Should I Boycott Finding Dory?

Ellen DeGeneres made quite a stir this week when she mentioned that the new Pixar movie, Finding Dory, includes a transgender stingray – becoming “stingrhonda” in the movie. News sites around the world jumped on the story. Teen Vogue published a website article on this topic in which the article’s author expressed acceptance, and even joy, at the progressive inclusion: “Instead of treating being transgender as an ‘adult’ topic, the movie including ‘stingrhonda’ will show kids that transgender people — or in this case stingrays — are a normal part of life … and that’s pretty awesome.”

As a bit of a disclaimer, I have not seen the movie. I cannot affirm whether DeGeneres was perhaps joking or whether there is actually a transgender stingray (some say it’s a joke but I’ve seen no official word). I wouldn’t be surprised if DeGeneres was joking and I wouldn’t be surprised if “stingrhonda” is in the movie. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if Christian parents, who claim the Bible’s authority and its teachings on gender, orientation and sexuality, still take their children to see the movie. Some families who homeschool their children or send them to private Christian school in order to better protect them from the influences of this society would likely still go see the movie. Why? Because it’s summer, we all loved Finding Nemo, and we just can’t imagine not seeing Finding Dory. So, should I boycott Finding Dory?

 Let me back up just a moment. I am from a Southern Baptist family and grew up in church in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of this, I clearly remember the Southern Baptist Convention’s call for a boycott of Disney. I remember the reasons – Disney was leading the social charge toward complete societal acceptance of homosexuality as a norm. I remember the laughter from observers. I remember the Southern Baptist families who thought that the boycott was completely ridiculous, went to Disney World as planned and continued to buy  every product and attend every Disney production that was available. Alas, the boycott was unsuccessful and the Southern Baptist Convention called for its end after eight years. Not surprisingly, the reasons for the boycott have not diminished at Disney – they have actually become standard throughout all of the entertainment industry and beyond.

Because some Christians felt Disney should have been boycotted and others, clearly, did not, a more revealing question should have arisen: What could Disney do or promote that would finally make you say, “I’m out. No more Disney”? Seriously, what could they have done to make you stay away?

To be clear, I’m not trying to jump on Disney. The Disney boycott is a very public example from the past. But it highlights the questions that should still be asked today. What needs to happen in entertainment for me to finally just say, “I’m out”? Do I really need to boycott, or would we collectively send a stronger message if we all used more daily discernment. Discernment is front and center in Paul’s admonition to the church at Colossae:

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. – Colossians 3:1-7

 The real problem is not that we are unsuccessful in a public boycott of companies who cross the next line that had seemed so unlikely to be traversed. The problem is that millions of Christians are daily subjecting themselves to the filth of this earth – and asking for more. The “when you were living in them” of Colossians 3:7 is resolved as “today – I’m living in all of those things today.” The problem is that we willingly desensitize ourselves to every form of evil in the vacant search for happiness through entertainment without taking seriously Paul’s admonition.

I do not carelessly use the pronoun “we” in these sentences; I am guilty of stooping to be entertained. Streaming services have brought the vilest, late-night, subscription channel programming to our living rooms to be binge watched by Christians without filter. Extreme profanity, nudity, illicit sex acts, drug use, murder, rape, incest, polygamy, greed, homosexuality, gluttony, nymphomania and literally every form of biblically-identified evil are consumed based more on a judgment of how compelling the storyline is rather than how lowly, in a Colossians 3 sense, the programming is. We’ve got to do better. I’ve got to do better. It affects us more than we likely understand. It affects our joy and our gospel witness.

Rather than calling for a boycott of Finding Dory, I would like to call us to really consider our daily entertainment options – which may exclude Dory. “But every show is deprived because every show depicts life.” I get that. I’m asking that we avoid the things that we know are dark and lowly. Avoid the shows that if you edit out the “bad stuff” then you wouldn’t have much of a storyline left. So, based on that standard, maybe you still want to see Dory. At the end of the day, it’s not my job to decide what you should or should not watch. Are you comfortable with the fact that it is your job and it should be Spirit driven according to the principles of Scripture? What could your favorite show, movie or franchise do that would make you say, “Enough”? Let’s begin to restore a conviction-based approach to entertainment and see how that might affect our own joy, peace, and gospel witness to the world.

 

Bare Feet on Hot Pavement

barefootHere in the Baton Rouge area, there is a water park named Blue Bayou, which offers season passes to ease the annual Christmas present buying conundrum for grandparents and the “This house is so boring” conundrum for parents of willfully malliterate children during the summer. Last summer, as I was accompanying my kids, we met up with my son’s friend and he joined us for the day. There was only one problem: he left his shoes at the first ride. As we moved farther and farther from that first ride and as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, the pavement got hotter and hotter. I must say, he was quite skilled at running full speed from grass to grass, small puddle to small puddle, in his attempts to keep his feet from reaching a good, Cajun blackened status.

My life, at times, feels like this exercise in self-preservation. Running barefoot on hot pavement looking for tiny pockets of peace or relief in the most unlikely places. I think our friend actually hopped up on a trash can at one point just to let his feet cool for a minute. To what ridiculous means we sometimes turn in seeking relief, peace or happiness! For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ, he should be our rest, our Sabbath. The issues of this world should pale in light of our hope in Him. So, here are some passages that might remind us all that in Christ, we have shoes.

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

 John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 P.S. “Malliterate” is a word I made up. My children would immediately recognize it as such if they read more.

Yay Easter! Now What?

Easter. The big dance of the Christian world. Sunday bests. Church for everyone. Special music. Crowded rooms. The Jesus v. death verdict is in – Jesus, for the win eternal. Boom. Parking lots maxed. Children’s rooms maxed. Worship Center maxed. Easter!

MW-CA143_chocol_MG_20140418113131Easter +1 Week. Now what? Space for parking. Some space in the kids’ area. Purses resume their exalted seating level positions in the worship center. How long until Christmas?

As a pastor, it is easy to get excited about the highs of Easter. It is amazing to see a full house of people you love and first time guests singing praise to God and welcoming instruction from Scripture. At Fellowship Church, our combined locations had more people than we’ve ever had at any event – one person shy of 1300. We saw salvations at both our locations – now that’s a Happy Easter!!! But I wonder what we might be able to learn from our Easter experience to help bridge the span of life until our next happy celebration, the birth of Christ in December?

  1. Be Encouraged By Large Crowds

Crowds can be a challenge. There were several times in Scripture when Jesus sought to move away from large crowds in favor of more intimate settings with his closest companions. But I’ve got some bad news for anyone who is bothered by a packed house of worshippers on Easter Sunday – you’re going to absolutely hate heaven! When large quantities of brothers and sisters in Christ gather together and encourage each other in unified worship of our great God, then we are tasting in small portion the eternal sustenance of God’s presence. Those people to your left and right on Easter Sunday are those with whom you will likely spend eternity. Let’s get some practice in. Let’s scrimmage. This Sunday, next Sunday and the Sunday after that, let’s pack as many of our Christian brothers and sisters as possible into a space for unified, encouraging worship. Even more, let’s invite our family, friends, co-workers and strangers to these gatherings that we might love them supremely through presentation of the gospel and sensationally demonstrate the joy of worshiping God and the love we have for each other.

  1. Put in the Extra Effort

When you see a full church, just assume there are some tired people. I don’t know the ratio and I’m going to resist the urge to make one up, but a relatively small percentage of total church attenders carry out a relatively large portion of the total work to be done on a Sunday of worship gathering. These workers are, hopefully, serving from a love for God, care for the people of the church, and passion for their area of service. But fatigue can set in when services are added and workload is expanded. I’m going to offer some non-traditional, likely unpopular, advice on this point. Expand with the work. No pastor wants the few handling the work for the many. Every pastor wants more people serving because pastors want each to use the gifting that God has given him. That said, it’s not a bad thing to get tired in your work for God’s kingdom, just don’t grow weary. Tired is healthy. Tired means you did an honest day’s work. Tired means you left it all on the field, so to speak. Christian workers, let’s get tired together!

  1. Be Willing to Be Inconvenienced

A multitude of people usually leads to minimal convenience. Parking far away. Not having time for coffee due to lines. SITTING DIRECTLY NEXT TO SOMEONE!!! I’m obviously making light of this, but these issues do affect some – to the point of not coming back to church. So, let’s learn from Easter. Will you make a practice of parking as far away as possible even when the crowd is light? Will you make a practice of arriving early to clear through congested areas before they become congested? Will you make a practice of sitting two rows closer to the front and leaving fewer spaces between yourself and the person next to you? “This blog is ridiculous,” you might say. “I read this to grow spiritually and all I’m getting are instructions for where to sit.” Well, a demonstration of spiritual growth, according to Scripture, is growth in demonstrated hospitality. It is going the second mile. It is washing feet. It is a servant attitude to show love for others. If we are to learn from Easter, let’s practice intentional, sacrificial inconvenience.

  1. Celebrate Life In Christ Every Week

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Easter is the culmination of a season of reflection on Jesus’ brutal death for the sins of mankind. Friday’s theme was sacrifice and death, but Sunday’s theme is VICTORY. Out come the white clothes and bright colors. Even a rainy Easter Sunday seems vivid and full of life in every song and passage of Scripture. “Happy Easter,” we say to one another, as if to say, “Jesus did it!”

Oh, that we would carry that vision into every Sunday. That we would not grow weary, that we would not give undue recognition to the momentary defeats of the week, that we would not foster disunity, that we would not operate from selfishness, but that we would be astonished, weekly, by the extraordinary outcome of Easter – Jesus did it! Jesus is alive and my life is found in Him! I don’t need to be weary because He is my Sabbath rest. I don’t need to feel defeated, because He has claimed victory on my behalf. There is no place for my selfishness or pride because I am a portion of the body of Christ, saved to be a stone in the temple dedicated to God’s glory. Let’s show up every Sunday vibrant, full of color and in awe of Jesus’ risen life!

The excitement of Easter can set the bar for what a local church can look like. Our excitement should not be based in pride of numbers or competitiveness with other churches. Still, we can learn from Easter in these ways, and I hope we all do!

4 Steps to Being A Fool in Any Month

It’s that day again, April Fool’s Day. The day when you shouldn’t believe anything without extensive verification. A holiday of excused dishonesty and reputation-building pranks. The origins of April Fool’s Day are unknown (as noted in this interesting history.com video), but its observation is commonplace throughout the world.

On a day such as this, should I really be writing about a serious topic? Can you take me seriously or am I going to quote 2 Philippians as a source? No, I won’t make up sources and I will be serious – on the topic of being a fool. The Bible speaks quite a bit about foolery and the personification of such in any month of the year. If you are dead set on being an April Fool, here’s how the Bible says you should go about doing it:

1. Just Keep Talking

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.” – Proverbs 18:6

 No, social media user, the Bible didn’t just tell you to beat up the fool who won’t be quiet. It is saying, however, that fools have a tendency to not be quiet (and possibly a tendency to get beat). There are several other passages that deal with fools talking (Pr.10:10,14; 14:3; 17:28; 18:7; 29:11; 29:20) with the common theme being a lack of discernment regarding when to speak and when to remain silent.

So, if you would prefer to not be a fool, then you will heed James’ admonishment to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19). But if you want to be a fool, just keep talking.

2. Be Assured That You Already Know Everything

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2

 Proverbs 18, bringing the heat again! But this one isn’t a real shocker to anyone. Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a fool is just how smart he thinks he is. To be a fool, you’ll need a heaping dose of pride and self-assurance without any real basis for such things. Again, these characteristics are rebuked throughout Proverbs (10:8; 12:15; 15:5; 17:10,16,24; 23:9; 24:7; 26:4,5,11,12; 27:22; 28:26; 29:9). A fool is always instructing with no willingness to learn. A fool trusts himself over counsel. A fool returns to his folly over and over again.

So, if you would prefer to not be a fool, then you will hear that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”, and you will actually change your ways in response. But if you want to be a fool, be assured that you already know everything.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Mix It Up

“A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.” – Proverbs 27:3

Solomon couldn’t have known about the phenomenon of internet trolls when he wrote his proverbs. But each of these three steps to being a fool makes you think he’d already met a few. Fools love to stir the pot, mix it up, stoke the fire, etc. A fool views Jesus’ standard of a meek, peace-making life as weak, ineffective life. In fact, Proverbs says elsewhere that “every fool will be quarreling” (20:3). I’d be hesitant to assign causation in either direction between steps 3 and 4 of being a fool, but they are certainly complimentary. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and fools love to quarrel.

So, if you would prefer to not be a fool, then you will take seriously Jesus’ commands to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. But if you want to be a fool, don’t be afraid to mix it up.

4. Reject God and His Ways

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” – Psalm 14:1

 The first three steps to foolishness on my list are easily observable. You might have even had someone or several people come to mind as you read through them. I hope you weren’t thinking of me, though I have given some opportunity in each of these areas in the not-too-distant past. This last one is tricky. The problem here is that no human needs to try to do this one – it is the default position of every human who has ever been born, save one – Jesus. So for this one, if you want to be a fool then do nothing. Ephesians 2:1-3 states clearly that all of mankind is naturally dead to the things of God. Humans naturally believe that they might be good enough to go to heaven, or there is no heaven, or the truth is inside us and we need to be true to ourselves, or any other option not consisting of the recognition of God’s holiness, our total corruption and our complete inability to bridge the two.

So, if you would prefer not to be a fool, then respond to the call of Jesus, “come, follow me.” Jesus lived a perfect life, died an unjust death, and then defeated that death through victorious life. He did everything that we could not do: account for our rebellion against God, satisfy God’s just wrath due for that rebellion, conquer death, and ascend into God’s presence. He’s the bridge, the vehicle and the every-breath oxygen of those who are reconciled to God. He now welcomes all who will simply trust that he has done everything and submit to his gracious rule over every aspect of life.

But if you want to be a fool, then keep talking, be assured that you know everything, don’t be afraid to mix it up, and reject God and His ways.

 

 

Image By Rameshng

Leading like Jesus – How to Handle Difficult People without Giving Up

Leadership is a tricky thing. If this weren’t so, then bookstores would be much more spacious, having eliminated the need for so many tricks, tips, techniques and disciplines toward being a good leader or observing how good leaders operate. If leadership of paid employees is daunting, leadership of volunteers might seem, at times, impossible. Within the church, this leadership issue is complicated by a multifaceted objective to accomplish the mission, meet volunteers where they are and help them grow spiritually, and maintain a level of excellence that reflects well on the church and the worthiness of the work. So often, after so many disappointments, so many invitations, so many opportunities, and so much frustration, a Christian leader will yield to the temptation to just give up on a fellow follower of Jesus. “They shouldn’t still be on spiritual milk,” that leader might say. “Jesus shook the dust off of his sandals when people refused to respond.” These are true, but let’s take a closer look at how Jesus really handled difficult volunteers – Peter, Thomas, and Judas.

Peter – the “all in, then nowhere to be found” guy

Jesus had many followers, but only three were in his inner group. One of those three, Simon Peter, was quite the character. You’ve probably seen this guy in your ministry. Once he trusted in Jesus, the rest of the world better look out. Not afraid to speak up. Not afraid to jump out of the boat and walk on water. Not afraid to pull a sword against soldiers to defend Jesus. The first to clearly confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The one to stand at Pentacost and preach a sermon to which thousands would respond. It’s easy to see that Peter was a valuable asset to the Kingdom.

But valuable and easy are two different things. Though Peter was faithful and brazen enough to jump out of the boat and go to Jesus on the sea, he wasn’t consistent enough to make it all the way to Jesus without doubting, sinking, and needing physical salvation. Not afraid to pull a sword against soldiers, but not consistent enough to admit to being a Jesus follower among commoners – even a servant girl. Bold enough to preach salvation to all of the people at Pentecost from all of their respective nations, but not consistent enough to eat the same foods with Jews that he would eat with Gentiles. Peter, at times, was all over the map.

So how did Jesus handle Peter? He pulled him in close. He entrusted his most important explanations of his most important teachings to him. He did grab his hand in the water. He didn’t just forgive Peter of his denials, He renewed His calling for Peter to feed Jesus’ sheep – to be the minister Jesus had prepared him to be. After this, Peter saw it a privilege to be beaten for Jesus’ sake.

How can we lead the all-in, all-out person like Jesus did? Pull him in closer. Give her more responsibility. Help him understand how crucial to the mission he is. Most importantly, let her fail and be ready to restore and re-engage.

Thomas – the “I’m in, but I’ve got some issues” guy

Poor Thomas. He gave up everything to follow Jesus, yet we still call him “Doubting Thomas.” That said, he did have some issues worth noting. In John 11, when Jesus heard about Lazarus’ illness, His disciples warned Him not to go back because the Jews would stone Him. But Jesus was set on returning to raise Lazarus from the dead. At this point, Thomas says something interesting: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Did Thomas mean, let us go with Jesus that we may be stoned with Jesus? That would have been a brave, loyal thing to say. Or did he say with reluctance, let us go that we may die just like Lazarus is dead? Though one seems more courageous than the other, neither speaks of the confidence that should be present in the presence of Jesus. Jesus didn’t say anything about dying – Thomas came up with that himself.

In John 14, Jesus says that He’s going to prepare a place for His disciples and that they know the way to where He’s going. Leave it to Thomas to pipe in, “We don’t know where you’re going, so how are we supposed to know the way?” And most famously, in John 20, Jesus appears to the disciples but Thomas isn’t there at the time. So what is Thomas’ reaction when the others – his closest friends – tell him the great news? “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (v.25 ESV)

How did Jesus handle the guy that always seemed to have a question – an issue? He appeared again to his disciples when Thomas was present. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (v.27,28 ESV)

So how did Jesus handle Thomas? He gave him more evidence than the others. Did Thomas deserve the right to actually touch Jesus’ hands and side? No, the others apparently believed without this level of verification. But we can see from later accounts that Thomas continued in his belief hereafter.

How do we handle genuine doubters and people that have legitimate issues with plans? Give them more information – not because they deserve it, but because they are valuable in the mission and you truly want them onboard. Go out of your way to meet with them one-on-one if this might help them resolve their doubts and go all-in on the mission moving forward.

Judas – the “I’m in, but not really” guy

Jesus only picked twelve guys to closely lead during His limited ministry here on earth. One of those twelve guys was named Judas Iscariot. He was the money-handler for the disciples – a trustee, so to speak. But physically following Jesus and managing the money are as far as we can go with praise of Judas. Judas was a thief even before his famous betrayal of Jesus. When Mary was “wasting” expensive oil on Jesus’ feet, Judas protested and it was noted that he was a thief and helped himself to what was in the money bag. Of course, Judas later betrayed Jesus to the Jewish High Priest for 30 pieces of silver.

Though Judas’ story is familiar, we still might learn from how Jesus dealt with him. Judas was a regular participant. Judas had responsibilities and importance. Of the hundreds who followed Jesus, Judas was counted among the twelve. But Jesus was not fooled and does not hesitate to be straightforward with Judas. When Judas protested Mary’s use of oil, Jesus told Judas to leave her alone (Jn. 12:7). During the Lord’s Supper, when the devil had already put it in Judas’ heart to betray Jesus, Jesus identified him as a betrayer and told him to quickly do what he was going to do (Jn. 13:27). Jesus didn’t beat around the bush with Judas. Judas followed Jesus but wasn’t a Jesus follower. He heard Jesus’ teaching, but didn’t trust in or act according to Jesus teachings. Judas was in, but not really.

Jesus spoke to Judas bluntly. He did not treat Judas as one of His children (Jn. 13:18). He didn’t refuse Judas’ presence, but He also didn’t assume Judas’ devotion. Judas was counted among the number of Jesus’ disciples without really being Jesus’ disciple – one who learns from a teacher.

The Judas guy can be dangerous – to the point of death in Jesus’ case. But the Judas guy has no real power. Even Judas’ treachery led directly to the most spectacular exhibition of God’s glory on earth. We must pray that Judas guy is really Saul guy – a very religious unbeliever who is changed by God and used for his whole life. But we must not ignore the spiritual deadness or fail to speak honestly about what we see.

Even as I write this blog, I am encouraged by Jesus’ treatment of difficult personalities. The reason I’m so encouraged is because the majority of my frustration comes from Peter and Thomas people – who both proved to be fruitful in ministry. This helps me realize that if I’m a little less Peter-like in my patience with them, God can grow us both!

 

Image By Tabitha Kaylee Hawk [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

#ipromise devotion 2/10/2016

Today’s #ipromise principle: Faithfulness in giving is not found through percentages. Percentages are found in faithful giving.

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. (Deuteronomy 8:17-19 ESV)

Suppose God gives you a child. You may now be thinking, “I’m not married.” Or maybe you think, “I can’t have children.” Or, “I’m not even old enough to have children.” Kudos to the later for reading this devotion. Nonetheless, imagine God gives you a child. Along with that child comes all of the smiles, tears, experiences, achievements, disappointments and, most of all, love. As a follower of Jesus, would you imagine that God wants you to honor Him with a percentage of your parenting? Maybe you could go to church and pray 1/7 of the week and then devote the rest to entertainment, sports, labor, education, sleep, and eating. Could you be so pious as to devote 1/2 of your week to Godly pursuits?

 As Christian parents hopefully realize and strive to live out, honoring God with your child means devoting 100% of your efforts to God. That doesn’t mean church 7 days a week. That means that you demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in your sports, entertainment, labor, and education. It means that you take rest seriously. It means that you honor God with whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do (1 Cor. 10:31). Yes, some percentage of your parenting will be directly spent in church, Bible studies, prayer, and even mission efforts. But that is just a portion of the 100% faithfulness that gives glory to God.

Now, as this pertains to money – it’s no different. Too many Christians have carelessly or intentionally bought into a false dichotomy of God’s money and my money. It is all God’s money (Hag. 2:8). He has given it to you in order that you might demonstrate your faithfulness. You might say, “But this is my money. I earned it. I worked for it. I used my talents to obtain it.” Again, like becoming a parent, there is a physical achievement that is necessary – but that certainly doesn’t make you the creator of life. God equips us with talents, opportunities, and health to earn a living. We work in the sphere of grace that God provides to obtain money to glorify God. When that circle of grace and worship response is broken, we commit idolatry.

Like the parent who has been given a child, the steward of money should not give 100% to the church. But you should also not give 10% to the church and “keep 90% for myself.” It’s all God’s money. So, in whatever you eat with that money, drink with that money, or whatever you do with that money, do it all for the glory of God. Of course this will result in some percentage – a percentage that will likely grow, to your own astonishment, over the course of Christian maturity – which is given directly to your local church for Jesus’ larger kingdom work. This kingdom giving is commanded in Scripture and is beneficial to the advancement of the gospel and the glorification of Jesus’ name throughout the earth. But that percentage is not the indicator of your financial faithfulness. 100%. That’s what God wants. He doesn’t need it; He gave it to you in the first place. He wants you to understand the goodness of His ways and His decrees. He wants you to live free from the love of money so that you might love Him supremely. God wants to see what you will do with the gracious gift you have been given.

 What will you do?

  • Have you considered how you are using 100% of your finances to honor God?
  • On what expenses do you currently spend money that does not honor God’s commands of who we should be?
  • How much money will you give back to the church to advance the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ throughout the world?

Faithfulness in giving is not found through percentages. Percentages are found in thoughtful, worshipful, faithful giving.

I Promise Devotion – 1/21/2016

This week’s #ipromise principle: The Presence of God is a Promise to live in not an experience to chase.

Today’s #ipromise principle: Time is evil when we miss it’s value.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Time is the great, invisible idol of our society. Most people believe that the chaos is temporary and placid fields lie just over the near-term horizon. But then the last chaos transforms into the next chaos with no ceremony or recognition. School and sports become first careers and desire to get ahead. Young relationships and social lives become babies and night-long crying. Paying for the growing family becomes a new lifestyle standard that requires more and more overtime with less and less surplus. Babies become children and their sports and activities compete with the work requirements of this newly standardized lifestyle. Retirement disappears into a bear market and work till death seems the unavoidable conclusion. In all of these transformations, a question lurks waiting to be mentioned by pastors at the most inopportune time:

How is my use of time being graced by God to help me become more Christ-like?

As all humans are naturally evil apart from faith in Jesus Christ, so also is time that has not been redeemed. Notice how significant this time (kairos) is from the passage above, as noted by James Montgomery Boice:

“Both kairos and chronos refer to time and are frequently translated as ‘time’ in our Bibles. But chronos refers only to the flow of time, the following of one event upon another; it is the idea involved in our word ‘chronology.’ Kairos refers to a moment that is especially significant or favorable…. What this means is that time is to have this full or meaningful element for the wise Christian. Moreover, he is to redeem it or make the most of it precisely for that reason.”

Your life is especially significant and favorable for transformation out of old ways and into Jesus’ ways. Make the most of your time – redeem your time. How? By prioritizing the uses of time as Jesus prioritized his.

  1. Will you live to serve rather than to be served?
  2. Will you live as an agent of reconciliation with God to those around you?
  3. Will you demonstrate the love of God at every opportunity?
  4. Will you study God’s Word and have it ready for situations of temptation?
  5. Will you rest when you have worked and have more work upcoming?