20Jan

A Word for the Wandering

Lately I have been thinking about the word “wander” a lot. It’s just been rolling around in my head for awhile now.

You know the feeling? It’s like when you decide what kind of car you want to buy next and all of a sudden they’re the only cars you seem to notice driving around town.

The idea of “wandering” usually conjures up a negative connotation:

  • the family that’s lost on a road trip trying to find their way
  • the rebellious teenager who seems to do the exact opposite of his parent’s wishes
  • the 30-year old who can’t figure what she wants to do with her life

I usually tune out when authors or speakers start a sentence like “Webster’s Dictionary defines _________ as blah blah blah…” but in this case I think it’s interesting.

(v. i.) To ramble here and there without any certain course or with no definite object in view; to range about; to stroll; to rove; as, to wander over the fields.

Webster’s takes the negative route, too. When did wandering get such a bad rap?

All of my recent thoughts on “wandering” have been rooted in a desire to reclaim it as something good, a beautiful journey.

As a pastor, I get to interact with all types of wanderers. Most of their wandering looks more like the ancient Israelites in the desert than the prodigal son on his pilgrimage of licentiousness. They may have lost their way a bit but they’re not hellbent on being hellbent.

I think there’s beauty in searching, not wandering aimlessly, but wandering while ultimately searching for something bigger than yourself, for significance, for purpose.

Godly wanderers can come in many forms:

  • The one who is recently divorced is not constantly throwing themselves a pity party. They’re wandering. They are trying to put their life back together and remind themselves through all the sleepless nights of doubt that they do matter. They are worth loving.
  • The 20-something seemingly jumping from job to job might not be perpetually flaky. They’re wandering. They are trying to find where they fit, truly fit.
  • The accountant who wakes up one day with no passion for work, feeling utterly stuck. She is curious if this is really the role to which she is supposed to devote her life. She is not necessarily ungrateful for her current lot in life; she’s wandering.
  • The single man in his 40’s who’s never found the woman to call his wife. He’s not a loser. He may have been ready for commit to someone for 20 years but he just has not met her yet. He’s not damaged goods. He’s wandering.

To any and all wanderers, I am growing increasingly more aware of and empathetic toward your journey. Know this: You don’t wander alone.

You don’t wander alone.

When the Israelites were wandering in the desert for forty years, God was with them every step of the way, even though it did not always feel like it.

Even when the prodigal son bolted from his loving father’s home, running headlong into a life of rebellion in every way, God was with him.

You don’t wander alone…so you don’t have to act like you do.

This might be one of the most common yet tragic facts about my friends who are modern-day wanderers. So many of them feel they must wander alone. Maybe they feel others don’t understand their journey. Maybe they have had negative encounters with people misunderstanding or belittling their current state of wandering.

No matter the reason for your wandering, it is not necessary for you to avoid community while on the journey.

A genuine group of people who care about you will consistently value you for you, not who they think you could or should be.

You are not a project to be worked on or a problem to be fixed.

You don’t wander alone. God is with you. And so are his people. In fact, we are all wandering together.

14Jan

Louisville Sluggers & Spiritual Gifts

While many of you see the New Year as a time of renewal and a fresh start, I consistently find myself stuck in what some of you call “basketball season.” I just refer to it as those dark months between football season and baseball season.

I love baseball in just about every form but I hate college baseball. Don’t get me wrong, I love the purity of the competition at the collegiate level. I love that most of these guys never get a chance to play at the next level so this is their last stop. They’re giving it all they’ve got.

They don’t sign endorsement deals or get distracted by multi-million dollar contracts like in the pros.

But I hate the sound of college baseball. It’s anything but pure. It’s changed some over the years but there’s always been this unmistakable ping of some type of metal bat whereas any baseball purist can tell you you’re supposed to hear the crack of a wooden bat.

Louisville Slugger has been making bats since 1884. One day a young woodworking apprentice went to an amateur baseball game and watched one of his favorite players fail to get a hit as he broke several bats during the course of the game. The young apprentice approached the player after that game and invited him to come to his woodworking shop to receive a custom made bat to use in tomorrow’s game. The player went on to collect 3 hits the next day and then immediately sent all his teammates to the wood working shop for their own custom made bats and the legend of the Louisville Slugger was born.

Ever since then the company has almost exclusively made their bats for professional baseball players, each one custom made to the player’s exact specifications, even down to the type of wood used.

Up until 2002, each bat was hand carved. A skilled craftsman could take the seasoned log of wood used to create the bats and carve one in 15 minutes to the exact specifications of the player with expert, precision detail.

However, now the work is done by a computerized process yet the custom, precision work has never changed. The computerized carving machine is still only operated by the most skilled craftsmen and can carve a bat in 42 seconds.

Louisville Slugger makes almost 2 million bats a year and no two players have ever requested the exact same specifications. However, every Louisville Slugger bat comes with the exact same brand stamp burned into the wood.

The types of wood used to create the bats have changed over time. The weights and specifications have evolved too.

Yet one thing has never changed, the brand stamp unifies the bats Louisville Slugger has made in parts of three different centuries.

God has done an even greater work in creating you and me. We are each custom made by God, created with unique gifts and talents. Our gifts can very different from one another but they are given to us by the same God for the same reasons, to serve one another and to glorify God.

Even though our gifts are different from one another we too have been given a divine brand stamp that unifies us all. While we are indeed custom made, we are also made in the image of God. Our different gifts should serve as a constant reminder of all the different ways God has loved us and made himself known to us yet it is the source of our creation, God himself that holds us together.

Resources:

Our church is currently preaching a mini-series called “Custom Made” on spiritual gifts as we journey through 1 Corinthians.

You can watch the sermons here.

Click here to see the spiritual gifts assessment we used in our home groups to start discovering the ways God has custom made us.

15Dec

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Movie Review

Personally, I am not a fan of movies like Facing the Giants, God’s Not Dead, etc. I am just not willing to waste money or time to see these low budget movies with sub-par acting simply because they are produced for/by Christians. I appreciate their intentions and many of my friends enjoy them. They’re just not my cup of tea.

However, as a Christian, I can deeply enjoy recent blockbuster movies like Exodus and Noah that stray from the Biblical narratives in many ways because they are done with excellence, and it’s a movie. I expect to be entertained. I want to see what liberties and interpretations the director takes. If you want something that’s 100% accurate, you cannot even enjoy Charleston Heston as Moses in the wildly popular Ten Commandments (1956) which tells an exodus story that is almost 90% fabrication. (See: Noah: Movie Review)

The Good:

  • Christian Bale is an awesome Moses. Bale really tried to connect with what Moses would have felt and thought during all the crazy stuff that Moses did and experienced. The film is highly emotional and Bale portrays, in some ways, a very realistic Moses, one that has doubts and could have grown up as  a functional agnostic. Moses’ faith in God, as it develops, seems like it is hanging on by a string that almost snaps a few times.
  • The movie is much more Biblically accurate than Noah. While there are definitely some interesting deviations from the Biblical text, Ridley Scott seemed very focused on adhering to the text when he felt able. The overarching narrative is preserved: God enlists Moses to help free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and lead them on their journey toward the Promised Land.
  • Joel Edgerton, an Australian, plays a great Ramses. An interesting casting choice but it works. Ramses is portrayed as this evolving character who moves from a playful general who laughs off many of his father’s leadership decisions to a brutal, punishing dictator who embodies the mantra: absolute power corrupts absolutely. When Moses returns to the ancient capital of Egypt after years in the desert, the city looks like Tolkien’s Mordor, as the corpses of dead Hebrew slaves burning all day and night.

The Bad:

  •  Diversity? I am not the first one to point this out but there sure are a lot of white people playing Egyptians and Israelites. An Australiam Ramses? Sigourney Weaver laughably attempts to play an Egyptian queen. Ridley Scott’s only response when pressed about the incredibly lack of racial diversity, “get a life.”
  • The Plagues – The film’s representation of the plagues is fantastic, bone-chilling at times, which is probably what it was like to endure them. I appreciated how much time Scott spent on conveying just how inconvenient and eventually, lethal, that plagues were. However, they never find their firm source in God. They are all explainable and even presented for most of the film as related natural disasters/phenomenon.
  • The End – There’s no extra-Biblical plot twist at the end like in Noah. But the ending seems really rushed and tacked on. Moses escapes Pharoah, receives the 10 commandments and grows very old in about 3 minutes. But the film is plenty long enough as is so the rushed ending is not the end of the world. I personally just did not care for it.

The Interesting:

  • The 8-year old God. The movie portrays God as an 8-year old boy, the same age as Moses’s son at this point in his life. It is an interesting take but we obviously do not think of God in this way. But this raised some questions for me. Why am I more comfortable with an older, more James Earl Jones-esque personification of God than I am with an 8-year old British boy God. The theology of this 8-year old boy God is pretty consistent with the God of Scripture. He promises to be with Moses. He is clearly in control and he has fierce affections for the Israelites and desperately wants to free them from slavery.
  • The brotherhood of Moses and Ramses is the main story. Right after the movie finishes a tribute briefly pops up, “For my brother, Tony Scott.” Ridley Scott’s brother, Tony, was also a very successful Hollywood director (Top Gun) who committed suicide in 2012. This is a great reminder of how our theology is greatly impacted by our experience. Ridley Scott spends  aa great amount of time building a story not out of an overarching narrative of God rescuing his people but of Moses and Ramses in conflict. The main story and battle lies between them. One cannot help but see his personal connection to the personal connection Moses must have shared with Ramses.
  • Moses doesn’t seem to know he’s Hebrew. This was fascinating, and in my opinion, a fair and Biblical option. The Bible never fully reveals what Moses does and does not know about his childhood in his early years. Even when he kills the Egyptian slave master for hurting “one of his own people” (Exodus 2:11) the reader does not know if Moses is aware that the person being beat was his own people of if the narrator simply lets the reader know that which Moses does not yet know.

 

Conclusion:

This review is far from exhaustive and it is not intended to be. I appreciated the virtual absence of bad language and zero nudity. However, the violence is definitely there to make it earn it’s PG-13 rating, yet as my friend Frank Gil notes, it pales in comparison to the violence in today’s video games.

I hope you see this movie if this type of movie interests you. I think it can spark great conversation and cause more and more people to turn to examine the God of the Bible and hopefully decide to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

9Dec

When I Refuse to Pray for Church People

There is a time when I refuse to pray for church people.

This may seem odd, especially since I am a pastor. And I am a pastor who genuinely enjoys praying for people, both inside and outside the church. I am no expert by any means and I appreciate how even the Bible recognizes that prayer is hard. This is Paul’s plea to the church in Rome,

“Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:30

Paul had seen better days. Life was hard and persecution was real. Yet notice how Paul asks for help. He asks the people God to join him in his struggle by sending money, selfies, good thoughts, casseroles, praying to God because they love him.

Tangible expressions of love are great. Who doesn’t love a timely delivered meal? But we have to drop this idea that prayer is some lower level of ministry, not really as effective as doing something.

Tragically, I think prayer has become a lost part of the pastorate in many ways.

One of my largest spiritual influences, Eugene Peterson, tweeted a similar thought a few weeks ago that has been careening off the walls of my heart ever since,

The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.

Yet for all the importance of prayer in the pastorate, there is still a time when I refuse to pray for church people.

It’s at my kitchen table, coffee in hand, every morning before my wife and I leave for work.

Just before the hustle of the day begins, we both take time and pause. We read Scripture together and pray for one another. ONLY one another. Some days it is 30 minutes and others (like yesterday) it is 5 minutes. I cherish this time for one main reason: we pray for nothing but each other.

This has nothing to do with me being a pastor and everything to do with being a husband.

In marriage, praying together is like sex. When it’s happening, life is good. Each person knows their spouse generally cares for them. Extra effort is usually made and usually noticed and appreciated. However, when it’s not happening, little things can turn into big things in a hurry, causing to fights out of literally nothing.

How to Pray WITH Your Spouse FOR Your Spouse

1.) The WITH is important. The goal isn’t to just pray for your spouse, but to join in the struggles of each other through prayer because of the love you have for one another

2.) Ask, “How can I pray for you today?”

3.) Listen.

4.) Actually listen.

5.) Pray about the stuff you heard.

Even if you’re not super comfortable at first, the effort is not just helpful; it’s imperative.

How well do you really love your spouse if you are unwilling to pray for/with them?

1Dec

The One Where I Almost Killed My Wife in the Desert at 3 A.M.

I’ll never forget the time I almost killed my wife in the middle of the desert at 3 A.M.

It was our first Christmas as husband and wife and we were driving in a tiny Hyundai Accent (henceforth referred to as “Betsy” – may she rest in peace) from Waco, TX to San Diego, CA to visit my wife’s family.

We were too poor to afford a hotel room so we decided to make the 1,361 mile journey without stopping.

My wife had made the trek a few times with friends and assured me we could do it no problem…

As the hours ticked off we found ourselves on a long, remote section of highway in New Mexico in the middle of the night. It was snowing and my wife was fast asleep. I remember thinking how incredibly blessed I was, seriously. As a newlywed who had just completed my first semester of seminary and was working at my first real church job, life was good.

But then life wasn’t good.

As we were driving, I noticed the gas gauge needle had started to make some rather flirtatious advances toward the “E.” Much like Dorothy, I realized I was not home anymore and there was not a gas station at every exit. Not out in the desert.

I tried to stay calm but it just wasn’t working. As I thought about how my wife and I would be remembered once they found our frozen bodies (if they ever did), I only prayed my mother-in-law would somehow know it was never my intention to kill her daughter before we celebrated our 1st anniversary. That’s just inconsiderate.

So I white-knuckled the steering wheel and started to pray, “Lord, I really need to find a gas station.” When I looked down, much to my dismay, the gas needle was already bumping uglies with the “E.” It was not long until their relationship would be fully consummated.

I started to formulate a Plan B. If we couldn’t find a gas station, surely there must be a place for us to at least take cover from the cold. But I started to realize I hadn’t seen a diner, a store, or even a house in a long time. Looooong time.

I was popping Betsy in neutral any chance I could get as we rolled on to our imminent deaths. We had actually just rescued a beautiful Labrador, Zoe, from the humane society and she was on the journey with us as well. Now I would be remembered as a wife and a puppy killer. Great.

As I continued to pray and rack my mind for Plans C-X I kept having this one thought, “There’s no way I can make it over one more hill. There’s no way I can make it through one more valley.”

Until finally, the most glorious sight appeared. This was no ordinary gas station. No, at the bottom of the next hill I saw a 24-hour truck stop, blazing with light and food and clean restrooms and ultimately…gas!

As we pulled in my heart began to slowly exit my throat and descend back to its normal resting place. My wife slowly awoke, pet our sweet new dog, Zoe, and sleepily asked, “Everything going alright, sweetheart?”

“Yes, dear” I replied. “Go back to sleep.”

Imagine my dismay if, after coasting into the truck stop on the last bit of Betsy’s fumes, there was no gas. I knew this place was a gas station and not a Chuck E. Cheese because I had seen millions of other gas stations just like it. Imagine what it would be like to pull up and find it closed. No longer fit for service.

A lot of people in my part of the country look like Christians, at least on the outside. You can tell they’re not anarchists or brothel operators. We talked about this in depth in my home group tonight. There’s a cultural form of Christianity that is alive and well. I say this a lot in my church but I think it’s worth repeating:

Whatever it means to love Jesus has to be something categorically different than what it means to love college football and sweet tea.

Remember, I was never confused about what the gas station was; I just needed to make sure it could provide for me what it appeared to offer from the outside. Christians have the only real version of what the whole world needs, hope. If you’re celebrating the season of Advent you probably talked about hope yesterday. One of my big takeaways from yesterday was the responsibility each one of us have to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Sometimes, Christians can get caught up in some form of cultural Christianity where they go to church because they think it helps them be good people or it makes them feel encouraged, which is all good but none of that’s Gospel. None of that’s hope. That would be like me coasting up to the station needing gasoline and only being offered a cup of coffee. It would make me feel good for a minute but it does not solve my fundamental problem.

Christians have a tremendous opportunity, especially during the Christmas season, to be stations of hope to people simply running on fumes.

Life is tough, no matter what belief system you adhere to. That feeling of being overwhelmed and beaten down is a universal one. People all around you are struggling through life, looking around for help, thinking there’s just no way they can make it through one more valley or over one more hill.

So how do we help? How exactly are we supposed to give hope to a hurting world?

This largely depends on the situation. Honestly, I don’t always know how to specifically help, but I know when I can never help. Imagine if we had coasted up to the pump, lights are on, workers are present, but the pump does not work. So one by one we check and none of the pumps work.

Why? They lost connection to the true source, to the reservoirs below the ground.I can never really help people find hope when I forsake my only connection to real hope.

This is incredibly encouraging, because it means we don’t have to be the hope people need. If someone were depending on me for that they would be mightily disappointed. No, we are simply called to point them to the hope we have found and to which we are connected. You can’t point people to a hope you don’t really have.

Stay connected to Jesus, the true source of hope. How? Lots of ways! I have friends that remind me how important things like prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, silence, and service are to staying connected to Jesus. There are lots of ways to stay connected but almost all of them require you slow down in a season where we feel we’re supposed to frantically hurry up.

How do you stay connected?

28Nov

saturday morning coffee

Every Saturday morning I make a full pot of coffee, a little more than usual.

Most weekday mornings find me nursing my first cup as I get ready and then filling up a to-go mug on the way to work.

But Saturdays are different. Unless we’re hitting up early garage sales, we have a little more time to wake up.

In those moments I find myself catching up on articles, videos, or other interesting Internet finds. I’ll share my best finds with you here.

Welcome to saturday morning coffee.

Catching Kayla

Watch the remarkable story of Kayla Montgomery, one of the nation’s best young long distance runners who also has multiple sclerosis. Every time she crosses the finish line she endures several minutes of extreme distress as she struggles to regain feeling in both her legs.

Lammily vs. Barbie

Watch how a 2nd grade class reacts to Lammily, a realistic doll reflecting the true dimensions of a woman, including stretch marks and acne. Pay special attention to the type of careers the 2nd graders think the Lammily doll would obtain when compare to the Barbie doll.

 

Pentatonix might actually break the Internet with their version of, “Mary Did You Know?”

 

 

“Brothers”

Shortly after the announcement of the Ferguson decision, one of my friends and co-workers posted this photo of his two sons with the simple caption, “brothers.”

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If you find something you think should make it on next week’s Saturday Morning Coffee you can always e-mail me: hillcsteven@gmail.com

25Nov

5 Reasons the Church Needs Youth Ministry

Last weekend, I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the National Youth Workers Convention for the third year in a row. It is one of the most encouraging parts of my year and I earnestly look forward to it each year.

A few days after I get back from a conference I try and decompress a little. Most conferences are the same in that they’re full of seminars, breakout sessions, speakers, etc. Basically they try and cram as much information in a small window of time, which is a great thing if you take the time afterwards to process and see what might be helpful in your context.

My main takeaway was simple: The Church needs youth ministry.

My heart breaks to see some churches devalue youth ministry. The quotes below are real statements about youth ministry that I have heard from people I know and love:

“I just don’t get it. Youth ministry seems like a waste of time because so many of them just ditch faith afterwards.”

“It just kind of seems pointless because they don’t tithe yet so you’re always investing in someone else’s church.”

Youth ministry is constantly being re-imagined and the Church should be as well. The message of Jesus never changes but the methods we communicate that message to any and all ages should always be able to change.

Not valuing youth ministry because it does not directly contribute to the church’s “bottom line” is a refusal to measure success the way God does and a tragic neglect of the kingdom of God, which is much bigger than your specific local church.

At the conference, Mark Matlock, executive director of Youth Specialties, briefly outlined 5 Reasons the Church Needs Youth Ministry (click here to watch the 8-minute video).

I thought they were so perfect I did not change them at all. They’re re-posted here with permission and the comments in between are my own.

5 Reasons the Church Needs Youth Ministry

1. Youth ministry is vital to helping teens integrate into the larger intergenerational community of the church.

The Church gets the tremendous honor and responsibility to create spaces for teenagers to transition from childhood to adulthood. The teenage years are choppy waters and can be difficult for students to navigate. Youth ministry gets to be the arm of the church (not a silo – off by itself) that gathers teenagers and their families under the banner of the cross as they seek to live these years well. Students will often hang with the church into adulthood to the level it hung with them through adolescence.

2. Youth ministry resists the status quo, helping a church stay relevant in a changing culture.

Youth ministry is fun, creative, and innovative. The Church as a whole can often look to youth ministry as a microcosm of where culture is and where it is going. When the church values youth ministry, it will see ways to stay fresh and engaging in an ever-changing world.

3. Youth ministry focuses on inviting those who are not already part of the church into the deeper narrative of God’s plan for humankind.

“Invite your friends!” As a student, I used to hate that phrase. It seemed like all of my youth pastors were constantly trying to get me to step out of my comfort zone and invite my friends to church…because they were. Their primary concern was not trying to simply draw a crowd. They all could have done that. Youth ministry is important because it is continually inviting in those who are outside the family of God.

Did you know that 85% of people will not change what they believe about God and eternity after the age of 13? Youth ministry gets to be apart of the most spiritually formative years of life and the invitation is always open.

4. Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church, restoring life on earth as it is in heaven.

This might be my favorite. I love the language of “co-creators and conspirators.” Students are not the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today. If the Church refuses to acknowledge them it not only fails to love and lead them well but it tragically misses out on their contributions just waiting to be made.

P.S. This is not a “Hey some old lady needs her yard mowed; let’s call the youth!” This is real participation and real belonging.

5. Youth ministry helps the church focus on the way of Jesus, which goes beyond tradition, dogma, and ritual.

One of the great and terrible aspects of youth ministry is the turnover. Every single year the ministry changes by at least 20%. That can be a lot of fun because even in a declining church there’s always new students cycling in, even if it’s slow.

Lead pastors often get the blessing of walking through life multiple generations of life with the same family. Youth mnistry isn’t like that. You have a small window to impact a student’s life. If you do get to have a meaningful impact, don’t get comfortable because that leader will be in college before you know it. That’s heartbreaking, humbling, and exciting…all at the same time.

In youth ministry, we do not have time to waste on focusing too much on tradition, dogma, and ritual because we have a small window of time to focus on what is “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). We have to focus on what matters most: JESUS.

 

5reasons

Question: Do you think youth ministry is important? Why or why not?

24Nov

The Single Struggle

Guest Post: Today’s post comes from one of my good friends, Rachel Dishner. She blogs over at Sweetly Southern Hospitality and you can follow her posts by clicking here. Rachel has a ferocious heart for the Lord and writes today about the struggle of being a single Christian in the South. Her words are vulnerable, powerful, and can be encouraging and challenging to us all.

You can read her original post, “The Single Struggle” on her website here.

At this moment there are 7 wedding invitations on my bulletin board.  I look at them everyday and 6 days out of 7 the only thing I think is how excited I am for my friends to get to share their lives with the ones they love, but on that 7th day I start the comparison game.

They say comparison is the thief of joy and they are right.  It is when we start focusing on the things in our life that seem to be missing rather than the incredible amount that we have, that we tell ourselves we don’t have enough.  That we aren’t enough.  That Christ isn’t enough.

That’s my struggle.  6 days out of 7, I live this life that is so full of joy I can hardly stand it.  I am so fulfilled in my job, in my family, with my friends, with my God at this stage in my life that the don’t haves start to fade, 6 days out of 7.  But it’s on that 7th day when I get really lonely and start wondering why I’m not enough.  What do I need to change to find love?  Why hasn’t God sent (insert name) into my life?

But you know what, those 6 days out of 7 are what I am going to put my effort, my attention, my focus on.  Because I have so much more to offer than my insecurities point out that I don’t.  I want to strive to live the life that God created me to live and you know what, if He has different plans for me than I do myself, why would I want anything different for myself?

That is easier said than done, I know.  Trust me, I know.  At almost 24 years old, the southern culture I am surrounded with screams that since I haven’t found anyone I will be alone forever.  They are wrong.  I am choosing to believe they are wrong.  But I struggle daily with saying that Christ is enough for me and meaning it.  But maybe, just maybe that is where Christ wants me.  Maybe He knows that I struggle with that and that I also am striving to mean it and He is going to push me until I get there.  I am choosing to find happiness and choosing to see beyond the single struggle into a struggle towards the heart of Christ.

You can let Rachel know what you thought by leaving a comment below.

20Nov

Biblical Decision Making

Earlier this week I wrote about my favorite word in the Old Testament, steadfast.

But the steadfast love of God is a really church-y thing to like about the Bible.

I have made a concerted effort this year to read and learn more about decision making. I’ve purchased books I would not normally read, followed blogs I am not naturally interested in, and thought about leadership in ways I had not done previously.

But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned about decision making did not come from a business book or a leadership blog, although those things have been of some help to me.

Instead, the best key I’ve discovered for great decision making comes from the pages of Scripture:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

The right decision is almost never what will bring immediate satisfaction.

Notice when the results (harvest) comes, “at the proper time.” It does not always come when I want or desire.

I’ve had many chances over the last few months to remind some good people of this great verse. They’ve all been in a hard spot, doing the right thing but not seeing good results.

  • Some of them are healing from a broken relationship.
  • Some of them are trying to get businesses off the ground.
  • Some of them are trying to help someone who does not seem to want to be helped.

All of them are living out this biblical key to decision making. All of them realize that what will bring them immediate satisfaction is not best.

  • The one whose relationship has been broken knows it is not best to immediately jump into another one, even though that is what would bring immediate satisfaction, but not lasting satisfaction.
  • The one who is trying to get a business off the ground knows it is not best to bypass integrity to get ahead, even though that is what would bring immediate satisfaction, but not lasting satisfaction.
  • The one who is trying to help someone who does not want to be helped knows it is not best to give up on a friend in need, even though that is what would bring immediate satisfaction, but not lasting satisfaction.

Immediate gratification is often the enemy of successful decision making.

I do not know what decisions you have to make today, but I can tell you that this one key is probably true for you.

The right decision is almost never what will bring immediate satisfaction.

18Nov

Snapchat: Child Porn, & Sex Predators

I’ve been trying to get people to delete Snapchat for a long time now.

Snapchat’s time as a fun way for users to swap pictures has come and gone. I briefly had an account last year but it did not take long to see that the risks/danger far outweighed the benefits other, safer apps could just as easily provide.

The risk/danger side of that scale tipped even further in the wrong direction on Monday.

On Monday Snapchat announced a decision that will bust the door down between minors and sexual predators.

Snapchat is introducing Snapcash, a new feature that will allow its users to exchange money within the app.

Basically ever since it began, Snapchat’s people have been trying to mask what it really is, a safe sexting app targeted for teenagers minors. With this new feature Snapchat has moved even further from their feebly crafted image of a fun app to exchange pictures with friends.

Snapchat users have long bought into a lie but the truth is nothing is anonymous. The pics don’t disappear and have been leaked over and over and over again. However, the foolishness of Snapchat in general is not my issue.

Here’s what the new Snapchat changes might actually look like:

Old Snapchat Scenario:

  • Teenager receives snap from another teenager (you don’t have to be friends with someone to be able to send them snaps/pics unless you have your privacy settings changed from “everyone” to “friends” )
  • 1st teenager replies with a snap of their own, still not knowing who they’re sending pics to or why.
  • A mutual attraction develops and personal details begin to be exchanged.
  • Eventually the initiator convinces the other user to send some nude snaps.
  • Regardless of age, the initiator is now in possession of child pornography and has broken federal law(s). For more see: A Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Pornography via the U.S. Department of Justice.

This scenario is what has made Snapchat into a $10 billion company. If you don’t think authorities take this seriously, think again.

10 teenage boys (aged 13-15 years old) were arrested last year for producing and sharing child pornography. All they were doing was taking screenshots of nude snaps their girlfriends sent them and showing them around to other guys.

Make no mistake: this is precisely what Snapchat was created to do. But it gets worse…

New Snapchat Scenario:

  • Teenager receives snap from another Snapchat user (you don’t have to be friends with someone to be able to send them snaps unless you have your privacy settings changed from “everyone” to “friends”)
  • Teenager replies with a snap of their own, still not knowing who they’re sending pics to or why.
  • A mutual attraction develops and personal details begin to be exchanged.
  • Eventually the initiator asks the teenager to send some nude snaps.
  • 1st teenager protests.
  • Initiator offers to send the teenager money via Snapchat.
  • Teenager reluctantly agrees, sends nudes and receives money from a sexual predator for producing child pornography.  

I cannot stress to you how extremely likely this situation is. It has probably happened several thousand times even since the change on Monday. The Snapcash function is now live on both Android and iOS version and is ready to be used.

Teenagers, you’re setting yourself up for a type of abuse and exploitation you know nothing about. Delete Snapchat right now. There are plenty of other apps that can offer the same services as Snapchat with much more oversight and accountability I know those two words may not have much weight on your life now but if you live by them you will develop wisdom to live the best life possible in a very foolish world.

Parents, delete Snapchat from your child’s phone. Have a conversation about these new changes and explain the dangers that come with this new feature. Explain to your child how you want to trust them but you can in no way trust all the other 100 million Snapchat users. For more see: 9 Resources for Parents: Navigating the Digital Age.

Pastors/Church Leaders, delete Snapchat. Do not use Snapchat in ministry. As I stated earlier, the benefits are no longer worth the risks and dangers. You can communicate with students in countless other ways and even if you couldn’t , your holiness is infinitely more important than your relevancy. Stay far above reproach.

How do you feel about the new Snapchat?

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