Fight: Winning the Battles That Matter Most by Craig Groeschel

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“…within every man, God has planted a divine desire to fight for righteousness.” – Fight, p.13

As king of the flannelgraph boards, the Biblical/historical figure of Sampson is one that many a young boy wishes to be. Set apart by God from birth, Sampson is the original superhero. Fight, by pastor Craig Groeschel, examines the life of Sampson in parallel to the modern Christian male. Both have been created by God in His image; both are prone to utter and complete failure. Groeschel goes out of his way to point out that Sampson’s failures, like ours, are never due to one time events. Like the falling blocks in a game of Tetris, our decisions stack up and can eventually lead us down a road to ruin. However, like Sampson, we are never beyond God’s redemptive power.

Fight is organized into 3-4 page chapters. I enjoyed these easy to digest chunks of truth. My biggest and only complaint with the book was the unneeded machoism that permeates throughout. Much like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, Groeschel felt the need to add blanket gender assumptions such as:

“Think about it this way. There are two kinds of movies: chick flicks and, well, everything else. Do chick flicks inspire men? Do they make them want to be stronger, braver, better men?What about in Pride and Prejudice when Keira Knightley’s character says to her new husband, “You may only call me ‘Mrs. Darcy’ when you are completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.” And he responds with, “Then how are you this evening…Mrs. Darcy?” and kisses her on the forehead. And then, “Mrs. Darcy,” as he kisses her on the cheek. And then, “Mrs. Darcy,” as he kisses her on the nose. Again, if you’re a guy, you have no idea what I’m talking about right? Or if you do know, you’re trying hard to forget.” (page 14)

Despite comments such as the one found above, I enjoyed my time reading Fight. Craig does a fantastic job going beyond the Sampson depicted in Sunday school flannelgraphs and digs into the heart of what made him a man. I highly recommend this book.

I was given a copy of this book by BookSneeze. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Rewind Wednesday: Invite Christ Into Your Hobby

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This morning, as I was reading through Bill Farrel’s The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I came across a passage that talked about inviting Christ into your hobbies. The beginning of Chapter 8 asked a question:

“What do you like to do to relax or have fun?”

The book followed up by asking you to:

“Brainstorm ways to invite Jesus to be part of this activity in your life.”

Bill gave a few personal examples of him inviting Christ into his hobbies: 1)as he is out in the garage tinkering around on his car, he prays and just generally communicates with God just as he would a friend; 2)as he is out exercising, Bill listens to worship music and sermons. Both examples show how easy it is to invite Christ into our down time activities.

Now my own personal ways of winding down do not include physical exercise nor picking up the odd tool and “tinkering”. I know that I need to be more active but I prefer reading a good book or enjoying a video game. I honestly cannot remember a time where I have ever invited God to take up the second controller (figuratively). I don’t think I have ever asked God for the amazing dexterity to accomplish a specific Mario jump either. No, I just mindlessly play and let the digital world envelope me as I would a movie. What does this mean?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

As a Christian, everything I do is to be done to the glory of God. I need to be keeping God at the forefront of my mind. Even as I play a video game, I need to not be mindlessly consuming but actively engaging the media. This means filtering the game through what I know is truth in scripture; this also means asking God for the endurance to take on that last boss fight. Video games can easily be all about the glory of the player, I want that glory to instead be directed at my Creator.

Thinking Aloud: Growing Closer to Christ

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Note: I could write an entire series on what it means to grow closer to Christ. I realize that I barely scratch the surface of this subject and wanted to recognize that. You are now free to read.

Last year, I read an article on a Christian video game site that extolled the virtues of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. The article talked about how the game’s protagonist, Lee, was a Christ-like figure due to his sacrificial death at the end of the game. Spoiler. All I could think was that Lee was a murderer, Christ wasn’t.

As a Christian, I should be constantly growing closer to Christ. What does growing closer to Christ look like? Is it a combo of:

  • Giving up/walking away from things that are shrouded in helpless darkness? Perhaps coming to the realization that The Walking Dead, with its unimaginative curse-filled vocabulary, just isn’t for me?

OR

  • Embracing the darkness and trying to find Christ’s redemptive story/ God’s redemptive plan in everything? An effort of trying to find the good, the light, that exists within the darkness we often consume?

Phillippians 4:8 comes to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I want to be willing to give anything up for Christ. Even if this means walking away from a gaming series that I really enjoyed, like The Walking Dead or even God of War. I want to be careful with the games that I endorse because my endorsement, as a Christian, is like saying Jesus approves of this. I do not want to lead anyone away from Christ. A difficult road to trot down.

The Gospel of Simplicity

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In high school, my youth pastor’s heart beat was to the drum of the Book of Revelation. He could be somewhere completely different in the Bible, a book like Matthew, and somehow we would end up closing our time in Revelation. After awhile, I honestly grew tired of hearing about the end times. However, I knew that his heart was in the right place and that he was genuine in his faith due to how he lived his life.

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Attending a Christian college, I encountered a lot of hypocrisy. People would say one thing one moment and then live something completely different the next. I almost walked away from Christianity during that time. God, in His mercy, reminded me not to look at others and instead focus on my own personal relationship with Him. Throughout the years this has been a lesson that I have had to continually come back to again and again. Simple and sweet.

I am thankful that I do not serve a God that requires me to follow lists; a God does not require a specific amount of works for me to be deemed right. I am thankful that:

  • I do not have to walk down an aisle or pray a specific prayer to be saved.
  • That I do not have to build up a certain amount of disciples.
  • I do not have to engage in the latest “church” fad.

All I have to do is believe, embrace God’s hand, and walk on.

Invite Christ Into Your Hobby

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This morning, as I was reading through Bill Farrel’s The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I came across a passage that talked about inviting Christ into your hobbies. The beginning of Chapter 8 asked a question:

“What do you like to do to relax or have fun?”

The book followed up by asking you to:

“Brainstorm ways to invite Jesus to be part of this activity in your life.”

Bill gave a few personal examples of him inviting Christ into his hobbies: 1)as he is out in the garage tinkering around on his car, he prays and just generally communicates with God just as he would a friend; 2)as he is out exercising, Bill listens to worship music and sermons. Both examples show how easy it is to invite Christ into our down time activities.

Now my own personal ways of winding down do not include physical exercise nor picking up the odd tool and “tinkering”. I know that I need to be more active but I prefer reading a good book or enjoying a video game. I honestly cannot remember a time where I have ever invited God to take up the second controller (figuratively). I don’t think I have ever asked God for the amazing dexterity to accomplish a specific Mario jump either. No, I just mindlessly play and let the digital world envelope me as I would a movie. What does this mean?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

As a Christian, everything I do is to be done to the glory of God. I need to be keeping God at the forefront of my mind. Even as I play a video game, I need to not be mindlessly consuming but actively engaging the media. This means filtering the game through what I know is truth in scripture; this also means asking God for the endurance to take on that last boss fight. Video games can easily be all about the glory of the player, I want that glory to instead be directed at my Creator.

Comfort & Control

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Yesterday (9/10), I started reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I am now on page 100 out of 250 pages. I don’t know what it is, regardless of my political differences with Miller, he somehow always manages to rope me in with his writing. I often feel like him and I are sitting down having a conversation, man to man. This morning (9/11) I woke up and continued reading. In reading, I came across this:

Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better. – p. 100, Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

This got me thinking about my penchant for comfort. Even if the roof is caving in all around me, as long as I have perceived “control” I’m not leaving. This is what happens when I decide that I can do things in my own power; when I tell God that He is not enough.

This past Sunday, the new pastor of my church preached on Nahum 1:7 (NASB).

The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

This got me thinking about whether I truly believe that God is good. I don’t think that this is something that I ever question. What I do question is whether He is enough. Is God big enough to handle whatever situation I am going through? Time and time again, God reveals himself in the Bible showing that he is more than capable of anything. Heck, he created the world! Somehow though I delude myself, in the delight of my comfort, that I have more than enough strength to get myself through this life. This is exactly what satan wants me to believe, that somehow I am better than God. All I have to do is un-tighten my hands, open them up, and let God take what I’ve been trying to control. Surrendering myself, submitting myself to God and his authority are actions I must take on a daily basis. I don’t want to be comfortable, I want God to be in control.

Legacy

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This morning I went to a funeral of a former co-worker’s dad. Knowing nothing about the deceased, I learned that he had been:

  • In the Korean War
  • A local sheriff
  • A husband, father, and friend to many
  • A man set in his ways
  • A man who was willing to drive to the far corners of the country in order to barter and bargain

The gentleman was also described as:

  • Being set in his ways
  • Onry
  • Stern/strict
  • Frugal
  • There when his family needed him

As I sat in this church built in 1920’s “mission style” architecture, I started to think of my own legacy. How do I want people to remember me? What words do I want people to use to describe me?

First and foremost, I want people to remember me not for my own idiosyncrasies but for my actions. I want people to remember that I was obedient to Christ. That I followed Him and was obedient enough to allow Him to use me.

Second, I want those that I come into contact with (family, friends, etc.) to know that I loved Jesus. Not only that I love Him, but that I was willing to put action to Christ’s words. That I went forth and made disciples (shared my presence, my life with others); That I truly loved those around me as God loves them.

Every man wants to make a mark upon this world. I want my mark, my legacy, to not be about me. I want my legacy to be all about God and His work. I want people to say:

He was a believer in deed

He had a heart of a different breed

He made his mark and he lived by his creed

A true believer, a believer in deed.

– Petra, “Believer In Deed”

What do you want your legacy to be?

GO: The Application

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Yesterday, I wrote about how persecution led the early church to disperse, thereby fulfilling the Great Commission. How does this apply to us today?

Sometimes We Can Get Comfortable…

Admit it, the church pew that you sit in week-after-week is comfy. The routine of dropping your kids off in children’s church (free babysitting!), enjoying coffee and fellowship in Sunday school, and going through the motions in the main service is familiar. One might call the church routine rather cozy. You know what to expect; you know that nothing uncomfortable is going to happen. If you don’t want to shake hands with someone, you don’t have to. Sure, you may feel spiritually uncomfortable/convicted by the sermon, but church is overall a safe environment where you don’t have to step out of what you know.

Which Keeps Us From Meeting People Where They Live…

I would like to make a bold statement. The people who need Christ the most are not the ones who are going to show up at your local church. Instead, the people who need to hear the Good News are those in our work places and those we meet on the everyday streets of life.

Ever wondered why churches are built where they are? I have. Here in Longview, for instance, we build a good chunk of our churches away from the city’s dividing line, Highway 80. For those that do not live in East Texas, or Longview for that matter, Highway 80 represents a physical shift from the nicer to the older/rougher part of town. The highway itself is filled with strip clubs, homeless, and even prostitutes. All people that need Jesus. So why aren’t more churches built along 80? Ultimately, I think, it boils down to our modern church model. The people who would attend a church located on Highway 80 are not the type who would be able to contribute money on a regular basis for tithe (which keeps the church running). A church located along this line would have to be ran on donations or some other sort of creative model. Not sure how one would accomplish this but the need to meet people where they live is great. No matter what the cost.

But We Are Called To Step Out.

As we saw starting in Acts 5, if we do not step out and go, God will stir up the church and make us go.

What does all of this look like in practice?

  1. Taking on a God-perspective and seeing people as He sees them.
  2. Recognizing that there is a need to tell people about Christ outside of our churches, our comfort zones.
  3. Not only recognizing but also actively doing something about it (the going part). This can be as simple as engaging a co-worker in conversation; this can be has complicated as physically moving overseas to preach the Gospel.
  4. Regardless of location, all Christians are called to share about Christ.

I do not think that there is anything wrong with going to church or sharing life with other believers as the early Christians did in Acts. At some point though, we are supposed to branch out: locally, nationally, globally. Living with the perspective that God has, that there are needs all around us, is hard. I know personally I find it hard to step out of my own life situation. Too often I get bogged down in the day-to-day stuff. As a Christian, I am called to be active, to engage, and to go. For most of us, I don’t think this means suddenly selling all of our possessions and moving overseas. Obedience is the key here as we strive to daily live in obedience to Christ and share Him with those around us.

What do you think?

Yielding My Heart

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Last night, I taught a Bible study on the Book of Joshua, chapter 24.  A chunk of Joshua 24 is about the Israelites recommitting themselves/ renewing their covenant to follow God. Towards the end of the chapter, right after the people have agreed to the covenant, Joshua exhorts the people to:

23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (NIV)

This got me thinking about the “foreign gods” that I allow into my own life. One of my daily routines, when I wake up, is to check:

  • My email
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • WordPress (for blog stats)
  • and the weather

I do all of these things before ever engaging in a conversation with my wife, let alone spending time with God. In a way, I have let social media become a god. So, today I didn’t go through my morning routine. Instead, I read my Bible for a bit (had trouble focusing) and then prayed for awhile. My time of prayer was awesome! I’ve been learning not to beat around the bush but to tell God exactly what I am thinking (even though He already knows).  In an act as simple as putting down social media as the first thing I engage in, in the morning, I have “yielded my heart to the Lord”.

What foreign gods do you need to throw away? What is keeping you from yielding your heart to the Lord?

What God Has Been Teaching Me

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All I have to do is look to you
And I will never be the same
My lifes been changed
And like a child, I will play despite the rain

– Between Thieves

God has been really working on me lately. Teaching me that:

  • I need to be faithful in the little things (10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10): Practically, on a daily basis, this looks like showing up for work on time and having a good attitude about it. Also means being excited about the opportunity to actually teach a Bible study versus bumming over having to study for it. Perspective is everything.
  • That God fulfills His promises43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” – Joshua 21:43-45): With all of life’s challenges, knowing that I am not alone. That God is with me and isn’t going to forsake me and leave. Knowing that He is with me is comforting.
  • That God works in His own time (the entire book of Haggai): Even when it feels like I am stuck in life, that no answers are being given, that God is still working in the background. Orchestrating my life’s story.
  • To focus on Him, not worry, and everything else will fall into place (25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34): Worrying about everyday life is a huge thing for me. Will I ever have a job where I can support my wife? Will we ever be able to own a house? God says not to worry. I should take Him at His word.

What has God been teaching you?

Game Plan: Daily Bible Reading

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Imagine being in a relationship and only talking to your boyfriend/ girlfriend for 10-15 minutes a day. Do you think you’d end up being married in a years time? I don’t think so. This week, I’ve been struggling with my daily Bible reading, my alone time with God. As a result, I have felt the impact of my non-reading physically, mentally, and spiritually. I feel like I am drowning and it is only Tuesday. Tuesday! So, I have decided right this moment to come up with a game plan to actively recommit myself:

1. Being Purposeful – I need to actively schedule a time, everyday, to sit down and read God’s Word. I know that mornings are hit and miss for me. Which leaves me with 2 choices:

  • Reading over my lunch break, or…
  • Reading right before bed. I would definitely have to commit to developing a better bedtime routine to make this happen.

2. The Prayer Perspective – Prayer, communicating with God, is not a one time deal sort of thing. Prayer, in my mind, is something that should be continuously flowing throughout the day. Everyday, I need to be praying for a God perspective. That is to say that I view the world through God’s eyes. When we step out of our own perspectives and see the bigger picture, it allows us to pray about things beyond ourselves.

On my way to work, there is a sign posted in a neighborhood yard that says, “Pray for John”. Now, I have no clue who John is. John could be the elderly man I see sitting in the garage watching cars go by. Whoever John is, he needs prayer. I find myself often randomly praying for John as I drive by. Do I benefit from this? No. Does John? Yes. I need to be in prayer daily not only for myself (overcoming temptations,etc.) but for the world around me. I need a God perspective and NOT a me perspective.

That’s it! By committing to a specific time of day (and remaining flexible) and engaging in prayer through God’s eyes, I should be able to radically change my messed up week. Should be simple enough to follow right? I’ll let you know how it goes as the week progresses.

God: Working Behind the Scenes

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I stood out in the front yard last night watching the clouds swirl by. A storm was coming. The sky was growing darker by the minute as the clouds rotated in an eerie fashion. Sirens blared off in the distance, a tornado had been spotted in the northern part of our county. Beauty and death danced before me in the clouds, such a mix of awe and fear.

Back in the house, the weatherman was drenched in full HD glorified sweat. I openly wondered if he was going to have a heart attack. He didn’t. He did, however, rant and rave about “rotations” and “charging up your cell phone”. There was no calm, no awe in his voice, just fear.

When the weather outside is possibly life threatening and the weatherman is swamped in a fear-induced froth, I find it hard not to become fearful as well. But fearful of what? Tornadoes, “death from above” as I like to call them, are random creatures. They can be slow moving and quick to strike without notice. In other words, I have no control over them.

Journeying through life, we live under the illusion that we are in control. We aren’t. Lately, I’ve been studying through the Old Testament. Reading through the book of Joshua, I have read time and time again of God orchestrating massive events, even using evil things for good. Though we are not in control, God is. Even in times where it doesn’t seem like He is answering our prayers, He is working behind the scenes as the book of Haggai points out. But even with God in control, our daily choices still matter. Choices such as whether to let fear rule our lives, instead of the hope of Christ (for those who have accepted Him), these choices matter.

Are the clouds of fear swirling around you? Does destruction seem to be looming on the horizon? Take hope in that God is orchestrating all things for the good of those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)