Saturday, February 7, 2015

Old Fashioned Verses Fifty Shades of Gray

       The movie Old Fashioned is being released nationwide Feb 14th 2015. It opened a week early in 3 cities of which I was close enough to visit one on opening night. It is excellent movie.  It is rare to find a modern day movie produced with creative thought, plot, humor, cultural relevance, morally wholesome all wrapped up into one film.  I'd love to share more about the movie, but then I would be a spoiler to those who have yet to attend and see it. But why I saw it and stand behind it is another story I'm glad to share. Rik Swartzwelder who wrote, produced and acted in the film is a man who crossed my path many years ago when I was a youth pastor in Lakeland, Florida. Some 20 years later I got a package in the mail with two pre- released books from Rik. 

        Rik found me on Facebook and sent me a gift in advance of his film release. What a blessing, but also what a challenge. The challenge was I don't do romance novels.  Feeling a pleasure to honor the gift I pushed myself to read my first ever romance book. I must admit it took me awhile, but eventually I got into it. I actually finished it and my wife and daughter got a good laugh at my reaction to the book as we all looked forward to the film. 

       My daughter and her friend were getting ready to go on a missions trip for 8 weeks to Haiti and Dominican Republic. Just as they headed out the door I offered to send the book with them if they promise to bring it back.  The report back on the book was really interesting. It became the only book anyone brought with them outside of the bible. Many times over they read the book aloud to each other and quoted from it and read it many times among themselves individually.  But why?  Because the book and the movie are filled with virtue, honor and respect for women and men. From everything I read about Fifty Shades of Grey it appears that these films are approaching the same subject of love and sex from completely different directions. One film approaches fulfillment of relationships from lust and self gratification and the other from long lasting honor and respect for another person. 

       Old Fashioned is spiritual, but not overly religious. It's Judaeo Christian without shoving it down your throat. As I watched the movie with my wife of 25 years it made me think of our marriage, our commitment and our journey. Thoughts came to mind of "could I have lived better" and "how can I improve my current romance" to strength what has been a glorious journey with my mate.   

       If there was an age group I could recommend to watch Old Fashioned it would be those age 15 and older not married.  I believe married couples should see it as well, but I believe those not married would see something that creates in them a desire to raise the bar of excellence and integrity in all relationships.  As I observe our culture I would tend to agree with what was insinuated in the film that our culture is weak on honor and respect in romantic relationships.  This film was a restoration of greatness in films while still being extremely culturally relevant.  Two thumbs up!!! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Will Jesus Return?

Can we Know When Jesus Christ Will Return?

     The answer is complex and therefore we need to dig down deep into history and Scripture to discover what God wants us to know and what we are not to know.  In order to properly discern the times we have to take a number of subjects, perspectives and tie them all together to discover what God has said, is saying and when He will send His only begotten Son back to earth in bodily form.  

  The bible is a collection of inspired writings of God through the men of God over a period of a few thousand years. The Bible is many things to many people, but one thing it is to me among many is the story of relationship between God and man and ends in a marriage relationship.  In order to discover what to look for to be ready for His return we have to look at marriage to determine His return.  The Jewish history and arrangement of marriage is what will help us discover better about His return.  Jesus is a groom and those who are called his people are his bride. 

   We can also look at signs in the bible to help us determine when this return will occur. One thing God does not want us to know is the exact time as in the hour of day, day of the month and month of the year.  However, I believe we could determine within a 24 hour cycle  a certain day, month of the year and yet miss the exact year.  That alone is knowing God’s schedule , seasons and reasons without know the date and exact time and that is what I believe God wants us to know. In biblical history the groom has up to 7 years to prepare for his bride and pay the dowry. I will never say Jesus is returning on a certain day in the calendar year, but I certainly may suspect a certain every year and prepare myself for that day every year as God gives us great details, but also leaves us with great mystery. What a groom He is with such love for His bride.
Also in order to know the times and seasons of His return we must take in the full council of God’s Word and not just the New Testament or just the Old Testament. His Word is now 2 covenants coming together and so much of it now is coming to pass.

   Science is another factor we must calculate. Much of what is passed off as scientific evidence is often still speculation and not actually observable science. Great discernment is needed among the saints. So many today within the church are split on evolution verses creation. We are told deception in the last days will also be great.  For example, when the bible tells of the length of man prior to the flood and the decreasing age of men after the flood we can never truly object to those long ages of men prior to the flood because nobody was there to prove it one way or another. We have written biblical history and it is contrary to longevity since the flood. So science says impossible, yet the Word says otherwise.

   If indeed the world was completely flooded and is a different world then it was prior, we can only measure science based things this side of the flood.  God said in Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”    We know that Adam and Eve did not die the same day as they ate of the tree or did they? Many speculate that God meant spiritual death as result of sin entered into their lives. Indeed I would agree with that, but also 2 Peter 3:8 says “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  Yet the bible says in Gen 5:5 Adam died at age of 930 years. “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.  So if 1 day is as 1000 years to God then indeed Adam and Eve did die within the first day ( as God sees days). It is a mystery for us in the natural world as we are time oriented people, but Adam did die within a day from God’s Word perspective.
It’s these types of mysteries we have to work through, study through and reflect upon to see if indeed God has more for us to know and see about His soon and coming return.

In revelation we often see the blood of the saints in heaven as a martyrdom blood, but should we not keep in mind the blood of virginity as it related to Hebrew marriage? The robes dipped in blood in revelation may have more meaning to it then what we presume.

   I've been asked to blog and write about his 2nd coming and it does excite me as never before. In the 1980’s I was hoping without scriptural insight that he would return before the year 2000. Now I see so much more and look forward to sharing those things to encourage and admonish the Body of Christ.  Next post will be more about the Jewish Holy Days as it related to His return. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Passion alone can Backfire.

Why Passion alone can Backfire.

When I got saved I was 19 yrs old and I was truly transformed. I mean my sins where really gone. Within 4 weeks I became very passionate about my new found faith. I told everyone about Jesus including my drinking buddies. My passion for the Savior was amazing as I look back. It really carried me for a season and I was thankful for how God allowed me to feel so passionate for Him. But then I started stumbling and was shocked at myself.

Within a few short weeks I began to fail Him and stumble and it was then that the local church and it's weekly teaching, bible studies and worship times began to truly sustain me and it reignited my passion. It 8 weeks later I surrounded it all and allowed God to sanctify my heart. My pastor and other adults kept encouraging me , teaching me and guiding me in my new found faith and my passion continued.

Even when I was in college passion for Christ was within me, but it was not enough to carry me or sustain me. I needed times of prayer, worship and fellowship and I needed it often. It seemed like the more I prayed and hung-out with fellow believers the more passion I had and the more I could not wait to get back to them to tell them what happened since the last time I saw them.

Let's face the facts, you need everything about the local church Jesus intended it to if you want to be passionate for Christ and remain effective for Him.

Let's talk about passion in marriage as an example. When you fall in love you are passionate and nothing could seem to get in the way. But after the first few years the term " the honeymoon is over" comes into reality and you have work at keeping the passion alive more then perhaps the 1st few years. If you want passion and romance to continue you have to add a few things to keep the passion alive. In any marriage you must stay bonded by spending time together , sharing one another's hearts, sharing Christ together and protecting that love and passion with the principals of God's Word. A true successful marriage needs more then passion to endure the years, because temptations come to marriages over time as much as temptations come to our souls over time.

Passion alone wasn't enough to sustain my discipleship as a young man.

Listening to the predominant narrative of modern evangelical Christianity, you could get the impression that passion is all we need to live a life of discipleship to Jesus. If we can just become passionate and enthusiastic enough, we will have the fuel we need to fulfill the Great Commission and live the way of Jesus. It’s a “Bible camp” mentality that continues into adulthood for most of us, I think. Kids and Teens come home from camp each summer pumped up, but if they do not stay engaged and focused as you well know, that passion could be gone before the next Sunday. Revivals often leave people passionate for Him, but within a few short weeks if folks don't stay with the "spiritual disciplines" the passion of revival is like that of camp for kids., it's gone.

When Passion Falls Short

Jesus, tells a different story of passion in the Gospel of Mark when he is approaching the cross. At the last supper with his disciples, he tells them they will all fall away, but none of them believe it! Peter passionately declares, “Even if all fall away, I will not!” Jesus responds will a dire warning: “Tonight… you will disown me three times.” Peter simply cannot believe it. How could it ever happen when he feels this passionately about it? “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you!” he proclaims.

Jesus takes his disciples from dinner out to their favorite camping spot, the olive groves of Gethsemane, where he finds it necessary to pray. He takes Peter, James and John with him and tells them to simply sit with him while he prays. Instead they fall asleep. Jesus comes back and wakes up the slumbering disciples, warning them with these important words,

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

You probably know the rest of the story. They fall asleep again, right up until Jesus is betrayed. The whole situation takes them off guard and, just as Jesus predicted, they all fall away, and Peter disowns Jesus three times.

Passion wasn’t enough for the disciples to stay awake and pray with Jesus. Passion wasn't enough for them to remain firmly loyal to Jesus in the face of adversity and threat. Passion wasn't enough for them to keep their promises of fidelity to Jesus. Passion just isn't enough today either.

That’s why Jesus could predict they would all fall away. He knew that they were simply attempting to live on passion alone, and he knew that it wouldn't be enough for them when temptation came.

Training That Sustains Us

That’s why he urged them to watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In other words, the passion is there, but you need more than passion. You need training and continued training. We need training often as well. Jesus created the body of Christ and His church to be a source for keeping us trained and spurred on and encouraged, so when we walk into the world weekly we can keep our passion by way of watching and praying with our fellow believers.

Why? Because my spirit is willing (I love ?....!), but my flesh is weak (I’m not very good at it!).

In the same way, passion was not enough for the disciples to remain faithful in trial. They desperately wanted to come through for Jesus, I’m sure. They genuinely thought that they could, too. They assumed their passion would carry them, but it wasn't enough. They needed training. They needed to learn to watch and pray, so that when temptation comes they will have the capability to actually do what they so desperately want to do.

We need the same thing, if we’re going to follow Jesus as disciples. That’s what “spiritual disciplines” are all about, training us so that we can be poised and ready for the trials and temptations that come our way as we join Jesus in his work.

I have to remind myself of this every once in awhile. My passion is not enough to sustain me as pastor either, I need to submit to a regimen of training so that my flesh isn’t weak on the day of temptation. This is why we begin each week in worship at Deland Nazarene Church. We worship, pray, read & hear the Scripture together. It’s why we gather on Sunday nights in the fall and throughout the year to celebrate what God is doing in our midst in small groups and training. It’s why we encourage people to sign up for a discipleship group , Sunday school group, mission trips , camps , retreats and attend Wednesday night bible studies.

As we engage in these weekly and seasonal exercises, these predictable patterns, we find that God’s grace inhabits those spaces and he begins to transform us. We become spiritually “strong” not by trying really hard, but by indirect effort and patterns of commitment. That’s how we train as disciples… doing little, seemingly insignificant things weekly that allow us to do the things we cannot do by direct effort.

How are you and your family doing at training as disciples right now? What are some of the results you've seen so far? What adjustments do you need to make?

My hope & prayer is you will review your spiritual disciplines in these last days and seek what The Lord would have you do to endure until the end.

You are loved!

Pastor Peter 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Are SmartPhones producing Stupid People?

         Recently I have gotten into a grove of eating right and exercising more. I am committed to walking 5 miles a day and riding my bicycle at least once a week. It's been over a month now that I have done this and I've made some interesting observations of myself and others and I guess the culture as a whole. 

 Observation #1 Do I really need to take my cellphone with me everywhere I go? I tend to take it everywhere just in case.  I don't need to talk to others, text them or even use a fancy gps app, but yet my habit is "just in case" someone calls or I need others or they need me I better take it along. I believe I'm addicted! Are you? 

  Observation #2. Am I that important that I need to be accessed on my smartphone all day long?  Answer: NO.  The more accessible I am to others and they are to me the less I seem to get done anyway and the more distracted I can get from life in front of me.  

Observation #3 People use their smartphones everywhere like in Grocery stores, in restaurants, at airports and unfortunately while driving in their cars. Do you?  For those who say no, then good for you, but for the majority of Americans that is not the case. 

Other Examples:  A week ago I was in a high school speaking to the principal when I observed an interesting encounter. An 18 yr old girl who had her cellphone taken away during class ( because using it is forbidden )  choose to have her cellphone back and drop out of school verses having her relative pick up her smartphone after school or the next day.  I guess in her world everything precious revolved around that phone. She weighed out the value between immediate cellphone returned or finishing high school.  The cellphone won her heart over finishing her senior year and graduating. Which was smarter, the phone or the girl? 

A week earlier when I was landing on the runway in Boston I observed an entire plane of people getting out there phones to make calls. It was as if all the addicts at once were pulling out their phones and taking a hit or shot to get their fix. I know I'm not the only one who has a smartphone issue, but I am glad I am starting to see more then ever all it's negative impact on the culture and my own life. 

I read this article in the Wall Street journal the other day and here is one quote. " More than 80 percent of Americans use smart phones, but apparently they compromise our sleep, reduce our social awareness, and make us stupid."  I must admit I agree with that quote. I remember when I use to memorize more numbers and things, but with a Smartphone it can remember it for me which in turn causes me to have to do less with my own smart brain. 

For years I have tried to get my wife to have a cellphone. She has used them on occasion, but she has not had one and is rarely accessible by one. I do believe she is smarter for it in more ways then I ever realized.  She reads more, she is more focused, she is less distracted and she is accessible by our home phone or through other people in our family.  She's a Smartwife while I the husband posses the smartphone.  

Drive thru's now have posted signs that read like this "do not use cellphones while in the drive thru". As well as bank lobby's also have the same signs among other places. Using your cellphone in public places slows the lines down and people talk on them instead of being focused on ordering food, banking, etc. If you really think about it, using a cellphone is usually rude in public places and it's the result of trying to do multiple things at the same time. 

About 9 years ago before the smartphone revolution stormed our culture I was at a luncheon with some businessmen. One of them mentioned that when 12 year olds had cellphone he realized it was time to dump his. I did not get it then, but I get it now. Businessmen get more done with less distractions and with more focus. So when more people have access to calling more people then a business persons phone was typically gonna ring more. Several smart friends I've known over the years have disciplined themselves to realize they could do more if they could be accessed less. Some changed their habits and others dumped the phones to a emergency phone only for the glove box. 

     Our culture and the American people have come to expect immediate results in everything and that also includes access to each other's lives.  But there was a day when we would leave a message and maybe wait a day or two or longer to get a return call. 

Just because one device can do it all from knowing the weather to a instant flashlight does not mean everyone needs one. Maybe if we dumped the smartphones we would all spend more time with the people around us, get more done and be more focused and be smarter for it. 

Does the average smartphone user put limits on themselves and their phones? Probably not!  People now think less and focus less. While our phones are getting smarter,  the people are being dummied down. Have you ever walked into a business to buy something or to get served only to discover the employee was on their personal cellphone texting or starring at there smartphone with a lost in space glare? 

 I still have my smartphone, but I am coming to realize its time for me to be smarter about how and when I use it. I certainly do not want to be out witted by a stupid mindless device. Do You?