From Across the Net – “Navigating Different COVID-19 Recovery Convictions”

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“I believe one of the ways that the enemy will seek to divide our ranks within the church is by tempting us to use our opinions against each other. If the Devil has his way, we’ll be throwing stones of accusation from all sides, calling the cautious people “soft,” labeling the optimists of being “reckless.” More than that, the enemy especially loves when we cement ourselves in political corners; adding opinionated fuel to the already tumultuous fire of conflict.”

Costi Hinn, For The Church – https://ftc.co/resource-library/1/5289?fbclid=IwAR2vq3Xds5JDa-vXtC5pef78_9Gmat9f_KutxW4ZNUNy9FBJEVz5VXsYznQ
Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

An obvious question

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Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you    – Matthew 6:33

I have been reading through a devotional book for awhile now; A devotional book that I have quoted numerous times on this blog. I haven’t been happy while reading about grace for what seems like the millionth time. Nothing wrong with reading about grace. I need grace. You need grace. Grace is good. But I feel like I have been going through the motions during my morning quiet time. Bored with the daily:

  • Read – Check
  • Pray – Check
  • Move onto the next thing – YUP!

I often feel like I am not doing enough. As if reading a single daily entry is lacking. Distracting thoughts…

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Talked with a good friend this morning. Maybe more like I dumped a load of thoughts on him (thankful for you, Travis). At one point, in my jumble of texts, he offered: Have you asked God for direction with your quiet time?

“No”, I replied.

What a question. So obvious and yet something I haven’t done.

Gotta fix that.

As Matthew 6:33 says, seek the kingdom first, and everything else will fall into place.

What do you do for a personal time with God?

What has God been teaching you?

The Parenting Foxhole

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I’ve learned that parenting is full of moments where I have no clue what to do. It was in one of those moments that my wife reminded me how thankful I am to be parenting with her. 
 
Recently, we encountered a situation that called for an emergency strategy session. I had no idea how to proceed.
 
Tabitha looked at me, “I’ve got this.”
 
And she did. I walked back into our back hallway, right outside Wyatt’s room, and listened to her talk to him. A shining ambassador of grace, wisdom, and truth. I was in awe of how Tabitha handled the situation; a situation that she deescalated with poise.

Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash

I was ready to launch a rocket.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I would have handled the situation in the same way. But it was in that moment that I found myself thankful. Thankful for our different parenting strengths.
Tabitha, I love you. Thank you for sharing the parenting foxhole that we are in. I love the way you are able to speak to our son in a way that is hard for me. I can’t imagine doing this parenting thing without you. I am excited for where we are going as we add to our family. We can do this, together. I love you baby.
 
Bryan

You’re Going to Hell

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“If you wore your hair past your ears, you were going to hell.”

“If you wore a colored dress shirt to church, instead of a white shirt, you were going to hell.”

“If you were at a stop light and looked poorly at a woman and then got into a wreck and died, you were going to hell.”

The list of rules and unofficial law went on and on. Deep diving into the insanity of whether you wore a short sleeve shirt versus a long sleeve shirt, to church, determining your eternal destination.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

“God’s grace was something that was preached but not understood.”

God reminded me this past week that we all come from different places. Even members of the same church, who are fellow believers in Christ, have prior built foundations. Rules and family situations, that may have felt true and normal at the time, which turned out to be built on lies of men.

I’m reminded that if the backdrops of our lives can differ so much with those that are around us, what about those that we encounter online?

I think we can easily assume that others are just like us. Raised, perhaps, in stable families; Raised in churches that were more about God’s grace versus invented “Biblical” law.

“I was afraid to read the Bible.”

We assume so much in our day-to-day interactions. This week, when I was able to actually listen to someone, I heard a different story than my own. I had assumed, perhaps projected my own experience, and I was wrong.

God is teaching me to listen more intently. I can’t imagine growing up without the peace that God has shown me through his grace. I can’t imagine thinking that my slightest action was going to send me to hell. I’m sure my wearing shorts to church, more often than not, would secure me a permanent place there… if the laws I described above were founded in truth. Thankfully, God, in his grace, isn’t concerned about my clothing.

The lies of the devil are prevalent. His lies even infect the church. Be aware. Listen. Lift a fellow brother or sister up. Speak truth.

Peace.

Revisited – Christ, the Coliseum, and Violence

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This is one of the first pieces I ever wrote for another site (back in 2013). Still love this scenario. The Assassin’s Creed series is often the Adventures in Odyssey equivalent of the Imagination Station

I left Christ in the Roman Coliseum; I left him to die.

Carefully scaling the Coliseum walls, I slowly made my way towards my first targets: three would-be snipers. Quietly, in succession, I stealthily stabbed each in the back. Not one of the snipers knew of my existence. I am the wind, the shadows, the reaper of death. I am justice incarnate.

My second target: saving the actor playing Jesus Christ in a play. The irony of a Passion Play in the Roman Coliseum does not escape me. Who knows how many Christians fought for their very lives within these walls? Some believers even torn to shreds by lions for the amusement of Nero and the people. I shudder in disgust and then slip on the disguise of a Roman soldier. Christ awaits my saving grace.

Events quickly unfold in a way I could not foretell. The actor playing Christ has been drugged! I effortlessly scoop him up as Borgia men flood in from all sides of the Coliseum. My mission: get Christ to a doctor. Holding him, I can clearly see his crown of thorns and the fake blood smeared on him. I know his only hope is a cure beyond the battle ensuing around me. Suddenly, the world grinds to a stop.

– Reality Confronted –

If you haven’t guessed, my PS3 locked up as I was escorting the drugged actor to a doctor. I was frustrated. A day has since gone by and I have yet to try again. My wife reminds me that it took Christ three days to resurrect, so why not give the game a rest? My conscience is restless. Nine hours of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has left me with questions. I find myself questioning the digital bodies I have left de-rezzed; I find myself questioning what I am learning about life, beyond the fact that assassinations from the air look awesome. Perspective is everything.

I know that at the end of the day I will return and continue my “historical” Roman adventure. But I want to keep in mind that violence is reality based. Violence is also something that is worshiped within American cinema and culture. I believe that the reason on-screen violence resonates with people so much is due to the fact that it is usually carried out in the pursuit of justice. The Bible says this though:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19 (NIV)

and this:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

I realize that Ezio’s actions in Brotherhood are simply a part of a fantasy world. I also realize that God is an avenger and a dealer of justice. Though I know that the worlds of fantasy and reality can sometimes blend, I want to be mindful of who and what I am allowing to shape my soul. So God help me.

We Cannot Bring About Lasting Change In Anyone

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Labor Day has thrown me off this week. I keep thinking that it is Tuesday when it is really Wednesday.

I’ve been wanting to share my notes from teaching through Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family in Sunday School. Each week has been a good reminder of what I’d call Christianity 101. Foundational Biblical truths we all know, as Christians, and yet forget to live out.

Sunday morning, our topic was on Inability (Chapter 4). The key principle was: “Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.”

We started out by reading the following quote:

If you are going to be what God has designed you to be as a parent and do what he’s called you to do, you must confess one essential thing. This confession has the power to change much about the way you act and react toward your children. It is vital that you believe and admit that you have no power whatsoever to change your child. If any human being possessed the power to create lasting change in any other human being, again, Jesus would not have had to come! The incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus stand as clear historical evidence that human power for change does not exist.

And then shifted to talking about our inability to save ourselves from the punishment we deserve for sinning against a holy God. How only faith in Jesus Christ can bring about lasting change, in our lives, and save us.

Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

We then went over the Gospel presentation that our Children’s Director goes over with our kids. I think it’s helpful to know what our kids are going over AND the simple presentation is good for us adults.

As a class, we read through the following scriptures noted in the presentation:

  • Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8; Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:9-10, 13.

Afterwards, discussing what Tripp calls “The Three Most Often Used Tools of Parental Power”.

  1. Fear – “the power we buy into here is that we can issue a big enough threat that creates a big enough fear to change our kids.”
  2. Reward – “This may be the most popular way we fight our inability to change our children. We manipulate them to do what we want them to do by holding certain reward in front of them.”
  3. Shame – “Shame and guilt are power tools that parents use more frequently than we recognize.”

Coming to the point where we realize that we cannot bring about lasting change in others, apart from Christ, is freeing. Whether in our friendships, relationships, or parenting, Christ is the only one who can bring about lasting change. We CANNOT change anyone, no matter how hard we try.

“Good parenting lives at the intersection of a humble admission of personal powerlessness and a confident rest in the power and grace of God.”

Top Five Things I Learned While Running A Facebook Group

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So you’ve decided to form a group on Facebook, fantastic! Facebook Groups are a great way to share a common interest with others. I should know, I successfully ran a videogame-related Facebook Group for 3 years. In that time, I learned to:

1. Promote a positive group culture by embracing a simple tagline that explains the rules – “Be excellent to one another.”

2. Recruit moderators that help shape conversations/discussions. Example: Ask followup questions and “like” responses.

KEY: Moderators are not policeman.

3. Allow conversations to run their course even if the discussion becomes uncomfortable.

4. Never threaten to ban people (see #3 above). Extend grace. If needed, talk to individuals one-on-one for clarification.

And that:

5. Growth is not measured by members added but by the conversations had.

So have fun. Ask big questions. Cultivate a group that you’d want to hang out with in real life.

In the hard moments

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My chest hurts today. I’m not sure why. All I know is that it feels like someone is sitting on me. Someone large; Someone heavy.

I read this morning that:

God is working right now, but not so much to give us predictable, comfortable, and pleasurable lives. He isn’t so much working to transform our circumstances as he is working through hard circumstances to transform you and me. Perhaps in hard moments, when we are tempted to wonder where God’s grace is, it is grace that we are getting, but not grace in the form of a soft pillow or a cool drink. Rather, in those moments, we are being blessed with the heart-transforming grace of difficulty because the God who loves us knows that this is exactly the grace that we need.

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God knows what I need. Even if it’s not the cool drink of peace that I desire.

Book Review: Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst

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Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst is a book to help you take the rejection life throws at us and give to God who is waiting for us. This is not a self help book that promises relief in three easy steps. Lysa’s points on how rejection affects life will hit home with most people. She makes the book personal, sharing feelings that are genuine and relatable.

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This book is not designed to be read in one sitting. It is designed to be read a chapter at a time so that the thoughts of the author and Biblical truths can be digested into your life. This is a book you put down to think, pray, and sometimes cry over. Yet at the same time, you’ll want to keep reading because you found the topic so engaging.

Rejection hurts and can cause thoughts to grow that are not true.

We have all been rejected at some point in our life. Rejection hurts and can cause thoughts to grow that are not true. Not only did I learn how to deal with past rejection and how to stop rejection pain from taking root. But I also learned that by extending the same love God gives to me, to others, I can help stop the cycle of rejection.

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After reading Uninvited, I have thought differently about the things that are said and done to me. I have thought about my own actions and words toward not only myself but also my friends and family. Uninvited is definitely a book I would recommend to others, be prepared with a highlighter.

God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live…loved.

I was given a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Best Theology Video Games Of 2015 – Destiny: Taken King

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This year, I had the chance to help the guys over at Theology Gaming with their Best Theology Video Games Of 2015 list. Had fun writing about Destiny: Taken King.

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Best Mirror Of Our Faith Journey
Destiny: Taken King

Sin. Repentance. Redemption. Destiny mirrors the faith journey of the Christian. Made in the console shooter creator’s image, this 2014 title launched with solid mechanics and an uneven tale. Broken from a story perspective, mired in sin, Destiny was yet embraced by the gaming populace.The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions launched the game into an orbit of repentance. Redemption found in the Taken King. Sin, downfall, always but a step away. Developer Bungie continues the journey through the valleys and mountain-top experiences of game development.

Full of It

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My intestines won’t stop moving. I feel like a punching bag. The sides of my stomach hurt. I have no idea why. Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is debilitating.

The first time IBS found me was in elementary school. I remember running around the house, clutching my stomach, screaming. My parents didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do. A few uncomfortable medical procedures later, nothing.

High school was an IBS nightmare. The thing about IBS is that it can sneak up on you in a moments notice. Forcing you into an immediate posture of porcelain throne worship. I remember a friend telling me that it was all in my head. That I was the one causing it.

I remember a distinct feeling of wishing I could transfer my IBS to someone else. If they could only feel what my body does to me, they would know that I am more of a hostage to something far bigger.

The Apostle Paul talks about a thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians. I have always related to that.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have wondered if God gave me IBS as a way to keep me humble, focused on Him. In times of an attack, I pray for God’s strength to get through those moments.

My thorn in the flesh is not visible nor is it logical. I can’t tell when it is going to come and visit next. But I have learned to notice when my body is tightening up; I have learned that exercise helps reduce stress. God has taught me to rely on His strength when I have none. I just need to rely on Him when I am running at full capacity.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

Game on, dear friends. Game on.

Things I’m Learning: Social Media

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I did something stupid the other day. Radio host, author, and speaker, Dave Ramsey, had posted the following Joel Osteen quote on twitter: “God’s mercy is bigger than any mistake that you’ve made.”

Nothing wrong with the quote. God’s mercy is huge! For some reason though it bugged me that Dave Ramsey was quoting Joel Osteen.

So I replied: This is true, even if, as in Joel’s case, you are leading people to Hell.”

Yeah, I went there. I honestly believe that Joel Osteen leads people to Hell by promoting God as a genie (just pray super hard and God will give you your dreams) and by not talking about “negative” things such as sin.

I didn’t expect Dave to take the bait; I didn’t expect him to reply but had an inkling he might. Replying to me via twitter, in the face of all of his “followers”, he responded, “Struggle with Grace?”

Defensive now, I replied: “Most definitely. I also struggle with those who misrepresent the Bible.”

Dave’s disciples quickly descended upon me. Some offering support and others calling me to the mat for not being loving enough.

.: Social Media Misused :.

I want to admit, here and now, that I was wrong. Irregardless of my thoughts towards the Joel Osteen school of theology, I shouldn’t have ever responded to that original quote. I was baiting/trolling Dave Ramsey, effectively calling him a supporter of a false teacher. So Dave, if you are out there, I’m sorry. I hope you accept my apologies.

I want to intentionally reflect God in all that I do. Fighting a “twitter war” through an innocent man (Dave) is not the best way to do that. So again Dave, I’m sorry.

Memories of My Grandmother

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I’m not sure what to write about today. My mind has been an accelerated mess since the death of my Grandma last week. Her death has affected me more than I could have imagined. The funeral is this Saturday…I have been debating on whether to write something or just speak at her funeral. I have concluded that I am going to talk about her. Her life, my memories of her, and about her faith in Jesus Christ.

My Grandma was an only child. I have recently read that children who grow up without siblings are like super firstborns. I would say that this was true of my Grandmother. Not only did she cook, clean the house, and take care of my Grandpa, she also made time to spend with her grandchildren. Now, I’m not going to get all sentimental and say that she spent tons of time with us. But I do remember going on dates with her every few months. She loved doing this. I remember her saying that she had to save up her allowance money in order for her to take me out. Burgers, fries, and a drink and Grandma was happy. Funny memory: Grandma chewing on a Big Mac, with her mouth open. 🙂

My memories of her, at least at this time, are highly polluted by the years she declined with Alzheimer’s. What I do remember though was a woman who was interested in both local and national news. She could carry on an intelligent conversation on just about any topic. More importantly though, my Grandma loved history. This is something that she imparted on me. I wish that I could have told her that I obtained a degree in History. She would have been proud.

In elementary school, I remember having trouble with schoolwork, specifically reading. Now, I wouldn’t work well with my Mom, so my Grandma came over and helped me. I remember loving this extra time spent with her.

My Grandma was also a woman who valued her freedom. She would wait all day, until my Grandpa got home, to get her hands on their pickup truck. This was generally when she would go shopping or come and pick me/ one of my siblings up.

Standing next to her at the Christmas Eve service, my family went to every year, I remember listening to her sing. I have been told that at one time she had sang in a church choir. She told me that she had loved doing this. She had a pretty voice.

I wish I could remember more. What I do know though is that I loved her. Grandma Hall was special to me. I felt like she took the time to actually engage me/ get to know me. She accepted me for me.

The best part about my Grandma dying is that she is now in Heaven. She is no longer a prisoner trapped within her own body. I know that my Grandma is in Heaven due to her belief in Jesus Christ. She knew that the most important decision a human has to make in this world is whether or not he will accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Those that choose to receive eternal life need only realize that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (John 3:23). Due to falling short, the wages of our sin is death (John 6:23). But God provides a way out, through His only son He sent to die for the world, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). All a person has to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is by grace that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I love you Grandma. See you soon!