Super Results!

The Super Bowl is perhaps the biggest sporting event each year in America and each year, the day before the Super Bowl, Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru, hosts a Super Bowl breakfast in the host city.

The Super Bowl Breakfast program

This year, the Super Bowl and Super Bowl breakfast was in Los Angeles for the first time since 1993.

This event is not a casual affair. 1500 attendees experience a top-notched, NFL-sanctioned event featuring some of the biggest names in the NFL.

The program honors a recipient of the Bart Starr Award, which is given to an NFL player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”

Past recipients of the award include Peyton & Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, Mike Singletary & Reggie White. 

This year’s recipient was Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

The program highlights the recipient of the annual Bart Starr award and also features a keynote speaker.

In addition to presenting the Bart Starr Award, the program includes a keynote speaker who shares a testimony or a message of faith. This year’s speaker was Frank Reich, the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Pulling off an event as big as this is not easy, and the fact that the event is in a different location each year makes it challenging to secure the manpower to pull it off.

Being on staff with Cru, I was made aware of the need for volunteers and so I made myself available while also recruiting my high school friend and NFL fan Mike to help.

Part of the pre-event prep was setting up 1500 place settings for the breakfast attendees.

Mike and I were assigned security detail, no doubt due to my massive physique and imposing stature.  

It was quite a long day, which involved arriving at the hotel by 5:00 a.m. to help set up tables and then prepare for 1500 guests to arrive.

In addition to helping to ensure that attendees didn’t bother the special guests during the breakfast, Mike and I helped to secure the Guest VIP room that was located off of the lobby area. Our job was to keep eager fans from entering a special room reserved for special guests like Russell Wilson, Anthony Munoz and Ronnie Lott.

My friend Mike poses with Coach O (Ed Orgeron)

While we were waiting for the program to end, we saw Coach Ed Orgeron in the lobby. Coach O, as he’s called, was most recently the head coach of the LSU Tigers and led them to the National championship 3 years ago. His quarterback was Joe Burrow, who is now the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals who happened to be playing in this year’s Super Bowl.

Coach O makes a personal phone call to a HUGE fan!

My friend Mike approached Coach O and told him that his dad is from Baton Rouge and is a HUGE LSU fan.

Coach O, in his typical gravelly, Cajun voice asked, “Your daddy, is he alive?”

Mike responded “yes”, to which Coach O replied, “well call him up.”

Mike quickly dialed the number of his dad and handed the phone to Coach O. The exchange went like this:

“Hello Jim….this is Coach O!”

“No it isn’t.”

“Yes, it is. I’m in a hotel lobby and your son Mike tells me you’re a huge LSU fan and so I just called to say ‘Go Tigers.’” 

He then handed the phone back to my friend Mike. 

Dave with Coach O. I’m a Coach O fan as well but for different reasons. He was a coach for the USC Trojans during the success of the Pete Carroll years.

Our job was actually not very glamourous. Other than Coach O, who was not actually there for the Super Bowl breakfast, we didn’t talk to or rub shoulders with any sports celebrities. I had to get my suit altered, I got up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to L.A., paid a small fortune for parking and didn’t eat breakfast or even see most of the program. 

I certainly wasn’t making friends when I had to tell a number of people that the lobby restrooms were not available while being used by certain VIPs.

So why did we do it? What was the benefit? 

The benefit was that because of our help and the generous support of hundreds of other volunteers, 18 people indicated a new commitment to Jesus in response to Coach Reich’s message. And that number is likely much higher due to an online component to the event that is harder to accurately evaluate.

Our job was very much behind the scenes and under the radar, and yet, we rejoice in knowing that people entered the kingdom as a result of the events of that day. When people come to know Jesus, it is rarely a one-person effort but often the result of hundreds, if not thousands of people who each play a small part in the journey. 

We are grateful for the part you play in helping us as we minister to Young Professionals and volunteer at Super Bowl events!

And as a long-time Los Angeles Rams fan, I personally rejoice in a narrow Super Bowl 56 victory!

Who is Jesus?

I have to admit that this past Christmas season was interesting. With all of the travel we had scheduled and with our house being in such disarray due to repairs from our slab leak damage, it was difficult to get in the Christmas spirit.

Normal Christmas reminders were absent as we weren’t able to put up any decorations until just a few days before Christmas.

When life is crazy and chaotic, as it has been for us, it’s easy to lose sight of Jesus.

A few days ago, the Cru Facebook page that I help to monitor received a message from a user in Africa named Mathias.

The message was a simple question: Who is Jesus?

The question “who is Jesus?” is perhaps the most important question that anyone can answer.

Jesus himself asked this question of his followers. In the book of Mark, Jesus recruits 12 men to follow him. Through his teaching, ministry, and many miracles Jesus slowly reveals his identity to his disciples. At the midpoint of the book, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say that I am?”

The disciples respond with the popular views of the culture at that time: some say you’re John the Baptist or Elijah; others say you’re a prophet.

Our society has a lot of answers to the question, “who is Jesus?”

Some people believe that Jesus was a great moral teacher – an example for us to follow. Others believe he was a prophet. A few people believe Jesus was a political revolutionary.

Jesus follows with a more pointed question, “who do YOU say that I am?”

Peter answers with the only valid response that hits the mark: Jesus is the Messiah; he is God!

In our fast-paced, materialistic culture, we can sometimes forget who Jesus really is and what he offers. For those of us who have known Jesus for a long-time, the Christmas season can seem rote or routine.

But I’m reminded that there are millions of people who don’t know Jesus, and the idea that God is real and personal is incredibly new and exciting.

People like John, also from Africa, message us every day, wanting to know who God is and how they can know Him.

Though this is a very minimal part of our job, it’s a privilege to be able to tell people all over the world who Jesus is and how they can know Him.

It really is amazing that the God of the universe stepped into humanity in the person of Jesus. He alone offers hope and peace to a world that is desperate and hopeless!


For more information on the Biblical evidence for Jesus’ deity, see my short article “Is Jesus God?”

Some related blog posts you might find helpful:

Does Your Understanding of the Nature of Jesus Really Matter?

Is Your View of Jesus Really that Important? (Part 2)

Further Proof That Jesus is God

 

Hidden Barriers to Experiencing Change

Jen and I had just parked the car and were heading over to the restaurant, where we were scheduled to meet long-time friends on the first day of our East Coast trip. I glanced at my phone and noticed a new text from our dog sitter. My heart beat instantly elevated as I read the text and learned that there was a water leak in our house.

A quick phone call and some remote sleuthing led me to determine that we likely had a slab leak. Why do these things always seem to happen when we’re out of town? This was the first day of our trip in which we were planning to see our sons at West Point during Parent weekend. I was now wondering if we would have to cut our trip short and head home.

Carpet damage extended beyond the hallway, into the neighboring living room as well as the downstairs bedroom.

The good news was that we had caught it early. Our dog sitter was able to get the water shut off and clean up the water, which was mostly contained in the laundry area and surrounding hallway. It seemed as if we had dodged a bullet and avoided a huge crisis.

However, when we returned from our trip, it quickly became apparent that the damage was more extensive than we had thought. The carpet stains revealed water had gone throughout the downstairs, not just in a small area in front of our laundry closet.

We called a restoration company and learned that there was moisture in a number of walls surrounding the affected areas.

A system of water-filled coolers and thermoses allowed us to use our toilets for a few days.

Our hope was to get the walls dried up and then repipe our house. We figured we could live without running water for a few days so I devised a plan to fill a couple of large coolers with water from my neighbor’s hose. This water would be used to fill our toilet tanks so we could use them.

My plans were dashed as I learned that the restoration company wouldn’t be able to begin work immediately because our house is older and the walls needed to be tested first for lead and asbestos.

Our vinyl tile was “toxic” so it had to be treated by specially qualified professionals.

That took a few days and though our walls ultimately came back negative, the vinyl tile in the laundry area, which was damaged and needed to be removed, did come back positive for asbestos.

That meant we had to get a special abatement crew to remove the vinyl tile.

Two and a half weeks later, we are finally back in our home with actual running water. But there is still much that needs to happen to get back to normal. It will take weeks, if not months, for things to be fully restored.

Unfortunately, the process of repairing what’s broken & getting back to “normal” often takes longer than we hope or expect. The rebuilding process can uncover hidden issues that must be addressed. Sometimes, we even need experts to help us deal with the issues that may be toxic.

I’ve found that in my spiritual life, change is often like the repairs on my house. Spiritually, the things I struggle with are often caused by deeper, hidden issues that are ignored or not properly addressed.

Walls and ceilings had to be opened up throughout our home in order to “fix” the problem and repipe our house.

Real change often means opening up walls and getting inside before things can really be fixed. And sometimes, we can benefit greatly from the help of others who can help us deal with the highly sensitive and toxic issues in our lives that my be holding us back from experiencing the growth and change Jesus wants for us.

Thank you for your partnership with us and your encouragement to us as we navigate the slab leaks of our home and our spiritual lives.

Please pray for us as we deal with insurance, repairs and the costs related to this latest leak.

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!