Tag Archives: Christ

A Culture of Indecision

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A guest on Fox and Friends said, in order to keep a good job, you must take responsibility for your actions. Their target audience were millennials, but all ages are guilty, especially in this culture of indecision.

Examples often observed are the lack of commitments to anything from church membership to weekend plans, even to marriage. The culture waits until the eleventh hour to make plans or to decide not to attend. This serious lack of commitment in our society has bothered me.

The cure for the culture of indecision could be in creating better habits:

1: Keep a day planner or Google calendar. When you are asked about weekend plans, you can answer yes or no right away.

2: Make plans and keep them, even if on that day you get a better invitation someplace else or don’t mentally feel like showing up. I have often awoken in the morning before a full day and wished I could call in sick from my commitment. Short of family emergencies or illness, I am going to be there when I have committed to something.

3: Commit long or short term to a project or ministry. Practice makes for better habits. Start with a small project and commit fully to its vision. When obstacles come, find a way over or through them. Don’t let discouragement keep you from using your gifts.

4: Find a church and commit to its vision through the long haul, even when trials come. Church is often like the weather; bad weather comes, people fall away, and return again. Bad weather is a great time to stick it out and shine. Allow yourself to emotionally connect with others who attend that church and love them as good as family. Contribute to that church and help it become successful.

5: Find a job and hold on to it even when it’s no longer fun. Jobs are not fun. Even the fun jobs have moments where you absolutely hate it. They pay the bills and grow character. So stick with a good job and give them 110% no matter what they pay. You’ll earn more than a paycheck; you’ll earn people’s respect, and that in itself, is a very powerful testimony of your belief in Christ.

6: RSVP to an event yes or no; or follow up on your maybe. Be respectful to the host or hostess. They have to buy supplies for the party and need a head count. Don’t make them chase after you with follow-up phone calls and emails. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t forget to follow-up in short order on a maybe. I’ve forgotten to do that once and I felt bad, but haven’t done it since.

Matthew 5:37 struck me some months ago. It read:

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Like Fox and Friends said, take responsibility for your actions. A non-answer or not showing up allows the other to make sometimes wrong assumptions about you. The Bible implores us to be firm in our answers. Maybe that’s why I beat myself black and blue when I let someone down? I don’t want to hurt those I care about the most.

Book Review: This Beautiful Mess

*If you buy this book from Amazon, you’ll be helping me out. Click at the link after this sentence: This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God

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This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley mixes art with his purpose of changing our thinking from living as we wait for the Kingdom to living in the Kingdom. However, I left this book with mixed feelings.

The book begins very slowly. I put it down several times because I expected more meat, less dessert. It reads like many of the blogs I read online—beautiful, poetic, and Rick McKinley is quite a writer. The book is separated into parts. Some of the chapters include excerpts or what looks like poetry; an expression of worship, like dipping a banana in chocolate to make someone swallow the truth more pleasantly. What would be worship without beauty? God is, afterall, an artist, too. This Beautiful Mess gets into the truth, the meat, and my mind is satisfied, hungrily devouring every word.

This Beautiful Mess was written by an author who lives in liberal Portland. Naturally, one would expect a bit of leftist ideology in it. The author uses the word “rape” when referring to the environment in two places in the book, repeating himself.

“On the one hand, I see some evangelical communities and traditions that camp on the not-yet-end of the truth of the kingdom. They tend to look away from the disadvantaged, from issues of injustice or raping of the natural world for profit because…,” or here, “…understanding that creation was given to us to serve us. That doesn’t mean we’re free to rape the earth…” While the author stays vague so you’re not entirely sure how far left he thinks in regarding to environmental politics, it puts a conservative like me on alert. While I agree with taking care of the environment, I don’t agree with the more extreme environmentalists. With no specific examples, there’s too much room for assumption. He also has some black and white claims when comparing liberal and conservative churches.

At the 85% point of the book, he says the culture listens less because, “Jesus is not being lived out in the mess of their (conservative churches) lives. Christians are simply saying that Jesus is King without also living out His reign in the streets.” I attend a conservative church. We have two very large programs that take care of the disadvantaged in our community. Our church also did a 90 Days of Blessings to encourage our congregation to reach out beyond the walls of our church. To be fair, he also touches on the liberal church in the next paragraph. He devotes a large portion of the book to emotionalism and social justice.

This Beautiful Mess goes on about social justice, but, unless I missed it, I saw no change in the people who were warmed in the streets or who received free meals via many camp stoves. He praises a man who inherited $20,000 and gave it all way on Wall Street in small bills. I wonder what could have been done with that amount to double or triple his investment to do more good than a few dollars to temporarily help someone in need? In location 1988-1990, the author quotes Mother Theresa:

“My actions will preach. ‘There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point,’ said Mother Teresa. ‘What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough.’” This is where I disagree. We have too much of this in the world and not enough truth balancing out the action. Even the secular people do kind things for others, but what makes Christians different than the culture? People are hungry for love and for truth, even if truth hurts, and we need both. I did see change in the single parent stories. I agreed with him about repentance and how much we all need it (in and out of church). I agreed with much of his Appendix.

Normally, I don’t read Appendix’s, but the author’s Appendix is basically a proposal to the church on how to reach a culture without compromising beliefs. The author says, “This may be the biggest stretch for many of us, because discipleship has tended to focus on matters of being part of the church while mission has been left to those going overseas.” People are a wreck in and out of the church. This Beautiful Mess, while too much fluff at times, beautifully illustrated how redemption through Christ is a spiritual miracle and it must be done through relationship, not rote; through repentance. I gave this book three stars.

*Book given by publisher to review.

How to Alienate Someone From Church

The easiest way to chase new people away from your church is to follow one or all of these choices:

  • Gossip about your former church. Tell them how horrible it was, question the leadership, and talk about the congregants as if they were all somehow at fault for what offended you. Then, tell them this church, your new church, is much more in line with what the Bible preaches. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Plus, you say, that other church wasn’t at all friendly. It had nothing to do with your Sylvester Stallone “Rocky” stance near the back of the church (you know that scene where Rocky faced the Russian?).
  •  Never make new friendships. Always sit in the same seat and look uncomfortable if someone sits next to you that isn’t your friend from small group. If someone is sitting in your seat, make all sorts of strange noises like you are offended, but way too polite to say so. If necessary, do a Seinfeld and sneeze and cough violently without covering your mouth. That should make them move.
  • Put down the other services.  Personally, I like my music. It’s far superior than what they are listening to; or so I tell myself. If you argue and complain about the other service enough, perhaps more will come to your service. Perhaps if you force them to sit in your service and listen to your music, they will eventually love it as much you do. There’s nothing like classical music after getting two hours of sleep the night before because the baby wouldn’t stop crying. If they still won’t come to your service, I would suggest making faces about it when someone mentions the service.
  • Put down the leadership. Like sports fans everywhere, we know better than the coaches what the team ought to do to get more believers, more baptisms, or more money in the church. We love to tell people what to do or say, but we are way too busy to plan or start anything or to help. Programs afterall are the product of magic. They sprout and become mammoth and amazing ministries we could just walk into and enjoy.
  • Go online and complain. Oh, this one hurts.

Okay, seriously….when I mention all of these things, I am thinking of the common complaints I read online via various blogs, magazine or sermons on how to re-imagine or re-think church, and heard elsewhere. But when I wrote some of them I also thought of me. When was the last time I made a new friendship that took more than a two second like on Facebook? When have I said I could do something better and had to put my feet where my words were in order to prove it which didn’t come without hurt feelings from the other party? In a conversation with Tony, we discussed how unified some religions are compared to others. Why are they unified?

Because they don’t do any of the above, at least, not online, in church, or among their friends or family members. Church begins with us and our actions. Church is like family where everything you do has influence, and like Tom Garasha said last Sunday, our own running away from God could have collateral damage–the poor choices in our lives that affect others. Because our running away from God, like justifying our behavior or being too judgmental towards others to hide our own inconsistencies, can hurt the people we influence. The above examples are easy ways to drive a seeker right into the arms of a cult. If Christ’s church won’t accept someone, the devil will gladly take them, warmly enveloping them in false theology.

Your Livelihood or Your Faith?

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Worldnet News Daily jerked me out my Christian slumber when their headlines read, “U.S. Court: Choose Faith or Livelihood.” It caused me to ask: What would I choose if faced with that kind of persecution?

The picture above is what I created to illustrate the headlines. This is not some “right-wing conspiracy theory”, but a real threat. If business owners or workers are forced to choose between their faith or their livelihood we could see a new era evolve that closely resembles India’s caste system; real poverty, like a third world country where Christians (and anyone who disagrees with the elite of the country) are the aliens.

WND’s article says, “The stunning verdict came in a case brought by lesbians against Elane Photography. The lesbians wanted the photographer to document their “wedding,” and the studio declined, claiming it would violate the Christian faith of the owners. Tough luck, said judges Edward Chavez, Petra Jimenez Maes, Charles Daniels, Barbara Vigil and Richard Bosson. They make clear the company has the option of going out of business.”

This verdict isn’t new. Fox News reports how a Colorado gay couple is suing a bakery for not providing a cake. In Washington State, ABC News reports a florist is being sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding. In England, Lifesitenews reports how a gay couple is suing a church for not providing the wedding of his dreams. Two Catholic Innkeepers are being sued for refusing to host a gay wedding.

In this anti-bullying fever, it’s amazing how no one is pointing out the obvious; how the same people who want to live in peace are forcing people out of business or asking them to compromise their deeply held religious beliefs using the tactics of a bully. A gay congressman has even mentioned taking a Christian’s children away. This is re-enforced by what an ASU professor said from an atheist’s standpoint, because it’s not just gays attacking Christians, but some atheist groups and individuals are also working at eradicating Christianity from the fabric of America. But the Bible is clear on persecution and trials:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14 (ESV)

I’m not sure us latte-sippin’, iphone playin’ Christians are ready for this choice. There are exceptions. One woman I know has decided she will die as a missionary in a hostile country. Every day is survival mode as buildings blow up, but she is determined and an inspiration to me. What would America look like if we lived and died for Christ, like a Billy Graham or a Nate Saint?

I’m not even sure what that looks like in America. After attending service at a Navajo church on our own, independently funded, missions trip, I saw the church stripped down to faith and truth. No bands. No battle over hymns or contemporary music. No private membership feel or getting lost in a crowd or alienated by a clique. No one went without. No place is perfect, but it’s a reminder to me how complicated and consumoristic we have made church.

So what would we choose, if forced to choose between living a comfortable life in a house, two cars, and yearly vacations or living destitute like a homeless person only with no free meals or hot showers? The latter, of course, could be those of us who choose Christ, and as in the India Caste system, become the ‘untouchables.’  Are we ready? What would you choose if faced with that very real possibility of losing everything you’ve worked hard to keep?

Your Heart’s Desire

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Your Heart’s Desire by Sheri Rose Shepherd is a great book, but, for me, I really had a tough time finishing it. I can’t identify why. I wasn’t given the novel to review. My only obligation was to post her articles which can be found here and I just happened to get a free book for my efforts.

I believe the claims are fulfilled in this book where the back cover says it’s, “for the married woman who desires more for her marriage; for the single woman who desires a godly man to love her; for the divorced woman who desires and deserves a second chance to find love again.”

After months of trying to read it, I just gave up. The writing is good. It’s a simple read and is formatted like a devotional. Halfway through satisfies me that someone who is struggling will find great worth in reading this as a devotional during her prayer time. Again, it’s not a reflection on the writer’s talent or content, but this time, it’s just me. Read other reviews here.

Samaritan’s Purse: Helen of Yarnell

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90-year old, Helen sat in her carport surrounded by what was left of her belongings. She held her insurance papers in her hands and had the American flag at half-mast because of the 19 hotshots who lost their lives defending her town. Across from her carport is a gazebo. Her son built that gazebo and it was the only thing on her property untouched by the fire.

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Helen chatted with my husband. Her spirits were high. She did not act the victim. Helen had amazing energy for her age, but her attitude is not unusual. Many people have been reporting of the graciousness of the Yarnell residents.

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Multiple churches have been sending help continuously to clear the land for new construction and assisting in finding the resident’s personal items buried in soot. Tony said it was humbling. People like Helen are an inspiration. If only we could carry such an attitude in times of distress.

If you live in the area, you can find out how to help Samaritan’s Purse from here.

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Addictive Behaviors Don’t Only Apply to Drugs or Alcohol

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Girl with Laptop Outside (Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360)

A few years ago, I reviewed Facebook Addiction by Nnamdi Godson Osuagwu. This book is still relevant. Addictive behaviors don’t only apply to drugs or alcohol.

Laurel and Aaron Polli discovered the dangers of addiction which propelled them to abstain from Facebook for forty days. They experienced problems in their relationships and family due to the addictive nature of social networking.

Aaron said:

“Laurel was on Facebook when she could have been spending time with Aaron and her little girl, Sadira. Aaron disagreed with things Laurel would post on her status. Aaron obsessed about proving a point to a female friend and he was always checking her profile.”

As far as I still know, they have continued past the forty days only rarely using Facebook. All their communication is done by email or phone or in person.

The American Psychiatry Association says addiction is a chronic disorder where we can’t control our need for the substance in question. George Barna says America is becoming addicted to technology. Families have allowed technology to increase conflict, teenagers complain of a double standard when parents bring home work, but teenagers aren’t allowed to be on Facebook. Parent’s are on as often, if not more, than their kids.

Barna further says:

“I arrived at this conclusion based on looking at a lot of data. For instance, if media content and exposure levels are at addictive levels, we would expect to see a steady increase in the amount of media exposure that characterizes the typical person’s life. Research consistently shows such an increase. Two decades ago, the average child under 18 spent about 15 to 20 hours per week digesting media content. Today, it has nearly tripled to almost 60 hours per week of unduplicated time. They now devote more time to media than to anything other than sleep.”

Barna also points out how another sign of addiction to technology is people’s resistance to reducing technology in their life. Psychological changes have been observed. One person told me how he notices that a teenager is more willing to spend hours online than meet in person. Another person observed how social media has changed how a teenager is able to relate to others in real life. Teens have been known to text each other when standing side-by-side. My own observation is the increase of weight in people. These people are always sitting, whether playing video games, online Facebook games, or enjoying hours of a virtual social life. Barna made some other interesting observations here. I have also seen how unguided social media usage in a teenager creates a more self-centered personality. But technology can be used for good and has a lot of benefits.

If we balance our social media usage with real life, we will reap the benefits, like increased communication, reaching across continents for Christ, more business connections, dating, friendships, and political information not dependent upon major news sources to be circulated (i.e. Tea Party and grassroots movements). Fox and Friends had a business contributor on their show who said any business who doesn’t have a web page won’t get any business in the future. The bad thing about increased technology in our lives is the lack of physical contact in real life.

The commercial with the daughter living her life online with trivial apps and meme posters while her older parents were mountain biking is a realistic portrayal of today’s younger generation. Our dependence has also made us forget how to make others feel valued.

I don’t have a smart phone, but I have observed how people interrupt meetings or church gatherings when their cell phone rings or a text comes in or we have to check Facebook. We have justified our usage of the cell phone during inappropriate times when this kind of behavior was once considered rude. I have experienced this at my own meetings. It says, “I don’t consider your time that important.” I don’t answer the phone at the check-out line in the grocery stores because it says the cashier isn’t important enough to notice.  Now rumors exist of a computer you can put in your eye that is being tested.

A danger exists with new and upcoming technology as well as current technology to totally disappear. A friend was telling me how Celebrate Recovery is more than about drug or alcohol addiction, but other addictions, too, like co-dependency and even, she said, technology addictions. Once, I, too, was addicted to Facebook. When I realized my virtual life outweighed real life, I knew changes had to happen.

Being a writer with an online business, a lot of time must be spent online, but I also work to make sure I am living life. One can’t outweigh the other. There are people to meet, places to visit, and my health is of utmost importance. My running and working out are not overridden by my gadgets and time spent online, but if you are addicted to technology, my advice is to do what Aaron and Laurel did–take 40 days to withdraw and live. When you return online, limit how much time you spend on it so it doesn’t replace your friends or family.

Are you addicted? Have you observed these things? Tell your story here.

Hope Fest coming in September! This is a community outreach festival. To volunteer, advertise, or have a booth, email nikole@hopefestaz.com.

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Addictive Behaviors are More Than Substance Abuse #Facebook #addiction http://tllg.net/QRrg

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Book Review: Altar Ego (Becoming Who God Says You Are)

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Uplifting, bold, and enthusiastic describes the mood of Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are by Craig Groeschel. In fact, this book had many quotables in it so much so that one quote inspired an entire blog here. But what is Altar Ego’s central theme?

Groeschel begins by tearing down the labels we give ourselves. “That’s why God’s truth about who I am transformed my life and hope. Paul writes, ‘Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ (2 Cor. 5:17 NLT, emphasis mine). No matter what others have said or what you’ve believed about yourself, even if the negative labels are true, God can give you a new view of yourself.”

He said if you are not physically fit; believe you can be physically fit. Groeschel talks about how his wife struggled in an area of her life because of a label she believed and when he encouraged her to think of herself, her altar ego, under a new name his wife overcame the obstacle and was able to do great in her classes. But Groeschel doesn’t stop at labels. Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are is all about transformation. Liberally laced with scripture references, Altar Ego talks about integrity, honor and respect, too.

“Isn’t it tragic,” Groeschel says, “that we live in a world where people are more shocked by a display of integrity than the lack of it?” He defines respect and honor as two different things and that, deserved or not, we should give honor as something someone doesn’ t have to earn and respect is described as something earned.

I did disagree with one portion of the text on honor, but I won’t go into it as it may not have anything to do with the accuracy of the text as more of viewing it through the lens of my past and taking it more sensitively than I ought. I fear others who have gone through what I went through might look at that with the same jaundiced eye I did and question the usage. While I won’t go into what it was, let me say that someone looking at that text from a normal viewpoint would find nothing wrong with it, and when I step into their shoes I can see the simplified message. In normal everyday life, I can even agree with it. He also points out honor from the political spectrum.

Altar Ego shows in an example how even a Republican and Democrat can honor something or someone without agreeing or tolerating something against their beliefs. His section on honor is what everyone in our society should read and practice and it was a good reminder for me, too. Groeschel speaks boldness towards the end of the book—bold prayer, bold living, etc. My favorite part of the book is what rarely anyone seems to practice anymore; that is, not being silent when a friend is doing something unbiblical.

“The mindset of never offending anyone anywhere has overflowed into the church as well. More and more, I hear Christians say things like, ‘You know, I don’t want to upset anybody, so I try not to speak too boldly about my faith.’ Consequently, a common mindset in the church today is that to be good witnesses, we need to just let our actions speak for us. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great place to start, because hands down, we do want our lives to reflect Christ. But there are times when we can’t just let our lives speak for us; we must use our words to witness boldly as well.” Groeschel follows this line of thought with an example of his outrageous and humorous fear of snakes, especially copperheads.

Overall, I gave this book five stars because Groeschel speaks fiery encouragement into the milk-toast Christian, hoping that they close the book bolder than when they first opened it. To learn more about Craig Groeschel, click here.

*book given by the publisher to review.

Grow Into Your True Identity

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“In the book of judges, we read about a timid leader named Gideon. In our first impression, we see Gideon hiding in a winepress, afraid of the enemy, the Midianites. But an angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, the angel calls him a “mighty man of valor.” Gideon, empowered by God, grew into the true meaning of his name. God will do the same for you, but you must be willing to let go of the old name to grow into the fullness of your true identity.” - Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel (Zondervan, 2013 – Review later. Follow my progress on Goodreads)

Let go of the old name.

It reminds me of what I read called, An Open Letter to the Church from a Lesbian:

We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.

We are not what we shall be, she wrote. Craig Groeschel in Altar Ego said, “You are not yet who you are supposed to be.” All believers sin in some way. Not to take sin lightly or to pass it off as common and acceptable, but we need to be willing to, “grow into the fullness of (our) true identity.” The writer of the letter encourages us to, “…work together to see that we all arrive safely home.”

The charge to change comes from the Holy Spirit in us, like Pinocchio’s conscious, telling us when we are doing wrong or right, giving direction in a complicated world. The harder we fight that voice the longer it takes for us to grow into our new name in Christ, but I’ve found we can incorrectly interpret our voice for the Holy Spirit’s; labeling ourselves; reacting to our circumstances, instead of responding; or wanting something so bad, it is our voice we follow instead, like choosing to eat the cheesecake when it’s the celery and humus we should devour. In a diet, accountability keeps us closet chocolate eaters in line, which is probably why many diet programs have councilors–someone to answer to.

I’ve often wondered at accountability’s absence in our culture, but then realized do we seek after only other people’s accountability? Do we yet realize when we ask for accountability that this prayer includes us, too?

I am not yet who I am meant to be and everyday my Father allows things to happen in my life, either due to a fault of mine or through the consequences of other people’s sins, to change me. In order to change, I must be willing to give up my old name and grow into my new identity in Christ. Some of those changes will always be painful, and has been over the years, but every year I change as people leave a bit of themselves behind in my life–something they did or said which amazed me, even if it was minor. Those are precious gifts from the Father that linger like expensive perfume in my soul; the scent of the Creator Himself.

How are you different since accepting Christ?

Over The Rainbow

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English: Rainbow. At 10pm a rainbow tries to brighten up the Sutherland moor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somewhere over the rainbow,
People smile, laughter reigns.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
People care, no one complains.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
Is Heaven—and Christ, our King.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Are places where angels sing.

Somewhere over the rainbow,
People stop thinking of self.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Aren’t dusty hearts on a bookshelf.

Somewhere, Somehow a violin,
Plays a sweet song of a place,
Without harsh judgment or sin,
Over the rainbow, Christ’s embrace.

© 2009 Nikole Hahn