From Across the Net – “How Do We Discern Good and Bad ‘Magic’?”

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Based on these truths, when parents approach a fantasy novel, our critical thinking should always precede our impulse to censor the story. Start by analyzing the story’s magic system to determine the source of power. Ask: Do the magicians seek to elevate themselves? Or do they wield their power in sacrifice and service to others? More importantly, does the story cause you, the reader, to desire to elevate yourself over others or even over God, the source of all real power?

Read more here

Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

My Church Is Not A Ministry Competitor

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I was recently listening to a podcast when the host presented a thought:

The Church is more concerned with getting people plugged into the organization’s ministries (children’s ministry, youth ministry, greeter ministry, etc.). And is far less concerned about equipping believers to minister in their everyday lives.

This thought of competing ministries, the Church versus the believer, floored me. Made me shake my head for a moment. You see, by serving within the local church, we have a safe place to learn how to minister to others. As we learn how to minister to others in the church, we can take that experience and apply it to our lives. Think of it as building spiritual service muscle memory. I then use this muscle memory as I go throughout my week.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Service has taught me a few things:

  • That no task, big or small, is beneath me.
  • To slow down and listen even when it feels inconvenient.

I do not see my church as a ministry competitor. I see my church as a partner, a group of people God is using to develop me. He uses situations that arise to challenge my ways of thinking. Situations that cause me to pray and ask discernment. God uses our churches to grow us in the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

What about you? Do you think that the Church is more concerned about itself versus helping/equipping believers? AND/OR What has God taught you about serving in the church that you then take into your daily life?

What Comes from Within

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I am learning that one of the joys of being a diabetic is having ones blood tested every three months. Spent a small portion of my day, yesterday, having blood drawn and meeting with my doctor. The tests showed a dramatic improvement in my glucose levels, which made the doctor happy. He told me that he thinks that I should be able to kick this diabetes diagnosis to the curb.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

But let me tell you, the holidays were tough! I had to be more vigilant than normal about what I was putting into my body. There were some days that I didn’t do the best of jobs; but more days than not, I succeeded.

Has me thinking about something I taught on this past Sunday, in Mark 7 (bolded emphasis mine):

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”   17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)   20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Before this passage, the Pharisees are arguing over the tradition of hand washing before eating. Jesus calls them out on using man-made law as an excuse to ignore God’s law:

6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,   ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’   8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”   9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
One of the greatest games ever created. No joke.

But what I want to go back and focus on verses 22-23:

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Unlike diabetes, which is all about what one puts inside them, the Bible talks about what comes from inside being the problem. We can feed this problem through what we consume on a day-to-day basis through:

  • The books we read
  • The games we play (excluding Ice Ball above)
  • The movies/television we watch/stream/consume
  • Even through our daily bad habits we’ve picked up–I see you picking your nose!–.

All of these, as with the sugar I am fighting against putting into my body, can act against our souls in unhealthy ways. Diabetes is teaching me that I can give up/avoid certain foods. That I don’t have to have a Vanilla Coke, 2-3 times a week, in order to stay awake/just enjoy/fend off headaches. We get to where we think that we have to have certain things. That we have to watch a certain series or play a certain game so that we are on top of what is going on culturally. The fact is, some of the things that we consume hurt us… and God calls us to let those things go.

We are our own worst enemies. I am thankful that I do not have to operate on my own strength. That I serve and love a God who gives me discernment, wisdom, and the ability to know when my self control has failed and I just need to flat out run/get away from whatever it is.

From Across the Net – “Untangling the theology of Star Wars”

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Not sure I ever noticed the destiny vs. free will difference between the older and newer movies.

Lucas sold his production company and the franchise to Disney for $4.05 billion in 2012. But he continued to work as a consultant to the producers who created the third and supposedly final trilogy in the Skywalker saga. Those movies depart from Master Yoda’s obsession with destiny and focus on free will. The heroes strive to break free of their circumstances and discover their true selves: An Imperial Stormtrooper becomes a rebel leader, Luke’s Jedi apprentice turns evil, and the orphan Rey must decide whether to follow the path carved by her dark ancestry. The characters use the force mainly to communicate with one another, like an innate cellular network to which some people have stronger connections.

You can read more here

Whichever Shoe Fits

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Back in February, Tabitha and I were sitting in the auditorium at church listening to a guest speaker. I was having trouble paying attention, my mind wandering, until the speaker started talking about the Stages of Hurt:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

God spoke to Tabitha and I in that moment. We both realized that we had been cycling through those stages for years. Years. Not always in that exact stage order but something quite like it. You see, we have been trying to have another child for about 9 years now. Seeing what ultimately are the Stages of Grief, written down on the conference handout we were attending, did something. I could finally see the bigger picture. I could see how a friend’s baby announcement would suddenly shoot me into anger or even bargaining over not being able to have more children; I could see why, at times, I’ve been depressed.

In that moment of epiphany, Tab and I both felt that God was calling us to step out of those stages. We felt Him calling us to more.

So we talked and met with wise counsel at church. My church’s youth pastor and his wife sat down with us over dinner. They listened to our story and shared their own (I can’t put into words how much this meant to us). We learned that we weren’t alone in our experience. After meeting with them, we decided to contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. We attended an informational meeting (which was awesome). Soon after, we signed up to take adoption certification classes (PRIDE) which lasted a few weeks. We have since finished up:

  • Turning in financial information
  • FBI Database fingerprinting
  • Having a fire inspection of our home

We have a:

  • Health Inspection for the house
  • And an Home Study/Interview left before we are certified to adopt. We are almost there!

If you think about my family, as we move forward in this process, we are asking for:

  • Prayer (if you are not the praying sort, positive thoughts then)
  • Discernment
  • Wisdom
  • That God would lead our adoption caseworker to the child He wants

Excited to finally share this news with ya’ll. More to come.