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Discernment and Hollywood

March 31, 2014
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Ever since “The Passion of Jesus Christ” came out, I’ve been hearing folks in the church tell others at the church to stay far away from movies like these. Because “Son of God” and “Noah” are so bad that Christians would do better to not see it nor waste their money. After all, we have plenty of other things to waste our time and money on…but nobody wants to go there. Neither shall I. But I fear that we’re missing the point.

Of course Hollywood is going to create a movie that will disappoint believers. That’s a given. So while pastors, leaders, and other believers are telling others to not go see it, and maybe even go read the biblical text instead, the question remains – how should believers dialogue with those who’ve seen the movie?

Here we have two options, though normally we chose option 3.

1 – Go watch the movie that’s gained so much hoopla so that we can dialogue with some knowledge and be ready to give an answer for the hope we have

2 – Not watch the movie and honestly listen to those who have and then ask questions in relation to the biblical account

3 – Don’t watch the movie and immediately get attitudes with those who have because obviously they’re not believers, their pastors don’t love them much, or they don’t love Jesus

Understanding that Hollywood is out to make money which requires sparking viewers attention through the movie trailers, it’s imperative that believers not forget these facts. It’s also imperative that we speak to those movie watchers with grace and seasoned speech in case the door of opportunity is opened. After all, we may get to share Jesus with those who already love Jesus and those who don’t.

 


Dare To Be Different

March 31, 2014
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I, as a Christian, sometimes dare myself to be different from the majority of Christians that I know. Now that can be taken many different ways, so please allow me to clarify.

I do go out of my way to be loving to folks who look and act really different and off-putting to church folks. Why? Because I want these people to know that I see them as someone made in God’s image even though I don’t dress how they dress or act how they act. Just because the world acts like all believers are hypocrites and judgmental doesn’t mean I need to give them any extra reason to believe such nonsense. Nor do I need to follow suit with their unreasonable expectations from believers that they’ve seen and heard time after time after time.

I love my fellow believers more than I love those in the world. That’s not even a question. But I love constantly considering something Matthew recorded Jesus saying in chapter 25 that rocks my world. Initially, I would read that text and ignore it out of ignorance thinking I was better than the lost having forgot how wretched I used to be. However, I’ve come to the realization that this text needs to be taught and re-taught to believers in the pews in efforts that they too dare to be different.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ (Matt 25)

May the Lord bless you and pierce your heart with these verses


His Camp Is Not My Camp, So Now What

March 27, 2014
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Luke 9 contains two verses that struck me deep into the heart and provoked me to change my stance. Once you are allowed entrance into a camp or a brotherhood of like-minded individuals, the thinking is to preserve homogenized unity at all costs. To some extent, robots are born and built inside camps like these. And heaven forbid someone threatens the borders and edges of our camps with anything that isn’t done by us, for us, with us, or through our theological system to which we embrace and proclaim.

The apostles were no different. They were allowed to enter into the closeness of Jesus’ circle for a few years. They were given great insight through his parabolic teaching while the outsiders were left confused. So here in Luke 9, we see something that shows the thinking of the apostles and the correction of Jesus towards them.

“John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you. (49-50)”

Apostles thought it best to report to Jesus what those people in that other camp were doing. They were wanting him to go do something about it. Verse 49 isn’t just about information; it was about condemnation. In other words, their hearts were jealous and envious that they sought to accuse them with hopes of showing their works to be useless and vain. They completely overlooked the fact that these outsiders were doing what Jesus commissioned the apostles to do. That wasn’t important. The great importance lies with this statement – “we tried to stop him” – because it was their attempt to show themselves to be righteous and ultimately correct in light of this guy and outsiders being wrong and unrighteous. “Because he does not follow with us” is a key marker. Stopping him because his camp isn’t theirs is precisely their ultimate reasoning.

Now Jesus gracefully corrects them with a commanding rebuke – “do not stop him” – that causes your ears to perk up and your face to make that crumpled confused look. What on earth could Jesus mean to say don’t interfere? This guy is doing something we thought only we had the power and commission to do. How on earth can this guy and others get involved? This thing is no bigger than us because we’re the great apostles. But Jesus says “for the one who is not against you is for you” my sweet apostles. That guy isn’t against you. He’s just not in your camp doing it your way. But he’s not against you, he’s doing what he’s been commanded to do. So he can’t be against you if he’s doing the same thing you’re doing, just not with you. He’s for you because I’m for you….because I’m for me. I’ve sent you all out to cast out demons and display the power of God because I want my glory and power to be made known to the spiritual powers and principalities as well as the means, or vessels, that I use. So both camps are making much of me for my glory and therefore cannot be against each other.

This is something to keep in mind next time we want to flail our arms all around because someone’s got a different method or assignment that didn’t come from our camp. Trust in Jesus instead and realize that all of this is for the glory of God, soli Deo gloria.


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I Cannot Hear Him

March 4, 2014
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I often prefer to speak to those who speak back. Face to face communication is wonderful. Texting has its place as well, but there’s nothing like being able to read body language and mannerisms as opposed to trying to read it through a text message. Talking on the phone is the next best thing in case of emergencies, quick check ups, or the distance too great for a face-to-face. Much can be accomplished through talking over the phone, especially if there’s hostility between the two parties. But there lies that often preferred method. Even if it is to shoot the breeze about a bunch of nothing. 

So why can’t prayer be that way? Why can’t prayer be a preferred method for believers? Why isn’t prayer considered face-to-face communication with Jesus? These questions rack my brain without a solid answer.

I’m led to believe there’s a myriad of subjective reasons why Christians truly struggle with prayer. However, I believe that Philippians 4 gives us great objective truth as insight into the subjective reasons. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:4-6)

1. Rejoice in Jesus

It’s one thing to say Jesus is our joy, and yet another thing to believe that our joy can only be always found in Jesus. Too often we don’t see, have, or believe there is joy in Jesus. I’m talking when we’re away from church ears cause we all know that’s when we’ll get sincere statements. If there’s no joy, quite possibly there’s no trust. 

2. The Lord is near

Have we forgotten the Bible’s teaching? Jesus came to make a home with us in our hearts. He left the earth for heaven so that the counselor, the Holy Spirit, could come and dwell within us. Having made a covenant with us through the New Covenant, Jesus told us that he’s with us to the end of the age so he’ll never leave us nor forsake us because of his covenant faithfulness. Are we really believing these things? If we believed this phrase, perhaps we wouldn’t think the Lord to be out of touch with what’s going on in our lives. 

3. Don’t worry about anything is a command

This is where I stink and fail over and over and over. I worry that God is able but not able enough to change people who don’t want to change. So basically, I’m believing that God is less powerful than humans. Sure I dress it up in language that God won’t turn his creation into puppets without responsibility. But the truth is I question his sovereignty more than I care to admit. I know I’m not alone. Others worry if God even hears them. Others worry if they’ll ever get an audible answer. Some worry about using the correct verbiage. If we concern ourselves with this being a command, then we can focus on our being obedient to it.

4. Let your requests be made known is a plea

Those things that we worry about are exactly the things we should pray about. In fact, take everything that’s bothering you. Now some say don’t pray for yourself, just others. Some say follow a pattern of prayers (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). I find both of those methods lacking and hopeless. It’s best we follow the text here. Take everything we know about and make it known (as in presenting it) to God. I do think this method can lead to us praying without ceasing because we’re praying in the moment about particular things. 

So although we may not audibly hear God respond to us after we finish presenting our requests to him, be assured that the truths in these 3 verses are always true and they matter for all believers. 

 


Stare At Him

March 4, 2014
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This blog post is for the perfectionist. The lustful. The porn addict. The dreamer. The Do It Yourselfer. The lazy. The athlete. The nerd. The outcast. The low self-esteem. The broke. The rich. The poor. The lonely. The hurting. The abused. The abuser. The bully. The politician. The pacifist. The police. The coward. The anonymous. The fearful. The handicapped. The vain. The too cool. The atheist. The religious. The confused. The fool. The educated. The unaccepted. The rapist. The abortionist. The unfit. The techy. The loner. The overlooked. The underpaid. The single parent. The homeless. The whore.

Whatever you are, this post is for you.

Stare at Him! Stare at Jesus. Look to Jesus. Set your eyes on Jesus. Don’t take your eyes off Jesus.

“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus.

This Hebrews 12 verse is truly for our benefit, people. Don’t take this lightly. Don’t presume this to be some mental exercise. Don’t assume this to be too hard. Just take this verse at face value.

So gon ahead and stare at him.


Why I Feel Invincible

March 4, 2014
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As I reflected on my childhood last week, I began to notice this reoccurring blight on my memory radar. This was a HUGE problem for me then all the way up till now. But why did God allow this? Why did that have to happen for me?

As I thought through those questions, I began to wonder why I chose the word ‘for’ instead of ‘to.’ That’s what sparked this blog.

As soon as I stepped out of the shower, a verse hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if God saw fit to answer my question. Steven, are you paying attention….here’s why: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Right here in Romans 2:4 I had my answer, but let me unpack this for you.

I used to be the ‘sneaky’ one in my family. For real, I was given that title as a kid in my innocent state. It was more for my ability to sneak up to people without being heard beforehand. Little did they, and I, know that I’d don that idea all the way throughout my college years refining it every step of the way. I used that persona to cheat on tests and girlfriends; to steal from my classmates; to have sex with my girlfriends; to be devious and conniving behind the backs of my friends; to lie to my mom and other adults who wanted to help me; to lie to folks in the church who wanted more out of me; and I used it to lie to myself as I unknowingly lied to God.

I got so good at it that I began to believe my own hype. Every time I got away with some mischievous deed, a smile came across my face once the coast was clear, and my sense of invincibility grew like a monster in a dark closet. Eventually that monster was big like Shaq and strong like Arnold back when he did steroids. And like all other two-headed monsters, it got way out of control. I was Steven the invincible. Nothing could touch me, catch me, correct me, and definitely not change me. But I was the only one who could change myself. So I walked through life like that. The saddest part of this is since my freshmen year in high school, I was a believer. But I lived with that mindset for so many years. I didn’t contain it nor did I want to. I was immensely jacked up.

God’s tolerance, kindness, and patience wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t grow up in church nor did I attend a faithfully preaching biblical truth to practical living ratio church. Those things were not even terms I associated with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. I only conceived of those in reference to my mom. But nevertheless, I thought less of God’s attributes because I thought less of God.  So I fit right with the thinking of Paul to the Roman Christians. I was truly one of them for far too long. Instead of thinking God was a forgiving, patient Father, I saw it as me getting away from danger because I was that good. I made that happen. I was a professional schemer and the proof was in the pudding.

Then Paul goes on to say something that just makes a proud Christian humble and want to slap himself. Do you not know that God’s being kind to you? He’s well within his rights as creator to kill you or give you a horrifying sickness. Yet God’s patiently waiting for his children to wake up and realize that there’s a bigger goal he has in mind. Yes you’re sinning and thinking you’re getting away with it while, like a Pharisee praying, thinking you’re so much better than others who don’t go to your church. Wake up! God’s patience isn’t to be mocked. What you reap all stems from what you’ve sown. God has a bigger goal in mind.

Repentance. God is waiting for you to see that he is a patient, forgiving, longsuffering Father so that you’ll realize whom you’re sinning against and repent!!!

So why did I feel invincible as I got away with my evil deeds? Because God wants me and you to repent. He’s that faithful. So no more does the feeling of ‘sneaky’ mean the same thing to me, nor should it to you. Just because people don’t see us or can’t catch us definitely doesn’t rule out the who sees all and is everywhere to erase the feeling of sneaky from your understanding.