One of the most important truths of the Gospel is a negative: You can’t obtain salvation by your obedience.


There is good health food and good junk food and never the twain shall meet.

Some people say, “I found something I like at this restaurant, why would I ever have anything else?”. Others say, “I found something I like at this restaurant, why would I ever have it again?”

As you are considering the behavior of another person – consider these two things:

  1. Is the behavior sinful?
  2. Will the behavior give them joy?

If the answers are (1) perhaps no, and (2) perhaps yes, then do not judge their behavior negatively.

Every year you get older, you’re further away time-wise from the age you’ll be when you’re twice your age. So there’s that.

Every time I do something that thirty or more people see, I assume that at least one of them will be bugged by the way I do it.

Have you ever experienced the situation where you weren’t aware of an annoyance until someone complained about it, and then it started bothering you?

Every time you complain, you might be doing this to someone else.

Here are two good questions to ask yourself as you think about your day (or week, or month or year):

What do I want to do today?
What do I want to have done today?


Making a bold statement that almost everyone agrees with doesn’t make you impressive. It makes you normal or not reprehensible.

You don’t have to be the best in the world (or your family or your church or your workplace) to be of value or to experience joy.


I’ve noticed that worship leaders ask the worship team or the choir to not sing in parts during the first verse. This makes sense because (1) it helps teach the melody to those who don’t know it yet, and (b) it gives the worship team something to build to.  But I often have difficulty doing this – I find myself singing harmony on the first slide without trying to.

Here’s a few reasons why (not really in any order):

1. I think vocal parts make the song sound more appealing.
2. Sometimes a harmony part is more in my range or easier to sing than the melody.
3. Sometimes I don’t know a melody, and the odds of singing a harmony accurately are higher than the one note of the melody.
4. I like singing a duet with my wife. Sometimes it’s a trio with my wife (also singing harmony) and whoever is around us.
5. In smaller groups (of less than 10 singers) I’m hoping that singers who know they aren’t always on pitch will feel more comfortable singing, because harmonies covers up their misplaced notes.
6. The old hymn writers worked hard to add harmonies.
7. I want to be an example for my kids.
8. I’m hoping it gives joy and aides the worship of those who can hear me.
9. I feel like harmonies do a better job of showing the congregatedness of the congregations.
10. Three verses ::
Live in harmony with one another – Romans 12:16
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus – Romans 15:5
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony – Colossians 3:14

There is beauty in harmony.


Did I miss any good reasons?

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I believe one of the most important considerations a parent can have is whether or not their child is saved. And while we often can’t know with certainty whether or not another person is saved, there are things we can look for.

A while back I posted a list of signs a child isn’t saved. Recently I been thinking about human situations that might cause a parent to fear that the child they thought was saved really isn’t.

So let’s say you have a son or daughter who understands, believes and loves the gospel. You see real spiritual fruit and sanctification in their life and you feel they are walking with Christ.

But there is something going on in their life that makes you doubt their salvation.

Here is a list of real life situations that shouldn’t.

1. He is sinful.
The Bible is clear, we all sin. None of us will be sinless and perfect until we reach heaven. So a child’s sinful behavior is not a sign that they are lost. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 ESV)

2. She has a besetting sin.
Sure, an obvious sin now and then might not be a sign of lostness, but what if they keep repeating the same sin over and over? What if they continue to fight with one of their siblings or repeatedly have too much interest in impressing the world?

Please consider these words: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17.) Paul is talking to Galatian Christians, and he assumes that they have strong desires of the flesh that compete against the will of God.

Or consider the words “But we all stumble in many ways…” James is talking to Christians from the twelve tribes and he knows of their failures.

The key for your son or daughter is how they responds to their sin. Does their sin cause them grief? Do they have a fear of God’s wrath? Do they understand the destruction that sin causes? Are they praying for God’s grace in his work of sanctification?

It’s a part of the fallen nature of even saved humans that they have desires of the flesh that stay with them. This includes your children.

Pray with them. Help them do battle with the flesh. Remind them that no one can snatch them out of their Savior’s loving hand. Help them to seek God’s grace in how they live. But don’t see this as proof that they aren’t saved.

3. He is depressed.

Reading the Bible, you see characters who behavior and words sound like those of a depressed person. Paul dealt with hard challenges and he talked about their difficulty. Elijah, Jeremiah and Job are all on record expressing how they deeply struggled with their life situation. God knew about their sins, but he didn’t hold their struggles against them.

Depression is hard, and sometimes it is indicative of a lack of faith. But many, many times it isn’t. And sometimes the fruit is sweeter when it comes from a time of depression. Pray with them. Pray for peace and joy. Pray for a renewed beautiful sweetness of life.

4. She disagrees with you theologically.
There are some ideas about God and the human situation that are necessary for salvation, but many, perhaps most, are not. So if your child disagrees with you about transubstantiation, or the proper way to baptize, or egalitarianism vs. complementarianism, it may be a reason for a concern, but a parent should be careful about doubting the child’s faith because of it.

In Philippians, Paul says, “And if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” So while he wants his fellow believers to hold true to the important elements of the Gospel, he doesn’t seem very bothered by the fact that other Christians disagree with him on lesser matter. And he’s aware of how he was forced to change his mind.

Yes, I know that theological beliefs have impact in how we live – financially, vocationally, and politically. Remember Paul’s thoughts about strong and weak Christians.

I think the key here is this question: Are they sincerely trying to determine what the Bible says about the matter? If not, if they know what the Bible says, and don’t care, again, there is cause for worry. But if your son or daughter is seeking to be guided by God’s word there is good reason for you to have peace about his or her beliefs.

Pray for wisdom for yourself in determining which battles to head into. And remember: you might be the weak Christian.

5. He isn’t successful.
What if she can’t maintain a B average? What if he works and works and never is able to excel in sports? What if you’re nervous she will never be able to hold down a professional job? What if he has no interest or aptitude in the arts? What if she is developmentally delayed? There is nothing in the Bible that says non-excellent people are not following God. But there is evidence of God using the non-excellent. Moses couldn’t speak well, for example. Paul, in First Corinthians says that he didn’t come to that church with lofty speech or wisdom, but with weakness, fear and trembling.

God uses weakness. His power is made perfect in weakness.

I’m guessing you can think of people in your life that the world would consider to be complete failures who have nevertheless ministered to you, taught you, helped you, and served God in the way they served you.

Your son or daughter might be that person for others. Pray for that to happen. Pray for their weakness to proclaim the love of God.

From an eternal perspective, the disabled young adult who cannot live on his own but nevertheless sings the praises of God, is better off than the young adult with the amazing career who has turned his back on his Heavenly Father.

6. She doubts her own faith.
As I’ve mentioned, the state of salvation is an important issue for anyone, and should be cause for introspection and soul-searching. With this in mind, if your child is concerned about whether or not he’s saved, it may be a good sign. Do you see fruit in their life? Point it out to them. Ask them to spell out what they believe about the gospel. Remind them of their first love of what God has done for them. Help them to see God’s glory. Point out the promises of God’s word. Talk about the paths God has taken them on.


Now to be clear, all of these traits could be visible in an unsaved child, but they are not strong indicators of a lack of salvation. These situations are difficult (with the possible exception of #4) and sometimes very difficult. I certainly don’t mean to minimize that. Keep praying for your son or daughter. Encourage them. Remind them of the gospel. Call them to repentance. And encourage them to share their story of how God saved them.

And thank God for what he’s done and for what he’s doing in your son or daughter’s story. At the end of every Christian’s story, none of these things will be an issue.


Are there any situations I’ve missed?

Photo by Dutch Blitz Folk (two of my kids and their friends) and I’m thankful for help with this post from Abigail Dodds, Andy Naselli and Jason DeRouchie.

If I was Leonard Cohen’s producer, I’d been like, “You don’t have many rhymes for ‘Ooyah’, do ya?”

Neither my shoes, my car, nor my phone are status symbols.

Considering Our Response to a Road-To-Damascus Encounter

I know that I’m not God. My sins and weaknesses make it easy enough to grasp that truth, as well as its corollary: I am not omniscient. But what I don’t like to face is the implications of those truths: I am wrong about some of my dearly held beliefs.

We all hold convictions that are incorrect. Not one of us is perfect in mindset. For this reason, it would be wise for all of to check our hearts: Do we want God to let us know where we are wrong?

The Challenge

Here is an exercise that we should all try once in a while:

Choose a topic of disagreement which has to do with the nature of humans, or God, or morality, or spirituality, or yours or someone else’s personal choices. Choose one. Choose one you’ve recently felt to be important.

Now consider your response if you found yourself being told by God that you were wrong. What if a voice stopped you where you were and said, “You are against me in this matter” and you knew this was the voice of God?

How Paul and Peter Responded

We know what Paul did after his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus – the man who for months had been putting his resources into destroying the new Christian church –  he repented: “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” (Acts 9:20 ESV) It was such a complete reversal that many had difficulty believing it.

We also know how Peter responded to his vision from God telling him to interact with Gentiles: “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)

Consider other ways they could have responded. They could have said, “Here’s an instance where God must be wrong”.  Or, “If Jesus is the son of God, then I can’t worship that God”. Or, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that and keep acting like I was before I heard it.” Or, “I could never believe in/worship/obey a God that says that”.

Back To Us

Now consider this happening to you – God appearing to you and telling you that you’re wrong about …

Whether or not women should be in leadership
Whether or not homosexual behavior is wrong
When divorce is permissible
How you should vote
What kind of swimsuits should people wear?
Should people be KJV Only?
What does it take to get to heaven?
Is the Calvinist, Arminian or Open Theist view correct?

Imagine the Son of God making himself known to you audibly and saying, “Beloved child, on this topic, you are heading the wrong way.” For those of us with strong opinions, the temptation is there. We might be angry. We might reject the idea because we think it unfair – too lenient or too cruel. Or at worst, we might decide we can no longer believe in him. But the proper response is to have the humility to say, “I am not God. He knows more than me.”

Here is the warning – if our first thought about this possibility causes anger, or pride or stubbornness, then it may be we are overly biased about this. We may be choosing our own view over God’s.

Our Source of Truth

Now this kind of encounter with God is rare, so we shouldn’t expect this to happen to us. Happily, however, most important issues are answered clearly in God’s word if we are willing to look honestly.

I am aware that there are many with passions strong enough that when they see truths in scripture they don’t like, they do one of two things: (1) cross them out of the pages, literally or figuratively, or (2) use eisegesis on the passage – pour their own meaning or opinions into what it says so that it will conform to what they want to be true. And they find churches which agree with their worldviews.

This is what Paul said would happen: The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Our Prayer

With that in mind, here is the sobering main point: if I think it possible that I’d have difficulty accepting a truth from God if he appeared to me visibly, it’s quite likely that I won’t be willing to see God’s truth in this matter even if it’s made clear in the Bible.

May God give us wisdom to see this in ourselves and not set ourselves up as gods who know best. We might be wise to begin regularly praying (perhaps before we read scripture), “Dear Father, show me where I’m wrong.”

The only correct way to finish the sentence that begins with, “I could not believe in a God who…” is this: “…is not the same as the description of him in His Word.”

And not “… really doesn’t feel right to me.”

If not who, then when? If not where, then why? — Questions to ask when pondering the question, “What question should we ask?”

One of the ways I determine whether or not I should read a book is, “Even if I don’t enjoy it, will I be glad I read it?”


“If it doesn’t kill you, it just makes you stronger” is a little bit right and a little bit wrong.


Short answer: My conscience encourages it, but I don’t think everyone should.

I’ve previously posted some of these reasons as single statements, but I thought I’d put them all in one place.

Five Reasons I Wear A Tie To Church.

1. I think I look my best while wearing a tie.
I make no claims to handsomeness, but I have opinions as to what makes me look more or less good-looking. I think wearing a tie makes me more presentable. This may not be applicable for other guys.

I’m going to be with other Christians. I’m going to be focusing on God. Why not try to make myself as presentable as possible?

2. My wife likes it when I wear a tie.
Again, your mileage may vary. But pleasing my wife in this way is a reasonable goal with a number of positive results.

3. I see it as a respectful way to show reverence to God.
When you are worshiping, there are many ways to show honor to God in the way you dress. For me, wearing a tie is one of them.

4. I don’t want there to be nobody wearing a tie at church.
Sometimes I look around after a worship service and can’t find any other guys who are wearing a tie, on the platform or off. I think someone should hold down this fort. I want “guys wearing ties” to be somewhere on the spectrum of how men dress at my church. One reason for this is …

5. I’m thinking about the visitors.
Here is a real situation that I can imagine happening every Sunday somewhere around the country: A guy who hasn’t been to church in a long time decides to finally go to the church down the street that he’s heard has welcoming at it. But he’s also heard they are a little conservative, so he decides to wear a tie. And when he gets there, he feels out of place because he’s the only one.

Wouldn’t that be unfortunate?

I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Cor 9:22-23

Now, as I stated, I don’t think everyone should. Here’s why: It would make me nervous to walk around a church where every adult male was wearing a tie. It seems like that might make our church a little less approachable. A little too legalistic-looking.

But wouldn’t it be legalistic in a different way to suggest that no one should? Or if no one does?

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