"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15
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Are Christians, particularly Christians in America, sociopathic?
Christian… Sociopath… These are two words that on the surface seem completely incompatible. Acts 11:26 tells us that the term “Christian” was first used of disciples in the Antioch church. This was initially used as an insult in that people were saying they were “little Christs”. In other words, they were just like Jesus, who because of His great love for people, voluntarily died to pay for the sins of the world. On the other hand – the dictionary defines sociopath as “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” Another says that “Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.”
How can someone who is living a life that is reminiscent of a man whose critics admit was at least a good person and moral teacher exhibit behavior or attitudes that are patently selfish and apathetic to others? However, in spite of the apparent contradiction, I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, the answer is closer to “yes” than any of us who call ourselves a Christian would like to admit… And it tears me up inside… Let me allow this clip from Atheist Magician and Comedian Penn Jillette to begin to explain what I mean:
“How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” There is the rub… Way too many “Christians” fall in a daily routine and are comfortable to coast through life without a broken heart for their friends and family who, if what we believe is really true, are destined for an eternity without God… Well… to be honest that is the essence of selfishly living life “without concern for the effects of their behavior [or lack thereof] on others”, isn’t it???
We certainly shouldn’t be comfortable with it… But sadly I think that may just be the problem… our comfort. Because we are relatively comfortable, especially in comparison to most of the rest of the world, we just get into auto pilot and unintentionally slip into apathy. It’s not a conscious thing, but it occurs anyway… and it’s tragic.
Penn said “There comes a point where I tackle you… and this is more important than that.” Because people’s eternities are so important, our “social conscience” should remind us that we have a “moral responsibility” to love those around us enough to take the risk of offending them or losing a friendship to in a sense “tackle” them by sharing the truth about Jesus…
Let’s pray to God for forgiveness for our sociopathic tendencies and begin to live a life that actually reflects our name-sake, Jesus… and refuse to scoot through life uncaring and unaffected by the many people we know who do not yet have a relationship with Him.
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I have taken 3 oaths in my life. The first was an oath to protect my nation from enemies at home and abroad. The second was an oath to honor and cherish my wife in sickness and in health till death do us part. Know, have a taken an oath to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.
Everyone should be familiar with the first two oaths that I identified (military and marriage), but many of you may not recognize the last one. The last one is from the movie Courageous. It is the Resolution for Men. Below is the resolution for men:
I do solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.
– I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.
– I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
– I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.
– I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.
– I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
– I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
– I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.
– I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.
– I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.
– I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His church, obey His Word, and do His will.
– I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. – Joshua 24:15
This morning, I was trying to think of a way to incorporate a post on my new oath, and everything that is involved, etc… As I was sitting and pondering the next great post, I stumbled across “the Drudge Report” and happen to notice a story that was talking about the President Pledge .
The Presidents Pledge is something similar to the Resolution for Men. The objective of the President’s Fatherhood pledge is to address the very legitimate concern of fatherlessness in America. Here is the Presidents Pledge:
I pledge to renew my commitment to family and community. I recognize the positive impact that fathers, mothers , mentors and other responsible adults can have on our children and youth, and pledge to do all I can to provide children in my home and throughout my community the encouragement and support they need to fulfill their potential.
Both are after the same objective. We have families that need fathers, and wives that need husbands. However, there is a distinct difference between these two. To point out the obvious, one is based on the Bible, and the other is not. There are other items here that scream for attention. Notice how the Resolution for Men has very specific action items on how be a good father/husband, the other offers platitudes and just a renewal of the commitment. The Resolution for Men offers a real life change that can make an impact not only on the children and wife, but also on the father as well. The pledge offers only encouragement rather than leadership.
As I sat and compared these two I began to slowly realize that this could be a reason that so many have adbicated their role as fathers. After all, if the best the President can do is to ask for people to recoginize and offer encouragement and support then the secular worlds expecations of fathers are fairly low. Remember…his father was not around. I would have thought that the President would have taken a firmer stand on this. Sadly that is not the case. What we need is…well…
Read the below exert from the movie Courageous. This is what needs to happen in America.
“As a law-enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand the deep hurt and devastation that fatherlessness brings in a child’s life. Our prisons are full of men and women who lived recklessly after being abandoned by their fathers, wounded by the men who should have loved them the most. Many now follow the same pattern of irresponsibility that their fathers did.
While so many mothers have sacrificed to help their children survive, they were never intended to carry the weight alone. We thank God for them.
But research is proving that a child also desperately needs a daddy. There’s no way around this fact. As you know, earlier this year, my family endured the tragic loss of our -year-old daughter, Emily. Her death forced me to realize that not only had I not taken advantage of the priceless time I had with her, but that I did not truly understand how crucial my role was as a father to her and our son, Dylan. Since her passing, I’ve asked God to show me, through his word how to be the father that I need to be.
I now believe that God desires for every father to courageously step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. But more than just being there or providing for them, he’s to walk with them through their lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their father in heaven.
A father should love his children and seek to win their hearts. He should protect them, discipline them and teach them about God.
He should model how to walk with integrity and treat others with respect and should call out his children to become responsible men and women who live their lives for what matters in eternity.
Some men will hear this and mock it or ignore it.
But I tell you that as a father, you are accountable to God for the position of influence he has given you.
You can’t fall asleep at the wheel only to wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value but the souls of your children do.
Some men will hear this and agree with it but have no resolve to live it out.
lnstead, they will live for themselves and waste the opportunity to leave a godly legacy for the next generation.
But there are some men who, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did not do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same, and, whenever possible, to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives but who desperately need help and direction.
We are inviting any man whose heart is willing and courageous to join us in this resolution.
In my home, the decision has already been made.
You don’t have to ask who will guide my family, because by God’s grace, I will.
You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ, because l will.
Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? I will.
Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family’s history? I will.
Who will pray for and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do?
I am their father. l will.
I accept this responsibility, and it is my privilege to embrace it.
I want the favor of God and his blessing on my home. Any good man does.
So where are you, men of courage?
Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord?
It’s time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you and to say, “I will. I will. I will.”
This is the oath I took on Sunday. Perhaps if we could get more men to follow this…fatherlessness would not be as large of an issue…
Do we have any men of courage out there?
If you’ve ever been to Sunday school or if you’re an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, you are probably familiar with the Old Testament story of Joseph… You know, the favorite
son of Jacob, who at age 17 flaunted that he’d dreamed that his family would bow down to him one day. The one with the awesome (Technicolor) tunic… The one who had brothers that wanted to kill, but sold him into slavery to Egypt instead. And when he got to Egypt, his master found out that he was quite a good administrator (because he was favored by God)… BUT he was thrown into prison because he rejected his master’s wife’s “advances” and she lied about who assaulted who… Then in prison, his administrative skills shine through again and he is placed in charge of the whole facility and then, one day, interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and butler (one with good news – the other with bad), only to be forgotten by his new-found “friend”. But when Pharaoh dreamed a couple of “funky” dreams, Joseph is called upon to interpret them… The news: That the region was going to have 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of devastating famine and that Pharaoh needed to get ready… Well, Pharaoh did get ready by placing Joseph in charge of the preparations and making him second in command over all of Egypt. When the famine hit they were able to sustain the lives of everyone around including the treacherous brothers who came calling for food, but didn’t recognize their dear bro, Joe… Well, after a series of tests Joseph reveals himself to his family, reunites with them (including dear old dad) and sets them up for prosperity for the foreseeable future, by getting them jobs and homes in the lushest part of the land…
If you are unfamiliar with the story, let me encourage you to watch the musical (one of my personal favorites), or better yet read all about it in Genesis 37, 39-50.
But simply recounting the story isn’t my goal here (nor was it my goal when I preached on this yesterday). Instead, let’s briefly look at what can be learned from this amazing story.
The way I (and others before me) see it, there are three basic over-arching lessons we can learn from the life of Joseph… Depending on their particular theological bent (Calvinist or Arminian), most protestants will find themselves gravitating toward either the first or the third of these lessons… But I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extreme positions and it is the second lesson that brings balance to the issue… I think it’s so cool how God has chosen to demonstrate this truth at the very beginning of the Bible – I wish more of us would recognize that and bring more balance to our theological grids and be more gracious and loving and cooperative with each other (but that, perhaps, is an argument for another day).
The first lesson we see in Joseph’s life is that God is in Control – at ALL Times & in ALL Circumstances (cf. Genesis 45:5 and 50:20). This is true even when things make little to no sense to us… When you’re brothers beat you up and sell you into slavery… When you’re boss’ wife makes passes at you and then cries “rape” when you reject her advances… When you are forgotten and rejected by the one to whom you did that huge favor… When you don’t know how you’re going to take care of your family… When you’re company down sizes… When you have to tolerate a boss that is unreasonable… When you unexpectedly lose a loved one… When disease strikes your family… When the national and global economy seems to be swirling down the drain… When you’re surfing and get your left arm bitten off by a shark!!! 100% of the time God is in control, He is sovereign. His ultimate plans will not be overthrown – He already is the victor over sin, death, Satan and demons and anything else that would dare to rebel against Him. What’s awesome about this is that if we are His child then we too have been made more than conquerors with Him!
Why are we able to share in His victory and rest in His sovereignty? Because of the second and most pivotal lesson: He really does Love us – and always will no matter what it looks like (cf. John 3:16, 1 John 3:1 and Romans 8:37-39). God cares for us not only as friends, but as His children… and He is NOT a dead-beat dad or disengaged father! He loves us immeasurably and perfectly and wants what’s best for us (even if that creates a great amount of pain and anguish for a season). He wants to see us grow and He wants us to reflect His glory and share in His Kingdom, but to do that, we’ve got to be with Him in the fight!
That brings us to our third lesson: Our Choices Matter – Because God wants to use us (cf. Joshua 24:15; Romans 12:1-2). Because of the personal cost, many don’t want to join with God or be a part of His family, others who are on His team try to stay on the side-lines as much as they can… They’d rather bop along doing their own thing while giving deference and “worship” to Him once a week (or less) and the rest of their lives they act as if there is no God… This is much the same as was the case with Joseph’s family and this path has devastating consequences. I told my church yesterday that because of God’s love and faithfulness, He was going to get Joseph (or someone else) down to Egypt to preserve the family (so that He could keep His promise to Abraham), but because of the horrible choices on everybody’s part (Joseph’s early arrogance, the brother’s jealousy and deceitfulness, Jacob’s favoritism, Potiphar’s wife’s lust, Potiphar’s indiscretion and lack of justice, etc.) Joseph was forced to travel just about the most painful road possible to save many lives and preserve God’s promise. There are several points in the story where Joseph’s suffering could have been short-circuited had someone made a better choice, but they never did until the end.
You might be thinking, well, that stinks for Joseph, and those are nice lessons, but how do I apply them today? First and foremost, we must Love Him and Trust Him with our whole lives (Past, Present and Future – Heart, Mind, Body, Soul) (cf. Mark 12:30 and Proverbs 3:5-6)! Much like Bethany Hamilton did when faced with horrific tragedy (her wonderful story of faith and purpose is retold in the new movie Soul Surfer).
We then demonstrate our Love for Him through making right choices (unlike much of Joseph’s family and “friends”). Of course, the first right choice, after we have trusted Jesus with our lives, is to choose to obey Him (cf. 1 John 5:2-4)! The next choice is also a matter of obedience to Him and that is to love other people (even the ones who are hard to love) (cf. Mark 12:29-31 & 1 John 4:7-8, 20-21)… and part of loving them is to forgive them when they fail you (even if that has massively painful consequences for you – cf. Colossians 3:13) – We see this played out beautifully in Joseph’s life when he forgave his brothers and chose to continue to walk in that forgiveness even after their father had died… I know that is no easy task. In fact, CS Lewis once said “There is no use in talking as if forgiveness were easy… For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offense and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one.”
It’s never easy, but desperately needed because when we get on board with God’s program things far more amazing than a Technicolor Dream Coat happen! Like, He will work out all circumstances for our good and for His Glory (cf. Romans 8:28)! Also, our hearts will start to change from unfulfilling selfishness to a life that overflows with our hearts’ desires… IF what we most love is Him and what we most desire is what He loves and desires (cf. 1 John 3:21-24)!
So, I guess what both stories (Joseph and Bethany Hamilton) boil down to is this: Because of His sovereignty and love, God is worthy of our trust and our Praise and our adoration, even when things don’t make any sense, and we get to choose to give it to Him!
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I recently wrote a post about the so called “problem of evil” and how Christians should view it. Well, as a youth pastor I get to see this played out in varying degrees in my ministry. Sometimes people respond to challenges well, sometimes they don’t. Today, I thought I’d try to encourage you by telling you a quick story of a young man in my youth group who is handling some adversity remarkably well. Now, this adversity isn’t like facing cancer or the death of a loved one or anything like that, but it is still a big deal for him at this time in his life.
This student comes from a family of VERY talented wrestlers (one cousin was a 3 time state champ and another one was 4 time state champ… His daddy was also a great wrestler and is now one of the coaches in our area). So, safe to say, wrestling is in his blood… It’s been his long-time dream to be a 4 time state champ as well – a dream that not only seemed possible, but quite likely as at the beginning of the season the main newspaper in our state picked him as a favorite for his weight class… All that changed one tournament at the very beginning of the season when he was severely injured by an illegal move.
Of course, his parents sought out the best medical care they could find, but he kept getting mixed messages from the doctors – the reality was they couldn’t be sure how quick he could recover from the injury and as the season progressed it became more and more doubtful that he would be able to get in enough mat time to seriously challenge for state (if he got to wrestle this season at all).
Did God want him to suffer this injury? Was He using the evil of the blatantly illegal move and the injury that resulted to produce some greater good in this young man’s life? As we’ve seen from previous discussions, God does not cause evil in our lives to serve His purposes (God is Holy and thus wholly innocent of all evil)… However, He is also sovereign and thus any random and pointless evil/adversity that affects our lives is ultimately allowed by Him… James 1 and Romans 5 both tell us to rejoice or glory in suffering and trials – Why??? Because trials offer us an opportunity to “test our faith.” They reveal what we really believe about God and ourselves… There are 2 basic choices every time we face difficulties: Become Better OR Become Bitter.
We Become Better when we rely upon God to sustain and comfort us – He then can take the lemon-ness of the bad circumstances and help us turn it into something resembling lemonade (though the lemonade may still be fairly sour) – He does this by helping us grow in our perseverance (James 1), by giving us an opportunity to know and trust Him more and increase our Hope (Romans 5), and by opening the door to be a comfort and witness to those around us (2 Corinthians 1).
We Become Bitter when we allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity… when we let a natural sense of anger against the situation (and maybe even God) cause us to hold a grudge against Him… when we focus on the circumstance and/or its adverse affects and try to lay blame on everyone and everything else because of them.
Though there was much discouraging news and times of deep disappointment this freshman strove to keep pressing on and, even more so, to keep his mind focused on the right perspective: Through the encouragement of his mom, he kept asking, “What can I learn from all this? What do I NEED to learn?” He petitioned the elders of our church to pray over him (cf. James 5:13-16) – but not just for healing, but that he would maintain a righteous example for those around him – It was a very powerful time and no one left the room untouched by the Spirit of God.
Well, the healing didn’t come as quick as anyone would have hoped for… He still struggled through therapy and rehab and wasn’t released for even light work-outs until just a couple of weeks ago… Then, he was allowed to wrestle with the JV and took 2nd in his only JV tournament just last week – which is a major disappointment for someone who was previously picked to win state, especially since it was so close to the tournament he has to place in to qualify for state… Still, though, he has been relying upon God and striving to keep a positive outlook and a live as a solid example of faith.
Tomorrow this upstanding teenager is going to wrestle in regionals (the qualifying tournament for state) in his first varsity action since the injury… and He is going into it hoping to display aspects of Zechariah 4:6-7: To compete – Not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the LORD Almighty… He will attempt to level a very large mountain for the Glory of God.
In my humble opinion it doesn’t matter if he loses every match tomorrow… This is because in light of how he continues to handle himself, he is already a champ in God’s eyes… and mine!
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I was reminded that the Challenger exploded 25 years ago today… That means that 25 years ago I was a naïve and immature 10 year old trying to deal with the shock and awe of the tragedy by sitting around cracking stupid and insensitive “Challenger Jokes” in Mrs. Hoblitzel’s 5th grade class (no I won’t be repeating them here). It’s sobering and frankly quite embarrassing to think of how I behaved back then… but as is usual for me; “current” events have gotten me thinking theologically. Specifically today I’ve been thinking about how I’ve progressed throughout the years in responding to catastrophe.
Here’s the progression I’ve observed in myself – and I by no means want to claim I’ve cornered the market on how to appropriately respond to all tragedies – However, I’m hoping that as you read how I have in the past and am now currently responding to troublesome or “evil” events it will cause you to pause and consider what IS the proper response in light of who God is and our relationship to Him (throughout history, currently and in the future). So, here goes (please keep in mind I’m not at all proud of these responses, but I think they will be helpful to our discussion):
Like I said above, when I was a kid I would respond to tragic events (and really pretty much most adversity I experienced) by either lashing out in anger and/or trying to defuse the impact by making light or making fun of the situation and/or the people involved. So what if the nation was rocked by an unexpected and seemingly needless loss of life??? I was gonna have my laugh and try to get others to join along… The problem with this is that it was incredibly insensitive – it didn’t acknowledge the genuine pain people felt over the situation and it in no way considered God (and how HE felt about what happened).
As I grew into adolescence and young adulthood I slipped into a very jaded indifference… Sure, I’d put on a mask of concern and maybe even feign a little contrived and controlled outrage and sometimes I’d even revert back to the joke making… but inside, I really didn’t care. The two biggest examples I remember responding in this way were the Oklahoma City bombing and the OJ trial… Now, again, I have grown to deeply care about what happened in these (especially the OKC bombing), but back then my heart was very hard toward God and that translated in it being hard toward what He most cares about: people… My heart breaks in sorrow in how I used to think and feel, and now I am particularly grieved over the loss of life, especially when that life is one or more people who have not placed their faith and trust in Jesus.
As God got a hold of my attention and my heart I quickly transitioned into another and radically different response to personal, national and even global tragedy – I wanted to discover (and then proclaim) some “greater good” had and/or would come from it all. I was quick to fire out Romans 8:28 “All things work together for the good…” in an attempt to make sense of it all and out of a sincere motivation to comfort and build up those affected by various tragedies.
This is a view and a practice I’ve held to until just very recently… The three basic problems with this: 1) Verses such as Genesis 50:20, Job 1:21 and Romans 8:28 seem to be blanket statements promising some greater good, but when looked at carefully they are NOT actually blanket promises (we don’t have time to go into all the hermeneutics here, but read them for yourself in context and I think you will find me to be right); 2) If there is a “greater good” for a very visible tragedy for things to balance out wouldn’t the good also need to be visible and noticeably better than the evil event? (What is the visible “greater good” for the holocaust, the tsunami a few years back, Katrina, children being raped and brutally murdered, the OKC bombing, and 9/11?) 3) If God NEEDS these evil events in order for some greater scheme of His to come about, would that not make God guilty of and/or dependent upon evil? (I cannot in good conscience and will not charge God with evil – that is a theologically indefensible position and it would be plainly sinful (cf. Job 1:22 & 2:10).
So, how do I respond now? Well, first, I recognize that we live in a broken world – one that has been broken since Adam and Eve sinned. Because this world (including nature and culture) is broken and people’s relationships with one another, with themselves and with God are all broken bad stuff is bound to happen… This brokenness is the REASON for all the garbage that goes on, however, there doesn’t HAVE to be a PURPOSE for the evil (i.e. a “greater good” to be made out of it). Sometimes, out of His goodness, God will take a bad situation and make it better and/or bring some sort of good out of it – but He is under no obligation to do that 100% of the time (and He doesn’t) – sometimes, often even, bad stuff just happens and that’s it, period – no greater good occurs.
The second thing that I recognize is that sin and the evil it produces and has produced grieves God greatly. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that we are to Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He sympathizes with us in our pain and He ready willing and able to comfort us in our sorrow and affliction. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1: “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
The last thing that I remember (and this personally brings me the most comfort) is that we know with 100% certainty that God will one day make all things right – The curse will be reversed: Evil and agents of evil will be dealt with, the perfection of the Garden of Eden will be restored, those who have accepted Him through faith will be able to have continual fellowship with God in His presence, the world will be made new, our bodies will be glorified, there will be no sickness, no sorrow, no pain, no death and no tears. He has already taken steps to make this future reality possible. The story of how He has done that and is continuing to do so is the central theme of the Bible.
So, I guess what I’m driving at is the next time something shockingly bad (like Challenger, 9/11, the tsunami, OKC bombing, or something more personal) occurs, don’t joke about it, don’t blow it off as insignificant and don’t try to placate people with promises of some greater good… Instead, I would challenge you to point them to Christ, who wants to have a relationship with them, will one day make all things right and who can comfort them beyond measure with peace that passes understanding (cf. Philippians 4:5-9) in the here and now.
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We recently posted our suggestions for 2011 goals. I have a suggestion for something to help you keep momentum in these goals…
Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.”
You might say, “Okay, Kevin… that’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with the challenge you’ve issued and what does it have to do with Facebook and Twitter?” As you well know, in today’s culture Facebook and Twitter are how we frequently “keep company.”
Is the company you’re keeping via Facebook or Twitter helping you to think upon things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable? My guess is that some of it probably does, while others probably seriously hurts those efforts – Right?
Let me share with you a few things I do with my Facebook and Twitter and the issue you another quick challenge.
On Facebook I maintain a very strict “One Strike” policy… What I mean by that is that if I notice that any of my Facebook friends posts something that is morally questionable I immediately hide them from my feed. Notice, I do not “unfriend them”… I still want to maintain the ability to contact them for various reasons and I want to retain the ability to try and have some influence on them through chat and posts (like our blog, for example)… However, this move helps me to diminish their potentially negative influence upon me.
Another thing I do with Facebook is I close it on the computer I’m using while I’m working on something and/or studying God’s word… This helps me to maintain focus and not get drawn into conversations that can suck away my productive time. Along those same lines I block from my feed all Facebook apps in the vein of “Farmville”, “Send a Hug”, etc. These have too much potential to waste my time.
While I keep FB closed a lot, I do keep Twitter live on my desk… but I’m become more selective on who I follow… I’ve got some folks I follow strictly for a bit of humor each day, but the majority of the folks I follow (i.e. Andy Stanley, Tony Nolan, Derwin Gray, Albert Mohler, Mark Matlock, Ed Setzer, Micah Fries, Steven Furtick, Mark Driskoll, etc.) are guys that put out some amazing content in the form of links to their blogs and/or short notes which encourage me in my walk with Christ… This has been extremely helpful to me.
Let me implore you in view of the scriptures above to seriously take a look at your Facebook and Twitter patterns and make adjustments that would be honoring to God and would help you move forward in your relationship with Christ this year.
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Another thing to remember in this challenge…focus on what you are putting on your facebook/twitter pages. Remember we are called to be the salt and the light. We are called to offer encouragement to other people. Don’t be afraid to post scripture, or talk about the reason for your hope. Above all, remember that your posts can have an impact on others. Make it a positive impact. One that will make a difference.
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Open air preaching is absolutely fascinating to me. It is a back to the basic’s approach to evangelism. Think about it…this is how the apostles did it. They stood out in public and preached. They made their argument under the most intense scrutiny. It is incredible to watch the reaction of the world to those who preach in the open. You when I wrote The No Shame + No Fear series it was geared towards evangelism. So clear is the call for evangelism that many forget how to evangelize. Open air preaching is one way to do it. Keep in mind it is not for everyone. But there are a number of ways to this. Everyone has opportunities to witness. It could be on facebook, Myspace, with your friends or wherever!
Here are links to some open air preaching:
These video’s were put up by a group called The Way of the Master. This is Ray Comfort, and Kirk Cameron.
Have you ever said something stupid that pretty much as soon as it left your mouth you wish you could take it back? Or maybe you said something that was taken out of context and/or misunderstood by someone and it wreaked a lot of havoc? Boy, I have! It happens to me much more than I’d ever like to admit… usually happens on days when I’m physically, spiritually or emotionally weary and/or when I’m carelessly trying to be funny…
God’s Word has a lot to tell us about our words and how constructive or destructive they can be…
So, what makes the difference?
Like I said… I usually get my words all twisted up when I’m physically tired or emotionally drained… or when I’m focused less on the eternal (i.e. Advancing God’s Kingdom) and more on the temporal (i.e. trying to make people think I’m fun, clever, knowledgeable or funny). When we are worn out (like I am this week) or out of focus our hearts can get our priorities out of whack and this can lead to us saying things we might normally had avoided saying if our hearts were peacefully resting in God… I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired I have to fight becoming ego-centric (thinking everything is about me)… For me this shows up by my being cranky and/or by saying something utterly stupid… Again… this happens far more than I’d like and I’ve found myself having to apologize – which is never a “fun” proposition.
What does God’s Word have to say?
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
Ouch!!! And as a person on staff at a wonderful church the next passage (James 3:1-10) sometimes stings even more:
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check… The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
So, what must be done? Daily (at minimum) heart-checks through Bible study and Prayer… Reading, Memorizing, Meditating on and Praying back God’s Word… Submitting to the Holy Spirit who will empower us to be and do more and more like Jesus…
Popping off and saying stupid stuff is a very “worldly” thing to do… Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that we are to avoid being like “the world” and we are to this by transforming our lives (heart) by the renewing of our minds… See, above, in Luke, Jesus said that our tongues are controlled by our hearts and in James God tells us that our life-direction is set by our words… Paul tells us we can transform our lives and break from old worldly patterns by renewing our mind… He also suggests elsewhere (Philippians 4:8, see below) that this is done by meditating on certain aspects of God’s Word and works:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
This is just the medicine that I need to prevent the destructive sickness of foot-in-mouth-itis that plagues me from time to time… To help this preventive medicine along I’m going to daily “self-medicate” on Philippians 4:8 (i.e. I’m going to remind myself of this passage to start each day)… Focusing on the things this verse tells us to focus upon should do wonders for my attitude and miracles with my words (both spoken AND written).
Additionally, at least once each day (and probably more) I will pray aloud Psalm 19:14… I’m trusting God’s Word that this frequent renewing of my mind will continually transform my life to look more and more like Jesus and, in doing so; God will also be able to use me to progressively and positively impact people’s lives with His love.
Will you also take up the challenge of starting off each day by reading/meditating on Philippians 4:8 and in making Psalm 19:14 a regular part of your daily prayer life?
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14).
Tell me if you’ve ever heard something like this: “I know what I’m doing isn’t right… okay, well maybe it’s even wrong… maybe… but I REALLY want to do this… it feels right… Well, at least I think it’s what’s going to make me happiest now. Yeah, it’s probably not what God wants, but it’s okay, cuz I’ll just ask Him to forgive me for it… later…”
Maybe we’ve even heard ourselves saying something like that… If not aloud, perhaps we’ve tried to justify sinful actions in our minds this way… Friends, let me say as lovingly as I can… this is a VERY dangerous game to play…
Consider what God says in Deuteronomy 29:
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God… make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.
When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster… The LORD will single him out… for disaster.
Granted, this passage is written to Israel and in relation to the covenant they had with God… But the principle is clear… God HATES it when we identify with Him in name only and then go ahead and do our own thing… Isn’t that exactly what we’re doing when (like above) we try to justify stupidity? How many people do you know that claim to be Christian, yet don’t live it out in their lives at all? If and when they are confronted with their sin they blow it off as “mistakes” or dismiss it as “personality flaws” or “shortcomings”… and they will ask for forgiveness… later?
To bring this in a NT light, let’s look quickly at the end of Romans 5 and the beginning of Romans 6.
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?… Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God…
Also consider Hebrews 10
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Notice at the end it says the LORD will judge His people… Can you be saved and sin willfully, yes… but then consider the next sentence… It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. And, as a child of God, who loves Him, you will not want to persist in that sin… Robert and I have both written in recent posts about freedom in Christ, and how that freedom should not be used for evil.
It has been said that there is no such thing as a person who has accepted Jesus but has no change in their life… Does that mean that you will be perfect from the moment of salvation? Of course not! However, if there is little to no evidence of a change in your life, there is much to fear and that person should take head to 2 Corinthians 13:5 which says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
Does this mean that you have to “clean up” your life before you come to Christ? Absolutely not… Salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone… Ephesians 4:8-9 affirms, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Since we are transformed into a new creation upon salvation then we ought to look and act differently than we did before… If we don’t we are massively immature as Christians or we are not Christians at all. Will there be ups and downs in the Christian life? SURE! Sometimes the downs might be huge… but we should be growing more and more as time progresses…
Philippians 2:13-14 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Basically, what this means that we have to rely upon God for the changes that He wants to take place in our lives, but we are to work with Him in that process…
So, I guess what this post boils down to is an appeal for everyone claiming the name of Christ (i.e. calling themselves Christian) to be, well, christlike (though the power of the Holy Spirit). Let’s stop living for ourselves and start living for Him… no more lame excuses for stupidity (like above) that presume upon the grace of God…
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I’m going to be out of pocket tomorrow, so I’m doing my G90X update a little early this week… Thought I’d take the Holiday as a good opportunity to remind us of a passage that isn’t always very comfortable. 1 Peter 2:13-17:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
Of course, in America we have no king… but we do have a Congress and a President and a Supreme Court… Regardless of your political leanings there are probably several men or women in Washington that you are not a big fan of… In posting this passage, I’ve got another confession to make… I need to do a much better job of praying for the men and women in our government… I spend a whole lot of time complaining about them (not always out loud, but often in my heart), and only a fraction of that time praying for them… which I think, is probably the best way to honor and submit to them.
When we are dissatisfied with certain things that our government is doing or not doing how should we respond? Robert touched on this in a previous post after he was very upset over the passing of the Health Care bill. I think 1 Peter 2:15 sheds a lot of light on what we can and should do… It’s easy to complain (believe me I know from 1st hand experience), but I think that our first obligation is to stop and pray and silence useless/foolish talk…
What do I mean by that? Here’s a question… What can actually (legally) be done to change the government? Vote them out, right? Of course you can write your elected officials and let them know how you feel about certain issues and how you will vote based on those issues… If you are dissatisfied with what they are doing/not doing – go to it… but the opportunity to actually make a change (by voting) only comes around every couple of years, right?! And there’s no guarantees that someone more worthy will be running against them. Our complaints in the meantime are futile and do more to rile us up and make us discontent and take our focus off what’s more important (i.e. the Kingdom of God, lost souls and hurting people around us)…
If our complaints are largely futile could they then be considered “ignorant talk of foolish men” in light of verse 15 and Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”? Not convinced? Check it out in context (Ephesians 4:25-32).
Thanks to the sacrifice of countless men and women throughout America’s history we have the freedom of speech… We have the freedom to complain… But 1 Peter 2:16 reminds us, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” Do our complaints build others up… do they mark us as servants of God? Am I saying folks on Fox or MSNBC are evil in being political pundants? Not really… However, as Christians we should think about how WE need to respond to our discontentment on a daily basis.
So what can be done DAILY to change the government? The Answer is Prayer.
God has the ability to change hearts and minds… I truly trust in His power and sovereignty… If He has that power and ability, then let us lean on Him to do so… Let’s pray for our government officials that God would give them supernatural wisdom and that they would make God-honoring choices… Let us “cast all our anxiety upon Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7) – It can make a difference in our nation, in our lives and our attitudes… I certainly want to do the will of God and definitely do not want to be considered by Him to be a fool who’s engaging in “ignorant talk.”
Maybe I should pray more…
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