Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I have a confession to make, this year just don't seem like Christmas to me, at all. I know I'm not the only one who thinks that, but it still bothers me.

I want to take a moment and remember someone, remember Jesus Christ. Not necessarily that He died for all of our sins, though certainly that, but that He actually humbled Himself to the point of becoming human and being stripped of some of His divine attributes. Not that He COULDN'T use His power, but that He CHOSE not to so that He could be mortal like us. How incredible is that?

Many say to "keep the Christ in Christmas" or to remember that "He is the reason for the season", while others remind us that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday and at it's core really doesn't have anything to do with Him, but I challenge you to do something else this fine Christmas morning (something I'm challenged to do as well), I challenge you to not think of yourself or the presents, but to think of His humility in becoming a man, by not being God and being Jesus of Nazareth. I challenge you to think of your family and how He has blessed you. I challenge you to sing His praise and worship Him and to remember that although He may NOT be the original "reason for the season", Christmas is still a doorway towards godly conversation and a way to share the love of Christ, not just on the 25th of December, but all year round.

Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays, enjoy my favorite Christmas tune, and have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

'Exodus: Gods and Kings' Film Review

A few months ago, I watched one of the most heretical and just plain bad movies I have ever seen when I decided to watch Noah. I knew going into it that it would be terrible but I decided to give it a watch to see just how bad it was. Long story short, it's bad, and instead of getting myself riled up about it by writing a review here, I decided to just skip that part and meditate on the Scripture the film was, very loosely, based off of.

However, last night I went with my brother and best friend to go see the latest biblically based film to be released this year - Exodus: Gods and Kings - which had turned out to be about 100 times better than Noah was and ever could be. Exodus is obviously based off the story of Moses written by him in the Book of Exodus (this film covers primarily chapters 1-14 with chapter 20 seen at the end) and covers his time as part of the Egyptian military all the way until he's close to death. This being said, let me explain the three things I wasn't too fond of in the film before I move onto what I did like:
  1. The interpretation of GOD - Here's the thing about Exodus' interpretation of God, they were bound to get it wrong. Ridley Scott, the director of this film, has explored the roots of Christianity before with Kingdom of Heaven (another really good movie about the Crusades), but his biggest films have always been things like Alien, Blade Runner, and Prometheus, the last of which talks about aliens as the creators of humanity. So naturally I was a little hesitant going in. Here's my problem with this interpretation, I don't like the fact that God has to speak through a vision of a small child (who is supposed to be the "Angel of the Lord") who feels like part of an exorcist movie. The kid was creeping me out the whole time!!! This being said, the actual lines that "God" spoke themselves aren't necessarily bad, but the idea of a child being the "mediator" between the Great I Am and Moses is totally wrong and all around creepy. I would have much rather had the disembodied voice of Morgan Freeman.
  2. Crossing the Red Sea - Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with Moses and Israel crossing the Red Sea in the film, it's a matter of HOW it gets done that bothers me. In the movie, they begin crossing the sea by walking THROUGH the water. Then later, we see that the water has actually receded back into the ocean instead of being parted. In Scripture, we know that God actually PARTS the Red Sea. This means, one column of water on one side, another on the other side, and a pathway of sand in the middle. That's how it's done. However, this film seems to forget about the spectacular-ness of God and His miracles and tries to go for a more "realistic" approach to the event... (It's called a "miracle" and "the supernatural" for a reason people...). On top of that, Moses almost dies because he barely makes it across. Now, I wasn't there when Moses and his people crossed the Red Sea some couple thousand years ago, but I don't believe that the real Book of Exodus says that he almost died crossing, not to mention that I don't believe that God would have closed the Red Sea BEFORE everyone was across... Could you imagine, "Oh, sorry Moses, I forgot you where there, leading My people and all, My bad..."
  3. The small little things - Moses didn't kill an Egyptian to save a Hebrew slave, but he DID kill one in an alley for no apparent reason. The way they started the 1st of the 10 Plagues of Egypt, the water turning to blood, wasn't necessarily biblically accurate but I actually thought it made sense, more on that later. Moses never carried Aaron's staff anywhere, also he didn't take Aaron anywhere either. Moses never questioned God about speaking on Israels behalf. Ramses doesn't seem to care about the Egyptian gods at all (which I don't morally have an issue with but based on history that wouldn't be the case when he's the Pharaoh...). Lastly, the whole film kinda built up to a Moses/Ramses fight that we never actually got to see... Which is kinda sad. Even though that doesn't happen in Scripture, I felt kinda empty afterwards because the movie built towards it since like the first scene. Also we didn't get to see Moses' staff snake eat Pharaoh's two demons snakes... That was sad...
Now, these are just the things that either bothered me or I had a problem with in the film, but I don't want to leave you with the notion that I didn't enjoy it, because quite on the contrary, I really had a good time seeing this movie (even if it is over 2 hours long).

One of the things I loved about this movie was their interpretation of Moses. In Exodus, Moses is an Egyptian general. He does not know of his own heritage and when the previous Pharaoh dies, he becomes Ramses' adviser. I like how, much like Prince of Egypt (but without the catchy music), Moses and Ramses are as close as brothers and they would (and occasionally do) protect and even die for one another because of their brotherly love and friendship. We are shown the warrior side of Moses that we don't hear much about in Scripture. Based on Scripture, we do know that Moses grew up with the royal family of Egypt and obviously held some sort of power, but we haven't ever been told what exactly he did, thus I enjoy this interpretation of him as a general in the Egyptian army and a warrior. It gives a certain strength and power to Moses that we would only get in an interpretation like this. 

My buddy and I especially like the scene when Moses is conversing with God/Angel of the Lord where he says that he wants the Plagues to stop because it's painful for him to see the people he grew up with suffer as they are, which is a very human, emotional response to this situation. To me, it takes Moses off that immortal religion patriarchal pedestal that we always put him on and it makes him a man just like we are, which I think is great.

Sidebar - I also thought Joel Edgerton did a FANTASTIC job as Ramses! He played an amazing Egyptian Pharaoh and since I know they're rebooting the Stargate film, I feel like he would play the perfect Ra... Also aliens built the pyramids not Hebrews... Okay sidebar over.

Kind of going off of that, the battle scenes in this movie are done so well! You see Moses, Ramses, and the Egyptian army take on the Hittites at the beginning of the film, which is really well done and an exciting action sequence. I guess that's what happens when you get the guy who directed Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator to make a Moses movie!

The fact that they showed the Golden Calf at the end was kind of shocking because we weren't sure it that would be shown or not, but it was and so were the 10 Commandments, so that was cool!

Visually, the Red Sea scene was beautiful. Biblically, kind of inaccurate.

Holy crap, Israel is huge!!! I never thought about how many people Moses was leading, but wow! I mean, JUST WOW!

I loved all the scenes with Moses and his family (wife and son). They made me smile and tear up, though I'm pretty sure they actually went with him to Egypt and didn't stay behind, but oh well. Also, I loved when Moses saved his sister's hand/life, which ended up being the reason he was exiled from Egypt (you know, instead of him killing a guy and then leaving), which is also inaccurate but it makes for good movie plot. 

Going back to what I said earlier about the 10 Plagues, I actually liked the idea of crocodiles beginning the first plague of water to blood by eating people and each other because it shows God's power over the Egyptian gods, here's why: Sobek is an Egyptian god who is associated with military power and protection. What's interesting about this is that Sobek has a head of a crocodile. So how does this show God's power over Pharaoh and his? Because God, using their "sacred" crocodiles, turned the face of their "protector" into the face of a monster, showing them that power and life is in the blood. Also, I loved how each plague lead into each other and was the result of the previous plague, almost making each plague a consequence of disobedience and disbelief. It's really cool how it all worked out.

Overall, Exodus: Gods and Kings, in my opinion, was a success. It gave us a different perspective on Moses and the 10 Plagues as well as just being entertaining and thought-provoking. I'd easily give it a recommend it and go see it again with the slight warning that, like all biblically based Hollywood films, the ultimate goal of this film is to make money, and the Holy God of the Bible doesn't sell well to the people of Babylon, Sodom, or Gomorrah. That being said, "Let my people go"! (to the movies...)

Rating: B+

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Steps - A Poem by Bailey Hill

The thick cords smacked his back and gorged on his naked flesh. Quickly, they were drawn away only to lash out and bite again. Tears welled at the corner of his eyes and his sinewy frame shook with each blow, but he made no sound. He counted in his head the number of times struck; thirty seven, thirty eight, thirty nine, and stop. Blood poured off of his once whole frame and pooled on the steps around him. His lips pursed with silent prayer for his persecutors. After watching this ghastly scene, I slowly put down the whip.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finding Christ in... Phillip Phillips!

So last night, I went to go see Phillip Phillips here in the BoZone... I was supposed to go with my sister Paige but my Dad didn't get the flight tickets when I told him to (months ago...) and Paige got sick this week anyway, but since I didn't want to waist the money I spent (and because I like Phillips anyway), I still went. It was awesome.

Oddly enough, before I left I prayed that somehow the Lord would be glorified through the concert, not really expecting this to be the case. Well, He can use anybody can't he? There are multiple Phillips songs that I have figured you could make a case to them being about the Lord, about the Christian walk, etc. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that this was intentional, I don't know if Phillips is saved or not, but it's certainly interesting the terminology that he uses in some of his songs. "Unpack Your Heart" is a great example but I'm actually not going to be looking at that song today. The two songs I'm going to be looking at are "Home" (his most popular) and "Raging Fire".

Here are the lyrics to "Home":
Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm going to make this place your home
The beginning of this song is pretty straight forward. It's telling us that He is with us always, especially on the "unfamiliar" straight-and-narrow road we as believers walk with Him. Joshua 1:9 says it pretty well when He tells us to be strong and courageous because He is with us always. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in Him always and He will direct our path. Romans 8:38-39 reminds us that neither powers or principalities, nor angels or demons, nor men can separate us from God's love for us. Psalm 23:4 reminds us that even though we walk through the "valley of the shadow of death" (sound like an unfamiliar road to anyone else?) that He is with us and we are to fear no evil. This is only the first three lines of the song...

Next he talks about making *this place* our home... What does this mean? Well, I can't tell you what Phillips intended it to mean, but here's what I think of it... I think this is in reference to what Jesus told His disciples while He was here on Earth and what, in turn, He tells us as believers. In John 14:1-3, He tells us that His Father's House (Heaven) has MANY rooms and that when He returns to where He came from, He's going to be preparing a place for us. Pretty cool huh? That's five lines.

"Settle down, it'll all be clear". This is a good line. I think the Gospel is pretty clear. Jesus says in John 14:6 that He is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. He's the ONLY way! I think this line also refers to the Lord not wanting us to worry about the future, but live right now (Matthew 6:34). 2 Corinthians 4:6 also tells us that He will use the Light to shine out the Darkness to give the "Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ". Pretty clear? Six lines in...

"Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear." Demons are evil! I think that's pretty self-explanatory. The fact that he uses the word DEMONS here is very interesting and it's not the only song he talks about evil spirits that drag us down in. Jesus has a lot to say about demons and overcoming them, Luke 10:19 being a huge one. James 4:7 says that if we submit ourselves to God, the Devil WILL flee from us. Luke 10:17 tells us that the demons submit when commanded to in the name of Jesus. Fear is a weapon of the enemy, and if you're afraid, it's most likely a demon of some sorts, the song is spot-on there! Eight lines.

"The trouble it might drag you down, if you get lost you can always be found." I think of the Prodigal Son here. He was in a TON of trouble and got himself into it, it was completely his fault, yet when the father saw him (found him), he ran to him with joy. Satan likes to put us on different paths than the one we are called to walk, but with Christ as our source of strength, guidance, wisdom, and discernment, we cannot fail, not because we can overcome the Enemy, but because Christ has already overcome the world (John 16:33). These are the last new lines in the song, so that's about it for "Home", but now let's look at "Raging Fire"...

"Raging Fire" lyrics:
We are dead to rights born and raised
We are thick and thin 'til our last days
So hold me close and I'll surrender to your heart
You know how to give and how to take
You see every hope I locked away
So pull me close and surrender to my heart

Before the flame goes out tonight
Yeah, we'll live until we die

So come out, come out, come out
Won't you turn my soul into a raging fire?
Come out, come out, come out
'Til we lose control into a raging fire
Into a raging fire
Come out, come out, come out
Won't you turn my soul into a raging fire?

You know time will give and time will take
All the memories made will wash away
Even though we've changed, I'm still here with you
If you listen close, you'll hear the sound
Of all the ghosts that bring us down
Hold on to what makes you feel
Don't let go, it's what makes you real

If the flame goes out tonight
Yeah, we'll live until we die

So come out, come out, come out
Won't you turn my soul into a raging fire?
Come out, come out, come out
'Til we lose control into a raging fire
Into a raging fire
Come out, come out, come out
Won't you turn my soul into a raging fire?

Let the world leave us behind,
Let your heart be next to mine
Before the flame goes out tonight,
We can live until we die

Come out, come out, come out
Won't you turn my soul into a raging fire?

Come out, come out, come out
Won't you turn my soul into a raging fire?
Come out, come out, come out
'Til we lose control into a raging fire
Into a raging fire

The beginning line is obviously in reference to the fall of man in Genesis 3 as we are now born into sin. This is pretty straight-forward. In the next few lines I'm reminded of Job 1:21 where Job reminds us that the Lord gives and takes away, this is something people don't like but is so true. Job 11:13-20 also tells us that we need to surrender our hearts and wills to the Lord because He's not only worthy but is the only one who can save us. It's a pretty neat passage.

"When the flame goes out tonight, yeah we'll live until we die." This is a good line because Philippians 1:21 (ha, Phillip...) tells us that in living for Christ, death is gain. I know this isn't a DIRECT correlation, but it was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard that lyric.

The chorus is pretty good, this is actually what sold me on the song. Turning our heart into a raging fire! This is actually a continuous prayer of mine as I feel like my heart is dull to the Lord quite often. Colossians 3:23-24 tells us that whatever we do, we must do it with all our heart for the Lord. Psalm 37:4 reminds us that if we delight in the Lord, He'll give us the desires of our heart (that is, if our heart is changed for His glory). In Romans 12:2, we are told to transform our hearts into the Lord's good, pleasing, and perfect will. We can't do this on our own, he have to do this with HIS help! Psalm 51:10 says, "Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

The first half of the next verse talks about change, and that even through it "I'm still here with you". I'm of the mindset that this first half of the verse is from God to us. Daniel 2:21 says that He is in control and changes times and seasons, however, as Hebrews 13:8 points out, Jesus Christ is ALWAYS the same. How awesome is that?!?! Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us too that there's a time and a season for everything.

The second half of this verse talks about the "ghosts" that bring us down but that we need to hold onto what makes us feel and real. The "ghosts" are obviously a reference to demons as we remember 1 Samuel 28 where King Saul tried to contact the dead Samuel and instead came in contact with a demon pretending to be the deceased prophet. This goes back to our talk about demons from "Home" above. However, in this verse, we're told to hold onto something else to keep these "ghosts" from getting to us... That is most obviously Jesus Himself. Proverbs 18:10 tells us that the name of the Lord is a strong and mighty tower and that we can find refuge and sanctuary with him. Exodus 25:8 is all about the Lord telling us to make Him a sanctuary so He can dwell with us, and because of Jesus' death on the cross WE are now that sanctuary(1 Corinthians 6:19)! Cool right?

After the next bridge and chorus, there's an added line or two to the returning bridge, it says, "Let the world leave us behind, let your heart beat next to mine." Good line, really good actually because Jesus actually said in Mark 13:12-13 that everyone will hate us because of HIS name. We are in the world, but we as Christians are not to be of the world (John 15:19, 17:16). Instead, we are called to conform our hearts and minds to that of Christ (Romans 12:1-2), and believe me, it's a LOT harder than it sounds.

So that's my little analysis of Phillip Phillips' songs that I believe actually point to Christ, on some level. I would've loved to analyze "Gone, Gone, Gone" as well, because that's my favorite Phillips song, but outside of some of the verses I couldn't make strong enough biblical connections to the whole song. Sad day. Anyway, I wanted to share this with you all because I went to the concert last night expecting nothing but just having a good time, yet the Lord worked in my heart and reminded me of who He was through it. I just love it when He does that! Not to mention this blog is called "Finding Christ in My Life"... It would be a disservice to this blog if I didn't look for the biblical connections in my everyday life, through school, entertainment, and just, well, EVERYTHING! I hope you guys enjoyed this post and please check out some of Phillip Phillips' music, he's really talented and he's a lot of fun to watch in concert!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How Do You Know That You're Saved?

This is the question that many ask themselves all the time. Whether they're actual Believers or people searching, this is a question that everyone who has some sort of knowledge of Heaven, Hell, the afterlife, and/or the supernatural asks themselves at some point in their lives, and even more are uncertain by the time of their death where they're going to end up. How scary is that!?!?!

To make this even more personal, this is something I've been struggling with over the past few weeks and something I'll most-likely struggle with again in my life. The difference is that when I'm struggling with it, it's most likely the Enemy trying to deter me from my Savior and His will, whereas with many others (I'm talking both saved and un-saved here people) it's either the Lord trying to wake them up or it is in fact the Enemy. Though, to be completely fair, I won't and can't speak for others and who or what is making them ask this question or doubt, but I can speak for myself and I know that in the past, at least for me, it has been both from the Lord and from the Devil.

So let me ask you all a question and answer it in your head, how do you know you're saved?
  • Islam teaches salvation through the "grace" of Allah AND through GOOD WORKS (and even then there is no guarantee), to them Christ was just a prophet
  • Hinduism teaches salvation through four different means, that ultimately go back to you being responsible for your salvation through WORKS
  • Buddhism teaches salvation through becoming "enlightened" through following four noble truths
  • Judaism teaches good works and keeping the Law (their salvation is connected to the entire Jewish people), remember the Jews (for the most part, there are exceptions of course) did NOT accept Jesus as the Messiah, they're still waiting
  • Catholicism essentially teaches salvation by baptism and good works (again, Catholicism is NOT Christianity... I cannot stress that enough and will in fact write about it at some point on this blog. DO NOT BE DECEIVED)
  • Mormonism/LDS teaches salvation through faith with a particular emphasis on good works being the main focus while developing a good, moral character
  • Jehovah's Witnesses teach that until sinners repent of their sins and call out to Jehovah (again, not Jesus Christ, but Jehovah) they cannot be saved, though unattainable without good works. Not to mention they believe Jesus was just Michael the Archangel anyways...
These are just a few of the other "ways" to salvation that other people believe and I want you all to realize just how alone Christians are in the world because of it. Now, obviously we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to guide, comfort, and protect us (though only to a point with the protecting, remember Job's story?) and we have our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, aka the Church aka the Bride, but as far as the rest of the world is concerned, we stand alone.

But what does Scripture actually say about Salvation? Does it give us a clear answer? How do we know if we're saved and where we'll be spending eternity?

Well, eternity's a long time, and if you want to know for sure where you'll be spending it you need to make sure your heart is right with the Lord, and the only way to do that is to believe. John 3:16 says...
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish but have everlasting life.
ALL you have to do to escape eternity in torment is to BELIEVE! Every world religion out there teaches that in order to achieve salvation or enlightenment, you have to be good, do good, think good, and have good character. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord tell us that we need to be "good" in order to get into Heaven. In fact, Romans 3:23 says...
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Did you catch the key word there guys? ALL. If we ALL have indeed fallen short of the glory and majesty of God, then NONE of us are in fact actually "good" and can never be (in and of ourselves) "good". We can say, "yeah, so-and-so's a good person", but according to the Paul, no one is good! Should we let this discourage us? No, absolutely not, in fact far from it, it should be MOTIVATION for us to obey the Lord's commandments (as seen in Exodus 20 and more specifically in Luke 10:27).

Now please don't misunderstand me here, I'm not saying that this verse is trying to get us to do good works in order to atone for our salvation, I'm 100% against that view (though like everyone I sometimes tend to forget that). No, what I'm saying is what the Lord has said all along in Matthew 7:20...
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Now, technically, if we're looking at Matthew 7 in context (which, granted, is a HUGE assignment and a big discussion in and of itself, so if you want more on Matthew 7, please check out my previous blog post on the last 15 or so verses HERE), Jesus is technically speaking about false prophets here in this passage, yet He's also talking about believers as a whole as He actually goes on to say that "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven", which is some pretty scary stuff if you're not following the Lord. But back to my point, my point here is that FAITH and SALVATION is NOT by works, but the signs of a truly born-again believer are that of their works. In Christianity, works are an side-effect of faith, NOT a requirement for salvation. Remember, the man on the cross next to Jesus simply believed and then died not a few hours later. He wasn't given the opportunity to do works, yet Jesus said that He would see Him in Heaven!

How can you say that? Doesn't the Lord want you to do good works when you're saved?

Well, yeah, of course! That's why He tells us to do them (Luke 10:27), but unlike RELIGION, Jesus (who hates corrupt/oppressive religion by the way, look at His treatment of the Pharisees...) doesn't require us to DO anything, it's all about HIM and if we simply would believe IN HIM, then we are covered by His blood and grace. Just look at what Ephesians 2:8-9 says...
(8) For by GRACE are ye saved through FAITH; and that NOT of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: (9) NOT of works, lest any man should boast.
 I think that passage of Scripture is BEYOND clear and refutes just about any other "way" to Heaven... John 14:6 makes it even clearer for those who are still not sure about that Ephesians verse:
Jesus saith unto him, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: NO man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."
Clear enough? I would think so, but I know that I myself have been struggling even with this as of late. In fact, it's been hard to me to function or do anything out of fear that my heart isn't in the right place, fear of Hell, and fear that I don't truly believe what I say I believe.

But here's the thing, I can see the change in my life. I can see who I WAS, dead in my sin, transgression, even in my walk with the Lord at times, and who I am NOW. I can see all the blessings the Lord has allowed in my life and I can see Him working in every situation in my life. My favorite verse, Romans 8:28 says,
And we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them that have been called according to His purpose.
You see, I know that I'm saved and am confident in that salvation because I see all the good He's done in my life! He's blessed me with an incredible family who has trained me up in the ways of the Lord, life-long friends who would lay their lives down for me and vice versa, a Sanctuary that I can go to when I need to escape the world, a great college-age ministry that keeps me accountable, an amazing trip to Israel to see Him really work, triumph over demons, and much much more! I mean, I know for a fact that there have been multiple times where I should have been dead or have almost been dead that He has spared me from!

But good things are not the only sign of salvation, trials and tribulations are as well. God puts these trials into our lives so that we become more and more like His Son and our Savior, the PERFECT Lamb (Romans 8:29). He allows these trials and tribulations to test our faith (the Book of Job). And He allows these to occur so that we can endure until the end and trust in Him wholeheartedly (James 1:2-4). Romans 5:3-5 tells us to rejoice and be glad when we are tested and put through trials and tribulations! This reminds me of C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" (which I need to re-read again desperately...) where Screwtape basically tells his nephew Wormwood that "dead" Christians or unbelievers or those who don't have the potential to become genuine believers aren't people they need to bother or screw (ha ha) with, it's those who ARE saved and know Jesus Christ who they are afraid of and need to dull.

This is so true today and people ignore it almost completely. I know it's true in my life! I struggle with a dull heart towards the Lord and with trying to live in the world but not be of it. IT'S HARD! No one ever said it would be easy! But this is the life I chose, and if you are also a believer, then it's the life you chose as well. If not, then you live for your father the Devil! Some people are okay with that, others glad even, yet others don't even realize it and are living for themselves, others, or the world. Matthew 6:24 begins by saying, "No man can serve two masters..." This is an extremely hard thing but either we are to give our lives to Christ to do what He will or we will choose to live for ourselves instead! Does that not mean you can't enjoy life or do things that you want to do ever? No, I don't believe it does, but I DO in fact believe that we have to give it ALL to Him. The verse ends by saying, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." In this passage, Jesus is specifically preaching on money, yet what can we replace that with in our own lives? For me, it's entertainment (TV, comics, movies, etc.)! For some it's money, others family or friends, some self, others food, possessions, or recognition. You can basically replace money with anything here and the Scripture will still have effect.

So how do you make sure that you're saved? Well, before you can make sure that you're saved, you better make sure that you aren't fooling yourself first. Make sure that you're not just living a tradition (John 8:42-44). Make sure you don't believe you're saved because of your behavior (Luke 18:10-14). And finally, make sure you aren't following other religion's pattern and believing you're saved because of your deeds (Matthew 7:21-23).

Special shout-out to Bible Study Planet for those three mistakes and their references (!

So how do we know, according to Scripture, that we're saved? Well, first of all, I want you all to know that if you don't "feel" like you're saved or it's because of a feeling or emotion that you're doubting, STOP IT! Emotions are lies, Scripture tells us to have a sober or sound mind because Satan is waiting for an opportunity to attack (1 Peter 5:8). If we leave ourselves vulnerable to the world and sin, then we'll be overcome by the world and sin. Yet, if we stay vigilant and confident in Scripture and our faith, we can rest assured knowing that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Let us also remember what John says in 1 John 5:13 (as well as the whole chapter if we're at it)...
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
All we have to do is believe that Jesus is in fact who He says He is! We must confess and repent of our sins before Him and have faith that His grace will cover us and make us perfect and holy in the eyes of the Father and that His Holy Spirit will dwell in us and change our heart, mind, and spirit for Him. Don't just simply "pray a prayer". Don't fall into the lie that is "American Christianity". Christianity is a LIFESTYLE brought about by a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. Christianity is NOT simply a religion but a common faith, a common relationship, in which we as believers share with one another.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to always remember that you are saved by grace through faith alone. I know. I still sometimes have lingering thoughts about it, but then I must rebuke those thoughts saying, "Get behind me Satan!" and remember Whose child I am. Jesus will always hear us, always intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25) and that's something we as believers NEED to remember. Persecution IS coming to America, in fact it's already beginning to show up in different ways across the US, and it will only get worse before Jesus returns. But remember this, take heart, for He has overcome the world.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Those Who Claim to be "Christians" Need to Fear

Last night at my Bible study, we were visited by a missionary from Turkey whose name was Brad. Brad talked to us about his time being a missionary, about the horrors people he's known have faced due to their faith in Jesus Christ, and about how to be biblical, godly men. But one of the passages he read, or cited actually, really hit home to me and struck a fear in my that reached my very core. He cited Matthew 7:13-27, which I will write out for you here in my King James Version:
(13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go into thereat: (14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (15) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (16) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (17) Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (21) Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven. (22) Many will say into Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. (24) Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: (25) And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. (26) And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: (27) An the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
Now I want to say this, and please don't take this jokingly, but that should scare the Hell out of anyone who calls themselves a Christian or proclaims Jesus as Lord... I know that it scares me! In fact, after Bible study last night, I got back to my dorm and listened to a sermon that Paul Washer gave back in 2006 to a bunch of young men and women who called themselves believers. At first they were giving "Amen's", until he told them that he was talking about them. In fact, he wasn't just talking to them, he was talking to anyone in America who calls themselves a Christian because he, as a missionary who works in South America, Africa, and eastern Europe, has seen what real faith looks like, and also sees that Christianity in America has been "Americanized" and has compromised their beliefs. If you would like to listen to this sermon, which is extremely good, here is the link, but I warn you that it will wreck you in a way that hopefully will bring you closer to the Lord:

That being said, I've now listened to this sermon four times in the past six months since my Mom first made me listen to it, and I can honestly tell you that for some reason this time it spoke to me the most.

Back in January, I had the privilege of going to Israel with my school, which was amazing because I was able to go with my Mom, two of my oldest and best friends, and others who I was able to become closer to because of it. When we were in Israel, on the Mount of Beattitudes, we students were each tasked with reading a certain part of the text found in Matthew, which spanned from chapter 6 to chapter 8 I believe, and I was given the task of reading Matthew 7:13-25, "A Tree and It's Fruit" as it was titled in a friend's Bible, though it didn't speak to me nearly as it should have. I didn't realize until I heard Mr. Washer's sermon that the Lord was trying to speak to me and trying to put my life into a different perspective/path, but at the time I was not ready to receive it, so He planted seeds instead.

By mid-May, my Mom had given me this sermon to listen to, and I did, and for two whole days I literally did nothing but sit in silence, not even really thinking (which is odd for me because I'm someone who is ALWAYS in his head), just crushed. I was crushed because I knew that I had issues with loving the world, with idolatry (which I still struggle with but I believe have mostly overcome), and I wasn't sure that I was bringing about "good fruit", in fact, I wasn't sure of my salvation at all. This was, I believe, the Enemy trying to stop me from continuing to die to self and live for the Lord, because I was so stuck in the question of salvation that I didn't do anything else.

It wasn't until I remembered (or was shown this verse, I honestly forget) Ephesians 2 (see below) that I, by God's grace, was able to break out of this hopeless and defeatist mentality that I was able to move on.
(8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Now, after listening to it once again last night, I had a very different reaction, I was almost petrified with fear. Fear of God (the bad kind), fear of going to Hell, fear of death, and fear of not being "good enough". I struggled with this all night in fact, to the point where I kept waking up pleading with the Lord to help me. It was bad. And since we know that the Lord is NOT a God of confusion, and after talking to my own parents who have been through this as well, I was able to finally realize that it was the Enemy trying to attack me and that it was a trial the whole time.

Now, I want to be careful saying that because I don't want anyone to NOT feel convicted by this passage, because IT'S CONVICTING and it's supposed to be convicting! That being said, discernment is important when reading convicting passages because there are times where the Lord is trying to convict you and other times it's Satan trying to make you doubt your faith. So, discernment really comes in handy with passages like that. This being said, let me explain to you who exactly I believe Jesus is talking about, at least in terms of our day and age...

First of all, he's talking to "Christians". The reason I put quotation marks around that word is because if we were to take a poll of everyone in the United States right now and ask how many of them go to church or would consider themselves a Christian, I would say probably 75-85% of people probably would. In fact, many of our own Presidents (including the current one) and members of Congress would also call themselves Christians. But I guarantee you that not even 10% of them probably are.

"How can you say that?" you ask, "that's not for us to judge"...

Well, I can say that pretty easily for TWO reasons BOTH cited in the Scripture I have quoted above. First of all, because Matthew 7:20 tells us that we will know them BY THEIR FRUITS. Most "Christians" in America still seem to be in love with the world! They love their idols (sports, TV, movies, music, video games, friends/family, etc.), they love wickedness (abortion, homosexuality, etc.), and they love themselves. Now, by no means am I saying all, but the majority of American "Christians" are still of the world even though we're called solely to live in it and nothing more.

Now, what does living in the world entail? Well, it entails working, eating, sleeping, and relaxing. I believe that it can also involve entertainment though for a Christian that can be really dangerous because it's easy to make entertainment an idol and if you don't have discernment it's easy to be deceived (believe me, I know, it's something that I personally struggle with).

Secondly, Matthew 7:14 says that FEW find the straight and narrow gate/path to Life and walk it. If we have millions of people in America claiming to be saved, which believe me I hope and pray is true, yet we know by Jesus' own words that FEW truly find Him and follow Him, then we have to ask ourselves, are we on that straight and narrow path or have we already jumped over the the wide one? This is a question we all have to ask ourselves and answer honestly, because although it's the toughest question to ask your life truly depends on the answer.

However, I don't believe that Jesus is solely speaking to American Christians here, though I think in our day and age this is extremely applicable. I believe he's also talking about different religions that would use Jesus' name and position as Lord to their own causes, yet either add onto Scripture, misinterpret Scripture, or refuse to read, listen to, or follow Scripture at all, all the while saying that Jesus is Lord. A few examples I can think of right now are Catholicism (and don't you DARE tell me that Catholicism is the same as Christianity because it certainly is not), Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam (though they believe He's just a prophet), or any other religion that calls Jesus as Lord yet does not follow Him or His commandments (or His Word).

You see, religion is of the Devil. God never intended religion, He intended relationship. In the Garden of Eden, He had a RELATIONSHIP with Adam & Eve, when He came to Earth as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ He had RELATIONSHIPS with people (Disciples, family, friends, etc.), when He entered into us as the Holy Spirit He then has a deeper and more personal RELATIONSHIP with us! Christianity is NOT a religion, it's a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ! This is what sets it apart from any religion and makes it separate. In religion, people have to work towards god, in Christianity, God came down to us, and it's not by works but by GRACE alone through FAITH (as I said above)!

This is so important, so, so, so important and no one ever thinks about it.

I have to be honest with everyone here, I don't feel like a good Christian (whatever that means). I remember Paul in Romans 7:15:
(15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do.
Paul had a lot of internal conflict going on asking himself, "Am I good enough? Why do I continue to do what I hate?", and to be completely honest I struggle often with this exact same issue! I never feel good enough, in fact I feel that my heart is dull to the Word and dull to God and it's something I'm praying often about, but it doesn't stop me from believing, it doesn't stop my faith in Him and His grace that He so freely gives us.

Here's the deal. Matthew 7:13-27 is there to scare us a bit, it's meant to keep us accountable through the good times and the bad, through trials and tribulation, it's meant to keep us focused on Him. Our faith is NOT by works, though if we are saved we will WANT to do works in His name (which is how we are supposed to know that someone is saved, provided they claim Jesus as Lord). If we question our salvation or even our faith, we don't compare ourselves to other Christians, why would we compare ourselves to something else that's imperfect, but we compare ourselves to the Word.

I know that this passage is scary, and I know that it's intimidating, but it's something we need to be thinking about. Are we practicing "American Christianity" that has fully engulfed itself in worldly culture, would we die for our faith if it came to, or are we truly following the Father's will, are we in His Word, are we in fellowship with other like-minded individuals, are we in prayer and communication with Him, and have we rejected our sin nature, this world, in favor of a "forever" mentality and a Jesus-centered life? I can't answer that for you, that's something you have to ask yourself, I know I struggle with it too, in fact a lot more than I'd liked to admit as of recently.

I hope that this passage has been an encouragement for some of you and I hope that this has really made you think. I love you all and I pray that this "essay" will help at least one person find the answers about their faith that they're looking for, myself included. Thanks guys!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Twelve "C's" to a Strong, Healthy, Godly Relationship

Earlier tonight, I was at my local college group at my church (Grace Bible Church in Bozeman, MT) called CrossLife where we heard a message about relationships. This weekend, Grace is hosting a Bible conference called "ADVANCE314" which is about "advancing in Christ" (I'm really looking forward to it!) and one of the big speakers, Rick Holland of Mission Road Bible Church in Kansas City, flew in a day early to talk to us in college, high school, the workplace, and who are already in marriages and relationships about the topic of relationships and what it looks like to have a godly one. Let me just say I was blown away, and if you had known of the events that transpired in the hours and days before tonight you would see the Lord working through this to bring about His glory. 

In any event, the information I'm going to be giving out here is not that of my own, but of what Pastor Holland preached and what the Lord reveals to us through Scripture itself.

Regardless of whether you "date" or  "court", both are eventually going to end up (if done right and for the right reasons) with marriage as the result. Personally, as of this very night due to how powerful the message was and due to myself recognizing the dating/relationship mistakes I've made in the past, I have decided that I am not going to date someone until I'm either ready to be married or until the Lord tells me that I've found someone who I'm supposed to pursue. In both my past dating relationships I've wanted to make them "God honoring", but in fact they turned out quite the opposite whether it was because I was compromising my beliefs one-by-one or because I fell into lust as opposed to love.

In relationships there are two extremes that most people find themselves having to balance between.
  • Already choosing who you're going to marry before you meet them. This is particularly dangerous because you have put before yourself a pre-conceived notion that you know what's best for you and what/who you're going to get regardless of God's divine plan. Not to mention, if this is the way you're looking at your future marriage, then you have already limited your options to an all-time low by not giving people a chance.
  • Running around dating a ton of people. I've heard a TON of people tell me that I need to "date around" to see "what's good for me", when in reality it's not necessarily about who is good for me (it is to a point but over-all not so much) but about who I can honor the Lord with until "death do us part". Throughout high school and college (and sadly enough even middle and elementary school nowadays) you constantly see guys and girls with new dates just about every week because they want to "test everyone out" before they find "the one". Unfortunately, this is a lot more harmful than some realize...
Before I move on I want to explain the difference between Love and Lust, because although many claim to know the difference, few actually do. Most people believe Love is an emotion, and to a point they are correct, but we have to be very careful with that because the "Love emotion" that most people feel is usually just straight up Lust trying to disguise itself so you feel justified in your actions and motives. Love, the way our media and Hollywood show us, does not exist in the way most people want it to. In fact, Love is not just an easily manipulated emotion (again, quickly becoming Lust if one is not careful), but Love is actually a verb. When you love someone, you don't need to tell them that constantly to reassure them or justify yourself to them, you show them through being at peace with them, being kind or good to them, being patient with them, by being faithful and gentile, and by having self-control. Sound familiar? That's because Galatians 5:22-23 talks about what we call the "Fruit of the Spirit", which begins with Love. Once you get Love down, the rest is the product of your efforts to love effectively.

In Proverbs 30, Solomon talks about three things that he finds amazing, four of which he doesn't understand (verse 18). In verse 19 he lists how (1) the eagle soars in the air, (2) how a snake slithers on a rock, (3) how a ship sails in the middle of the sea, and (4) a man with a young woman (a maid he calls her). Solomon was one to talk, he had thousands of wives and covenants which each of them. Solomon let his "Love" (really Lust as we talked about above) take control of his life and eventually they all lead him away from the Lord and towards all their false demon-gods.

When people say they want to have a "biblical marriage", does that mean they want to have one like Solomon did? Or David when he killed for Bathsheba? Or Esther who was chosen? Or Jacob who married the wrong woman? The list could go on for a while but I'll stop it there. When people say that they want to have a strong, godly, biblical marriage, they don't mean that they want to follow in the example of their favorite Bible heroes, they mean that they want to build their relationship on Christ as their rock and follow His commandments and principles placed throughout Scripture.

As the title of this post infers, there are twelve "C's" to healthy, godly relationships, and here's the first:

  1. Christ - Obviously right? If you are a believer and you are not pursuing a relationship that will strengthen your faith or that is honoring to the Lord, then you are already doing it wrong and need to get out immediately. Colossians 1:17 says that Jesus is before ALL things. All things! In the workplace, Christ is before your boss and your job. At school, He's before your teachers and your peers. At home, He's before your parents and siblings. Jesus is before EVERYTHING, and that ESPECIALLY goes for your relationships. When you don't start with Christ as the head of your relationship (verse 18 of that same passage), none of the following C's matter because the only "C", the hidden thirteenth C, that follows is Chaos, and that's a dangerous and destructive thing. Put Jesus first!
  2. Church - This one is important, though not nearly as important as Christ. In fact, out of all of the C's on this list, in my opinion this one is of the least importance. The only reason I say that, is because my parents (who remember, are not perfect) aren't terribly involved in the Church, yet their relationship still thrives around believers and non-believers. That being said, the Church is very important to the individual as well as the couple (especially the new couples) because the Church is there to support you and love you and be an example of how your relationship should look compared to Christ. Your relationship should thrive in a Church setting!
  3. Confirmation - This one is important because so many people miss it. Proverbs 12:15 says that "the way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise." Guys, if all your friends, family, co-workers, or even random people who encounter you and your significant other in general all are not sure of your relationship and try to convince you to see their point, chances are they're probably right. Chapter 21 of the same book goes on to say in verse 2 that "every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts." Ultimately the Lord knows if your heart is in the right place or not (going back to #1 above) and He usually puts it upon your friends or family's hearts as well if you or your significant other aren't willing to listen to Him. Often times, friends won't say anything because they're afraid of how you'll react, other times the Lord just wants YOU to figure it out on your own.
  4. Communication - Ephesians 4 talks a lot about how to communicate with one another within the Body of Christ (the Church) and I believe a lot of that applies to marriage or dating relationships as well, especially when talking about the "sun going down on your anger". Communication balance is important because either guys don't communicate well and they're misinterpreted or ignored. Women on the other hand often over-communicate and are also misinterpreted as well. Finding a common middle ground when it comes to communication is important if you truly want your relationship to thrive, the result of no common ground is endless conflict.
  5. Conflict Resolution - This one goes hand-in-hand with Communication and is really the same thing, though just as important. If conflict between you and your spouse or partner (I don't mean this in a sexual way, I mean this in context of dating) cannot be resolved then there is a major problem and it's possible you two are either not ready to be married or have deeper issues you need to resolve. Resolution is an important part in any relationship because no two people are exactly alike on everything and disagreements are bound to occur. Ephesians 4 also touches on this.
  6. Correction - As humans, we just don't like to be corrected. In relationships though, correction is super-important because someone, at some point, is bound to be wrong. Proverbs 27:5 talks about open rebuke being better than a "secret love", or knowing but not saying anything, while verse 6 goes on to say that kisses from an enemy are deceitful. Why do I bring that last bit up? Because if you want to be in a relationship that's honoring the Lord and you go out on a date say to the latest Halloween film, how do you think Jesus would react to that? If your partner got up and left and you asked him or her what was wrong, would you be open to correction if they told you flat-out that Jesus would not approve of us finding entertainment in serial killers killing people? You'd be surprised at how many people would say no and even go so far as to defend it. Be correctable, be teachable, you don't know everything no matter who you are.
  7. Convictions - This one is SUPER-IMPORTANT and could also easily be titled "Like-Mindedness". If you're interested in spending the rest of your life with someone, you need to find out what they believe. I'm not talking big issues like "are they saved?" (hopefully if you're reading this far and actively pursuing or are in a relationship you're already putting the first point into effect), I'm talking about do they believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, are they okay with abortions, divorce, or homosexuality, do they believe that the fallen angels came down and mated with human women in order to create the giants seen in the Old Testament, do they believe God used evolution or thousands of years to create as opposed to six literal days, etc. Why is this important? Because if you want to spend the rest of your life on Earth with this person and want to honor the Lord while doing it then simply enough you need to have the same, if not just similar, convictions swimming through the back of your mind. It makes everything a LOT easier. Talk about these things and ask questions BEFORE you are engaged or "serious". Make sure!
  8. Cash - Or Money. Do you have the same views on money as your partner? Where are your priorities? Is tithing a priority? Are food and clothing? How much do you spend on entertainment? This one is pretty straight forward. Remember, you cannot have two masters, God and money, you have to pick and choose (Matthew 6:24).
  9. Chastity - Or Purity. This one is also SUPER-IMPORTANT. Sex is an amazing thing. I have not had it, but the concept itself is incredible, I look forward to it one day. Sex is important because once you loose your virginity you cannot bottle it back up again for someone else. Once it's done, it's done. The thing about sex is that whomever you have it with, you are creating soul-ties with that person, and if you've had multiple sex partners then not only are you breaking the covenant of marriage, but you're also creating ties to other people you aren't supposed to. All men are tempted by pornography (many women nowadays too), but did you know that most women are tempted to act out pornography (as are men obviously)? Purity here doesn't just mean sexual purity, though certainly that, but also purity of mind, heart, soul, spirit, and emotion. Don't emotionally invest into someone in a "dating" type way when you're not going to marry them, it only makes it hard later. Matthew 5:28 reminds us that not only is committing a sexual act considered sexual immorality, but just looking at someone with Lust is as well. Does that mean looking at someone with Lust or masturbating causes us to loose our purity? According to Scripture it seems to, but I simply just don't know. All I know is that this is really important and one that EVERYONE struggles with and will struggle with. If you've already blown it and feel discouraged, don't! Christ's sacrifice on the cross redeems us of ALL our sins, and although you may not be able to be a virgin again, Jesus' love covers you in white and makes you pure again in His eyes, and if your future-spouse is serious about your relationship and honoring the Lord though it, he/she'll be just as forgiving.
  10. Children - This one can sometimes be scary, but it's just as necessary as any C that has come before. While dating someone, again having the intention of marrying them (hopefully), you need to begin to have conversations about children. If you want to have children or not, adopt, how many, what kind of schooling they'd have (public, private, home, Christian, etc. Hopefully not Catholic...), any convictions about or on children, etc. You need to be thinking about these ahead of time. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them the Creation Mandate in Genesis 1:28 which basically meant "go have kids and take care of My Earth". To the best of my biblical knowledge, God has never told us to stop having kids! And if you can't have kids, adopt! The Father adopts each of us believers into His family (Ephesians 5:1), so why shouldn't we continue on that tradition? I'm not saying everyone need to have kids, that's like saying everyone needs to get married, but children are an important part of marriage. Marriage isn't just for you or even just for God, it's also for your kids. If your kids see you and your spouse always fight, then guess what, your child will do the same and pursue relationships like you and your spouse's. A child's environment is very much a factor in his or her future and plays a HUGE role in the type of relationships your child pursues from that point on.
  11. Care - Ever heard the phrase "sharing is caring"? Well, here you go! As two people in a relationship with each other, you need to care about one another, all the time! Another title for this section could almost just be Love! 1 Peter 3 talks all about the structure of marriage and how the husband and wife are supposed to love and respect each other, care for one another. You need to stop worrying about yourself, know your spouse (and not just in the sexual way), and care for them!
  12. Commitment - Finally, the last C is this, also known as Covenant. Not only should you be fully committed to the person you're going to marry and be selfless about it, but you need to remember what covenant means. A Covenant, in terms of marriage, is an unconditional commitment to someone who is just as imperfect as you as you walk through sin together striving to be more like Jesus Christ who has saved you by grace alone through your faith in Him. Love is a commitment. Marriage is a commitment. Dating and courting is a commitment. Proverbs 5 tells us to think about the consequences of breaking a commitment, of being unfaithful, think about them first and then forget it remembering that you made a promise to yourself, your spouse, and ultimately to the Lord. If there's one "Pre-Nup" that you would ever consider signing or committing to, Rick Holland says, and I agree, that it should say that you two would promise to "never talk about divorce". If you're planning on following each of these twelve steps, then there should be no reason for one any way, not that (according to Scripture) there ever really is.
Bless you all for reading this all the way through and getting this far, I know it's a lot, it was a lot to type too, but I truly believe that these things are important, and Rick Holland couldn't have done a better job of teaching them and sharing them with all of us at CrossLife earlier tonight. I want to stress that the twelve "C's" are NOT something I came up with (Rick did that), but something that Scripture fully supports. I may have written this piece and added in a few opinions, verses, and personal application to it, but this is not my message, and on some level it's not even Rick's (though it's also certainly his in some respect), but GOD's message for all of us as believers trying desperately to walk in his ways. I hope this was helpful to some of you, if even one person found this helpful I will rejoice. Thank you all for your time, blessings!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

REVISED: People Are Hungry for Truth

Over the past two decades (though mostly in the last half decade), I have watched a lot of television, movies, and have listened to a ton of music. I haven't been on this Earth terribly long, but I do want to say that the more I watch and the more I listen to, I see two things. 

First of all, I see just how much the Enemy likes to warp, twist, and destroy the things that God created and on top of that how much Satan enjoys leading us astray. The funny, and not "ha ha" funny but ironic funny, thing about this is, is that Satan already knows that he has lost the war. Jesus' sacrifice is sufficient for everyone, but (and Satan knows this all too well) it's only efficient for those who choose to follow Him, thus the reason why Satan is doing his best to drag down everyone he can to Hell with him before his time is up.

The second thing I see due to watching and listening to the things our world puts out there is that people are hungry for Truth. People are SO hungry for Truth that they can almost taste it, and our media lets them! This is going to be the topic that I really dive into today, so don't worry I'm going to expand on that thought, but just think about everything you've watched, think about everything you've listened to, think about everything your eyes, ears, and mind have been exposed to (some of you may rather not want to think of all of that, and I totally understand). Ultimately, what kind of questions do you ask due to it? What does it inspire or motivate or drive you to seek out? Who does it make you want to seek out? Does it make you want to learn more, read more, worship more about/towards the Lord? Or does it push you further away?

People say that music doesn't effect your mood or attitude during the day, believe it or not I've heard that countless times, but it certainly does! And even if it doesn't effect your mood or attitude, it certainly effects your heart, your soul, your spirit. I find that whenever I listen to "Amazing Grace", just about any version but the "My Chains Are Gone" version (not a fan), I find myself at peace. Peace within myself, with other believers, with other non-believers, with my friends, my family, and ultimately with God through trusting Him to make all things work for good (Romans 8:28). On the contrary, when I listen to something like "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC, I find myself not just feeling guilty by listening to it, but tainted, in a state of uneasiness, and even possibly confusion. I think this is very different for different people, there are some believers who aren't bothered by that song and there are others who don't feel anything during "Amazing Grace" (they're probably listening to the "My Chains Are Gone" version...), so I think this isn't just something that automatically happens (you feeling a certain way about music on that level I mean), it's something that when you're in the Word, and in prayer, and in communion with Him that you begin to see much more clearly. I think of the Katy Perry song "E.T" when I think of "Highway to Hell" as well...

However, I don't want to talk as much about how the Enemy penetrates our hearts and souls through the media, I think we're warned enough about that (whether people choose to listen or not) as it is. Every week on iTunes, there is a new free single that they put up to get that song, band, or genre out there. Usually it works, "Pompeii" by Bastille was on there months before it became popular and I loved it back then. A few years ago, a song by Ashes Remain called "On My Own" was the single of the week, and I LOVED it. The lyrics felt so much like they were about me talking to the Lord that I just fell in love with the song, not thinking if it was a Christian song or not. As it turns out, Ashes Remain is a Christian rock band and many other people besides myself got and loved the song not knowing that. The song "Everything" by Lifehouse is this way for me as well, although I know Lifehouse is not a Christian band the lyrics of the song sing towards the Lord. "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence is another good example of this, though they are certainly not a Christian band by any means, though many people initially believed they were due to their spiritual themes.

Then there are many Christian artists that have broken through the "stereotypical Christian band/artist" into their own right, proclaiming Jesus' name to a larger audience, like Daughtry (their newest album is actually titled "Baptized"), Johnny Cash, Skillet, Stryper, and Switchfoot. Even think of Elvis' references to Scripture in some of his music, or The Rolling Stone's very own "Sympathy for the Devil". I think their popularity and the fact that many non-believers also love these bands and their music shows that people are hungry for a deeper spiritual connection, whether they know it's truly Jesus Christ they're searching for or not. People want to listen to things that point them to a Higher Power, even if it is just Boston's song entitled (you guessed it) "Higher Power".

Music is not the only thing I have seen this in though... I cannot tell you how prevalent the Bible is in film and television today, even if people don't recognize it. My two biggest examples of people yearning for a deeper connection with Christ without even proclaiming his name are through the television shows (both of which are still on) Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow...

Supernatural was created in 2005 by Eric Kripke which originally aired on the WB until it merged with the UPN to become the CW. The show is about two brothers (Sam and Dean Winchester) who have grown up hunting monsters and demons due to their mother being killed by a Yellow-Eyed Demon. The first 5 seasons of the show follow a specific mythology created by Kripke which was heavily influenced by biblical (and extra-biblical) texts, mostly the Book of Revelation. Throughout the series, they've met Michael the Archangel, the Anti-Christ, Azazel, Lilith, two demons named Alistair and Crowley, prophets of the Lord, an evil version of Eve, Cain, Abaddon, and ultimately Lucifer aka the Devil himself. The show is certainly not afraid to show you pure evil in it's truest form and shows Satan for who he really is, a snake who constantly lies and makes it so that you never know if he's telling the truth or if he even can. Supernatural has a HUGE fanbase and ginormous fan-following that spreads across continents and nations. In fact, the series is actually about to start it's 10th season (hopefully it's final season...) next week.

There are a few things that truly bother me about Supernatural, and maybe I'll write a blog post on that some day seeing as how much the series ties into biblical prophecy and text, that I just can't get past. For one, I think there are only about three times on the whole show where they mention our Lord Jesus Christ by name, though they read His Word multiple times and recognize biblical events as fact. Not to mention they meet the Anti-Christ himself in Season 5, so it's not like they couldn't easily talk about Jesus, they just choose not to... It's odd, because although Sam and Dean throughout the show have seen and witnessed and been apart of so many supernatural events, including the Apocalypse itself, they still refuse to put their faith and trust in God, in Christ, because they want to do what they want to do. It saddens me a ton, and what saddens me more is that in the context of the show, they make that seem like it's the right thing to do.

Here's the thing about the show though, is it does get people to be more interested in biblical text and prophecy to the point where I know I, as well as many friends of mine who have watched the show, have searched the Scriptures to learn more about these prophecies talked about in the show. I'm not saying the show is amazing or "all-that" or is even 100% biblically accurate (I'd say it's more like 50 or 75%), but it's certainly getting people to think.

Then there's Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow started on FOX last fall and just recently returned with it's second season. This show re-invents "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (including characters like Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman, and others) into a modern day context that is both entertaining and exciting while adding a twist... Once again, like Supernatural's original five seasons, Sleepy Hollow is about the Two Witnesses (Crane and Lt. Abbie Mills of Sleepy Hollow, NY on the show, though most believe it's either Enoch and Elijah or Moses and Elijah) who fight the forces of evil for a 7 year Tribulation period to stop the Apocalypse as foretold in the, you guessed it, Book of Revelation. Their enemies include the demon god Moloch (mentioned in Old Testament Scripture by the way, he's a false-god), the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Death, War, Conquest, and Famine), and other supernatural creatures like the Sandman, witches, the Gollem, and other demons, with Moloch's base in Purgatory. Crane is married to a "good" witch named Katrina and the Headless Horseman is actually the Horseman of Death of the Four Horsemen. I will admit, like Supernatural, I commend them for reciting Scripture and getting it out there (I believe they have even said Jesus' name a few times of this show), but they continue to focus on evil being the main focus of the supernatural, even making some evil in "good" (like witches and the Free Masons, of which both Crane and George Washington himself are a part of).

I have to stop here for a second. I'm not telling you all of this so that you get frustrated like I do that they're "getting it wrong", they'll have to answer for that some day, not us, but in fact I tell you this as an encouragement! People are hungry for the supernatural, they want to know about the unexplained, and once people begin to search for it, they'll hopefully find Christ! I know that while watching both Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow I have heard them reference a passage of Scripture (usually referring to prophecies of the End Times) and I dive right for my Bible and dig into it to see if the way they're using it is correct and to see if that's what it says. If I am doing that as someone who is saved, imagine what those who are not saved may be searching for when looking at the text for themselves! It may start as curiosity, but it could quickly turn into something greater.

I have to admit that the Lord has used a show like Sleepy Hollow to really re-ignite my passion for learning about and reading the Book of Revelation. I know for a fact that He wouldn't 100% approve of the show, I don't even myself, but he uses the prophecies talked about in the show and the characters like the Two Witnesses and the Four Horsemen to give me a desire to go do the research myself, and I really enjoy it!

The television show Dominion (based off of that TERRIBLE movie Legion about Michael rebelling against Heaven to stop Gabriel from destroying humanity... Blah!) is also heavily saturated with angels and demons, and although doesn't reference Scripture nearly as much as Supernatural or Sleepy Hollow might at times, it still includes biblical characters that the audience may look up for themselves, hopefully pointing back to Christ. This is the one show I've mentioned that I refuse to watch based on it's extremely blatant neglect for Scripture as well as it's creation of a new "savior" figure in the form of the main character. I watched the first episode and immediately regretted it.

Even the 2003 film Van Helsing hints to the title character being the angel Gabriel who was sent to the Catholic church to kill the son of the Devil himself, Count Dracula, therefore bringing people to another biblical connection (clearly people want to see this kind of stuff), though by making Gabriel a man they kind of contradict and neglect Scripture, so I'm not terribly fond of that.

I don't want this essay to go on TOO long, but I want to talk about another show that I believe really shows us how much people want a connection to God, and that is Battlestar Galactica. This is one of the best rated sci-fi shows ever re-imagined and the fanbase for this series is still going strong over half a decade after it's cancellation. I don't necessarily recommend it because there's a lot of sex and a fair amount of language in the series, which is not entertaining to me at all, though the story of the series itself is very interesting and the characters are very good. Certainly one of the more well-written shows of the past decade and a half. One of the big themes of BSG was that a character named Gaius Baltar and his "mission" from "god" to save both the human and Cylon races. They talk about ancient "scriptures" and their "Bible" (the Book of Kobol I believe it's called) and the mythical world of "Earth"; there are even three characters who by the end of the series you find out are angels sent to help the human and Cylon survivors to find Earth and preserve their respected races. The reason I spell BSG's god with a lower-case "g" is because it's clearly not the God of the Bible and is certainly not Jesus Christ, in the final episode two of his "angels" even state that he doesn't like being called "god" at all. Regardless of which "god" the show talks about, there's a deeper spiritual aspect to their science-fiction series that people cannot ignore and has made many fans wonder about the existence of God in our every day lives. Not to mention, if secular writers, producers, actors, and directors are getting into this stuff and inverting it into Hollywood and our modern culture/media, then why aren't Christians as well?

Battlestar Galactica even went so far as to re-create the image of "the Last Supper" as their promotional image for the series' fourth and final season because of it's deeper spiritual meaning and connection...

Now you all know that I am in no way promoting the "Cylon god" from Battlestar Galactica, but I think it's interesting how big of a story point it was on the show and just how well received the concept of god was. It continually makes me wonder if people aren't just waiting for one show, one song, one movie to truly show them who Jesus Christ is in our every day lives in the 21st century so that they may follow Him as well.

PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY FOR THE TRUTH!!! Just look at Hollywood's latest biblical endeavors like Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings... There's a lot more I could talk about and certainly would, but I think this has gone on long enough for now, who knows, I may write another one of these articles, a Part 2 if you will, at some point.

My big take-away with this article that I want everyone to get and understand is this: non-believers are not only making these things in Hollywood and succeeding with them, but viewers who are also non-believers LOVE them! I mean, how many Supernatural fangirls or Battlestar fanboys do you see running around on the Internet? TONS!!! If Supernatural and Battlestar Galactica can get away with having prophets and prophecies on their shows, if Sleepy Hollow and Supernatural can get away with showing demons, angels, the Anti-Christ, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, if Dominion can get away with using Scripture as a basis for it's universe and then warp everything around to create their own story, then why can't Christians, why can't believers, also do these things in our culture today, create these shows, films, write this kind of music that talks about Scripture and praises Jesus, why can't we engage culture in this way as well? Better yet, why aren't we trying? I know that for me, a personal goal of mine is that I want to break into the film/television industry and make films and shows that are biblically accurate and honoring and pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, yet while still being accessible and entertaining to believers AND non-believers alike! I'm currently going to film school at a secular university for that reason, because that's my passion, stories, writing, directing, etc. That's what I believe I've been called and prepared to do by the Lord and until I'm told differently that's what my plan is.

Now I know that not everyone is called to be in the entertainment business, in fact I believe few believers probably are just because of how easily and ferociously Satan has corrupted and warped it to his own liking. But, but, there are certainly those of us out there who are. I know my friend Jeremy is in the entertainment industry, he's a writer, and he's also a believer. That's what he has been called to do and I know that he honors and pleases the Lord with his work. Even if you're not called into the film business, even if you're not going to be a singer or songwriter, even if you're not going to be involved with speaking to people in a larger setting or context where thousands, millions, billions will be watching you, you can still absolutely share the Gospel with others. Whether if it's through your attitude, actions, work ethic, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, self-control, honor, whatever, you can still make an impact on someone's life without being like Supernatural or any of the other shows or films and only referencing Scripture without believing it. And you do that be LIVING it. Anyway, thank you all for reading and please be discerning in what you read, listen to, watch, and what you hear, because the Enemy will do everything he can to keep you away from the Lord and out of His Will. His good, pleasing and perfect will. Peace be with you all and have a great week!