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.

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.

Plant where you are placed

I recently started to trim down my follow list on Facebook. This was not the normal trimming I encourage everyone to do to get rid of things which are ungodly. No, I started trimming churches from my likes. Oh Patrick, how could you do such a thing?!  you might ask. It’s simple, I began to become jealous of things other churches were doing that mine wasn’t. I was falling into the church comparison trap. 

It is perfectly fine to look at other churches and ask yourself “is this something that would benefit our church and our community if implemented?” What is not ok is to say “why can’t my church be doing this?” This is what I was doing. I would see something and instantly run to my pastor saying “we need to do this, it will be awesome for the church.” Instead, I should have paused and asked God “is this something that you want me to move forward with in the church?” 

It comes down to one thing we all need to start doing: learn to serve in your home church and stop looking for “bigger”chances. God will provide you with the chances to spread His Word, you just have be willing to do it. When we learn to listen to God’s leanings in our heart and stop wanting to follow our own desires, we will do the most impactful work for the Kingdom. 

You are placed where you are because God believes that is where you can best serve Him. By fighting this, you are saying you know more than God. Is this really the message you want to be putting out in the world? 

I came to my home church with big ideas. I was going to make all kinds of changes, make the church “cool”and “hip” and “modern” (my words here). The problem is, none of those things were needed in my church. What was needed was my skill and abilities in other areas I never thought I would be called into.Three years ago when I walked through the doors of my home church, I never dreamed I would be standing in front of the congregation on Sunday evenings giving the message. Or on select Wednesday nights. I never dreamed I would be called into action to help organize the county summer park vespers services. 

But I finally stopped fighting God. I tore away the blinders that something “needed fixed” and instead accept I would be used anyway God wanted to use me where I was. I stopped looking for something better and realized what I had was more than anything I could ever want. 

I encourage you all today to pause and reflect on what you are doing in your local churches. Are you playing the church comparison game I was playing? If so, stop and look into your own church walls and ask God “what can I do to serve You in this building today?” You will see that God will open doors to you to minister that you did not even realize were there. 

Concentrate On The Good

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

Those who have heard my testimony know this is the verse that changed the course of my life. While most will tell a new Christian or someone who wants to begin to study God’s Word to start in the book of John, my mom urged me to read the 4 middle epistles of Paul (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians). I took her advice, and when I stumbled on the above passage of scripture, it was like a great big CLICK. I came to realize that in order for me to begin to grow closer to God, I had to begin to purify my mind from all the garbage I was spent years putting into it.

This occurred three years ago today. I, like many others, can tell you exactly when I turned my life over to Christ. It was as I sat in a jail cell, completely guilty of what I had been charged with, and not knowing when I would be getting out. As I went through those four letters Paul had sent out to the churches thousands of years earlier, I began to realize how long and how far I had run from God. It was not just the turning away from church as soon as I could get out of my parent’s home. It was the complete lack of any conscience of what I should be doing with my life versus what I was doing with it. I had made a mess of everything I came into contact with, and as I sat in that cell, not knowing if anyone who I had I abandoned and burned would ever speak to me again, I realized that it didn’t matter. Because the only thing that did matter to me in that moment 3 years ago today was how can I make it up to God.

I know now this is not the proper way to come to God, but when you don’t have the biblical knowledge of what is the proper way, you will seek out the human nature way. And we all want to “make it up to” people we hurt. So every day for the 4 months I served, I would dissect parts of the bible, looking for how to make up all the lost time I had not given God. Slowly, I realized that it was not the past that mattered, but what I did in the moments I had left on this earth. And almost every day (and still to this day), I would go back to Philippians 4:8.

What do you spend your time on? What do you use your thoughts for? That is what this passage is speaking to. It is not speaking of money or possessions, which in the scheme of God’s plan for our lives comes second. Paul is telling us with these words that the biggest way we can glorify God is to use our minds and our time for Him. We are stewards of everything we have on this earth. This does not just mean the material things, but also what we spend our thoughts and time on.

I bring this up because I see so many of my social media friends putting their time and thoughts into nothing but negativity. A large chunk of it has to do with politics, but that is not everything. Whenever I speak to young adults (which is where a majority of my ministry focus lies) I always encourage them to go through their social media sites and ask themselves “is there anything on here that I would be ashamed of if Jesus saw it?”  This is a tough question to answer when you have your love for the newest Drake song plastered all over your Twitter page.

Go back and read Philippians 4:8 again. Does everything you do, both in your online AND offline life fit into this passage? If not, how will you start to make the changes in your life to bring it in line with this verse?

When speaking of this passage, I sometimes will use the metaphor of food. I love to eat, and what I eat would not fall on the healthy side. Buffets, burgers, steaks, pasta are my go to foods. I know it is bad for me, I know it causes me to gain weight and I know I shouldn’t do it, and it is one of the things I pray about often. When I eat healthier, I feel better, have more energy and actually normally can get more done in a day. And for about a week, I will be strong. Then the call of the Big Mac happens, and I am right back to my old ways.

The same is true with our thought diet. The more sinful TV, movies, music and online content we put into our minds, the less room for what is holy and righteous we have.  Every time I sit and watch a movie I know that is against God, I feel just yucky and I ask myself “why did I do that instead of picking up the bible and read?” Everytime I see a new disc from a band I used to love, I think “man, I would love to buy it” but then I remember Philippians 4:8 and know that it will not be good for my mind diet.

I urge you all to start concentrating on the good and holy. Look for feed your mind with thoughts and words that will help you shine for God to those around you. Break out from the crowd and start saying no to the things you know you God would not want you to be watching or listening too, because remember, you are not hiding anything from Him.

Keep The Good For Ourselves

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:9)

We covered this passage of Scripture in Sunday School this morning, and it got me thinking. We all act like Saul did here. He was commanded by God to spare no person or animal. Saul and the Israelite army was to destroy everything. Yet, they only destroyed that which was useless. The people and possessions of value, they kept.

Most of the time, we too treasure our worldly possessions over our relationship with God. I am not just talking about material things (although this is a big part of it) but more importantly the most prized possession of all that we have: time. God wants us to use the time we have on this earth to serve and glorify Him, yet we choose to simply fit Christ into the cracks of time in our lives. We hold off doing our prayer time and bible study until we are finished with all the tasks of the world, then we find we are too tired to be effective in worshiping God. In the devotional I am reading, it talks about a gentleman in the Middle East who is called out for not sticking to the Muslim prayer times of his village, and his response was incredible to me.

“Prayer is an intimate conversation with God, and is should be done all the time, in (your) heart, rather than at specific times using the same phrases and postures.”

The society we live in does not think of prayer in these terms. We think it is a wish list, give me what I need and let me be conversation, when it is truly an intimate discussion with God. If we could change our mindset to that of this man, think of how much closer and deeper we could draw into God. All the time, speaking with our Creator in our deepest heart, trying to live every second for His glory.

Saul only wanted the earthly rewards of battle. He did not want to give anything to God other than the leftovers. He felt that was all God needed or deserved. I urge you to examine your life today and see the areas where you are doing the same thing. It does not have to be financial or material. Anytime you give God less than He deserves, you are being like Saul.

_____________

On a completely other note, if you are a fan of Christian Music, I would like to ask you to check out my newest podcast project. It will be a weekly show dealing with the topics Christians face in this hostile society we live in, mixed in with music from my collection. Check it out if you would like

www.allforhim2014.podomatic.com

Perseverance

There is no lying, I went to bed last night completely discouraged. You see, for about a year now, I have been trying to start some type of live Christian music series in my small little home town. My church has been behind my mission, and the board and members have done everything they can when I have asked for help. The groups I am bringing in come in with smiles on their faces, thankful they have a place to play. Every single artist that has performed on stage has done so with a performance worthy of Madison Square Garden. The problem: no one sees it. No matter what I try, what marketing I do, and how much I beg and plead for people to come to the shows, show night after show night, I am sitting in an empty church with a few close friends enjoying a private performance of these incredibly talented artists.

So as I crawled into bed last night, I could not help but think: why am I doing this to myself? Why do I get my hopes up that “this time it will be different”? Why do I play the “well, this church will send their teens out for this one for sure” game? I was basically wallowing around in a dirty pin of self-pity. Because the questions should not be “why do I”. The focus should not be placed on my success or failure at each event, I should not be sitting back waiting for the “wow, Patrick did a great job” pat on the back.

The only thing that should matter to me is “did the Word of God get delivered at the show? Did someone who is struggling with something in their life find any help through the Gospel by hearing what came from that stage?” The devil wants us to fall into the self-pity pit. Satan loves it when we start questioning why we are doing something for God, because when we do start asking the “why” question, normally that means we are about to give up doing God’s work. We say things like “it’s too hard” or “my time is better spent doing something else” or “my money can be used on something that actually will succeed.” Whenever we think or even say things like this, we are placing the worldly view of success ahead of God’s path for our lives. We are seeking self-satisfaction from others as opposed to thinking about how much God has blessed us by giving us the chance to share His word with even one person.

Feeling a little beat up and tired this morning, I rolled out of bed, not discouraged, but determined. Determined not to let the devil get a foothold in my thinking. Determined to continue to pour my time, effort and (what little I actually have lol) funds into these shows. Because I live in an area which is simply ravaged by heroin, prostitution and alcohol abuse. And if only one person stumbles into church on a night of a show and hears the message of salvation, then the time, effort and money is the best investment I could have every made.

If you are feeling like your ministry is not going anywhere, do not give up. Continue to push through those feelings of self doubt and pity, and just wait to see what is on the other side as God shows just what faith in Him can do.