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Misrepresenting the Mayans

Jana and I had the opportunity to travel to the Mayans ruins at Tulum for our honeymoon. If you know me you know that I am a huge history buff and enjoyed not only the beauty of the trip but the knowledge I gained while there. As a result I also saw Mayan calendars selling like hot cakes as they are much more fun to look at than our squares with numbers. (Probably on sale cheaper now)

What I gained is that while the Mayans were certainly different than us they were incredibly smart people. To think that they created a calendar by looking at the sky as accurate as they did is pretty impressive. I dare say most of the world wouldn’t even know where to start doing something like that today. Not to mention at Tulum the Temple complex was amazing. It is beautiful, detailed, and very meticulous in its structure and placement. They also built pyramids in other places that I have not seen but hope to one day.

Now a brief overview of the calendar. The calendar actually represents cycles. Yesterday was the end of the second overall cycle. There is no reason or evidence to suggest the Mayans thought this was the end of time. As a matter of fact Mayans had calculations some 7000 years after 2012( read article here ).

So to the point. I have seen 1000s of social media posts bashing the Mayans for “predicting” the end of the world. Well they weren’t. They were just at the end of the cycle. The next cycle began and that is how they viewed life. Further I doubt many of us could begin to duplicate many of their impressive achievements. Heck, we can’t even build a house that lasts a hundred years much less a pyramid. So give the Mayans a break. They weren’t predicting the end of the world and didn’t have the New Testament to tell them that was futile had they been trying to predict the end.

We spend too much time knocking Mayans when we should take a look at ourselves. Silly Americans once again duped by a Hollywood misrepresentation of the facts. Now that the Mayans didn’t fit our doomsday plan we can all go back to looking for our next end of the world. Anybody have Harold Campings number? You see it is really us who are the idiots. We live in a culture that has unprecedented access to the Bible and yet we still jump on every doomsday scenario that comes along. Even when the scenarios are almost entirely fabricated by Hollywood. My guess is we will zero in on a zombie apocalypse for the next several years….wait….too late. Guess I should go ahead and write that apocalyptic novel where we are eaten by revenge crazed cows before someone jumps on that idea.

Josh

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Christianity, discipleship

 

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Grace (Quick Post)

This will be a quick post. We are about to have Bible study in our home here in just a few minutes. Please prayt for this as this Bible study is crucial to the lasting impact of our ministry here in Cleveland. Last week we looked at the Law. We looked at how the Law renders us helpless before God. This week we are looking at grace.

I know we often sing about grace but we often miss the meaning. I think it important for us to remember that grace did cost. It cost Jesus. Ray Comfort, love him or hate him, really has a solid way of defining grace. He calls grace, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” What I like about his definition is not that it is an acronym. I like this definition because it reminds us that grace is God’s unmerited favor and did actually cost something. It cost the blood of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
    
(John 3:16-21 ESV)

In Christ,

Josh

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Christianity

 

Men, Lust, & Adultery

It weighed heavy on me whether or not to type this blog & whether or not to publish it. I have tried my hardest to not blog nagging stuff about others and only blog stuff that is somewhat helpful to others or things that are challenging me. However, I feel I have to address this issue. This blog isn’t the most read blog on the Internet and I know most of my readers. I also know many of their struggles and feel this is an issue I should address.

Pat Robertson has pretty much become a non-issue to me. He does seem to continue popping up on the radar by saying very controversial things. In the last little while he has bashed adoption, counseled a man to divorce his Alzheimer ridden wife, blamed homosexuals and others for 9/11 and Katrina, and many other things. I generally assume people can discern that some of what he says is way off base and out of touch. However, there are some things that hit too close to home to ignore.

Ole Pat decided that General Patreus was “just a man” when discussing the General’s well publicized affair. This sort of pushed me over the edge. What I want to focus on is not what Pat said, but I want to focus on this “just a man” mentality. I have spent a significant portion of my ministry helping men put lust behind them. The most common answer I have to deal with is the idea that it is okay to lust/commit adultery because you are “just a man.” I will look at why this idea is incorrect for biblical Christians and one that professing Christians should not endorse. There are many more ways I could tackle this idea, but as a Christian I am just going to hit a few quick points in order to make it clear that this idea isn’t supported in the Bible.

First, this idea is not biblical. The word of God continually speaks against both adultery and lust. Jesus actually put forth the most clear and hard teaching on lust and adultery in Matthew 5:27-30. It becomes easy for any follower of Jesus to see that Scripture doesn’t excuse men from this behavior just because they are men.

Second, when men commit adultery they aren’t acting like men at all. They are acting like selfish boys who value themselves and their own selfish gain over others. Again this goes against many teachings in Scripture.
Instead of loving God (Mark 12:29-30) it says I love myself more than living a life that brings glory to Him.
Instead of loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) it says my neighbors exist to serve me and my desires.
Instead of loving our wives (speaking to separate marriages not polygamy) as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25) it says we don’t love our wives and aren’t willing to die out of our love for them, but would rather forsake marriage for temporal pleasure.
I could go on all day.

Finally, this mentality places all the blame on women. The logical idea birthed from this is that it is the woman’s job to keep a man’s physical desires in check. It places all the blame on the woman and none on the man. This too, is false. Men it is our job to treat women as the beautiful creation of God that they are. They aren’t an object that exists solely for our pleasure. They are created in the image of God. They should be treasured.

I grow tired of hearing comments like, “women shouldn’t dress this way or that way” or “men are going to have a porn addiction because it is everywhere.” The truth is if we had more men who were actually men rather than boys this behavior would be far less. If you’re a “man” reading this who is embracing lust in some form or even involved in an affair or any other form of sexual immorality, GROW UP AND BE A MAN! I know many Christian men struggle with overcoming lust. I believe it is because we often dance around the issue or do not take it seriously. This is a serious issue. It wrecks families, careers, and futures. Please, seek help, stop what you are doing, and realize that such behavior isn’t excusable. This sin needs to be stomped out, torn down, and kicked out of your life the way John Wayne throws a bad guy out of a Saloon into the street.

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30 ESV)

In Christ,
Josh

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Christianity

 

What We Will Wish We Had Done More

We spend a lot of time doing and talking about a lot of stuff. Politics, church, family, finances, programs, music, etc seem to dominate our already busy lives. We seem to neglect many routines, disciplines, or priorities that should be evident in our lives. I believe there are two disciplines that I consistently notice are neglected in people’s lives. Prayer and evangelism/disciple making are completely lost in the culture of American Christianity. We have programmed and plugged events until they are almost completely gone. The question is why?

Prayer
When do you pray? Stop. Honestly ask when was the last time you just spent time with God? I know for much of my walk with Christ my prayer life has been reserved for brief prayers when I need something. Jesus has become my “Santa Claus” or “Genie in a Lamp.” I never just sat down and talked to Him or had the prayer life of some of the giants of Christian History.

So what do you do? Practice. Read the Scriptures and pray through them. The disciples felt praying was so important they specifically asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gave them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Start there. Pray through the Lord’s Prayer. There are also many books and tools to develop this discipline. Three I would recommend are:

Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (short read, my copy is less than 100 pages)
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life by Charles Spurgeon

If prayer is the way we communicate with God, then this should be a primary characteristic in all believers’ lives. At the end of the day I believe Jesus has the final word on prayer.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.
“Therefore, you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be honored as holy.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power

and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:5-13 HCSB)

Evangelism/Discipleship

I think these two words describe the same thing but have very different meanings to many Christians. Some only do “evangelism” and this typically turns into a “convert” that never materializes. Discipleship is a hot buzzword right now. However, sometimes we disciple, disciple, disciple and never release the disciple to encounter and combat lostness.
The truth is the two are really one concept. When Jesus gave the Great Commission He commanded us to “make disciples” or turn people into disciples. This encompasses both the evangelizing part and the discipleship part to follow. For the rest of this post I will refer to this as discipleship but know that I am talking about both concepts as one.
Discipleship is lost. We have replaced the evangelism part with catchy programs, attractions, and shameless church promotion. The training part has been programmed into more programs that ever repeat and never release. This produces a well trained, ineffective Christian. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you have sat in 1000 evangelism classes and go to “the greatest church” on earth. If you, as an individual, are not engaging in taking the gospel to the lost you are far from where you need to be.
What is needed are more disciples who are active in taking the gospel to the lost. We need to look back to the church in Acts. We need to model the simple model carried out by them. Loving one another, loving our neighbors (even when we disagree), and praying for boldness to share Jesus.
At the end of the day the most well ran programs and greatest attractions are not as effective as a believer who boldly takes the gospel to the people God places in his/her path.
Some recommended readings:

Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
Witnessing Without Fear by Bill Bright
Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 ESV)

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-27, 29-31 ESV)

What We Will Wish We Had Done More

I believe we will wish one day that we had prayed and shared the gospel more while here on earth. At the end of the day what two things could be more important in the life of the believer? The only way do to either of these more is to practice and do it.

 

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Christians, Elections, and the New America

Just a couple quick thoughts on last nights election and how I see this playing out for Christians moving forward. As well as some weak points.

First Be Consistent

This should go without saying, but last night’s election was the most tweeted event ever. Most of my feed was filled with Conservative Christians slamming Obama (FYI I did not vote Obama) and talking as if an Obama victory was the end of the world. The shock came after Fox News declared Obama the winner. (A shock itself that they did it first) These same people who had been bashing Obama and equating him with Nazis, terrorists, and the antichrist decided to start posting Scripture! This is not the message we need to send. This would be like me being verbally abusive to someone all day and then after they won the argument saying, I am going to pray for you. They would be like, “I don’t care. I still think your a jerk and don’t like you.”

Be consistent. If you hate Obama, hate Obama. If your going to pray for our leaders, pray for our leaders. Do not be wishy washy. We have enough of that in politics already.

Elections Show Our True Beliefs

You realize I have friends I didn’t even know professed Christ until I saw some of their posts/tweets about Romney. (Side note: Romney, not a Christian, nor a man of the Bible. He is Mormon. It is different.) Then all of sudden these same people were basically equating a vote for Romney with a vote for Christianity. Now, I understand what many will say and why they did it, but hear me out. Jesus wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He doesn’t call us to be a Democrat or a Republican. I know very solid Christians who voted Republican and Democrat. I do not think less of either for their vote.

The sad truth is many in Christianity have equated our cause with moving forward the Republican agenda. That isn’t true. If Jesus wanted us to be about advancing the kingdom through politics He certainly could’ve made that happen. Now, we wake up and the political messiah of the Christian Right has fallen. Many people’s beliefs are shaken to the core and they are panicking today. Why? Simply because they had more faith in man than in Christ. The faith of many American Christians has been in Romney ushering us to a day when Christianity could reign supreme and all our beliefs be legislated and protected. They had faith in the American Political proceess over expanding Jesus’ Kingdom through the gospel. That isn’t biblical.

If you are one of these people who think it is all over. That Christianity is done in America. Do me a favor. Climb off the bridge and don’t jump. Then read about how the gospel and Christianity are moving forward in countries whose government is far less open to Christianity than ours. I am sure Christians in many countries wish their biggest problem was the healthcare mandate and who can or cannot get married.

This Didn’t Catch God By Surprise

Comfort. God knew this was going to happen when he was measuring out the oceans in His hands. He knew Obama was going to be our president (Daniel 2:21). Now, you can find comfort in knowing that God not only knows the beginning but the end. Nothing will happen that is catching God by surprise and in some way this works to accomplish His larger purpose.

Here is what I think. I don’t think God is all that thrilled that His church is more passionate about who the POTUS is than who Jesus is. The sad truth is we are much more passionate about politics than the gospel. I haven’t had a Christian knock on my door in 3 years. I had political campaigns knock on my door at least 5 times in two weeks (It is an Ohio thing). I rarely see a Jesus sign in a yard, but political signs are so common to me I barely notice them. Nobody has handed me a gospel tract in years. I have no clue how many political tracts I have received. When was the last time you shared your political views with someone on the opposite side? When was the last time you shared the gospel with a lost person? I believe this could be a wake-up call to the church that the gospel is our message, Jesus our King, and people, not agendas, our mission field.

We Live in a New America

Gone are the days of W and the Christian Coalition. We live in an America where abortion is going nowhere, where gay marriage will be legalized in many states in the near future if not the whole country, where welfare programs and healthcare mandates are firmly in place, and where Alabama will soon be National Champions again (WOOHOO).

This can discourage you or challenge you. I am not discouraged in the least bit. Will ministry look a little different moving forward, it better. Will the church have struggles, you bet. Here is the comfort. We never needed the government to establish our beliefs on many issues to begin with. God already has. What I can tell you is this; If you keep trying to neglect half the populous it is going to be dang hard to take the gospel to them.

Closing Thoughts

I am not saying give up on abortion. The unborn do not need us to do that. What I am saying is embrace the gospel. To see America truly become a Christian nation, it doesn’t start in the political process. It starts with the gospel. You want to change America? Witness to a person a day. Pray hard for God to save people. That is how real change comes. Not through the dualopoly of the DNC and GOP.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

In Christ,

Josh

 
 

Why I Love Being a Church Planter

I just had a conversation with a neighbor about what I do. It occurred to me that I love being a church planter. There is likely nothing that I would like doing more.
I love being a church planter because God called me to plant a church. The peace that comes from doing what God has called you to do is inexplicable. I spent a lot of my life running from God’s calling and nothing is better than doing what He has called me to do.
I love being a church planter because it is hard. Planting a church is the hardest task I have attempted in ministry. The day to day challenges make me depend on God and seek the wisdom of others. It also keeps me keenly aware of my shortcomings and my dependence on God.
I love being a church planter because of people. I have to meet people. I meet all kinds of people. Being a planter has challenged me to be more involved in the community than at any other point in my life.
I love being a church planter because of evangelism and discipleship. The need to reach out to the lost and disciple them is so critical to a church plant’s survival. This keeps me accountable to look for opportunities to meet people and share my faith.
I love being a church planter because of the gospel. Planting a church reminds me of what Jesus has done for me. It reminds me that I am a sinner an that apart from Jesus I deserved hell. It reminds me that I should glorify God every minute of the day for sending Jesus to live a perfect, pure, holy, sinless life, die for my sins, and rise for my justification. It also reminds me that there are 1000s around me God is going to save with that same message.
I hope to plant churches the rest of my life. I have never found anything as challenging, rewarding, and fun in my entire life.

In Christ,
Josh

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Christianity, Church Planting

 

Quiet Time

Call it what you want quiet time, prayer time, time with God, whatever. The one thing I have come to appreciate is that quiet time is essential for any Christian. Admittedly I have, at times, struggled to maintain a quiet time. As a church planter I can tell you this job is impossible if you don’t have a quiet time. I wish I had time to tell you every little prayer or Scripture I have read in my quiet time that has almost immediately been used or answered in the life of this church plant. However, more important than the answers is the time with God. Church planting is a struggle. It can be lonely. There are days you wake up and just don’t want to do a thing. Then you have this awesome time with God to start the day and you finish on fire and crazy for Jesus. This is a discipline I suppose we work on our entire lives. My advice is to start somewhere and develop and maintain a consistent time alone with God.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 ESV

In Christ,
Josh

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Christianity, Church Planting

 
 
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