Perception Determines Reality

In just reading the title you might gasp and think that I have turned into a Relativist. Fear not though as I remain an Absolutist. That does not mean I suggest that all things be weighed the same but more on that some other time. Right now I want to talk about to some extent perception determines reality at least how this impacts the church as a whole.

People more than ever seem to be concerned (at least marginally) with social justice and social issues. Bare minimum they at least want to give it lip service because it deserves to at least be spoken of. The plight of this group, or that group. This place or that place. This situation or that situation. I for one think this is great because there are a lot of issues we can and should get behind. The problem with all of this is that Christians (again as a whole) have been perceived as only caring about two issues namely homosexuality and abortion. While we do talk about these things they are far from the only things we discuss but that does not matter because we are perceived as only talking about these issues. Now it is a cheap and lazy attack but effective nevertheless. It is an attack on the church that is proving to be very detrimental to our cause.

Here is what I am talking about; if you feel slighted by someone then whether or not they have actually slighted you is somewhat irrelevant. Now, of course, this is an overgeneralization and does not apply to this audience but for a lot of people, this is true. The facts do not matter nearly as much as the way it is perceived. Now again whether that is right or wrong really does not matter right now. If we look around we see this playing out all the time, and sad to say this is what has happened to the church as a whole. We have been perceived as only caring about two issues and nothing else. To such an extent that we have actually had to take the defense and stand to battle against these two issues as if they were the only ones.

Now as a Christian I know this is not true. I know we as a whole are involved in feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, stopping sex trafficking, and so on. So how do we go about changing the perception? More importantly, do we need to change it? I think the answer to that question is a resounding YES! We not only should but we must change it because the very people who have this perception are the ones we are meant to reach with the love of Christ. I think we should make changing the perception a top priority. We are supposed to be known for our love, sharing, and compassion. So if the perception is we are only against homosexuals (which is wrong) or that we want to control women’s bodies (again wrong) then we need to change that perception. So how do we do that?

I think it is a two-fold approach. First is active shenanigan and hogwash calling. When people say “oh Christians hate gay people” or, “Christians think they can tell a woman what to do with their body, woman hating,” I say we call shenanigans! Be decent about it but ask them why they believe that or where they got that from. I give you permission that it is OK to do. Most people have no idea why they say half the things they say (Christians and non-Christians alike) they just say what they have heard and been told to say so just call them out and ask why. Correct the perception.

If someone said Bob (let’s pretend you are Bob) is a woman-hating jerk, I am pretty sure you would not lay down and just take it. After all they are insulting your name. They are insulting you. Well when people say Christians are homophobic woman hating jerks they are calling you that if you are a Christian so stand up for yourself. We have this idea that being meek and humble means we have to be beat up and not stand for truth, but take another look in the Scriptures and see how Jesus, Peter, and Paul responded when people tried to defame the truth. Yes there are times to take it on the chin but there are also times to stand up. Don’t get into a fight just to fight but don’t just dragged through the mud and think it makes you holy. It is a really hard line and requires a lot of prayer and meditation on the Word.

The second way is to keep doing good. Galatians 6:9 says:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Just keep at it. Use it as fuel to push through. Someone says Christians only care about X go and do Y. Keep at it and keep moving forward in love.

We have a great cause we are fighting for and it is bigger than any popular issue going through social media today. If they want to accuse us of something it should be that Christians are always loving me and trying to help me. We are in a war for people’s souls so let’s start fighting.

Just a thought,

Mike

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Compounding Interest and Faith

On one hand I know it might sound silly and to those who think it does you can just ignore this post and move on to something in the Archives, but I want to be a better Christian. I want to know more and do more for God. Not because I am trying to earn favor or get something from Him but because I love Him and want more of Him. I guess I just want to add to my faith. The question is can I and should I? Should this even be a desire to have?

2 Peter 1:5-7 says it is possible and more so that I should give all diligence to this very task of adding to my faith. That I should actually not just want this but do it. There is a lot in these three verses, and it might just spill into two posts so bare with me because as my daughter used to sing “we’re going on a trip in our favorite rocket ship…”

There are seven things we are told to add to our faith in these three verses. Seven things that are supposed to be compounded upon each other. It is like compounding interest which is awesome when investing and horrid when paying. Compound interest works like this; You put money in and then interest is added to that, but that interest money that is given is now added to the total and you get interest on the whole amount. So for example, you put in $100 with 25% interest (unheard of I know) for four years, you would have somewhere around $244 at the end. Whereas if the interest did not compound you would only have $200 at the end of the year. It is like the whole doubling a penny a day trick where you end up a few million in a month or something like that. Peter is talking about the same thing. Start with your faith and then compound it.

2 Peter 1:5-7 But also for this very reason (see verse 4) giving all diligence add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

These are the things that are supposed to be compounded on each other. It is not faith, then virtue, then knowledge and so on setting them aside after each use. But they are supposed to go one on top of the other so that as you compound them so we will have knowledge of Jesus and not be shortsighted or unfruitful. So lets look at the list:

Virtue

Knowledge

Self-Control

Perseverance

Godliness

Brotherly Kindness

Love

I also think it important to mention that this is not a 1-7 list. It is not a first Virtue then Knowledge as if when you do one you are done with it. No this is a continual list as in keep adding to these things. Sometimes you are working a little more on Self-Control then Brotherly Kindness. The order is not nearly as important as the act of the adding. So onto to Greek….

Virtuearetē

Moral excellence as modesty or purity. Think of Virtue as being ethical. If is right then do that. Regardless of ease do the right thing and take the right path. Virtue is added by doing.

Knowledgegnōsis

Knowledge here is actually specific to the things of the faith. It is not just any old knowledge. It is not learning more about Starfish (which are pretty cool), but the things the Bible says. This is done by reading and meditating on the Word of God.

Self-Controlegkrateia

Self-Control is funny to define because it is like defining the word “is”. But I shall try. Self-Control is not giving in to your desires. It is realizing that you can say no to the TV, girl/guy, yes to quite time, and so on. Self-Control is only done when tempted to not have it. You can only have it when you need it.

Perseverancehypomonē

Perseverance in the Christian faith is a whole lot like exercising. It is that dig deep moment. The my legs are shaking but I am going to keep going, I want to quit or let this discouragement in but I am going to keep at it. I am going to push forward. If courage is doing it regardless of fear than discouragement is giving into the fear. Perseverance is not giving into the hardship but pushing on towards the goal.

Godlinesseusebeia

Godliness is reverence and respect for God. It is just the realization that you are not God. It is understanding that your ways are not His ways and that He can do as He pleases and that His purposes are good.

Brotherly Kindnessphiladelphia

Not this city or movie. This means love. Not agape love because that is slightly different but this is love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. When you see others being persecuted or hurting or needing help it is doing what is needed. It is taking time to serve and love the body.

Loveagapē

Now this is love. This is 1 Corinthians 13 love. I won’t say too much because a lot has been said, but suffice to say it is giving of yourself.

So there we have it. There are seven things and all of them hard. All require something of us, but all give us something better than what we can be without them. When applied and compounded we get a faith that is strong and we will have fruit.

We managed to get it all in one post. It’s a long post but oh well.

Just a thought,

Mike

I am half a stereotype

As I sit here in my bright blue shirt that says “Roar”, cargo shorts, shaved head, and awesome goatee I realize that the stereotype is true. Well at least in me. I admit that by most appearances and basic standards I am what should be a youth pastor. The only thing I lack is the awesome at sports and I do not shout in my messages. But then I suppose I fall on the other side where I get super serious and use words like super…

Why then do I doubt? Why do I struggle with unbelief and discouragement? Maybe it is because I do not play the guitar and cannot sing. Maybe if I could do those things I would have more faith that I will get the job. Then again maybe that is why I don’t play and sing. Maybe God knows then I would have faith in myself and not in Him. Maybe just maybe if I could do those things I would rely on my strength and not His ability, goodness, and love.

That is one of the things I love about the interaction in Mark chapter 9 with a desperate father and Jesus. The father knows he has no hope. He has no way of helping his son. He has done everything to make it better. Done everything to fix the problem and he has nothing left. He hears about this Jesus and that even His disciples can heal and cast out demons. So he goes to see Jesus, but Jesus is not there. So the disciples try but nothing happens. Talk about a kick in the faith shorts. He believed enough to go there. He tried and now nothing. I would imagine it was a mix of anger, frustration, and great sadness. I say this because there was arguing going on. The way it reads shows that after the disciples failed to cast out the demon the teachers of the law jumped in to make matters worse. It was a bad day for the father of the boy.

Then Jesus shows up and everything changes. I just want to jump ahead to verse 24 because it’s my blog and I can.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

The father realized he had at least a little belief left. He had just enough faith to say I believe but help my unbelief. That is like saying I know enough to know I don’t know. It is not a lot of belief. But Jesus works with that because he wants to help. He knew he could not save his son but Jesus could. He knew enough to know he needed help.

I love that because often that is where I am. Like right now. I know enough to know I cannot get this on my own because while I fit the stereotype in a few ways in many I fall short. Because if we are basing everything on stereotypes I actually fail in more ways than I fit. So right now I have no choice but to call on the one who calls based on different standards. That while man looks at appearances God looks at the heart. While my heart is not perfect it does long for Him and His will.

So here I stand half a stereotype having no choice but to trust Jesus. This morning I was battling but now I find myself standing with the boys father in victory saying “yes I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” That is not a battle that is a place of rest.

Just a thought,

Mike

They call me Tic Tac….

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Growing up I was never fond of my name. It is not that I have a bad name it is just boring because let’s face it Mike is pretty generic. I mean there are something like 4 million Michaels in the world so I am not even a one in a million. If I add my last name there is still almost 600 people. I just can’t catch a break. I tried for years to get a cool nickname too. I tried everything I could think of to get one. One summer I ate Tic Tacs all the time hoping someone would start calling me that (I was desperate). All my attempts failed. For a short time people called me by my last name but there are like 46000 people with the same last name so that was no better. I changed the spelling, abbreviated (my initials are useless) so again no help. I realize that Proverbs 22:1 says a good name is better than riches but if everyone has the same name they don’t know it’s me.

I have since gotten over that issue. It was not easy but a process. I realized that my name was not so important. My name and having it be unique would have been cool but it was not really that important. The name of Jesus however is amazing. At His name all will bow and confess He is LORD, and that is the name I am now concerned with.

See I am no longer worried about my name and it being something because I know the one who has a great name. My name while it has a small sphere of influence cannot give people peace. My name has never cast out a demon, or healed the lame, opened the eyes of the blind, or forgiven sin. The name of Jesus is so powerful that in reading this some people will stop because His very name makes them uncomfortable. To others who are His however they are at peace. So just one more time….Jesus!

Colossians 1:17-18 and Colossians in general scream about His name. It says:

“And He is before all things and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first board from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

I know there are others but I really like these verses. There is so much there and it has been attacked so much over the years. Some bad theology has come out of not understanding these verses. Things like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others I am sure I don’t even know about. They say “see right there in the Bible, Jesus is just an exalted man. He was just the first man.” Well forgetting for a second about how that does not line up with what the rest of Scripture teaches. Let’s just focus on the context.

Paul was writing to people who plainly understood that the first born has inheritance rights. I cannot go into nor completely understand eternal Sonship (how Jesus is eternally begotten). The first born was in charge of everything. The term is Primogeniture and it just means the first born male inherits the estate of the father. Think about how kings would give everything to their first born son. It evolved over time in most places and daughters were given rights as well. The important thing here is not gender but stature. The first born got it all.

Those reading this letter from Paul understood that and then understood that it all belongs to Jesus. That is why His name is so powerful, because He gets it all. Everything good is wrapped up in Him and His name. There is something so powerful in His name.

That is why His name is the only one I am concerned with. I take the command to go in His name, preach in His name, do everything in His name very seriously. I am no longer concerned with my name but His because His name is great. When I think that not only do I get to be forgiven but use His name I am in awe.

So I may never have a cool nickname I get to use a name that is full of power and authority. I get to use the name of Jesus.

Just a thought,

Mike

Insanity Workout and the Book of James

I am about to start the Insanity workout program. I usually like to lift but have no time for that lately and I cannot seem to get rid of some weight that just seems to hang out. I have been doing some light workouts in the morning nothing amazing but enough to not lose too much strength. So I decided I would give Insanity a try.

I watched the commercial, read real reviews online and it looks legit. So at this point I have no reason not to believe the program will work for busting out some fat loss. I have a small amount of faith in the program, but to really build that faith in the program up I am going to need to actually work it out.

That is what James is talking about in James 2:24 “You see then that a man is justified by works, not faith alone.” James is writing to Jewish believers specifically according to verse 1. And while I am not positive I get the feeling some of them took their new found liberty to the wrong place. I get the feeling they were so happy to be freed from a works based system decided they needed to do nothing anymore. That is shown in 2:15-16 when he says if you send someone away who is naked and cold, saying bless you and go in warmth and peace but do not give them anything to be warmed or clothed then you have done nothing.

It is a lot like the talk that goes on nowadays from Christians about this problem and that problem. Most times you can hear a hundred “solutions” but little to no action of any sorts. If prayer is mentioned it is only in word and little actual praying is done (a generalization of course). I have done this and am as guilty as any other. If we talk about the homeless problem but do nothing we have done nothing, if we talk about sex trafficking and do nothing then we have done nothing and so on. Now to be clear I am not talking about “raising awareness” which is done to the masses on FaceBook and Twitter because there is a time for that. But would it not be better if we raised awareness while acting?

I know we cannot be active in every area that needs it but if you are known for working with young pregnant women in need and mention something to raise awareness about homelessness then I am more likely to hear you then if you are only known for raising awareness.

James is talking about your faith causing action. He uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to show this by showing that Abraham’s belief caused action. It was not just a belief that did nothing it was a belief that acted out of the belief.

It is the same way with our faith. I believe Jesus died on a cross and took my sin and shame. That belief is the reason I am who I am today and not who I was before. But my belief in that has changed my behaviour and actions so that now I work because of the change not in order to have that change.

One last thing I think helps is two words in verse 22 of chapter 2. It says “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works was made perfect.” The words working together is actually one word in the Greek. The word is sunergeo where we get the words synergy or synergism, and it basically means a partnership where both benefit.

When you believe in God’s promises and finished work you have faith, and then when you do a work because of that faith you get more faith and can now do a greater (or more) work which in turn gives you a greater faith. It is a beautiful thing.

Now a word of caution. Do not by any means attempt to earn salvation, favor, or merit from God. No amount of helping the poor, feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, sharing Facebook statuses will get you in with God. Check your motives every time because you will likely start to work and feel like God should have blessed you because you did X, Y, or Z. But it does not work that way because your best work is still pretty lame to be honest.

Just a thought,

Mike

He ain’t no Mayweather.

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Let’s get something straight from the beginning; Stephen was the man. I mean seriously he did not waste anytime. He received Christ and got to work both serving and teaching. Boy oh boy did he know his stuff too. He was one of those Christians that gets saved and then runs around telling everyone. He was what I call a Christmas Tree Christian because he was lit up.

Like I said Stephen knew his stuff too. His sermon (that one that got him killed) takes up an entire chapter in Acts all 53 verses of chapter 7 is his sermon. He was no Mayweather dancing around the ring either. He went to town on the people around him laying it out from Abraham to Jesus talking about how God told you He would send the prophet and just like their forefathers they too were stiff necked and uncircumcised of heart and ears. I know in our day that does not sound bad but he was basically saying they were just like Gentiles and if there was one thing a Jew in that day did not want to be it was a Gentile.

He then goes one step further and says that their fathers persecuted the prophets (which is true), and just like them you persecuted Jesus the true Prophet. This was saying that they were just like their hard headed fathers and time would prove them wrong. This was the last straw for them they threw him out of the city and killed him.

Stephen was the man. How many times have you or I had to share something that we knew would upset people? I remember giving a message awhile back that I knew would bother some people but I was not afraid they would kill me. I imagine that Stephen knew this could happen but it needed to be said. Sometimes we need to say what needs to be said because it is the right thing. It is not popular, not fun, and will win no friends. But notice something in verse 55. Jesus stands up. Everywhere else Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father but for Stephen Jesus stands up. It was almost like Jesus was giving Stephen a round of applause.

If there was ever anyone I would want a well done from it would be Jesus. Maybe that means I need to be more like Stephen. Maybe I need to not be afraid to say what needs to be said……

Just a thought,

Mike

The Bible Says

Bible Newspaper Letters

Did I ever tell you about my band in high school? No, well it was pretty awesome. No Longer Silent was the name and the first album was Silent Screaming. Oh, it was spectacular. All the band stuff is now gone but trust me it was amazing. I mean there were no other actual members, and I cannot really play or sing, and no one else ever heard of us (I mean me). But you have to trust me if I could play or sing and had other people who could play and sing we would have been huge. I mean like STP or Alice in Chains huge. Alas, things that never were… The Bible says a lot about a lot. I mean depending on your translation the word count, and verse, count are staggering. The New Testament quotes the Old Testament a number of times as well.

Just a few stats:

Words – 750,000 (approximate)

Chapters – 1,189 (approximate)

Verses – 31,103 (approximate)

Quotes – 247 (approximate)

With this many words, chapters, verses, and quotes I would be surprised if it was never misunderstood or misquoted. I, however, am not surprised. It is impossible to not mess it up to some degree because we are all messed up to some degree. You might be wondering at this point what paragraphs 1-2 & 3 have in common. You might think I was just bragging about my awesome band (which in part I was) but in reality, some of you just read paragraph 1 & 3 totally skipping 2 which explained that the band was less than real (OK not real) and that is the point. I did say I had a band and if you quoted me you would be correct. However, if you asked me to play a show and I said I don’t know how to play I would be correct as well. We’re both right to an extent but one of us is very wrong and here’s a hint it is not me.

I don’t want to give specific verses and stories because we all know enough of them, and I don’t want to talk about what the Bible doesn’t say because that is for a different post. Instead I just want to focus on the fact that it does say a lot. I mean really you can make a case for just about anything using Bible verses. Everyone has a verse, and every Christian cause has the “key”, every denomination has the most important verses. We do it all the time. I focus on love because I think that is the most important thing in the Bible. I think that the Bible talks about love in one way or another constantly. I see a beautiful tapestry of love and relationships throughout the Scriptures. I think the whole thing is about love.

I see love in the 10 Commandments, in the wilderness story, in everything I see it. Some would disagree and I can see why. Some would say that the whole point is that God is Sovereign and maybe they are right. We can make a cause for most anything because the Bible talks about almost everything. The key to understanding the Bible is simple, though. I mean if you really wanted to understand what a passage is talking about it’s really easy. You just have the understand the context.

When you know the conversational context, background context, language context, and relational context you can understand what is going on. Most of the issues we face when we don’t understand the Bible and others in general is because a lack of proper context. We place ourself and our understanding into the situation and remove the context leaving us with what we went into it with. You get out of the Bible what you go into it with. If you go in with bias you get bias, if you go into it with material desire you get material desire. If you go into it with a submissive heart, desiring to learn and love God, then that is what you will get. Don’t misunderstand me though. God is good and great and powerful He can easily shake you and show you something that changes everything but if you look at a lot of people who use the Bible as a weapon they got out what they put in. The Bible was written in 3 languages, by 40 authors, in a span of 2000 years, and while there is unity in the Scripture there is enough there to make it say almost what you want. You have to twist it, take it out of context, and imply a lot but it can be done. The best approach is to go to the Scriptures each time with a humble and submissive heart. If your desire is God you will find Him.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:2

Just a thought,

Mike

p.s. I understand this is a gross over simplification but it is supposed to be, and that is part of the point.