I'm just a nobody tryin' to tell ev'rybody all about Somebody who saved my soul!
Well, I am a blood-bought saint of God - a sinner saved by His amazing Grace!
God called me to start Great Commission Ministries online in June of 2011, and that began as a video series called "The GC." After 7 seasons of that web-series, I felt led to expand the ministry to blogs as well as a new video series I call "67 seconds of Encouragement." This site is home to my blogs, and my prayer is that it ministers to everyone who reads it. Please share this ministry with others and help spread the Good News of Christ!
Lifeitselfhas no color; skin does. Diversity can only be appreciated where there is unity rather than division.
What Gives Us Life
The account of Creation given to us in Genesis tells how God formed the first man in His own image, but life didn’t enter the man’s body until God breathed into him. It was this act of giving the man a spirit that made him alive. That spirit was literally the breath of God.
7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Genesis 2 [ESV]
This is what gives us life. And so, the insistence by some to assign color to lives is a narrow view based on an outward appearance. But that which gives us life – our spirit, or breath – has no color. There is no such thing as a black life, white life, or whatever. There is only life, and all lives are attained through the spirit or breath of God.
Crown Jewel of Creation
While life itself is colorless, God saw fit (in His infinite wisdom) to create within humankind the capacity to display outwardly a variety of colors. Why would He do this? Think about it. God had created everything else – stars, planets, trees, flowers, animals – all displaying a wide array of beautiful colors. So when He finally made the crown jewel of His creation, mankind, why would He make us any less glorious? And we’re made in God’s image, so His splendor should manifest in us in a variety of ways – including color.
If you think of mankind as the jewel that it truly is supposed to be, you begin to understand the analogy between humans and rare gemstones. Diamonds, for example, are cut in such a way that light is reflected and refracted by the many different facets or sides. This is what makes it sparkle and appear to shine colorfully in the light. We are also made to shine differently as individuals with different colors and talents, and this is beautiful in the eyes of our Creator.
The Pigmentation Principle
Did you know that all humans possess the same pigment in their skin? It’s called melanin. The type and amount of this pigment in a person’s skin, eyes, and hair is what determines the shade or coloring displayed. So the more melanin in someone’s skin, for example, the darker complexion that person has. Lighter-skinned people have less melanin. But we all have the same pigment, just in varying amounts.
This is God’s design for diversity. One color alone would have been bland and boring, but many colors together is quite beautiful to behold. The key word there is “together.” Separated into this group and that group, the glorious beauty of diversity is lost. So why are some of us so determined to be divided into different groups?
The Race Delusion
For thousands of years, we have come up with excuses to divide ourselves into different classes of people. Some early civilizations had cast systems which divided people into groups according to factors like education, work skills, nobility, etc. There were certain tribes of peoples in biblical times that were considered unclean or lower class. This type of thinking permeated many cultures throughout history and often resulted in violence, slavery, and murder.
Why would anyone hold on to such a backward and uneducated notion today? One reason is the false idea that there are many races of human beings. People tend to divide themselves into groups with others who look like them. But this outward appearance is all about the color of people’s skin. The very thing that makes us beautiful together as a whole is what is being used to separate us. But this isn’t really a race issue, rather it is a race delusion. We’ve allowed ourselves to think of each other as black people, white people, brown people, and so on – but these aren’t different races, just various colors. We are all ONE RACE – Human. We are the same. Skin color doesn’t make us different – it makes us beautiful. It adds variety, which is the “spice of life.”
In The End
Though the fires of division still burn among us today, there will come a time when all people of all nations, colors, and walks of life will finally come together as ONE again – just as God planned from the beginning. We will stand united, hand in hand, and give praise to our Creator with one voice.
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7 [ESV]
Until that day, we should strive to be what God designed us to be… ONE race of people, human beings joined in unity, diverse but not divided, bound by love for one another. May it be so.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…
2 Corinthians 10 (ESV)
Let’s unpack the truths in this passage before moving any further. First, as believers, we’re at war. It’s not a physical war, but a war of the mind. That is the battleground being fought for every day of our lives. Secondly, God has equipped us with powerful weapons. They are not fleshly or physical weapons, but they are spiritual. And they have the God-given ability to destroy any and all strongholds in our minds that would keep us from realizing and utilizing the Godly knowledge that delivers us.
What are strongholds? Remember, these are mental strongholds we’re talking about. Verse 5 tells us they can be “arguments” or “lofty opinions” which arise to contradict or distract from the knowledge of God. Preconceived ideas or notions that we have held to can become strongholds. If those notions become more highly regarded in our minds than the things of God, even if those ideas are otherwise harmless or even considered noble, they can still act as strongholds. And this passage says that we must “take every thought” that comes to mind and hold it “captive to obey Christ.” In other words, every idea or notion we have must be measured by its agreement with the Word of God.
The Trap of Tradition
One thing most all of us tend to hold as practically sacred is tradition. We have all kinds: cultural traditions, national traditions, regional traditions, sports traditions, and even family traditions. We hold them dear because they seem to be a big part of our make-up as human beings. Pride in one’s heritage, one’s background, or in the local athletic team – these are all examples of why we cling to our traditions…well, religiously.
None of these things are inherently bad, but when they are elevated to such a lofty place in our hearts and minds that they are given more regard than anything else – that becomes a problem. While our traditions usually seem to be what helps define us as “good” people, that’s not the unit of measurement that God established for us. Our example is Jesus, and doing His will should take priority over everything else in our lives – even those traditions.
The warning here is simply to not allow anything to set itself up in your mind as a stronghold that overshadows the importance of obeying God’s commands. If there IS anything that has exalted itself above or against the knowledge of God, that thing is to be torn down and destroyed. Does this mean we should abandon all our traditions? Well THAT depends on whether or not we’ve allowed them to be weightier in our lives than following the example of Christ.
Measure Thoughts with Scripture
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13 (ESV)
Every single day is a new battle…a new test. We will undoubtedly be bombarded with every form of attack the enemy can devise. When God is prodding us to go in one direction, satan will provide excuses to go the opposite way. He might use our traditions against us, or any other form of stronghold we’ve allowed to establish itself in our minds. We must hold our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ and measure our thoughts with the truth we know from God’s Word.
Take a moment to consider your current dilemma or situation. Step back and take a 30,000-foot view. Examine your heart…your attitude. Is the Spirit convicting you of something? Are you deliberating whether or not to go in a direction God is leading you because of a notion that has become a stronghold in your mind? Be honest with yourself. Are you facing your current test with an attitude that’s in accordance with scripture, or with rationalizations and excuses to go your own way?
Real Life Application
It was Sunday morning, Memorial weekend, and I was in the AV booth at church preparing for the service. As I had traditionally done for years, I put a patriotic background on the screen without even giving it a second thought. Politely, yet firmly, the pastor instructed me not to incorporate any patriotic slides into the service. He explained his reasons to me, but in that immediate moment, I was blinded and deafened to any of it because of my own prideful preconceived ideas. It wasn’t that there’s anything wrong with being patriotic, per se, but he didn’t want to offer up any reason for people to cling more dearly to a tradition that honors fallible humans over honoring the infallible Lord we serve.
In that moment, I couldn’t see it. I strongly disagreed. I felt as though I had been rebuked for something harmless. But I also knew I shouldn’t feel the way I was feeling. As a pastor, he had his own set of convictions, and he felt obligated to hold the church to a higher standard. I was conflicted by my great respect for my pastor and my personal feelings. It took some time in prayer for me to come to the knowledge that I was holding my traditions in a higher place in my mind than I should be. When I let go of that stronghold, the mental struggle was over. I knew that, not only was I prideful and wrong to hold on to any resistance to my pastor’s request, but also he was – quite frankly – correct.
Again, patriotism isn’t a bad thing. The problem comes when we begin to elevate things to a level equal to or higher than God. You may say, “Well I don’t do that!” But how many of us have screamed or cheered loudly at a ballgame or concert and yet don’t have more enthusiasm for our salvation in Christ? If we can shout and applaud for our favorite artist or player or team, why can’t we show more excitement at being in the Lord’s presence on Sunday morning? Are we letting those things we enjoy become more highly regarded than God’s gift of eternal life in His Son? Respecting a war hero is one thing, but elevating someone to that status – especially when that person was flawed – while failing to show even more honor for the perfect One who sacrificed Himself for our eternal well-being? Are we measuring things accordingly?
Finish with the Word
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
Remember that this is a spiritual war we are fighting. We are not to be at war with fellow believers, let alone those whom God has placed in authority over us. Our enemy is not one of flesh and blood, and so the weapons of our warfare aren’t carnal either. Ideas or notions that arise in our minds and become strongholds must be dealt with quickly and accordingly. We have to measure everything with the Word of God and make sure we’re not giving more credence or honor to anyone or anything over or above that glory which we ascribe to our Creator.
The enemy will use our pride and traditions to try and create dissension within our ranks. He will use our own feelings against us in an attempt to sow the seeds of contention between us and our spiritual leaders. If he can get us to stop listening to the truth of God’s Word, then he will gain a foothold in our minds and begin filling it with all sorts of wrong notions. We must vigilantly remain in the Word and take on the armor and weapons God has put at our disposal if we intend to fend off the attacks and tricks of hell. And NOTHING but NOTHING should ever be allowed to exalt itself against the knowledge of God. Period.
Years ago, there was this thing called a chain letter. If you received one in the mail, you were supposed to follow its instructions precisely to avoid bad luck. Basically, you had to write a number of copies of the letter and mail them out to other people. When home computers and the internet came along, the chain letter was replaced quickly by chain email.
The content varied, but the instructions always told readers to forward the email to at least 10 other people in order to receive good fortune. The penalty for not forwarding was the promise of bad luck. Superstitious malarkey, of course. But scores of people felt compelled to obey, lest something awful befall them.
Today’s version of this comes in the form of social media posts. “Copy this to your page,” or “re-tweet,” or “share,” is now what you’re told to do. But it’s not just about good and bad luck anymore. Now, you’re goaded into doing it to prove that you’re a good person or whatever. They often use reverse psychology to get people to comply. “Only 1% of people will share this,” or “Bet you won’t repost this,” for example. And they also tend to make use of conditional statements.
If You Really Love Me…
Conditional statements are recognizable by the “If/then” clauses they contain. They are used in many ways, and they’re not inherently bad. Even the Bible has instances of conditional statements. Jesus Himself told His disciples: “If you love me, then keep my commands.” Of course, He was indicating the evidence of love for a savior – obedience. Obeying the Lord is how we show not only our love for Him, but also our respect and faith in who He is, as well as our appreciation for all He’s done for us.
When these types of statements are misused, it’s usually obvious. A child may tell his parents, “If you really love me, then buy me this toy.” Do you see how this is different from the previous example? Rather than acknowledging the ways his parents love him, the child is placing a selfish condition on that love. The only goal is to get a toy he wants. And yes, adults use this kind of tactic on one another as well.
Origin of Manipulation
This is called manipulation, and that is never a tactic of God. His goal is always to benefit us. But someone who manipulates you is only doing so for their own benefit. This is nothing to be taken lightly, either. Manipulation is a devious act, and its origins are evil.
Think about it… When was the first recorded instance of manipulation in the Bible? Yep, in the Garden of Eden when the serpent (the devil) manipulated Adam and Eve into sinning. Even though God definitely warned them NOT to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, this conniving serpent said the opposite to them. “You won’t die if you eat from it! No, if you eat this fruit, then you will become like God yourselves! He just doesn’t want you becoming like Him.”
And they fell for it. Literally. This became known as “The Fall of Man.” That certainly wasn’t to their benefit, as the serpent led them to believe, but to their detriment – as well as the detriment of all mankind. See, the devil’s goals are always contrary to God’s. So it is dangerous to engage in tactics that are used by the evil one. Such an act cannot be beneficial to us OR to the kingdom of God.
My spiritual red flag goes up every time I see one of these posts on social media that insists that you like or repost it to show your love for Jesus. It implies that you don’t love Him if you ignore it and keep scrolling. This is an example of what I call Emotional Blackmail. It uses your own emotions, feelings, and beliefs to manipulate you. Talk about devious!
Of course, emotional blackmail is also used to manipulate people to supposedly prove their friendship, their patriotism, their desire to save the planet, or any number of other things, simply by reading “all the way to the end” and then reposting or forwarding to others. In the end, it’s all the same garbage. But I’m gonna focus on the emotional blackmail of believers.
Do you think that liking or sharing some post will prove to Jesus that you love Him? Or would “keeping His commandments” be the better choice? Do you believe God is going to say to you, “Well, the blood of my Son had your sins covered until you failed to like and repost that thing on Facebook”? No, that’s ridiculous.
More likely, on judgment day, people may stand before Him and say, “Lord, didn’t we like that post about loving Jesus? Didn’t we share that post with others to demonstrate our sincerity?” And He will say to them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” Because to KNOW God is to have a close personal relationship with Him, not to like and share some manipulative post.
What Does the Bible Say?
Is there anything in scripture that would lead you to believe that we can prove our faith through something as coerced as a post shared out of misplaced guilt? Does it say, “Faith comes from liking, and sharing through the world wide web”? No! It says:
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Romans 10:17 [ESV]
More to the point, the Word tells us:
“If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.”
Deuteronomy 30:16 [ESV]
Now THIS is a conditional statement I can get on board with. It demonstrates how obeying the Lord is beneficial to me. It’s not a devious attempt to make me do something meaningless like sharing some tweet or Facebook post or email. Instead, it is instructive on how to do something meaningful which will both display my love for God and be good for me.
Consider this scripture where Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandments…
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27 [ESV]
How do we fulfill these greatest commandments? Hitting LIKE or SHARE on some social media post does nothing really. It certainly doesn’t fulfill our requirement to God. We can’t just tap a screen and be absolved of any other responsibility to Him. Indeed, we love God by doing actual things that benefit His kingdom. And we love others by placing their needs before our own. No amount of liking and reposting will ever replace that.
Certainly, there are some things that definitely ARE worth sharing with others. Examine the content and the spirit of the message you’re being asked to share. If it is pure, not manipulative, and likely to truly benefit others, then share it at your own discretion. The message of Jesus is share-worthy, your own positive experiences with God are worth sharing, as is anything that benefits the kingdom.
But if it is making you feel like you have to share it to prove something, then you’re better off disregarding it entirely. God knows your heart, and that’s what matters to Him. The Bible is our guidebook to pleasing Him, and Christ is our example. The Lord doesn’t use pressure tactics or trickery.
Remember, God is not in the manipulation business. Even a supposedly well-meaning post that requires you to do something as petty as liking and sharing in order to somehow prove that you are a Christian or that you love Jesus – nope, that’s not coming from a legitimately Godly place. Don’t be manipulated by emotional blackmail.
Likewise, no one is going to LIKE and/or SHARE their way into heaven. There is but one door, only one way to get into the presence of God the Father – that’s through His Son.
Jesus said to him, “Iamtheway, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 [ESV]
Further, we should not be so concerned with the approval of man, but rather with the approval of God. Many people feel pressured to LIKE or SHARE one of these manipulative posts in order to seek the approval of their peers or “friends” online. But that shouldn’t be our motivation at all.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Our goal should be to do what is pleasing to God, not man. The best way to do that is to imitate Jesus and follow in His example to the best of our ability. Do these things with sincerity, and God is sure to LIKE what He sees in us, and He will also SHARE eternity with us. See what I did there?
There are many things that might make us fearful. Fear is a natural response that we were born with. While often times our phobias may be irrational and non-productive, other times our fear (or healthy appreciation and recognition of dangers) can help keep us safe. Ask anyone who has been in a life-threatening situation – a soldier, police officer, fire-fighter – and they’ll likely tell you that fear is what kept them alive.
During the CoronaVirus pandemic, fears can run high. But there’s a difference between mere fear and sheer panic. Much of the panic we’ve seen during this crisis has been stoked by the media and its tendency to promote a “gloom-and-doom” outlook. Sensationalism is an attention grabber, and it boosts ratings. Not to downplay the CoronaVirus outbreak, but things are seldom as terrifying as most media outlets make them appear. They never seem to give us the good news, only the bad.
Fear is a Liar
When used as a tool of the enemy, fear is always a means of manipulation. If we closely examine the source and motivation of the terrifying information that bombards us daily, it’s not hard to see when someone is trying to control us in some way. Fear is used to get people to buy things, make lifestyle changes, and do all sorts of things that we’re made to believe will benefit us…when it’s actually beneficial to the ones trying to scare us.
Example: the Fear-mongering of the anti-gun lobby. They use horrible stories of gun violence and gun-related crimes to scare people into thinking guns are the problem rather than the criminals who commit the awful acts. But criminals are law-breakers by definition, so more and more restrictive gun laws won’t stop them. Law-abiding citizens, however, become vulnerable without the freedom to protect themselves with firearms. Why would a government seek to disarm the populous? Look at the history of Germany and others who did the same. There’s always a reason, and it comes back to control. And if tyranny creeps in, the populous needs to be able to defend itself to remain free.
To those who would argue, “Aren’t you succumbing to fear yourself in buying a gun for protection?” Nope. Fear wasn’t my motivation. God gave me the good sense to recognize dangers and take precautions accordingly. I trust in God, but I also sleep with a loaded firearm next to the bed – and I sleep well knowing I’m secure. I don’t fear what may happen, but I instead know I’m as safe as I can make myself, and I let God deal with the rest. But hey, that’s me.
A truly manipulating fear is always presented as a warning, appearing to be on your side. But at its heart, it is twisted and evil, built on lies designed to control you. Satan uses this tool against us almost constantly. He will tell you the same lies over and over again, until you start to believe they’re true. We have to diligently guard ourselves against this kind of fear. It is only meant for our harm.
Fear is Not our Ruler
The Bible tells us in many places to guard against fear. But one of my favorite scriptures dealing with fear is found in 2 Timothy 1:7…
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
English Standard Version
And another is 1 John 4:18…
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
The spirit God gave us is one of love, not fear. And through Christ, we are perfected in that love that casts out all fear. Do we still become afraid at times? Of course, it is a fleshly response, but we can choose not to submit to that fear. Submit instead to God, surrendering our flesh – and our fears – and let Him handle all the things we can’t. Fear should not rule our lives if we have given that rule to the Lord.
As with any other fears, we should trust God to keep us in His hands and protect us from harm. At the same time, we should not ignore the good sense He gave us to do what we can to steer clear of dangers. In the midst of the current situation, many refer to it as “uncertain times.” Is it really? Are you allowing your circumstances to throw you into a paranoid frenzy? Are you in a state of panic at the news of the CoViD-19 outbreak? Or are you trusting God and simply doing what you can to avoid exposure?
A friend asked recently, “Where do you draw the line between fear and just taking precautions?” My answer involves other questions: As you take your precautions, what is your motivation? Is it fear? Is it an irrational fear that is more akin to panic and terror, or is it a healthy recognition and respect for danger? Not all fear is bad, and I’ve just illustrated the difference. I believe I can totally trust God in the middle of my circumstances and simultaneously act in good conscience to protect myself. Why should I ignore the sound mind He gave me? Go back to that verse in 2 Timothy…
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:7 [ESV]
God gave us a spirit of POWER, of LOVE, and of SELF-CONTROL – or “a sound mind.” Don’t ignore the gifts He gave you, including your power over fear and your sense of intelligence. Don’t be motivated by fear, but act instead out of the power, love, and self-control God has equipped you with.
Precautions are fine within reason, but we ought not give in to fear. No virus, no tyrant, no threat or danger is bigger than our Creator. Greater is He that is in us than that which is in the world! Believe it. Live like it.
No matter what your take on issues like global warming or climate change, there are certain things on which we should all be able to agree – taking good care of our planet ought to be a no-brainer.
Are there some folks out there with crazy ideas about how to “save the planet” that defy logic? Certainly. Are ALL people who show concern for the environment nuts? Nope. But the whacky notions do seem to get our attention. That can cause our view of all “green” efforts to be skewed.
Many people hold the opinion that global warming is one of the most important issues of our time. They believe that climate change is a direct result of mankind’s influence through carbon emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, polluting the oceans, etc. Others feel the whole idea of man-made climate change is simply impossible, and that it’s all a big hoax designed to force a certain level of control on the populous by governmental bureaucrats for the purpose of making money.
Regardless of where we might land on this spectrum, our focus as Christians should be on what the Bible says. How does God view the Earth? When He entrusted His creation into our care, what did that mean? What do the scriptures indicate our responsibility to be in regard to being good stewards of what He gave us?
Personal Views vs. God’s Perspective
There’s an old saying about opinions that essentially states, “everybody has them.” If you have ten people in a room, you might have ten different opinions about a given topic. On the subject of environmental awareness, there are polarizing positions that are diametrically opposed to one another. Posit it to that room of ten people, and it’s highly unlikely that everyone will agree.
As previously mentioned, however, there is a perspective that trumps our own varying viewpoints every time. That’s God’s perspective. How do we know what His view is? That part is easy – we look to His Word.
His Creation Has Value
The Bible tells us in Genesis that God created the heavens and the Earth and all living things. Everything we see, all that exists which we don’t see, it was all brought to be by Him. At each stopping point of creation, God looked at what He had made and proclaimed that it was good. There is intrinsic value in it.
When a car manufacturer produces cars, they have value based on the materials and energy used, the labor, and the time invested. How much more then does God’s creation have a naturally existing value just because He deemed it worthy of His time and effort?! And where there is value, there is a need to protect and preserve that value.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
Psalm 24:1 [NIV]
Dominion Given to Mankind
After God created everything else, He made man in His own likeness. He then gave man dominion over all of creation. It was Adam’s job to give names to all the animals, but that was only the beginning. Mankind is supposed to protect and preserve the value of all creation to the best of his ability.
Having dominion is a great responsibility. It involves carefully considering every encounter with livestock, produce, and other natural resources so that a balance is maintained between what is used for our benefit (consumption and otherwise) and conserving and replenishing those resources. If we are unwise or careless with our charge over creation, it will be to our own detriment. Taking care of the Earth and the creatures that inhabit it is a matter of being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26 [ESV]
Today we have organizations like PETA that try to tell us what is or isn’t an “ethical” way to treat animals. Good intentions are just that, but sometimes the individual views get a bit wonky. I believe the Bible does imply that we should treat all of God’s creatures with a certain amount of honor and respect because He made them. But there is also a clearly established hierarchy within creation, and humans are definitely above animals. Does that mean we can treat animals how ever we choose? Of course not! As I just said, God’s Word implies by merit of who created them that we ought not mistreat His creatures.
But mankind wasn’t made like everything else. God made man in His own image, and THAT makes us uniquely special. He did not give all dominion to the lion or any other such creature, but He instead gave that charge to mankind who was made in God’s very likeness. So those who take the so-called “treatment of animals” argument to the extreme of equating the animals’ rights to man’s rights are incorrect. By sheer virtue of being made in God’s image, human beings have a level of intrinsic value and rights that animals do not have. Again, we must protect and preserve and treat all creatures as precious and valuable – but not as equal to mankind, let alone as superior.
Extremes and Excuses
If you are like me, you may be guilty of allowing certain extreme environmental views to jade your thinking. I’ll admit that I’ve been foolish enough in the past to let some radical opinions become an excuse for me to take a completely opposite stance without considering the Biblical take on the subject. I have even self-righteously made comments that I immediately regretted.
No, I don’t personally think there is evidence to support the idea of man-made climate change. But while I may feel that notion is foolish, that does not give me license to take an equally foolish position on the other extreme. In the example of using styrofoam cups, which is not at all environmentally friendly, I have made the ridiculous statement in the past that “it’s all gonna burn some day” as my supposed biblical excuse to keep doing it. That was not only stupid of me to say, but it’s in stark contrast to what our Christian view should be.
While it’s true that this Earth will indeed pass away one day, that’s not a valid reason to be a bad steward of the planet today. Saying something like that also perpetuates a stereotypical opinion many people have of Christians. It paints us as self-righteous and uncaring, and that’s not at all like Jesus. I wasn’t only giving myself an excuse to be a bad steward, but I was being a terrible excuse for a Christian.
Creator vs. Creation
There are still others who take ecology to the extreme of placing the Earth, moon, or stars in a position of deity. They worship creation rather than the One who created it. Mankind was designed to worship. This is a natural behavior that is ingrained in our DNA. But we are meant to worship God – not the planet or any other created thing.
“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods…
Exodus 20:3-5 [NLT]
Not only are we to worship God alone, but we should never exalt creation above Him. That is idolatry. As Christians, we know that He is the Creator of all things, great and small, seen and unseen.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Hebrews 11:3 [ESV]
I think the scriptures make it pretty clear that we ought to be taking proper care of all that God has placed in our hands. That obviously includes this world, the trees and plants, the animals, our natural resources, etc. If recycling is a way to help reduce waste and pollution, then we should do that. If there are ways to conserve and protect our forests and oceans, then we should do that.
Supporting businesses that provide goods without mistreating animals is another thing we can do. While I don’t equate the life of a chicken to the life of a human being, I still think it’s awful to subject chickens to the conditions in which I’ve seen some – bred and raised in mass numbers and kept caged up and packed into a miserable existence for the sake of making more money rather than treating them with a little more dignity. That’s my opinion, and your personal convictions may be different.
But we can all agree – or should – that the Bible gives us some clear instructions on how we ought to be good caretakers of that over which God gave us dominion. Perhaps one of the best reasons why we should take great care of it is that His glory and wonder and splendor are revealed and reflected through the grandeur of His amazing and awesome creation – it’s like a gigantic billboard that says, “See all this beauty? God did this!”
Frankly, when it comes to conservation, Christians ought to be leading the way.
“Our enemy is not people, but the spiritual powers which sow confusion and delude the minds of those who lack understanding. An outright refusal to seek the truth of God leads to depravity of mind and rebellion to His ways.”
Is the Bible Really the Infallible Word of God?
Understanding the scriptures can be a challenge. This is especially true when there are so many differing opinions out there about certain topics, from marriage to legal matters. How do we know what interpretation is correct? How can we be sure of what the Bible says is “right and wrong?” How can we know what’s really in the Word unless we ourselves are living in it daily?
Penn and Teller, a popular comedy duo, challenged the whole of Christianity a few years back by enumerating several “laws” mentioned in the Bible. Their point was that, if you call yourself a Christian and you say you believe in the Bible, then you can’t cherry-pick what you believe and ignore the rest of what it says in scripture. However, they were actually cherry-picking verses and presenting those as things the Bible says is “okay.” This is the very kind of misrepresentation that we have to be learned enough to correct when we encounter it.
While we indeed believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, we say that in reference to the truths that the Bible teaches. We also must recognize that the Bible is a collection of books written by men. Much of what those books contain are historical accounts, while others are prose and songs to God (psalms), and still others are letters written by spiritual leaders such as Paul to various churches. While some of it is instructional, not all scripture is to be perceived that way.
Laws Written By Man
I recently saw a friend’s post on social media that illustrated a lack of biblical understanding, and I felt compelled to respond. The post claimed the Bible said something that it doesn’t. It stated, “The Holy Bible says that a woman can be sold to her rapist after he violates her.” When I asked for chapter and verse, my friend obliged, and I saw right away from where the flaw in perception had stemmed.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found,
29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”
Deuteronomy 22 [ESV]
First, those two verses alone speak of a punishment to the man for violating the young woman. He had to pay the father and then become the woman’s husband for the rest of his life. She wasn’t being sold to her rapist, he was forced to make restitution for his act.
Second, this was part of the old law, written by man, and does NOT suggest in any way that these actions are truly just or right, much less acceptable by God. Man has had some very screwed up views of right and wrong throughout history, and this chapter of Deuteronomy gives a historical account of some of man’s old laws. These are not to be taken as “instructional” precepts.
God’s Laws Written By His Hand
Too many people have a very wrong view of the Bible and what it actually “teaches” us. Like Penn and Teller, they often take passages like this out of context, equating the old laws of man to God’s laws. But that’s not at all what Christians believe, nor is it what the Bible says.
The only recorded laws written by the actual hand of God are the Ten Commandments. Those have stood the test of time, unlike many of man’s imperfect laws. God’s laws are perfect, and they center around love. They require us to love God and our fellow man.
The love we are supposed to have for God is demonstrated by not having any other gods before Him, not worshiping idols, not taking the Lord’s Name in vain, and by remembering and keeping the Sabbath Holy. The love we should have for our fellow man is demonstrated by honoring and respecting them, not killing them, not defiling by adultery, not stealing or bearing false witness, and by not coveting their stuff.
Fulfillment of the Law
Now, God saw that mankind had become corrupted by sin. He knew that we could not, on our own, live up to all the laws He’d given – much less the old Mosaic laws of man. His love for us and His desire to redeem us is why He made a way for our salvation. God came in the flesh as Jesus, and through Christ, the law and all its requirements were fully met. His sacrifice for our sins set us free from the penalty of death.
While Jesus came to fulfill the law for us, that does not mean that we can just live any way we want and expect to keep God’s favor. He is still a Holy God, and if we choose to live in sin knowing what He has done to save us, we are rejecting His offer of salvation. Accepting that gift with respect for Who He is means showing our love and appreciation by making an actual effort to live according to Jesus’ teachings.
If we stumble, we know that God provides forgiveness when we confess and repent. Again, this indicates a conscious effort on our part – to repent means to turn away from our fleshly failings and to do right. But all this goes back to understanding God’s Word and knowing the truths the Bible is teaching us. Without that, it’s too easy to be led astray.
Recognizing the Enemy
When you read or hear something that causes you to question your understanding of scriptures, what do you do? If you see a social media post like the one I mentioned, do you know how to respond? Let me assure you, the only reason I saw the correct way to refute the false claim as I did was that God showed me. It’s not that I’m some wise theological scholar – I am most definitely not. But when you purpose yourself to read the Word and seek understanding, God honors that.
If you aren’t sure how to respond, you probably shouldn’t. At least, not until you’ve prayed, studied the Bible, and sought God’s wisdom on the matter. But if you do respond to a similar situation, be sure not to take it personally OR make it personal in your reply. It should be a teachable moment, and so your remarks needn’t come from an air of haughtiness or disdain, lest they be perceived as an attack and you be viewed as pompous and self-righteous.
Remember who the enemy really is. Our enemy is not people, but the spiritual powers which sow confusion and delude the minds of those who lack understanding. An outright refusal to seek the truth of God leads to depravity of mind and rebellion to His ways. So know that your efforts may not seem well-received, but make your goal to spread the seeds of truth for the Holy Spirit to water and grow over time. And ALWAYSALWAYSALWAYS proceed with an attitude of love.
Consider the following scripture:
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,
4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3 [ESV]
There will be those who have already rejected God and His ways. They will speak evil of that which is good and good of that which is evil. Refuting falsehoods with the truth is one thing, but we are warned that there are some who will not receive the truth because they have instead chosen a lie. They love themselves rather than God and others, they are slanderous rather than upright, and they give the appearance of godliness while denying the truth of God and His power. Those people are to be avoided.
The apostle Paul goes on in this 2nd letter to Timothy to say this:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3 [ESV]
We are to continue living according to the teachings of Christ. Being acquainted with the scriptures comes through study and seeking understanding. From this comes wisdom. The Bible is indeed “breathed out by God” – God’s Word – and it teaches us, reproves, corrects, and helps train us in the ways of righteousness. Through it, we are made complete (mature) and equipped to do God’s work here on Earth.
GET IN THE WORD! LIVE IN THE WORD! STAY IN THE WORD!
“Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”
The old saying above might as well read, “Never judge anyone. Period.” Who among us has truly walked in someone else’s shoes? Who knows the inner thoughts and feelings of others or understands their experiences? Only ONE person qualifies to judge, and I’m not Him.
The Importance of Understanding
All of our interpersonal relationships hinge on our ability to understand one another. Having similar experiences or other things in common aid in that sense of impathy with friends and family. But much of our true understanding of others comes from an intentional effort on our part. We have to try to – figuratively – put ourselves “in the other person’s shoes.”
Failure to do this often results in a failure to effectively communicate, and the relationship will suffer. Husbands and wives, parents and children, and even the best of friends can be torn apart simply because they didn’t make the effort to really understand one another. This lack of true understanding creates barriers that can seem impossible to overcome.
God and Man
Before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden – before Adam & Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world – the relationship between man and his Creator was great. They walked and talked together, and the man had a clear understanding of who God was. But that began to change when Adam & Eve sinned and were expelled from Eden.
From that point on, the close relationship with God was put at a distance because of sin, and the world was cursed. Everything became harder and took hard work and effort. No longer did man walk and talk alongside his Maker and have all his needs met. He could communicate with God in prayer, but it wasn’t the same as before, and the ways of the Lord weren’t as easy to understand anymore.
Repairing the Damage
Over time, sin’s claim on the world became stronger. Mankind had strayed so far from Godliness that God began to regret creating these wicked humans. But there was one man – Noah – and his family who caught the Lord’s favor. Noah was a good man, and God saw fit to spare his family from His wrath. He told Noah to build a great ark, a boat large enough to carry two of every animal. And after 120 years, with the ark finished, God sent the great flood to cover the entire earth.
No one but Noah and his family survived this flood. Through them, God would rebuild and replenish mankind. But the curse of sin still existed. So after a time, the hearts of men again became wicked. God’s plan hadn’t failed, however. This was only one part, and it was done to illustrate these things: God’s sovereignty, His holiness, and His desire to restore us to Himself.
But how could God restore that relationship He’d once shared with man? How could he make us understand His love for us? How could we ever come to know and grasp an understanding of the plan He had for us? There was a way to be made, and God had prepared the perfect solution. Our sin had wrecked the relationship, and that sin demanded a price be paid. Only one Person could buy our salvation and redeem us to the Father… The Son, Jesus.
Both God AND Man
God Himself had to come to earth as a human. The baby born to Mary and Joseph was God in the flesh. Jesus grew and experienced all the same joys, sadnesses, and temptations that everyone else did. He was both fully God and fully man. And though He lived in this sinful world like us, He never sinned. If He had sinned, He could never redeem us. His unblemished life was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The price that sin demanded was death, and Jesus endured that punishment for us.
Being fully man, Christ died. He willingly gave His life to save mankind – to restore us into right-standing with God. But being fully God, as well, He conquered death. He not only bought our salvation, but He also paved the way for us to have eternal life in Him! And before ascending to Heaven, Jesus promised that He would return again to take us to live there with Him forever. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and our relationship with God the Father was restored once and for all.
‘Tis the Season
During the Christmas season, we celebrate the first coming of Christ. But as Christians, we do so while keeping in mind the promise of His second coming. We rejoice that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus, who set aside His riches and the glory of Heaven to come walk among us – in our shoes. We are grateful for the price He paid, for the victory He afforded us over the grave, and for the gift of eternal life.
THIS is what Christmas means to me. How about you?
Nowadays, we’re told that there are not just two genders – that sex and gender are not the same thing – that true gender identities are a social construct. It’s hard to keep up with all the “new” genders out there. And if you fail to refer to someone by a preferred pronoun, you may get accused of a hate crime. It’s all very confusing. How should we respond?
In today’s society, people can apparently be whoever or whatever they choose. A man can identify as a woman, a woman can identify as a man, and some humans even identify as animals. There are those who identify as neither male nor female, non-binary, or literally whatever they want to call themselves. These new genders come with new pronouns, as well. And this so-called “progressive” society seems to have some pretty high expectations that we all must live by. Each new identity demands to be validated by everyone. You’d better call them by their gender-neutral or otherwise “special” pronouns, or else.
Now, if you are a traditional-thinking old fuddy-duddy like me, you still subscribe to the archaic idea that there are only two genders: male and female. But this notion is said to be silly, oppressive, and even downright intolerant by progressives. You can’t possibly be an enlightened and caring person if you still hold to those old-fashioned ideas of gender. Instead, you’re certain to be labeled with some word ending in the term “phobic.” Because, you know, you obviously fear them.
Okay, let’s put sarcasm aside. To be fair, many people go through one type of identity crisis or another. But gender confusion or uncertainty is especially unique. There can be several causes, and it’s not something to take lightly. All situations are not the same, and there is no quick fix. Unfortunately, some people immediately jump to a singular bold conclusion: I must be trapped in the wrong body!
Often, there are deeper issues going on. Most people have things about themselves that they don’t like. In our modern world, if you want to change your appearance, it’s easily achieved. Nip this, tuck that, change your face, change your body – all through a surgical procedure. And when you combine gender dysphoria with a general dislike for yourself, you get a recipe for making a really bad decision. Rather than a life-altering surgery, it’s likely more advisable to get some counseling.
There’s no shame in going to therapy, though you want to make sure the person is qualified and reputable. But making drastic changes to your body can affect you in ways you never imagined. And it doesn’t address the underlying issues at all. The attempt to “redefine” yourself might bring a sort of “honeymoon” period when you perceive that life is better, but it never lasts. Those issues of self-doubt or even self-loathing will return. And people who transition from one sex to another are far more likely to commit suicide.
Need for Acceptance
All of us have basic emotional needs, and being accepted is at the top of the list. From the time we are children in need of parental acceptance to being adults and needing acceptance by our peers, this need is constant. But what happens when we are unable to accept ourselves? There is a feeling of desperation to be accepted by society, and if we don’t feel that we are liked by people, we don’t like ourselves. We’ll try to alter ourselves in many ways: hair color, eye color, piercings, tattoos, clothing, etc. When none of that works, depression sets in.
The dominoes continue to fall, and it leads to all sorts of emotional problems. Throw in a little confusion about your gender, and you become highly susceptible to whatever trends are currently promoted by society. They’ll encourage you to make a major life-changing decision, but they aren’t the one that decision will affect. They can’t know what you’re going through. Who could?
The truth so many people overlook or choose to ignore is that there IS someone who understands everything you are going through. Yes, I’m talking about God. He understands every single aspect of your body, soul, and mind – because He created you. There is no one more qualified to help than Him. And your need for acceptance is something that He designed within you. It’s a need that He alone can fill.
As with pretty much everything, our Christian or Godly approach to individuals going through this should be one of love and concern for their well-being. Being viewed as simple-minded religious nuts doesn’t need to stop us from caring about and praying for them. How will they ever come to know the love of God and learn how He can help them feel accepted if they don’t get that from us? It is through God’s people that needs are met. If you get called a trans-phobe in the process, keep on showing them nothing but love.
Importance of Identity
Realize the importance of everyone’s identity. It’s part of that need for acceptance. But know that the key to gaining real acceptance for one’s self won’t be met through worldly means. God made us, so He holds all the answers we seek regarding finding out who we are. The important thing to learn is who we are IN HIM. But how do we do that?
First, we must accept who God is. He is Creator of all things. He made heaven and earth and all that we see, as well as all we can’t see. He carefully designed us right down to our DNA. And He is a loving God. He cares deeply for His creation…for us, His children. He is also a holy God. Sin is the thing that separated us from Him because sin cannot stand in the presence of our holy God. This is why He provided a path for our redemption. He sent Jesus as the perfect, sinless, sacrifice for our sins. Why? Because God loves us! Christ is the proof of that love. Why would He love a lowly, imperfect, sinner? That’s just God. That’s who He is!
Once we accept who God is, we accept His Son. Jesus, the one who lived a blameless life and paved the way for our salvation, is an extension of God’s love. The Bible tells us that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but He instead came to save us. Accepting who Jesus is -our Savior – is at the heart of our Christian walk. Without Him, all is lost and everything is meaningless. But WITH Him… We are loved, we are accepted, and we are able to once again stand in the presence of Almighty God!
After this, accepting ourselves becomes almost automatic. We have to accept that we are flawed human beings, born in sin, and in need of Jesus. Accept that we aren’t perfect. But also accept that, even in our imperfections, He has already accepted us and desires to make us new. That’s what Jesus does – He makes all things new. Through Him, we are made perfect. Through Him, we are more than conquerors. Through Him, we have been made heirs to the kingdom of God. That is who WE are. No matter what society or anyone else tells you, you are NOT a mistake.
Back to Genders
Part of accepting the things I just covered is accepting what God’s Word says. Those who think the scriptures can’t be reconciled with your gender confusion issues actually don’t want to accept His Word as true. But there is no confusion in what the Bible says about the matter.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27 [ESV]
Oversimplification? Nope, not really. There was a purpose in every single thing that God created. Likewise, there is a purpose for you. But remember, since the fall of man in the garden (when Adam and Eve sinned against God), imperfection entered the world. Before that, God had looked over all His creation and said that it was good. It was perfect until we (mankind, humans) ruined it. So we have to own up to those sins and imperfections, then accept that Jesus came to free us from those bonds – otherwise, our sins and imperfections will own us and enslave us.
Everyone has issues. Not all are the same, but we all have them. One person may have problems with anger. Another person might be struggling with an addiction. And, yes, others have deep emotional issues such as depression, self-loathing, and/or gender dysphoria. Each person’s struggle is unique, but none of them are bigger than our God can handle. We just need to avail ourselves to the help He offers. He wants to free us from our bonds, and He will when we let Him. He gave us free will, and He won’t force Himself on anyone. We have to WANT His help, and then ACCEPT that help.
If you are someone who is going through this or a similar situation, you might ask, “How? How do I get God to help me?” You may have your doubts, but don’t let that stop you from talking to God. He loves you. His desire is to help you learn who you are supposed to be. He wants to show you His purpose for your life. So, put all your doubts aside, and pray this simple prayer:
God, I accept who You are. You are my Creator. I accept that I am an imperfect being. I need Your help. I accept Your Son, Jesus, as my Savior. I acknowledge that He took my sins and imperfections to the cross and bought my salvation there. And Lord, right now, I am asking you to take me and mold me into the person You made me to be. Help chip away all the areas of my life and personality and anything that doesn’t belong, and show me who I am in You. Please be patient with me, and help me stay in Your will. And may my life reflect You and Your love. In Jesus’ name, I pray… Amen.
Now that you have accepted Christ and asked for God’s help, begin to seek His will for your life. You can do this by getting into the Word, the Bible, His instruction booklet for us all. If you’re afraid the scriptures are going to be too heavy and difficult to understand, put those doubts and fears aside. Start slow, and ask God to illuminate His Word to you. In other words, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. God wants you to understand His will for you, so He’s not gonna make it too tough.
I recommend you begin reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels. The new testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called “parallel” writings because they all cover the same period of time. They are from four different perspectives, so you’ll be able to see how different people saw the same happenings. A lot of it will seem repetitious, but that will help you soak it in. As you read, take your time and let God speak His truths into you. You just might be surprised at how much you actually get from it.
From there, I would jump over to 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Why? Because these are examples of letters written (by the apostle Paul) to a specific church – a church with many people who, just like you, were relatively new to the Christian faith. And one of the most important truths for a new convert to remember is found in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthian church…
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 [ESV]
That’s YOU! Once you have accepted Jesus, you are a new creation. Leave your past behind you. Your life is now made new in Him, and you can trust him to guide your steps. Don’t let satan steal away what God has given you – a new life! Continue to seek God’s will, read His word, and find yourself a church or Christian small group for support. There is great power and opportunity for growth in the company of other believers, so don’t cheat yourself out of that.
Don’t give in to the “gender blender” mentality. Don’t let yourself be bullied by society. Don’t let them decide what is best for your life. Trust God to show you who you are meant to be. Let His Word be your guide, and let it make you new and make you wise so that you can know for yourself what His will is.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 [ESV]
You are not trapped in the wrong body. You are not a mistake. You are a child of God, created for a purpose. Claim your purpose today!
Praise God with a loud voice! Let the whole Earth shake, and let our praises reverberate outward and upward into the Heavens! When we do this, His Holy Spirit comes down. When we do this, Heaven invades the Earth. When we proclaim God’s praises as a single loud voice, He comes to dwell in our midst, and He inhabits our praises.
And when He comes, His glory comes with Him and shines all around. His Majesty and power fill His temple. Not just the building, but it enters and fills us – we are the temple of God! And when I say He fills us, I mean that in the most literal way. Because every nook and cranny of our being is filled, every dark corner is lit, and we overflow with His mighty power.
And this is when things get really good! Because when the power of an Almighty and infinite God touches the innermost part of finite man, something has to give. That’s when miracles happen. That’s when chains are broken, addictions and bad habits fall by the way side, battles are won, victory is secured, and lives are forever changed in Jesus’ name! This is where we need to be, in the presence of the Lord our God. That’s where sickness cannot abide, disease and deformity are healed, and even death is conquered.
If Heaven is dwelling with God, in His presence for eternity, then worshipping Him in spirit and truth here on Earth is as close to Heaven as this life gets. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the company of the Holy Spirit and fellow believers praising God. So let those praises rise among us now, and may we usher in the presence of our Lord! He is why we are here. Let’s show our love for Him by offering up our worship and the praise He is due.
Let it rise! Let praise arise, and our enemies be scattered. Welcome Jesus in this place – the mighty Warrior who has already defeated sin, hell, and the grave! Lift your voice in worship to the Name above every name – the mighty name of Jesus Christ!
This is where your personal battles are won, church. Surround yourself with the heavenly forces of God’s army right now. No weapon formed against you will prosper! Jesus fights our battles for us, and He DOES NOT LOSE…EVER. Praise Him right now for taking those flaming arrows for you, for taking the nails meant for you, for taking your punishment and leaving it on the cross, and for delivering you and placing your feet firmly on the rock.
With every breath we breathe, with every word we speak, with every song we sing, and with all that is within us… Lord, we want to worship You. We want to glorify You in everything we do. Let our hearts be broken for those things that break your heart, O God. And may we BE overflowing fountains of Your Love to the world for Your sake. We give ourselves as willing vessels to accomplish Your work and grow Your kingdom.
Let it be so, Lord. May our numbers increase, not for our sakes, but for Yours. That Your glory will be proclaimed by all, that every knee would bow, and that every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. And our loud praises will indeed shake the whole world, and Your Name will be magnified on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Does modern stage lighting in churches go too far? Are worship groups just “putting on a show” nowadays with concert-like effects?
I recently came across an article that began with this quote:
“I honestly don’t understand why churches are choosing to have dark sanctuaries.”
GodVine article on Crosswalk.com “Why Is the Church Going Dark?”
What they are referring to is how many modern churches sometimes use darker lighting in the main sanctuary and alternate lighting to illuminate the stage. And in the comment section of that post, there were a LOT of strong opinions about the topic. Genuinely, there are plenty of people who just don’t get it.
Among the varying points of view, several folks seemed to feel that it was “just a lot of theatrics.” Others added, “It’s like they’re putting on a show.” Similar comments seemed to exhibit a harsh judgmental attitude. Some even went as far as to suggest that it was “evil,” taking the term darkness much too literally.
Naturally, there were those who had a much more practical opinion of the topic. But the gist of the article itself seemed more negative than positive. Upon reading this, I felt the need to shine some much needed light on the subject – pun intended.
I have spent all my life in church, and more than 35 years in audio-visual. Over the years, I have seen a lot of changes take place in church services – the way things are done, and how the gospel is presented. What I have learned during this time is that there is a single ever-present prevailing truth: While the message of Christ does not change, the methods for presenting that message are constantly changing.
Some people simply don’t like change. Personal preferences are going to vary, and that’s okay. But we need to be careful that we aren’t so stuck in our ways that we close ourselves off the possibility that there are indeed different ways to do things that are every bit as worthy. Is it really “unnecessary theatrics,” or simply a new way of enhancing the presentation of the gospel?
If you truly want to follow the logic that suggests all that lighting stuff is just not necessary, fine. Let’s go down that road for a moment. Do we NEED a sound system? Do we really NEED instruments? Do we even NEED to have a building? No. We don’t have to have any of those things in order to meet together, worship God, and listen to the preaching of the Word. So, why don’t we just get rid of ALL that unnecessary stuff?
Using Gifts and Tools
Perhaps the better question is, why do we USE those things? Well, having a building is helpful because it gets people out of the elements and weather, and we can control the temperature in a building. Okay, that’s obviously a comfort thing. Nothing wrong with being comfortable while we worship, right?
Instruments add to the worship. The Bible says to play skillfully on the harp and the lyre, and to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Playing all kinds of instruments is also how some people who might not be able to sing can offer up beautiful worship to God. Musical talent, as well as vocal talent, is a gift from our Creator. No reason why we ought not USE these talents in our praise to Him, right?
Now that we have a building and instruments, another tool we might naturally come to use would be a sound system. The acoustics vary in different kinds of rooms, and a sanctuary pretty much begs to have a good sound system in order to evenly distribute a discernible mix of the voices and the instruments. No problems with that, right?
Most people would agree that these are legitimate reasons for using all these things. They enhance the experience in many ways. The building offers a controllable atmosphere and comfort. The instruments provide music which is used to make the worship better. And the audio system helps everyone hear clearly the lyrics and message being delivered. So, what about that lighting?
What Lighting Adds
As my church’s AV Director, I have trained many people. One of the first things I make clear to them is a very simple concept: Our job is to enhance the service by striving to excel at eliminating distractions and help keep people’s focus where it should be. We never want to BE a distraction, and I explain to trainees how to avoid that.
I tell them that what we do in that AV booth is very important. We have a unique ability to make everyone’s church experience either better or worse. From sound, to lighting, to visual presentations on screen, everything has a purpose. If we do our jobs well, no one should really notice. But if we mess up, everyone will notice.
So, how do we enhance the church service with strategic lighting? I’m glad you asked. Among other things, one reason to darken the main sanctuary lights and illuminate a certain part of the stage is to help eliminate distractions and focus people’s attention on the person speaking. This is similar to why a theater will darken the lights over the audience to keep people from being distracted by those around them and focus their attention on the movie screen.
Now I hear some in the peanut gallery yelling, “Aha! See? Theatrics! We don’t need that in church!” If that’s you, I think you missed the point. I DID say it’s similar to what’s done in a theater, so let’s go ahead and call it theatrics for the moment. My point was the WHY. And WHY it works for a theater is the same reason it works for church. I just went through a laundry list of reasons why things that might not be necessary certainly do enhance a church service. No, we might not NEED the lighting aspect, but that doesn’t make it unusable. It’s a valuable tool, and I’m of the opinion that we ought to be using every available tool at our disposal for God’s purposes.
Opinions or Judgments?
I understand that there are going to be plenty of people who disagree with me about this. Some just hold the opinion that using lighting in this way is man’s attempt at manipulating the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t need man’s help. But I maintain that every gift, talent, or ability we have is from God. That includes the knowledge we possess and the technology we’ve developed. These things are not inherently evil. When utilized for God’s purposes, we can accomplish great things for the Kingdom. It’s not about the Spirit needing our help, but about offering all we have to be used for Him. And while God doesn’t NEED man, He chooses to USE man for His glory.
It’s fine for people to have opinions that differ. But let’s make sure our opinions aren’t being treated as a standard of right and wrong. If you have scoffed at a church for using “concert lighting” or for seemingly “putting on a show,” I would challenge you to back up and take a 30,000 foot view. See if it’s being used as a positive to enhance the service, much like a sound system. What’s the motivation behind it, really? And don’t just assume you know. That’s not just an opinion anymore – that’s a judgment.
While there may indeed be some out there who are just trying to “be like the world” to attract people to the church, I seriously doubt that’s the intention of most. As an AV Director and one who has served as such in church for decades, I can honestly tell you that putting on a show is furthest from my mind. I want everything I do at church to direct people’s attention AWAY from ME and onto Jesus! The last thing I want is people looking at me as the example to follow. I’m not at all worthy of that, but Jesus definitely is.
Let’s stop being so critical of each other in the church that it chases people away. We’re supposed to be witnesses, not judges. So use all your gifts and tools for Christ, and let’s keep lighting the way for others.