#Write31Days Challenge – Post 29 – Very Important Note

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An author and speaker that I follow, Carlos Whittaker, shared a picture similar to the one above on his Facebook page.  I was so taken with the simplicity of the message, I grabbed every Bible I own, and added the same message.

God created the heavens and the earth… Not Gena.

It really couldn’t be any simpler than that.  I didn’t create the world, I didn’t go through six days of ordered creation, nor did I take a day of rest.  I was not there in the beginning.  I didn’t have anything to do with that process.

Yet, humanity continually tries to rewrite history and rewrite His order into a way that makes sense to our own understanding.

His ways are not our ways.  His understanding is not His understanding.

We are a people entirely INCAPABLE of following the will of God (since the day man walked in the Garden of Eden with God), and yet some how we think that gives us the authority to change HIS creation, HIS order, and HIS statutes to fit the world and according to our standards.

In comparison to God, our standards are very low.

In comparison to God, our knowledge is very limited.

In comparison to God, our perspective is very subjective.

Our view of the world, and how we are apart of it, should never be based on how want God to fit into our own reasoning.  Instead, we must put aside our own reasoning, and look to the word of God.

There is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we deal with today, every sin and controversy, has been written about in the scriptures.  Time and culture haven’t changed all that much.  It is man who changes.  The further we get from that direct relationship with God that early Christians knew… the more we want God to fit into our ways & beliefs.  

God is unchanging.  His response to sin and controversy in the scriptures hasn’t changed, because His word is true.  If it was a sin then, it is a sin now.  Period.

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#Write31Days Challenge – Post 26 – In the End

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In the Beginning was the Word.  The Word was with God and the Word was God.

From Genesis to Revelation we read about the redeeming plan of God.  A world created, falls into sin, God delivers, and God restores.  It is a beautiful unfolding narrative not about a deserving people, but a loving and merciful God.

The scriptures also warn us that things are going to get tougher for Christians as the day of the Lord’s return grows closer.  We will see it in the physical world as natural disasters will increase in frequency and destructive force.  We will see it in the living world, as man will be prone to greater sin.  It will be evident in the church when people are no longer interested in sound doctrine, but instead seek teachers who will tell them what they want to hear.  All of these are signs that the age is coming to a close, the return of Christ is on the horizon.

At the same time, we are also warned that we will never know the day or the hour that it will happen, but instead we are to be ready at all times.

Some are looking to the signs and in fear they are beginning to stockpile supplies of all kinds.  They believe that Christians will face part (if not all) of the tribulation.  There are those who believe that God will call His children home before the tribulation, and they are making no preparations at all.  Instead, they are going on with life as usual… but perhaps have a little more fervor in their step when evangelizing to nonbelievers and praying for the world.

Then there are those who believe stockpiles will only last so long, all things will have a shelf life.  They are evangelizing a lot more, praying a lot harder too.  However they have made the decision that in preparing for the end times, their greatest investment will be knowledge.   For some it means having a skill set that will make you valuable in an apocalyptic age, because that knowledge will keep you safe.  Others think the value of knowledge will come from self sufficiency.  To be able to build and repair their own homes and furniture, grow their own food, tend to livestock of some manner, and to live off the land will be a necessity as Christians flee to the mountains to avoid persecution.

For myself, I believe a little bit of all of the above is going to be a great commodity for survival… assuming that we will face at least some of the tribulation.  I’m a prepare for the worst, hope for the best type of gal.  If the Lord takes us pre-tribulation … great.  If not, I won’t be completely lost.

However, something I think is being overlooked (and this is based off of reading and conversations I have) is the importance of knowing the scriptures FOR YOURSELF.  As the times grow more corrupt, as the world turns it’s collective back on the Lord, there may be a day when owning a Bible is illegal, or where they are confiscated.

— I am not trying to build up fear, and if this is freaking you out…. stop reading.  —

There may be a day, where we can no longer gather at the church down the street to worship as a collective body of believers.  We cannot be solely dependent on our Pastor’s message every Sunday, nor our weekly women’s bible study.  We cannot find be dependent on the devotion that pops into our email daily, or the local Christian radio station.  As the days grow more evil, these things may diminish or disappear completely.

What do we do?

We depend at that point on our knowledge of the scriptures to carry us through that time, to teach others after the scales fall of their eyes and they see the truth before them, and to evangelize to those who are still in the dark.  If you don’t know the scriptures FOR YOURSELF, how can you lead others?  You won’t be able to rely upon your Pastor or Bible Study leader to do it for you.  The job will be yours.

If Bible are banned and confiscated, what will you do then?

This is why I think it is imperative that every believer should have a sound understanding of the scriptures, cover to cover.  You don’t need to recite it word for word, but you must have basic knowledge of what you believe, why you believe it, and how to share it.

It begins by choosing to do more than own a bible and attend church weekly.  It is more than reading the bible a few times a week or month.  It’s taking the extra step and truly STUDYING the scripture.

They can not confiscate what is hidden in your mind and heart.

 

A Semester Ends… and Summer is Calling

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I know that I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for any new readers, I am currently back in school working on my Bachelors in Divinity Degree with Christian Leaders Institute.    This is a fairly new program for them, previously the school awarded certificates and included an ordination program.  However, last year, the school began it’s accreditation process.  This resulted in the addition of a Bachelors in Divinity Degree program!  And since, they have begun partnering with some great theological seminary schools for continued education into their masters programs.

It blows my mind how different my life is from where I expected when I graduated high school.   I went to college for a Bachelors in Arts degree, in Theatre Arts specifically.  Talk about a shift!  And, while I still long for the stage (on it or behind the scenes)… in many ways I don’t miss it.   I think over the years I have become very disenfranchised with what we see on stage & screen.  Even when I was in the thick of it, I can recall not understanding the need for gratuitous violence or sex.  I’d watch an action movie and wonder WHY this film needed a sex scene?  If it didn’t add value to the story, if it didn’t serve a purpose… then WHY?  I would also question how much they would show, perfectly content with the two lovers closing a bedroom door.  I knew what was happening behind those doors, I didn’t need too see it or hear it.

I think for a time, I wanted to be that change.  I could be a Christian and work in this industry.  I would just have standards.  There would be movies I wouldn’t do, scenes I wouldn’t do.  Easy peasy.  Not really, not anymore.  The industry has changed so very much, and there are so many actors and actresses willing to do ANYTHING in order to land the job…. a woman with convictions & standards doesn’t have a chance.  Right?  In fact, quite often, what we see now is a person who was willing to bend the rules in the beginning to get established.  Once they become a power house that gets the ticket sales, THEN they establish their new standards.  Everyone admires them for it too.  But they paid a price to afford them those convictions.

Then I looked at Christian movies and videos, available at the time.  I thought for sure that HERE would be the place that I could make a difference.  The story lines, scripts, acting and filmography were quite often cheesy.  But, let’s face it… they were working with a smaller talent pool, definitely smaller budgets, and time frame.  If we could just begin to infuse these movies with better actors, better budget, better everything…. we could WIN.  Those changes began to take place.

Yet, I find myself really disappointed still.  We didn’t make it beyond the first 10 minutes of Left Behind, with Nicholas Cage.  I had HIGH expectations for this movie.  Noah, well… Noah had rock monsters.  Fireproof and Courageous were ok, but like a Lifetime Movie type of ok.  (Yes, I know I am being HIGHLY critical here).  In fact, to be totally honest, the BEST Christian movie of all time in my opinion was The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson.  Let me explain why.

In your earliest acting classes, you are taught two very important things.  1) Acting is the art of lying.  In other words, you are responsible for creating a character totally outside of yourself that is also totally believable.  Every word out of your mouth is not true for you, but you have to sell it as truth for your character.   2)  Acting is the art of suspending belief.  I know, that sort of sounds the same as the first, but it’s a bit different.  Because this one is about the effect on the audience of the entire production.  It means that the writing, set, performance is SO GOOD… that the audience is totally invested.  You are transported out of your movie theater style seats and you are immersed in what you are watching.   Suddenly singing in the middle of a battle field doesn’t seem out of place.  Dragons are not only real, but you have an emotional connection (love/hate) to them.   You grieve this person who has died.  You are rooting for the underdog.  In today’s industry it also means buying the CGI that allows things that defy laws of gravity, or are seemingly impossible.

The Passion of the Christ, is the FIRST and ONLY Christian film that has (again in my opinion) pulled of those 2 important things.  It was also a film, unlike any other in the Christian catalog, to illicit a response in me beyond the theater walls.  Who hasn’t walked out of a movie theater or play, and discussed it over dessert or the course of the next few days.  The Passion of the Christ, broke me because my belief was suspended.  I was transported into that moment, watching my Savior being beaten, mocked and crucified.  It was real.  It left a visual imprint.  I still talk about it to this day.  It created the standard to which I weigh all Christian productions against.

This should be the goal.

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So, as I draw to a close of this semester of school…. in a completely different area of study… I can’t help but wonder about our churches.  Churches today have access to greater resources than ever before, the pews and seats are filled and filling, and many “pastors” put on a great show.  But why?  What is the purpose?  What is the goal?

I am growing more, and more, concerned about the response of the church body as they walk out of the doors Sunday afternoon.  Did they get their fill up for the week?  Or did it inspire them to dig deeper, did it leave an imprint, did it make the person want to learn more?  Is this part of their process of change?

Are we failing our body, when we spoon feed them everything they need to know, without inspiring them to read more on their own?  There is nothing greater, to me, then when I arrive home from church on Sunday… and I crack open my bible.  I want to see more, I want to learn more about what the Pastor was talking about.  I have been known to email our Pastor, or my mentor, a question here and there about the message.  I’ve looked at commentaries.  I have gone on to share it with others, because it was so profound.  Always hoping they too will be encouraged to dig in and read it for themselves.

Is this not the standard we should be striving toward, as Pastors,  Bible Study Teachers, Small Group Leaders, Writers, Speakers, etc?  We don’t want to hand them a plate full of food, and call it a day.  We want them to return for seconds, thirds, and more.  We don’t want to satisfy their hunger for the word, we want to show them how starved they are!

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It was during a video lecture, from one of my classes, Dr. John De Vries mentioned the idea of having a Small Group that actually meets to discuss the sermon message.  INSPIRED!   Seriously, I thought to myself… wow, that is a great idea!  And yet, it seems so obvious and simple.

This teacher, did exactly what I was talking about… his words in the lesson, called me to go a step further.  The semester is over, summer is calling and I know exactly what I want to do with it.  This is my summer small group!  The great part about this?  It is going to create a ripple effect, in our church.   Dr De Vries started the ripple by inspiring me to do the small group.  This small group is going to create 1) accountability to attend services each week and 2) encouragement to dig deeper into the message and word.  And, I pray that God will bless this small group by rippling out further as we talk about it in our homes, with our friends and even begin to invite people to join.

If you are a student, or a parent of a student… this term is coming to an end.  Summer is calling.  God is calling.

BOOK REVIEW: Gospel Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax

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I was given this book at a writers workshop at The Gospel Coalition’s Womens Conference.  I couldn’t think of better time to pick up a book like this, since our fall small groups are getting ready to start up at my home church.  The book’s first pages have  a lot of great accolades, from prominent teachers, that point toward this being a must read for anyone who is in a teaching position over other believers.   Pastors.  Small Group Leaders.  Ministry Leaders.  This book was written for you.  Not just for those who are currently teaching alone, but also for those who are considering answering the call to teach for the first time.

Regarding the Author:  Trevin Wax

When preparing a book that could be used by scholared teachers of the Word AND your every day small group lay leader, it is important to provide content that is easy to follow.  Trevin Wax has written a book that stays on track, moves from point to point with ease, utilizes famailiar verbiage, and condenses the information into a format that is not intimidating.  This book, if given to a small group leader, could easily be read within a short period.    The book is a comfortable read, and it is evident that Trevin Wax understands the audience that will be reading this book.

Regarding the Book:  Gospel Centered Teaching

When one steps up to teach a small group, for the first time, it can be a bit scary.  What do I teach?  How do I teach?  Will I be a good teacher?  When one has been teaching small groups, speaking in front of groups, or even presenting sermons for a long season; there are times where we can lose focus on what the point of it all is.  Perhaps we have gotten caught up in the bible stories themselves, over whom they point to.    It may even be a possibility that our every day lives have brought us to a place where we have a world view of things vs. a gospel view.   This can taint the perceptions of even the most seasoned teacher.  In some cases we may find ourselves teaching a great moral lesson and tacking a quick snippet about the gospel at the end, for good measure or because we feel the need to.  It becomes an after thought.

Gospel Centered Teaching is a great book for small group leaders and teachers of all seasons* because it helps bring us back into the heart of the scriptures.  We need to know the basics of the Gospel ourselves, we need to make sure that we can present the Gospel accurately, we need to understand WHY we need to keep our teaching Gospel centered, and finally we need to continually remind ourselves to keep the Gospel center to our teaching and presentations.  Trevin Wax’s practical explanations & easy to read format, make this a great book to give to your small group leaders and staff members.

From the Text:

“If we are not careful , the pursuit of knowledge is merely a sham to make ourselves feel intellectually superior to those around us. We start to view spiritual maturity in terms of knowledge rather than obedience.” (Trevin Wax, Gospel Centered Teaching)

“If we learn individual bible stories and never connect them to the big story; We put ourselves in the scene as if we are the main character.”  (Trevin Wax, Gospel Centered Teaching)

“Just because you know the Bible, doesn’t mean the Word will bear fruit in your life.”

 

Gospel Centered Teaching

Author: Trevin Wax

Publisher:  BH Publishing Group

ISBN:  978-1-4336-8172-1