The Theology of Emotion

I feel like…

I don’t think it’s fair that…

I don’t feel like God would make someone unhappy…

Christians are saturated by thousands of blogs, articles, and thoughts about what is ok and not ok to do and be in our day.   One of the more dangerous false teachings I see creeping into the American Christian world is what I want to call the Theology of Emotion.

Theology simply means the study of God.   Our culture is increasingly a generation of Christians that are basing their beliefs about God more heavily on how they feel than what God has revealed about Himself through the Bible.

If you need examples of this just go talk to most young Christians and ask them if they think living together before marriage is wrong.   Or ask them if they think homosexuality is wrong. It seems that many who claim Christianity today are more concerned with how they feel about something than what God has said in the Bible about it.

Don’t get me wrong emotions are a great and powerful driver.   Emotions are the great catalyst to actions. I love so many passionate movements going on in the Christian community such as the “End It” movement to end sex trafficking.   I love the pregnancy care centers that are all over our nation that provide options to mothers who feel like they have no options. I love the push for Christian families to be involved in foster care and adoption. These are great pictures of how God uses our emotional heartstrings to rally us around causes that are close to His heart.

If we do not feel then we do not care and we are never moved to action.

Emotions are great motivators but bad decision makers.

When we allow how we feel about any certain issue to supersede what God has revealed we become our own god and no longer trust Jesus as the authority.

One recent example I read was in an interview with popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker.   I know many women in my church that love her books. Most of what she writes is helpful and beneficial. But when I read her recent comments on the homosexual community I was taken back.

Here is what she said, “From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

I find her statements very disturbing.   The Christian community has the biblical mandate and responsibility to love and minister to every person, red, yellow, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, confused or other. But what she says takes this to another level.   She is taking people who embrace a life and identity that God clearly defined in scripture as a direct rebellion against Him, and associates those who embrace that lifestyle as a fellow believer in Christ.

This is anti-biblical to the core.   Jesus is so clear that when we become His followers we sign away all of our personal rights. We become willful slaves of Christ.   Here are the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Those selfish acts of rebellion no longer characterize our life.   We willingly choose to deny what may seem pleasurable and best to us in order to follow what Jesus says is best.

The Apostle Peter said it this way,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Dietrich Bonheoffer said so clearly, “the call to follow Christ is a call to die.”

My goal is not to throw stones at Jen Hatmaker or even those who identify as LGBT. The goal is to expose a larger problem that is a bitter root in the tree of American Theology.   It is the idea that we can change our theology to match the spirit and feeling of the day. The beauty of the scripture is that it is unchanging. No matter how we feel about an issue we yield to Christ.   We do not seek to make the scripture fit our feelings. This applies to all of us!   This is no indictment on any particular sin.   It is prerequisite for all of us.   I make my kids take off their shoes before they come in the house.   We must shed ourselves of all of our sins when we come to Christ.

When we come to Christ we do not have the option of holding on to any sin.   Our identity is no longer found in our activity but in our Savior.   The sex addict can come to Christ, but he must repent and turn away from his sex addiction.   The thief can come to Christ but he is no longer a thief, he now seeks to look like his Savior. He goes from taker to giver. The idol worshipper can come to Christ but he cannot bring his idol with him. He must destroy it. The homosexual can come to Christ but he no longer identifies as a homosexual. My point is not to say that Jesus followers will no longer struggle with their sin but that they will STRUGGLE. They will embrace the internal battle that is going on inside of them. They will not give themselves over to the sins of their past. The Holy Spirit inside of them will no longer allow them to be happy in their sin.

Adrian Rogers once said, “Our feelings are the most shallow part of us. God does not do His deepest work in our most shallow part.”

If you are a follower of Christ I would challenge you to read your bible more than you read the latest Christian book.   Remember that if something has been true for 2000 years of the Christian faith then God is not going to suddenly change His mind because the culture now embraces some particular sin.   The call of the Christian life is a call of self sacrifice. It is a call to lay our sins down and lay our lives down for others.

Let’s not make a golden image of god in the likeness of the American culture of our day. The world says that we should be happy and we find happiness when we do what makes us feel good.   The word of God teaches us that we should seek holiness.   When we seek to be holy, only then do we find happiness. Happiness in the Christian life is not the goal but the by-product. It’s not found in sin but often found in service.   Happiness can be briefly experienced in the passing pleasures of sin, but that kind of happiness will quickly leave you empty again. Real happiness can only last in the conscious surrender of ourselves to Christ and His calling on our lives. Get your theology from the Bible and not from your heart.


Does The Church Still Need Youth Pastors?

Student Pastors today have pretty much become their own breed of pastor.  They are hip and cool.  Most of them come equipped with a goatee, hip hairdo, cool man bag, iphone, ipad, some type of Biblical tattoo in Hebrew or Greek, and a guitar.  I am not making fun (well sort of) because I was a youth pastor for 8 years.  My high school youth pastor made a big difference in my life, but as I have thought about it, I think student ministry has become something that has gotten away from the Biblical model.   Here are a few dangers I think student ministers should watch out for:

Student Ministry Should Not Create A Separate Church

It seems that most things that happen in church life today separate the family instead of bringing them together.  We come to church and we all go to our different divisions and we will see each other around lunchtime.  The Bible is clear that worship is a family thing, so why do we work so hard to split families up?  I think much of the church planting movement in America today is birthed out of a generation that wants their church to be their student ministry.  People my age who grew up in student ministry with a band and a “relevant” teacher now refuse to worship with “old” people that sing the “awful Hymns.”  Are we reaching the lost or simply dividing the church more by creating churches of student ministries that have grown up?  My generation has so much to learn from the previous generation.  We need to be careful not to lose the Godly heritage that came before us.


Student Pastors Are Not Paid Entertainers

So many youth pastors keep a full calendar with bowling, movies, 5th quarters, amusement parks, and a host of other activities. Most of these activities have little significance.  We always filed them under the “fellowship” banner.   You are there to help students know Jesus Christ and become more like Him.  There is a great pressure in student ministry to be a glorified babysitter to teenagers.  Don’t be that guy.

What Should Student Pastors Do?

Model the Way

If you want your students to go to the next level in their faith then you need to already be at the level you want them to attain.  Never expect them to witness more than you do.  Never expect them to have a better quiet time then you do.  As a leader it implies that you are out in front of them and are giving them an example to follow.  Never expect what you are not first willing to do.

Empower the Parents

My first few years of student ministry I saw parents as kind of a hindrance to “my” ministry.  I mean they did not know kids like I knew them and they threw cold water on so many of my “brilliant ideas” (like putting bananas in a toilet and blind folding kids and making them fish them out).  The specific position of “Youth Minister” cannot be found in the pages of the Bible.  I am not saying there is not a need for them, but I am saying the scripture is clear that God has put the responsibility of the next generation of faith primarily on the shoulders of the parents.  (See Deuteronomy 6).  The more you can get parents involved and get them to teach their teenagers the better.  As a youth pastor, I spent a lot of time investing in a lot of kids.  As I look back at all the students that I invested in there is a common theme.   The kids who had Godly parents are still walking with Jesus.  The kids who did not have Godly parents for the most part are living for themselves.

Give Students Big Bold Challenges

I find that this generation is under challenged.  Challenge them with changing the world with the gospel and giving their lives for the gospel.  This is a radical generation that wants something real and is willing to give their lives’ for it.  When you give them the challenge to change the world give them some practical ways to do it in their school and their neighborhoods.  If you expect little you will get little.  I believe that this generation is hungry to do something big.  Don’t sell them short with messages about having a positive self-image and recycling.  Tell them about tribes that have yet to hear the message of Jesus and are hell bound unless someone goes to tell them. Ask them to be the person who reaches them.

Teach Them The Bible

While most of this generation is hungry for something real they are also very emotional.  They have little Biblical and theological depth.  They need to learn the word of God.  It is the only thing that can truly change their lives and give them hope.  Don’t give them an hour-long worship service with smoke, lights, and a “killer band” with a 15-minute devotion.  Give them the word of God.  Teach them how to study the scripture on their own and help them learn how to apply it to their daily lives.  Take them through books of the Bible and show how the entire Bible points to the Gospel and to Jesus.

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Up In Their Business

As a youth leader you need to love the students and have a strong relationship with them.  You need to know them well enough where you can talk to them about issues in their lives they are having.  Remember what they tell you.  Ask them about their tests, games, relationships, etc.  You cannot do ministry from afar.  I was always “up in my students business.”  Sometimes they did not like how honest I was with them about everything from relationships to attitudes.  But, for the most part those students later appreciated my honesty.  Sometimes loving your kids will mean you have to tell them a harsh truth about themselves or their actions that they do not want to hear.  This will make you unpopular for the moment.  Which leads to my next point:

You Are Called To Be Their Pastor, Not Their BFF

Never forget you are there to help them grow as people and sometimes that will require being their leader and not their friend.  Many youth pastors and leaders make the mistake of giving the youth the impression that they are best friends to the students. Student ministry is not about being a cool older guy that teaches teenagers.  (This is actually quite pathetic if you think about it.  It is like the 30 year old that is still trying to live out his youth at high school field parties.)  Your relationship to students needs to be closer to a parent/child than friend/friend.  You are there to guide them and not just be a shoulder to cry on.  If they do not respect you as a leader they will not listen to what you have to tell them.


Whether Hillary Or Donald, I Am Not Moving To Canada

Canada is cold and they talk funny…eh.

As the election year has drawn on and seems to never end most of the American public is growing very weary. This has proved to be an election of the lesser of two evils. I don’t think either party is particularly proud of their candidate. But here we are with the choice between a colonoscopy and a root canal.

Elections matter but in God’s great cosmic plan they don’t matter as much as most people think.

I vote to end abortion. I vote because I love the foundation of the country in which I was raised.   But this election has been clearer than any election to show Christian people in America that our hope is not in our country and our hope is certainly not in our politicians.

The worst thing that has come out of this election is not the scandals that plague the Clinton camp or the indiscretions of a billionaire.   I don’t think that any of the scandals that have come out have truly surprised anyone. I think both sides manufacture surprise in order to hate their opponent and get more votes. No, I think the worst thing that has come out (or perhaps the best thing that has come out) is a revelation of the soul of the Evangelical church in America.

I have felt very let down by some of my faith heroes. I have seen many men that I have looked up to and read their books quickly throw their support behind a man that embodies much of the “Spirit of the World.” I understand that we are not electing a pastor or a Sunday School teacher, but it is the hypocrisy that has hurt the most. For years the church has claimed that morality matters. We have stood against immorality.   It seems that so many leaders had already jumped on the Trump train that they are now riding it over the cliff. To be real honest I despise what Hillary Clinton stands for. She promotes evil at its very core. For a candidate to say in a debate that she will appoint Supreme Court Justices that will uphold abortion and the marriage of same sex couples is troubling to me. To murder children and dismantle the foundation of home life will continue the moral decline our country is in.

While I may agree with more of Donald Trump’s policy positions I will not try to defend his indefensible behavior. He is full of himself and is a man that, no matter how you cut it, has a problem with how he treats women. They seem to be more like property to him than people. Women are just another commodity that he can buy and sell.

So what? What are Christian to do?

I would not tell you who to vote for. I hope you pray through that and God leads you to the right decision.   I think there are some lessons God’s church must learn from this election.

It Is Not In Likeness With Christ To Desire To See That Other Side Suffer — I have seen so much hatred come out of Christian people over this election.   People want Hillary to “get what she deserves” or they want Donald to be “taken out.”   These attitudes are nowhere to be found in the words of Christ.   Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Romans 12 tells us to bless and do not curse those who persecute you.   The Bible also tells us not to repay evil with evil but evil with good.   We never win over opposition by continuing to shout back at people that disagree with us. American Christians seem to be looking for a fight. They want someone to lose.   Jesus told us that we are to lay down our lives for others. That was the model He chose. He changed the world not by the sword but by His death.

You Can Disagree With Someone And Still Be Their Friend — So many people get hatred in their heart for others when they find out they are supporting a candidate that is different than their own.   It’s OK.   You can disagree with people and not get mad. So you don’t understand how someone can have a view different than your own. You can still be kind to them. There is never a good reason for a Christian to be unkind.

The Sun Will Rise The Morning After — It may make you sick to have to say President _____________________ is now in office.   I can pretty much assure you that the sun will still rise. Your spouse will still love you. Your children will still need you. Just because the Country may be going to hell does not mean that you have to.   If the good Ole USA gets further away from Jesus as a Nation it doesn’t require you to get further away from Him as a person. In fact, I would argue just the opposite.   When we are squeezed what is in us comes out. If we are Christ followers the aroma of Christ will come out as times get harder and the culture in general goes farther away from the teachings of Jesus. It may be harder to be a Christian but throughout history the church has always grown and flourished in times of persecution.   So the day after the election I recommend you get up, read your bible, pray, kiss your spouse, hug your babies and love your neighbor. No matter what happens on the outside, NO ONE can change Christ in you.

When Something Is Evil Call It Evil — What a depressing day when Christians try to defend that which God will not defend.   Better yet, when we try to defend that which God calls us to speak out against. Objectifying and groping women is wrong.   Lying and committing treason is wrong.   Killing babies is wrong.   Just say it and don’t try to act like because your candidate did it that somehow makes it ok.

When a new day was coming in Israel God told Joshua to not be afraid. He was not to be afraid because God was with him. In Psalm 56:11 the Psalmist says, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.”

Christian you need not fear the future because this election is in the hands of God.   He is the one that allows politicians to rise and fall.  He did not put the USA in His Bible. There will be a time our nation will fall. I hope it is not soon, but I trust the Lord that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. We may lose everything but no one can take the greatest treasure, because He is in us.



Feel The Beat Of The Rhythm Of The…Family

A few times a year our church dedicates babies to the Lord and as a pastor at our church this gives me the opportunity to meet with every family one on one to talk about their spiritual lives.   One question I ask is, “What is the biggest obstacle to the spiritual growth of your marriage and family?” I have found that in almost every young family the answer is the same.   It’s not infidelity. It’s not abuse. It’s not anger issues.

The biggest struggle most young families have is being too busy!

Almost every young mom and dad are really struggling to balance their work life and their home life. They want to be a good spouse and good parent but they feel like they are pulled in every direction.   They are doing so much and yet they feel like they are failing at everything.

I can sure relate to this struggle. Juggling a marriage, busy career, and 4 small children is no easy task. My wife and I both feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.

“How can a family that is struggling to survive raise children that thrive spiritually and emotionally?”

I am not claiming that I have figured this out. I am still in the process of raising young children and identify with the struggle.   I want to offer some insight that I have found to be helpful.

Your life needs a rhythm.

Your family needs a rhythm.

Rhythm in music is beats in a pattern.   Rhythm in your home is life in a pattern.

Perhaps one of the greatest scriptures on parenting is in Deuteronomy

6:5 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I love this scripture because it gives the repetitive nature of family life.   The author says we are to repeat it again and again.

It is in the repetition of parenting that we shape our children. It is in these daily and weekly life rhythms that the character of our children is being formed.

Even our best days as parents are filled with guilt and shame. We feel like we should have been more patient, kind, helpful, caring, understanding, calm…and the list goes on.   The guilt can eat at our souls and if we let it, can undermine our future parenting.

I want to encourage you as in Deuteronomy 6 to build family rhythms into your home. Make the mundane of your daily life a weekly song that your children learn to thrive in.

I fail daily but here are a few rhythms in our home.

Daily Car Ride To School – It would be easier for me to put them on the bus. It would cause me less stress in the mornings but I choose to wait in carline and drop them off.   Why? Well a few reasons. 1) I rode the bus to school and was informed about sex at age 7 by a much older boy (It was misinformation). I want to keep my children from these type experiences.   2) I don’t get much time with them each day. This gives me focused time that they are in close proximity.   3) Every day we quote scripture and pray for one another as they leave the car. We also listen to loud music and dance. Sometimes we cry as well (because someone is pulling hair, touch someone else, forgot their homework, etc…)

Taco Tuesday – Tuesdays can be mundane.   Tacos fix that!   I think this is more for me than the kids

Wednesday Night Is Church Night – Our kids know that every Wednesday they will go to church. They love it and can’t wait to go

Homework And Rooms Clean Before We Play Outside – Every weekday (except Friday) my children know that before they can play outside or do anything fun they have to do their homework and clean their rooms. This is a clear rule and helps them know that play is important but it comes after work.

Dinner As A Family 3-4 Times A Week – I love dinner table time. We always ask our kids questions that force them to answer with more than one word. We also try to ask questions that help them see how good God was to them that day.

Fun Friday – I think Friday is their favorite day. If they get good marks in school for behavior all week then when we pick them up from school they get to go to the Dollar Tree and pick out ANY one thing they want. It costs us a whopping $4 a week but the kids can’t wait for this trip. We also usually eat something unhealthy and watch a family movie on Fridays.

Worship On Sunday – Since I work as a pastor at a church my kids spend a lot of time at the church building.   We are always excited to go to church and the kids love Sunday’s

Bedtime Prayers – Every night we tuck the kids in and pray with them. This might be the most important time of the day. My older girls will refuse to go to bed until I pray with them. No matter how tired I am, this happens every night

Family Walks – I need exercise and the kids need to be outside.   My three older kids are now all riding their bikes so this provides a great opportunity to be in nature and talk with the kids.

Individual Time – If you have more than one child you must build into your family rhythms one on one time.   I let one child every week sit in my office with me for a couple of hours. I would think this is boring as I require them to be quiet. I let them play a game on my ipad and they just love coming to the church office and hanging with dad.   It doesn’t hurt that we always have some leftover goodies from a church event in the office.

I don’t know what beats your family plays but I do know it is the rhythms of family life that will shape your children. I encourage you to make a beautiful song.img_5595