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.

Surf Report: A Recap of the Week of September 23

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Welcome to the Surf Report for the Week of September 23.

.: God:

God has been teaching me quite a bit when it comes to the Bible study I’ve been leading on Wednesday nights. He has been teaching me to remember:

  • Not everyone is a Christian AND not all Christians are at the same place in their walk with God.
  • To not take personally the people who choose to come and go. Attendance has been inconsistent/up and down.
  • To lead. That it doesn’t matter how much older the rest of the guys are, I’m there to facilitate discussion and lead the group.

I wrote a bit about some of our discussion this week in “How do you de-stress?” Also had a friend send me a link to a video that I found helpful in studying 1 John (which we’ve been going over on Wednesday nights).

.: Life:

This week I found out that there are Josh Groban fans. I learned that I should never talk bad about a character Josh Groban plays (especially on Twitter). Ah, the Internet. You can read my thoughts on Josh Groban’s new project in “Things to Avoid – The Good Cop“.

Also spent some time in a clinic last week, wrote about that experience in “Missing the Firetwuck“.

.: Gaming:

My week has been completely devoid of video games. But I did re-post a Tim Challies article from awhile back (“From Across the Net – ‘Christian Men and Their Video Games’“). His article reminded me of the Christian tension of being in the world but not of the world. Got me thinking of debates I’ve been a part of over the years. Debates on Christian liberty, discernment, and the almost Christian desire to have everything spelled out in black and white.

There are definitely games fellow believers shouldn’t touch. The Bible, the Holy Spirit, family and friends help us navigate what we should and should not consume.

Question of the Week: Do you think Fortnite’s timed cosmetic purchases are predatory towards young kids?

That’s it for this week. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments below. Have a great weekend!

From Across the Net – “Christian Men and Their Video Games”

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A few years ago, Tim Challies wrote a piece titled “Christian Men and Their Video Games”. I love what he says here:

Skip the bad ones. We cannot deny that some games are unsuitable to anyone, much less a Christian. Today more than ever there is an abundance of games that revel in gore and bloodletting, that feature sexual violence, that are full of porn or profanity. Those of us who remember the scandal of Leisure Suit Larry or Phantasmagoria a generation ago will know that such games are practically quaint by today’s standards. We need to be okay with skipping the bad ones and we ought to do so out of conviction and conscience. Thankfully, we’ve got access to a thorough rating system and a massive collection of review sites that can steer us away from the ugly ones. Look past the bad ones and we will find many that are harmless, fun, beautiful, and at times even brilliant. – Read more here

I was a part of a Christian gaming group for years. One of the biggest hurdles we never overcame, as a group, was related to Christian liberty and gaming. A lot of the guys felt that as long as you were focusing on the positive aspects of a game (essentially Philippians 4:8), you were okay to play. This created an almost anything goes atmosphere. Biblical discernment fell by the wayside as liberty was promoted as the only truth. I grew concerned for the younger believers in the group. Iron is meant to sharpen iron, not dull it.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

Playing Videogames Like a Christian

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To play videogames as a Christian, however, requires being honest and discerning not just about their content, but about their value. The entertainment games provide is just one of the many values intrinsic to interactive media. Let’s play games responsibly, with discernment and moderation, but let’s dig deeper. Let’s tap into the many values of games, and ask the Lord to open our eyes to values we’ve failed to see. In playing games Christianly, we may just become more self aware, more mindful of our neighbor, and more in love with our God.

Thought Drew Dixon did an excellent job on this piece. Read the full article here

Bad Parenting: The Diablo Debacle

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As a dad, I struggle with trying to discern what types of videogames are appropriate for my son and I to play. I have to remind myself that he is only six years old. Despite being a competent player, he isn’t one of my friends, someone who can make content decisions for himself. The little guy is my son, so I have to make media choices for him.

diablo-IIISometime last year, I made a bad decision–more like a ton, but this is just one example. Despite an all knowing parental voice telling me that playing Diablo 3 with my son was not a good idea, I proceeded forward. He loved the game! We found ourselves criss-crossing the map hunting down bad guys. Monsters that would burst, giving birth to electric eel-like monsters. All writhing in pixelated bloody glory. We were having fun. I wasn’t being a good dad.

I ended up having to confess to my son that I had been wrong. Diablo 3 was not a game that him and I needed to be playing together. I apologized. He cried. He wanted to battle monsters with his daddy. I assured him that there were plenty of other games that we could play together. He asked when he might be able to play Diablo 3. I told him that he could play when he was able to understand exactly what is going on in the game.

This was one of those parental failure/redemption moments. I want to encourage other dads and moms out there to consider what types of games they are playing with their children.

  • Is the content appropriate?
  • Does the game’s worldview run contrary to beliefs one is trying to instill?
  • Are you just playing the game because you want to play it, ignoring the voice in your head telling you that you need to stop?

Being a parent that is open, honest, and willing to admit mistakes allows your child to see you as real. That is a win-win in my book. Picking age appropriate media, another win.