thumb licks [10.13.11]

A sample prayer plan. For those of you who like to have it really spelled out.

Forgiveness is a ridiculous thing. A smart lessons from The Tale of Despereaux.

Sin is cosmic Treason. Startling truth from R.C. Sproul.

Managing social media before it manages you. Addicted to facebook, twitter, or google+?

Honor your missionaries. I am bit biased towards this post.

Holding translators responsible. Wycliff’s stance on contextualization.

Want to Live forever?

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thumb licks [10.5.11]

God: where are you? A good article when you feel as if God is distant.

Death Interrupted. What does the gospel say amidst the death penalty issue?

Signs you need to grow-up. Road signs towards adulthood.

The Clarion Call to Watered Down Evangelicalism.

The Sinful Tragedy of Boredom. Bored yet?

4 Kinds of people in the world. Which are you?

Marcel the shell with shoes on. A sure laugh from and insecure shell:

Hell, Rob Bell, and reviews of the book Love Wins

There has been much stir over Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell will tell you he does not want to be labeled a universalist [check out Bell’s interview’s with MSNBC and Relevant], however his book seriously and dangerously advances the cause of universalism from a popular and influential level.

Yesterday, I perused Love Wins at a local bookstore because I was unsure I wanted to buy it. To say it simply, Bell promotes an unbiblical picture of a God without wrath and a skewed portray of His love and justice. He gives unclear indication that man needs salvation from God’s wrath now, nor faith in Jesus Christ in this life to have salvation in eternal life. Bell states his beliefs in heaven, hell, judgment, the cross, and salvation, but takes a quasi-philosophical approach rather than biblical approach to Jesus’ teaching on the subjects.

Bell historically likes to ask questions and create discussions, but again leaves you unsatisfied with answers and in this book leaves you with more questions about God, salvation, and His understanding of the authority of God’s Word. I am not one to bash people particularly other pastors, however, as a pastor it is my obligation to protect Christ’s church from potential false teaching that could distract His sheep. Rather than writing another review, I thought I’d pass along some great reviews already circling around from faithful followers of Christ and intricate exegetes of God’s Word.

Great Reviews of Rob Bell’s, Love Wins:

Great article on Hell:

Great Books on Hell:

the uncool Jesus

Is it politically or even spritially correct to say that I don’t like Christian bookstores? Marketing the Christian faith is silly. Do you think Jesus could imagine His image of clothing, bobble-head doll, iTunes, a superstar Broadway show, and crucifix’s. Nothing fires me up more than a walk through a over-advertised faith-based bargain bonanza. I admit I am quite biased and bruising in my characterization of Christian bookstores, so please forgive me if you are offended. However, I did buy a worthwhile book at a Family Christian Bookstore last week.

Here is my point: Quit trying to make Jesus hip. He wasn’t cool back in His day. Many followed Him because of His miracles and teachings, and like He said, “Not all follow me because they are believers.” [John 20:24-29; Luke 14:25-33; Luke 9:23-27, 57-62] Today, a plethora of books by cool pastors or popped-collar authors are portraying Jesus as fashionable and palatable for the masses. The billboard of their message states, “Hey, check me out, if I am cool, Jesus is too.”

Jesus is uncool. He challenges your status-quot. He convict us of sin. He rocks the religious. He baffles those who bank an afterlife on their own merits. He infuriates those who demand rights. He belittle the sacred systems some establish. He was a revolutionary that didn’t do what the people demanded. His way was a paradigm shift. He was simple, common and if He were in today’s world would be a guy who would have hung drywall in new housing developments. He was friends with the losers, infected, handicap, psychotic loonies, IRS agents, and women of the red-light district. He probably had dirty feet, coarse hands and olive colored skin. He made people feel awkward, enraged and overwhelmed. Jesus was beaten up by bullying mockers. He was killed by people who thought they were cooler than Jesus and his claim to save them of their sins.

I am convinced Jesus is the sweetest, but I do understand to many He is the smell of stench [2 Corinthians 2:14-16].

10 things I love and hate about teenagers in 2010

I get the privilege of ministering and serving with teenagers almost every day. There are some things that challenge me, fascinate me and drive me absolutely coo-coo about our teenagers. I love’m and hate’m at times.

Love’m
1. Authentic. What you see is often what you get. They can be genuine and real. They can see through your junk. Sometimes brutally honest.
2. Commited to relationships. They want significant and deep relationships. Friends are really their most important desire. If you got their trust you got a loyal friend.
3. Open-books. They are curious and willing to engage questions and doubts in their faith and God, more so than the older giants.
4. Momentous. They have constant energy and think they can change the world. They had contagious passion and willing to light the world up for Christ
5. Cultured. They know a little bit of everything from the past hundred years of music, movies and media.
6. Williams Carrey-ites. They expect great things from God and expect to do great things for God. They often have a big view of God.
7. Learners. They are sponges that soak up Gods Word. They want to know truth, to be challenged in their thinking, and discover how it applies to them right now!
8. Complex. They are simple, yet sophisticated.
9. Crafty. They have brilliant ideas. Sometimes those ideas can get them into trouble.
10. Contagious. They forever make me want to be youthful and spunky.

Hate’m
1. Busybodies. They have jam-packed schedules and pride themselves on busyness.
2. Entitlement. They think they can have want ever they want when they want it. They are horrible at waiting sometimes. They are big consumers, but I think they learn this from wasteful parents.
3. Compartmentalizatism. They are good at separating areas of their lives. They do not mix faith with school, parents, sports and other things. They are quite bi-polar in their faith.
4. Media Addicts. They are a gajillion times better at texting, facebooking, gaming, iPoding, and technology than any generation. And they flaunt it.
5. Worldly. They are easily influenced by what the world was is wonderful. They are swayed by sex, listen to toxic philosophies that cloud their faith, and chose to be torn between two radically different worlds.
6. Family Mess. They often have families that are absent, broken, and not living biblically.
7. Authority Issues. They do not trust or listen to those who are over them. They back talk in disrespect, often to God too.
8. Lazy. They do not like to say more than one word at times and think about it. They zone out to what matters at times.
9. Discernment. They will make decisions based on what others think of them. They do not make decisions often based on personal convictions.
10. Pants on the ground [check out this video]. Whoever invented the idea of young dudes wearing low-ride pants with boxers should be sent to fashion school.

Is Africa barbaric, forgotten or ignored?

Is Africa a continent out of control? Why are trucks loads of money, forces of relief aid, and sympathetic media attention not helping rather haunting the drifting dark land? In the past decade many regions of Africa have been blitzed by war and conflict, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Sierra Leone crisis and the war in Ethiopia and the various other civil wars.

I’ve come across a book entitle Stealth Conflicts; How the World’s Worst Violence Is Ignored which, provides a useful map representing conflict death tolls between 1990 and 2007 where the square area of continents/regions corresponds to their proportion of conflict death tolls:

88% of all conflict death tolls in this period were in Africa, followed by Asia (6%), Middle East (4%), Europe (1%) and the Americas (1%)Source: Virgil Hawkins, New World Maps, Stealth Conflicts, December 30, 2008

In addition to the conflict deaths, there have been over 9 million refugees and displaced people. If this scale of destruction and fighting was in Europe, then people would be calling it World War III with the entire world rushing to report, provide aid, mediate and otherwise try to diffuse the situation. However, there is silence and no sympathy on a grand scale to extend grace to these WARnout African people.

I received this story from some friends serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week, “Word had trickled out that the entire village was burned, although the inhabitants were rousted by gunfire and allowed to flee their homes.  The attack was in retaliation for ‘allowing’ government and MONUC (UN) troops to headquarter in their hamlet in a recent operation to seek out and forcefully repatriate the Hutus. Despite official claims, no success.  In classic guerilla fashion, the Hutu warlords who control columbium and tantalum ore mining – cell phones and jet engine exhausts – (google “coltan” if you are interested) and their militias had simply retreated into the heavy jungle.  Someone didn’t learn the lessons taught by the Viet Nam conflict?!”

Virgil Hawkins states, “The death toll from conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is literally one thousand times greater than that in Israel-Palestine, yet it is the latter that is the object of far greater media coverage … [and where] the intricacies and nuances of the conflict, political situation and peace process are almost obsessively analyzed and presented.… [African] conflicts are frequently brushed off and dismissed as being chaotic, or worthy of some vague pity or humanitarian concern, but rarely of any in-depth political analysis. But even [when there is coverage of conflicts in] Africa, the death toll has little to do with the levels of coverage. Darfur made a rare appearance on the radar of Western concern in 2004 … at a time when the known death toll from conflict there was still 80 times smaller than that in the DRC. Similarly, political violence in early 2007 in Zimbabwe resulting in one death and a number of arrests and beatings of political leaders became the object of relatively high levels of attention and indignation in the Western media. At almost exactly the same time, political protest in Guinea was put down by government forces that fired indiscriminately into crowds of protesters resulting in a total of 130 deaths and numerous arrests. Also at the same time, street battles between government and opposition forces in the capital of the DRC resulted in between 400 and 600 deaths, and resulted in the exile of the opposition leader. Yet this violence in Guinea and the DRC was virtually ignored by the Western media.”

Q: Is Africa barbaric, forgotten or ignored?

A: All the above. It is time for the church to step up and step in.

a buffet of bratwursts (and a list of all my favorite diners, drive-ins, and dives)

schmidtsThis weekend I had the glorious opportunity to visit a local restaurant by the name of Schmidt Haus in German Village of Columbus, Ohio. There was a buffet of bratwurst, half-dozen array of amazing sausages, potatoes salads, sour kraut and red cabbage. For dessert we had a half-pound cream puff. It was though I had died and gone to heaven.

Locally established restaurants are definitely better than eating at chains.

Favorite Locally Owned Establishments:

Chaos Paradise in Cahuita, Costa Rica. Delicious red snapper and chicken sandwich with the sounds of reggae and beautiful view of the black sand beaches.

Marathon Junction at the Marathon Country Park in Wausau, WI. If you eat the one-pound Junction Burger you get a few tee-shirt and pride among your friends.

Mint Café, downtown Wausau, WI. Everything is green except the food. Great memories with mom!

Wildwater Joe’s, Daniels, WV. Try the Chili and Slaw dog. You won’t forget the bun and the price. Great deal.

Cathedral Café, Fayetteville, WV. An old church with healthy meals.

Khana Khazana, West Lafayette, IN. Indiana buffet at its best.

Spang’s, St. Germain, WI. Great thin crusted pizza and friendly staff.

Groute Constantia Stellenbosch farm, South Africa. Exotic meats, beautiful mountains and an unforgettable experience.

South Street Smoke House, Lafayette, IN. Almost as good as southern BBQ.

Buckingham’s Springfield, great BBQ west of the Mississippi.

Fried Green Tomatoes, Galena, IL. It’s all in the name. Better than the movie!

Casa Bonita’s, Denver, CO. Cliff divers, eat in a casa, and have amazing Mexican cuisine.

Purple Cow, Virginia Beach, VA. Wonderful milkshakes that turn your mouth purple.

McCord’s Candy in downtown Lafayette, IN. Get an inexpensive meal, homemade Coke, and memories of days gone by.

Rodity’s in Greek Town, Chicago. Opa! Great service and wonderful food.

Red Apple in the Polish District of Chicago. Nothing like perogies and dumplings on a buffet! Like going home for the holiday’s!

Jimmy’s, Philadelphia, PA. A classic cheese steak joint visited by everybody and everybody.

Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI. Nothing like a day of baseball and a brat covered in the secret sauce.

Ricardo’s, Greendale, WI. Pizza the ol’ Milwaukee style: cheese, sausage and mushrooms.

Ed Debevick’s, Chicago, IL. Their rude and crude, but the food is good.

Cousin’s. Something about the bread, but these subs and the cheesy broccoli soup rock!

Suberpia, Milwaukee, WI. The olive oil makes this sub sandwich a winner!

Saz’s, Milwaukee, WI. Best clam strips around.

Texas Inn (or the T room) in Lynchburg, VA. Who would have thought that an egg on a burger would be so tasty? Thanks Chris Korfman for introducing me to the cheesy western burger.

George Webbs, Milwaukee, WI. Breakfast 24-hours a day.

Favorite Chain Restaurants with a Memory:

Ryan’s Steakhouse, Beckley, WV. Nothing like hot rolls and a full belly as a college student!

Duncan Donuts on Harper Road, WV. Good times, great memories and few donuts after midnight.

Dairy Queen, Hinton WV. The view of the river is a great place for a date.

Nandos, Cape Town, South Africa. The chicken is spicy and I crave to go back!!

Culvers. Gotta love the frozen custard (turtle sundaes), butter burgers and fried cheese curds.

Taco Bell. Always a good idea on the front end, but regret it after the fact!

A&W Rootbeer (or Dogs & Suds). You can drive in and get your food at your car window.

listen and obey even on a rainy day

I love rainy days. Why not jump in a puddle when you are already wet? Didn’t your mom tell you not to jump in puddles as a kid?

The majority desires to be told what to do; yet only a minority has no desire to actually do what they are told.  It is a peculiar contradiction that leaves many floating without a purpose on a sea of self-devistation.  Many have said, “I have committed my life to Jesus my Savior, but what do I do now?”

The answer is simple.  It is simple, but not necessarily easy.  You see simple rarely equals easy.  That is why many have such a disparagement for simplicity.  So, what do I do now?  Listen and obey.  Listen and obey what? God’s Word; hear and do what God says. This answer almost always produces a volatile response.  It robs me of excuses.  It breaks down my defenses.  It leaves me completely vulnerable.

James 1:22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

Dueteronomy 13:18 if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Listen and obey, that’s it? Some ask for a formula or creative checklists take the heart out of the equation.  We crave a formula.  We want our 10 steps to spiritual success, 5 easy steps to an “on fire” relationship with God, 3 “P’s” for purity, and a quirky acronym for GOSPEL. I’d buy that because I desire a nice, safe, cute Christianity that is non-offensive and void of power.  Rather just give me something measurable, something that I can get my hands around and then store on a shelf for a rainy day. Not! A rainy day theology means that I want my faith on stand by, just in case there is an emergency.

Sad to say, it doesn’t work that way. Following Jesus is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.  Listening and obeying is risky.  It leaves room for human error: Is it really God speaking to me? How do I know it is God not the spicy Indian food I ate the other day? This is the point: I can communicate with Him and ask questions, and He answers through the Bible. Hear, His voice is right at our finger tips in His written Word. Just listen and obey.  Rarely is it all that complicated.  We argue.  We contemplate.  We ask three friends if they think it was really God’s voice and the moment passes.  We don’t obey.  And we miss out on the divine.

Listening and obeying must be done.  I cannot rely on someone to listen to God for me.  It doesn’t work. In a world where everything is prepackaged, Christianity doesn’t seem to work.  It is too difficult.  Many are far too busy to do something so silly as listen. You cannot purchase God’s plan for your life at your local Christian bookstore.  They don’t have it.  He doesn’t come prepackaged. God knows the outcome of our obedience:  Obedience changes the world, and disobedience perpetuates the ho-hum (Micah 6).

b4 Favre

A lot of people have been asking me lately what I think about the whole Brett Favre fiasco. Why? I am unsure. I am not a sports expert nor does my opinion really matter. I suppose it is because I am an avid cheesehead that no longer lives in the Dairy State.

In case you were wondering what my thoughts were on Favre, here it is:

  • I am glad the drama is over. As the old saying goes, “save the drama for your mama.”
  • I am glad the Packers had moved on and put faith in their new QB and team post-Favre.
  • I am glad Favre found a spot on a new team. Go Jets. I am a fan, only for Brett’s sake.
  • I am glad to be a Green Bay Packers fan!!
You know, before Brett Favre the Packers were the Packers–the New York Yankees of football. They will always be the Green Bay Packers with or without Favre. Favre will always be known as a GBP (as my good buddy Caleb Korth says in his thick Wisconsin accent, “Favre 4-ever.”), and one day this mess will be forgotten about when his number is official retired, if he ever decides to retire.

real questions: God?

We as human beings have questions. Big questions. Significant questions. Questions about life, God, and the future. As a pastor, I often get questions from people inside and outside our church. These questions are real and expect real answers. I will begin a series of blog-entries that show some of these questions and seek to provide them with biblical answers.

Ned Anzers: I think that the largest reason I believe in God is because I was taught to. If I were born in an Islamic, Jewish, or atheistic family I think it is safe to say I would be what I was taught. Surely this is not what God wants my faith in him to be founded. In the past I have asked myself why I believe in God and have found ‘answers’ but after deliberating on them I no longer feel they  hold any weight. My question is this: Why do you believe in God?

This is a very good question. Can I ask you a question in return?

How is your belief in God different than your relationship with God?

To answer your question, I will give you both a short and a long answer.

Why do I believe in God? In short, I choose to believe in God. That’s my snapshot answer. If it is not satisfying I will try to give you a clearer panoramic picture of why I choose God. Actually, it is more like He chose me

The long story:

I grew up in a home that believed and taught about God. We were Catholic (by title and church attendance). My priest baptized me as a baby, yet I don’t remember a thing because I wasn’t even old enough to eat smashed carrots. I went to Catholic mass every week because my grandparents took (and sometimes dragged) me there. I went to Catholic Sunday School (called Catechism), and had my first communion. We called ourselves Christians, but I had no understanding what that meant. I believed in God too.

As I grew older church became less satisfying. God was still real, but less desirable. There was this disconnect between God and me. God was like some cosmic grandfather that I never talked to or understood. He was like some story my family told me, but almost like He was an ancestral fairytale. Little did I know this was a very small and insignificant view of a very big God.

I was a troubled kid. I had an appetite for attention. I didn’t “feel” like I received it at home, so I was sort of a class clown around school. I was well liked by my peers. I was a friend to all kinds of people. I truly treasured the attention I received from my peers. When the attention would wear off, I would do something wild and crazy to get attention. It would draw a crowd and satisfy my tastes buds for a bit, but more often I would get into trouble.

My quest for attention led me to friends that were bad influences and not law abiding. I found myself doing things I never intended or desired to do just to be around people that I thought cared. These friends introduced and diverted my attention to girls, pornography and vandalism. Note: I was still involved in church and considered a rather good kid. Overall, inside and out, I was left feeling empty, lost, confused, full of questions, needing hope, and handicapped by my guilt. I was to the point of thinking suicidal thoughts. God seemed even more distant.

My parents took me to see a local psychologist. This ended up being a waste of money. The school enrolled me in special classes. The only thing this meant was getting picked up early for school by the short-bus. I was both embarrassed and frustrated with my life.

In junior high, my mom and step-dad moved. I lived further away from my dad, which really broke my heart. Life seemed like it couldn’t get any worse.

We started going to a different kind of church because my mom and step-dad were dissatisfied with the churches of their youth. I did what most kids do: went to church because I had to. There was something about this Wausau Bible Church that was different than St. Al’s. First, most everybody had a Bible. Second, most everybody was friendly. Third, most everybody talked about God or with God as if He was a close companion. This all seemed very strange to me. On the other hand, I was quite curious. We continued to go. We bought Bibles, even though I could not understand it. I got plugged into the youth group and learned new things about God that I never knew before.

I remember clearly some of the lessons from my junior high boys Sunday School class. Here are 3 that I challenged my thinking and ripened my heart:

Judges 3:1-15

Not only a weird story about a fat king, but a lesson on Idolatry. The people are testing God. God is ready to hear their cries and deliver, but there is a need for a deeper deliverance than they desire. They desire deliverance from their situation, when God desires they to have a spiritual Deliverer. This passage gave me a radical view of Gods purposes. I need Him. I need a Deliverer. I have idols in my life that have taken His place.

Psalm 27

This song of David is a BIG picture view of life, not just reactive living. David is incredibly honest with God. He is living in a world of trouble [enemies, rejection, fear, etc]. Yet among all the trouble he is God centeredness [v.4, 14]. That is incredibly weird. I had to ask myself the question: when trouble comes where does my heart go? Not to God, but my attention in stuff or silliness that did not satisfy.

Colossians 2:1-15 

This passage hit me square between the eyes and stuck my heart with the present active benefits of God here and now. It showed me how a life without God is foolishness [vs.1-5]. I am victimized by my own foolishness. It showed me the power I have over sin in Christ [v.9]. The indwelling presence of God is given to do what He has called me to do. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…and gave Himself for me. It shows me the freedom of having a relationship with Christ [v.13-14]. I do not have to hide, live in shame, worry about exposure, because Christ forgives all my sin, weakness and guilt. No more fatalism.

I was left with God, I thought “I really didn’t know Him,” but ached in my heart to have a relationship with Him.  I did not treasure Him, but knew only He could satisfy my loneliness and desire for attention. Instead of seeking His attention, I sought to put my attention on Him. It was then I fully understood I needed a Redeemer/Deliverer/Savior. I was lost, but now He found me. Thus, in July 1992, I humbled my view of self and my view of God. No longer did I believe in Him, but I began a relationship with Him.

Well, that’s the long version of His Story with me. Like you, I wonder what if I was born into a Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish family. Would I believe the Truth? Would God in His grace rescue me from a bogus view of God? Then I wonder, why did He choose me? All I can answer is, “Alleluia!!” I thank God that He did! I pray that I would be used to help others see God is real and that He desires a relationship with them.

I would encourage you to take ownership of your belief in God [Acts 16:31]. Take your parents teaching on God and make it your own.

who or what is in control here?

Today, there is a lot of uncertainty in American (and the world): the stock market is devaluing, gas and food prices are skyrocketing, there is threat of terrorism, there is political distrust on a reckless scale, and the American pride/patriotism is becoming as distant as the American dream. There doesn’t seem to be any solution, only a worsening problem. 

I am not one to use scare-tactics causing fear in the eyes of others about the future. Neither do I want to predict hell-fire or fatalism. I simply wanted to share a few articles I came across this week (thanks to Frank my local economist): The Rise of the Rest and Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash

What do we do? Is there any hope? Who or what is in control here? As said on the front cover of Douglas Adams’, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “DON’T PANIC”. Here are…

4 Essential Truth’s to Know & Do:

1. I do not need to fear [Rom.8:15; Ps.27:1; Ps.56:3-4].

2. God is in control [1 Chron.29:11; Prov.19:21; Rom.8:28-29].

3. This is not the end [Acts 16:31; John 3:16].

4. Those who trust in Him will survive [Prov.3:5-6; Jer.17:7; 1 Tim.6:17]!!

day dreamer

Lately, I have been dreaming about what I would like to do, someday. No, I am not having a midlife crisis. I am not even 30 years old yet! What would life be like without some type of vision? If God gives me many more years on this earth there are some things that I believe He has impressed upon my heart to do. This is sort of my “bucket list”:

1) Bike across Africa

I would start the trek from Cairo to Cape Town. I would only take enough money for the flight, bikes, some fuel, and Swedish Fish. I have always been fascinated and captivated by the people and places of Africa. What better way to experience this beautiful continent than to be on a wide-open wind-in-hair bike?

2) Open African art gallery

From a young age I have been interested in the arts. Whether doodling in my school notebooks or painting portraits hung in a gallery I have had a knack for seeing things artistically. It must be in my genes. My father is a painter and walking stick carver.

I would love to open a gallery in an African city and help market local artists. African are some of the most creative and crafty people. Their art is gorgeous. How neat would it be to support missions, schools, and hospitals from the sale of African art?

Could both 1 and 2 fit together? Yes, I can imagine riding a bike through small villages and being exposed to various art.

3) Adopt

This world is full of children looking for a home and having a parent to love.

4) Sing a solo in church

I have ventured singing in the choir and an occasional quartet. The only place I have courage to sing a solo is in my car or shower. Most say would say that I do not have a horrible screech-of-a-voice, but it frightens me to even ponder the thought of a potential front-and-center performance.

5) Write a book

Someone once said to me, “If you are embarrassed of sharing your thoughts and inspirations with a small group don’t dare speak at all. Be courageous, risk writing a book so that the masses know and learn from your inspirations.” What would my first book be called? Not sure. Possibly, “Waiting on God,” “Saved Africa through Art,” or “African Biking Diaries.”

6) Harley Davidson road trip

There is nothing quite like the sound or rumbling chrome or the smell of leather chaps. I would love to own a hog, but I have come to realize that I will never acquire enough more for that dream. However, I could rent a Harley and travel our country. Anybody interested in a road trip?

7) Climb a bigger mountain.

The first mountain I climbed was Rib Mountain [Wausau, WI]. Not quite a mountain, but to a young whipper-snapper it was a behemoth. I did climb the summit of Copper Mountain in Colorado and skied off into the powdery snowcap. The last mountain I climbed was Table Mountain in South Africa, one of the 7 natural wonders of our world. It was beautiful climbing up through the clouds and over looking both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. It is now time for something bigger. I am not thinking, “Everest,” but a challenge.

too busy

“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services, but few conversions; much machinery, but few results.” -R.A. Torrey, How to Obtain Fullness of Power  
 
Busyness or fruitfulness-that is the question… Is your life full of meaningful activities or just busy activities? 
 
It’s easy to be involved in many different efforts and good causes, but the truth is, busyness does not guarantee fruitfulness. It also does not authenticate the fact that I am in God’s will. It is the quality of what our lives produce that determines whether or not we are truly fruitful. 
 
One good way to help determine if you are being fruitful or just busy is by asking yourself some questions like: 
 
Am I spending my time doing what helps fulfill God’s purposes for life?
Am I doing what I really desire to do?
Am I using my God-given gifts and talents?
Am I being controlled and pressured by circumstances and expectations of others?
Do I see concrete results-good fruit-from my busyness? 
 
Being fruitful begins with putting God first. John 15:5 says, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much fruit. However, apart from Me you can do nothing. 
 
In Luke 10:38-42, we read the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was very busy serving, even serving Jesus. She got angry because her sister sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him talk instead of being busy helping her serve. Jesus’ response to Martha was that Mary had chosen the best thing to do at that time-sit and listen to Him.  
 
I can be a lot like Martha. I have to constantly be busy doing something, even busy serving God. It does take long to figure out that this busyness can have bad effect on your relationship with God and others. While being busy I didn’t want to sit and listen to God, and it made me very angry when others did. Why? They aren’t busy accomplishing “things” like you.  
 
You can never do everything you want. And certainly you cannot do anything on your own strength very long before needing to rely upon the everlasting reserves of Jesus Christ. 
 
Busyness often has its roots in pride. It says, “Look at me, look at all that I can do, and see how busy I am.” If you pride yourself on your busy schedule or ability to juggle a packed day timer, you have a problem with busyness. Make time for God. Be still and wait upon Him. This may be the hardest thing for you to do, but in the midst of busyness it is the most fruitful thing. 
 

boundaries

471483304_58772e250b.jpgBoundaries are necessary. Boundaries are practical markers that keep you out or keep you in. A boundary says, “I am not going there. I am not going to step over that line.” During a time of war boundaries are put into place to keep an enemy out or clearly mark the line of defense. Where I live the subdivision has created boundaries between the property lines. This is really only helpful when I am mowing the lawn!? In most all sports there are boundaries to be kept within the rules of the game. Boundaries are necessary.

There are boundaries in other area’s of life. Especially when it comes to relationships. A couple needs to set up boundaries to protect themselves from crossing over into territory that God has not allotted for them until marriage. There are certain boundaries that are not to be crossed: sex before marriage, and immoral touching or talking… these are clear from the Bible. There are other boundaries that are not so clear, but should be decided depending on the temptations and desires of the couple for the purpose of protecting their purity and integrity until that sacred day. So many couples do not even consider boundaries. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it not how the relationship is meant to be, but it also spoils the joy of waiting. Boundaries are necessary.

3:10 to Yuma

This is a movie review:

This is a remake of a 1957 Western.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale), is just a man trying to make a life for his family. His life is one step away from crumbling to nothing: He’s down a leg, his son Mark suffers from chronic respiratory problems, his ranch and only source of income has become a desert from lack of rain, and then the banker who owns the note on his property is seeking to make a buck by repossessing and selling it to the railroad. Reacting to his difficult situation, Dan says, “I’ve been standing on one leg for three damn years waiting for God to do me a favor and He ain’t listening.”

Dan Evans is no hero, just an ordinary Joe. He is what he is, no frills. He simple speaks what he thinks and does not manipulate.

Then there is Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), who plays the best outlaw I have ever seen. He is the kind of guy you love to hate, but there is something mysteriously interesting about him. He is Bible thumping creep with a Messiah-complex, and who has named his gun “the hand of God”. He kills anyone who stands between him and the riches he seeks, and even kills people as a hobby. A unique side note: his mom at a train station as a child abandoned him, and interestingly enough she told him to read the Bible.

One day Ben comes across Dan Evans’ herd of cattle while seeking to rob a banker coach. Dan becomes instrumental in Ben’s arrest and volunteers to help deliver him to Contention, Arizona, where he will be put on the prison train to Yuma at 3:10pm. Dan does this all for $200 to save his ranch and gain the respect of his wife and son. He is willing to risk his life for what he loves.

While on the journey to Contention it is just that, contention. Ben does everything he can to outsmart his captors. This is when Dan becomes an ordinary hero. Dan and Ben have multiple interactions on the journey. Dan’s humble ways shoot down the pride of Ben Wade. We learn that Dan’s life is built to be a hero to his children, and a man of honor to his wife. These are all things Ben learns to admire: fatherhood, humility, and character.

I recommend 3:10 to Yuma for adult audiences because of the violence and language.

 

entertainment

What kinds of movies, TV, music, books, etc., can a Christian enjoy and still be honoring to God? No other issue has been the source of more debate and friction between Christians in our media-saturated and pleasure-seeking society. This issue has been the source of so many legalistic rules in an attempt to keep Christians from being contaminated by the world.

Some Christians say we should avoid movies altogether; others would say G-rated ones are acceptable, and others say that you can watch whatever you want. Christians are far too loose on their entertainment standards, but on the other hand, many others overreact to the dangers of modern media by setting up rules that “go beyond what is written.” Can we understand these issues in a way that avoids extremes and maintains a biblical balance?

If someone were to approach me and say that I were in sin for watching and promoting the movies list in my blog or shelved in my personal library then I would say, “Let’s look at the heart.” Is what your are convinced in the heart to be sinful or evil what I should be convinced is sinful or evil? Is there law or liberty on this issue?

The Bible offers very few specifics on the issue of media/entertainment. Here there is no easy answer. It is a matter of “the heart”—a term which the Bible refers to as the “inner man,” where we think, desire, worship, and make decisions (“mind” and “will” are aspects of the heart; Gen.6:5, Prov.4:23, 23:7). Jesus says that “whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,…that which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” (Mk.7:18-21) He then goes on to say evil comes “from within, out of the heart.”

What I take into my eyes and ears can definitely tempt and influence me, but it cannot necessarily cause me to sin. Why take the risk then and use my liberty to watch an R-rated movie I know will have violence, vulgar language, etc? To this there is no easy answer.

There is nothing inherently wrong  or evil about some of the media people enjoy today, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it merely for entertainment. Ecc.9:9 tells us to “enjoy life” and throughout the book to “eat, drink and be merry”, of course we are to enjoy life within the moral confines of the Scripture. Now if the entertainment is causing you to be desensitized by sin or tempting you to do evil them it should be avoided altogether. And such verses have been used offensively, “avoid of the appearance of evil”, and do not be conformed to the world,” which both of these verse are primarily targeting the heart/mind rather than appearance.

Media and entertainment can be used for godly purposes. Even Hollywood produced TV, movies and music can be a great platform for sharing the gospel. I have often used movie clips and songs from today’s popular culture to share biblical truth. Both the strength and weakness of secular media can be useful tools for building an unbelievers (and believers) understanding of biblical truth. I have been encouraged to hear from a few teens after using a secular song to amplify a biblical truth that later when they were listening to secular radio and heard the song they were reminded of the biblical truth.

Most Christians can enjoy the music of Mozart and Tchaikovsky even though one was a libertine and the other a homosexual. So why can’t we enjoy modern media even though they are ungodly? To His people God “has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight” (Ecc.2:26). The abilities that unbelievers have been given to them by God and can be used for His glory even though they do not give credit to God for their gifts and use them with evil intentions. This does not mean all of the unbeliever’s media is for Christians to enjoy, but it is certainly reasonable to assume some of it is.

The movies I enjoy and promote illustrate biblical principles. Now I am guilty of watching far too many movies that I would be ashamed to admit I have watched and enjoyed. For these I have repented. I know it is my responsibility to be wise and careful what I take into my eyes, and discerning about the trust and error depicted in movies and TV. If there are movies in the list that offend another Christian and cause them to have a tarnished view of my walk with God. Then I must ask, “Who are they to judge?” And do they know my heart?

The 7 E’s of Entertainment(by Dave Swavely):

Exalt God. 1 Cor.10:31; Mt.4:10, Lk.4:8; Rom.14:6, 1 Thess.5:18

Exercise biblical discernment. 1 Thess.5:21; Phil.4:8

Expose evil rather than enjoy it. Eph.5:10-12

Economize your time. Eph.5:15-16

Edify your brothers and sisters. 1 Cor.14:26, 8:13; Rom.15:2, 14:13; Lk.17:1-2

Excise anything that tempts you to sin. Mt.5:29-30; Rom.13:12-14

Eliminate anything you’re not sure about. Rom.14:23