Entertainment

The Chosen: Is It Biblical?

A few years ago a series about the Bible came on the scene called “The Chosen” and quickly became extremely popular. They even had a Christmas special this past year that many Christians enjoyed. My oldest daughter, Jess, watched it but became more than a little concerned when she noticed the ecumenism (a coming together of faiths) during the special.

She decided to do some research on the show. I believe you will be thankful that she did. What she found is important information for anyone who is truly dedicated to God and His Word. How important that we value truth and biblical accuracy over being entertained.

So today we will have a guest post by Jess, explaining what she found and why she has decided this show is definitely not biblical and should be eliminated from our list of entertainment options. I might add that I whole-heartedly agree with her conclusion. (You can find out more about Jess at the end of this post.) So here is why both she and I will not be watching The Chosen

The Chosen TV series has recently taken the Christian world by storm. Do a quick google search and you’ll be hard pressed to find any criticism of the show. Instead, raving reviews come from those both inside and outside of the church. So I am aware that my own critique of this show will not be a very popular one. I believe, however, that it is a necessary one and I’m going to propose to you three reasons why I think it’s best that we avoid watching and endorsing The Chosen. 

My first concern is the subtle (or not-so-subtle) Scriptural inconsistencies. The most blatant one is the way the show pushes a feminist agenda. We first glimpse this when Jesus asks Mary Magdalene to lead in prayer and Scripture reading before a sabbath dinner. This is a historically impossible scenario and totally inconsistent with first century Jewish culture. Mary Magdalene is also seen throughout the show as “the 13th disciple” and travels around with Jesus and His disciples. It would have been both culturally and morally inappropriate for a single woman to travel around with a bunch of men. And if she had, her virtue and the intentions of Jesus and the disciples would have been called into question. And finally, in episode 6, we see Tamar and Mary Magdalene carry the paralytic man through the crowd. This is in direct contradiction to the story in Luke 5 where it clearly states “some men” carried the paralytic man (see verse 18). The writers are clearly trying to appease the feminist American culture even at the expense of changing the words of Scripture.

Another error is found when Jesus is conversing with Nicodemus and asks him, “what does your heart say?” I can tell you– beyond a shadow of a doubt–Jesus never would have said that (Jeremiah 17:9). They also portray Matthew as having Asperger’s Syndrome. You can’t find any proof for this scripturally and, again, it feels as though they’re simply pandering to the current American culture.

My second concern is that this show will affect the way people approach Scripture. The writers obviously take a lot of liberties with the story of Jesus, the disciples, and other biblical characters to create a multi-season series. You might think it’s not a big deal; that it’s just entertainment. But this show adds details, attributes, and circumstances that aren’t in the Bible to Bible characters and Bible stories. Don’t you think that those things might paint an inaccurate picture that will affect the way you read God’s Word?

Quotes like “I came to know Jesus better through this show” and “I feel like I’ve been reading my Bible in black and white all these years and now it’s in color” have been circulating on social media by both the creators and fans of the show. The creator says he’s “trying to tell God’s stories in a fresh way” and “enhancing Scripture”. Those are all incredibly dangerous statements. Do you need something other than God’s Word to know Jesus? No. In fact, God’s Word is the only way we can know Jesus. Do we need anything to enhance God’s stories or tell them in a fresh way? Absolutely not. Only the Bible is the inspired Word of God and it needs no enhancing or modern re-telling by fallible men.

My final concern is with the creator of the show himself, Dallas Jenkins. Before I share my own thoughts, I think it might be best to allow his own statement, in an interview on a LDS (Church of the Latter Day Saints or Mormon) radio show, to speak for itself:

“So I can honestly say, it’s been one of the top three most fascinating and beautiful things about this project – it’s been my growing brother and sisterhood with people of the LDS community that I never would’ve known otherwise and I learned so much about your faith tradition and realizing, gosh, for all the stuff that maybe we don’t see eye to eye on…that all happened, that’s all based on stuff that happened after Jesus was here. The stories of Jesus we do agree on, and we love the same Jesus. That’s not something you often hear…sometimes it’s like, oh they believe in a different Jesus than we do. No, it’s the same, I mean I’ll sink or swim on that statement. I know that’s controversial and I don’t mind getting criticized at all for the show, and I don’t mind being called a blasphemer, I don’t like it when my friends are. I made it very clear that if I go down, I’m going down protecting my friends and my brothers and sisters and so I don’t deny we have a lot of theological differences but we love the same Jesus.” 

This is one of many examples of him stating that Mormonism, Catholicism, and Christianity simply have minor theological differences. He calls them “different perspectives” that are “exciting to explore, not dangerous”. He consults a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and an evangelical christian after writing each episode to make sure they are “biblically accurate”. You can find him saying many times that we all believe in or that we all love the same Jesus.

But do we? Both the church of LDS and Catholics believe in a combination of works and faith. Mormons believe that God attained His supreme status by righteous works and that Jesus is a created being and not equal to God. I could go into more details behind the errors of the Mormon and Catholic faiths and what makes them false religions, but I’ll save that for another day. However, the differences between the true Christian faith and the Mormon and Catholic faiths are essential, gospel issues and not simply theological differences we can brush over. And the bottom line is this: If Dallas Jenkins believes what he’s saying then he doesn’t understand the true Gospel. The Gospel that says there’s only one way. The Gospel that says we are forgiven on the merit of Christ alone and not of anything we can do. The one and only Gospel that is founded on the belief that Jesus is God incarnate.

And do we really want to watch a show about Jesus and the Gospel that is created by a man who doesn’t even understand the Gospel? I’ll let you make that decision, but I, for one, cannot.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jess is a wife to one of my favorite son-in-laws and mom to three boys. She loves the Lord and values truth. When she’s not busy being a mom, she enjoys researching things as she compares them to God’s Word. She has recently decided to start a Facebook page and Instagram account dedicated to running popular philosophies, movements, entertainment, authors, and teachers through the grid of the Bible. You can find her Facebook page here. Her Instagram is @anchor.for.the.soul.

 

A REMINDER: If you’d like to continue hearing from me, should I be censored, I am asking you to give me your name and email address if you haven’t already done so. You can do this by simply replying to this email. I am trying to find a censorship-free platform to use for my subscribers and will only add those that actually value the content posted here and want to be added.

 

Thinking Beyond the Obvious (Part 1)

The past several months have brought several trials across my doorway. A few major ones but mostly minor. A few extremely heart-wrenching but most simply annoying or inconvenient. Through it all, I’ve had a choice in how I was going to react and respond. And, to be flat-out honest, I’ve been less than impressed with myself. The tough moments of life quickly show us our weaknesses, don’t they? You think you are getting somewhere in your spiritual journey and then BAM! A trial hits and you realize you haven’t gotten near as far as you thought. It definitely keeps me humble. To say the least.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently in regards to this is worldliness. I found myself responding way too often just as the world would respond. Wouldn’t responding and reacting just like the world make me “spotted” by the world? (James 1:27) Throughout most of my life, I’ve viewed worldliness mostly through the avenue of entertainment. I’ve written several posts on trying to eliminate this form of worldliness from our lives. And rightly so. The lack of discernment in this area is epidemic in the lives of Christians. There is a gigantic disconnect between Christians and their entertainment.

But, while this is important, I’ve been realizing that worldliness is far more encompassing than entertainment. I’d like to take a few posts and look into this subject of worldliness. What does the Bible teach about it? What are some surprising areas where we need to be on guard against it? And what steps do we take to minimize or even eradicate it from our lives? If there is time, we may even take a look at how the doctrine of separation and the term “worldliness” was completely eradicated from our current church culture. Whew! That’s a lot to cover.

It’s been awhile since I wrote a series, but as I’ve been reflecting on this topic recently, I believe it is critical to have a good understanding of it. I hope that this series is a blessing to us all as we strive to live holy and godly lives.

First, let’s talk about what the Bible teaches specifically about worldliness. A few passages quickly come to mind. You could find more if you do your own study. God makes it clear that we are to be separate from the world. Not in connecting with and loving others or in sharing the Gospel with the lost but in how we live our lives. There should be a vast contrast between our life and that of our unsaved neighbor.

Let’s look at three of the scripture passages that speak about this–

I John 2:15-17Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Do not love the world or the things of this world. Wow. How more clear can you get than that? We are not to love the world or the things of the world. This encompasses all areas of life. Not just entertainment. Not just the obvious things we think of immediately. The world’s wisdom and philosophies permeate every aspect of life. Have you ever thought about this? I really hadn’t until just recently.

Romans 12:1-2I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Do not be conformed to this world. The definition of conform is: to be similar or identical. From these verses, we can know that we are not to look anything like the world in any way. We can also see that as we grow and start to look more and more like Jesus we will look less and less like the world.

James 4:4Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Friendship with the world=Enmity with God. God couldn’t have made it much clearer than that, could He have? If we insist on being a friend of the world, then we have, by default, become the enemy of God. If we think about this seriously for just a moment, we have to recognize something that is very sobering: True believers are not friends with this world. This doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes desire friendship or even cave to that battle. It also doesn’t mean that we are without struggle or growth in this area. This is not perfectly realized as a baby Christian or even as a mature Christian. What it does mean is that eventually the Holy Spirit convicts us and we recognize that we cannot be friends with God and friends with this world at the same time. God doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room in this area of befriending the world.

So we can see from these passages above that God expects us to remain disenchanted with the world and its philosophies. That we are to separate ourselves from it and to be different. In fact, it is this difference that will make us stand out to those who are seeking Jesus Christ. It will be this difference that makes us as light and salt to a lost and dying world (Matthew 5:13-14) Of course, this is a far cry from what is being taught in the mainstream church these days. Most popular Christian teachers, preachers, authors, and musicians are either completely ignoring this doctrine or promoting the exact opposite.

So let’s take a look now at some of the ways worldly thinking and attitudes creep into our lives when we least expect it. I confess I had to really stop and think about some of these things and I will readily admit to you that I have to recognize that I am far more worldly that I thought I was. It happens so subtly. How easy it is to fall prey to this–especially in a Christian culture that is promoting it so heavily.

So here we go. I will start the list today and continue on in the next post. Please keep in mind that in several of these categories the mainstream church isn’t too far off from the World. It’s a sad, sad thing and we must be on guard. Just because your favorite Pastor says it or a Christian author promotes it or a Christian artist sings it, does not mean it is biblical truth. We truly must compare everything to God’s Word. This has always been true, but perhaps never so critical as in the minefield that is called “Christianity” today.

So just how do we let the world slip into our daily lives so easily?

Let’s look at the obvious and not-so-obvious ways–

1. ENTERTAINMENT. Let’s start with the obvious. After all–it is one of the primary ways that worldliness inches its way into our lives.

The World: Watch, listen to, and read what you want. It doesn’t matter. Numb your brain as much as you can with any and all kinds of entertainment–no matter how wicked. God and even morals are irrelevant when it comes to entertainment. The only thing that matters is that you experience pleasure.

What the Bible Says: I will set nothing wicked before my eyes (Psalm 101:3). We can also look at Galatians 5:19-21, which provides one of several lists of the “works of the flesh”. These are things that we are not to practice as believers–and we can safely assume that they are things we are not to entertain ourselves with, as well.

This area of entertainment is one of the key ways Satan infiltrates a Christian’s life. Cleaning up and even cutting back on our entertainment has the power to tremendously change our walks with the Lord for the better. There is something that stands between us and the Lord when we are constantly filling our minds with the things He abhors. Until we are willing to give these things up, there is a wall there that cannot be removed. As we grow in Christ and yield our entertainment to Him, we will lose our appetite for these things. But we have to be willing to give them up first and let Christ “clean house”.

Think about not only what you watch but how often you watch. Pay attention to music lyrics on the radio. Think about not only what you read but how often you read frivolous fare compared to the solid food of the Word or even the works of solid Christian authors (most of whom are long gone now–Ryle, Spurgeon, the Puritan writers, etc.)

Sometimes it isn’t what we are watching but how often we are watching. I really had to think about this a few months ago. I had allowed myself to get lazy and we just turned the TV on every evening as a matter of course. It stayed on a good part of the evening while we mindlessly consumed what we considered as fairly innocuous programming. But somewhere in there God really convicted me and we made an effort to really change that. I realized just how much precious time I was wasting. If Satan can’t get us with the evil entertainment issue he will try to get us with the wasting time issue. We must be on guard for both. I was also challenged about my definition of “innocuous” programming. When we really evaluate what we are watching through the lens of scripture, we are really left with little to watch.

2. NETWORKING/BUILDING A PLATFORM. This is a more recent thing. Several years ago, I took an online class that taught me how to “build a platform”. I took it because at that point in time, I was hoping to grow this blog. It wasn’t until a bit later that I took on John MacArthur’s philosophy of marketing (as in: I don’t market myself. If God wants to grow the blog, He can take care of that. I will just be faithful to God and His Word, in whatever ministry He places me and let Him take care of the rest!)

The World: Get as many connections as you can. Work hard to connect with the ones that will help you build your platform. Numbers matter. Get as many followers and connections as you possibly can to enlarge your circle.

What the Bible Says: Don’t worry about building a platform. Our job is to serve faithfully in whatever ministry we have been called to (Matthew 20:16; Hebrews 12:28; 2 Timothy 1:3). John 3:30 takes it a step further: He must increase, but I must decrease. We aren’t even to be worrying about ourselves or our “platform”. Our focus should be on giving God the glory, sharing the Gospel, and growing the saints. He will take care of building any platform that we need.

Would it surprise you to know that there is not one word in the scripture about building a network? Does this mean it is wrong to be on social media? Of course not. We like to follow those with similar interests or those that encourage us in our faith. And it is fine for them to follow us. This is not about the what but about the why. Are we following someone so that they will follow us back? Are we commenting on something so that we will bring notice to ourselves and get our name out there? Are we developing a friendship with that guy or conversing with that girl because they have “connections”? In short, are we using people to further our own agenda?

One of the things I was told that I would need to do in order to build my platform was to read other blogs and be actively participating by commenting. I did try this for awhile, but at the time I was extremely busy and didn’t have time to read a lot of blogs that I didn’t really care about. Since that time, I only read blogs that I really enjoy. (This change in attitude has also given me total freedom from offense if friends or family don’t read my blog. There are just so many hours in a day and I totally get it if my blog isn’t their “cup of tea”. We all have to choose what we have time to do. I mean I absolutely love when someone I know personally tells me they like my blog or that they were blessed by a post. But I also know that just because they don’t take time to read this particular blog isn’t necessarily a reflection on their feelings for me. Okay–enough of that bunny trail!)

In summary, we must not use people to further our ministries, careers, or personal followings. In fact, we should spend minimal–if any–time marketing ourselves. The world would say use people and puff yourself up. But the Bible says love people and diminish yourself. See how these are complete opposites?

3. LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION. How the world talks and communicates should be very different from how we Christians communicate on so many different levels–how we talk, what we talk about, and even the tone with which we say what we say.

The World: Foul language; Agreement equals love; Gossip; Speak your mind no matter who you hurt.

What the Bible Says:  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

What exactly is edification? According to google, it is defined as: The instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually. Now if we run everything we say through this grid, it clears up a lot of things real quick.

Are we edifying someone by using foul language? No.

Are we edifying someone if we stand around and talk about about the boss or a fellow employee? No.

Are we edifying someone if we give our agreement to something that we know is wrong? No.

And one more–

Are we edifying someone if we speak our mind in a brusque, matter-of-fact manner without a smidge of love or kindness? No.

See how helpful this verse is? Probably would be a good one for us all to memorize and reflect on before we say anything.

 

Are you starting to see how much the world has crept into our mindset? How many things we have let slide and never even think about? As I started thinking about this, it can be a little overwhelming. But we can’t let “overwhelming” stop us from living in submission and obedience to God’s Word.

My next post will continue with more areas we have allowed worldliness to seep into our lives without even thinking about it.

 

 

 

When God Opens Our Eyes

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going to Florida with a couple of my dear friends. It was planned before I knew I was headed back to work and, at first, I stewed a bit. Could I really afford to give up five days to vacation in Florida? And then I realized that God was well aware of what my situation would be and perhaps He thought I needed a bit of down-time before jumping from one busy season to the next. I decided to just enjoy it.

Before I left I realized my favorite shampoo was running low. Thankfully, I thought of it while I was at the grocery store and I hurriedly grabbed a bottle from the shelf while shopping a day or two before. I took it home and squeezed a bunch of it into an emptied travel shampoo bottle to tuck into my carry-on. The bottle still had a little water in it from trying to rinse out the previous shampoo so I wasn’t sure if that would mess up the shampoo or not. I wasn’t too worried.

The first morning, as I began to wash my hair in the shower a bunch of water came out of the bottle. Oops. As I took the rather gloppy shampoo and rubbed it a bit in my hands it didn’t feel quite right. As I rubbed it through my hair it was even more weird. Would a little water make that much difference?? I didn’t think so. But, of course, I was using unfamiliar water, as well. Maybe it was harder…or softer…or just different than what I was used to. My hair was notoriously flat and lifeless that day and every day of that vacation because of this weird shampoo experience.

It wasn’t until the final day that it FINALLY hit me!

Like a lightening bolt, it hit me.

As I rubbed that lifeless, watery formula through my hair for the last day, my eyes were suddenly opened. This wasn’t shampoo at all. It was conditioner.

How could I have been so stupid not to realize it before? I still couldn’t confirm it but the more I thought about it the more certain I was that this must be the problem.

When I got home, I pulled the “shampoo” bottle from the shower. Sure enough. The company that manufactures it uses the exact same bottle for shampoo and for conditioner and I had carelessly pulled one from the shelf, never checking to make sure it was actually shampoo.

Now besides feeling really stupid, I felt…well…enlightened.

I finally had solved the puzzle.

And that was a good thing.

And–you know by now–I can’t let such a good analogy pass me by without talking about it here. Even if it does let the whole world know my rather embarrassing story.

Because I think this happens to us. We are listening to our favorite preachers. Reading the books of our favorite authors. Following our favorite celebrity speakers on social media. Perhaps we are in the habit of doing a favorite activity that we’ve never thought about being wrong before. But then something doesn’t seem right. Red flags are raised but we can’t quite put our finger on it. And then God opens our eyes. Through His Word, through a concerned fellow believer, or any other number of ways and, suddenly, we realize and we connect the dots.

What we do at that point is critical. If I had continued to use that conditioner even though my eyes were opened to the truth of the situation, you would have wondered about my intellectual capacity (you may already be wondering that, anyway, given my admission above!) Of course–like anyone else would–I stopped using conditioner and started using shampoo.

And, yet, do we respond this same way when it comes to spiritual things? Do we stop listening, reading, following the wrong things and very intentionally fill our minds with the right things? Do we stop doing something that we know is wrong even though we love to do it? Do we then replace these things with things that are true, righteous, and good, as we evaluate them according to God’s Word? It’s easy to make excuses. There are plenty of ways to rationalize why we can continue to follow someone or continue on in an activity that we know is unpleasing to the Lord.

Now, of course, I would never rationalize using conditioner for the rest of my life.

But we all know why. Conditioner made my hair lifeless and dull. I never use it. Ever. And so the consequences of using conditioner were not pleasant for me.

So no big deal to switch. My life is much more pleasant using shampoo than using conditioner.

And there is probably the real difference. What some of these false and/or compromising teachers teach makes our lives seemingly more happy. What they bring us is attractive to us, if we are living only in the temporal and not considering the eternal. They offer us popularity; pleasing philosophies; encouraging, uplifting (and extremely self-centered) messages. They allow us to have our cake and eat it, too. No turning from the world, no self-denial, no concern for turning from sin. These things matter not as long as we are happy.

And our entertainment and activities make our lives more fun. We look less weird and we are more popular if we just watch, wear, and do what everyone else does.

It is incredibly hard to turn away from teachers and activities that would seem to make our lives more pleasant and enjoyable. It truly is.

But, of course, the question to ourselves should never be: “Is this too hard for me?”

But should always be: “Is this the right thing for me to do?”

We sometimes get a little mixed up about which question to ask. Especially in this self-obsessed world.

And so I encourage you to follow through. If the Lord has been opening your eyes, submit yourself to the pain, acknowledge the hurt, and then turn away and move on. It will be a very real hurt if you choose to turn away from someone you have trusted to teach you the truth. It will be a real hardship to give up an activity that has bonded you to people you love to be with. Yes, it will be a very painful process. But, in the long run, you will be so thankful you did. Just like pouring alcohol on a wound stings dreadfully when it provides a necessary cleansing, so, too, does ridding ourselves of false teachers and ungodly activities.

But when God opens our eyes, He has given us an amazing opportunity. We need to grab hold of it and take it!

 

 

 

What Are You Willing to Give Up for Jesus?

I was having a conversation with an elementary-aged girl about unicorns a few weeks back. As you are probably already aware, they are currently all the rage. You find unicorns everywhere. They are the theme of birthday parties, plastered on lunch boxes, school supplies, girls’ clothing, and almost everywhere else. I have even seen them on baby clothing at Carter’s.

This little girl was telling me how much she loved unicorns. And then she stopped and looked at me: “Wait. Are unicorns bad?”

I do not know why she even asked me that question. I had not said even a word as she went on and on about how much she loved them. And the conversation took place while I was giving her a ride home in the evening so she couldn’t see my face. But she asked it. She asked me if they are bad.

And I had to answer honestly. I had no interest in bursting her bubble, but, yes, unicorns are bad. These mystical creatures are a symbol of feminism, magic/occult, and the LGBT movement, among other things. (Just do a search and see what shows up. It’s a bit disturbing). But I realize that most people don’t know this so I am not making any judgment on you if there are unicorns in the life of the little girls you love. This post isn’t about unicorns but about this little girl’s response…

I tried to kindly explain that unicorns might not be the best thing to love. But she cut me off and announced matter-of-factly that she didn’t care if they were bad because she loved them far too much. Nothing would make her give them up.

And I had to laugh inside. Not that it was all that funny. But how often are we just like that little girl? How often do we respond exactly like her? We are not willing to give up what we love even if God clearly directs us from His Word that we should do so.

Whether it’s unicorns or it’s–

• A TV show, book series, or music genre that we just love but recognize, deep-down inside, that it shouldn’t be a part of our lives.

• An unbiblical church that isn’t preaching truth…but all of our friends are there.

• Bad habits of eating too much, spending too much, drinking too much, knowing full-well we are not pleasing our heavenly Father.

• An unsaved boyfriend or girlfriend that, in our flesh, we want to date.

• Some secret sin that no one knows about or a secret place we go or a secret vice we cling to.

• A grudge or unforgiving heart towards someone that we love to nurse.

• Our penchant for gossip, or “white” lies (a lie is a lie, btw), or cheating our bosses or perhaps even the government (on our taxes).

• Allowing worry and anxiety to consume us and control our lives.

 

And we respond like the little girl:

I don’t care if it’s wrong, I am going to do this anyway.

Can you see how a seed of rebellion shows it first green leaves at this declaration? Oh, we may not say it out loud or even in our thoughts, but we know. We know when we are holding on to something sinful with an unwillingness to budge.

And this is when a wall starts to grow between us and the Lord.

Jesus says that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). James tells us we must submit to God so that the devil will flee from us (James 4:7). Peter tells us to turn away from our former lusts and to be holy (I Peter 1:14-16). Paul tells us this same thing in Ephesians (Ephesians 4:22-24).

When we refuse to put away worldly, ungodly things that we know full well are sinful we are quite effectively blocking our own growth as a believer. Rebellion is what caused Satan to be removed from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15) and it’s what led Eve to eat that apple (Genesis 3). She wasn’t going to let God tell her what was good and evil. She could decide for herself.

How often do we have this same attitude? God, I’ll obey you in this, this, and this but I am not going to give you that. I can make up my own mind about that and I don’t need to submit to you.

But these little decisions and behaviors do not go unnoticed by the God who loves us. I wonder if He grieves at our selfish, spoiled child mentality of wanting what we want and refusing to give it up?

We know that sinful choices always lead us away from Him. And as they lead us away from Him, they are moving us towards heartache, chains, and despair. Affairs, addictions, and broken relationships all begin with a seemingly insignificant decision of rebellion. But, even if it’s not going to lead us into something like that, we know that every sinful choice takes us just a step further away from pure fellowship with God. Rebellion always does this.

I am not here to give you a list of what you can and cannot do, where you can and cannot go, what you can and cannot watch or listen to. But, instead, I simply want to encourage you, as a believer, to follow your conscience. Listen to that niggling doubt that is in the back of your head. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to your sin and to any choices that are leading you away from Him. Be willing to surrender your own will and desires to the God who loves you.

I write this to myself, as well. Maybe mostly to myself. I found this to be oh, so challenging. A supposedly insignificant conversation with a little girl about unicorns filled me with conviction over how I can be so rebellious in the “little” sinful things I refuse to give up.

Maybe that little conversation will convict you, too, which is why I decided to share it.

Just what are we willing to give up for Jesus? What are we willing to give up so that we can have the best possible relationship with Him? Is any sin or selfish choice worth a break in our fellowship with our precious Lord and Savior?

 

 

 

The Odd Disconnect

This summer has to be one of the wettest on record in our area. And not only the wettest but, for the last eight weeks, also the most humid. There are certain diseases and fungi that are inevitable when your lawn is wet, humid, and without sunshine for days on end, no matter what kind of Turfcare program or fertilization you use.

Customers are calling us, “What is wrong with my lawn?” and they are frustrated because they have paid for a Turfcare program and it’s not working. And we have to tell them that even our best Turfcare plan isn’t designed for such unusual conditions as these.

And this got me started thinking about entertainment.

Just follow me. I know it’s a big switch.

I think some of us Christians do this same thing. Our Turfcare program is our Bible reading and church attendance. We believe we have ourselves protected and covered. And the wet, humid weather pattern is our entertainment habits. We engulf ourselves in the evil of this world, by filling our brains with books, music, TV shows, movies, and video games that blaspheme God, that are filled with violence, that promote sinful sexual relationships, that use crude and profane language, and that teach ungodly philosophies.

We seem to think that because we read our Bibles we are somehow immune from the effects of these things.

But we aren’t. The ugly fruit that is born in our hearts from our sinful entertainment habits is told in the current Christian culture that is now starting to teach that homosexuality isn’t a sin. This is just a natural direction to go for professing Christians that have already been hardened to couples living together and rampant divorce. It’s a natural progression for a Christian culture that has accepted almost any sin known to man via the little screens positioned strategically all over their homes.

Christians find themselves weak and powerless and prayerless. And they can’t understand why. But I propose that it is a natural outcome for people who have soaked themselves in sorcery and witchcraft at unprecedented levels. For people who watch other people having sex on a screen and torturing, maiming, and killing others in cold blood. For people who hear their precious Lord’s name taken in vain and no longer even cringe. It’s a natural outcome for people who have filled their minds with all that God hates.

No amount of Bible reading or church attendance can withstand that deluge of evil coming into your mind.

This is why God has commanded us to be holy and pure (2 Timothy 2:22; James 3:17; I Peter 1:15-16). Growing in Christ includes both filling our hearts and minds with God’s Word, as well as eliminating evil influences.

I confess I don’t understand the really odd disconnect in this area of entertainment. It is like we have the rest of lives and then over here in a little box we have our entertainment. It is the one box we don’t even consider submitting to God.

But why?

May I challenge you today to start purifying your life in regards to your entertainment. May I encourage you to submit this area of your life to God without reservation? If you don’t feel convicted about this then I would suggest that you start digging in the Word in regards to this specific topic, asking the Lord to open your eyes and show you the truth about what you have been reading, watching, and listening to.

Too many of us are the lawn with the great fertilizer program and yet find ourselves full of disease because we have been submerged in the world’s philosophies and sinfulness. By choice.

Somehow that makes it worse. We choose to put ourselves in this condition. Unlike the weather that is outside of our control, what we fill our hearts and minds with is our choice.

God wants all of our hearts. He desires that we live in purity and holiness. He calls us to repent and leave sin far behind us. This is hard under the best of circumstances, but it is almost impossible when we are filling our heads with all that we are supposed to turn away from.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk c]”>[c]properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 11:11-14

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. I John 2:15-17

Before We Can Learn to Discern

Isn’t it hard these days to keep with the plethora of false teachers and the deluge of false teaching that are flowing into the church?? It used to be fairly subtle but now it’s an all-out war on biblical, historical Christianity. Personally, I find it incredibly discouraging. Never in a million years did I see this coming.

Last year I wrote a series on how we can learn to discern (you can find it here). I am placing this post at the beginning of that series because it provides a critical step we need to take in our efforts to discern.

People will sometimes ask me about a specific teacher and I am happy to do a little research and see what I can find out. It usually isn’t too hard to figure out if you know what you are looking for.

So how can we know what to look for? Who am I to tell you? Who is anybody to tell you?

See, this has become a very real issue in this world of strong opinions. On what opinion do you stand? And why do you stand there?

There’s really only one way to know and that is through complete and utter reliance on the Word of God and what it teaches. Before we can learn to discern–and as we are learning to discern–we must spend consistent, daily time in the Word, approaching it with humble submission and a spirit of obedience.

When we do this and when we take the Bible at face-value (literally) from beginning to end we will find it makes so much sense. Especially in light of what we are experiencing these days.

The Bible predicts a one-world religion. We are watching all religions–including Christianity–being funneled into a global religion even as I write this. This shouldn’t surprise us. God told us it would happen. (Revelation 17:1-18). This understanding gives us a framework, doesn’t it? Whether it happens tomorrow or in a hundred years, we understand Satan’s game plan. We know what he is working towards. (GodQuestions.org has a good (and brief) article on this here.)

We also find out in our Bibles that justification is by faith in Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10 and many, many other places). This means that any religion–no matter how “Christian” it sounds–is a false religion if it requires any works as part of salvation. We know that any religion is false if it takes the focus off of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

We find out in God’s Word that He condemns drunkenness, sorcery, homosexuality, rebellion, impurity, dissensions, fits of anger, impurity, obscene language (Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9). Knowing this helps us intelligently discern in the world of entertainment and in living our daily lives. We not only know that entertainment that incorporates these things should not be regular part of the Christian’s life, but we also know that anyone or any organization that promotes these things is not the real deal. I’m not judging motive or eternal destiny here. People get confused. I am no judge. But what we can know is that they are off biblically and we shouldn’t follow them.

So these are three examples from the Word to show how it helps us to discern. You see, it is hard for me or anybody to keep up with all the false teachers that are out there. But if we are studying our Bibles with the right heart, we will be amazed at how God will open our eyes to what is going on. We will become more aware the more we study the Bible.

So what about the people who seem to study the Bible all the time and don’t discern at all? This has been a conundrum I have faced for a long time. How does that work?

There are so many things that can keep us from really seeing the truths of scripture, no matter how much we read it–

1. A proud heart. Many people approach the Word with their preconceived ideas of what they want it to say, what they wish it would say, what they think it should say. God will not give insight to the person who studies the Bible with preconceived notions. We have to humble ourselves and yield ourselves to Him and His message. (How arrogant of us to think we know better than He does? But we can all fall into this trap.)

2. A fearful heart. I believe another very real issue is that the ramifications of really believing what the Bible teaches is frightening. The way is narrow? My husband…daughter…mom & dad…are not saved and that means…? It is not a pleasant message. (But, as we all know, pleasantness is irrelevant when it comes to truth. Many people face the Bible’s message in a very different way than they would ever face an unpleasant medical diagnosis. Can you imagine ignoring a deadly disease and pretending it’s just not there??)

3. A heart that loves sin. This is probably the biggest thing that hinders believers in their biblical discernment. We Christians love our sin. And reading the Bible with a heart to obey means we are willing to give up our sin. But many are just not willing to do this. Whether it’s sexual immorality, sorcery, occasional drunkenness, ungodly entertainment, an unforgiving heart–whatever it may be–many of us hold on to these things for dear life, believing (mistakenly) that we can’t possibly be happy without them.

Do you have any of these attitudes as you approach the scripture? I know I certainly have had them and still do at times. This isn’t a black and white issue. We must be constantly checking our heart as we go before the Lord each day. We must be examining ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) on a regular basis to make sure our hearts aren’t becoming hardened.

Recognizing that scripture is our final authority and our only legitimate way to know who God is and what His plan is for mankind will be the first healthy step in learning to discern. As we get ourselves into the Word with a humble heart willing to turn away from sin, we will be surprised at how aware we become of all that God is ready and willing and wants to teach us as we study His Word consistently.

 

Technology Is Like a Razor Blade

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Razor Blades work great to remove paint from glass. They have other very helpful applications. But they are also dangerous and must be handled extremely carefully.

It sounds like technology.

The other evening I watched a group of teen-aged girls come in from the frigid cold to the warm indoors. The first thing each one of them did–without exception–was to stand for a few minutes at their phones, posting photos from their adventure outside. And then their phones were put away and they started talking.

But this incident reminded me of just how much technology has changed our lives.

That group of girls can’t remember a world without texting and social media. They can’t remember a time you couldn’t FaceTime or Skype someone who lives far away or follow your favorite movie star’s personal life.

But I remember. And the changes are staggering if you really stop and think about it.

But just like that razor blade, the changes are not all bad. There are amazing things that make our lives so much better. I have two daughters that live in a different state than me. Technology makes this so much more bearable. They can send me photos, text me at any time, and we can FaceTime. It makes them feel so much closer. When I lived away from my parents they got an occasional letter and a weekly {very expensive} phone call. This was all we had. There are so many other good things. We can listen to podcasts of godly preachers at the push of a button. We can find free or almost free copies of Christian classics written by godly men long ago. We can use social media to talk about our faith and to point people to God’s Word. And so, of course, we must be grateful for the good things.

But just like that razor blade, technology has an edge. And it will bite. It must be handled very carefully or it can be very dangerous. What are some of the biggest dangers that we must watch out for? Here are a few that I think are worthy of your consideration for yourself or your children–

1. It drives us to be consumed with ourselves. Social Media is designed to glorify self. Look at me! See what I’ve done…see my amazing family…see how I have succeeded…see how cool I am. We twitter our important opinions and expect people to take note. It tends to be a big promoter of SELF. Now don’t hear me saying that posting photos and opinions is sinful. It isn’t. These things can be wonderful tools for family far away to stay in touch with us or a way in which we can point people to Christ. It is our attitude that determines if it is sinful not the act itself.

2. It divides families. When I was growing up, we had one TV. We had to watch the same thing or not watch TV. Now everyone can go their separate ways. Parents are in the family room watching one TV, while their teenager is on their tablet in another room binge-watching a Netflix show, another one is playing video games online, and a daughter is snap-chatting with her friends. They are never together. And the TV is rarely off.

3. It is the greatest thief of family bonding time. Parents have grabbed onto technology as the escape they need from their children. And so, instead of communicating with them and talking about important, eternal things during the hours they have with them in the car, in restaurants, and even at home, they hand them an iPad so that they will shut up and let them alone. This may be the greatest tragedy of all because these kids grow up without having any solid relationship with their parents. In a world of over-worked parents, the iPad has become the tool that is killing their family bit by bit. Of course, giving a child an iPad at a restaurant occasionally or on the a long car ride to Grandma’s isn’t sinful. But if it is habitual, it will harm your family.

4. It promotes gossip. We know far too much about everybody and we like to talk about it. Did you see what so-and-so posted? Did you hear about this person? Or what that person said? Social Media turns us all into busy-bodies if we aren’t extremely careful. While it can be a valuable tool to keep us informed on the people we love, we must be vigilant in taking our thoughts captive in how we think about that information.

5. It has altered our attention spans. In a world driven by photos and two-minute videos, we find it harder and harder to concentrate.  Watching and looking require much less thinking than reading or listening. As we spend less and less time reading and concentrating it becomes harder and harder to do so. It is only with great intention that we can change this. It has become an almost natural thing for young people to hate reading. And this is a grave tragedy. A grave tragedy indeed.

 

These are just a few dangers. There are so many more. The Christian life can never be one of status quo. We are not called to just let life happen while we apathetically stand by. We are called to make intentional choices that move us towards holy living and becoming more like Christ. We do this by examining every single thing through the grid of God’s Word. We do this by scrutinizing the fruit of every thing that comes along. And in doing this, it not only helps us to avoid sin, but it also helps us to keep ourselves from experiencing the worst fruits of those things that can bring such good to our lives but also have potential to cause unbelievable damage.

We cannot sit idly by as our kids are gobbled up by their smart phones. We cannot allow the TV to bring its messages into our homes 24/7. We must be proactive in controlling technology or it will control us.

So how do we change this? What are some practical ways?

A few things I would suggest are this–

1. Don’t turn the TV on at dinnertime. Whether you live by yourself, there are just the two of you, or you have a houseful of kids, let mealtime be a time of discussion or reflection.

2. As a rule, keep iPads, DVD playeres, and headphones out of the car. Exceptions can be made for long trips but, other than that, intentionally use this time to talk about the things of the Lord, to listen to uplifting music together (try some hymns!), or to just play games and have fun together!

3. Put boundaries around the use of phones, video games, TV use, etc. that are doable (and not extreme). Whether it’s for your kids or yourself, going about change in this manner will make it doable and bring small positive changes instead of making it feel impossible.

4. Live intentionally. We must stop letting life happen to us and be more intentional about where we want to go. Year after year passes by without any change at all, if we don’t intentionally work at it. My pastor often quotes something his mom used to say to him: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” Yes! This is so true!

5. Live balanced. When my kids were teenagers they had a friend who wasn’t allowed to have any junk food. When she came to my house, she would eat and eat and eat any sugar she could find here. I’ve watched the same thing happen with a couple of girls who weren’t allowed to ever watch TV. They would come to our house and just stare at the TV, unmoving. This is a good lesson that teaches us that removing something that isn’t sinful in and of itself can cause our kids to become obsessed with it. It is often wiser to teach our kids how to use it beneficially and balanced than just eliminating it. This goes for us without kids, as well. We must live balanced lives. We can spend time on social media, but we shouldn’t live there. We can check our smartphones, but we shouldn’t be obsessed with them. It sounds silly to write but I have seen quite a few older people obsessively scrolling through their phones. This is not just a younger generation thing.

 

I hope this helps. I hope it helps us recognize the dangers of technology and also gives us some ideas on how to go about making positive changes in our lives as well as in the lives of our families. Mostly, I hope it reminds us all that this wonderful thing called “technology” is sharp as a razor blade and it will cut us if we aren’t careful.

 

What No One Wants to Talk About

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On Sunday, as we left east Texas to start our long journey home, just a few hours away the unthinkable was happening: An unsuspecting country church congregation in a small Texas town gathered for worship and were gunned down by a madman with a vendetta.

Last night, when I was finally able to catch a bit of news coverage, I heard a reporter say this to a local man she was interviewing–

“There are those on the far left who say the blood of these people is on the hands of the Republicans because they haven’t changed the gun laws.”

His answer was perfect. He assured her that had we had stricter gun laws, the man would have probably gone on to kill more people. Gun laws won’t keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and madmen, they will keep them out of the hands of law-abiding citizens who desire to protect themselves. And yet, this is always the cry in the wake of something like this–

Gun control! Gun control! Gun control!

But is this really going to solve anything? Or is it far deeper than simply keeping a weapon out of their hands?

Proverbs 4:23 tells us this–

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

Should we be at least considering if there is a connection between violent, occultic entertainment and evil actions?

The other day, as my husband pulled up next to a car at a local gas station, loud screamo music reverberated throughout the parking lot from its sound system. Evil, mind-numbing music. When he got home he expressed how that music must have some affect on its listeners, as it made his spirit feel angry just to listen to a few seconds of it.

And, all across this nation, people are filling their minds with this kind of music. Music that is filled with lyrics encouraging them to kill, to commit suicide, to shoot, and to commit all other types of evil.

And no one says a word.

Meanwhile, playing on TVs and in movie theaters across this nation are such evil things we could never have imagined. Dark, demonic pictures fill the minds of the masses.

And no one says a word.

Video games rated “M” (as if somehow that will keep impressionable children from playing them) are played–where the whole goal of the game is to shoot, to kill, to maim.

And no one says a word.

Even those who claim to be Christians enjoy these things. And if you dare to say a word, you are branded as the evil one.

I confess that I find myself perplexed beyond measure.

But please tell me this: If we can’t eat a steady diet of junk food and come away unscathed, why do we think we can fill our minds with horror, violence, and the occult and come away unscathed?

And why isn’t anyone talking about the dark, evil entertainment that fills the minds of so many of these shooters? Why isn’t anyone looking for that link?

It’s easy to answer that question, of course. It is called political correctness.

The other day, one of my daughters sent me Taylor Swift’s latest video because she was so appalled. In this dark, evil video, Swift–the innocent sweet 15 year old that hit the music scene not that long ago–appears to be singing about killing someone as she prances about, filling the minds of her audience with all kinds of disturbing images. But no matter how dark, how evil she has become, she is still praised, featured, and promoted by the media. (Perhaps that was the plan all along–to drag more naive, unthinking teens down a dark path while their parents do nothing to stop it.)

Things are so dreadfully wrong with the entertainment industry it is hard to comprehend.

And no one says a word.

Look– I am not implying that this is the only factor in any shooting. Nor am I even implying that it is a factor at all. What I am asking is why isn’t this ever considered? I am not implying that most people will crack under the mountain of evil entertainment they feed their minds. But is it worth considering that some minds will not withstand the pressure?

But no one will ask the questions. And so we are simply left with a hurting, mourning nation, one half crying for more gun control and the other half asking only to be able to defend ourselves in the onslaught of evil attacks that is starting to reign in this nation.

I know that this post will change nothing. It was really just a few thoughts about what is going on. But I do hope that if it changes anything, it will encourage you–as Christian parents and grandparents–to know what your teens are listening to and watching. That you will be proactive and intentional in what goes in their minds, instead of naively believing it won’t affect them. May we lead our families on a path that moves closer to Christ in these dark days. May we not ignore the power that worldly entertainment has in the lives of our own dear families. And may we be brave enough to stand alone in this fight, because–trust me–no one wants to fight this battle. This is one area where you will often stand alone. As Satan targets our kids and grandkids in this area, most will sit idly by. And if you dare to speak up, you become most unfavored and unpopular. So be prepared for this.

Oh, what an upside down world we live in. We can’t change what’s outside our own walls, but may we be tenacious in protecting and caring for those who are under our care and in our circles of influence.

 

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