Monday, December 23, 2013

The Truth About Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and we are coming to the end of another Christmas season. I hope everyone has finished their shopping and are ready to just enjoy the holiday with their family. As Christians we all know that this holiday is set aside to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but how many of us truly keep that as our focus? We like to quote the catchy mantra "Jesus is the reason for the season" but truth is there are many other 'reasons' trying to steal our focus.

If we go to the malls or look at the advertisements we get the message that this season is about 'stuff'. It's about finding that 'perfect gift for everyone on your list'. This gives us the message that without the perfect gift our Christmas is a failure. We tend to get distracted by the commercialism and shopping forgetting the real reason for the celebration. Forgetting that we are not celebrating the gifts that are under our tree but the one perfect gift given by the Father, namely the Son. This distraction causes the average American to spend $900 on gifts for their family. This is of course fine if you have $900 to spend...

Then after our visit to the mall we drive around and we see all of the Christmas decorations. We may see an occasional nativity scene but mostly we see lights, Santa Claus, snowmen, and candy canes. We begin to think that this is a holiday about decor and about a fat man with a long white beard and a red suit. All of a sudden we are distracted from the true story by a fairy tale, a fictional character. Sometimes we may even associate Christmas as much or more with Santa as we do with Jesus. This is dangerous as it causes us to associate truth with fiction and can make it difficult for us to differentiate between them. 

Finally we get home and begin watching some of our favorite Christmas movies. We watch movies like "It's a Wonderful Life", "A Christmas Carol", and "Family Man". In these movies we see the main character distracted by the materialism and money and forgetting the 'true' meaning of Christmas. In the end they tell us that Christmas is about spending time with our family. We watch this and think that this is a much nobler reason than any other's we have found and strive to simply spend time with our family on Christmas. Still we are forgetting the true reason behind the holiday. 

The Bible tells us clearly what the reason is. Isaiah predicts the birth of Jesus in chapter nine verse six: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." We see it clearly in the Word of God but according to a poll by USA Today only 59% of Americans are planning on attending a religious service on Christmas Eve or Christmas and even less (36%) are planning on reading the Christmas story from the Bible. This means that almost half of Americans will likely not be reminded of the true story of Christmas. However this is not the thing that stuck out to me the most form the aforementioned article. What stuck out to me the most is that in their poll they found that the majority of people treat this holiday in the same way their families did when they were growing up. This means that if their families put an emphasis on the Biblical story then they are much more likely to do as well. That puts the responsibility on us as parents. Our kids are paying attention even if they don't act like it. They may act bored when you pull out the Bible and start reading and they may seem impatient when you insist on praying before starting the meal. But they are paying attention and more than likely they will adapt similar practices when they have a family of their own.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

You Have It All!

"My son you are always with me and all that I have is yours."
Luke 15:31

This is another verse that was posted by the Men in the Word Facebook page. When seeing it occurred to me that this is one of the most powerful verses in the parable of the prodigal son and yet we always read right over it. 

Here's a quick refresher of the story: A rich man (who clearly represents God) has two sons. One of the sons is quiet and obedient at the beginning of the story but the second son goes to his father and demands his inheritance. This son then goes and squanders all the money finding himself to be poor and starving. Finally he decides to return to his father and beg for the opportunity to be his servant but of course his father instead throws a huge party for his son who had returned.

This is usually where preachers tend to stop with the story. It is a great story telling how God will except us back no matter how far away we ran, however Jesus made one last comment in the story. He goes to the second brother who is standing outside of his brother's party angry and claims that the father had never rewarded him for his faithfulness and the father responds with this statement. "...all that I have is yours."


Now remember the father is representative of our heavenly Father and this son is representative of those of us who have been faithful in serving God. God says "all that I have is yours"! How much does He have? He owns everything and Jesus tells us that it all belongs to us! How can we ever be worried about a seeming shortage of money if we know that fact? God says everything He has is ours! 

Just a quick thought for a Saturday morning.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Kingdom of Heaven... Suffers Violence!

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, 
and the violent take it by force." - Matthew 11:12 (NKJV)

This is a quote from Jesus as he is describing the ministry of John the Baptist to the multitude in which he turns his description into a teaching on the kingdom of heaven. This is one verse that I have often struggled with understanding. I've heard preachers claim that it is saying that one has to be 'violent' to enter the kingdom of heaven which seemed to put an extra requirement on salvation, but on the other hand, when read in this translation, it seems to be saying that someone was attacking and attempting to take over the kingdom of heaven. Finally I began studying it for myself and found that neither explanation is quite accurate. 

The term 'suffers violence' is translated from a single Greek word: biazo. According to strong's dictionary, this word means "I use force, force my way, come forward violently". (To be fair there is also a passive definition which means "to be forcibly treated, suffer violence" according to strong's) Helps Word studies further translates it as "to use power to forcibly seize, laying hold of something with positive aggressiveness." This word is only used one other time in the new testament in Luke 16:16:

"The law and prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone one is pressing [biazo] into it."

With these definitions we can start to see a picture of what Jesus was saying about the Kingdom of Heaven. John the Baptist came onto the scene preaching "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). He called the multitudes to repentance and baptism in order to prepare them for the kingdom that Jesus was establishing. Jesus here is stating that this call to repentance was the beginning of a forceful advancement of the kingdom. It began with John, continued with Jesus, and is advancing forward to this day through each of us who have a true understanding of the Kingdom. 

Jesus then follows up this statement by saying "...the violent take it by force". The word for "the violent" is the word biastes which literally means "a violent man" or "one who is eagerly in pursuit". I believe that this is an admonition for us to 'eagerly pursue' the Kingdom. I believe we need to have the intensity shown in this verse in order to truly find the full manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to fervently pray, diligently study, and continually seek out opportunities to minister to those around us and as we do this forcibly we will advance with the kingdom and see the kingdom come "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Kingdom of Heaven is like... a Mustard Seed

"Another parable He put forth to them, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in it's branches."
Matthew 13:31-32

Jesus gave us plenty of stories and parables to give us hints as to what the Kingdom of Heaven is. Here he relates it to a small seed, specifically a mustard seed, that grows into a large tree which gives place for the birds to nest and to live.

I believe that there are a couple lessons that we can learn from this particular parable. The first and most obvious one is that the Kingdom of Heaven is not one that will explode onto the scene. The Jews were expecting a warring revolutionary as the Christ. Someone who would come in with an army and defeat the Romans in a spectacular display of glory, but Jesus clearly had other plans. He didn't rally up a massive army to fight the Romans, or even a group of the smartest philosophers to affect people's thinking. Even in the end, Jesus didn't die a warrior's death with an army behind him fired up to continue the fight, He died a shameful death, nailed on a tree, in which even His twelve closest followers deserted Him at His greatest need. Even so the seed that He planted in His life quickly grew to be a revolution in philosophy, mindset, and religion that took the world by storm. 

This is the same way that the Kingdom of Heaven affects each of us as an individual. It takes root through the simplest prayer of repentance. Nothing spectacular happens in that moment, most people don't even feel different, but as the roots begin to spread in a person's heart it grows into something revolutionary, all of a sudden people begin to notice that the person is completely different than they were before the prayer was said. 

Finally, after the kingdom grows from a seed to a tree, it begins to sustain other life. As one seed of the kingdom grows it allows for other life to be supported and spreads life to those around it. If we look in the parable that Jesus gives we see that the birds are able to nest in the tree. That means that through the tree new life (little baby birds) is created. It is the same in our life when we allow the Kingdom to grow and develop in our hearts. Suddenly we allow live to be established all around us through the Kingdom in us.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What God Has Joined Together....

This morning the Men in the Word facebook page posted some thoughts that got me thinking and I wanted to expound upon them a little bit.

Jesus quotes this scripture from Genesis talking about marriage. He tells us that when we make the decision to become married God makes us no longer two, but one. By doing this He joined us together and man should not separate what God joined. In other words, divorce should not be an option.

However I think there is something else, more practical, that we can gain from this scripture. No marriage is perfect and that means that every marriage has moments of argument where the couple does not feel joined together no matter how much they believe it. This is where, I believe the husband has the responsibility to be the spiritual head of the household. This does not mean that the husband should 'lay down the law' and demand that the wife 'respect him' by agreeing with his side.

I believe that in this moment a husband truly taking responsibility as the head of the household needs to humble Himself and recognize that it is God that joined the marriage together in the first place. If God joined the marriage together at the beginning then God can also restore it regardless of the size of the argument. The husband has the responsibility of humbling himself and going before God to ask for wisdom. This responsibility is true regardless of who is 'right' in the argument.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why the Kingdom?

Last week I posted some thoughts on The Kingdom of Heaven. My main point was to establish the fact that Jesus didn't come just to save us from our sins, instead He came to establish a kingdom that is different from this world and will never be destroyed. God is continuing to speak to me on this subject and has prompted me to start studying and seeking out the verses that pertain to it. As I do I will try and share some of it here on my blog in case it helps others.

The Importance of the Kingdom

 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. - Matthew 6:33

One thing that you'll notice right away in this study is that the term "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God" tend to be interchanged throughout Jesus' teaching. So not to spend too much time on that there is a discussion about it here

I felt a natural start to the study would be to talk about why we should study this subject. Why is it so important? Of course the first reason why we should study this subject is simply that Jesus told us to. Jesus told us in the above verse that we should seek the kingdom first, that means before everything else. The context of this verse is that Jesus tells us to not worry about our material needs. We shouldn't worry about our food or our clothing but instead we should worry about seeking after the Kingdom of God and allow God to add all those things to us. 

Another reason we should be seeking after the Kingdom is that it is what Jesus based His ministry on. In Mark chapter 1 we read:

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” - (v.14-15)

This was the beginning of Jesus's ministry. He started His ministry by declaring the Kingdom of God. Then throughout his teachings we see him constantly saying "The kingdom of God is like..." As mentioned in my last post He came in order to establish a kingdom that would never be destroyed. His death was just the beginning which broke down the barrier and allowed us to be a part of the kingdom, but there is so much more that He was establishing and so much more for us to live in. I encourage you to study out for yourself as you wait for my next post. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prophecy Blessing Over Your Child - Revisited

I always find it interesting to look at my top posts historically. Blogger tells me which posts have received the most views over the course of the time that I have been writing this blog. Most of the top ones are from my series based on the book by Loren Cunningham, The Book that Transforms Nations. This was apparently a popular series as four of my top five posts are from it. If you missed it you can see some of the links to the right under "Popular Posts" (Bring Change to Your Nation was the introduction to the series). 

But the one that actually surprised me the most was the one that took first place: Prophesy Blessing Over Your Children. With 265 all time page views this one beat out number two by almost 100 views. For me this is encouraging because it means that my readers desire to be spiritual leaders for their children. 

As I am only about a month away from being a father, and I have multiple friends and family either about to have a baby or recently had a baby, I felt it was a good time to revisit this post.

The post took a look at the following scripture from Luke:

76“ And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited[e] us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Luke 1:76-80

This scripture is quoting Zacharias right after his son John (the baptist) was born. Those of us who know the story know that Zacharias initially doubted the angel when he was told that he would have a son and as a result ended up mute throughout the pregnancy. After John was born he miraculously got his speech back and immediately began prophesying amazing things over his baby. 

As I approach the birth of my baby girl this challenge has become even more real to me. Fathers, we need to be constantly seeking God and prophesying over our children. What are we saying about our child's future? What are we prophesying over them? It is time for the fathers to step up and be spiritual heads over our families. It is time for us to take the enemy's attacks head on and prophesy life and success and prosperity over our children and their future! I make it a point to pray over and prophesy over my daughter daily and will continue to after she is born.

What are you prophesying over your child?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Perplexity of Halloween

I've never truly understood the fascination with Halloween. If you look at any polls asking people their greatest fear death is always high on the list, however we have this one day centered around a culture of death. It's a celebration of death and fear. The T.V. is constantly playing movies like "Nightmare On Elm Street" or "Friday the 13th", people are putting tombstones and zombies in their yard, and families are going to haunted houses. What is so attractive about these things?

Now don't get me wrong, I am not one to say that Christians should boycott Halloween. The point of this post is not to try and convince you to stay in your home, lock your doors, and turn out all the lights. That would simply be giving into the culture of fear. I am simply saying that I don't understand it... but I think it is an opportunity for us to embrace.

What does the Bible say counters fear?  1 John 4:18 says that "...perfect love casts out all fear..." So if we have a day that our culture has built on a foundation of fear the best thing to do to take out that foundation is to love. Halloween is a day where Christians should look to be even more adamant to show love to their neighbors. And you know what the greatest thing about it is? You don't even have to go out to do it, they'll come to you! Isn't that what the church has always wanted? People coming to their doors looking for you to love them, looking for something? Okay maybe we aren't envisioning them looking for candy when they come knocking on our doors but it is still an opportunity.

I actually read this point from a fellow blogger recently she made this statement:
"This is the only night through the entire year that most of your neighbors and mine are going to come knocking on our doors. The only night." - TroubleFace Mom 

If our neighbors are coming to our door one night a year don't we want to take advantage of that? If we want to show the love of Christ then this is the perfect opportunity. 

Now I know for me to write this on Halloween night it is kind of late for you to change your plans this year. I myself, am actually at work tonight (so I am doing my best to show love here), but we have a whole year to plan for this next opportunity. What can you do next year when neighbors are out on the streets and knocking on doors. 

I know of one friend that took the opportunity and set out chairs and a canopy in their driveway and served hot dogs to all the trick or treaters. 

Let's make a new Halloween competition. Instead of competing for the scariest costume, let's compete for the most creative idea to show love to our neighbors. That sounds like a Halloween culture changer right there!

If you've done something creative to reach out on Halloween or you know of someone who has feel free to share it in the comments as inspiration.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Kingdom of Heaven

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Daniel 2:44

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream. His dream was of a large statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. Then a large stone, which was cut without hands, struck the image, broke it, crushed it, and caused the wind to blow it away. In the end the stone became "a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:35). Daniel subsequently explains how each metal represents a kingdom that takes over after the previous kingdom. He then makes this statement, saying that at the end God is the one that will establish a kingdom that will consume all of the previous kingdoms.

A quick look at history can match up various kingdoms with each part of the statue. As stated in the passage the gold head represents King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. Next came Persia, then Greece, and then Rome, and lastly Rome as it was divided. This brings us right up to Jesus's birth, life, death, and resurrection. 

Jesus constantly talked about the 'Kingdom of Heaven' and this is why. Jesus did not just come to forgive our sins, He came to establish "a kingdom which shall never be destroyed". A lot of Christians think of the kingdom of Heaven as something to look forward to after we die but it is so much more than that. Jesus said the kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21). At the start of His ministry he stated "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). I believe the kingdom of heaven began right here on earth with Jesus. He is calling us to live in His kingdom now, not later. We should be studying out what He said about the Kingdom and striving to live it out. Jesus even told us to seek the kingdom of heaven first (Matt. 6:33).

What are your thoughts on the Kingdom of Heaven?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jesus, Servants, and Beaver Football

Today, as I was perusing the sports section in the local newspaper the following opening sentence caught my eye:

"The story of Jesus kneeling to wash his disciples' feet has become a common theme among the Oregon State football team this season." (Connor Letourneau, The Oregonian)

Of course the writer is referencing the popular story in John chapter 13 in which Jesus kneels down before supper and washes each of his disciples feet. He does this as an example of the servant leadership that he wants his disciples to follow. In the above referenced article, Connor Letourneau, talks about the popularity of this passage among the Oregon State football team. He then goes on to focus on the story of one, underappreciated, member of the team: Tim McMullen.

Tim is OSU's placeholder, he's the guy who holds the ball for the field goal kicker. Everyone knows the kickers. Footballs kickers are either the heroes or the scapegoats. They could save the game with a good kick or they could let it slip away with a bad one, but no one ever pays attention to the guy holding the ball even though he's just as important to the kick's success. The story outlines the story of McMullen and how he gave up a chance to transfer, be the main punter for a team, and possibly gain a career in the NFL, in order to stay at OSU and push for his friend's success. This is a great example of a feet washer.

This story made me think about how many foot washers are around us in every career. How many people that do 'behind the scenes' jobs with a focus on making someone else successful. People who truly model the selfless attitude that Jesus represented to us in the act of washing His disciple's feet. Do you have anyone like that surrounding you? How often do you appreciate them for what they do? If they're a true foot washer they aren't doing it for recognition but they deserve it anyway. Look around you and determine who you need to appreciate today. Who is making sacrifices in order to make you look good? I know I have a few of them at my workplace.

To read the full article go here.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"A Leadership Mandate".... from a friend

My friend and fellow blogger, Dan Black, has just released his first book. Dan has dedicated his adult life to the study of leadership and has been blogging on the subject for over four years.

Check out his blog here

In his book, The Leadership Mandate, Dan presents a profound mandate in simple writing. He reminds us of the truth that we are all leaders due to the influence we have on those around us. When we understand this idea then we can begin to be conscious about building and improving our influence. Dan doesn't leave us alone on that topic either. After convincing us that we are leaders he gives us 10 essential tips on how to develop that leadership and that influence.

This book is a short read but it brings a much needed understanding of leadership to its readers. If you are interested in providing a lasting change in your world around you then this book is well worth the buy.

You can find the book on Amazon here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Education - Training the Next Generation

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Often we seem to think that education is the cornerstone of society. We think that everything starts and ends with education, yet this is the last in the list of the seven spheres of society. There is a reason for this being last. Education is extremely important because it is preparing the next generation to carry on and expand the legacy of the current generation. It is preparing the leaders of tomorrow. However it is last on this list because until we start living by these principles, the next generation will not listen to as we teach them to live by these principles. Education needs to be an addition to what is already being lived and taught in the family, at church, and even through the government. It should be an expansion on the other areas of society, not a replacement. That being said education is a very important area of society and there are definitely Biblical principles to apply in education that will help us to turn are society around.

First of all we need to teach truth. There is a new idea becoming prominent that truth is relative. Truth all depends on what you believe. This teaching is devastating as it goes into the belief on right and wrong. As we teach that there is no such thing as absolute truth we are teaching that there is also no such thing as right and wrong. Biblical commands like "you shall not lie", "you shall not commit adultery", and "you shall not murder" lose there authority because all of a sudden we are telling are kids that they must decide if lying, committing adultery, or even murder is right or wrong in there situation. In our society we have allowed morality to become relative which allows for immorality to run rampant.

Secondly, education should be inspiring children to keep learning. Proverbs 1:5 says "A wise man will hear and increase in learning..." Education only starts in the official schools and we need to be inspiring our children to continue the lifelong process of learning. We should be challenging them to study things out on their own and constantly seeking out new knowledge. We should be inspiring them to have great dreams looking forward into the future. 

Living Examples:
Finally we need to be living examples of what we teach. The concept "do as I say not as I do" does not work. We must live out what we are teaching. If we are not excited about education then neither will our students be. If we don't live out the concept of right and wrong our students will follow suit. We need to live out what we are telling the next generation to do so that they can see it in practice and see that it works.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's Time to Celebrate!

Many people seem to think that Christianity, and religion in general, is boring. They even think that God is there simply to take our fun away. If your catholic then you spend time in confession to get forgiveness for all the 'fun' that you had. In truth it is the exact opposite. God is the creator of fun, He is the one that originally celebrated and has continually directed His people to celebrate. Read Leviticus, once you get past the dry details you will realize that those details are outlining feasts that the Israelites were supposed to have every year. God was planning parties for His people! The problem is that everything God creates, the devil tries to counterfeit, and in this case the devil has been quite successful. He has propagated his version of fun so well that millions of people throughout the world feel that it is the only way to celebrate. But as the Bible says sin is only pleasurable "for a season". (Hebrews 11:25) God knows how to have lasting fun, fun that won't make you sick, or get you thrown in jail.

Partying God's Way

So how do we party God's way? We can start with the obvious, don't get drunk and don't do drugs. The Bible shows what is already clear in society, getting drunk leads to 'debauchery'. Debauchery basically just mean immoral behavior. We lose control of ourselves and do things that are stupid, harmful, and wrong. You don't need alcohol to have a good time, and you definitely don't need to get wasted to have a good time.

Another principle that leads us to partying God's way is don't have fun at the expense of others. Proverbs tells us that 'death and life are in the power of the tongue'. In other words, what you say can either kill someone or bring life to them. Often we think we are 'just joking' or 'just having a little fun', but what we are really doing is emotionally killing the person we are talking about. This is not the way to have fun.

Celebration in Society

So how is celebration an entire sphere of society? First of all, the way our holidays are celebrated is often directed by our society. In the United States our holidays are often directed by commercialism. Rather than remembering and focusing on the reason for a particular holiday we are directed by the stores and advertisements to buy whatever the new item is that the stores want us to buy. Think about what is often the first thing to come to mind when we think of holidays:

Christmas = gifts, Thanksgiving = food, Easter = candy eggs, Valentines day = candy hearts and pre made cards, etc.

You can always know what holiday is coming up by looking in our stores. As Christians we need to make it a point to remember what the point of the holiday is. It's okay to buy things but let's not have that drive our celebration. Holidays are meant to remind us of something much more important than what we can buy.

Other Forms of Celebration

Other forms of celebration in society include sports, movies, t.v., music, plays, etc. In other words, entertainment. We need to demand Godly principles in our entertainment. Over and over we are seeing morality in movies and t.v. decrease and decay. This directs our society. We need to demand morality in what we watch and listen to and we need to stop watching and listening if it's not edifying or building up. Be careful what you let in to your spirit because without realizing it you will follow it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Public Communication ... with Integrity

Communication is key to any society, it's how we talk, relay information, and keep everyone informed. Especially in a country as large as ours, we wouldn't have a clue what goes on without the media. For this reason media is one of the areas of society that has to be transformed by the Word of God before our nation as a whole will be changed. Just like I talked about with government I am not implying that we need everyone in the media to be Christians, I am also not implying that we need more Bible preachers on t.v. What I am implying is that we need our media to be run by Biblical principles. Specifically we need our media to be run with integrity.

Communicating the Truth or Selling a Product?
Too often we have news networks who simply want to gain more viewers or sell more newspapers. They aren't looking to transfer information as much as they are looking to sell a product. For this reason they aren't looking for the truth but often end up looking for a conspiracy. People love a conspiracy, people love to watch bad news, and for this reason our media loves to twist and stretch stories in order to make it more interesting to the viewers.

The first thing that we need to demand from our media is truth. We need to demand the same as our courtrooms do: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need to demand integrity from our media as they communicate the news to us. This is true in regards to all aspects of the news whether it is politics, entertainment, sports, or just general events.

Where is the Focus?
The Bible tells us to "hate what is evil, cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9), but for some reason human nature tends to seek out and cling to the evil, to the bad. This thought came up with the recent school shootings in Connecticut. People were wondering why we show the shooter so often rather than the victims. We often make the shooter famous but don't show the victims or the heroes.

Mr Rogers, the former kids show host, was quoted talking about his mom and how she taught him to "look for the helpers." This is what we need to do and this is what we need to demand from our media. In the wake of a crisis the media needs to start looking for the helpers. they nee to focus on the ones doing good rather than on the criminal. That is what we need to be showing the nation as an example.

Also we need to demand from our media more stories about the good that people are doing in the world. If someone murders a bunch of people then it makes national, and usually international, news within minutes, but if someone saves a neighbor from a fire it often barely makes the local paper. If someone helps a homeless person get a job and place to stay it is even less likely to get any media attention. Again let's get the heroes in the paper and in the news rather than the criminals.

By changing the way we communicate we can change the way people respond to events. By focusing on the heroes we can create more heroes, but by focusing on the criminals we will create more criminals. Let's demand more from our media. If you are in the media then please be one that is an agent of change. Use your position to change the spreading of information in our country.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Biblical Economics

Here we are, continuing our series on The Book That Transforms Nations by Loren Cunningham. For a summary of what we have already talked about take a look at my last post. After moving from family, to church, to government we are on to the economy. A part of transforming a nation is bringing Biblical principles into the economy, into the way the nation handles finances. Money is a touchy subject with people and many people don't realize how much the Bible has to say about this subject. If you are one who has never looked to the Bible for financial advice you should check out this post 250 Verses About Money.

It's hard to imagine having the ability to change an entire nation's economy. We all know how we are in a recession, and we know how much debt our nation is in. According to the U.S. National Debt Clock we are well on our way to approaching 17 trillion dollars in debt. So the question is: What part can I play in turning our economy around? Of course we can advocate for more responsible decisions from our politicians and we can make educated decisions in voting but sometimes it feels like there is nothing that we can actually do, especially between election years. However, there is one thing that all of us can do. Each one of us can make the decision to revolutionize our own finances.

There are many programs, classes, and books out there meant to help individuals and families to get their finances in control but the class that my wife and I took is Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. If you find yourself sinking in debt and barely making it to each paycheck it might be worth it for you to find one of these classes but here are the basic principles, all taken directly from the Bible:

Dave Ramsey's success is based on what he calls baby steps. The principle is that we take little steps towards financial peace, take it slow and steady. The baby steps are as follows:

Baby Step #1: Build an emergency fund of $1000

Baby Step #2: Pay off all debt except your house

Baby Step #3: Continue building the emergency fund to 3-6 months of income

Baby Step #4: Invest 15% of income for retirement

Baby Step #5: Start college funds for your children

Baby Step #6: Pay off home early

Baby Step #7: Build wealth and give!

The idea is that you have a budget and you stick to it, and every extra dollar that comes in goes toward the step that you are on. So get started doing your part to revolutionize the economy, revolutionize your finances. As Dave says "Live like no one else today, so that tomorrow you can live like no one else!"

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review of How to Change Our Nation

All of my most recent posts have been excerpts from the first draft of a book that I feel God has inspired me to write. Stay tuned as I do believe that it will eventually be published and you can see it in it's final, complete form. However in looking back through my posts I realized that I had begun a series which was never completed. As these posts are all among my top read posts I feel that it is important to continue this series, it is clearly something that people are looking to. If you have not read the posts then please go back and get caught up on this series:

I started with an introduction to the series which is based off of Loren Cunningham's book The Book That Transforms Nations. This book lays out seven areas to which we need to apply Biblical Principles in order to bring a widespread turnaround to our nation. You can read the post here: Bring Change to Your Nation

Then I wrote about the most foundational of the seven areas, the family. The enemy knows that the family is the most foundational area of society and has unleashed a major attack against families. I discussed this attack and also brought several verses regarding how our families should look here: The Devil is Attacking Our Families

The second most foundational area of society is the Church. God has established the Church to bring about His Kingdom here on earth and the enemy has, in many cases, successfully divided the church against each other. We need to come back to the original vision in recognition that we are one church working together for the Kingdom of God: Biblical Church

After getting our families and the Church back on track then we need to start looking toward the government. As discussed in the post we don't need to have a government that forces everyone to be Christian. On the contrary, a Biblical government would have freedom of choice as one of it's main components. Even the Theocracy in the days of Joshua stated "Choose this day whom you will serve..." Joshua 24:15, but we need to demand Biblical principles from our government, from our politicians: Bible-based Government

This ie where I ended in my discussion on the seven areas. As I mentioned above I feel it is important that I continue this series. So as we move forward I will be discussing how we should be applying Biblical principles to the Economy, Public Communication, Celebration, and lastly Education. I feel that each of us are called to at least one of these areas and we need to understand that to be called to the Lord's work doesn't just mean being called to the church. Being called to the Lord's work means doing what He has called you to do, whether that is in Politics, in service, in business, or whatever it might be.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Four Areas We Need to See!

1) We need to see who we are in Christ!

Our society has a lot to say regarding our identity. Through television, movies, music, and the internet, we are constantly hearing the world’s message regarding who we are supposed to be. They show us an image of what it means to be a man or a woman, they give us a message of how we should relate with our families, and they even tell us how we should act as Christians. This message is constantly coming at us from all directions and it makes it even more important for us to get into the Word of God and find out who God says we are. This is the foundation of our vision. We will never find the purpose for our life until we truly understand who God has made us to be. As a start review and meditate on the following verses and picture yourself in them:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” - John 1:12

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” - 2 Corinthians 5:17

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21

These are just a few of the statements that we see throughout the Bible regarding who we are in Christ. Most of us have read these verses and even heard people preach on them, but we haven’t truly seen it. We need to see it as truth in our life. This has already been done and until we truly realize it our actions won’t measure up to who we already are. We need to stop struggling to stop sinning and simply see that we are already righteous. When we see ourselves as righteous all of a sudden the sin becomes less attractive, because we are seeing it in the light of who Christ has made us to be.

2) We need to see who is inside of us!

The Bible says “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) You have the Holy Spirit inside of you. If you have asked for the baptism of the Holy Spirit then you have already been endued with power as it says in Acts 1:8. You need to start seeing yourself walking in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. You need to start seeing sick people being healed when your hands are laid on them, you need to start seeing devils being cast out, you need to start seeing yourself speaking in tongues and prophesying, and you need to start seeing yourself preaching the Gospel and people responding and getting saved. You need to see it. It doesn’t matter if it has never happened before, you need to see it coming to pass. It will never happen until you can see it with your faith but once you start to see it in the unseen world then you will be empowered to actually do it. If you can start to see yourself laying hands on the sick with results then you will be ready to take advantage when the opportunity comes your way. You will find that you have to boldness to step out and pray for that person, but you have to start seeing it now.

3) We need to see the life that God wants us to live!

In John 10:10 Jesus said “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Jesus came that we may have abundant life. This promise isn’t just for heaven, this promise starts right now, here on earth. We need to start seeing ourselves living the abundant life. We need to get a vision for it. This means that we see God supplying all our needs in His riches and glory (Phil 4:19), we see ourselves healed through the stripes that Jesus bore when He went to the cross (1 Peter 2:24), and we see ourselves full of love, joy, and peace (Gal 5:22). Most importantly, we need to see God as the provider of all these things. It all comes from God, not from our job, not from our own work, not from our circumstances or our success but from Him. Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be added.” As we seek Him these things will all fall into place, but we need to see it happening.

4) We need to see ourselves living the plan and calling that God has given us!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11

This is probably one of the most quoted scriptures in the Bible. We love it because it is encouraging and motivating to know that the Lord, the God of the universe, thinks thoughts about us! This is an amazing thing, compared to Him we are smaller than ants and yet He cares enough about us to think thoughts towards us and to plan a future for us. So we love to quote this scripture as a reminder of how much our Lord cares for us but few of us actually take the time to seek out what that future is. Few of us seek Him to find the plans that He has. We quote this scripture as an encouragement as we go on living our own plans. However we need to start seeking His plan, we need to take to heart the next verse, verse 12:

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”

We need to call upon Him and pray to Him in order to find out what the future is that He has in store for us. As we seek Him we will start noticing desires in our hearts that may or may not have been there before. But these are desires which God has placed in our hearts as we sought Him and they are hints towards the future that He has for us. However we also need to remember that God is the God who can do “exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). So as He shows us what it is that He has in store for us we will need to look with our spiritual eyes, we will need to look with our faith, and through our faith we need to see us living out what He shows us. As Paul said “[We] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us].”  (Phil. 4:13)

There is only one place that we can get the vision for these four areas and that is in the Word of God. If we look back at the second part of Proverbs 29:18 we see that “...he who keeps the law, happy is he.” This is part of the same sentence because this is where we start in our search for vision from God. We start in His law, in His Word. As we seek His Word and His presence with our whole hearts we will start to receive the vision that He has for us. We will start to see things that are not yet seen because they have not yet come to pass in the natural. As we start to see the unseen we can start leading those around us who may have not yet found their vision yet. Right now our problem is that the blind are attempting to lead the blind and as the Bible says this will simply lead them both into the ditch. That is why you need to receive your sight, you need to start seeing the unseen, that way you can step in and start leading both blind people straight to the one who gives us sight.

There’s a mission, a purpose for the power that God has called us to walk in. This is another part of the decision that I have discussed throughout this book. Will you make the decision to live the mission that God has given us? Are you willing to live the plan that He has for your life? If you are willing to do that then He will give you the power that you need to fulfill it, but as long as you are living your own plan, as long as you are doing your own thing, you will not walk in the power that the early church walked in. If Peter and Andrew had continued fishing they would have never been used as mightily as they were. If Matthew had continued collecting taxes he would have never been used to write one of the Gospels. On the other hand there were people like Luke who was used mightily as he continued in his profession as a physician. So it is not about whether you are working a ‘regular’ job or working in the ministry, it is simply whether you are living the plan that God has for you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pursuing Your Vision

“Without vision the people perish, but he who keeps the law, happy is he.”
- Proverbs 29:18

If we want to truly live out the mission that God has called us to do then we need to find the individual vision that God has given each of us. In this scripture vision literally means “Godly sight”. In other words, we need to see things like God see it. We need to see our lives and our purpose the same as God sees our lives and purpose. Our vision does not only affect our own life, it affects the lives of those around us, it affects our nation. The word perish in this verse means literally “to run wild without moral restraint”. We see that happening in our society more and more. People are casting off all morals and denying the very fact that there is even a definable right and wrong. As a result we have people running wild. As we see shooting after shooting people have started to debate whether we need more gun control, armed guards in schools, or if we need more education regarding mental illnesses. Everyone seems to have an idea of what is going to help our nation, but everyone is missing the core problem. The core problem is that we don’t have enough people seeing life the way God sees it. We don’t have enough people with Godly vision. We don’t have enough people ‘keeping’ or protecting the law of God. It is the church’s responsibility to live out the kingdom of God on this earth but the American church, as a whole, has become too compromising, too weak, and most of all too blind to fulfill their responsibility. It’s time for us as a church to stand up with Godly vision and protect the Word of God.

“while we don’t look at things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” - 2 Corinthians 4:18

We need vision so that we can see the things which are not seen. In Hebrews 11:1 we see that “faith is … the evidence of things not seen.” So it is through faith that we gain our sight; it is through faith that we gain our vision. Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So looking at these two scriptures together we can see that in order to find our vision we need to build our faith through the Word of God. Through studying, listening, and simply immersing ourselves in the Word of God we build our faith and gain vision for the things which are unseen. We need to meditate on God’s Word until we can see ourselves, and eventually society, living up to it.

There are four specific areas in which we need to gain God’s sight in. If we can see these things then we can be empowered to live the mission and fulfill the vision that God has placed in our lives. These four areas will be outlined in upcoming posts.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Using Your Gifts

Another way that the Holy Spirit helps us with our mission is by giving us gifts, or abilities. The most popular scripture passage for the gifts of the Spirit is 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 but there are also gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11-12. I also believe that there are many other gifts not listed in any of these passages. In fact I believe that God has given us every talent that we have and that He wants to use these talents for His glory. In Romans 12:6 Paul admonishes us:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them...”

Whatever gifts God has given us, we have a responsibility to use them. Sometimes we make things way more complicated than they need to be. We think that we need to improve our weaknesses, prepare our talents, and wait for the perfect opportunity before we can use our gifts but Paul makes it real simple here. He says that we’ve been given gifts and we simply need to use them. According to this statement, it doesn’t matter how many or how few people are listening, it doesn’t matter if you’re full time or part time, and it doesn’t matter if your professional or amateur. If God gave you a gift use it.

Sometimes we get so focused on our weaknesses that we forget our strengths. We see where we are weak and we think that we need to improve that area. Then we spend hours, day, months, and even years focused on how we can improve our weakness. We read books on that subject, go to classes, listen to sermons, and make plans for how we can get better in our weakness and through it all we have ignored our strengths. We have allowed our talents to go to waste. I believe that this is what Paul is talking about when he refers to the body of Christ and discusses each different part with a different function. The American society is built so much on independence but God has created us to be dependent on each other and ultimately on Him. If we just step out in faith, in our strengths, then we allow for God to step into our weakness, and as He told Paul, “[His] grace is sufficient for you, for [His] strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) I do believe that we should always be looking to grow and improve ourselves, but I believe that we should focus on improving our strengths. We need to stop stressing out about our weaknesses and allow His strength to be made perfect in us.
Another thing that holds us back from using our gifts is fear. Jesus told a parable about a rich man who was about to go on a journey. He called three servants and gave them each an amount of money (talents) according to their individual ability. He gave the first one five talents, the second one two talents, and the third servant only one talent. After the master returns from the journey we find that the first two servants had doubled the amount that was given to them. The one with five now had ten and the one with two now had four and the master was pleased. However the third servant comes and explains that he had buried the talent given to him in order to keep it safe. He was so afraid of losing the talent that he did nothing with it, he played it safe. Of course the master is not pleased with this servant saying that at the very least he should have put it in the bank so it could gain some interest.

I believe that many of us are like the third servant. We are so afraid of messing things up that we simply hide our talents and our gifts. We think that it is better to play it safe than to take risks and possibly fall flat on our face. But the Bible says in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. It pleases God when we are willing to step out and take risks, placing our full trust in Him. Sometimes that is what we need to do with our gifts. God will open an opportunity which may frighten us, it may scare us, but we need to face that fear and step out in faith. God will catch us every time. Whatever it is that caused you to bury that gift it is time to dig it up and put it to use.
When I was twelve God called me to be a preacher, teacher, and a writer however I was terrified of public speaking. It would have been easy for me to be like the third servant and simply bury my gift and calling to teach. I hated giving five minute speeches in class but God had given me a vision of preaching full sermons to thousands. I knew that I needed to do something so I took every opportunity I could find to be in front of a group. I tried out for every solo in choir, took opportunities in my youth group to preach and ultimately joined speech team. I remember going to the first day of speech class and I was terrified but God honored my step of faith and miraculously delivered me from my fear. I have preached in multiple countries on multiple continents, and have even preached in a second language, and I have not felt that fear since I was 16 and started that speech class. Sometimes we feel afraid like that third servant but God is calling us to take a step of faith. Step out into the water and count on Him to catch you and walk with you.

Lastly, I think that sometimes we hold back from using our gifts because we are looking for the right opportunity. We are waiting for God to open some great and grandiose door for us to walk through and until then we just sit on our gifts waiting. These are the people that Romans 12:6 is really talking to. “...let us use them...” It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, it doesn’t matter how many people are around to be affected by it, we need to simply take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to use our gifts and if no opportunity comes then we need to make an opportunity. If you’re a preacher and no one is opening their pulpit then preach to the mirror. If you’re a singer and you don’t have an audience sing in your car, sing throughout your day whenever appropriate. If you’re a writer and you don’t yet have an idea for a book then write a journal, or start a blog. Whatever your gift might be find a way to use it and allow God to steer you to the right audience.
Often we tell God that once He puts us in a position to use our gift we will start using it but God tends to work the opposite way. He is waiting for us to start using our gifts and as we do He will open up opportunities for those gifts to reach people. Once we show Him that we are going to be faithful with the gifts He has given us, He will expand and grow that gift. As Jesus told us at the end of the aforementioned parable “to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Living the Fruitful Life

Continuously throughout the New Testament we see references to “bearing fruit”. Jesus not only commanded us to bear fruit but He warned us that any tree which does not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire (Matt 3:10; Luke 3:9), but what does it mean to bear fruit? Paul shares with us what kind of fruit should be shown in us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:22

We see here that the fruit comes from the Spirit. This is the first way that the Holy Spirit assists us in our quest to be a witness for Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to allow these qualities to exude from our personality. Theoretically, with the Holy Spirit inside of us, these fruits should naturally come out of us. However as long as we are on this earth we still have a carnal nature and this carnal nature has its own fruits (Galatians 5:19-21). This means we have two opposite natures battling to show themselves and often it simply comes down to a choice. We have to choose if we will allow the fruits of the Spirit to come out of us or if we will allow the fruits of our carnal nature. We must decide whether we are going to live selfish or selfless. This choice is seldom easy. Sometimes we have to choose joy when all we want to do is cry or scream, sometimes we have to choose patience when we feel like we can’t take it anymore, and sometimes we have to choose to love someone who only returns our love with hate. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to make the right choice in each of these situations but ultimately we are still the ones who have to choose. It is up to us whether we choose the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of the carnal nature.

As we learn to consistently show the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives we make the first step towards fulfilling the mission that God has given us. It is these choices which lead us into a life that points people towards Jesus. This fruit will allow us to be true examples of who He is and will attract people who want to know why we are so different. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus calls us to be a light in this world and light stands out from the darkness. If we are going to be a light we need to stand out from the world, we need to be different. In a world overrun with selfishness we need to be selfless. It is the fruit of the Spirit that will allow us to truly conquer our selfish nature and to shine selflessly as Jesus called us to do.