Tag Archives: Christ

God. Is. Always. There.

The following is the testimony of a childhood friend of mine, I pray that no matter what perspective you are reading it from, your heart will be touched.  God loves us, enough to send His son for us.  When we come to Him in recognition of that fact, He will always beckon us back to Him.  This is an anonymous story, mainly because some of the details are very personal and are better left nameless.

God has been so good to me in my life and has brought me out of so much and delivered me from more than I could ever tell you. I began my walk with God when I was 15.  I was headed down the wrong road, and the youth pastor of a local church stepped in and showed me Gods love. I got very involved and threw all my energy into my youth group, and all that I could do for God.

Throughout high school, I dated a guy off and on for three years but things began to get out of hand and I called the relationship off. My senior year a met a guy that loved God and liked me for me, not for what most teenage boys wanted.  We had only been dating for a few months when we had a horrible wreck.  God saved our lives but my faith was shaken. I finished my senior year at an alternative school, and was home bound for some time and that amounted to too much idle time. My parents had been having problems for some time and the stress began to get to me, and I broke up with my boyfriend.  I did this even though we both had known that God had called us to be together. I began to hang out with the wrong people, and stopped going to church.  One day my first boyfriend came back into town, so I decided to spend the weekend with him and his family. That was the decision that caused me years of pain. Just a crack in the door of sin, and the whole world began to drown me.  In a matter of two weeks, I started drinking and smoking, and began sleeping with my boyfriend. Things started out on the wrong foot.  Soon after he proposed, I found out he had cheated on me, and the young woman was pregnant. But I was so desperate for a way to hide my pain and lonesomeness, I “forgave” him and we were married just five short months of dating, I was only 19.

Our first baby came with in the first year of our marriage as did a move that took me 1,500 miles away from everything I had ever known. We had the typical arguments that all newlyweds experience, but soon they turned to him pushing then slapping me.  The first time it happened, I was so shocked but he told me it was my fault for pushing his buttons. The abuse got worse over the next year, as did his addiction to pornography and video games. I learned that he was having an affair over the internet and over the phone with the same girl he had cheated on me with before we were married. Despite all of this, we had our second child just a year after our first child was born. My life revolved around my children, and at times, I felt so helpless.  He would get angry and hurt me over stupid things, and demand I performed as his pornography girls did.  I was trapped. Over the next two years, there were good times. But unfortunately, the bad outweighed the good by far. It got to the point I didn’t care anymore about making him happy, only my girls. I truly hated that they lived in a house where their parents fought. But there was one light in my dark world…a friend…the guy I had dated when I had my wreck.

He had moved on and gotten married, but we had remained friends. No one but him knew of the abuse, and one day I had had all I could take.  So I wrote a note to my sister telling her what had been going on, and I had a bottle of pills.  I sat down and prayed for the first time in a long time asking, “God where are you?” At that moment my computer went off telling me I had a message. When I looked up it was a message from my friend telling me how much God loved me and how special I was to him. My heart cracked just a little that night, and as I knelt beside my children’ s bed and began to pray, my oldest who was about 3 years old at the time, asked me what I was doing.  When I told her I was praying to Jesus, she asked, “Who is Jesus?” All I could do was hold her, and ask God to forgive me. From that night on, I decided I was going to try to “find” God again. I began to pray for my husband, and ask God to change me or change him or give me a way out.  Those 6 months seemed to be the hardest, but one day my husband received orders to be gone for 6 months, and I thought that might gives us the time apart to heal. I was wrong.  The night before he left, he got angry with me and punched me. He then went to punch again, and I ducked as he put his arm through a door up to his shoulder.  Had he hit me, I can only imagine what would have happened.  That hit cut the last thread of love my heart had for him. I had been used, threatened, and made to do things even when I said no.

When he left, I left for my home town with my girls. My heart longed for someone to love me.  I felt ugly and stupid for what I had allowed my kids to go through, and I thought no one would ever want me because I thought I was used goods. I had two children and no clue what I was going to do. I had talked to my friend through all of this, and he had been through a very rough time as well.  His wife had left him while he was deployed to war, and we had been praying for each other. Though my heart still loved him, I felt ashamed because of the situation being as it was. I got a lawyer and told no one what was going on till the last minute, and I was legally separated from my husband in January. My friend had also moved back to our hometown and in April we had begun to spend time together.  He was divorced, and I was in the middle of mine. Everyone, including my family, was under the impression I was leaving my husband for another man.  I spoke with my soon to be ex-husband, and told him I could not live the life I lived anymore. I was tired of being scared, and wanted a better life for the kids.

When he got back from his deployment, he went to my parents and begged them to help him, and he ended up telling them an abbreviated version about what had happened, about the abuse, but only that he had hit me. My family turned on me and told me I was wrong and needed to work things out.  But I had been so hurt, and there was no going back.  My friendship turned into a relationship, and I was afraid to love again.  But he loved me, and loved my children and he gave us a place to call home. We knew that the way were where living was wrong, but we could not get married until my divorce was final, and my ex was making that as hard as possible. We had gone to a few churches trying to find our way back to God, as we had both walked away from God in our own way. We both desperately wanted God in our lives, and in our soon to be marriage. He had grown up in a church that was different from what I was brought up in.

So we visited another church in our town but some of the people made it very clear they didn’t want us there (not many churches welcomed a couple like us), so we visited another church. This one we liked, but one day the pastor asked to talk with us.  When we came to his office, he sat on the edge of his desk and looked at my boyfriend and said “How dare you raise your hands to God and call yourself a man of God, and walk in to the church with an adulterous woman?” He looked at me and told me I was going to condemn my children (then 2 and 3) to hell if I got a divorce. He then began to explain how divorce had damaged his life, and his children’s. This pastor never picked up his bible, nor asked for an explanation. The little faith I did have began to shake, and I didn’t know what to do.  After that “meeting” my boyfriend told me we could not see each other for two weeks, until we both had time to pray. Again, I was alone and scared. I went home and prayed, and ask God to show me what to do. The next day, the same pastor asked if he could meet with my ex-husband and me. We went to his house and he took my ex to talk to him, and I spoke with his wife. We came back together and I began to tell my side of the story, during which he stopped me and told me to stop lying!  I was shocked!  The pastor told me he knew my (ex) husband and he would never do that, and that I was just looking for a way out to be with the “other” man.  Again, he told me I was going to condemn my children to hell. My heart was shattered I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go back into the prison of my marriage, but I didn’t want to condemn my children.

I began to pray. I felt led to call the pastor of the church I had visited with my friend. I was afraid of what their view might be, but still I felt that is who God was leading me to talk with.  I went and told the pastor what had been happening, and I told him my story. He had already known how we were living, and that I was in the middle of a divorce. He looked at me and told me the other pastor was mistaken, but that he too did not agree with how we were living.  He let us know that it was not his place to condemn. He reminded me that although God did not like divorce, my husband’s infidelity and abuse had released me from being bound to him any longer. He told me God loved me, and that He hated the sin but LOVED me.  I was precious to God and that I would not condemn my children to hell, that nowhere in the bible did it say that.  My last hope, my last grasp at God had been answered through this pastor.

The road to divorce was hard, but in November of that year, I was finally divorced, and in December I married my best friend. No, we didn’t start things right, but since that day we have done our best to live for God and raise the children to know and serve the loving God that turned a horrible decision of my youth into a wonderful blessing. God has blessed us with more children and a church that loved us even when it was hard to.

All during those hard years I would ask God “Where did you go?” But I have realized since it was me that left God, and when I was ready, He was waiting with open arms to take me back, love me, and heal my heart that had been shattered. I went from a young woman who felt hopeless, used, ugly and unlovable to a woman of God who knows she is the child of The King, and is loved beyond words by a loving God and Godly husband.  God has done so much for me in my life, He has delivered me, brought me back from the dead (literally), and shows me every day through simple things -HE loves me!

If you take anything from this please let it be this, don’t judge someone walking through your church doors by what is on the outside, instead, take the time to get to know them and see how you can show Gods love to them. I can only imagine were I would be had my pastor not shown me God’s True love…. God bless, and remember:

 

“You may be the only bible someone reads”

 

It is amazing to me that our churches sometimes can push those who need to hear the love of Christ most away and out the doors.  Not all churches are like this, and those that show love and embrace people no matter who they are, are doing as the church in Acts did, loving and caring for everyone that came in the doors.  Be careful if you are part of the church, love everyone the same, and share the love of Christ endlessly.  Be encouraged that you can come running back to the Father if you’ve strayed away from Him.  You have to intentionally make that choice to come back, He won’t force you.  Praise God, for He alone is worthy!

 

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No More Conforming, Be Authentic

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Him (Christ) with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelivable.”  –Brennan Manning

Everytime I hear that quote, I shudder.  The thought that Christians, such as myself could be the greatest cause of atheism just breaks my heart.  That means that science, natural disasters, tragedy and other things we think cause people to turn from God are but a glimmer compared to the effect we have as Christians.  That’s not to say that people’s lives aren’t being changed and saved by the Holy Spirit as a result of us sharing with them and setting a Godly example, but there are many instances where we cause people to wander away from faith or just not consider faith at all.  When I sit back and think about how a statement like this could have an validity, I am brought to Romans 12:1-2, which says

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is-His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

We are called to live a life of excellence, and the pattern we are called to follow is the one set for us by Christ, not the one(s) that our culture and society tell us we should follow.  Sometimes we fall into the thought that we have to fit into a certain mold to be a “real” or “good” Christian.  The world has created that thought, and we end up believing it if we aren’t careful.  Some of these molds are:

  • We have to go to church every Sunday
  • We have to wear the right clothes
  • We have to say the right words
  • We have to smile the whole time
  • We have to act like nothing is wrong

When I delivered this sermon, I came to church and made sure to do something that I don’t normally do.  That was to be dressed in a suit with a tie and slacks, keep in mind, my normal Sunday morning attire is jeans and either a polo shirt, or a button-up shirt, so you can imagine the comments that ensued.  Many compliments about my dress, and of course, several questions about a funeral.  Here is a picture of my pre-sermon getup.

I will admit, it was quite nice getting the compliments from my fellow church members.  I actually fit into the mold that our churches have expected the preacherman to be wearing up in the pulpit, as opposed to how I wanted to dress, which was in my blue jeans and polo.  Now, there is nothing wrong with dressing up nicely, especially to bring the Word of God, so please don’t take me as meaning that you should never dress up nice, I think it’s a matter of preference personally.  But I dressed up this way to be the visual aid part of my sermon, more on that a bit later.

Back to before…we weren’t created to fit into some kind of mold in order to be a Christian, but the world sure does want us to fit a mold.  So, we feel like we have to fit into it, but what were we created for?

We were created for worship, more specifically, we were created to worship God.  We were also created for fellowship, to share the love of Christ with those around us all the time, not just occasionally on Sundays.  In the passage prior to Romans 12:1-2, we are given a look into what Paul was writing to the Roman church about.  I will give you a quick Philliphrase version of that passage.

  • God is all-knowing!
  • God is beyond our comprehension!
  • None of us know His thoughts!
  • He doesn’t owe us anything!
  • He created all, He gives all, and we owe Him all of our love, passion and commitment!

How does this fit into our lives?  Knowing what the passage says about God, we are urged to give Him everything.  Our lives are to be spent, presented, offered, and freely given completely to God for His use and glory.  By doing this, we are living a lifestyle of worship.  In this passage in Romans, the end goal is to know the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.  In order to do this, we have to do a few things.

First of all, we have to have that relationship with the Father.  Meaning, we have to acknowledge we are sinners and that Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave as a sacrifice for those sins.  After that, and let’s work backwards from what our end goal is, and examine what Paul described we have to do.

We need to experience a renewal of mind.  What does renewal mean?  Well, according to Google, to renew means:

  1. Resume (an activity) after an interruption
  2. Reestablish (a relationship)

Why do we need a renewal of our minds?  Just like we need a vacation sometimes to refresh our bodies and restart, our minds need a renewal from the old thoughts and focus we have before we experience Christ.  We can’t earn our way to Heaven, but our thought process before we know Christ is that the nicer we are to people or the more money we give to charitable causes.  This mindset is contrary to what scripture teaches, more specifically what Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us.  In a time where our culture feels as though not believing in God and believing in science means we are living in an age of reason, a renewal of mind sometimes seems unfathomable because of the social repercussions.  When the Holy Spirit beckons us, and we respond, our minds become renewed by faith.  By trying to figure out God with worldly reason, we completely avoid the aspect of the faith we are saved by, and called to live by.  When we try to live without faith, we begin to conform to the world around us.  Instead of conforming, we are to be transformed.  Which brings us to our next topic, transformation.

According to Google, to transform means-

  1. Make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.

When Paul writes the word transformed, he is referring to how our lives are to be changed to be completely different than before.  In order to do this, we have to fight the innate and selfish nature we are born with, and instead rely on the renewal of mind that we have upon receiving salvation.  The transformation comes when we recognize who God is, and give up all of the control we desire to have over our lives.  When we make the thorough and dramatic change in the form, appearance and character of our heart and soul, we have transformed from being selfish and ungrateful.  When that change comes, our new attributes are appreciative and redeemed.  Think about what Optimus Prime looked like before he would transform into a superhero robot.  Before we can call ourselves transformed, we have to look and live differently than we did before salvation comes.  This transformation is made possible only because God loves us, and He has given us the opportunity to be renewed and transformed.  In order for us to be transformed and renewed, we cannot conform any longer to what the world says is acceptable.

In order to know how not to conform, we should first understand what the word conform means.

  1. Comply with rules, standards, or laws.
  2. (of a person) Behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards: “the pressure to conform”

When we are living and striving not to conform, we strive to live against how the world lives.  This can be anything from what we watch on TV, what we listen to on the radio, how we speak, treat others, and the list goes on and on.  Sometimes when we are striving the live a life that isn’t conformed, the world labels and categorizes Christians in ways that are sometimes fair, sometimes not.  Some of these categories are that we are all judgmental, we are all fake, or we are all hypocrites.  When we get put into one of these categories, we have a choice in the way we respond.  We can either be completely offended and fight back in a way that doesn’t represent Christ, or we can do as I’ve had to learn the hard way to do, and sit back and examine how I am perceived and why.  Some questions I have found useful are:

  • Do I exemplify Christ by the way I treat people?
  • Does my attitude reflect the love of Christ, or does it tear people down?
  • Do I act one way at church on Sunday and Wednesday, and when I’m not at church, do I act a different way?
  • Do I worry about the speck of sawdust more than I worry about my plank?

In the sermon on the mount, Christ taught the attitudes we ought to have to live a life that exudes that we are his followers.  Meekness, gentleness, compassion, mercifulness, peacemaking, and righteousness are all some of those characteristics.  Do we live these everyday?  Or do we just act like we have it all together and continue on with our lives, unchanged?  When we act like we have it all together, we have a tendency to put on a front, or a cover that looks great.  Underneath it, we can be so tumultuous, confused, and disgruntled we can lose our focus on Christ.  When this happens, we keep the front up and begin to conform to what is expected of us, and we forget what the transformation and renewal of mind felt like when we experienced Christ.  This can lead to the pressures of our society taking over, and we begin to marginalize things that would never have been an issue before, and our life becomes an unauthentic mess.  God knows what’s beneath that cover, He sees the mess that is covered by that shell of smiles.  We can’t hide our ragged insides from God, and it won’t be long before other people start noticing something is wrong with us, and then we hide.  Are we transparent, or are we hiding behind something fake?

When I got all the compliments yesterday morning about my suit, it drove home the point to me that even though I was dressed nice and looked very confident, I was still scared to death about preaching.  But, the best part about the suit was that it was just a facade.  My intention with wearing the suit was to cover up what was underneath.

Now, I know I’m cheesing in this picture, that was mostly because I had the intention of sending this picture to my mom to get a reaction from her.  The suit jacket covered up my cut up, sleeveless shirt and tattoo that became exposed when I took my jacket off.  How many times do we cover up our mess with something fake so people won’t think badly of us?  When we do this, we tend to act in ways that we wouldn’t if we were being authentic.  When we have turmoil in our lives, we have to look to Christ for that comfort and for that guidance through the murk and hopelessness that can come up when we are fighting spiritual warfare.  My encouragement to you and to myself, is to shed the desire to throw up that front and try to do everything on our own, and instead come to our family of believers for support and give everything to God.  I’ll leave you with this passage as an encouragement and reminder about what we’re supposed to be when we give it all to Christ.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”            2 Corinthians 5:17-21

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Put All Your Eggs In!!

 

In September, I quit my job after almost 7 years of employment.  I had great benefits, pretty decent pay, and tons of opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with co-workers.  I also have 3 kids, a mortgage, at the time we had 2 car payments and the everyday costs associated with being a family man with a home and two vehicles.  So why did I quit working somewhere so stable and consistent?  God told me to.

It tends to sound either so cliché, or so crazy to people sometimes when I tell them that God told me to quit my job.  But it’s completely and honestly the truth!  My wife and I had been praying for between 6-9 months about what direction God was leading us in ministry, and the answer came through an unforeseeable avenue.  You see, my wife is an amazingly talented photographer, and has been building our business for the past 4 years.  She has done this, all while caring for myself and our 3 kiddos, and keeping our house from caving in on top of itself.  God has blessed her with a talent that many go to college to hone.  He also gave her an incredible mind for business and absorbing knowledge that just overwhelms me.  So after months of prayer, and seeking what we were supposed to do, God told me to quit my job and join my wife at home to run our business as a team.  Along with running the business, we felt very lead to begin home schooling our children.  Wowsers!

How do I know He told me to quit?  Here’s the really cool part of the entire deal.  When we seek His desires over our own, He will bless us beyond measure.  Where does this come from?

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely.

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”

                                -Psalm 37:3-4 (HCSB)

In the past 7 years of marriage, my wife and I have been through many different trials.  Some have been financial, some have been emotional, some have dealt with past sins, some have dealt with sins that carried in from the past, and some have dealt with preferences as fickle as which way to hang the clothes in the closet.  The times that we have been caught not seeking to honor Christ with our marriage have resulted in some of the most chaotic seasons in our lives.  The times that we have sought to honor Him through all of our being, first individually and second, as a couple, He has blessed us beyond measure.  The decision for me to quit my job wasn’t an easy one to come to, but because I had been disobedient before and knew what the outcome was going to be, I decided to follow where He was leading us.  Our heart’s desires during the chaotic times, were for our selfish desires to be fulfilled.  When we were seeking Him, our heart’s desires were those that He gave us.  In order for us to know what His desire for us was, we had to follow what the next verses in that passage in Psalm say:

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act,

 making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.”

                                                -Psalm 37:5-6  (HCSB)

You see, we can’t expect to fulfill God’s calling in our lives if we’re not seeking what He has for us to seek.  If we are chasing the “American Dream” of making a ton of money and living to glorify ourselves and give ourselves credit, we honestly cannot expect God to bless that!  I’ve been volunteering as the youth pastor at the church we attend for the past almost 3 years, and I love it!  However, I haven’t felt as though I’ve been serving in the capacity I’m called to because I was seeking to “make enough money” to sustain our household.  God made clear through the ever increasing antsyness of myself at my job, as well as the increasing busyness of our photography business, that I needed to leave my job.  As a result of taking that step, I have been able to focus more on that ministry at the church, and I have been able to focus on teaching and loving on our students more.  Along with that, there is time I have gained by being home with my kids and wife, and have had the absolute privilege of getting to know them so much more!  God’s blessings have been spiritual, emotional, physical, and yes, financial, and have been all but limitless!

Now, some of you may be asking “So basically I need to quit working at my job and God will make me rich?”  NO!!!  I’m not saying that at all!!  First of all, we aren’t rich, far from it.  We are, however, being blessed with His provision that all of our needs are being met and we are working toward becoming debt free.  God may be calling you to take the step of faith He called us to take, and He may be asking you to sacrifice something smaller in your life so that you will follow Him closer, and make your desires the ones that are His instead.

First of all, we must commit our ways to Him, never forsaking His grace and mercy on us, and understanding that He will never give us a scorpion instead of an egg (Luke 11:12).  Secondly, we have to rely fully on His providence and put all of our eggs in the basket of faith that He will provide!  If we put some eggs in the basket of faith, and put some others aside “in the off chance” that things don’t pan out as we hope, can we really say that we are following Him fully?  So to answer the question about what I’ve learned from being self-employed, I’ve learned that I can’t even begin to depend on my own ingenuity, provision, or most-especially, my own wisdom.  Everything must come from God.  I have to rely fully on Him, not putting some faith forward and saving some hope for just in case.  So basically, quit being selfish and faithless, and put all your eggs in God’s basket!

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Guest Blogger! “Hey Men – Want to Fight?”

Hey there!  It is another installment of Guest Blogger time with Chad!  One of the things I truly enjoy and appreciate about Chad, is his honest and blunt point of view about things.  If you’re wanting a candid point of view or just want what the man thinks, he’ll let you know.  This blog is directed mostly toward men, but women take heed as well, all of these are things that we need to hear and live by.  So, here it is!

Hey Men – Want to Fight?

This is an open letter to guys who profess to be Christians.  For those who are actively serving their families, communities and churches in a way that honors God, feel free to read along but you are not the intended audience.

Dear Fellas,

There are days when I’d like to punch you until my arms are tired.  I know that God expects more of me and that I should expect more of myself but if I am being honest, you make me “fight angry” at times.  Wondering why?

I look around at church and see three women for every man.  The numbers are even more skewed if you exclude men over 65.  I look around at our kids’ open houses at school and parent days and see four women for every man.  I see two women for every man working out and taking care of their bodies.  Only four percent of us tithe regularly.  So what are our excuses?

“I work a lot and don’t have time.”  My buddy Shannon is a state trooper and has a landscaping business on the side.  He works a minimum of 80 (mostly stressful) hours per week, yet he almost never misses an event in which his family or church participates.  He even comes to church on Sundays in full uniform after working a night shift and is a sure thing when someone is in need.  HE works all the time and still makes time for the important stuff.   Studies show that the average age of a video game player is 35 (they also tend to be overweight and depressed – what a shock).  More than 22% of American men between 18-49 play fantasy sports.  We spend around three hours per day watching TV.  You don’t have time for God, your family or to take care of your body?  It is not that you don’t have time…your priorities stink.

“I can’t afford to tithe.”  Evidently.  According to research from Barna Group, only 4% of Americans give the recommended 10% from scripture.  While the amount speaks of our commitment and trust in God, He also desires a cheerful giver.  More than half give nothing at all.  So cheer up!  Your money is a gift from God.  If you have a problem being grateful for the opportunity to care for others and advance the Kingdom, take it up with the Gift Giver.

“Church is full of hypocrites and people who are going to judge me.”  Duh.  One of the first things we admit as believers is that we are hypocrites and sinners who cannot do this alone.  And while I cannot promise that people won’t judge you on your past, you work with, go to school with and hang out with far more people who judge you than you’ll find in a church.  The beauty of our God is that He cares far more about our present and future.  Work out your past with Him and those who may have been affected and move on.

Jesus loved you enough to die for you.  I love you enough to fight you.  I’ve been you and cannot promise that I won’t screw up from time to time.  Love me enough to fight me too.  And take the gift of Jesus’ death seriously.

Your brother from the same Father – Chad

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Guest blogger

Hey guys, recently I was approached by a friend and fellow minister in the faith about blogging and posting on each other’s blog. I thought it sounded like an awesome idea, and so tomorrow morning, there will be a guest blogger on behindthecross! I am really excited to see what the Lord is going to say through my good friend, Chad Nelson. Check out the blog tomorrow to see!

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Worship: Part I

Worship.  The context of the word varies greatly from culture to culture, religion to religion, and generation to generation.  I took the liberty of looking up the definition of worship on the Merriam-Webster website, and this is what it had to say worship meant:

As a noun-

1

chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)

2
: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3
: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4
: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>
As a verb-
1
: to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2
: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion <a celebrity worshipped by her fans>
I find it incredibly interesting that in both forms of the word, the examples the dictionary used were for very surface level things.  One was worship of the dollar, and the other of a celebrity.  Kinda points to the foremost thoughts of our culture as Americans, doesn’t it?  This series will probably get some of you to raise an eyebrow and wonder “what in the world is this guy talking about,” and for others it may be an opportunity to see things through the eyes of a guy who was raised in church and has seen the good, the bad, and the horror of this thing we call religion.  Some of you who may read this may be familiar with how we have seriously mangled what worship is intended to be, and some may not have even thought about it before.  My intentions with anything I type in here are, as always, not intended to create dissent or to bash on the church, they are simply to help me and others to grow and learn.  I realize that some of my prior posts haven’t been the most positive things to read, but I do try to keep an honest and objective point-of-view, especially since I know that I’m nowhere near the perfect example of what a Christian is supposed to look like, sound like, behave like, and just be like in general.  With all that mess in mind, let’s begin!
Worship, to many, is the attention we give the object(s) of our desire and focus in life.  One needs not to look long at the corporate sector of our country to see that the dollar is an object of affection for many.  Another example, would be the attention we give to celebrities and dignitaries.  The main thing I can see pointing people in the direction of materialistic worship, is  the lack of Christ in culture and life.  The current president of our country made a comment that “We no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation…”  As much as has been made of this quote by the president, I think he inadvertently hit the proverbial nail on the head with this statement.  He meant the comment to promote religious diversity in our country, which there definitely is, but I agree that we can no longer consider ourselves as a Christian nation.  If you take a step back and look, at what our nation’s focus is on, you cannot honestly say we are a Christian nation.  When the majority of our nation makes the dollar, celebrities who live in and promote a sinful lifestyle the focus, we cannot say that Christ is the center of our nation.  The very label “Christian” implies that one is a follower of Christ, a “little-Christ” if you will.  There are areas and groups of people in our country that are definitely focused on following Christ, and that rebuke those who claim Christ but live directly and intentionally in darkness.  What does this paragraph have to do with worship?  Keep reading…
The only reason I used the president’s quote was to give a litmus of our nation’s status, not to begin a political firestorm, as I’ve really begun to separate myself from politics as much as I possibly can.  To determine what worship is, what it’s supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to sound like, we have to go to scripture.  All throughout the Old Testament, people worshiped God through sacrifice for sins, through praising Him for provision, protection, wisdom, etc.  This, with the exception of sacrifice of animals, still held true throughout the New Testament.  Worship in Biblical times was a lifestyle lived out through giving praise to God and to Christ for our salvation and His grace and mercy.  Too often we have substituted that lifestyle for just Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night programs and corporate fellowship.  The church has become a club that we attend so we can be counted on the roll and noted as “being there,” as opposed to the intention of a gathering of believers to praise THE Almighty God in recognition of the grace we have in our lives because of His great love for us.  I really have to think that if Paul came to any one of our churches nowadays, he would be like Christ in the temple, tossing over tables and saying “What are you guys doing?!?!?!?!”  Since when does praising our creator get limited to learning about the stories in scripture by coloring pictures and gluing animals to a paper ark, and then going to “big church?”  When we get to “big church,” we sit for a few minutes, maybe make some rounds saying our howdy’s and shaking a few hands.  Then, we have the introduction and announcements, followed by some hymns/contemporary songs that we either sing or don’t sing, based on our preferences on music, then we have a pastor come and deliver the Words that have been laid on his heart by the Lord.  After that, we have an invitation/alter call where people can come down and pray with the pastor or at the steps in front of the stage about things God has spoken to them about.  Then, we all shake hands, say a prayer and go eat lunch and take a nap.  Where in here is worship?
I’ve been a born again Christian for almost 20 years now, and I can almost count on two hands the times that I have truly felt the Spirit of God in worship on Sunday mornings.  How sad is that?  Some will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so, to the lack of focus on my part to be included in the Spirit moving.  Others will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so as well, to the lack of focus on those who are leading the body of believers in corporate worship.  The example of worship that we are to follow is lined out for us in Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”
We don’t attend church to “get something out” of the message brought by the pastor, the Bible is not for our benefit.  That’s right, you read correctly.  Our pastor made this statement several months ago, and it really got me to thinking about how I had always looked at scripture.  To be honest, it really brought about a totally different perspective on how I need to be reading scripture.  The Bible is not for our benefit, it is for the Glorification of God!  What does this mean?
It doesn’t matter how much music we play or sing, how many programs or activities we organize, how great our choir sounds, how many people we attract because we have such a cool “worship experience,” if our hearts are not tuned into where God is leading us, it is all for naught. If we are not seeking to bring glory to the One who has created us and given us life through His son’s sacrifice, we are nothing but noisy busy-bodies.  I will be taking apart different aspects of our culture’s view of worship as churches and as a society throughout this series.  I have no idea how long it will go on, but I hope you’ll join me for the duration, as well as adding some feedback and opinions along the way.  I always invite any differing opinions on things I say, as it provides a way for me to learn more, and possibly have my perspective changed.  Thanks, and I look forward to continuing this series!
Phillip
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The Exciting Finale to the 3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church

In this post, we will be utilizing the imagination sector of your brains as we look at the Corporate mindset of today’s church, so flip the switch on for just a few minutes…thanks!

Imagine this, one Sunday morning you are heading to visit a church you’ve heard some amazing things about from friends at work and just around in general.  As you pull up to the campus, you see an HD Marquee announcing two new worship experience times, immaculate landscaping, gorgeous aquatic features (fountains), and an incredible building complex.  You’ve heard that the entire thing cost in the double digit millions to build, so half of what you came to see was just the structures themselves.  As you walk inside, some guys pull open the doors for you and immediately you are greeted with some information requesting propaganda, and directed to turn it into the offering box as you get a chance.  As you peruse the expansive lobby, you see a bookstore with some of the lead pastor’s books displayed.  After you snoop around there a minute, you walk a little further down and come across the church coffee shop and decide to get a little perk before the service.  As you head into the worship center, you see smoke and lights emanating from the stage area as the band takes the stage to perform a welcome song.  Through the music time, the fog machines continue to run and the band disappears from the stage as the lead pastor enters.  The teaching from the pastor is good, and the band re-enters the stage to some more fog and lights and you leave feeling a little unsatisfied, unchallenged, and unchanged.  Why could this be?  The church has all the elements that we think a church should have to provide an experience worthy of a life to be changed for God.  What’s the problem here?  The problem, in my personal observation and opinion, is that we have exchanged intimacy with Christ, humility in ministry, and the real need for evangelism with the need to entertain a generation.  With the need for being “relevant” to the modern culture, comes the lack of humility in ministry and a loss of the need for evangelism.  Some churches like to disguise the fancy stage and concert atmosphere as evangelism.  I know it sounds an awful lot like I’m pointing my finger at certain churches within this post, but I know the church where I serve is missing on many aspects of effective ministry as well.  Sometimes we let the fact that our churches are experiencing massive growth, which isn’t a bad thing, overshadow the fact that the Gospel and message of Christ isn’t being shared as it needs to be.  Christ never put on a show as He was teaching, the closest thing to a show that He put on was the “Triumphal Entry,” and even that was more about the children praising God and His humble appearance as He arrived into town on a donkey.

Where does this leave the church?  Are we so worried about being portrayed as “cool,” or “awesome,” or “off the hook” that we miss the fact that worship isn’t the band playing music, and everybody having a good ‘ol time at church?  The time at church is for teaching, for fellowship, and for getting deeper into the Word with other believers.  Worship isn’t just an “experience” as some churches have advertised, it is a lifestyle, an everyday ongoing occurrence of our lives to glorify God through our lives.  I think the intentions of these churches that have the bands and stages and elaborate facilities may have started out in the right place.  Francis Chan once said that (and this is a paraquote) if Jesus or Paul started a church in the town where he was, his church would probably be bigger than theirs.  He says this not in a bragging way, but in a way to show that the truth of the Gospel is something that is hard to swallow sometimes, because it is always life-altering and convicting, and we don’t like that.  To be honest, that is all there really is to that conversation.  If Christ were here starting a church in America, would it be this magnificent building with a ton of all the newest stuff?  I feel as though the money that would be used for those things, would be used to help others in the surrounding community.  When we have these extravagant things, even if we do help those around us, we give off the impression that we are in fact worried about the aesthetics as opposed to the ministry of the Gospel.  My encouragement to myself, as well as everyone, is to focus on sharing the Gospel no matter where you are, because a building is just a building that will decay and wither one day.  Christ will not wither, He will not fall away, He is always there when you submit yourself to His will.

We cannot run a church as a business, because it is a ministry.  There can be structure to the fellowship, but rigidity has a tendency to stifle effectiveness due to the lack of flexibility.  On the other hand, if the church is run as though it is and entertainment group, the ministry is put aside then as well amongst the efforts of the church to fit in with the world around it.  There is no perfect church, except the one which all believers and followers of Christ will attend on that Glorious Day, but there is a lot we can do to strive toward the church Christ intended us to be a part of.

This is has been a 3 part series that I’ve been pondering for a while, and I am pleased that many of you have read the posts and some have even followed them.  Please let me know what you think, I am always open to discussion about anything I post. I will not disrespect you or your opinion(s), so don’t worry about all that, thanks for reading!

Read Part 2 HERE.

Read Part 1 HERE.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE CD GIVEAWAY CONTEST! RULES ARE STATED IN THE PRIOR POST, SO GET BUSY!

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Part Deux of the 3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church

So the next segment of this series is all about compassion, and where it fits into our lives and churches. Now, I know that compassion isn’t deadly, but the lack of it is, so that’s what I’ll be talking about. As I’m finishing up studying for this evening’s Bible study time with our youth, compassion is something that is irreplaceable in ministry as well as everyday life. Here’s my heart, try not to stab it, hehe.

Compassion is something that I struggle with in my life, both as a believer and as a husband and daddy. I sometimes have this thought that my kids (4,2,6m) should automatically know what’s right and wrong. I have this mindset that the youth I teach and counsel will listen to my “wisdom” from life experiences and avoid doing the things they are doing and walk away from destructive life decisions. Along with those perspectives, I also sometimes think that my amazing wife should just know what I am thinking and expecting without voicing anything. These expectations, when not met, very often create a mentality of no compassion inside my heart when things end up badly. Christ lived a life of compassion, He knew that people were sinners, knew that some would not come to know the saving knowledge of His existence and purpose, and that people would deny Him after they said they loved Him. How did He respond to these things? With grace, mercy, and incredible compassion. One of the key things in my life that I need to improve on is compassion, especially because Christ set the example and standard of compassion. People always pray for patience and things like that, but you can’t have patience without compassion. If you are compassionate with your kids, then the times they go crazy, your patience will be heightened and increased because you understand they are just kids. If I am compassionate with my youth at the church, then my ability to minister to them is increased because I remember that they are still learning, and that I didn’t really apply what I was taught at church until after I was out of high school. As for my wife, well, that’s always going to be a work in progress, especially because I’m usually the offender in that area, I often miss subtle and non-subtle hints, and I pay for them in the end.

As a minister, we are called to be compassionate to those in our congregation and to those in our community around us, irregardless of what they may have done, said, or thought about us. Paul writes about the requirements for ministers in his first letter to Timothy. Among the requirements for overseers(pastors), is the ability to be temperate, self-controlled, respectable. So many times we find ministers who don’t have those characteristics, I believe it is due to a lack of our ability to have compassion on others. Pride is another factor that I have seen that drives congregates away from churches. A pastor or youth minister who is constantly bragging about himself or his accomplishments stands a great chance as being labeled arrogant, and arrogance pushes people away from the church. Christ set the example of humility that we should follow, no matter our position in church, whether every Sunday morning attendees or lead pastor at a church of 900 members. If we are not able to think of ourselves as no better than those who come to be taught, we have no right to be doing the teaching. The very first requirement that Paul writes about in 1 Timothy 3, is that the overseer must be above reproach. Compassion is a necessary characteristic of ministers and followers of Christ, because it comes out of humility, which is a key characteristic of Christ. All that being said, I realize daily that I have a looong way to go to get where I need to be in terms of being an effective minister.

So, to commemorate some compassion I will be giving away a free copy of Shane and Shane’s newest album, called “The One You Need.” I will not lie when I tell you that this album has changed my mindset and perception of my role as a father, and when used in conjunction with the movie “Courageous,” the two will bring you to tears…not even joking.

So here are the rules to the game:

You will have the ability to gain 2 entries.

1) Comment on Part 1, 2, or 3 of the “3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church” series and tell me what you think. (Part 3 will be posted next week.)

2) Post this link by copying and pasting the following text to your Facebook or Twitter account and then leaving a comment telling me that you have shared it: Behindthecross is giving away Shane & Shane’s new album, “The One You Need”. Check it out here! http://wp.me/p1KLvl-H

The deadline for the contest will be next Thursday(Nov.16th) at 11:59pm. The winner will be chosen on Friday by random.org and the winner will be posted on Saturday, the 18th. Comments will be numbered in the order that they are posted, beginning with Part 1 of the series, with the comments on Part 3, being the highest numbers.

I look forward to seeing who wins!

Thanks and God Bless!

Phillip

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Part 1 of the 3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church

It has been a bit of time since I’ve updated the blog, seems everytime I get it updated and get ready to post again, life gets itself into a huge busy mess and the blog takes a backseat to the aforementioned life.  So, naturally, since it’s been over a month, there is a lot to update and share.  This is the start of a 3 part series that will have my point of view about conformity, compassion and the corporate mindset of the modern church.  So sit down and buckle in as I spend some time with some things that have been on my heart for a good while.

The first issue I would like to discuss is about conformity.  Everywhere we look in our modern day culture we see the effects of conformity.  From federal laws to entertainment, from school policies to church structure and operation.  Throughout scripture, we are given the example of how to live, how to love, and how to fellowship as a body of believers.  So many times people in our country want to tell the church how to exist, what to say, and what is ok to preach.  The sad thing is, that many churches are falling into the mindset that the only way to get people in the door is to fall in line and just make everyone happy by preaching and teaching what I call “fluffy bunnies and butterfly theology.”  We conform to the point of telling people that Hell is a figurative place, and that a loving God would never send people to a place of screaming, fire, and pure misery.  Well, they are partially right about that, as it’s been said before, God doesn’t send people to Hell, people send people to Hell.  You may be asking what on earth am I talking about.  God created us to worship and glorify Him, but we were also given free will to choose how we will live our lives.  When we choose sin, as Adam and Eve did in the garden, we choose a punishment of death.  Hell is a very real place, people who think that it is not are misleading and misinforming.  It is an unsettling and unfortunate trend to see how many churches are turning toward that mindset.  The only way to avoid this punishment is to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Christ is Lord and that He was raised from the dead.  Period.  No exceptions.  You can’t be good enough as Jehova’s Witnesses and Mormon’s would have you believe, you can’t have salvation because you were baptized as a baby, and salvation doesn’t come just because you were baptized.  “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.”  Ephesians 2:8-9, these verses spell it out exactly.  When churches won’t even speak the name of Jesus, but instead want to preach about how coming to church and singing songs and having a dandy time are what saves you, we have conformed.  These are the churches who experience exponential growth in short periods.  Joel Osteen is an example of a pastor at a church who has said that Christ is not the only way to Heaven, and in his sermons has said that if you are a christian, you were not meant to live a hard life.  This is what we call the gospel of prosperity, and he has a following of about 6000 members in his church as well as several book deals and televised services each week.  Now, if his ministry was founded on Christ being the only way to heaven, do you think he would be as successful as he is now?  I believe that he would not, and let me explain why I feel this way.  The gospel of Christ will turn some away.  Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'”

The thing that these ministries overlook is a pretty big thing; the teachings of Christ.  They like to point out that Christ was compassionate, but they overlook the fact that Christ also kept those who followed Him and believed in Him accountable.  Accountability is something that I see a huge lack of in many of today’s mega-churches.  These churches a lot of times will have small groups that meet throughout the week, but I see the facebook status updates and pictures of those people who were at their small groups on Tuesday, out bar hoppin’ on Thursday and Saturday nights.  Now, before you all start saying “Phillip, are you casting stones?,” let me say that I have no right to judge, but I do have a responsibility to hold those who claim to be believers accountable as Christ did, and I expect no different from those who are believers to hold me accountable when they see me living contrary to the Gospel I proclaim.  The conformity we see now is that of our culture’s norms.  We are urged by Paul, as was the Roman church, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  This means to die for the glory of God every day, everywhere, and in everything.  The next part of that verse is to consider that Paul says not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  What does it mean to be transformed by the renewing of our minds?  We are born with a sin nature, anyone who has kids can tell you that we are born sinful.  Our minds are not focused on what God has for us and we are not trained to look for His guidance in our lives from the time we are born.  We have to be shown, or led to the knowledge of who Christ is, and only when we give ourselves to Him and choose to believe and know that He died for our sins. Once that happens, our minds can be renewed, and then and only then we can discern what His good, pleasing, and perfect will is for our lives.  So, in summation, when we have true salvation in Christ, we will not conform to what our culture says is ok, we will choose to look to the cross for our guidance and wisdom instead of that which comes from our peers.

I know this is a potentially controversial topic in many areas, but the fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t be.  Scripture is very clear about how we are to live our lives, when we decide we don’t like what scripture says, or that we want to pick and choose scripture that meets our needs for each different situation, we are putting God in a box and trying to make Him our pet.  God is God, He is all-powerful, almighty, and we will have no idea what His plans are for our lives unless we seek Him continually and wholeheartedly.

I will be releasing the last two segments of this series within the next week to two weeks, and be sure to be reading because there will be a CD giveaway contained in one of the posts.  Thanks, and God Bless!

Phillip

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“Staying true to self” and all the dangers within this mindset

So the last time I updated this was two weeks ago, and as usual, a ton has happened in two weeks.  My baby sister, and twin cousins of triplet birth have started college in San Angelo, Texas, the local 6-man football team has started its season off well, and looks to go 3-0 this Friday night.  My amazing wife, who also happens to be an extremely talented and gifted photographer, has seen a pretty drastic upswing in business, and that accounts for the lack of blog updating as my fingers are too clumsy and wide to update via the iphone app I have.  Our 4-month old son, Levi just had his 4 month checkup today, and is 16lbs 4oz and 26″, pretty much growing a lot, and has broken two teeth through on his bottom gum.  So therefore, I am behind on updating this thing.  The last blog I wrote was on a subject that is fast approaching becoming one of the top foci of the ministry we are involved in at the church we attend.  The topic I will be blogging about today, is a direct descendant of the lack of discipleship in the family and is a product of our sin-filled culture.  So here we go!

“Just be true to yourself, and don’t care about what anyone else has to say or think!” “Imma do me, and dat’s dat!”  “As long as you stay who you are, it doesn’t matter.”  These are some of the phrases I hear a lot from the members of my generation as well as members of the generation after me, with regards to how to live their lives in adverse situations.  Every time I hear these statements and those similar to it, I cringe from the glaring lack of wisdom contained in such commonly adhered-to advice.  If we measure these up to the standards of scripture, we see where they were, and are destined to fail when put into practice.  An example begins in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one;” the next part that follows that is 3:23 of Romans “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Sin is the separation of us from God, He cannot look at sin, and definitely cannot have sin with Him in heaven.  When we have the salvation of Christ’s sacrifice and His blood to intercede for us, our sin becomes forgiven, therefore giving us access to the Father.  With that said, we are born sinful, no one is born without being capable of sin, nor is there anyone who will be able to live without sin in their lives.  So many times I hear people asking “Well, what does your heart tell you?”  Keep in mind Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  When we put our trust into our hearts, and into trying to be true to ourselves, what are we putting our faith in?  Something that is born to do what is opposite of God’s will.  When we are true to ourselves, we are true to our sin.  When we trust what our heart is saying, it’s like saying we’re enjoying the show on a TV screen with nothing but white static and fuzzy noise.  Chaos seems to be a general way of life for so many people because of this, and impulsive decisions made because of this guidance, end up leading to further confusion, and a lot of times end with an individual asking God “Why?”  The first thing to note here, is that if a person is a true believer, there will be no need for them to try and be true to themselves, or seek wisdom from his or her heart, a believer seeks wisdom through prayer.  The chaos that a person feels won’t generally be on the outside, a great deal of the time, this person has things together from the outward appearance.  Nice house, nice cars, good job, good family, pretty much the American Dream syndrome.  While having those things isn’t a bad thing, or even a sin, the condition of that person’s spiritual life may be a huge battlefield, trying to decide whose side to fight on, God’s or the world’s.  Lately, by the standards of our culture and the fruits of the “christians” in our culture, it seems as though Satan may have the upper hand in our country.  I see so many people claim Christ, but are living that lie that John talks about in 1 John ch. 1-2.  We seem to have such a love of what the world has to offer because it is either easier, or makes us feel better when we have tons of stuff.  This is contradictory to 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”  This scripture isn’t saying that we will live on this earth forever, but that our lives, when we live for our heavenly Father, we will live eternally with Him after our time here is done.  The lack of believers to live against the ways of the world has led to this lifestyle.  There is another common theme that I’m seeing more and more every day, and that is the thought that “love wins, and we’ll all go to heaven because God wouldn’t send people to a place like Hell.”  This scares me the most, as there are more and more churches starting to conform to the ways that our society thinks they should be.  Granted, our churches should never turn someone away from coming into the doors to hear about God and His love for us, but when we water the Gospel down to say that everyone will go to heaven, despite their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, their desire to live in as much sin as possible, we are sending them to Hell with a house-warming gift.  Our society believes that teaching the Gospel of Christ, the standards of God’s Word, are hate crimes, and our churches just shrug their collective shoulders and say “well, I guess we just won’t teach that anymore.”  That is where we have gone wrong, because we have let our society dictate which part of the Gospel is shared, and which standards are upheld, based on the opinions of what the world thinks are acceptable.  Christ loves sinners, hung out with them throughout scripture, but not once did He say it was okay to continue to live in sin, especially to continue to knowingly pursue selfish fleshly desires.  When the world doesn’t like the standards outlined in scripture, and tries to pick and choose what they like to support their views, scripture gets skewed and misunderstood.  This is happening more than people ever want to admit, and is not profitable to the sharing of the Gospel of Christ.  One area that I personally have had to step away from in my life, is politics.  I used to listen to talk radio every day on the way to and from work, watch all the political tickers, catch political shows, and thought I had it all figured out.  When I stepped back and thought about it, the world does not have the interests of God in mind when they make decisions, even many of those who say they are running on their “faith.”  This fact, combined with the attitude that politics bring on, has led me to step back and away from that particular arena.  Maybe one day I’ll find a good balance in things, but as of now, not so much.

In summation, if we truly want to live as Christ did, we have to love, encourage, and share the Gospel of Christ.  When we pursue our heart’s desire, we become led astray as a sheep to the slaughter.  My encouragement to anyone who reads this, is to sit down and read 1 John, and understand the difference between darkness and light in the spiritual sense, and determine where God is leading you by spending time in prayer and seeking Godly counsel.

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