Slow Down

We live in a society which is built and centered on two things: speed and instant gratification. Everywhere you look, you see a company doing something faster than their competitor. Amazon is now experimenting with drone delivery, so you can have your order at your doorstep within two hours. You can now order from convenience stores and fast food restaurants right from your phone and have your food ready right as you pull up.

As I was standing in line one evening staring at a kiosk where I could order my Big Mac, I asked myself how much is too much. How many time saving measures can we put into place before it moves from efficient to ridiculous. Perhaps an even better question to ask would be what are we doing with all this free time we have thanks to the time saving measures these companies are putting into place for us.

When I thought about this question, the answer was actually quite sobering. The more we try to save time for ourselves, the more we actually put on our schedules. We think we can squeeze another 10 minutes out of our day when we all know we only have 1440 in a day, no matter who you are. This type of lifestyle is not healthy and more importantly, is not biblical.

We were made by God to work. There is no question or doubt about that. But we were also made to rest. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. How many of us actually do this? When was the last time you simply turned off everything, picked up your bible (yes that big book on the corner of your desk, not touching that screen on your phone) and actually rested in the Word of God.

This does not mean reading your short daily devotional while eating your morning corn flakes. This does not mean listening to the bible being read to you while you are on the treadmill (an issue I never have, I can assure you). This means clearing everything off your table except your bible and a notebook and letting God guide you in His Word. This means getting on your knees and praying to God. This means coming together as a family and praying.

Yes, it will require you to change your mind set on what the world expects of you. You will have to use a word the world does not want you to use: no. You will have to say no to your friends when they want you to go out. You will have to say no to your children when they want to add yet another activity to the family calendar. You will have to say no to your spouse when they want you to go to company function. You will have to say no to your work when they want you to stay late for an unnecessary corporate event.

A busy life is not a productive life. God wants us to be productive for Him, not for the world. The only way to know what He wants from you is to take the time to communicate with Him. This means you must block out the things of the world, and only be in communication with Him.

Who should you be listening too and following, what the world wants of you, or what God wants of you? The world wants you to go faster and faster until you collapse. God simply wants you to rest in Him.

Advertisements

Stop Pretending

For the past few weeks, I have been working through the Books of Jude and Titus for our Wednesday evening studies. Doing this has helped me understand just how closely America is to those early church nations being written to. A moral decay eroding all sense of what is right and wrong has seeped into the leadership of churches across the county. No longer is it simply preach from God’s Word with a purity of heart and mind. Now, those delivering God’s Word are cautioned to only make people feel good. And this is wrong.

The true salvation message is uncomfortable and messy. It causes us to look deep into ourselves and find and faults and flaws we have hidden away for so long and lay them bare at the Cross, pleading out for forgiveness. Simply giving lip service to biblical salvation is not enough. Titus writes:

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:15-16)

 So many preachers today are doing just this, professing to know God but not letting their works back this up. We see these false teachers everyday on TV and online. We hear them make comments like “I want my congregation to leave happy” or “I don’t preach about sin because it is not what people need to hear”. WRONG!

The Gospel we are to preach is the Gospel which Jesus taught, and it is very simple:

Matthew 4:17

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 Luke 24:46-47

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

 Luke 5:32

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

 False teachers do not teach the true Gospel message because of one thing and one thing only: it is not profitable to their bottom line. In order to live in their mansions and fly in their private jets, they must be able to keep the money pipeline flowing. Jude puts it this way:

Jude 1:16

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.

These flatterers are not just on TV, but right in your home town as well. Look around at the churches that embrace sin. Look at the churches that openly allow adulterers and homosexuals to serve in a leadership capacity. Look at the churches who require you to fill out financial disclosure forms or even go so far as making your turn in your taxes as a requirement for membership. THESE are the churches Jude is speaking of.

It is time for biblical Christians to really show discernment in how we worship and in how we witness to others. We MUST begin to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3) We must begin to stand for the true Word of God. We must not allow the watered down, glossed over, socially acceptable version which is flowing through the churches of today to continue. It is our duty to Jesus Christ to let everyone we know what is real and what is false.

We are called to go into the world and spread God’s Word. But means God’s True Word. Not some cliff notes version. Sin and repentance lie at the heart of coming to know Christ. It is time we stop playing church, and start being the church the Bible calls for us to be.

Would The Community Notice?

would the community notice

My associate pastor recently brought a question back from a conference he attended which has stuck with me. It is a basic and simple question, but the answer is not easy for most churches to be honest about. So I want everyone reading this to pause and think about how you would answer this: If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would the community notice?  

 Not, would the people in the building notice. Not would your pastor, deacons or staff notice. But would the community notice. Would the people who live next door to your church, or across the street, or a block away from your church notice you have gone dark? I fear that a majority of the churches across the country today would simply be an empty building, and very little community impact if their doors were to close.  

We have become a church society that only shows a concern or care for the things that occur in our building. We want to start ministering to the lost only after they come through our doors and drop something in the collection plate. But when it comes to those down the street from us, well, we will just wait until they grace our doorway.  If we were honest with ourselves, we would see that most churches have become a social club, and not a house to bring those to God.  

Many times when I speak about this, people think I am talking about money. And nothing could be further from the truth. What I am talking about is making God’s Word known to those around your building. Do the people who live in the vicinity of your church know what times your services are? Do they know if you have a Wednesday or Sunday evening service? Do they know about your kids programs? These are the things I am speaking of. If someone lives right beside your building, but have no idea what time you worship, are you actually doing effective community outreach to bring people into a relationship with Christ?  

Slick flyers, fancy videos on social media and cool praise teams are meaningless if the people next door don’t know your foundation is on God.  At some point, we have to stop being concerned with the numbers coming through the doors of the church, and start become concerned with those outside our buildings. But we seem content to sit in our nice buildings, sing our familiar songs, and be home in time to be on the couch for kickoff.  We spread the Gospel message week in and week out to the same people, and there is nothing wrong with that. But we also must spread the message to those who do not come through the doors of a church. We must let our community know the church is there to help with any issue they are going through. We must not just become an empty building six days a week.  

As we head into 2018, pause for a moment and honestly ask yourself how much outreach you are doing, both in your church, and in your life. Look at the areas in your life where your have fallen short in reaching out to people for Christ and concentrate on building those areas up in the new year. Perhaps most important of all, look at your church and honestly assess how much impact are you having in your community. Is your building simply a building for Sunday morning coffee and socializing, or is it a beacon those without Christ to come to know our Lord and Savior?  

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.

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.