lot of controversy.

The Roman Empire was an amalgamation of many diverse cultures that had been conquered and grafted into the Roman/Greek culture. As a result, there were hundreds of different religions and gods that the people worshiped and animal sacrifice was a normal part of worship for most of these religions.

So the context of this passage is one in which Christians were wrestling with whether or not it was morally right for them to eat a meal with someone when they know the prepared food had been previously sacrificed to a pagan deity and then later sold at the local market.

Though we don’t wrestle with this exact issue today, Paul outlines several principles that enable us to make wise biblical decisions when we’re faced with unclear moral choices today. In some Christian circles, we refer to these issues as “gray areas” – issues the Bible doesn’t specifically speak about but there’s an element of the issue that might make it morally questionable.

Classic “gray areas” might include: drinking, smoking, dancing, gambling, watching R-rated movies, listening to certain kinds of music, etc.

The Bible never says anything about R-rated movies, as movies didn’t even exist until a little over 100 years ago. So how can we know whether it’s ok to partake in some of these activities that some have questioned?

Paul gives a number of principles that we can apply to current situations.

The first thing Paul says is that even though we may be permitted to do certain things (in other words, it doesn’t clearly violate God’s laws) doesn’t mean it is beneficial or constructive. The implication is that we should not do things just because it’s technically allowed. We should consider whether it’s beneficial to us, and others!

Paul builds on this by citing his main principle, which is to seek to the good of others, not our own good.

Paul explains that he has no problem eating anything that is set before him because he knows that there is only one God and that even if the meat had been sacrificed to an idol, he knows that the idol is not a real god. So in his conscience, he can give thanks to the one true God and gratefully eat whatever is put before him.

However, others may not have that understanding. This difference may be the result of a lack of spiritual maturity and understanding on such issues or the person may just have a difference of opinion. Whatever the case is, Paul explains that he will forgo the eating of meat if he thinks it may in any way be a hindrance to the conscience of the other person who is there to observe.

The bottom line is summarized in verses 31-33. Whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God and in whatever we do, our aim should be to not cause others to stumble. We should seek the good of others above our own good so that we may not create any barriers to them being saved.

Reflection

What are some “gray areas” that you have wrestled with in the past?

What do you think are the most critical and controversial “gray areas” issues the church is facing today?

What has been your method in the past for determining whether or not it was ok to participate in some of these questionable activities?

Of the principles shared, which one stands out to you the most? Why?

What changes do you need to make to adjust to the principles Paul shares in this passage?

 

Photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash

Is it Always Wrong to Judge Others? (Part 2)

1 Corinthians 5

12It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. 13God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, NLT)


One of the biggest criticisms against Christians in our culture today is that we’re “judgmental”. Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman, in their book “UnChristian” outline several negative traits that non-believers perceive to be true of Christians and being judgmental is one of them.

As a result of this criticism, many Christians wrongly believe that we should NEVER judge others. Matthew 7:1, in which Jesus says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” is often cited as proof that Christians should never judge others.

I wrote about this passage several months ago (you can read it here) and explained why that passage does not teach that Christians can never judge others, while explaining what Jesus was really teaching in that passage.

Now, in this passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul gives further clarity on the issue of judging.

The context of this passage is sexual immorality. Apparently, there was a person in the church who was involved in some pretty heinous sexual sins, and nobody was calling him out on it.

Does this sound familiar?

Often, we in the church don’t want to confront others regarding their immoral life choices because we don’t want to be seen as “judgmental”.

Paul offers a rebuke to the Christians in the Corinthian church precisely because they did NOT judge the person for their sinful actions.

Paul explicitly states that while it’s not our job as Christians to be the morality police to the world, for those who are in the church, those who claim to be followers of Jesus, we ARE to confront and rebuke them when their actions and life choices do not line up with God’s standards for righteous living.

We should note that the idea of “judging” someone is simply confronting them whenever they are in sin.

Unfortunately, the world’s view of “judging” usually involves any type of negative feedback that might be critical of a person’s choices. Paul says that we, as believers CAN and SHOULD be prepared to approach, confront, rebuke and even criticize those who are in the church if their actions are not righteous and honoring to God.

Of course, whenever we do this, we need to be careful how we do it and we need to ensure that our own lives are above reproach. Otherwise, we can easily be labeled as hypocrites, which is another one of the negative traits labeled against Christians that was identified in the book UnChristian by Kinnaman and Lyons.

If you read the passage in Matthew 7, you’ll see that this was exactly the point Jesus was making about judging others – it’s not wrong to judge but we don’t want to be hypocritical in the way that we judge others.

So is it always wrong to judge others?

Clearly, NO! But we need to be careful how we confront others so that we are not doing it in a way that may seem hypocritical. Additionally, we should not apply the same moral standards to those outside the church as we do to those who are followers of Jesus.

Reflection

What do you think is meant by the term “judging”?  How have you defined it?

What is your response to the view that many non-Christians view Christians as being judgmental? Do you think this charge is true or fair?

Paul says that “it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.” How does this statement align with your current thinking on the issue of judging? Does it surprise you to know that we as Christians SHOULD judge others (those inside the church)? Why or why not?

What do you think are some ways we can be better at judging others without reinforcing the negative stereotypes that Christians have on this issue?

 

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Have You Left Your First Love?

Revelation 2

1“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

2“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. 4But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6But there is this about you that is good: You hate the deeds of the immoral Nicolaitans, just as I do.

7“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Everyone who is victorious will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Revelation 2 and 3, John relates a series of messages the Lord gave him to share with seven different churches that existed at that time. In each case, the message follows a pattern of sharing some positive qualities that the church exhibits while also sharing the areas where the church has deviated from God’s design.

I previously wrote about the message to the church at Pergamum here (Compromise isn’t Always Good), where the Lord’s complaint against this church was that they tolerated the presence and the teaching of a group known as Nicolaitans, who apparently taught a doctrine of compromise that integrated sexually immoral pagan practices with Christian teachings.

In the message to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises the church for NOT tolerating the immoral Nicolaitans.

The complaint Jesus has for the Ephesians is different. He rebukes them because they “don’t love me or each other as you did at first.”

Here is a case where the New Living Translation (NLT) may not portray the full impact of what Jesus is saying.

For comparison, here is how Revelation 2:4 reads in a few different translations:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (NIV)

‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (NASB)

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. (ESV)

Those words “forsaken”, “left”, and “abandoned” give the impression of a person who has left a relationship for something else. I picture a wife who has left her husband for another man. Or I imagine a dad who has left his wife and family for a younger woman.

The issue is a lack of commitment.

We live in a culture that doesn’t honor or value commitment as much as previous generations did, particularly when it comes to marriage. Divorce is so commonplace that it almost seems strange when you meet someone whose family is still together.

We see celebrities and media personalities moving in and out of relationships and falling in and out of love with such regularity that the idea of love has been reduced to a feeling that can change more rapidly than the weather.

Over and over in the Old Testament, the Israelites are rebuked for being unfaithful and abandoning the Lord. They did this by pursuing foreign gods and neglecting God’s explicit commands.

We have a penchant for wandering. I suppose it’s human nature to always think the grass is always greener somewhere else so we test the limits, we expand the boundaries and before you know it, we’ve completely forsaken the Lord and his teachings while pursuing something or someone else.

This forsaking of Jesus can take many different forms but the one constant is that we no longer value Jesus as king in our lives. Perhaps we still believe in Him and even continue to participate in various religious practices but His priority and importance in our lives begins to wane.

The good news is that no matter where we’re at, or how far we may have strayed, Jesus invites us to return to him.  Regardless of our situation, we can renew our commitment to Jesus and experience His presence and purpose in our lives.

Reflection

If Jesus were to give a message to you today, what would he say? Would he commend you or would he have a complaint to share?

The complaint against the church at Ephesus was that they had left their first love? How would you rate your love for God right now compared to when you first came to know Him?

What is your concept of love? How does the concept of commitment fit with your perception of love?

What are some of the things in our culture and in your life that are most likely to cause you to stray from the Lord and tempt you to “forsake” Him?

What steps can you take to ensure that your commitment to Jesus does not succumb to current cultural challenges.

 

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

 

Investing in the Next Generation of Leaders

This last week was somewhat of a milestone in our ministry.

The Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI) Cohort, to which Jen helps to give oversight, met in person for the first time since October of 2019.

This group of nearly 30 leaders represents the breadth of Cru ministries, from Campus to Family Life, Jesus Film to Athletes in Action. City, Josh McDowell and Global Headquarters are also represented as well as participants from Cru ministries serving in a number of overseas locations.

Participants of the Senior Leadership Initiative Cohort 8 graduate from their 2 year development program.

Potential leaders are nominated by their division leadership and encouraged to apply to participate in this unique 2 year development program.

The cohort is divided into 4 modules, lasting 6 months each. Each module has a live one-week conference that delivers content relevant to the theme of that particular module. These in-person conferences are critical to providing a relational component that encourages connection and collaboration among these rising leaders who serve in different Cru divisions.

The cohort was scheduled to meet in person in April 2020 in San Antonio to kick off the 2nd module, but as you know, all in person meetings and gatherings were suspended due to Covid.

The SLI Design team is responsible for developing the next generation of rising leaders who are serving across the multiple divisions and many ministries of Cru world-wide.

The design team on which Jen serves had to pivot and re-imagine how to deliver content and a leadership development experience in a strictly virtual environment.

We are fortunate to have technology platforms like Zoom for connecting virtually, but duplicating a week-long in-person conference into an online platform is particularly challenging.

For starters, nobody really wants to be in a Zoom meeting for 8 straight hours, much less for a full week!

Secondly, if you’ve ever been to a live conference or retreat, you know that there is so much that happens in the margins that just can’t be duplicated virtually. Side conversations happen at your table during the breaks and over meals that magnify the conference experience.

If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that there is no replacement for live, physical interactions with other humans.

Jen and SLI Director Alan Tung recognize cohort participants at the closing “graduation” ceremony.

This last week gave the participants an opportunity to experience those interactions first-hand, as their SLI experience came to a conclusion in San Diego. Because of the proximity of this module to our home, I was able to join Jen for the week and work remotely.

The SLI Design team did an amazing job keeping things together during this challenging season and helping this cohort to finish strong!

In addition, because of how Covid impacted large gatherings and conferences, we were blessed to be able to experience this module in a prime location that normally would be out of reach to us financially. It was certainly nice to be able to experience the week in such an amazing location.

View of North San Diego Bay and Coronado Island from our hotel.

Please pray for these leaders as they seek to implement what they’ve learned into their own leadership situation. Many of these leaders are moving into significant positions of responsibility within the organization. Pray that the leadership lessons they’ve learned will multiply their impact and influence, resulting in many more changed lives.

Thank you for your partnership with us that enables us to influence the next generation of leaders amongst Cru staff as well as Young Professionals in our community and around the world!

Training in Righteousness – Part 2

2 Timothy 3

14But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
(2 Timothy 3:14-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few weeks ago, I shared a post with some devotional thoughts from Proverbs 11:17, entitled, “Can Golf Nourish Your Soul”.

The idea behind that post is that we can actually train ourselves to live righteously. Just as a golfer takes thousands of practice swings in order to perfect their technique and ensure proper form when they’re out on the course, we too can train our souls to act righteously by doing the right thing, even when we might not feel like it.

But that begs the question: how do we know what the right thing is?

Paul gives the answer to Timothy in this passage, which includes the popular verse:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
(2 Timothy 3:16)

This verse tells us that there are 4 functions of God’s word:

    1. God’s word teaches us what is true. We know what is right and what is wrong because God’s word tells us. By reading God’s word, we get insight into what God says is right and what is wrong.
    2. God’s word shows us what is wrong in our lives. With God’s word as our barometer for truth, we can determine when and where we’ve strayed off course.
    3. God’s word tells us how to straighten out our lives. When we stray off course, God’s word gives us the blueprint for how to get back on the right path.
    4. God’s word teaches us what is right. Some versions say that God’s word is useful for “training in righteousness”.  In other words, just as a golfer can create muscle memory in his or her swing through increased repetition and practice, so we too can train ourselves to respond the right way through repetition and practice, creating habits that are imprinted upon our character.

We know what the right thing is based on what God’s word (Scripture) tells us.

The Scriptures give us insight into God’s character and direction regarding what is moral and true.

By aligning our lives and our actions with God’s word and its description of moral truth, we can train ourselves to be righteous.

One of the problems in our culture today, however, is that everyone has their own view and understanding of what is right and what is moral. Even many Christians dismiss portions of Scripture that don’t align with their preferred morality in order to support their own life choices.

Whatever standard of morality one chooses to adopt and follow will shape their soul and their character. If we adopt God’s standard as outlined in the Scriptures and consistently obey and follow his guidelines and statues, we will be training our hearts and souls to live righteously.

However, if we adopt some other standard of morality, whether it’s one promoted by the culture, or even a personal standard that is only loosely based on Scripture, we will be training our hearts and souls to live unrighteously.

In some circles, Christians talk about making Christ Lord, not just Savior. The idea is that Jesus, through his death on the cross, saves us from eternal condemnation and punishment. But if we want to experience the full spiritual life that Jesus desires for us, we must submit our will to His, making Him Lord in all areas, including the area of personal morality.

Reflection

What is the basis for your own personal moral views? What is the source for how you determine what is true and right?

Trusting Jesus for salvation is only one component of the Christian life. It “saves” us from eternal punishment but if we want to experience true spiritual life now, we must make Jesus Lord. Is Jesus Lord of your life? If not, why not? What keeps you from submitting to Jesus fully and completely?

In what ways have you seen Christians compromise their morality, dismissing biblical views for their own personal morals that are contrary to the Scriptures?

What are some practical steps you can take to begin to adopt a moral understanding of truth and righteousness that aligns with God? 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Is Christianity an Exclusive Religion?

1 Timothy 2

1I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. 2Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. 6He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message that God gave to the world at the proper time. 7And I have been chosen—this is the absolute truth—as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles about faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-7, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

One of the criticisms I often hear when talking to others about Christ is that Christianity claims to be exclusive. These claims of exclusivity are seen as a negative in our culture, which values freedom of thought, and in the name of tolerance, often validates any and all views, no matter how outlandish or illogical.

It’s absolutely true that Christianity claims to be true and  on certain doctrinal matters it is exclusive.

In this passage of 1 Timothy 2, Paul is urging his audience to pray for everyone, including kings and those in authority. I previously wrote about the need to pray for our political rivals here.

Paul gives the reason why we should pray for others, even those who are in authority over us and with whom we might disagree – God wants everyone to be saved and understand the truth.

Two questions naturally follow: what does it mean “to be saved” and “what is the truth that people need to understand?”

When the Bible talks about being saved, it’s referring to being rescued from punishment. The picture is that we are on a trajectory that will lead to disaster but because of God’s help, our crisis is averted.

One of the questions that every religion seeks to answer is “how can people be reconciled to God?” Or another way of putting it is, “what must a person do in order to be accepted by God and enter into His presence?”

To be reconciled means to be brought back into a favorable relational status. What must I do to please God, to earn His favor and gain His acceptance?

Nearly every religion answers this question by providing a list of actions one must complete or avoid in order to gain favor. These actions form the basis for evaluating a person’s devotion to God and the quality or “goodness” of a person’s life, which in turn is used to determine their worthiness for entering God’s presence in the afterlife.

But here lies the problem. Nobody can follow all the rules that any religion might establish. These “rules” create a legal system for following God which people inevitably violate. One doesn’t have to read very far into the Old Testament to see that the Israelites were constantly abandoning God’s laws and rebelling against His statutes.

So what is the “truth” that God wants everyone to understand?

The truth is outlined in verses 5 and 6, which state:

For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message that God gave to the world at the proper time.

The truth is that the ONLY way to be reconciled to God is through Christ Jesus. His death on the cross purchased freedom for everyone.

So reconciliation to God does NOT occur by keeping a list of religious requirements. Instead, it comes by placing one’s faith in Jesus to make the payment for us.

Is it exclusive? YES and NO!

It’s exclusive in that Jesus is the ONLY one who has made a payment for sin. No other religious system even offers a solution to how imperfect people can make themselves righteous enough to enter into the presence of an infinitely holy God. Every other religious system keeps people trapped in the religious hamster wheel of endlessly attempting to make oneself “worthy” before God, only to experience moral failure through everyday sins.

Fortunately for us, Jesus rescues us from this religious trap and provides a way for us to actually be reconciled.

But it’s NOT exclusive in the sense that the freedom Jesus offers is available to EVERYONE, not just some select group. ANYONE can access God by coming to Jesus!

This is the truth that God wants EVERYONE to understand, which is why Paul urges us to pray for all people to ultimately understand this truth so that they might experience God’s mercy.

Reflection

What is your view on how a person is “saved”? In other words, in your view, what does a person need to do in order to make it to heaven and live with God for eternity?

What is the basis for your answer in the previous question? In other words, what is the source of the views that you hold? 

People often say that Christians are too exclusive in their views. Do you agree that Christianity is exclusive? If so, why is this seen as a negative to people? Does being exclusive mean that it is automatically wrong? Why or why not?

The essence of Christianity’s exclusive claims is found in verse 6, which says, “He [Jesus] gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” How would you explain this concept to someone else? What does it mean that Jesus gave his life? What does it mean that he purchased freedom?

 

Photo by seabass creatives on Unsplash

Follow the Science

Psalm 19

1The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.

2Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.

3They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies;

4yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it.

5It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.

6The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

One of the great gifts that 2020 gave us all is the phrase, “Follow the Science”!  (#Sarcasm)

What does it mean exactly to “follow the science”? What is science?

Science is a method of determining how the natural world around us functions based on repeated observations and experimentation. If you make enough observations, you begin to notice patterns. If a pattern is established, you can develop a hypothesis regarding the natural order of the physical universe. Further observations and testing will either substantiate the hypothesis or refute it.

So to “follow the science” really just means that one should follow the evidence or the data to its logical conclusion.

In Psalm 19, David is following the science. David gazes wonderfully on the celestial beauty in the skies. Based on his own repeated observations and the observations of others over thousands of years, David concludes that the heavens are the result of a magnificent creator. David sees the design of the universe and assumes that it must have a designer. Have you ever seen something that looked designed and assumed that it came into existence without a designer?

Philosophers call this argument the teleological argument for God’s existence, which basically says that because the universe is designed, it must have a designer.

Atheists and skeptics have argued over the years that the universe isn’t really designed, but only appears to be designed. Just because one might attribute elements of design to something they see doesn’t mean it is designed. It could just be a naturally occurring phenomenon. But often, these conclusions, ironically, are not following the science, for they immediately dismiss the most logical and obvious explanation for the world and universe which we observe.

If you walk into Best Buy and see a case full of cell phones, what do you conclude? You conclude that those phones were designed and then manufactured by intelligent people who created them for that purpose.

If you walk onto a car lot, what do you assume about the wide array of vehicles you might decide to purchase? You assume that they were designed by intelligent teams of people who created them for the purpose of transporting people and goods.

Everywhere you go, you see things that are designed and built by people…intelligent people.

Now look at our world, its ecosystems and its incredibly diverse array of animals and plants. Beyond our world is the vastness of space with its trillions of stars and galaxies, all of which we can observe.

Whenever we observe something intricate that has purpose, we assume it has a designer because our experience dictates that intricate, complex systems that have functional purposes are designed by intelligent beings, usually humans.

So why would we look at the earth and the universe and conclude something different?

If we’re following the science, as David did, our conclusion should be the same as his conclusion – that “the heavens declare the glory of God” and “the skies declare his marvelous craftsmanship.”

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the phrase “follow the science?” What do you think it means to “follow the science?”

What has been your experience with scientific observation? What are some science classes you’ve taken and what kinds of things did you observe?

Do you think it’s possible to prove God’s existence “scientifically?” How would you go about it?

What is your understanding of the teleological argument for God’s existence? How would you explain it someone else?

 

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash