Monday, October 22, 2012


It has long been my dream to preach in the church. To share my enthusiasm and my passion for God. To admonish and challenge His people when needed and to cheer and encourage them as well. 

I believe that, for many people, the minutia of life obscures opportunities for service to God. We get distracted in our pain, our worries, and our struggles to make ends meet or to make our marriages work or to hold on to our jobs in an uncertain world that God becomes something we do instead of a loving Father who cares.

On the other hand there are many of us who become comfortable to the point of couch potatoism. We are confident in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We share Him with others. We give to His church. We serve when asked... In other words we do ENOUGH. We become complacent because the idea of ENOUGH makes us lazy and we no longer exhibit the passion, the excitement, or the urgency that we once did... Our fire is banked and is no longer the shining beacon it once was.

On the last hand, I know we only have two but work with me here, lol. 

We have people who allow fear or anxiety keep them from where they could be... I fall into this last category. I want to preach... but struggle with anxiety and dislike being the center of attention because of this. I feel called to preach and yet rarely leave my home and even then only with a trusted few.  I want to preach despite that in my church family such opportunities are nearly non existent... Now I have spoken at an evening service so there is hope for the future and I pray that God gives me the strength, patience, and fearlessness to do so again when the opportunity arises. For the rest of us who allow fear or anxiety interfere with the work of God, I call on you to examine yourself and abandon your fear. Give it to God for perfect love drives out all fear! If you fear change pray that God shares His vision with you so you can get excited about it and in your joy forget your fear.

Above all we must remember that we are the children of the most high God. It is something we ARE, not something we do or simply believe...


John 13:34-35 (MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."

I think this is one of the most profound statements made by Christ in the New Testament. It is often overlooked because there was no great miracle, no flashing lights or prophetic promises... just a simple statement made to those closest to Him. 

Earlier Jesus stated that the Law and the Prophets could be summed up in two all encompassing commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. But now He is telling His followers that He is giving them a NEW command... in the same way I loved you, you love one another.

First off, this is amazing because Jesus is revealing his Godness here because he is giving a New Command! He is, in essence, changing... or better said, updating, the Law. The Law is the cornerstone of Jewish faith. It is the contract if you will... the very covenant between the Jewish nation and God Himself... so only God Himself has the power to alter its terms and conditions.

Secondly, this simple command removes many barriers and stumbling blocks from our paths as we try to negotiate a love based faith. Before we were to love others as we loved ourselves... but many of us don't know how to properly love ourselves. We are filled with self loathing, guilt, anger, disappointment and disdain. We overeat, indulge in addictive behavior, make painful choices and often spend so much time doing unto others that we serve out of desperation of conviction and emptiness.

We forget that, as Psalm 24 points out, as we walk with God... He will sustain us, feed us until our cup overflows and that it is this overflowing that empowers us to share our blessings with others... But Jesus removes much of our excuses and our trials with this new Command. No longer are we to love others as we imperfectly love ourselves... NO, now we are to love others as HE LOVES US!

That's Agape Love...

The kind of love described in 1st Corinthians chapter 13. This is often read at weddings, and that is appropriate, but we need to remember that this love is the kind of love God has for us, his chosen and / or adopted children. And it is this love that Jesus has now commanded us to share with others:

1 Corinthians 13
The Message (MSG)
The Way of Love

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I love the Message translation... that last bit may be more familiar when stated this way: Faith, Hope, and Love... and the greatest of these is Love. Have you ever wondered why Love is the greatest of these things? Because Love is the only one that will last eternally... remember, Love never dies! When we are rejoicing in heaven there will be no need for faith or hope because our hopes will have been realized and our faith will have been confirmed... but Love, Love is everlasting, eternal, it NEVER DIES!!

It is this that Jesus commands us to share freely with others.

In a world that constantly changes it is amazing that the thing Christ wants us to exhibit above all else is a thing that is everlasting!

So, smile more, say thank you more, offer the blessings of God on those who serve you, look for ways to show love and concern... it doesn't have to cost you more than a moment of your time... hold open a door, or an elevator; help a person pick up something they've dropped; and let that harried overworked waitress or gas station attendant know that you appreciate the thankless job they do.

Finally, make an effort to do the one thing that is most motivated by love... and is often difficult to even comprehend... FORGIVE. Forgiveness is not something we offer when a person comes to us repentant and begging for it... it is not dependent on the actions of the other party at all... it is something we need to decide to do and then do it... while praying for the strength to release our anger, bitterness, and even hatred against the person or organization who has wronged us.

There is a song... yes I know I just love sharing the lyrics to songs... that illustrates this remarkable thing called Forgiveness. It is by Matthew West and it was inspired by the true story of a woman whose daughter was killed by a young drunk driver. She knew in her heart that she would never be able to truly recover from the loss of one of her children if she held on to the bitterness and anger, so she visited the young man in prison and forgave him. This resulted in a relationship building between the two that eventually lead to him finding Christ... he wanted to know the God that would lead her to forgiving him... when he, himself, was unable to do so... its called, appropriately enough, Forgiveness:

Forgiveness by Matthew West
from the album Into The Light

It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just to real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge 
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible

It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it's power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

"All Scripture quotations in this publication are from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

. . . The Hunger Games . . .

Why?   Why?   Why?

What is it about this story that has captivated the minds of our nation's young adults?  And why is it being celebrated like this is a good thing?  I have seen the movie: I have read the 3 books... and I must say, I am disgusted.

Oh, not at the book. Not even at the movie. But at the fact that we are allowing and even encouraging our children to watch it and/or read it.  Are we blind? Or just stupid?  Perhaps lazy?

How many of you have taken the time, effort, and interest to read these three books? How many of you have simply seen the weird makeup and costumes and allowed themselves to be distracted by a pretty girl with a bow and arrow?  How many of you would agree that children killing children makes for great movies?

Let me ask that again:

How many of you would agree that children killing children makes for great movies?

That is the crux of the story.
Children killing children.

Now, there have been other movies that featured horrible violence committed against children by other children.  I know this... as I teenager I saw this... but these movies were called horror movies.  They usually featured a supernatural 'bad guy' or a mass murderer.  Either way, the movies never made us doubt that the killings were wrong or bad.  Yes, we took our guilty pleasures from movies scaring the popcorn out of us... but the actual killing wasn't celebrated, the bad guys were either caught or revealed to be boogie men.

Not this time.  This time its called Tribute!

Now, for those of you who have seen the movie but NOT read the books, please don't believe that you know the whole story.  The movie was filmed in such a way that the horror is much reduced and it focuses far more on the psychological drama than the books... but chances are that if your child has seen the movie... they HAVE or WILL read the book.

The story features a society where the victors have reduced the wholesale slaughter of children into great TV.

The world, or country, has been reduced to a ridiculously low number of people and the ruling government is known as the Capitol. Everywhere else has been reduced to simple Numbers... Districts One through Twelve. Each district has a primary industry and/or good that they supply to the Capitol. With few exceptions, the majority of the people are kept on the edge of starvation and the smallest of infractions are harshly punished.

You steal, you die. You speak out against the way you or your people are treated, your tortured and then you die. And if you keep you head down and do everything you are supposed to do... then you may still die. Starvation is a common cause of death, but one that cannot be claimed because doing so is a mark against the Capitol.

Once a year two children from each district are forced to participate in a reality TV show. Like survivor, they are dropped off into an unknown area and they have to survive... but unlike our tame TV shows... these children must murder each other in order to win.

The first book, the tamest of them all with regards to the brutal slaying of children, features a young man being gnawed on all night by ferocious monsters (that were created from the dead bodies of all the other children already murdered in the 'game') while the other children have to listen... until they finally kill him out of mercy, or because they can't stand to hear him whimper anymore.

Think about that, your children are reading a story where the 'hero' had to cause another child/teenager to fall into a group of monsters and then listen to his screams and whimpers all night as they slowly ate him alive. Makes for a gripping story, no?

These books are well written and the story is kind of entertaining... if you ignore the fact that the main characters are all children!!! Please notice how many times I have pointed this out... this is a book about children... children forced to kill, children forced into prostitution, children being tortured, children doing the torturing. A book where the existence and success of a war rests on the shoulders of children.

To top it all off, the last book... the one where we hope to finally find some sort of a happy ending... features a large group of very small, very young children being ruthlessly killed and in many cases burned alive.... as a plot point.  And if that wasn't bad enough... we are left with the impression that this wholesale slaughter of babies was actually ordered by the so called 'good' guys.

Oh, and our happy ending?  Forget it, you simply have the ramblings of our hero as she watches her children play on the mass grave of her entire district.

There was no happy.

There is no reason why you should allow your children to watch or read this so called entertainment.  There is no reason why you should ignore this travesty. Don't help people make money by exposing your children to the horrors of these stories.

What are they teaching?  That children are expendable. Adults are not capable of protecting them. That nobody truly knows right from wrong. Life is futile. Government is to be tolerated because the alternative is death. And there is no God ever mentioned in these stories, so ultimately they teach that hope is a lie.

So, jump on the band wagon.  Grab a coke and a bag of popcorn and sit down and watch while Hollywood teaches your children that they are worthless while the blood spatters at your feet.

Or . . .

If you have children that have already watched the movie and/or read the books then CATCH UP! Watch it, read it, pray about it, determine your opinions regarding The Hunger Games and the messages hidden within.  Then sit down and share it with your children and have a discussion. Don't tell them what to think or feel.  Ask them what they thought about it. What they felt.  What they liked, hated, and which characters appealed to them the most, and why.  Then talk about God and the Truth of His love and the eternal Hope that He gives.

If your children have not yet read the book and/or seen the movie and absolutely Have to then I offer this guide:

Age 13 and younger: NO NO NO

Share with your children the ugliness that is hidden behind the cool costumes and flashy special effects and why you don't want them exposed to that, and that you hope that they will work with you on this. This is also a great time to sit and just talk about why being a parent can be hard sometimes because not all fun things are actually good for them and how that is no fun for you either. Then invite more discussion by asking them what hard decisions they may have had to make.

Ages 14-16:  Maybe the Movie but Not the Book

Sit down and have a frank discussion about the this story and how horribly they portray the young adults.  The killing and the despair that permeate through it.  Explain how the movie is more exciting than the book, and that they had to take out some of the really bad parts in order to even get approval to make the movie.  Then, if they are still dead set on seeing the movie... go and watch it with them.  Pay attention to THEM not so much the movie so you can see how they react and what parts of the movie affect them the most.

As we all know, our ability to control what your teens watch and read is practically non existent... so if they also HAVE to read the book, then read it with them... not out loud like they were children, but rather read a chapter a day and then discuss it.  This may seem rather extreme, but this is your child and it is your job to protect them, guide them, and support them.

Age 17 and up: Go Ahead

They are practically adults and should be able to discern the darkness for themselves, but I would certainly use this as an opportunity to sit and talk about the ideology (or world view) of the book/movie and the ideology that the Bible teaches and how the story can be used to share Jesus with their friends.


I hope that you are spurred into action and that these rants, raves, and helpful tips are of use to you.  May God Bless you and your family as you continue to navigate your way through the shark infested waters of today's entertainment industry.

Updated due to the movie coming out on DVD / NetFlix / FIOS etc...