Category Archives: Communication

Politics, Resumes and the Third-Person Effect

Before I get into this post, I want to say sorry to people who used to read this blog. I have disappeared from blogging for a while. I could say that it was due to working on school. But the truth is that, lately, it’s been plain-old laziness and a loss of focus on why I’ve even gone back to school in the first place. I aim to help people think, and I’ve lost sight of that. 

Have you ever watched a campaign commercial that smears your favorite candidate or praises one you dislike and thought something like this?:

“That’s a load of garbage. I know most of that isn’t true. I’m not falling for it. It just makes me mad that there are some people out there who will believe these lies and vote accordingly. I mean, I can see through this nonsense, but not everyone else can.”

Thoughts like those demonstrate the “third-person effect.” This error in thought occurs when you assume that most people are gullible, prejudicial or ignorant in ways that you are not. It often involves assuming the worst about a large group’s motives or intelligence. If you find yourself feeling like an “exception to the rule,” (whatever that rule might be), there is a good chance that you are making this mistake.

Political and social issues trigger third-person effects. And sometimes, if we would just really stop and analyze ourselves we would find that our thinking is absurd.

I’ve been guilty of third-person-effecting lately. At least, I hope I have been. Right or wrong, I’ve decided to be more self-aware and assume the best I can about people.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been applying for various non-religious editing and writing jobs around the Houston area. While my educational credentials are pretty good, the word “Baptist is prominent in my work history. I have been having this nagging feeling that somehow that hurts my credibility in the secular world and is why I am having little luck in the job hunt. After all, Evangelical Christians are not exactly portrayed as geniuses in mass media (and often by other sects of Christianity).

Now, of course, know that there are lots of hard-working, honest, intelligent people who come from a variety of religious (or not), ethnic and educational backgrounds; and wouldn’t pass someone up just because they had some religious organization I don’t agree with on his or her resumé. But that’s just me. Right? What about all of these potential employers? They might think I’m stupid without ever speaking to me just because I’m a Baptist.

I’m not saying prejudices of all sorts don’t exist. I know they do. However, what I am saying is that I should not assume these prejudices in others.

Can you imagine how different the political conversation in this country would be if we stopped assuming that the Left/Right, Democrats/Republicans wanted to oppress us/take our money/rights/religious freedom/guns/sexual freedom/make us a theocracy/force us to violate our religious beliefs/etc.? I’m sure there are plenty of people who do actually want to do some of these things, but I highly doubt they are nearly as numerous as purported by either side. Usually, the motives and desires of people are misunderstood and then demonized in a third-person effect sort of way.

A prime example of this is the labeling of pretty much any person/group of people who believe that marriage has a definition that has to do with male and femaleness or disagrees with the nature of reality as it is described by the LGBT community as “hateful.” It doesn’t seem to matter how kindly one expresses disagreement, they are still hateful/bigoted etc.

Hateful? Really? As I understand it, hatred is wishing the worst for someone. It is wishing for their destruction — literally, that they would die.  Should I assume, then, that the LGBT community is hateful towards me? That they wish for my destruction? I disagree with them in their beliefs about a lot of things, so certainly they disagree with me and mine.

What I should do is give the benefit of the doubt to those with whom I disagree — more specifically, I should assume that they disagree out of true belief and are not motivated by a sinister plot to destroy me. After all, if sincerely don’t wish evil on people simply because they think I am wrong, shouldn’t I grant that ability to others?

“But Klint, there are some people who really do think/believe/desire terrible things about you/others/this group/that group.” To that I say, so what? Becoming cynical is not going to help nor change anything. And, besides, I am a Christian after all. I’ll let God worry about it. (At least I’ll try.)


Ignored Sins Part 1: Gossip

For a few weeks, I’d like to address sins that are extrememly common, and even accepted as “no big deal” within the church. None of these sins would ever be categorized by a preacher or congregant as nothing to worry about, but in practice they are largely ignored.

Most simply defined, gossip is disclosing information about others which does not need to be disclosed. The truthfulness of the information does not make the action any less gossip. Gossip might be the most common and openly practiced sin in all of Christianity, it is certainly one of the most destructive. Gossip, in-and-of itself is incredibly damaging, and it is what you might call a “gateway” sin.

Much like a “gateway” drug, gossip opens the door for even more sin to enter the church and family. In chapter three of his letter, the apostle James goes as far as saying that if one could control his tongue, he could control all of his actions. While I could go on with an “introduction” for pages, I’d like to list four ways in which gossip destroys:

1. It Undermines Biblical Teaching.

Point number one is especially important to parents. Have you ever gone to lunch on a Sunday after church and proceeded to talk about the preacher, sermon, teacher or another church member in a negative way? If you have, I promise your children have/will pick up on it and anything they might have learned in church that day might as well be canceled out. In fact, I fully believe it would have been better had you stayed home and remained silent rather than undermine what a child might have learned at church. Children can smell hypocrisy a mile away, and as teenagers and adults, they will see church as a joke or a place to go to appear holy. I suspect that many young adults who leave the faith even though they have parents who are dedicated church members that love the Lord and live a “moral” lifestyle might have been privy to gossip behind-the-scenes.

If you have a legitimate complaint against a pastor or teacher, handle it Biblically and address it one-on-one. Backbiting only seeks to get more people on your “side” and not the good of the church.

I can speak to this issue personally as I believe that in this area, my parents are good examples to emulate. It was not until adulthood that I ever realized that there were times that my father had his disagreements with our church’s pastor or youth pastor. As far as I knew, he was always on their side and I was to listen, learn and recognize my teachers as authority figures. If a father and mother acknowledge a pastor or teacher and what they have to say with respect, their children will, too.

2. It Feeds Upon Itself.

Gossip is fun and contagious. Get a small group of friends together and start talking about someone who isn’t there and you will see a conversation grow into a big session of group-think. By the end of the gabbing, your little group will be absolutely convinced that you have all the answers and the world/church/your friends would be a whole lot better if they were just like you.

Indeed.

3. It Feeds Your Ego.

The sin of pride will get its own week in this column, but it is both the cause of and is fed by gossip. Gossip is often all about comparisons. No matter how imperfect you are, you can always talk about someone else’s problems. As long as there is another person who, by your estimation, is a little less perfect than you, you will worry about their sin instead of your own. In fact, it will make it more difficult to recognize your own sin and repent thereof.

4. It Justifies Itself as Something Good.

Most perverse of perversions, gossip is often disguised by phrases such as “I’m telling you this so you can pray for so-and-so.” No. Just, no.

You can pray for so-and-so and God will honor your discretion. It is not our job to bring anyone’s secret sin into the light for all to see. Broadcasting such sin under the guise of being a concerned, holy prayer-warrior is just as wrong as whatever it is the prayer-receiver has done. I am not saying that you should never request prayer for the lost or a believer trapped in a lifestyle of sin, but the details should be kept at an absolute minimum. And if someone has confided in you with a secret struggle, then they are obviously repentant or they would not have confessed. Do not share it with others; not even your spouse. 

It is a shame that we often define wholesome speech as essentially “not cussing or telling dirty jokes.” If only that were true! Never has a church split or a child walked away from the faith over a stray curse-word spoken out of a heated moment; especially one apologized for. But gossip causes damage that can’t easily be reversed. It’s like trying to catch a bunch of feathers that have been thrown into the wind.

Let us all think before we speak of the personal matters of others. If it is not going to be helpful, regardless of whether or not it is true, then why say anything at all?


Stop complaining about people you aren’t trying to reach: A rant about ranting.

When was the last time you heard or went on a rant about some general demographic? Foolishly, I often find myself guilty of the very subject of this article. In fact, this short op-ed might come across as a bit of a rant. I prefer to think of it as a challenge to a general demographic, namely, “Christians.”

Either way, it is perfectly biblical to challenge our brothers and sisters who reside within the fold to operate in a more Christlike fashion. The reason for my rant today is that I more often see Christians moan and complain about those outside the fold. I Cor. 5:9–13 makes it pretty clear that we don’t have any business judging those outside the church.

I am continually surprised that so many Christians are surprised when non-believers live in a way that is consistent with non-belief. Many times we give the non-believer a label, deem them as the enemy, complain about them and their “agendas,” and then, worst of all, do absolutely nothing to show them the love of Christ nor share the gospel with them. Some of these common targets of complaining, demeaning and all other manner of unwholesome sentiment include homosexuals, college-students or in general, “the young,” Democrats and/ or “liberals,” etc.

“Well, Klint, should we always support those people and what they ‘stand for?’” Of course not, but you should always love them. And what does your complaining accomplish?

Nothing.

In fact, it is worse than nothing. Continually smack-talking others, whether they are present or not, is counterproductive to advancing the kingdom. It fosters hostility toward those we are called to reach. We should ask ourselves two questions before whining about the outsiders:

1. Is this speech profitable to the kingdom. (This sort of speech is actually very profitable monetarily speaking. Talk radio and cable news have made billions.)

2. Have I actually put any effort into taking the gospel to the people about whom I am talking?

If you can’t answer either of those questions in the affirmative — especially question #2 — then what on earth do you have to complain about other than yourself?

So, when is the last time you got to know a person, made in the image of God, who identifies as gay? Is your church lacking “young people?” When is the last time you had a deep conversation with one where you listened to understand the issues a college student is dealing with and then taken the time to help them through it? And who among us can honestly say that they have ever convinced another human being to change their political vote because of a Facebook post?

There might be a lot less to complain about if we would spend less effort into being offended and more into showing the love of Christ to a lost world.

“Rant,” over.

If you would like to hear Klinton come rant and rave in your church, email lifeinprogressministries@gmail.com


What Boldness is Not

I want to be bold. You know? I want to live a life that makes a difference and one where people don’t have to wonder who I really am or what I believe. I think that’s good. Right?

Lately, as I study the scriptures, I have been encouraged by the boldness of Jesus and His followers. Interestingly, what is standing out to me is what boldness is not.

As a personality expert, I spend an abnormal amount of time analyzing my personality type and it is, in most every way, bold. I’m not afraid to speak my mind (which does come in handy since I am a speaker), wear loud clothing or make decisions and stand by them. But, I’m slowly realizing that a big, loud personality is not the same thing as boldness — at least not boldness that is effective.

So, here are the top 4 things boldness is not:

1) Boldness is not arrogance. If I’m not careful, I can really twist this up. All it takes is a moment of self-righteousness and an attitude that says, “I am right. You are wrong,” to come off as arrogant. Even if those words never come out of your mouth, the attitude of your heart is always evident to others.

2) Boldness is not jumping up to be heard. When I try to visualize what boldness looks like, I see a brave — loud — person standing up in a room full of people and making some controversial, but important statement. Others applaud while some mock or get angry and, I cheer them on. Why? Because I like their courage. (It’s my personality’s issue, again.) But the kind of boldness that matters does not demand a crowd.

3) Boldness is not creating your own flashes of glory. Effective boldness waits and intently watches for opportunities composed by God as grand and divine appointments. Then seizes the moment. It’s more about being obedient and following the leading of the Holy Spirit than trying to manufacture times of intervention.

4) Boldness is not kicking opponents to the curb. Too often, we want to draw lines and pick fights in the name of boldness. When others don’t agree with us, we may think we are being “bold” by taking strong stands and sending challengers packing. We may feel better about ourselves for being so “strong,” but what we haven’t done is made any kind of difference.

So what is effective boldness then?

When I wrote King Hezekiah, Examining a Life of Bold Faith, I discovered a few insights about boldness. Hezekiah was one of the boldest people I’ve ever read about, but he wasn’t arrogant, he wasn’t just trying to make his point — he had to wait on the Lord to put him in a position for effectiveness, and he understood his opposition.

Let me tell you what he was that was so effective in turning the hearts of people: honest.

As soon as Hezekiah was crowned king, his first priority was being honest with the people. He neither sugar coated the mess they were in nor dwelt upon it. Later, when he found himself in desperation, facing death, he was honest before God in prayer. He held nothing back. Later yet, when he faced serious threats from a ruthless enemy, he was honest before God and his people about what could and should be done in order to be victorious. It was his ability to speak truth about circumstances and about God that made him so effective as a leader and as a king. Hezekiah was not perfect, nor did he always do the right thing, but he was truthful before God and before his people, and I believe God honored the integrity of his heart.

That is what boldness means. It means honesty with yourself, with God and with others. It means you have integrity in your heart that produces truth from your mouth.

A young lady I mentor sent me a podcast by Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar, Mo. this week. To my delight, the speaker addressed this issue of boldness. He stressed the point that the biggest differences are made in the lives of others through the small moments when we speak the truth. We don’t need to be scripted, calculated or even prepared. We just need to tell the truth.

For example, when someone asks you how your day is going, tell them the truth. When someone asks you what you think about a controversial issue, tell them the truth. When they want to know how you do what you do and stay happy or sane, tell the truth. In doing so, the true believer and follower of Christ will always point back to Him. Watch this:

How am I doing today? Better than I deserve because God is gracious.

How do I do it? I depend on God for everything. He is my everything.

What do I think about that issue? Well, I do my best to know and trust God’s word and I’ve surrendered to what He has to say about it.

See how that works?

Perhaps if I would shift my energy from trying to impress, remain neutral, be inoffensive or from being fearful of rejection, I could reroute that energy into focusing on simple honesty that points to Christ. That’s bold.


This is Really Just a Facebook “Rant”

I’ve noticed a really strange trend in popular Christianity. Many people will say that people who hold to certain interpretations of things like Genesis, Revelation, free will/irresistable grace are crazy/nuts/dumb/heretics or at the very least incredibly dangerous to the faith.

BUT THEN, I see these same people quote and laud and applaud popular teachers such as Keller, Piper, C.S. Lewis, or Ravi Zacharias and more about how great they are not knowing that these guys would hold to many of those positions that were deemed to be just awful by the lauder. I bet a lot people would be utterly shocked to know what John Piper’s position on dispensationalism is or what Tim Keller’s beliefs about Genesis 1 and 2 are.

Here’s a clue about Keller: A certain man who is currently building an ark says that people who believe what Tim Keller believes are “more dangerous than atheists” and that they don’t take the authority of scripture seriously. Same for Ravi Zacharias. Christians, does it seem to you that Tim Keller and Ravi Zacharias don’t take the Bible seriously? Now, Keller and Zacharias those two would probably agree on Genesis and Revelation but disagree on if people have libertarian freedom in accepting Christ/ why evil exits. How about that?! BTW, I mentioned these two because I love reading and learning from both of them.

Why am I writing this? Because we need to be a little more gracious and willing to LISTEN to views contrary to our own. How can you be confident in your position if you’ve never considered the opposition? I’m not saying you’ll always change your mind at all, but beware of throwing out words like “heretic” loosely.

My best friend/best man in my wedding and I disagree about a lot of stuff. But you know what? We were able to listen to each other’s arguments and understand that there is a real desire to dig in to the word and do our best to seek out the truth in areas in which we disagree. In other things, it seems pretty obvious and we stand 100% together. This isn’t to say there is no such thing as heresy.

Look, all I’m saying is that before you’re going to pass judgment on some method of interpretation, ask yourself this: “Have I honestly tried to understand the opposing views on their own terms and have I truly considered the weaknesses of my own position?”


Arguing Over Politics (From a guy who needs to stop)

Ferguson, ISIS, the Affordable Care Act, “discrimination laws” — there is no shortage of turmoil in our world and no shortage of suggested “solutions” to the problem. I would also assume that many of you have been driven to rage at the Facebook status of someone who just doesn’t “get it.” Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you lean, you believe your conservative/liberal policies are obviously best, and only a complete dunderhead would disagree.

But what if I told you that the issues you argue about are not the issues you are actually arguing about? An example from G.K. Chesterton will help me clarify:

When someone is sick, they go to a hospital.  In some cases, doctors will disagree on what has caused the illness, and they might even disagree on the best course of treatment.

Political arguments are usually thought of like disagreeing doctors. Both sides agree that there is a problem, just not what is the best way to treat it. But as Chesterton points out, there is one major difference. In medicine, all doctors agree on how a healthy body should look and function. And while they might not agree on how to make that body healthy, they still are working toward the same ideal on what a healthy body is. 

This is why political arguments are often pointless: We have reached a point in our culture where there are many competing ideas on what constitutes a good and healthy society, how it should look and how it should function. Political policies are meant to achieve different goals.  When your “dumb” friends don’t want the same end results as you, then of course they will think different policies are best.

I’d be willing to bet most of you are like me — meaning you have never actually convinced someone to vote your way or take on your morals just by arguing with them. As Christians, we see moral decay, which should be pointed out; but then we think we will convince non-believers that the things such as abortion, same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, etc., are really bad. We use all sorts of methods such as such as picketing, boycotting and hoping our political heroes will really “give them the business” on a cable news talk show.

I have a question for us all: How’s that working out? It’s not. Those things might be fine to do, but truly, there’s only one person who changes hearts and minds and that’s Jesus. We can post 24/7 on Facebook and Twitter (guilty), sit around and complain with our friends over morning coffee or even try to tell people how to vote from the pulpit, but it will be all to no avail if we are not reaching people for Christ.

When you talk to someone about the news of the day and what should be done about this fallen world, you have to understand that, as a Christian, you are starting from the presupposition that God has a will for this world and our goals should be to make the world resemble that will. If you are arguing with someone who does not accept that presupposition, you’re wasting time and probably pushing them further away from the gospel. 

It is fine to point out problems in the world, but keep in mind that no political solution will change a human being. Only Jesus can do that. And when it comes to turning hateful over political debates, may He start by changing the hearts of those who claim to follow Him. 


Christians and Injustice, Anger, and Compassion

This article was written for the Baptist Trumpet and was primarily aimed at an audience of members of the BMA of America. Also, this article really has nothing to do with Batman. 

Not a day goes by without seeing some kind of turmoil on the news. These past few days have been exceptionally bad. ISIS is committing genocide. In my home state of Missouri, an unarmed young black man was killed in Ferguson several days ago, and there has been rioting and looting as a result. I’m guessing most of you have heard of these events. 

Do any elements of these stories make you angry? They should stir up something inside of you. Recognizing injustice and being angry about it is a Godly trait — meaning God Himself abhors injustice. Speaking from personal guilt and observation, a great many if not most of us have some big problems about how we respond to injustice. We create a great paradox: 

Our anger at injustice is driven by compassion. We see evil things happening to people who don’t deserve it from people who seek to gain power and we feel compassion for the victims.  Why is it then that we often completely forget to be compassionate when it comes to addressing the problem. Often, our responses become self-centered rather than compassion-centered. Here are a few pitfalls we ought not fall into that lead to hateful words and actions:

1. We get defensive (usually over something we aren’t even involved in.) Humans like to make categories, especially when it comes to things like skin color. (Personally, I think the modern concept of “race” is a huge lie and tragedy.) For example, in Ferguson, the cop who shot Michael Brown was white and Brown was black. Brown’s friends and neighborhood, mostly black, are very understandably angry and see this event as an act of racial profiling and express this in TV interviews etc. But rather than trying to understand why they would feel this way, we immediately go, “Wait! I’m white (let’s face it, the BMA of America has virtually no African-American presence and so I’m confident most of the readers of this column are white) and I’m not a racist! Those people are wrong and now they’re making it a race issue!” Then we firmly entrench ourselves on one side of the black vs. white ungodly, false dichotomy Satan has used mightily for centuries instead of remembering that we should be on the side of justice. Remember, above all things, you are a representative of Christ. Christ is your source of identity. Identity for the Christian should never start with being a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, American, white, black, Hispanic, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. 

2. We get hateful. Once entrenched in our position, we start to make general statements. “All of those Iraqis/people in Ferguson are thugs/terrorists and they ought to go wipe them out.” I remember several years ago, in Baptist churches, more than one person saying of the Middle East, “I say nuke them all and let ‘Allah’ sort them out.” This kind of speech has no place in the Christian mouth. In fact, the assumption that everyone of a certain area means to do harm to everyone else is so demonstrably false it’s crazy. For example, initial reports indicate that many of the looters in Ferguson are from out-of-town groups. ISIS has destroyed many mosques. There are many more victims than perpetrators. I could go on, but ultimately the hateful Facebook comments and things that come from our mouths can often be traced back to point number three. 

3. We forget. We forget that no one will ever “get away” with anything and that it is not our job to make sure everyone “pays” (Rom. 12:19). We forget that God knows that humans have a tendency to cause chaos and that He has set up laws and governments to keep order and subdue wrongdoers so that we do not take matters “into our own hands” (Rom. 13:1-7). We forget that it is our job to be citizens of the Kingdom and take God’s glory into these dark situations so that His light will shine (Rom. 13:8-10). And, most importantly, we forget that we, as believers were enemies of God but He died for us anyway, and we have no reason to feel superior to anyone (the whole Bible). 

May God be merciful to me for when I’ve let anger take over the compassion that caused it in the first place. 


The Giant Hole in My Apologetic

Although I believe that apologetics ministries are very important in our world as a way of “preparing the soil” for evangelism, I think there is another area that is much more important.

While the specialty field of  “apologetics” often involves using philosophy, science, existential experience etc. to defend the reasonableness of the Christian faith, an apologetic is simply an explanation or a defense of a belief. Any time someone tries to explain why they believe — or even clarify what the gospel is — they are acting as a Christian apologist. 

So, what is more important than explaining the gospel to people? 

Witnessing. 

“Witnessing,” at least in my own mind, has gotten too complicated and formulaic. I think we confuse witnessing with explaining gospel doctrine.

So what is the difference between telling people about the gospel and witnessing? A witness doesn’t just tell people what they believe or know or have been taught; a witness tells people what they have personally seen and heard.

When we think of “witnessing,” we need to think of it in the same way we think of a witness in the court room. We need to just tell people what we’ve seen Jesus do in our own lives and the lives of others. That is showing them the power of the gospel. A nice churchy word for this is testimony.  A testimony is just the story a witness tells. 

Have you ever thought about what the four written gospels in the Bible are? They are eye-witness accounts. (Although Luke’s is put together more like a reported, investigated story like you would find in a magazine.) That’s all they are. The writers of the New Testament probably didn’t know they were writing “The Bible,” they were just writing what they had seen and heard. In fact, when Peter and others were told to keep quiet or go back to jail, they said “We cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Anyone can do that! You don’t need seminary training to tell people what you’ve personally seen and heard. 

I’m writing this article because I have realized that I spend a lot of time telling people what the gospel is. I tell them about sin, Jesus, the cross etc. I try to help people sort through the hard questions and stumbling blocks that Satan is using to hold them back — all necessary and good. I might even challenge people to accept it for themselves. I’m telling, telling, telling, telling them all about Christianity, but I am not being a witness. 

Witnessing is where “the rubber meets the road,” so to speak. All of our doctrine, apologetic arguments etc. might do a good job of laying smooth spiritual asphalt, but a prime road is no good unless someone drives their life-car on it. 

And so I’ve been convicted to start sharing my testimony  and not just explaining the gospel. Will you? I’m going to start right here and now. I encourage you, that if you can’t articulate what Jesus has done in your life, don’t just think hard about it: write it down! It will help you tell others in the future. 

Here is a short version of my testimony: 

I grew up in a Christian home. When I was six, I decided I want to “get saved,” so I went down to the front of the church and said a prayer, which I meant, and got baptized. I’m not sure if I understood salvation correctly then or not. I do know that when I was 12, I was very confused. I believed in Jesus for sure, but I kept thinking of salvation as happening at the moment that you say a prayer right and mean it. Even to this day, I’m not sure if it was conviction or confusion causing it, but when I was in seventh grade, I knew I was a sinner and I knew I wanted Jesus so I got down on knees in my bedroom and asked Him to save me. I even got re-baptized and everything. 

I didn’t realize at the time, or even for several years, the implications of accepting Jesus. Growing up in a Christian home, I figured that really, not much would change after I “got saved” as I wasn’t into major rebellion or anything like that. I went through phases of increased passion for God and times of malaise. But God had plans for me that I didn’t know about. 

When I was 25 I was working a job I didn’t particularly love, but I was by myself a lot. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could get my dream job in the motocross industry by working for a magazine. But then I started listening to sermons, apologetics talks and lectures every day. My zeal for the Lord skyrocketed. I began to realize just how little I knew and how big God is. 

In the summer of 2013 I went to the Ravi Zacharias Summer Institute. By the time it was over, I knew that God wanted me to be an apologist of some sort. I knew there was no way I could go through life without sharing the gospel and defending it as something more than superstitious nonsense. I still don’t know exactly how my ministry will look in the future, but I’ve learned to just leave that to God. 

Since I truly stopped resisting God’s call on my life, my whole world has changed. I’m not just saved from sin, I have a purpose. I’ve seen God’s provision in my life and I have learned not to worry. Sometimes I still struggle with wanting more material things, but for the most part, I’ve been set free from the silly competitiveness of the world. It doesn’t matter if I “climb the ladder,” drive a nice car, have a big house — as if there is some cosmic scoreboard that we’re all trying to top. All that matters is I’m God’s and that I’m doing what He wants me to do. 

Accepting Christ isn’t just a single moment in time where you get your ticket to heaven, it’s the beginning of real living! 

Your Turn

See, there’s nothing fancy there. So what’s your testimony? If you’d like to share it with others, email lifeinprogressministries@gmail.com and we’ll share it on the Life in Progress website. 


The Problem of “Free” (Sample) Salvation

Christians need to take care to explain Biblical concepts when talking to non-believers. While we might be comfortable with our “Christianese,” we have to remember that the vast majority of the population does not go to church. We need to be diligent students and patient witnesses so those who do not believe are not more confused about Christ after speaking with us than they were before.

One area where I think there is a lot of confusion is the idea of free salvation. While it is true that salvation is a gift from God, the word “free” has many uses in the English language and can be misused to cheapen salvation. Salvation is not free in an absolute sense. Salvation is only “free” in the sense that you can never earn it or pay the debt of sin by good works. To declare “Jesus is Lord” is to surrender your life to Him and to give Him your heart.

I think a lot of those outside of the church, and a great many members of our congregations, hear us talk about the “free gift” (not sure if there is any other kind) of salvation and think of it in the same way they would think of a free sample at the mall food-court. You can walk up to the sample-giver (or walk an aisle to a preacher), stick out your hand (or repeat a prayer), get your sample (or your salvation) and, boom!, you’re done. Sample eaten, salvation received. Then you can continue on your merry way as you were before.

Pastors, I know none of you intend for people to view salvation this way nor would you ever preach it like this, but this perception does happen. 

But does that remind you at all of what happened when people met Jesus? I don’t think so. Those people were changed. They knew Jesus. And it’s that kind of knowing — not simply believing something with your brain, but knowing the person of Christ as a friend and not just an idea — that brings about salvation.

Jesus said of salvation in Matt. 7:21-23 (ESV), “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

A person can recite the “sinner’s prayer” and even show some fruit for a lifetime and still not know Christ or the Father. For example, in the parable of the two sons (a.k.a. “The prodigal son”), we can see that the older son, representing the Pharisees, served faithfully but still did not have a loving relationship with his Father. The older son refused to come in to the party and shamed his Father in doing so. And if Jesus’s other parables featuring feasts and celebrations are any indication, parties represent the very Kingdom of God. You want to be partying! 

To recap, salvation isn’t free because parties aren’t cheap to throw, and you have to know the host to get in. Our host, the Father, is throwing the most costly party possible. It cost Him His Son. Because you know the Son, the Father will welcome you in as His own. But it costs you to know the Son. The Son doesn’t want friends who do favors for Him from time to time. The Son wants lifelong companions who leave everything behind to walk with Him anywhere and everywhere He leads. Close relationships are built in close proximity.

So, maybe we need to clarify what we mean when we say salvation is free. Jesus paid all the price for you, but it still costs you your whole life. Some would say, “All you have to do is repent.” But repentance does not mean simply “being sorry.” The word repent means to “change your mind.” And to truly change your mind to follow Christ is going to result in your whole life changing. 

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it’” (Luke 9:23-24).


Insecure, I Think

God has been stretching me — pushing me to my limits spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  It’s crazy.  If I’m honest, the push should inspire, strengthen and grow me.  However, more often than not I’ve been struggling with insecurities.  I always thought I’d be most confident and secure in my thirties! Not so.  I feel the Lord expanding my territory, increasing responsibility and requiring more than I ever imagined.  Of course, nothing is possible without Him. That much is clear.

What else is clear is that I’m not going to make it.  I need Him.  I need the Holy Spirit to correct me and make me into the person He needs to live out His purposes.  Over and over again, the Lord is reminding me of the influence of my mind.  Our minds are so uniquely powerful.  How and what we think transforms us.  Romans says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Philippians gives us criteria for what kinds of things to think about. The list includes things that are:

  • TRUE
  • HONORABLE (NOBLE)
  • JUST (PURE)
  • LOVELY
  • COMMENDABLE (GOOD REPORT)
  • EXCELLENT (VIRTUOUS)
  • PRAISEWORTHY

Seems I might consider changing the way I think!  A fellow speaker and friend, Brooks Harper, always says “the most important conversation you have everyday is the one you have with yourself.” I need to speak TRUTH — not just to an audience — but to myself.  I need to be more intentional about filling my mind with God’s word, His truth, and allow it to transform the rest.

So,  along that line, over a year ago I read a book called “Self Talk, Soul Talk” by Jennifer Rothschild.  It was great.  Through my recent struggles, many of her ideas have resurfaced.

Thought you might enjoy this interview about the book.  There’s great insight here. Take a few minutes to think about what she says…

Q&A with Jennifer Rothschild

Author of Self Talk, Soul Talk

What is soul talk?

Over the years, I have gradually learned what to say when I talk to myself, and that has truly made all the difference in my life. After years of struggling beneath the weight of my own slander and lies, I have learned to speak truth into my soul. It’s what I call soul talk.

How does soul talk work?

Everybody practices self talk, but few of us actually take time to think about the things we say to ourselves. The process is so natural we don’t even notice it. Amazingly, much of our self talk is false. The words we say shape the way we think about ourselves. They influence our emotions, our thoughts, and our decisions. They resurface in our conversations with other people. They can spur us on to live meaningful, productive lives, or they can drag us down to lethargy and despair. Soul talk is about replacing the lies you may have been telling yourself with the truth.

What kinds of struggles with self talk have you had personally?

My steady flow of disapproving thoughts and self talk once formed a constant stream. I badgered, nagged, devalued, and said cutting words to myself. At times, all those dark, negative put-downs have felt like a raging river, tossing me mercilessly until I thought I might drown in my own self-condemnation.

What was the physical setback that you faced in your teens?

At the age of 15, I became legally blind due to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Even though I received that difficulty with grace and resolve, the extra challenges of the disability and the knowledge that blindness was inevitable brought even more opportunities for me to struggle with negative thoughts and destructive self talk. For me, blindness is a circumstance that opens the door to a host of other bewildering issues. One of the biggest daily realities I face is the stress of not being able to drive, read, or enjoy independence. 

What is the paradox of emotions?

If you try to think with your feelings, you’ll fall into all manner of false conclusions. Emotions are supposed to serve and strengthen us. Left to themselves, however, they enslave and deplete us. We need a thought closet well stocked with timeless truth, or we will clothe ourselves with the feelings of the moment.

How important is physical well-being including exercise and healthy eating?

Living a healthy lifestyle is so important to our mental well-being. Never discount the impact of physical wellness on our souls’ wellness. Feelings of despair might really be our bodies’ signal that we need to meet some basic needs. Your body needs adequate rest, healthy food, and moderate exercise.

How important is mental well-being? How can we stimulate this?

Brains like to be challenged. Your mind needs to have something to do, or it will create something to do—something that might not be so constructive. If you don’t fully strengthen your brain, it will wiggle and jiggle itself just to alleviate the dullness and find a channel for all its energy. Spend a few minutes each day reading something that interests and challenges you. Pick up a journal and record your thoughts and questions.  Join a book club or audit a class from your local university. Feed your curiosity and you’ll stimulate an enjoyable, insatiable hunger.

How important is our spiritual well-being?

Hopelessness, fear and depression often grow out of unsatisfied longings. C.S. Lewis said, “If I can find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” We can try to fill the longing with relationships, religion, volunteerism, or just being good. But the deep ache from the bottom of our souls can only be satisfied in a relationship with God.

Is it healthy to remember the past? What memories should we revisit?

The real power of any moment is fully realized when it is remembered. The experience might have been painful or pleasant, but its intensity and meaning grow when we remember and reflect upon it. Remembering is essential to the health of our souls. So we must tell our souls to look back often. Memories store great anthologies of stories that tell us who we are. They become intimate reminders of our personal histories. However, tell your soul to look back only at what is profitable. Profitable memories are those that add to your soul wellness rather than subtract from it.

How destructive can fear become in our lives? What’s the alternative?

We can’t ever side with fear, because fear is never on our side. And we can’t let fear and despair shake and intimidate us. Fear betrays; hope never does. Fear and despair make us quiver; hope makes us unshakable. Rather than giving into fear and despair, we tell our souls to hope. Hope will always be on your side, cheering you on and defending you. Hope anchors us because it provides spiritual grounding. Hope brings stability to every part of our being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We speak the language of hope when we tell our souls to look up.

How can we cope with our busy lifestyles? Where can we find time to rest?

Life is busy. The demands are great, and we seem to have no time for rest. So much of our self-talk is directed at revving ourselves up. Excessive revving up, however, only leads to petering out. Daily we must tell ourselves to chill out. Rest isn’t only for our tired bodies. Weary souls need it too—our wills, our minds, and our emotions. The choice to rest is ours.

How can we press on despite fear and failure?

Steady, small actions will slowly reduce the big feeling that is paralyzing you. Just because you have failed at something does not mean you are a failure. If you quit, the world will be lacking what you alone bring to it. If you continue to feed your feelings of failure and defeat, those dark emotions will grow, creeping across your soul like long winter shadows. But if you begin to starve those feelings, they will slowly die.

How can we become less selfish and “others centered”?

It’s our nature to lift ourselves up, to be egocentric. Looking back at my life, I can say for sure that the most miserable times of my life have been when I was the most self-centered, self-aware and self-promoting. When we tell our souls to get the spotlight off our own preoccupations and onto the needs of others, we reopen the potential for joy in our lives. Only selfless, other-centered people are truly happy. They have learned the all-important key. When we lift others up, we grow stronger, healthier and happier.

If you’re interested in the book, you can find it online at http://www.jenniferrothschild.com/.

Blessings!


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