Is My Faith a Joke?

IMG_1992The other night I was watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, a rerun from back in May, when he told this joke in his monologue:

“The St. Louis Rams made history on Saturday by drafting Michael Sam, making him the first openly gay player in the NFL. Yep, an NFL player who’s never been with a woman — or as Tim Tebow put it, ‘Eh, it’s been done.’”

After the first part of the joke, Fallon and the audience applauded at decision of the St. Louis Rams, and then laughed at reference to Tebow’s faith and belief.

I was fairly fired up, mainly because in a world today that raises the banner for “equality,” this joke was a microcosm of what reality is really like. I know, it’s just a joke on a tv show, but it got my gears turning. And then I got even more fired up, but this time it was directed at me.

This whole instance made me ask myself, “Is my faith a joke?” What does it say about me, other Christians, and the Church, when what we believe and so many have given so much for is the punchline in a joke?

What do others say about God because of me? Is my faith a joke?

Paul dealt with this very issue when he wrote the letter to the Romans. Actually, he was bringing up an issue that was a constant in Israel’s history. Their lives and actions did not match up with the God and faith they professed. Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 2:17-14:

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself area guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Verse 24 is a reference to Isaiah 52:5, when the prophet deals with the same problem. No one took God seriously because the Jews were no better than anyone else. Their lives reflected no difference, no desirable qualities.

Jim Putnam wrote about this idea regarding today’s Christians. In his book DiscipleShift, he looks at the fact that Christian marriages are just as likely to end in divorce, Christians are not healthier, in as much debt, are not more generous, and so on. Basically, overall, our faith really is a joke to those that look on. Many of us are trying to hold to the days when being a “Christian” was something that was respected or admired, but those days are quickly crumbling away.

Even though Christians are divided on issues in our culture today, the Bible is very clear on many things. It is also equally clear on how much the world rejects God and all that He stands for. We can never expect to tell the world that such and such is a sin and expect anyone to listen if our lives do not show that following Jesus is better than anything else in life.

Ask yourself, are people laughing at God because of my life? Is my faith a joke?

As long as there is sin in the world, people will always reject God – even if we lived incredible lives full of faith. But we must ask ourselves about the reality of our faith.

If we really want to change the world, we have to live in such a way that shows people that Jesus really DOES make a difference. Our lives at church and at home must be the same. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our marriages have to be better. Our business dealings have to be better. Everything should be better – because Jesus is better!

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Singing Seems to Help a Troubled Soul – New Album, Feb. 1

Album cover by Emily Sloan

Album cover by Emily Sloan

I love Johnny Cash songs. It may sound cliche, but I really do. Ever since I heard “Walk the Line” on the radio years ago, I was hooked. He had an incredible way of writing lyrics that painted a real story that you could believe in. Interestingly enough, no many people know that he wrote more gospel songs than any other genre, and he even earned a Bible degree via correspondence while he was making music.

Every Cash fan has his or her favourite song, but mine has always been Daddy Sang Bass.” This song tells the story of growing up during the Great Depression, the hard work, and singing together on the front porch.

The chorus goes:
Daddy sang bass, mama sang tenor,
me and little brother joined right in there,
Cuz singing seems to help a troubled soul

That line, singing seems to help a troubled soul, has always captivated me. How true is that? King David knew this, and the psalms he wrote reflected this. In churches all over the world, people are incredibly passionate about the music sung every week. In my life, there is no other feeling than when I can sing my heart out, especially when I get to sing my heart to Christ who saved me.

IMG_7958

Photo by Shelby Hurst

In just a few days, I have the privilege of releasing my second album, “Singing Seems to Help a Troubled Soul.” This a huge honor, and I am extremely grateful to Cedric Hardimon & Church Boy Entertainment for the support and funding behind this project and for supporting me as an artist on the label. Thank you also to Dustin Ragland for your brilliant work on helping produce this album and your encouragement along the way.

Preparing for this album, I was looking for a thread to tie it all together. Over the past few years, I had been writing songs, and the few favourites made it to the recording, but I had no idea what to name the album. I loved this Cash lyric, but I didn’t have a song called that. So, I wrote one. It’s the first track on the album.

“Singing Seems To Help a Troubled Soul” is a short song about the challenges of life but the light of God shining through through the melodies and chords of His song. I even invited a group of my friends to sing on the chorus with me.

Truthfully, all of these songs deal with singing and the troubled soul. Every song I wrote came out of times in my life when I was longing for God’s song in my heart. And I hope that they minister to your heart as well.

Photo by Ethan Hickerson

Photo by Ethan Hickerson

There are several friends who sang with me on this album, including Robbie Seay, a worship leader and artist from Houston, TX, who sang on “Psalm 23,” Aaron Boyd sang on “Nothing Here or Yet to Come,” and he is from the band Bluetree who hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland. CedEnough, artist and CEO of Church Boy Entertainment, adds his talents to “Goodbye Yesterday,” and Laura Medcalf, a long time friend with an amazing voice joined me on “Love Has Come For Us.” A group of my friends sang on the first, third, and final songs on the album, and I was also excited to have my wife Courtney sing with me on “Walk With Me.”

The album releases on iTunes on February 1, and CDs will be available at the CD release at First Baptist Church in Chickasha on Sunday night, February 9, at 6:00pm. They will only be $5, and I will include an Irish jig for free. Please join us – we are not just singing songs but we are seeking to share the Gospel as well.

Over the next several weeks I will be releasing some blogs to talk about each song, so you can hear the heart behind the music. I’m a firm believer in my calling to be a minister and pastor to people, and the songs God gives me are a big part of that. You can watch tv or look in a music store and see plenty of songwriters, and I do not want to be just another one in the list. I want my songs to make a difference and have a purpose.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me through the years, my wonderful family, and to Jesus for giving me a reason to sing.

Thank you to Philip Sullivan (AKA Captain Awesome) for designing the album art, to Emily Sloan for the awesome album cover, and to Shelby Hurst and Ethan Hickerson for taking photos.

Photo by Shelby Hurst

Photo by Shelby Hurst

Also, thank you to Dustin Ragland for the drums, bass, and production on the album. Ethan Hickerson rocked the electric guitars, Kyle Forgety brought the banjo heat, and Laura Medcalf had brilliant background vocals.

And THANK YOU for listening and your support. To help this project keep going, and to help us make more in the future, there are a few things you can do to be a part:

Buy the album – Feb. 1 on iTunes or in person after Feb. 9. You could do both!
Share – It’s always more fun to share with everyone. Tell others about the music, buy them a CD, write tweets and Facebook posts! Anyway to spread the word helps so much.
Have us come play for you! I would love to come share some songs with you. We don’t eat much, are a lot of fun, and I’m just kidding we eat a lot.
Pray for us and our families.

For more info about Church Boy Entertainment, you can visit www.churchboy.com

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Matthew 17:14-21

This past week, I was in Colorado on a mission trip with my church. One day we took off and went to the top of Mt. Evans, which was 14,270 feet. We drove most of the way and hiked the rest to the top. Let me tell you, mountains are big. IMG_6831

In Oklahoma, we don’t really have mountains. There are a few really tall hills, and one even stops short of a mountain by just a few feet. But they are nothing like a 14,000 foot pile of rock.

At the top of Mt. Evans, my friend Aaron asked me, “Man, what do you think it would have been like back in the day trying to cross all this with a horse and wagon?” I just couldn’t imagine what it would have been like as a traveler to get that first glimpse of the mountains and think, “I have to the cross THAT?”

In your life, have things come your way that feel like crossing mountains? Sometimes the task just seems way too big for us. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pick up the mountain and move it out of the way?

There’s an interesting story in the Bible where Jesus talks about that very idea: Matthew 17:14-21:

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[b] and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” [21 However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]”

Jesus spent a great deal of time and ministry addressing several different crowds looking for him. This was no exception, as a father is desperately looking for Jesus, because his son suffers from seizures, possibly a form of epilepsy. However, from the passage, we see that this was brought on by a demonic spirit in the boy; it was not just a physical ailment. Evidently, he has already tried to ask the disciples to heal the boy, but to no avail.

The man still has faith in what Jesus can do though. He goes right to the source. But Jesus makes an interesting statement first. He seems to be troubled at the lack of faith of the disciples and people around Him. However, Jesus does not quit here or give up on these men. As we know, He continues on with them and patiently teaches them. He knows one day these disciples will change the world.

However, right now the disciples have a problem, and Jesus tells them in verse 20: their faith is too small. And evidently, it is VERY small. Jesus says that all they need is faith the size of a mustard seed, and they can move mountains. MOUNTAINS? And that’s not a lot of faith either.

mustard_seed1At the time, the mustard seed was the smallest seed people knew of, and that is why Jesus used that picture. If you have a second, go check your spice cabinet for a small container of mustard seeds and pick one up. It’s tiny!!!

But the dynamic we can miss here is where the faith really resides. Too often we place the emphasis on the disciples and what they can accomplish. If they only had a little faith, they could have healed that boy!

However, the problem was really where their faith was. They probably had faith, but faith in their own strength and power. But what we miss is that faith the size of a mustard seed is not about what we can do – it’s about what GOD can do!

And mountains are a peculiar picture. Is Jesus talking about moving actual mountains? What do you think it might look like if we could actually move a mountain. Maybe, something like this?

The theologian William Barclay says that Jesus was not talking about actual mountains, but rather difficult situations. This was a common metaphor to the Jews and used by Jewish teachers. A great Jewish teacher would be known for “moving mountains” by how well he taught. So, perhaps Jesus was really saying, “There is no situation too difficult for God to see you through. Through His power, you can overcome anything.”

Maybe Jesus was actually talking about mountains and trying to use that incredible picture? Probably a little of both. What is certain is that mountains are impossible for us to move, and many things in life are just too much for us to handle. However, when we trust in God and His power, ANYTHING is possible.

What does this mean for us today? There are several implications from this part of Jesus’ ministry that is relevant for us even today.

First, we are not perfect, but Jesus always is. These disciples failed the father, but He never lost faith in what Jesus could do. There are so many that turn their backs on God because of how the church or pastors have failed them. When we put our faith in what men can do, we will be let down some how, some way. But Jesus never fails. Never has, never will. Do you have faith in that?

Secondly, Jesus is so patient! How often did the disciples fall short, and yet He never gave up on them. How often do we fall short? Do you ever feel like He has given up on you? Having faith in Christ means knowing that even when we fall, He always picks us up.

Finally, how much do we really trust in God? I’m not saying that we have to always have a smile on our face and say with a southern accent, “Everythin’s gonna be alright!” Jesus did not say our faith had to be the size of a watermelon, although, maybe some people have that! We can think that things are impossible, but that’s God’s m.o. He loves the impossible! We just have to trust Him more than ourselves.

So what would it look like if we trusted in Jesus more? How would your life be different?

Maybe you are wondering, “How can I even do that?” There’s a verse that may show up in your Bible in this passage, verse 21, that does not appear in every translation. The reason for this is because it does not appear in every copy of the old Scriptures that we have, so it may have been added later, or maybe not. A similar phrase appears in Mark 9, so there has been some acceptance of it, although fasting is not mentioned there. But prayer is!

With or without the verse, prayer remains a vital part to our faith in God. Just look at how much Jesus, the Son of God, prayed! Prayer focuses our heart and trust on God. It draws us closer to Him.

I don’t want to minimize what mountains may be in your life, because if a struggle is hard enough, it’s like a mountain for sure! But I would like for you to take a moment and just write down what struggles or situations in your life may be like a mountain – something you can’t lift on your own.

Maybe there is also just a part of your life you know you need to trust God more in. Write that down too. Then we are going to spend some time in prayer, asking God to give us more faith. Just tell God you want to trust in Him and His power.

Put whatever you wrote down somewhere you can see it regularly. When you see it, just stop and pray. Ask God for a mustard seed. Trust in Him and let Him do the heavy lifting.

Fair Weather Fans? // Psalm 20:7-8, 23:4, 27:1

IMG_3952We all know that guy. Maybe you ARE that guy. When his team is playing, watch out. And if his team loses, don’t even try talking to him for a few days.

Do you know what I’m talking about? We all know someone who gets waaaay wrapped up in sports, and the balance of his or her life depends on wins and losses. And before you think I’m pointing a finger, I get right there too. When the OU Sooners or OKC Thunder lose, I’m not happy. When the Green Bay Packers got beat out of the playoffs this year, I was grumpy bear for a little bit. I was certainly bummed to see one of my favourite Packers, Greg Jennings, go to the Minnesota Vikings.

Many of us get tied to those things. And it’s not always sports either. It could be video games, our own performance in sports, work, or school, even fictional characters on TV shows and movies.

And I’m not saying it’s wrong to be a committed fan. No way! I’m going to be committed and root for my teams. My friend John and I were talking, and we both agreed it was good to not be a “fair weather fan.” Now, there are issues to be addressed if we get TOO tied to these things and then our behavior becomes destructive to others or ourselves. However, the point of this blog is not to address our commitment to sports teams or whatever, but rather, how is our commitment to being fans of God. Are we “fair weather fans” of Him?

How emotionally tied do we get to these people that ultimately we have no control of? We can’t do anything to help people win or lose. And even if the team is incredible, everybody loses eventually. And we put SO MUCH hope in things like these!

But then, there’s God. How much hope do we put in Him? It ought to be easy to “root” for God and be a huge fan, because HE ALWAYS WINS.

Psalm 20:7-8, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Isaiah 40:28, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

We could go on and on throughout the Bible to see just how powerful God is, and how He never loses. Even Jesus, who was crucified, rose again! And you can’t even call that a “loss,” because He won the victory over sin! You can’t call it a comeback because it was always there!

What do we do for these teams, people, or whatever it is that we support? We get all hyped up, put on clothes and colours, drive miles away, stand for hours on end, pay tons of money, and so on and so on. And there is always a 50/50 chance of the team winning or losing!

As followers of Christ, what kind of fans are we of Him? Are we just the fair weather fans who will “watch the game if it’s on,” or go to church if we feel like it? Do we serve others if it’s convenient? Do we give our offerings as long as it doesn’t take any faith? Do we share the Gospel only if it’s safe?

Again, I’m railing on sports fans or any other fans (as long as it’s healthy). I just want us to consider what kind of followers of Christ we really are. Do we get as excited and go to the ends of the earth for a God who never loses?

If we put as much hope in His victory, would our lives look different?

Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

In a world full of lies, we need to speak the truth into other’s lives.

Story of Barnabas: Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-28; 11:19-26; 13:15-16; 16:1-5IMG_3391

Have you ever had someone who believed you and really encouraged you? Doesn’t it just make all the difference in the world? Over the past week, I’ve had some conversations with some folks in our church who have a heart for encouraging and praying for young families who are just starting out.

Then, in Church Planting Apprenticeship class on Monday, we talked about Barnabas, and how his life of encouragement was an incredible way of discipling others. And then today! A friend of mine posted a video on Twitter called “Street Compliments” that just blew me away. You can watch it here:

So it seems apparent to me that God is really trying to show me something about encouragement and building one another up. And don’t we all need it? This world is full of lies that are given to us. Facebook, TV, magazines, people we know, and so many other places fill our heads with lies.

And in a world full of lies, we need to hear and speak the truth in lives.

In Acts, the life of Barnabas paints a clear picture of how living this way can change lives. Acts 4:36-37 shows us that encouragement is selfless! Barnabas’ real name was Joseph! The apostles saw what kind of man he was, an encourager, and nicknamed him Barnabas, which means, “Son of Encouragement!”

He was a selfless, generous man, which is what encouraging is all about: giving and investing into others (vs. 37). When we don’t encourage others, we are generally focused on ourselves – we are selfish. Even if we don’t think we are overtly selfish people, keeping the truth to ourselves is being selfish! Barnabas was generous and selfless with more resources than just words. His whole life reflected encouragement.

Encouragement is speaking the truth, even when it is difficult (Acts 9:26-28). Paul (or Saul) was not at all popular with the apostles, because he had been ferocious in trying to hunt them down! Even though Christ changed His life, these men were still wary.

Barnabas was able to see the potential in Paul and see the truth in His life. Christ had really changed him. That was the Holy Spirit working in Barnabas’ life to see what Paul could be. It’s hard for us to have that vision sometimes, but when we live life by the Holy Spirit, He speaks to us the truth to give to others. We live that kind of life through time in the Word and prayer. THAT is where our real truth comes from! Sometimes the truth is tough to speak.
In this part of Acts, Barnabas had Saul who had a rough past. But other times, the truth means confronting the past, or even the present. Paul did this with Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Peter was living in the wrong, and Paul gave him a hard truth. The way Paul did it is not the model for us always to do that, but it shows all of us that we must speak the truth, even when it is difficult.

Encouragement is also contagious (Acts 11:19-26; 13:15-16; 16:1-5). In Acts 11, Barnabas’ encouragement of believers led to even more disciples being made! He then takes Paul with him and they begin to minister together.

In Acts 13, Paul, who Barnabas had taken under his wing, steps out into the lead and begins sharing the word of the Lord!

In Acts 16, even though Paul and Barnabas are not together anymore, Timothy joins Paul and the cycle begins again!

When we encourage others, we cannot think in a linear progression. Encouragement and discipleship are EXPONENTIAL!

You know what I think is amazing about the life of Barnabas? It’s simple. He didn’t have discipleship books or classes. He shared the truth of God and invested in a few others, and that changed the world!

Encouragement is not fleeting or meaningless. Real, truthful encouragement changes lives.

And don’t sell yourself short either. You may think that you don’t know enough to disciple someone or be that Barnabas to someone else, but you can! We call can! In fact, that’s our calling from the Lord – to make disciples!

I hope this encourages you as it has encouraged me. My heart is full of joy when I think of those in our church who want to be like Barnabas to other believers. Because without Barnabas, what would have become of Paul?

If I can encourage you, or help you in being that person for others, I would love to! And what are some ways that you have been encouraged? Who is God calling you to encourage? the right heart.

Valentine’s Day: Is Your Relationship Real? // Deuteronomy 30:11-20

love-2Valentine’s Day: the celebration of the life of St. Valentine or the commercialization of affection in the world today? Whatever you might think, it’s on the calendar and it is nigh. And if you’re like me, you oft contemplated how silly it is to conjure up a day just to make you have to go out and buy a special something for that special something. Or maybe you’re like me and February 14 each year was the day you lamented the lack of homemade cookies from the pretty girls in your class at school. Wait, that wasn’t me…yeah…anyway.

Let us just move past the origins of the day and who the real St. Valentine was just for a moment and consider what February 14 really means. Yes, it’s a payday for retailers. Yes, it’s a stinging wound for those sans-valentine. But I think we lose grasp of the opportunity a day like Valentine’s Day provides – a chance to show that the relationships in our lives are real.

Do gifts in heart-shaped gift bags define a relationship? No. Well, at least, not on their own. Even though love is the heart of a real relationship, there must be evidence of that love. Maybe it’s a gift. Maybe it’s a genuine act of kindness. Maybe it’s heart-shaped pancakes with powdered sugar. Just saying.

Today, our post-modern approach to Christ and being a Christian can often push back against duty and commitment, which drove the Church in the last generation. Many of us today look back and see what we think are people committed to the Church but not committed to Christ personally. The danger of this is thinking that it’s ALL about love, a feeling. However, how we live shows how we love.

As I have said before, the Old Testament contains many laws and rules that we think defined righteousness. But throughout the book of Deuteronomy, we see that love ALWAYS came first, but what came next was how that love was supposed to be lived out. How the people of Israel lived was their relationship with God.

Deuteronomy 30:16, “For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”

That entire chapter of Deuteronomy is worth your time right now to read. It even speaks of God’s faithfulness and love to His people when they don’t keep up their end of the relationship. Things may get really difficult, almost hopeless, but God will never leave them – and He will never leave us.

But how we do show God our relationship with Him is real? Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Not that we are earning God’s love, but we are demonstrating our love for Him.

On the eve of another Valentine’s Day, may you consider the reality of the relationships you have. They do not have to be romantic relationships necessarily, as I think Valentine’s Day has led us to see love in the context of.

Are you relationships real? With Jesus? With the ones you love? Show it!

Valentine’s Day may be over-commercialized and falsely romanticized. Those at Hallmark may not actually mean all those things they put in their cards that make you cry (if you work for Hallmark and are reading this, and you really do care, I’m just making an example and will still buy your cards).

Even if all that is true, that does not give us an excuse to “buck the system” and rebel against our relationships. May Valentines Day can serve as a reminder to make your relationships real.

What are ways that you show love to God with your life? What are ways you show love to those you have relationships with? And what are ways that you like to be shown love? Please comment below! I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Christmas Memories – Holding on the Old and Making New

Many of us have memories and traditions of Christmas and other holidays for that matter. For you, Christmas may mean a certain place, meal, people, or some other defining factor. For many, those are great hallmarks in life, but what happens when those times start to change?IMG_4487

I have many fond Christmas memories. A certain prized teddy bear, my parents giving me my first BB gun the same way as “A Christmas Story,” getting engaged, and most years spending Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and then heading over to Granny and Pappy’s after. Eventually it became Thanksgiving at Granny’s and Christmas at Grandma’s. As my grandparents passed away, those times changed. It was very difficult to not have Christmas where we’ve always had it.

And it’s still pretty weird. You have probably experienced something very similar. Either someone has passed away, parents have divorced, a job was lost, or you have moved. In counseling or pastoral training, we are taught that the first year of grief is always difficult, especially during the holidays or birthdays. Grief is not just about death, but it’s about losing something or someone. And we really grieve when things change, losing what we knew before.

So what do we do? Ecclesiastes has an interesting verse in 7:10, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” We can look back and live back in those times in our minds, but our bodies and lives are moving forwards (unless you have a time machine – and then you couldn’t interfere with the timelines anyway because everyone knows that would cause a catastrophic paradox event). We should be thankful for the great memories; we were blessed to experience those times.

But instead of leaving those days behind, we can learn what made those times so great and make new memories with the time we have. A house may have been where those great memories happened, but it was people who made them. Even if some of those people won’t be there, memories can be made knowing they are part of their inspiration.

I’m not saying don’t mourn or grieve – love is too strong for some to be forgotten. But if we live our lives paralyzed by the old, then we will miss out on all the fantastic memories that can be made in the new.

Remember: Christmas is about hope. Christ gives us that hope. Life is full of joy, but it is also full of pain. Christmas can help us remember that Christ has defeated that pain and one day we all, those before us and those after us, will be together again far away from the pain.

So go, make new, brilliant memories! Allons-y! Share the old ones and let their joy be reflected again.

As a wise old man once wrote, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (Gandalf/J.R.R. Tolkien)

My Thoughts On the Increase of Aggression Towards Christianity by the Entertainment Industry and Media, & Why That May Be a Good Thing

More and more in America, the entertainment industry (movies, television, music, etc) and much of the news media have been attacking God and Christianity with increased approval. Just this week I have seen a major news site, a television series, and a song take a stab at Christians – all on national television.

As a Christian, I can really understand how this can make someone’s blood boil. It is the same as someone insulting your family. But how can this be a GOOD thing?

These attacks stem from two major fronts: history and sin. Much of the lashing out we see today in our society is coming from stereotypes that we Christians created. I could really discuss many instances where these stereotypes come from, but it all boils down to Christianity being only one aspect of our life and not a way of life. We’ve gone to church on Sunday, but it has not shown in a positive light (Matthew 5:16) the rest of the week.

So I really want to say that before we start going ballistic on network execs and the like, that we need to take a long look at ourselves and see if any of the jargon teaches us anything about ourselves.

Before you might count me out, let me make my first point of why the attacks are good. When non-Christians attack negative stereotypes about us, this gives us a great opportunity to prove them wrong. Maybe earlier generations were this way, but today, we are different. We are trying to live like Christ with our whole lives.

These negative attacks can really open up conversations too. This allows us to talk to non-Christians about the truth and show it lived out in our lives.

One of my favourite TV shows is “Community” on NBC. I won’t go into all the details, but I wrote a blog about it a few months ago that you can read here. One of the characters, played by Yvette Nicole Brown, is named Shirley, and she is a Christian. The show does poke fun at her being a Christian sometimes, but I really respect how they approach her character. She is a Christian that falls into some of the stereotypes, but she is a real person who makes real mistakes but still has real friends who love her. And Shirley loves these friends, who are not Christians, as well!

I believe this is an example of how we can approach a hostile world, which is like Jesus did. He approached it with strength, love, and compassion.

Another reason why I think these attacks are good is because the Church has always grown in times of persecution and done the opposite in times of peace. If you look throughout history, this is true. Why? Because we place more value in things that are difficult to be a part of. When there is religious freedom, we tend to value our religion less, because it does not cost us anything. When Christianity is under attack or even outlawed, it has no longer become a socially acceptable thing to be a part of. The only ones who want to be identified as Christian are those who really want to.

Earlier I stated that these attacks come from history and sin, because the blame does rest on us some, but ultimately it rests on sin. Sin and the sinful world hate God, because He is the antithesis of it. He is holy. When we become followers of Christ, we become enemies of the world and sin. You can read Christ praying for His followers in John 17 anticipating this difficult truth.

I’d like to end with this: our response should not be judgmental anger. Please hear me. I know attacks like this anger you – they anger me too, but don’t email some TV network or talk show host and tell them how evil they are. What message does it send about the God we serve and the Christ who’s name we bear if we respond in the very same way in which we are attacked? The attackers are then validated in their claims.

Our response should be a life that proves them wrong. In fact, Jesus said how we should treat those that come against us in Matthew 5:43-48,

“43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

*I really want to hear your thoughts on this one! Please leave a comment below.