It’s very difficult to gauge how much attention an article will receive on this forum. Fortunately, I don’t write with that in mind. Because time is a precious commodity, I only write about things I’m feeling passionate about at the moment. Sometimes it resonates with others and sometimes it doesn’t. However, I have compiled a unique list of the 17 most underrated articles posted on this blog. Articles that I think deserve far more attention than they have received. I hope you’ll give these articles a second look.
My weight loss journey, godly parenting, church growth, personal holiness, navigating the dangers of ministry, neglecting prayer, ISIS, the hypocrisy of Hollywood, coping with a terrible trial, and good decision making are covered in the articles below. I am incredibly humbled by each of you who support this ministry by simply reading and sharing. God bless.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:3).
The 23rd Psalm is beautiful and arguably the most recited passage of Scripture. I have found that most people focus primarily on verses one and two, but verse three is filled with a wealth of powerful truths. So let’s dig in.
HE RESTORES MY SOUL (What Does That Mean?)I always thought it meant that God strengthens us when we are weak (and that’s exactly how some people translate this phrase), but the meaning goes much deeper than just a physical strengthening. It literally means that God will bring our soul back from its wanderings or wrongdoings. Nothing is more ready to wander astray than sheep, and nothing has more trouble finding its way back than sheep. All we like sheep have gone astray, and we are always vulnerable to failure and backsliding; we are prone to leaving the right way, the way of truth, and the way of duty, and detouring onto the familiar, brightly lit paths of unrighteousness. That’s exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “Wide is the way the leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).” It’s easy to get off course. It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get on the busy highway that leads to destruction and just follow the traffic. It’s easy to let the Devil take the wheel. And in those moments remember that God is merciful. He is a God of restoration. Cry out to Jesus, and He will find you even when you have abandoned Him.
When God restores our souls, He shows us our errors, He brings us to repentance, He calls us back to our duty, He forgives, He forgets; and if he did not do so, we would wander endlessly and we would be undone. The Bible indicates that God can heal our backsliding (Jeremiah 3:22). That word “healing” is interesting because it signifies that God views backsliding like a disease that needs immediate care. We can take our weakness, our doubt, our unbelief, our failure, and our sin to the Lord. And just as surely as God can open blinded eyes he can heal a hardened heart. Just as surely as God can heal the lame, he can mend a wounded soul. He can and will heal our backsliding if we turn to Him.
HE LEADS Once God restores us He will be our leader. In fact, he will demand to be our leader. Sometimes we try to lead God. We try to manipulate God’s will to fit our desires, but all of those efforts end in pain. God is all-powerful; we cannot share in His Lordship. We could end a lot of difficult lessons right now by simply allowing God to lead us in all things. That means God leads our finances, our time, our entertainment, our appearance, our conversations, our futures, our relationships, our families; everything.
HE LEADS US IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (What are paths of righteousness?) Paths indicate well-walked trails that others have blazed. It’s a trail that goes off the paved roads, well worn by travelers who created natural paths through difficult terrains. In the prophet Jeremiah’s days, Israel rejected the Lord’s ways and began following whatever roads looked good to them. Look at the command that God gave to the people in Jeremiah 6:16.
Thus saith the Lord: “Stand ye in the highways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk therein.
They willingly disobeyed the Word of the Lord and invited judgment into their lives. Let’s not make the same mistake. Remeber, “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death (Proverbs 12:28)”.
FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE He restores and he leads us into righteousness because it brings honor to His name. That’s not to say that He doesn’t do so out of love for us because He certainly does. But just like a parent experiences dishonor when a child refuses to be obedient, God is dishonored by our tantrums. When we enter back into covenant with God it restores honor to us and Him.
To be a culture warrior, it takes courage. It takes courage to be different. It takes courage to seek the higher ground. It takes courage to resist the tide of sinful societies. It takes courage to resist false premises that are commonly believed to be true. But for those who identify as Christians, this is exactly what God has called us to do. God, speaking through the apostle Peter, gives a clear command, “…Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:16).” This is just one of numerous passages that call us to a lifestyle of holiness.
Obviously, God takes holiness very seriously, and yet the topic of holiness is one of the most divisive subjects among Christians of all flavors. Don’t panic, this article isn’t intended to be a list of do’s and don’ts (I’ll save that for another time). Before we can have a conversation about any of the outward or inward manifestations of holiness, we must first agree that holiness actually matters.
Holiness in Action (God Begins the Process)
Some theorize that holiness is something like forgiveness; God grants it to us and then we go our merry way without any responsibilities whatsoever. This argument is odd because although it is true that only God can pardon our sins, even that pardon comes with an expectation. Consider the woman caught in the act of adultery; Jesus tells her that her sins are forgiven with the stipulation that she must stop sinning from that moment forward (John 8:1-11). In a certain sense, holiness is the continuation of a work (sanctification) that God sets in motion within us.
Holiness (the Process)
The apostle Paul makes it clear that holiness is a process in which we are active participants, “…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).” Notice that we are to cleanse ourselves and perfect holiness. This is not a flippant elective that we can approach casually; we perfect holiness in the fear of God.
We Are More than Mere Bystanders
To be clear, holiness is not something that can be achieved through ourselves, by ourselves, or because of ourselves. Neither are we clueless bystanders free of responsibility or obligation. God calls us to a higher standard of living both internally and externally. Thankfully, God promised that his Spirit will empower us when our strength fails us (Luke 24:49; Romans 8:11).
God Is Holy
We can all agree that God is holy, but what does that mean? Passages like 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 6:3 are just two examples of many passages about God’s holiness. We could describe the holiness of God as absolute sinless perfection. God is unlike any other (Hosea 11:9) and His holiness is the essence of that “otherness.” His very being is completely absent of even a trace of sin (James 1:13; Hebrews 6:18). He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him (Psalm 40:5). God’s holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath is holy (wrap your head around that one).
What does it mean for us to be holy?
When God told Israel to be holy in Leviticus chapters 11 and 19, He was instructing them to be distinct from the other nations by giving them specific regulations (or standards) to govern their lives. Israel is God’s chosen nation and God has set them apart from all other people groups. They are His special people, and consequently, they were given standards that God wanted them to live by so the world would know they belonged to Him. When Peter repeats the Lord’s words in 1 Peter 1:16, he is talking specifically to believers. As believers, we are commanded to be “set apart” from the world unto the Lord. Therefore, we are to live according to God’s standards, not the world’s. God isn’t calling us to be perfect but to be distinct from the world. First Peter 2:9 describes believers as “a holy nation.” And it is in fact! The Church is spiritual Israel. We are separated from the world; we must live out that reality in our day-to-day lives.
Resist Irrelevant Relevance
I’m not advocating that the Church should seek to be irrelevant; what could be more relevant than endeavoring to save a lost world? However, relevance for the sake of relevance makes the Church irrelevant because we lose sight of our priorities quickly. Relevance at all costs leads to compromise no matter the cost. In all our noble efforts to reach the world, let’s not forget that a holy people cannot assimilate into an unholy culture and remain holy.
In a moment, I am going to list five key subjects that the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has largely remained silent on in the last several decades.
It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar. The scenario usually goes something like this; Jamie graduates from high school where humanism, atheism, secularism, and every other “ism” you can imagine has been crammed into her head for the last decade or more. But until recently, Jamie always went home to a mom and dad who worked hard to combat the onslaught of worldly concepts and temptations infiltrating her mind. But when Jamie goes to college she faces the same battles that she fought in high school, only now they are even more intensified.
One key element changes to Jamie’s disadvantage; she no longer goes home to the stability of her parents. Jamie has more freedom, more independence, more responsibility, more pressure, more temptations, more opportunity for failure, and less support.
Sadly, many times the Jamie’s in our churches simply are not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school. Somehow, somewhere before Jamie reaches these critical years she must develop her own intimate, personal relationship with God if she is going to withstand the cultural onslaught that young adulthood brings.
So what is the Churches role in all of this? I believe it is significant. In fact, it is paramount. Outside of parents, nothing can impact and shape the hearts of students like the properly functioning body of Christ. It is vitally important that the Church (especially the leadership) is aware and concerned about the challenges facing their young adults.
Backsliding is never instantaneous, but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated. That’s why Scripture admonishes us to, “Train up a child in the way that he should go… (Proverbs 22:6).” Nothing can replace the shaping done during an individual’s formative years (arguably adolescence and young teens). When Jamie goes to college she will subconsciously draw from behaviors and patterns learned long ago. Therefore, for the Church to retain its young adults it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries. Take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.
Ok. So this is a longer article than I usually post (modern day attention spans aren’t what they used to be), but with all of the above in mind, I have included some areas that the Church must address exhaustively if we are going to keep our children in the apostolic faith.
Science and the theory of evolution in particular. We should not be anti-science, however, we should be anti-scientific theories that have an anti-God agenda.
Morality, God’s plan for human sexuality, and the family. Hollywood, public schools, the internet, peers, and every other facet of culture talks about these issues night and day. If the Church is going to remain relevant it cannot stay silent or fearful of these subjects.
The Bible and why it can be trusted as the literal Word of God. It’s no secret that the Bible has been under attack in one way or another since its inception. They may not be burning Bible’s in the streets but liberal academia has been doing their best to undermine it for centuries. They don’t care if you read it as long as you don’t trust it for absolutes.
Popular culture, holiness, and what it means to live righteously. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t make it evil. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t make it acceptable either. The Church must stand on the front lines of the culture wars and promote godliness in a clear, loving, well thought out way.
Relationship with Jesus. None of the above will matter without a close, experiential, relationship with Jesus. Relationship will sustain a heart even when storms rage all around.