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The Persecuted Church

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Brief thought of the night (after a few months off).

Tonight I taught my teens about the persecuted church. First we looked at Acts and how the early Christians lived. Secondly, we discussed what that looked like.

Thirdly, we watched some videos, such as the one included below:

My wife then posed an amazing question (which is why I married her, because she’s stinkin’ awesome.).

We watched about 6-8 videos of persecuted Christians. We were touched emotionally and encouraged by their faith. Her question was this:

How would the persecuted church react if they were to sit down and watch a video of our lives and testimony in one of their services?

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Categories: Christianity, Church, Missions

Stuff That Makes Me Mad

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

So, I’ve recently found a website called Topix, where they have individual forums by zip code. I’ve been in my hometown zip, and the surrounding areas reading, when suddenly some Christian issues came up. Basically, it happened where there were some anti-theists spouting normal anti-theist propaganda that is easily refuted and basically nothing more than trolling on their part.

I simply went on there replying to some of these people. Some of the people were educated and nice. I like people like that. They are respectful and listen and can carry on conversations that are easy to follow and educated. Some of the other people were nothing more than trolls, making ad hominem attacks and doing zero to help their cause.

But then something interesting happened. I’m from the hills of Tennessee where there’s a lot of traditional evangelicalism that goes around. That’s what I was raised in. It’s very easy growing up in that to fall into an almost Pharisaical trap. That whole “holier than thou” attitude.

I’ll admit it, in high school, that was me. I was a great kid…and I knew it. I stayed out of trouble. I never drank, chewed, went with girls who did…(that didn’t rhyme). This caused me to be very arrogant in some things. When it came to the Bible and whatnot, I was very arrogant. As I went to college, it got worse. It wasn’t until I did my internship and got into apologetics that I began to open up to the fact that not only did I not know everything, but I didn’t know much at all. From that point on, I have seen the importance of studying to defend my faith, explain it, and to not be a total jerk while doing so.

I love studying. I love learning more. And I’ll be honest – I don’t think there are enough Christians who do so. Too many Christians are uneducated when it comes to their faith. As they hear the typical “arguments” from anti-theists, they balk. In my opinion, education of Christians MUST take place.

Anyways, on this website, after talking for a while, I was attacked. Except it was by another “Christian.” I was called arrogant and this guy kept asking me all about if I trusted education, being a youth pastor, knowledge, or good works to get me into heaven. He keeps asking me for my views on different things. He has called me a punk and arrogant.

I’ve had to re-read the things that I have typed to make sure he really is just an insane person. I asked my best friend to read through the threads, and he confirmed the guy is insane.

This is what makes me mad: JUDGMENTAL CHRISTIANS.

I am all for purity within church. I am all for church discipline. I’m all for people making sure that other Christians truly are living up to the Bible whenever they claim to be followers of Christ. But what I am not for is people to publicly rebuke other Christians, especially when they are surrounded by non-Christians in the community.

Let’s face it, with numerous scandals going on in different churches, the public has plenty of fire-power that they call on. Christians who claim to follow Christ need to have those fruits in their lives of a Christ follower. I will never condone sin. But I also know that speaking the truth in love is an imperative in the Christian life. And that is not just when sharing our faith and dealing with the non-Christian, but I believe it is just as equally important (if not even more important) to do so with the Body of Christ. The Bible paints such a beautiful picture of the unity amongst members.

So this is what makes me mad – it’s not the judgmental, correcting attitude. That is scriptural. We must help keep other people accountable to following Christ. What makes me mad is whenever people publicly confess Christ, but come across as such arrogant jerks, it almost turns me off from Christianity.

But of course, I know I don’t have a lot of room to speak, because that is even me sometimes.

So, since we know that this is wrong, how do we correct it? Honestly, what are your helpful tips and hints to dealing with the negative nancies of Christianity? How do we maintain purity, even when dealing with the people who have it all figured out (like I used to.) Arrogance is something I have always fought, so what do we need?

American Christianity

March 4, 2010 2 comments

I haven’t posted for a while. With Mountain Faith Mission still dealing with the earthquake in Haiti and whatnot, my mind has been elsewhere. To keep track of those things, check out Run 4 Haiti that I keep updated with Haiti stuff.

I don’t pretend to have it all together. I’ll go ahead and tell you now, when I get mad, I say stuff I shouldn’t. There are a lot of days when I’m in a bad mood, I treat my wife like crap. And, there are certain people that make me want to punch them in the face. That’s who I am. And honestly, I hate those characteristics about myself. I don’t brag or boast about any of that, but I feel that this is a necessary element to this post in order to show you I’m not pointing fingers at people and claiming that I am holy, when I clearly have work that needs to be done.

In the past few weeks, while studying about the Church with my youth, God has really just gripped my heart at my attitude towards church and my life. I find that I fall into the same traps that the Israelites did in the Old Testament. Such as:

Malachi 3:13-15

13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. 
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ “

The Israelites were only worshiping God to see what they could get out of it. If we were honest with ourselves, we could look back at how many times we’ve attended church to “worship” God, and the number would be astounding at how many times we had vain worship. By vain, I simply mean, empty worship. It was nothing. We went through the motions. And why? Because we simply wanted to put the check mark on our list so we could say we’d been to church.

THIS IS NOT WHAT CHURCH IS!!!

Or, how about this one:

Isaiah 58:3-6

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, 
‘and you have not seen it? 
Why have we humbled ourselves, 
and you have not noticed?’ 
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please 
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, 
and in striking each other with wicked fists. 
You cannot fast as you do today 
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, 
only a day for a man to humble himself? 
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed 
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? 
Is that what you call a fast, 
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice 
and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free 
and break every yoke?

The Israelites again are simply making God ANGRY because they are going through motions that they think will please Him. And yet, they are leaving off so many other commands that He has given – such as loving other people!!!

We all fail when it comes to this. We’re sinful people who fail. But, the question is: What are we doing to make sure we are following God closely?

You see, I look at Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, etc. of people I know who are professing Christians, and I see so many of them living lives contrary to the Gospel, and yet they say, “God will bless me, etc.”

I’ve got friends who got pregnant and are now living, unmarried, with the fathers of their children. They live a life that I believe is clearly contradictory to the way that God has established for man and woman according to the Bible, and they flaunt it for all to see. And in the same breath, they talk about how good God is and whatnot. 

Or, my other friends who post on people’s pages – “I’ll pray for you because of this or that…” and then you glance at their pictures and see the type of lifestyle they lead is completely contrary to that of Scripture.

And I pick on these instances, because they’re EASY to see.

The problem here is that people are either Biblically ignorant, or simply picking and choosing what they want to live by. Inconsistent Christianity is not Christianity.

In America, we have struggled with this issue. We have removed the offensive parts of Scripture – namely the “Follow God with everything you have by dying to yourself” – in order to please man and make him feel better. But that’s where I struggle. The Bible clearly states the call of Christ as taking up one’s cross, an instrument of torture and death, and following Christ. It’s no longer about us and what we want, but it’s all about following Christ.

Because we have softened the call of Christ to nothing more than “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, so now I can do whatever I want…” it has permeated the attitude of Christians to make them nothing more than social club attendees who want a gold star. And this is not following Christ.

It effects me every day. I consistently have to ask myself, “Ryan, why are you doing this? Is it for you or is it for God?” Because my flesh is so weak. I love attention. I love people to comment on the things that I do and say. I love getting bragged on. I am self-centered. And yet, if I claim that I follow Christ – I am dead and Christ lives in me.

You see, I’ve come to realize that I cannot live a life that is contrary to Scripture. When the Bible says that “x” is wrong, then I must be obedient to this way of thinking. When the Bible tells me that sex outside of marriage is wrong, I cannot say, “Well, God will forgive me…” When the Bible tells me that blessings and cursings shouldn’t come from the same mouth, I cannot say, “But I was really mad…” I am dead. I have died. I let Christ live in me. And I follow Him according to His Words that are contained within the Bible.

Why have we missed this point? Why do we find so many people in the church who live lives according to their own Gospel, and then just pull what feels comfortable out of Christ’s Words?

The call of Christ is not one that leads Christians to comfort. In my opinion, the call of Christ will always lead us to discomfort, because we are battling our flesh in order to be submissive to Christ.

How uncomfortable are you?

What Is Discipleship?

February 8, 2010 1 comment

In the never ending quest to study the church and what makes it up, we hit on discipleship last week. What does God expect?What does He want from Christians? Do we just become Christians and then suddenly, we’re good to go? We can just come to church (and even only when we feel like it at that) and sing and go home? Or, is there something deeper?

Anyone who has read this blog for more than 5 days knows that I loathe Biblical Illiteracy. The statistics on Americans who claim to be Christians and their knowledge of the Bible is nothing short of embarrassing. We have tons of education, so what’s so special about learning the Bible?

But, the case can easily be built that God expects a Christ follower to grow in their knowledge of who He is – and never stop growing.

There are a few different points and aspects that Scripture builds as to what a Christian’s life should look like once he or she makes that profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. Growing from a child to an adult:
    Let’s begin here.

Ephesians 4:14-16 – “Then we will no longer be immature like children…Instead, we will…grow in every way more and more like Christ.”

1 Peter 2:2-3 – “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, Read more…

Things That Irritate Me

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Good morning. I have two topics on my mind of which to write about this morning. Both have a great deal of interest to me. Who knows where this will go.

The Bachelor

Since I got married last May, the things that come on my television have changed dramatically. Last summer, my wife watched The Bachelorette, and I’ll openly admit that I sat with her and watched it. I’ll even openly admit that for a while, I enjoyed it. It was interesting to me to see how people reacted in meeting a complete stranger.

Yet, mid-Summer, something changed in me. I began to notice so many underlying themes within the show. 

Last week, The Bachelor premiered, and of course it was on my television. One of the guys who appeared from last summer’s girl-version is the new bachelor on the show – Jake. Blah blah blah.

As it’s been on (and honestly, I’m in the room, but last night I caught a great Big East battle with Villanova and Louisville on ESPN360.com) I’ve caught parts here and there. Last night, it really began to bother me some of the things that were said, done, and talked about.

For example, the “contestants” if you will, apply to be on this show based upon the person who is going to be featured as the one who is searching for love. So here comes 25 women to compete for the attention of this guy’s “love.” Suddenly, last night, I found all of this the most shallow approach to dating that I have ever seen. Sure, it’s entertaining, but it’s completely wrong. 

How many people would love to have that chance? Honestly, I bet millions of people would love to have 25 people of the opposite sex gawk over them and compete for their chance at love. We’ve turned relationships into nothing more than a 2-hour special on television. These girls complain and whine and moan about how so-and-so isn’t a good person and that they came here with the wrong intentions. The girls cry and claim that they just want their shot at true love, because they’ve been cheated on and etc.

Does this sicken anyone else?

What happened to real relationships? The show is set up (and very scripted in case you’ve never noticed…) for the Bachelor(ette) to have a ring on the finger by the time the finale comes. Say what? Where’s the special relationship? Here’s two or three girls at the end, fighting to be proposed to, and it’s suddenly a shock to the audience about who gets the ring?

I have to question: Is it really about meeting someone, or does the fact that people get their 15 minutes of fame play into it? Why would someone want to have what should be special and private broadcast into millions of homes every week? Maybe some people like that. But, maybe some people don’t think.

So, what’s my point in all of this? I want people to look at this show critically. I know it’s entertaining. I don’t forbid my wife to watch it at all. I just think it shows a great picture of why there are so many relationship problems in the world, today. When we look at what entertains us on television, and how those relationships manifest themselves on the television show, it should come as no surprise that there is a great divorce rate and that teenagers have relationships that last 3 months before they move onto the next person.

Society has come to condone and accept this type of relational behavior. Read more…

Teens Thoughts on Sexting

December 3, 2009 1 comment

How appropriate that I would log onto Yahoo this morning to see the headline:

Poll: 1 in 4 young people have been involved in sexting

Go ahead and read it for yourself. It’s scary.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to address the issue with teenagers. I’m still a young guy; newlywed who barely has my feet wet in ministry. But, it hasn’t seemed to be that big of a deal just to be honest – until now.

This is two articles this week that I’ve read concerning sexting.

In case you don’t know, sexting is when students send sexually explicit photos of themselves to someone else. I suppose that words could be sent too, but with today’s society and photo phones, just jump to the worst conclusion, because it is happening.

This article raises a lot of good points:

  1. There is no guilt involved…sorta. “I just don’t see it as that big of a problem, personally” is what 16-year-old Sammy replied concerning the issue. Sammy admitted to sharing nude photos of himself with his girlfriendS.  Yes, that large “s” is on purpose.  That’s plural.  At the age of 16, Sammy has done it twice. Likewise, Thelma, a 25-year-old has shared her photos with love interests, too. She said…”It’s just when you’re talking to a guy who’s interested in you, and you might have a sexual relationship, so they just want to see you naked,” she said, adding that she never complied with those requests.  That language use is scary to me. “Just” is used so casually.  “Oh, sexting…it’s just sending nude photos of yourself that you’ll probably regret someday!”
  2. Why is there only “sorta” no guilt? Well, both interviewees asked that their last name not be used. This is pure speculation, but why? If it’s just “not a big deal” and “just sending nude photos to love interests” then why not proclaim who you are?
  3. Guys claim it is hot when girls send photos of themselves. Girls call it “slutty…” and yet most do it anyways.
  4. I don’t want to have children now.

There’s a lot to chew on in that article. I mean, just look at your teens, whether they’re in your youth group or live in your home because you’re one of those parent things. What ways do you have to control this and address the issue? Read more…

My Generation

December 1, 2009 1 comment

This has been on my mind a bit lately, and I’d love to get some thoughts from those of you who read.

Weekly, I usually check out the headlines surrounding teenagers and young adults to really see what’s going on out there. And I’ll be honest, a lot of times it depresses me.

In this present decade of teenagers, let’s look at what they’re facing:

  • Sexting. Teenagers sending nude, semi-nude, or very explicit language through text-messages in order to “flirt.” (Just read an article dealing with this where a girl did so, broke up with her boyfriend, the picture leaked to school, and she committed suicide.)
  • Sexually Explicit Music. I mean, really…you don’t have to look much further than one post below this where I talk about Britney Spears’ song “3” which talks about group sex. Add that onto pretty much any other mainstream song from artists of the like and you’ll understand what I mean.
  • Failing Morals. The study found here essentially says that teenagers today think lying and cheating are the proper way to live ones life.
  • Increased sexual activeness. My buddy David over at iPopculture.net just posted about this yesterday.  1 in 4 teenage girls supposedly has an STD. Need I say more?
  • Apathy toward the church. Oh come on!  You know I talk about this frequently.  At least once a month I get on here and complain about apathy. Read more…