Cultivating the Most Important Relationship of Your Life

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 26, 2009 0 comments

A Day In The Life of My Family:

As I write this new post, I am amazed by the pain that I feel. No, I’m not seriously injured, but I recently did do something stupid. But it was worth it!

My family and I live in Ohio, where we recently received a large snowfall and very cold temperatures. Since Sunday was such a beautiful day, I took five of my children to the large hill in our town called Reber’s bottom, which is perfect for sledding! My three-year-old daughter, Eva, wanted to go down but would only go with me. So I went with her, which was a big mistake! Halfway down I realized that I would pay for it the next morning, for my backside and back quickly began to hurt. We got to the bottom of the hill safely (Thank You, God!), and I realized, “Oh boy, I need to walk up this hill.” Then reality really set in: I had to carry my three-year-old halfway up the hill. Now my legs, back, and arm were feeling the burn! Yet I went down that hill two or three more times with our friends and the kids.

By Thursday of that week, I was still in pain, which brought to mind a couple points. First, I realized that my unusual physical exertion was symbolic of a Christian’s spiritual life. We only read and study God’s Word when it is convenient or necessary. This practice is like my using my physical body once in awhile, although I should exercise daily.

Despite the pain, this sledding experience allowed me to spend time with my kids, which makes all the pain worthwhile. They begged me to take them sledding and were thrilled that I did it with them. Spending this quality time with my kids also led me to consider our relationship with the God of the universe. When I am able to do something special with my kids, they love it, for they go crazy — tackling me, hanging onto my legs, and sometimes simply mobbing me. There are many times, however, that they need me to simply be still and hold them.

I believe our Heavenly Father wants to receive such attention from us. He wants us to go out of our way to spend time with Him in His Word. He wants us to pray to Him by speaking, listening, and simply being still in the presence of the Holy Spirit. He also delights in our loving each other. Although I often fail, I work at it every day, as I hope you all do as well. I encourage you: Take some time this week to cultivate the most important relationship of your life — your relationship with Jesus Christ.

How can you let Christ know this week that you love Him?

For further reading, consider Matthew 5:1-12.

Dealing with an Institution: Racing Toward the Answer

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 19, 2009 1 comments

Last week I recounted how the film WALL[E] really affected me and discussed the lessons that we can learn from the story.

This week I will focus on what I believe is the best film of 2008. Like WALL[E], I was not expecting anything great from this film.

No, it is not Batman: The Dark Knight. Surprisingly, the movie is. . . (drum roll please)…

Speed Racer.

From start to finish I was blown away! The graphics were spectacular, but the message was even better. Although the connection I am going to make may at first seem far-fetched, please bare with me. As I watched the film, many controversial thoughts rose to the surface of my mind: Is the church as we know it really the way that it is supposed to be? Is the corporate and business-like institution that it has become of God or of men? Is this really the church that Jesus envisioned? These musings do not necessarily apply to all congregations. I am merely referring to the institutional methods that many churches push and how many Christians (including myself) have gotten caught up in these models. I may or may not be addressing your situation; you know if this applies to you. So I encourage you to watch this movie with these questions in mind.

Being a young, na├»ve youth worker, I used to believe that I was essentially a pastor to students and their families. They seemed to agree, for I would perform “pastoral duties,” and the families did not object. My senior pastor stressed that since I was considered a pastor, I should use my God-given gifts accordingly. I was hesitant at first because of my respect for the church and what it represents, but I gradually became comfortable with the idea due to the ministry that was happening in the community. Thus, many “ordained” pastors and I considered myself a pastor. As I was encouraged, I continued to try to use my gifts in a positive way for the Kingdom of God.

However, a few years ago my world was rocked! Well, it was more like a major earthquake. A senior pastor told me that I was not a pastor and was not even considered one, even though I was already performing pastoral duties. Confused, I asked why he believed this. He stated that since I had not received seminary training and was not ordained, I was not a pastor. (I am not bashing a seminary education. I am sure that it is fine teaching.)

He then informed me I was not qualified to baptize anyone or “bless” communion, even though I had already been doing so for several years. I asked him for an explanation of why I needed to be ordained. He simply stated that that was the church’s requirement. I wondered where this teaching is found in the Bible.

I wondered aloud, “Were Phillip and Peter ordained?” They both baptized people. He gave no reply, so I moved forward.

“Was John ordained?” He certainly baptized and offered communion. Once again, his reply was silence, I pressed on.

“And for that matter, was Jesus ordained?” Now he had an answer for me: “Well, He’s God. And the disciples were with Jesus, so it was acceptable for them.”

“What?!” I said. (I was thinking, “Are those words really coming out of your mouth?”) I continued, “I have a conversation with God everyday!”

Now, I am not trying to start a battle or divisions within the church. But let’s consider: what is the church? Is it Sunday morning in a building, singing a few songs and listening to the “professionals” sharing their wisdom? Or is it the Church, the body of Christ, living every day to bring glory to Christ in all that we do? Every day, everywhere we are, not just in a building. I believe Acts 2:42-47 is an example of what the Church is supposed to look like.

If you believe that I am out of line, please let me know. One of the reasons that I write this blog is to encourage discussion. We can discuss issues with gentleness and respect, as I Peter 3:15-16 encourages us. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I would love to hear from you.

Let me stress that whether or not you agree with my musings, my desire is to pursue the truth and expose any falsehood, so we can better serve Christ.

Let me explain how these questions arose from my watching Speed Racer. As my wife and I both watched it with our children, she looked over to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Are you hearing this?” The words that were coming off the screen were so strangely familiar to us, so real, that we had to stop the movie and rewind it just to make sure that we were hearing it correctly. At one point in the movie, Racer X (considered the villain until we see the whole truth) and Speed are treated unfairly; causing Speed to wonder if racing is worth all of the difficulties. Racer X and Speed then have a dialogue about the racing industry:

Speed: Racing hasn’t changed, and it never will.

Racer X: It doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us. Every one of us has to find a reason to do this. You don’t climb into a T180 (car) to be a driver. You do it because you are driven.

Speed: If you know so much, why don’t you tell me why I should keep driving?

Racer X: Sorry — that’s for you to figure out. I just hope when you do, that I’m there to see it.

This scene led my wife and me to consider our journey with Christ. Throughout the movie, I identified with Racer X. I almost let the institution change who I am in Christ. I almost let this “beast” tame me, as I began to fall into the mundane and the status quo cliques. But praise God — He woke me up from this stupor to face reality. Somewhat like in the movie, the Matrix, in Speed Racer everyone was simply happy with normalcy.

Another scene that stood out to me is the final race. Speed Racer is not welcome in the race because he is going to ruin the plans of the powers-that-be to make money promoting their engine to the world. Through much adversity, Speed Racer passes each driver and is finally battling the best driver on the circuit, Cannonball Taylor. Taylor tries to win by cheating but is discovered by the onlookers and finally crashes. The truth begins to come out.

This scene is given significance by an earlier scene that astounded my wife and me. In that scene, Speed speaks with his father, Pops, about doing something to reveal the truth about the racing industry. Pops tells him, “If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get.”

Speed asks, “How? . . . How can we fight this?”

Pops concludes, “The truth will come out.”

My wife and I are excited because we believe that the truth is slowly coming out. It has been a long, hard road, which may only get more difficult. However, God does not call us to a comfortable life.

Doing this type of ministry has been exciting, difficult, and crazy at times. But no matter what, we are committed to completing this journey. We believe that we have been called to a ministry of lifting up the body of Christ and, when necessary, helping her tackle the difficult issues. I believe these are two aspects of the calling of the body of Christ, the Church.

Know that we at Worldview Warriors are here for you. More importantly, God is here for you, as we all walk this journey of the Christian life.

Let me close with one more thought. Over the years, I have been in dialogue with many pastors over the “church” issue and the pastoral issue. Surprisingly, many of them agree with my assessment of the situation but are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their credentials and retirement. Ladies and gentlemen, fear God and not man!

I had actually considered becoming a pastor for awhile. However, I could not understand the need to get a piece of paper in order to legitimize what I was already doing. Since I believe that leaders are learners, I did begin to research that path and started thinking in this institutionalized way. I almost sold out. Before I go on, I know that some of you have been called into pastoral ministry within this “institution.” You may also want to help change the church’s mindset from the inside. (I was under the leadership of one of those awesome men.) If that is your desire, I applaud you and want to encourage you to go for it! Do not wait, for the longer you wait, the more you will change. If you are planning to go into pastoral ministry, I encourage you to remind the bride of Christ of her calling.

In Speed Racer, the rich sponsor, Royalton, says, “Racing has nothing to do with cars or drivers.” Instead, he says that it is about money and power. Then he asks Speed, “Are you ready to be a real race car driver?!” And to that I say, “No!”

Everyone, let’s become the Church of Christ that we have been called to be. Amen and so be it!

Here is some further reading for your consideration:

• Acts 2 (especially verses 42–47)

• Acts 3 (Are you witnessing in the streets? We are called to it.)

• Matthew 28:18–20

• I Corinthians 6:1–8 (Something to think about. Should we be wronged? The truth will eventually come out.)

• Matthew 5, 6 and 7.

I Want to Live!

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 12, 2009 0 comments

Many of you may or may not know that I am a movie buff. I’m not a huge one, but I enjoy relaxing to a movie with my family or even sitting down to watch Jackie Chan for the 10th time. I just love movies!

Two movies in 2008 stood out to me not only as great entertainment, but also as stories with a poignant message from which to learn and teach. In this first installment, I will be writing about that adorable strong man and intergalactic superhero — no, I’m not talking about Hancock or Iron Man, but none other than… Wall(e).

Yes, Wall(e). I was hesitant to even watch this movie because of what I had heard from others and from what I had perceived would be nothing more than a brain-washing statement on the danger of global warming and a thoroughly politically-correct “green” message. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find, I believe, a diamond in the rough. Behind all of its comedy and cuteness is a serious lesson for students and adults alike. Let me explain one truth that I recognized. At one point in the movie, we are introduced to humans who are on a spaceship. They are all overly obese, excessively entertained, and completely self-indulged on food, convenience, and communication. It was an eerily realistic representation of the way that many of us Americans live. It led me to consider: Have we become so carnal, self-absorbed, and self-centered that we don’t even see the truth anymore? I believe the answer is, “yes.” My own life is included in that answer. (For further reflection, listen to our podcasts with Dan Schilling on Oct. 27, Nov. 2, and Nov. 9, 2008. They will equip you to have a kingdom mindset for life.)

“Black Friday,” the shopping day after Thanksgiving, is a perfect example of the blind carnality and self-absorption that many of us have. A Christian friend of mine told me that on Black Friday, he dove for one of the three remaining laptops for the sale price of $299. (Ok, I probably would have done the same thing, but does this attitude glorify Christ?) The entertainment industry wades in the desire of Christians and non-Christians alike to escape from reality through entertainment. For instance, game companies now flood the market with board games about television shows. Instead of actually playing tennis, bowling, or exercising, we now play a sport on our TV and equate it with the real thing.

Rather than getting only a regular size soda, we “build a bigger barn,” and order what seems to be a keg of soda just for one sitting. And we presume that that is normal.

Here’s more proof: My father was recently in McDonald’s to purchase two chicken sandwiches, a small fry, and two small drinks for himself and me for lunch. The man behind him handed the cashier a coupon for a chicken sandwich and told her, “They usually let me get three with this.” Let me tell you that this man certainly was not in need of three sandwiches, if you know what I mean. However, since he was with a couple of people, we supposed that the sandwiches were for them. After the cashier’s approval, the man pulled out three more coupons for three sandwiches each, for a grand total of twelve sandwiches, and ordered fries, drinks, etc. Thus, the three of them sat down to devour their feast.

I think you get the point. Some of you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? They had the money, and McDonald’s approved it. So why write about that?” Despite the obvious fact that such a habit is unhealthy, here’s the truth that I am trying to convey for you to ponder: Have we, as the Church, gotten so complacent that we just want to be entertained and spoon-fed from the pulpit? For those of you in small churches, have you become numb to winning people to Christ or so focused on your “club” that you think that baby baptism and confirmation are enough to be a Christian? You may go to church services every Sunday morning just to get your spiritual charge for the week, to gorge yourself on the biblical message to last you until next week.

But do you care to live your faith during the week?

Another truth is portrayed in a poignant scene near the end of Wall(e), in which the captain of the ship is speaking to the ship’s auto-pilot robot. The captain wants to return to earth, but the auto-pilot informs him that he has been warned against that, in order for the human race to survive. The captain plaintively responded, “But I don’t want to survive! I want to live!” Even in his comfortable, mundane existence, the captain realized that there must be more to life than mere survival.

We need to realize that God has so much more for us than just survival in the life that He has given us. Now those of you in large churches also need to be aware of your attitude toward church. In a busy, active church, it is easy to get lost in Sunday morning services and programs that fill your time throughout the week and forget that there is so much more to the Christian life.

Live the Christian life! Get into ministry opportunities right where you are. But don’t contain “ministry” just within the walls of your church building. Go out into the world, as the disciples did after Jesus went home to heaven. They were merely following His example, though: He ministered right where He was in the everyday world. Don’t remain locked away in some church athletic program or a cliquey Sunday school class. Actually, when Jesus went to the temple, He questioned the status quo and seemed to challenge the hypocrisy that the institution had become. Jesus did not challenge God and His ways, but He challenged the man-made, man-instituted rules that they were placing upon the people. Perhaps it is time to follow Christ’s example. He did not challenge people and their practices to be a jerk or a problem. I believe He genuinely wanted people to search for the truth.

What about you? Are you tired of the mundane and the table scraps you are receiving? I know I am. Do you feel like you’re just surviving? Your needs, wants, and whatever else you can think of are being met, but are you truly living? Are you living the adventure that God has in store for you? Maybe living for God has become just a religion or a list of rules to fulfill your obligations to the Supreme Being and others. If it does, you might need to reevaluate your relationship with God.

Are you ready to live for Christ with a reckless abandon, not worrying about yourself or what others think about you? I know my family and I are, and we want to welcome you to join us in this adventure for Christ. Live the adventure of a lifetime serving Christ where you are, no matter where that is and no matter your circumstances. Next week, I will tell you my favorite movie of the year. No, it’s not Prince Caspian or a story about a Dark Knight.

Every New Day

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, January 7, 2009 0 comments

As I sit down to write this I am listening to one of the best bands ever, Five Iron Frenzy. You should go check 'em out if you have not heard them. They are amazing and really encourage me in my walk with Christ. They are fun, weird and near as I can tell love Jesus Christ. My favorite song is, "Every New Day." I am also thinking how thankful I am for God's grace and provision. Without it my family and I wouldn't be where we are today.

When my wife, Jaya, and I made this decision to go full time with Worldview Warriors in June of 2007 we had no idea how stress-filled and crazy things would be. We also didn't know how rewarding and joy-filled it would be either. Isn't that just like God? He wants us to live life and to live it to the full. As it says in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." You notice that it doesn't say everything will be easy or perfect it says that, "in all things". The good, the bad and the ugly.

Unfortunately, we do not live in perfection anymore (See Genesis 1 & 2). We live in a fallen world by our own choosing (See Genesis 3). So, bad and evil things now happen. However, our heavenly father wants to give us good gifts. HE STILL WANTS TO GIVE US GOOD GIFTS!! Yes, even on this side of eternity. Check this out in Matthew 7:7-12, Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Isn't that amazing?! Even though we as the human race have basically told God get out of our lives, He's still there wanting to give us good gifts in this life. Now, we are called to hear His teachings and obey them. That is the tough part but really it isn't. Let me explain.

I have six children. Two boys and four girls. I want all of them to succeed in all that they do. If I could put my thoughts and past experiences into their minds I would do it. This would help them to see why I don't want them to do certain things and why other things are perfectly okay. I absolutely know things that they do not because I have experienced them. Things like: Love, Pain, Emotional Hurt, What honesty and integrity looks like, Betrayal and Joy to name a few.

Since I have experienced them I know what to look for in people and in certain situations. I have the experience. I can disciple them in Jesus Christ and His ways. I want them to experience the best of everything. However, they are their own people. I cannot force them to do anything. They can only choose to do the right thing or what I teach them to do. They must choose for themselves this day whom they will serve. (Joshua 24:15)

Kind of like you.

You have to choose whom you will serve. God has been very clear that you are to honor and obey your parents. Once you move out of the house and are truly on your own, you no longer need to obey your parents BUT you still need to honor them. Think about this, they love you more than anyone on the planet! Why would they want to hurt you? Please listen to them. Honor and obey them.

Now, some of you do have parents that are not following God and His ways. What do you do with that? Some of you are in foster care or are in a situation where you live part of the time with mom and the other part with dad. I encourage you to pray even harder to your heavenly father for guidance. Ask him for wisdom. A divided house is a very hard situation. I am truly sorry that you are even in that situation. I believe that it was not God's plan but He has allowed it to happen for some reason.

Remember Romans 8:28? No matter where you are at in your journey of life seek God out! Also, remember that we (Worldview Warriors) are here to help you in your walk with Jesus Christ. We truly care for you. Let us know if we can do anything for you, EVER.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. - Philippians 1:21