Childish Ways

$373,801,078

As of this writing, that is how much the movie Wonder Women has made at the United States box office.  If it currently the third highest grossing movie of 2017. It is also a movie no one who is a believer in the things of the bible and a believer in Christ should sit down and watch. I tried last night, and I could not make it 20 minutes into the film without realizing how destructive it was to core Christian values.

In the first 20 minutes of the movie, we are told Zeus created man, and women was created to bring peace on the earth. We are then presented with a world where men are not needed (and do not exist) when introduced to the island. Now I get that the elite Hollywood feminist dream is for a non-male world, but anyone whose life is guided by the bible should be outraged over the first 20 minutes of the movie.

Man and women were created by God to coexist and be in union with each other. The two sexes (and yes, there are ONLY two) were created to be partners for each other. God did this because He knew one could not exist without the other. The disturbing Hollywood trend of diminishing God’s creation and Glory needs to be dealt with by every follower of Christ.

Many strong men and women of faith I know love the movies and television of today. I see it on their social network pages all the time. I see posts like “I just got out of this movie or that movie (Spiderman being the latest one, which openly advocates that there is nothing wrong with porn). I see them raving about how awesome a movie is, or how much they enjoyed a certain episode of a TV show. Yet when I go look a deeper into what they are watching, I am horrified to discover the content.

Many will say “oh calm down, it is just a movie.” The problem is, it is not just a movie. Every single action we as Christians take, and every word that comes out of our mouth (or put forth from our keyboards) needs to fall in line with the biblical teaching of God and Christ. Anything less, and we are falling short of our duties as ambassadors for Christ. At some point, the “calm down, it is just a movie” mentality among Christians needs to stop.

It is time we stop ingesting things of the world simply for our own enjoyment and pleasure and start lifting up only those things which are righteous. By letting Hollywood continue to diminish God by supporting movies and television shows, you are condoning it. Every time you spend a dollar on something that is unGodly and against His Word, you are funding the continuation of those who want to eradicate Christianity off the planet.

How much longer will you continue to allow Christ to be punching bag? How many more movies viewing will it take for you to stop talking about living a Christian life and instead start actually LIVING one.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

It is time for us all to put away childish things. That mean no more movies that do not give praise to God, no more television that normalizes sex out of marriage, that normalizes violence and that removes God. That means no more music that needs to be censored every other word.

You want Christ to be the center of our world? Then start making Him the center of yours.

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Community

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

I have spent the past couple of days exploring the countryside of Lancaster Pennsylvania. As I went through the farmlands, this passage of scripture came to mind. In our fast paced lifestyle, we so often forget as Christians we are meant to be a community of believers. When you look around the Lancaster area, you see this first hand. The structured day to day life the Amish lead should be an example to all Christians that our one common belief (Jesus as our Savior) should be used to unite people around us.

There is a simplicity of life in this part of the country that should not be a stranger to any of us, yet is. When coming on this trip, I was not going to bring my cell phone at all, then decided to simply bring it and have it in my bag on do not disturb, just in case of emergencies. The past 24 hours of not checking my phone every 30 seconds, of not having to check in on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram constantly and of simply enjoying what is around me has been refreshing.

It has also helped me understand the above referenced scripture even more. While it is speaking of material possessions, I think you can look as this as also giving your time and energy to those around you in need as well. So often, we simply want to write a check and then ignore the problem. While financial resources are needed for any ministry (as a Director of my local Rescue Mission I understand this need on a daily basis), there also needs to be a recognition of needs beyond the material. Dividing our time and efforts with simply worldly things erodes our spiritual gifts.

We need to have a better understanding of the spiritual needs of people in our communities. When was the last time you visited a shelter, nursing home or addiction center and spoke with someone about their relationship with God? Or better yet, have you ever?

Community does not just means bake sales and car washes.  It is more than just cool concerts and puppet shows. It is sometimes stepping up and “getting dirty” for the Gospel. It means going out of your comfort zone to tell people about the love Christ has for them. It means maybe not trying to solve your areas with problems with just your checkbook.

These past couple days have shown me what true community with God is. As we passed by the horse drawn buggies and bicycles, I have to wonder if we are the ones who have it wrong. With our laptops, cell phones and tablets, our big screen TVs and $15 movie tickets, maybe we have been blinded from our true mission here on earth: to help people come to God. The countryside here is gorgeous, with just miles and miles of rolling farmland. Almost all the crops here go back into the community, so those who might not have much can have something. There is a work ethic I see here stronger than most I have seen, because the children are taught to work from an early age. There are not coddled with Xboxes and Playstations, but instead are taught the value of work and family.

I wonder if the technology we so rely on has made us disconnected from God. Has made us lost the sense of community we should have. I have 400+ “friends” on Facebook and 1400+ followers on Twitter, yet remain silent and partially blind to the needs and concerns of my small hometown. Why? Because the sense of community that once was the standard in towns like mine across the country has been replaced with seeing how many “likes” the town’s page can get.

This thought will remain with me for a long time. I am not foolish enough to believe I will abandon technology in my life (although the farms and families seem to do just fine here without it). But I will start examining just how much of my time and effort should be used in different ways to make my community better. I would encourage all of you to do to the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distractions

Read 1 Kings 20:35-43

It took me a couple times reading this passage, plus reading some commentaries to really understand how it applies to life today. But I finally got it. Read the passage closely. The prophet here is setting a trap, like Nathan did with David regarding Uriah, hoping to ensnare him with his own words.

The set up is simple: the prophet tells Ahab a story about being put in charge of a prisoner. If he failed to watch the prisoner fully, and the prisoner escaped, the prophet would have to replace the man or pay a fee that would be so high, he would never be able to pay it.

With the trap set, Ahab falls right into it, telling the disguised prophet that he must take the prisoners place. The prophet reveals himself, and Ahab runs off depressed and angry.  To truly grasp why this is such an important section of scripture, go back and read the portion before this passage and you will see that Ahab had the chance to follow God’s instructions, but did not.  Ahab become distracted by the men who came to beg for mercy.  The prophet used his ruse to show that he was distracted while guarding his prisoner, and did not accomplish his assigned task.

This is where we, as Christians, come in. We have remain constant in the task which Jesus has given us. We can not become distracted by those who wish to pulled us away from Jesus. Ahab took his eyes away from God’s mission for him. He allowed for societal pressures to pull his focus off of God. And we do the same. It does not matter if it is personal relationships with others, entertainment, family issues or personal issues, we must not allow our world to influence our relationship with Jesus. We must remain diligent in keeping on task for God.

But what is the task God has given you? While we are all called to go out and make disciples of all the world, we are each given different gifts to accomplish this. I hear people around me say things like “God really did not give me any gifts, I am just ordinary.”  When you say this, you are saying that God did not create you with a purpose, that He made you simply to exist and nothing more. Is this what you really want to be saying to people?  Instead, you should be asking God to help you find your gift. Then, begin to train yourself to use that gift whenever the occasion arises.

Remaining faithful to God’s instructions is the number priority we should have in life. But what happens if we fall away? If we fail to follow through on the instructions He has given us? We can once again take a look at how Ahab responded.

1 Kings 20:43

So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and displeased, and came to Samaria.

Instead of repenting from disobeying God’s instructions, Ahab became mad. He essentially went into his palace and pouted. Does this sound familiar? Do you take this approach too? How many times have you played the If I can’t have it my way, I will just go home card with God. This attitude is not a healthy one for spiritual growth. And don’t take my word for it, go right to the source:

1 Kings 21:25

But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that is not exactly what I would want to be known for. It seems that today’s society would use that passage as a badge of honor. Everywhere we turn, we are being asked to chip away at our morals and beliefs more and more. We are asked to step away from God’s Will for us, and instead become more like the world.

Ahab did just that. He let one little misstep away from God build into another, then another, then another. And eventually he had fallen so far away from God that he could not even see Him. Notice what I said there. Ahab could not see God, it was not the other way around. God is always right there when we look for Him, but we have to be willing to look and listen. Ahab lost this willingness. Have you?

Break Time

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. The love part is that I enjoy catching up with people from all over the country and around the world. I enjoy seeing how others worship and love getting ideas for ministry. The hate part is..well..everything else.  There is a complete sense of disassociating oneself from any sense of reality and any real connection to people. How often have you been so moved by something you have seen on social media that it can really be said that it made a deep impact in your life, not just a 5 minute speed bump.

This was running through my mind earlier today as I was reading a story on the newest trend on Facebook: the new “pride” emoji you can get. This was coming off the “pride” jerseys the mens and women’s National soccer teams wore this past month. More and more, everywhere I was turning and logging onto, I was seeing nothing but unGodly images and trends. This is to be expected, because we live in satan’s world, and this vessel is just temporary until we reach our heavenly homes. But that does not mean we have to participate in it. And this is the reason I no longer will be.

It is time Christians to start to take the responsibility of being in the world but not of the world seriously. It is time we start to let others around us know that we belong to Jesus, and that we will not partake of the worldly sins which society says are alright. By continuing to support social media sites which advocate and advance sin, you are condoning their practices.

I have written many times about the need for us as followers of Christ to only support Christian media with our dollars (ie, PureFlix over NetFlix / Hulu). I am now urging all to to do the same with how you spend your time online. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and InstaGram are great tools for ministry. But they are also great tools for the world to influence you. Make sure you are logging in for the right reasons.

From today on, all my personal accounts will be inactive.  I still maintain and manage business accounts which will remain active. But my ministry work will continue right here on WordPress and through podcasts. I want to urge you all to consider doing the same.

1440. That is how many minutes you have in your day to spread God’s Word. That is your one and only purpose while here on earth. How effective are you using that time? If you are being buried under an avalanche of sin, you must move on.

Matthew 12:33
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”

Increasingly, social media produces bad fruit, and is taking more and more children of Christ down. You have to be able to recognize this in your life and be willing to say that the benefits of being on these sites do not outweigh the negative effects it has on your walk with God.

I look forward to using the time which is now freed to explore the bible on a deeper and more meaningful level, and sharing with you all my thoughts through this ministry.

May God’s wisdom and grace shine on you all, and I plead with you to look and see if your online activity is interfering with your relationship with your Savior.

What are you doing with your resources?

(Please note, this post is not meant to single out any one church or organization my area. If you are a local pastor or leader, it is not a direct attack on you, but on the American church as a collective group)

What I want to talk about today is a question we as Christians will be faced with then we stand before God. It is a question what we should all be keeping in mind as we go about our lives.

“What have you done with the tools I have given you to advance My Kingdom?”

For a lot of people this is a scary question. Because when we look at how we use our time and resources, I think we can all agree that we are not using them to the best of God’s Kingdom. Most of us prefer to sit back and complain about what it happening around us instead of stepping up and trying to make a change.

I live in an area of the country that is just ravaged by drugs, heroin in particular (last stat I saw had my area as the #3 per capita in heroin us in the entire country). This drug brings with it prostitution (sex slavery) as well as rampant alcoholism.  Yet most churches in my area simply sit back and watch this epidemic spread more and more without want to take any action. Yes, it is on every prayer list (and do not mistake me, prayer SHOULD be the first step in any decision we make) but normally that is as far as it goes.

It comes down to this simple fact: most churches today have an inside out model instead of an outside in model. They want to cater to everyone inside their church walls, and not worry about those outside the walls.  Yes this stings to hear if you are a church leader, but seriously examine how much sincere and true outreach do you do?  What is the ratio of resources your devote to discipleship in the church versus outreach beyond your walls.

And I am not talking about missionaries outside of your area. I am speaking about right in your community.  Once again, do not misunderstand me, I am in no way saying local churches should not support overseas missions. But we should not be doing so at the expense of outreach right outside our front door.  “What did you do with the resources I gave you?” This should be the question on your mind as you go about making decisions on where to put your time and money. It is not about YOU or your church getting praise and glory. It is about bringing people to Christ through any means you have at your disposal.

The battle of traditional versus contemporary, praise and worship versus hymns, chairs versus pews  and all the other mundane arguments that occur in the modern church today take away from the most important function of the church: to bring people into God’s family.  And this goes to any organization who profess to have a mission of bringing people closer to God. As soon as you start putting limitations on how you are going to deliver God’s Word, you instantly lose your stated goal.

Jesus did not say “go out and preach only the King James bible using only hymns and piano”.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)

Notice there is no mention at all of the teaching method. It simply says go and teach. People learn and people come to Christ in different ways, and we need to stop focusing on the “how” they are coming to know The Lord and instead begin focusing on the “if” they are coming to know God. Just because you might not like a certain type of music, or a certain style of preaching, does not mean the person who is sitting next to you who is not saved will not be able to connect with it.

We live in a society so worried about offending people that we have let this attitude invade our churches. No longer are different styles of worship allowed. We have put a dividing line in place, saying this is how we worship in this building and if you don’t like it, there is the door.  We have shut our minds off to any possibility that someone may be drawn to Christ in a different way than we are teaching, so we keep on doing the same things over and over and over, and then complain that it is not working.

I have heard people say “well, people will be drawn through the doors of a church when God calls them”. Well if that is the case, why even do any form of outreach at all? Why bother witnessing to anyone?  This statement always makes me laugh. Our job as Christians is to lead a life that helps people see Christ through us, and then make every effort to lead those around us to Christ. This does not mean only those we are comfortable with. This does not mean only those who walk through our church doors.

We are to get outside of our church walls, into our communities, and let me people know about the love of Christ. We are NOT to simply sit on our churches and wait for them to come to us.

The biggest and most valuable resource we all have the equal supply of is our time.  It costs no money to lead a Jesus led life. It cost no money to tell someone about God’s plan for salvation. It costs no money for any of us to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus.

What is does cost us is time. Time away from Netflix, Facebook and Instagram. It makes us focus on what is important, and causes us to make to difficult decisions in how we best allocate the resource of time. If you were to stand before God right now, and have to answer “Did you do your best with the resources I provided you”, how would you answer?

I’m Saved, Now What?

The modern church does one thing very well, and that is brag about the number of baptisms it does on a weekly basis. We see pictures of churches setting up pools in their parking lots, and “dunking” hundreds or even thousands of people on a weekend. We see the numbers flash across the big digital displays about how many people “came to know Christ” on any given Sunday. The list goes on and on. But the one thing we never hear about is what happens to those people after the baptism. We never hear the plan these churches have to help strengthen those new in Christ. And the reason is because there is no plan. It is all about the flash and spectacle of the baptism, and then just push them aside for the next group of dunkees.

So to those out there who may be asking “Ok, I am saved, now what?”, I want to give you a little help, because I was fortunate enough to be become a member of a church who does not believe in the dunk them and leave them strategy. If you feel like you are wandering, wanting to know Jesus more, but have no idea how to, let me guide you a bit (which some help from a discipleship notebook I have been going through).

The first step is to pray. And not just a recited prayer written in a book somewhere. Have a discussion with God in a private, quite place. Tell Him your fears, your sins and your dreams. Let Him know what is in your heart. Let Him HEAR you say why you need Him. A prayer spoken out loud to God does not carry any more weight with Him than one said silently, but it will help you unburden yourself to God.  If you do this from your heart, you will feel better. Think about your attitude change when you tell a good friend something you have been hiding from them.  Now think about how much greater that change will be when you tell your Creator what is troubling your heart and what you are thankful for.

Pray is not a one and done activity. It is an ongoing communication with God throughout your day. You should set aside time each day to seclude yourself to be alone with God, but this is not the only time you should speak to Him. I find myself all throughout my day asking God for guidance, thanking Him for His blessings and asking  forgiveness. Do not fall into the “this is my time to pray” trap so many do. Pray whenever you want to take something to God, not just when it is time to run down your prayer list or prayer chain.

Once you become in Christ, it is time to seriously invest in a proper bible. Many will say “but I have the bible app on my phone / tablet and will just use it”. That’s great, I have that too, and use it every day. But that app will not substitute sitting down with God’s Word in front of you, alone from all distractions, and studying. You know what else your phone or tablet has on it? It has your email, your Facebook, your Twitter and all other distractions the world can throw at you. Turn the phone off, put it away, and pick up a notebook and your own bible and start to read the Word of God distraction free. I would also recommend a solid bible dictionary (I use a Smith’s).  As you start studying the bible, you are going to find yourself wondering “what is that?” or “who is this person”.  Write it down and go back and look it up when you finish reading. This is what is means to study the bible as opposed to simply reading it. The stronger you become in God’s Word, and the more you start to understand it, the more powerful and focused your prayer life will become.

So you are now praying and studying the bible with vigor, but still feel like you are not getting that full connection with God? That is because you are only halfway there. Like most everything here on earth, you need a support system in place to help you. And for Christians, that support system comes from fellow believers. Find a bible teaching church and become active and involved. Showing up on Sunday mornings for an hour and maybe Wednesday evenings is not being active and involved.  (You can see many other posts and videos from me on this subject). You need to dig in and ask questions. When you come across something in your daily reading you don’t understand or need clarification on, go to your pastor or a deacon and ask. That is what they are there for. If you find you are not getting a solid bible foundation in your pastor’s messages, then it is time to start looking for a different place to fellowship. Even Jesus quoted scripture when we spoke to the masses. Fellowship with other believers is vital to helping you grow in your relationship with Christ.

Finally, it is time to go out and tell others about this wonder gift of salvation God has given to all who believe in His Son.  This is the call to every single one of us in Christ. This is also where almost every one of use falls staggeringly short. If you are new in Christ, you may be scared or feel like you do not have the knowledge to be able to speak with someone about God. Let me share this little passage of scripture with you to show you that you are not alone:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” … Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 3:11, 4:10-11 NKJV)

Two times Moses, the writer of the first five books of God’s Word and the leader of the Israelites, tells God “send someone else, I am not capable of doing what you want.” But look at God’s response “I will be your mouth and teach you what to say.” That same guidance and power is with every single person in Christ today, all we have to do it ask God to guide us. Pray to God to make known to you the chances you have to give His salvation message, and pray for the heart and the head to carry out His will.

Pray, study, fellowship and evangelize. If you are new in Christ, those are the four foundational pillars to grow from.  Rejoice in the grace of God, and immerse yourself in His Glory.

Uninteded Priorities

This is going to kind of piggyback off the post from Sunday.  I have been thinking the past couple days about the message you send with the priorities you have in your life. Most the time, it is in an unintentional message. It is simple decisions you make every day that when looked out from the worldly point of view, show that you value things of the world over things of God.

So what exactly is it I am talking about here? Let me give you an example. Most churches across this country have the same schedule. Sunday morning services (a combination of Sunday school/worship service). Then you will have a Sunday evening service and a mid-week services (normally Wednesday night).  The most attended service is normally always the Sunday morning worship, which makes me ask one question: where is everyone during Sunday school, Sunday evening service and Wednesday evening service?

Now, the answers are going to be something like this:

  1. I can’t get up early enough to make it to Sunday school.
  2. My household is so hectic, I can’t get everyone ready in time to make it to Sunday school.
  3. Sundays are the only time off we all have as a family, so we need to take the time in the evening to do family things.
  4. I am just so tired by the time Sunday evenings roll around, I can’t get motivated to go back to church.
  5. I or my kids have (insert any workout or sports practice) on Wednesday evenings, and just don’t think it is fair to them to not have them participate.

I am sure there are some others that I am forgetting here, but those will be the main ones. These are very common and not outlandish reasons to not attend the services outside of the main Sunday evening worship service. Most would look at this list and say there is nothing really wrong. But I am here to tell you that this list is one of the major reason the church, families, and even the country is in the shape we are in today.

Let me rephrase the question of why are people only attending Sunday morning worship. Instead of asking why do people not come, put it this way: what do you have going on in your life that is more important than worshipping God? See, when you put it this way, it suddenly becomes a much more uncomfortable discussion. Because now you have to look at the unintended consequences of your actions. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you and your children. Everytime you say “I am not going to church because of….” you are telling people “I am placing this activity over celebrating God.” You are making all around you know where your priorities lie.

Now, if you think I am being a little over dramatic here, simply using this to shock people, let me make it clear I am not. I could not be more serious. You are placing it out to everyone who sees your actions that it is ok to put God second in your life as long as YOU are comfortable. As long as YOU need that extra hour of sleep, or need to be a little tougher on your children, or have to tell your teens they will not be able to do the activity they want too, YOUR life will be less hectic and more comfortable.

But by doing this, you are also letting your kids, your teens, and those around you not in Christ that it is ok to put worldly things over Godly things. It is ok to place activities that are temporary over that which is preparing you and them for the eternal. People around me hear me speak everyday about the importance of putting God first in everything you do.

There are many other forms of unintended priorities in our daily life. From the movies we watch to the companies we support, every choice and action we take shows the world around us what we prioritize. So urge you all to stop for a moment, and think about the small choices you are making and thinking about the unintended priorities they are showing your family, your friends and all you come into contact with on a daily basis.