It’s a new year and you’re hoping for a new you. If that is true, you will have to have a change of mind, undo some bad habits, and begin some good habits.

These must be built on the foundation of Jesus to see any kind of true change.

Social media has become such a big part of our lives, that what we do on Facebook affects our real-life relationships and everyday life. To help, I offer you a series of tips that will help you live the life Jesus died to give you.

Tip #2-NOT EVERYTHING ON THE INTERNET IS TRUE
You may have noticed the all caps. This is a pet peeve of mine.
For all the good on social media (ex.-During Hurricane Patricia, Facebook alerted me that my relatives in Colima, Mexico were safe), there is so much…not just negative, but half truths and lies.
As a result, we (through sharing or retweeting) perpetuate these lies and half truths. We begin to build ideals and morals based on lies. Eventually, all lies are found out, and what we’ve built comes crumbling down. It makes for a bummer of a day.

Lies may destroy, but the good news is that the truth sets you free (John 8:32)

Instead of reading, and clicking “share”, why not do some research before you click? Find a reputable source to back up or verify whether or not this new info you’ve come across is true?

Charles Spurgeon is attributed with saying, during a sermon in 1855, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

You can dramatically decrease drama but being careful when you share or re-tweet anything you find on-line.

Our next tip will come courtesy of the Joker…

How To Have An Awesome Life and Not Screw It Up Through Social Media

It’s 2016! Time to blog!

Life can be hard; but life can also good! Jesus died and conquered death so that, by faith in Him, we could enjoy and “life more abundantly” (John 10:10).
As a pastor, I often see Christians living, not this “abundant” life Jesus talks about, but half-lives; joy-less, hope-less, and ultimate unfruitful lives.

There are lots of things that can attribute to this. What follows is not the answer, but rather, some tips to get back some of that life that Jesus, you know…died to give you.

I’ll start by going after one of the biggest culprits-Social Media. I’ll break it down into 3 tips, 1 per blog.

Tip #1 What Do You Post?
When something happens to you (good or bad), how quickly is that info shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Far too often, we ‘vent’ on social media before the proverbial dust of the situation has settled. Yes, you may need venting, and you may be telling the truth; but in venting, have you added to the drama?
You just vented in a public (although virtual) place, which means you have also invited anyone who follows you to offer their advice, opinion, or most likely, criticism.
By venting, it’s as though you just threw a rock at a big ol’ hornets nest.
What’s the alternative?
Tip #1 is to wait, take a breath, and pray. If something (good or bad) happens to you, try waiting. Give it a few hours, maybe even a day or two. Use this time to talk (NOT GOSSIP) to a real person in private. Pray and seek the Lord. Ask Him to shed light on your part in all of this.

All of this will allow time for reconciliation, wisdom, apologies, and repentance (by them AND you).

Romans 12:18 declares, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

As a Christian, our goal is reconciliation before retribution or justice. Shift your focus, seek peace first, and see what the Lord can do for you.

Next, we’ll deal with all those pesky memes…

 

My Problem with the “Organized Church”

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As a kid, I was taught how one bad piece of fruit can spoil the rest of the bunch it is stored with. If you’ve ever bought a bag of oranges and not eaten them fast enough, you’ve probably witnessed this first hand.

It would be silly to declare that all oranges on the planet are “bad”, simply because one or two spoiled.

Though it sounds silly, this is the same deductive reasoning some folks use when judging the Church (as a whole, hence the capital C).

To generalize, these people fall into 3 catagories:
1. The Hurt-Many have had genuine, legitimate, horrendous experiences in a church. The scar runs so deep that going to church and being a part of it is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible.
To those who have been through this, I apologize. A feeling of remorse, sadness, and anger arises when I hear yet another story of a person hurt by someone representing Jesus.
2. The Rebel-Some people are just rebellious. They do not like the Church for the same reason they do not like work, school, or their parents: they do not want to be under authority. Pride prevents them joining anything; they are an island (or so they think) unto themselves. Often, they have the loudest voice, which makes them seem like they are the majority.
3. The Follower-These are just well-disguised rebels. They agree with group 2, but are passive and will not take a stand or express what they think for fear of confrontation. They may be uninformed and are afraid of being duped or tricked. The common denominator is that they fear something.

Whatever group you may find yourself in, I write to you not to spar, fight or debate. I hope to simply defuse faulty thinking.
To neglect the ENTIRE Church because of one bad church, minister, or Christian, would be as foolish as refusing all oranges because you found a moldy, fuzzy, green one in your pantry.
All that said, here is my problem with the Church: the Church is a perfect model that Jesus decided should be made up of bent, broken, shattered sinners like me and you. As a result, this will make opportunity for disaster. A wrong decision here, a sinful, selfish intent there, and before you know it, the orange is rotten.
The good news is that the Church is more than a building or org chart. It is more than the pastor, staff, or laity. It is the Body of Christ, as much a part of Jesus as Himself, which puts us (collectively), in direct community with the Trinity.
When the Apostle Paul describes the church to the people in Corinth, his passion is not for a hierarchy or chain of command, but for the unity that can only be found when believers focus on Jesus and His will; to love Him above all and His people as themselves; to desire the good gifts Jesus graciously bestows upon the Church.

The Church is not perfect, it simply serves One who is. His name is Jesus. Don’t allow the suckiness of others keep you from the blessing and joy of being a part of something bigger than you.

Bank Robbery and Being a Better Christ-Follower

On Tuesday, a branch of my bank was robbed at gunpoint, allegedly by a young women in her early twenties. This sent the emotions and fears of our local town sky-high, as schools held kids past the normal release time and helicopters hovered overhead.

As local tv stations and newspapers reported the details, the wheel of social media began to spin, naming potential suspects, motives, as well as giving their first hand accounts of what they saw go down.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a suspect was in custody. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and used social media as a place to vent, research the suspect, and make claims about her life, status, and decisions.

When all was said and done, I was left with this question: How should a Christian respond?

This is a real tragedy in my backyard. I was at the same bank at the same time just the day before. This was not someone far away in a place I’d never been to. This was as real.

First, as a side note, I want to point out the obvious: we live in a day and an age where the internet (and especially social media and news outlets) are causing the world around us to shrink. Every reported trial, tragedy, event or revolution feels as though they are happening directly to us.

As a result, we can miss the news and issues that really are happening to the very people we live, work, and interact with on a daily basis.

As a Christian, our goal is always balance. This blog is not “National News VS. Local News”, as it is wrong to emphasize one over the other. Both local and national news should be utilized as a tool to inform the Christian of the world we are sojourning in.

With that being said, what should we do?

Here’s a short list of how a Christian can do more than vent on Facebook, or gather with friends and say things like, “What is this world coming to?”, or “Back in my day…”.

1. Refuse willful naiveté. I currently live in a town of about 6000 people, after moving from a from a city of 100,000+ people. I have learned this one truth above all others-people are people and sin is a thing, no matter how large or small a city or town is. Sin, by nature, always takes advantage of someone, and is not bound by location or proximity.

Christian, face the facts-Jesus loves you, but the rest of the world is messed up. Be mindful of your surroundings, lock your doors (not just at night), and exercise healthy skepticism. Being naive to the realities we live in is foolish and not a desired trait, especially for the Christian.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus sent out his disciples to minister to the people. He warned them, saying, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Don’t let wisdom make you callous, but don’t let fear make you naive, either.

2. Refuse to gossip. “I went to school with her!” “She’s always been a scumbag.” “She comes from trash”. These are a few of the comments I saw in 2 minutes of research on Facebook.

Gossip is a sin and helps no one. It fuels self-righteousness and promotes division. Jesus could have gossiped about Mary Magdelene, the woman at the well, Judas, Zaachaeus, and well, all of us. Yet He does not. He’s awesome, we are not. Pray to resist the temptation to gossip (Matthew 6:13).

Never forget the price Jesus paid for the sins of others was needed for your sins, too.

3. Pray. People have been traumatized. Employees have seen their lives threatened. And a suspect is now facing some harsh consequences. Does she deserve them? Probably, and thats for the courts to decide.

Regardless of fault, this is not a time to dust off our soapboxes; this is where the Christian exercises the heart of Jesus Christ, praying for the victims and suspect, local law enforcement, our local courts, and anything else we can. Pray that this young woman would know Jesus, receive His grace, repent, and live for Him all the days of her life.

All this may seem foreign to you, as thoughts of vengeance and justice cause the populace to become drunk with speculation and the freedom to release it to the masses instantaneously.

Christian, you are “not of this world” (John 15:19). We are called to another way of life. That way is Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He redeems the lost and cares for those bent on throwing their lives away. If Jesus is in you (1st John 4:4), pray that He would awaken your hearts to His will, even if it is how to respond to a bank robbery in a small town.

“How to Blog in 6 Easy Steps!” or “My Attempt at Satirical Blogging” Pt. 3

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This is a snark mark. You’re welcome.

A little over a week has gone by since my last blog in this controversial instructional series. Hopefully you haven’t tried them out yet; you need all 6 steps to pull this off!

If you missed Step #1 and Step #2, check them out. Now, on to Step #3-Snark Attack!

3. Fight Snarky with SNARKY! The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines snarky as, “crotchety, snappish” and “sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner”. This is not only an awesome word, but also the default character or primary response of many a human. You may already be thinking of the snarkiest people you know (not yourself, of course)!

To understand step #3, I will use an example. Suppose you are on Facebook, and someone you barely know shares a blog written by someone you’ve never heard. The topic: how the metric system is superior to imperial units. Naturally, you are intrigued. Who doesn’t love a good blog about what to measure stuff by!

But, much to your chagrin, the writer isn’t writing the a truthful or direct essay about measurement, but instead his writing is condescending, crotchety, and snappish. He’s just being an all-around snark about everything. He uses little to no facts. The article is filled with opinion and speculation.

You can’t stand for this.

But what are you, the reader, to do?

BE THE WRITER AND GET SNARKY! Respond in kind. Hey, they started this. Find clever, snarky ways to shame-uh, I mean tell that person that imperial units is not only better, but they are basically the devil himself for holding such an opposing view.

After all, this is America. We can, née, MUST tell everyone what we think. Always.

This is the only way to convey your feelings. Which is far more important than getting to the truth.

Coming up next-Step #4! By far the most important step. Or maybe its not. I’m not sure which system to measure it by.

“How to Blog in 6 Easy Steps!” or “My Attempt At Satirical Blogging” Pt. 2

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Hopefully, Tuesday’s blog was enlightening and entertaining. It probably wasn’t, but I like to believe it was.

Again, this is satire. To read my warning about these posts, click here.

With step #1, I instructed you to use numbered steps in your title to grab readers. Now, on to step #2!

2. Focus on Other Peoples Problems! Let’s face it-your problems are just not that interesting. The food bank thats lost funding, the local church that is splitting, the family that just lost it’s home/jobs/loved one-these just do not generate the kind of clicks you need for blog domination. They simply do not generate clicks.

But not to worry! All you need to do is find the latest scandal or topic everyone is talking about, and give your 2 cents! Something must be said/blogged immediately. Why not you? Why not now?

Honestly, you are so far removed from the actual situation, that all you can offer up are cliches, but take comfort in knowing that your voice will be added to the thousands of other bloggers saying the same things. There’s strength in numbers!

I don’t want to know about the ways I can help my local church, volunteer in my community, or become stronger in my faith. I want your opinion on the most recent mega pastor or mega church that is imploding.

What are you waiting for? These ears wont tickle themselves. Get out there and blog it up!

Stay tuned for step #3-probably the most important step of them all. Until step #4.

“How to Blog in 6 Easy Steps!” or “My Attempt At Satirical Blogging”

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First, a big ol’ WARNING: This is a work of satire. Naturally, someone will read this and want to point out how my steps are not only wrong, but border on deception. They will be right and missing the point entirely. I am (attempting) to use humor and contrast as a tool to help readers of blogs see through the tricks of blogging, and help everyone be a little more discerning when reading something on the internet. I’d like to believe that, in 2014, we wouldn’t believe something simply because it is found in a blog or on the internet. But…yeah. So here we go!
Want to start a blog? Not just any old blog, but one that sets the world on fire? Changes humanity as we know it? Doesn’t just sit there collecting cyber dust, unnoticed and forgotten like so many Furby’s?

Then follow my simple 6 step process! To help you process these steps, I will post 1 step per blog, as to not overwhelm you. So here is step #1:
1. Use Numbered Steps in the Title. People want bullet points, not paragraphs. Tell me it will all be better with minimal investment or effort. I can’t have a new me/spouse/kids/job by Friday? Then I want no part of your blog, good sir.

Now, the temptation will be to go step-crazy. Be careful! Don’t go too easy on your blogee (I just made that word up, it’s mine!),  and only use 2-3 steps. People will see right through that ploy. You’re just making stuff up and phoning it in. Something so simple can’t really work. Ever ordered a product on TV that had 3 easy payments? No, because the payments would still be too  high.

But don’t go all crazy on us,  laying out your plan in 7-10 steps. We don’t have enough time! We have jobs to do, families to love, and candy to crush. If your plan as more than 7 steps, then your blog goes in the virtual waste basket of my brain (currently occupied with baseball statistics from the early 90’s and old episodes of the Simpsons).

Stick with the sweet spot of 4-6 steps. The reader wants to be serious, but wants to be done reading before they are done using their iPhone on the toilet. Just get on with it, already.

So there is step #1. Tomorrow, step #2. And so forth. By next week, you’ll be blogging with the best of the best.

Whoever they are.

Resurrection of the Blog!

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(Photo from oztypewriter)

Whoa! I havent blogged here in a awhile.

Why?

Blogging, while good, had to be put on the back burner, as being a Christ follower/dad/husband, coupled with counseling, mentoring, preaching and teaching, leaves little room for blogging.

I’m currently working on a relaunch scheduled for Fall ’14. In the mean time, check out Two by Two, a blog about marriage and the journey it is, here. It’s co-blogged by my wife, so it’s bound to be more awesome than this.

Burden, Pt. 2

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I once had a friend who owned a jewelry store. Every day, he would purchase gold from folks who had unwanted jewelry or who needed some quick cash.

In his shop one day, he taught me how he tested gold. Why did he test the gold?

Because not all that looks like gold was truly gold. Real gold is valuable. Fake gold is not. 

With that in mind, I segue into my topic: How can we know when what we are being taught is truth? 

In my previous post, I laid out 4 types of Bible teachers/preachers. There are those who teach: 

1. The Right Thing for the Right Reason

2. The Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

3. The Wrong Thing for the Right Reason

4. The Wrong Thing for the Wrong Reason

Teachers who fall into categories 2-4 may look the part, say the right words, have the most followers, book deals and TV shows. They may be passionate, and believe every word they speak. 

But none of this is the same as sound doctrine. As students of the word, the burden lies with us to see through the exterior to get to the truth. 

So how can we know who is telling us the right thing for the right reason? I’ll give you 2 examples from the Bible.

First, we test. 1st John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The Apostle John was battling a tacking known as Gnosticism, a teaching that sprang to life after the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (and lives on today in various forms and teachings). Simply put, Gnostics taught that Jesus was spirit only, and that while a path to God/Jesus existed, it was and is to be found through “secret knowledge” only available to a select few. 

While we may not battle gnosticism, false teachings abound in our world today. As a result, We are warned to test everything. Naivety and passivity are not an option for the Christ-follower. We must ask questions. We cannot simply take someone’s word when dealing with something (or Someone) as big as Jesus. 

If you are told or taught something about Jesus, whether you agree or disagree, you should test it. Generally, the right question will cause false/bad theology to crumble pretty quickly. 

Being a pastor and preacher of the Word is a big deal to me. I handle this with a holy fear, as what I say has the potential to build up or tear down a real person who is searching.

I relish the opportunity to discuss Jesus and the Bible. Truthfully, if you I and I were to engage in a dialogue, we may never get to a concrete answer on some things, but my hope is that we would talk and think and force each other out of the stagnancy of stale religion and into a genuine relationship with Jesus. 

So, now that we know to test, the next question is, “How do I test?”

In my next post, we’ll look at a group of Jews and how they tested the things that the Apostle Paul taught. 

To listen to the most recent sermon from South Bay Chapel, click here

Burden, Pt. 1

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In our current sermon series, “In Jesus’ Name, You’re Wrong”, we are looking at some of the most commonly misused verses in the Bible. On Sundays, we look at the verses; on Wednesdays, we look at how we get there (basically, how to study).

Tonight we are snowed in, so I thought I’d share a very important study tip: how not to be misled by false teaching.

First, know that there are 4 types of Bible teachers and/or preachers. They are those who teach:

1. The Right Thing for the Right Reason

This is where you have a preacher who is reverent of Jesus, and strives to rightly handle the word of truth (1st Timothy 2:15), and you have a group of folks who are hungry for the Word of God. This is the ideal; this is a community working together to bring people to Jesus. 

2. The Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

These will teach the truth, but for selfish motives. Whether its money, status, or power, their motives are wrong. It’s like a doctor who is trying to find a cure for cancer, not to help people, but for the recognition. Doing a good thing, but for not the best reasons. 

3. The Wrong Thing for the Right Reason

A teacher with the wrong info who loves people and wants to help. He isn’t looking to deceive anyone; sometimes their zeal is just bigger than there knowledge of scripture. 

4. The Wrong Thing for the Wrong Reason

This is bad. These men end up on the nightly news, and are the subjects of 20/20 exposés. Sometimes, these men end up bankrupt, in jail, divorced, or dead. But not before they take down thousands of Christians with them. They leave disaster in their wake, and folks who love Jesus end up as a spiritual zombie for a season. 

The burden to know who is teaching what and for which reasons falls on us. My next post will cover 2 ways we can identify and protect ourselves against teachers in categories 2-4.

To listen to our most recent sermon, click here.