Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Good Samaritan? Certainly closer than most

The Samaritan in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) didn't really go out of his way to see the man in need. He just didn't get out of the way, as did the priest and Levite. Sometimes I think it's more a matter of opening our eyes to the needs around us as we go along our way, as opposed to avoiding opportunities or even seeking them. Sometimes opportunities happen even while we do things we love like fishing, or yard work (I'm sure someone likes it).

While no "Good Samaritan" stories seem to exemplify the actual parable-and there's probably a reason for that as Jesus is the true good Samaritan-this one comes a little closer. While fishing with his girlfriend, Ted Larsen, Bucs starting Offensive Guard for much of last season, played that role by rescuing a few overturned kayakers.

Here are some similarities....
Enemies: Samaritans and Jews were enemies. Kayakers and boaters are enemies. Not necessarily bitter enemies, as some folks like myself "cross-over," but both sides share a respectable (at best) resentment towards one another while on the water. I have to say that I still don't mind seeing a boat run aground when trying to get to places only kayaks can go.

Cost: And it did cost Larsen. It cost him fishing time and gas to bring them in. With real love for those in need, there is always a cost. An exchange.
Location: While he and his girlfriend didn't just "happen" to cross their path, he was already in the area fishing when he responded to the Coast Guard call.

Instead of breaking the law, as has been common place with several Bucs this offseason, it's nice to see the law fulfilled in love (Galatians 5:14) for a change. Of course if the Seinfeldian version, not the actual "Good Samaritan Law" ever became codified in the States, I guess we would probably not think so highly of "Good Samaritan's" anymore.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A freeman model for fellowship and participation

Finally some good news for the Bucs after reports of DUI's and alleged shootings. Fortunately for the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have found a real leader in baby-faced Josh Freeman. Because of the ludicrous NFL lockout, teams are unable to have true, coach organized activities. However a number of teams, including the Bucs, have still met together regularly to develop their gifts. Normally these spring OTA (organized team activities), mini-camps and the like, are "voluntary" in name only. The players are expected their coaches to be there. But it says something when the players actually want to attend and you have 100% participation. Such was the case with Tampa Bay.

The best "fellowship" (in the sense of "participation" as it is often used in the N.T.) seems occurs organically. When the laity, not the pastor, takes the initiative to gather folks together to serve as one team. You know God has blessed your congregation with good fellowship when folks naturally gather together to serve one another. That's something that can't be scheduled or programmed, but only wrought by the Spirit. 

When folks legitimately love one another, and organically and voluntarily meet each others needs, people outside that fellowship will notice. They'll notice and want to be part of that team. A team that gathers and works together not because it has to, but because it wants to do so.

That's a healthy team and a healthy church. I imagine that was one thing unbelievers found so attractive about the early church in Acts 2.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Judas in Hell?

I often find myself drawn to the CNN belief blog. I don't necessarily find a ton of affinity for the particular expressions of Christianity presented, but I'm almost always thankful for the thoughtful dialog. Sometimes folks will raise questions I've never thought too much about. One such title is this: Is Judas in heaven or hell?

I, along with Dante, presume the latter, rather than the former. Not that I'm good company, but I think I'm in good company. 

But this hip young pastor has some interesting takes. I've summarized some and quoted another.

1.) He argues that both Judas and Peter sinned, and made a "mistake." Both were filled with remorse. Peter just didn't kill himself, so he lived long enough to see Jesus' forgiveness.
Was Judas' sin worse than Peter's? Well, Jesus does tell Pilate that "he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin (John 19:11)." So I guess Jesus kind of squashes that thinking. And he does say, "it would have been better for Judas, "if he had not been born." (Matt 14:21; 26:24). Still it doesn't tell us where Judas is, only that it doesn't bode well for him. But in my mind, 2 Corinthians 7:10 has always cleared up the difference between Judas and Peter in regards to sin, sorrow, repentance, and salvation: "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

2.)  The bible doesn't speak of Judas' eternal state, so we shouldn't speculate. How do even know who's there and who's not?

Speculation on who's in and who's out is never a good thing. Great point. We've simply been given parameters: have the Son=life/No Son=judgment and wrath. But those parameters are such that we shouldn't throw up our hands and say, "God only knows." It is true that God only knows, but God does more than just know, He gives us His trustworthy Word. If someone professes faith, displays faith, and perseveres until the end (or professes faith at the end-like the thief on the cross), we ought to have a level of confidence where that person is. The "God only knows" type thinking only celebrates unbiblical uncertainty for the sake of trying to make others more gracious and less dogmatic in gray areas. Noble goals, but there are better ways to reach them.

3.)  "It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are. But maybe as we approach Easter, we can be reminded that for Christians, the cross and the grave should silence all of these debates. We all fall short and deserve death, but because of what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago, we are able to have life. And I believe that where you end up, God only knows."

I really like this paragraph, minus the last sentence. He draws us away from speculation because it only serves to take our gaze off our own sin and to stare at the sin of others. Beautiful. That is our tendency, to look at others sins' as worse than ours; we all could make a good living if we got paid for that type of thing. Then the truth of the gospel-that Jesus died for those deserving death. Amen. Nailed it.

I could ask some more speculative questions like "What would repentance have looked like for Judas," but I'll take heed of the pastor's challenge to see my sin and see my Savior. That should take up enough time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blessed assurance does not mean perfect assurance: Part III

Here's the final post on what it should look like for us to live with a blessed assurance of salvation. Only someone else already did the hard work for me. Below is an excerpt from a Kevin DeYoung sermon. I don't like everything this joker writes (though I did just order one of his books entitled Just Do Something), nor am I fond of the length of most of his posts. However he often helps balance me out, and I think this sermon finishes what I had already wanted to say. Again a lot longer, but in his defense, it is a sermon manuscript!

Here's his take on Hebrews 2:1-4 and the book of Hebrews in general.

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."

This is one of five warning passages in Hebrews. These five passages are not teaching that genuine Christians can lose their salvation. What they are teaching is that some people with an external connection to Christianity will not in the end by saved. And further, these passages suggest that those who are saved at the end, will be saved by means of these warning. These passages are danger signs that keep the elect persevering to the end.

“We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard”–that’s the warning. Sit up straight. Put your feet on the floor. Shut your yap. And listen up. “Pay attention church people! You are in danger of drifting away.” Hebrews 6:19 says the promise of God is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” So we’ve got warnings to the drifters and promises to those who are anchored.

You can read the rest here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blessed assurance does not mean perfect assurance: Part II

My point in the last post was to discuss whether or not perfect assurance was possible. Now I want to argue that a blessed-although imperfect-assurance is actually better and honors Jesus even more.

Jesus reminds us in John 6:40 that "Everyone who looks on the Son, and believes in Him should have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day."

No one who truly fears leaving the faith needs to fear leaving the faith. Jesus gives us all kinds of promises to hold on to along our spiritual journey. At a time when my assurance was threatened, perhaps due to spiritual attack, depression, faulty thinking, over-analyzation, trusting my heart, or a little of all of the above-I ran to and rested upon this verse time and time again until it eventually stuck. I love it. 

For the over-analytical folk like myself, it need not be over-analyzed. If you truly look to the Son, you'll be raised up. Luke 7:36-50 gives us a perfect picture of what looking to the Son actually "looks" like: weeping, repenting, believing, rejoicing. 

But we have to continue to look to the Son everyday. Not to be saved from the punishment of of our sins (past tense-that's ALREADY happened) but from the power of sin in our lives (present tense) and one day the presence of sin (future tense).

Remember Jesus says, "Follow me." That's quite different than trusting in a prayer you prayed once. Keep looking at Jesus. Keep trusting in Jesus. You'll find that if you are truly afraid of walking away, and you come to Jesus and say, "Help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:23-24)," He's going to answer it. In the end you'll see that the work He started in you will be completed (Phil 1:6). And that's actually the evidence that He did in fact start the work in the first place.

You need Jesus everyday. You need to trust in Him everyday. If you have a blessed assurance, instead of a perfect assurance, you still recognize that need. If you thought there were no way you could ever turn away, you'd become arrogant. You'd become self-dependent. You would be trusting in your own perseverance instead of Him who is at work in you, struggling for you (Col 1:29).
You would never sing anything like Rich Mullins once sang, "Hold me Jesus, because I'm shaking like a leaf."

Jesus is more glorified by offering you the assurance that you need (which is real and actually even greater than the assurance we have in our car brakes-we don't fear coming to a red light), so be sure to thank him for it. Keep looking to the Son even when you can't "see" Him, because He sure can see you. Even when we are faithless, his eyes never leave His children.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blessed assurance does not mean perfect assurance

I read a sad but intriguing interview the other day from Christianity Today. David Bazan, former front man for the band Pedro the Lion, discusses his loss of faith with the Drew Dyck, author of Why Young Adults are leaving the faith, and how to bring them back.

It is hard to hear stories like this, particularly because one of my former youth posted this article on his facebook. I fear an autobiographical motivation. While difficult to read, I think we have to be aware that people really do walk away from the faith. Sometimes they come back, and sometimes they don't.

The question then remains, what about believers now? Will we still be believers then? How do you know that you will not walk away from the faith? Can you be 100% assured? I mean, surely someone told this guy at some point in his walk, that he could have 100% assurance of the blessings of heaven (this dude could still come back to believe-so I'm merely using his current state of disbelief for didactic purposes). 

I think this is a legitimate question to ask, and one that needs to be asked, provided it is not asked in irrational frantic fear (I've been there).

My seminary professor-actually by far my least favorite seminary professor-had a great take on assurance. While perfect assurance seems impossible because we just don't know the future, we can still have real assurance. He gave the example of the possibility of his wife running off with one of his seminary students. Was it possible that something as crazy as that-on her end as well as ours-could happen? In theory, yes. But he was sure enough that it wouldn't, and had no fear of such an incident.

So while we can't have perfect assurance, we can still have blessed assurance. In the next post, I'll argue why I think its better we have the latter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is God really a gentlemen? Part II

This is take two on "Is God really a gentlemen?" I've already made the point that we need a God who intervenes in our lives, who does in a very real sense "force Himself on us." So in that way, I would say, we don't need or should want a gentlemen God.

However, I don't think the term gentlemen is completely without merit. It all depends upon the picture you have of a gentlemen. In the movie Last of the Mohicans, one of the characters Duncan, plays the role of the perfect-or close to it-gentlemen. While his commitment to what is "proper" leaves those less anal about "proper" (particularly during a time of war) dissatisfied, one cannot completely begrudge him his mentality. There seems a consistent commitment to sacrifice for more than just his country under the surface of this military man.

He loves a woman who refuses to love him back. He would be happy to see the one whom she does love hanged, and even bluntly says so. But he leaves us no doubt that this is truly a gentlemen of gentlemen. When the Native American captures his "love", they decide to burn this woman to atone for the sins of her father. And so he literally steps in, offering himself instead as a replacement sacrifice. 

He dies so that she can live, even though it meant her living and loving another man. That's a gentlemen. Giving up his life for the good of another whom he wished could be his wife.

If this is a gentlemen, then we have a God who does even more. Jesus, as the perfect gentlemen, offers himself not to temporary flames but to God the Father in order to exhaust his burning hot wrath. And he does this to secure and purchase the hand of His bride, the church. For the joy set before Him, he willingly suffers and gives himself up for the joy of His bride. Because of his death, the two can now live in intimate relationship.
So yes, I think we can say, in some ways, God is a gentlemen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Is God really a gentlemen?

Several weeks ago, Rebecca St. James came to Charleston WV to play and promote the pro-life cause. I really have been impressed with her over the years, not because of her music-which I don't listen to-but because of her life. I can remember hearing her discuss her commitment to chastity before marriage during a youth group video as a youth director. That was 10 years ago. As I understand it, she is getting married soon or has recently married. So, like I said, I greatly appreciate the Lord's work in her.

But I can remember a phrase in that video series which seems to pop up in others from time to time. Now in regards to that phrase popping up, it is more a zit (not good, but hardly destructive) than a cancer (destructive) or desired hair growth (desirable, especially by me). It was the first time I had heard the phrase, "The Lord is a gentlemen; He will not force Himself on you."

The bible describes God in anthropomorphic language, or human terms, so that we can understand him better. Some pictures include "mighty warrior" (Jer 20:11), "heavenly father" (Lk 11:13) and a jealous and pursuing "husband" (Hos 2:16).

But could "gentlemen" fit? Is that a healthy anthropomorphic term for the 21st century to help us understand what God is really like? In some ways, God is very gentle and Jesus was prophesied as being so gentle he wouldn't even break a bruised reed (Isa 42:3). And through his ministry, at least one person named Matthew recorded that prophetic consistency (Matt 12:20).
Yet do we want, or rather need a God who is more than a gentlemen, who actually will "force himself on us?" Or would we rather do the changing and converting by our own power? The answer for most would be the latter.

But I will say that I don't want a "gentlemen God" who refuses to "force" himself on me, simply because the most important thing in the world to Him is my free will (allegedly). I really don't. 

The other day I clearly I sinned before my family and I flat out did not want to repent. I didn't.  For a while. I asked God to make me want to, and He eventually did an hour or two later. I wouldn't have repented, unless God somehow "forced" Himself on me. It's not just for the point of conversion (since we're all dead in sin and need more than a gentlemen), but for the whole of the Christian experience.

We need a God who deals gently with us, perhaps even the way a gentlemen deals with a lady. But we also need a God who actually does force Himself on us and literally changes our wills. I'm thankful we have one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The external call: This is not outsourcing the Holy Spirit to the Church or India

This past Sunday I preached on the sending of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13. I had previously preached this passage as it relates to church planting, because I think it truly does. But what the Spirit brought to my mind this time as it relates to foreign missions was something quite different than I had originally noticed. The call to foreign missions, just as the call to local missions-and I think the call to most anything major in life like work and who to marry-involves both an inward and and outward "sense of call." For instance, if God wants you to be a missionary, attorney, he is going to confirm that in your heart, but others will also see that you are called or not called. 

What I think many people seem to miss is that Paul and Barnabas didn't get ONE "quiver-in-the-liver moment" as Steve Childrers likes to say. In fact in this passage, the call was actually given BY the Holy Spirit, TO the church. Now this is something I think we Americans have a hard time with. The external call.

Now that doesn't mean there wasn't also an internal call; there will always be. And I think Barnie and Paul already sensed the call to go, as did the local church. Both parties could see such gifts being developed while they taught in a local cross-cultural setting (Jews and Gentiles) at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26) and saw tons of fruit. In addition, I'm sure the Spirit was already at work internally confirming their call while on a short term mission trip bringing relief funds to Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30).

But because the tendency in the American evangelical church is to assume God is saying this or that to you (and it cannot be questioned), I found this passage's emphasis vital to today's church desiring to send out missionaries. The Spirit allows the local church to come alongside and confirm that call. That way the missionary doesn't have to wonder if his sense of call was from the Spirit, or just something he/she ate that day.

It is necessary to pay attention to the Spirit's confirmation in missions (as well as many other life-changing decisions) THROUGH others in the church. It sounds less spiritual, but that probably comes from viewing the Spirit's work from a lens heavily tainted with individualism and existentialism. While some may interpret the external call as "outsourcing" the Spirit's work to the church, discerning the external call actually relies more deeply on the Spirit. For each call and major decision, we desire to seek the Spirit's work in more than just one person.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What repentance may look like for Big Ben

There have been many folks skeptical about Rothlesberger's newly rediscovered Christian faith or at the very least, his change of lifestyle after his most recent sexual skirmish with the law. Consider me to be, or at least to have been, among the skeptical. 

When someone commits a sin of a public nature, or really any nature for that matter, and truly repents, forgiveness is/has already been offered and accomplished by Christ. If offered by Christ, then we should obviously honor that, right? Well, yes, provided that there is true repentance.  But true repentance can only be known as it is displayed over time.

No one can atone for any sin, nor does anyone need to even try to atone for any sin. Nor should you make someone atone for his sins. And I think we do the latter more often than we would like to admit in marriage and friendships. It's not just a waste of time, but a mockery of the cross, calling Jesus' work insufficient.

But is it harmful and unloving to presume repentance instead of actually waiting to see real repentance displayed before assuming a genuine change in life trajectory?

Yes, I think so. 

Whether its Big Ben, me, or anyone caught in the act of a public sin, any sort of "I'm sorry," is probably going to fall on deaf ears. And in some ways it really should. Because real repentance will inevitably look like something. "I'm sorry" is not a trump card that precludes any need for a real change in behavior, particularly when sin has severely hurt a relationship.

What repentance looks like for gossip, sexual sin, anger, or racism will differ according to the sin or how much struggle there is. But real repentance will be noticeable, even it if it is only noticed by you (in regard to private sins like envy). 

For Big Ben, repentance from womanizing looks like more than just getting married. It looks like deciding to honor God with his sexuality, and that will be noticeable. Even the public has noticed it, as  he is not living with his fiancee until they are married. I'm not praising someone for living consistently as a Christian, particularly when he confess to be one. But this act is an outward demonstration of what seems to be true repentance and gives more credibility to his profession of faith. And I'm glad for him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Praying like sharks are in the area instead of dolphins

Here's a very creepy picture of a juvenile Great White Shark (juveniles can still be 8 feet long!) cruising the breakers in knee deep water off an Australian Beach while children play just feet away. While creepy, it is worth a look. Definitely a sobering picture which makes Florida beaches look a bit safer.

But it serves as a reminder of the dangers which exist for children and families, and not just at the beach. This shark reminds me of a passage addressed to elders in I Peter 5:8-9-though it is applicable for anyone in a shepherding type role.

"8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

It is wise to be aware of Satan, the proverbial Great White Shark.

As Redeemer has been going through Revelation, we've seen that Satan is now bound (Rev 20:2; Matt 12:29). He can't deceive the nations any longer. But while bound, that doesn't mean he's not busy going down swinging. He still tries to condemn, he still speaks lies, and it would seem from this verse he plays some role in persecution or at least the affect of persecution. But as C.S. Lewis reminded us, and the Usual Suspects reminded us again,  "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." 

It is unwise to act like he doesn't exist and so become unaware of his schemes (II Cor 2:11).
We need to be both aware and sober minded, but at the same time not fearful. Martin Luther reminds us in his most famous hymn A Might Fortress is Our God that "one little world shall fell him.

So we resist him by holding firm to Jesus, knowing that Satan's activity, while a pain in the butt, cannot alter God's plan of salvation for anyone. We pray with the image of the shark in the backdrop, so as never to become complacent. In our fervent prayers, we can trust that the little ones and the parents of little ones might not be tempted to disbelieve, improperly fear him, or believe in his lies. 

I think recognizing we're surrounded by sharks might be better than praying like we're surrounded by dolphins.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What we learn from Aqib Talib about love

Tampa Bay, and probably soon to be former (once the lockout ends) Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive back Aqib Talib, is in a bit of trouble. Shooting guns at people in suburbia doesn't usually pass for good behavior. Of course Talib denies ever firing shots at his sister's ex-boyfriend; his Mom did all the firing. At least that's his excuse. Wonder why more people don't use the "my mom was the one who fired the gun excuse?" Probably because of the plausibility factor, but that's only speculation.

You may have heard of the sins of the father being passed down, but here's a snapshot of the affect of the sins of the mother. The article chronicles Talib's violent behavior over the years and the influence his mother clearly had on him. How many guys have had their moms spend 8 months in prison for stabbing someone over an unpaid debt when you're 10 years old? Of course that's not an excuse to hit a helpless cab driver, or attack a teammate using a helmet as a weapon, both of which occurred after the Bucs drafted him in 2008.

The article suggests Talib clearly needs to separate himself from his family. That would be a tough one to argue against, and if guilty of firing shots, law enforcement will "help" him out there.

Seems like an ethical dilemma: do I break ties, at least for a season with my family or continue to hang out with them, ignoring their harmful influence on me? Is it loving toward my children (I think it mentions he has two of them) to bring them around Grandma, when she has no problem hurting people?

Two thoughts:

1.) The reality is that Jesus requires our ultimate allegiance, and there will be times when following him will look unloving toward your family. That sounds crazy in suburbia, but that's only because our children are our idols. It's really not that crazy if you think about it. So whether you choose separation or healthy boundaries, allegiance to Jesus may necessitate a drastic action if bad company is truly corrupting your faith (I Cor 15:33). Such action might be necessary regardless of how it is interpreted by your family.

2.) For Talib to love his children, and that usually means doing your best to stay out of prison, he might need to break ties with Momma Talib. So then is he not loving Momma, loving her less, or loving her in the way she needs it? I would probably go with the latter, without letting myself off the hook.

My wife and I have discussed this ethical dilemma, though not in relation our Mom's, as neither of ours own guns to our knowledge. But there are times when we have to make choices of how we love others and even at times who we love. Because when you consciously choose to love with actions and in truth, not just with words (I John 3:17), you are at the same moment, not actively loving someone else. For instance when we spend time with someone, or give to someone or some ministry in need, you are choosing not to love someone else. And that's OK. You just can't actively love everyone and don't need to feel bad about it.

The problem occurs when we fall back to our normal default mode of loving those we like, who we are like, or who like us (Tim Keller). When those become the sole parameters of who we choose to love, then it is not OK.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

From Christian to Muslim

I'm always fascinated to hear stories where devout Muslims become Christians. I would imagine most Christians feel the same way. But sometimes we think that the door only swings one way, when in fact there are devout Christians who become devout Muslims. Here is one instance.

While it is sad to listen to this young man's testimony, particularly since he admittedly had such a strong church background, it shouldn't shake your faith (provided you are reading this as a Christian).

Here are some takes on this lad's conversion to Islam.

1.) Personal relationship. One thing this lad cherishes is a close personal connection to God. In fact, even the Arabic dude in charge of the mosque (not sure what you call those guys) emphasizes this "relationship." I think this is important to realize because Christians like to talk about Christianity as a "relationship" with God, as though that distinguishes them from other religions (or at least the claims of other religions). But that claim of such a personal "relationship" is NOT what distinguishes Christianity from other religions. It is (among a host of other things) what this personal relationship actually cost God:Himself through Jesus' perfect life, death, and resurrection. No prayer or assent to facts about a deity, or your personal desire to follow it, can suffice without this perfect atonement. Christianity admits God had to purchase us with His own flesh and blood for the relationship option "to be on the table." Because of this truth, other religions and Christianity, by default, diverge and take you on different paths in regards to a personal relationship.

2.) Wild, Wild, West. Just as the West has culturally influenced Christianity at times for good and at times for bad, it is very clear that Islam has likewise been influenced by it. What you hear in this mosque is not what you would hear in a mosque in the Middle East. Many American muslims don't believe you need to help God out by killing people who blaspheme Muhammad, Allah, or the Quran. That's a good thing. God doesn't need to be protected or avenged; He can do fine by himself. If only the Middle Eastern Muslims would believe that.....

3.) Perseverance. Folks who do seem to act and talk like true believers DO walk away from the faith, as Paul shares his experience of a co-laborer deserting him for "love of the world (II Tim 4:10). Sometimes we assume folks are true believers because they prayed a prayer when they were age 6, regardless of what faith their actual lives belie. But the reality is that saving faith will display itself by fruit and persevere until the end (Luke 8:4-15). The message of the book of Hebrews finds summary in my favorite Journey song. The writer employs the metaphor of traversing through the wilderness, and having not yet arrived in the promised land; therefore, cue the music, "Don't stop believing!"

Whether people desert for love of the world, or love of Allah, the aforementioned parable of the Seed and Sower reminds us that people may profess faith one day, but not another.

That shouldn't cause parents to lose hope for their wayward children as the WCF 17.3 reminds us that even true believers, whose faith is ultimately sustained by God (WCF 17.2), may stray for a season and fall into deep sin and continue "for a time." But all true believers will eventually return to rest upon Jesus alone. Jesus doesn't lose those who are truly His (John 10:27) so that should give us hope in praying for the straying.

4.) How do I know I won't follow this dude's lead? Everyone who looks to the Son will be saved (John 6:40). Never stop looking at the Son and we have nothing to fear. For the over-analytical folk like myself, how do I know I won't stop looking at the Son? Fortunately the Son has a longer attention span for us than we do for him.