Solving Anemic Christianity

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I changed the way I do devotions and it has absolutely revolutionized my life! That may sound like an overstatement but the things I feel like God is showing me now in my quiet time has jumped exponentially.

I would have people tell me that they wake up early in the morning to spend time with Jesus and I would think, “That sounds like some kind of religious activity to make yourself feel more spiritual than everyone else.” Then I decided to wake up early a couple of months ago and doubled down by starting to journal as well! Journaling was something else that seemed so foreign to me when people would say it is good to write things down in your quiet time. I am not a writer by trade and even the fact that I wrote a book is more of a miracle than it is a simple obedient exercise of retelling what I went through with my eye. And now that I think about what helps me be the man of God that he wants me to be I could never think of my life being WITHOUT getting up early to do devotions and journaling. Even my journaling is something that works for me. I don’t sit and write multiple pages in a book but use intentionality with meaningful things that I feel God reveals.

I always read something in scripture and then ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Bible in some way. I also write down the names and needs of people every day and sometimes God uses that exercise to write something.

Even though I now do television, I have been a licensed pastor for over 25 years and so my devotion time went the way of prayer, reading the Bible, God sharing something with me in that time and then I would instantly equate those ideas and thoughts with new and ground-breaking sermons to share with the world.

After about a month of doing my devotions with journaling, I felt like God told me that when I only think of others when he shares something with me that I actually CHEAPEN my time with Him. That doesn’t sound     very spiritual to “keep things God shares to yourself and not share those things with others.” I would actually say that ALL the things God shares with me would make a bunch of great sermons but that those words he shares in my quiet time are for ME. They are not just for my impulsion to share what Jesus says to me with others. Growing up in church for so many years has possibly programmed me to think that the obvious process is God shares something with me, I package it and then share it with whoever will listen to change their lives and get them to ask Jesus into their heart. There is NOTHING wrong with sharing Jesus with lost people who don’t know how much God loves them, but we need to realize that when God shares something with us in our quiet time we need to first meditate on it and hold it as a precious gift. Now I am not saying that everything God shares with me in my quiet time never makes it out of my devotion time but that I always honor what God tells me as a holy moment between me and Him.

The form or timing of your personal time with Jesus may look different than mine, but I will say that it is necessary and that there is certainly something to setting your day in the right direction and writing down deep impressions given to you by God. The point is that I believe a contributing factor to the anemic Godly actions of Christians in our culture today is not from the Bible losing its power or Jesus’ concern for the lost waning, but a lack of a MEANINGFUL personal time with Jesus in the lives of believers. We each need to be spending that time with Jesus so that we can know our personal part in bringing the Gospel to the people around us but also bringing vibrancy to OUR relationship to Jesus. How can we tell others about a relationship with Jesus if we cannot be that example in our relationship with him?

Praying for you to have INTENTIONAL time with Christ that not only changes you but everyone you come in contact with today.

The Holiday Season and Dealing with People in Depression

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I think Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. Not only do I get to be around people (which I love) it is also the time that Ghirardelli Peppermint bark hits stores, an excuse to watch one of my favorite movies Elf, and because my primary love language is gifts, presents are exchanged!!

For others, the Holiday season can be just the opposite in about every way. Coming from a family where there was so much love and a true celebration of the holidays it can be hard to imagine the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas could be anything other than enjoyable. That is, until I got sick with my eye condition. Then the full reality of the depression, angst and despair that people can experience was brought into perspective.

People have family members that they have not talked to in years because there was something said or done that caused real hurt in them. Some people lost a loved one or are currently going through some challenge medically, emotionally or spiritually.

As humans, we are naturally selfish not only in our actions, but also in our thinking. We can base our reactions towards people on things that we assume they should know or get. We can think or say things like, “Why would everyone not be happy this holiday season? They need to just get over their issue with family” or “Why did that person snap at me when I asked her a question at work? Don’t they realize this is the season of love and joy?”

I always want to be considerate of where people are in life because of the things I went through with being sick on Thanksgiving and Christmas for four years in a row. I was not always the most pleasant person to be around during the holidays even though it was nothing personal with anyone around me but more with my anger at God. I didn’t need someone to pull me aside at a gathering and try and counsel me out of being sad/mad. I just wanted to be left alone and would lash out at times because of the mental and physical pain I was in.

We MUST be intentional with loving those people who seem to be having the hardest time with the holiday season. It is not even so much about saying something to them but just showing love where you can and praying for them. Think of it this way, if you were in their shoes and dealing with some kind of pain over a holiday, how would you want someone to treat you? Jesus was the best example of having TRUE empathy for people who didn’t understand the peace that they could have by just trusting in God.

If you are someone who is hurting this holiday season, know that if you are reading this blog then I am praying for you to find hope and peace in your mind and heart.

Being an agent of change by loving people and acting like Christ in EVERY way is not easy, but necessary for those looking for hope in their hopeless world.

The Supreme Court Decision about Gay Marriage Made Me a Better Christian

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The past week’s supreme court decision concerning gay marriage has been a lot to process. I have read a lot of things that I agree with and things I disagree with (on both sides of the subject) since social media caught fire with everything. I do know, however, that this decision and the climate of our country right now has helped me become a better Christian. Now you may say, “Brian, how has this decision that you disagree with from the supreme court made you a better follower of Christ?” It has helped me evaluate what I really believe and the level of persecution I am willing to endure because of my beliefs.

I think the decision to restrict and limit my Facebook interaction was wise because I can tell you that it doesn’t feel real good when I see posts on my feed that are basically calling me a homophobic bigot.  I have noticed that I am not getting mad at the posts or people who share or like articles like this but it makes me cry and have compassion on them. My question for people in the church is who is going to cry for the people we believe are broken and hurting? Who is going to keep relationships with people we disagree with so that we can be a safe harbor for people to ask us for help or to pray with them or just to listen to them?

In my opinion, the climate of our country has partly to do with people in the church (including myself) who disagree with people who are against basic Biblical values, but have not shown people a different way to live. We gossip as much as anyone, the divorce rate is as high or even higher than people who don’t profess a relationship with Jesus and the list goes on and on and on. I have been a follower of Christ pretty much my entire life and I can say, that without a doubt, most Christian’s classify sins as “the really bad ones” and the “ones that everyone does so we just kind of look the other way.” I believe that it does say sexual acts with the same sex are a sin but it also says that sex outside of marriage is wrong or that if I look lustfully at a woman that I have already committed sin in my heart. We all have struggles that we deal with and have the option to present those things to God and have him help us walk through life or we take on the job ourselves and try and figure stuff out on our own.

The one thing I appreciate about the Bible and my relationship with Jesus is that there is no “sin-o-meter” that says some sins are really, really bad and others are ok and that God will let slide. The reason why these things are in the Bible is because God knows that they are not healthy for us. We need to all be the best citizens of heaven AND earth that we can be. We all fall short sometimes, but as believers in Christ, we should always strive to let Jesus shine through us and accept and love EVERYONE we come in contact with. In fact, I feel like I try and go out of my way to be more friendly and more loving to people who I disagree with on subjects like same sex relationships. My intent is not to patronize people but to show them that I can disagree with a lifestyle choice but still love them. If they don’t believe me it doesn’t matter because I know that I did my part to show a different kind of follower of Christ who can love and still disagree with them. Jesus NEVER expected to get the same kind of response he was giving when he loved anyone in the Bible, and as a followers of Christ, we should not expect anything in return either. If we love someone and expect something back in return that is actually CONDITIONAL love and not Jesus’ UNCONDITIONAL love.

So the reason I can say that the supreme court decision has made me a better Christian is that I am not just considering in my mind what I can LOSE (tax exempt status as a pastor, being fined or thrown in jail just because I believe something different about marriage, etc.) but what I can actually GIVE to those people that hate me because of my beliefs. I know that by sharing what I believe it is not going to change people’s minds about what THEY believe. I must love LOUDER than anything in my life and keep my convictions about what I think the Bible says about ALL sins, then maybe, just maybe someone will inquire why I STILL love them and can disagree with their actions. Jesus was the greatest example of love to ever walk the earth, but EVERY story in the Bible about his love didn’t stop at the act of love. There was always an inquiry or a transitional point where people who were not happy with the life they were living would be changed by the convictions of Christ. Love started the conversations, but Jesus’ convictions brought the healing. I have to believe that if the words I read in the Bible are true, then God will give me the strength to set the example for healing that I believe we ALL need, not just people who deal with their sexual identity.