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Back from Hiatus

To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of the world,

Sorry all for the prolonged hiatus. It’s been a very busy year for myself. I have been confirmed by my church as a deacon and then later as the Chairman. So this next year will be a trying one and a busy one as I learn what God has for me in these roles. But recently, I came across John 13:1-17 and Ephesians 4:1-16. Both of these passages encompass two aspects in following Christ—being a servant leader in your community (John 13) but then expands out to encompass the body of Christ as a whole. First, let explain to you what the word “community” means to me. The word, when spoken, drives up the image of the surrounding neighborhood that you live in. And this is true, but for the follower of Christ, that word blows up into being MORE than your immediate neighborhood. It’s your work, it’s the friends you hang out with, it’s your church—if you are surrounded by people in different aspects of your life, then that is your mission field that Christ has assigned to you to reach out and serve them. Establishing relationships and meeting people where they are at is the best way to remove the bad image that the body of Christ has received in recent years—reach out to those who are Catholic who had their faith shaken by the scandal earlier this year, give a coat to a man living on the streets, volunteer to shake a bell for the Salvation Army—make your presence known on the streets as to who you are—a redeemed and broken follower of Christ.

Regarding the Ephesians passage, this is meant for your edification. Worshipping with a body of believers is meant to refresh and encourage you, and to see what God has to teach you that morning. Everyone has a hymn and a saying as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians. No one is just there, God has a purpose for you in His church and it ultimately glorifies him.

 

Prayers and blessings to you all, I hope to be writing more in the future as I step into the new roles that God has for me in the next year.

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Embracing the Fire

The beginning of Ezekiel 33 tells us that God made Ezekiel a watchman for Israel. Jeremiah was a prophet who tried to warn Israel about the upcoming consequences of the nation’s failure to live up to their part of the covenant with God. Daniel and his friends were placed in positions of power in a nation hostile to their faith—and yet they wielded their influence for God’s glory, even when it might have caused strife with people. Paul was not afraid to get into a war of words with people who disagreed with him and the message he brought. In all, Scripture is filled with people who used the gifts they were given for God’s glory, and sometimes that meant reasoning, arguing, debating, etc.

3 times this year, I have been called out 3 different times that I’m essentially compromising my witness because of the things I post on social media. And yet, my opinion is that these people don’t know the gift sets that God has blessed me with to use for Him and His kingdom. But first, allow me to do two things to make things clear—I am not writing this to bring attention to me and make people go “oh poor Tom.” That is not my intention, either with this post or any other post on any other platform. The second is to make clear the reason why I post the things that I post.

Now, what are my gifts. Allow to first say what are now my gifts….Primarily, I am not:

An evangelist.

A preacher

A healer

An apostle

A prophet

What I am is a particularly good writer, critical thinker, and good at discipling. These are the skill sets that God has given me.

God calls us to be engaged in the culture but not to become part of it. Practicing the idea of extreme ascetism is not biblical. When I was in college, people were afraid to engage in topics of politics or social topics because they didn’t want to argue or they saw no point in debating—whether on social media or in person. But here’s the thing—most of these people who hold to the idea of “Do evangelism, Not (insert action)” don’t realize that when they evangelize, they are being offensive and will definitely cause argument and strife. The gospel, by its very nature, is offensive and argumentative because it makes a claim of exclusivity. So, by simply evangelizing, they will be stepping into a world of argument. And if one hasn’t sharpened that skill to make persuasive arguments and know how to talk and counter ideas, then that person’s witness has been compromised, for they will have failed to show and represent what God’s kingdom stands for effectively and clearly. Jesus says that he came with a sword that would divide friends and family—the sword being the Gospel and God’s Word.

The reason I engage in the topics I talk about and post the things I post is not to start an argument, but start a discussion in the hopes that it will open up an opportunity to share Christ. But I am not primarily an evangelist, but a discipler. To me, someone who has disciples is one who is knowledgeable, reasonable, teaching, and understanding. I have done this in mentorships, my job, and in my church. Another reason I engage in politics is that the topics upon which that realm includes, is because those topics were made political when they never should have been. But since those who have taken a decisive stance against God have made these topics political by dragging them into that realm, it has become necessary to educate myself on them and then share what I read and observed with others. Political learning has become necessary in order to steer the realm of politics effectively and to engage with those people who are very hostile to God. God calls us to be Salt, Light, Watchmen, Ambassadors, Soldiers, etc. And the one thing all of these have in common is to know God’s Word well and to represent Him well. If you’re afraid to engage in the culture and to educate yourselves on topics, then you’re part of the problem that faces the American body of Christ. The body of Christ in America has become what John in Revelation has called lukewarm and God will spit us out if we do not become on fire for him—in ALL manners.

 

I embrace the fire—I’m not afraid to walk towards it. But if you don’t want to argue or reason with people, which is a dying skill, then you are the ones who are unprepared.

If you read writings by Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, and others on these very topics I have addressed myself but have no problem with them doing it—then your calling me out rings hollow.

Now, if you’re going to practice reasoning, arguing, and persuading there are two skills from the Bible you will need to practice:

“Be slow to speak, quick to listen”

When talking to someone who holds another belief or viewpoint than yours, listen to them first and wait for them to make their point. Then present yours in a clear, calm, concise way.

 

Meditate on God’s Word

Know what God’s Word says on a particular topic but most importantly, know how to communicate it to the secular world that doesn’t mention the Bible, since the secular world doesn’t consider the Bible an authoritative source.

Faith Crisis

My friends and fellow readers,

Sorry that I have had an extensive absence from writing.

Since December, my life has been in constant upheaval. From car troubles, to getting seriously sick, to having a job transfer, to issues with my personal life, I have not had a moment to myself to really think about everything, and quite honestly, I have really been questioning my faith.

But then I came across the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water–we all know the story right? Jesus is walking on a very stormy lake towards his disciples who are struggling to get the boat they are in to the shore, they see Jesus and think that he is a ghost. Jesus assures them that it is him and Peter asks to come out on the water.

You know the rest.

Several times these past 6 months, I’ve floundered like Peter and have failed to really rely on God. I’ve wondered what will happen. Like Peter, I took my eyes off of Jesus and focused upon the fierce waves of life around me and I started to sink in the water. And the one difference between me and Peter is that I failed, multiple times, to call out to Jesus and God to save me.

But you know what, even though I never called out to Him to help me, He still was faithful to me and He showed up in numerous ways to make sure I did not fail and had everything  I needed to keep going in life. Like he did with Peter, before I started to drown, He caught me by the hand, pulled me out of the water and back into the boat, and got into it with me.

See, when Jesus promised to never leave or forsake us, He meant it, even when we fail on our part, He catches us because He promised he would do so. That is such a powerful reminder and such a great reassurance that He will.

God is our salvation, our strong fortress, and our refuge. Christ promised that he would never leave us or forsake us and that he would make sure that we would have everything we would need to live, because God knows that we need them to live and to carry out the purpose that he has for our lives

So remember, when it looks like that your life is at its lowest, just look at what God has given you to keep going and don’t ever take your eyes off of Him and become fearful of the storming waves surrounding you, Christ is right there with you.

I hope to provide many more insights from God that He has shown to me with you soon!

Roaring Lions

God is a roaring lion.

That is a very simple fact. Do you feel like you’re surrounded by the enemy and that you don’t know which way to turn when you’re challenged on your faith? Do you feel like that if you open your mouth others are going to shout us down? Well, we have forgotten that God has the louder voice. He has the power to quell those voices, but we have to be brave enough to stand up in a situation and engage the person or persons who wish to fight against God’s truth.

I realize I haven’t written in a while, my job has been crazy busy and I have had some awesome opportunities arise in my life. But now, going forward, I would like to start a series on how we should be roaring lions—being salt and light—in our culture. This series is going to cover the book of Daniel—a man, along with his friends, thrown into a culture hostile to God and His Word. Daniel was a man who had multiple opportunities to stand for God, and took them even when it was unpopular and even when he was facing death.

I am hoping that through this series, we can learn walk as Daniel did—being an ambassador for Christ, an ambassador in chains, A ROARING LION. Remember Lion King? Simba who was young couldn’t roar like his father? But then later in the movie, when he came back to face Scar, he was a spitting image of his father Mufasa, and his roar was just as terrifying—we are to be the very same. We are to be Christ-like but it is His voice that people are to be hearing. We are to lambs with the faces of lions.

 

Join me on this trek, will you?

Growing

So, I celebrated my 29th birthday this past weekend. OLD I know–but while there are some parts of me that make me feel older than I am, it hasn’t slowed me down. In fact, I keep looking for the next thing that I could glorify God with in each moment. And this weekend, I had a discussion with a friend, who I hadn’t seen in close to 5 years, that REALLY refocused me on how my home church could grow. And a lot of things were discussed. I’ll do my best to summarize my friend’s points. So here goes. On face value, I believe we agreed that, generally speaking, the Church, meaning the body of Christ, has grown apathetic in the way it’s been fulfilling the biblical mandate given to us by Christ. The mandate is otherwise known as the Great Commission. For reference, here is the Great Commission taken from Matthew 28:19-20, in the ESV…

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.”

 

So, I’m going to get to the finer points that my friend has made to me about growing the Church by breaking down the Great Commission into two parts.

First, Jesus says to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” This is and should be the driving force of the Church and its full complete focus in the world today. It should be its top most priority in the operation of the Church. This is what the Church is apathetic about in its entirety. Now, I’m not saying each individual church is apathetic–I just don’t want to get into all the shades of grey in this post, so I’m just speaking in broad and general terms. In talking with my friend, the American Church in particular thinks that by sending missionaries out, that it has fulfilled its biblical mandate in the first part of the Great Commission, meaning the part where Jesus says Go. I didn’t get into the nitty gritty details with my friend about this, but by the statements he made, I believe he would agree with my assessment going forward here. When Jesus said go, he did not just mean send others. EACH AND EVERY FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IS REQUIRED UNDER THIS MANDATE TO FULFILL IT. This means that the follower of Christ who gets up in the morning, goes to his or her 9am to 5pm job Monday to Friday, comes home to their family, makes dinner, and lives pretty much a vanilla life, is required to obey the first command within the Great Commission, given to us by Jesus, to speak of God’s gospel, truth, and Word just as much as the person who went to Africa, Europe, Asia, or any other continent, and bring more people into the fold of God’s family.

However, the Church also has a misguided approach, I believe, in reaching out to people and making Christ known to them in trying to grow God’s Church–my friend stated that there are three ways that the Church has approached this–1) Growth by conversion, 2) People think of the Church as the building–thereby letting anyone not part of God’s family make the decision to come to church on their own and reaching them once they’re in the doors, and 3) the organizational structure of the Church–raising up committees and letting people on those committees fulfill the first command of the Great Commission.

Let me just say that all three of these ways are wrong–and it creates the atmosphere of apathy towards everything that God says we should be focusing all our attention on–Mind, body, and soul.

As I said before, each follower should not just be passing the buck because of the 3 aforementioned approaches. Look at your own church and see if they fit one, two, or all of the approaches. And then look at your own life and see if you’re following Christ’s mandate of “Go,” if you’re not, then you might want to reevaluate how you should be fulfilling it. Take a look at John 15:1-11 if you need further evidence beyond what I’m saying here. If we wish to remain in Christ, we should be keeping ALL of His commandments and we should not be apathetic to them. In fact, if you or your church has become apathetic and withdrawn itself from the community, it has entered into a state of sin before God, and I firmly believe this. It is in the apathy of the Church that Satan rejoices, for if we are not fulfilling the Great Commission, then we are not allowing God to work through us to win souls for Christ from Satan’s deathly grip.

In fact, the biggest reason the Church has become apathetic in its attitude to the world and to Christ’s command is because they’ve become solely focused on two things: 1) the second command of Christ in the Great Commission, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” and 2) the Church has become focused on the spiritual health and growth of those already become believers and not reaching out to those not part of God’s family. 

It’s okay to make sure that there is growth in one’s walk with Christ–teaching them what Christ has taught us. But in order for any church to grow, that means the Church must be going out and inviting those who are living sinfully to come and worship with us. We cannot expect them to come to that decision on their own unless they are presented with the opportunity to either accept or decline the invitation. And the only way to do that is by using my favorite method of evangelization–relational witnessing. Confrontational witnessing had its place in history, and it still does today–but the environment has to be right for it. However, in my opinion, relational witnessing has a better success rate of bringing those to Christ. It means going out and creating a friendship with these people by first meeting their physical, emotional, or mental needs then meeting their spiritual needs. Christ did this repeatedly–he often met the worldly needs of people before speaking to their spiritual needs. He would feed people and then used the feeding He had done as a spiritual lesson and brought it back to who He was and who had sent Him.

The Church, once again generally speaking, has become more concerned with those already in the pews and come consistently every Sunday rather than those who truly need the Church’s help and are in need of the love of Christ–as Christ said: “It is not the healthy that are in need of a doctor but the sick…” (Paraphrasing here). The Church has fallen into the reverse of this–we are treating the healthy but not the sick.

My friend and I both came to and agreed upon the same conclusion–the Church has become inwardly focused when it should be outwardly focused.

Let us, the body of Christ, become healthy vines again bearing good fruit and representing Christ who is the root in all our lives…

Closing in prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us another day to live for your glory. It is only because of your will that the sun continues to bring each new morning to your creation–and with it new mercies. We ask that if any who have decided to read what I have written tonight are struggling in their own lives, you lay your hand of comfort, peace, and wisdom upon them. Help them to feel your presence next to them, and to draw their strength from that to continue into each day. We also ask that you walk through each day with us, helping and guiding us to make decisions that will ultimately glorify you, your Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

In your Son’s and your Name we pray, Amen.

~Tom

Fly You Fools!

So, I’ve been wondering about how to title this post. And quite honestly, this is the best way to call it since Scripture calls for us to flee from it. And if you don’t know, the title is a quote from my favorite books and movies The Lord of the Rings. I’m gonna draw from a particular scene from The Fellowship of the Ring, so please give it a watch from the 2:15 mark to the 4:15 mark…

Now, to give this a framework of Scripture, please read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20–

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

I’ll connect the video and the passage of Scripture in a moment…

This is one area where Paul tells us to RUN from sexual immorality, not to stand against it. And if you’re a reader who thinks this is simply referring to things such as transgenderism and same-sex relationships, this passage encompasses all things outside of how God defines sex–which is anything outside of marriage between a man (biologically) and a woman (biologically), is considered sexual immorality.

Why am I writing this post? Well, let’s just put a face to the reason…

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This is Harvey Weinstein.

Look him up in the news if you don’t know why I’m using him as a reference.

The secular culture, meaning the rest of society who have rejected Christ, condemns this man while at the same time lauds someone like Hugh Hefner as a sex revolutionary who brought sex out of the darkness and into the light through his use of pornography. The secular culture fails to lump these two men together because, they claim, one had the consent of women to use them and their bodies for his own pleasure while the other didn’t have consent.

Consent…

That’s the only distinction that the secular world makes. And because of that word, the world devalues the worth of a human being–regardless of what they say otherwise. The secular world fails to see Weinstein as a direct result and correlation of what Hugh Hefner did in creating the porn industry. Before Hefner, porn was something that was relegated to the dark criminal underworld. But when Hefner mainstreamed it, turned it into something to not be ashamed of, it began to poison society. Sex became meaningless and something more of a transaction. Yes, men are sexual creatures–God wired us that way, but He also wired us to have self-control over it and created a specific way for us to have a relationship with a woman in the most God-glorifying way possible for when men do have sex–in the confines of marriage, never ever before. It is true that if you do have relations with a woman who you do not intend to have as your wife, you have actually cheated on your wife, even if you haven’t met her. And vice versa for women.

Our society in America has become highly sexualized. If you don’t believe me, just look at some of the things that Matt Walsh, formerly of journalistic site, The Blaze, but now works for Ben Shapiro’s site, The Daily Wire. He’s spoken more about it than I ever have. And society wonders why men today have become uncontrollable pigs when they’re adults and focus only on having sex with women or in worst cases, raping them, when they created those same individuals by exposing them to sex, sex acts, and sexual ideas to them in public schools at ages as young as 5… Don’t be surprised when more Harvey Weinsteins show up in the world.

God created sex as something to be respected, treated as holy, and kept between a husband and wife.

I have a fellow blogger on here on WordPress, I won’t mention her by name as it is not my place to tell her story and a lot of the stuff comes from deep in her spirit, walk with God, and her heart and I just don’t want to betray her in that way–even though her story is public on this site.

But she’s struggled in the same way I have as a guy, which is with virginity–and the secular world places an extremely low value on that to the point of shaming people who still retain it and continue to retain because it’s their choice to do so. And I hope that if she reads this, she’ll take heart from this on any future shame she feels from that…

It is NOT something to be ashamed of. Going back to the video and passage of Scripture I shared earlier, God tells us to RUN! He takes care of the sexual sin by standing in its way and taking care of it while we remove ourselves from the situation. God tells us that our bodies are temples in which His Spirit resides, and that what we do with our physical bodies, our flesh, DOES AFFECT our spiritual relationship and walk with Christ. Even Christ told us to cut off things that causes us to sin, to remove the sin.

Secular culture, whether it will admit it or not, has created an atmosphere of sexual exploitation of both men, women, and children. Sexual deviancy is rampant through society and only God’s plan for sex is the answer–which is MARRIAGE. God gave us sex to create a family with children, to cement the family structure, and to glorify Him in the union between a man and a woman as a physical representation of Christ and His Church.

Believe me, if Hugh Hefner had not done what he did with the Playboy magazine, I’m sure the rampancy of sexual deviancy we have in our world today would not be as bad as it is. If you struggle with with this kind of sin or feel ashamed because you haven’t had sex, and/or feel pressured to have it because of a boyfriend or girlfriend–I want you to remember that you viewed by someone higher than society or that person. You, your life, your decisions, your WHOLE identity is found in Christ–not in the world or other people. That is what Christ meant by saying the truth will set you free. You are free from the expectations from the world, from sin, from Satan and his lies and are only bound to Christ and His will for your life.

As my pastor was always fond of saying–the world does not know what it is doing when it comes to life matters, only God and His word does.

All my prayers go out to you, my friends…

~Tom

Of Beauty and Rage

First off, let me credit my favorite band, Red, with the title here, since it is the title of their last album.
Secondly, if you’ve never listened to Red DO SO!

So, this post is about is about about finding beauty in pain and suffering

If you’ve gone through or are currently going through something that is making your walk with Christ difficult, please let me know and I can be praying for you!

Typically, when I start going through a hard time, I make a note of it and call it a Crucible. Webster’s Dictionary defines crucible thus: a severe test.

We’ve all gone through one. Look back on your life and you will find at least one or two…or maybe 14 if you’re like me. And they’ve all done me an amazing amount of good by the grace of God. I may not like them while I’m going through them, but I do thank God after they have passed because upon further reflection, I’ve found that my faith has grown as a result and that it has definitely removed a lot of bad things in my life. God loves to toss His people into the metaphorical fire so that they can come out and be even better than before. Unlike the purification of certain precious metals where there are still impurities in them, when God wishes to remove an impurity from our life, nothing remains.

But how does going through a crucible affect us personally? Well to be plain and simple–IT SUCKS.

At some points while going through it, we wonder if it’ll ever end because it seems like there is never any end in sight. It took me a while to realize this, but God doesn’t let us see the end of it–because at least in my life, if I am able to see the end of something and that I’m getting closer to the end, I tend to slack off a bit. However, God does place Himself in our path and says, “My grace is sufficient for you–take up your cross and follow me.” 

Crosses are meant for what? For dying. Christ calls us to die to our old selves–if you’re in Christ you are a NEW CREATION–the old has gone, the new has come.

This transformation is not easy and it certainly wasn’t easy for Christ. Let me ask you one question…

Why do you think Jesus sweated blood during his last night on earth?

It wasn’t the beatings.

It wasn’t the Romans and the Sanhedrin mocking him.

It wasn’t even being nailed to the cross.

All of those things on their own would have made a normal person crack and give up. No, what made Jesus almost crack was the apparent facing off against his Father’s wrath. And that alone should scare us if it caused Jesus to sweat blood. But Jesus understood that it was needed in order for him and God to be glorified. When Jesus rose from the dead, he was no longer a man, but completely God.

So I just leave you here with this: when God disciplines us by putting us through a crucible, it will never feel good. You will feel amazing and more free in Christ after it passes. But once you are in the midst of one, remember the crucible Jesus had to endure in order for him to achieve his Father’s glory and to achieve his purpose in life–which was to bring mankind back into a right relationship with God and to have the most personal and intimate relationship with God…

Also, just want to share why I love Red so much!

 

My prayers go out to all of you!

~Tom

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@birdt2007_bird