A Blog By Mia Langford
The world is full of incredible stories. Stories that defy imagination. Stories of beauty. Stories of tragedy. Stories of love. Our created universe is one big story, with many sub-plots. Each one of us is a character in this story, with our own part to play. Humanity has a collective purpose, and the church has a collective purpose as His people, but each of us must discover our own individual purpose as well.
Jesus knew his purpose. Born to be the Savior of this created world, He knew the task would require much of him, body, mind, heart and spirit. We each have our own purpose, our own cross we must be ready for.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
As always, Jesus didn’t leave us without a beautiful example. Let’s look at some ways he prepared himself to fulfill his Father’s will before taking up his cross.
Readiness of Body
I’m utterly fascinated with the Shroud of Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a crucified man many believe to be Jesus. The Shroud is unnecessary to making a robust case for the resurrection of Jesus, but the evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity is intriguing. A University of Padua professor has even used the Shroud of Turin to create a 3D carbon copy of the man in the Shroud, allegedly revealing Christ’s true features. Other researchers have joined the professor in his conclusion: The Shroud reveals a muscular, trim man in good overall physical shape, although badly tortured before and during his death.
But even without the Shroud, one need only read the description of what Jesus went through during his crucifixion to deduce that he must have been in good physical shape. He couldn’t have endured as he did otherwise. In order to even make it to the cross, Jesus had to survive the scourging that took place beforehand. Battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted, Jesus endured joint-rending cramps, inability to breathe, and hours of searing, limitless pain.
Christians should steward our bodies well. History is replete with stories of people who were called upon to save or defend others. There were also people blessed with beauty who used it for God’s glory, and people who glorified God with the marvel of their body’s talents and abilities. These Christians’ faithful care of their health and physical gifts allowed them to do the most good for the longest amount of time possible.
Readiness of Mind
Again, we don’t need the Shroud of Turin to have all the evidence we need for reasonable belief in the Christian God or the reliability of scripture. God has gifted us with enormous amounts of objective evidence to support reasonable belief in His reality and the truth of His word, and this must under-gird our personal testimony, even though our journey may start with our own personal experiences with God.
We must know this evidence if we’re to go fulfill the Great Commission, Jesus’ command (Matthew 28:18-20) to make disciples of all nations. The world is filled with people craving solid reasons for the Christian faith. In fact, we are commanded to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope” that is in us (I Peter 3:15).
Knowing then why we can trust the Bible, we must study to know what’s in it. Jesus defeated the devil during His temptation by knowing scripture. Knowing why you can trust your Bible, and installing it in your mind through study and memorization will anchor you in enduring faith.
There is so much more to read and learn, finish this blog at www.growingdeeperroots.org
A Blog By Josh Trombley
There has been a lot of doubt and skepticism from “high profile” Christians. Many have felt that there hasn’t been a place for this line of thinking in the Christian movement. While there are circles where this is not encouraged, there are also a ton of circles that are exploring.
I have seen a few rebuttals by bloggers and musicians that have some excellent points. Some have pointed out the holes in the arguments; others are urging us to follow God and not celebrity.
As much as these points are valid what needs not to get lost in the conversation and what I want to say to those who identify with the struggle of faith that has invaded so many Christian leaders is, It is ok to struggle with God and your faith. I believe it is un-Christian to not.
To not struggle in some capacity or another is to say that you have a full understanding of not just what the Scriptures say, but of God. If you believe in the God of the Scriptures, then both of those premises are absurd! Us understanding God is like a chair trying to understand it’s maker. The maker of the chair is so far beyond what the chair could ever comprehend.
Luckily we have Scripture and can experience God in beautiful and rich ways. To say that Scripture should be the thing that pulls us through and anchors us into the world of certainty is to claim that we have a perfect understanding of what the Scriptures say, which we don’t. Not even close. We rely on wisdom, experience, and tradition, and we do the best we can.
Often not recognizing this, we fix our faith to unhealthy paradigms.
When doubts and questions appear to unfurl our sails of faith, we become crippled. Instead of pushing forward to discovering brave oceans of new realities in God, we can either give up and lose hope or bunker down in safe coves.
I see neither of the later as viable options.
I believe it is good to doubt and question. When I look at the Scriptures, I can’t help but see a God who wants us to wrestle with the big issues, always realizing that there is more to learn.
There is a story at the beginning of Scripture that articulates this. There is a story about a man named Jacob. Jacob, like us all, has some serious baggage, much of which is self-inflicted.
As Jacob begins to travel to create a new life for himself and his family, he begins to wrestle with his ideas of what his life is and who God is. The book of Genesis records the Jacob has an encounter with an angel where they wrestled, and Jacob left with a limp and a new name. In the words of Switchfoot, however, “[he] wrestled an angel for more than a name.”
The Scriptures record,
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
While the name change is important, we must not lose sight of how the ancient rabbis interpreted this verse. They believed that this set the premise for our approach to the Scriptures and a relationship with God. (more in this in Chapter 2 of my book Hidden faces).
There should never be a point when we stop wrestling with God, Scripture, or hard questions. It doesn’t mean a patchwork of ideas that we throw together as though we’re filling a pothole, but there are times when we need a fresh coat of pavement.
It is not that Scripture, tradition and experience don’t matter. That somehow our wrestling with the big and small questions undermine everything. It just means that sometimes we need a tweak and other times we need a new street.
For me, because I have experienced God, it demands me to push to understand this life deeper. There have been times when my tradition has let me down, majorly. There have been times when no matter how much I trusted and looked at Scripture, it left me frustrated, confused, disillusioned. I had an experience that I could not deny. I knew and still know that there has to be something beyond myself and that faith isn’t built upon the straw of others nor upon the weak foundation of my limited understanding of an ancient text.
My faith is built upon the fact that I have had experiences with something beyond myself. It now demands of me to wrestle.
Saying this, if my faith stopped at the experience and didn’t have the structure of tradition (tried and true practices, rituals, and paradigms) and the Scriptures (God’s word that tells of the Word, Jesus) then my faith becomes a kite flying in the wind with no string.
Finish reading at www.joshtrombley.com & also check out more excellent blogs from Josh.
By Joe Bragg
Yesterday (8/13/19) a buddy of mine sent me an article written by George Brahm from Cogent Christianity and I am not going to lie I was super curious. Those who know me well, know that I am not a big Skillet fan. I can appreciate them and I certainly acknowledge all they have done in the Christian rock scene, but I personally don't dig their music much. Skillet was actually my first Christian concert after coming to Christ and I left disappointed. They put on an amazing show as far as rock concerts go but I felt that it lacked Jesus. To be fair, my expectations were high, I had never been to a Christian concert and I expected it to be Spirit filled, the gospel clearly presented and that it would be so evident that these bands were different than what I had come to know in the world. Sadly, that wasn't the case. I looked around and felt that Skillet and TFK had in some way dropped the ball (side note, Decypher Down was the opening act and they were the only band to say the name of Jesus, they made a fan of me that night). I share all of this to say, when I saw an article from John Cooper speaking about the apostasy of young Christian leaders, I knew I had to read it.
As I read what John had to say, I was honestly blown away.
John was transparent and real in his response to the recent falling away of Hillsong's worship leader Marty Sampson and Josh Harris author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". John didn't pull any punches and he said what needed to be said. I know it is a Facebook post and we can read whatever tone we want to read into it, however, it is as if you could feel John's sadness and frustration. The post is filled with edifying admonishments to the church and other believers and it is refreshing to hear someone with John's influence draw people back to the Word of God and to take Christ seriously. I felt that George of Cogent Christianity summed it up well at they end of their article when he said... "I am glad to see one of these ‘influencers’ come out in defense of the authority of Scripture and the importance of a robust faith that can outlast even the harshest of challenges."
Below you will find John's Facebook post. It's a little long but it is very much worth the read. I am curious to hear your thoughts so be sure to leave a comment! As always thank you for stopping by and taking the time! God bless!
“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once “faces” of the faith are falling away. And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.
“My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years(and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?
“I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers…first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.” I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?
“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.
“Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
“And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.
“It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.
“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)”
Here is the link to the original post bit.ly/2KPuq5o
Thoughts? Start a conversation and leave us a comment. Thanks again for taking the time! God bless!
By Tim McGrew
The Four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – provide us with a wealth of information regarding Jesus of Nazareth. But skeptics have long charged them with both internal contradictions and external historical blunders. How can we tell whether they can be trusted?
Merely answering criticisms, though that task is important, will not give us a reason to take these documents as reliable historical works. To build a positive case we need to look closely both at the documents and at our other sources of information about Palestine in the first century. And when we take that close look, several patterns emerge. First, the four evangelists get hard things right. They display an intimate knowledge of the physical geography and of the shifting political landscape. And we can tell how difficult that is by seeing how badly early forgeries fail that same test.
Second, we can test our four Gospels for consistency by looking at the way the character of Jesus comes out in the narratives. Each Evangelists has special interests and emphases. If they were merely relaying legends or making up myths, we would not expect any more similarity in their portraits than we could find between two fictional characters – between Legolas and Robin Hood, for example. But in fact, Jesus as the four Evangelists reveal him is the same character, with the same manner of teaching, the same habit of drawing examples from the physical surroundings, the same likes and dislikes, and the same way of driving home his key points. Where myth and legend would tell us to expect many different characters wearing the same name, the Gospels present us with only one.
Third, we can check our methodology by looking at how other religious books fare when we bring them to the test. The Book of Mormon affords a good point of comparison. It purports to give us accounts of historical events, and we can check to see whether our other historical evidence confirms or disconfirms those accounts. How will it fare when we evaluate it by the same standards we use for assessing the four Gospels?
This article and others like it can be found over on our good friends and partners website Growingdeeperroots.org.
Growing Deeper Roots was born in 2017 through observation of powerful synergy among three fields: Christian discipleship, theology, and apologetics. The Growing Deeper Roots conference has became an annual event in Western Michigan and Growing Deeper Roots now brings other life-changing events and content, attracting a growing and influential community from many different walks of life and disciplines united by their curiosity and passion for God, — and also by their shared discovery of an exciting secret to boldness.
They have some fantastic content on their website so be sure to check it out!!
I was born in the 80's. I grew up watching some of what I consider, the best cartoons ever made. Transformers, Voltron, M.A.S.K., Thunder Cats and of course, G.I. Joe. A phrase that seemed to stick with me was always found at the end of each episode of G.I. Joe. There would be some life lesson that a kid had to learn and one of the characters would say "Knowing is half the battle." As a kid I would often repeat that in the deepest voice I could and I thought it made me sound smart (don't judge me), I never really thought much about the phrase, I just thought it was cool. One day when I was reading the book of James the phrase popped back into my mind. I laughed at first but then it hit me. James is literally stating that knowing is only half the battle and that applying that knowledge is the other half. James chapter 1 verses 22-25 states; "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
It is one thing to read the word, hear the word and know the word, it's another thing to apply that which you are reading, hearing and know. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser (by the grace of God go I), I feel that G.I. Joe sort of let us down or if anything, left the quote incomplete causing us children to fill in the blanks based on the application of the end scene. I think the quote should have been "Knowing is half the battle, the other half is applying that knowledge." Now, that doesn't sound nearly as cool as the original and even in the most manly of voices it might come off as nerdy but it is no less true. This is often how we go about life though. In this day and age we have access to so much information and we are constantly bombarded with things seeking our attention.
I was at a mens retreat not to long ago and there was a quote shared by the speaker that leveled me. He said that he was talking to a Pastor of a church overseas and that Pastor's observation of the western church was that when it comes to knowledge we "are 3 years ahead of our obedience." It was as if the air was sucked out of the room. This caused me to immediately begin an introspective examination of my life. God used that moment to slow me down. I realized that I was on a quest for knowledge much more than I was on a quest for obedience. My Bible study method changed exponentially, I began simply meditating on one passage or one verse at a time and not moving on until I felt that I understood the verse(s) and have been actively seeking to apply what was being taught in my life. God is good at revealing what you need to deal with, what needs to go and areas where you walking in out right rebellion. James stated that if we hear the word but don't do what it says we are disillusion. The example he uses of the man looking at himself in the mirror, walking away and forgetting what kind of person he was is pretty powerful. The NLT translates this section by saying you look at yourself in the mirror and forget what you look like. The word of God is like a mirror in that when we read it, it is going to show us who we are. It is going to reveal to us that we are in desperate need of Jesus. Hebrews 4:12 states "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
God's word is going to draw out those areas that are wrong in our life, those things that need correcting. We have a choice, we can either simply know that they need to be dealt with and leave it at that or we can know and deal with them. May we be a people that dig into God's word not simply for knowledge but asking Him to draw the sin in our life out, to transform, shape and mold us. May we not simply be hearers of the word who delude ourselves but be effectual doers. May we look into the mirror of God's word and not forget what we have seen.
We are very much in this together. If you would like to chat more about this or have any thoughts you would like to add, please leave a comment. If you are struggling with something and you aren't comfortable sharing it publicly you can certainly email us at email@example.com (please note that we will likely direct you to your local church Pastor/body but we will reply and begin a dialogue as well as pray.
As always, thank you for taking the time! God bless!
by Jennings Riley
What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself. – Blaise Pascal, Pensee 435
Natural desires testify to “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Unlike most other theistic proofs, however, the argument from desire does not have the clear conclusion, “therefore God exists.” The argument from desire attempts to show that reality is not limited to the physical world we experience. In other words, desire provides evidence for the immaterial, which is the transcendent. Although transcendence attests to God’s existence, God’s existence is not proved directly by the argument from desire.
The argument from desire begins with the observation that for every natural desire an object exists to satisfy the desire. A natural desire cannot make us hopelessly discontent. Accordingly, if we can identify a natural desire that is fulfilled only by the existence of a particular object, we can prove the existence of that object. As Christians, we believe that every human desires God and can provide evidence to support the belief. Non-theists, however, will probably not accept that they have a natural desire for God. Pascal wrote, “there is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition” (Pensee 430). For the sake of persuasion, therefore, we ought to use a less controversial desire. C.S. Lewis maintained that human beings experience a natural desire, which cannot be fulfilled by earthly experience. He called the objective of this desire joy. Our pursuits of happiness, purpose, and the good life are attempts to find joy. We always want more of these things and are not content with the amount we currently possess. Great experiences always fall short and are less than hope makes them. We have moments of almost indescribable joy, which we cannot recapture at will. If we accept that every natural desire is satisfiable, however, we must suppose something exists that fulfills the natural desire for joy. Since nothing in this world can satisfy our desire for joy, something must transcend this world.
Although Lewis was undoubtedly a brilliant man, his reasoning is not immune from critique. The notion that human beings naturally have a desire that cannot be fulfilled by the natural world seems far from obvious and needs justification. Similarly, the contention that every natural desire is fulfillable might be criticized, since we plainly possess desires that cannot be fulfilled. For example, I desire to meet Gandalf from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. This does not imply, however, that Gandalf is a real person. Both objections center around the notion of natural desire. Accordingly, we should consider the question, “what is a natural desire?”
Two sorts of desire can be identified, natural and artificial. Artificial desires are based on our environment and society, for example, craving Chick-Fil-A or the newest smartphone. Because people live in different environments, they have different artificial desires. By contrast, natural desires are not produced by any specific culture, class, or experience but from the human condition. Accordingly, natural desires do not change from person to person. They are common to all humanity and arise because of our identity as human beings. We desire food and water because we have bodies. We desire pleasure because we have senses. We desire love because we are relational. We desire knowledge because we are rational. Although the strength of the desire for water might vary from person to person, the desire itself does not. For this reason, we can still appreciate the psalmist’s words “as the deer pants for water, so my soul pants for thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1). The suppression of a desire does not make it less natural. An individual in a desert might suck on a pebble to suppress the desire for water, but the desire for water is indisputably natural. By analogy, although a jaded person might suppress desires for love or joy, those desires remain natural. The suppression of desires because of circumstances does not prove they are artificial.
This article is just ramping up! Finish reading over at GrowingDeeperRoots.org
As always, thank you so much for taking the time, we hope it is a blessing!
Did you know… that the New Testament was written in the first century and not hundreds of years later, as some might argue?
The writings range from some letters of Paul written just a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion (3 to 7 years) to the Gospel of John written 60 some years after such event.
The New Testament was written by those who either knew Jesus personally and were direct eyewitnesses of His life, claims, and deeds, or were close companions to disciples of Jesus, testifying of what they had seen and experienced with their own eyes and writing to an audience who had also experienced the life, deeds, and claims of Jesus.
Although we do not have in our possession the original copies, what we have is an incredible abundance of early manuscripts that make the the New Testament incredibly pure and amazingly accurate, 99.6% accuracy that is according to scholars!
The 0.4% variances are insignificant in nature and have absolutely no bearing on the Christian doctrine.
The other amazing part that makes the New Testament so credible is that we have absolutely no manuscripts nor writings of the first century from opponents of Christianity that deny nor contest the claims the disciples of Jesus were making.
On the contrary, the writings we have attest of the events and claims of the New Testament (even if they denied the claims themselves–so for instance, no one would deny Jesus’ claims to deity or that he was viewed as deity by His followers and that His disciples believed they had seen Him risen from the dead. What they would reject are the claims themselves), making it the more credible.
Although the Gospel of John is the last writing, it is the earliest manuscript we have in our possession, dated from only 30 years after it was written.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are believed to have been written within 40 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We have over 24,000 manuscripts (5,600 in Greek alone) circulating around the world (and by the way, it is only in the late 2nd and 3rd century that we start seeing some pseudo-gospels such as the Gnostics which start giving a different view to Jesus, His claims, and the events around His life).
How does that compare to other events of antiquity?
The New Testament puts to shame any other writings and is second to none in its accuracy and purity.
Take for instance the work of Plato. What we have are only 7 manuscripts and the span between the actual writings and the earliest manuscripts is 1,200 years.
As far as Aristotle, number of manuscripts 49 and span 1,400 years.
Caesar, manuscripts 10 and span 1,000 years.
Finally, the second most abundant and accurate writing is Homer’s Iliad with 643 manuscripts and a span of 500 years.
And yet, no one denies such figures of antiquity and such writings.
Why do we then so stubbornly reject the accuracy of the New Testament?
Thanks for reading! Finish the article over at GrowingDeeperRoots.org
Finding a healthy balance is never easy.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
When I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God has a pretty clear order of how things should look in our life and we as fallen creatures sure do a good job of muddying the waters. All of us are guilty at times of having our priorities out of wack. We can get so caught up in different things that other important parts of our lives get lost in the shuffle and this can have detrimental consequences. We are all too familiar with the grind between work, family, our hobbies, our goals, our hopes to provide a better life for us and our family, etc... None of those things in and of themselves is bad, but how we manage them is where it can get tricky and sometimes turn a good thing into a bad thing quickly.
As believers in Jesus we know in our minds that we are to put Christ first always, He is to be the reason we do what we do. So many of us believe that we are called to certain things and so we pursue those things with great vigor, sometimes we pursue them so intensely that other things that God has directly called us to, suffer. I was very specific in naming this article as most who will read it are aspiring Christian artists. We can feel so deeply that God has called us to make music that we tend to rearrange the order of our life. I am going to be real honest here... Not everyone who makes music and thinks they are called to make music for Jesus are in fact called, and even if you are, it doesn't mean you are destined for the big stage. (Check out the article "You May Be Highly Successful and Not Even Know It." ) I feel very much called to make music for Jesus but I also know that my calling in that is not to be a CHH star, I am okay with that, in fact it is very welcomed. Do I strive to make the best possible music I can for Jesus, yes, you bet I do! Do I want people to listen to the music I make, absolutely! Am I going to sacrifice the other things God has called me to do in my life for the sake of the music I believe He has called me to, 1000% NO! I have seen it happen, and if I am honest, I have seen it happen in my own life, where people (myself included) get so caught up in one thing, that other vital pieces to their life/calling take a back seat. I have watched marriages falter because people are so wrapped in their musical calling that their spouse feels neglected and it causes nothing but problems.
My hope in writing this is to help.
If you believe you are called to music ministry, praise God, what you do with that calling and how you handle the other areas of your life that are equally (if not more) important (i.e. your wife, & kids is you have them), is vital. If you are married than your spouse is your number one priority. We can say this all day but is it reflected in how we live our lives? We can say we love our wife/husband all day but our actions are going to be what they see and hear. Those of us who are married need to be vigilant in this area, we must genuinely put our spouse first, always (Note: Your relationship with God should be first and if we are putting Him first we will take seriously the call to put our spouses first in the area of human relations). Read Ephesians 5. The next layer of this is if you have a child or children, they are next in line before anyone or anything else. I have learned all of this the hard way as I continue to wrestle with my own selfishness. I have seen my selfishness have such a negative impact on my family to the point where it was so clear that I was doing it wrong. This is why I take this so seriously, there is much at stake and the way we live matters. Love God, Love your Spouse, Love your Children.
The other piece to this puzzle is our work, our job, that which pays the bills. I am going to guess if you are reading this you have to work a job alongside making music in order to put food on the table. Praise God that if you have that job He has provided for you! So often we don't like what we do for work and we view it as a temporary situation until our music career picks up. This can be a super dangerous thought process. Here is the reality, it very well could be a temporary job that you are using to pay your bills until things pop off or a better opportunity comes along, that in and of itself is not a bad thing, but like anything else, how you handle this is crucial. A lot of times because the job we are working isn't and area of passion we begin to become bitter about it, we start to find everything wrong that we can and often we fantasize about when things are going to be different. What if things never change? Are you going to willingly be miserable? The Scriptures make it clear that we are to work unto the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3:23-25). How you work at a job you hate actually matters to God. Remember this is the provision He has given you whether that is temporary or not. There is nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself or find a better job that more aligns with your passions, as a matter of fact I suggest that. With that though, no matter what you are doing, do it unto the Lord and don't allow bitterness to rule you. I am very blessed to be doing what I love but it wasn't always that way and I learned Colossians 3:23-25 the hard way (God smacked me in my face with just how wrong I was doing things). We can even allow work to get in the way of our family life, we get so caught up in it that we barely spend time with the family we are trying to provide for. I work in a ministry based job and I have had to learn to balance work in the midst of everything else and learn when to say "No" and focus on my family.
My point in all of this is that we need to keep things in their proper order even if we believe that God has called us to certain things. Just because you are passionate about something doesn't mean you are called to it and so make sure that other people recognize that calling in your life as well. God will make things clear to those around you that you are truly doing what God has called you to do. If you are married and have kids they are your priority calling, no if's, and's or but's. Work hard, in all that you do as you work for the Lord and not men. Live above reproach and show people Jesus even if the job is temporary and you don't like it so much. If you feel called to make music for the Lord than do just that, just keep it in it's proper place as until music is your work and puts food on the table it is simply a hobby that you hope some day becomes what you do for a living. It is important that we learn proper priorities now because if God does call you to that big stage you better well know how to love your family in the midst of it.
This article is a call for us to examine our lives according to the Scripture. To take an honest look at our lives and see what needs to go or what needs to be adjusted. We are called to live in such away that brings glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31) so may we be a people that put God first and seek to glorify Him with our lives.
I would love to chat more about this so please feel free to leave a comment or a question. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, God bless!!
Struggles, this EP is about all sorts of struggles.
"Neon Signs" gets off to a fast and intense start with "We Are Under Attack". W.A.U.A. is speaking directly about how backwards things are in our world and how we are in the midst of a battle of epic proportions whether we know it or not. The song speaks to the fact that people think following Jesus is insane but AJ points out that the true insanity is in not following Jesus.
W.A.U.A. is followed up by "Identity". "Identity" deals with AJ's life pre-Christ as he was sorting a lot of life out and also wrestling with depression, suicidal thoughts and worthlessness. By the end of the song we come to understand that we can only walk in our true Identity by believing in and following Christ. "SwitchPoint" immediately follows and is about the struggles we can encounter as a believer as we wrestle with our flesh/sin. As believers we have a tendency to walk in our old identity, our old self, rather than our new identity, our new self. It is easy to find yourself lost in a cycle and begin to feel overwhelmed, defeated, depressed and confused. The great thing about this EP is that thematically AJ takes us from one place to the next as "SwitchPoint" is followed up "Take The Exit" which is related to 1 Cor 10:13, which states that God is faithful to provide us an exit so that we may endure the temptation we are facing. The thing is, we need to take the exit and flee from the temptation... This is where the battle is most intense... Praise God that we have an advocate in Christ Jesus, and that if we don't take the exit and fail, praise God for His grace that we are in desperate need of. The call here is purity, we are not to cheapen the grace of God but rather strive for holiness, and strive for Christ-likeness.
"Dimensions, Ep 2" is the second part of the saga which got it's start on A.K.A. Fisher's album "Otherworldly Weapons" (if you haven't heard that album you are greatly missing out and need to go check it out immediately... www.tentmakermusic.com/akafisher). Dimensions is following the life of a young man named Ulysses as he is bent on vengeance but God has placed people in his life that are pointing him to a greater end and that is Jesus. After the skit ends we are launched back into the music, AJ comes back in with "From The Dead" which features The Legend of Xero and is hard hitting both in lyrical content but also in beat and style. "From The Dead" makes the gospel clear and challenges people that don't know Jesus to make the decision to follow Him and to not wait as now is the time. This brings us to the final song on the EP "Each Passing Day" which features Jon Payne. "Each Passing Day" picks up right where "From The Dead" Leaves off and is a plea for people to turn from sin and turn to Jesus. "Each Passing Day" shares the reality that each day that passes brings us closer to death and that we need to make a decision about Jesus, that we need to not sleep on Christ but rather examine the claims and pray we see the signs that are all around us. Jon Payne reminds us that we are not to far gone and that we can turn to Jesus no matter what we have done, that we don't need to clean up first but rather we can come as we are scars and all. The EP ends with a powerful call to choose Jesus and to choose Him now.
"Neon Signs" is for sure a journey. Average Joe wants us all to be reminded and to know that there is a God and that through the death and resurrection of Christ we can walk in new life, we can walk in the victory that is only found in Jesus and experience true life. In the words of William Wallace "Every man dies, not every man really lives." True life is only found in Christ.
"Neon Signs" drops February, 26th and will be available on all major digital outlets.
If you’ve ever set out to do something special, something you believe God called you to do, and been disappointed when the result of your efforts fails to meet your expectations, the problem may be with your definition of “success.” This is quite common among Christians, especially Christian artists and ministers, in part because we’ve so often failed to define the word “good” correctly. Because we consider success to be something good, failure to properly define “good” can lead to a confusing conversation. So, let’s go back… back to the beginning…
(insert “flashback” harp here).
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and called them “good” according to the book of Genesis, perhaps we should have paid closer attention. The step-by-step account of the creation of matter and energy and space and animals and plants and humans described in chapter 1 is so fascinating that the seemingly minor detail of how God defines the word “good” is often overlooked. God, being the all-knowing, omnipresent designer and creator of the universe, would be the only one qualified to say for sure what is most beneficial for creation, so what could be more important for someone who seeks to honor and please God to know than what God considers good.
This is where I think we as Christians so often mess up and create for ourselves sources of disappointment unnecessarily. We take words like “useful” or “convenient” or “prosperous” or “popular” or “celebrated” and we treat these words as synonymous with “good.” And I understand that it is normal to use the word good very loosely in regular conversation. The food is “good,” my day was “good,” that TV show is “good,” that song was “good,” so on and so forth, and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you are doing anything sinful by using this word in that way. The problem, however, arises when we forget that this “good’ is not identical to God’s standard of or definition for “good” and begin confusing the two. You see, just because something is “useful” for a given purpose does not mean that the omniscient God, the God who created you and knows you better than you know you, considers that thing to be beneficial to you. It all starts with our motivation. Are we serving God’s purposes, or our own?
When God calls his creation “good,” this suggests that there is no part of the world at this point that is inherently “not good.” Nothing in this universe God has just created is bad in and of itself. This would mean that even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is right where it is supposed to be. This tree is “good,” but just like the snakes and bats God created which were likewise good, that didn’t mean it was good to eat, even if all three of those things are edible. When we step outside of God’s purpose, we step outside of what is good for us, and things which are not in and of themselves bad, such as money or a well-paying job or new opportunities, become bad things whether they appear to be on the surface or not simply because they are being misused or used by someone they were not meant for. Eve ate of the tree in Genesis chapter 3 not because she knew she should, but because on the surface the fruit looked “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable to eat.” Clearly, looks are deceiving. And the thing is, it technically was good for food IF your only concern is satisfying physical hunger, and it was pleasing to the eye IF you’re not looking at the consequences that come along with it, and it was desirable to eat IF you desire something tasty more than you desire to live. Would we say the words “desirable,” “pleasing,” and “good” here are synonymous with God’s definition of “good?” If we say “good,” in order to know if we mean that word the way God means it, we must ask, “good for what?”
In speaking with my good friend and Tentmaker Music collaborator Xero, I realized something about the nature of goodness. He reminded me of a film called In Time starring Justin Timberlake. The film is set in a dystopian future where nobody ages past 25 and years of life are used as currency. Run out of this money, and you run out of time and die. When Timberlake’s character is given a huge sum of this money/time, making him incredibly wealthy, he gives a portion of it to his friend Borel. Sounds good right? Money is good. Being given a bunch of money is good… right? Well, as it turns out, being given that much money at one time was simply too much for that friend to handle. This friend gives into temptation, goes on a bender and ends up drinking himself to death, something he would not have even had the opportunity to do if he hadn’t been in possession of so much money at once. This brings us back around to the idea of success. Would we be right to base Borel’s success on his bank account or regard the gift he received as a blessing? Was having a ton of money good? Again, we must ask, “good for what?” For tempting him, yes. For buying excessive amounts of alcohol, yes. But we don’t judge Timberlake too harshly because, he had GOOD intentions, right? He was trying to be helpful, and he couldn’t have possibly known how badly it would turn out for that friend, but God in His omniscience would have known exactly how bad it was for Borel.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “succeed” as “to turn out well” or “to attain a desired object or end.” By “well” we mean the end result is good, and Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about the “end” God has in mind for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In other words, God’s version of success means we follow His plan, and because God can never fail to do anything, that plan inevitably results in the end HE has in mind for us, and that end HE calls “good.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If we have followed His plan, no matter how things may look, the final product will be good as God defines “good,” and that means we have been successful. I want to really emphasize this point because I think that our tendency when things don’t turn out the way we expected is to assume we have not been successful and question whether or not it was really God’s plan we were following. We question whether or not we really heard from God, and on a sea of doubt, like Peter we begin sinking. But hold on a minute… How do you know you weren’t successful? Whose definition of success are you using?
Allow me to explain. Sometimes in our excitement about something God is doing in our lives, we begin to imagine and dream and fantasize about what the end result will be of the wonderful new thing God has started. And along the way, we sometimes make the mistake of mixing up what God ACTUALLY said, with what we IMAGINED was going to happen as a result. Now, all these words and ideas have become tangled together, almost inseparable in our flawed minds. 10 years into ministry when we still aren’t seeing what we imagined, we start to believe that we must not have really heard from God in the first place, or that we failed Him, or WORSE… that God has somehow failed. So, we’ve got to take it back to the start, just the facts… What did God ACTUALLY say? He called you to music ministry? Cool. Did HE say you’d be the music minister at a mega church, or is that how you imagined it would work out? Did HE say you’d go platinum and have a record deal and rock stages in sold-out arenas, or did seeing the experiences of others in music ministry lead you to believe that God had the same in mind for you? If you had all those things happen to you, would it make your purpose in life more important or more meaningful than the one God has for you simply because it would appear bigger and more noticeable to others?
You know who I never hear about? The guy who led Billy Graham to Christ. I don’t even know his name. I suspect that is because his ministry was nowhere NEAR as “big” as Billy Graham’s, and I doubt he was internationally known. Should we say that this man, whoever he was, was less successful than Billy Graham if both of them were simply doing what God asked them to do? Did he fail to live up to his potential then? Was the end God had in mind for both of them not equally “good?” If the ONLY reason God called this person to the ministry was so that they could lead Billy Graham to Christ (resulting in the Billy Graham crusades and thousands being saved), and this person we don’t know was obedient and did just that, he was just as “successful” as Billy Graham EVEN IF he never had a big congregation, EVEN IF he never gained any notoriety or fame as a result of his work, and EVEN IF he never lived to see the result of the Billy Graham crusades. We only fail to see this because we fail to apply God’s definition of success in determining value. We assume bigger means more successful, wealthier means more successful, more popular means more successful. We focus on all the wrong things. No wonder so many Christians so often feel inadequate. No wonder so many ministers become discouraged when everyone around them seems to be wondering why their ministry doesn’t look like so-and-so’s ministry.
Keep your focus where it needs to be, brothers and sisters, on God’s promises, not on what you thought He meant or on what others expect of you. Forget what man says about how “success” looks. You already know how things will end up for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It will turn out “well.” It will be ALL GOOD. You maybe just needed a reminder. If you are doing God’s will and following HIS plan for your ministry and not your own, however it looks, however God decides it should go, however long it is intended to continue, it is most assuredly a highly successful ministry.