Monday, May 30, 2011


Over the last two weeks I've been using YouVersion Live as a bonus feature for our church during the service. Once you have the app on your Web-enabled mobile device, it allows you to follow along with me electronically on that very device while I'm teaching; you can read the texts, take polls, answer questions, jot down notes, and even invite others to join you. Even more intriguing is that the polling data is shared with all who are following along live, so you get to see what others in the room are are thinking right then and there, even while everyone's identity is kept anonymous.

Frankly, I'm enjoying it, and I'm not even participating from a listener aspect. But the data is providing some interesting bits of insightful trivia, and in some cases it provides clues to our current situations and demographics. Plus, it's good seeing how others are taking action in light of what they are learning.

For instance, out of our YouVersion "live" participants...

...34% say the Cosby's were their favorite TV family.
...28% grew up in a family of 4, 31% grew up in a family of 5, and 24% grew up in a family of 6.
...45% will express thanks to their parents in person (and include a hug!) for the investment they made in their life, while another 36% will do it via a phone call. 18% will say thanks through a gift. (Maybe that's one of my kids?!?)
...50% reported that, out of the five offerings in Lev. 1-5, the Burnt Offering was the most interesting and helpful to them. The Grain Offering cane in second with 32%.
...only 31% knew that there were about 55 "one another" verses in the New Testament. Most (38%) thought there were over 75.
...42% indicated that the relational aspects of worship (the Guilt Offering principle) were the areas the Holy Spirit was speaking to them about and about which they desired prayer, while 25% said it was the grateful aspects of worship.

These are fun odds-n-ends for a trivia nerd like me...a little "extra credit" from the weekly joy of preparing and preaching.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nothing New Under the "Covers"

It’s the same old story told again and again: Success, stardom, then smallville. Hero to zero in 60 months or less. It’s exactly what happened to Samson, and its echo is louder than ever in the current saga of John Edwards (
I was commenting to my wife just last Thursday morning, as we were welcoming the day and catching some headlines, how startling it is to watch such a spiraling disintegration. From southern gentleman to Senator to VP/Presidential candidate to … well, the rest goes downhill. And fast. Pretender. Adulterer. Liar. Now thief?
I’m not commenting on his innocence or guilt relating to the most recent charges. I’m simply observing that little things make a big difference. Truly, it’s the small matters, left unattended, that, over the long haul, will turn into monsters that eat you alive. Heroes don’t dive to zeroes overnight; we only find out about it that way. This has been the course for all pseudo-shooting stars since time began. Solomon was correct – there is nothing new under the sun (or the covers).
The cameras don’t show you those small issues; they’re unattractive. And the media won’t tell you about the mundane matters; they’re boring. So they print and write about all your glamour. Your perfection. Your “rightness.” But if you let yourself believe you’re as pretty as the pictures show and as great as the articles say, you’re headed for trouble. One of the biblical writers said it like this: “If you think you’re standing tall, watch out! You’re about to fall.” (paraphrase mine)
That’s why it’s best to have real friends around you, not mere fans. Your friends will tell you the ugly truth so that you will avoid an even uglier future. And they’ll help you do, not deny, the small things that end up making the biggest difference in the end. Like daily prayer when no one is watching. Or regular Bible study even though there’s no message to preach. Or faithful giving when no one is around. Being polite when the camera is off. Consistent exercise after the race is over. Saying ‘no’ to the double scoop even when you’re out of town. Not watching the X-rated pay-per-view movies in the hotel on the business trip. Telling the truth to every question. Giving back the extra change when the clerk has counted it back to you wrongly (even if it’s a penny). Yep, the little things that seem insignificant now can end up being quite important later.
Why? Because they form habits. And habits either make us or break us. Negatively, when sexual lust is a hidden habit, we eventually find a way to act on it. It’s called fornication. Adultery. When financial greed is a hidden habit, we eventually find a way to act on it. It’s called stealing. When anger and resentment is a hidden habit, we eventually find a way to act on it. It’s called revenge. Assault. Murder. These sound unnerving and unsettling. But the whirlwind of evil deeds is usually sown by the wind of evil seeds.
The point? Live today like the little things matter. Because they do.

Friday, May 27, 2011

We're Done with Leviticus, But Not With Holiness

One pastor I enjoy listening to weekly is Kevin DeYoung out of Lansing, MI (University Reforrmed Church). He’s a thought-provoking, theologically-sound teacher of the Word. So when he wrote recently about “The Hole in our Holiness” (,  my ears perked up, especially since we’ve been in Leviticus these past 20 weeks. And with holiness being mentioned over 80 times in that book alone, his article caught my attention.
As I read it, I kept thinking, not only about God’ call to us in Leviticus, but also about our previous study in 2 Peter, and the emphasis there upon our participation in God’s process of sanctification. There’s just no way around the biblical text – we are to join God’s inevitable work inside us with much effort and energy. As Paul said, we are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2).
This is, to some degree, the case Kevin makes in his article, and he does a nice job of calling evangelicals, especially our younger ones, to task for avoiding the call  to biblical holiness and purity. He lists five reasons he thinks this happens, all of which will resonate with you, bringing a grin every once in a while as well. Enjoy Kevin’s perspective, and commit with me to following hard after God’s call to purity and holiness for the glory of our Savior.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not Beyond or Below

Your mind is under attack. Don’t believe me? Just check out your inbox or mailbox.  Ads, books, fliers, speakers, emails, blogs, and articles bombard us constantly. Sure, some are meaningless; others, obvious. Still others are, well, more insidious.
When it comes to discerning what we read and hear, and consequently what we usually end up sharing later, a great discerning rule to use is this: “Does this line up with what the Bible actually says?” Notice the point – what the Bible actually says, not what you wished it said, or what someone else thinks it says. But rather, what does the text of the Bible actually say?
Primarily, this really matters in preaching because if we go beyond the text or below the text, we remove ourselves from our authority. Frankly, we, as preachers, have no authority apart from the Word of God. It is our sole basis for authority. So to have any “legs to stand on” (i.e., credibility), we must stay in line with the written text, always asking ourselves, “Is this what the Bible is actually saying?”
To go beyond the text is to say more than what is really there…to add elements or opinions to the Scripture, without any disclaimer to that end, and acting like it is part of Scripture. This usually happens when someone has a “soapbox” they insist on climbing week in and week out, or when they have an agenda to protect that is more personal than biblical. Conversely, to go below the text is to say less than the text says, usually out of fear of man. We generalize and neutralize the words of Scripture, trying to remove its offense or demands. This is equally as sad as leaves us with whimpy preachers who waste our time.
Secondarily, this really matters to you as a leader and follower of Jesus, for if you are not using what the Bile actually says, you may be easily detoured into believing something that is nothing more than someone’s opinion. Not that opinions are bad; we all have them, right? But we all don’t have the right to pass them off as Scripture! You must be willing – and able – to let the media storm you enter every day be “umbrella-ed” by Scripture. Use God’s Word to inspect, deflect, and reflect upon everything you hear and see, asking yourself constantly, “Is this going beyond or below the actual text of Scripture?”
Incidentally, my informal research, after years of preaching (and listening to preachers), seems to indicate preachers tend to go beyond the text in areas of prophecy and politics. And we usually fall below the text in areas of morality and ministry. Just look around you at the host of books and messages that are thrown at you and you’ll discover that this is generally true. Whether it is in assigning dates and times to Christ’s second coming, painting pictures of heaven and hell with details foreign to the Bible, or giving a pass to any type of sexually deviant appetite, our culture abounds with people doing both – going beyond or below the actual text of God’s holy, authoritative Word.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t provide application. Sure we can; we must! But meaningful application is always rooted in solid interpretation, and that starts with the text – “what does it actually say?” As you interact with others, and as you discern the many messages that come across your life’s “desk” every day, use God’s Word as the final filter. It’s the only way to find out who’s beyond or below.