Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Power of Truth

I have never watched Duck Dynasty. I certainly don't have anything against it, in fact I applaud the Robertson family for their work in putting a wholesome show on the air. I just don't happen to really watch TV, hence, I don't pay too much attention to it. That being said...

"Evil peddles tolerance until it is dominant then seeks to silence good."

For background on where this post is coming from, I recommend reading Yes, You Will be Made to Care. It is an excellently written post, and I don't want to spend space rewriting it it my own words. Once you've read that, head on back. :-)

I am not going to rant about how ridiculous the suspension is, because I believe that ignores the real truth behind what is going on. I will not go off about 1st Amendment rights, because A&E is a private entity. There will also be no bemoaning of just how far down the tubes our culture has gone because, let's face it, if you are reading this blog you probably already have a pretty good idea about that.

Instead I want to write about the reality behind what we see happening. If you read my previous post Covert Attack, this post is the other side of that coin. In this case, instead of parading "Christians" acting in an unchristian way, the goal is to promote Real Christianity as unchristian and evil.

I see it working like this:
1. Read an interview where Phil Robertson states a belief that is considered "wrong."
2. Put him on "indefinite" suspension (which really means nothing, "indefinite" can mean a day or a decade).
3. Watch as reporting on the situation says he has been suspended for "Anti-Gay" comments.
4. Promote the idea that Real Christianity is not "Christianity", and is, in fact, bad.

Number 3 is where the attack lies. As CS Lewis said, words are important. Words have meaning. When every report of this situation states "Anti-Gay" comments, the goal is to normalize the thought that anything said that does not explicitly endorse the gay lifestyle is "anti-gay." You see it all the time in the (rapidly growing) list of reports on how people who do not wish to use their services to promote same-sex marriage. It is never enough to say "they stand by their beliefs," of that they "disagree with the event." The refrain is that they are "anti-gay," which is to say, they hate all gay people and never want to help or serve them in any way, shape or form.

See, the attack doesn't lie in the initial attack. The attack lies in the aftermath. It is an attack not on a person, but on a mindset. On a belief system.The attack is one of the mind. Really, A&E is only a tool of the attack (whether it recognizes it or not).

In Matt. 10:22 Jesus says,
"And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake, but he who perseveres and endures to the end will be saved." 

In John 15:18-20 He says,
"If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would treat you with affection and would love you as its own. But because you are no longer one with the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.Remember that I told you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word and obeyed My teachings, they will also keep and obey yours."

Understand that the world hates Christianity. The world is a place of darkness, and darkness hates light. It will stop at nothing to bring Christianity in line with itself. If it cannot do that, it will stop at nothing to silence it and make it yield.

Do not expect to win this battle on earth.

I don't say this in a defeatist way or to make people feel helpless Remember, our victory comes when Christ returns. Our victory will be total, complete, and undeniable.

Our real victory comes in showing Christ's love to all, and showing it in truth. Our victory comes when we takes Jesus' message to everyone: gay, straight, criminal, rich, poor, hungry, needy, comfortable - everyone; and bring them to the glory of the Father.

I am not saying ignore the culture war or have nothing to do with it. I am saying focus on what our real focus should be - saving the souls of those who do not know God. I am saying fight for the real truth without falling for the distractions that keep us from spreading God's Word.

The power of Truth is Life.

The Power of Truth is Victory.

God is The Power of Truth.

And no enemy, whether it is in front of our faces, of coming from the side, will be able to stand against it in the end.

So stand up for righteousness and truth and Phil Robertson.

But make sure you are standing for God first.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Help My Unbelief!

"You no longer have coverage with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact us."

This was the message I saw when I was checking up on my health insurance payment today. This was not the message I was expecting to see. I pay my premiums, and had just gotten a letter stating how BCBSTX had worked it out to where we could keep our insurance through November of next year.

So naturally, when I saw this message, I very nearly had a panic attack.

After over an hour of being on hold on the phone, it was cleared up. In order for me to keep my coverage through next year, they had to cancel the old policy on December 1st and reinstate a new one on the same day. The reason I got that terrifying message at the top was simply due to the website not showing the new plans yet.

They just didn't tell me that's how it worked, so I spent about an hour and a half being sick to my stomach and fantasizing about how I was going to make this work.

Health care for a 5 year old and an 18 month old isn't cheap, ya know.

But, like I said, it all worked out and nothing is changing for us right now. It will in the future, but I won't be blindsided by it like I was by this.

My freakout did show me one thing though. It showed me one thing I did not like at all.

It showed me that my faith, in that moment at least, was very weak.

As if the God who has carried us through 6 months of unemployment (twice!), brought our first son out of a dangerous birth with flying colors, done countless other things for us when everything was falling apart, and who has created the world and everything in it, couldn't handle the health needs of my family.


There is an interesting story in Mark chapter 9. A man's son has been possessed by a demon since childhood. It has thrown him into fire and water and has made him mute. It throws him into seizures where he foams at the mouth and becomes rigid.

The Jesus comes, the man brings his son, and says "if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"If you can do anything".

I wonder how many times I have prayed with that attitude. Probably too much.

Jesus even makes a note of it. He replies, "'If you can'? Anything is possible for him who believes."

Here is where the boy's father realizes his own weakness. He knows he at least wants to believe. He knows he needs to believe. He knows enough to have faith in this man called the Messiah who has done so many great things that no one else could do.

And so this man, whose son is in need and who doesn't know what else to do, says what I think is one of the most honest statements in the Bible. 

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

I think that this is how most people really are, even if they don't admit it. They believe, and they want more, but there is something holding them back from really, truly, fully putting their faith in Jesus. Sadly, I think a lot of people are so caught up in making sure they look the part of Christian that they fail to cry out "help my unbelief" for fear that they will not look as good or as strong or as faithful as they should in the eyes of other people.

What if, just what if, we opened our minds and our hearts to God and were truly honest about where we stand? What if we saw ourselves and each other not through the lens of thinking we all have to look perfect, but in the true lens of where we really are. What if we stopped playing games and were open to each other and God so that we could help each other and God could help us?

What if we started saying "I do believe! Help me to overcome my unbelief!"

I think I am going to start making that a regular part of my prayer life.

If you need to, will you?

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Cross: It's More Than You Think

Psalm 22 is a prophecy about the death of Jesus. It begins with "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" It talks about being mocked, being pierced, and the clothes of Jesus being divided among those who crucified Him. It is filled with unspeakable pain and suffering and the brutal thoughts which go through a man's mind when he is in torment.

It also talks about the love and glory of God.

The cross is about more than the pain and suffering of Jesus. Does it include that? Absolutely. But it should not end with that. When instituting the Lord's Supper in Luke 22:19 Jesus said "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." But notice what He did not say. He did not say "do this and only remember my suffering and death."

He said "do this in remembrance of Me."

Jesus did this before the crucifixion, before He was tortured and mocked and put on a cross. If the cross is the only way we think about Christ, We are missing so much of His life and ministry and what He did for us.

You see, in God's hands, the cross is so much more than an instrument for torture.

"but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God."
-I Cor. 1:23-24

How could it be anything less?

Consider this: it was by the death of Jesus that God was able to destroy the power of sin once and for all. It is because of the cross that God is able to say we are clean and washed and pure before Him. It is due to the blood spilled that we are able to have every sin washed away and be made holy before the Lord God Almighty.

How could the crucifixion be anything less than the glory and power of God on Earth?

As I said earlier, Psalm 22 prophesies the death of Jesus. It talks about all the horribleness that went with it. And then it says this:

"My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;
I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. 

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.
Let your heart live forever!

All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You. 
For the kingdom is the Lord’s,
And He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.

A posterity shall serve Him.
It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, 
They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,That He has done this."

These are the last verses of Psalm 22. It is a praise to God. It is a praise to Him for His goodness, His mercy, His love, His power, His righteousness.

It is just after putting into words the unspeakable torment of being separated from God on the cross.

The next time you take communion, the next time you worship, the next time you remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, don't forget to remember the glory of it as well.

Remember the power of God and the blessings He brought the entire planet through doing so.

Remember that it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

And that He calls you to be a part of this great story as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rethinking Church

I enjoy listening to the sermons of Francis Chan. Now, Mr. Chan may not have everything correct. I may very well have some major differences with him on important issues. That being said, I cannot fault him as a man who is only out to serve God how he wants to because that is how he feels. Having listened to several of his sermons I truly believe that he is doing everything he can to live the Christian life and follow Jesus as God intends him to.

The other night I was watching a sermon he was giving, and it killed me. It killed me because it was about something I had been thinking about a long time. It killed me because it was about how the church today looks so little like the church that Christ had put into place.

It wasn't said out of vitriol or disgust. It wasn't spoken with with an air of religious superiority. It wasn't preached with an "it's everyone but us" mentality. It was said as a plea, and a call, and a prayerful wish that the church would once again become the extreme counter-culture that it had been when it first began.

Now, we in the Bible Belt generally feel pretty good about ourselves and our churches. We in the church of Christ pride ourselves on trying to be like the 1st century church. We spend an enormous amount of effort trying to get things right and do things right and follow God how the Bible says. We aren't perfect, but we are trying.

What if I told you, though, that really becoming like the church would require a complete change of our entire world view? What if I told you that if we were really (I mean really) trying to be like the church was when it first began, that we would probably look and act very different than we do now?

Acts 2:42-47
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and good, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one another in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."

This is not just a one-off verse either. Just a couple of chapters later, in Acts 4:32-34...

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need."

Notice what is going on here. People are selling their stuff to help people who they are worshiping and eating with daily so that they can help those who are being saved every day.

Is that what our churches look like?

Have you gone to the people who make up the church and told them "my car is your car, my house is your house, my bank account is your bank account"? What would happen if we did that?

What if we sold the church building to meet a need in the community, and met outside in a tent? If you're worried about the weather, people spend four hours in freezing sleet to cheer on a football team. Surely we can be more committed to God than that! We may not need to sell the building, but maybe we should.

Perhaps instead of building that new building costing millions, we could build something cheaper, and more efficient. I hear steel buildings are all the rage these days. My point is that there has to be a better way. A way to show on the outside our dedication to God on the inside. According to how Jesus and the early church lived, it wasn't with new, flashy buildings and opulent decor, it was with simplicity, gladness, and love that exploded out of everywhere by sharing everything we have with one another.

What if, when we heard of someone from the church in need, instead of saying "my budget is too tight this time," we sold off some stuff to make sure they had what they needed? Would that not build a relationship far stronger than giving money from the church budget?

You might lose your 401k. Or your car. Or your house.

You might eat ramen for a week instead of meat.

Would it not be worth it? Answer honestly.

Because when I honestly think about it, I will usually answer "no."

Until, at least, I wake up and realize that Jesus says in Matthew 6 that just as God takes care of the flowers of the field and birds of the air, which are worth so much less than me, He will take care of me as well.

If we can have the kind of faith that says "God will take care of me, even if I give it all to Him," we will change the world. God may not ask us to give up our house or bank account or TV or iPhone or [insert here].

Maybe instead God will say "Use it for Me. Open your house to the stranger and poor. Use your money to spread my kingdom and provide homes for the orphan. Keep your car so that others may benefit from your blessing."

Or maybe, God will say "Give it all. Keep nothing for yourself. Trust in Me to provide when you have nothing. I will."

I don't know what God will ask of you. Different people have different talents, needs, and abilities. But offer up everything to Him. Do not fear that He will somehow not provide your every need, no matter what.

I am speaking to myself as much as you.

May we truly be the church that God calls us to be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

You Are Not Alone

How I want to imagine myself.

You are not alone.

Hebrews 11:30-12:2
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  
 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

You are not alone.

I. Love. These. Verses. Read them again! Bask in their power!

Feeling down? Abandoned? Hopeless? Like you can't move anymore?

Feeling like you will never finally beat that sin? Like you're too far down the rabbit hole to turn back?

Feeling a little too proud of yourself? Like you don't need anyone else?

Feel like there is no one cheering you on? Like no one cares about what you are facing and going through?

Read those verses again! Feel the power and encouragement flowing from every letter!

All the patriarchs, all the kings, all the prophets, all the saints, all of those "Bible Heroes" that walked with God are cheering us on toward the goal! We are surrounded by those who made it! They cheer and plead and pray and hope that we will make it and stand strong to the end!

Reading these verses this time changed how I view the world around me. Will it change yours? God's people from all the ages want us to be One People under One Creator. They want you, just as they themselves are, to be a child of God. By becoming His child, you no longer have to be alone. Even if you can't see it with your eyes, the true reality is that they are there.

As a Christian I am not alone.

And neither are you.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stinky Things Happen

Not me. Just found a pic on Google.

At around 1:30AM this morning, I woke up to the sound of our 4-year-old crying loudly. This has happened plenty of times before, usually as the result of a nightmare or just waking up in the dark and getting scared. Being the spouse with night duty, I usually go in, put his covers back on, give him a kiss and go back to bed.

Tonight was not a normal night.

Tonight he had managed to pee out of his pullup (how is a question I do not have an answer to). This is a boy who has had dry pullups for nearly two weeks. Now his pants, shirt, and sheets were wet. Being the loving father that I am, I changed his clothes, grabbed his pillow, and put him to sleep on the couch in his underwear (that was his last pullup, by the way). Thinking it was all over, I went back to bed.

It is not over.

It is, in fact, still not over.

Around 3:30AM I woke to another, though similar sound. It was the sound of our 18-month-old crying. This I am used to. It happens a couple times a week. No big deal, right?

Turns out he had managed to pee out of his diaper. His pants, shirt, and bed were all soaked. So I changed him, took him to my wife lying in bed, changed his sheets, and put him back in.

He's crying (though he just now stopped) as I write this.

I am officially awake. I went to bed at nearly 11PM last night. I usually get ~6 hours of sleep, which is the sweet spot for me (especially when it is a continuous 6 hours). Tonight was full of interruptions and ended with me getting something around 4 hours of sleep.

Sometimes stinky things happen.

Sometimes they also lead to 4AM blog posts.

You see, I may be tired, I may not be functioning at my highest level, and my morning may be all messed up. I am sure that my morning is going to be a bit out of whack, and the rest of the day is going to seem kind of long. I also may need a nap this afternoon.

But I honestly don't really care.

The reason I don't care is because I am doing one of the things that my God has put me here for: taking care of my children. The reason I don't care is because I am able to serve my wife in this way. The reason I don't care about the lack of sleep and whacked out day is because at the end of the day I recognize that in so many ways, God is the same kind of Father to me.

When I am crying about a situation I cannot change, when I am scared because of the surrounding dark and yes, even when I get myself into a mess that shouldn't even be able to happen in the first place, God is there. He doesn't turn around and ignore my cries, He doesn't ignore what I am going through. He comes in, picks me up, comforts me, and helps me get back to the restful place I should be.

He can do the same for you, too, if you will let Him.

Sometimes I think we need to be reminded that when we say "Our Father in Heaven," then that is exactly what He is. He cares for us, loves us, and wants what is best for us. Sometimes that means coming to us and holding us, sometimes that means letting us cry it out so we can get the rest we so desperately need.

Perhaps this is God reminding me that He really is my Father. Perhaps, if you look, you can see and be reminded that He is yours, too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Covert Attack

If you're over the age of 25, you probably remember at some point seeing one of those 3D image pictures that looked like a bunch of lines and colors until you focused just right. To jog your memory, they looked something like this:

(You can see this on the computer, by the way. It's a bird.)

These pictures were neat, and I have always like them. I thought it was cool that behind all the noise of the picture you saw at first was another image. In order to see that other, hidden image, you had to act like you were looking through the picture, beyond what you saw at first.

Turns out life is a lot like that.

There is a show that just came featuring preachers from L.A., California. Originally I had no intention of ever watching a single episode. It's one of those fake reality shows where they get some suckers to allow themselves to be filmed throughout the day and then squash all the disparate parts together in order to make a storyline. This time, however, the suckers they got were men who lead congregations of thousands of people in the name of God.

Unfortunately, I felt that I did need to at least watch the first episode, which I did alone while everyone else was asleep. The reason I watched it was because I saw a trailer that one of my ministry friends was commenting on. Feeling that I should at least know what is going on, I went ahead and watched it.

I will admit right here that it is very, very hard not to be judgmental while watching this show, especially as a minister myself.

By the time I got to the end of the show, however, I wasn't angry, upset, or even frustrated. I was just kind of disappointed and a little bit frightened. You see, the men and churches portrayed on this show were wrong in so many ways. From the lavish houses to the Bentley, Ferrarri, Land Rover, etc they were wrong. From the "look at me look at me" phrasing to the obviously very expensive sets and stages they were wrong. From the "say this prayer and be saved," to the health and wealth teaching they were wrong.

But in the end, that's not what bothered me the most. Allow Admiral Ackbar to tell you what I really felt like in the end:

(Admiral Ackbar, spotting traps since 1983)

The real problem has less to do with how these preachers and churches portray themselves. The real problem is the attack on Christianity as a whole that this show opens up. By propping these men up, with the lives that they lead and the messages they speak, as leaders in Christianity, it opens up an enormous attack on real Christian faith.

Now I did some research on this show. The producers are both people who grew up going to churches, and who think it is a great way to "reach people." Whether or not they believe what they said in the interview is not for me to decide. I will even give them the benefit of the doubt that they do believe it.

Unfortunately, just believing something is good does not make it so.

Because what you mostly see on the show is a bunch of extremely wealthy men telling people what they want to hear. You also hear soundbites like this:

“The Bible says ‘I wish above all things that you prosper, and be in health, even as your soul prospers.’ I believe that.”

That quote, right there, filled me with rage.

The man speaking obviously has no idea who Jesus really is. The verse (3 Jn. 1:2) is so taken out of context and used so poorly as to make it sound like God is saying He wants us to have material health and wealth more than anything. Really?

First, the verse does not say "I wish above all things," nor is it a quote from God. It is John writing to Gaius, and basically telling him that he hopes everything is going well. It has nothing at all to do with God saying He wants us to be rich in this world.

But back to the covert attack, because in war there is no such thing as friendly fire.

Purposefully or not, the attack comes in this form:
1. Men are propped up as leaders in the Christian movement based on congregation size, money, and power.
2. Showing these men in the midst of their wealth and power, and filming them rationalizing their great material goods.
3. Portray this as "real" Christianity, because after all, these men are "leaders" in Christianity.
3a. Watch people turn away from Christianity in disgust at what they see.
3b. Spread a false message of Christianity further than it has ever gone before.

It is not the fact that these men have money that is the problem. It is the how they portray that wealth to the masses. When you drive around in a Ferrari (minimum $100,000 used) or a Bentley (minimum $135,000 used) and live in a mansion or home costing millions, you automatically remove yourself from the common people. It's not the money, it's the use of it. And when you, as a minister, waste enormous amounts of money on stuff that you do not need or stuff that puts a barrier between you and those who desperately need Jesus, that is a problem.

I will add an addendum here that one of the men (the Bentley driver) seems to regularly go to Compton where he grew up to reach out to gang members. I applaud that. Even then, however, I have to ask how much good could he do with the money he has wasted on extravagant creature comforts when that money could likely be used to create an enormous ministry for the very people he wants to help?

I hope I do not sound overly judgmental or apocalyptic, but I do believe it is important to speak out against this in the beginning instead of just pretending it doesn't exist. Fact is we are attacked every day not head-on, but covertly in an effort to wipe out the truth about Jesus Christ and the Gospel that He preached. Make no mistake, the world hates us (Jn. 15:18-19; Matt. 10:22), and it will do whatever it can to get rid of us. 

It will even use those who think they are doing something good in order to turn it against Christ and His people.

So please be aware of what we are really facing. Sometimes we will face a head-on attack, and will have to fight in that way. More often, however, we will be faced with what looks like a straight attack, when in reality it is a feint for something else. Be faithful and endure to the end. We follow Christ and Christ alone, and we need to be sure to show it in our lives every day in order to combat the war that constantly surrounds us. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Farewell, Farewell! (An Ode to My Smartphone)

Please note that I am not bashing anyone that uses smartphones, nor am I calling for them to be banished from the lives of Christians. That being said...

If you know me, you know that I am a bit of a geek. Video games, technology, computers, hardware and software. You name it, chances are I either know about it or am actively participating in it. When we got our first iPhones I loved it, but hated being locked into it's ecosystem. When we switched to Android, I loved it, immediately customized everything about it, and loved it even more.

Then we got rid of them.


Well, my wife dropped her's in water, where it immediately went berserk and died (it's funnier if you know the whole story, but that's not for here). We needed to get her something fast, still had over a year to go on our contract, and had no insurance, so I went on Craigslist, found a guy selling basic texting phones for cheap, and we got her one of those (an LG Cosmos 2, if you must know).

Her phone.

We came to find out during our discussions at this time that we had both been considering getting rid of our phones and switching to something simpler. What we had recognized was that they were consuming more and more of our lives, and we didn't like that very much.

In particular, one video I saw linked on Facebook really slapped me across the face. I had recognized my own reliance and addiction to my phone growing, but this pretty much sealed the deal for me. Check it out:

That was me. Not always, not every single moment, but more and more I was living through the 4" screen of my Samsung Galaxy. Even when I thought I was "in the moment," I wasn't. I was busy getting the right angle for a picture, or trying to get the video recorded just right. I wasn't there, I was in a phone.

Any question? Phone. Any ding? Phone. Any flashing light? Phone. No matter what was going on, I would check my phone. Even on vacation, with my family there, I looked around and we were all on our phones. It was freaky. I, of course, ignored it 'cause, you know, Candy Crush (or something similar). So I did some research on the kind of phone I would want, went on Ebay, and plopped down $35 for an LG enV3.
Mine's a manly dark blue.

I've done a lot of reading since then about other people who have dumped their phones for similar reasons. It always ends with something along the lines of "this is what I chose to do, make your own path."

I disagree with that kind of statement. Again, I am not advocating for everyone to chunk their smartphones. I do, however, believe that if we are going to be a holy people of God, that we had better ask and answer some of the tough questions about how we use the tools that God allows us to have, and take the steps needed to fix the problems we find.

I suggest starting with the 5 following steps:
1. Track how much time you are on your phone. (meal times? bathroom? commercials? the spare seconds in the drive-thru window?)

2. Watch to see if you (and those around you) are on your phones when you could be talking, thinking, or otherwise building your relationships.

3. Track how much you are thinking about or listening for your phone. (church? work? time with your spouse? time with your children?)

4. Watch to see if you are on your phone when others are near you, but don't "need" you. (children playing, spouse doing a chore, public places such as the park or in line, etc.)

5. Take a look around and watch people in their daily lives. Make a note of when you see someone on their phone, and what else is going on around them. 

Number five may freak you out a little sometimes. Watching the glow of dozens of phones on parent's faces while their kids run and play and say "look Mommy, look!!" is weird and kind of scary. I will also say that I have been that parent, and I hate that I have been.

Anyways, do those five steps, then do what you need to in order to fix it. Do you need to dump the smartphone? Do it. Do you need to leave it at home sometimes? Do it. Do you need to disable the internet on it? Do it. Whatever you need to do in order to be there, and I mean really be there and present with life and those around you, do it.

The emails can wait for later. So can the tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pics, games, etc. It will all still be there when you are done living life and being with those around you. Christ didn't die so that we could be sucked into the vortex of the endless internet. He died so that we could live, and live abundantly.

He died and rose again so that we could look at the world around us, form a relationship with those we come into contact with, and show His love to everyone around us so that they, too, could know Him.

It's hard to do that if the only glow seen on your face is that of a phone, and not the Son.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

That Great Truth (with pictures!)

Close your eyes just for a moment and picture Christ in your mind. Seriously, go ahead and do it now before reading on.

‘The Lord [God] said to my Lord [Jesus],
“Sit at My right hand,Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:34-36).

Now close your eyes and do it again, only with the verse above in mind.

Any difference?

All too often we fall into the trap of picturing Christ as a weak, kind of feminine, suffering Man of Sorrows. Far too often the image we have of Christ is one in need of our sympathy, who will forgive us our sins but has no real power. Many times, our image of Jesus goes something like this:

or this:

Now don't get me wrong. I am not trying to dehumanize Christ. He felt human sorrows and felt human pain and was tempted in every way just as we are.  When Lazarus died Jesus wept even though He would bring him back to life. He truly suffered heading towards and on the cross. Living the human experience was by no means a cakewalk for the Savior of the world.

However, we cannot stop there. Jesus did not stay on the cross. He was not a weak, effeminate wallflower who always spoke softly and gently to every person He came across. He flipped over tables and drove animals out of the temple courtyard, He blasted the religious leaders with words I don't think anyone would call "tolerant." He even shut down His own disciples and spoke in such a way at one point that many quit following Him because they didn't want to give what He said it would require.

He lived a human life, He died a human life, but He did not end there. Christ rose again. He came back in power, and He ascended to Heaven to the right hand of God. Jesus is one with God. Perhaps we would do well to remember that. 

The images above make it easy for us to feel sorry for or want to give our sympathy to Christ. But we don't worship a Christ on the cross. We don't worship a weak-willed man. We worship a risen Savior who rules over everything in the universe.

So instead of getting stuck on picturing Jesus as those images above, maybe we could picture Him closer to how He is now.

Maybe something like this:
or this:

or this:

Instead of going through the mental hoops of figuring out how to give Christ our sympathy, how to feel sorry for Him and feeling bad because of what He had to do in order to save us from our sins, we can realize that He is above all and over all and has more power and glory than we could ever possibly comprehend. Is it terrible the things that Christ suffered? Yes. Is is heartbreaking to think that He had to do so because I could not? Yes. Is that where I end my thoughts and meditations on Christ? Absolutely not.

This is That Great Truth. All things in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth have been put under Jesus' control and authority. We live on His Time in His Kingdom in His Age. He is the Christ Victorious. He speaks and Heaven and Earth obey Him. He tolerates the wickedness in this world only so that more may be saved by His blood. 

Furthermore, we live because He lives. We live in the Victory of Christ the Risen Savior. We worship the One True Man who is also the One True God. Let us recognize That Great Truth and live in the Power that only He can provide.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Great God Entertainment

Allow me to be very clear and up-front. These ideas are not my own. I am paraphrasing an essay by A.W. Tozer, because he wrote this in 1955 and it terrifies me to think how much the god of entertainment has grown since then. I am writing this to bring clarity to what he wrote and so more people can consider it than otherwise would. With that said...

A German philosopher many years ago said something like this; the more a man has in his own heart the less he will need from the outside. Excessive need for support from the outside is a sign of the bankruptcy of the inner man.

If this is true (and I believe it is), then the incredible attachment we see to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no flow from his heart, no inner strength to make it so he does not need repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to keep on living. He has become a parasite on the world, sucking the life from his environment, unable to live without the constant stimulation that modern life affords him.

The philosopher believed that feeling dependent was the basis for all religious worship, and that no matter how strong we may become spiritually, it must begin with a deep need that only God could satisfy. If this need is the basis of normal religion then it is easy to see why the god of Entertainment is worshiped by so many. There are millions who cannot live without amusement. For some of them life without it would be completely unbearable - they look to the relief provided by professional entertainers and other media as much as a drug addict looks forward to their next hit. Without it, they could not face existing in this world.

Now no normal person has a problem with the simple pleasures of life. There is harmless entertainment that relaxes us and refreshes our minds after a hard day. Those kinds of things, used moderately, can even be a blessing to us. But that is one thing. The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which people live is something completely different.

The abuse of something harmless is the essence of sin. The way that amusement has taken over such a huge portion of people's lives is a real, immediate threat to the souls of modern man. It has been built into a multibillion-dollar racket with more influence on people's minds and character than any other educational influence on earth. And the most terrifying thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would otherwise fill the souls of people, if only the people were willing to entertain them. The entire thing has grown into a veritable religion that holds its followers with a strange fascination. It has become a religion, incidentally, that is dangerous to speak against.

For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was - a device for wasting time, a place safe from a conscience trying to change us, a scheme to pull our attention away from moral accountability. Because she stood against it, the church was constantly abused by the world around her. But lately she has become tired of the abuse and given up the struggle.

She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and do what she can with his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is quickly crowding out the serious things of God. So many churches today are little more than peddlers of shoddy products by fifth-rate "producers" with the approval of evangelical leaders who will will quote a Bible verse to defend their wrong-doings. What's worse, hardly anyone dares to raise their voice against it.

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them useless stories. The love of stories, a characteristic of children, has taken hold of the minds of the diminished saints to the extent that many make a good living simply by telling these useless and pointless stories and calling it religious speech! What is natural and beautiful in children can become shocking when it continues into adulthood, and even more so when it attempts to pass for true religion in worship.

Is it not frightening, and a wonder that, in a time when mature saints are needed so badly, that the professed followers of the Lord are giving themselves up to religious amusements, or entertainment in general? Why are so many begging for religious toys and spiritual childhood? This is a time when a lost world needs true, mature, strong people of God more than ever.

"Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our shame...The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim" (Lamentations 5:1, 16-17).

Let this not be the end of our story. Let us change and be right with the One True God, and set aside that which pulls us away from Him.