Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"How do I care more for people going to hell?" - A conversation with a Friend

I saw this quote post on Twitter yesterday from a "George Whitfield" twitter account:

"O that mine eyes were a fountain of tears, that I might weep over an unconverted, graceless, wicked, and adulterous generation" - George Whitfield

I have desired more, as of late, that I would see more transformed lives in Christ and that one particular brother would Jesus as his Savior.  But I am worried that I don't weep for his soul and others around the world.  I feel like I have been desensitized to sin and people being on their way to Hell.  Simply put: How can I change this by the power of the Holy Spirit?

In Christ,

Friend (of Atkinson County, Georgia)

Hi Friend,

That’s a good question. I have a couple thoughts:

(1) However hackneyed it sounds, I would ask God to give you more sensitivity and concern for those who don’t love Jesus. Ask the Spirit to give you greater awareness of those around you, and to give you the courage and wisdom to speak about Jesus whenever possible. I think the Spirit typically leads us to one person at a time. What I mean is, in general, the Spirit will “stir” in us during regular routines of life and conversations (though I know of people who have felt called to go minister to foreign people groups). And, with our mind made up about the need constantly to be “salt and light” and loving toward the non-Christian, the Spirit will inspire us to have Jesus-filled conversations that make a difference!

(2) Simultaneously, I wouldn’t worry at all about trying to maintain an emotional state toward non-Christians. It is humanly impossible to maintain an emotion. That’s not how God designed us. So, I wouldn’t waste any energy at all in asking God to help you feel consistently “sensitized” for non-Christians.

Instead, we ask the Spirit to help change our attitude and mindset, and perhaps for God to help us be more empathetic if we’re really hard-hearted. As I’m sure you know, we don’t need to feel deep empathy for a need before we do something to meet that need. Feeling empathy helps; it is not necessary.

So, this is where I would disagree with George Whitfield, if he wasn’t just being poetic (which, actually, I think he was).

Those are my thoughts, at least. Keep up the great work!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"How do I treat homosexual friends?" -- A conversation with a Friend

David, I am having a hard time with knowing what to do, how to act, and how to love and be tolerant of my many gay friends that I work with. In the bible, I read about being gay, and the sexual acts of it, to be wrong. But I want to show love, not hate. Several gay couples that I work with, have gotten "married". I feel that marriage is a gift from God between a man and a woman, and Christians make a covenant before God when they marry. Help me here if you can.

Here's a blog from a pastor:

Hey Friend,

I skimmed that article. I concur with most of it (not most of what he said about various biblical texts, which he completely misunderstood).

This question is just like asking, “How do I treat people who sin?”

How should you treat them? Really, like a friend. If that's too vague, ask yourself how you'd treat someone you cared for? That's what Jesus seems to have done in His ministry.

Just because there are times when they are doing sexual things with the same-gender (hopefully at times when you're not around!) doesn't mean that you can't be kind to them at the times you DO see them. For example, I'm sure you're kind to people, who, when you're not around them, do all kinds of sins like lust, are prideful, gossip, lie, cheat, etc. I doubt you are ever tempted to think, "Man...I'm not sure how to treat that person because I bet at some time since the last time I saw them they committed a sin." The same is true with homosexuals. At some point since the last time you saw them they probably committed a horrible sexual sin. But...we don't stop acting loving and kind toward them.

Now, I don't think Christians have the role to point out every sin to people. Again, we'd have to be VERY consistent with this: condemning people all the time when we hear that they lied, gossiped, lusted, etc. We'd really be busy...

So, how do we make sure the person doesn't think we condone that behavior? I guess we just don't show that we support it. We don't have to act all excited when they talk about gay marriage. We don't give high-fives when an inappropriate gay joke is said, etc. I also don't act excited when someone murders someone or gossips or lies or steals. Simultaneously, we don't turn into punks; we don't act so disgusted that we become mean. If there's anything Jesus seems to have done in His ministry, it was that He really accepted, ate with, and hung out with people that others rejected, and through His love and truth, "converted" people. (He certainly didn’t just accept them; He loved them too much to accept them in sinful habits. He most certainly expected people to repent of their sins.)

It seems to me that the ultimate goal is to have the gay person think this: "Wow. [Insert your name] is always so kind to me. I think s/he doesn't support homosexual relationships. But, s/he's always so kind. S/he treats me like everyone else." 

Again...don't we want EVERY person to think that? Even liars? gossips? Murderers? etc.?

Now, it's crucial to be clear: we must be more concerned with acting like Jesus and standing up for the Kingdom of God than being liked. We simply won't be liked when we do what Jesus did and teach what He taught. We should be kind, yes. And we should also be sure to speak truth whenever it is needed. This means people will often come to hate us for our views...or rather, for holding Jesus's views. So be it.

If they ASK you about your view, here are my tips:

(1) Ask them, "Before I tell you what I think, I need to ask you a question: 'Do you judge people who have a different view than you?'" -- This will force them to pause before they jump on you.

(2) If it’s at work, and especially if it’s from a superior, I’d ask how that question has to do with your job.

(3) Stick with Jesus, not your own view. Don't even BRING UP words like, "I just feel" or "I just believe..." Let Jesus speak for Himself. Something like, "Well...it all comes down to whether or not there is a God who created us. If there is, then how He designed sexuality is the only thing that matters. And in Matthew 19, Jesus said that the only appropriate sexual relationship is between a man and woman. And, Jesus spoke with God's authority....so, I side with Jesus. I don't have all the answers, but I know that Jesus spoke truth so I do the best I can to live according to His lifestyle."

Here are some more thoughts. I have a podcast in which I dealt with some similar questions on homosexuality. You can find the podcast here:   http://www.davidwpendergrass.blogspot.com/p/podcasts.html

Also, I wrote a blog on the issue (the podcast is based on it): http://www.davidwpendergrass.blogspot.com/2014/08/can-homosexuals-be-christians.html

These are my thoughts.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What is the precise role of a parent? Some quick thoughts...

Parenting is an incredible, awesome, and daunting task. We are responsible for the well-being and maturation of another human person. From a Christian worldview, here are a few reflections on the role of a healthy, Christian parent.

First, parenting is supposed to be a part-time job. That’s it. So many parents get this messed up. As your child matures, parents are supposed to diminish the degree to which they “parent” the child. It’s inversely related. As children grow up, they should take on more and more responsibility because their parents are giving away more and more responsibility. When parents do not give away more responsibility as the child matures, then parents could have “grown-up children” living with them for years.

Second, parenting is supposed to involve providing the necessary resources for your child’s flourishing, while limiting what hurts their growth. We provide food, shelter, love, etc. for those we parent. To be clear, the resources we provide are supposed to adapt to their growth. Babies need bottles; teens do not. Moreover, we limit what hurts them. And since children don’t know what hurts them, parents give the limits. We do this by stating the limits and then giving natural consequences when the limits are broken. It means we must say a word that most parents have rarely spoken to today’s kids…the word, “no.”

Third, parenting is supposed to be preparing your child for adulthood. Reality is coming whether you or your child accept that fact or not. Demands will be shoved upon your child as they mature, from teachers, employers, friends, lovers, and God. It’s like every single soldier at boot-camp in the 1940s: whether you were ready or not, you were about to face the reality of war. Well, the “war” of reality is coming for your child. And it’s completely your responsibility to get your child ready. Who else will do it?

Finally, to elaborate on my third point, the very best way to prepare children for adulthood is to develop their character. Character is a conglomeration of internal and external tools to handle reality in healthy ways. It involves having aspects such as
  • integrity = taking full responsibility for one’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors; not blaming others for their place in life;
  • proper coping skills = being able to process various feelings well (e.g., feeling disappointment without quitting; being able to fail without labeling yourself a loser; the ability to delay gratification for the greater good; being able to adapt to change well);
  • discipleship = taking full responsibility for growing in the knowledge of God/Christianity accompanied with the necessary spiritual disciplines to guarantee Christian formation.
I cannot overstate this point. The very best parenting goal you can have is to be overwhelmingly concerned with your child’s character. This is why the chief question I ask when making decisions for my children is, “Does this form their character,” or more specifically, “Christian character”?

Have you fully embraced your role as parent? Your child is waiting on you.

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