Wednesday, March 27, 2024

It may be Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Easter Sunday will be here in a few short days. Christians all over the world will celebrate our Savior's victory over sin and death. The entire Christian faith is centered on Jesus' raising from the dead. However, we rarely think of Easter without first being reminded of Good Friday. Of course there is nothing "good" about it since that's the day we remember Jesus nailed to the Jewish cross and crucified. There seems to be a theme that emerges from these two events - a sad, devestating event followed by victory and celebration. A terrible loss or tragedy and then a joyful outcome.  

Cross with "I am" sayings

Dr. Tony Campolo shares a great message called "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!" It's a bit dated, but has always stayed with me. This is our message each and every day we live on this earth. 

We're living on "Friday" now. Let me explain.

  • It's a Friday when a loved one passes all too soon.
  • It's a Friday when we lost our job.
  • It's a Friday when we are told we aren't the one.
  • It's a Friday when the doctor's report is that the cancer has spread.
  • It's a Friday when the bill is due, but our checking account is overdrawn.
  • It's a Friday when our children fail to share our beliefs. 
Jesus promised that in this world you will have trouble. He had trouble. Look at what Jesus experienced when on earth. His friends forsook him. He was mistreated. He was rejected. He lost loved ones. And ultimately he experienced an ugly, painful death. 

However, that is not the end of the story. It wasn't the end for Jesus and it's not the end for us! Because Sunday was coming! When Sunday comes, what happens?
  • It's Sunday when a loved one accepts Christ as Lord and Savior and is born again.
  • It's Sunday when we realize our value rests in God seeing us as sons and daughters.
  • It's Sunday when we know we have been chosen by Almighty God.
  • It's Sunday when we embrace the eternal life promised to us.
  • It's Sunday when we realize our inheritance is immeasurable riches.
  • It's Sunday when Jesus conquered death, the grave, and Satan once and for all time!
So as Paul writes to the Corinthian people in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "our light and momentary troubles" do weigh us down, they are nothing in comparison to the "eternal glory that far outweighs them all." The key is in verse 18. We must "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Take heart, because even though today might be "Friday," Sunday's coming!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Your Teen and Social Media

Let's discuss three areas that can help you as a parent better understand and connect with you teen when it comes to using Social Media. It can be very daunting for some parents, when their children know more than they do about the Social media platforms available on the Internet and Smart phones. Here are some tips to help level the playing field. 

1. Keep an open dialog with your teen. Don't be afraid to ask questions. What app are you using? Who are you talking to? How do you know them? Do you have any concerns about using that platform? What are they? Listen when they talk to you. Resist being judgmental about what they are using despite what you may have heard. Your goal in talking with them is to create a non-judgmental space where your child is comfortable communicating with you. 

2. Encourage boundaries using Social Media. One the the best ways to do this is to model it for your child by having boundaries on your own usage. Set an example for them and share with them what you are doing. Maybe you leave your phone outside your bedroom so as to not use it at night. Perhaps as a household you can have the rule that no cell phones are allowed at the table. Of course, one given boundary is build-in by many Social Media apps. For example,  you have to be at least 13 years old to have a Facebook account. Don't allow your child to break that rule. It's there for a very good reason. Talk about Catfish accounts, fake accounts, spam posts, and the like. Pick their brain. They have probably heard about these. Make sure they are aware that not everyone are who they seem to be on the Internet. 

3. Portray a positive presence. Talk with your teen the about the value of having an honest and responsible online presence. Discuss who may see your teen's profile and comments in the future (potential employee, family members, etc). Explore the topic of mental health and how comments, posts, and questions can make another person feel. 

Finally, as a parent, educate yourself as to the various Social Medias that are out there. There are new ones popping up all the time so it takes some work. Google the name of it. Download the app. Make your own account. Just be wise. There are some platforms you and your teen would just be better off avoiding all together. Talk with a friend or fellow parent about various social medias and how they are used. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

How to have a Digital Faith

A digital faith? What does that even mean? Well, if you think of a computer or more specifically, a computer language, you can get some insight. When you dumb down a computer language whether it be Perl, C++, Python, Cobol, or whatever, it boils down to bits and bytes. Those bits and actually 0's and 1's. Like a light switch, they are either on or off, yes or no, true or false. It's pretty simple. 

What does that have to do with faith? Well, the Bible should shed some light on that. In the letter to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3, Jesus writes, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm -neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth." 

Basically, the Lord is saying, there are two settings for faith and deeds-cold or hot. On or off. And this church is set to "lukewarm" - that's not even a setting! Jesus says in Matthew that whoever is not with me is against me. There is no other option. Just like computer bits - your faith is on(hot) or off(cold)? 

There are many other illustrations of this digital on/off, yes/no computer bit setting in the Bible. What side do you fall on? 

  • You can't serve both God and mammon (money). (Matthew 6:24)
  • You either live in Light and Darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)
  • To save your life is to lose it; To lose your life is to save it. (Matthew 16:25)
  • Do you live by the Spirit or by the Flesh (Galatians 5:17)
  • Do you Believe in Jesus or Reject Him (John 3:36)
  • Are you an Old or a New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Bob Dylan put out a song on his album "Slow Train Coming" in 1976 entitled, "You're gonna have to Serve Somebody." I remember first hearing that song and thinking of the novelty that a secular musician is singing about faith. The song refers to the digital nature of life. We have one of two choices. We have to make our choice to serve someone. The chorus went like this:

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody

The devil or the Lord. That's our digital choice to make. Each one of us. Sadly, it seems more and more people are making the wrong choice. Jesus said some haunting words in Luke 18:8 when He said: "...when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?" That is troublesome. Certainly, there will be those who choose faith, but those on that path are few and the way is narrow (Matthew 7:14). May you be one on that pathway!

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

A Christmas Story Quiz

In October, we shot a Christmas video with children from our Wednesday After School Program (WASP). These are kids in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. We'll premiere the video at our church's Christmas Eve program this month. We sat the children down and asked them questions about the Christmas story. Overall, they did quite well recalling the story of the Nativity. However, some of their answers raised an eyebrow. 

Here is a quiz on the Christmas story based on some of the children's answers. Good luck. 

  1. What 3 gifts did the Wisemen bring baby Jesus?
    • Gold, Diamonds, Gun Powder
    • Gold, Frankenstein, Myrrh
    • Baby Food, Diapers, Baby Stuff
    • Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh
  2. What is Christmas all about?
    • Family
    • Birthdays
    • Jesus
    • Sharing together and most importantly, Have Fun!
  3. Where was baby Jesus born?
    • In a Spot
    • In a hut
    • In a shed
    • In a tiny cabin
    • In a barn
    • In a mini shack
  4. Where did the Wisemen come from?
    • China
    • The Castle
    • India
    • The East
  5. What did Mary ride to Bethlehem?
    • A donkey
    • A camel
    • A horse
    • She pulled a donkey
  6. How did King Herod feel when he heard that was a new king?
    • He was mad-ish
    • He was angry
    • He wanted to KILL him.
  7. Why was Jesus born in a barn?
    • They didn't have enough money
    • The hospital was full
    • They didn't have a plan
    • There was no room in the Inn
Thanks for taking the short Christmas quiz. You can read the Christmas story in Luke 2 or Matthew 1-2 and get all the facts there. Don't forget to join us for our Christmas Eve Service at 7:00 PM at the Kalkaska Church of Christ to catch the Children's Christmas video. If you can't make it, we'll be posting the video to our socials. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Boosting Your Faith: 3 Practical Steps

Faith is defined by as "confidence in a person or thing." When we are talking about the Christian faith, we are putting our faith in God (the person) and the Bible (the thing). Confidence is a term that can be increased or decreased like a thermostat. We can turn a thermostat in our home up to give us more heat. Likewise, if someone turns the thermostat down, the temperature will change accordingly. Placing our confidence in a person or a thing can begin minimally with the goal of increasing that confidence over time. 

In the parable of the persistent widow found in Luke 8:1-8, Jesus tells the story of a woman who will not give up. It's about prayer and faith. The woman kept going to a judge to seek justice against her adversary. At first, he refused, but finally relented because of the woman's persistence. Jesus comments that "his chosen ones" also need to pray to Him with the same persistence and fervor. This type of prayer demonstrates great faith. 

The conclusion Jesus gives should concern all of us. He says, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" 

Is it going to become so difficult on earth that people struggle to have faith in God and His word?! While it is difficult to measure someone's subjective faith, current trends are showing declines in church attendance, and those self-identifying as "practicing Christians." These key metrics could indicate a weakening in our faith. How do we keep our faith strong? Here are 3 practical steps from scripture.

  1. Read the Word of God Regularly - "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." (Romans 10:17) Have a regular plan to read, meditate, and study the Bible, God's word. This practice will increase your faith. 
  2. Cultivate your faith - No matter how small your faith is today, it can still be put into practice and grow. Jesus tells his apostles in Matthew 17:20-21, "...I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Don't discredit a small amount of faith. We all had to start somewhere. Cultivate your faith by putting it into practice and watching it grow. 
  3. Find the Faith of a Child - When Jesus was rebuked by his disciples for holding babies brought to him, he responded by calling a child over and saying, "...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Luke 18:15-17; Matthew 18:3) One of the greatest attributes of a child is their faith. They believe everything they are told. Their innocence is still intact and they have no reason not to believe. Believe the words of God and you'll find yourself nearing the kingdom of heaven. 
May Jesus find faith on the earth when He returns. May those who are called Christians be moving mountains with child-like faith as they spend time reading and meditating on God's Word. May your faith increase as you become more sure of what you hope for and certain of what you don't see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Spicing it up with Change

I've decided to change the name of my blog. My invisible blog. LOL It was called "Writer's Block." It wasn't easy to find. In fact, when I Google "Writer's Block" my blog does not come up. Go figure. The term "Writer's Block" has been circulating for decades so that may have something to do with it. 

Anyway, the new title of my blog is "Christian Living in the Digital Age." This is a blog where I write about the Christian faith, technology, family, and the church. So I think this title better describes my content. 

Change is important and many times effective in bringing new eyes to your content or product. I just had lunch at McDonalds and would you know it, they have two new dipping sauces:

  • Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce: A jammy red pepper sauce with a tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorn kick and extra heat from cayenne pepper; finished with apple cider vinegar. 
  • Mambo Sauce: A tomato-based, sweet, spicy and vinegary sauce; inspired by the regional Washington, D.C. area sauce staple.
Why does McDonalds change up their sauces, pies, and menu over and over again? Because it brings new excitement to their customers! I was in Costco recently and encountered the same thing. They had moved their products all around in the warehouse! The coffee isle was clear over on the other side of the store! In this case, I was more frustrated than excited. But this is another reason for get people to move down areas they might have long neglected. I hiked up and down other isles seeking a case of water. 

How does this apply to faith and the church? By changing the gospel message's packaging, we can create excitement. We can also move people into neglected areas of their lives. Let me unpack both of these ideas.

Change the presentation of the gospel - Use current, modern, relatable illustrations to share the message of Christ. Challenge people to think differently (Thank you, Apple). See faith from a different angle, a different perspective. Of course, we will never change the core message of the gospel, but we can change our means of conveying it to people.

Move what people are seeking in a church - For decades the church used to have a Sunday morning Sunday School for kids and adults. Now, the teaching that used to be available on Sunday mornings might be in the form of a small group or a larger men's or women's ministry meeting. Another example is the Sunday bulletin. Many churches have done away with a paper bulletin and instead provide a digital copy or an App to find sermon notes and announcements. 

Just like me searching for water at Costco, people are still seeking Biblical teaching. By mixing it up you'll find more engagement as people explore different ways to learn scripture and apply it to their lives. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Salvation Confusion

If you listen to one preacher give an invitation to "invite Jesus into your life," he might lead you in a prayer. If you listen to another preacher prodding you to become a Christian, he might be telling you to be baptized. Yet another preacher might tell you to "Believe in your heart" and you will be saved. If these preachers are all Christian, Bible-believing men, then why the confusion? Why are they offering what appears to be conflicting invitations? I'm glad you asked.

Salvation in the Christian faith basically comes down to 2 things: The act of Jesus Christ on our behalf and our decision to accept it. Here is a chart showcasing what Jesus did along with what we must do. 

What Jesus Did What Man Does
Shed His blood - Acts 20:28
Gives grace - Acts 15:11
Gave us mercy - Titus 3:5
Reconciled us with God - Romans 5:10 
Justify's us - Galatians 2:16,17
Forgives our sins - Acts 2:38
Died on the cross - Philippians 2:8
Hears the Gospel message - Romans 10:17
Believes in Jesus - Mark 16:16
Repents of his sins - 2 Corinthians 7:10
Confesses Jesus is the Christ - Romans 10:9,10
Calls on the Lord - Acts 22:16
Is immersed (baptized) - Mark 16:16
Endures in the faith - Mark 13:13

Jesus' part of our salvation was completed when He died innocently on a Roman cross over 2000 years ago. His blood was shed. The Jewish law was fulfilled. Death was conquered. Grace and mercy was now available to all mankind. 

Man's part of salvation is sometimes confusing because we put pockets of time between the different elements. These have been called mistakenly "steps" of salvation and that is confusing. Rather a better term would be the "act" of salvation. Believing, repenting, confessing, calling, and being baptized is what a person does to be saved. Pastors do a great disservice to people when they offer an invitation to salvation and only require those who respond to say a prayer (Confess, Call). Likewise a preacher who only invites people to be baptized is equally in error by omitting belief, repentance, confession, and other elements of the salvation act. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic Christian book, "The Cost of Discipleship," coined a term "cheap grace." He described it as an invitation to Jesus without any effort on man's part. Forgiveness without repentance. Confessions without commitment. Baptism without denial of self. In summary, Dietrich was describing a faith that cost Jesus everything and cost us nothing. Essentially, cheapening God's grace. 

God's offer of salvation - eternal life in heaven with Him through Jesus Christ is priceless. Let's not lessen our part in obtaining this salvation by leaving out clear scriptural elements on the part of the believer. 

It may be Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Easter Sunday will be here in a few short days. Christians all over the world will celebrate our Savior's victory over sin and death. Th...